Pixel Scroll 7/28 Pixels in My Pocket Like Scrolls of Sand

War, Famine, Conquest, Death, and a Puppy make up today’s Scroll.

(1) The headline reads “Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking Want to Save the World From Killer Robots” – more euphemistically called autonomous weapons.

Along with 1,000 other signatories, Musk and Hawking signed their names to an open letter that will be presented this week at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group,” the letter says. “We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.”

(2) Margaret Atwood, in her article about climate change on Medium, senses perception of change is accelerating.

It’s interesting to look back on what I wrote about oil in 2009, and to reflect on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years. Much of what most people took for granted back then is no longer universally accepted, including the idea that we could just go on and on the way we were living then, with no consequences. There was already some alarm back then, but those voicing it were seen as extreme. Now their concerns have moved to the center of the conversation. Here are some of the main worries.

Planet Earth—the Goldilocks planet we’ve taken for granted, neither too hot or too cold, neither too wet or too dry, with fertile soils that accumulated for millennia before we started to farm them –- that planet is altering. The shift towards the warmer end of the thermometer that was once predicted to happen much later, when the generations now alive had had lots of fun and made lots of money and gobbled up lots of resources and burned lots of fossil fuels and then died, are happening much sooner than anticipated back then. In fact, they’re happening now.

One of the many topics she covers is the use of didactic fiction to awaken students to environmental problems.

Could cli-fi be a way of educating young people about the dangers that face them, and helping them to think through the problems and divine solutions? Or will it become just another part of the “entertainment business”? Time will tell. But if Barry Lord is right, the outbreak of such fictions is in part a response to the transition now taking place—from the consumer values of oil to the stewardship values of renewables. The material world should no longer be treated as a bottomless cornucopia of use-and-toss endlessly replaceable mounds of “stuff”: supplies are limited, and must be conserved and treasured.

(3) Of course, what people usually learn from entertainment is how to have a good time. Consider how that cautionary tale, The Blob,has inspired this party

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania — one of the filming locations for “The Blob” — hosts an annual Blobfest. One of the highlights for participants is reenacting the famous scene when moviegoers run screaming from the town’s Colonial Theatre.

(4) However, there are some fans who do conserve and treasure their stuff, like Allen Lewis, who recently donated his large sf collection:

The University of Iowa has struck gold. Not the kind that lies in the federal reserve, but one of paper in a Sioux Falls man’s basement. After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.

(5) And the University of Iowa makes good use of the material, for example, its project to digitize the Hevelin fanzine collection:

Hevelin-fanzines-e1437769140485Now, the pulps and passion projects alike will be getting properly preserved and digitized so they can be made accessible to readers and researchers the world over. The library’s digitization efforts are led by Digital Project Librarian Laura Hampton. She’s just a few weeks into the first leg of the project, digitizing some 10,000 titles from the collection of Rusty Hevelin, a collector and genre aficionado whose collection came to the library in 2012. You can follow along with Hampton’s work on the Hevelin Collection tumblr.

“These fanzines paint an almost outrageously clear picture of early fandom,” said Hampton. “If you read through every single fanzine in our collection, you would have a pretty solid idea of all the goings-on that shaped early fandom—the major players, the dramas, the developments and changes, and who instigated and opposed them. There is an incredible cultural history here that cannot be replicated.”

(6) The DC17 Worldcon bid has Storified a series of tweets highlighting reasons for vote for their bid.


It absolutely is an All-Star committee.

(7) JT in Germany has posted his picks in the Best Related Works category, and Antonelli’s Letters from Gardner ranked at the top of his personal scorecard.

Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli — 3 of 5 This is the one I was most interested in, as it’s about the actual mechanics of writing. It’s a series of short stories, starting as he’s trying to break into publishing short science fiction, and follows his career. Each of the stories is paired with an intro and follow-up about the changes the stories went through, including his interactions with famed editor Gardner Dozois. Unfortunately, the included sample was only just getting into the interesting part of his correspondence. It was good enough that I’ll be buying it soon enough.

(8) Another successful crowdfunding effort is bringing out Lovecraft: The Blasphemously Large First Issue, a new comic that portrays H.P. Lovecraft as “a modern-day, kick-ass action hero & alchemist.”

Writer Craig Engler is thrilled to report the copies have arrived from the printers and will be going out to donors. Lovecraft 48 pg COMP

(9) Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria is due out August 4. The biography of Helen “Joy” Davidman. Katie Noah’s review appears in Shelf Awareness (scroll down).

Joy cover

While she clearly admires her subject, Santamaria acknowledges Joy’s failings: her tendency to exaggeration and even lying; the spending sprees she could rarely afford; her troubled relationship with her parents and brother. Joy’s marriage to Bill also receives an even-handed treatment. Bill was undoubtedly an alcoholic who struggled to maintain a stable family life, but Santamaria clearly outlines the part Joy played in the failure of their marriage.

Frustrated by professional and personal setbacks, Joy uprooted her life–and that of her two young sons–to travel to England in 1952. She had struck up a flourishing correspondence with Lewis, and she set out to woo her literary lion. Santamaria chronicles the difficulties of Joy’s life in England and Lewis’s reaction to her arrival, but admits that, in the end, they did fall deeply in love. As Joy’s health began to fail, her relationship with Lewis flourished, and their last few years together were blissful.

(10) When Syfy isn’t busy feeding celebrities to sharks, they produce episodic sci-fi shows like the new Wynonna Earp project.

This classic by Beau Smith which was brought to us by IDW Publishing is being given a 13 episode first season run and stars Melanie Scrofano (‘RoboCop‘,’Saw VI’) in the lead role! She’ll be playing the great granddaughter of Wyatt Earp and works for The Monster Squad. Following in his infamous footsteps, she works with the US Marshals, only in a secret department that tracks down fiends that are just a bit more sinister than your regular criminal.

(11) They’re also readying an adaptation of Clarke’s Childhood’s End — here’s the supertrailer shown at Comic-Con

[Thanks to Mark, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Linda Lewis, John King Tarpinian and David K.M. Klaus. Title credit to Brian Z.]


Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

182 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/28 Pixels in My Pocket Like Scrolls of Sand

  1. Shakespeare made up vast numbers of words.

    If you think you are good as Shakespeare then carry on!

  2. I have doubts that Shakespeare made up all the words and phrases attributed first to him. That’s the first recorded instance of them being used. But I suspect many were already in use before he wrote them down in something that was preserved over time.

    I don’t doubt he coined some, though. We just have no way of knowing which.

  3. To go back to the incomplete item on my ballot:

    The Princess Bride, William Goldman
    I am four-square in the camp of those who think the Princess Bride book is better than the movie. LEAGUES better. The movie is still great, but not *as* great. I say.

  4. Stevie, you’d probably find amusing the scene from the Baroque Cycle where an Earl, the best swordsman in all of England and thoroughly arrogant about it, faces off with his superbly wielded three foot rapier and shiny metal armor against an Irish peasant in a bog – and is promptly beaten to death by a eight foot staff.

    The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip

    Since I didn’t read either book, I’m choosing to put my Norton pick here, Knave of Dreams by Andre Norton. Although, really, in this time period, there were not a lot of clichés hanging about, corrupting the minds of young, innocent writers.
    Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander
    I do not like Azhrarn, Night’s Master. To me, he’s too much of a jerk.
    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
    The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
    YOU ARE THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD, KYRA! AHHHHHH! I can’t choose, or, can I vote for both?
    Watership Down, Richard Adams
    Rabbits rule! Witches drool!
    Deryni Rising, Katherine Kurtz
    I’ve read both books, but since I can only remember one, that’s the one I’m voting for.
    The Princess Bride, William Goldman
    Seriously, how can you vote against True Love?
    Fortress in the Eye of Time, C. J. Cherryh

    The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip
    And now I want to reread that, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Why did I give away so many books?

    Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock
    I respect 100 Years, but the moody albino spoke to my angsty young soul.

    Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander
    Prydain! Prydain! Runner-up to Edoras as Imaginary Place I Want to Live In.

    The Old Gods Waken, Manly Wade Wellman
    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
    Abstain — I haven’t read the Wellman.

    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
    Second only to LotR in my heart.

    Witch World, Andre Norton
    Not a bracket I feel strongly about.

    The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin
    Consider this a strong vote for Atuan and Tenar’s journey.

    The Princess Bride, William Goldman
    I had the original paperback edition with the bizarre cover and red text and all.

    The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford

  7. Stevie — The hospital’s in walking distance, but I don’t think the NHS can help me.

    I put it down to two things: firstly, in the third book of whatever the infinite series is called, I got so lost with all the running back-and-forth across the Atevi’s continent that I gave up caring where the protagonists were or why they had to be somewhere else and just kept on reading to finish the story. Then when I started reading the fourth book in the trilogy, I found I still didn’t care, and didn’t care enough to finish that book.

    Secondly, I blame my friend who has given up reading SF. He keeps asking me for recommendations, I keep lending him books, and he keeps not reading them. He keeps expressing admiration for Cherryh, I kept lending him Cherryhs and even gifting him occasional Cherryhs on birthdays, and he kept not reading them, and even worse, not returning the lent ones, so that I couldn’t refamiliarize myself with storylines. He’s had my copy of Cyteen for over twenty years; I no longer recall what it’s about, I think it has some clones in it.

    Lastly, I don’t have any patience for infinite series anymore. Few have I read over the decades that have developed as well as Doc Smith’s Lensman series, most getting into a rut, or trailing off into irrelevency. A trilogy is about as far as I can commit myself these days.

    And that’s three things. Oh, well.

  8. 4. Zelazny
    I’ve never cheated at cards but, in this instance, I will cheat for them. I’ve never read Wellman. Given what I’ve heard here I need to correct that. Still, THIS IS AMBER!!! (I feel like there is almost a cultural obligation to add a snark about kicking Wellman in the well but I am restraining myself, really!)

    7. Adams
    I think I would have picked Year of the Unicorn for the Norton but, even with that substitution, she just doesn’t reach the epic scope and imagination of Watership Down. Somewhere younger me is pouting.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock
    Poor Moorcock. No contest.

    Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander
    But substitute The High King, because of the scene with Fflewddur Fflam and the harp. Yes, that scene. No, YOU have dust in your eyes! Shut up!

    Watership Down, Richard Adams
    Cheating–I haven’t read the other book.

    The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs
    The Princess Bride, William Goldman
    NOOOOO why did you put Bellairs up against one of the greatest comedic fantasies of all time?
    If the bracketing extends to YA Horror, I would love to see The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull in there, which is legitimately one of the most terrifying books of all time.

    Bullet dodged! I haven’t read either yet.

  10. Quoth Stevie

    I can certainly see why other people take a completely different view.

    Totally. I think deep amonst the BS software patents there is one for Stephen Donaldson Nastiness(tm) and I quite understand why people bounce off his work hard.

    I remember when he first hit the literary scene and to me it made complete sense. Modern Lit has always read to me like nasty people doing nasty things in deep and ponderous ways. And Donaldson has that in spades.

    What made The Gap series stand out for me was once the first book nastiness was over everything else just flowed. It was as if Donaldson was a master toy maker who built dolls, wound them up and let them go, merely recording their actions thereafter. But his dolls never felt toy-like. They read like people I could understand.

    In a way this cast a pall over the final book since as the story spiraled to its conclusion, I was pretty sure how it would turn out. Not because Donaldson telegraphed the ending though, but because I couldn’t imagine these people doing anything else. But that also ties in with the Norse aspect of inevitability Donaldson was aiming for, so it is hard to fault him there either.

  11. Hah! Since Kyra mentioned in her last status that Beagle was ahead of Stewart, I can now cast my vote for The Crystal Caves by Stewart since I want a tie, damnit!

  12. I’m not voting in the Fantasy brackets because I’ve at best read only one of each pairing. But I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s comments — both about works which I have read, and works which I have not (many of which are on my TBR list).

    MickyFinn: possibly working in a shorter form didn’t give [Donaldson] enough time to get around to working in sexual assault themes.

    McJulie: What I didn’t like was the way it simply got added to the relentless litany of his self-pitying self-hatred. You know, “woe is me, for I am so wretched.” There’s a point where it seems more like narcissim than remorse, but I was never sure that was the point Donaldson was going for.

    In other words, rape used as a plot device to allow “exploration” of a character working through his “manpain”, with little regard for the effect on the woman. Argghhh.

    I was pretty young and naive when I read the first of the Covenant trilogies. Like others, I had been assured of the books’ wonderfulness and importance — which caused me a bit of internal conflict as I kept thinking “this really is not that good”. I re-read the first trilogy after the second 3 books had come out prior to reading those, and found myself feeling quite certain that “this really is not that good” (not to mention the extreme squick factor ensuing from the way female characters were presented and treated).

    The development of MDT in the 80s and the subsequent curing of leprosy didn’t help any with the credibility of the series, either.

    The Covenant books are one of my prime examples of “there are too many really good books out there for you to waste precious time reading these”.

  13. @Exarch

    Adventures on the Screen Trade is my go-to, and its sequel was also well worth the read.

  14. @Tintinaus


    If you are inrested in weaving magic have you read Scorcerer’s Son by Phyllis Eisenstien?

    No I haven’t- But I’ll put it on my list of books to look up.

    I love the weaving magic because it’s depicted as an act of creation that’s so different from the way magic is usually portrayed as domination or a contract. Especially that the weaving also involved creating a story that depicted what was going to happen.

  15. I read Lord Foul’s Bane maybe 25 years ago and I hated it with all my soul. Wanting the protagonist dead and continuing to want him dead for the whole book is not a good sign of an enjoyable experience for me. And that is more or less the only thing I remember of it.

    No Award above Donaldson – this was an 8 Deadly Words book before I’d ever heard of them, and I gave up well before That Point – I don’t see how the people who quit there got *that* far – it’s at least a third in! But I haven’t read the other one so I can’t vote *for* it.

    Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander
    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
    – *The* trope-flipper after way too may Tolkien knockoffs.
    The Princess Bride, William Goldman

  17. If anyone’s actually interested, I can write up my “why the Covenant series is very worthy” explanation once I’m awake again. Or I can hold my peace.

  18. Bruce Baugh on July 30, 2015 at 2:13 am said:

    If anyone’s actually interested, I can write up my “why the Covenant series is very worthy” explanation once I’m awake again. Or I can hold my peace.

    Look I think there are many worthy things about it and about what Donaldson was trying to do. I like that Covenant is a man filled with doubt but Donaldson seemed to initially aim for despicable and to often ended up in what the Internet now calls ‘man pain’.

    Things I like
    1. The Land society is well drawn
    2. The ethical system is both plausible, utopian and fits with the characters
    3. Emotional conflict is important to the plot
    4. It has a strong theory of ultimate evil – and that is were it does equal Tolkein. Tolkein plays a riff on power corrupts and Donaldson does the same with despair and desperation and cynicism.
    5. The magical system is also well drawn and is shown as an alternative to technology rather than just technology with a different name.
    6. I like ur-viles and waynhim
    7. I kind of wanted to be an ur-vile
    8. I did cry when Saltheart Foamfollower died (sort of)
    9. I read the third trilogy so I clearly was willing to read more

    However, as I said it was the repeated theme several people have discussed appearing in multiple books by Donaldson that increasingly put me off. I’m not saying a feminist reading of the Covenant books is wholly impossible but it wouldn’t be easy. I don’t think in any of his books he was ever trying to portray sexual assault as anything other than a form of evil *BUT* at the same time he keeps using it as what seems to be a cynical way of saying ‘this is grown up fiction’. 🙁


    There were write-in votes for a number of works this time around, with some particularly enthusiastic ones for P. C. Hodgell, Diana Wynne Jones, and Karl Edward Wagner. Write-ins included Red Shift, Glory Road, Dogsbody, The Owl Service, Knave of Dreams, Kill the Dead, Westmark, The High King, Who Fears the Devil, The Bloody Chamber, Bloodstone, The Spellcoats, The Third Policeman, God Stalk, The Silmarillion, Our Lady of Darkness, apparently anything by Leigh Brackett, The Compleat Traveler in Black, and Charmed Life; but none of these received widespread support, with only the last two getting more than one vote.

    WINNER, seeded: The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip – 39 Nuyen
    Lord Foul’s Bane, Stephen R. Donaldson – 11 Nuyen
    Probably not a surprising result. I doubt Donaldson would actually be terribly upset by it, since he has long cited McKillip as his favorite writer. For those curious about the title for this match-up, Donaldson’s “The One Tree” is dedicated to McKillip, and McKillip’s “Harpist in the Wind” is dedicated to Donaldson. Riddle-Master will be seeded in the first all-period round.

    WINNER: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 27 Nuyen
    Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock – 22 Nuyen
    In a particularly close match, the grand old man of Magical Realism wins against the albino with the Black Blade. Elric, in despair at his loss, kills his sister.

    WINNER: Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander – 29 Nuyen
    Night’s Master, Tanith Lee – 18 Nuyen
    This remained close for a long time, but the assistant pig-herder comes out with a convincing win. Night’s Master returns to the Underearth.

    WINNER, seeded: Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny – 45 Nuyen
    The Old Gods Waken, Manly Wade Wellman – 4 Nuyen
    Zelazny went far in the science fiction round, and Amber is considered by many to be his masterpiece. We’ll have to see how he fares against other giants of the fantasy genre, but this first round certainly bodes well for him. And Silver John, strumming his guitar, wanders off into the hills.

    WINNER: The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle – 35 Nuyen
    The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart – 17 Nuyen
    The Crystal Cave is much beloved, but not as beloved as The Last Unicorn. Beagle will go on to the next round.

    WINNER, seeded: Watership Down, Richard Adams – 49 Nuyen
    Witch World, Andre Norton – 18 Nuyen
    Another match-up between a much-loved work and a much-more-loved work. Despite some leporiphobia, Watership Down handily wins it.

    WINNER, seeded: The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin – 47 Nuyen
    Deryni Rising, Katherine Kurtz – 10 Nuyen
    Ursula “The Krushinator” Le Guin continues her display of literary might on this bracket. How will the winner of the last one do in this one? There were 10 votes to convert this to A Wizard of Earthsea (and one for The Farthest Shore), but The Tombs of Atuan shall remain the Le Guin going forward. Katherine Kurtz, though she had devotees, stops here.

    WINNER, seeded: The Princess Bride, William Goldman – 45 Nuyen
    The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs – 9 Nuyen
    As you wish.

    WINNER: The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford – 28 Nuyen
    Fortress in the Eye of Time, C. J. Cherryh – 12 Nuyen
    John M. Ford has the first work to move from being a write-in to a place on the ballot. Cherryh’s work had strong supporters, but her fantasy work didn’t win the support her science fiction did.

  20. rede on July 29, 2015 at 10:31 am said:
    Years ago, well, decades ago, in um 1978 or 79, I was in my first year as a graduate student, and was sitting in my office reading some sff when my office mate came in, swept my pile of sff books OFF my desk and into the f*(&%#()WQ&%*( garbage can, and dumped Marquez and some of the other New Big Name MAGICAL REALISM authors on my desk, and declaimed “stop reading garbage and read these.”

    I’m both horrified and sadly not surprised at this story (although the physical tossing of books is mind-boggling). It’s really kind of amazing how many instances of this phenomenon I’ve heard tell of / seen /experienced. Usually (again, sadly not surprised), it’s a woman reading the “garbage”. One of the three times it happened to me, said “garbage” was a pile of Patricia McKillip, with the “girly” (amazing beautiful) covers, and what I “should” be reading instead was Pynchon, which, NO.

    I second Bruce Baugh’s better argument, especially “he wrote good”. He really, really did.

    ULTRAGOTHA on July 29, 2015 at 11:26 am said:
    Publish your TBR list. I’m happy to rip it apart. }:->

    List? What is this “list” you speak of? I have mental notes, scribblings on scraps of paper, vague notions, actual stacks of books, some menacing, some hiding behind other books, some glowering, some beckoning, names of authors jotted down between “garlic” and “basil” on the fridge door, clippings of reviews in OneNote, mixed in with knitting ideas and poetry.

    I could blame this on the six-year old, but it would be a lie, I’ve actually had to get better at being organized since she came along. In all seriousness, though, if I were to make a list, it would grow to the size of a small galaxy, and that would just make me feel worse.

    But I’ll come back with a tiny list of the next likely sff reads in a bit, for your ripping pleasure, I just have to go get basil and garlic first.

    Bruce Baugh on July 30, 2015 at 2:13 am said:
    If anyone’s actually interested, I can write up my “why the Covenant series is very worthy” explanation once I’m awake again. Or I can hold my peace.

    Camestros Felapton on July 30, 2015 at 2:32 am said:

    [a bunch of really cogent things I can’t really add to]

    Thank you, and Bruce, or anyone, please don’t ever hold off on defending books. My two-word defense of Covenant is: Saltheart Foamfollower, pretty much. But that doesn’t speak to worthiness so much as to nostalgia.

    And I suspect the difference between “worthy” and “worth it” is vast and variable for these books.

  21. @Bruce: I am always interested in your thoughts.

    +1, both categorically and particularly

  22. @Bruce

    I love seeing interesting thoughts about books that differ from my own thoughts, especially when it’s somebody who liked something I didn’t.

    Anyway, I did like the Covenant books at one time — junior high and high school, when I read the first two series. There were things that bugged me (the “manpain” business and his “viridian” habit) but overall I was a fan.

    The books ended up being the most dramatic example of the suck fairy visiting in between one read and another. A lot of my childhood favorites stopped “working” for me after college without actually seeming bad. But with Donaldson, I just didn’t like his prose anymore.

  23. OK, since folks are interested, I’ll stick it in a relatively recent Pixels, once I write it up.

  24. John M. Ford has the first work to move from being a write-in to a place on the ballot.


  25. Diana Wynne Jones’s The Spellcoats is also textile magic.

    See also “The Harp-Weaver”, by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

  26. DC17 bid? How can DC ever have a Worldcon bid when the Washington Sheraton is dead and buried for all these years? The ’74 worldcon was great for me after all the warmup events (Disclaves) that has all been held in the Washington Sheraton. The place was a rat’s nest, built on and in a hillside in DC where the laundry was found at the end of a lint covered concrete tunnel, where the 8th floor of one wing was the lower level of another, where the Vice President of the US could be stumbled upon, walking through a glass lined breezeway that connected two wings.
    Agnew looked the part of the low level hoodlum that he also played in real life, by the way.

Comments are closed.