Pixel Scroll 7/31 Happy Hour at Paulk’s Tavern

Lions roar, kittens tweet, and other animals make noise in today’s Scroll.

(1) Recommended – Gregory Benford reviews Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora in “Envision Starflight Failing”.

Aurora depicts a starship on a long voyage to Tau Ceti four centuries from now. It is shaped like a car axle, with two large wheels turning for centrifugal gravity. The biomes along their rims support many Earthly lifezones which need constant tending to be stable. They’re voyaging to Tau Ceti, so the ship’s name is a reference to Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun, which takes place on a world orbiting Tau Ceti named Aurora. Arrival at the Earthlike moon of a super-Earth primary brings celebration, exploration, and we see just how complex an interstellar expedition four centuries from now can be, in both technology and society.

In 2012, Robinson declared in a Scientific American interview that “It’s a joke and a waste of time to think about starships or inhabiting the galaxy. It’s a systemic lie that science fiction tells the world that the galaxy is within our reach.” Aurora spells this out through unlikely plot devices. Robinson loads the dice quite obviously against interstellar exploration. A brooding pessimism dominates the novel.

There are scientific issues that look quite unlikely, but not central to the novel’s theme. A “magnetic scissors” method of launching a starship seems plagued with problems, for example. But the intent is clear through its staging and plot.

I’ll discuss the quality of the argument Aurora attempts, with spoilers.



(2) Spacefaring Kitten is one of many people posting their Hugo ballot today, but one of the few who has an interesting analysis of my favorite category.

Best Fanzine

  1. Journey Planet
  2. Tangent SF Online
  3. Elitist Book Reviews
  4. No Award
  5. The Revenge of Hump Day

Journey Planet is easily the most interesting of these publications. Black Gate would have been able to put up a fight here, but they chose to withdraw because of Puppy-related embarrassment.

Tangent SF Online and The Revenge of Hump Day were probably on the Puppy ballots as a sort of payback for, respectively, the public outcry following Tangent’s umm… let us say fatherly review of the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed and the disinvitation of Tim Bolgeo (the guy behind The Revenge of Hump Day) as a Fan Guest of Honor in Archon after accusations of racism. However, I chose to place Tangent second and well above No Award, because I think all venues in which short SFF fiction is discussed are important.

As far as I can see, Tangent’s short fiction reviews are quite good, even if the editor’s attitudes smell a bit aged. Take a look at their 2014 Recommended Reading List, for example. Tangent lists noteworthy stories in four categories (0, 1, 2 and 3 stars), and I couldn’t resist counting that together all the 14 Puppy finalists get four mentions and one star. In contrast, the five short story nominations I made myself (none of which made the final ballot, obviously) collect three mentions and eight stars. The Tangent seems like a useful resource for finding the sort of fiction I’d enjoy, and I plan to take a look at some of the three-star stories I haven’t read yet.

There was nothing terribly amiss with Elitist Book Reviews either, even though they seem to generally like books that I don’t and I found their practice of discussing recommended age and levels of offensive language, violence and sex amusingly over-protective. You don’t really have to be 16 to be able to read a curse word, do you? However, they’re number three.


(3) By now I think everybody has seen Adam Roberts’ cheery thoughts about the Hugos in the Guardian:

What the Puppies have done is within the rules of the awards, and key figures in the movement have already declared their intention to repeat the process next year. But this is larger than one set of awards. It is about the direction of science-fiction as a whole, and it poses larger cultural questions.

The truth is that this year’s Hugo awards are wrecked. Can you imagine anyone saying that of the Pulitzer, Man Booker, or Nobel? Yet here we are, and if the Puppies succeed in gaming the awards again in 2016 we may as well give up on the Hugos forever.

This is what is so frustrating about the Puppies’ campaign. Not that it has resulted in a bunch of frankly inferior works being shortlisted – although it has. And not that it values old-fashioned SF over more experimental, literary and progressive writing – that’s a matter of taste. What is so annoying is that it so ostentatiously turns its back on the global context out of which the best writing is happening today.


Can it be true that Roberts values rhetoric about diversity over rules changes that preserve it as a possibility?

(4) The Guardian article sure revived Larry Correia! Yesterday’s limp “fisking” of The New Yorker’s Delany interview has been succeeded his vibrant smackdown “Fisking the Guardian’s Latest Sad Puppy Article of the Week”. Correia’s remarks in boldface, Guardian text in regular text.

Considering that the Hugo awards hadn’t even ever nominated a single work of media tie in fiction until Sad Puppies came along, I don’t know where the hell you’re getting this idea that the insular little inbred cliques were combing the whole world for worthy new talent before. Hell, I believe the first ever INDY PUBLISHED novel nomination came from Sad Puppies, and you expect that little cliquish circle jerk of friends who’ve been taking turns giving each other awards, to suddenly teach themselves Spanish in order to check out the best sci-fi from Uruguay? 

This whole train of thought is just a stupid diversion. The Guardian is just being its normal snooty self. Look at us, we read MOAR GLOBALLY (no, actually, they probably don’t. From inaccuracies in previous articles about various classics we’re already pretty sure Damien skates by reading Wikipedia synopsis of books and then pretending to be well read). 

Science fiction, if it is about anything, is about hospitality to otherness,

Just not conservatives or libertarians, because screw those guys.

 to the alien and the unusual, about freeing one’s mind and boldly going where no one has been before. It is, centrally, about diversity. Locking out women writers, writers of colour, gay and trans writers does a violence to the heart of the genre.

That concluding paragraph is just regurgitated tripe.  We’re not the ones trying to lock out anyone. Female, “writers of colour” (oh how I hate that stupid racist term), gay, trans, left handed ginger pygmy wolf-riding garden squirrels, WE DON’T CARE. Write books. Entertain people. Fans get to judge books by the content of their pages rather than the author’s bio. Then give the really good ones awards.

This isn’t exactly rocket science, not that you jackasses didn’t literally try to make actual fucking rocket science all about sexism too.

If the Puppies win, nobody wins.

No. The Puppies would win. That’s sort of what the word win means, dumbass.



(5) Sasquan guest astronaut Kjell Lindgren is at the International Space Station.


(6) Mark your calendars. Vox Day has announced the release date for his next project:

This is interesting. Apparently the SJWs are more than a little worried about my upcoming book, SJWS ALWAYS LIE: Taking Down the Thought Police….

Just wait until August 27th, the one-year anniversary of #GamerGate, which I plan to celebrate by publishing the book.

You read it here first. Or possibly second. But more likely first. Maybe you can leave town that day – does Kjell Lindgren have a spare cot?

(7) The Final Interview of C. S. Lewis, conducted by Sherwood Eliot Wirt, appeared in Decision magazine in September 1963.

From Part I —

Wirt: How can we foster the encounter of people with Jesus Christ?

Lewis: “You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment.

“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.

“There is a character in one of my children’s stories named Aslan, who says, ‘I never tell anyone any story except his own.’ I cannot speak for the way God deals with others; I only know how he deals with me personally. Of course, we are to pray for spiritual awakening, and in various ways we can do something toward it. But we must remember that neither Paul nor Apollos gives the increase. As Charles Williams once said, ‘The altar must often be built in one place so that the fire may come down in another place.’”

In Part II, Lewis answers questions about Heaven, Earth and Outer Space.

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

[Thanks to JJ, Gregory Benford, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

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230 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/31 Happy Hour at Paulk’s Tavern

  1. First, thanks to whoever started this God Stalk thing. I’d never heard of it before the brackets started. I’m loving the first book so far.

    On to voting. I’m gonna be semi-puppish about it and, when I haven’t read both but loved the one I did read, vote for that one. Full-on puppish, of course, would mean voting only for works whose authors I know personally or have a business relationship with…

    The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin

    The Dying Earth, Jack Vance

    The Princess Bride, William Goldman

    Watership Down, Richard Adams

    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny

    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle

    The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman

    Small Gods, Terry Pratchett

  2. I’ve been re-reading Camestros’ “Unified Puppy Theory” and I think it’s basically correct, but in light of a few recent pro-pup advocacy posts I think there’s also a corollary: The Puppies think the Hugos belong, by right, to the rich. Specifically, the rich have “earned it” by making a lot of money selling books. All their talk of “indy authors” is not just about how they are rebels against the hidebound institutions of publishing tradition, but about how they are super-successful. (The ones that sell lots and lots of copies anyway.) The plaints about media tie-in fiction make perfect sense in this light. If media tie-in authors are making the money, media tie-in authors should be winning the awards, because the people who make the money deserve the nice things. This is of a piece with the American conservative right’s belief that the rich deserve everything in all spheres. And it seems to fit with but not be reducible to Camestros’ argument that awards are simply an avenue of business promotion.

    You may wonder how this principle applies to someone like Torgersen, who is, well, not making a lot of money from his writing. Here we get into the aspirational nature of how the typical American, especially the typical American conservative, views their economic situation – they expect riches in due course. For are they not working hard? And is hard work not rewarded? (Real answer: only sometimes. But never mind that.) And in light of the principle that The Rich Deserve It, it becomes especially interesting that Torgersen recused himself from eligibility this time around. He is, for the time being, doing his duty to ensure that those making more money than himself accrue their just rewards.

    Other Puppies are more explicit, e.g. the fellow who just got done saying that the Hugos “credibility” depends on their going to more commercially successful – richer – authors. Because if your “brand” is not associated with the wealthy, your brandi is tarnished.

  3. @Dex:

    You have my sympathy since the last Cubs WS win, they had Veterans Day at the park. Veterans of the Civil War.

    Returning from World War 2, my dad skipped a meal which included real eggs so that he could listen to the final game of the Cubs’ 1945 World Series loss to the Detroit Tigers on the radio. Of course, that was the last time they ever came even that close to winning a World Series.


  4. Jim Henley: that’s very interesting.

    In my reading, they are just arguing that a fan award shouldn’t automatically dismiss stuff written in a mass market context – not that less commercially driven or less successful stuff should be displaced entirely. You know, I have a lot of respect for Eric Flint as a writer, so although I myself would rather reread The Baroque Cycle (or maybe Pirate Freedom) than start on the 1632 series, I wouldn’t object if others think that project deserves recognition. I wouldn’t have voted for Redshirts, but the sky didn’t fall when that won either. It is a creative tension inherent in the Hugos and maybe not necessarily a destructive one.

  5. Since Brian continues to make utterly unsubstantiated claims and accusations, I’ll drop this in (h/t Soon Lee & others):


    Hey Brian, are you going to to reply to Oneiros’ question or are you going to keep hand-wringing and trying to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt)?


  6. I don’t automatically dismiss tie-in works. I don’t even automatically dismiss authors who’ve done tie-ins – after all, that would include quite a few Hugo winners. But I do automatically dismiss anything Kevin J Anderson writes because I’ve been burned too many times already.

  7. OK, calling an end to voting, and here are the results!

    Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Cycle, The Third Policeman, and Villains by Necessity all got off-bracket votes this time around.

    WINNER, seeded: The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin – 50
    Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay – 7
    The first winner to reach 50 votes. At this point, when Le Guin walks into your bracket pair, you hide the good china and hope the house survives.

    WINNER: The Dying Earth, Jack Vance – 28
    Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirrlees – 13
    The triumph of genre over lit continues. The Dying Earth will prepare itself a new body in the vats in preparation for the next bout. Lud-in-the-Mist will not talk about what happened in the brackets, as such things are simply not discussed.

    WINNER: The Princess Bride, William Goldman – 28
    The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford – 24
    In an incredibly close match, Goldman’s work just edges out Ford. The Princess Bride continues to climb the Cliffs of Insanity. The Dragon Waiting will depart to meet its fate on Bosworth Field.

    WINNER: Watership Down, Richard Adams – 25
    War for the Oaks, Emma Bull – 22
    In an even closer match, the rabbits scoot just ahead of the fairies. War for the Oaks has had a history in this bracket of pulling out squeaker wins, and it came close here, but couldn’t quite close the gap.

    WINNER, seeded: Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny – 37
    Tea with the Black Dragon, R. A. MacAvoy – 14
    Another win for Zelazny’s classic, which has arrived in Rebma and is making plans to storm Kolvir. Tea with the Black Dragon, though much beloved, heads back to California.

    WINNER, seeded: The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle – 43
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling – 11
    Harry Potter is beloved, but assessments of its quality are divisive and hotly debated. The Last Unicorn is Beloved, and assessments of its quality are not particularly divisive. It will go on to face the Red Bull. Azkaban shall be imprisoned in … wait, how would that work?

    WINNER: Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart – 27
    Little, Big, John Crowley – 18
    A solid win for Bridge of Birds, which begins making its way towards Star Shepherd. As to the fate of Little, Big … well, there are rumors and stories, for those who care to listen, and somewhere, they say, a strange eight-sided house.

    WINNER, seeded: The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip – 32
    The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman – 15
    Riddle-Master has a less dramatic victory this time, but a very definite victory still the same. It will continue to play games of questions with dead kings, while The Golden Compass walks away into the sky.

    WINNER, seeded: Small Gods, Terry Pratchett – 38
    Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander – 11
    Another win for Small Gods, which shall continue on its journey. Taran will stay in his own lands and become High King instead.

    WINNER: The Once and Future King, T. H. White – 27
    Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones – 16
    Fire and Hemlock did well here, but The Once and Future King did better. Remembering backwards takes the win over remembering twice.

  8. RedWombat – Glass spiders for the win in Star Trek tie-ins. Though I’da happily read more of K’t’lk without Kirk and Spock.

  9. Brian Z.: [the Puppies] are just arguing that a fan award shouldn’t automatically dismiss stuff written in a mass market context

    The Hugo Awards don’t automatically dismiss media tie-in works. The Hugo Awards don’t dismiss anything. In fact, past interpretations of the rules have been that eligible works are whatever SFF fans say are eligible works.

    Hugo nominators aren’t, for the most part, nominating media tie-in works. This is most likely because Hugo nominators seem to prefer recognizing original works and worldbuilding.

    What the Puppies, therefore, are really arguing is that Hugo nominators should nominate media tie-in works because Puppies say they should be nominated, rather than that Hugo nominators should nominate what they feel is worthy.

    It’s hardly surprising that such childish logic doesn’t get any traction with the majority of the Hugo nominators.

  10. @Kyra:

    Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Cycle, The Third Policeman, and Villains by Necessity all got off-bracket votes this time around.

    Hey, I wrote in Silverlock repeatedly! In every bracket where I hadn’t otherwise voted!

  11. @JJ:

    What the Puppies, therefore, are really arguing is that Hugo nominators should nominate media tie-in works because Puppies say they should be nominated, rather than that Hugo nominators should nominate what they feel is worthy.

    The Puppies… didn’t nominate any media tie-in works either, though, right? I mean, I’m not imagining that, am I?

  12. > “Hey, I wrote in Silverlock repeatedly! In every bracket where I hadn’t otherwise voted!”

    Silverlock is not actually an off-bracket work now, though.

    (I am technically correct! The BEST KIND of correct!)

  13. The Puppies… didn’t nominate any media tie-in works either, though, right? I mean, I’m not imagining that, am I?

    They nominated one last year – The Butcher of Khardov, which was set in the Warmachine tabletop gaming world.

    Then again, as others have said, tie-in work has previously been nominated, and won. ie, the various X Digs Time Lords books would be one. But hey, when has Brad Torgersen or Correia ever let facts get in the way of a good culture war talking point?

  14. @ Mike Glyer

    Thanks for the correction on why Redshirts doesn’t count as a media tie-in. I stand corrected.

  15. Ray Radlein on August 2, 2015 at 4:04 am said:

    What the Puppies, therefore, are really arguing is that Hugo nominators should nominate media tie-in works because Puppies say they should be nominated, rather than that Hugo nominators should nominate what they feel is worthy.

    The Puppies… didn’t nominate any media tie-in works either, though, right? I mean, I’m not imagining that, am I?

    They nominated a RPG tie-in novella last year.

  16. Nigel, I’m sincerely trying to understand what planet you are coming from. Why would Correia and Torgersen have tried to stop Vox from burning the Hugos to the ground if they didn’t care about them? Why would he agree to hold his fire if he didn’t think that they had a point?

    What planet are you from? Because they want(ed) to take them over and reshape them int heir own image. When Correia posted this year’s slate, Mike had an article about it here – there was a question of whether Correia was encouraging followers to read the slate before voting. Correia, Wright et al came over here and mocked Mike because a) they’d never heard of him and b) he’d been nominated for lots of Hugos. It was a fairly revolting display of arrogance, snobbery and entitlement, and ties in with what Jim says above about their idea of the Hugos belonging to the rich. Go check it out to see what value they place on the current Hugo awards.

    Sounds like they care to me.

    Apparently only up to the point where wrongfans are having wrongfun. If their heroic struggle against SJWs in SFF had succeeded in sweeping the nominations completely, they’d have kept The Goblin Emperor off the ballot.

  17. Speaking of all the bile and vitriol being flung around, if anything calcified my disgust at the puppies, it was that nasty, mean, bullying little performance, which Mike handled with his usual calm aplomb.

  18. The great thing about Redshirts and the Puppies is it does not count as a media tie-in when the Puppies want to demean the Hugo awards for not including media tie-in novels, but it does count as “Star Trek fan-fiction” when they want to demean the Hugo awards for lauding substandard work. It is therefore, perhaps, the perfect novel.

  19. Larry Correia saying Don’t worry, I’m sure however it turns out you will move the goalposts so you can gloat about it and declare total victory, sort of like you guys did the last couple of years…..Priceless.

  20. Jim, thanks for that link to Camestros’ blog. I think you two are both onto something.

  21. (My minority report here being simply I think you should have listened, and I really hope it is not too late.)

    And you expect me to believe you, why?

  22. @Richard

    I think I like Scalzi’s formulation from his post today:

    …because apparently when you have no idea what you’re doing, every outcome, no matter what it is, is a victory condition.

    Oh yes, and @Jim, thanks for that link, esp since it helps to answer some key questions I hadn’t realised were being answered!

  23. The Puppies… didn’t nominate any media tie-in works either, though, right? I mean, I’m not imagining that, am I?

    “A Single Samurai” isn’t labeled as such, but apparently all the worldbuilding that’s missing in the story is covered in the game it’s derived from – people who have played it say it’s obvious. I haven’t, so for me the story was all “wait, where did *that* come from?”

  24. Yes “A Single Samurai” is derived Shadow of the Colossus.

    Best tie in fiction on the Star Trek universe are Ford’s books and Kagan. Loved her fiction overall and her novels which I believe are out of print are well worth reading.

    I could ‘t believe when I came across the thread that the puppy leaders including LC, JCW and BT. The other thing I found interesting and this ties in to what Jim Henley and apparently Camestros are theorizing in regards to the puppies is the deference they use to address George RR Martin versus the way they chose to engage Mike on this site. Obviously Martin is what they aspire to professionally.

  25. Wait, A Single Samurai is supposed to be based on Shadow of the Colossus? How? I mean, yes, SotC has giant monsters you climb on, as does ASS, but… that’s the only similarity; for goodness sake the “giant monsters” aren’t even remotely the same size- SotC has them at a couple hundred feet tall, max, but ASS has one the size of a mountain. SotC isn’t even set in populated Japan- it’s in an unspecified secluded valley, no time period given.

    There’s literally nothing connecting A Single Samurai to Shadow of the Colossus other than both feature giant monsters. It’s as much a media tie-in to Godzilla as it is to Shadow of the Colossus. Which is to say, not at all.

  26. @PresN – I think it’s more that A Single Samurai is *derivative* of SotC. I haven’t played SotC in years, but the moment I read …Samurai it immediately came to mind.

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