Pixel Scroll 8/12/20 You Can Pixel Your Friends, And You Can Pixel Your Scroll, But You Can’t Pixel Your Friend’s Scroll

(1) AIRCHECK. WNYC’s The Takeaway had a segment with Victor LaValle and Silvia Moreno-Garcia today: “New Generation of Writers of Color Reckon with H.P. Lovecraft’s Racism”. Both authors discuss their first encounters with Lovecraft and how later readings opened them up to recognizing more of Lovecraft’s personal failings. The Retro Hugos are discussed and criticized by Moreno-Garcia.

This weekend, the television show “Lovecraft Country,” premieres on HBO. Based on a book by Matt Ruff, the show is set during the Jim Crow South, and combines the actual terrors of racism with the fantastical horror of author H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote most of his work in the early 20th century. In real life, Lovecraft was extremely racist, and his personal letters reveal his opposition to interracial relationships, as well as his support of Adolf Hitler.

While his influence has been felt in fantasy and horror for decades, a new generation of writers, particularly writers of color, have recently begun to reckon with his bigoted views in their own fiction.

The Takeaway speaks with two of the acclaimed authors who have worked to reclaim Lovecraft’s work for women and people of color, Victor LaValle is the author of “The Changeling,” and Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of “Mexican Gothic.”

(2) DELANY LECTURE TO BE WEBCAST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Yale’s annual Donald Windham Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes are going online this year. That’s good news for SFF fans, because it means that we’ll get to tune in for their keynote guest speaker Samuel R. Delany. Delany will deliver the 2020 Windham-Campbell Lecture on the subject “Why I write.” The lecture will be cast at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on September 16 at windhamcampbell.org. (“Samuel R. Delany to Deliver the 2020 Windham-Campbell Lecture”.)

(3) ARECIBO OBSERVATORY DAMAGED. Vice leads the mourning: “A Broken Cable Has Wrecked One of Earth’s Largest Radio Telescopes”. But they intend to restore it to full operation.

The Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest single-aperture radio telescopes in the world, has suffered extensive damage after an auxiliary cable snapped and crashed through the telescope’s reflector dish.

…In addition to halting scientific observations at the telescope, the accident is sad news for anyone inspired by Arecibo’s status as a cultural icon and its pioneering role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). 

The observatory was written into the plot of Carl Sagan’s bestselling novel Contact, as well as its 1997 film adaptation. It has also served as the backdrop in the James Bond film GoldenEye, the X-Files episode “Little Green Men,” and the multiplayer map for the game Battlefield 4, among its many other popular depictions. 

Arecibo is also a popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico that attracts nearly 100,000 visitors each year, according to its visitor center.

(4) SCALZI’S NINETIES MOVIE REVIEWS. Since Richard Paolinelli (unintentionally) made people curious to read John Scalzi’s syndicated movie reviews from the 1990s, here’s a link to a set of them on his old website [Internet Archive]. The Starship Troopers and Alien Resurrection reviews are from immediately after Scalzi left his reviewing gig; the rest are from while he was writing reviews for the Fresno Bee. (These reviews are not on the current iteration of the site.)

(5) BRADBURY PANEL. The 20th Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate “American Ingenuity” in 2020, featuring the creativity and inspiration of some of the nation’s most gifted authors in a reimagined virtual festival from September 25-27.

The festival will honor Ray Bradbury with a discussion exploring his ingenious imagination and his enduring influence on literature, space exploration, and our collective curiosity. Bradbury historian and biographer Jonathan Eller will moderate the panel featuring writer and visionary Ann Druyan, co-creator of Cosmos; science fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal, winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards; and Leland Melvin, NASA engineer, astronaut, and educator.

(6) BECOMING DOCTOROW. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  On the eve of his induction into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, Cory Doctorow took to Twitter in tribute to several foundational figures who mentored him in his formative years. There are some very nice details in the thread about Judith Merril, Tanya Huff, and others. Worth a read. Thread starts here.    

As an aside, I maintain that the CSFF HoF trophy is one of the most beautiful trophy designs in all fandom. 

(7) THE POINT. Athena Scalzi opened my eyes to a generational difference in attitude about punctuation in “Periods. What Are They Good For.” at Whatever.

…More often than not, people my age opt to completely leave out any type of punctuation at the end of texts or tweets, especially short messages, because there’s no need to punctuate if there’s only one sentence, you can just send the message and that counts as the ending point. In addition, Twitter has a character limit, and why waste a character on a period?

I can absolutely confirm without a doubt that everyone my age for some reason thinks that periods are passive-aggressive as hell and if you use one in a text you must be mad about something, or upset with the person you’re sending it to. You just sound… so angry. I can’t explain where this logic came from, but we all hear it the same way. Periods mean you’re unhappy. When you send a sentence with a period, you are sending a clear-cut statement that has a finite end, so it must be about something serious….

(8) KICKSTARTER.The Recognize Fascism Anthology” Kickstarter has hit $12,000 on the way to a $15,000 stretch goal that would allow them to also do an audiobook. And all backers who pledge at or above the “$25 or more” level will receive a digital copy of the Recognize Fascism audiobook.

The 70,000 word anthology edited by Crystal M. Huff features 22 authors from 9 different countries. See the Table of Contents here. The Kickstarter updates include there Recognize Fascism authors reading excerpts of their stories:

(9) I’M THE DOCTOR, NOT A BRICKLAYER. Gizmodo heard that “David Tennant Wants to Beam Aboard Star Trek”.

In a recent Reddit AMA (as reported by Syfy Wire), Tennant was asked what major franchise he’d want to cross off of his bucket list next. He’s already made waves as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, a Marvel villain in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and a sexy demon in Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. But there’s one major series he said he’s still keen on joining.

(10) OUT FROM UNDER. BBC reports “Middlemarch and other works by women reissued under their real names”.

Novels written by women using male pen names have been reissued using the authors’ actual names.

The collection includes George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which has been reissued under the author’s real name, Mary Ann Evans, for the first time.

The 25 titles have been released to mark the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Reclaim Her Name library features newly commissioned cover artwork from female designers.

Other titles in the collection include A Phantom Lover, a gothic horror novel Violet Paget published under the pen name Vernon Lee.

Also featured is Indiana by George Sand, the male pseudonym used by the 19th Century French novelist Amantine Aurore Dupin.

(11) RE MINDER. NESFA’s reCONvene 2020 is happening August 15.

reCONvene is an online convention, organized for science fiction and fantasy fans by fans. In addition to featuring traditional content such as panel discussions, solo talks, and demos, we are also taking advantage of the online environment to try a few new things that aren’t normally possible at in-person conventions. We look forward to having you join us.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in three volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips.  (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born August 12, 1929 John Bluthal. He was Von Neidel in The Mouse on the Moon which sounds silly and fun. He’s in Casino Royale as both a Casino Doorman and a MI5 Man. He had roles in films best forgotten such as Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. (Really. Don’t ask.) and did play a blind beggar in The Return of the Pink Panther as well, and his last genre role was as Professor Pacoli in the beloved Fifth Element. Lest I forget, he voiced Commander Wilbur Zero, Jock Campbell and other characters in Fireball XL5. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrotethe original Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. He was hired to adapt “Flowers for Algernon“ as a screenplay which he but the story goes that Cliff Robertson intensely disliked his screenplay and it was discarded for one by Stirling Silliphant that became Charly. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born August 12, 1936 – George Flynn, Ph.D., F.N.  Stalwart of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n).  Proofreader for NESFA Press; widely regarded as the best proofreader in SF.  Named Fellow of NESFA (service award).  Representative of the Fannish Frisian Freedom Front to the Highmore in ’76 Worldcon bid.  Knight and Wilhelm bibliographies for Noreascon Two Pgm Bk (38th Worldcon).  Administrator of Hugo Awards.  Reporter of WSFS (World SF Soc.) Business Meetings for SF Chronicle.  Head of the Long List Committee.  Letters in Banana WingsThe Frozen FrogIzzardJanusPatchin Review.  A fine man to watch the Masquerade (on-stage costume competition) with, quiet, observant, articulate.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced Doctor Who from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished having become the longest-serving Doctor Who producer and cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Other than Who, he had a single production credit, the K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend film. He wrote two books, Doctor Who – The TARDIS Inside Out and Doctor Who: The Companions. He would die of a massive infection just a year before the announcement the show was being revived. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 12, 1948 – Tim Wynne-Jones, O.C., 72.  Three novels for us, a score of shorter stories; many others, children’s and adults’.  Radio dramas & songs.  “I stole my father’s Welsh moodiness and his love of awful puns.”  Here is his cover for North by 2000.  Seal First Novel Award, Edgar Award, Metcalf Award.  Two Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards.  Three Governor General’s Awards.  Officer of the Order of Canada.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 12, 1954 Sam J. Jones, 66. Flash Gordon in the 1980 version of that story. Very, very campy. A few years later, he played the lead role in a TV adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit which I’ve not seen and am now very curious about. (CE)
  • Born August 12, 1957 Elaine Cunningham, 63. She’s best known for her work on Dungeons & Dragons creating the campaign setting of Forgotten Realms, including the realms of EvermeetHalruaa, Ruathym and Waterdeep. She’s also wrote The Changeling Detective Agency series as well as a Star Wars novel, Dark Journey. (CE) 
  • Born August 12, 1967 – Kelly McCullough, 53.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories, for us; many others.  Writers of the Future winner.  Actor in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota Renaissance Festivals.  Essays in ApexUncanny.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 12, 1969 – Rachel Kadish, 51.  “A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion,” says Toni Morrison.  Three novels; two dozen shorter stories, essays in the New England ReviewParis ReviewPloughsharesSalamanderSalonSlateStory; one short story for us (in The Iowa Review!).  Gardner Award, Koret Award, Nat’l Jewish Book Award.  “On Asking Dangerous Questions About Spinoza” for the American Philosophical Ass’n.  [JH]
  • Born August 12, 1971 – Erin McKean, 49.  Lexicographer; Principal Editor, New Oxford Amer. Dictionary (2nd ed’n); editor, Verbatim.  Seven books; one short story for us.  “Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’”.  [JH]
  • Born August 12, 1987 – Tom Moran, 33.  Two novels for us, half a dozen shorter stories, half a dozen covers, a dozen interiors.  Here is Breaking Eggs.  Guardian and Legend Press prize (books “that are not only zeitgeisty and promising, but will be talked about in 10 or even 100 years’ time”) for Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers.  [JH]


  • Half Full worries about a superhero affected by the pandemic.

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, and Delilah S. Dawson will join the Essence of Wonder team on Saturday, August 15 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, along with special guest Amal El-Mohtar who will come back on the show to interview Kevin about his work. Kevin, Chuck, and Delilah will discuss the art and science of location scouting, and their joint hobby of nature photography “as a moment on zen”. Register here: “Kevin Hearne And Friends on Location Scouting, and Nature Photography”.

(15) THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If there’s one thing that Canadians love more than bragging about our universal health care system, it’s talking about the future of the health care system. Fresh off his fourth time on the Hugo shortlist, Canuck fan writer James Davis Nicoll takes a look at some of the various ways that science fiction writers have imagined health care systems. I’m just surprised that he doesn’t talk about Mercy Point — ”Five Science-Fictional Approaches to Healthcare” at Tor.com.

Recently I encountered an SF novel in which medical care—more exactly, healthcare funding—featured as a significant element. Curiously, the work drew on the same rather implausible healthcare system used to such effect in, say, Breaking Bad. No doubt the author was simply unaware of other approaches. Other science fiction authors have been more imaginative when it comes to healthcare systems, as these five examples show….

(16) MÖRK, NOT FROM ORK. “Unleash the minstrels of pain! Mörk Borg, the metal role-playing game rocking lockdown”The Guardian has the story.

The dungeon-master Flintwyrm explains to four adventurers over a voice call that the only way to stop the apocalypse is to play the most intense extreme-metal song imaginable. All they have to do is find a concert venue called The Hall of Cacophonous Screams, an endless keg of beer, and five “minstrels of pain” to frontline their jam session, all the while surviving goblins and the forthcoming apocalypse. Flintwyrm, a 29-year-old named Christopher Joel, is excited about the adventure: this is how he and hundreds of strangers are bonding during quarantine, whether they are role-playing gamers, metalheads, or somewhere in between.

Welcome to Mörk Borg, the headbanger of a game that is the latest example of the fertile cross-pollination between tabletop role-playing and extreme metal: a love letter to the hellraising imagery, lyrics, and album art of metal.

(17) A FILER ON FAULKNER. The current Atlantic has a review by former Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust of The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War by Michael Gorra — “What to Do About William Faulkner”. Most Filers may not know that Gorra, the eminent English professor at Smith College, was once a fanzine publisher. And Gorra commented here as recently as 2012!

…Michael Gorra, an English professor at Smith, believes Faulkner to be the most important novelist of the 20th century. In his rich, complex, and eloquent new book, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, he makes the case for how and why to read Faulkner in the 21st by revisiting his fiction through the lens of the Civil War, “the central quarrel of our nation’s history.” Rarely an overt subject, one “not dramatized so much as invoked,” the Civil War is both “everywhere” and “nowhere” in Faulkner’s work. He cannot escape the war, its aftermath, or its meaning, and neither, Gorra insists, can we. As the formerly enslaved Ringo remarks in The Unvanquished (1938) during Reconstruction-era conflict over voting rights, “This war aint over. Hit just started good.” This is why for us, as for Jason and Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury (1929), was and again are “the saddest words.” As Gorra explains, “What was is never over.”

In setting out to explore what Faulkner can tell us about the Civil War and what the war can tell us about Faulkner, Gorra engages as both historian and literary critic. But he also writes, he confesses, as an “act of citizenship.” His book represents his own meditation on the meaning of the “forever war” of race, not just in American history and literature, but in our fraught time. What we think today about the Civil War, he believes, “serves above all to tell us what we think about ourselves, about the nature of our polity and the shape of our history.”

…Gorra underscores the “incoherence” of Faulkner’s position as both critic and defender of the white South’s resistance to change….

(18) WORTH A ROYALTY. Garik16’s “Fantasy Novella Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo” wishes the story had been even longer.

…And it’s a really nice story of memory and queerness and family, told by an old woman (identified only as “Rabbit”) to a “Cleric” of an order of archivists, telling mainly the story of the just deceased Empress, from a time in her life when she was in exile.  It’s a tale of memory, love, and family and what it all means, as we and the archivist find out about how one cast off woman managed to fight back against a man in power determined to keep her out of his way, and what it cost in the end.

(19) THE TAENIIDAE FAMILY. “Save The Whales. Save The Tigers. Save The Tapeworms?” They’re creepy and they’re kooky – no, wait, that’s somebody else.

They’re wiggly and slimy and live inside the flesh of other animals. Now, scientists are making a new case for why they should be saved.

Parasites play crucial roles in ecosystems around the world, making up around 40% of animal species. As wildlife faces the growing threats of climate change and habitat loss, scientists warn that parasites are equally vulnerable.

That’s why a team of scientists has released a “global parasite conservation plan.”

“Parasites have a major public relations problem,” says Chelsea Wood, assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Most people don’t really like thinking about them, but the fact is they’re really important in ecosystems.”

…”We think that about 1 in every 10 parasite species might be threatened with extinction in the next 50 years just from losing their habitat,” says Colin Carlson, assistant professor and biologist at Georgetown University. “But when we account for that they might also lose their hosts, it pushes it closer to about 1 in every 3 species of parasite.”

“That’s an extinction rate that’s almost unthinkable at broad scales,” Carslon says.

(20) ‘POD PEOPLE. NPR talked to people who think “Gene-Altered Squid Could Be The Next Lab Rats”. Sounds fascinating, right?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: So what he’s saying there is it’s a big world out there with all kinds of organisms whose genes we could be studying, but, you know, we’re not really. So Josh and his colleagues have been trying to add another organism to that short list of model organisms, and what he’s most interested in are squids.

KWONG: Oh, like cephalopods.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right – squid, cuttlefish, octopuses – all cephalopods.

(21) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT A ZILLION YEARS AGO. What a croc — “‘Teeth The Size Of Bananas’; New Study Paints Picture Of ‘Terror Crocodiles'”.

Enormous “terror crocodiles” once roamed the earth and preyed on dinosaurs, according to a new study revisiting fossils from the gigantic Late Cretaceous crocodylian, Deinosuchus.

The research, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reiterates that Deinosuchus were among the largest crocodylians ever in existence, reaching up to 33 feet in length. New in this study is a look at the anatomy of the Deinosuchus, which was achieved by piecing together various specimens unknown until now, giving a fuller picture of the animal.

Adam Cossette, a vertebrate paleobiologist at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, led the study that corrected some misunderstandings about the Deinosuchus.

“Until now, the complete animal was unknown,” Cossette said. “These new specimens we’ve examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with teeth the size of bananas.”

Past studies on cranial remains and bite marks on dinosaur bones led paleontologists to believe the massive Deinosuchus were an opportunistic predator, according to the press release. Fossil specimens now make it clear that Deinosuchus did indeed have the head size and jaw strength to have its pick of prey, including large dinosaurs.

“Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” Cossette said.

(22) THE NEIGHS HAVE IT. “Europe’s earliest bone tools found in Britain” – BBC is on the lookout.

Archaeologists say they’ve identified the earliest known bone tools in the European archaeological record.

The implements come from the renowned Boxgrove site in West Sussex, which was excavated in the 1980s and 90s.

The bone tools came from a horse that humans butchered at the site for its meat.

Flakes of stone in piles around the animal suggest at least eight individuals were making large flint knives for the job.

Researchers also found evidence that other people were present nearby – perhaps younger or older members of a community – shedding light on the social structure of our ancient relatives.

There’s nothing quite like Boxgrove elsewhere in Britain: during excavations, archaeologists uncovered hundreds of stone tools, along with animal bones, that dated to 500,000 years ago.

They were made by the species Homo heidelbergensis, a possible ancestor for modern humans and Neanderthals.

(23) GIVING AWAY THE ENDING. Since you won’t be around to see this anyway, no spoiler warning is required. Science says “This is the way the universe ends: not with a whimper, but a bang”.

In the unimaginably far future, cold stellar remnants known as black dwarfs will begin to explode in a spectacular series of supernovae, providing the final fireworks of all time. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which posits that the universe will experience one last hurrah before everything goes dark forever….

…The particles in a white dwarf stay locked in a crystalline lattice that radiates heat for trillions of years, far longer than the current age of the universe. But eventually, these relics cool off and become a black dwarf.

Because black dwarfs lack energy to drive nuclear reactions, little happens inside them. Fusion requires charged atomic nuclei to overcome a powerful electrostatic repulsion and merge. Yet over long time periods, quantum mechanics allows particles to tunnel through energetic barriers, meaning fusion can still occur, albeit at extremely low rates.

…Caplan says the dramatic detonations will begin to occur about 101100 years from now, a number the human brain can scarcely comprehend. The already unfathomable number 10100 is known as a googol, so 101100 would be a googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol years. The explosions would continue until 1032000 years from now, which would require most of a magazine page to represent in a similar fashion.

(24) CREATE A NEED AND FILL IT. Archie McPhee offers the Office Possum. You didn’t know you needed one, did you?

This perfect possum has posable paws so it can hang on the side of a garbage can, computer monitor or anything with a ledge. It even has a tail for creepy dangling! Sure, you can set it up somewhere to scare a loved one, but really the Office Possum just wants to be your new BFF.

(25) HE’S RED, JIM. If these masks go with Trek crew uniforms, one wearer may find out if there’s an afterlife sooner than the others.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John King Tarpnian, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John A Arkansawyer, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cliff, Tom Boswell, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

86 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/12/20 You Can Pixel Your Friends, And You Can Pixel Your Scroll, But You Can’t Pixel Your Friend’s Scroll

  1. 7) I’m older than most people at my job and I do get a little nervous sometimes that my punctuation-loving ways will be misinterpreted. I don’t read texts that way, but I get it – as long as it’s very common to omit punctuation (and I know typing is easier on smartphones than old phones, but most people still don’t love to type more than they have to), that period is an extra thing that someone had to go to a little extra trouble to do, so it’s no surprise that it could come across as some kind of inflection. Like, in my family if my parents ever used both my first name and my middle name, it meant I was in trouble. Even outside my family I think it’s pretty common to take a use of one’s first name within a conversation, when it wasn’t strictly necessary since it’s already clear who’s being addressed, as indicating extra forcefulness (“Eli, what I’m trying to tell you is…”) I think the period thing is a bit like that.

  2. 12) William Goldman also wrote at least one novel with strong SF elements, Brothers (1986). I’m sure I’m not literally the only person who read it, but I’ve never seen it mentioned and that’s kind of understandable – it’s an interesting book at least intermittently, but a real mess and the use of SF technology in it is a bit arbitrary, just a way of indicating that it’s a bad thing for shadowy military types to keep trying to invent worse weapons because what if they invented mind control and exploding children. Goldman can be effective at horror though, and there are a few bits in this that are pretty creepy (e.g. there’s an invention that makes people suicidally depressed; another one makes you gladly do whatever anyone says, which is a familiar enough trope until they mention offhandedly that a single dose of this is effective forever). The weirdest thing about it is that it’s technically a sequel to Marathon Man, the protagonist being one of the spy characters from that who turns out not to be dead after all.

  3. @Andrew
    I get that. But the omission of periods by young people is something I’m just now learning about from Athena. In my admittedly limited experience, people my age and older use periods when texting. And it sounds like that’s been Athena’s experience too. So where are the old people that have passed this bad habit on? 🙂

  4. @Erin Underwood: Thanks! Those ReCONvene accessing instructions are rather lengthy but clear – and the length is fairly obviously necessary, seeing that the getting-in process has to co-ordinate the log-in processes for three different websites. But I’ll be warning anyone else I’m telling about ReCONvene to give themselves at least enough time between joining the convention and ReCONvene itself both to allow you to send them their Discord invitation and to get through the getting-in process (which I suspect actually takes little more time than reading the instructions, provided one has both Discord and Zoom set up already).

    Oh, and I think you were the person whose remark at CoNZealand clued me in to the fact that ReCONvene would be using Discord – so thanks for that as well.

  5. I started teaching writing in typewriter days, and it was useful then to explain why particular manuscript conventions mattered–mostly because college papers were beginners’ versions of professional texts, and besides needing to conform to the current model of Standard Written English, the as-if context was that those texts (or their descendants) might someday be considered for publication, and editors and proofreaders and typsetters expected various typographical/presentational conventions–and they might bounce a piece (or not re-hire a writer) if they were absent.

    Thus the double-space between sentences (and after colons), the indented paragraph (block-paragraph format wasn’t part of the humanities standard), and so on. We didn’t teach about drop-caps or insist on full justification because those were features worried about by the designer or typsetter. Hyphenation rules, on the other hand, did matter.

    The same kind of thinking applied to the formatting rules for footnotes (and later endnotes) and bibliogpraphies (with additional attention given to the needs of the non-editor typescript reader). I taught long enough to see MLA documentation rules change a couple of times, and all composition teachers were aware that there were style-sets from other disciplines and professional settings. And anybody who has written professionally gets used to the way house styles can vary. (When I started at Locus, Charles Brown insisted on putting commas and periods outside quotation marks, which I think he borrowed from UK practice.)

    It’s not surprising that texts and tweets and informal e-mails have developed their own streamlined convention-sets–phones screens and virtual keyboards impose limits. I do find it odd that there is a user demographic that assigns emotional significance to pre-phone conventions. Punctuation, caps, and such are potential performance signals, and a period between every word certainly means “read these words in this manner”–but the terminal period is just that. Unless, of course, one is starting with presumptions about the demographic that is employing a long-standing punctuation convention. End of story. (See what I did there?)

  6. (7) Sorry, really not buying the idea that indicating I’ve completed my thought is an indication of anger or hostility. Single or double space is different; it’s an issue of how things appear and fit on the page and screen.

  7. I wasn’t peeved when I sent the text using proper punctuation, but I am now that I know how punctuation is being interpreted.

    My sons are in Athena’s demographic and all write well-punctuated texts with all words spelled out. My persnickety copy editing gene won out.

  8. @Laura:

    I get that. But the omission of periods by young people is something I’m just now learning about from Athena. In my admittedly limited experience, people my age and older use periods when texting. And it sounds like that’s been Athena’s experience too. So where are the old people that have passed this bad habit on?

    Ah. Good point. If my notion is correct, there must be a significant number of moderately old early adopters of texting who created the context that younger folks assimilated and Athena’s generation has taken for granted. I’m not a sociolinguist (I does sound like a fascinating field, though) – hopefully one of those is doing the work (unlike a lot of linguistic events, the history of texting may be documented enough to make some conclusions)

  9. Just registered for ReCONvene after adjusting my weekend schedule around to make room for it. (“Hey, hon, can we have date night on Sunday instead of Saturday?” “Sure.” “Great!” Boom. Schedule adjusted.) Very much appreciating the link to the detailed software instructions!

    re: flip-phones – At least the new Alcatel Go Flip generally handles media better than the Samsung did. But sometimes it doesn’t, as when my derby teammate sent me the group photo she took of us after a trail skate, and I had to ask her to resend it to my email. Also, that flip-phone ain’t doing Zoom, sorry. And no matter how carefully I retyped into my (laptop) browser the Zoom link someone texted me, it just. Wouldn’t. WORK. Thankfully, that text had an option for forwarding it to my email. Weird that the photo my teammate sent didn’t.

  10. @rcade: your offspring may well engage in “code switching” and use the style they know you prefer when communicating with you.

    Double-spacing: I deliberately retrained myself. It took some time and effort, and I’m still not 100%, but I made the effort because some software (other than HTML) doesn’t react well. After a week spent cleaning up the mess my habits had made on an intraoffice wiki, I decided it was time.

  11. Chip Hitchcock: I doubt Athena knows enough peers in Twitterdom to match the confidence of that statement

    I think you misunderstand. She’s primarily talking about txting, not about Twitter; she’s just pointing to Twitter as a possible contributor to how this cultural difference developed.

    Chip Hitchcock: I’m fascinated to see comments that confirm. I wouldn’t be surprised that such a trivial-seeming variation has taken on great significance in some circles; shibboleths come and go — and do so much more rapidly in the age of instant communication.

    I think you’re minimizing the actual prevalence of this perception among younger people. I was so croggled by it that I sent an e-mail to my siblings and their kids. Two nieces, who grew up a couple thousand miles apart from each other and nowhere near Athena Scalzi, have both confirmed for me that this is the case. (My sibling then said, “I had no idea about this either.  I love periods.  No wonder [my daughter] thinks I’m angry.” (Note that this message was sent with double spaces after the periods. 😀 )

  12. @Lenora Rose: I read a lot of novels, but probably not nearly enough short fiction, especially from small presses; I am now enlightened (or at least a little less endarkened…).

    @James Moar: so we were both right; it should have been “the heavy use of emphasis.” (For some reason my mind’s ear is now hearing that as Kirking — and I haven’t been reading much graphics recently, let alone ones in which characters Kirk.) I am fascinated to see from repeated point edits that the character conversion on this blog insists on US punctuation of quotes — the above ends with a double open-quote if I put the period afterward.

    @JJ: I was considering all of Athena’s ~peers (not just her friends) as a circle — notice my acknowledgment of how widespread the perception was. It would be interesting to see how far along in age that reading of ‘.’ reaches.

  13. @Olav – thanks for that – I’ve been struggling to remember that clip since first reading this scroll. It definitely seems to me that exclamation marks are more frequently used by Americans in corporate communications than by the British.

    @Russell – I was definitely taught in the UK to put commas and full stops inside the closing quotation mark.

  14. @Cliff — For direct quotes, right? With the closing quotation mark on a title, they’d go outside, yes? If you type a period or comma before a straight double-quotation mark here, it becomes a curly right quotation mark. At least in preview, the close quote stays a straight quote if you put them after. Let me see what happens when I post this:

    Here is “a title.” “A title,” by an author.
    Here is “a title”. “A title”, by an author.

    ETA: The smart quotes are smart after all! (And the double spaces I typed in between the sentences become single spaces.)

  15. @Laura – you’re right: I was thinking of direct speech. For a title, as you say, I’d expect the punctuation inside, although I don’t ever recall that being taught at school, and in my magazine work we favoured italics rather than quotes for titles.

  16. @Contrarius : Thanks for that. Reminds me of this https://ansible.uk/writing/20years.html

    Before I quote from Kevin Smith’s piece ‘How to Write like Joseph Nicholas’ … two disclaimers. First, you don’t need to know Joseph Nicholas’s writing. Second, Joseph himself protests that he no longer writes like this at all. Here we go:

    ‘The starting point in writing like Joseph Nicholas is a simple statement, e.g. –

    “The cat sat on the mat.”

    Add adjectives and adverbs:

    “The large cat sat crookedly on the coconut mat.”

    More adjectives, more adverbs:

    “The large ginger cat sat crookedly, preening itself, on the hairy, coconut mat.”

    It may help if an adverb is somewhat unapt. Then insert similes:

    “The large ginger cat sat as crookedly as a corkscrew, preening itself, on a coconut mat with more hair than Greg Pickersgill.”

  17. @Andrew —

    Heh. Thanks for that link — though it made be feel embarrassingly un-informed about sff history!

  18. Andrew (not Werdna): Your comment reminded me I wrote an article called “Joseph Nicholas’ Literary Offenses” for Marty Cantor’s Holier Than Thou. I think we can all be relieved that it’s not in one of the issues that’s available online because of the great likelihood I would try and quote what I said.

  19. your offspring may well engage in “code switching” and use the style they know you prefer when communicating with you.

    They’ve discussed with me their wish more people their age would use punctuation and full words in texts. It’s glorious.

  20. Here’s a paper from 2016 about perception of periods in texts among teenagers https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0747563215302181

    Text messaging is one of the most frequently used computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods. The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed in CMC. Much of the research in this domain has involved large corpus analyses, focusing on the contents of texts, but not how receivers comprehend texts. We ask whether punctuation – specifically, the period – may serve as a cue for pragmatic and social information. Participants read short exchanges in which the response either did or did not include a sentence-final period. When the exchanges appeared as text messages, the responses that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than those that did not end with a period. No such difference was found for handwritten notes. We conclude that punctuation is one cue used by senders, and understood by receivers, to convey pragmatic and social information.

  21. On the subject of textual/linguistic generation gaps, an informal survey:

    If you wanted to represent the way one might plead their case while batting their puppy-dog eyes in a winsome way, would you write it,

    “Pleeeeeeeease?”, or


    Simarily, when expressing cool approval of something, do you think it’s

    “Niiiiiice.”, or


    The latter is what I keep running into online, and it makes the mini-me who lives in my head and reads everything aloud where only my brain can hear it very tense.

  22. I’d definitely go for the first one in both cases, and agree that both second alternatives fall into the Uncanny Valley. (Speaking as a 52-year-old.)

  23. Yup, first one in both because that’s the vowel you’d actually draw out if you were saying it. The second ones become two syllables of nonsense. (51 years old here.)


  24. I’m 59 and agree it’s the first in both cases. However, in the second the consonant can also be drawn out – “Niccccccccce.”

  25. @Nicole: Similarly, I’ve seen (in a comic book) the exclamation “oh God” drawn out as “oh Godddddddd”, which looks challenging to say.

  26. @Nicole
    First one, in both cases – but the “c” in “nice” will also work. (69, 70 next fall).
    Do people not hear what they actually say?

  27. To be fair, English is so weird sometimes that it’s amazing anyone can figure it out! Why on earth does changing the number of vowels between “loose” and “lose”, for example, change the pronunciation of the following consonant and not change the pronunciation of the vowel? It makes no sense whatsoever! (This oddity is, I’m pretty sure, why that pair is so commonly misspelled.) If you think about it, that’s just as silly as “niceeee”, and has been formally standardized. On both sides of the pond, even.

    On the other hand, I’m such an old fuddy-duddy in some ways that I insist on using dashes when I write a drawn-out word. So: “ni-i-i-i-ice” rather than “niiiice”. The latter just seems wrong to me, even though I understand why people do it.

    (Using dashes also helps distinguish between “Bo-o-o-o-ob” and “boo-o-o-ob”. Which can be an important distinction at times.) 🙂

  28. If I used dashes on the latter, I’d probably be tempted to put Boo-oo-oo-oob just to be really clear.

  29. @Eli: There’s also a comics tumblr that I follow which collects examples of what it calls “the most overused phrase is comics” called “Get Out of My Headdddd”. If I’d been titling it I’d have made it “Heeeaaaad”….

    (It actually collects various variants: basically, strike out whatever doesn’t apply from “get out / stay out / of my head / mind / brain / skull”.)

  30. Well, glad to hear that I’m not alone – and I agree with Laura both on the effect of the latter examples (and I’d add it sounds like baby-talk! “Nicey nicey!”), and the probability that people are just repeating the last letter without thinking too hard about the phonetic implications. I suppose not everyone has mini-mes in their head reading the text out loud.

    In the case Eli mentions of “Oh Godddddd”, I can see how the typist may have arrived there; it’s related to why the dashes are so necessary in “Bo-o-o-o-ob”. But “Go-o-o-o-od” sounds in my head like a drawn-out “Go!” with a d at the end. I suspect if I had it to write, I’d go with something like “Oh, Gaaaaahd.” Maybe a w instead of an h. The italics would be obligatory.

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