Pixel Scroll 8/14 Tom Swift and His Positronic Pixels

High dudgeon, low dudgeon, and dudgeon in between, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) Liz Lutgendorff tells New Statesman readers that the books on NPR’s list of 100 best fantasy and sci-fi novels aren’t all that.

When it comes to the best of anything, what do you expect? If it’s science fiction and fantasy novels you want epic adventures and getting out of impossible situations. But what you often get is barely disguised sexism and inability to imagine any world where women are involved in the derring-do.

At the end of 2013, after a year of reading very little, I decided to embark on a challenge: read all the books I hadn’t yet read on NPR’s list of 100 best sci-fi and fantasy novels. Nostalgia permeates the list. Of the books I read, there were more books published before 1960 than after 2000. The vast majority were published in the 1970s and 1980s. There were also many sci-fi masterworks or what were groundbreaking novels. However, groundbreaking 30, 40, 50 or 100 years ago can now seem horribly out of date and shockingly offensive….

I was working my way up to a proper fannish rage when I encountered this paragraph –

In contrast to the male-dominated stories, there’s The Doomsday Book, where a woman named Kivrin is put into all sorts of danger. She’s stuck in 14th century England, with her meticulously crafted cover blown by illness, and only her knowledge, strength and intelligence to help her survive.

Why, that’s one of my favorite books. All is forgiven — what good taste you have, Liz!

(2) The world’s first science fiction convention in Leeds is chronicled by David Wildman at Tiny Tickle. (Maybe File 770 is not such a bad title!)

Attendees at the 1937 Leeds convention.

Attendees at the 1937 Leeds convention.

So to some, it may actually be more of a surprise to learn that the first ever science fiction convention didn’t actually take place until 1937, and they may be less surprised to find that it was based in Leeds, and not the likes of London or some city in the US.

And so is the controversy about whether it really was the first.

But was it really the first science fiction convention? – The Philadelphia claim

Like many great things to happen in the world, there is always contention, there is always conspiracy and like many average things, there is always disagreement born from jealousy and pride.

Unfortunately, the title to the first science fiction convention in the world is marred somewhat by a claim laid by an event held in Philadelphia in 1936 – just one year before Leeds’ own.

Indeed, the only question the article leaves unanswered is why it includes a ginormous photo of Captain Kirk clutching Yeoman Rand?

(3) More about Rachel Bloom promoting her new sitcom:

The cast of the new CW musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are ready to take the Internet by storm with a tap-off.

In a video that was released Friday, series stars Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin and Vincent Rodriguez III (and yes, Pete Gardner too), show off their hoofing skills and dare fellow musical theater-loving stars of shows like “Jane the Virgin,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl” and “Madam Secretary” to record themselves doing the same.

The CW is donating to nonprofit fundraising and grant-making organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in honor of this video — and will continue to donate for every new video made.

(4) Crystal Huff of the Helsinki bid tells about her formal fannish adoption.

Crystal Huff adoption certNo, really! That happened!

I and a couple of others were called into the bar (the major social space of the con after the function rooms were closed down). There was some laughter, and then, along with three others, I was declared officially an adopted Finnish fan. I have framed the adoption certificate they presented to me, which was drawn by my friend Petri Hiltunen and features several Finnish SFF characters around the border.

I am apparently the alien baby at the top, wrapped in a Finnish flag. I adore this piece of paper. It hangs proudly in my dining room.

I didn’t have to learn any Finnish in order to be accepted into this group, although I have tried to retain basic greetings and courtesies such as “kiitos” and “ole hyvää” (aka “thank you” and “you’re welcome”). I am having great difficulty learning how to roll my R’s, I must say.

(5) Rachael Acks deals with Brad R. Torgersen’s latest gulag quote by inviting him to “fuck all the way off”.

All I have to say is this: how dare you, Brad. After you helped garner John C. Wright, a man who not-at-all-coyly talks about gay bashing as an “instinctive reaction” to “fags” a record number of nominations, how dare you project your paranoid fantasies of people wanting to harm you on us. How dare you wrap yourself in a blanket of imagined persecution when to this day transpeople are being murdered for simply existing. How dare you whip up false fears about people wanting you to die over a fucking literary award when right now black men and women are being killed by the police for simply existing. How dare you imagine yourself a second-class citizen when underprivileged women and girls are suffering because their male-run government has decided they have no right to bodily autonomy.

How dare you talk about people being shipped to frozen gulags when, today, gay and trans youth are still subjected to the very sort of reeducation you claim we want.

How dare you.

Real people are harmed every day by the positions those with whom you associate yourself espouse. Real people, who experience real pain, and real suffering, and all too often real death. The number of your faction that has been sent off to a reeducation camp is zero, and it will remain zero.

Rumors are that Santa Claus left a comment and, believe me, it wasn’t “Ho, ho, ho.”

(6) Kelly Robson thinks it should be possible to mediate between Puppies and everyone else – “The Hugos and the problem of competing narratives”

In just over a week the Hugos will be done. But it won’t be over. This shit storm we’ve been living through will go on. It’ll probably get worse. I’m sick to death of it and you probably are too.

There’s no end in sight because both sides are telling stories — personal, important, urgent stories, but stories nonetheless, told with apocalyptic rhetoric and elevated language, using energy that would be much better spent on fiction.

It’s not surprising. We are fiction writers. We are very good at making stirring narratives out of chaos.

But there’s the problem. These stories aren’t true. They’re important but not true….

The puppy narrative is that they’ve been discriminated against for 30 years. Nothing will move them off that narrative because it feels true to them. Our narrative is that the puppies are out to destroy the Hugos. Nothing will move us off that narrative because it feels true to us.

Many times people have claimed Vox Day explicitly said he wants to destroy the Hugos. In those words. But as I searched File 770 this is what I found Vox Day had said in comments contradicting those claims:

I don’t WANT the awards to be destroyed, I simply EXPECT them to be destroyed by the very people who claim to love them so much.

I didn’t have time to scour Vox Popoli to see if things changed later. Feel free to let me know what you find. But it’s possible Robson is right – that is the narrartive, and it may be inaccurate.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Doering and Laura Resnick for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist.]

381 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/14 Tom Swift and His Positronic Pixels

  1. Non-fiction recommendations:

    Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber, and to a lesser extent Capital by Thomas Piketty. Some really good ideas there that go against the grain of what has been taught or assumned.

  2. rrede on August 16, 2015 at 2:54 pm said:
    Nesitt fan here! But had not heard of Eager……

    Eager’s fun. He’s definitely got his flaws, but he’s fun. As a kid I mentally classified him with mid-twentieth century fantasyish kids’ books which included the “Borrowers” series and the “Miss Bianca” books and the actual “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” book-not-movie, and (for some reason which made sense to me at the time) “We Shook the Family Tree,” by Hildegarde Dolson.

  3. rrede, I hope you enjoy it! This is a remarkable future we’re in; it took me something like seven years of hunting used book stores before I found my own copy of JG&R. Fortunately, Canadian public library systems seem to be pretty good about having it on the shelves.

  4. Caveat emptor on Debt: My quite left-wing academic friends at Crooked Timber had a symposium for the book shortly after it came out. It…did not go well for Graeber. It was especially unusual because Crooked Timber only schedules symposia for books they expect to like. By the end, Graeber and most of the CTers weren’t speaking to each other. The academics ended up finding Graeber’s history and analysis unforgivably sloppy.

  5. Thinking about it, I read a ton of nonfiction.

    “Understanding Fashion History” by Valerie Cumming is a sociological exploration of why we think what we think when we think about clothes. It’s a history of how the history of clothing was constructed and by whom, an overview of the changing fashions of how scholars and museums have presented changing fashions.

    If you like your history meta, this one is pretty interesting.

  6. Not sure if this thread is dead but I finally went through the New Statesmen article and NPR list. Both kindled some fannish anger in me, the former for assuming nostalgia and disregarding how regardless of the period, culture or tone many of those books are classics for a reason. They had impact on the genre and influenced those who would write later. They’re significant for their ideas and influence and many are perfectly enjoyable later. I just read A Mote In God’s Eye for the first time recently and couldn’t be nostalgic about it and I still thought it was fantastic.

    Today’s sci-fi/fantasy rests on the shoulders of giants, whose ideas and writing still remain inspirational.

    The list itself though, nope. Culture series is down in the 80s while The Name of the Wind is in the teens (much less on the list)? Bullshit. There are a lot of books on that list I disagree with, in either placement or even being on there period (Sword of Truth series can go fuck right off). But I think that whenever I see any list, whether it be books, video games, TV shows and movies.

    Constructing a File 770 list might be fun considering all the voting brackets Kyra has done recently

  7. I know this is old news now (it’s almost been 5 days, fer feck’s sake!), but I never did follow that link to the critique of the top 100 SFF novels according to NPR, assuming (correctly) that I’d be mostly unsurprised and a little annoyed at it. Today I saw VD and his buds chortling about F770 readers “cheerleading” for it, so I thought, “hmm, I don’t recall any discussion of it.” But then, I don’t always manage to read all the comments on these threads, or don’t necessarily retain them all after. So I decided to read the critique then come back and check out the “cheerleading”. I’m kinda lazy, so though I searched every page of comments, I possibly didn’t search them as thoroughly as necessary and I couldn’t find any discussion of Lutgendorff’s article. Now that I’ve read it, I’m wondering what people thought of it? I had some pretty strong “do you even SFF?” type reactions, despite being a complete pinko/commie/sodomy-crusader and all that (at least compared to JCW et al.). I also feel discussing that particular article is a tightrope walk over some very hot flames. Particularly as someone who hits the white/male/cis/het… quadfecta?

    Assuming now that anyone who sees this is subscribed to the thread, and therefore someone who partakes in discussion here, so this could possibly be safely brought up without summoning frothing pups, anybody have any comments about that article?

    I wasn’t going to bring it up, but then I checked out the author’s site and saw a very negative review of Consider Phlebas and that was the feather on the camel’s back that set off my “SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET” alarm. I know, why am I using camels as a metaphorical canaries? Laziness, I guess.

    ETA: though I, too, was outraged to see a Xanth book on that list. Sheesh!

  8. I think there was a fair amount of discussion here, almost all of it of the “What the hell were they thinking?” variety. Which is the perennial standard reaction to Best lists. I particularly recall a lot of “Xanth? Please.” reactions, but that was only part of it.

    So, surprise! VD’s site’s characterization of the reaction over here is off base. Master your shock as best you can.

  9. To clarify, VD was saying F770 was cheerleading Lutgendorff’s critique of NPR’s list. I found her critique… it read like someone who wasn’t really invested in SFF at all using it as a punching bag.

  10. Did I miss something? What’s with the God Stalk references?

    I think I’m one of the people who choked on their morning tea at the inclusion of the Xanth books (and the Sword of Shannara!) on *any* list of great SFF books.

    I don’t recall anyone particularly cheerleading for the list, and I didn’t even notice Lutgendorff’s article.

    I think Mr. Beale is fantasizing the world he wants to live in again.

  11. Re God Stalk, it slowly came to my awareness during the brackets. If there were an easier way to go back and read the history of the brackets, I might do that just to remember (except I’ve already spent way too much money on new books since the brackets started). Anyway, IIRC, somebody (somebodies?) was/were shocked and dismayed at how few people around here seemed to have read/remembered the book. A few fanatical God Stalk fans started talking it up and I think this site now has the largest group of people who have read God Stalk on the interwebs (including me, now*). Eventually, the sheer number of times the phrase God Stalk was repeated caused people to start just posting it as a sign-off, or just to say hi! (aka, God Stalk).

    That’s what my head canon says (head canon also being something neat I discovered here recently).

    ETA: *and I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it.

  12. So late to return to this thread….

    @Peace: I finally looked up Edward Eager and I’m going to try one of his. Also, it lead me to a Nesbit book I wasn’t familiar with (one of many, no doubt) – The Magic City – which I may have to try. 😉 And OMG the Borrowers – I loved those as a kid! I put The Twelves in with the Brorrowers, Nesbit, the Green Knowe. . . .

    @HelenS: I’m groovy with trying out someone who’s good pastiche. 😉

    Half-Magic sounds cute. I’ve never read God Stalk (surely I’ll now be shunned ;-).

  13. I loved Eager. Read Nesbit on his recommendation, but preferred Eager.

    Has anyone here read Bunnicula?

  14. Has anyone here read Bunnicula?

    Not in years, but I seem to recall, in the dim recesses of my brain, that an ex and I had a lot of theories about that book. For the life of me, I can’t remember what they were, but I remember they were fun to develop.

  15. Kendall, shunned? Heck, no! You’re one of the Lucky 10,000! (I’d love to be able to read God Stalk again for the first time…)

    If you do end up reading it, do let us know in the then-current thread what you think of it. (Even if you hate it. We don’t all have to like the same things, after all…)

    Jonesnori/Lenore Jones, I read Bunnicula, but so long ago I have no real memories. A possibly-vampire bunny that left strangely drained vegetables behind, if memory serves…?

  16. Bunnicula was cute and silly. So far every young new reader of my acquaintance has loved it.

  17. Oh, I loved Bunnicula as a child! “The Celery Stalks at Midnight” and other puns still make me smile. I haven’t read it since childhood and have no idea how it holds up. I think it’s less commonly read than it used to be, perhaps just because there are just more children’s books available these days.

  18. possibly-vampire bunny that left strangely drained vegetables behind, if memory serves…?

    And a paranoid cat(?) dog(?) obsessed with revealing Bunnicula’s secret, but really just being kind of a paranoid jerk. Must’ve been a cat. I can’t believe I’m about to hunt down and re-read Bunnicula.

  19. And a paranoid cat(?) dog(?) obsessed with revealing Bunnicula’s secret, but really just being kind of a paranoid jerk. Must’ve been a cat.

    Conspiracy theory obsessed cat and voice of reason dog. Though the books always left just enough ambiguity to avoid making Chester seem completely unsympathetic, which I appreciated.

  20. Possibly vampire bunny, yes! The family kept finding oddly pale vegetables, and the cat noticed that there were two holes in each one, strangely like the marks of fangs….

  21. @Cassy B: Hahaha, great XKCD comic, thanks for the link. I’ve ordered an omnibus of the first two books of God Stalk (sometimes listed as Godstalk). It’s such a thing here, I have to try it. 😉 Whenver I get to it – my TBR “stack” is multiple shelves! eek – I’ll be going in ignorant, ‘cuz I started to read something about how it’s better to know little about it, and your comment seems to support that.

    I’ll report back . . . uh, it may be months or years, I should warn you. As I said, shelves of TBR books. . . .

  22. I’ve got stacks of unread books too, and today when I went into the library just to use the bathroom, Chasing the Phoenix and The Dark Forest leapt off the shelves into my backpack. And here I am only a little more than halfway through A Succession of Bad Days, and with issues of Asimov’s and The Bridge World recently arrived. Sigh.

  23. @David Goldfarb: I’ve had books order themselves off Amazon! But I can’t bear to return them. . . . 😉

  24. I found out today that Iain M. Banks’ story collection, The State of the Art, is currently unavailable as an ebook in US America. I’m fine without the flying cars, but this is a stupid future if I can’t buy electrons across national borders.

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