Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

A Hollywood bomb that made money, a cable hit with a future, and the perpetual love feast that is the Worldcon, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) James Earl Jones played B-52 bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove.

It was his seventh professional credit. In five of his first 10 roles he was cast as a doctor. That early typecasting wasn’t enough to get him the part of Dr. Strangelove himself, though… Jones first appears in this YouTube clip at :40.

James Earl Jones would establish his greatness as an actor a few years afterwards on Broadway, earning a Tony as the lead in The Great White Hope, and an Academy Award nomination in the film version of the play. Because of his prominence in mainstream entertainment, gigs like voicing Darth Vader or Mufasa in The Lion King seem like sidelines, however, Jones has often worked in genre, fantasy and offbeat productions.

He played alien abductee Barney Hill in a 1975 TV movie, Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, the warrior Umslopogaas in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), reclusive author Terence Mann in Field of Dreams (1989), and also has been in many obscure genre and animated productions.

(2) J. Michael Straczynski, interviewed by Comic Book Resources, is cautiously optimistic about a second season of Sense8.

While the streaming service hasn’t officially given the green light to second season, a promising gesture occurred when Netflix hosted a “Sense8″ panel during the Television Critics Association summer press tour with cast and creators in attendance, including Straczynski who updated the status of a possible renewal. “We’re still awaiting word,” he said on stage. “We’re in the process. We’re waiting for a final determination. We’re cautiously optimistic, but ultimately it’s Netflix’s call.”

If the call does come, Straczynski said he and the Wachowskis have already given plenty of thought to the next phase of the “Sense8” universe. “We’re looking at expanding that as far as logic goes,” he said. “What’s kind of fun about the characters is that what they’re sharing are not necessarily [powered] – like, in other concepts, which might be superpowers, flight. They have ordinary abilities, and we’re trying to say that there is value and merit and power in [that] – whether you’re an actor or you are a martial arts person or a bus driver, you have something to contribute.”

(3) You have til tomorrow to bid on a copy of the American first edition of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Currently up to $2,400.

twenty thousand leagues vern

(4) “7 Science Fiction Publishers that Pay $750+ for Short Stories” seems to have valid info (I checked the Analog entry and it is good) even if the page itself is an ad for writing jobs.

(5) Today’s birthday boy – Clifford D. Simak, three-time Hugo winner, for “The Big Front Yard” (1959), “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1981), and one of my very favorite sf novels, Way Station (1964). He was named a SFWA Grand Master, received a Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, and won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.

After the original Dean of Science Fiction, Murray Leinster, passed away, Isaac Asimov considered only two writers had earned the right to succeed to the unofficial title, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Clifford Simak

Clifford Simak

(6) Artist Bob Eggleton predicts the demise of the Worldcon art show in “We LOVE Worldcon….but here’s what happened…”

Back in the 1980s, it was commonplace for us Pro Artists to schlep or ship our work to the convention. The 80s was a great time,  SF looked good,  major authors were doing major works, the covers were the best they’d ever been.  Costs were low.  Even in the 90s it was still viable. I can remember in 1996 shipping 3 large boxes of artwork to the LACon of that year in Anaheim.  It was a lot of fun, I won a Hugo in fact. The boxes cost me something like $300.00 each way for a total of $600 and change.  I made something like $4500 in the show, so including everything, I still made money.

….It’s the shipping costs that it all comes down to vs the return in sales that are not always congruent. So while people ask “What happened to all the name artists?”….it’s simply cost that we can’t do this anymore. My personal view is also that, Worldcon has changed and few people are interested in the physical art like they used to be, with all the interest in digital media. And it has become a lot of work to prepare for these events. My memories are long and I will always remember the good times, but, they’ve passed. I see a future of an artshow-less Worldcon, due to insurance costs and lack of manpower and, as digital art becomes the mainstay, a lack of physical art.

(7) Dave Freer’s “Show me” at Mad Genius Club is a one-man roundup post.

In this case I’m talking about all those folk who have been telling us ‘we’re doing it wrong’. You know precisely the sort of individuals I’m talking about. They’ll tell me I’m an evil cruel man for killing a chicken or a wallaby… but they have never done it. They’ve never been faced with a choice of that, or no food (let alone meat). They buy a product in the supermarket… which magically makes it appear in the freezer. They’ll tell you that you did your book all wrong and that it is terrible and full of typos… but they haven’t written one. Or if they have, they didn’t have to survive the mill of the slush-pile as I did (or self-pub), but thanks to their ‘disadvantages’ and connections had a publisher pay an editor to help, and proof reader to clear some of those typos. They’ll tell you that the puppies efforts are dragging sf back in time (yes, JUST in time), yet they’ve done nothing to alter the catastrophic plunge of sf/fantasy sales from traditional publishers. If you force them to confront the figures showing they’ve been part of excluding anyone to the right of Lenin from traditional publishing and the various awards (which, it seems extremely likely, downgraded the sale-value of those awards, and the popularity of the genre… they’ll tell you there might be a problem (but of course nothing like as bad as you make it out to be) and we, the puppies just did it wrong.

(8) But never let it be said the Puppies haven’t left their noseprint on the field. Dave Hicks’s cover art for Novacon 45’s progress reports is themed for GoH Stan Nicholls’s Orcs fantasies. Here’s the topical #2.

Art by Dave Hicks.

Art by Dave Hicks.

[Thanks to David Langford and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Snowcrash.]

341 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

  1. I don’t think that tradpub is ignoring the indie MilSF scene at all.

    One of the authors on my “Buy immediately, preorder if possible” list is Jay Allan. He writes Space Marine Military SF. He’s been doing it for years, his output is prodigious and he signed with HarperCollins Voyager for a trilogy coming out at the end of the year.

    That’s right, one book a month for three months. In addition to the four other series he’s self-pubbing through Amazon. I’m super stoked about the whole thing, and I immediately preordered all three of them, hoping that it leads to more deals for him in the future. I’d love to meet him at a con some time.

  2. With quite a lot of votes in (at present, only 12 fewer than the maximum we have seen in this bracket, although it’s not even halftime yet and I would not be surprised if this were a record breaking round), a pattern has now been holding steady for quite some time: Small Gods is juuuuuust ahead of The Tombs of Atuan, and The Tombs of Atuan has a slightly bigger lead on The Last Unicorn. And for hours now, the differences between the vote totals have not particularly been growing or shrinking as the overall vote total increases.

  3. Kyra: There are rumors of a sequel named Buttercup’s Baby. Apparently Morgenstern’s estate, irked by Goldman’s butchery of The Princess Bride, refused to let him abridge that as well. And without an associated big name the publishers won’t touch it. Pity.

    I guess a partial story is better than none. At least they made a good movie. I wish the same could be said of The Last Unicorn.

  4. Re: Dredd, I like to think of it as the final part of a trilogy of unconnected Judge Dredd stories, with the first two being Robocop and Demolition Man

  5. @Simon

    Ian Douglas is usually quite good. He’s superb at portraying human characters doing their best to survive in a huge and very alien universe. Once in a great while he brings out his personal political drum and gives it a really solid thumping, but then he usually puts it back away for a book or two.

    I wonder why the Puppies don’t seem to have considered him for one of their slates. I guess being a political conservative who writes exactly the kind of high-adrenaline milSF they say they like isn’t enough to attract their notice. Especially odd since Douglas was one of the people who was intimately involved with the Traveller RPG back in the day, and you’d think that would carry all manner of cred with them. I guess he isn’t a personal buddy of any of the Mad Geniuses and doesn’t publish through Castalia, so he doesn’t rate.

  6. I find it hard to believe that trad pub is overlooking a HUGE paying market. The market may be HUGE for free or close to free books, but I doubt there is enough money there for all the sunk costs associated with trad pub.

    Most of the knockout bestsellers are $2.99 and 3.99, with a few like Jay Allan up at $4.99. Lower than trad prices, to be sure, but there’s plenty of money there, and I think trads could still move plenty of copies at $5.99-7.99. It’s rare for the big houses to be so far behind the demand curve, but it happens. Shifter paranormal romance (especially serialized) is tearing up the charts right now, for instance, and it’s almost all indie. There was a similar thing going on with post-apocalyptic back around 2011-2012.

    I don’t think that tradpub is ignoring the indie MilSF scene at all.

    One of the authors on my “Buy immediately, preorder if possible” list is Jay Allan. He writes Space Marine Military SF. He’s been doing it for years, his output is prodigious and he signed with HarperCollins Voyager for a trilogy coming out at the end of the year.

    Jay’s a friend of mine! I would agree that trad isn’t completely ignoring MilSF, indie or not. In fact, I’ve heard a number of editors are expanding their MilSF/space opera catalogues at the moment. But I do think the trends on Amazon’s bestseller lists strongly suggest the demand for MilSF is much, much higher than what traditional publishing is currently supplying.

    It’s rare to find a subgenre that’s a) that popular and b) so utterly dominated by indies. A glimpse at the Space Opera ebook category shows 90-95% indie. This might be inflated slightly because trads aren’t always great at ebook subcategories, but it’s way, way higher than the overall indie share of Kindle SF, which stood around 50%, last time I ran an analysis.

  7. @Jon F: Yes, I’ve enjoyed his stuff under various pseudonyms since his gaming novel days: and am really enjoying how he’s using the Kepler data in his latest books to show just how hostile the universe is…

  8. I loved his BattleTech novels way back when, and my favourite second-hand book shop has a ton of his Ian Douglas novels, I should really pick some up.

  9. Hampus Eckerman on August 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm said:
    Dead wallabies aren’t much fun.

    I just had a Doctor Demento flashback…

  10. “Don’t go into the forests,” I was warned. “And don’t drive into a moose, or you will die.”

    Before she was a nun, I think, my mom went on a date with a boy from Port Hawksbury (sp?) who in mid-date demonstrated his belief that the best way to get a moose off the road is to lean on the car horn.

    She didn’t date him a second time.

  11. “It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one.”

    1. The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin

  12. James Davis Nicoll, re: moose. This is a friend-of-a-friend story, but I absolutely believe it. A friend of mine was a professional roadie; for many years he drove trucks full of band equipment for major rock bands. On one memorable occasion, while driving through Canada (he HATED driving through Canada) one of his fellow roadie-company employees encountered a bull moose standing in the middle of the road, blocking it. The moose was at eye level with the driver, who was sitting in an 18-wheeler. Which gives you some idea of just how big moose get. The driver was on a tight schedule, and after sitting stopped for a minute or two, he made the epically bad decision to use his airhorn to try to scare the moose off the road, so he could proceed. The moose, taking it as a challenge, tore the truck cab apart. Into small pieces. The driver survived by hunching up in the footwell against the firewall….

    Never, ever honk at moose.

  13. [G]azing into the flickering pixels of the future… I predict that on one of the multiverse timelines where we don’t manage our own extinction event, [Pratchett & LeGuin’s] work will be considered equivalent to [Tolkien’s]…

    I would have said that Pratchett might not survive the century as the cultural references for his humor fade from mind; but then I thought, there are a lot of specifically-British things in his books that I as an American just don’t get, and yet I still reread, quote, and am influenced by those books. Some of the past survives in memory only through popular novels. If Pratchett’s novels survive their context, they’ll make their own context.

  14. Thanks Msb!

    Morris Keesan on August 4, 2015 at 11:23 am said:
    Beth in MA, the problem with jobs that give you more money to buy books is that being employed then gives you less time to read books.

    I read a lot on public transportation, though, yes, working time does eat into reading time. But I’m willing to make the sacrifice.

  15. It’s close, but The Last Unicorn has meant more to me in my life than The Tombs of Atuan. Last Unicorn it is.

  16. If I danced in life as I dance in my dreaming…

    This whole thing started me on rereading Small Gods, which I avoided rereading for a while in favour of other Pratchett so it wouldn’t lose its power (and because other Pratchett also has the power). I reread The Last Unicorn less than a year ago and it still rang so right. I reread The Tombs of Atuan within the decade, I think.

    The Last Unicorn has it, for me.

    on another topic, I can posit one theory why Nova Scotia is the place people most get lost in the woods in Canada.

    Anyone who looks at a map of Canada sees the huge swathes of forest that adorn us from Eastern Manitoba pretty much to the Atlantic, punctuated by a few mostly small cities. (the heavily populated and agricultural parts of ontario and Quebec are mostly southward, along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River valley). Similarly for the forests north of the prairies in Manitoba Saskatchewan and Alberta and into the southern parts of the Territories. Similarly for the woodsy mountains of BC. They look HUGE on a map.

    Nova Scotia? Looks bitty. It’s 0.6% of Canada.It’s also one of our most densely populated provinces, which conjures images of roads and towns always being in easy reach (by people forgetting this is Canada we’re comparing it to). That it’s still a stretch of territory it would take days (at best, and by an expert navigator and experienced wilderness travellers ) to traverse by foot, that it’s over a quarter the size of Great Britain, is not terribly obvious on the big maps.

  17. I could believe that SFF fans, of all people, may be quick and enthusiastic adopters of a convenient technology which allows them to purchase books almost effortlessly.

    *snort* I COULD believe it, but I don’t, because I’ve watched too much whinging about how hard it is to get on the SFWA forums and what does this button do and video conference? What?

    And let’s not get started on Harlan Ellison and his typewriter.

    I think SFF fans are exactly as likely to be comfortable with the tech of their youth and resistant to change as any other demographic. There will be those who go “YEAH!” and grab an e-reader and there will be those who are fine with spaceships, but e-mail is just a bridge too far.

  18. OMG, this is just horrible. An extended The Hobbit??? Wasn’t it enough with the abomination that was released?

    Thank good there is a shortened version too. That one is even viewable.

  19. BTW, all The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) episodes will be released on the same day.

  20. Well, other than putting three works published by Castalia House on the Sad Puppy slate.

    Sad Puppies put five from Castalia House on its slate, not three. The John C. Wright and Tank Marmot novellas, the Wright related work, Castalia House blogger Jeffro Johnson for fan writer and Eric S. Raymond for the Campbell — who has only one published SF story in his life, published by Castalia.

  21. Is anyone watching Humans on AMC? This 10-episode first series about life with synthetic humans has produced some worthy Hugo nominees.

  22. Hampus: of course there’s an extended Hobbit. Jackson, therefore extended.

    and to be honest, s with LotR, it fixes a few things by putting back in book scenes: IN the Desolation of Smaug, you actually get the dwarves introduced to Beorn a couple at a time. Still no “attercop!” taunting before the elves come in and still not enough talking with Smaug while invisible, alas. I suspect my ideal edit would be shorter but include pieces from the extended versions.

  23. (looking at the Tolkien Edit you linked to, I want to tell my husband, purchaser of extended versions and torrent-familiar Household member, to please download it so I can check it out…)

  24. I do wonder if nominating ESR was an attempt to appeal to the open source community. I suspect however that may have backfired with the east coast SF folk I know who remember him as Eric The Flute from conventions in the late 70s/early 80s.

  25. As I recall, erotica and sf/f were the first two viable categories for e-book sales, back when that meant Peanut Press and then Fictionwise.

  26. The Last Unicorn.

    Although other beloved books of my heart, long since fallen and left to haunt the page-strewn paths of the bracket wars, are here in spirit, standing with Beagle in the penultimate battle.

  27. @rrede: “I’m going to make the radical move of acknowledging that I often am voting the body of work rather than the single book (though I’ve loved many of the single books).”
    Also guilty! But not this time:
    Small Gods
    (Hats off to Kyra for sending SG into the lists – it’s the outstanding example of a Discworld book that stands by itself. And for all sorts of other things, of course)
    @Kathodus: “he’s one of the few authors who make me want to have hope in humanity.” Seconded. A few days ago – probably about the time the fantasy bracket started – I realised that what really makes me sad about his departure is not that I won’t get to find out any more about the Discworld, but that Pterry won’t either.

  28. Sad Puppies put five from Castalia House on its slate, not three.

    Ah yes. I forgot about the completely forgettable Jeffro and the entirely undistinguished Raymond. The point stands: Beale’s fingerprints are all over the Sad Puppy slate. Torgersen and Correia’s attempts to distance themselves from him with respect to Sad Puppy 3 is so disingenuous as to be outright lying.

  29. Well, this is atrociously painful.

    I kind of wish Kyra could have handled ranked voting (like the Hugos).

    I think I’ll vote for The Last Unicorn, because it’s probably in third place right now. All three of these are wonderful, transcendent works with so much to say about beauty and thought and human life, I just can’t make myself choose for real.

  30. > “I kind of wish Kyra could have handled ranked voting (like the Hugos).”

    I … probably could have. It wouldn’t have been really that hard to track for only three choices. For some reason, I was an idiot and it didn’t occur to me until I’d started the bracket and about twenty votes were already in.

    So, um, next time. Yeah.

  31. Awwww. Excellence upon excellence here. Because this is the mood of this half-hour, I’m going with the Last Unicorn.

    Also agreeing with those who mention a fondness for A Fine and Private Place.

  32. (Also too, there was the kickback commission from the Official Bracket Cool Forehead Cloths sales, which might have been decreased by Hugo style voting. Oops, did I type this out loud? Quick, where’s the delete button? Oh, darn…..)

  33. Re Cloud Atlas: to me it felt like they took the book, deconstructed it and then forgot to reconstruct it into a watchable film. There was lots of very nice editing, though. Also, seriously, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry? Probably two of the dullest actors ever, each handling multiple roles. Neither of them had the chops to pull that off.

    I feel I should add that Cloud Atlas is one of my favourite novels, so they were already treading on thin ice as far as I was concerned.

    ETA: Humans. Yes! I think it gets a little weaker towards the end but it’s still really bloody good. I still have the finale to watch as well so it could easily pick back up there, too.

  34. Mark Hopper said: You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if e-readers had even wider support amongst SFF fans than fans of most other genres. Being open to new technologies and all that.

    Perhaps now, yes. But the early adopters of e-readers were the romance and the erotica readers, not sf and fantasy readers. My first book, a YA fantasy, was released by an e-publisher back in 2000, so I’ve been able to watch this “acceptance” take place. I even had a table with information about EPIC, an organization of e-published authors, and available e-books at Worldcon in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and I was demonstrating Rocket readers and Clio PDAs. Before 2004, I continually ran into sf readers who were horrified at the thought of anything but a paper book. By 2006, people were holding up their PDAs (remember those?) proudly and saying “I love e-books. Yes, I’ll take information on more titles”. The Kindle, Nook and even phones really sped up the acceptance.

  35. I have never, honestly, even really been a fan of The Matrix.

    (Something which made me feel reeeeeally out of place with my crowd as a gothy SFF fan in the late 90’s.)

  36. I had a much easier time enjoying the futuristic bits in Cloud Atlas when I first saw it. I believed at first that the really weird looking make-up worn by almost everyone but the (Asian) main character and her fellow clones was intended as some weird futuristic evolution/upgrade the ordinary citizens got as a matter of course (and probably adapted to, per changing standards of beauty, etc.) that the clones were denied. Upon learning it was just bad yellow-face (well, there’s probably no good yellow-face as a concept…) I felt rather soured of the whole thing. In my headcanon it’s still an upgrade.

  37. sez Michael Eochaidh on August 4, 2015 at 11:52 am:


    Bad judgment is one of the core personality traits that defines the authors who signed on to the Puppy campaigns.

    Is it ever. I just wish they’d stop pretending to be poorly written supervillains.

    “Pretending”? What makes you think they’re only pretending?

  38. people were holding up their PDAs (remember those?) proudly

    I have one, still. But I got it for genealogy – it beats carrying a laptop. (I have a label for a 3-inch D-ring binder taped inside the case – that’s what I call it. Except it’s more like several three-inch D-ring binders now.)

  39. “Pretending”? What makes you think they’re only pretending?

    Well, given that the hallmark of supervillains is constant failure, it would seem to be a label that fits the various Puppy leaders.

  40. “Buttercup’s Baby,” hmm? Am I the only one getting wierd smash-up thoughts with “Rosemary’s Baby”?

  41. I’ve got a copy of The Princess Bride with a section of Buttercup’s Baby as an appendix…

  42. @kyra

    I have never, honestly, even really been a fan of The Matrix.

    (Something which made me feel reeeeeally out of place with my crowd as a gothy SFF fan in the late 90’s.)

    Eh. The whole ‘machines keeping humans around as batteries’ thing kind of ruined it for me. I appreciated it for it’s complete insanity, but I never consider it a great SF film.

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