Pixel Scroll 9/25/18 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Happens

(1) A STORY OF REVOLUTION. Luke the Son of Anakin (Star Wars + Hamilton Parody) is from 2016 but managed to elude me until today. Turn on closed captioning to see the text of the lyrics.

(2) MODEL TARDIS. “Maladroit Modeller” has built a “working” Tardis — that is, it is truly bigger on the inside than on the outside, and he’s provided video proof.

Bill sent the link with a request, “Viewers may be strongly tempted to go searching to figure out how this works. They may be successful. But I’d hope they would keep that information to themselves, rather than post it in the comments and spoiling the mystery.”

(3) THINGS THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE. Naomi Kritzer critiques the worldbuilding involved in setting stories from the world of Harry Potter in America. The thread starts here.

(4) STILL AFLAME. Alex Acks wrote up the FIYAH/Goodreads controversy for Book Riot: “All Issues of FIYAH Literary Magazine Removed from Goodreads”

The near-simultaneous removal of the only two speculative fiction magazines that exclusively publish Black writers and writers of color does not seem like a coincidental thing. There is ample cause for people in speculative fiction to be on the alert for activity like this. Speculative fiction is a small field—which is why you notice when two magazines suddenly vanish from site like Goodreads—and it’s had serious problems lately with the racist machinations of groups like the Puppies and even individuals who, for example, are just really upset about N.K. Jemisin winning so many Hugos even though they’ve never bothered to read her books.

(5) A VORACIOUS READER’S CHOICES. Jason Sanford listed his picks of the “Best SF/F short fiction, January through June 2018”.

I originally set out to read a short story a day this year but massively failed in that attempt. That said, I still read more than 130 short stories, novelettes and novellas published between January and the end of June.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed some great stories — I’m certain I did. In particular, I read relatively few novellas this go around. I’ll try to make up for that in the coming months and will add any stories I missed to my next listing of the year’s best short fiction, which will be released in December.

(6) BUT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Popular Mechanics asks what you can do with a super-soldier who wants out of the game (“Suddenly Superhuman: If the Pentagon Turns People Into Augmented Super-Soldiers, Can It Turn Them Back?”). In other words, if Halo’s Master Chief retires, can he ever become just a regular human again?

A soldier wears a skullcap that stimulates his brain to make him learn skills faster, or reads his thoughts as a way to control a drone. Another is plugged into a Tron-like “active cyber defense system,” in which she mentally teams up with computer systems “to successfully multitask during complex military missions.”

The Pentagon is already researching these seemingly sci-fi concepts. The basics of brain-machine interfaces are being developed—just watch the videos of patients moving prosthetic limbs with their minds. The Defense Department is examining newly scientific tools, like genetic engineering, brain chemistry, and shrinking robotics, for even more dramatic enhancements.

But the real trick may not be granting superpowers, but rather making sure those effects are temporary.

The latest line augmentation research at DARPA, the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, is focused on one key part of augmenting soldiers: making sure the effects can be reversed.

(7) BEYOND CONFUSE-A-CAT. Our future AI overlords are sneaking another “job” away from humans… amusing SJW credentials (Inverse:This A.I. Cat Toy Draws Out the Most Violent Feline Behavior to Play”).

Who would’ve thought that the most sophisticated cat toy imaginable would also be the one that happens to trigger a cat’s most ruthless and disturbing behavior?

That’s what you get from Mousr, a super-smart cat toy from Petronics that has a time-of-flight sensor, a real-time operating system in a custom-built microcontroller, and A.I. programming all working on concert to convince your cat that it’s a mouse and not a tiny robot. Mousr can map its surroundings — and it even initiates a struggle protocol when it feels trapped by its predator. My cats absolutely love the struggle part.…

“A lot of automatic or autonomous toys eventually just make cats bored by doing the same exact thing over and over again,” Cohen said. “But Mousr — and real mice — will react to a cat.” Unlike many comparable devices that simply simulate a motion on repeat, Mousr uses onboard artificial intelligence to navigate the physical space around it.


  • September 25, 1924 — In in Russia, Aelita: Queen Of Mars had its theatrical premiere.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine. Editor who with husband created Bantam Books in 1945 and were responsible for Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. She wrote a novel that was genre, The Secret Oceans. The Ballantines won a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant and other creators of The High Kings (Bantam, 1983), a reference book on the Matter of Britain that incorporates stories of the Arthurian myths.
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein. Cheerfully admitting he’s not genre but I want to include him anyways. Film, theater, song, illustration, writing — he was a bloody genius. For books, I’ll single out The Giving Tree, Where The Sidewalk Ends and A Light in The Attic. Oh for albums, let’s do Hairy JazzFreakin’ at the Freakers Ball and The Best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His Friends.


(11) MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG. In “The Big Idea: Ryan North” at Whatever, North explains why his fictional world needs a book titled How To Invent Everything:

I made up a future in which time travel existed and was practiced routinely.  It was a world in which time machines are rented like cars: generally painlessly, though sometimes with the risk that your too-good-to-be-true deal of a vehicle breaks down.  It was a way to ease myself (and readers) into the concept, and it helped me set up some ground rules: you, as a reader, are a temporal tourist.  You are trapped in the past in a broken rental-market time machine.  There is a repair guide, but it very quickly reveals a unfortunate truth: that time machines are for sure the most complicated pieces of machinery humans have ever produced, and that there aren’t any user-serviceable parts inside.  Time machines are so complicated, in fact, that it’s actually easier to tell you how to rebuild all of civilization than it is to explain how a 45.3EHz chrotonic flux inverter works.  So that’s what this time machine repair guide does.

(12) KING JAMES VERSION, OF COURSE. Nate Sanders Auctions set a minimum bid of $40,000 on a “Bible Flown to & Landed Upon the Moon During the Apollo 14 Mission” – bids are being taken until September 27.

Extraordinarily rare Bible lunar-landed upon the moon aboard Apollo 14, one of only a handful of such Bibles to have graced the surface of the moon, flight-certified by both Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell and the Director of the Apollo Prayer League Reverend John Stout.

Complete King James microform Bible, Serial Number 14-026, originates from the Apollo Prayer League, formed with the dual goals of praying for the astronauts, and also of sending a Bible to the moon in the memory of Edward White, the astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire before he could fulfill his dream of bringing a Bible to the moon.

(13) FIRST LOTR. Hasn’t been to the moon and the minimum bid is only $4,000, but you still might be interested in this “First Edition Set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’”. Bidding is open til September 27.

Rare first edition, second printing set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954 & 1955. All three books are well-preserved, in their original dust jackets and with maps present. ”The Fellowship of the Ring” is a first edition, second printing (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954) with map attached to rear flyleaf. Publisher’s red cloth with gilt spine titles.

(14) THE UNRECOGNIZABLE BRADBURY. According to The American Conservative, “Ray Bradbury Was the Coolest Non-Conformist on the Planet”, but they do their best to make him sound rather Sad Puppyesque. Really, is this the same guy that the FBI ran a file on?

Still, even Bradbury could not fully disguise or dismiss his own political and cultural view of the world. When asked what the truth was that emerged from Fahrenheit 451, he admitted he wrote it in response to “Hitler and Stalin and China, where they burned God knows how many books, killed God knows how many teachers.” Add to this, he feared, the disaster of Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, and free thought and free expression would collapse in America. Siding with Alexis de Tocqueville, Bradbury feared that true oppression in the United States would be a soft despotism, with the culture being run by progressive busy bodies, moralizing and oppressing with a myriad of rules and acceptable attitudes. Fahrenheit 451, thus, anticipated political correctness almost three full decades before it became a deadly and nascent issue in the late 1980s.

(15) SIGN UP FOR THIS COURSE. NPR tells about a new college degree: “Space Mining — Learning How To Fuel An Interplanetary Gas Station”.

Starting this semester, the Colorado School of Mines is offering the world’s first degree programs in Space Resources — essentially mining in outer space.

It’s not just academic institutions like the School of Mines taking note; a small but growing number of startups expect this to be very big business sooner than a lot of us might think.

If people ever want to land on Mars, or explore beyond it, it’s too expensive to rocket everything these missions will ever need from Earth. You need interplanetary gas stations on the moon or on asteroids, extracting raw materials to fuel future deep space missions.

(16) ARE YOU AS SMART AS A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD? See if you can answer these — “Quiz: Test your knowledge of evolution”.

Even spelling the word, evolution, can be tricky when you’re seven, but Sophia tells me confidently that evolution “basically means engineering”.

And Jack says that sharks are lighter underneath so that “when the sun is on the sea, you can’t really see the sharks”.

He’s talking about the fact that sharks have evolved a form of camouflage that helps them sneak up on their prey.

At the opening of the new Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, school children are learning about evolution through the help of cuddly sharks of all shapes and sizes, fruit flies and even a tame owl.

(17) MIND UNDER MATTER. Rose Eveleth, in an episode of her podcast Fast Forward called “Fungus Among Us”, interviews sf authors David Walton and Tade Thompson in an episode discussing possible futures where people’s brains are taken over by fungi.  Also in this episode: zombie ants!

How much of what you do is actually your choice? What if you were secretly being controlled by a parasite that had infected your brain? What if that infection was spreading?

(18) ANIME. SYFY Wire has a list of “10 LGBTQ+ anime that you need to watch now”, several of them genre stories.

What may surprise many who aren’t terribly familiar with anime is the wealth of LGBTQ+ focused series out there. Sure, many series have gratuitous fanservice and crossdressing is a recurring trope across the board, but there are earnest stories out there with a strong, if not singular, focus on LGBTQ+ characters.

To get started you need to know your terminology. Shounen-ai is boys love, while shoujo-ai is girls love. Yaoi is explicit boys love, so you’re going to get some sexy times on screen. Likewise, yuri is explicit girls love.

Now that you’ve got that down pat, here is our list of LGBTQ+ anime to watch!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chapter 17:  The Grid Man’s Universal Translator on Vimeo, Stan Schwartz offers a story of identical twins with unusual powers and a universal translator with supernatural results. [Note: Vimeo has this video set so it can’t be embedded here.]

[Thanks to Bill, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morese Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

68 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/25/18 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Happens

  1. Wow, Kritzer. Totally not something I’d have considered, but, yeah, damn, what did wizards do re: slavery?

  2. I’ve gotten good results by tossing a mouse-shaped toy past a cat. (I have instructions for knitted mouse-toys. In sock-weight yarn, They’re mouse-sized, too.)
    Cats will get bored when “playing” with their catch, and they expect their humans to take care of it for them. Or, why my mother was in the hardware store buying traps. “If I didn’t have cats, I wouldn’t have mice.”

  3. (3) Damn good question.

    (6) This is an interesting and important issue. Brin touched on it in the last section of “The Postman” with two varieties of enhanced soldiers, Tim Zahn’s Cobra deals with the issue as well (and Star Trek: TNG had a society dealing with returning, super-powered, veterans) (and I’m sure there are other examples too – Ancillary Justice touches on it in a way, too – though the Radch never expected to have a “retired” ancillary).

    P.S. Oh, yeah – the Old Man’s War series restores its soldiers to standard-human level if they live through their service.

    Scroll-bottomed Pixels, Coat of TARDIS Blue

  4. 12) I used to have one of those NCR Microform KJV Bibles. Actually, I had two, because one got scratched. Bought them from Edmund Scientific, and I had a 50x pocket scope that was enough I could read the text with an effort (they called for 100x, but 50x was what I had).

    9) I have filked Shel Silverstein at least once.


    Six thousand years back, as King James portrays,
    The Lord of all created earth, in just seven days.
    He made stars and trees and moons and men and animals galore,
    And the biggest of them all was the dinosaur.

    There was mean Allosaurus, and small Dilong,
    The eagle-eyed Raptor and Pteranadon,
    The horny head Triceratops; a whole lot more:
    Almost 2k genera of dinosaur.

    The Lord said to Noah, “I have to confess,
    I’m going to wipe the world out, since it’s turned out a mess.
    But if you’ll make a boat before it rains for days two score,
    You can save Man and Animal and Dinosaur.”

    The Lord told Noah to build a barge
    To hold a lot of animals, some small and some large,
    Said He, bring lots of kibble and build in some big doors
    Tall enough and wide enough for dinosaurs…


    So Noah cornered all the world’s gopherwood
    And studied God’s plans and started building real good:
    A boat three hundred cubits long of sturdy four-by-fours
    And prayed he could fit in those dinosaurs.

    Then Noah looked and looked, and found the oddest thing
    The dinosaurs were marching off in time with “Rite of Spring”
    The rain commenced to falling with a mighty roar
    And he just couldn’t wait for no dinosaur.

    [last chorus]
    So now there’s mammals aplenty, and reptiles too
    Amphibians and fish and even me and you
    But if you don’t count birdies which across the heavens pour,
    You’re never going to see any dinosaur.

    ttto: The Unicorn (Shel Silverstein)
    new lyrics (c) 2007 by me

  5. Betty & Ian Ballantine were married in the 1939, the same year that he opened Penguin USA.

    “In 1939 he opened Penguin USA, importing British paperbacks from the house created by Allen Lane in 1935; in 1945 he founded Bantam Books (whose offices were closed last Friday as a mark of respect) and, in 1952, Ballantine Books, the house which still bears his name.”

    And for what it’s worth those three companies are now all part of Penguin Random House.

  6. I was prepared to dislike “Luke, the Son of Anakin” but actually it’s pretty good. There should have been credits with it!

  7. Question: Has anyone seen Meg? Action/Horror, prehistoric shark, bioluminescent prehistoric shark, etc. what’s not to love–written to be a blockbuster–but the reviews I’ve seen have been ‘meh.’
    Anyone got a nuanced version of what didn’t work?

  8. The scroll will not be pixelated.

    Not much else to say, except the Watchmen directors’ cut is on Amazon Prime and still looks gorgeous. And that’s enough about that…

  9. 3) Concerning slavery, it wasn’t outlawed in England until the 1700s (by a court case: Somerset v somebody or other) or in the colonies (by an act of parliament) until 1833. Wizards would have had to come to terms with that abomination long before emigrating to the U.S. The cynic in me says they would have stolen the magical children and left the system alone.

  10. The quiz has a wrong answer in it, claiming that apes did not evolve from monkeys but instead shared a common ancestor with monkeys. The common ancestor of apes and old world monkeys branched after the brancing of the ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes and the ancestor of New World monkeys. Therefore, to be scientificly meaningful, for the same reasons as the argument a few days ago, either the common ancestor of both the Old and New World monkeys was also a monkey (making apes monkeys) or it wasn’t (making the term “monkey” scientificly invalid.)

  11. My apologies to Cat and Mike with regard to the Birthdays — today kind of turned into a major CF and has pretty much been a write-off.

    I will, however, add that Cat’s delight in Shel Silverstein contains a genre connection: his Every Thing On It, a 2011 collection of poems and drawings, is a fantasy work which came in 3rd in the Middle Grade & Children’s category of GoodReads’ annual Reader’s Choice Awards, AND he had an illustration included in Judith Merril’s 1963 anthology The Best of Sci-Fi.

    Other Birthdays for today:

    Born September 25, 1951 – Mark Hamill, 66, Actor, known for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, and for his voice-over work in animations and video games as the Joker, beginning with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992.

    Born September 25, 1952 – Christopher Reeve, Actor. Best known for the Superman movies, he appeared in person at the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton, England, to accept the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. He also starred in the cult classic Somewhere in Time, the film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s World Fantasy Award-winning novel Bid Time Return.

    Born September 25, 1968 – Will Smith, 50, Actor, Comedian, Producer, Rapper, and Songwriter. Genre appearances include the Men In Black movies, Independence Day, I Am Legend, and the regrettable stinker After Earth.

    Born September 25, 1977 – Clea DuVall, 41, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Director. Had recurring main roles in TV series Heroes, American Horror Story, and Carnivàle, as well as John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars and the movie Argo, which featured Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award-winning novel Lord of Light as a major plot point.

    Born September 25, 1983 – Donald Glover, 35, Writer, Actor, Musician, Comedian, Producer, and Director, a steely-eyed missile man who has earned his geek cred with major roles in The Martian, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

  12. (3) Honestly I think a lot of wizards would be A-OK with slavery, or is everyone forgetting about house-elves?

  13. 3) why can’t wizards be as myopic as muggles? They dealt with slavery the way everyone else in their larger society did: some ignored it, some engaged in it, some worked against it, some took advantage…

    @JJ: I’d like to amend your entry for Smith – “…Independence Day, and the regrettable stinkers I Am Legend and After Earth

  14. @steve davidson:

    It’s hard to ignore slavery when some children of slaves are going to be born as wizards/witches. If those children aren’t taken to a wizarding school, they must be dealt with in some other way (killed, or neutralized); in the UK, where slavery was legal but relatively uncommon, this might be a rare enough to deal with on a case-by-case basis, in the US, it would be an everyday situation, requiring a large amount of people to deal with.

  15. Naomi’s critiquing is spot on. It also makes one wonder how Latin American wizarding schools dealt with slavery, colonization, revolutions and a lot more.

    The hazards of urban fantasy where the magical element has been there all along and a significant force all that time means that the magical element has to engage with some rather thorny problems of history.

  16. The wizards in the Harry Potter world, the nasty ones at any rate, were fully willing to enslave house elves, so I doubt they would have had problems with enslaving humans, particularly muggle humans. As for wizard kids born to enslaved women, they either would have snatched them or killed them, probably depending on how the slave owner felt about the mother and the kid. Which actually opens up all sorts of storytelling possibilities.

    Though as far as I can tell by the trailer, the Fantastic Beasts films are set in the 1920s, i.e. 70 years after slavery was abolished in the US. Therefore, the question how the US wizards deal with wizard children born to enslaved women is about as relevant to Fantastic Beasts as the question of e.g. Japanese internment is to a story set in contemporary times, i.e. it is a part of history that informs the present to some degree, but will probably not actively come up in the plot.

    Actually, the question I asked myself watching the Fantastic Beasts trailer was that if evil wizards try to take over the world every twenty or thirty years, why do the muggles just let them do their thing and largely don’t interfere? After the second or third time some Grindelwald or Voldemort had tried to take over the world, I’m pretty sure there would have been a wizard/muggle war.

  17. JJ notes Born September 25, 1951 – Mark Hamill, 66, Actor, known for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, and for his voice-over work in animations and video games as the Joker, beginning with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992.

    His DC work includes other characters including Swamp Thing, The Trickster (performed live on The Flash as well), and Solomon Grundy. He’s also voiced hundreds of animated characters in other series so obviously enjoys doing this work.

    IMDB says he was the Joker on the The Birds of Prey series which is streaming now on the new DC Universe service.

  18. On the Harry Potter and the Unfortunate History of Genocide and Slavery:

    I do think the options presented, while better, are simplistic and just not good story telling. Looking at real history I propose that officially there were no enslaved Wizards. It was lie, but a lie that organized Wizarding in the US bought into to keep the peace, and the majority went along with it. There were, of course, enslaved Wizards, and the idea of teaching them magic was terrifying. But, Wizard slave masters not being complete fools knew that magical knowledge was being passed down in family groups, but manipulated the policy of family separation and liberal use of widely available mind manipulating magic to make sure that enough magical knowledge was passed on to keep things from getting out of hand but not enough that anybody could threaten their power, which was considerable as long as the US magical establishment backed them. European Wizarding didn’t like this, but given their own issues with African and Asian Wizards in their colonies they weren’t in a position to say anything about it.

    Some of the historical consequences of this, historically:
    *A parallel Wizarding tradition, largely oral, among enslaved peoples.
    *Wizard abolitionists with ties to the Underground Railroad who worked to identify escaped slaves who were Wizards, as well as free enslaved Wizards
    *Wizarding world conflicts tied to, and possibly pre-dating, the conflicts in the US in the same
    *During the century of Jim Crow and legal segregation African Americans Wizards, especially in the South, were treated as second-class citizens even when attempts were made to bring them into the main stream Wizarding establishment.

    The interesting question is: What effects would that have on the American Wizarding world?

  19. 1) That was very good.

    6) In 1993 Mayfair Games released “Underground” a grimdark RPG where the players were enhanced veterans in a dystopian world. The catch is that along with the “boosting” they received, they were also conditioned to believe that they were superheroes, down to the bizarre origin stories, and the bloody corporate wars they were fighting were actually four-color super fights.

    The game never really caught on, mainly because a lot of players didn’t want to roleplay a psychologically scarred veteran with a shaky grip on reality. but the setting was . . . interesting.

  20. (3) Having just finished Claire G. Coleman’s Terra Nullius (recommended; read it cold if possible) I started wondering about how JKR’s Eurowizards would have interacted with Australia’s original population, which led me to wonder the same about the America’s similar and how it can not be possible that every culture’s wizards would masquerade themselves which led me to want to just bang my head on a keyboard and that’s not very interesting now is it.

    (17) See also Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng”, if you can handle body horror.

  21. (3) Thats why I think big numbers of wizards would always affect history…

    But: A lot of wizardry needs a wand and teaching. I cant fully recall the first book, but apart from being able to speak to tge snake in the zoo (a rare gift even among wizards), he couldnt do anything, no? Perhaps the slaves just never found out, they could do magic. Or at least couldnt control it. Apart from that: Yeah, I doubt most wizards had oroblem with slaves.

    (My biggest beef so far with the books were always the lack of parent talks. Students are tortured and mistreated and not one parent complained? I work as a teacher and I find that hard to believe… but small potatoes against the issues raised here of course)

  22. Cora Buhlert on September 26, 2018 at 5:16 am said:

    Though as far as I can tell by the trailer, the Fantastic Beasts films are set in the 1920s, i.e. 70 years after slavery was abolished in the US. Therefore, the question how the US wizards deal with wizard children born to enslaved women is about as relevant to Fantastic Beasts as the question of e.g. Japanese internment is to a story set in contemporary times, i.e. it is a part of history that informs the present to some degree, but will probably not actively come up in the plot.

    It should inform the worldbuilding to a significant degree. You can’t write meaningfully about the US without taking slavery into account. It’s done all the time, granted. But it’s not very meaningful.

    For one thing, if there’s only one Wizarding School in the US, where are all the black kids? Segregation is still a thing in the 20s. Hell, even after WWII we were lynching black war vets.

    How are black wizard kids getting wizarding education? And if they aren’t what is the wizarding world doing with them?

    What about Native American kids? Are they sent to this residential school and their hair chopped off? Forbidden to wear their native clothing? Forbidden to speak their native languages? Is the Wizarding world “civilizing” them?

    How are the colonizing wizards dealing with the native wizards?

    We don’t see any of that because the worldbuilding is weak.

  23. (3) Why would wizards enslave humans, when elves would appear to be better qualified in every respect?

    But yes, surely the US would have multiple regional wizarding schools, with western wizards specializing in the spell of “Perpetuum Hanglus”, southern wizards considering “Expelliarmus” an unforgivable curse, etc.

  24. re Harry Potter World Building:
    I think the issue here really is that Harry Potter overreached. It was not really intended on being a coherent World: The chess set in part one? Are there really only three magic schools in Europe and one of them is girls only? The issue with the truth portion, which would, if introduced by book one, would have made many problems vanish? Harry Potter was always full of plot holes and things that didnt make a lot of sense. It was intended as a fun romp, a kids/teenage/YA adventure story and thats OK. Rowling even had problems of scaling the magic: Why can some wizard invent spells? Why are the easy spells so effective? There was no logical system underneath in the first place and suddenly it should support a whole history? That cant work. Its a very, very big challenge for the film makers to make it look as if doesnt come apart at the seams…

  25. 3) Thinking if historical issues around slavery, racism and colonialism and British magic – anyone else read Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho? I really enjoyed it for a different take on fantasy wizardry. No wizarding schools as such (that I remember), but institutions and a mix of painful paternalism and casual mistreatment of a young black child who grows up to be a magical prodigy.


    Harry Potter isn’t meant to be a valid representation of Britain, let alone anywhere else. Why expect it to be?

  27. @Kevin Harkness: I was wondering about that timing (especially since I recently read Spufford’s Golden Hill, in which it turns out that the bearer of a large note is someone who can pass, sent by British freedmen to use a legacy to buy and free as many mid-1700’s NYC slaves as possible). I don’t know what the relative populations of slaves were in Britain vs the northeast colonies; Rowling may have deliberately written about a northeast school to duck the issue, or may just have lucked out, but Kritzer may be overstating how much visible effect it would have in NYC. OTOH, as a direct descendant of long-distance flouncers I’m good with her disbelieving in just one magic school — although what we were shown in Beasts is so paranoid that I could believe NYC was the sole survivor of total war among sects. (cf Henry VII (as I’ve read) hunting down and extinguishing possible counterclaimants to his crown — Voldemort may have been an amateur compared to the Tudors.)

    @Darren Garrison: feel free to take up your complaints with the BBC; the tell-us-what’s-wrong page is easy to find. I’ve poked them several times, with a mix of results depending on the question. (I suspect the ancestry of the Cessna 172 is less disputed than the ancestry of h. sapiens [sapiens?])

    I remember Reeve’s appearance at Brighton — including how calmly he handled a hostile audience.

    @Peer: a good point on training. While following this thread I recalled that it was a crime to teach slaves to read; who’s going to teach them wizardry? (For that matter, what can a moderately learned wizard do without a wand, and how tightly would wands be controlled?) On the darker side, any evidence of talent could be taken as witchcraft; given the common alliance between slaveholding and religion (e.g., black skin marking descendants of either Cain or Ham), ISTM that the survival rate among not-100%-white children who showed talent (even if it wasn’t something as obviously despicable as talking to snakes) would be trivial. Yes, I know that Salem was the only place in the current U.S. where alleged witches were judicially murdered; I do not think we are in the Potterverse.

    @microtherion: the western spell wouldn’t have been developed until some time after Beasts — and the school might have been too rigorous to tolerate it. But it was good for a laugh.

    @SamJ: I read it (possibly from a rec here); it seemed plausible — if only because British society wasn’t so directly justified on the assumption of Black subhumanity as the US South. ISTR that it also had sharp comments on the role of women — which is an even bigger gap in the Potterverse; how many women before McGonigle wielded actual power?

  28. I agree with Peer that the Harry Potter books have weak worldbuilding. It’s easy to be captivated by the many wondrous details of the wizarding world, but once you start thinking too much about it, the worldbuilding quickly falls apart. And the expansions of the world in the Fantastic Beasts films stretch the already thin worldbuilding even further.

    But then, the target audience for Harry Potter are middle grade kids and teenagers, not adults who analyse everything. And that’s all right.

    Coincidentally, I also always wondered why the parents didn’t raise a stink about how Hogwarts kept putting their kids in danger. Okay, so Harry is an orphan raised by people who don’t want him and the Weasleys are probably too immersed in the system that they don’t dare criticise Hogwarts. But how come that Hermione’s non-wizard parents tolerate what is going on there, especially since Hermione is smart to make it in the muggle world and doesn’t need Hogwarts. Where are the parents of Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovejoy, the Patel twins and the many other students we meet?

  29. L’esprit d’escalier strikes again; I’d forgotten that 2/4 of Hogwarts Houses were founded by women — which I find surprising given that Hogwarts appears to be old enough for that to have been extraordinary. Maybe wizards (except Malfoys and ilk) get sexism, racism, etc. trained/beaten out of them? If so, why do we not see PoC until later books in the original series? I’m leaning more and more to Peer’s solution….

  30. Sexism, very likely, based on the texts. But race? Even if ‘racism’ in the muggle sense doesn’t exist the wizard’s context, the very idea of muggle has strong racial overtones, and even the characters we see as good and heroic have some problematic issues there.

  31. Chip: it is just spitting into a hurricane of media mistakes, but what the heck. i sent them this comment:

    In your September 25th quiz on evolution, the answer to the fifth question, which reads in part “It’s a common misconception that humans evolved from monkeys. In fact, we both evolved from a common ancestor, which lived millions of years ago.” is incorrect. The evolutionary branching event between Old World Monkeys and Apes came much later than the branching event between Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys. The common ancestor of Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys would have itself have been a monkey. Not only are humans evolved from monkeys, but Old World Monkeys are more closely related to humans and other apes than they are to New World Monkeys–or put another way, a colobus is more closely related to a Capuchin monk than it is to a capuchin monkey.

  32. @Cora Buhlert: I think your right about the expansion of the Harry Potter world being an issue. As long as the stories were kept in the wizarding world, all sorts of things could be ignored, but with Voldemort’s attacks on the non-wizarding world, and now the interactions in New York, these troubling questions arise.
    @Chip Hitchcock: The 1833 proclamation affected the Caribbean colonies most, I think, though I do wonder what effect it had on abolitionists in the U.S.
    Also, this is why a lot of people write secondary-world fantasies. It makes it easier to avoid this kind of trouble! All the moral quandaries are of your own choosing.

  33. #3: The first thing I ever read by NK Jemisin, and what made me an instant fan, was when she came up with a better North American wizarding world in one paragraph than Rowling did with an entire website:

    And how much more delightful could Magic in North America have been if she’d put an ancient, still-thriving Macchu Picchu magic school alongside a brash, newer New York school? How much richer could her history have been if she’d mentioned the ruins of a “lost” school at Cahokia, full of dangerous magical artifacts and the signs of mysterious, hasty abandonment? Or a New Orleanian school founded by Marie Laveau, that practiced real vodoun and was open/known to the locals as a temple — and in the old days as a safe place to plan slave rebellions, a la Congo Square? Or what if she’d mentioned that ancient Death Eater-ish wizards deliberately destroyed the magical school of Hawai’i — but native Hawai’ians are rebuilding it now as Liliuokalani Institute, better than before and open to all?

    Sigh. She just shouldn’t have touched North America if she was going to gloss over everything that makes this part of the world what it is — the grotesque along with the sweet. This is who we are, for better or worse. Our history — all Americans’ history — needs respect, not pablum and stereotypes.


  34. @Christopher Hensley:

    That’s the kind of thinking I’m looking for. To fit wizards into a history that looks like ours to the muggles, some dark stuff must be going on in the background. We know that British wizards have no scruples about slavery (the treatment of house elves tells us that) – but house elves are rare (apparently only the most elite families in the British wizarding world have them), while enslaved witches and wizards in the US must be about a tenth of the entire wizarding population there (and much higher in the South), which requires that a substantial amount of effort must be going on _all_ _the_ _time_ to keep the enslaved wizards enslaved (the wizarding equivalent of slave-catchers and anti-slave militias).

    Furthermore, in Britain, a lot of wizards feel superior to all muggles – in America, there must be the kind of doublethink that you suggest that keeps keeps the minority of wizards surrounded by US muggles from identifying with wizards enslaved by muggles.

  35. @SamJ —

    anyone else read Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

    I was not a huge fan, but my complaints had more to do with the character of Prunella rather than the worldbuilding. I also thought the author tended to pound on their messages too hard.

  36. The original Harry Potter books are the platonic ideal of Just-in-time world building. It had exactly enough world building to support the story/plot/characters exactly as it needed them. No more and no less. And it has never stretched or expanded very well. As soon as you start poking it the seams start showing.

    It is the exact polar opposite of the Tolkien “map everything and invent languages and don’t start writing chapter one until you have novels worth of background worked out” method.

  37. @Contrarius: I find that entirely believable — horrifying, but believable. One more hassle for that part of the world to deal with. Maybe somebody should import poachers, or at least their connections? (I have no idea what parts of a dead hippo are useful, or for what, but they’re apparently being hunted in Africa.)

  38. @Christopher Hensley: you can use “racism” wrt muggles if you wish; I was dealing with the original discussion, and the gradual dribbling-in of Black, east-Indian, etc. TOS characters who would be obviously different enough to trigger racist reaction. (Do we even know that wizards can sense each other, to know whom to scorn as a muggle if they choose to?)

    @Andrew: wizards in posse, not in esse; as asked before, how would they get trained? I’m also doubting that a tenth of the population outside the South would be Black; ISTM that we’re not there even now, after a century or more of the north encouraging southern Blacks to immigrate.

  39. Speaking of slavery, I’ve been doing genealogy research lately and just this evening came across a record of one of my ancestors apportioning out his deceased father’s slaves as part of the father’s probate settlement back in the mid-1700s.


  40. Kevin Harkness:

    Concerning slavery, it wasn’t outlawed in England until the 1700s (by a court case: Somerset v somebody or other) or in the colonies (by an act of parliament) until 1833.

    Somerset v Stewart (1772). The judge (Lord Chief Justice in fact) who decided the case, Lord Mansfield, was the most influential jurist of his day, perhaps the entire century. Interestingly, the issue of slavery in England and Lord Mansfield’s decision was modified somewhat in the movie Belle that some Filers might have seen. That movie was about Mansfield’s great-niece Dido Belle at the time he decided the case about an insurance claim for slaves massacred on a slave ship (the Zong Massacre) a decade after Somerset v Stewart; if I remember the movie right, it attributes to that case the momentous effects of the decision in Somerset v Stewart. Moreover, the painting actually was painted a couple of years before the case. I enjoyed it, but the first bit did annoy me a little, pedant that I am, and the second annoyed me a little when I looked it up later online.

  41. If we removed all books where an author writes about a country that they haven’s studied much about, not much would be left to read. But I have to admitt that I was 100% sure from the books that Durmstrang Institute was placed somewhere in Russia and was totally chocked when I read on the Harry Potter Wikia that it was placed in Sweden or Norway. Even more stupid, russia seems to have its own school – Koldovstoretz. Have all scandinavians been run out of their country? What has happened?

    With regards to the Americas, there is at least the Castelobruxo school in Brazil. My guess is that native americans went there as it existed long before the arrival of the european colonizers. It wouldn’t surprise me if they accepted runaway slaves.

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