Pixel Scroll 9/9/19 How Odd. It Wasn’t Science Fiction At All

(1) COSPLAY ON THE HOOF. Andrew Liptak’s latest Wordplay starts off with a parade — “Reading List: The Cosplayers of Dragon Con”

…For someone familiar with the world of cosplayers and conventions, it’s an overwhelming affair. For those unfamiliar, it’s an alien world; a new, bizarre mashup of everything pop culture. It’s not quite as big — around 85,000 people attended this year — half that of what the San Diego con typically draws. And while its bigger cousins attract plenty of cosplayers, Dragon Con is a mecca for them. Everywhere you turn, you see your typical superheroes: Spider-man is big this year, as are variations of Marvel’s Tony Stark, depressed Thor from Avengers: Endgame, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Superman and Superwoman, and of course Batman.

There are plenty of other properties represented in the crowds. Zelda and Link from various Legends of Zelda mingle with Master Chief and his fellow Spartans from the Halo games. Humanized versions of Pokémon march behind characters from Witcher. There are characters from webcomics, Aziraphale and Crowley from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, members of Star Trek’s Starfleet Command, of the Night Watch from Game of Thrones, a long column of Spartans from Frank Miller’s 300, spaceship crew members and soldiers from The Expanse, and members of the 501st and Rebel Legions…

(2) SEE AND HEAR SF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a video of Rusty Hevelin interviewing Jack Williamson at MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon.

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews author Jack Williamson. Jack talks candidly about his life and career, from his experiences with psychoanalysis to his apprenticeship with (early SF writer) Miles J. Breuer to how he changed with the market over 50 years. WARNING: You have to listen closely as Jack speaks softly, and the interview is very slow till about midway. There’s a lot of “I don’t recall” early on. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with insights into one of the field’s most important early writers.

(3) NOT A DRY SUBJECT. Timothy the Talking Cat inaugurates a new feature at Camestros Felapton: “Timothy Reads: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin”.

…Of course I immediately dropped the book on discovering it had politics in it. I will not abide politics in my science fiction. Science fiction should be apolitical and concern itself with mighty space empires and their impressive armies colonising new worlds and fighting evil aliens who want to destroy our liberties and steal my guns just like Venezuela and don’t get me started on California.

Anyway, not long after Camestros was shouting “Timothy did you put my book in the toilet!” And he was really angry but it wasn’t me and I don’t know how it got there but he still blamed me even though he didn’t see me do it and whatever happened until innocent until proven guilty? I am most unjustly persecuted….

(4) TV ADAPTATION OF ANDERS BOOK. ScienceFiction.com’s report “Sony Is Bringing Charlie Jane Anders’ ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ To The Small Screen” might be a little bit of the news that could not yet be revealed in Carl Slaughter’s recent interview with the author:

Fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ work have something to look forward to as she has struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television to bring ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ to the small screen! Sharon Hall (‘The Expanse‘,’Utopia’) is serving as an executive producer and is helping bring the series to life through her Mom de Guerre Productions. Hall’s company has a first-look deal with Sony, and it appears the studios agree that this one is going to be a hit! Nate Miller and Dan Halsted are also slated to be executive producers through Manage-ment who reps Anders.

(5) CREAM OF CONDENSED PANEL. For those who couldn’t make it to her Dublin 2019 panel, Sara L. Uckelman shared the gist of it on the Worldcon’s Facebook page:

Here’s a link to the slides from my talk (the first one in the academic track!) on “Names: Form and Function in Worldbuilding and Conlangs”

And for more background and detail that I didn’t have time to get to in the talk, see these three blog posts:


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1900 James Hilton. Author of the novel Lost Horizon which was  turned into a film, also called Lost Horizon by director Frank Capra. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La. (Died 1954.)
  • Born September 9, 1915 Richard Webb. Captain Midnight on the Captain Midnight series in the Fifties on CBS. Called Jet Jackson, Flying Commando when it was syndicated. He play Lieutenant Commander Ben Finney in “Court Martial” of Star Trek. And in the Fifties, he was Lane Carson, the lead investigator in The Invisible Monster. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 9, 1922 Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 Joseph Wrzos, 90. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from August 1965 through early 1967. He was responsible for their move to mostly reprints and a bimonthly schedule while the publisher refused to pay authors for the reprints saying he held the rights to them without needing pay additional renumeration and leading to severe conflict with SFWA. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration.
  • Born September 9, 1943 Tom Shippey, 76. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work, and under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). 
  • Born September 9, 1949 Jason Van Hollander, 69. A book designer, illustrator, and occasional author. His stories and collaborations with Darrell Schweitzer earned a World Fantasy Award nomination. It was in the Collection category, for Necromancies and Netherworlds: Uncanny Stories. I’m fairly sure he’s done a lot of work for Cemetery Dance which make sense as he’d fit their house style.
  • Born September 9, 1952 Angela Cartwright, 67. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 Tony Magistrale, 67. There’s a particular type of academic mania you sometimes encounter when a professor dives deep into a genre writer. Here we have such when one encounters Stephen King. Between 1988 and 2011, he wrote ten tomes on King and his work ranging from Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic to The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to The Mist with I think my favorite being The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King’s Horrorscape. He’s a poet too with such scintillating titles as “Ode for a Dead Werewolf” and “To Edgar Poe on Father’s Day”.
  • Born September 9, 1954 Jeffrey Combs, 65. Though no doubt his best known genre role was as Weyoun, a Vorta, on Deep Space Nine. However, his genre portfolio is really, really long. it starts with Frightmare, a horror film in the early Eighties and encompasses some forty films, twenty-six series and ten genre games. He’s appeared on Babylon 5, plus three Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise being the other two, the Enterprise appearance being the only time an actor played two distinct roles in the same episode.  He’s played H.P. Lovecraft and Herbert West, a character by that author. Each multiple times. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 Janet Fielding,  64. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born September 9, 1960 Hugh Grant, 59. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 Henry Thomas, 48. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy if mostly undistinguished post-E.T. acting career, though I will single him out for his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the forthcoming Stargirl series on the DCU streaming service. 


(8) PINEWOOD’S NEW TENANT. BBC ponders “What does Disney’s Pinewood deal mean for Marvel, Bond and British film?”

Disney is to make more blockbusters at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire after signing a deal to take over most of the complex for at least a decade.

The film and TV giant behind the Star Wars, Marvel and Avatar movies will lease 20 stages plus other facilities.

Pinewood is famously the home of James Bond, not a Disney franchise – throwing 007’s future at the site into question.

The deal comes two months after Netflix announced it had taken a long-term lease at Pinewood’s Shepperton Studios.

…From next year, it will have near-exclusive use of the UK’s most famous studio complex. In fact, it will have the whole site except three TV studios and an underwater stage.

Disney hasn’t commented on the deal. But with studio space at a premium, this gives them the security of a long-term dedicated UK base capable of handling their biggest films.

…Which films will be made there?

Disney won’t confirm, but it will continue to be the home of Star Wars movies, three of which are scheduled for the next seven years.

The company is planning four Avatar sequels, a fifth Indiana Jones film and numerous other live action flicks. Many of those can be expected to come to Pinewood….

(9) A FORMER JAMES SAYS HE’S READY FOR JANE BOND. “Next 007 should be a woman says Bond star Pierce Brosnan” – BBC has the story.

The Goldeneye actor, who played the role in four films, told the Hollywood Reporter he believes it would be “exhilarating” and “exciting” to see a female Bond.

“I think we’ve watched the guys do it for the last 40 years,” said the 66-year-old.

“Get out of the way guys and put a woman up there!” he added.

…There have been reports British actress Lashana Lynch will take over Bond’s famous codename after his character leaves MI6 in the new film, but she will not be the next Bond.

(10) SHRINKAGE. “Book Expo attendance is now smaller than some Worldcons,” says Andrew Porter. “I remember when it had 45,000 attendees.” Publishers Weekly reports, “Amid Changes, BookExpo Limits Exhibit Hours to Two Days”.

After experimenting with different time frames for BookExpo, Reed Exhibitions has decided to return to an event that features two days of exhibits preceded by a full day of educational programming.

In a letter sent to industry members, event manager Jenny Martin said that, after analyzing customer feedback, the consensus was that the three-day 2019 show proved “challenging and costly” for many. As a result, BookExpo 2020 will open Wednesday, May 27, with a day dedicated exclusively to educational programming. That day will be followed by two days of exhibits. BookCon will be held immediately after BookExpo, running May 30-31. Exhibitors will once again have the option of exhibiting at both shows, or at just one.

 (11) IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Worldcon in Dublin at the Memphis 2023 bid party of all things, I not only ran into the assembled German SMOFdom, but also into Alex Weidemann, a reporter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers. Though the FAZ is a quality newspaper they are surprisingly genre friendly. Alex Weidemann’s article about WorldCon is now online, though most of it is sadly behind a paywall: “Sie kommen in Frieden”.

(12) WITH MALLARDS TOWARDS 87,000+ The Outline profiles “A Good Place: The fake town where everybody knows your name”.

…Strange, new places do take some getting used to and it might take you a few minutes to get the hang of subreddit r/HaveWeMet’s premise, where users roleplay as longtime neighbors in a non-existent town called “Lower Duck Pond.” The joke’s attracted over 87,000 users since the community started two years ago, making it the fastest-growing open-source fictional town on Earth. While the residents, streets, and buildings are fake, the absurdity, purity, and sense of community for its daily users has become very real.

Reddit user u/Devuluh, who’s really a sophomore computer science major named David (he declined to share his last name), started r/HaveWeMet in early 2017 when he was still in high school. The idea was to create an online space where everyone pretends to know each other….

(13) HIGH & TIGHT OR LOW & AWAY? Tagline: “Get yourself a heat shield, and throw the parcel really hard—backward.” An excerpt from Randall Munroe’s latest book, How To, appeared online at WIRED. Before you click, note that there’s a partial paywall, limiting you to just a few free Wired articles each month. 

Based on the 2001–2018 average, 1 out of every 1.5 billion humans is in space at any given time, most of them on board the International Space Station.

ISS crew members ferry packages down from the station by putting them in the spacecraft carrying crew back to Earth. But if there’s no planned departure for Earth any time soon—or if NASA gets sick of delivering your internet shopping returns—you might have to take matters into your own hands.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Anna Nimmhaus and Kyra.]

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/9/19 How Odd. It Wasn’t Science Fiction At All

  1. @Xtifr —

    The problem with bringing Clarke’s Third into a discussion like this is that you’re opening the door for someone to come along and claim that Tolkien was actually writing science fiction. Which, yes, is a position I can defend for hours if necessary.

    No, because Tolkien specifically referred to the stuff going on as magic and wizardry and so on. That’s the same reason why Jemisin ends up being firmly fantasy, even though she uses a lot of the trappings of sf — by book 2 of her trilogy, she was specifically referring to some happenings as magic.

  2. @Contrarius: That’s just the “unreliable narrator”. 😀

    Anyway, Jack Vance definitely uses the word “magic” in the Dying Earth stories, but Daniel Dern was still questioning whether those were really fantasies.

  3. Walter Jon Williams describes “Metropolitan” as fantasy – and it seems to take place in the far future of Earth. Many readers have taken it to be secretly SF (and Williams’ “Implied Spaces” might be a response to that).

    “The Sword of Shannara” is an interesting case – it first appears to be fantasy, then various aspects of it are revealed to be misunderstood post-apocalyptic features (dwarves are mutants!) – but it is fantasy after all (the elves aren’t mutants – they’re really old-school elves, and the wizard is doing honest-to-Gandalf magic).

    “Turn around and you’re First, turn around and you’re pre-Fifth, turn around and you’re a Pixel Scrolling out of the File”

  4. @Goobergunch: wrt fantasy in the future, consider Five Twelfths of Heaven, in which human-managed spaceships are powered by magic. For a more borderline example, how I think about the Mageworlds books depends on how much I feel The Force moves the StarWarsVerse from SF to fantasy.

  5. @Xtifr —

    Contrarius: That’s just the “unreliable narrator”.

    Unreliable author. 🙂

    If a character in a story describes something as magic, the story may still be sf — see various post-post-apocalyptic stuff. But if the author describes something as magic, then it’s fantasy.

    That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it!

  6. @ Greg

    This is a fantasy story, with part of the action set in the distant past (the ice age) and part set in a climate-ravaged, war-torn future. There’s a magic flute common to both eras, so it’s definitely fantasy. Were they two separate stories, I’d call the first “Prehistoric fantasy” and the second “future fantasy” or maybe “fantasy dystopia,” but when they’re both in the same story, I’m stumped. For now, I just put plain “Fantasy,” but I hate to do that. Does anyone have better ideas? I toyed with “Trans-Historical Fantasy” but decided that left the wrong impression.

    I’ve taken to using the label “cross-time story” for any story that has action in different eras where the connection between the eras is Meaningful For The Story. But I may have invented this particular term in this sense. The category covers such disparate concepts as past-life experiences (when connected to the same character in another era), a character who is doing research on someone in the past and undergoing personal growth by understanding their life (especially if the person in the past is presented in narrative), or even certain types of personality-projection into a past body–but not time-travel stories where the time-travel is framed in scientific terms. I’ve kept my use of the term “cross-time” deliberately broad in order to make it more useful. It’s a concept I see fairly often in f/f historicals and I have theories about why that’s so, but I don’t know that my theories have any meaning outside my head.

    As described, the story you’re considering sounds like it would fit my “cross-time story” category if the intent is that the reader makes meaningful connections between events and characters in the two eras.

  7. @Heather Rose Jones: the problem with using “crosstime” is that some of us oldpharts remember when “crosstime” specifically meant going between alternate worlds, rather than between points in a single timeline; the usage may have sufficiently faded (due to many stories about alternate histories, and even going-back-in-time-to-change-the-future, but IIRC nothing recent about visiting multiple simultaneous lines) that the word can be recycled.

    More cases where there may be fantasy in the ~future:
    * There’s a Recluce short story suggesting the inhabitants are Earth colonists (or spaceforce?) who ran into something they couldn’t handle.
    * Somewhere late in the Jinian trilogy we learn that the world of the True Game was settled by Earth people with psi powers.
    * The backstory for the Dragaeran empire is that the “elves” were us-humans who were ~experimented-on by beings now seen as gods.

    The first two of these are dim recollections; the last is from more recent reading (IIRC extracted/summarized by Alex Kay but appearing in the back of at least one of Brust’s books) but is again from recollection. Anyone with a firmer cite or a direct contradiction should speak up — and I admit that all three could be considered devolutions, where the original question pointed toward advanced technical futures.

  8. @Xtifr:

    Spaceships vs. magic. It’s not even that rare a thing. It’s particularly common in Japan, but reasonably common elsewhere.

    For example, see Gasaraki, in which a near-future mecha was designed based on an old demonic armour, and the main character uses a Noh performance in the mech to open gateways.

  9. For example, see Gasaraki, in which a near-future mecha was designed based on an old demonic armour, and the main character uses a Noh performance in the mech to open gateways.

    o ye gods i’d almost managed to fully repress all memories of Gasaraki

    “The singularity! Is getting! BIGGER!”

    With a premise like the one you so accurately described, it should have been fantastic. You could chart our anime-watching group’s progress from excited to “at least we can MST3K the shit out of this” to “now we’re just hate-watching” and “can it be over yet?” I’m still not sure why we finished it. To this day we can look at each other and say “Miharu” in a sad voice and sigh dramatically as this sort of inside joke trading on the lolsob humor of shared suffering. What I’m saying is, we bonded over the terrible experience, which means some good came out of it.

  10. John Hertz responds by carrier pigeon:

    Two examples of fantasy set in the future come at once to mind.

    In Heinlein’s “Magic, Inc.” (1940), the future discovers traditional laws of magic work like science, and you earn magic certificates like any other kind of engineering.

    Niven’s stories of Hanville Svetz are set in the future. An Institute for Temporal Research has buiit a time machine, and sends Svetz into the past. The characters don’t know that Niven thinks time travel is fantasy. Using the time machine puts Svetz into a fantasy world. The Institute, seeing horses are extinct, sends Svetz to get one. He returns with a unicorn (“Flight of the Horse”, also entitled “Get a Horse!”, 1969). There are several more short stories, and a novel Rainbow Mars (1999). The Mars where Svetz arrives is very strange. I hear the U.S. editions are collections with the novel and previous Svetz stories, while the U.K. editions are the novel alone; I haven’t tried to verify, nor looked at translations. Niven and I then wrote an interview with Svetz, published in Argentus 4 (2004) (PDF). We had fun with it, but on looking back I realize we assumed you’d read Rainbow Mars. I hear the interview appears under Niven’s name only in some odd way at the Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base, and under my name not at all.

  11. “Spaceships vs. magic. It’s not even that rare a thing. It’s particularly common in Japan, but reasonably common elsewhere.”

    Outlaw Star is one of my favourites TV-series with this concept. Originally a comic, the TV-series spans over 26 episodes with a mix of magic, space ships and space pirates. Good stuff.

  12. @John Hertz: Is “Magic, Inc.” really set in the future? It feels very much like a 1940s today. I can’t think of a detail that makes it a future rather than an alternate present. “Waldo” I think is closer to the mark. Personal space travel, radiant power, and completely wireless utilities–all that is still kind of the future.

    And then there’s Gather, Darkness. 😉

  13. @ John A Arkansawyer:

    If I remember correctly (and I probably don’t, it’s been approximately yonks since I read these), Magic, Inc is set in the same universe as Waldo and explicitly set after. This might be influenced by having had at least one volume with Waldo and Magic, Inc bundled.

  14. @Ingvar: As I recall, there’s no explicit connection between Magic, Inc, and Waldo in the stories, and it’s a bit hard to see Magic, Inc as a sequel. Waldo has space travel and radiant power – Magic Inc doesn’t mention either of those.

  15. Exactly my reaction — “magic” in “Waldo” is more like The Force (personal access to a mystic other space), where “Magic Inc.” is about business and includes a trip to the Xian Hell. I think they were bundled because they made a relatively balanced book, where each was long enough to unbalance a collection of short stories — either by size or by weirdness.

  16. “The Devil Makes the Law” (the title that “Magic Inc.” was originally published under) was in the Sept 1940 issue of Unknown, and is online. There is no connection to the Waldo universe, and there is nothing about it that indicates it was in the future of 1940. It’s just a parallel universe to Heinlein’s, with magic in it.

    I hadn’t read it in probably 40 years, and it was better (and longer) than I recalled.

  17. One enjoyable thing about Magic, Inc./The Devil Makes the Law is that it has one of many Heinlein women not preoccupied with procreation. He’s got a lot of them scattered throughout the books, almost all crones (in the non-pejorative sense), with the notable exception of Friday, who conspicuously decides not to reproduce.

    Though really, all the women in that are non-stereotypical Heinlein. Both Eileen the witch and Betsy (?) the politician are competent professionals.

    (The thoughts about “women politicians” are regrettable.)

  18. @John A Arkansawyer

    Though really, all the women in that are non-stereotypical Heinlein. Both Eileen the witch and Betsy (?) the politician are competent professionals.

    The witch is Amanda Jennings, and the politician (more of a lobbyist, really) is Sally Logan.

  19. John A Arkansawyer: with the notable exception of Friday, who conspicuously decides not to reproduce.

    Did you read the same book I did? Because in the end, she decides to trg zneevrq, frggyr qbja, naq unir naq envfr gur yvggyr eblny-vaurevgbe-gb-or juvpu unf orra vzcynagrq va ure hgrehf.

    I almost broke my eyes from rolling them so hard when I got to the end of that book.

  20. Cassy B. on September 13, 2019 at 5:31 pm said:

    JJ, yeah, the ending of Friday made me throw the book across the room.

    “This book is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force.” — Dorothy Parker

  21. @Cassy B
    I don’t think I threw my copy across the room, but I seem to recall losing it in one of the library prunings. (I also remember voting it below No Award.)

  22. @JJ: “Did you read the same book I did?”

    Apparently not, because in the copy I had, fur npprcgf n pbagenpg gb pbhevre na rzoelb gb or genafcynagrq vagb vgf bihz qbabe. Gura fur ernyvmrf fur’yy or xvyyrq ba neeviny, fb fur syrrf jvgu gur rzoelb, gb juvpu, lrf, fur qbrf tvir ovegu. Ohg fur’f abg ercebqhpvat. Fur’f rssrpgviryl n ubfg zbgure, fbzrbar jub nvqf va fbzrbar ryfr’f ercebqhpgvba. Fur qbrfa’g chefhr trggvat ure fgrevyvgl erirefrq naq, nf n erfhyg, qbrfa’g ercebqhpr.

    Vg’f abgnoyr gung Obff jrag vagb fbzr qrgnvy nobhg uvf naq gur Terraf’ pbagevohgvba gb Sevqnl’f trargvp znxrhc va gur yrggre ur yrsg sbe Sevqnl, rzcunfvmvat guvf jnf gur bayl cbffvovyvgl bs xrrcvat gur Terraf’ QAN va gur uhzna zvk. Ohg jung Sevqnl jnagrq jnf gb or uhzna, gb unir n snzvyl; fur jnf cbfvgviryl pbby gb gur vqrn bs ercebqhpvat guebhtubhg gur obbx.

    V qb trg jul lbh ernpg gb Sevqnl pubbfvat gb frggyr qbja nf lbh qb. Xrrc va zvaq n ebpxrg cvybg naq gjb trargvp qrfvtaref znqr nyzbfg rknpgyl gur fnzr qrpvfvba fur qvq–naq gung jnf whfg gur zra va ure zneevntr. Fur’f abg gur bayl bar jub qrpvqrf gb xvpx onpx naq erynk, abe vf fur gur svefg Urvayrva punenpgre gb qb fb. Gur orfg rknzcyr vf Wrss Gubznf, gur ynjlre jub ghearq ubob orpnhfr ur cersreerq gung yvsr.

    @bill: “The witch is Amanda Jennings, and the politician (more of a lobbyist, really) is Sally Logan.”

    Sally! That’s right. Thanks for that correction. I didn’t think it was right.

    I see I also slid over something. There are two witches in the book, Amanda Jennings (who I think might’ve been called something else when Jack Bodie suggests consulting her), and Eileen–no, wait. I think it’s Ellen–anyway, the sickly one who Archie’s friend Joe is working with. Sorry to have not been clear.

  23. John A Arkansawyer: fur syrrf jvgu gur rzoelb, gb juvpu, lrf, fur qbrf tvir ovegu. Ohg fur’f abg ercebqhpvat.

    You’re splitting hairs. Vg qbrfa’g znggre jurgure gur puvyq vf ovbybtvpnyyl uref, she’s choosing to get married, settle down, and have kids. Which is the topic under discussion: how Heinlein’s “strong” women almost always ultimately decided what they most wanted to do was to get married, settle down, and have kids. Friday is just one more of the same — not, as you put it, a “notable exception”.

    What the men do in the story is irrelevant to the discussion of the problem of Heinlein’s female characters.

  24. @JJ: What I said in introducing the topic was “Heinlein women not preoccupied with procreation”, not “Heinlein women who don’t get married”.

    What the men do in the story is irrelevant to the discussion of the problem of Heinlein’s female characters.

    I disagree. Gurfr ner zvtenagf, crbcyr bs fbzr zrnaf nonaqbavat ubzrf naq pnerref va beqre gb yrnir n snvyvat fbpvrgl. That’s the hobbyhorse Heinlein is riding here. It’s consistent for Friday to be among them. Bapr fur trgf gur erznexnoyr pbvapvqrapr bs zrrgvat ure ybiref ntnva, jung rknpgyl jbhyq lbh unir ure qb va gung fvghngvba?

  25. @John A Arkansawyer, Heinlein sets up that “erznexnoyr pbvapvqrapr” so as to have an excuse to entirely throw out all of the characterization that happened over the course of the novel.

    I hated it. I felt betrayed by it. It made me ANGRY. I’m not lying when I said I threw the book across the room.

    I’ve only read the book the one time, and all these years later I’m foggy on the details. But I clearly remember that white-hot anger and betrayal.

  26. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    Since, as noted above, “Magic, Inc.” (1940) is available electronically (as “The Devil Makes the Law”, the title under which it was first published in Unknown; Heinlein’s original title restored later), it should be easy for Filers to consult.

    The first female magic-worker we meet (“blond, and thin…. Her hair was silver-white, but she was not an albino”) is, we later learn, Ellen Megeath (“the white witch [there’s white magic and black magic; I spoke loosely above about engineering] from Jersey City, the one who did creative magic in textiles”). I shan’t quarrel over whether she’s “sickly”.

    The second is Mrs. Amanda Todd Jennings. She’s introduced by Jack Bodie (“Licensed Magician, 1st Class…. I took my bachelor’s degree at Harvard and finished up postgraduate at Chicago…. my old man taught me everything I know, but he insisted on my going to college because he said a magician can’t get a decent job these days without a degree”).

    Bodie [fans of Heinlein (Bill “Tex” Jarman in Space Cadet (1948) really does have an Uncle Bodie), and of Vaughn Bodé, will note the appearance of this name] says “I’ll bet it never occurred to you to look up an old-style witch….”

    Joe Jedson says “Is she the old girl they call Granny Jennings? Wears Queen Mary hats….?”

    “That’s the one…. not in regular commercial practice…. more magic in her little finger than you’ll find in Solomon’s Book.”

    The story requires a world very like 1940 other than for magic, but it’s the future all right.

    “He used both the old methods and magic….”

    “I had once had a section of bleachers … built … by old methods, using skilled master mechanics”

    “I like taxicabs … and I’ve liked them even better since they took the wheels off…. This happened to be one of the new Cadillacs…. We went scooting down the boulevard, silent as thought, not six inches off the ground.”

    I borrowed the 2014 Baen ed’n from the public library (couldn’t get at my own copy), where “He used” is at p. 107, “I had once had” p. 108, “I like taxicabs” p. 112.

  27. @Cassy B., Lis Carey: I don’t see the betrayal in a happy ending. Friday wanted one thing throughout the novel; she finally got it. What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know.

    @John Hertz: I’m traveling or I’d reach out and get it off the shelf. I’d not considered the passages mentioning “old methods”. I’ll think about that.

  28. It’s amazing how consistently older white guys do not really listen when women tell them why they don’t find Heinlein’s depictions of smart, capable women nearly as engaging and liberating as they think we should. You described Friday as a being a real departure, or atypical–I don’t recall your exact words. In fact she ends up in the most typical way possible for a smart, capable Heinlein woman–married and having kids.

    It’s depressing and infuriating.

  29. “Old methods” doesn’t necessarily mean viewed from a time that 1940 was “old”. The “old methods” referred to non-magic methods of sewing, which were in fact old in 1940. It’s a fantasy, so it can mean what you want it to, but there’s nothing in the story that requires it to be read as if it were set post-1940. Assume magic had been a part of society for a generation or more, and it works as a ca. ~1940 piece.

  30. @Lis Carey:

    It’s amazing how consistently older white guys do not really listen when women tell them why they don’t find Heinlein’s depictions of smart, capable women nearly as engaging and liberating as they think we should. You described Friday as a being a real departure, or atypical–I don’t recall your exact words.

    Here’s a quick reminder: “not preoccupied with procreation…who conspicuously decides not to reproduce”

    That’s what I said, and I stand by it. It’s a very limited claim which I can support both by reference to the text of that novel and by comparison to the text of many, many other Heinlein novels. Because I’m not that big a fool, I didn’t suggest that should make you find her engaging or liberating, just unlike other characters in that respect.

    If you want to read Tebjvat Hc Jrvtugyrff or Gur Fcrrq bs Qnex, that’s fine. Those stories have perfectly good endings, even if they do make me sad. I prefer the spectacularly horrible plotting in Avengers: Endgame that gave Fgrir Ebtref an impossible happy ending. That made me happy. So did Friday.

  31. @John A. Arkansawyer–The problem may be with our definitions of “happy ending.” Friday gets the same damned “happy ending” nearly every smart, capable young woman in his work gets–i.e., married, with kids to raise.

    The fact that it’s close to being his sole definition of “happy ending” for smart, capable young women, for a lot of actual women it doesn’t have that same warm, fuzzy glow of “happy ending” that it does for you. We see the character we’re assumed to identify with being shoehorned into the same box yet again, forever and ever.

    I like happy endings. I strongly prefer happy endings. This a “happy ending” in your mind, as it was in Heinlein’s. It’s not a happy ending for me, or Cassy, or a very great number of women who have read it or are likely to.

    But yes, I think The Speed of Dark is a really fine book. Conventionally happy endings are not the only thing I like.

  32. @Lis Carey: For me, a happy ending is (with rare exceptions) a good thing happening to a deserving character, from that character’s point of view. It wouldn’t be a happy ending for me. I’m not a “leave-Earth-because-it’s-getting-icky” guy. I have a hard time leaving town. I’m more a “go-down-with-the-planet” guy. But it’s not about me.

    The Speed of Dark is a really good book, but the ending left me in many different places. I wouldn’t make the trade he ended up making, I don’t think. Not that he anticipated it, or that it was the worst possible outcome. But it made me sad nonetheless.

  33. answering John Hertz: wheelless taxicabs do not make a future, they merely suggest taxicabs based on broomsticks. Consider for comparison Anderson’s magically-alternate stories collected as Operation Chaos, which are marked as explicitly contemporary by the prolog: ~”You had a different World War II than we had”, and it’s one the lead is fighting in the first story (“Operation Afreet”). More specifically, think of the very 1950’s college setting of the second story (“Operation Salamander”), which explicitly describes how the school departments changed some time ago when principles of magic were discovered — and has Cadillac broomsticks being driven with the arrogance of Cadillac cars in our world. Common magic can quickly distort history so it looks futuristic, but that doesn’t make it a future setting.

    wrt Friday, I remember local fan George Flynn commenting that the story was unbelievable from the start because of the allegedly-hypercompetent lead frequently lapsing into what he called baby talk.

  34. John A Arkansawyer, I read Friday in 1982, when it came out, and have not revisited it since. Frankly, I hated the ending so much that you’d have to pay me a considerable amount of money to revisit it. So my memories of the details of the plot from thirty-seven years ago are not necessarily clear. What I do remember, and remember clearly, is my white-hot fury and betrayal at the way the novel ended.

    De gustabus, and all that. Maybe you read it as a happy ending. I can assure you that I am perfectly fine with happy endings.. .and I did NOT find this ending satisfying. See above, re: white-hot fury and betrayal.

  35. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    Broomsticks are elsewhere in the story.

    That’s not what these taxis are. The taxicab passage begins “We flagged a magic carpet that was cruising past” (Baen ed’n p. 112).

    I suppose the story could be set in an alternative present, i.e. a 1940 in which routine use of magic appeared some time in the past. To me that seems more of a stretch, but what do I know?

  36. I suppose the story could be set in an alternative present, i.e. a 1940 in which routine use of magic appeared some time in the past. T

    That’s what it seems like to me. People are used to magic being around. A successful businessman doesn’t know a lot about it, but he’s comfortable hiring a magician who is in the Yellow Pages, to do a job for him. It seems something like medical science would have been in the 1940s – doctors had been around for a long time, but scientific medicine with a specialist doctor who had an office you go to (instead of a GP doctor who came around to your place) was relatively new. We get some impression that use of magic is newish because there conservative politicians can pretend that it isn’t real or is dubious morally (as occurs in “The Devil Makes the Law”), but thoroughly modern people like our hero take magic as a matter of course, like electricity (which in 1940 was ubiquitous in cities, but still rare in rural areas).

  37. Heinlein’s Friday? Ick ick ick.

    No, there is not a single female Heinlein character anywhere in any form I find liberating. At all. In any form. Including Friday.


  38. @Andrew: and to me. If magic is so common that taxis are magic carpets, or broomsticks, or djinn that pick you up and carry you where you want to go, a story won’t necessarily tell anyone when it happened or what “now” is. (Anderson does provide some detail — but he was a less-breezy author than Heinlein. Considering that Heinlein was (at least) good-for-his-time at inserting telling futurisms in his SF, I find the lack of non-magical innovations makes it implausible to claim that “Magic Inc.” is set in the future.

  39. @Chip: Speaking of Anderson’s work, an omnibus of Operation Chaos/Operation Luna is available at the usual places at a discount today.

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