Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

(1) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. Dennis Mathis tells how he learned to understand “the reader” in “The Future Began on a Tuesday” at the SFWA Blog.

The future was twenty-five years old and not getting any younger when I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the legendary (even then) graduate program for writers. Kurt Vonnegut, who had taught there, said, “Picture Harvard Law School if only one out of ten graduates actually becomes a lawyer.” Dedicated to the principle that the last thing you’d want happening in a classroom is teaching, the Workshop strove to be the opposite of academic, and more or less succeeded. Zipping their lips about how writing should be done, the staff was restricted to role-modeling the lifestyle of a writer: mostly competitive drinking, womanizing, wrestling, and snorting at weaklings; the Viking concept of higher education. Despite being a weakling myself, I did the best writing of my life.

And then in my second year, a last-minute substitute on the Workshop staff. A guy named Frank Conroy, author of only one book, and it wasn’t even fiction — who writes a memoir in their twenties? — who’d taught creative writing only once before, at (get this) M.I.T.

He specified we were to read the worksheets (someone’s delicate work-in-progress cast into the lion’s den) pen-in-hand, poised to mark any point in the text where we felt a “bump,” no matter how vague. In class, we went through the worksheets sentence-by-sentence, hashing-out whether some reader’s bump was an idiosyncratic misreading or an actual problem. They always turned out to be problems. If a reader misreads, Conroy taught us, it’s always the writer’s fault…..

(2) CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard has the story: ”China’s Newly Launched Space Station Will Receive Its First Crew Next Month” .

China successfully launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit on Thursday at 10:04 AM EDT, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. It will soon be an orbiting home to two taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts).

The mission is regarded as a key stepping stone towards the nation’s larger spaceflight ambitions, which include sending taikonauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars….

This second generation spacecraft, whose name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will conduct some initial tests before boosting itself even higher to an altitude of 393 kilometers, roughly on par with the International Space Station (ISS).

If all goes according to plan, the tubular orbital laboratory will receive its first taikonauts in late October on a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11. Though the names of the two crew members have not been released, they are both men, and they are expected to spend 30 days aboard Tiangong-2, according to Xinhua News. If successful, it will be the longest manned Chinese space mission to date.

In terms of specs, the new station is almost identical to its precursor, Tiangong-1, which operated in space from September 2011 until March 2016, and is on track to deorbit and immolate in the atmosphere next year.

(3) COMIC ART EXPLORED. Superheroes have taken over the Huntsville Museum of Art in the Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama.

“My Hero: Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is the name of the show running through December 11.

For decades popular culture has been fascinated by superheroes — their superhuman capabilities, their desire for truth and justice, and their ability to save the day. Their storylines have captivated many, and their images have become contemporary idols throughout the world. My Hero presents a rich array of work by over 50 international artists, including painting, illustration, photography, sculpture, mixed media and video, that celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes.

(4) ROOTS OF THE GENRE. Atlas Obscura writes about Margaret Cavendish. “One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s by a Duchess”.

No one could get into philosophical argument with Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and walk away unchanged. Born in 1623, Cavendish was an outspoken aristocrat who traveled in circles of scientific thinkers, and broke ground on proto-feminism, natural philosophy (the 17th century term for science), and social politics.

In her lifetime, she published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction. In 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

In the story, a woman is kidnapped by a lovesick merchant sailor, and forced to join him at sea. After a windstorm sends the ship north and kills the men, the woman walks through a portal at the North Pole into a new world: one with stars so bright, midnight could be mistaken for midday. A parallel universe where creatures are sentient, and worm-men, ape-men, fish-men, bird-men and lice-men populate the planet. They speak one language, they worship one god, and they have no wars. She becomes their Empress, and with her otherworldly subjects, she explores natural wonders and questions their observations using science.

(5) MEMBERSHIP IN THE GUARDIAN. The Guardian is going through a financial squeeze.

According to the Huffington Post:

The Guardian is scaling back its U.S. operation through a staff reduction of 30 percent, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper and global news site, has struggled financially as print revenue and circulation collapsed throughout the industry. Earlier this year, The Guardian announced plans to cut costs by 20 percent over three years, and nearly 270 employees in the U.K. operation took buyouts in June.

Now the U.S. operation, which was launched in 2011, is grappling with what Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel described Thursday in a staff meeting as a “course correction.” Guardian US chief Eamonn Store informed staff the company was facing a $4.4 million budget shortfall, thereby necessitating major cuts.

(6) PRIDE OF STARFLEET. Nalo Hopkinson went to her first sf convention in 1978 outfitted as Lt. Uhura.


  • September 16, 1966  — Fahrenheit 451 premiered in theaters.

(8) THE BEST WAY TO ATTEND THE WORLDCON. Mike Headley reports on his first Worldcon – “Hugo Awards – a (Belated) Retrospective”. Many things underscored his feeling of being an outside until —

Things changed when I volunteered; I ended up hauling ice and stocking drinks for the hospitality suite. I was only there for a couple hours, but I got to glimpse this community at its best. I saw MIMO crew helping set up plates of vegetables, people who brought their whole family to volunteer. People who talked about how this was there 10th, 20th, or more convention. They weren’t writers, or publishers, they were just sincere fans. On top of that the con staff were so grateful I helped out in a pinch, and there sincerity stunned me. It made me feel like I had made a difference, however small, and I like that I got to give back, even a tiny bit.

That’s when I saw this wasn’t a community of writers talking about writerly things. This was a community of fans, of people pitching in to make sure that this worked. They helped each other, and they did it to make the best experience they could for everyone.

The second major turning point was during the Hugo ceremony itself. At one point they did a retrospective of all the members who had died in the previous year. And as I watched this somber stream of names scrolling up, I noticed that yes there were several creators, screen-writers, and editors. There was also plenty of people listed as just “fan” or “volunteer.” The fact that the organization took time to recognize these people, some of whom were just and only fans, showed just how deeply some people cared about this community.

(9) TWEETER’S DIGEST. It’s a commonplace that not everything people want to say will fit in a 140-character tweet. And yet here’s someone who has summarized every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

(10) NOT ONLY A MESSAGE. Those who are allergic to political messages in sf may break out in hives by the time they’ve made it through “The G’s List of Mind-Bending/Expanding SF/F Novels” at Nerds of a Feather.

In my case I don’t have a political message to convey *with* my list, but rather have chosen a list of books that either have political messages or which made me think about the world in different terms. Even that was too big, so I decided to further limit myself to books that are either science fiction or transgress the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, horror and mimetic fiction. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means–I probably could have done one with 50 entries or more. But 21 is a snazzy number, isn’t it? 1. Aldiss, Brian. Non-Stop [Faber and Faber, 1958]

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries, which turn their universe upside-down… (GoodReads) The best #GenerationStarship novel I’ve ever read. Thought-provoking, with an ending that still manages to unsettle many years later. Also make rats utterly terrifying. (G)

(11) NERDCON APPROACHES. NerdCon: Stories will soon return, and several leading sf/f writers will be in the mix — Mary Robinette Kowal, Mikki Kendall, Wesley Chu, Patrick Rothfuss, Paolo Bacigaulpi, and Saladin Ahmed. (And who knows, maybe more if I’d kept scrolling…..)

(12) ORSINIA. The Paris Review has posted an excerpt from the introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Library of America editions — Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (Library of America, 2016).

LOA jacket template

Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.

At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me. I remember when this idea came: in our small co-op dorm at Radcliffe, Everett House, in the dining room, where you could study and typewrite late without disturbing sleepers. I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. (The Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1947–48 had been the first event to rouse the political spirit in me.) A land not too far from Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but let’s not worry about borders. Not one of the partly Islamized nations—more Western-oriented … Like Rumania, maybe, with a Slavic-influenced but Latin-descended language? Aha!

I begin to feel I’m coming close. I begin to hear the names. Orsenya—in Latin and English, Orsinia. I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Saint Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name … I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it.

And so I did.

(13) THIS JUST IN 17 YEARS AGO. J. K. Rowling sounds a little exasperated here.

(14) DINNER BELL. Scott Edelman has released Episode 18 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast where you are invited to  “Dig into a lobster roll with F. Brett Cox”.


Now it’s time to say farewell to Readercon with a visit to The Lobster Stop in Quincy, Massachusetts for (what else?) lobster rolls … and F. Brett Cox.

Brett co-edited (with former Eating the Fantastic guest Andy Duncan) Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (which featured a story about Randy Newman by yours truly!), and has had fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews appear in Eclipse Online, War Stories, Century, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and many other venues. He’s also hard at work on a book-length study of Roger Zelazny for the University of Illinois Press.

(15) MEMORABLE TV THEMES. Catherynne Valente asks:

I don’t know what she’d pick as the best theme for a dramatic series – for me it’s the theme from Hawaii 5-0. I’m also a fan of the Mission: Impossible theme, and have a real soft spot for the full rendition of The Virginian theme.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Stuckinhistory, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

155 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

  1. If we are talking earworminess of theme songs, you can’t beat The Andy Griffith Show. Once you hear it, you will be whistling it in your head all damn day.

  2. “Best” in this context is a matter of individual taste, but I point out that the jazz musician’s tunebag often includes the Flintstones theme and several items from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn scores. (Not just the famous title theme–“Dreamsville” is particularly, well, dreamy.) The title music for Mr. Lucky isn’t exactly chopped liver, either.

  3. MaxL: The Angel theme really worked for me, as did the Babylon 5 S4 theme.

    At first glance I thought you had found some crazy mashup of the Babylon 5 and “Car 54, Where Are You?” themes. Somebody who knows B5 well could have fun filking Car 54…

  4. Mancini should go in the books as a major 20th century composer, like Leroy Anderson. I have three of his themes that I play as a suite, starting with The Pink Panther (having found the four-page version after decades of search), then March of the Cue Balls (a sub-theme from Peter Gunn, I believe), and finishing with A Shot in the Dark, which wraps the set up with a chord that hits with a sound enough like a gunshot that I regard it as somewhat programmatic.

  5. Anime themes: my top favorites are Onna no ko otoko no ko, the closing theme from School Rumble (This is a music video version) and Under the Blue Sky, the closing theme from Someday’s Dreamers (also a music video link.)

    Other favories include the opening theme for Love Hina.

    The opening theme for Neia_7.

    The closing theme for The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.

    The closing theme from Spice and Wolf.

    Okay, it is cheating to include the end theme from a movie, but I have to include Kaze ni naru from The Cat Returns. (Which seems–after long search–to have been purged from Youtube, but here’s a pretty good cover.)

  6. Hmmm… this moose does not have a television set (and says “Fie!” to both the TVLicencing extortion department and Virgin Media, both of whom want money for unwanted services), so these are from (pre?)history:

    The Prisoner.
    No Hiding Place
    “Motor sport” (the extended version of the end of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac)

    For radio, “Calling all workers” by Eric Coates. and possibly “Grandstand”.

  7. Anyone mentioned “Secret Agent Man” yet?

    There’s a man who leads a life of danger
    To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
    With every move he makes
    Another chance he takes
    Odds are he won’t live to see tomorrow

    Secret Agent Man
    Secret Agent Man
    They’ve given you a number and taken away your name

  8. Patrick McGoohan hit the trifecta of great theme music with Danger Man, Secret Agent Man and The Prisoner.

    The theme music for McGoohan’s “Rafferty” was, however and being polite about it, awful. Rafferty was a cantankerous, strong-willed character (kind of like a milder version of House), and they gave him theme music that might have been appropriate for kittens and butterflies gamboling among the flowers.

  9. John M. Cowan on September 17, 2016 at 11:15 am said:

    Anyone mentioned “Secret Agent Man” yet?

    I was just about to, but you beat me to the punch.

    It and the Red Dwarf theme are the only ones I’ve actually gone out and bought copies of, separately from the show.

    (Not counting the theme for Absolutely Fabulous, which I bought years before the show was made. Which isn’t quite the same thing, I think.)

  10. “Out of the night,
    When the full moon is bright,
    Comes a horseman known as Zorro!”
    —Zorro Theme (vocals by Henry “Sgt Garcia” Calvin, at least on our MMC LPs)

  11. In a complete change of subject, I just checked out Black Gate for the first time in a while and I remembered why I generally stay away from there – its effect on my TBR mountain is at least as bad as File770, possibly worse, since the articles don’t generally just mention one book or author. I get frustrated because I don’t have the time/money to check out the stuff I find interesting. Those folk deserve some large subset of all the awards, and I need to steel myself and just wade into the articles bravely, ignoring my fear of suffocating in the aftermath of a bibliovanche.

  12. Iphinome on September 17, 2016 at 8:49 am said:

    No making fun of me for this. I swear I *will* find you.

    When I was much younger and learning to skate I had fantasies of using the 1970’s Battlestar Galactica theme as my short program music* hitting triples on all the flourishes.

    I liked the original Battlestar Galactica theme 🙂

    Also, has anybody said Sesame Street yet?

  13. iTunes has reminded me that I really like Puffy AmiYumi’s theme for Teen Titans. (With Guitar Wolf!)

    Maybe we should debate which was the best James Bond theme. (It was Goldfinger, of course, but we should figure out what came in second.)

  14. Maybe we should debate which was the best James Bond theme. (It was Goldfinger, of course, but we should figure out what came in second.)

    That’s easy–Live and Let Die.

    (When I saw Sir Paul perform it live decades later, it still was show-stopper.)

  15. Just read the first chapter of Ninefox Gambit. Talk about starting things off with a bang! Hyper-kinetic, great set up, and you just know bad things are going to happen (to the characters, and reality). Pretty impressive.

  16. Jack Lint on September 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm said:

    iTunes has reminded me that I really like Puffy AmiYumi’s theme for Teen Titans. (With Guitar Wolf!)

    Maybe we should debate which was the best James Bond theme. (It was Goldfinger, of course, but we should figure out what came in second.)

    1. Live and let die
    2. Goldfinger
    3. Nobody does it better (The Spy Who Loved Me)
    [0. The Bond theme (Dr No.) – obviously]

  17. Cadbury Moose on September 17, 2016 at 10:52 am said:

    Hmmm… this moose does not have a television set (and says “Fie!” to both the TVLicencing extortion department and Virgin Media, both of whom want money for unwanted services), so these are from (pre?)history:

    The Prisoner.
    No Hiding Place
    “Motor sport” (the extended version of the end of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac)

    If we are going retro UK sport TV themes then “Soul Limbo” – BBC Test Match Cricket theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67xXbTaQlKI

    Ahhh, reminds me of long summer holidays desperately hoping that it would rain so the cricket would be cancelled and the family TV would show something other than cricket – maybe old Laurel and Hardy films? Maybe Jason and the Argonauts? Happy days attempting to develop psychic control over the weather to ruin everybody else’s fun. On reflection, I was a monster.

  18. My favorite James Bond theme (non-Goldfinger) has to be “You Only Live Twice.” It’s got an weird & eerie vibe that a lot of the other themes lack.

  19. Somewhere in the James Bond themes we should remember “Diamonds are Forever,” also sung by Shirley Bassey. While it’s not the best of the Connery movies, it was the first Bond film I ever saw, so it’s got a special place in my heart. (Also, Jill St. John was pretty hot.)

  20. I’ve seen REPO MAN repeatedly, and with much enjoyment, but when I think of “Secret Agent Man,” I’m more likely to recall Devo’s cover version. (“But every night / I get down on my knees and pray / And thank God / I’m a Secret Agent Man”) (Or something similar.)

    Voting with my fingers, the Bond theme I sing and play regularly is GOLDFINGER. Ohh, yeahh.

  21. “Secret Agent Man” is a pretty great song, isn’t it?

    I love McCartney’s work a lot–and what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know–but Adele’s “Skyfall” has captured my ears every time I’ve heard it.

  22. Yeah, so far for Bond themes Skyfall hit me just right. Let’s nt get into any other movie franchises, though, because Star Wars still wins, and did even in the days when the most recent Star Wars was the Phantom Menace.* Joe Hisaishi (Pretty much every Miyazaki movie ever) comes really really close a few times, though. And of course the Lord of the Rings movies had, er, a few moments. The music for that is often better than the film, as well (and I liked the Lord of the Rings movies.)

    I cannot believe I forgot the Sesame Street theme. Especially as I chiefly watch either the old School DVD sets or the old old stuff occasionally found on youtube, not the new and messed up versions.

    I lose track of which Babylon 5 theme goes with which year, but they had at least 2-3 that used to get in my head.

    *I have a scene where a character, living in the days post-prequel but pre-The Force Awakens, thinks of the theme as “the Forlorn Hope”> Which reminds me that Sharpe had an awesome theme.

  23. I thought I was going to be the first person to mention The Wild, Wild West, but it looks like it finally showed up. And is it actually possible that on a website for science fiction fans, no one has suggested the theme from Star Trek?

    In the animated show section, in addition to the Bugs Bunny and Flintstones themes previously mentioned, I also recall those from The Jetsons and Huckleberry Hound.

    ETA: Oh, and in the “explain the premise of the show” category, let us not forgetThe Brady Bunch.

  24. Which reminds me that Sharpe had an awesome theme.

    Here’s forty shillings on the drum
    To those who volunteer to come,
    To ‘list and fight the foe today
    Over the Hills and far away.

  25. James Moar said:

    I think part of the reason anime still has a lot of good themes is that animation’s expensive, and good credit sequences means that viewers will thank you for what’s in effect the same minute or so of footage reused a dozen or two dozen times.

    A bigger reason is that music companies are part of the production committees and bring money, in exchange for which they expect to be able to market a couple of their current artists by featuring them during the opening and closing.

    (I’ve often wondered if there are some kind of minimum guarantees written into the production agreement about how many times the songs will be played, since anime shows do sometimes skip one credit sequence or the other if they need to work extra material into an episode. I’ve been wondering especially often lately, since I’m watching Re: ZERO, which I think has skipped its opening and closing more times than it’s played them this season.)

  26. Dawn Incognito said:

    I’d also like to add the Read or Die theme.

    I’ll add a vote too.

    inappropriately perky anime theme: “Connect” from Madoka Magica, with bonus lyrics that take on horrifying meaning once you watch the show!

    Ah, yes. The most memorable of the Madoka themes for me is ironically the closer for the first couple episodes, because even not knowing anything about what was to come, it was like they had hung up a big sign reading “NOT THE ACTUAL THEME”.

    The actual closing theme was pretty good too.

  27. Read or Die is a delightful show, as well as having a great theme, involving super-powered librarians dealing with exotic threats. I know that Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library, also likes it. 🙂

    (Everybody talking about movie themes is wrong, though. The correct answer is the end titles for Buckaroo Banzai.)

  28. How about the shortest theme songs? This version of the Scrubs opening is only 12 seconds. (IIRC, there was a version that was even shorter,)

  29. There was an early eighties ABC sitcom starring George Dzundza called Open All Night. It only lasted about three months but had the greatest theme song ever. It told the main character’s bio in an Andrews Sisters style, ending, “Now he’s stuck behind a counter in debt up to his nose, in a dither, in a pickle, in a store that’s never closed.”

    For instrumental theme, I’d nominate The Wild, Wild West.

Comments are closed.