Pixel Scroll 9/19 Mouse wheel keep on turnin’ (turnin’) / Trolls gonna keep on burnin’ (burnin’)

(1) You might not have suspected that L. Frank Baum’s first book was about raising chickens.

At 20, Baum took on the then national craze—the breeding of fancy poultry. He specialized in raising of the Hamburg. In March 1880, he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record.

And when he was 30, Baum published The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

(2) Peter Capaldi’s interview by a local LA Times writer signals the arrival of a new season of Doctor Who.

At the base of Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building, a slender man in an impossibly clever suit considers the wrought-iron coils of the past that adorned the future of Ridley’s Scott’s neo-noir film. Tucked behind his Ray-Bans, the eyebrows that launched a thousand GIFs furrow.

Just so we’re clear, the 12th Doctor is standing in the “Blade Runner” building….

“It’s a marathon,” Capaldi says. “[Matt] knows what it is like, when you’re on Episode 10 and you’re really sort of dying on your feet. You’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to learn any more lines, I’m not going to be able to pull anymore faces.’ [Matt Smith is] great because I can text him and say, ‘This is where I’m at. Can you help or do you remember this?’ He has totally been such a huge support. As David [Tennant, the 10th Doctor] has as well.”

The last regeneration from baby-faced Smith to the gray-locked Capaldi wasn’t just a change in character age, but in tone as well.

“I think The Doctor has become more and more accessible as the show has become more successful, and this sounds bad, but weirdly I want to make him more distant,” he says. “I don’t want to be so user friendly. I didn’t want to go out and say to the audience, ‘Love me.’ I wanted to be a more spikey character. Hopefully I’m a character that might be uncomfortable to be around. But interesting.”

(3) And the Times ran a companion article full of hints about future episodes.

Spoilers are deadly here — to the fun, certainly, but conceivably to the person who reveals them as well — but a few cats have officially been let out of the bag. There will be Daleks — yes, again and already — including what feels like a nod back to Coleman’s first appearance in the series, before she became a companion, back in “Asylum of the Daleks.”

There will be Missy (Michelle Gomez), the transgender reincarnation of the Master — news whose goodness the two-part opener, “The Magician’s Apprentice” and “The Witch’s Familiar,” penned by show runner Steven Moffat, only confirms. (One of Moffat’s great gifts to the series is a string of memorable women — indeed, all his best inventions have been female characters.)

Also, as trailers have shown, the Doctor will play an electric guitar with all the authority of a man — Capaldi, that is — who once led a Scottish punk band (Dreamboys, with Craig Ferguson — that Craig Ferguson — on drums). It’s a pointed, and explicitly pointed-out, reminder that David Tennant’s and Smith’s young and madcap Doctors still live within him: “It’s my party, and all of me are invited.” Said another way: He’s not as old as he looks. (Some 2,000 years of living notwithstanding.)

(4) On Monkeys Fighting Robots the “Top 10 Doctor Who Episodes” begin with —

  1. The Doctor’s Wife

The Season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wife” was guest written by Neil Gaiman, a man best known for writing Stardust, Coraline and The Sandman and his episode was awarded the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Best Dramatic Presentation at the 2012 Hugo Awards.

This episode sees The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams receiving a distress call from a Time Lord and enter into a rift between Universes to try and save him or her. Where they end up is a void made up from trash and space debris where a group of people have salvaged a living from the junk. Also with them is an eccentric woman called Idris who pretty much jumps on The Doctor when she first sees him.

What made this episode such a delight was Suranne Jones’ performance as Idris, a unhinged woman who is completely batty and has a mysterious connection to The Doctor. Jones was fantastic, letting out her inner Helena Bonham Carter and injected a lot of humor in the episode. Gaiman’s written ensure that was a balance of drama and comedy and references the history of the show.

(5) Missed a big 50th anniversary the other day – the first aired episode of Get Smart on September 18, 1965.

Max-and-99-get-smart-original-series-1716131-324-506The episode, Mr. Big, introduced Agent 86, Maxwell Smart played by Don Adams and his partner, the inimitable Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) as agents of CONTROL.

Headed by their boss, The Chief (Edward Platt), 86 and 99 worked together to fight the forces of KAOS.  In the pilot, Mr. Big, we see the only actual appearance of the head of KAOS, played by little person Michael Dunn, before he is killed by episode’s end by his own Doomsday death ray.

Inspired by The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which in itself was inspired by the James Bond craze of the early 60’s), Get Smart spoofed every aspect of spy culture including colorful villains, outrageous gadgets and ridiculous plots.

(6) Brian K. Lowe in “It’s the Little Things that We Count”.

Sure, this is all for fun, and everybody’s entitled, but there are issues out there that we should be paying attention to: climate change, record refugee migrations, wealth distribution, a presidential election season being run by reality stars. (Somebody has probably actually predicted this somewhere along the line.) Why should we care if No Award got the Hugo for Best Short Story when right outside the auditorium record forest fires, fueled by unprecedented drought, made the air seem less like Spokane than Beijing?

And why isn’t anyone blogging about that?

I have a simple theory: It’s too big. We can’t handle this stuff. This is the sort of thing we elected those guys in Washington to solve for us. See how well that’s worked out.

But you know what? We’re Science Fiction. We think about the big issues, the future. Up until now, instead of the guys in Washington, we’ve let the guys in SFWA do the heavy lifting, so we can concentrate on nominating patterns and voting blocs. Except now the guys in SFWA are right down there with us. We’re letting a thousand ant-like problems distract us from the elephants in the room. Because it’s easier.

I’m not going to sit here at my computer and claim I have the way out. I’m not to claim that I’m any better than anyone else, that I’ve been fighting the good fight while everyone else sat at their bivouac. I don’t, and I haven’t. I’ve fed the monster of small concerns like a lot of others.

But it’s time to stop. It’s time for us in science fiction to stop squabbling about petty matters and get back to bigger things. The kind of looming apocalypses that we can imagine, because we’re not afraid to. The kind of doomsday scenarios that used to be science fiction.

(7) Daniel in “The Forgotten Core of Science Fiction is Not Science” on Castalia House Blog takes on David Brin’s critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora.

Good science fiction may include politics of some sort, but despite what Brin asserts, that shouldn’t be its measure. Nor should “competence porn.” It is simply a myth that science fiction’s job is to correct any perceived tropes of the past.

Ken Burnside demonstrated an understanding of this very well in his Hugo award-nominated The Hot Equations. His counsel on the better implementation of physics into space combat is less focused on correcting tropes and is instead written entirely from the perspective of serving an underserved genre:

Thermodynamically limited space opera is a greatly underserved niche, in the overlapping circles of a Venn diagram between Hard SF and military science fiction. – Ken Burnside, The Hot Equations

Where Burnside is on target, Brin is off base. Brin’s argument is based on a premise: that in the future, Science Fiction depends on better political messaging and a commitment to progress.

Brin is half right: Science Fiction can be about an optimistic future that comes about through hard work and sound engineering. But does not, at its core only include that. Despite what Brin asserts, 1984 is not a positive self-denying prophecy. Orwell did not prevent a society that falls repeatedly under totalitarian thought policing – he merely provided a fictional setting that helped some readers identify it when it came for them.

(8) Amanda Palmer is a songwriter, musician and performance artist. She’s about to have her first child. She spoke with NPR’s Rachel Martin about the dueling demands of motherhood and art in “An Artist Worries: Will Motherhood Compromise Creativity?”

MARTIN: So you get this letter from your faithful fan. And you write in the response that this person essentially confirmed your deepest fears about being a mother and an artist. What a nice thing for this person to have done.

PALMER: Yeah, I mean, the part of the letter that confirmed my deepest fears wasn’t so much the are you tricking us into crowdfunding a baby. It was more of this fan’s terror that now that I was having a baby, I wasn’t going to be a good artist anymore.

MARTIN: And is the concern that having a baby – for obvious reasons, it changes your daily routines and your life in terms of how you use your time. But is your concern more about what will be the impact on your creativity?

PALMER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s seems like there’s a paradox out there because on the one hand, so many artists who are parents will tell you that having children unlocks this unforeseen wellspring of creativity. On the other hand, some of the proof of concept (laughter) can fly in the face of that. And, you know, there’s definitely artists out there who kind of get boring after they have kids but seem to not be aware of it. So nobody’s anecdotal evidence can really prepare you for what’s going to happen. You just know that you’re going to change and you don’t know how.

(9) Best Related Work, Edible? Tattooed Bakers made this Groot Cake, a frosted Jupiter, and a cake referencing The Hobbit.

Groot-cakeJupiter-Square_viewHobbit-square_view

[Thanks to Will R. and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

226 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/19 Mouse wheel keep on turnin’ (turnin’) / Trolls gonna keep on burnin’ (burnin’)

  1. Second time getting the contributing editor credit, second misspelling. I’m so giving Santa a lump of coal come christmas.

  2. (9) I’m not sure about best related, but I’d be prepared to go for a Dramatic Presentation of me eating said cake.

  3. Iphinome: Since this isn’t the army you don’t have to keep the misspelled name — I hope I’ve fixed the 9/19 and 9/17 entries now. (Though at this time of night, nothing is certain….)

  4. IMO, the most appropriate category would be best fan artist – so all the cakes could be considered, not just one.

  5. I like how Daniel Enness praises Burnside’s Hot Equations for its “counsel on the better implementation of physics into space combat” despite the numerous errors in that work pointed out by commenters here. And then Enness proceeds to claim that Brin has asserted a bunch of things which Brin has not actually asserted.

    Ya gotta say this for them, reading comprehension and logic are not the Puppies’ strong suit.

    I’m not sure what is their strong suit. Conspiracy theories, maybe?

  6. Thanks for the Get Smart reminder. 99 (and Mrs Peel) were great.

    And very nice cakes. But I couldn’t possibly eat Groot.

  7. … in his Hugo award-nominated* The Hot Equations.

    FTFY

    And where did the 1984 reference come from? The puppies are bizzare!

  8. The big point that’s being missed in those critiques of the critiques of Aurora is that they’re not literary critiques, they’re critiques targeted at very specific fora, so it’s not surprising the Centauri Dreams gets a critique focused on the science of the starship, or that Brin’s IEET piece is on the interaction between science and society: it’s what those publications are there for!

    For story critiques there are plenty of other venues.

    The tl;dr “Cherry pickers pick cherries from plum trees”.

  9. Eleventy-Fifth!*

    #9 – But how do they taaaaaaste?

    ETA: * = Clearly, as a tribute to #5, I missed it by thaaaat much. Thx Simon!

  10. It’s interesting to think about how authors mature their themes over careers. Take the book I read in the bath this morning, Hunting On Kunderer, William Barton’s first novel, published as part of an Ace Double, and the foundation of the Starover universe he returns to at various other points in his writing. It’s perfectly competent fiction, and you can see points in the story where he is trying to find a way of talking about colonialism and the end of empire, but it all gets crowded out by a hunting story, an alien investigating humans story, a competent man, an incompetent starship captain, and the story of an immortal trying to find friends to share a life when all else is gone.

    Jump a couple of decades into a writing career that stalled and restarted, and Acts Of Conscience springs to mind, another tale at another end of history in Barton’s Starover universe, where the first man with a FTL starship learns of man’s inhumanity to non-man, and to other men, and finds himself more atuned to the alien. It’s the same themes as in Hunting, but its story of alienation and redemption is much more tightly focused and much more intelligible – while still deconstructing the evils that men do when we build empires.

  11. @GSLamb Sympathy. One of the most depressing experiences of my life was serving on the jury in a rape trial. It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to go back to the trees (or the oceans, if you’re into the aquatic ape theory).

  12. @Camestros

    I didn’t think it was one of KSR’s best.

    What don’t you like about KSR? If I know that I can say whether it features heavily in Aurora.

  13. Regarding #1 – my husband is a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan, and got several copies of a nice reprint of that book once.

    It was early days for the internet, and some joker subscribed his Oz mailing list to a list about raising chickens. It was really bad for a bit, as he would get all the traffic from the mailing list and everyone who posted on the mailing list got a note that said “Your email is in a queue for approval to the Wizard of Oz mailing list.” The problem was that he couldn’t send an email from HIS list address to unsubscribe and whoever owned the chicken list was AWOL, so there was no way to stop the problem.

    I finally used my pathetic hacking skills to spoof the Wizard of Oz mailing list address and send an unsubscribe request, which fixed the problem. Even though he hadn’t caused the issue, my husband offer to send the chicken books to people on the list, which got a thankful response. It turned out well enough, although I can still make him cringe my saying “Yahoo chicken list!”

    And that, children, is why you ALWAYS require verification before you subscribe someone to a mailing list.

  14. Someone please show Brian K. Lowe how to use the internet. It should be very easy to find all of the voluminous blogging about the topics he mentions once he understands anything at all about navigating cyberspace.

  15. I loved Get Smart. Happy belated 50th anniversary.

    Someone please show Brian K. Lowe how to use the internet. It should be very easy to find all of the voluminous blogging about the topics he mentions once he understands anything at all about navigating cyberspace.

    This. This so much. I even bump into some of the same people in those places. Who woulda thunk?

  16. re: #6
    I used to teach a lesson about this … using a special issue of Scientific American (I’ll see if I can find a reference, the issue came out back in the early 2000’s). This issue focused solely on climate change problems around the world … and had ~15 articles about all sorts of affects and problems.

    A month or two later, in a regular issue of SA, an editorial appeared … asking why this special edition devoted solely to climate change/global warming problems did not have even ONE article addressing the “elephant in the room”.

    I use this setup to this day (the magazines and articles have long since disappeared … really need to find copies!!) in my ecology/environmental classes. I ask the kids, after the setup, to identify that ONE ‘elephant in the room’ problem. Most can’t.

    It is of course overpopulation.

    As humans I guess we are incapable of having a rational discussion about birth control and whether we should or can control our population numbers. I’m with Mr. Lowe, I don’t have answers … but it becoming glaringly obvious that we can’t ignore the problems forever. And again, like Mr. Lowe, one of the reasons I love science fiction is that it allows me to remain optimistic about the future and solving our problems.

    However …

  17. *eyeroll* A complete list of trees that I have planted, native plant species that I have worked to re-establish locally, and citizen science projects I engage in is available upon request, since Mr. Lowe seems quite concerned that we must not be doing enough for the world. (Which I’m not, of course, but few are.)

  18. TTTO “Safety Dance” (approximately)

    Cuz if your best-of list don’t have “Girl in the Fireplace” then it’s no best-of list of mine.

  19. @clif: my understanding, living in Japan, is that problem is not considered as pressing as it was 20-50 years ago. Am I mistaken? As an academic in an unrelated science field, my impression was that the Mathusian catastrophe had receded significantly in the concern of experts…

  20. @ clif – I’ve actually stopped worrying about overpopulation as much. The birth rate plummets as soon as you educate women and give them access to birth control. A bunch of developing counties have dropped their birth-rates drastically in the last century as a result–from “averages of six kids to barely over one” kinda drops. The U.S. birth rate halved in a hundred years.

    There’s a nasty economic hit coming on the tail of that, sure, but there are projections that kids alive today could see the end of–heh–Peak Human, and then it’ll start to decline.

    Sure, that’s a lot of humans. Fewer would be much easier! But the math is quite promising.

  21. Population has risen much more slowly than predicted, and the Malthusian patterns people expected forty years ago haven’t appeared either.

    But the people-caused climate change and related problems have increased at faster rates than we were expecting. It’s a pretty clear consensus now that the crucial, immediate issue is not how many of us there are, but what we do.

  22. The Malthusian disaster should have happens a thousand times over based on Mathus’ own predictions, and several times over based on predictions from the seventies.
    But perhaps more importantly is that current predictions show a slowing global population growth in the future.

    And overpopulation is actually a diffuse set of loosely related problems anyway.

  23. Jim Henley: Someone please show Brian K. Lowe how to use the internet. It should be very easy to find all of the voluminous blogging about the topics he mentions once he understands anything at all about navigating cyberspace.

    Yes, it’s a shame that his internet capabilities seem to be limited to writing and posting, and do not apparently include searching and reading.

    I saw, just in reports from SFF fans from Sasquan, quite a bit of commenting and concern about the bushfires, the people fighting them, and the people affected by them. But I guess that does not fit into his narrative.

  24. When the topic of fancy chickens comes up, I have to mention this 100% black gothic chicken from Indonesia:

    http://greenfirefarms.com/chicken/ayam-cemani/

    When my family was there in 2004, I was struck by how many chickens we saw running around Jakarta, apparently wild. I later heard that they probably did belong to human families and had home roosts that they would return to.

    The thing I remember about Get Smart (watched in reruns during the 70s when I was a little kid) was that 89 was pretty incompetent, which nobody ever noticed because 99 was always bailing him out. So it seemed kind of feminist to me, but I’m not sure if that impression would hold up.

    Sure, this is all for fun, and everybody’s entitled, but there are issues out there that we should be paying attention to: climate change, record refugee migrations, wealth distribution, a presidential election season being run by reality stars. (Somebody has probably actually predicted this somewhere along the line.) Why should we care if No Award got the Hugo for Best Short Story when right outside the auditorium record forest fires, fueled by unprecedented drought, made the air seem less like Spokane than Beijing?

    And why isn’t anyone blogging about that?

    Science fiction writers talk about climate change and other environmental concerns ALL THE TIME. It’s kind of a leading SF theme, actually.

    Patrick Rothfuss, fantasy writer, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Syrian refugees. http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2015/09/doing-what-we-can/

    David Gerrold makes fun of Donald Trump every bit as enthusiastically as he makes fun of bad puppies.

    Everyone I know who blogged about Worldcon blogged about the fires.

    So… I have no idea where he formed this impression.

    I have no idea where Daniel from Castalia House formed this impression either:

    It is simply a myth that science fiction’s job is to correct any perceived tropes of the past.

    I looked over the Brin essay. The book Aurora is at heart an argument for why it’s dumb to think that humans will ever be able to colonize worlds outside our own solar system. Brin acknowledges the truth of some of the reasons Kim Stanley Robinson thinks that, but still argues with him. I’ve seen Brin on a panel take almost exactly the same stance while debating Peter Ward, author of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. I see it as Brin saying, essentially, I want to dream about space travel and life on other worlds, don’t take that away from me. But then, if you’re determined to go on dreaming about “science” that we know is impossible, you might as well give up the pose that star ships and aliens are any different than elves and dragons.

    I think it’s an interesting argument, but I don’t see how it relates to the sentence above, or to The Hot Equations, or to 1984. Daniel seems to be arguing with an imaginary David Brin in his head who wrote a different essay about something else entirely.

  25. Anyone else here have some Russian history? There’s a real resonance to me between Castellia House’s pronouncements and the examples of translated articles of Pravda a class I once took on 20th Century Russia. Something with only a tangential relation to the Big Official Message is fastened upon, distorted, and then produces something on the sublime wisdom of the official, approved, line, in this case Hot Equations.

    That being said, you can make a strong case that Aurora has a lot of grumpy old man leftism, combined with some mysticism dressed up as science. If your taste in sci-fi runs towards technology always being the danger, the demon that must be caged, you may love it.

    Personally, though, I found Aurora very much in the grumpy old person who should know better school of leftism. Sure, we can build de facto utopia in a can in interstellar space – but the mass of people will simply be too stupid to keep it. Yeah, you can pretend to democracy – but at the end of the day only a wise overlord can really keep the peace. Yes, the people may not have dropped everything and set up society the way you wanted them to. But I’m not quite ready to turn that into a view that any effective leftism needs a benevolent overlord to survive.

    Combine that with a near mystical sense of humanity always being too stupid to crack certain problems and it’s foolishness to every leave a certain communion with sacred land of you birth. We have the imperfection of reason, the mystic volkish bond to the soil, the failings of democracy and the need for a Leader – Aurora just might be Castellia’s cup of Dark Enlightenment tea.

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  27. While it’s all well and fine to say ‘well, birth rates plummet if you educate women,’ but that goes against the tradition of draconian, cruel solutions favoured by SF people.

    Take Americans: any woman could give birth to forty children, any man could father millions of children. And they all might be serial killers! So clearly autonomous hunter-killer drones targeting the over-20s coupled with birth control drugs in the food are the way go, along with nuclear strikes on any crowd larger than one. Simple and effective.

    (we understand birth control in Canada so this isn’t necessary for us)

  28. re: birth rates falling … it’s not so much the continuing overpopulation, but rather the effects of the current overpopulation. Perhaps we will be able to overcome those … but it’s a race against time and inertia and human nature. Too many people consume too many resources and generate too much waste etc etc.

  29. “…clearly autonomous hunter-killer drones targeting the over-20s coupled with birth control drugs in the food are the way go, along with nuclear strikes on any crowd larger than one. Simple and effective.
    (we understand birth control in Canada so this isn’t necessary for us)”

    You may understand birth control but I’m not sure you’ve thought out the whole nuclear strikes for crowds issue… I fear the lower parts of Canada would become highly irradiated and you’d lost the great heart of Canadian civilization, Quebec.

  30. James Davis Nicoll wrote

    Take Americans: any woman could give birth to forty children, any man could father millions of children. And they all might be serial killers! So clearly autonomous hunter-killer drones targeting the over-20s coupled with birth control drugs in the food are the way go, along with nuclear strikes on any crowd larger than one. Simple and effective.

    I haven’t noticed that SF writers favor cruel solutions except insofar as you need something for the protagonist to struggle against and a cruel society is often what is chosen to fill that role.

    As for simple and effective, vasectomizing all males (after collecting and freezing sperm donations to be used for artificial insemination when a man and woman mutually agree to have a child) seems a lot simpler and more effective to me. Plus this would have the happy side effect (or perhaps main effect, for some people) of reducing abortions nearly to zero without transgressing against women’s bodily autonomy.

    Noticeably less cruel than hunter killer drones and nuclear strikes, so there is also that.

  31. @clif, we are not overpopulated now, either.

    The problem isn’t too many people, it’s too much profligate wastage of resources. If we would just stop pissing our carbon budget down the drain for no good reason (e.g. giant V8 SUVs used as single-occupant urban commuter vehicles, acting as if 24/7 aircon is a necessity in temperate climates, etc etc), we’d be in much better shape.

  32. The Get Smart 50th Anniversary? Missed it by *that much*

    Would you believe … ?

    Oh, the old post-a-cryptic-comment trick.

  33. I liked “Aurora” a lot. I think a skeptical take on interstellar colonization from a smart sf writer was perhaps overdue, and Robinson does a nice job. Sure the book may be flawed, but what isn’t? For me it’s a definite awards candidate. I have read only half a dozen books by Robinson to date, but I consider him a favourite and expect to make my way through his back catalogue.

  34. (The other part of the Brin piece is that he and KSR are colleagues who regularly argue these points. I’ve been part of much the same discussion between them in the past, and it’s fascinating. But it doesn’t work so well in pixels.)

  35. Something with only a tangential relation to the Big Official Message is fastened upon, distorted, and then produces something on the sublime wisdom of the official, approved, line, in this case Hot Equations.

    Interesting, because wasn’t one of the underlying assumptions of Pravda that their audience was NOT getting alternate viewpoints anywhere else? You know, they could lie about the content of the original because they could count on people not being able to read the original?

    So I wonder how that same dynamic works in the Internet age?

  36. The problem with snipping the men is miss even one and he could potentially, given IVF and a sufficiently powerful milking machine, father millions of children. And if books like Ben Bova’s Titan and The Return teach us anything, it’s that lady brains cannot resist the urge to have infinite babies.

    Which is why in The Return , the good guys secretly fix all the women so they can each only have two babies. The best part is this means none of the interstellar colonization efforts can increase their populations over the long run and since some people will die before reproducing, the actual effect is every colony dies out.

  37. Noticeably less cruel than hunter killer drones and nuclear strikes, so there is also that.

    Up until a power cut knocks out the refrigeration then that’s humanity up shit creek. I’m sure that plot’s been done already though.

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