Pixel Scroll 9/7 Recount, Harlequin…

(1) Henge proliferation. Now a huge ritual arena has been discovered near Stonehenge. You almost end up thinking Stonehenge, which used to seem quite big in itself, was nothing but the cherry on top….

Researchers find hidden remains of massive Neolithic stone monument, thought to have been hauled into position more than 4,500 years ago

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project has transformed how archaeologists view the ancient site, which sprawls over 4 sq miles of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. The main monument stands at the heart of a landscape rich with burial grounds, pits and chapels. Last year, researchers found the remains of 17 new chapels and hundreds of other archaeological features scattered across the site.

Two huge pits have been discovered in a two mile-long monument called the Cursus that lies to the north of Stonehenge. The pits seem to form an astronomical arrangement: on midsummer’s day, the eastern pit’s alignment with the rising sun and the western pit’s alignment with the setting sun intersect where Stonehenge was built 400 years later.

The rise and fall of the newly discovered monument at Durrington Walls suggests that buildings were modified and recycled since the first stones were laid around 3100BC. A large timber building encased in chalk is thought to have been a house of the dead where defleshing was performed as a burial ritual.

(2) This unnaturally leads us to Dr. Faustus AU’s The Call of Cthulhu – for beginning readers at Deviant Art.


(3) I sure didn’t score very well on Revolvy’s The Batman 1960s TV Show quiz. Must have missed more episodes attending choir practice than I thought.

(4) You won’t need an alarm to wake up once you have the spider clock – you’ll be too scared to go to sleep.

In Arachnophobia, the clock has been reimagined as the body of a spider, its mechanical movement engineered to sit partially outside the body as the spider’s head, where it can be viewed and admired as it sits on a table, or mounted to a wall.


spider clock

(5) Idaho Public Radio offers advice for writers from science fiction author David Levine.

David D. Levine is the author of the upcoming novel ‘Arabella of Mars’ (Tor 2016), as well over fifty science fiction and fantasy stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award.

We spoke with Mr. Levine at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane this August, and asked him what advice he had for aspiring writers. “Persistence is the only thing you cannot do without,” he said.

(6) Galactic Journey’s idea is intriguing —

Imagine living through the post-Golden Age of science fiction and fantasy. What would it be like to experience this journey at the plodding, one day per day pace?

Though I’m a bit disappointed with its 1960 Worldcon report — [September 6, 1960] The 1960 WorldCon in Pittsburgh!

Of course, I wasn’t actually present at the con, it being held some 2500 miles away on the 17th floor of the Penn Sheraton in Pittsburgh.  But I know people, and I have access to a million-dollar ‘fax machine.  Thus, even though the custodial staff is just barely finishing its sweeping up after some 300 attendees had a roaring great time, I am already able to bring you this report:

The primary purpose for a convention is to allow fellow fen (plural of fan) to mingle.  Gordon Dickson likens it to a Gentleman’s Club where adventurers can meet and compare notes before heading off back into the wild.  Fred Pohl calls it a family gathering.

It looks like the demographics of fandom match that of publication: women are in the distinct minority, but they are present and often outsizedly significant.

Not sure what the point is of a report that doesn’t acknowledge the names of anybody but the pros (not even all of those pictured are named).

If somebody is writing a throwback account of everyday life in the genre, I’d expect to see more evidence of research from sources that aren’t available online. Harry Warner Jr., anyone?

(7) Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon has worked up a new estimate of the number of Sad and Rabid Puppies based on the 2015 nominating data released at Sasquan.

(8) Django Wexler has coded an E Pluribus Hugo simulator.

Important Caveat: I am not a voting theory expert! Smarter people than me have thought about this. However, I am a programmer of sorts, and interested in this stuff. So, I wrote up a thing that runs the EPH algorithm on test data. (I obviously don’t have access to actual Hugo data!) I thought other people might get something out of it, so I’m posting it here.

Here is the EPHConsole project as a Visual Studio ’13 project.

Here is the compiled self-installer for the EPHConsole project.

Here is the EXE file, which should work if you have .NET installed on your machine.

Here is an example data file.

(9) I like Joe’s attitude.

(10) Chuck Wendig has found the silver lining in all those one-star reviews people have dumped on his new novel Star Wars: Aftermath.

Others have suggested that there may be a campaign by some Legends fangroups to “raid” the book’s reviews to tank its ranking with these one-star reviews — an interesting tactic that does indeed tank its actual review score, but not its sales ranking given that Amazon algorithms are interested not in the quality of the reviews but rather the attention that the reviews and the book get. (Meaning, a passel of negative reviews actually elevates the book’s overall sales ranking. Which in turn garners it more sales. Amazon reps have been clear with me on this point: buyers buy books with reviews, period. Not good reviews, not bad reviews. But rather: quantity of reviews impress buyers to make purchases. So, leaving a ton of bad reviews actually increases the book’s sales. Ironic, and not likely what anyone supporting such a campaign intends.)

Ben Lindbergh at Grantland outlines the basic problem for Extended Universe fans:

It’s an apt title for a story at the intersection of two climactic events concerning the galaxy far, far away. The in-universe aftermath is the power struggle that succeeds the destruction of the Second Death Star and the loss of the Empire’s Sith-heavy C-Suite at the end of Return of the Jedi. But the book also arrives amid a meta-aftermath: the Alderaan-like extinction of the old Expanded Universe, which started as a supplement to the movies and soon outstripped them in scope, sprouting into a story-surrounding-the-story that spanned thousands of years and unfolded via hundreds of books, comics, and video games from 1976 until 2014, when Disney decided to clear the decks for future films by declaring all that came before non-canon.

(11) Police are circulating the photo of a person of interest in a sexual assault at Dragon Con this weekend.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta police are asking for the public’s help identifying a man who may be connected to a sexual assault at the popular sci-fi convention Dragon Con.

Officer Kim Jones said the female victim was in town for the convention and was sexually assaulted early Sunday “by a white male wearing an FBI baseball cap.” The man reportedly introduced himself as “Gary from Marietta.”

Police also released a photo of the suspect. Further details about the incident were not immediately available.

Dragon Con draws tens of thousands of people to Downtown Atlanta each year, many in costumes and other paraphernalia celebrating comic books, movies and pop culture. This year’s festivities began Friday.

In an emailed statement, Dragon Con media relations director Don Carroll said it is the convention’s policy not to comment on “specific incidents.”

“Dragon Con is proud to offer a safe and inclusive convention for its members that is free of harassment or assault of any kind,” the statement said. “We work with the Atlanta Police Department all year to develop and install procedures to prevent issues such as these. If and when they occur (we) insure they are handled by the appropriate authorities. APD is on site throughout the convention.”

Anyone with information about the alleged assault or the person of interest is asked to contact Detective R.C. Sluss at 404-546-4260. Tipsters can also remain anonymous — and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000 — by contacting Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS and crimestoppersatlanta.org.

[Thanks to JJ, Andrew Porter, Eric Lindsay, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

334 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/7 Recount, Harlequin…

  1. Re note taking

    I’m mostly an auditory learner but I used to take notes. Although my notes were a wild mix of doodles (good if you want to concentrate on just listening and don’t want to look as if you’re sleeping) and a weird combination of written notes mixed with mind-mapping-style diagrams.

    As much as I rely on computers these day I can’t imagine using a laptop or tablet for note-taking as that would be too distracting from actually listening (the sound of the keyboard would be yet another distracting).

  2. @cassy b: The problems you’re dealing with can be solved by tweaking the attributes of whichever appropriate tags. I’m not sure what level of CSS experience you have, so holler if what I’m writing isn’t helpful enough.

    For paragraph indentation, here’s what you want:
    text-indent: 1em;
    The “1em” bit is what specifies the amount of whitespace to insert at the beginning of the first line. An “em” is typographer’s jargon for “how wide a lowercase letter ‘m’ is”, and the exact value of an em depends on which typefont you’re talking about. So text-indent of 1em gives you whitespace equal to a single lowercase ‘m’; 2em gives you whitespace equal to a pair of lowercase letter ‘m’s; and so on.

    If you want exactly the same amount of whitespace no matter what typeface you’re talking about, you can specify pixels rather than ems. As long as you don’t fiddle with your screen’s resolution, a specific number of pixels will always occupy the same amount of space on your screen. Like so:
    text-indent: 12px;

    If you want to make sure that you’re always going to have exactly the same amount of whitespace, regardless of typeface or screen resolution, you can specify the typographical measurement called “points”. 1 point is a fixed unit of measurement equal to 1/72 of an inch. Like so:
    text-indent: 14pt;

    To eliminate that annoying whitespace between paragraphs, here’s what you want:
    margin-top: 0em;
    margin-bottom: 0em;

    I used ems here, but pixels or points would work just as well. So if you’d like to nail down everything in point-based measurements, that’s totally okay!

  3. Cubist, that’s very helpful; thanks! I usually just poke at the CSS and then jump back for fear it will bite. Your explanations were very useful; I’m saving them to my “how to fix ebooks” file (which currently contains such handy tips as <span style=”font-size: 80%;”> makes caps into small-caps…)

  4. The page for a book in Google Books (reached by clicking on the book in “Your Library”) has a menu indicator at the top right (it used to be three dots, now it’s a “settings” style nut logo and a down-pointing arrow). For books where it is supported, the menu will include “Download EPUB” for books published in that format. (For out-of-copyright books converted by Google, this will be “Download PDF”, which is a great way to get things like the 1855 translation of the Gallican Missal locally.)

  5. Two points;

    Screw Stonehenge. The most fascinating neolithic site is Göbekli Tepe.

    Having last night rewatched the season finale, I really think that iZombie should get a Hugo nom for dramatic presentation, short form. (As for an individual episode, I’d go with episode 11, “Astroburger”)

  6. Also, would it be too un-PC to mention a short story about the employment opportunities for sex workers in the food industry? If You Were a Diner’s Whore, My Love

  7. @Christian Brunschen

    I just finished the story you linked to – very funny. 🙂

    @Darren Garrison

    I really like the sound of iZombie, but it doesn’t seem to have made it to the UK yet in any form. I hope it gets released in plenty of time for nomination watching, but after how long it took for Agent Carter to get here I’m not too hopeful.

  8. While the Rev Bob is barging into publishers, fixing their code, can he remind them that HTML thus epub deletes extraneous spaces and paragraph marks, so an author can’t shift scenes just by hitting enter three times for a bit of extra white space. I mean, is having a line with three centered asterisks too much to ask?

  9. Tintinaus, sometimes you can see the <p class=”MsoNormal1″></p> in the html view. If you’re lucky. Then you can replace the thoughtbreaks with asterisks. (Why, yes, I’ve done this…)

  10. Christian Brunschen, Rev Bob, et al — Thanks! I retract my threat of violence to the staff of Google (for this sin, anyway).

    JJ — Sorry, i was feeling grumpy with the worn-out clockwork on my 1st Gen iPad, and I’m no good at puns anyway.

    Cassy B — By odd coincidence, the book I bought was Graydon Saunders The March North. I was recommended A Succession of Bad Days, but I thought I ought to read TMN first, if they’re a series (not sure if they are, or just the same world).

  11. @Meredith: Allamagoosa (the story I linked to regarding the danger of typos) seemed extra appropriate: it was written in 1955 by Eric Frank Russell – and was the very first short story that won a Hugo.

    @NelC: Happy to help!

  12. @Christian Brunschen

    I saw! I looked it up after I read it, and I felt very pleased about adding to my Hugo Nominated/Winning Things I’ve Read total without even having to make an effort. 🙂

  13. NelC, March North and Succession are certainly set in the same universe, and Succession follows March North chonologically, but there’s little overlap between the books (the Really Scary Powerful people are the same, but they’re not point-of-view characters). But I did read them in published order, so although I think one can be read without the other, I’m not absolutely positive.

  14. @Cassy B:

    The main instructions you want for your paragraphs are these:

    .std {
    margin: 0;
    text-indent: 1.5em;

    And then, in the HTML files, the opening of each such paragraph would be:

    <p class=”std”>

    Drop-caps are a bit more involved, if you want them to look good, because there’s such a variety of devices out there. My current working definition is:

    .dropcap {
    display: block;
    float: left;
    font-size: 2.75em;
    font-weight: bold;
    line-height: normal;
    margin: -0.1em 0.08em -0.25em 0;

    That last line is the really fiddly bit. It tinkers with the margins around the letter to create a small space to the right and shave some space from the top and bottom. Those are experimental values that work well for me; YMMV. You’d call that with a <span class=”dropcap”>T</span> expression, to make the “T” a dropcap.

  15. @Cubist: (CSS: points, pixels, ems, et al.)

    Not to start a flame war, but the choice of units matters more than you allow. For instance, specifying an indent in pixels or points (or inches, centimeters, or other such “absolute” units) may look fine to you on your device with moderately-sized fonts, but it’s going to break for someone who bumps the size up a few notches for comfort… because the font will grow and the indent won’t. It’s an accessibility issue. Take an extreme example and suppose you set your blockquotes to indent by half an inch on either side. How’s that going to look on a phone versus a widescreen monitor?

    My professional advice is to use em units (or semantic keywords like “small” or “larger”) for text and pixel units for images. Remember what you’re measuring and why.

  16. Stevie —

    Thanks for the pointer to Lords of the Sea. Like Latitude, it’s a captivating deeper dive into a story that I kind of knew but didn’t really. Who’d have thought that triremes were basically sewn together? (Ob computer reference: the Cray supercomputers of the late 80s had backplanes that were essentially knitted).

    Seeing the island of Naxos reminds me of the Greek myth Ariadne and Theseus. After killing the minotaur, they wound up on Naxos in an enchanted sleep, where Dionysus reclaimed Ariadne. This was memorialized by Richard Strauss in his opera Ariadne auf Naxos.

    On awakening, Ariadne fled to the next island east, Donousa. Theseus pursued her and doubted her shipwreck story in the recitative “Were you washed on Donousa’s shore, my love?”

    (Hmmm. Tough crowd. But wait, I’ve got more!)

    When he realized that Dionysus was up to no good, Theseus become wroth and cursed Dionysus. Cursing the gods was a bad deal in ancient Greece, so Ariadne tried to warn him in the aria “If you at Dionysus swore, my dove.”

    (Jeez, people just don’t appreciate opera any more. OK, let’s try this one. It’s blaming the victim, but it scans well.)

    This annoyed Theseus so he responded sarcastically “If you were Dionysus’s whore, my love..”

    (What’s that, Mike? People are leaving and demanding their cover back? Let me try this, then: )

    What’s it worth to you people for me to stop?

    (ducks to avoid flood of money)

  17. @Rev. Bob, thanks! Added to my handy-dandy reference page.

    @Rick K. Throwing pennies at you. Really, really hard. Also, <snork!>

  18. @Cassy B

    At least you didn’t tape the pennies to bricks. I appreciate that.

    In the bar-band phase of my misspent youth, I played dives where people routinely threw beer bottles at the stage. If they liked you, they drank the beer first.

    That scene in Blues Brothers? Only a slight exaggeration.

  19. Rick K, I love that movie; it’s like a love-letter to my home town.

    As a lifelong non-drinker (alcohol tastes really, really foul to me) I’ve never actually hung out much in bars, so I appreciate knowing this. Truly, thank you. Now I’m on a dart team, so I *do* hang out in bars, but they tend to be sport-bars or dart-bars; not the sort where there’s a stage in the corner. (And my long-suffering friends on the dart team have slowly, slowly been educating me in bar-etiquette, which most people learn when they’re half my age…)

  20. This is a little personal, but I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other now, and it’s the rare case where SF/F invades real life, so I thought it worth recounting.

    I love my girlfriend very much, but she has a jealous streak. In particular, any thought of my ex-girlfriend, Mara, sends her into flights of rage and fear. Mara and I were very much in love when I lived in Ocean City, Maryland, but when I moved to New Mexico for work, she had to stay behind. My girlfriend has always been half convinced Mara’s going to show up and take me away, just like that, despite my repeated assurances that that wouldn’t and indeed couldn’t happen.

    To be fair, even less jealous lovers would have trouble accepting the reason why this was out of the question. For Mara – I am speaking literally here, not metaphorically – was an Ocean Spirit, a nymph of the sea, capable of taking human form for a time but ultimately tied to her home element. You can imagine my girlfriend’s reaction to this explanation, but it’s true. Or so, anyway, Mara claimed it to me.

    So imagine my shock a few days ago when Mara appeared without notice at the fast-food outlet where I have a franchise, looking as lovely as ever, if perhaps a little less damp than my memory of her owing to the local climate.

    My first thought was that I was in big trouble: my girlfriend would think I had been lying this whole time. How was this possible? Could Mara herself have been less than candid? And yes, I felt the old stirrings.

    Over two-piece combos and peach iced teas, Mara explained. She had petitioned Neptune himself to become fully human, to renounce her elemental heritage so that she could join me, her one true love. I asked if there was some kind of cost for that boon; she simply said it didn’t bear discussing.

    I won’t try to tell you nothing happened between us. Mara and I were once as close as two beings of our different natures can be, and we had been apart for many months, and what she’d done to reach me was damned flattering. But by the end of the weekend, we both sensed that it was not to be. I loved my current life with my girlfriend, and Mara herself admitted that, on the long journey out West – because Neptune did not grant her identification documents that would stand up to TSA scrutiny – she had herself changed. She was no longer who she had been in our carefree oceanside days. We agreed we could still be friends, but our romance was at a definitive end.

    Still, there was the problem of my girlfriend and her jealous streak, especially if she discovered that Mara was no longer tied to the Atlantic, as I had assured her was the case. She would never believe me again. And perhaps I had my own doubts. Perhaps Mara’s story had always been a put-on, though she was a hell of a swimmer if you ever saw her, as I did many a night.

    Then I remembered: Mara had told me of the Salt Oaths that only those of the sea could swear, that Neptune himself vouchsafed if true, or struck down those who swore falsely. It was indeed by a Salt Oath that Mara had sworn her love for me in the first place. My own mere human oath in return seemed paltry and dry by comparison. And it was Mara’s Salt Oath that she asked me now to release her from, which I gladly did. But it occurred to me that the Salt Oath offered a solution to my problem. If my girlfriend would not believe me, perhaps she would believe Mara if she spoke directly to her, and assured her, by the power of Neptune himself, that Mara’s and my romance was a thing of the past.

    No, I can’t say why I thought this was a good idea. But in the grip of enthusiasm or mania or desperation, I requested, of this woman who may or may not have ever been what she claimed:

    “Please. If you were Undine, assure my love.”

  21. Jim,
    That was wonderful. And by wonderful, I mean an assault on humor and human decency.
    Good job! Got any more?

  22. iZombie should get a Hugo nom for dramatic presentation, short form

    Woot! Very much seconded. I love that show.

    And Jim, that is one of the shaggiest — or, I guess, soggiest — shaggy dog stories I have read in many a long hwhile.

  23. Rev. Bob on September 9, 2015 at 10:21 am said:

    @Cubist: (CSS: points, pixels, ems, et al.)

    Not to start a flame war, but the choice of units matters more than you allow.

    No flammability here! I deliberately avoided the gritty details of on-screen design, because oh my great Ghu, that stuff gets overhypercomplexificationated, and I wasn’t sure what level of fussiness Cassy B wanted to deal with.

  24. @Cubist:

    That’s why I opted to keep it simple by not even mentioning the other units the first time around. 🙂 We’re talking about text, so keep it in ems and everything’s cool. As for hypercomplexity, my ebook cleanups usually involve a hefty chunk of “you don’t need to specify that, so don’t!” editing. For instance, most books add a class to the I element, but the class’s only rule is “italicize this.” Kill it with fire!

    ObSF: A couple of years ago, I ended up on an ebook panel at a convention. One of the other panelists, a writer/editor, expressed the opinion that ebooks should be “tightly styled” (my term) to look just like the corresponding treebooks. I respectfully disagreed, citing a few of the ways that looser styling enhances accessibility. Being able to change font sizes is a benefit to be embraced, not a deviation to be squashed!

    Unfortunately, it seems reality doesn’t like to stay simple around me. I just got some author changes on the Massive GSRM Romance that I’m editing/formatting, and they require making some changes to the Writer template, the CSS stylesheet, and – of course – all of the Writer documents that make up the manuscript. Fun times… (Anybody know a way to batch-process LibreOffice Writer files to say “import styles from Template X, overwriting existing styles”? Didn’t think so.)

    To the iZombie fans: Have any of you checked out Diana Rowland’s “White Trash Zombie” novels? Very similar setup, enough that I initially wondered if one was ripping off the other, but it looks like coincidence. I haven’t read the iZombie comics, but I enjoy both the show and the WTZ books.

  25. @Cassy B:

    I’d say so. iZombie has more of a “middle-class zombie vs. big corporate bad” than WTZ’s “lower-class zombie vs. big military bad” thing going, but I started with the books and proceeded to enjoy the TV show.

  26. Which reminds me, Trader Joe’s recently opened up a historical foods area, and in the ‘notions’ area, I found an old Greek bottle of perfume with a muddled multi-lingual label… you might say it was “Amphora: Eau D’Inosaur, Mi Amore”

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