Pixel Scroll 3/13/19 This IrrePixel-able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-produced Crime

(1) THINGS FALL APART. T.J. Martinson, in “The Death of the Superhero: The Crime of Killing Off Good & Evil” at Crimereads, notes that comic book publishers periodically kill off superheroes to boost sales of titles, but “when superheroes die, we are left without a moral compass.”  He sees similar problems happening in crime novels where a private eye dies.”

…The death and resurrection of Superman engendered what might be considered a comic book renaissance, one that hasn’t yet run out of steam—for example, in Captain America #25 (2007), Captain America was assassinated in only to later reappear after it was revealed he’d merely been stuck in a time loop involving, you guessed it, an ancient Inuit tribe. Ever since Superman paved the way into and out from the grave, the superhero’s death and resurrection has become an almost-ubiquitous plot-line in otherwise faltering and overstretched narrative arcs. Superheroes are practically falling from the sky like house flies (Infinity Wars, anyone?). The superhero’s death and return has reached such a critical mass that comic books themselves present a meta-commentary on the phenomenon; In DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005-2006), Batman quips to Superman, “the last time you really inspired anyone…was when you were dead.”

But what is it about superheroes that we—readers living outside of Metropolis’ city limits—are so desperate to see resurrected time and time again that we’re willing to weave our suspension of disbelief into tantric knots in order to welcome superheroes from the dead? One answer would be that, in a world of uncertainty and complexity, we yearn for simplified categories (e.g., good and evil) that superheroes boldly represent. But how are to make sense of a world in which the binary logic the superhero embodies is questioned?

(2) REMEMBER THE SPARTANS. Myke Cole analyzes “How the Far Right Perverts Ancient History—And Why It Matters” at Daily Beast.

It may seem silly to argue about the interpretation of events that unfolded thousands of years ago, to fret and hand-wring over people millennia in their graves. Some may argue it is harmless for the likes of Hanson to strut his toxic revision of ancient history across the stage. Just another blowhard shouting at the ocean, after all.

But this notion is having life-and-death consequences in America today. I worked at the NYPD during and following the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA where Heather Heyer was killed and more than two dozen other people were injured. In August 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent us its report on the flags and symbols used during the rally, including the vexillum of the Roman Republic (SPQR for “Sen?tus Populusque R?m?nus,” “The Senate and the People of Rome”), the ancient sun wheels of Germanic tribes, the Greek lambda (“?” or “L” for “Lakedaimon,” the Spartans called themselves “Lakedaimonians”) falsely believed to have been painted on ancient Spartan shields, and now used by the far-right Identitarian movement.

Last of all was the flag of the American Guard, violent hardcore nationalists who sport crossed meat-cleavers as a rallying symbol. Above them stretched a black cannon blazoned with the clarion call of pro-gun advocates from the NRA to militia groups across the country—“Come and take it.” The phrase is from the Greek “molon labe,” (????? ????), Plutarch’s words put in the mouth of the Spartan king Leonidas in 480 BC, when he defied the Persian king Xerxes’ demand that he lay down his arms. Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly invoked the same phrase

(3) HOPEPUNK. Behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, Ellen Gamerman’s article “‘Hopepunk’ and ‘Up Lit’ Help Readers Shake Off the Dystopian Blues” quotes Becky Chambers and mentions one of Cat Rambo’s classes.

Cat Rambo, in “Hopepunk Thoughts Plus A Reading List”, blogged her own thoughts on the subgenre and told readers where to find examples. 

Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human. In today’s world, being kind is one of the most radical things you can do, and you can see society trying to quash it by prosecuting those who offer food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and shelter to those in need.

Is it something new? No, it’s something that we’ve always celebrated in stories. Think about the moment in the Lord of the Rings when acts of kindness — first on Bilbo’s part, then on Frodo’s — lead to the moment where Gollum enables the ring’s destruction when Frodo falters and is on the brink of giving up his quest. Or go even further back, to Ovid’s Baucis and Philemon, who are rewarded for offering hospitality to strangers who turn out to be gods

(4) FREE DOWNLOAD. Arizona State University has published The Weight of Light, a collection of short science fiction, art, and essays about human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist. The book features four original short stories, by Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, Corey S. Pressman, and Andrew Dana Hudson.  It can be downloaded in HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple Books.

The Weight of Light emphasizes that the design of solar energy matters just as much as the shift away from fossil fuels. Solar technologies can be planned, governed, and marketed in many different ways. The choices we make will profoundly shape the futures we inhabit. The collection features stories by award-winning science fiction authors, working in collaboration with illustrators, graphic designers, and experts in policy, ethics, climate science, and electrical, environmental, civil, and aerospace engineering.

  • Stories by: Brenda Cooper, Andrew Dana Hudson, Corey S. Pressman, Cat Rambo
  • Essays by: Stuart Bowden, Ed Finn, Wesley Herche, Christiana Honsberg, Samantha Janko, Darshan M.A. Karwat, Lauren Withycombe Keeler, Joshua Loughman, Clark A. Miller, Esmerelda Parker, Dwarak Ravikumar, Ruth Wylie

(5) SLADEK COLLECTION. David Langford told readers New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek is on course for launch at the UK Eastercon in April.

Chris Priest, in his awesome capacity as agent for the Sladek estate, is very pleased with the early proof copy he’s seen; I hope to have a big pile of trade paperbacks in good time for Easter. Paperbacks and ebooks will also be available for order online, from Lulu.com and Ansible Editions respectively.

(6) FINAL BATTLE. Gail Gygax says her life is in danger: “Fantasy’s Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons” .

In December of last year, Gail Gygax contacted Kotaku through her agent. She wanted to tell us about all of the many dangers—both physical and psychological—she says she’s been dealing with since the death of her husband Gary Gygax, who is widely considered to be the father of the tabletop role-playing game, in 2008. Break-ins. Death threats. Estranged children. Visitations from her late husband’s spirit. Predatory businesspeople. And lawsuits—five of them in total, with one brought by Hollywood producer Tom DeSanto for $30 million. Eleven years after the death of Gary Gygax, there are still battles over who will control his legacy—the rights to his name, his biography, his memorial, his intellectual property, and the future of countless other priceless artifacts, among them Gary Gygax’s original dungeon, the maps to an 11-level magical castle where he prototyped a fantasy role-playing game that 8 million people play every year.

(7) NOT A BLANK SLATE. Andrew Liptak’s “Wordplay: This year’s awards scuffle and influence in the SF/F world” compares the motives behind the 20BooksTo50K slate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates, among other things, and how hard it is for groups administering the top sff awards to keep pace with change.

There has been a lot of commentary from all sides about how this is a war of old-verses-new, but I don’t really think that that’s the case. I think it’s more that established institutions like SFWA and the Hugo Awards simply aren’t equipped to handle some of the rapid changes that we’re seeing in the publishing industry and how fandom organizes itself, with the help of platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s also less “old man yells at cloud,” and more not recognizing potential issues or reacting quickly before they become a problem. The traditional “Fan” community doesn’t really turn and adapt quickly. 


  • March 13, 1781 — The planet Uranus was discovered by English astronomer Sir William Herschel.
  • March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell was born


[Except for Pluto’s discoverer, above, birthdays are on hiatus. Cat Eldridge is having the elbow surgery he mentioned in comments.]


(11) RETRO REPORT. While researching an article I rediscovered Peter Watts’ account of the 2010 Worldcon “Worth the Price”. One of the many good bits —

…and the sheer joy of dealing with Australian border guards.

I am not being ironic. I would almost be tempted to purchase an Expedia vacation package that consisted entirely of going back and forth through Australian Customs for a few days straight. Yes, I got rerouted to Secondary (they pretty much had to, given the check mark in that little “Are you a felon?” box), but the whole lot of them were friendly and welcoming even so. Mostly they spent my wait time chatting with me about the kind of books they liked to read. (I mean, just imagine: literate border guards. Not a species you’re gonna find anywhere in the US, I’m betting.) And finally, when they waved me through and I pointed to the big sign saying Your Luggage WILL be X-rayed and wondered why they weren’t doing that to mine, the nice lady’s response was “Would you like me to?” She was willing to go out of her way to be extra intrusive, just to make me feel at home.

(12) LEGO IDEA. Sort of like looking for a much richer version of Waldo.

(13) BRITNEY GOES GENRE? That’s what BBC heard: “Britney Spears’ feminist jukebox musical is going to Broadway”.

The hits of pop icon Britney Spears are heading to Broadway in a new jukebox musical with a feminist message.

Titled Once Upon A One More Time, the comedy will tell the story of a book club attended by fairytale princesses.

Their lives are changed when a “rogue fairy godmother” brings them a copy of The Feminine Mystique, the landmark feminist book by Betty Friedan.

It makes them question whether there’s more to life than marrying Prince Charming and singing with animals.

Scriptwriter Jon Hartmere told The New York Times: “Cinderella is having an existential crisis, and she has a posse of famous princesses, and her stepmother is the main antagonist.

(14) LAST PAGES. Associated Press gives perspective on how a “Decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold”.

…Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

(15) TOLKIEN RESOURCE. You have to join to have access, but they’re available now: “Earliest issues of Tolkien Society publications digitised”.

The Tolkien Society’s earliest publications have been digitised and are now available for members to download.

Last year, through the British Library, the Society completed the first stage of its digitisation project, resulting in the digitisation of the majority of back issues of Amon Hen and Mallorn, respectively the bulletin and journal of The Tolkien Society. Not all back issues were digitised at the time due to gaps in the British Library’s collection.

Members now have access to the Society’s earliest publications, dating back to 1969 (the year the Society was founded) and the 1970s. This not only includes the missing issues of Amon Hen, but its forerunner publications, The Tolkien Society Bulletin and Anduril. All issues of Belladonna’s Broadsheet, the Society’s oldest publication, has also been digitised.

(16) ON THE MENU AT CHEZ RAMBO. Guest posts on Cat Rambo’s blog in recent weeks include:

What if prose were written like music? What if, instead, of a common world, stories in an anthology were steps on a share emotional path? Those are the questions the upcoming anthology Score is attempting to answer.


There are three complementary sides that determine a phril personality: gastronomy, politics, and romance. The rest represents salads or pickles to fill the mundane.
I will start naturally, with food for the gourmet side of the phrilic spirit, presenting to you, my dear reader, an absolutely genuine Recipe….

(17) WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO JACK KIRBY?WhatCulture Comics remembers “8 Times The Marvel Vs. DC Rivalry Turned Ugly.”

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

B. Morris Allen’s Metaphorosis

By Carl Slaughter: B. Morris Allen talks about his new speculative fiction magazine Metaphorosis.  He values storytelling over story, but not at the expense of the story.  He offers this contrast as proof of the value of style:

  • “Every day the sky has been white as paper, only marked by a few black flecks: birds, arranged like dashes, abandoned on a wordless page.”
  • “The sky is white with clouds and a few birds and I miss you and I’m lonely.”

He prefers vegan stories.  No, not veganism stories (stories against meat), just vegan stories, i.e., stories without meat.  He published  Best Vegan Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016 on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.

Carl Slaughter:  What exactly does metaphorosis mean?

B. Morris Allen:  There are any number of answers to that, but here are my top three:

  1. It’s the title of the placeholder story we ran before the magazine launched. We opened for submissions in October 2015, and had a pretty well-defined website by that point. I knew there would be people coming to the site, but of course we didn’t have any stories yet. I posted one of my own stories in early September to give people something to look at until we posted our first real story in January.
  2. It’s a method of understanding our surroundings through examination of allegory and parable. That’s what I call my ‘intellectual-sounding’ answer. While I do mean it to some extent, I don’t take myself anywhere near that seriously most of the time.
  3. I believe in the value of writing beautifully, and metaphor is an important stylistic tool. Take Molly Etta’s story, “Solomon and the Dragon’s Tongue” – in it, a husband, writing to his wife, says, “Every day the sky has been white as paper, only marked by a few black flecks: birds, arranged like dashes, abandoned on a wordless page.” That’s worlds away from saying “The sky is white with clouds and a few birds and I miss you and I’m lonely.” Metaphors are not only a convenient shorthand, but a powerful way of reaching the emotions and associations we all have and rely on to interpret and colour our lives. So, the magazine’s name was a nod to that (which really is answer #2, taken seriously).

CS:  Is that in the dictionary or did you coin the word?

BMA:  It’s completely invented. The story it came from was a reversal of the mechanism of Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” – instead of Gregor Samsa becoming a bug, everyone around Sam Gregson turns out to be a bug. I drew heavily on metaphor in the story to hint at the concept – bus taillights that look like fireflies attracting mates, for example. Eventually that reliance on metaphor became the title of the story.

B. Morris Allen

CS:  What was the motivation/inspiration for a new speculative magazine?

BMA:  I think it’s probably the same as for most new magazines – I didn’t see anyone publishing enough of the kind of material I liked. There are a number of very good, very impressive magazines out there – Shimmer, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, F&SF, Clarkesworld, Tor.com. They all publish loads of great material from very talented writers. But some of them have a definite tone to them – after a while, all the stories start to sound the same – and they all occasionally publish work that I think is just terrible. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but I thought there was room enough in the market for a venue that reflected my tastes and that of people like me.

CS:  What type of stories do you publish?

BMA:  As you’ll have gathered, our primary focus is on beautiful writing. That doesn’t always mean ornate, though – my wife likes to remind me that Isaac Asimov did just fine with simple, accessible language without all the frippery. And style isn’t all there is. In addition to great writing, we want engaging characters that we care about, interesting ideas, and complete stories rather than vignettes. And we give bonus points if the story is vegan (though most of what we publish is not).  We tend to publish a fair amount of roughly contemporary stories, but I’d love to see more hard science fiction and epic fantasy.

CS:  What type of stories do you not publish?

BMA:  First off, we only publish science fiction and fantasy. Sometimes epic high sorcery, sometimes light contemporary tech stories; but if there’s no tinge of the speculative, it’s not for us. We don’t publish tired or trendy ideas – I have yet to see a vampire/werewolf story I’m interested in. Time travel is a very hard sell – I came close with a recent meta-story about the editor of a small magazine who gets a time travel story with all the usual tropes and clichés, but while it was fun, it was still a time travel story.

CS:  Do you specifically look for new writers or are you open to all writers?

BMA:  We’re open to all writers; frankly I just don’t care whether or what they’ve published before. We deliberately don’t allow for a cover letter, and after a brief flirtation with non-anonymous submissions, we’re back to blind reading, or as close to it as we can get. Due to our fee structure ($.01/word), we get more emerging writers than big names, but we do get both. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the work that comes in; there’s a lot of good writing out there.

CS:  What are the submissions requirements?

BMA:  We state the content requirements as simply as we can: beautiful writing showing engaging characters in science fiction or fantasy settings.

Administratively, less than 10,000 words, anonymized, no reprints, no multiple submissions, and in the industry standard format. The thing people seem to have most trouble with is the anonymization, even though our guidelines are only 150 words, and the anonymization requirement is in bold red letters. For those who do like more detail, there are links to some “don’ts”.

The guidelines are here.

CS:  What’s more important, the story or the storytelling?

BMA:  The storytelling. But you can’t have storytelling without a story, so that’s a prerequisite. If there’s no story, we’re not buying – no slice of life pieces, no vignettes, nothing that doesn’t tell a complete story. It’s surprising how often those non-stories come in. Once past that hurdle, though, storytelling skill and style carry a lot of weight. Again, it’s not everything – we also need characters we can engage with and care about.

CS:  What’s more important, character, plot, or premise?

BMA:  Character, premise, and plot, in that order. Without engaging characters, there’s no reason to care what’s happening in a story; as readers, we won’t be invested or emotionally involved in the outcome. On the other hand, give me an interesting character with desires and motivations, whether appealing or evil, and I want to know what happens to them and their world. Do they get what they want? What they deserve? If the characters aren’t there, it’s hard for the rest to matter; it’s like reading a technical manual – maybe a few sparks of interest, but mostly tedious. With an engaging character, written beautifully, I’d read a story about them reading a technical manual.

CS:  Why should authors submit to you, rather than other venues?

BMA:  The great thing is that these days, authors have lots of choices. We know that, and of course we know that some other magazines offer better pay or wider exposure (for now, though we hope to change both those things). While we do hope that people will recognize the quality of the stories we buy, and want to be in that company, we also offer three  concrete benefits:

Speed – we aim for a same-day response to most stories, and so far we’ve stuck to that. In fact, we’ve got an informal rule that we don’t respond in less than an hour, just to avoid hurt feelings. Sometimes travel slows things down, and stories we’re considering may take up to a week to decide on, but the vast majority of stories get a response within 24 hours.

Feedback – I know how frustrating it is to send out stories and get only form rejections in response. I read all the way to the end of each story we get, and offer brief, blunt feedback to anyone who wants it (most do). It’s just a few sentences, but I try to give at least some sense of why we didn’t buy the story, including how close the prose was to what I look for, and at what point in the story I knew I didn’t want it. For our Patreon supporters, we offer overview feedback – what positive and negative trends we see over the course of several stories – that gives more detailed feedback on areas that might need attention.

Editing – the biggest surprise for me about running the magazine was how much hands-on editing I end up doing. I went in expecting to buy stories as they are, but the fact is that most stories aren’t perfect when they come in. We generally go through a few rounds of back and forth, looking at structure, balance, and polish. I’ve also been surprised by how much fun this is, and how well writers respond to it. I’ve done quite lot of polling, and most writers enjoy the editing process and feel their stories are better at the end. So, while there has to be a good story and good writing to begin with, if I see promise in a story that’s not quite there, I’m happy to work with the author on making it better.

We also provide a fairly detailed rejectomancy section, to help make sense of that brief feedback, and thorough submission statistics, for those who want to dig into them.

CS:  What type of stories do you yourself write?

BMA:  I write a pretty broad range, from lightly technological SF to grand fantasy, some light-hearted, some dark. On average, though, I’d say they’re often mood pieces – that is, there’s (I hope) a solid story I’m telling, but the trigger for a story is the feeling I’m trying to evoke. The things my characters do often surprise me, but I’ve usually got a pretty firm grasp on what they’re feeling and how I want the reader to feel. Stylistically, I’m much more (aspirationally) on the Zelazny, Vance, McKillip side than the Asimov, Heinlein, Dickson side.

CS:  How has your background in science made you a better speculative writer?

BMA:  I like to get the foundation right. Partly for that reason, I don’t write much hard science fiction; my biochemistry degrees are well out of date, and it’s a rapidly changing field. Doing hard science fiction well requires solid knowledge. I generally have an analytical, evidence-based approach to the world, but that may be what drew me to science, rather than the other way around. I do think that my somewhat antiquated base knowledge gives me a foundation for evaluating the science in the stories I see, and the vocabulary to investigate it. For example, I recently saw a story that used lumens as a measure of light intensity. I knew just enough to have the feeling that the value given was off by at least an order of magnitude, and to be able to find out what a better value might be. In another story about spaceflight, I was able to do a quick check of whether the parameters for acceleration and duration were in the right ballpark, and suggest better options. So, I’m comfortable looking into science and technology, and not just taking things on faith. It’s not just about science, though – in an alternate history story, I’m just as likely to check on whether a particular piece of slang would have been used during the time period. Essentially, I have an interest in getting the basic elements and right, when it’s easy to do so.

Of course, I apply the same principles to my own writing. I spend a lot of time looking things up, to make sure I have at least a vague grasp of the terminology and limits of whatever I’m writing about. Note, though, that I’m not calling this research. Writers who do real research do a lot more than look up the right words. What I’m doing is just using my background knowledge to get a toehold in a topic and get some of the color right.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Morris Allen?

BMA:  I started a new day-job at the beginning of the year, with lots of travel, and unfortunately, it’s meant choosing between writing and running the magazine (the magazine won easily).

We’ve just published the Best Vegan Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016 – a collection of great stories that aren’t about veganism, but just happen to be vegan. No preaching, just good speculative stories that aren’t about hunting, horse-riding, etc. It came out on Earth Day, 22 April.

I’ll also soon be self-publishing a novel – Susurrus – about an evil sorceress. It started as a brief sketch about a woman trapped in a desert by her enemies, but I found I wanted to explore how she got there and just why she turned out the way she did. No one grows up wanting to be evil, and of course my sorceress doesn’t either. It’s just that magic seems to work out very badly for her. It’s grim and dark, but romantic as well.