Again, All Too Timely: Andre Norton’s Secret of the Lost Race

Thank you! But I am not a Doctor. I invented a device that can evaporate planets at distances of up to a million light years without the benefit of a Phd.

Exploring Venus’ Mysterious Past (and Hellish Present)

2: Also gravity, although thanks to the fact the giant worlds are much less dense than Earth, finding planets with Earthlike gravity is easier than finding ones without. Of the eight planets, only Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury have too much or too little...

Again, All Too Timely: Andre Norton’s Secret of the Lost Race

The edition of this I read for my Fifty Nortons in Fifty Weeks project was the one with a rather interesting essay by Lin Carter: Norton: a Profile,” a PDF of which may be found here. The essay was one of Carter’s side projects, one that was not encouraged by his peers at the time.

 

When it first became known in the science fiction field that I was doing some research and gathering information towards a brief and informal study of Andre Norton, some people—both readers, and I am sad to say, a couple of “important” professional science fiction writers— asked me why I was wasting time on the work of a writer of “minor or peripheral value, at best.”

SF Stories in Which Earth Is Liberated by an Alien Empire

King Roger

I love how SF's political imagination ranges from kings to monarches and from autocrats to oligarchs. Also, systems where a few people control political power, often thanks to who they are related to. It has the rich diversity of a field of corn.

SF Stories in Which Earth Is Liberated by an Alien Empire

Age of Miracles and Of Men and Monsters don't involve submission as such but humans adapt to being the functional equivalent of rats in the walls.

Terrans have no choice but to accept their role in the galactic society in John D. MacDonald's Ballroom of the Skies because their situation is deliberately withheld from them.

 

Batwoman and the Importance of Feminine Costuming Choices

 Normally I’d say the cops would figure out pretty quickly the red hair is a wig but this is Gotham and assuming competence on the part of the cops isn’t always the smart play.

I don’t have space in this margin to jot down my reasoning but I’d very curious to see how this team would handle an encounter between Batwoman and the Ma Hunkel Red Tornado.  Hunkel let people assume whatever they wanted about the gender of the person who just handed various crooks their collective heads because it reduced the odds some shotgun-toting gangster would track her down to her apartment. Hunkel didn’t have a convenient Tornado cave.

Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections

My problem with the Older books is that I don't see how to get from where we are to there. Why that bothers me while impossible stuff like FTL doesn't,  I don't know. 

Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections

“Election”, I grant, perhaps implies too formality for the means by which members are selected for the ruling committee, but there is a process of sorts and the rulers do aim for consensus of sorts.  Granted, one that excludes more than half the population but that’s not out of keeping for historical democracies. Also, I think it's significant that anyone who argues for New Improved Feudalism or autocracy generally comes to a bad end.

Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections

the incumbent is widely popular. Alas, he’s terminally ill.

These two facts are related: the incumbent was a mediocre President but his impending death from emphysema has endeared him to almost every American save for those who sell tobacco (since the President blames his terminal disease on smoking). 

Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections

In a glorious embrace of carrying an essay's theme to its limit, I get trained as a Deputy Returning Officer tonight. More importantly, I get sworn in by Elections Canada, so from 6 PM to the day after the election, my ability to comment on federal matters political will be constrained. Which I imagine will come as a great relief to many.

If any of you are Canadian citizens, will be at least sixteen on polling day,  and would like to be the stagehands of democracy, consider applying for an election day job with Elections Canada.

https://www.elections.ca/content2.aspx?section=job&dir=pos&document=index&lang=e

5 Atomic War Films That Are Fun for the Whole Family

12: KHA did an incredible radio adaptation of Canticle worth tracking down.

5 Atomic War Films That Are Fun for the Whole Family

2 is that what happened! I guess I can stop looking for a copy of the adaptation. 

5 Atomic War Films That Are Fun for the Whole Family

I know it will come up: I just wasn't that crazy about The Day After or Testament. Or The Bed Sitting Room. Or whatever that Canadian play was where the annihilation of Ottawa leads to an emergency government led by former PM Pierre Trudeau, much to the anger of a survivor in a fall-out shelter.

Speaking of Canadian fallout shelters, 30 years ago I contacted Emergency Preparedness Canada to ask about our Continuity of Government programs. It turned out they could only supply documents to people with need to know. At the same time, they had no budget to determine who needed to know. As a consequence, they assumed anyone who asked had a need to know, which is how I ended up with one of everything they published at the time.

5 Atomic War Films That Are Fun for the Whole Family

 Trinity's Child had a much more absurd beginning to WWIII: believing that the Soviet Union would be broken by an escalating arms race, the Soviet decide the smart plan is to launch a counter-force attack on the US, in the hope the US would limit itself to a similar attack on the SU. This demonstrates a faith in US self control and ability to fine tune responses that may not have been entirely justified.

https://jamesdavisnicoll.com/review/why-arent-we-all-atomic-ash

 

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

Yeah,  he didn't live long but he made life exciting while he was around.

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

Eddie (the CPAP cat) really hated the CPAP mask so he started with just hauling it off my face. Then that didn't get the results he wanted, he learned out to turn the machine off. Then how to unplug it at the machine. Then at the wall. At some point he realized the mask was modular so he disassembled it. Non-destructively.

He generalized from the on/off button on the CPAP to all buttons so there was a while there where he wandered around pushing buttons to see what would happen.

This is the same cat who realized what toilets were for and spent a lot of time working out how to flush it despite his crippled leg.

To balance all that, his social skills consisted of "sniff the other cat for too long, nip, and slam into them at high speed" and a total lack of feline common sense, which in combination with his limited range of expressions meant it was very hard to predict his next move. He was freakishly strong so obstacles that would stop a normal cat wouldn't necessarily stop him. On the plus side, now I know it's impossible to lift me by one eyelid.

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

The most recent time someone tried to kill me, I tested witty banter: got him to leave but required four stitches and had to clean up the second largest pool of human blood I’ve ever had to deal with. Call it a qualified success.

The cops beat to him to a jelly. In the short term this was a functional solution but it didn’t address the reason he kicked in my door, which is that he had brain chemistry issues that only got treated when he was in prison. Whenever he got out, he’d got off his meds and do something violent. His family had tried to get him committed but without success [1]. As a result, his life is a cycle of hurt someone, get tossed back into prison, get let back out a couple of years later, hurt someone, repeat for as long as it takes for him to either do something bad enough to get a life sentence, or for the cops to kill him during an arrest since he has (or had) an incredibly high pain threshold.

1 My understanding is that when it was easy to get someone involuntarily committed in Canada, this was abused.

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

7: Didn't it turn out Damage Control orchestrated Marvel's Civil War?

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

 In my personal experience, the only time this didn’t happen was a disease that wiped out most of the wild rabbits in my state years ago.

 

The feral cat population in my old neighborhood took a major hit from FIV and only recently began to recover. Fans of my old herd will be relieved to know the surviving lineages include cats who look a lot like the Old Father (a giant tuxedo cat who fathered a lot of litters) and others who look like the eeriely smart cats (Eddie and company) from the Madison avenue colony.

(Eddie's kin did stuff like use conveniently placed mirrors to check around corners, press replay on answering machines to amuse themselves and turn my CPAP off.)

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

Or let you survive a famine because you could stomach eating food not quite poisonous enough to kill you.

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

A SHRPG scenario I'll never run involves the player characters as a rogue's gallery who have worked out a functional relationship with their masks only for the local masks vanish mysteriously. This leaves a niche open that the pouch-clad, firearm-waving, oddly footless vigilantes from nearby Liefeld City over are only too happy to fill. The challenge for the PCs to survive this invasion long enough to find out where the old masks went and get them back.

(The smart move might be for the villains to pull a Thunderbolts, and rebrand as wholesome superheroes themselves before the new guys can establish the new ecological regime.)

The Care and Feeding of Supervillains

1: I feel your pain. I've flirted with autodarwinification over and over and the closest I come to having a superpower is my bruises heal a little faster than other people's.

Day zero


Day seven



Sadly, my knees do not exhibit the same healing rate.

Five Books About Surprisingly Supernatural Teens

In Kathy Reichs' Virals series,  teens are exposed to a virus that gives them stock superpowers: super strength, speed and enhanced senses. An interesting detail is that one of the teens is the niece of the lead character from the utterly conventional mystery series about Temperance "Bones" Brennan. It's kind of like discovering Miss Marple is related to Miracleman.

Five Collections of Classic SF Ready for Rediscovery

England Swings SF had influence out of scale with the number of copies sold...

Five Collections of Classic SF Ready for Rediscovery

13: Open Road has The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Gollancz has Dark Benediction, which overlaps with the collection Conditionally Human. Don't have a line on the others.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

Weird how identity politics only cheapens awards when it's women or POC winning but never when its SWM.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

Just to be clear, I don't think there was anything wrong with this year's selection or results.

 

the Hugo is a fan based award, there is no curating, expert committee, procedure for balance or reorientation or even defining what merit is or is not,

Having served on award juries, there's the exact same potential for statistically interesting results for those too. Maybe more, because you're dealing with the tastes of much smaller groups of people.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

As it happens I know his stats from the end of his career: four out of 71 stories were by women in 1972 (Bova then slowly increased the number of stories by women over his tenure to a peak of 13.5 of 74 in 1978). By comparison in 1972, Galaxy had 2  stories by women of 36 total, and Worlds of If had 4 of 37. Apparently I never bothered to look at F&SF....

Well....
A quick skim says F&F  had 84 stories and poems in 1972, 15 of which were by women.  2 were by Tiptree so Ferman would have thought he was buying from a man.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

See, for example, the ratio of male winners/male finalists and the ratio of female winners/female winners. For novels, those are

44 male winners/252 male finalists = 17%

22 female winners/76 female finalists = 29%

So women were less likely to make it onto the ballot in the first place but if they got there, almost twice as likely to actually win. Now, that is less surprising if you know "if they got there" often meant "if they happened to be Ursula Le Guin or Lois McMaster Bujold."

A minor mystery I have not solved yet: in the 1970s I was very aware that SF works by women were high grade ore for the sort of material I like. Having gone to the trouble of checking magazine and best of TOCs, I have no idea where I was encountering them; time and multiple concussions have burnished off the edges of my memory.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

roughly half the Hugo-nominated fiction written by women was edited/published/purchased by the much-recently-maligned John W. Campbell, a clearly disproportionate share. Does this indicate that Campbell was less biased against female writers than the other editors of his day?

You're going to make me go through 1950s Galaxy, F&SF, Amazing etc, aren't you? 

What it could reflect is that his biases were such that a story by a woman had to be much, much better than a story by a man for him to consider it, so if it managed to get into Astounding/Analog at all, it was more likely to be Hugo-quality than, say, any given story by male mainstays like Christopher Anvil or John Berryman.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

Or by adding new context. A positive example: I read James White's "Nuisance Value" differently once I discovered where he was from.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

as we can’t change the past.

 

Says you. I've just worked out how to ensure Ted Cruz isn't elected President in 2016. All I need is to find the right Jurassic butterfly to step on.

 

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

For some reason there were only four FIVE four nominees that year. For ome

Otherwise, it was a pretty good year:

Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon, C. J. Cherryh’s The Faded Sun: Kesrith, James Tiptree, Jr.’s Up The Walls of the World (withdrawn) and Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices.

You know, I bet Jo Walton’s old series talks about this year.

 

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

15: I don't see why the same explanations used to normalize the situation as it was in, say, 2007 should not now apply to the current situation. Surely people twelve years ago were arguing in good faith, not merely searching for plausible sounding sophistry to support a situation that at that time favoured them?

An interesting stat:

44 male winners/252 male finalists = 17%

22 female winners/76 female finalists = 29%

Women have been traditionally less likely to be finalists, but if they _were_ finalists, more likely to win.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

28: Two problems with that: it immediately excludes authors like Raphael Carter, who don't fall into one set or the other.

The women's award will immediately be relegated to second class status.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

So, why are the charts so confusing? I feel like I am on the verge of learning something useful.

Gender and the Hugo Awards, by the Numbers

Sorry if I sound thick but sometimes when I write something, what I intended to put down overwrites what I actually put down and I literally cannot see the error other people see. What I intended was one table that tracks years in which men got no or one nomination in various categories, which is on the left, and one that does the same for women, on the right. Because there were a lot of years in which women got few noms, the one on the right has lot more xes. What did I actually put down?

SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University

The Sinking Library is a common UL on campuses. I know of at least one real life example, except there it was not that the building as a whole was sinking but that the floor of the room commandeered for a library wasn't up to the load. Not UW, though.

UW does have some UW specific Urban Legends, in particular involving the steam tunnels under the campus. In olden days these provided a handy path across campus for students who wanted to avoid the weather. Currently only authorized staff are allowed access. It was widely believed the reason why the tunnels were closed off was due to an assault in the tunnels but the actual reason is stuff was getting broken and there was a risk kids might hurt themselves.

(at least some of the tunnels have motion sensors, for any UW students reading this.)

Actual tragic events, like the worker who fell off the top of the plants ops chimney or the mid-1990s on-campus homicide, seem to be forgotten for some reason.

SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University

In the mid-1980s, I was surprised to discover I had almost certainly met Edward Llewellyn, a mid-lister published by DAW Books, since he taught in the same faculty as my father. Unfortunately I discovered he'd taught at UW in Llewellyn's obit.

SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University

Dana Porter's SF is for the most part in the regular stacks but they do have the B.P. Nichol Library of Science Fiction down in special collections. About 500 books, mainly MMPB, disco-era vintage.

Watsfic, the on campus SF club, had at one point a decent library but the club seems to have died from lack of interest. And yeah, apparently current rules allow non-students to be club admins but it's not my job to shore up UW student institutions. I did my six terms almost 40 years ago.

SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University

Doctorow wrote a piece about universe jumping on campus where if you keep track of where people are, at one point they pass through the volume occupied by my older brother's former office in Chem Stores. Total coincidence, I assume.

Said sibling is now in Needles Hall, whose main point of interest is that it was designed to be defensible if the students rose up in revolutionary fury.

A Brief Introduction to Sarah Tolmie’s Speculative Fiction

4: unfortunately, poetry isn’t my thing. If it is yours, feel free to be effusive about it.

 

Celebrating Poul Anderson with Five Favourite Works

Aycharaych is ranked second to none amongst his people but I don't think there was a formal monarchy.

Celebrating Poul Anderson with Five Favourite Works

Flandry is such an ass but in his defense the whole situation with the Mersians is thanks to that idiot David Falkayn and his buddies and their hilarious approach to saving the Mersians in Day of Fire AKA Supernova.

Celebrating Poul Anderson with Five Favourite Works

8: I am so cutting edge....

So about the Byzantine Empire thing. I was a bit puzzled when I discovered it had existed that it had never been mentioned in school. When I checked the history text we were using in grade nine, I discovered that the whole of the history of the crusades was covered in one sentence. Part of one sentence. Otherwise, no history of note happened east of Normandy, and history ended in 1914. I hope modern Canadian history texts are a bit more comprehensive.

Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System

Come to think of it, Canadian sit coms like imaginary towns like Dog River, Saskatchewan, and Mercy,  also Saskatchewan. Note for the record: there are real communities in Saskatchewan. It's not just there to keep Manitoba from chaffing on Alberta.

Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System

10: I don't know if you were on rec.arts.sf.written when I did the sfbc reviews and had to admit over and over and over I had not (yet) read Rose. I still have not read Lamps.

Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System

8: Other way round: the presence of life on Mars and Venus meant nobody read books like Tropic of Cancer, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye, or The Bell Jar. For some reason. It was almost like the author was sucking up to their audience with promises that if only certain extremely unrealistic events had occurred, science fiction would be more popular.

Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System

I could have done this whole essay as examples of Kubler-Ross.

I've encountered not so long ago a review of a work that embodied denial (it's set in a pre-Space Probe system with Martians and Venusians, which for some reason meant lit fic wasn't successful; the causality on that was unclear) where the review embodied anger, in the sense that the reviewer thought space probes had ruined the Solar System.

Great Lost Civilizations of Science Fiction and Fantasy

If Jones had been crushed by a stone in the opening credits, the Nazis still would have been melted at the end of the first movie.

How Science Fiction Imagined the First Moon Landing

 I am a bit surprised in this era of ebook reprints that nobody has reprinted the UNEXA books.

Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus

I forgot the “possible cannibalism” from the Franklin foot-note. Much of the history of Canadian exploration reads like an Onion article.

Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus

My impression is that Drury's books declined logarithmically as he grew older. 

Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus

send astronauts off on an interstellar mission before verifying the Go Very Fast Now drive was faster than light and not merely as fast as light?

 

Poul Anderson’s The Long Way Home.

 

Who would be silly enough to send colonists on a one-way mission to distant worlds on the basis of very limited data gathered by poorly programmed robots?

 

Larry Niven’s Known Space.

 

Who would think threatening an alien race about whom little is known, save that they’ve been around for a million years, is a good idea?

 

David Lake’s The Gods of Xuma, for just one example.

Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus

 its interplanetary neighborhood (which includes Mercury).

 

In the sense it would have been practical to gather data on Mercury, not that the two worlds ever get closer to each other than about 120x the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

(also, poking around soc.history.what-if, I might have stumbled over this fifteen years ago, not ten).

5 Ways Science Has Made Science Fiction More Interesting

As mentioned in a previous essay, it's not _that_ hard to move the Earth. We could greatly reduce the time it takes our probes to reach the moons of Saturn if Earth itself was a moon of Saturn...

The Batwoman Pilot Is Reportedly Very Fun and Very Gay

Without the Caped Crusader, the Gotham City Police Department was overrun and outgunned by criminal gangs. 

 

Gotham cops are the worst...

Heinlein’s Juveniles vs. Andre Norton’s Young Adult Novels

a multi-chapter survival trudge through some desert/arctic wasteland/whatever where the hero was hungry, thirsty, and just barely hanging on

 

Canadians call that "camping."

Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton

Although i suspect he was more inspired by James Schmitz, McEnroe's The Shattered Stars presents a very Nortonesque view of the economics of free traders, which is that they get to chase after the scraps the big companies don't want for as long as it takes them to go broke, 

Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton

  We spent a whole session trying to come up with good reasons for us to be in debt and going on adventures.

 

"So, here's how me and my buddies accidentally provoked the Fifth Frontier War."

Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton

Come to think of it, not only does the venerable roleplaying game Traveller have traders, the character generation has a very Nortoneque feeling, in that a lot of the characters died before play, and the ones that lived generally emerged having flamed out of a career or two, saddled with crushing debt.

Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton

It's weird: I have Wrede firmly in "debuted in the late 1970s" in the part of my brain that remembers things incorrectly but when I reviewed Shadow Magic rediscovered that it was an early 1980s release.

Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton

Yeah, looking at version one of this pre-edit, I see why my editor thought I was saying Vanye was a woman.



By the time Vanye meets Morgaine, Morgaine has pursued this quest for centuries. Joining her quest means abandoning Vanye' s world forever.

 

And of course I didn't spot the error after it crept in. My fault.

Great Lost Civilizations of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Although Piper may not have had Phoenix in mind, there's an early bit in Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen when the lead is trying to work out when he has been carried to that mentions an issue with Lost Great Industrial Civilizations of Earth, which is that they'd leave evidence behind that we don't see,



There was no trace whatever of the great stone-quarries. There should have been. No matter how many thousands of years had passed since he had been in and out of that dome of shifting light that had carried him out of his normal time, there would have been some evidence of quarrying there. Normal erosion would have taken not thousands but hundreds of thousands' of years to obliterate those stark man-made cliffs, and enough erosion to have done that would have reduced the whole mountain by half.

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