Used Sporks in the Hands of an Angry God: Toy Story 4, The Good Place, and What it Means to Be Trash

Fun fact: The Rev. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), discussed above, was the maternal grandfather of Aaron Burr — and the 6X-great grandfather of John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan.

What Really Happens After the Apocalypse

MByerly writes: "[I]n areas with high population density like large cities, the predators already there like gangs will take advantage which can incite mobs."

There is actually no strong evidence for this generalization, and quite a bit of evidence that, in modern America at least, the crime rate in densely-populated urban areas is lower, or at least not higher, than in the country overall.

I've lived in New York City for 34 years. I've never seen a "predator" or a "gang" "incite a mob." The idea that cities are typically thronged with "mobs" just waiting to be "incited" is a fantasy. 

There are predatory people in the world, but it turns out that rural and suburban populations contain just as many of them as dense cities do.

Five Devil-Worshiping Pulp Novels of the 1970s

Saying that James Blish’s Black Easter has “absolutely zero to do with Satan” is like saying that The Lord of the Rings has absolutely zero to do with Sauron merely because Sauron doesn’t have any walk-on scenes in the book. 

Black Easter is a short novel in which a wealthy arms manufacturer and a black magician perform a ritual to release all the demons from Hell for a single night. The context is specifically Miltonian; Hell and the demons are what they are because of the Fall. The novel ends with Baphomet proclaiming that the demons cannot be sent back to Hell and that God is dead. The sequel, The Day After Judgement, refines the Miltonian themes even further, with much discussion of the status, intentions, and constraints upon God and Satan. When Baen published the two short novels in a single volume, they titled it The Devil’s Day. 

(Thanks to Henry Farrell on Twitter for bringing my attention to this curious assertion.)

Jo Walton’s Next Book is a Big Space Adventure: Announcing Poor Relations

I've edited the third-to-last paragraph of this post to clarify that what people in Poor Relations can easily change is their biological sex, not their gender.

Thessaly: The Platonic Inspiration

According to several accounts, Plato himself was briefly sold into slavery in Syracuse, in the fallout from the conflict between the city's ruler Dionysius I and his brother-in-law Dion, the latter of whom was a follower of Plato.

The Importance of Daredevil’s Catholicism Going Into Season 2

"Catholicism is unique among Christian denominations in that one can be culturally Catholic without believing in the dogma; one can still define oneself by or against the religion, years after they last went to church. (I’ve never seen a 'Recovering Methodist' t-shirt.)"

I'm Catholic myself and I really don't think this claim to uniqueness holds up. I've certainly seen a "Recovering Lutheran" t-shirt, and I've heard people of various Protestant denominations talk about being "culturally" Presbyterian, Baptist, etc., despite their level of doctrinal belief or lack thereof. And this without even getting into edge cases like Mormons, Unitarians, etc.

First Look at Tor’s New Logo, Celebrating 35 Amazing Years!

SaltManZ's comment about the name of David Farland's series The Runelords caused me to remember that The Sum of All Men was the title of the British edition of the first book in that series. Our edition of the same book was called, well, The Runelords. Post corrected to reflect this. See above, bibliography is hard.

First Look at Tor’s New Logo, Celebrating 35 Amazing Years!

SchuylerH is entirely correct -- The Psycho-Technic League appeared in June 1981, the first of a whole bunch of Poul Anderson story collections that would roll out from Tor in the next few years. I've adjusted the post.

I've also clarified that Ender's Game was the first Tor novel by Orson Scott Card, not Card's first novel. And that Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw was the first novel original to Tor to win a World Fantasy Award, as opposed to earlier World Fantasy Award-winning novels such as Dan Simmons' Song of Kali and Christopher Priest's The Prestige for which we were the softcover reprint publisher.

Bibliograpy is hard!

Sleeps With Monsters: Orphan Black is FREAKING AWESOME
Glad you've caught up to Orphan Black. Far and away the best SF show on TV right now.
Morning Roundup: Doctor Who Reveals What Really Happened to Amy and Rory
"Never-before-seen material" from the first Hobbit movie? Good god, the movie-as-released was a month and a half long and included storylines and characters imported from the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, the Books of Lost Tales, Moby-Dick, the Aubrey/Maturin novels, and several episodes of Mannix. What can Jackson possibly have left out?
The Incrementalists (Excerpt)
Just by the way, "the book No Limits by Wallace and Stemple" is real; more info at No Limits: The Fundamentals of No-Limit Holdem, by Chris "Fox" Wallace and Adam Stemple. The latter author is also known for several fantasy novels, both on his own and in collaboration with his mother Jane Yolen. Heck of a guitar player, too.
Love and Corpse Disposal: Dead Pig Collector by Warren Ellis
I read "Dead Pig Collector" just last night, and I pretty much agree with this review. It's disturbing, insightful, awful, and worth your time. But I have to take issue with calling it a "novella." I realize that there's no ISO standard for what's a short story, a "novelette", a novella, and so forth. But "Dead Pig Collector" is only slightly over 9,000 words long. I'm unaware of any schema in which that's a "novella." Good, though. I'd definitely buy and read more about Mister Sun.
It’s No Coincidence That Your Favorite Characters Are Now Winter Storms
The name "Gandalf" (or "Gandolf") goes back far earlier than William Morris. It's the name of a dwarf in various of the Norse eddas -- Voluspa, the Prose Edda, and so forth. Which we have from 13th-century sources, but which probably go back further than that. As both Tolkien and Morris were well aware.
eDiscover… The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick
I was the editor on this book, and I still love it. Wish it had sold better. Hope it gets some new attention. For what it's worth, among the many fans of this book at Tor, people who really wanted it to get out to a larger audience, was a guy named Tom Doherty. Who has pretty good taste, it turns out. Anyway. If you haven't read it, get the e-book and do so now. Palwick has an awesome next book in the pipeline, a (technically) "mainstream" novel called Mending the Moon. I say "technically" because in fact it has a ton to say, among its many subjects, about the power of genre storytelling to redeem the world. No shit.
Our Doctor Who Wish List
Chris almost certainly knows this--as will many readers of this thread--but Verity Lambert actually tried to get the real Beatles to do a cameo in the 1965 Doctor Who episode "The Chase." She wanted them to perform "Ticket to Ride" as old versions of themselves. Supposedly the band were chuffed by the idea, but Brian Epstein vetoed it. Instead the episode features the Doctor and others watching them perform "Ticket to Ride" on a 1965 Top of the Pops via the Time-Space Visualizer. And as it happens, that's the only piece of that particular Top of the Pops episode that survives to today, the BBC having been no better at archiving Beatles performances than they were at keeping track of Who episodes.
The Glorious, Terrible, Strange USSR: Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty
"The Crooked Timber discussion that Henry mentioned is really great, and it's worth mentioning that Spufford himself contributed some lengthy responses that are awfully entertaining." Let me amplify on that. The Crooked Timber discussion is fascinating. Henry Farrell is right that Cosma Shalizi's contribution ("In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You") is an impressive and exhilarating piece of work. Lots of other Crooked Timberites, and guests, have worthwhile things to say as well. But Spufford's own summing-up response--in three parts--is one of the most pyrotechnic, awesome, sincere, fall-on-the-floor-funny pieces of writing I ever ever seen on a blog. You think it's going to be too self-referential, or too much of a good thing, but every goddamn bit of it is great. It reads aloud well, too. Seriously. Crooked Timber seminar on Red Plenty. (Warning: that link shows the posts in backwards order.) Good in ways that are hard to describe. Much like Red Plenty itself.
Titles from Poetry: Blake vs Marvell
Let us roll all our strength, and all Our sweetness, up into one ball; And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life. America is this correct? I'd better get right down to the job. America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
Titles from Poetry: Blake vs Marvell
Altogether elsewhere, vast At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may; Silently and very fast. Did he smile his work to see? As an unimportant clerk Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK. Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Titles from Poetry: Blake vs Marvell
In the room the women come and go, Vaster than empires, and more slow. Time for you and time for me, Deserts of vast eternity.
Tor/Forge E-book Titles to Go DRM-Free
jtmeijer, #2: Worldwide distribution is a much harder problem. Most of our contracts with authors grant us rights only in certain territories; we can't just unilaterally rewrite existing agreements.
The Best Science Fiction Ideas in any Non-Fiction Ever: David Graeber’s Debt: The First Five Thousand Years
Part of what's good about vigorous, wide-ranging books like Debt, 1491, and 1493 is that they throw some long-overdue grains of salt on the idea that everything about modern life everywhere is 100% better than everything about life in the past everywhere. I am a big fan of many aspects of modern life, including but not limited to painless dentistry and widespread disapproval of infanticide. But visible in this very thread is a kind of rhetorical overreach that simply isn't credible. History is obviously not a smooth, unbroken ascent of "progress" at all times and in all places. There are points in the human past where people have been happy in ways we don't quite grasp. Life is complicated. Just to make a single point that I don't think arises in any of these three books: It seems to me entirely possible that historians a few centuries hence will regard the period from the late 19th century to sometime in the 21st century as "that horrible period during which much of the human race went half-mad with sleep deprivation, because they'd invented the electric light but hadn't yet figured out how profoundly it affected every aspect of their mental state." The belief that everything is constantly working out for the best and that human civilization is on a train to an inevitable glorious destiny of free markets and representative democracy ... once had a derisory name. It was called "whiggism", and even libertarians had the wit to recognize it as a fallacy. It's distressing to see it popping up again.
Happy Leap Day
And a happy 15th birthday to our field's most eminent Leap Day kid, Tim Powers.
What if the Empire From Star Wars Was British?
Eddie Izzard is the funniest comedian in the world named after a pair of Tor editors' onetime fanzine. Okay, he may actually be the funniest comedian in the world. ("Travesty executif.")
For MLK Day: Watch Nichelle Nichols Talk About the Dr. King/Star Trek Connection
The interview linked here only tells the portion up through her meeting Dr. King and deciding to stay. There's more on the page below, including Roddenberry's reaction after he heard she'd decided to stay, and why: "Somebody understands what I am trying to do!" For the more complete version, click the second link under "highlights" on this page:
Once Upon a Batman: Frank Miller’s Holy Terror
And in case I didn't make it clear enough: I get that Tim Callahan enjoys reading Frank Miller. You know something, that's okay. I enjoy reading all kinds of people I consider toxically crazy in one way or another. That's one of the big wins of this "reading" game -- you can enjoy their talent without having to invite them in for dinner! My objection to Callahan's review is that he's trying to tell me that shit is Shinola, when I can clearly see the undigested bits that rarely occur naturally in hair tonic.
Once Upon a Batman: Frank Miller’s Holy Terror
Evidently Holy Terror is more than it seems: "This is Frank Miller's self-proclaimed slice of propaganda. An anti-terrorist screed, in graphic novel form. But it does manage to become more than that. It's about lives interrupted by chaos and destruction. [...]" But wait, maybe it's less than it seems: "This isn't actually a political comic at all...It makes no case for right and wrong. It's a fable about violation and retaliation, that's all it is. [...]" What's really happening here is that the reviewer wants us to understand that there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Frank Miller's art, while at the same time he'd also like to convince us that Miller's genuinely vile politics are a mere passing thing, an arbitrary scaffold for Miller's brilliant fabulation. This is called Wanting To Have It Both Ways, and believe me, as a fan of Ezra Pound, I understand. Where Callahan goes off the rails is where he says things that are patently false: it's not "political", it's not about "right and wrong." Yeah, that whole subplot about a mosque in lower Manhattan funded by evil Arabs that's secretly a base for terroristic attacks, that's just an artifact of Miller's creative, exploring, apolitical imagination, no political agenda there, perish the thought. Miller's Muslim superterrorists ("You Westerners slay me with your naivete") are just figures out of folklore; Miller, the unworldly artist, isn't remotely trying to encourage actual living human beings to hate and fear other actual living human beings. Pull the other one, Callahan, it's got bells on. If Holy Terror isn't "political", isn't "about right and wrong," it's completely worthless, except possibly as a work of fetishistic torture porn. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) "It's a comic about what it feels like to be at the receiving end of a brutal, city-wide tragedy. What it feels like to want to take revenge." I'm sure it's a comic about what it feels like to be Frank Miller at the receiving end of a brutal city-wide etc. As it happens, I was also in New York City on 9/11, and yet my sense of what it "feels like"...varies from Frank Miller's. I'm willing to grant Miller all the artistic latitude in the world. But don't try to sell me this shuck-and-jive about Holy Terror being in essence a "fable" that's "not political." It's the very essence of political. Its entire point is to give certain people permission to torment and kill other people. It is a consummate piece of political art.
Worldcon meetup
Yes, it's a one-day-shifted Worldcon -- Wednesday through Sunday rather than Thursday through Monday. Keeps throwing me too. This little last-minute "meetup" shoudn't be confused with the traditional gigantic overcrowded oxygen-free Tor Books party, which will be Thursday night at 9, location to be distributed by the usual rumor mill, carrier pigeons, Tristero network, and underground agents.
Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan
James Nicoll asks: "How different is this version [of Wild Cards I] from the one I bought in the 1980s?" * New stories by David Levine, Michael Cassutt, and Carrie Vaughn * Lower-left quadrant of prime-numbered pages infused with psilocybin extract * Killer cover painting of Jetboy by Michael Komarck * Handsome 6" x 9" trade paperback format fills larger gap on bookshelves than previous Bantam mass-market original * Ownership confers power to kill fleas and remit sins Some of the above statements are true!
The Fandom Menace: What We’re Really Owed From Our Favorite SFF Creators
I think you're relying a bit too much on overgeneralizations and connections that don't really connect. For instance, while the New Yorker piece about George R. R. Martin did discuss the subset of his fans who are put out with him, it also went into quite some detail about the extremely warm relationship Martin has cultivated over years with the fans who aren't running web sites decrying the time it's taking him to finish Ice and Fire. Which turns out to be, you know, most of them. Additionally, to the extent that the article actually looked at Martin's own attitude toward the fans who rag on him, it mostly showed him to be dealing with it philosophically. So to sum it all up as being about "George R. R. Martin's rocky relationship with his fans" is rather misleading. I have one brother I'm kind of annoyed with at the moment; that doesn't mean it would be fair to talk about my "rocky relationship with my family," most of which I get along with just fine. And neither Martin's relationship with a small group of cranky fans, nor Steven Moffat's occasional critical remarks about people who post spoilers immediately after Doctor Who episodes have premiered in the UK, really add up to support for your topic-sentence assertion that "the hostile defensiveness from the creators of various genre properties directed at the fans seems to be growing," because neither Martin's nor Moffat's behavior appears to be notably hostile or defensive. Your blithe assertion that some kind of barely-defined "hostile defensiveness" is "growing" is just that, an assertion which you really don't back up at all. I think you're trying to start an interesting conversation here, but your approach is confused at several points. Another instance: "If by the end of this season of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat pulls a Conan Doyle and kills the Doctor for all of time, this blogger will be doing a hell of a lot more than just wearing a black armband to work." This is just silly. Obviously nothing of the sort is going to happen, first off for the very simple reason that Steven Moffat doesn't own Doctor Who the way that Conan Doyle owned Sherlock Holmes. Doctor Who is an ongoing business, and Steven Moffat works for the owners of that business. You're trying to make a point about our feelings of emotional investment in ongoing stories, and it's a good point, but the sheer implausibility of your what-if serves to distract us from actually engaging with it.
Intimations of Bordertown
Those were my exact thoughts the first time I saw a bottle of that (actually-existing-in-the-real-world) "Mad River Soda." Then again, someone really did once market a craft beer called "New York Harbor Ale." I mean, granted, the place is cleaner than it once was, thank you Pete Seeger et al. But still, eeeeuw.
Remembering Diana Wynne Jones
Emma is discreet but we're not. The person taking the bath was TNH. And the scene was as hysterically funny as Emma remembers it being.
Books for Every Dimension: The Non-SFF Novels that SFF Fans Love
Also, not technically novels, but the great John McPhee's book-length examinations of this or that subject -- geology, oranges, Alaska, New Jersey's Pine Barrens, shad, Switzerland, experimental airships, Bill Bradley's basketball career, the Merchant Marine, farmers' markets, freight transportation, and lots more -- often prove fascinating to people who love SF. McPhee is fascinated with the how the world works in a way that's not dissimilar to the fascination that powers a lot of science fiction.
Books for Every Dimension: The Non-SFF Novels that SFF Fans Love
A novel that is in no way SF or fantasy and yet tends to be loved by SF fans (me included): Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. Jo Walton wrote it up for us nearly three years ago. If you haven't read it -- run, don't walk, etc.
Our fictional offerings: Expanded staff! New procedures! Same old quirky fiction!
#37: We don't care about the author's age, only about the story. #46: We don't care where the author lives, or is from, only about the story. We've published at least one Australian author, Damien Broderick--admittedly, he lives in Texas these days, but on the other hand, his second story, forthcoming, is set in a future Melbourne. We've published British authors--Charles Stross has had two stories here, and Ken MacLeod has one coming up. We've published a Brit who now lives in Canada (Jo Walton) and two Canadians who now live in the UK (Geoff Ryman and Cory Doctorow). To answer several people: We're working on our long response times, but we're never going to accept simultaneous submissions. kyleaisteach's #58 explains "exclusive" vs "non-exclusive" pretty well. When genre fiction gets reprinted subsequent to its first appearance, it's almost always on a nonexclusive basis. As for self-publication, there are degrees and degrees. If you put something up on a public web server, it's best to assume that potential future publishers will consider it to have been previously published. That said, we're in the business of looking for terrific stories, not of looking for excuses to avoid terrific stories. So if you have something that's had some kind of super-marginal prior exposure that technically might qualify as "publication" but you really really really think we ought to look at it, just send it to us and be up front about the situation in your cover letter. I say this not because I want to see everyone's LJ-published stories and high-school lit-magazine work (I don't) but because it's my experience that sometimes the best writers are the hyper-conscientious ones who pay close attention to the rules and forbear to show us their dynamite story because they emailed it to a group of twenty friends in 2003. Don't do that. The forbearing, I mean. Forbear the forbearing. Use common sense. Contents may settle in shipping. Intended for external use only. Light flame and stand back.
Among Others
Sylvia, try actual, as opposed to Or the dot-com (i.e. US) version of any of the other big e-book vendors.
NASA Astrobiology Press Conference Liveblog
As someone just now noted on Twitter, both the discoverer and NASA's astrobiology director are women. And how cool that NASA has an astrobiology director! Really.
Goodbye Tomorrow, Hello Yesterday
"When did the Future die? That would be May 22nd, 1998: the day the new Tomorrowland opened at Disneyland." And see, I thought it was in 1981 when Terry Carr published the young William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum" in Universe 11. Yes, Ted White may have ruined fandom, but it was Terry Carr who killed The Future. Anyway, in the words of noted futurist Janis Joplin, "Tomorrow never happens. It's all the same fucking day, man."
The voyage of the world: Patrick O’Brian’s Desolation Island
The duel between the Leopard and the Waakzaamheid is excerpted on a blog devoted to excerpts from books, here. It is one of the most astonishing pieces of action writing I have ever read; re-reading it, right now, leaves me stunned all over again. "My God, oh my God. Six hundred men."
Intergalactic Autodidactic
"Pohl's fellow Futurian H. Beam Piper was also self-educated" I'm fairly sure H. Beam Piper was never a Futurian. The idea that he was seems to trace back to the Wikipedia page about Damon Knight, which for whatever reason has been copied and reposted in several places on the net. Piper's first sale was in 1947, and in the 1950s he was a member of the Hydra Club, as were some of the Futurians, but I don't think he was ever part of the earlier group. On a different note, I myself neither finished high school nor went to college, so I guess I qualify as one of SF's autodidacts. We are everywhere...
Lizard-People Gone Wild! The Top 10 Hottest Cold-Blooded Sentient Reptiles of All Time
How could anyone write so many words on this subject without even mentioning the important contributions to Lizard People Studies by former BBC newsreader David Icke? I ask you.
Announcing the 2010 Hugo Award Winners!
Jo Walton wrote: "On the texted live coverage, Mike Resnick mentioned that he'd heard Fred complain he never got asked to be a Fan GoH, though a fan is what he really is." "Never" isn't literally the case; Frederik Pohl was Fan Guest of Honor at Norwescon in Seattle in 1980. Which is why, when people were arguing over whether he should be nominated for Best Fan Writer in 2010, I knew that Pohl certainly wouldn't be offended to be nominated in a fan category, as some people suggested he might be.
Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D.
This was amusing, not least because my wife and colleague Teresa Nielsen Hayden was for about a year the editor of MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER during its mid-1990s run at second-string comics company Valiant. She brought Keith Giffen in to write it, and she still reminisces about the epic brainstorming sessions they had about possible futures for the storyline. I don't remember if it was Teresa or Keith who observed that when Magnus wakes up in the morning, he smashes an alarm clock just to get things started.
It Is What They Call the Best of the Best: Two Years of Highlights
The old is the ancestor of Tor-the-publisher's current corporate web page, which can now be reached at The you're reading now launched on July 20, 2008. True fact: the old was originally a gopher server. As a company, we've been online for a looooooong time...
Our fictional offerings: Expanded staff! New procedures! Same old quirky fiction!
Aladdin_Sane: A 5,000-word story expanded from a 50-word piece of "flash" fiction is obviously a new piece of work, as far as we're concerned. But we're not going to venture to draw exact lines. Throwaway Contact: Not only do we require that all submissions be scanned by Gmail's servers, we also copy everything we receive to the orbiting Google surveillance satellites, via the uplink facility on the roof of the Flatiron Building. (It's where the dirigible mooring mast used to be.) For this, Eric Schmidt pays us in gold bars that he's personally removed from Fort Knox. On the level and on the square!
OK, where do I start with that? A.
Clearly all knowledge is contained on I was going to suggest Garry Wills's translations of St. Augustine, but I see that commenter hapax has beaten me to it at #14. I also recommend Wills' short bio of Augustine, both because a lot of nonsense has been purveyed about Augustine, and also because I'd read a Garry Wills book about asparagus or plumber's helpers.
The Identical Twin Paradox: Robert A. Heinlein’s Time For the Stars
JWezy, #18: Just as a data point, The Door Into Summer isn't part of Heinlein's "future history" continuity, nor does it hook up with any of his other multi-story futures, like the torchship universe of several of the "juveniles", or the "Martian" quasi-continuity of Red Planet, Double Star, and Stranger in a Strange Land. It's pretty much a stand-alone.
Literary and Speculative: A Rant
Regarding the original post (and sidestepping the increasingly hard-to-follow food fight about tone in the comments), I agree with Jason Henninger that "discussion is the key to it all, I think, to a genre living or dying, staying relevant or becoming irrelevant," but I don't think his original post's tendentious stereotypes and generalizations are very helpful. I don't think that "Literary fiction...has become fixated on stilted renderings of suffering" or that it's epitomized by "the hope-choking everyday trundle of caricatured common people down a nihilistic slope into numbness." I don't buy the categorical claim that "literary fiction so often proposes that...miserable people 'are the only people here.'" Quite the contrary, I think the broad category of contemporary "literary fiction" is vastly more diverse than the stereotypes asserted in this post; indeed, that it's as full of "philosophy and romance and passion and invention" as any other kind of storytelling. Certainly there are people with snobbish attitudes about genre. Many of them are high-school and college instructors, and a lot of people in the SF world seem to carry the scars of having had their tastes and interests traumatically dissed by such teachers at some point. This didn't happen to me very much, possibly because I dropped out of high school and never went to college. So while I sympathize with the aggravation of being told that your reading interests are below the salt, the conclusion I draw is that second-rate teachers are second-rate, not that "literary fiction" is the suxxors and SF rules OK. A little more seriously, I also kind of wish the front page of didn't sport the line "Harold Bloom can bite me," for a couple of reasons. First, because when Teresa and I served among the in-house editors of one of Bloom's multi-volume compilations of other people's literary criticism, back in the mid-1980s, he was happy to have us include sections compiling and summarizing critical assessments of quite a few SF and fantasy writers, including Heinlein, Asimov, Dick, Le Guin, Delany, Zelazny, and Russ. And second, because Bloom, who is 79 years old, has recently been described in the Yale Daily News as "gravely ill." He's been in the hospital since December and the two classes he was scheduled to offer in the coming semester have been cancelled. This does not seem to me the ideal time to be slinging silly insults at a guy who, for all his famous eccentricities, has actually done rather a lot for modern fantasy and SF.
SF reading protocols
I do know one thing, which is that it's silly to suggest (as someone did several comments ago) that Young People Today don't have the intellectual fortitude to decode challenging SF. I think that, to the contrary, more people are better at following more complicated SF setups and storylines than ever before.
SF reading protocols
Milo1313 writes: "Even now as I work my way through the new Battlestar Galactica I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't matter that you can't have 12 whole planets of people--theoretically totally dozens of billions of people--all speaking the same language, believing the same religion, acting under the same cultural mores (think how many civilizations grew and died, how many countries, languages, religions, etc. have existed in just the last 2000 years). But that's not the point of the show (even though the anthropologist in me gets really frustrated at this seemingly major plot hole). My first impulse is to say, no, that's not what Jo is talking about. I liked large parts of BSG, but it's not really science fiction; it's a mythopoeic action-adventure in SF trappings. The kind of wholesale handwaving-away-of-gross-implausibility that Milo1313 talks about isn't the equivalent of the tachyon drive that enables the setup of a novel like The Forever War. My second impulse is to wonder whether my first impulse is correct. Maybe they are the same thing, and each of them feels like a reasonable, story-enabling mulligan--or a dimwitted cheat--depending on the angle with which we choose to enter the story's outer atmosphere.
What books do you buy to give to other people?
"One of those books everyone wants and doesn't know it" is perhaps the best description I have ever read of Edward Whittemore's Sinai Tapestry. It's like the Illuminatus! trilogy with 100 more IQ points and 75% less libertarianism.
Look at What Wilson Did!
Wilson also wrote the highest-profile takedown of The Lord of the Rings to appear in the immediate wake of that trilogy's publication: "Oo, Those Awful Orcs" (Nation, April 14, 1956). Which I read as a teenaged Tolkien fan, because it was included in a collection of essays about Tolkien...and oddly, it led me to check out a collection of Wilson's reviews, and to become something of a lifelong Edmund Wilson fan, even though I obviously disagree with his views about some modern fantasy writers. I particularly recommend his To the Finland Station, about the literature and history of European socialism and its influence (and lack of influence) on the Russian Revolution; and his wonderful Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. But Wilson is always interesting, always wrestling with complex texts and inscrutable history and coming back to tell us about it in plain strong language, carefully considered. When he died in 1972, he was still writing thousands of words a day while putting away half a bottle of gin every night and teaching himself Hungarian. Quite a character.
Happy 80th anniversary, SF fandom
Hey, Richard Lynch! Are there more places where you've posted this comment? This is the second one I've come across in fifteen minutes. It's "a bit subjective"? Of course it's a bit subjective. Were you under the impression that Rob Hansen was arguing that before December 11, 1929, nothing resembling SF fandom existed, and afterward, it was fully formed? Don't be silly. "You could make perhaps an even stronger case that the beginning of fandom happened with the June 1926 issue of Amazing Stories." You could make that case. And you could as easily say that SF fandom began the first time two people enthused to one another about one of those Jules Verne books. But the first known in-person meeting of an actual club chartered to discuss science fiction seems like a reasonably good starting point. All things have fuzzy edges, including the birth of steam power, the nation of France, the formation of the Beatles, and the imminent death of the internet (film at 11). And yet, anniversaries are fun. If you're in a state that's celebrating its 150th anniversary of statehood, do you go around primly telling everyone "Actually the process of becoming a state really got started 153 years and seven months ago, so your celebration is stupid"? Of course not. Rob's point was that in December 11, 1929, we have a reasonable candidate for Founding Event.
My aversion to versions
"Heinlein too trumpeted rewriting to editorial order, and then released the (inferior) uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land." Small correction: Heinlein didn't do any such thing. The unedited Stranger was published in 1991, three years after his death. His wife Virginia arranged for its release.
“What, is there more?”: Steven Brust’s Five Hundred Years After
All three are in print -- Taltos and Orca as part of the Ace trade paperback omnibuses The Book of Taltos and The Book of Athyra, respectively; and Issola as a stand-alone mass-market paperback from Tor.
H. P. Lovecraft, Founding Father of SF Fandom
The event actually happened in 1914. I've corrected the post. Thank you!
“What, is there more?”: Steven Brust’s Five Hundred Years After
iopgod: I have been trying for the better part of two decades to interest British publishers in Steven Brust's work. Unfortunately, the first few Vlad novels were published over there in the late 1980s in a pair of omnibus volumes featuring what I'm afraid are two of the worst covers ever published. (Vlad looks like Hans or Franz from the SNL sketch about Hans and Frans who are here to Pump You Up.) But you'd think that after twenty years someone would think it was time to try again. The Vlad books get published in a bunch of other European countries, successfully I gather. aedifica: In fact, that preface by the "Dean of Pamlar University" is by Pamela Dean. The copyright page doesn't give the gag away, the way it does on each of the remaining three volumes, which feature pseudonymous essays ostensibly by various Dragaeran figures but actually written by Neil Gaiman, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and John M. Ford. Five Hundred Years After is quite simply one of my favorite epic fantasy novels of the post-Tolkien era. I've re-read it several times, always with pleasure. And the passage about Adron's Disaster itself never fails to chill me, as Paarfi explains, in a string of perfectly loopy Paarfiisms, that he has deliberately chosen "to omit any references to children, babies, or even pets (with the exception of certain unimportant fishes)" in the narrative so far, since given the horror of the Disaster itself, to do so would have been "to give in to the basest, lowest form of literary theatricality." I love this series, and I love the Dragaeran books overall, but this novel an awesome piece of work.
How Stubby, the rocket, became the H.M.S. Stubbington
This post may well be the single coolest thing I have ever read on
Neurodiversity and Fandom
Like any subculture, SF fandom has a lot of mythology about itself, but what Jason calls its "tolerance of neurodiversity" is absolutely real. My wife Teresa Nielsen Hayden and I have noticed it for years, because Teresa suffers from a gaudy neurological disorder, narcolepsy. This means that she will frequently experience periods of extreme (and highly visible) tiredness during the day, and it also means that, when surprised by something funny (for instance, an unexpectedly hilarious remark), she will sometimes collapse helplessly onto the floor for a minute or two, like a marionette whose strings have been abruptly cut. It's not really a big deal--as she always says, it would be ghastly if people tiptoed round trying not to set her off. She'd rather hear the jokes. But while people in the non-fannish world are often obviously alarmed by (and uncomfortable about) Teresa's symptoms, SF fans, with almost no exceptions, have always been supremely easy-going and practical about the matter, matter-of-factly adapting around the disability without making her feel bad about it. It's a set of virtues that can be found outside of SF fandom, but it's striking how widespread it is inside.
Outrage and Art
In other words, I have no problem with people saying "I don't care how many times Calvin Aargh has won the Huge and Nobbly Awards, ever since he started condemning Belgians I can't stand to read his work." I don't even have a problem with people urging one another to take the same attitude. I do have a bit of a problem with such people claiming some kind of categorical ethical superiority over people who continue to read Mr. Aargh, because I think that--you guessed it--the world is complicated, and that there are legitimate reasons to read Aargh right alongside the legitimate reasons not to.
Outrage and Art
#147, rickg: I'm beginning to wonder how many times I have to restate that I find it entirely understandable that people wouldn't want to buy or read books by authors who have said stuff they find offensive. I do think it's a little odd to call Mamatas's argument "ethically inconsistent" if you're going to carve out a dump-truck-sized exception for "genius work" one sentence later. Come on, wait at least a paragraph before completely contradicting yourself. My own view is that it's perfectly fine to not read or buy books by authors who have pissed you off; indeed, that everyone makes choices based on stuff like this sometimes--but to dress it up in the ceremonial toga of "ethical consistency" is a little silly unless we're willing to spend our lives making sure that nothing we do rebounds to the economic benefit of people we disapprove of. Some people do in fact try to live such lives, but I doubt any of them are in this conversation, because they'd have to use computers containing rare earths mined by semi-enslaved workers in the Congo, pay money to internet providers who invest in climate-damaging technologies, and so on and so forth. I am not making fun of the desire to live an ethical life; I'm just pointing out that perfect "consistency" is an ever-receding target. Valente's practical approach seems perfectly sensible. So does Mamatas's. Neither resembles "ethical consistency"; both of them acknowledge that life is short and entails choices.
Outrage and Art
p-l, #144: "(S)ometimes the unpleasant features of a writer's personality are inseparable from what makes them interesting to read." I certainly agree with that. I would go even farther and say that sometimes the aspects of a writer's outlook that I find unsympathetic, alien, or hard to understand make them interesting to read. And sometimes they just make a writer unsympathetic, alien, or hard to understand. The world is complicated.
Outrage and Art
I'd like to go back to an observation made back in comment #100 by Nick Mamatas, in which he referred to "a matter of my own experience: some people are better writers than they are people. Why reduce my pleasure by concentrating on what someone else isn't good at, such as being a person? If their political sentiments and actions are harmful to me, well, I'll deal with that in the political arena. The activism of even popular authors generally have much less impact on my daily life than the actions of the local state senator or the cop on the corner." I have repeatedly observed that it's perfectly understandable to feel negatively toward the work of an outspokenly anti-Belgian author if you and/or your friends are Belgians, or even if you're just someone who wants to see Belgians treated fairly (despite their sugary waffles and mayonnaise-laden french fries--you know what they say about Belgians, do I need to spell it out), but nonetheless Nick seems to me to have a very good point here. If you want to change the world, the immediate structures of actual political power are where most of the action is. The attitudes toward Belgians held by the "local state senator or the cop on the corner" are a lot more likely to have a direct impact on your life than the attitudes of most genre writers. Yes, I realize that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, that science fiction drives our imagination of the future, and that important cultural figures such as Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Ebert, Paul Krugman, Barack Obama, Hugh Laurie, and Ella Fitzgerald got their start in life as science fiction fans. Also that science fiction fandom invented the communications satellite, the Internet, and the Pacific Ocean. Science fiction is very important and therefore we are too. But I can't help but wonder if at least some of the energy being pumped into some of these conversations isn't the result of a certain despair over the prospects for fixing the real world. Easier to cry FAIL on cranky genre writers than it is to organize effective political action. I'm sure there are people who manage to do both, but I do wonder how many.
Outrage and Art
Also, I really want to know more about the author Nick Mamatas was describing in #134.
Outrage and Art
Phy, #132: Great comment. I'm basically with you--I read and enjoy lots of books by people with views I consider odious. Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, for instance. And Pound was a great poet. The world is complicated. That said, I don't even remotely blame people for being put off when an author makes public statements they find extremely offensive. See my hypothetical in comment #89. It's entirely human to have such a reaction. It doesn't mean that those readers are claiming that "certain things" are "too odious to read for civilized people." It just means that those readers have reached their personal limits. If I had close family members who'd been killed by Mussolini, I can well imagine I might find it a lot harder to read Pound. The world is complicated. It's good to be tolerant. Also: everybody has limits. Both statements are true. The world is complicated. One more statement that's true: Since nobody in this conversation has suggested banning anybody else, I'm pretty sure that none of this has anything to do with "free speech."
Outrage and Art
#123: Gene Wolfe's silly misogyny probably springs in part from his Catholicism And meanwhile, the pro-choice sympathies of Pulitzer Prize-winning Catholic writer Garry Wills are the function of exactly what? The fact is, once you look at the world in detail, you find that social attitudes and ideological sympathies are complicated and don't map very reliably onto simplistic schemas in which all Catholics are one thing, all Jews another, and so forth. Which is why I'm very critical of the idea that we can breezily assert that "Well, Author X is a member of Religion Y, so obviously they have Outlook Z," as if these things are just attributes in a big D&D game. Religions are hazy things and tend to be full of individuals who aren't in perfect agreement with the official leadership. If we stipulate that one Catholic writer's work evinces "misogyny" and claim that this "springs in part" from his Catholicism, how do we then account for the many decisive and powerful women in the bestselling novels of Catholic priest Andrew M. Greeley? The great American writer Flannery O'Connor regarded her Catholicism as central to her work, but did her attraction to grotesque subject matter and sardonic diction spring from some papal encyclical enjoining Catholics to be darkly ironic, or was it because O'Connor, like every other writer worth reading, was a member of the awkward squad who managed to turn the crooked timber of her humanity into art?
Outrage and Art
Indeed, Russell, I've had occasion to quote those lines in other iterations of this argument. George Orwell was intermittently a blustering misogynist. He also wrote A Clergyman's Daughter, a novel that couldn't have been written without some real insight into the problems women face in a patriarchal world. The point isn't that Orwell was or wasn't guilty of being a nincompoop when he railed against "feminists, sandal-wearers and vegetarians." Nor is it interesting to endlessly worry over whether we should forgive him, or cut him slack. The point is that books are sometimes smarter than their authors. Which can be hard to take on board when you're hurt, upset, and looking to clearly identify heroes and villains.
Outrage and Art
Of course, it's impossible to demonstrate than in a country of 300 million people, there isn't a single same-sex marriage advocate who once said they'd like to be able to compel churches to perform marriages those churches disapproved of. However, the assertion that lots of people are advocating this nutty idea is in fact a well-documented big lie being put forth by anti-same-sex-marriage advocates. Put simply, DrakBibliophile, you're falling for a lie. The person who passed it on to you may have sincerely believed it. But it's still a lie.
Outrage and Art
As a footnote to my own comment #89, I suppose I should clarify that my hypothetical about Jo Walton was, indeed, a hypothetical, and that the real Jo Walton does not in fact assert that all Belgians are cannibals and child molesters. I trust that this will ease everyone's mind on this important issue.
Outrage and Art
bellman, #91: While I don't subscribe to the easy fannish/libertarian notion that it's only "censorship" if a government does it, I think that boycotts and actual censorship are pretty clearly different things.
Outrage and Art
Kage Baker writes: (I)f you're going to hate him for his Mormon views on gays, aren't you going to have to hate everyone whose religion says homosexuality is a sin? Which lines you up against all other Mormons, observant Jews, devout Christians and Muslims right there. I have to take issue with the word "all" here. It's true that most self-described American Christians who call themselves "devout" take a socially regressive view of gays. But it's not true of all denominations and it's not even true of all members of denominations which officially espouse regressive views. It's a complicated world. Membership in a religious organization does not automatically mean subscribing to a hard-right social agenda. Moreover, a growing amount of polling data shows that the under-30 members of even the most otherwise-conservative religious groups don't have anything like the obsessive animus against gay people that their elders do. In other words, viewing gay people as less-than-fully-human really is a matter of choice, and not something that can be simply assumed from an individual's affiliation with a particular religious group.
Outrage and Art
It doesn't look to me like Wright was "silenced." It looks like he didn't like the results he was getting, so he decided to delete his post. I think there's nothing wrong with not wanting to read books by people who consider you or your friends to be less than human. Even more to the point, I don't think it would matter even if I did think there was something wrong with it. If Jo Walton were to announce on the Internet tomorrow that all Belgians are degenerate, cannibalistic child-molesters, I suspect that Belgian people, and people with Belgian friends, would find themselves feeling negatively toward the works of Jo Walton. And this would be hardly surprising. That said, I also don't think that book publishers should be in the business of pre-vetting authors to make sure they don't have any controversial opinions--or even crazy ones. First, because many worthwhile books have been written throughout history by people with loopy opinions about one thing or another. Second, because how many of us want to live in a world in which book publishers pre-vet authors for their opinions? That would be, not just a dystopia, but an extraordinarily silly one.
Re-reading Sandman: An introduction
Coming soon on "Re-Reading David Goldfarb's Remarks about Sandman."
Re-reading Sandman: An introduction
Spoiler problems aside, David Goldfarb does make an excellent point. I suspect TNH will either address or digress into this subject at some point.

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