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May 25, 2013
Three Weeks To Go
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:40 PM * 18 comments

Applications for the Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop (taught by, among others, Miss Teresa and Mr. Patrick) close three weeks from tonight at midnight, EDT.

Now in its seventeenth year, held every autumn on Martha’s Vineyard, this is a one-week intensive workshop on writing commercial fantasy and science fiction. We deal with both novel-length and short fiction.

This year’s instructors:

  • Debra Doyle
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • James D. Macdonald
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Teresa Nielsen Hayden
  • Sherwood Smith
  • Steven Brust
  • Steven Gould
  • Special Guest: Scott Lynch

    We have food, music, pancakes, jellyfish, lighthouses, stars, and a pretty good track record. Three out of three of this year’s RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Awards in SF/Fantasy, for example (Scalzi, former instructor; Jemisin, graduate; Bear, current instructor). The writers’ successes are their own; still, we’re proud of ‘em.

    Class size is limited to 24.

    Application information is here. (Short version: 8K word writing sample plus a $25 application fee.)

    Learn the VP Oath and discover for yourself the Horror that is Thursday!

May 24, 2013
On the road
Posted by Patrick at 05:54 AM * 25 comments

Teresa is Editor Guest of Honor at ConQuest 44 in Kansas City this weekend. It’s the first time any con has had TNH as a solo guest, rather than as part of “Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden,” so naturally she’s been looking forward to it. It’s also one of her (and my!) favorite regional SF cons anywhere. In not unrelated news, the external pins were removed from her left foot earlier this week, which means she can now (cautiously) get out of the house and go places after twelve weeks of being almost totally housebound.

As luck would have it, though, the same mid-continent weather system that spawned the deadly tornado in Oklahoma City is now sending band after band of thunderstorms over the East Coast. Our mid-Thursday-evening flight to Kansas City was cancelled mid-Thursday morning, and we were automatically rescheduled onto a flight leaving Friday morning. But we can read the weather forecasts, and it looked (and still looks) like that flight won’t be going anywhere either. In fact, it looked increasingly likely that we might not make it to Kansas City until Saturday.

It occurred to us, however, that while thunderstorms routinely ground passenger aircraft, automobiles can punch through thunderstorms just fine. New York to Kansas City would be rather a long drive…but New York to Cleveland, Ohio, on the other side of the weather system, is entirely manageable. With admirable alacrity, the ConQuest people rebooked us onto a noon-Friday flight out of Cleveland, and we grabbed a one-way car rental and set forth early Thursday afternoon.

For science-fictional good luck, and because it’s at pretty much the right point in the drive, we got a motel room in Clarion, Pennsylvania, which is indeed the town where the famous SF writing workshop was originally held. Now it’s 6:00 AM on Friday and we’re about to check out and drive the rest of the way to Cleveland. Yesterday’s drive across Pennsylvania was gorgeous, with ever-changing light conditions through the mountains and valleys, and only occasionally terrifying as the bands of heavy rain reduced visibility to near white-out conditions. (I should note that not only is TNH a very skillful driver, but also that her instruction in case she’s pronounced clinically dead is that she be put behind the wheel of a car, since that’s the single thing most likely to revive her.) So that’s where we are—driving from New York to Cleveland in order to catch a flight to Kansas City. Hey, it’s better than missing half the con.

Meanwhile, I see from Locus’s Twitter feed that they’ve now posted, to their web site, some excerpts from their recent interview with us. Worth a look if you haven’t got a copy of the magazine itself.

May 20, 2013
Star Trek Into Obscurity ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:24 AM * 165 comments

If you absolutely have to talk about the herd of laser unicorns that so unexpectedly appear at the climax of the latest Star Trek movie, but do not dare do so in public because your friends will look at you sadly for spoiling the film for them, THIS IS THE PLACE to talk about the laser unicorns.

For here there be SPOILERS!

May 17, 2013
Crowdsourcing doesn’t inoculate against corruption
Posted by Patrick at 05:00 PM * 130 comments

I really don’t want to get back into the business of being a big critic of Wikipedia, a site I use every day. But if, like me, you use it and care about it, you really should read the article Andrew Leonard has on Salon today: ““Revenge, Ego, and the Corruption of Wikipedia.”

As Andrew asks: if this has been going on, with (up until today) no consequences to its perpetrator, what else don’t we know about?

Civilization and barbarism, side by side in San Jose
Posted by Patrick at 09:45 AM * 54 comments

sanjosesidewalk.JPG

Urban light rail — and a construction site that’s been allowed to eliminate a whole block’s sidewalk, not even building a protected detour for pedestrians.

May 11, 2013
Steak Pie
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:01 AM *

This recipe is from the intensely talented fantasy author Stacia Kane, and is reprinted here with her permission. Stacia is originally from the USA but now lives in England.

Steak Pie

I like puff pastry crusts for meat pies—I like a high crust-to-meat ratio—so I buy it ready-made; making puff pastry is so time-consuming (all that buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge and buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge), and I’ve actually never gotten great results. Pepperidge Farm makes a really nice ready-made puff pastry; you can find it in the fridge or freezer section in any grocery store (I also did smaller pies using their little round hors’d’ouvres pastry crusts: one with ground beef and one with shredded chicken, which are much quicker than the steak pie). (Here in the UK I use Jus-Rol, but Pepperidge Farm is the way to go in the US.)

I have made a nice hot-water pastry for meat pies, too, but I like puff. All those flaky layers.

So, here’s what I do, for a regular 9-inch pie. You’ll want to do this either quite early in the day, or the day before, because ideally the filling will be cool when it goes into the crust:

3 lbs stewing beef (if you want, you can buy a chuck roast and cut it into chunks)
1 16-oz can/bottle dark (stout) beer; I prefer Murphy’s Irish Stout to Guinness (really, I’ve used both and for me there’s no comparison)

1 onion, chopped fine (if you want; I use onion powder, usually)

In a large frying pan/saucepan/braiser with a good lid, brown the beef in a Tbsp or so of butter, with a tsp of olive or vegetable oil to keep it from scorching. Brown it in batches (I put the browned meat in the upturned lid to save washing dishes).

If you’re using chopped onion (I’ve minced a shallot in there, too, on occasion), add it after the meat is browned and stir it until it’s soft. Then add the beef back in, and add a handful or two of

flour

Stir well to make a sort-of roux; this will help thicken the filling later.

Once the flour is cooked (just a minute or two), add salt and pepper; not too much at first, maybe a tsp of salt and half a tsp of pepper?

Then add your herbs etc. I usually use (all of these are dried, as this is a long-simmered dish):

½ tsp or so of:

rosemary
thyme

¼ tsp or so of:

marjoram
sage

a dash of nutmeg/rub the nutmeg over the microplane grater once or twice

Now add at least a tsp or two of Worcestershire (VERY important!). Sometimes I add a splash of soy, too. If you have some Kitchen Bouquet that’s great to add. I also often add a bit of beef stock concentrate, just as a flavor boost.

This next bit depends on how hot your burners run. Mine run very hot—it’s hard to get a good low simmer—so I add the entire can of beer (slowly so it doesn’t foam over). When I had a burner that ran lower I’d add about ⅔ of it and wait to see if it needed more. So that would be my recommendation unless you have a hard time simmering something low.

Scrape up all the fond (most of it probably came up already with the flour/Worcestershire, and especially if you used diced onion).

Add two or three bay leaves (I use three).

Cover and let simmer 2½ - 3 hours. I like the meat VERY tender; you may want to stop simmering sooner, but as with any stew beef recipe you’ll want to give it at least a couple of hours. Check it every once in a while to see how the liquid level is doing. When it’s done, taste it and adjust the seasonings. Remember that the pastry crust is rather bland, so it’s okay for the meat to be a little more highly flavored.

At some point during the cooking, preheat your oven to 400° F and thaw one of the pastry sheets. You want it to still be cold, but not frozen hard. Personally, I just sort of push and manipulate it with my hands to fit it into the pie dish; you may want to roll it out, but I’ve made this at least a hundred times over the years so no longer bother with all of that. I just plop it into the dish, push it into the edges, and trim the excess (which I then squeeze into the parts where it isn’t covering the rim of the dish). A good way to keep it from shrinking too much is to fold the tiniest bit over the rim of the pie dish. It will still shrink some but that won’t matter too much.

Some people only use a top crust. IMO that’s not a pie, that’s beef stew with a pastry lid. (Like I said, I am a pastry girl and like a high crust-meat ratio.)

Anyway. Shove that bottom crust into the oven and bake it about fifteen minutes (or according to package directions, but don’t give it the full time, just most of it). This will help keep the bottom crust from getting too soggy. Again, you’ll want to do this fairly early on, because ideally this bottom crust will be cool when you add the filling. (I have often added hot filling to hot crust, and it’s fine if you just don’t have time to let it all cool etc.—it won’t ruin the pie or anything—but it really is nicer if you can let it all cool, both for a less-soggy crust and a thicker filling.)

Once the meat is done, let it sit uncovered for a while, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it stands. It’ll still be a bit liquidy, FYI, but it won’t be AS liquidy. Take out the top crust when the package tells you to, in terms of how far in advance.

I have a little Le Creuset pie bird. They’re very inexpensive, and good/kind of fun to have, but they’re not necessary. If you have one, plunk it into the center of the bottom crust and add the filling around it. If not, just add the filling. I recommend spooning the filling into the crust, because you can control the liquid level better. Honestly, you probably only want like ¼ cup of the liquid in there.

The top crust is easier than the bottom crust, and again, I just trim the ends off and plunk it on there. Also again, make sure it’s still quite cold! Otherwise it won’t rise and flake as nicely. If you have a pie bird, fit the center around the bird’s beak and cut a few more vent slices in the top crust. If you don’t, make an X in the very center and reflect back the points so you have a little hole, and cut some vents—I usually do four vents, which makes it look pretty. The vents also really help the top crust puff and flake up.

Pop the pie into a 400° F oven. Set your timer for ten minutes. Take a look at the ten minute mark; is it browning? It’s not uncommon for the edges to puff and brown before the center (which will look sunken and bumpy as it “melts” over the meat before puffing up), so there’s nothing wrong if it’s doing that but at some point you may want to cover the edges with foil to keep them from burning. Also at that ten-minute point, give it a turn to help even cooking.

Check it again at twenty minutes. If the top crust isn’t fully puffed and golden, give it another turn and another five-ten minutes. This really depends on your oven and even stuff like humidity etc. Usually my pies take about twenty-five - thirty minutes for the top crust to be all nice and flaky/puffy.

Let the pie sit five minutes or so before cutting (longer if you can, up to about fifteen).

You can use the leftover cooking liquid to make gravy, but keep in mind how highly flavored that liquid probably is; you’ll want to add water and simmer it down. Sometimes I use gravy mix and add a few Tbsp of that liquid to that, because I’m lazy and because at that point I’ve got my big burner going with potatoes to mash and at least one smaller burner with vegetables, and there’s not room for the big braiser I did the meat in, too. But that’s up to you.

This is just as good as leftovers, and really, you can easily make the meat the day before and just assemble the pie as usual. I’ve actually put the filled bottom crust into the fridge before when dinner plans suddenly changed, and just popped the top crust on and cooked it the next day, and that worked great, too.

You can add whatever seasonings you want, of course. Sometimes I add a bit of mustard powder. Whatever you like. I stick to the savory herbs, because that’s what I like. And I really don’t recommend garlic in this; I’m not sure why but it just always tastes weird to me to have garlic in here. But hey, give it a try if you like.

Sorry if these are a tad disjointed; again, I’ve made this so many times I don’t really even have to think anymore about what I’m doing. But that’s the basic recipe/method, and again, one of my absolute favorite dinners and something we all like and have a lot. So I’d love to hear what you think!


Stacia’s latest book is Chasing Magic. Buy one. Better still, buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts.
Cooking With Light (Recipe Index)

May 07, 2013
Ray Harryhausen
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:54 PM *

Ray Harryhausen died today at the age of 92.

I can’t stress enough how much a part of my life he and his work were. I remember being ticked at Lyndon Johnson for preempting Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in order to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Using … numerous pens. About half a letter per pen, then put that pen aside, pick up another, and write another half-letter… meanwhile my movie was playing on WPIX, New York. In those pre-videotape days, if you missed a film in the theaters during its first run, you might catch it in a second-run theater a year or two later. If you missed it then you had to wait for it to come on TV. And if you missed it on TV it might be years before it came around again. If ever. (I did eventually get to see it, when I was in college.)

I’d seen Jason and the Argonauts the previous year, in a theater, and the skeleton fight had made me into a Harryhausen fan.

Every Sunday the New York Times had a TV section listing for the following week: Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. Channels 9 (WOR) and 11 (WPIX) had the Creature Features. 13 was PBS. 2, 4, and 7 were WCBS, WNBC, and WABC. Channel 5 was WNEW. I’d take the listing, and circle in red pencil the shows I wanted to watch. WOR and WPIX had most of them. Any time a Harryhausen film film was listed, it got circled.

(Channel 5 had Soupy Sales in the afternoon, which was the only thing worth watching if there weren’t any decent movies showing. Channel 11 had Ivanhoe, starring a very young Roger Moore.)

I remember seeing It Came From Beneath the Sea on a black-and-white TV that my father built. It Came From Beneath the Sea featured the giant octopus (which only had six arms if you got around to counting them) attacking San Francisco.

One of the disappointments of my youth was going to The Bedford Playhouse (in Bedford, New York, years before it was cut up into a two-screen theater, when movies were a dollar, and, on Wednesdays, when the show changed, they’d have a double feature for that same dollar) one Saturday afternoon, because they had a hand-lettered sign out front promising The Mysterious Island. Alas, the film that actual showed was some Brit invasion-from-outer-space/bodysnatchers-ripoff film.

On my wedding day my new bride and I, after the ceremony, went to a double-feature of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Warlords of Atlantis (along with many members of the wedding party).

You can keep your CGI for all that — the stop-motion animation that Ray Harryhausen did… that was real movie magic.

May 06, 2013
Us, interviewed
Posted by Patrick at 02:00 PM * 23 comments

Cover of the May 2013 issue of LOCUS The latest Locus features an interview with us. It’s not online—the contents of the printed magazine and their web site mostly don’t overlap—but you can buy a printed copy (or a downloadable ePub, Mobi, or PDF version) here.

It was a slightly disquieting experience, not least because I’ve been reading Locus for (unbelievably but truly) 43 years. The interview was taken in Liza Trombi’s hotel room one morning at last year’s Worldcon. Their basic method is to have a lively conversation with the interview subject, transcribe the whole thing, and then remove all their own questions and prompts, so it looks as if the person being interviewed is a prodigiously voluble monologuist. Or, in our case, a pair of prodigiously voluble monologuists. (Low-hanging fruit. Go for it.) Then they send the transcript back to the subject, for fact-checking and horrified second thoughts.

By and large, their method works well. When we’d finished chatting with Liza, we both had the sense that we’d been dismally incoherent, but when the transcript arrived in our email a few months later, somehow they’d managed to make us look much smarter than we remembered being. It did turn out to be a lot more about our long-ago past in fandom, and 1980s NYC publishing, than I think I expected when I walked in the door. But that’s really okay.

(I posted a brief excerpt from the interview to our calling-card page at nielsenhayden.com, which was about a year and a half overdue to be updated anyway.)

Iron Person Three ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:55 AM * 120 comments

This is a thread for SPOILERS concerning the recent film release.

No need for ROT-13 or SPOILER Alerts inside here, because this thread is for SPOILERS.

May 03, 2013
Dowsing For Dynamite
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:20 AM * 86 comments

When some guy loses his life savings playing a carnival game, you just say, “Hunh?” When a government ministry lays down millions to buy pixie dust, you have to say “Wow!”

If you’re going to have security theater, you need props. Allow me to introduce Mr. James McCormick, sentenced yesterday in the UK to three ten-year jail terms (to be served concurrently, eligible for parole in five), for selling magic wands.

The ADE 651 is the device that made Mr. McCormick’s fortune. ADE stands for Advanced Detection Equipment. It’s the fourth device in the series, following the ADE 100, the ADE 101, and the ADE 650.

Let’s back up a bit. Allow me to introduce the Gopher. This is a gag golf-ball detector, sold in joke-and-party stores in the US for under twenty bucks. What it is, is a plastic handle with a metal rod attached to the front on a hinge so it can swing left and right. When your golf ball goes into the rough and you can’t locate it, pull out your handy Gopher and the rod will swing to indicate which way it lies!

This works by the same principle that moves the planchette on a Ouija board. Tiny involuntary muscle movements make your hand tremble, causing the rod to swing. As to how well it works, the words “random chance” should appear in your mind.

The War On Terror brought a huge market for bomb-detection technology. McCormick saw his chance, bought up a bunch of Gophers, peeled off the labels and replaced them with labels of his own. He repackaged them, and sold them for $6,000 and up (up to $30,000-$60,000 each) to security forces in twenty different countries. It was proved in open court that mold-marks and imperfections in the Gopher handles were identical with the mold-marks and imperfections in the handles of the ADE 100.

Over the ten years that McCormick sold the things he made improvements. To make the device seem more trustworthy he made the handle heavier. Later versions came in hard-sided carrying cases with pre-cut foam packing. The device now had two parts; the handle with the swinging rod attached by a cable to a belt pouch where the detector box was located. That box had a slot into which you’d put a plastic card identifying what it was you were looking for. The box, though, contained no components. The cards, colorfully printed on one side and with an RFID pasted to the other, were just pieces of plastic.

As to how Mr. McCormick sold the things: A combination of high-pressure sales tactics and sleight-of-hand. He claimed that his detector could find any explosives within a kilometer; through lead; through ten feet of earth or twenty feet of water; or from an airplane. The detectors could also supposedly find bank notes, ivory, blood, and a wide variety of drugs. He used fancy words like electrostatic ion attraction and electrochemical (Thermo-Redox) detection to describe how they supposedly worked.

The ADE didn’t have any apparent power source. McCormick explained this by saying it was powered by the static electricity generated by the operator.

He also used old-fashioned bribery. He supposedly sold $122 million worth of the devices to the Iraqi government, but at the cost of $65 million in bribes, leaving him with just $57 million in profit (from which he’d have to subtract the manufacturing cost of up to $60 each).

McCormick bought a house and a yacht. Not just a house, an $8 million house in Bath, England. And a vacation home in Florida. And another in Cyprus. That’s a pretty nice-looking yacht, too.

Let us suppose that you are trying to sell the Card Color Detector 5000. The most advanced Card Color Detector in the world, operating by Heisenbergian Macro-Wave Format Vibration. Here’s how you make one: Take a length of thread. Tie on a finger ring. There you go! Now explain that the CCD 5000 will swing in a straight line over black cards, and in a circle over red cards. To prove it, lay down a series of playing cards face down. Hold the CCD 5000 above each in turn. It works every time! (It’s lots easier for you to do this demonstration if you use marked cards.) Now allow the person to whom you’re selling it to try. Each time it correctly determines the color, say, “See how well it works!” Each time it doesn’t, say, “You weren’t relaxed enough.” Put it in a nice box, include a four-color glossy brochure, and slap a five-figure price tag on it. Remember: A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demonstration.

The “not relaxed enough” line was the actual excuse for why the thing didn’t always function: The operator wasn’t relaxed. Nothing says “relaxed” like “trying to detect terrorist bombs at a police checkpoint in Pakistan.”

As Judge Richard Hone at the Old Bailey said:

“The jury found that you knew the devices did not work, yet the soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere believed in them, in part due to your powers of salesmanship and in part the extravagant and fraudulent claims made in your promotional material.

“After a six-week trial, I am wholly satisfied that your fraudulent conduct in selling so many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals.”

Worried that you won’t be able to detect explosives now? You can smile! The GT200, manufactured by a different conman company is still on sale! They’re being used right now today in Mexico (among many other countries) to find weapons and drug caches.

And, presumably, golf balls.

Now It Belongs To The Outlook
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM * 28 comments

It’s the end of an era for the famous (and at times infamous) Hotmail service. Hotmail pioneered Web-based email prior to its acquisition by Microsoft in 1997. In making the move to Outlook.com, Microsoft’s online team will leverage the brand of the company’s widely used Outlook software, while seeking to bring its consumer email service into modern world of tablets, smartphones and other devices.

“We’ll have one clean story across Microsoft for how you get mail,” said Microsoft’s Dharmesh Mehta. “Outlook equals mail from Microsoft.”

It started in 1996 as HoTMaiL. Web-based email. Now … it isn’t. As of 03 May 2013 @hotmail.com is deprecated.

May 02, 2013
North Country Computing
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:35 PM * 49 comments

North Country Computing Terms

  • Log On: Making the wood stove hotter
  • Log Off: Don’t add any more wood
  • Monitor: Keeping an eye on the wood
  • Download: Getting the wood off the truck
  • Megahertz: When you’re not careful getting the firewood
  • Floppy Disk: What you get from trying to carry too much wood
  • Ram: That thing that splits the wood
  • Hard Drive: Getting home in the winter time in the snow
  • Prompt: What the mail isn’t in the winter time
  • Windows: What you shut when it’s cold outside
  • Screen: What you shut when it’s black fly season
  • Byte: What those dang black flies do
  • Chip: Munchies for the TV
  • Microchip: What’s in the bottom of the munchies bag
  • Modem: What you did to the hay fields
  • Keyboard: Where you hang the keys
  • Software: Those dang plastic forks and knives
  • Mouse: What eats the grain in the barn
  • Mainframe: What holds up the barn roof
  • Port: Fancy wine
  • Random Access Memory: When you can’t remember what you paid for the rifle, when your wife asks.

Dysfunctional Families: Shooting and Shouting
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:33 PM *

I’ve been thinking about the ways people fight* for a long time. It’s a “sticky” subject for me: something that draws my attention, over and over. And because I’m a classifier and a categorizer, I’ve been thinking about classes of arguer. In the end, I’ve come down to two: truth-shouters and cutlery-loaders. Both styles are perfectly valid ways of dealing with conflict, but they don’t work well together.

Truth-shouters look to arguments to bring out the things that they’re unable to express any other way. There are some truths that cannot be spoken (or even, sometimes, thought clearly). But the emotional singularity of an argument, when the rules of discourse change, means that these things are suddenly articulable. They can be shouted. (Note that “truth” in this context is “as factually understood by the shouter”. Sadly, anger does not turn truth-shouters into Thomas the Rhymer†‡)

Cutlery-loaders are completely different. For them, arguments are a chance to blow off steam, to express their emotions without spending as much attention on the words they use to do it as they would otherwise. They’re like the characters in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie who, running out of cannonballs, load the ship’s cutlery into the cannon and fire that off.

Needless to say, arguments between these two types do not go well. A truth-shouter will take the cutlery-loader seriously (because arguments are the place for difficult truths.) Meanwhile, a cutlery-loader will assume that a shouted truth is just some random fork and ignore it or, worse yet, counter it with something worse and less true. And it can drive cutlery-loaders nuts to be called on things they said for emotional effect rather than content.

(There are probably other ways that truth-shouters hurt cutlery-loaders in arguments. Being a truth-shouter, I don’t necessarily know them, and hope for instruction. Also, I’ve probably biased this discussion towards truth-shouters. I’d be happy to have a more cutlery-loading view as well.)

The most hideous fights I’ve suffered through or witnessed have been across argument-type lines, particularly when some piece of fired-off cutlery triggers a truth-shouter’s Goddamned Tapes.

I bring this up because a number of discussions in recent DF threads sound to me like truth-shouters trying to deal with cutlery-loaders. It’s worth asking yourself, when an argument goes particularly spectacularly badly, whether the other person is shooting forks while you’re shouting truths (or vice versa).


* In the sense of quarrel, not in the sense of box
† Besides, at least as Kushner wrote him, True Thomas was a cutlery-loader. Awkward.
‡ However neat a Thomas the Rhymer/Hulk crossover fic would be.


This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but really aren’t). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

May 01, 2013
Majuscule Ludi
Posted by Patrick at 07:54 PM * 80 comments

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is, as its site says, the most prestigious award for science fiction published in Britain. It has gone to some very fine books. (Including some written by non-Britons; certain Canadian SF awards with an unwholesome obsession with official citizenship or immigration status should please copy.) (Also including this year’s winner, Dark Eden by Chris Beckett; congratulations!) And I have no particular bone to pick with the fact that it’s a juried award. I’ve served on the jury for juried awards. I think vox-pop awards like the Hugo are what they are and juried awards are what they are. No problem there.

No, the subject of my gratuitous, out-of-left-field rant is capitalization, specifically the capitalization in the basic mission statement on the front page of the Arthur C. Clarke Award’s site:

The Arthur C Clarke Award is the most prestigious award for Science Fiction in Britain, presented annually for the best Science Fiction novel of the year.
This is silly. Science fiction is many things, but it is not a proper name. It is not a painting, a country, or a ship of the line. It is a kind of narrative. It does not take upper-and-lower-case style.

Perhaps I am the only person in 2013 who reads Excessive Upper-and-Lower-Case Style this way, but I don’t think so. When I see people prosing on about “Science Fiction” when they could just as easily be saying “science fiction”, what it sounds like to me isn’t dignity. What it sounds like is this:

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it. (—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)
Not that there’s anything wrong with Winnie-the-Pooh, he said hastily, well aware that there are living humans on planet Earth who remember me at age five obsessively memorizing large chunks of said work of literature, and quoting them back in social contexts not necessarily improved by long discursions into the language of A. A. Milne. But! (There’s always a “but.”) Is this really the kind of thing—the discourse, if you will—with which we wish to associate our hard-won, long-desired high-quality science fiction?

I rest my extremely silly case.

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.