Linky Tunes (2017-04-26)

Kind of a small post, but theoretically extremely important. I don’t know how many people will be able to benefit from this (I don’t even know if I’ll be able to) but we can apparently Binge-Watch Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ on Twitch for Science Week.

And “he said, in the cosmos, is a single sonic sound that is vibrating constantly.” If you have the misfortune to be unfamiliar with this song, regardless of what you think of metal, please give it a try. Alpha to omega, this song goes places. Continue reading

Linky Tunes (2017-03-09)

Previous posts like this were titled “McGregor’s Miscellany” after things like Tottel’s Miscellany but it bugs me in a couple of ways. Of course, you know this means a name change. (Now let’s see how long this one lasts.)

What If There Was a New What If?

In case you don’t subscribe to the RSS feed, xkcd has a new What If? about Electrofishing for Whales.

SciAm on PolCorr

Here’s a newish and oldish article from Scientific American about offensensitivity. (Disclaimer: I’m sympathetic to most aims of most PC folks but very rarely with their methods and find some (some) PC people, bluntly, to be dictators in liberals’ clothing or people who are otherwise projecting personal issues. These articles seem to be quite balanced though, neither defending nor attacking PC/”EI” but merely making observations.)

The Personality of Political Correctness

Too Much Emotional Intelligence Is a Bad Thing

I Regret That I’m Not a Time-Traveling Immortal Speed Reader

Thrice Read has Top 5 Thursday – Bookish Regrets. Regarding Jenn’s #1, I tend to go as far into series as I want (which is sometimes not far) but I do wonder if I’ll ever finish Revelation Space. (Absolution Gap has been near the top of the Pile for years now but never quite gets to the very top.) On #3, I also don’t tend to stop in the middle of individual books much but regret it when I do for the same reason she gives: gotta start over. Probably my biggest book-related regret is when I knew about something years ago but never got around to it and then, when I do, find myself wishing I’d read it earlier. Sometimes this is personal, such as when I finally get around to reading something I’ve known about since I was a teen and suspect I’d have loved it even more as a teen. Sometimes it’s related to reviewing – I could have reviewed B so much better if I had read A first. Sometimes it’s scientific or historical – some science fiction is very timely and it has to hold up then and now but I missed the opportunity to at least read it when it wasn’t “dated.” But we all know time is what keeps everything from happening at once; the only sort of solution would be to, for example, read everything at the same time with that time being yesterday. Still, it’d probably be a good idea to read my newest book now and my old classic later rather than my old classic now so that I don’t get to my new book until it’s an old classic, itself.

Cover Shack

And, as always, the tunes! Today’s a Threefer Thursday because one thing led to another to another…

Continue reading

Dead Zine Memorial Service

Ralan has moved Fantasy Scroll Mag to the dead zone. We’ve lost several zines recently including Fantastic Stories (2017-01-19), New Zenith (2017-01-23), Betwixt (2017-02-06), and Triptych Tales (2017-02-27). (Terraform is also listed as “only sleeping” but, whatever their submission condition, they just published a story yesterday.)

Fantasy Scroll Mag paid a mere penny a word. There are some zines (not naming names!) that make me wonder where they get all their money and why they choose to waste it the way they do. While I only read a few issues and it was clear that FSM was no prozine, I was surprised at the great bang for their penny they got and I figured I’d memorialize the zine by dredging up some old recs and mentions.

A zine I miss even more is Unlikely Story (2016-12-20). Again, I only read a couple of issues but how you make “clown fear”-themed issues and issues on bugs (and computers) and so on and make them good, I don’t know, but they were my kind of crazy.

Finally, I’ll note Cosmos (2016-03-18). Somewhat like Nature in the UK, Cosmos is an Australian science zine which brought pretty good science fiction (of a rare sort) to the web for awhile (and, unlike Nature, wasn’t limited to flash).

Who knows? Maybe if you give these zines a million hits and buy back-issues and whatnot, they’ll come back to life. And there are plenty still alive so check ’em out.

Finally, some tunes… Continue reading

McGregor’s Miscellany (2017-02-09)

No News Is Good News (for some)

The motivation for this post is to link to James Cambias’ blog post, “Where’s My Flying Journalist?”

(Don’t let my bitter cynicism dissuade you. Cambias’ much more temperate article is very good and important and worth a read so, even if you read me at all, go read him first.)

This really resonates with me after a long time searching for something that didn’t tell me about the latest car crash or Hollywood divorce but instead, gee, I dunno, the latest city council resolution or international “trade” treaty deal. And especially after everyone of every political stripe was handed a load of nonsense from all sources regarding US politics for the past couple of years.

The multimedia multinationals can make money from all kinds of things so don’t need “news” for that (though that is certainly an objective orders of magnitude more important than actual journalism). I suspect what they want to do, when not tying in to their other money-making properties, is misinform any who persist in continuing to try to educate themselves and to corral everyone into easily manipulated social media bubbles/echo chambers, many of which generate nothing but venom towards a government intended to be of, by, and for the people. A free press whose objective is genuinely to inform the public, on the one hand, and to convey its true mood, on the other, is vitally important to a healthy democracy. But a healthy democracy makes it harder for corporations to do what they want to do, which is to pile up money and power without limitation. Corporations are plutocratic oligarchies and, like Midas, would like to transmute all things into their form of gold. Free presses and essentially any other form of government, especially democratic ones, are necessarily hindrances to them.

(There’s a saying that one shouldn’t blame on malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity. So maybe the people running news organizations are stupid and, as Cambias points out, can’t come up with ideas a science fiction author can come up with after moments of casual reflection. I’m not sure that’s an “adequate” explanation, though.)

New Musical Birthday

On a happier, um, note, I’d also like to wish John Williams a belated happy birthday. File 770 reminded me he turned 85 yesterday.

Old Musical Birthday

Also, it’s been bugging me that the Elvis songs in the last Miscellany, great as they are, were kind of down, especially for a birthday (which put me more in mind of his death). To remedy that, I’ll call on uptempo Elvis himself, plus another of my favorites, The Cramps. Continue reading

Is Social Media Harming Art?

TRENT REZNOR Says Social Media Is Harming Music

“I’ve always said that what Trent really needs is a blanky and a hot chocolate with marshmallows.” —Tori Amos

Industrial music is not science fiction but the linked article is still relevant to it and this blog.

Reznor is actually conflating two unrelated points, one of which I disagree with and one of which I agree with.

The disagreement, unsurprisingly, is with the elitist idea that “people who have never made anything think it’s okay to talk shit about stuff they have no right to talk about. You got a Facebook account? Nobody gives a fuck. You haven’t achieved anything.”

I’m not aware of there being any licensing requirement for reviewing. I think anyone who invests the time, effort, and/or money in experiencing something and further time and effort to articulate their opinions and then puts themselves on the line in public to share those opinions has met all the requirements there are. Different people may do this with different degrees of “success” (however that may be defined) but the axiom that “everyone has a right to their opinion” has had a time-honored, valued place in the society Mr. Reznor and I share. While I understand he took piano lessons as a child, I’m not aware that he graduated from Juilliard so perhaps he didn’t have the right to make music in the first place? No, everyone absolutely has the right to make music, even if all they can do is bang pots and pans together. And choosing or refusing to listen and expressing an opinion on that music once listened to is also everyone’s right.

(Disclaimer, I own two Nine Inch Nails CDs, which I like okay, though I prefer my many Ministry CDs. And feel free to dismiss as self-interested my defense of reviewers. My only “right” to speak, aside from the Constitution, comes from a passion for the subject exemplified by so many years of reading that I won’t specify, so many thousands of stories and novels read that I can’t specify, and so much money spent in the process that I’d shudder to specify if I could.)

In fact, I think the sort of thing he seems to be advocating here would lead to the same problem he’s diagnosing, but in a different way. Science fiction was basically created by teenagers (as was rock and roll) and engineers and other people who had no “right” to write. It was a DIY literature that made other authors and the literary establishment cover their eyes just as Elvis made many musicians and “right-thinking people” cover their ears. I see a lot of authors reviewing each other and more and more science fiction writers who seem to have little understanding of or respect for science fiction but likely encounter it as one slice of their creative writing classes. While these people also have the “right” to write and review and critique, I think it does increase the likelihood of conflicts of interest and tends to produce an echo chamber effect, not to mention that it tends to sand off the fingerprints that uniquely identify science fiction and effectively turn it into “good literature” (i.e., tends to remove the special things science fiction excels at and reduce it to redundant and boring literature better done in other genres).

The agreement comes from seeing a mass of commentators who apparently have no knowledge of or love for the field (which may be at work in the musical field as well) but have a primarily political agenda and are terrorizing everyone into a meek conformity with their opinions. A field of wild-eyed dreams and a respect for exploring every possible idea and which exulted in having “dangerous visions” has been permeated by a vocal social pack mentality in which many thoughts may not be thought and many words may not be spoken and in which free speech, the essence of the very first item of the Bill of Rights, is not valued at all. This does indeed lead to “formulaic, made to please, vegan restaurant patron-type shit” and “an environment where people are too fuckin’ worried about what other people have to say.”

The irony of this is appalling. In realms of music which were populated by the nonconformists and outcasts and in realms of literature which were populated by the “freaks and geeks” and in realms of politics which were populated by people fighting for freedom and the right to speak your mind and do your thing and to free the oppressed… there is an increasingly restrictive prison cell of oppression in which people cannot say and do things which don’t conform to the party line. Thus, the horseshoe theory (or something much like it) is shown to be correct. And, yes, this is leading to an environment of sameness and a lack of challenging and individualistic notions. Few Princes, few Heinleins, few Asimovs, and we are all poorer for it.

McGregor’s Miscellany (2017-01-08)

A Pretty Penny

This is a featured past. The History Blog is an excellent blog and I thought I’d link to yesterday’s post: Experimental 1942 glass penny sells for $70,500.

The Foundation of Featured Futures

A belated (January 2) happy birthday to the Good Doctor, Isaac Asimov, who would be 97. This blog exists basically because his Foundation stories blew my young mind.

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King!

A timely (thanks to the reminder from File 770) happy birthday to Elvis who, amazingly, would be 82. Here’s a couple of tunes for your musical enjoyment… Continue reading

Links to Stories the Big SF/F Editors Picked As Their Favorites of 2016

The following is a list of the stories Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan have picked for their annuals that come from (or at least have) web sources. It’s arranged by the number of “votes” by our esteemed “jury,” and then alphabetical by source and story title (more or less). I hope to read as many of these as soon as I can and hope other folks will take a look, too, and let me know what they think of them.

Edit (2017-01-29): For my readings of, reactions to, and recommendations for these stories, see Reading the 2016 “Best” Stories (Part 1), (Part 2), and (Part 3/Conclusion). Stories I was particularly struck by are now in bold font.

Four Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Horton, Strahan

Three Annuals

Two Annuals

One Annual: Clarke

One Annual: Dozois

One Annual: Horton

One Annual: Strahan


Source: the File 770 ToCs mentioned in the Year’s Bests and My Recommendations post for the stories and lots of web searches for the links.

Edit: (2016-12-28) For a complete list—including print stories—which ranks by a combination of annual appearances and reviews, see 2016 Best SF/F Anthologies at Rocket Stack Rank.

Edit (2017-01-10): As promised, this has been updated with Clarke’s picks (via File 770).