When a Power List Isn’t

Lots of mail from people who are asking what my opinion is of the io9 “Power List” of science fiction, and my opinion is, basically, that it’s the sort of list you put out when it’s the end of the year, and you need a list to bring a lot of attention to your site, i.e., a list tuned more for an argument than for reason. And that’s fine; io9 needs to justify its existence to its bean-counting overlords on a daily basis, and this list does its function as an eyeball magnet.

But it doesn’t particularly mean the list is accurate, particularly when it comes to detailing who actually has power in science fiction, and ranking them accordingly. If that was indeed the intent, as the headline implies and the numbered list structure suggests, the word I’d use for the list is: laughable.

Here are who the most powerful people in science fiction actually are, in no particular order, and with the understanding this is an incomplete accounting: Dave Howe and Bonnie Hammer (Sci Fi Cable Network), Gabe Newell (Valve Software), Tom Doherty and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor Books), Avi Arad and Kevin Feige (Marvel Comics/Marvel Studio), George Lucas (George Lucas), and the various studio heads about and around Hollywood.

They are powerful because they have the ability to say “yes” — to spend money in their respective fields to get things done and also to exert influence on how those things get done and also to influence how others get things done in the future. Arguing which among these has more power is a chump bet, since “science fiction” is at the end of the day a diffuse field with lots of contingent dependencies. I could, for example, give you a cogent argument that Tom Doherty and George Lucas are equally powerful and influential in “science fiction,” but in the real world one of them is a billionaire who can pay for a series of movies and television episodes out of his own pocket, and the other one isn’t. Comparing power between the literary and cinematic arms of science fiction, if nothing else, reminds one of the very large money gap between the various media arms of science fiction. But that’s a topic for an entirely different article.

The problem with putting out a list of who is genuinely powerful in science fiction is that the list is boring because a) it’s static, since who has power won’t change wildly from year to year and b) by and large what these powerful people generally do isn’t interesting, because what they generally do is give people money and say “do that thing you do.” Bonnie Hammer has been at the head of Sci Fi in one way or another for nearly a decade; Gabe Newell has run Valve for longer than that; Tom Doherty founded Tor in 1980 and has been publisher since. So if we were to do this list annually, you’d see how little it changes, and why you might nod off writing this list, or reading it, every year. That’s not going to get eyeballs. To get eyeballs you want a touch of glamor — such as can be offered in the dorkoidial field of sf — and you want something argumentative.

And thus, we have a list that features Kanye West and his science fictional affectations as the sixth most powerful person in science fiction this year. On this, I call complete and utter bullshit. I like me some Kanye West, and as it happens, 808s and Heartbreak is a fine album. But, io9 assertions notwitstanding, West isn’t using Autotune on it because he wants to make his voice “to make his vocals sound more computery and spacey,” he’s using it because he’s a rapper, not known for holding his notes. Cher used Autotune to make her vocal sound computery and spacey; West used it because dude can’t sing.

Likewise, I think making the argument Beyonce’s cyborg hand can be credited to West’s stylings is both going to get io9 on Beyonce’s jewelry designer’s hit list, and has the stench of correlation being confused with causation. The Daily Mail rather more convincingly argues that Beyonce’s cyborg hand should be credited to Kylie Minogue, but I’m not seeing Ms. Minogue on this power list, despite her history of dressing up like der Maschinen-Mensch from Metropolis (a look which Beyonce has also borrowed). Get West to persuade Beyonce to stuff herself into a Princess Leia bikini and then we’ll talk. In any event, if the dubious ability to make Beyonce get in touch with her geek side is what it takes to be “powerful” in science fiction, we need to ask ourselves whether there’s any value to being powerful in the field. For the sake of our own dignity, let’s just say that West doesn’t qualify as powerful in science fiction.

Now, don’t you worry about poor Kanye West, stripped as he is of mighty science fictional power; rumor is, he’s doing okay for himself. But let’s not confuse a listmaker’s desire to claim a multi-platinum musical artist for the field of science fiction with that artist actually being part of the field. A science fictional stage show and vintage drum machines do not an active involvement or influence in the genre make. I mean, hell. If we’re going by sheer volume of science fiction imagery shoved down the throats of music listeners as a legitimate criterion for inclusion into the genre, we have to claim ridiculous Guitar Hero cheese-rock sensations Dragonforce long before we get to claim West.

Denuded as the list now is of legitimate claims of power rankings (and of Kanye West), we see what the list for what it really is, which is io9 saying “these are people who we think are doing cool things in or with science fiction right now.” And as that, I’m down with this list just fine; I agree with some choices and not with others, but that’s a given. I’d still ditch the numbered format, but again, it’s not my list. I’d be wary of giving the list any particular authority other than being the opinion of io9 writers, but the io9 folks are true geekoids in the best sense, so the list isn’t complete nonsense. I just think the marketing of it is silly, and strikes me as misrepresenting what the list is actually about.

What the list’s about: shoutouts, end of the year eyeball-mongering and conversation starting. Keep that in mind and we’ll all be fine.

84 Comments on “When a Power List Isn’t”

  1. O Slow Time Scalzi, luckily you are entering slow time.

    Our eyes melted at the prospect of scanning this drivel (approximately 20,000 words, give or take, was our estimate) and still, at the end, not seeing a SINGLE MENTION OF THE SOLE REASON FOR YOUR EXISTENCE, Her Glorious Shimmering Radiant Perfection.

    Keep up the good work.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  2. Music production note: Trust me, Kanye’s definitely intentionally plumped for the robot sound. It’s not hard to use Autotune or Melodyne inconspicuously; using them to create a robotic sound is always a conscious choice. If they’re used with caution by a half-competent producer, it’s hard to tell, no matter how much the singer sucks.

  3. Miko:

    I don’t have any doubt he’s making a production virtue out of what might be considered a drawback. On the other hand, obvious use of Autotune is not necessarily seen as a fault these days, either; lots of artists like the squared off sound and use it as an effect rather than as a way to hide their vocal shortcomings. And personally I think it works just fine on 808.

  4. a) Kanye isn’t trying to sound like sci-fi, he’s trying to sound like T-Pain. You know, the guy selling all the records?

    b) Dragonforce is much more fantasy-oriented, don’t you think?

    c) You want Sci-Fi and music? Try Tina Turner.

  5. How would Kanye be SciFi, referencing Daft Punk as one of the reasons, without Daft Punk being on the list. I mean, they are ROBOTS. Robots that make music.

  6. Honestly, after the slow-time announcement, I was expecting this post to be longer and posted sooner.

  7. Kanye West? The “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” guy? He does other stuff? Everything I know about his musical career I learned in the last several paragraphs.

    If you need a musical entry for the list I’d put John Williams or Danny Elfman on the list. Like the others these are people who’d sit on the list for decades. You’re looking for sci-fi audio you turn to these guys. Kanye isn’t even on the list of go-to people.

  8. I have a hard time with io9 sometimes. I think that you mentioned a while back that they were a primarily “media” (ie TV and Movie) scifi outlet whereas I get almost all my scifi fix from books.

    But sometimes there are some things in in the constant Gawker firehose that I do find informative, so I can’t completely write them off.

    Other times (like in this case) they make me want to throw my monitor through the window…

  9. Maybe when they said powerful, they meant influential? Kanye can’t green light anything, but he can influence all sorts of teeny-boppers to think robots and computery/spacey things are all sorts of cool.

  10. So Bendis and Quesada make the list for their various Marvel contributions. Considering that they’re also responsible for “Brand New Day”, can we bump them down further?

  11. Rich G:

    Then, as noted, I want to see the persuasive argument that in this regard, he’s more influential than Dragonforce, whose music is heard millions of times a day via Guitar Hero.

  12. Two points about “Cher used Autotune..”

    First, it wasn’t actually Cher who did it; her producers, Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling came up with the idea and had a rough mix of the effect done before Cher ever heard it.

    Second, it seems there’s a controversy over whether they REALLY used an Antares Auto-Tune, or it was a Digitech Talker vocoder pedal. At the time the track was released this effect was brand new and Mark and Brian wanted to keep it secret, while every recordist in the world wanted to know how to do it, so they may have spread some disinformation in media interviews. Who knows for sure?

    It was novel and effective when it was used on Believe, and has been heinously overdone since.

  13. Berry:

    “First, it wasn’t actually Cher who did it; her producers, Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling came up with the idea and had a rough mix of the effect done before Cher ever heard it.”

    Berry, you may assume that I don’t imagine that Cher sits in the producer’s chair, fiddling the knobs on her own albums. However, it’s also well know she approved of the fiddling and convinced the record company to keep the effect in. We can confidently attribute its presence on the final record to her.

  14. @scalzi:

    Millions of times every day? Guitar Hero III came out over a year ago, “Through the Fire and Flames” is an unlockable bonus level that’s incredibly hard – do you think it gets played that often?

    Kanye sold over 9 million copies of his four albums, but since the conversation is about influence, we have to count his production discography as well. That’s 86 albums and if you include albums he produced a song or two for… Kanye is easily more influential than Dragonforce.

  15. Aren’t both views too short-sighted? Obviously the money people have more influence than those who momentarily inhabit the media spotlight. In the long run, isn’t the biggest influence wielded by those with the most powerful ideas?
    Most stories with advanced robots explicitly include Asimov’s Three Laws because Asimov’s work is so deep and influential. What is being done today that will still be having an effect on the landscape of science fiction decades from now?

  16. Kanye West. Not a fan. Not since he stole my act on the cover of Rolling Stone.

    And while we’re on the subject, I have got a few bones to pick with Mel Gibson. No, not the movie, though there’s about twenty minutes in there I’d just as soon not have to watch again. It’s that whole blaming the Jews for his DUI thing. ‘Scuse me, Mel, but I’m Jewish, and if I were behind it, they’d have been extracting you and your car from the trunk of a tree.

    And Pat Robertson. WTF? I keep telling Dad “Look, just one lightning bolt while he’s walking out to the parking lot. Fun for believer and nonbeliever alike.”

    I think I’ll ask again. It is my birthday.

    BTW, do you know how much it sucks just getting one set of presents every year? Why couldn’t I have been born on Arbor Day?

  17. jemaleddin:

    “Kanye sold over 9 million copies of his four albums, but since the conversation is about influence, we have to count his production discography as well.”

    Why? Everything Kanye West touches is somehow magically science fictional? Nonsense. io9 itself if just pointing at the most recent tour and album in this regard. And if we’re going to talk numbers, I point you in the direction of Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” video, seen 23 million times on YouTube, just one of 25 DF-related videos on YouTube viewed more than a million times, including this 7-million-viewed winner. Unlike Kanye West’s fame, DragonForce’s fame, in the US at least, is derived primarily from video games and the fact it uses explicit SF/F themes in its work.

    Mind you, we’re not talking general musical influence, because, dear God, I hope Kanye West is more generally influential than DragonForce. I’m just not convinced that West is more influential in a science fictional context than this bit of cheesetastic metal, played and enjoyed sf-saturated videogamers everywhere.

  18. You want to talk about an influential rock band that is contemporary and is sci-fi, how about Muse? Mastodon? But Kanye….bleh.

  19. @scalzi:

    If we only include sci-fi influence, that’s throws out “TtFaF” altogether:

    “Fighting hard fighting on for the steel through the wastelands evermore”

    “On towards the wilderness our quest carries on”

    “I’ll break the seal of this curse if I possibly can”

    That’s fantasy, not sci-fi.

    But if you want to play it that way, Youtube’s “Kanye West Stronger Video(High Quality)” – the one that samples Daft Punk that io9 was talking about – has 42,315,370 views. And that’s not to include a) the other versions, and b) how may other videos use it as background music. How much radio play do you think “Stronger” has gotten compared to “TtFaF”? Clubs? Concerts? MTV37? Kanyeezee wins.

  20. jemaleddin:

    “If we only include sci-fi influence, that’s throws out ‘TtFaF’ altogether”

    Who says we’re doing that? io9 is including fantasy in their list: See Stephenie Meyer, Guillermo Del Toro, Jennifer Jackson, etc. If fantasy is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. “Science fiction” in this case is being used as shorthand for the entire spec-fic genre, which includes superhero stuff, etc.

    Aside from this, the number-spewing is missing the point. io9 suggests Kayne West is one of the most powerful driver of science fiction today. I’m saying: based on what? The evidence provided us is Autotune, a stage set, and an unsubstantiated association with Beyonce’s jewelry choices. This is not good evidence. The reason to say that DragonForce is arguably more influential in a science fictional context is not to start a pissing war between the Kanye and DragonForce camps, but to point out that the first assertion is ridiculous on its face.

  21. Actually, the most powerful person in SF book publishing is probably someone almost none of your readers have ever heard of: Jim Killen, SF and graphic-novels buyer for Barnes and Noble.

    You know, the largest bookstore chain in the English-speaking world.

  22. I take offense to this article. I think it is quite inappropriate to refer to Dragonforce’s music as ‘cheese-rock’.

    As a fan I feel I must point out that they are NOT cheese-rock. They are, in fact, cheese-metal. Thank you.

  23. Once again many thanks to Scalzi for introducing me to the wonders of Dragonforce. Best DnD music since ManOWar.

  24. Presumably Jim Killen would have to be a sci-fi afficionado himself, and read the stuff voraciously.

    One would hope, anyway. Fervently.

  25. @scalzi:

    “Aside from this, the number-spewing is missing the point.”

    Except that I’ve been responding specifically to your number-spewing (#15):

    “Then, as noted, I want to see the persuasive argument that in this regard, he’s more influential than Dragonforce, whose music is heard millions of times a day via Guitar Hero.”

    You can’t pose an argument and then decide that you don’t like the way it’s going and want to go back to another. (Well you can, but it’s kind of a dick move.) I’m arguing that the song io9 calls out (“his Daft Punk collaborations…” = “Stronger”) as sci-fi has been heard far more than “TtFaF”. If you don’t like that argument anymore and want to abandon it, that’s fine.

    You continued (#21):

    “I’m just not convinced that West is more influential in a science fictional context than this bit of cheesetastic metal, played and enjoyed sf-saturated videogamers everywhere.”

    Except that it is. The song they mention (“Stronger”) has gotten far more play to far more people. Be convinced. Moving on to (#25):

    “The reason to say that DragonForce is arguably more influential in a science fictional context…”

    …is, I’m guessing, that you want to be incorrect. No offense (really – I know a lot of people that say that and don’t mean it, but I actually do), but living out in the sticks and being exposed to pop culture primarily through the web (and the geek-centered filter that it provides) I can see why you’d think that DF is a larger factor, but they’re tiny in comparison to just the sliver of Kanye’s work that relates (however slightly) to sci-fi. Really.

    Also, I’m not in a Kanye camp or a DF camp. I’m not arguing with you because I like Kanye. (I don’t like much of his recent work – including “Stronger.”) I’m arguing with you because you said something factually incorrect and asked for someone to persuade you that it wasn’t true. Turns out it isn’t. :-)

  26. Jemaleddin: Millions of times every day? Guitar Hero III came out over a year ago, “Through the Fire and Flames” is an unlockable bonus level that’s incredibly hard – do you think it gets played that often?

    Okay, this is anecdotal evidence, but I almost always finish off my Guitar Hero “sessions” with FTFAF because it kills my hand but I still love it. I suck at it, so I do it on practice mode, sometimes twice in a row if I’m in the right mood. Yes, it gets played all the damned time.

    Also, who the fuck is Kanye West?

    /Genetically predisposed to listen to Dragonforce rather than Kanye West.

  27. Actually, the page in question doesn’t say ‘most powerful’ anywhere; it says ‘biggest movers and shakers’. I don’t think this is quite the same thing; it suggests to me people who actually initiate changes, rather than those who hold the keys, though there’s an obvious sense in which the latter are more powerful.

  28. JC@20: Why couldn’t I have been born on Arbor Day?

    Who says you weren’t?

    The Bible itself tells us that December 25 is an unlikely date for His birth. Palestine is very cold in December. It was much too cold to ask everyone to travel to the city of their fathers to register for taxes. Also the shepherds were in the fields (Luke 2:8-12). Shepherds were not in the fields in the winter time. They are in the fields early in March until early October. This would place Jesus’ birth in the spring or early fall. It is also known that Jesus lived for 33.5 years and died at the feast of the Passover, which is at Easter time. He must therefore have been born six months the other side of Easter – making the date around the September/October time frames.

  29. Jemaleddin, I suspect John thinks Dragonforce is more in-tune with scifi geeks than Kanye simply because Dragonforce’s audience (at least in the US) stems from Guitar Hero III, whereas Kanye is much more mainstream (or so hear; I wouldn’t recognize the guy if I hit him with a shoe). He may have 5 times the hits on Youtube, but I’m guessing the majority of his audience was introduced to him by the radio and not a video game. Like a lot of people, I associate DF with GHIII, which at least is strongly geeky if not downright scifi-y.

  30. No one’s commented on the idea of Beyonce stuffed into the Princess Leia bikini? That would be fwap-tacular! Links, please.

  31. PNH & John: While interesting that the Sci-Fi book buyer at B&N is powerful, his choices are blowing, as recently I’ve watched actual novels and story collections lose shelf space in favor of expanded Manga and comic book “graphic novels” which in most of those cases I already bought issue by issue instead of combined and bound in a “Vol 1” setting. Also movie and tv tie in novelization far outstrip space from authors.
    But I’m WAYYY off topic…..

  32. Jemaleddin:

    How dare you argue with me! Back to your hole!

    I’ll retract the “millions of times a day” remark; it’s probably hyperbolic. But I suspect very strongly that the particular DragonForce song under discussion is played rather more frequently and intently than you might imagine, since the sort of person who unlocks it is going to try to master that puppy, and I very strongly suspect the person who masters Guitar Hero is also generally the same demographic open to SF/F in a general.

    But this still doesn’t invalidate my contention that DragonForce is arguably more influential or “powerful” in SF than Kanye West. Being played more generally doesn’t mean a piece of work is more influential in a specific way. To use another music analogy, the Ohio Express sold more albums in the late 60s and early 70s than The Velvet Underground, but there’s no doubt which is the more influential band. The joke about VU is that they only sold 5,000 records, but everyone who bought a record started a band. Influence and power in a specific field is not necessarily congruent to general sales.

    (this is NOT me suggesting DragonForce is VU. Good God, no.)

    If Kanye West’s music is being seen and listened to by people who don’t care about SF and aren’t inclined to be interested in it, then it’s not influential in that direction. Likewise, if West’s sf-derived vision extends only to a stage show and and production effects, it’s not influential in an SF way — or no more than a very popular cheesemetal band is, when that band explicitly uses sf/f themes in their music and presentation, and uses videogames (i.e., the hottest current media for music exposure) to get their music across, to a group of listeners/players who are more likely to be receptive to sf/f themes.

    So, no, still not convinced that Kanye’s got one over DragonForce. Sorry.

    Also bear in mind, if it wasn’t clear before, that I don’t think either is particularly influential in an SF context; I really don’t. Neither of them would make my top 50 of influential/powerful in SF. I’m not saying replace Kanye on the list with DragonForce; I’m saying take him off the list.

    As an aside, Jemaleddin, re: “living out in the sticks and being exposed to pop culture primarily through the web,” I’ve been writing professionally and rather profitably about music and video games and science fiction and movies and books and pop culture in general for 18 years now, and out here in the sticks, we still have access to all sorts of media besides the intertubes. One of the reasons I can live out here in the sticks is because I can and do write knowledgeably about the world for all sorts of clients and media. It’s one of the reasons I indeed offer the argument that I have, because I know the reach and influence of these various media as a matter of professional course.

    So the next time you try to make a condescending comment on that line of things, please do keep that in mind. It will help me to resist the temptation to tell you to take your snark and shove it up your ass. I don’t mind you suggesting my argument is wrong, since I make bad arguments from time to time, and this could be one of them. I do mind you suggesting my argument is wrong because apparently you think you live closer to a Hot Topic store than I do, and thereby know more on the subject. I suspect you didn’t mean to hit one of my buttons there, but you have, so there it is.

  33. John 1: As an aside, I’d just like to say that if you’re watching this and your first thought is, “Wow, Beyonce’s got a cyborg hand,” you are full of EPIC FAIL. That is all.

    I disagree. The hand is by far the most interesting (or, more accurately, least boring) thing about that video. And that ain’t no cyborg hand; it’s just truly excessive hand-bling.

  34. (For new readers: that’s gay man snark there in 44. I don’t happen to agree that a combination of a. not being into women’s bodies, b. not being into unimaginative look-at-my-tits slut dancing, and c. not liking that song or even Beyonce’s music in general add up to EPIC FAIL. )

  35. Go on. Shove your sexuality into everyone’s faces. I would. If the judge hadn’t told me to stop.

    When it comes to musicians and Sci-Fi, I’d have to rate Marty O’Donnel as being hugely important for his stonkingly war-mongous Halo soundtracks. But then I go to things like Video Games Live, so I’m probably biased. Actually, I go to Commodore 64 live concerts (yes, they exist), so I probably need professional help.

  36. I’m supposed to figure out which part of her boringly-gyrating bod you’re drooling over? Guess I take an EPIC FAIL on that.

    But I’ll stop snarking if you’ll admit that anyone who spends the playtime of this video looking at Jake’s eyebrow piercing is full of EPIC FAIL. (I don’t mean to imply that you want me to stop snarking, just setting up the conditions. Of course, if you give me a “move on” order I will comply as well.)

  37. @scalzi,

    “I’ll retract the “millions of times a day” remark; it’s probably hyperbolic.”


    “Likewise, if West’s sf-derived vision extends only to a stage show and and production effects, it’s not influential in an SF way”

    But if those are genuine SF elements (I’m not arguing it – io9 is) that are being presented to a much larger audience that isn’t already into SF – and in the context of “what’s cool” from one of the biggest taste-makers in the world – I think that’s still a bigger effect. Because this:

    “people who don’t care about SF….listeners/players who are more likely to be receptive to sf/f themes.”

    …confuses me. Are you arguing that it only counts as SF influence if you’re reaching people who are already into SF? Wha? I’m so confused.

    “(this is NOT me suggesting DragonForce is VU. Good God, no.)”

    Good – that will get you slapped pretty much anywhere in the world outside of DF’s parents’ houses. Except the Li’s – his parents are HUGE VU fans.

    “So the next time you try to make a condescending comment on that line of things”

    I wasn’t trying to be condescending – and I stated that pretty clearly, I thought. I grew up in Ironwood Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, a land that makes rural Ohio look positively cosmopolitan. I know from the sticks, okay? I don’t think of “the sticks” as a pejorative. I have sticks “cred.” We had FEWER stump-jumpers, clod-kickers and sap-suckers per square mile than you do. And growing up a punk fan in the U.P., I think I have some experience with trying to reach out to the larger culture from a rural area.

    “we still have access to all sorts of media besides the intertubes.”

    Indeed – I’ve been to rural Borders and they have the same magazines as anywhere. And I’ve seen cable in the stick – same channels. But are you telling me that you watch a lot of TRL? (Trick question, it was canceled.) More broadly, are you watching what the kids are watching? Reading what the kids are reading? Do you attend a lot of Beyonce shows to judge the effect of her staging on the audience? Cause I’m not buying it. I think that in addition to living in the sticks (look! I said it again!), you’re also a geek (gasp!) and even though your an information sponge like the rest of us geeks, you’re still focusing your suction more on the areas that interest you. You’re not going to argue against that, are you?

    And are you arguing that the majority of your pop culture info DOESN’T come from the web? Are you secretly a couch potato, John? Are you sneaking away from Whatever to watch “your shows”?

  38. “I wasn’t trying to be condescending – and I stated that pretty clearly, I thought.”

    Well, I know you weren’t trying to be, but lots of people don’t try to be condescending and end up that way anyway.

    And yes, as it happens, I have quite the voracious media appetite, both from personal and professional inclinations, which means I do rather a lot of sampling and tracking of stuff I don’t personally have an inclination for (or more specifically, that I don’t imagine I have an inclination for, because sometimes I surprise myself). I certainly have my interests, but I also find, professionally and personally, that there are benefits to keeping engaged on all the pop culture, often involving a paycheck sent to me in the mail. I do think people who know me primarily from here and/or the novels forget (or just may not know) that I have an entirely different professional life as well.

    So: Lots of books, magazines, tv, movies, concerts, videogames and etc. Much of it, thank God, sent to me by PR folks, so I don’t have to pay for it. As regards concerts, not nearly as many as I went to when I was reviewing them nearly every night (wear earplugs, kids). But, no. I don’t get everything from the online world. It just looks that way on the other end. So, yeah, it does take some doing to get something past me, culturally. Not impossible, just difficult.

  39. Okay. Who got something part Scalzi? Is it genetically stable? Does it have typing tendrils?

    Has it gained oxygen?

  40. Oh, apropos to the latest response to Jemaleddin, I should note knowing about stuff doesn’t mean caring about it on a personal level. I wouldn’t say most of what’s gone on, say, MTV since 1996 or so matters to me. But I know to whom it matters and why, which is useful.

  41. A YOOPER! John, there’s a real Yooper here!!!

    And a Yooper punk fan, which really implies survival skills. Wow.

    (Xopher is from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, which is never, ever called “the LP” for some reason, even by Yoopers, nor are the inhabitants called “Elpers” or anything like that as far as I know.)

  42. Aw, John, you got all caught up in talking to the Yooper jemaleddin and missed my challenge to you, currently comment #48.

    Or ignored it. Which it probably deserved. But it’s making me all sad. See how sad I am: :’-(

  43. “Her skin is tender as Beyoncé’s glove;
    Her skin is tender as Beyoncé’s glove.
    Her skin is tender as Beyoncé’s glove—
    Now ain’t that too damned bad!”

  44. When I saw the pic you linked of Beyonce compared to Kylie Minogue’s robot costumes, I thought not as much of Metropolis or Soryama, but of MW Kaluta’s Starstruck — if he wasn’t paid for the design of Beyonce’s outfit, he really should be.

  45. Well, I found their list startling because one of the people on it was in my living room yesterday.


  46. Xopher @56: I have it on good authority, i.e., actual Yoopers, that folks from the L.P. are referred to as “trolls.” Because you guys live under the [Mackinac] Bridge.

  47. watercolor: Amen. If you can’t sing, you shouldn’t be making a living by singing. Yeesh. And it’s so transparent that so many acts are using it these days, even when they try to hide it.

    Also: what is up with Kanye’s clothes in the pic at the head of this article? Is it the mid 80s again? Nice sweater, Cosby. :-P

  48. I wish they hadn’t called it a “Power List,” and I rolled my eyes at a couple of the people they included (pretty much meaning Kanye and Beyonce), but it was still nice to see a few people who aren’t regulars on lists like that get some recognition.

  49. And, all snark aside, after hearing Kanye singing on SNL, I have to say that man really needs his Autotune. I mean even I can hold a tune better then that and that ain’t saying much. Of course if I was on SNL I’d be so damned nervous I probably wouldn’t even get out a note but even so . . .

  50. Hey thanks for the thoughtful response! Actually, I agree with a lot of your choices for who could/should have been on our list… to be honest, pretty much all of those people were on the “long list,” including Bonnie Hammer, PNH/Tom Doherty, Gabe Newell and George Lucas. We actually did include Kevin Feige, I think. We ended up voting on final inclusions in the list, and I think there was a desire to include people who were provocative and “new,” because as you point out, power is a fairly static thing from year to year. In any case, a list like that is just a starting point for discussion, and I’m glad we’re sparking some. Thanks again!

  51. I keep trying to criticise Lucas because I really didn’t like the SW Prequels. Then I run face-first into my own ideology – just because I saw and adored ANH, ESB and ROtJ when I was a lad does not give me ownership of them in any way. Lucas was entitled to make whichever films he gorram liked in his ‘verse, and if I don’t like ’em, then all I can do is not watch ’em and not buy the merch.

    Take that, George! You’ve failed to sell me a lunchbox. Rue the day! Rue it up but good! Make with the rueing!

    Somehow, I don’t think he’s getting all rueful right now. Ah, well. We’ll all survive this somehow.

  52. God dammit, two-thirds of that list is NOT SCIENCE FICTION.

    Sometime in the last ten years the media decided that “sci-fi” was a word meaning “things geeks like”, and it’s driving me insane.

  53. MarkHB,

    Frankly, I hope Lucas realizes — before he dies — what a trio of colossal clusterfucks the prequels are.

    He should have farmed the entire prequel project out to real writers and real directors. George stopped being either of these decades ago, and became, at best, a marvelously rich creative producer.

    Alas, the prequels are what they are, and are ruinous (IMHO) for Star Wars.

  54. Sub-Odeon,

    Couldn’t agree more. They suck balls – and not clean ones, either. But in terms of “should have” – well, they were his to fuck up. That’s what I mean. I feel my anger for Rick Berman is far more justified – turning Star Trek into a largely-dystopian future of holodecks, reset-button time-travel and tripe was a horrible thing to do to Roddenberry’s legacy. He didn’t own it, didn’t make itup in the first place, just ruined it. Ol’ George at least made up the initial universe, so he can replace Luke Skywalker with a CG Ewok if he so chooses, and the only valid response is to not buy the lunchbox.

    Phasma Felis: Yes. As far as my local bookstores go, “Sci fi” seems to mean everything Terry Pratchett ever wrote, seventeen reprints of Lord of the Rings, the bastardised version of “I, Robot” (Oh so stabby. So very, very stabby (see “ownership and ruin” above)), one Heinlein, two Asmiovs and an out of date “Best New SF”. If it’s got a sword, a bow or a dragon in it, it’s generally not SF (unless it’s All the Weyrs of Pern). Harry Potter is not SF. Lord of the Rings is not SF. And as much as I love Pterry, he wrote a little bit of SF a long, long time ago and apparently thought it tasted funny.

    At this rate, to see more SF on the shelf I’m going to have to bloody well write it myself. And nobody wants that. I have to live with this imagination, I know what’s in it.

  55. On the general subject of SF in music. If you don’t know who the Epoxies are you want to solve that problem. Like now.

    Stop The Future is a wonderfully dystopian vision set to some really awesome new wave/post punk. And the self titled album is nearly that cool. Linking to We’re So Small a love song set at the start of a nuclear war. Pure Win.

  56. But not the Berry in #16.

    Okay, so Beyonce has a cyborg hand. Yes, that’s pretty cool.

    Kanye . . . I likes me some Kanye West, but I agree with earlier posts re: how much Autotune helps the guy.

    And 808s and Heartbreak is definitely on the To Buy list.

  57. ytimynonaon I love how George Lucas needs no explanation.

    I love how George Lucas’s explanation was simply (George Lucas), which was much funnier than simply not giving him a parenthetical at all. And that kind of humor is why I find both John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton hilarious.

  58. MarkHB@74: As much as some people hate the big-box booksellers, I have to say the Borders I go to has three full cases of SF/F selections, split about 50% SF and 50% F. (And when I say cases, I mean 6’x20′ each.) Yes, it has Terry Pratchett and Tolkien, but it also has plenty of SF writers, new and old.

    Then there is the YA SF/F section that is by itself another ~8’x16′ bookcase.

  59. It’s long past the sell-by date to actually respond, but oh well…

    Arguing that Kanye is more influential than, say, Dragonforce is actually fairly easy. Kanye is a gateway drug. He uses light sf elements and gives them an imprimatur or veneer of cool for his legions of teenyboppers and sorority girls who might, as a result, take a step past Hello Kitty kawaii and move on to the hardcore limited edition robot figurines and anime-based zipper pulls. Those blessed few who master TTFAF are likely already members of hardcore geekdom, or are just obsessive Guitar Heros who wouldn’t bother listening to Dragonforce on their iPods but relish the challenge represented by the song. I’d imagine album sales numbers and demographics would bear this theory out.

    Of course, with all the sf sub-genres and species, Kanye’s brand of sf, and that which his fans will pick up on, is going to be far different than the type consumed by your average uber-geek. Perhaps that’s lending to the confusion and debate here.

    I’m not actually a Kanye fan, but I loves me a good argument

  60. John H @ 78,

    I’m exaggerating to an extent as my local Waterstones appears to actually Have A Clue. I’m still reeling, though, because there had been a dedicated sci-fi bookstore (The Friar Street Bookshop) scant minutes from my front door. It’s closure just makes itseem like a wall of Pratchett, screenplay novels, every other Terry Brooks ever written et cetera. I did score two Charlie Stross novels and a Sean Williams there today, and they do have a relatively decent selection. Maybe I’m just strossed out. Aha.

  61. Phasma Felis@72: I don’t think ‘Things geeks like’ can be quite right; the name on that list which leaps out to me as non-science-fictional is Stephenie Meyer, and I don’t think geeks like her work particularly. I agree with Scalzi@25; they mean ‘speculative fiction’. It would be nice if more people used that expression, but it has a lot of syllables.

  62. I’m appalled that no “power list” of influential figures in scifi ever has Shotaro Ishinomori.

    Honestly, the guy created Cyborg 009 and Kaiketsu Zubat. Those are entirely worthy in themselves, but shall I further point out his most enduring creations, one of which is virtually unknown here in the West, but everyone has seen (perhaps unwillingly) what became of his other work.

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

  63. My question is how are they defining power? Yes, Stephanie Meyer has made a lot of money, but does she really have power in the SF industry?

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