Pixel Scroll 1/16/22 I Hereby Dub The Current Dominant Genre (Whatever It May Be) Punky McPunkcore

(1) WOLVERTON FAMILY GOFUNDME. Following the death of Dave Wolverton, Dave’s family and friends are raising money on GoFundMe for his funeral and the family’s expenses. Here’s the link: “Please Help the Family of Dave Wolverton-Farland”.

David Doering also reports, “Spencer [Wolverton] called me to say his dad’s service will be this coming Friday, January 21, at 11 a.m. MST in St. George, Utah. There will be a link posted broadcasting the event for those who cannot attend.” 

(2) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open and will continue until February 12.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)

(3) REH AWARDS. Nominations for the 2022 Robert E. Howard Awards are open and will continue through January 31. You do not have to currently be a member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation to send in nominees at this stage of the process. However, the Final ballot will only be sent out to current Robert E. Howard Foundation members (members who have paid dues for the year 2022). That ballot will be released on February 15. See the link for the complete guidelines.

(4) HOWARD’S HOME ON THE RANGE. For more Robert E. Howard related content, The Cromcast has put a whole bunch of videos of the 2021 Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, on their YouTube channel here.

(5) CAUCUS RACE. On the third day, they squeed again: Simon McNeil picks up the baton with “Notes on Squeecore”.

…Now here I want to pause on one of the points the Rite Gud podcast were clear on here that, within their Squeecore definition it was not sufficient that a work be discursive so much as that a work must insist that its discursive element be seen and I think this is where Redshirts becomes a valuable point of discussion. Absolutely nobody is suggesting that the idea of disposable, red-shirted, extras on Star Trek was somehow unexplored prior to 2012. However Redshirts did a lot to foreground this through its fourth-wall-breaking conclusion. Now me? I like a fourth-wall break when it’s well executed and I think it was well executed in Redshirts. This essay should not be seen as an attempt to bury John Scalzi. But regardless of where we stand on matters of taste regarding the literary device or where we stand on the quality of execution of the device in this case, it still holds that this execution, in this story, served to underline the discursive elements of Redshirts such that it insisted the audience engage with them. It wasn’t sufficient to construct a funhouse mirror reflection of the Gothic as Peake did in his Gormenghast books, nor to interrogate the cultural assumptions of a genre as Pratchett did with classic British fantasy in his early Discworld novels – both of these were deconstructive works but neither, especially not Peake, felt much need to insist that the audience acknowledge that a deconstruction was in progress. But Scalzi had his characters literally escape from their work of fiction to plead for consideration from their own fictive creators. This is not a subtle work of deconstruction….

(6) SPSFC INSIDER. Alex Hormann of Boundary’s Edge shares what it’s like to be a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition judge so far: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Personal Thoughts”.

Thought #2: The 20% Rule

Generally speaking, I don’t DNF books. Even if I’m not enjoying a book, I push through to the end in the hopes of salvaging something from my investment. With the SPSFC, we had to read the opening 20% and decide if we should continue. This was a very different experience for me, and I’m still not sure if it was helpful. On the one hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what a book will be like from that sample. But on the other, you’re essentially reading an introduction with none of the payoff. There were some books that I knew within the first couple of pages that I wasn’t going to enjoy, almost always for stylistic or formatting reasons. Others proved to be strong enough in the opening chapters that they progressed further, only to lose my interest further on. I can’t help but wonder if those books I voted not to continue became something wonderful later on. And there was a book that made it through with a very strong start that completely lost me with its final chapters. This was also the stage of the competition where a book needed a majority vote to progress further. With only three judges, only two Yes votes were required, meaning we ended up with eleven books meeting the criteria. I don’t think letting an extra book slip through the cuts phase did any real harm to our allocation, but it did mean a little extra work in the next phase. Of the eleven that made it through, I had voted to continue with seven of them, and had voted for two more that ultimately failed to make the cut.

(7) ANSWER KEY. Here are Rich Horton’s “Answers to BIPOC SF/Fantasy Quiz” from Strange at Ecbatan.

1. Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed director of Selma, became the first Black woman to direct a live action feature with over a $100,000,000 budget with which 2018 film, an adaptation of a beloved Newbery Award winner?

Answer: A Wrinkle in Time

(8) SEE GERMANY’S BIGGEST SFF LIBRARY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer Maja Ilisch reports about a visit to the Phantastische Bibliothek in Wetzlar, Germany’s biggest SFF specialty library. The post is in German, but there are photos: “Allein unter Büchern”.

(9) BILL WRIGHT (1937-2022). Australian fan Bill Wright died January 16. Bill was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob. He served as awards administrator for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He was secretary for the first Aussiecon in 1975 and helped organize the Bring Bruce Bayside Fan Fund in 2004. Bill was a Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. One of his fanzines with an international following was Interstellar Ramjet Scoop.

In 2013 at the age of 76 he was voted the Down Under Fan Fund delegate. Bill was honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award in 2017.

(And I was always in Bill’s debt for introducing me to Foster’s Lager when he and Robin Johnson were at L.A.Con I to promote the first Australian Worldcon bid.)

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  “Coffee – the finest organic suspension ever devised. It’s got me through the worst of the last three years. I beat the Borg with it.” — Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Hunters”. 

On this evening twenty-seven years ago on UPN, Star Trek: Voyager premiered. The fourth spinoff from the original series after the animated series, the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, it featured the first female commander in the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. 

It was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor. Berman served as head executive producer, assisted by a series of executive proucers — Piller, Taylor, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller. Of those, Braga is still the most active with work on The Orville.

It ran for seven seasons  and one seventy-two episodes. Four episodes, “Caretaker”, “Dark Frontier”, “Flesh and Blood” and “Endgame” originally aired as ninety minute episodes. 

Of the series, and not at all surprisingly, Voyager gets the highest Bechdel test rating. Oh, and that quote I start this piece with in 2015, was tweeted by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti International Space Station when they were having a coffee delivery. She was wearing a Trek uniform when she did so.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death.  (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly only in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 74. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 52. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 48. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 36. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. “Video game preservation is complicated, both legally and technically” – the Washington Post tells about the challenges.

…A 2018 report by the Association of Research Libraries found that archivists are “frustrated and deeply concerned” regarding copyright policies related to software, and they charge the current legal environment of “imperiling the future of digital memory.” The obstacles archivists face range from legal restrictions around intellectual property to the technological challenges of obtaining or re-creating versions of the various consoles, computers and servers required to play various titles published over the years. Not only must the games be preserved, they also need to be playable, a quandary akin to needing a record player to listen to a rare vinyl album.

However, the legal hurdle to their research — chiefly, risking infringing on the copyrights of multibillion-dollar companies — remains the biggest for preservationists seeking access to games for academic research….

(15) SUPERNATURAL SUPERHIGHWAY. Paul Weimer shares his take about “Tim Powers’ Alternate Routes at A Green Man Review.

…Writing abouit supernatural doings in Southern California is nothing new for Powers, but this novel felt and reads distinctly different than his previous novels set in Southern California and wrapping around supernatural doings, but not always to its benefit. A Tim Powers novel for me is one with magic beneath the surface of our ordinary world that a few people can access. This often ties into a Secret History of events that we think we know, but we really don’t know the full story until Powers comes along. Characters with hidden motivations that make sense only in the denouement.. Lush use of setting and place. Tricks with time, character and perspective. Tim Powers work isn’t as byzantine as, say, Gene Wolfe, but paying attention and reading closely are absolute musts to figure out what is going on.

Alternate Routes has some of these but not as many as one might expect from a Tim Powers novel. For lack of a better phrase, Alternate Routes reads in a much more straightforward fashion, plot wise, than the typical Powers novel….

(16) WHAM! Meanwhile, back at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer brings us up to speed about the second book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Chaos Vector by Megan O’Keefe”.

…Velocity Weapon tells a twisty story where Sanda is lied to and tricked by an AI on an enemy warship, and Biran desperately seeks political power for, primarily, finding out what has happened to his sister. The novel was particularly potent for a “Wham! moment” where Sanda’s understanding of what was happening to her, and why, turned out to be far far different than she knew.

Now, with a solar system seething with potential conflict, Sanda free of her captivity, and Biran in a position of power within the Keepers, Chaos Vector continues the story of these two siblings as revelations and conflicts from the first novel start to manifest…as well as new mysteries, and yes, new wham moments!

(17) VOX PLONKS HIS MAGIC TWANGER. Brian Z. asks, “Is it official puppy news when Scott Adams calls VD his mascot?” Oh, no – he’s going to sing!

(18) OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE. I’m not a big game-player, so I’m glad to have Joe DelFranco tell me what made It Takes Two a prize-winning game: “Microreview [Video Game]: It Takes Two by Hazelight Studios”.  

The Game Awards Game of the Year winner, It Takes Two, asks two players to come together to repair an ailing marriage. In many relationships, poor communication causes the initial bond between partners to break down. Therein lies the crux of the conflict with It Takes Two. Cody and May, fed-up with their relationship, cause their daughter Rose much distress. Rose consults Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love to help bring them back together. With her tears, she binds her parent’s souls into two wooden dolls. Now it’s up to the players to help the protagonists get out of this mess and back to their bodies….

(19) PREDICTING PARENTHOOD. “Futurist Amy Webb has predictions on 5G, the metaverse, creating babies and a host of other bold topics” in the Washington Post.

S.Z.: Reading your book it feels like you have an almost philosophical belief that people should overhaul what they think about how humans are created. If synthetic biology can deliver on some of these promises — if it removes any age restriction on egg fertilization, say, or if embryos can be gestated outside a human body — what do these changes do to us as a society? Do they alter it fundamentally?

A.W.: The thing is we never stopped and asked how we got to this point. Until now a baby was a man and a woman and having the structures to be in place for that to happen. And now synthetic biology is giving us other options. Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby. Why would we close ourselves off to those possibilities?

(20) THERPEUTIC CREDENTIALS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Be sure to check out the link on the fur color of your cat and the supernatural! “Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You” reports MSN.com. Hope that all in your household, including the unmasked four-pawed mammals, are staying Safe and Well.

1. Owning a cat can actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

According to an impressive 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death by heart attack than those who didn’t have a feline companion.

Participants had a lower heart rate, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Dr Adnan Qureshi, senior author of the study, said, “For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.”

(21) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. “Oldest remains of modern humans are much older than thought, researchers say”Yahoo! outlines the discovery.

Some of the oldest remains of modern humans in the world are much older than scientists thought.

The remains, known as Omo I, were found in southwest Ethiopia in the late 1960s. The bone and skull fragments researchers discovered were some of the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens.

Initial research suggested they were nearly 200,000 years old, but new research shows the remains are at least 230,000 years old.  The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday

(22) PROLIFERATING PRESIDENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Last night Saturday Night Live began with a cold open in which President Biden blamed the Omicron outbreak on people buying tickets to Spider-Man and we found out that we actually don’t live in the real universe but rather one started as a joke by having the Cubs win the World Series. You know, that last bit makes some sense.

[Thanks to JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., Jeffrey Smith, Bill, David Doering, John A. Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Chicon 8 Opens 2022 Hugo Nominations

Chicon 8 has announced that nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards are now open, as are nominations for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Nominatons will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT, UTC-7) on March 15, 2022.

All DisCon III members and Chicon 8 members who are registered before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST, UTC-8) January 31, 2022, are eligible to nominate.

Instructions for accessing the online nominating form have been sent to eligible members via e-mail.

Worldcon members who are uncertain of their status or who experience problems with the online nominating form should contact hugo-help@chicon8.org.

The Hugo Awards were first presented in 1953 and have been awarded annually since 1955. Members of the Worldcon vote on them for the given year, while the sitting Worldcon is responsible for administering them.

As permitted under the rules, the Chicon 8 Committee has irrevocably delegated all Hugo Award Administration authority to a subcommittee. Therefore, Kat Jones, Jesi Lipp, Brian Nisbet, and Nicholas Whyte are ineligible for 2022 Hugo Awards. Any other member of the committee remains eligible.

Complete information about the nominating process is available at Hugo Awards – Chicon 8.

SF Artist Also Part of Team Making Scientific Discovery

Artist and fan Autun Purser is part of the team to discover a vast icefish breeding colony in the Antarctic. Video abstract and more details below at Science Direct.

Autun, who lives in Bremen, is a regular at SF conventions and his artwork has adorned book covers and fanzine covers.

Together with Laura Hehemann, Mia Wege, Florian Koch, Jenna Balaguer and many morr researchers, they published their paper on the most extensive fish nesting colony thus far discovered on Earth, at 500m depth below the Weddell Sea.

Summary

A breeding colony of notothenioid icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah, Nybelin 1947) of globally unprecedented extent has been discovered in the southern Weddell Sea, Antarctica. The colony was estimated to cover at least ?240 km2 of the eastern flank of the Filchner Trough, comprised of fish nests at a density of 0.26 nests per square meter, representing an estimated total of ?60 million active nests and associated fish biomass of >60,000 tonnes. The majority of nests were each occupied by 1 adult fish guarding 1,735 eggs (±433 SD). Bottom water temperatures measured across the nesting colony were up to 2°C warmer than the surrounding bottom waters, indicating a spatial correlation between the modified Warm Deep Water (mWDW) upflow onto the Weddell Shelf and the active nesting area. Historical and concurrently collected seal movement data indicate that this concentrated fish biomass may be utilized by predators such as Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii, Lesson 1826). Numerous degraded fish carcasses within and near the nesting colony suggest that, in death as well as life, these fish provide input for local food webs and influence local biogeochemical processing. To our knowledge, the area surveyed harbors the most spatially expansive continuous fish breeding colony discovered to date globally at any depth, as well as an exceptionally high Antarctic seafloor biomass. This discovery provides support for the establishment of a regional marine protected area in the Southern Ocean under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) umbrella.

Autun Purser says, “I called this site ‘metropole’ after the hotel in Roadside Picnic – I look at many of these sites like locations of real alien life… Lem knew what he was talking about with the difficulties in understanding unusual life!”

[Thanks to James Bacon for the story. Art used by permission.]

2022 D.I.C.E. Awards Finalists

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) announced the nominees for its 25th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards on January 13. Finalists for the top honor, Game of the Year, are: Deathloop, Inscryption, It Takes Two, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Returnal

The peer-juried video game award winners will be revealed February 24 at a ceremony in Las Vegas. 

Fifty-nine games released in 2021 received nominations. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart leads the pack with nine nominations, followed by Deathloop with eight. Tying for six nominations each are Inscryption and It Takes Two, with Returnal earning five, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Resident Evil Village each taking four.

The complete list of finalists follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/15/22 Pixelpunk Scrollcore

(1) SEND ME IN, COACH. Continuing yesterday’s “squeecore” discussion — John Scalzi is happy to be in the conversation anytime, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the point he’s being used to illustrate. “Portrait of the Author As a Component of a ‘Punk-Or-Core’ Formulation” at Whatever. (Running the tweet, too, because I love the graphic.)

… My canal, as it turns out, runs across a lot of thematic ground, and does a fair amount of intersecting. Some of that is by design, since I am easily bored, as a human and a writer, and like to splash around in new places. Some of that is just following the lay of the land. At the end of the day, however, it means that depending one’s inclinations and rhetorical needs, and contingent on examples, I can be grouped in with the gun-humping dudes who write military science fiction, or the woke SJW scolds who are currently ruining the Hugos, or pretty much wherever else you need me to go to make your point.

And at least superficially you won’t be wrong. I mean, I did write that story that you’re pointing to, and it does exist in that sphere, and I’m not sorry I wrote that thing, and may write a thing like it again, if I have a mind to. But I suspect on a deeper level — the level that actually makes your point something more than a facile, half-baked thesis to burble out onto a blog post or podcast because content content content — using me as an example is not hugely useful….

(2) HER MILEAGE VARIED. Cora Buhlert also shared her thoughts about Rite Gud’s “squeecore” podcast and Camestros Felapton’s post in response: “Science Fiction Is Never Evenly Distributed”.

… The podcasters are not wrong, cause all of these trends definitely exist in current SFF, though they’re not one unifying trend, but several different trends. Uplifting and upbeat SFF is certainly a trend and it already has a name that is much less derogatory than “squeecore”, namely hopepunk. Reader-insert characters and a video-game/RPG feel is a trend as well and there is a term or rather two for it, namely LitRPG and gamelit.

I agree that there is a strong influence of YA fiction and a tendency to show younger characters gaining skills rather than being already fully developed in contemporary SFF, but that’s the result of the YA SFF boom of the past twenty-five years, which served as a gateway to the genre for countless readers….

As I explained in this postGalactic Journey is very good at showing how different trends as well as older and newer forms of SFF coexist in the same period, because we try to cover everything and not just the cherry-picked examples that later eras choose to remember.

Also, quite often works are shoehorned into a trend, because they vaguely match some characteristics thereof and came out around the same time, even though they don’t really fit. The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey are a good example. They are often shoehorned into the 2010s space opera revival, even though The Expanse has nothing in common with the likes of the Imperial Radch trilogy, the Paradox trilogy, the Hexarchate series or A Memory Called Empire beyond being set in space. Meanwhile, The Expanse draws heavily on mundane science fiction (a movement that never really got beyond its manifesto), Cyberpunk, golden age science fiction and the 1990s “cast of thousands/everybody and the dog gets a POV” style of SFF epics that never got a name, even though it was very much a thing and still lingers on….

(3) STILL WRESTLING WITH AMAZON. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook followers that he heard from Amazon KDP again. And he posted more screencaps of his correspondence with them.

Some more updates on the Amazon KDP fiasco, they called me again yesterday, to explain why I can’t edit my banking details. Must have seen my tweet on it. They said it’s a security issue. And offered some more assistance in replacing it and ensuring I can get the royalties.

On another note, though related, I’m trying to use the account of a friend that was in the US because well, they don’t accept Nigerian bank accounts. I was using Payoneer, a service that mimics US bank accounts and essentially reads as if you are in the US. It’s legit btw, and accepted by Amazon. I’m pointing this out because a number of people latched on to this when I mentioned it, amongst the methods I use to get past through these restrictions. They said oh yes see, it’s your fault. One of those methods you use must have broken the rules.

This is how people enable racism even when they don’t cause it. They look for anything to justify and deny your marginalization. It either doesn’t exist, it didn’t happen, or it’s your own fault. A number of players were on every platform that carried this, saying this. You don’t even know what those methods are. But it must be one of them & this must all be my fault & deserved. The world tries to lock you out, then punishes you viciously for trying to not be locked out. Then people blame you for even trying at all to circumvent those lockouts. Every publishing-payment platform I’ve tried to use to do anything has either banned, blocked me or doesn’t work here or allow payment systems. From Draft2Digital to Smash words to Kickstarter to Paypal to Amazon KDP, to even Gofundme. But it must all be my fault. I must have violated all their rules somehow. Even GoFundMe that’s supposed to be for people in need of help. I wasn’t even qualified to beg for money. I needed an American to beg for me. If I had even tried to insert myself at any point into the arrangement, it’d have crashed….

(4) EXPANDING ON THE EXPANSE? Den of Geek contemplates what could happen to keep the series from really being over: “The Expanse: The Possibility of a Season 7 or Sequel Series”. (Beware spoilers.)

The Possibility of an Expanse Movie

While The Expanse team went into Season 6 knowing it would almost certainly be the show’s last, they chose to tell the story that included a Laconia-set subplot adapted from Expanse novella Strange Dogs. Unlike basically every other the story in Season 6, the Laconia subplot about a girl named Cara and her efforts to save brother Xan with the help some alien creatures was very forward-focused. It also properly introduced Admiral Duarte, a character who becomes incredibly important in the remaining books in the series. The decision to give so much of Season 6’s precious narrative time could have been made as a way to expand the scope of this world, and to pay homage to these future book plots, and/or it could hint that the Expanse production team have not completely ruled out the possibility of a future for this adaptation…

(5) INSIDE THE SHELL. Den of Geek points out “The Expanse Series Finale Easter Eggs: The Sci-Fi Heroes Who Helped” (Beware spoilers.)

As the coalition forces prepare to storm the ring station in The Expanse series finale, the Rocinante crew is running through its systems check, and voices are heard in the background signaling their readiness. “Thrace ready!” we hear, and our ears perk up. How unusual to share the name of one of the most badass space dogfighters ever, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica. When that’s followed by “Ripley ready!” all doubt is removed. Naming yet another famous spacefarer, Ellen Ripley of Alien, can’t be a coincidence.

Fortunately, fans of Easter eggs like this are provided with a quick glimpse of the roster on Naomi’s screen, and it’s filled with the great heroes of space science fiction in movies and television. It’s fitting that, as The Expanse makes its final bow, the “Great Hunt” of sci-fi culture appears to assist in the battle to end all battles. It’s easy, in fact, to spot the rest of Ripley’s team from Aliens: Hudson, Hicks, and Vasquez. So who else is among the assault team?…

(6) EXPANSIVE ACTING. Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz poses the questions: “Shohreh Aghdashloo On ‘The Expanse’ Series Finale And The Show’s Stellar Legacy”. (Beware spoilers.)

RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?

SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.

(7) SPLASH-A-BOOM. An underwater volcano eruption this morning near Tonga caused a small tsunami which hit the west coast of Central, North and South America, and the east coast of Hawai’i. Hawaiian fan Dave Rowe says, “Here it was only one foot high (three feet was expected).” And he passed along a link to an impressive 2-second video compiled from real-time satellite photos of the eruption: “Shockwave By Near-Tonga Eruption Captured From Himawari Satellite” at Space Weather Gallery.

(8) THE BIG TIME. M. John Harrison is one of the 2022 Booker Prize judges.

…He sold his first story in 1965, and in 1969 joined the staff of the UK speculative fiction magazine New Worlds, where he edited the books pages until 1978.

His novels include Climbers, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1989; Nova Swing, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007; and The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, which won the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize for innovation in fiction…. 

(9) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Jordan D. Smith, who runs The Dark Crusade, a Karl Edward Wagner podcast, lists three examples of Karl Edward Wagner showing up as a character in other people’s fiction: “Three for the Road: Karl Edward Wagner in Fiction”.

… Below are three stories from the past ten years that have contained characters loosely based on, or inspired by, Karl Edward Wagner….

(10) TWO CATS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. Mark Evanier eulogized voice actor “Leo DeLyon, R.I.P.” at News From ME. DeLyon died September 21 at the age of 96.

…We are especially interested in him because he occasionally did voices for cartoons. In the original Top Cat series in 1961, he did the voices of the characters Spook and Brain. That’s them above with Leo between them. He did other voices now and then for Hanna-Barbera…on The Smurfs and Paw Paws, and on a few specials when they needed voice actors who could sing. He was also the voice of Flunkey the baboon in the Disney version of The Jungle Book

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on this evening, the very short lived sequel to the Sixties Get Smart series aired on Fox. It too was called Get Smart. And it had Don Adams and Barbara Feldon still playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. Edward Platt who played The Chief had died some twenty years earlier. 

The relative success of the reunion movie Get Smart, Again! six years earlier prompted the development of a weekly revival of Get Smart but the ratings were absolutely abysmal, so it was canned after seven episodes. Thirteen years later, the Get Smart film despite critics not particularly liking it was a great success. 

The Variety review was typical of what critics thought of it: “Would you believe there is very little to laugh about in this return of Get Smart, a decidedly unfunny undertaking that could have clearly benefited from some input from Buck Henry or at the very least a phone call from Mel Brooks.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed that it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulan Commander Spock get involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 87. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. He has three Hugos with the first at NyCon II for Most Promising New Author, the other two being for his novella “Gilgamesh in the Outback” at Conspiracy ’87, and novella “Nightwings” at St. Louiscon. His “Hawksbill Station” novella was nominated at Baycon, and his Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg was nominated at Worldcon 75. He picked up a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for Best Fan Writer.
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 77. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 57. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by  Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(13) SIGNAL BOOST. Since Hulu’s bad at promoting their films of this type, N. sent along a tweet he saw for I’m Your Man:

(14) MAKING LEMONADE WITHOUT LEMONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder on YouTube, which you can watch for free, as long as you are willing to have your film interrupted with ads,  Of course Bill Watterson refuses to be interviewed or even photographed, and has refused to license his characters. How do you make a film about him?

Well, in the first half-hour Schroeder blows it with all sorts of talking heads, many of them comic strip creators, telling how special Calvin and Hobbes was as a strip.  Schroeder even goes back to his boyhood home in Appleton, Wisconsin to see his bedroom where he posted Sunday strips on the wall when he was a kid.  Who cares?

Things pick up when Schroeder goes to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Watterson grew up, and goes to the local library to see early illustrations Watterson drew for the local paper and hold an original strip about overdue books that is in the head librarian’s office. He then goes to the Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State, where Watterson’s archive is stored, and I thought that was interesting.  I bet a good documentary could be made about that library.

Then in the final third we get to the real subject of the film which is whether Watterson’s decision to forego all licensing deals was a good idea.  Here Berkeley Breathed, Stephen Pastis, and Jean Schultz had intelligent things to say.  As Pastis notes, there is a difference between licensing a Snoopy stuffed animal a four-year old could hold and having Snoopy sell life insurance through Met Life.  Seth Green also makes an appearance to note that he made bootleg Calvin t-shirts.

But one result of only having Calvin and Hobbes available in books is that these books are in school libraries and six- and seven-year-old kids love reading them.  That might not have happened if their first exposure to Watterson’s characters was through animated cartoons.

Dear Mr. Watterson is worth watching but you might want to fast forward through the first half hour.

(15) TWENTY THOUSAND PENNIES UNTO THE FEE. If you’re in the market for an online course about Jules Verne, The Rosenbach would like to sign you up: “Jules Verne’s Scientific Imagination with Anastasia Klimchynskaya”. Four sessions. Tuition for this course is $200, $180 Delancey Society and Members.

Verne is often cited as one of the fathers of science fiction and a lover of both literature and technology. Verne combined the earlier genres of the extraordinary voyage, travel narrative, and adventure story with unprecedented scientific rigor, creating the scientific romance genre, or roman de la science. This course will explore Verne’s unique mix of science and imagination and how it helped solidify the genre.

(16) UNDERGROUND ECONOMY. Here’s an interesting piece by DM David about just why dungeons full of monsters and treasures are a thing in Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs: “The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl”.

Around 1971 Dave Arneson and his circle of Minneapolis gamers invented games where players controlled individual characters who grew with experience and who could try anything because dice and a referee determined the outcomes. The group tried this style of play in various settings, but Dave invented one that proved irresistible: the dungeon.

Dave’s Blackmoor game—the campaign that spawned Dungeons & Dragons—began with a gaming group playing fictional versions of themselves in a fantasy world. The characters became champions in a series of miniature battles featuring armies clashing above ground. Without dungeons, the Blackmoor game might have stayed miniature wargaming rather than becoming D&D and a game nearly as well known as Monopoly. But by creating the dungeon crawl, Dave invented a new activity that transformed the campaign and ultimately made a lasting addition to popular culture…

(17) SHINY. The Daily Beast has a rundown on “The Laser SETI Projects That Might Find Intelligent Alien Civilizations”.

For 62 years, scientists have pointed instruments toward outer space in hopes of finding some sign that we’re not alone in the universe. But those instruments always scanned just a tiny swath of sky for a short span of time, limited mainly to listening for stray radio waves and leaving us largely blind to any visual evidence of extraterrestrials in the darkness of space.

Until now.

As the space age enters its seventh decade, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is getting a lot wider and more deliberate. And that could significantly boost our chances of actually finding something for the first time.

In mid-December, scientists with the SETI Institute in California finished installing a new laser instrument: an expensive lens-camera-computer combo at Haleakala Observatory, situated on a mountaintop on Maui, Hawaii, 10,000 feet above sea level.

The east-facing instrument, when combined with an identical west-facing system at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, California, scans a 150-degree arc of the night sky more than a thousand times a second, filtering the light and looking for the telltale signature of laser light—a possible sign of intelligent life. “We’re trying to cover all the sky all the time,” Eliot Gillum, the principal investigator for the LaserSETI project, told The Daily Beast.

(18) HIBERNATING ALIENS. Why can’t we find them? Isaac Arthur says it might be because they’re taking a kip… (Just like the Norwegian blue.)

One explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that aliens may be undetected because they slumber, quietly hidden away in the galaxy. But how and why might such Extraterrestrial Empires hibernate?

(19) QUITE A STRETCH. Nature says a “Giant hydrogen filament is one of the longest features of its type in the Galaxy and it could give birth to stars” in “A cloud named Maggie”.

A long filament-like cloud of hydrogen atoms lurking on the far side of the Milky Way is among the largest such structures in the Galaxy — and offers a rare glimpse into one of the earliest stages of star formation.

Scientists first reported evidence of the filament, which they nicknamed Maggie, in 2020. Now, some of those scientists, including Jonas Syed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, along with more astronomers, have conducted a detailed follow-up investigation. It shows that the filament stretches some 1,200 parsecs, roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

Theory predicts that, over time, the neutral hydrogen atoms in the filament will pair up, forming dense clouds of hydrogen molecules. Such clouds ultimately give birth to stars.

(20) COMING CATTRACTIONS. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet may be hated by astronomers, but credentials love it: Gizmodo explains: “If I Fits, I Sits: Starlink’s Self-Heating Internet Satellite Dishes Are Attracting Cats”.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been making steady gains with its fledgling satellite internet service, surpassing 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after initial speed tests produced lackluster results. However, the company’s run into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: Cats love them….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Matrix Resurrections,” the Screen Junkies say that the fourth film asks, “Do you take the blue pill and reboot this with Tom Holland as Neo or do you take the red pill and see how far up its own ass the story will go?” Also, since the film has musical theatre greats Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff (who was King George in Hamilton, and has also been in Frozen, Frozen II, and “Glee’) when is The Matrix musical coming?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Dave Rowe, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Cora Buhlert: Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Round 1

[In the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, created by Hugh Howey and Duncan Swan, ten teams of book bloggers – including Team File 770 – will soon finish winnowing through their share of the 300 entries to decide which ones should make it to the next stage. Team members are reading the first 20% of each of their 30 books, and recommending the 10 they think the team should read in full. The 10 books that collectively get the most “yes” votes advance to a second stage where they will be read in full by the team and scored.  Here, Cora Buhlert shares her notes about the books she picked to advance.]

By Cora Buhlert:

A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden
  • A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

This one starts out strong with a graphically described prison whipping of a new prisoner, who later turns out to be the protagonist Nate. The prison scene, told from the POV of a guard, is well written, but then I have a soft spot for prison stories. Then the story jumps ahead in time with protagonists Nate (who’s now out of prison, even though he barely escaped execution) and Catherine escaping dystopia to the outlands. This part is not quite as good and Catherine is sadly afflicted by the Doctor Who companion tendency to sprain her ankle.

This feels like a typical dystopian YA novel, but it was promising and I wanted to read on.

Yes, please, give me more.

  • Alterlife by Matt Moss
Alterlife by Matt Moss

John is about to rob a bank to support his family, when he just happens to hear someone mentioning that they made five thousand dollars playing a virtual reality game called Alterlife – quell coincidence. Of course, both game and videogame system cost five hundred dollars each and John already didn’t have money. Never mind that the game is sold out. So John lies to his wife and talks his boss into giving him a loan to buy the bloody game and console. Then he holes up in a friend’s apartment and starts playing a faux medieval virtual RPG.

I found this one dull, to be honest. The first few chapters are just John and his crappy life. Only by the end does he actually enter the game and it’s still not very exciting. Also, I feel sorry for John’s wife who’s married to a lying loser. This one also has technical issues, jumping between first and third person POV and present and past tense.

No thanks, not for me.

Aurora Ascending by Dennis Ideue
  • Aurora Ascending by Dennis Ideue

Starts off with an infodump prologue, which is thankfully short. But even when the novel proper starts, it just goes on and on infodumping. It takes until chapter 2 until the shuttle with the Aetherian crown princess Ember even lands on Earth and then another chapter for her to descend the ramp and promptly get shot, before we witness the landing yet again through the eyes of a random spectator. It takes several more chapters until we finally learn that Ember’s own father wanted her killed.

The attempt to tell the story from different POVs (Ember’s bodyguard, Ember, a random spectator) in the first person is a nice idea, but it doesn’t work, because the narrators all sound the same. The attempt to build up a romance between Ember and her earthly body guard Commander Elliott Greyjoy (her Aetherian bodyguard has been shot after randomly changing his surname) fails completely, because there is no chemistry, just Ember recounting their interactions. When they finally have sex, it’s a handled in a single line. The next day, a new assassin gets lucky and Ember dies. And then the Aetherian Empire goes to war with Earth. The rest is infodumpy war stuff

I’m not the target audience for overly technical military SF and I found this one a chore to get through, to be honest. The only interesting thing is the budding relationship between Ember and Greyjoy and that’s glossed over and then she dies.

No thanks, not for me.

Condition Evolution by Kevin Sinclair
  • Condition Evolution by Kevin Sinclair

This one opens with protagonist Shaun at the doctor, because he’s obese and steadily gaining weight since he had an accident, which cost him his job as a roofer. The doctor sends him to an experimental therapy using another immersive VR game. All expenses are paid, but the therapy takes year. The game turns out to be yet another pseudo-medieval fantasy world. However, Shaun is still overweight and has little stamina and gets captured by lizardmen almost immediately. He becomes a mining slave.

Again, I’m not the target audience for this one, because I find LitRPG with its focus on stats irritating. Though this one is more interesting than Alterlife.

No thanks, not for me.

Cranax Outbreak by Candice Lim
  • The Cranax Outbreak by Candice Lim

The prologue is a boardroom scene of several scientists at a research lab discussing whether to release a virus in order to ensure continued funding for their research. Lots of talking heads and I also found this plot highly problematic in the light of the conspiracy theories surrounding covid (though the book was released in April 2020, early in the pandemic, so it might be a coincidence). Naming a villain Cash and the company she works for MAD is also pretty on the nose. Later, there is a character named Vaxine. Really.

Once the novel proper starts, we get a POV shift (third to first) and an infodump about the history of STEM-focussed Asia Nova, courtesy of narrator Roxy, who also has a bad case of imposter syndrome. The story picks up once Roxy finds her mentor Dr. Jane Hershey in a suspended animation tank and stumbles upon two professors stealing a deadly virus, while helpfully blabbing out the plot again. Roxy can’t help Hershey, but manages to copy her data. However, the bad guys are on to her, as is the mysterious Vaxine.

There’s a potentially interesting story in here, but it’s buried in infodumps and stilted dialogue. Besides, a pandemic novel is not what I want to read right now.

No thanks, not for me.

Don’t Speak by Vanessa Heath
  • Don’t Speak by Vanessa Heath

The novel opens with the narrator addressing the reader and promising a story/warning about the dystopian world of this novel. Then, we get a flashback to the narrator’s childhood plus yet another infodump about the history of this dystopian world where speaking and illegal writing is forbidden and punishable by death. However, the writing is much better and more atmospheric. I also like the use of different fonts to designate different “speakers”.

The dystopia doesn’t make a lot of sense and the plot – teenager gets in trouble with school bullies, until school bullies get in trouble with dystopian regime – is nothing to write home about, but this one is quite intriguing and well written.

Yes, please, give me more.

Dusk by Ashanti Luke
  • Dusk by Ashanti Luke

The novel opens with a prologue that plunges us right in medias res with someone named Dr. Cyrus Chamberlain assaulting a hangar full of enemy soldiers to get to a spaceship. It’s supposed to be action-packed, but unfortunately we’re not given any reason to care about Cyrus or his mission. The fight scenes are confusingly described, too, e.g. does the bullet pass through the air or through Cyrus’ ear?

Next we get an epigraph by poet Elaine Goodale Eastman and then we get a kid clamouring for a bedtime story and the kid’s Dad (probably Cyrus) telling a story about an abused unicorn.

Then we get Cyrus again, about to leave the overpopulated and polluted Earth for the newly discovered planet Asha, a mission that is supposed to save humanity. Cyrus says goodbye to his family and leaves. The novel now alternates between Cyrus and his son Darius talking and infodumping and the adventures of Cyrus en route to Asha, which involve such thrilling fare as a debate about religion.

I found this one dull, to be honest, and the action-packed prologue doesn’t make it any more exciting. Maybe there is an interesting story in here somewhere, but so far I’m not seeing it. The plot is a little reminiscent of “Far Centaurus” by A.E. Van Vogt, but “Far Centaurus” is much better (and shorter). And I don’t even like Van Vogt.

No thanks, not for me.

Fanatic’s Bane by Edmund de Wight
  • Fanatic’s Bane by Edmund de Wight

The novel opens in a place called Barbo Transfer Station, where an alien Narath is chased through the nighttime streets and finally assaulted and killed by a xenophobic street gang. All this is witnessed by a ninja monk named Brother Cassius, who does not interfere.

Next we get an infodump about the Interstellar Trade Commonwealth and its enforcers, the so-called Free Agents. Then we are introduced to Free Agent Emma Malbane and get a scene from Emma’s POV comparing herself to an unnamed receptionist which is very male gazey and a typical example of men writing women.

Emma is sent to Barbo Transfer Station to investigate the hate crime against aliens, because those might destabilise the Commonwealth and civilisation itself.

The opening is atmospheric, though Brother Cassius’ refusal to help the beleaguered alien makes him rather unlikeable, but maybe he’s supposed to be. The Emma Malbane sequences are very infodumpy, though. There may be an interesting story here, but it never comes together.

No thanks, not for me.

Godeena by Stjepan Varesevac Cobets
  • Godeena by Stjepan Varesevac Corbets

The novel opens with cybernetic soldier Henry Broncon and his squad on a mission on the planet Morad, where Earth is at war with the alien Ansker. Surprise, they are ambushed, and everybody dies except Henry.

Next the scene switches to a space prison imaginatively called Hades. Of course, no one has ever escaped alive. Henry comes to Hades to put together a Dirty Dozen/Suicide Squad team of criminals for a mission. One of them is a female cyber soldier, who murdered her lover after he tried to kill her while pregnant and managed to kill the foetus.

The ambush opening didn’t do much for me, because I had no reason to care about the characters and what happened to them. The space prison recruitment part is stronger, but then I have weakness for prison stories.

There are some writing weaknesses here like tense shifts and head hopping. Nonetheless, I wanted to read on.

Yes, please, give me more.

Gods of the Black Gate by Joseph Sale
  • Gods of the Black Gate by Joseph Sale

The novel starts with Craig Smiley, a disturbed serial killer who hears the voices of the seven true gods and his father, en route to the solar system’s worst prison on Mars (another space prison story).

Then the scene switches to police officer Caleb Rogers who arrested Smiley and is informed that Smiley has escaped. Caleb and his partner Tom are sent to Mars to recapture him.

We also get transcripts of Rogers’ interviews with Smiley as well as Smiley’s visions/dreams while in prison and his escape.

Nice science fiction noir. Recommended.

Yes, please, give me more.

  • Grandfather Anonymous by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
Grandfather Anonymous by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

Ajay Andersen is an elderly Indian-Norwegian-American living in Minnesota in a dystopian surveillance state in 2045. We first meet him dealing with a social officer, a social worker/police officer hybrid supposedly making wellness checks on elderly people, but in truth looking for illegal tech, which ex-hacker Ajay happens to own. Luckily, Ajay can hack into the police files.

The officer also mentions they are looking for a fugitive, a woman with two young daughters. This fugitive is Ajay’s estranged daughter Sashi. The girls are the granddaughters he didn’t know he had. Sashi soon shows up at Ajay’s doorstep, daughters Kylie and Isabelle in tow, and asks Ajay to watch them. When she doesn’t return, Ajay has to go on the run with the girls.

A Cyberpunk thriller with a protagonist in his 70s. Recommended.

Yes, please, give me more.

Harvested by Anthony O’Brien
  • Harvested by Anthony O’Brien

A man called Jon Stone witnesses the supposed suicide of his mentor Joseph Swartz. Only that it’s not suicide but murder, committed by people wearing shades. Surprise, everybody is living in the Matrix and Joseph was about to reveal this to the world.

Jon Stone delivers Joseph’s last paper, which asks if the world is real or just a holographic simulation. Soon, he is contacted by good and bad holograms, both of which turn out to be attractive women described in a male-gazey way. Brunette Tori is the good hologram, blonde Alyssa is the bad hologram. Tori extracts Jon from Alyssa’s clutches and the Matrix.

This one is too close to The Matrix for my taste. The descriptions of New York City are very evocative, but the descriptions of the two holographic women are very male-gazey. There’s a lot head-hopping, too.

No thanks, not for me.

Homecoming by R. D. Meyer
  • Homecoming by R.D. Meyer

The novel is told as a series of journal entries by a historian named Shallisto Kai, who then proceeds to infodump about the history of humanity after they had to flee Earth as well as share their CV. Shallisto Kai is an expert in Earth history and therefore accompanies a military fleet on an expedition to reconquer Earth after 6000 years to chronicle the events of the expedition.

The early parts of this novel are basically one big infodump. We get information about the history of humanity and their expulsion from Earth, a primer on the political system, the calendar system, a tour of the flagship, her bridge and her crew, how the SLS drive works and so on. The premise – humanity has been driven from Earth and they want it back – is potentially interesting, but the execution is dull.  

Also, the humans are not very likable in this novel. They are xenophobic, exterminated an alien race a thousand years ago (okay, they were genocidal, but still) and they attack a random fleet of the alien Traygar, simply because they need to pass through their territory to get to Earth. Maybe the point is that the humans are jerks, but so far I’m not seeing it.

Finally, as someone who took Latin in school, the name Novam Terra is grating, because the adjective is in the wrong case.

No thanks, not for me.

In My Memory Locked by Jim Nelson
  • In My Memory Locked by Jim Nelson

The novel opens with a security expert named C.F. Naroy arriving at a crime scene in San Francisco in the year 2038. His former mentor and associate Michael Aggaroy has been brutally murdered, shortly after he asked Naroy to meet him. The police want to know what Aggaroy wanted of Naroy. Naroy isn’t sure, but suspects it has something to do with the “Old Internet” (i.e. ours).

A bit later, Naroy visits the only remaining copy of the “Old Internet”, which is kept on Alcatraz Island whose caretakers want to hire him. Turns out someone has been deleting parts of the old internet and the caretakers want Naroy to retrieve the stolen/deleted data. They won’t even press charges, they just want their data back.

This one starts out strong with some atmospheric descriptions of the rainy San Francisco of the near future, but then stalls out with a lot of infodumping, once Naroy gets to Alcatraz.

No thank, not for me.

Into Neon: A Cyberpunk Saga by Matthew A. Goodwin
  • Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin

Protagonist Moss works for ThutoCo as a bot controller and lives in a fully controlled company town. He’s in love with his childhood friend Issy, but doesn’t do anything about it. One day a woman named Ynna in full punk get-up knocks on his door. She works for a group that wants to expose ThutoCo‘s machinations and they want Moss’ help to do so. Ynna also gives Moss a data chip from his dead parents and hacks his implant. Then, she escapes as a security alert is triggered, but asks Moss to meet her in a bar in the megacity he has never visited.

This one may eventually become interesting, but it starts very slowly.

No thanks, not for me.

  • Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater
Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater

Opal has stolen an AI-controlled spaceship named Clarissa from the military to go on a quest for a lost spaceship. The novel opens with Opal waking from cryo-sleep, as Clarissa has arrived at their destination, a neutron star surrounded by a dust cloud. The lost spaceship Opal is searching – the passenger liner Solace, which disappeared 13 years ago – is hidden inside that dust cloud.

Spaceships get lost in hyperspace (here called “nullspace”) on occasion and suddenly reappear after decades or centuries. Often, these ships have been altered and there is something else on board. Something that can predict the future.

Since Opal can’t hail the drifting ship and her drones don’t work, because the ship has been altered, Opal puts on a cool armoured and armed spacesuit and boards the drifting lost ship.

I liked this one. The relationship between Opal and Clarissa is fun and the mystery of the lost ship is intriguing enough. Some nice worldbuilding hints as well.

Yes, please, give me more.

Mantivore Dreams by S. J. Higbee
  • Mantivore Dreams by S.J. Higbee  

The novel starts with Kyrillia, a teenager on a hot colony planet, at the Node, the planet’s internet equivalent, listening to music and discovering Bach. There also is Vrox, an alien familiar whom only Kyrillia can hear (and who also liked Bach). Kyrillia thinks he’s her imaginary friend, though he obviously isn’t .

The music session is cut shot when Kyrillia’s abusive mother arrives to beat her. We gradually learn that Kyrillia’s mother has always been abusive and hates her daughter for reasons unknown and that Kyrillia is also taking care of her disabled uncle, whom the mother also hates and resents. The uncle also abuses Kyrillia and her life is just shit. Kyrillia hopes to work at the Node like her mother someday, but her mother won’t let her. Even though Kyrillia is better at the job than her flake mother.

We also get some worldbuilding details. The colony is on a downswing. Most people can barely read and there was something called “the turbulence”.

One night, Kyrillia receives a holographic visit from a teenager named Kestor Brarian, who’s an apprentice Node keeper, who asks questions about the music site, which is apparently forbidden, and who tells her that Kyrillia’s mom is looking for an apprentice who’s not Kyrillia. There’s the usual teenage awkwardness between the sexes.

Kyrillia gets abused by her mother and uncle some more, the villagers drop cryptic hints that her mother has reasons for hating her and she has more clandestine conversations with Kestor. There’s also Seth, the kid of a disgraced family, who works as a day labourer and is Kyrillia’s friend.

This feels very YA-like with the abused protagonist, almost comically evil mother (who seems to be making a play for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award) and the two boys vying for her. Still, the story is entertaining enough and the worldbuilding is intriguing.

Yes, please, give me more.

No Easy Road by Greg Camp
  • No Easy Road by Greg Camp

Lieutenant Tom Cochrane is in the Centauri space navy and has constant issues with his aristocratic superiors, who are ordering him about and blaming him for the messes they caused. When Tom is ordered to fix substandard equipment his superior Commander Shelley had installed, the faulty equipment causes a shipwide failure and a fire, which gets the captain – who always supported Tom – killed. Tom gets blamed for this, which kills his Navy career.

The Tom segments are interspersed with segments featuring a man called Bertrand Lile, who appears to be some kind of spy or secret agent. He’s summoned to a meeting in a dingy hotel with an agent he recruited. Turns out the agent met someone at the hotel for sex, only for those someones to be murdered. Bertrand deduces that someone is on to his agent.

The Tom segments are pretty dull. Even the fire and explosion that kills the captain happened off-screen. The Bertrand segments are somewhat more exciting, but we get no information regarding who Bertrand is, what his mission is or why we should care. I guess I’m not the target audience for this one.

No thanks, not for me.

Numanity by Alexander Lucas
  • Numanity by Alexander Lucas  

The novel starts in medias res with two teenagers named Neeto and Ada, a cyborg, engaged in hacking operation to illegally watch a game called Alphaball in an abandoned sports bar, while exchanging banter. The scene is set in some kind of post-apocalyptic flooded world. They get caught and have to make a run for it. Neeto escapes, Ada doesn’t. We later see her getting interrogated.

The scene now shifts to the company behind Alphaball. The vice president is furious, because one of the cyborg players went off script, displayed too many abilities and ruined the game. He asks random talking heads for solutions and finally fires all but two of them.

The scene shifts again to Tiber Achilles, the Alphaball player who went off script and showed off too many abilities. His CEO mother is furious that he upset the delicated balance between the Darwin and Achilles companies.

There’s another scene featuring a biographer named Janajreh seeing Emin Lator, head of the Darwin company. Apparently, Emin had an affair with Rain Achilles, husband of the CEO of the rival company.

This one never really comes together and I have no reason to care about any of the characters. The endless talking head scenes with almost no dialogue attribution don’t help either. After twenty percent, I can’t even see what sort of story this is supposed to be.

No thanks, not for me.

Piercing The Celestial Ocean by Kip Koelsch
  • Piercing the Celestial Ocean by Kip Koelsch

The novel opens with a prologue where a spaceship named Endeavour (wasn’t the ship in No Easy Road also named that?) intercepts a cylindrical object coming out of a wormhole. The cylinder contains a humanoid woman in stasis.

Captain Ekels of the Endeavour is the usual washed out troublemaker captain that is standard for the military SF genre. He’s even done a stint in prison. Ekels hopes the discovery of the cylinder and its occupants will get him back in the good graces of the scientific community.

Ekels is ordered to put the crew of the Endeavour into stasis and wait until a fleet can arrive from Earth to build a research station to examine the capsule and its occupant. This will take fifteen years.

Once the Endeavour’s crew is in stasis, Ekels orders the ship AI to open the capsule and revive the occupant. We have no idea why he does this.

After the prologue, the story jumps to events on the other side of the wormhole 655 years earlier, where everybody and everything has apostrophe laden names and an astronomer named G’lea is about to observe the wormhole. This is a periodic event and is viewed as the coming of heavenly visitors by the clerics of this world. But G’lea knows it’s a natural phenomenon and wants to convince the clerics. This goes about as well as you can imagine.

The basic idea of two human/humanoid civilisations from opposite sides of a wormhole meeting each other is solid. However, the execution is lacking. The Ekels section is cliched and Ekels himself is neither likeable nor do his motivations make much sense. It’s also irritating that every single crewmember of the Endeavour seems to be male. The G’lea section is stronger, but the story just doesn’t gel.

No thanks, not for me.

Retrieval by Regina Clarke
  • Retrieval by Regina Clarke

Gillian runs a diner in the Mojave desert. One day, she’s late to open up and finds her new employee Gabriel missing. Shortly thereafter, Gillian and the patrons witness seven streaks of light in the sky and hear a loud boom. They assume that a nearby airbase is testing some kind of new weapons systems. Shortly thereafter, Gabriel reappears. Supposedly, he overslept. Gillian knows she should fire him, but doesn’t.

Gabriel promptly disappears again on a walk and generally acts strange, but Gillian is too busy to care, especially Gabriel reappears around lunchtime and is otherwise really good at his job.

Gillian’s ex, Birdy, drops by and wants to show her something he found in the desert. This something turns out to be a strange glowing disc. When pressed, the disc and a rusty trailer disappear.

The fire streaks was an alien crash and the disc is an alien artefact. The Roswell crash involved the same aliens. They are worried that the military might find their lost tech, so they try to retrieve it. This is the job of an alien commander called Malakai. His brother Inac is none other than Gabriel, Gillian’s new employee. For reasons best known to himself, Malakai is interested in Gillian and wants her retrieved along with the lost tech.

This is well written and the chapters from Gillian’s POV are very evocative. I also liked the descriptions of the desert. The Malakai chapters are less interesting so far. Nonetheless, I’m intrigued enough to want more.

Yes, please, give me more.

Shakedowners by Justin Woolley
  • Shakedowners by Justin Woolley

Captain Iridius B. Franklin is an inept commander, who is given equally idiotic assignments. He’s captain of the freighter Diesel Coast (named for a 21st century ecological disaster), which is delivering artificially intelligent toy dogs to a disaster stricken space colony at the opening of the novel.

Franklin also has a reputation for breaking starships. Things tend to go wrong around him, a phenomenon that is dubbed Franklinisms.

When the Diesel Coast reaches its destination, no one is answering their hails. They investigate and find no life signs, so they enter the mining colony and find the crew reduced to pink goo and all logs and data erased. Franklin is attacked by a swarm of insectoid nano-machines. He and his away team barely escape with their lives.

However, despite all precautions, some of the nano-machines manage to get aboard and take over one of the artificially intelligent robot dogs…

This is a fun work of humorous science fiction, reminiscent of the TV show The Orville and Joe Zieja’s books.

Yes, please, give me more.

Sidnye by Scott Fitzgerald Gray
  • Sidnye: Queen of the Universe by Scott Fitzgerald Gray

Sidnye is a teenaged orphan at a boarding school in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is messy and has recurring dreams about shooting stars. She’s friends with Emmet, who’s into astronomy. Her favourite teacher is McCune, who’s also her legal guardian.

I do like the descriptions of the Canadian winter, but the novel itself is not for me, I’m afraid. I’m no longer the target audience for YA-ish boarding school stories and there’s little in the early chapters that makes this story feel different from umpteen similar ones.

No thank you, not for me.

  • Sped-Bot by Billy DeCarlo
Sped-Bot: DroidMesh Trilogy Book 1 by Billy DeCarlo

The novel opens with fifteen-year-old Isaac, his father Harley and Isaac’s android (or gynoid) companion Carrie watching a soccer match on Novae Terrae (another case of using the wrong Latin case endings), a breakaway Earth colony. Isaac’s foster brother Liam is one of the players and wins the match for his team. This is not a good thing, because competition is discouraged on this world. Isaac apparently has some kind of intellectual disability (maybe somewhere on the autism spectrum), which is supposed to have been eradicated on this brave new world.

Isaac has problem with classmate Ralph Sampson who keeps humiliating him. However, Ralph’s father is Harley’s boss and a big deal in this brave new world. As we learn from one of Isaac’s lessons, Novae Terrae has a strict meritocratic caste system, disallows competition and violence, has abolished money and religion and dampened down the sex drive. Androids are omnipresent, but have no rights.

There may well be an interesting story here eventually, but the beginning never really progresses beyond Isaac’s bullying woes. And as I said above, I’m no longer the target audience for school stories.

No thank you, not for me.

The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp
  • The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp

Jennet Carter’s father is a game developer for the most immersive VR game system ever. Mr. Carter takes the prototype home and Jennet sneaks into his office to give it a try and play the new game Feyland. Unfortunately, the queen of the dark fae who rules the land has detected Jennet’s arrival and orders her captured.

After arriving in the game, Jennet meets a brownie and fights the Black Knight, who is one of the Dark Queen’s goons. Lucky for Jennet, the game glitches and throws her back into the real world, where her father has just come home, accompanied by his friend Thomas Rimer (!). Thomas gives Jennet a book about fairy tales, whose illustrations match the game.

The Dark Queen, annoyed that the Black Knight has failed to capture Jennet, sends the Wild Hunt after her, but they fail, too. Meanwhile, Jennet is dealing with the typical teen school woes. During her holidays, she keeps returning to Feyland and does quests. When Jennet’s father announces that they’re moving to a small town, she is heartbroken.

This is certainly well written, but I’m not the target audience for either LitRPG or YA school drama. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough that I wanted to read on.

Yes please, give me more.

The Hammond Conjecture by M. B. Reed
  • The Hammond Conjecture by M.B. Reed

The novel starts with a preface by the author, claiming that what we are about to read is a biography of one Hugh Hammond, based on his papers and requested by his daughter Eve. Clever framing device, which Reed also uses to urge us to sign up for their newsletter.

The novel proper opens with Hugh Hammond coming to in a hospital in World’s End, London, in 1982 with amnesia. No one will answer his questions and he believes he died and is in purgatory and this body is not his own.  The doctors of course think he’s crazy, but let him write a diary and prescribe a drug that will jolt his memories. This diary is what the novel is constructed from.

The first memory to return is of Hammond returning home from an assignment in 1971. We quickly realise that this is an alternate world, since there are airships landing at the Croydon aerodrome (long gone in our world). WWII ended with a peace treaty signed between the British Empire and Germany in 1941. The British Empire never died and neither did the Third Reich. Germany got to the moon, George V is still king and the 1968 riots were a lot more violent than in our world. In order to apply for Civil Service jobs, you have to prove Anglo-Saxon heritage.

We get another flashback to 1969 and Hammond arriving back in England after a lot of time spent in South Africa and India with the military. He joins the Secret Intelligence Service.

In hospital, Hammond befriends a nurse and chances to see a news program on TV. He realises that he has landed in an alternate world.

For once the blurb comparing this novel to early Michael Moorcock is correct, because it does remind me of the Jerry Cornelius stories. Philip K. Dick would also be a good comparison. This one is definitely intriguing.

Yes please, give me more.

The Prometheus Effect by David Fleming
  • The Prometheus Effect by David Fleming

The novel opens in the fall of 1945. Nineteen-year-old genius Jack is on the verge of developing fusion power and he is being questioned by the US President about a paper he has written, outlining challenges that humanity will face and the way to solve them. He is promptly recruited to head the secret organisation the City, which will be located in the Nevada desert.

The novel skips ahead to 2039 and a four-year-old boy named Mykl. Mykl appears to be a sort of genius, too. His single Mom works in Vegas and is murdered one night. Mykl ends up in a children’s home.

The scene shifts again to 2040 and CIA agent Sebastian Falstano aboard a submarine. Falstano is supposed to investigate extraterrestrial technology. The submarine crew is not pleased about this. Falstano is taken to a secret location, where he is met by an attractive blonde woman and taken to examine a billion year old alien artefact found on the moon. Then the woman shoots and drugs him.

The scene shifts to Jessica who is taking an entrance exam to join the military. Jessica is waist-deep in student loans and laments about the quality of education. Jessica wants to develop Cold Fusion, while the professors want her to study non-western cultures. The author can’t help getting on his soap box here. Eventually, Jessica joins the military and winds up at the City, only to be fire almost immediately for allegedly falsifying data. However, it’s just a test to figure out if Jessica is moral enough to join the City.

Jessica and Sebastian meet while chained to the seats of a bus. Sebastian wants to go public with the classified information. Jessica is horrified.

Once again, there’s probably an interesting story in here somewhere, but it never comes together. The fact that the author can’t resist getting on his soap box to hold forth about the value of higher education doesn’t help either.

No thanks, not for me.

The StarMaster’s Son by Gibson Morales
  • The StarMaster’s Son by Gibson Morales

The prologue begins with the StarMaster, ruler of the universe, about to “die” (his body is artificial, but his memory has been corrupted) after ruling for fifty years.

The scene shifts to a young man called Felik, who is debating the apparent demise of the StarMaster on a next generation social network. Felik suffers from a neural virus. He also happens to be the StarMaster’s clone son, one of many. His brother StarKeeper Oberon is the favoured successor, but another brother Megas is also in the running. Felik doesn’t care, he hopes to become Chief Philosopher. Meanwhile, he lives in a savanna projection, where he has sex and fights. By day, he works as an ambassador to technologically less developed species. One of these, the wraiths, capture him.

The scene shifts to Kai, an inquisitor (a.k.a. bounty hunter) who can project her consciousness into different artificial bodies. Kai and her ship Euphrates are attacked. The ship is destroyed and Kai has to flee aboard an escape pod. She comes to again thirty-nine years later and learns that she has been infected by a neural virus.

This one tries to cram way too much information and too many side stories into one novel and the result never really comes together.

No thanks, not for me.

  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm

The White Cloud is a generation ship and the novel consists of individual stories about the people living and dying aboard this ship.

The first one up is Susanne, a teacher. Susanne is religious and her experiences at a service are intermingled with her memories of struggling to become a teacher and falling for a boy who turns out to be gay. Susanne finds answers to all her questions in her religion

Next up are Janey, another teacher, and Tamar who are getting drunk and talk about aliens. The White Cloud has never encountered aliens, but Tamar believes they are writing messages in the stars. Tamar has proof and shows it to Janey. She wants Janey to tell the story of humanity and the White Cloud and encode it in the stars.

Then we get Lauren Ibarra, who has just turned sixty-seven years old and is dreading the party.

I love the idea of this one, but unfortunately, I don’t love the execution. The slice of life stories feel very inconsequential. Maybe it all comes together later, but not so far.

No thanks, not for me.

Where Weavers Daire by R. K. Bentley
  • Where Weavers Daire by R.K. Bentley

Melinda Scott is eighteen and works as a salvage specialist as part of a family crew. One day, during what’s supposed to be a test mission, she comes across a giant derelict spaceship of the Daires. She finds a spellbook and mysterious suit and realises that the ship belongs to a necromancer. Unfortunately, that necromancer or weaver, Spence MacGregor is still in his suit and regaining consciousness. He goes after Melinda, as she tries to escape and grabs hold of her. Her Mother Jainey and a relative named Tommy gives chase, but have to break off, when Tommy’s anti-magic weapons fail due to tampering.

Melinda makes her way aboard the ship again and finally meets Spence, who is struggling to bring his ship, which has been hacked, back under control. The hacker is one Wallace Stukari, an enemy of Spence’s. He tries to blow up the ship, but Spence and Melinda escape in an escape pod and land on the planet Stuk’s Hollow.

Jainey’s and Tommy’s ship is boarded by supposed tax collectors, who turn out to be Stukari agents. Tommy is working for them and Melinda was used as bait to draw out Spence, only everything went wrong. Wallace Stukari also appears and demands to know where Melinda and Spence are. He and Tommy land on Stuk’s Hollow to go after them.

This one is a tad confusing, explaining too little rather than too much. But the characters are likeable and I wouldn’t mind reading more about them.

Yes please, give me more.


SPSFC art by Tithi LuadthongLogos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Dave Farland Wolverton (1952-2022)

Dave Wolverton. Photo (c) and taken by Andrew Porter.

By Dave Doering: What a challenge! How do I capture almost 40 years of working with Dave Wolverton here? He was the rarest of gems–a titan in tale-telling, an articulate teacher, a riveting writer, a major mentor–and the kindest man you could meet in Science Fiction and Fantasy. For everyone, he was ready to encourage you with “You can do it!”  (Even age didn’t matter to him. He listened when my daughter Serena, at 11 years old, asked if he’d visit her school to tell them about writing and he accepted. They were thrilled.)

I remember Dave joining our rollicking band of renegades at the university to do our SF journal Leading Edge and then our annual event Life, the Universe, & Everything.  I believe Dave and his welcoming attitude to new writers and creators was the secret sauce for LTUE to grow to be a major resource for professional development. No one knew the business side of writing better than Dave. From some muse, he immediately grasped what it took to succeed in publishing. I remember how he won as a quarter finalist in Writers of the Future. Lesser aspiring other authors might have luxuriated in being a quarterly finalist at the contest’s gala. Not Dave. Dave came to the event prepared with completed novels and outlines for a series or two. He left with his first book contract.

Dave continued to give us a incredible role model–canny editor at Scholastic (uncovering Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling–which changed young adult reading forever), being a New York Times bestseller, Coordinating Judge for Writers of the Future, co-founder of Superstars Writing Seminar, and then the Apex Writing Group

I never sat down with Dave without taking notes. He always had a fabulous personal story to tell. (Which reminds me, Dave. How could you leave us without finishing your Asian gangster story?? I was spellbound as you told me how you got an actual phone call from a couple of them who said they were at LAX with $1 million in a suitcase if you’d make your Runelords movie with them?? What happens next?? Arrggh!) 

Yes, I cry now because Dave had to leave and it is over , But I am very grateful that I can cry with a smile because it happened at all. Maybe Dave said it best in his work Runelords:

“Many men dream of doing well. But few give form to their dreams. {G]reatness is…the achievement of those who prove their greatness by their deeds.”

Dave has certainly earned his greatness with his deeds. Godspeed John David Wolverton in your journey now to the AfterCon. May your teaching and counsel continue to inspire many, many more writers and creators to come.


Update 01/15/2022: There has been an announcement by Dave’s family and friends to raise money on GoFundMe for funeral and family expenses. Here’s the link: Please Help the Family of Dave Wolverton-Farland (gofundme.com)

Pixel Scroll 1/14/22 Do Starros Work As Facemasks? What About Tribbles?

(1) SLF ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. Michelle Feng is the winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s search for their 2022 Illustration of the Year.

Michelle Feng

Hoping to translate theory into policy and practice, Michelle’s experience revolves around working directly with traditionally underserved individuals and communities of color to bridge the gap between lived experiences and policy that fails to reflect the complexities of society on a universal scale. Through her dedication to public service, where she traveled around the country working in dedicated pursuit of localized projects with focuses on urban development, environmental conservation, disaster relief, and food insecurity in rural areas. Michelle has also spent time in Human Resources at the Department of Defense and has experience in social work at a small non-profit, which subsequently trained her in crisis de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma-informed care.

Feng commented that she found inspiration for her illustration through wanting to combine visual elements from traditional village living structures with futuristic elements of a modern city. Feng used a mix of mediums and textures to build a piece with collage-like elements that illustrated a layered approach to world-building: “imbuing realities that are grounded in something familiar, but still continue to live outside of our surface-level understanding of the world, define speculative fiction to me. As a first generation Chinese-American daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s experience traveling to the rural village her mother grew up in, who always emphasized the importance of balancing education, literacy, and imagination as the key to upward mobility.”

The person climbing the wall of books on the left hand side of the image was inspired by her grandfather, a professor of contemplative literature who taught her mother that art is the highest form of expression. Her hope is that those who see the piece can connect to both of its real & imagined worlds while exploring intersections between the built and natural environment.

You can find more of her work on instagram: @michellef.arts

(2) SQUEECORE. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast offer “A Guide to Squeecore”, their term for sff’s current favorite flavor.

In 1936, anthropologist Ralph Linton said, “The last thing a fish would ever notice would be water.” It’s difficult to see the medium that encompasses everything around you, especially when you’ve never known anything else. Well, if fish were contemporary sci-fi/fantasy readers, the last thing they would notice is squeecore. What is squeecore? You’re soaking in it! Squeecore is the dominant literary movement in contemporary SFF, a movement so ubiquitous it’s nearly invisible. But in this episode, we are taking notice of how speculative fiction got watered down.

(3) UNWRAPPING THE PRESENT. Camestros Felapton catches the conversational ball thrown by Raquel S. Benedict in that Rite Gud podcast – “Is there a dominant mode of current science fiction?”

…Again, I think that idea (if not the name) that there are common aesthetic elements in notable science fiction (ie what gets critical attention and award nominations) makes some sense. Historically, in the Hugo Awards, I think what we see is overlapping time periods of popularity of some authors, publishers and outlets (5 to 10 year periods, with some figures having much longer spans of relevance). Pick any snapshot of time though, you are likely to find works that reflect elements that are going out of fashion, works that are currently most fashionable and works that reflect newer fashions. That is reflected in the kind of names (some coined contemporaneously and some retrospectively) given to works from particular times. The podcast picks up on that element and the need for a name for the current state of affairs….

(4) ENCOURAGING INTENTIONALITY. Maurice Broaddus urges conventions to move beyond checking the “diversity box” and work on building community. Thread starts here.

(5) ADAPTING STATION ELEVEN. Esquire’s Adrienne Westenfeld analyzes “How HBO Max’s Station Eleven Reimagines the Novel”.

…. Readers of the novel will remember its unique structure: nonlinear and multi-perspective, arcing across time, space, and characters to tell its poignant story about survival and the human spirit. We sense some of that looping structure in the television show, particularly in Episode One’s flash-forward glimpses of Chicago (for the purposes of this adaptation, HBOMax has transplanted the story from Toronto to Chicago). In these shots, we glimpse an unrecognizable world: today’s driveway becomes an overgrown wilderness, years after the pandemic. Today’s theater, where Arthur performs King Lear to a packed audience, is later overrun by feral hogs. The visual style hints at a narrative omniscience….

(6) DAVE WOLVERTON (1952-2022). Dave Wolverton, aka Dave Farland, died the day after sustaining a head injury due to a fall, his son Spencer announced this morning:  

Again this Dave’s son Spencer.

Dave has officially passed. He held on till all his children could say goodbye, then faded swiftly without pain. Thank you for all the kind words, messages, and memories.

After reading the countless messages and reflecting on my own experience, it is safe to say that my dad had a special way of seeing the potential in people. He will surely be missed.

Words can’t express the emotions of losing a loved one.

Eric Flint is among the many paying tribute, here on Facebook:

…Dave was part of my writing career from the very beginning. In fact, he’s the person whom you could say started it. He was the coordinator of the Writers of the Future contest in 1992. I submitted a story which he liked well enough to include in the finalists from whom the judges chose the winners, and I won first place in the winter quarter of that year. Winning that award is what kicked off my writing career. I stayed in touch with Dave after the contest and he was a help to me in many ways, from giving me excellent editing advice to connecting me with the person who became (and still is) my literary agent.

Some years later, Dave and I were two of the five founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar. (The other three were Kevin Anderson, Rebecca Moesta and Brandon Sanderson.) As a result of that association, we met every year at the four-day event, which is held in Colorado Springs in February. I was expecting to see him next month and looking forward to it.

David Doering’s appreciation about him will appear shortly on File 770.

(7) RICK COOK (1944-2022). Rick Cook, author of the Wizardry series (starting with Wizard’s Bane in 1989), died January 13. He wrote a total of nine sff novels, and much short fiction. His short story “Symphony for Skyfall,” co-written with Peter L. Manly, was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1995. His fact article “The Long Stern Case: A Speculative Exercise” won the Analog Readers Poll in 1987 (and between 1995-1998, three more short stories co-authored with Manly placed second or third in the poll.)

Sir Richard Ironsteed.

He was a co-founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Atenveldt, which encompasses the state of Arizona. In the SCA he was known as Sir Richard Ironsteed. Recalling the early days of the Kingdom of Atenveldt, Cook wrote:

We made it up as we went along. In 1968 I went to Worldcon in San Francisco. The SCA appeared there for the first time. It was then I was introduced to the SCA. I picked up the Known World Handbook and brought it back to the Valley of the Sun. I couldn’t build up much interest, but shared the information with Mike Reynolds. In 1969, he suggested we start a branch. We were the first group that wasn’t started by people who had lived in the Kingdom of the West.

I was part of building the initial group, martial activities, including the administrative duties of marshalling. As first king of Atenveldt, I enjoyed making up the fun as we went along. Those things of great tradition from the early days were really just having a good time. I was also the first herald of Atenveldt, long before we were a kingdom. I tried my hand at many things from helping make our first (infamous) trebuchet to making jewelry.

He became the First King of Atenveldt in 1971.

Heather Jeffcott shared warm memories of him on Facebook:

…He used words like swordplay. Strong and persuasive, nimble and light when needed, then *SMACK*! There came the pun that would lighten the tenor of the conversation. He could be blunt without being rude. (Which is not to say he couldn’t descend into crudity, it just wasn’t his first choice. He was selective in how and when to apply such words for he had plenty of others in his arsenal.) He had a talent for telling you a truth and making it seem like a tall tale. And if he told you a Tall Tale, it took on the manner of a LEGEND….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, the first version of Fantasy Island aired its first episode this evening on ABC. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán who was previously known for his Chrysler Cordoba commercials, with their tagline of “Fine Corinthian Leather”, as Mr. Roarke, the Host, and Hervé Villechaize as his dwarf assistant, Tattoo. It was created by Gene Levitt who had very little previous genre experience. 

The critics were unanimous in their utter loathing of it. Newsday was typical of the comments about: “Given the premise, the [pilot] movie could have been fun, but it’s not. It drips with Meaning, but there is none. Actually, it’s quite dumb.”

It was obviously critic-proof as it had an amazing run lasting seven seasons of one hundred fifty-two episodes, plus two films called Fantasy Island and Return to Fantasy Island

A one-season revival of the series with Malcolm McDowell and Mädchen Amick in the two roles aired fourteen years later while a re-imagined horror film version was released two years ago. I’ve seen neither of those versions. I do remember the original series and remember rather liking it.

Chrysler Cordoba commercial (proof nothing vanishes on the net) here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was, but I’m betting one of y’all can tell me. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 74. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 73. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 65. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks “ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 60. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions.
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 55. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She apparently also was in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 32. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well, the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest meet some genetic engineers whose experiments result in terrible puns.

(11) SPRING HAS SPRUNG AT SF2 CONCATENATION. SF² Concatenation has just posted its seasonal edition of news, articles, conreps, genre film analysis, and over 40 standalone book reviews. Vol. 32 (1) contains:

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(12) FOUNDRY EVENT. Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans, will be held online from April 8-10. Programming is now being organized, and registrations taken, at the link.

The world’s biggest multi-disciplinary, round the clock, international virtual convention is returning for its third year, and it’s going to be even better than ever. With stellar guests of honor such as L. D. Lewis and Jana Bianchi, an intensive workshops series, and activities to fill the whole weekend, there’s something for everyone and more than you’ll make it to. Donation-based registration means everyone can attend, and you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet people you’ll never see on the regular con circuit. Join us to learn about craft and business from creatives in your field and those you’ll collaborate with over the course of your career. Talk about your favorite works with people who love them, and love to dissect them, too!

(13) A JAR FULL OF MONEY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, artists and writers will have a field day as long as they don’t make the bear wear a shirt (Disney owns that shirt!), don’t mention Tigger (not introduced until the still-under-copyright The House At Pooh Corner) and they should probably put a disclaimer in saying Disney has nothing to do with their work. “’Winnie-the-Pooh’ just entered the public domain. Here’s what that means for fans.”

He notes that Ryan Reynolds has used Winnie the Pooh’s public domain status to promote his cellphone company.

(14) SPIDER-MAN IS THE HOTTEST PROPERTY ON THE BLOCK. The auction block, that is: “Spider-Man comic page sells for record $3.36M bidding”.

Mike Zeck’s artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars No. 8” brings the first appearance of Spidey’s black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom.

The record bidding, which started at $330,000 and soared past $3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions’ four-day comic event in Dallas.

(15) THE HORTHMAH. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] I saw that a new movie has been released, but the title is a bit weird. It mixes existing nordic runes with some that are made up from our ordinary latin alphabet. The closest I come when translating it is “The Horthmah”, but perhaps it is more than two alphabets in there. Is there any filers that are better at runes than me and can help out here? Anyway, I have no idea of what a Horthmah is, but I guess I’ll have to see the movie to find out.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dance along to the opening credits of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena. Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.

(17) CREDENTIALS IN SPACE. Adventures in Purradise entices viewers to watch “Fur Trek: Tribble Troubles”.

Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you like funny cats? Then this episode is right up your alley. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, move over! Fur Trek is coming at warp speed. Capt. James T. Purrk of the UFS Kittyprise responds to a distress call from the planet Tribbiani, home of the adorable indigenous creatures known as Tribbles. Ambassador Barker suspects the warlike Klingoffs plan to steal his cargo of the life-saving grain, quadrokittycale, so he enlists Purrk’s help. Will the innocent Tribbles get caught up in a war between the Furderation and the Klingoff empire? Get ready to travel at warp speed on Jan. 1st to find out.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Bruce D. Arthurs, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Ron Goulart (1933-2022)

Ron Goulart. Photo (c) and taken by Andrew Porter.

Ron Goulart died January 14, the day after his 89th birthday. A science fiction and mystery author, he published more than 180 books under his own and other different names, including the house names Kenneth Robeson and Con Steffanson, and personal pseudonyms such as Chad Calhoun, R T Edwards, Ian R Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S Shawn, Joseph Silva – even William Shatner.  (His interview about working on the Shatner-bylined Tek War comic series can be read in a 1992 issue of Starlog Magazine available at the Internet Archive.)

Goulart’s first professional publication was a 1952 reprint of the SF story “Letters to the Editor” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a parody of a pulp magazine letters column originally written for UC Berkeley’s Pelican.

His short story “Calling Dr. Clockwork ” (Amazing Stories Mar 1965) was a 1966 Nebula nominee. Translated into Japanese, “My Pal Clunky ” was a 2005 finalist for the Seiun Awards. He received an Edgar Award nomination from the Mystery Writers of America Award for his science fiction novel, After Things Fell Apart (1971). That same year he won the Pat Terry Award for Humor in Science Fiction, which used to be presented at the Worldcon.

Jon D. Swartz wrote in a 2018 issue of Tightbeam:

Goulart can satirize almost anything, and many of his stories are hilarious. He has also written some serious stories, of course, but he’s best known for his satirical fiction. Much of his funniest writing occurs in the several series he has written around his characters of Jack Summer (Death Cell, Plunder, A Whiff of Madness, Galaxy Jane), Jake Conger (the invisible government agent), and especially The Chameleon Corps stories about the shape-changing government agent Ben Jolson.

Mark Evanier’s News From ME appreciation adds, “He was a great lover of comic books and a fine historian of the form.” 

Goulart put his genre knowledge to work on nonfiction books such as The Dime Detectives: A Comprehensive History of the Detective Fiction Pulps. a 1989 Edgar Award nominee for Best Critical/Biographical Work. Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazines, and Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History.

In the 1970s, Goulart wrote several scripts for Marvel Comics, mostly adaptations of classic science fiction stories. Later in the decade he collaborated with artist Gil Kane on a newspaper strip called Star Hawks.  His comics work was recognized with an Inkpot Award from San Diego Comic-Con (1989).

For television, he scripted episodes of the series Monsters (1988), Welcome to Paradox (1998) and Thundercats (1985).

He is survived by his wife, author Frances Sheridan Goulart, and two sons.

Review: The Hammond Conjecture

The Hammond Conjecture by M. B. Reed

By Mike Glyer: Hugh Hammond thinks he has been swapped to another timeline. Or else he’s insane. He’s trying to figure it out.

Martin Reed’s alternate history tale The Hammond Conjecture finds Hugh regaining consciousness in an isolation ward of catatonic patients, one of many awakened by British doctors using levodopa, following the example of Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings. Unlike the encephalitics who have endured decades of stupor and inertia, he’s only been in treatment a few weeks. Why is he in a London psychiatric hospital? In 1982? Why is the first thing he remembers an airship voyage from South Africa in 1969? How did he get in this condition?

Hugh’s therapy, besides drugs and hypnosis, is to type out all his recollections. And things are beginning to come back to him. What he recalls of his past – missions as part of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the early Seventies — alternate with scenes in the present with his therapist and other patients, two story tracks that promise to converge when they finally reach the event horizon.

Meanwhile, Hugh wonders if his first glimpses of the present world are true, or only staged for him to see, as part of some psychological experiment? Like the television news of a woman Prime Minister hosting a visit by an American President he remembers from the movies — how improbable! Where are the uniformed officials of the Third Reich who were running the Europe he knew?

Hugh’s memoir of his work with the SIS reveals he is just as lecherous, though not as cowardly, as George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman, who Reed calls an inspiration for the character. Another reviewer said it: Hugh thinks with every organ but his brain. On the other hand, one of the reasons Hugh is braver and more impulsively heroic than Flashman is that in every tight situation he asks himself — What Would James Bond Do? Because not only are the novels of Ian Fleming admitted influences on the author – his hero Hugh has read the books and seen the movies! And when SIS bureaucratic intrigue is at its most treacherous, we find he also is familiar with the books of John le Carré – whose George Smiley is dismissed as far too wimpy to be a role model.

The book is entertaining on so many levels. There’s the alternate history puzzle. Why did the Nazis win in one of these universes, and what changes did that cause to the map and daily life? In that universe, what familiar sights and sounds of British pop culture in the Sixties have persisted, slightly rearranged? The Beatles and Mick Jagger are still front page news in the world he remembers; Monty Python still makes people laugh.

Then there’s the espionage story – operations, interservice rivalry, a constant flow of tradecraft (even the tactically placed hair to tell if someplace has been disturbed.)

And the science fiction story. What event triggered the separation of these two timelines? Why was Hitler’s Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess upon landing in England immediately imprisoned in the current timeline, but hailed as a peacemaking emissary in the remembered one? Or is this altered history not the cause, merely a symptom of a split precipitated at the quantum level? Science and myth both come into play as characters trying to understand this mystery notice the strange resonances between scientific and religious explanations of the cosmos.

Recognizing all the references is great fun, whether they explain the universe or tease the reader’s private memories. Hugh’s home has an elephant leg umbrella stand – did you ever read the Sladek story about the elephant with a wooden leg? At the hospital, Hugh types his memoir on a computer using WordStar – waves of nostalgia for me, possibly huh-wha? for you. Those are just two of the things I noticed. (Readers who worry about missing any of the hidden history can consult author Reed’s website with footnotes, which explains quite a bit.)

While the trivia is seductive, to make this a successful story it is essential that some answers come out before it ends. We want to know, does Hugh survive his missions with the Special Intelligence Service? How did he wind up in the Eighties? Did his love life work out? Are we given satisfactory answers to any of these questions? At least I can promise at no point does Hugh wake up and discover it was all a dream. But he worries that he might!    

[The Hammond Conjecture by M.B. Reed is an entry in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.]