Pixel Scroll 3/31/17 Once The Pixel Is Scrolled, Mr. File Is No Longer Your Friend

(1) SOMETHING EXTRA FOR YOUR STOCKING. Fans associate Doctor Who and Christmas because of the annual specials. But do you remember the Max Headroom Christmas episode? No, you don’t, because it was never produced…. Until now.

George R.R. Martin, who wrote that script (!), is in fact hosting a week-long Max Headroom marathon at the Jean Cocteau Cinema from May 13-20.

Twenty minutes into the future… thirty years into the past… it was 1987, and Max was the hottest television personality in the world, with the hottest television show….

Yes, that’s right. We’ve having a whole week of Max, to celebrate his 30th anniversary. We’ll be screening all fourteen episodes of his show: the original British pilot, “Twenty Minutes Into the Future,” and the American remake of same, plus every one of the ABC hours that followed….

Oh, and one more thing. We’ll also be featuring, for the very first time anywhere, two Max Headroom episodes that have never been seen or heard before anywhere, two episodes written by a guy you won’t find listed anywhere in the credits for the show: me.

Yep. That’s right. MAX HEADROOM is the great “what if” in my own television career.

For me, MAX came along after my stint on TWILIGHT ZONE and before BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. When ABC first greenlit the US show, they ordered six original scripts to follow the pilot, almost all of which ended up getting assigned to writers just coming off TZ. I was one of those. Mine was supposedly to be… hmmmmm, let me see now… the fourth episode of the series. My title was “Mister Meat.”…

I got a second chance when MAX was picked up for a second season, however. As a freelancer, I got the choice assignment of writing the Christmas episode. And this time I went to town. Wrote the story, rewrote the story, wrote the teleplay, revised the teleplay. “Xmas” was the title of the episode, and it got as far as pre-production…

And then the show was cancelled. Rather suddenly and unceremoniously, I must say. America was spared from celebrating Xmas with Max.

Ah, but with strange aeons even death may die… and like all good writers, I never throw anything away. So as part of our Jean Cocteau M-M-M-Maxathon, the world will meet “Mister Meat” and “Xmas” for the first time. “Mister Meat” is just a short treatment, so I will be reading it myself on the third day of the marathon, in the slot it would have filled if it had been filmed. Come and hear the episode that ABC deemed too offensive and disgusting for Ronald Reagan’s America.

As for “Xmas”… hell, we have a whole finished script of that one, so we’re going to be performing it, live, on the tiny little stage at the Jean Cocteau. Lenore Gallegos will direct, and the parts of Edison Carter, Bryce, Theora, Blank Reg, Max himself, and all the rest of the gang from Network 23 and the ZikZak corporation will be performed by a fearless cast of local actors…

(2) OTHER THINGS NEVER BEFORE DISPLAYED. Oxford’s Bodleian Library will host a major Tolkien exhibit in 2018 , and will publish a companion book.

The Bodleian Library is set to release a book – Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth – next year to accompany a major Tolkien exhibition due to take place at the Library.

The exhibition, due to take place in June 2018, will feature an unparalleled collection of Tolkien manuscripts, letters, illustrations and other material from the Bodleian’s Archives. The Bodleian houses the majority of Tolkien’s archives, and many of the items have never before been publicly exhibited. The collection, and the accompanying book, has been described as “unprecedented” by Samuel Fanous, the Head of Publishing at the Bodleian.

(3) THE TRAVELER SPEAKS. Gideon Marcus re-introduces the concept behind his brilliant blog — “[Mar. 31,1962] Read All About It! (What Is The Galactic Journey?)”

This weekend, the Journey travels to WonderCon, a midlin’-sized fan convention with an emphasis on comics and science fiction.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce Galactic Journey to a host of new readers, folks who have a keen interest in what this column has to offer.

So what is Galactic Journey?  Quite simply, it is the most comprehensive ‘zine you’ll find covering all of the coolest, the quirkiest, the most far out stuff, as it happens, day-by-day.

In 1962.

…When he started documenting this trip, it was October 21, 1958.  Sputnik was just a year old.  Buddy Holly was still around.  Now, three and a half years later, we have a new President.  We have a new dance craze.  There have been five men in space.

Along the way, he and his fellow travelers have written on every aspect of current science fiction and fantasy…

Galactic Journey is one of my favorite things on the internet – inventive and full of fascinating references to things beloved, forgotten, or never known to begin with!

(4) WEATHER REPORT. Darren Garrison employed his famous phrase-making skills again in comments: “Breaking news; Rainn makes Mudd.”

Star Trek: Discovery” has cast “The Office” alum Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, Variety has learned. It is unknown how many episodes Wilson will appear in at this time.

Mudd was a charismatic interstellar con man who had repeated run-ins with the crew of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek.” The character, who was first played by Roger C. Carmel, also appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. In comments, kathodus pointed out that you can play Ms. Pac-Man on a map based around the area supposedly containing Pratchett’s locale: https://www.google.com/maps/@51.0300925,-1.9468899,18z/data=!1e3.

You just need to click the little Pac-Man icon at the bottom left of the map. Reportedly, this will work until April 2. But when I tried to play, and it said my browser did not support the game, and recommended I download Chrome.

(5) NO FOOLING. The Horror Writers Association will begin taking applications for its HWA, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Dark Poetry, and Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarships on April 1.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five published

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 31, 1943  — Christopher Walken, whose sci-fi and horror movie credits include The Mind Snatchers, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, Sleepy Hollow, and Blast From The Past.

(8) BIG DEAL, YES OR NO? Well, it must be for the BBC to run an article reporting “Doctor Who gets first openly gay companion” – although they had to work a little harder to define what exactly is the news here, bearing in mind Doctor Who’s wife is bisexual, and how often the show’s had gay supporting characters.

Bill Potts’s sexuality will be revealed pretty much straightaway in her second line of dialogue when the show returns to BBC One on 15 April.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill, told the BBC.

“That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”

She added: “It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them.

“I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.”

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

Gay and bisexual characters have featured in Doctor Who before, such as Captain Jack and River Song, but this is the first time the Doctor’s permanent companion has been openly gay.

Although Captain Jack – played by John Barrowman – travelled with the Doctor for a number of episodes, he was not a full-time companion in the traditional sense.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Truly an inside sf joke in Bliss today.

(10) THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE RECOMMENDED. Jason of Featured Futures returns with another report from the March campaign on the Speculative Front with his “Summation of Online Fiction: March 2017”.

Compelling was off this month and the other twelve prozines produced forty-nine stories of 168K words. Only three of those struck me as especially noteworthy but that was partly offset by several honorable mentions. Tor.com came alive (mostly thanks to Ellen Datlow) when most other zines were below their average. Like Tor, Nightmare was also a little more impressive than usual–and in a month when it had a lot of competition, as many zines seemed to want to include some horror in this spooky month of March…

(11) PLIGHT FLIGHT. UK gaming companies may stage a counter-Brexit.

Some 40% of British gaming companies say they are considering relocating some or all of their business because of Brexit.

Companies cited losing access to talent and funding as major risks when Britain leaves the bloc.

A survey by industry group Ukie polled 75 of the more than 2,000 games firms in the UK, most of which worked in development.

(12) DATA. Counting authors’ uses of text in Ben Blatt’s book — “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve’ Crunches The (Literary) Numbers”.

But that’s what statistician Ben Blatt’s new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, sets out to do, thin slice by thin slice.

He loaded thousands of books — classics and contemporary best-sellers — into various databases and let his hard drive churn through them, seeking to determine, for example, if our favorite authors follow conventional writing advice about using cliches, adverbs and exclamation points (they mostly do); if men and women write differently (yep); if an algorithm can identify a writer from his or her prose style (it can); and which authors use the shortest first sentences (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain) versus those who use the longest (Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Edith Wharton).

Unexpected results include Tolkien being #5 in use of exclamation points, while Elmore Leonard is dead last.

(13) NEW TRANSLATION AWARD. As Oneiros said in comments: “Not strictly SFF but there is a new UK-based prize for women in translation”.

Coventry’s University of Warwick has announced the launch of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, to have its first winner in November.

The goal of the prize, according to the announcement, is “to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.”

Prof. Maureen Freely, head of English and comparative literature studies—and perhaps better known as the president of English PEN—is quoted in the university’s announcement, saying, “We’ve come a long way with the championing of world literature over the past decade, welcoming in a multiplicity of voices which have gone on to enrich us all.

“In the same period, however, we’ve noticed that it’s markedly more difficult for women to make it into English translation.

“This prize offers us an opportunity to welcome in the voices and perspectives that we have missed thus far.”

…The prize money of £1,000 (US$1,235) is to be split evenly between the winning female writer and her translator(s). Publishers are invited to submit titles starting on April 3. A shortlist is to be announced in October and the winner is to be named in November.

(14) THE VASTY FIELD OF TOLKIEN. David Bratman responds to “A reviewer’s complaint” on the Tolkien Society blog.

That’s part of the title of a little opinion piece by Thomas Honegger in the latest issue of Hither Shore (v. 12, dated 2015), “To whom it may concern – a Reviewer’s Complaint.” Honegger’s complaint is over a lack of “a certain minimal level of professional quality” in Tolkien studies. He mentions fact-checking and proofreading, but his main concern is lack of bibliographical research, scholars unaware of major and basic work in the areas they are covering. “How are we going to advance Tolkien studies if scholars in the field are ignorant of each others research?”

Well, I know how and why this happened. It’s the explosion in the size of our field. About 30 years ago – it seems such a blip in time – I wrote an article for Beyond Bree giving a potted summary of every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, including the art books and parodies. I had them all in my head, and almost all of them on my shelves. I couldn’t do that any more. There’s just too much stuff out there.

(At this point a real article would provide statistics. This is not a real article, and I lack both time and inclination to do that work right now. But if you’ve been paying attention to the field over the years, you know this too.)

Scholars were used to knowing off the top of their heads what work had been done in specific areas of the field. Perhaps they’re still trying to do so, but failing.

Thomas Honegger has, of course, the answer to this. Research. There are bibliographies, online databases, etc. And don’t I know it. I’m right in the middle of doing my lonesome best at compiling the bibliography of Tolkien studies for 2015 that will be going in the next issue of Tolkien Studies….

(15) HONORVERSE WAR COLLEGE. Baen Books hosts “Honorverse Analytics: Why Manticore Won the War” by Pat Doyle and Chris Weuve.

Pat and Chris are members David Weber’s Honorverse consulting group, BuNine. Both are defense professionals who use their day-job expertise to help David flesh out the background worlds and ways of the Honor Harrington series novels. The analysis below is an example of the sorts of briefs and articles BuNine prepares for David as he continues his imaginative journey exploring the Honorverse and bringing his stories to millions of readers.

…The size disparity between the two star nations goes beyond just resources. It also effects what is known as strategic depth, which is usually viewed as the ability to trade space for time. Think for a moment about the disparity between Israel (a country with no strategic depth) and Russia (a country with a lot of strategic depth, as Napoleon and Hitler discovered). At the beginning of the war Manticore has virtually no strategic depth, as the vast majority of both its population and its economic wherewithal is concentrated in the Manticore home system. Haven, on the other hand, has lots of strategic depth—it can and does lose star systems over the course of the war with little decrease in its own warfighting capability. Worth noting, though, is that strategic depth is a more nebulous concept in the Honorverse than in our own universe. Even leaving aside the hyperbridges, the nature of hyperspace travel in the Honorverse has the effect of making space non-contiguous, by which we mean that you can get from point A to point C without going through point B. In theory, then, the Royal Manticoran Navy could appear above Nouveau Paris without warning, just as a Havenite Fleet could do the same at Manticore.

(16) A SERVICE TO MANKIND. Timothy the Talking Cat, being the altruist that he is, thinks anybody should be able to turn out a Cattimothy House book cover in five minutes, not just its publisher. Read “A Message from the CEO of Cattimothy House” and go play.

Here’s a screenshot of the control panel and my first masterpiece.

(17) WHAT’S THAT FLOATING IN THE PUNCHBOWL? Were you in need of a libertarian take on Beauty and the Beast? Look no farther – let Dan Sanchez tell you about “Belle’s Tax-Funded Fairy Tale Life”, a post at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Not to be a childhood-ruining killjoy, but who paid for all this? It’s not like the Beast is an entrepreneur: the local Steve Jobs, providing the townspeople with mass-produced magic mirrors that can make FaceTime calls.

As the new film’s opening sequence makes explicit, the prince paid for his lavish lifestyle by levying taxes—so high that even lefty Hollywood regards them excessive—on the hard-working, commercial townspeople discussed above. The party-animal prince being transformed into a sulking beast may have amounted to a 100% tax cut for the town; no wonder the townspeople are so cheerful and thriving when we first meet them!

(18) DANSE MACABRE. This is bizarre – is that enough reason to use the service in the ad? Get the background from AdWeek in “Skeletor Dances to the Theme From Fame in the Most ‘80s-Tastic Ad You’ll See This Year”.

With an undead head and inhuman abs, Skeletor might literally live forever, which could explain why he’s now jamming out to the lyrically appropriate theme from Fame.

Mattel’s cackling villain from the 1980s cartoon (and blatant toy marketing machine) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe returns to the marketing world after a three-year hiatus, most recently having taken over Honda’s Twitter feed in 2014.

Now Skeletor is shilling for MoneySuperMarket, a British financial-comparison site that promises to help users save on insurance, bank rates and more. And, as you’d imagine, He-Man isn’t far behind.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Oneiros, kathodus, Darren Garrison, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

60 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/31/17 Once The Pixel Is Scrolled, Mr. File Is No Longer Your Friend

  1. If you search for Collapsing Empire on Amazon, the second result is Corroding Empire with the look-alike cover and similar author name.

    I know we’ve already covered this ground, but I can’t believe Amazon is cool with this.

  2. rcade on March 31, 2017 at 6:36 pm said:
    My experiences with their search engine are that the results are a lot broader than they should be, even when you’re not dealing with titles and names that are similar.

  3. I’m a Chrome fan and Ms. Pac Maps worked for me — it even has sound effects, woot! Controls are pretty sloppy however.

    Camestros has convinced me even further that in the future, editing (and art direction) will all be done by cats.

  4. Darn, missed the fifth. And after most of a week traveling to, working in, and returning from Britton, I could sure use a fifth right now.

  5. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY.

    The scroll has now advanced to the Cryptographic Xanatos Gambit level, with scroll items which have Invisible Numbers.

    Aristotle!

  6. [4.5] Not only does it work for Pratchett’s turf, but you can play Ms Pac-Man in any territory that Google Maps covers, like your own home town. This has been my favorite Google feature ever, and I’m glad they offered it again, for a little while. Should be permanent.

  7. @Kip W – yeah, I actually found that feature on Google Maps right after I’d read a jerky rant against a Pratchett memorial that was supposed to go up in the city near where Pratchett lived (said rant posted in a recent Pixel Scroll). I ended up poking around Google Maps hear Pratchett’s home, just wondering about his life, then found another article about the Ms. Pac-Man game, and decided to play Ms. Pac-Man around the area nearby what another article said was his local pub.

    That’s not a very exciting explanation. On the other hand, being the inspiration behind what may go down in history as the first unnumbered fifth in a Pixel Scroll is pretty significant.

  8. I think we can all agree that this is indeed significant.

    I think I’ll go play Ms Pac-Man in my old home town a time or two, while I still can.

  9. I didn’t have any trouble accessing the Ms. Pac-Man game. Going around at non-right angles, though… must move to a sensibly laid out city map.

    (15) Cuz the writer wrote it that way?

    (16) Truly, Cattimothy House is the best vanity nimble publishing company in SF. Entertainment at reasonable prices.

    (17) Ah, finally, a libertarian who admits that his philosophy has the same end results as feudalism.

    (18) Wait wut?

  10. Ohh a day of double happiness! A thing I mentioned got scrolled AND I’m back in South Korea! 🙂

  11. I watched “Ghostz in da Shell” yesterday. I havent watched the original,so I did get in with any expectations.

    First The visuals are stunning! Ive seen my share of action movies trying to to submerge you in visuals (Pacific Rium, Marvel-Movies, Channing tatum on Ice aka Jupiter ascending), but non succeeds like Ghosts. For once they really paint a realistic futuristic city. They also use shots that are clearly inspired by manga, which creates are very unique feel, few other action movies can match. Ill expect a few technical Oscars heading to the ´shell.

    The story is interesting enough. Its nothing I havent seen before and quite predictable at times. However, the first antagonist is well done and the topic of “Humanity” is explored in a not too heavy handed way. There are some very intricate scenes and good characterization and 30 minutes in I was hoping for a new “Matrix”. It couldnt quite clear that bar – Some side stories could have been better explored (for example her team members are introduced, but they dont actually do anything – or even talk – for the rest of the movies). The end was a bit anticlimatic. Not bad, mind you, but it couldnt quite live up to the buildup (If you saw John Wick, you know what I mean, just that the buildup here was even stronger). The movie is short (~90 minutes) and some things could have been explored more.
    All in all a very pleasant surprise! Definitly watchable!

    But I have to mention on thing that really bugged me: I know of the controversial decision to cast Johansson in the lead. I was willing to roll with it, because a) I do like Johansson and b) I understand the decision to cast the perhaps biggest billing actress as a lead for an expansive movie. In the end THAT decision didnt bug me. There was even one scene where I think it fits the theme of her being non-human quite well.
    TBS: Apperently there are not many asians living in asia: There are only two asians with speaking roles (If you define “speaking role” as “says more than just grunts or screams when hit by bullet/knife/Johannson”). Every major and every minor character (safe two) are non-asians.For me this breaks the athmosphere of the setting, since it clearly is set in china (at least the lettering is chinese). They should have either set the movie in America or have cast asians in the other roles. This didnt completly ruin the movie for me, but it did lower the enjoyment somewhat.

  12. lurkertype on March 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm said:

    (16) Truly, Cattimothy House is the best vanity nimble publishing company in SF. Entertainment at reasonable prices.

    The next step will be a program that writes the Castalia-quality book for you.

  13. Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop, albeit with many, many security popups. A sample of the output from SFCOMP.AIQ:-

    It was the 6th millennium, and Europe seemed to be uneasily preserving armed truce with the Stainless Steel Rat. The Galactic Patrol’s outcast, Woodcrog, was draining a mug of “zith” and chillingly lighting a Sirian cigar.

    Could it be that Dr Who was not a secret identity of Fardel? The Grand Omnipotent of Orion bullied Captain Picard with the hideous buckyball.

    An Imperial storm-trooper was attacking the Sun! Far away, a bat flitted. Woodcrog was rapidly adapting the Omega Point into a cruise missile…! The Rull brutally murmured, “The Bird is cruel!” Woodcrog thought enigmatically. “Shut your eyes and use the Force!” said someone.

    A spy gestured at someone with a blaster.

    In the chaos of shattered worldlines, might it be that Kim Kinnison was a spy for humanity? The besieged city was no more! Woodcrog was poised on the cusp of triumph. Woodcrog pondered about the Vogon Empire.

    A medic had been orbiting an unlocated room on an unlocated world….

    At the same time, “Yes, NOW there is a God!” muttered the Borg. Woodcrog was firing an ultimate flaming torch…. Could it be that Flash Gordon was a secret identity of Glockenspiel? Woodcrog was blasting a fatal octopoid to pieces. The Mysterons brooded explosively about the needler. Woodcrog contemplated about the dilemma. A triffid cowed something with the Lazy Gun. The guard darkly cried, “The engines canna take the strain!” Elric had been fleeing Mercury. The large dwarf disabled someone with a genome map. Was this the dark hour before the dawn?

    At that stage … the menace of the Stainless Steel Rat was irrelevant.

    Camestros? Have Timothy’s people call Langford’s people. I’m thinking at least six Dragon Awards for this one….

  14. Steve Wright: Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop …

    Oh dear, I’d forgotten that was still downloadable. I too am amazed that it still works at all! Maybe I should update it a bit — it probably writes or tries to write to program folders that post-XP versions of Windows regard as sacrosanct.

  15. Hey, so we have a choice of covers and content (Latin nonsense, cat nonsense, or Langford nonsense), all we need is an .epub output and a 5 star review generator and we’re golden!

  16. Metedith Moment: This month’s UK Kindle deals include The Vorrh, The Sirens of Titan and Breakfast of Champions.

  17. David Langford on April 1, 2017 at 4:12 am said:
    Steve Wright: Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop …
    Oh dear, I’d forgotten that was still downloadable. I too am amazed that it still works at all! Maybe I should update it a bit — it probably writes or tries to write to program folders that post-XP versions of Windows regard as sacrosanct.

    Well, I followed the instructions and installed it to C:\AIQ (I am one of that weird minority group that actually does RTFM), and after a couple of iterations of “Windows has protected your computer from a possible threat”>”More information”>”Run anyway”, it worked just fine. For certain values of “just fine” in any event. (I suspect the problem was that it wasn’t adequately hedged about with verification and certification from the software’s publisher – which, for a freebie download of something that can run on DOS, is only to be expected really.)

  18. The next step will be a program that writes the Castalia-quality book for you.

    @camestros, et al.

    Though I dare not link it here. there is also a “50 Shades of Grey” text generator which is, uh, not safe for work. I leave y’all to google it at your peril. Maybe Castalia House authors can use it to write more realistic sex scenes.

  19. Mary Robinette Kowal laments that she doesn’t have time to play out her pre-planned April Fools joke. IIRC the preparations have been mentioned here earlier:
    http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/a-moment-of-truth/
    (Or maybe her “no, it’s totally not me” is, in itself, an April fools joke …)

    Speaking of SF-themed announcement, this one might be of interest to some:
    http://the-daily.buzz/a/george-takei-has-bombshell-announcement-and-washington-is-reeling
    (Sbe gubfr jub trg rkpvgrq: fbeel, gung vf nyfb n wbxr.)

  20. The Derringer Awards have been given out annually since 1998 by the Short Mystery Fiction Society. The 2017 list of nominations is out.

    And, umm, my story in the December Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, “Beks and the Second Note”, is one of the Best Short Story finalists.

  21. @Aaron: I’m interested for the wrong reason: I used to sing for a Donald Palumbo who is now choral director at the Met. I wonder whether they know each other?

  22. Mark on April 1, 2017 at 4:28 am said:

    Hey, so we have a choice of covers and content (Latin nonsense, cat nonsense, or Langford nonsense), all we need is an .epub output and a 5 star review generator and we’re golden!

    Maybe Vlad (Putin not the Hampus’s new cat) could lend us a cadre of bots.

  23. A bit of a recent reading backlog:

    The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley – I mentioned finishing this and not being sure what I thought, but on mature reflection I think it’s excellent. I wondered whether the high-concept setting and plot would fall apart once I’d let it sink in, and while I think there’s definitely some holes in there the book as a whole hangs together really well. It’s a bravura concept pulled off with glee.

    Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (aka Alex Acks) – A weird western….in spaaace! Wells/Ack’s debut novel is a bit raw around the edges but is extremely badass fun. There’s a desert/mining planet with shades of the Wild West but with motorcycles, being controlled by an enigmatic corporation that also controls the FTL ships abilities in this Space Opera setting. But what could be the link….? When I started this I was pleasantly surprised to find it was related to a short story published in Mothership Zeta issue 2 (as by Acks, not Wells) giving the early history of Hob, one of the main characters – obviously the story snowballed into a novel at some point along the way! However, this causes a bit of a problem as a lot of the first half of the novel is about Hob finding her place as a consequence of things that happened between that story and the start of novel, and establishing those requires some flashbacking and explaining. Once the characters are bedded in the second half of the book is much more assured and I really enjoyed it.

    Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan – a Tor.com novella. Another in their mini-theme of Lovecraftian stories (see also, Ballad of Black Tom, Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe, Hammers on Bone) and probably the one least likely to be accessible to non-fans of Lovecraft. It’s a rather twisty tale about an unnamed investigator looking into a weird cult with a sense of quiet desperation, while a prescient colleague follows similar threads with quiet acceptance. It was suitably moody but I wasn’t that taken with it. On the other hand N K Jemisin gave it a strong review, so what do I know?

    The Shark God’s Child by Jonathan Edelstein, from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This might be my favourite story by him so far. It’s got really rich and interesting worldbuilding going on, with people living on islands formed of stone gods that can – and do – awaken catastrophically. Built atop this is a big, expansive story revealing this world of people living precarious lives, and an ending that works perfectly to show the meaning behind it. (7,269 words per my count, so a short story but only just)

    Currently Reading: The Djinn Falls in Love and other stories, an anthology by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin that is not suprisingly themed around Djinn, Jinn, and Genies. So far it has cast a very wide net, with quite traditional versions alongside more modern interpretations, and I’m enjoying it greatly.

  24. Hampus Eckerman on April 1, 2017 at 7:35 am said:
    Name of new kitteh is Vladimir Arkady Vasechkin. Or Vlad for short.

    Classic kitty!

  25. Mark on April 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm said:

    Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (aka Alex Acks) – A weird western….in spaaace! Wells/Ack’s debut novel is a bit raw around the edges but is extremely badass fun.

    I started the book, got distracted by the all the Corroding Umpire stuff, and then got back into it past few days. If found I didn’t like Hob initially and Chapter 1 felt like it was trying too hard to make her badass-cool but I’m really enjoying it now. I like how the key emotional relationship is a friendship and Hob is given a lot more depth as a consequence. Best interplanetary-western-fantasy with biker-gangs and striking miners I’ve read in awhile.

  26. Something to look out for on Tuesday:

    The countdown begins. We will announce the finalists for the 2017 #HugoAwards on Tuesday 4 April at 17:00 Finnish time; 10:00 EDT. Be there!

    Doesn’t look like EPH has put any significant delays on getting the results out (or they’ve been data cleansing 24/7!)

  27. @Camestros

    Yeah, Hob is definitely a tricky character initially, and I wonder if some “young Hob” material would have helped introduce her better, but it all starts to flow later on. I’d have liked a bit more from the second character as well, and I hope she gets more time in the sequel.

    My brain keeps wanting to compare it to K B Wagers Behind The Crown for some reason, despite being very different stories – maybe the theme of a young woman being forced to accept a place in the world she wasn’t quite ready for?

  28. (Shadow Fifth) YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. The Pac-Man thing worked for me in Safari/Mac (not perfectly). It works a little better with New York, IMHO. It’s a cute distraction. 🙂

    (8) BIG DEAL, YES OR NO? “the Doctor’s permanent compantion” – oh, this one will be permanent?! 😉

    (18) DANSE MACABRE. Uh, yipes? LOL, okay, cute but weird and slightly disturbing.

  29. @k_choll: I saw the cover the other day and it’s great; I’m looking forward to the book!

    @rcade: I find Amazon’s search algorithm usefulness drops off sharply after the first (or first few) hits. Showing me things without my search terms in the title or author fields, when they found exact matches as titles/authors for what I entered, is silly, though I know why they do it: we might just click on some completely unrelated item in the list of results (not!).

    @kathodus: Congratulations on your Shadow Fifth position!

    @Mark (Kitteh): LOL at the Cat Ipsum generator, thanks! I just sent it to a couple of friends in publishing (who probably already know of it, but ya never know).

    @Hampus Eckerman: I, for one, welcome your new Vlad overlord. 🙂 Great name!

    @Bruce Arthurs: Kudos on being a finalist! Fingers crossed for you! I love “local Filer makes good” info like this.

    @Mark (Kitteh), redux: “Once the characters are bedded…” ::blink, blink:: What kind of book is this? 😉

    @Mark (Kitteh), tertiary adjunct of Uniscroll 01: Hmm, would you recommend Wells’s book to fans of Wagers’s, despite being very different stories? (That’s a lot of S’s.) Asking for a friend. 😛

  30. Mark on April 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm said:

    @Camestros

    Yeah, Hob is definitely a tricky character initially, and I wonder if some “young Hob” material would have helped introduce her better, but it all starts to flow later on. I’d have liked a bit more from the second character as well, and I hope she gets more time in the sequel.

    Yeah more Mag would be good…and apparently that is all on its way in the sequel http://katsudon.net/?p=5497

  31. @Kendall

    Aargh, I was trying to write “once the characters are bedded in, the second half…”
    That was a very unfortunate missing comma!
    (Or is it that “bedded in” as an phrase meaning “established” isn’t as universal as I assumed?)
    (Or did you know what I meant anyway and wanted to worry me!)

    Re Wagers, hmmm. I think Hob is less initially sympathetic than Bristol, and Wagers builds the interpersonal relationships more obviously on the page than Acks/Wells, who expects the reader to do more work in that regard, but with that proviso there’s definitely a shared theme that might interest your “friend”.

    ETA: @Camestros, cool, I’m looking forward to it already!

  32. Meredith Moment: a bunch of 99c SF/F stuff, on all platforms of e-books:
    http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

    @Mark-kitteh: Cat Ipsum is spookily accurate to what goes on here daily.

    @Bruce Arthurs: heartiest congrats!

    @Hampus: Does the kitten name imply that you, like the US Government, have been infiltrated by Russia? 😉

    The Langford programme (and I’m glad it still works) I think is our best bet to go with Cam’s fabulous cover generator. Seed it with the usual bla bla (but dear lord, don’t make it sound like JCW), slap on a cover and boom.

  33. Have just heard via grapevine that Dallas filker Casey Sledge collapsed and died while mowing his lawn. His Facebook page, on which someone has posted a bare-bones account, is here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *