Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

84 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

  1. @OGH/Mike Glyer: Before I read the scroll, I must say ROFLMAO!!! for your Pixel Scroll title. 😀 “You deserve an Internet today,” as McDonald’s famously did (not) sing.

    ETA: Ooh, let me be the first/fifth to praise the title, in fact.

  2. (12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES.

    I should probably feel bad about pointing this out, but I don’t. 😀

    *Hiscock

  3. Did I clicky? No, I did not. But the truly appalling discovery is that I didn’t even actually comment so that I could clicky.

  4. @James Davis Nicoll: Not sure about the book descriptions but you could try using an extension like Image Downloader Plus(Chrome) to grab all the cover images from the Humble Bundle page.

    (1) well played! I guess I’ll have to buy The Grey Bastards now that I know it’s won the coveted Dumbledore’s wand Selfie Stick Award.

  5. (2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE.
    Bought. Mt Tsundoku grows ever higher.
    The “31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees” that required installing the Great Jones Street App required perseverance to find: you have to type “2016 Nebula Nominees” in the app’s search function (well I did).

    (3) UP A LAZY RIVER.
    The writer only gets royalties from first sale, so I prefer to buy new. I want to support them so they can earn enough to keep writing & publishing stories I love. I appreciate that not everyone can afford to buy new, that’s where libraries & the used book market comes in. In my younger days those were important sources of books. So this new development, while making it easier for the reader to buy a cheaper book, is at the same time cutting into the writer’s royalties. I would prefer that writer’s get more royalties.

  6. When you import books into Calibre, it seems to automatically extract the covers as a jpg, and store them next to the book (for easy access, I assume).


    Buying used does not “cut into” royalties. The author got a royalty for the copy you own, whether you buy it used or new. They don’t get a second royalty just because the work changed hands, no, but that would be silly.

  7. (2) I bought the cheapest plan already. Although I’m still annoyed that I can’t get the free stories since I don’t own a smartphone because money and spoons. Yes, I’m used to being treated like a second-class citizen, but not for free stuff!

    (3-4) Used/remaindered have always only been one click away on Amazon as it is. And f’rex, Half Price Books sells a lot of remainders, particularly leftovers from book clubs like SFBC, History BC, etc.

    I agree it seems unfair for brand new books to get sold as used — but Amazon’s allowed that for ages! The day a book comes out (maybe sooner), you can find third party sellers right there. You know they aren’t used when they appear the same day the book drops. Presumably those are from publishers too, pre-ordered by the sellers? So… they’re going to buy their way into having one less click? Still not gonna be popular with Amazon Prime customers, who get the free shipping and two day delivery.

    (9) Meet the new xenomorph, same as the old xenomorph… Weyland-Yutani does get fooled again.

    (11) Boo hoo. And saying “Ninefox Gambit” wasn’t a critical success? Mostly leaving out the guy who had a different opinion — but even he thought “Closed & Common” was “too space-y”? Too space-y for an award named after Clarke? Who was always popular and never lit’rary? WTFF?!

    And as Mark-kitteh told them over there, what do they mean by “commercial”? “Underground Railroad”, which they praise, outsold “Closed & Common”, which they hate. It got all the acclaim already, and a ton of publicity/advertising outside the SF world.

    (16) Read this yesterday and was delighted.

  8. (2) Two small corrections – Venus Prime is not one book, but a six-book series, and they were written by Paul Preuss, not Clarke himself. Technically, the series name is “Arthur C. Clarke’s Venus Prime,” because each novel has a previously-published Clarke short story at its core, but to my knowledge that was the extent of Clarke’s contribution. Preuss not only expanded those kernels into full-length novels, but in the process he added a narrative link between them that did not previously exist.

    Incidentally, StoryBundle has a neat feature for us poor folks that I wish Humble Bundle would adopt. If you’ve bought a StoryBundle at any tier, you can go back in and pay more money to unlock the bonus content at a later time – even after the bundle has closed. I bought into one bundle at a low tier a couple of months ago, and now I can visit my account and see the option to pay the difference and get the bonus content.

  9. Re the Great Jones Street thing: I tried just going to their website and looking for the Nebula collection, and they just don’t seem to want anyone to read it there… They ask for your name and email address, then send you a link to their Slack. Which… um… no… that’s not what I wanted when I said I wanted to read the Nebula collection. I’m not jumping through any more hoops.

  10. Full disclosure: self-promotion ahead.

    If you’re getting the Great Jones Street app available with the Nebula HumbleBundle, you can also use the app to read “The Rest Of The Story”, an older fiction piece by me (originally in the 1997 HIGHWAYMEN anthology from DAW) that’s reprinted there.

    “TROTS” (not the best acronym in the world, I realize too late) isn’t SF/F; it’s historical mystery that uses the Good Samaritan parable as its basis. (Who was the beaten man saved by the Samaritan, and why was he -really- assaulted on the road?) It’s a story I’m pretty proud of and have always wanted to see reprinted. (The Great Jones Street version also fixes an embarassing error that crept into the original publication.)

  11. 3/4) This reminds me that in 1931 American publishers launched a campaign against “book sneaks”, who villainously deprived poor starving authors (and their publishers) of their rightful income by borrowing books from their friends. (And when I went looking for details, I discovered it was the work of Edward Bernays, whose other achievements included the “torches of freedom” campaign to get women smoking and a sterling effort to persuade the American public that the United Fruit Company was better than democracy.)

  12. 5) I don’t know if I’d call Murderbot a companionable character but I find them very relatable. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s cultivated detachment in an awful workplace.

  13. Just finished my Hugo-reading for Best Graphic Story:

    Black Panther, Volume 1:
    I found this mostly confusing, seemingly starting somewhere in the middle. I found no reason to rout for any character, they didn’t really seem to have much personalities. But the whole idea of having kings and their relatives being able to put death sentences on others was disgusting.
    Grade: 2/5

    Monstress, Volume 1:
    I have a bit of problem with Manga drawings where the eyes are just too large, otherwise I liked the story and the art work. It felt fresh.
    Grade: 4/5

    Ms. Marvel, Volume 5:
    Nope. A hero that causes more problems than she solves and wrecks havoc on a whole city. And has a secret identity that she simply doesn’t care about at all. This was too childish for me. But ok artwork.
    Grade: 2.5/5

    Paper Girls, Volume 1:
    Not sure what to think here. There was a nice mood to it and I liked the artwork. But the story just threw in new stuff all the time without resolving anything. Might be worth to buy the next volume.
    Grade: 3.5/5

    Saga, Volume 6:
    I got tired of this story the last volume, but this was a bit better. Still too many characters and a not very interesting story line. Will not buy more unless nominated again.
    Grade: 3/5

    The Vision, Volume 1:
    This was the one. A really slow and creepy story that keeps you on the edge. Good artwork. You really want to know what happens.
    Grade: 5/5

  14. 5) The tight first person point of view really does help here in making Murderbot a relatable character, and Wells shows just how important point of view is to telling the story in the way you want to.

    I can imagine a good Murderbot novella with a 3rd person limited point of view. We might even get some more details on the worldbuilding that I’d love to have. But we’d lose that deep dive into Murderbot’s mind and soul, and the work, IMO, would be lesser if she had chosen that path.

    A 2nd person Murderbot story would be interesting, I think.

  15. Pretty much agree with everything Hampus says about Graphic Story.

    Damnit, I really wanted to like Black Panther. I worried when it was announced that the writer was an award winning journalist with no history of writing fiction, and it shows.

  16. Hampus Eckerman on May 11, 2017 at 4:46 am said:
    Just finished my Hugo-reading for Best Graphic Story…

    I’m with you on The Vision Vol. 1. I read it yesterday and was impressed with the tone and the storytelling.

    I’ve read the first two volumes of Paper Girls and I think it’s definitely worth continuing. More stuff gets chucked in but it feels like it’s going somewhere.

    I like the art and style of Monstress but wasn’t particularly taken with the story.

    I’m only up to volume 2 of Ms. Marvel and I think I’m basically just older than its target market. I’ll probably continue with it though as it’s quite pleasant for language practice purposes.

  17. Although I’m still annoyed that I can’t get the free stories since I don’t own a smartphone because money and spoons.

    For several years I’ve been using a small (soap bar sized) “sorta-clever” phone–it has a few applets built in, but in a proprietary Java format that isn’t compatible with Android/iOS apps. I continue to be satisfied with it because it has a great battery life and is so small and light that I literally don’t know if it is in my pocket until I touch my pocket. But a few weeks ago I was riding somewhere with a cousin who had two Android phones between the seats–the current working phone and an earlier one that had been replaced because it died from water damage. I asked if I could have the old one and see if I could get it to work, and was given something she just hadn’t got around to throwing away. I plugged it into a USB port on my computer and it turned out that it had dried out and worked perfectly, only needing to be charged.

    So now, I use it SIM-less with the cellular radio turned off for various tasks, mainly as an ebook reader (replacing my old electronic ink based Sony PRS-350 that I used for 5 years until the USB port wore out) but also for other uses, such as a digital camera (my Sony F-707 that I had used for something like 15 years has also pretty much worn out.) I can add apps by side-loading them via USB cable or by WiFi. (The battery life for reading isn’t as good as with an e-ink reader, and the tiny CCD and lens isn’t as good as the big chip and glass on my old camera, but the software for reading is at least as good as the Sony reader and the software for photography is much better than the options on my old camera.)

    So the take-away is that you don’t need to spend much money to get a smart phone capable of doing off-line stuff–if you look around, you could probably come up with an old but still usable one for little or nothing.

    (BTW, when I’ve been setting up smart phones and tablets for other people, I’ve always set them up with Aldiko as the ebook reader, but I’ve recently discovered one called Moon + that is leaps and bounds above Aldiko–many more options for configuring the appearance and behavior, it reads more formats including CBR/CBZ, and it doesn’t need to copy the books over to main memory so you can keep them on a MicroSD card. And the full Pro version costs only 5 bucks.)

  18. Current reads:

    The Collapsing Empire, by some unknown dude. I really enjoyed this, I’m normally not a big fan of his space books as the characters tend to blend into a sea of undifferentiated snarkiness. However, this was different, with three well delineated main characters. What I’d picked up from reviews indicated some sloppy world building, but it was internally justified and hung together well. Pretty impressive, actually. One minor niggle was ur fnlf gur pbyyncfr bs gur Sybj jbhyq or fubja hc ol fuvcf abg neevivat, ohg ryfrjurer ur fnlf gurer ner qnvyl znvyqebarf, fb gurl’q fgbc svefg. Bayl n zvabe avg gubhtu. Looking forward to the next volume. The thing I noticed most was that there is very little description of the characters, but a lot of description of rooms.

    Chasing the Phoenix, Michael Swanwick. Hmm. Felt a bit slight, though pretty amusing, with the central premise/twist well done. Supposed to be set in a future China but could have been anywhere. Considering he’s usually bleaker than a house in midwinter, this was pretty upbeat, if you kinda ignore the war and a genocidal military leader. Pretty entertaining though.

  19. @11: I find myself a little less unsympathetic to the Chambers after watching the Shadows slag it; ISTM that “ambition” is not an overwhelming reason to consider a book award-worthy. (The induhvidual in OGH’s neighborhood who went aloft on a lawn chair lifted by balloons was certainly ambitious.) And while I ran out of patience with Planetfall well before the end, I’m finding After Atlas to be an effective subtle dystopia. (I’m only halfway through, so no certainty it will stay solid.) It’s amusing to see another ?critic? putting the Sullivan next to the Tidhar. Someone recently observed on Making Light that autism is a hypersolid rather than a spectrum; this reminds us that writing is, too.

    @Soon Lee re @3: part of the reason I don’t buy so many books any more is that finding a place to keep them would cost rather more than the books themselves (unless I adopted the peculiar behavior of a certain well-decried fan and rented several storage units, which seems blasphemous — why own books you can’t get to? — not to mention ultimately as expensive).

    @Ghostbird re 3/4: that’s an interesting set of activities; sounds like Bernays cared more about starving industrialists (editorial or agricultural) than people.

  20. Reading: I finished (and enjoyed) both Ballad of Black Tom and The Jewel and her Lapidary. Now I’m taking a break from Hugo stuff to revisit Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.

  21. Fun Fact about Edward Bernays: His chief competitor in the Dark Arts was Ivy Lee. Ivy Lee was the uncle of William S. Burroughs. People still think Burroughs wrote fiction.

  22. The Clarke complainers panel was always silly, but its disapointing to see them going all in on swinging bats at good work.

  23. (5)
    We said, “Tell me all your thoughts on Bot
    ‘Cause it really must have hacked her
    module and murders as she does
    Tell me all your thoughts on Bot
    ‘Cause I really enjoy to watch her
    And I say I really do
    I really, really do

    (With excuses to Dishwalla and Natalie Luhrs)

  24. @ Joe H

    For some reason, I went back to Lankhmar as well. I think someone mentioned the books here. It was great to rediscover Leiber and his prose is really wonderful. He’s a master of cadence and evocative adjectives, beyond a doubt.

  25. Books read:
    Vast – Linda Nagata. Fantastic, this is the far-future hard sci-fi stuff that I really love, And it was well done with great characters, exciting plot, a moral issue of “how much mental change makes you not the same person? Does it matter if the change is forced from outside or chosen by you?”
    Revenger – Alistair Reynolds. Girl leaves home and has adventures. I enjoyed it while reading it, but it is not something that is going to stay with me.
    Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty. The mystery parts on the spaceship were great, lots of tension and speculation. The Earth politics setup didn’t feel realistic at all.
    Alien Morning – Rick Wilber. An interesting first contact scenario, unfortunately 100 pages worth of story was stretched into 300. The flashbacks were especially repetitive.
    Seven Surrenders – Ada Palmer. Reading this did make me like the first book more, things happen and concepts are explored in more detail. But I feel unsatisfied, in the end none of the characters acted in a way that I could approve of – even when I sympathize with their motives, I think they acted stupidly overlooking a better solution.

  26. I’ve taken to buying fewer and fewer physical books. My wife gave me a Kindle for travel. She then suggested I buy books on Kindle unless I knew I would reread them often. She also requested I stop replacing books that got musty (due to the acid in the paper) with paperbacks and use an ebook instead.

    Over the last decade or so our total number of physical books shrank while our ebook quantities soared. I’m buying more books and keeping more books, but the majority are electronic.

    If you have bad allergies or limited space, ebooks are a Godsend.

    Ebook sales also generate author royalties unless the copyright has expired. So this also provides an income stream to the author.

  27. @Rob Thornton — Yeah, I started Swords in the Mist (the third volume) since I reread the first two books a few years back and again I’m shocked (pleasantly) at just how good the prose is.

  28. 3/4–Does the IRS “law” remain that calculates book value on unsold copies and charges the publisher for the value? This was one of the items that started very fast turnaround toward remaindered titles for some publishers. And the desire to publish only “blockbusters”.

  29. I’ve gone back and read Leiber’s work from time to time (and there is much to read and re read), and always found his prose to be interesting and involving. He tends to invoke smoky greys and shades of white and dark. Some greens, and much shrubbery. And there is a bit of uncollected material too.

  30. @bookworm1398

    Someone else who likes Vast! I thought I was pretty much the only one.

  31. I think an important class of people who’ll want to take advantage of the ability to sell new books will be authors who have received boxes of unsold copies of their books.

  32. Gregg: doesn’t always happen. A friend of mine bought several copies of Ellison’s book LOVE AIN’T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED for a buck each, even though Ellison gets contracts to forward him the remainders. Which is why he still has copies of DANGEROUS VISIONS he will sell you. But things happen. Of course, Uncle Harlan was pissed.

    A LIT FUSE is pretty good.

  33. Lean Times in Lankhmar is excellent on audible. I listened to it this Winter/Spring.

  34. @Greg I dont know about book authors, but game designers are usually not allowed to sell their authors copies.
    They can buy them back if they are discontinued, but then they wont really hurt the publisher anymore (since they are no longer selling those, at which ppiint they happily move their stock to the designer.)

  35. Robert Whitaker Sirignano: 3/4–Does the IRS “law” remain that calculates book value on unsold copies and charges the publisher for the value? This was one of the items that started very fast turnaround toward remaindered titles for some publishers. And the desire to publish only “blockbusters”.

    The Thor Power Tools decision (note that it was not a publisher’s case to begin with) said it was not allowable to write off the cost of producing as-yet unsold inventory until the inventory was disposed of (by sale, or some other transaction like theft or destruction).

    The application to publishers is that they couldn’t deduct the proportionate cost of books that were still sitting in the warehouse.

    Up til then publishers had been writing off the full cost production, then keeping the backlist available for sale.

    There really wasn’t any reason publishers couldn’t have gone on doing that. Why did they change? Presumably their accountants did a cost/benefit analysis and decided the tax savings was more important. But in order to have that, they had to get rid of the unsold books.

  36. @OGH:

    But in order to have that, they had to get rid of the unsold books.

    And they did it awful fast. A lot of stuff I’d’ve paid good money for, would have bought by the case, got pulped before I even heard it was going to die. It grieves me.

  37. Apologies if someone ‘s already mentioned this, but the SyFy [sic] network is planning to do something based on George R.R. Martin’s “Nightflyers”. I’m guessing that means “very loosely based” – there isn’t really enough plot there for a series, “haunted spaceship” by itself no longer has the same novelty appeal, and the press release mentions some stuff I don’t remember being in there. But I’m always interested in Martin’s horror writing, and his baroque moody approach to SF world-building, so if there’s a chance that any of that will survive the adaptation then I’m certainly curious.

  38. 5) I would say that Murderbot is a compelling character rather than a companionable one. I would also say that their thought processes are a lot like mine when I’m having to put on a polite face while doing something I would very much rather not be doing. 🙂 I powered my way right thru the story — it dragged me in from the opening scene, and the mystery element was challenging and well-done. It’s definitely got a place on my Hugo nominations for 2018.

    I notice a thread of similarity between this, the Ancillary trilogy, and A Closed and Common Orbit; they all involve a created intelligence trying to learn how to function beyond its original parameters. This suggests that I’ve got a strong interest in stories which explore that concept and do it well.

    @ Arthur W: Well, how else can they justify their existence?

  39. Nearly current reading: the last (alas) Lady Trent book. Very good fun, and I finished it fast enough to lend it to a “book sneak” before I do the slow, second read. I love how Brennan can demonstrate the passion for learning and discovery: one of my favorite things about the original Stargate film. Usual gorgeous cover and illustrations, too.
    Just for fun, can Filers suggest other books about the joy of learning? There’s a good deal about that in The Just City and the Invisible Library books, for example.

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