2016 Novellapalooza

Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But last year, I made a concerted effort to read a good sampling of works in the shorter fiction categories. I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

This sort of comprehensive survey of the category was an entirely new experience for me. I found some real gems – several of them utterly unexpected – and perhaps for the first time, I really felt as though I was able to do nominations for the novella category in an informed way. So I decided to do it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. I’ve opined on a few of these previously on File770, so I’ve put those at the end, so as to not give them an unfair amount of bandwidth.

Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2016 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)


Cold-Forged Flame, by Marie Brennan (aka Bryn Neuenschwander) (excerpt)

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A woman comes to consciousness with a bloody animal sacrifice laid out before her. She realizes that she is bound to the shaman who did the sacrifice, by a geas that will force her to follow his command: to bring back “blood from the cauldron of the Lhian”. Never mind that he doesn’t tell her who or what the Lhian is, or where the cauldron is located: she doesn’t even know who she herself is – and he won’t tell her that either, because he says it’s safer if she doesn’t remember.

What I thought: I really, really liked this. It features a strong but flawed female character, and avoids or subverts a lot of the quest tropes. This is definitely on my longlist for next year’s Hugo nominations – and I’ll be seeking out some of Brennan’s other works, as well. There’s a sequel, Lightning in the Blood, coming out in April 2017.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: For a character who has no idea who she is, she’s strangely compelling, and the story itself is more adventure and (self) discovery than hack-and-slash, although there’s a bit of that too. It’s about 20,000 words, so fairly short for a novella, and it feels like a fully expanded short rather than a compressed novel, but that’s no bad thing – the story is complete by the end, although I suspect sequels are possible, and some intriguing bits of worldbuilding have been revealed.
  • Arifel: probably the best novella I’ve read this year – intriguing, well paced fantasy with a great main character and world building that I can’t wait to read more of.
  • kathodus: I noticed it on my Kindle when I had just a little time to read, decided to check it out, and remembered that it was recommended as being a tightly written story with good action and characterization, because that’s what it was. I think there is another novella or something written within this world, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The inventor of an extremely powerful device, realizing that it could be used as a horrible weapon by people with sinister intentions, is trying to smuggle it out of the country in the cargo hold of an airship. But of course, an evil person who wants the weapon is on the ship as well – and knows way more about it than they should, because of a betrayal from the inventor’s past. This is the story of their confrontation, and the battle for control of the powerful device.

What I thought: Halfway through this story, I was really excited. I really liked where it was going, and how the author was taking it there. But the ending didn’t quite live up to my expectations; I’m not sure why, perhaps it seemed a little too pat. Nevertheless, I still think it is a very good story, and it’s on my Hugo nomination longlist.


Downfall of the Gods, by K.J. Parker (aka Tom Holt) (excerpt)

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: A spoiled, petulant goddess who refuses to forgive the man who murdered her favorite musician-poet is overridden by her all-powerful father, who orders her to forgive him anyway. So she decides that her forgiveness will be given only if the man asking for it is able to complete a heroic task: to bring back the musician from the dead.

What I thought: I have more than a passing familiarity with, and appreciation for, Greek and Roman mythology, and this story combines elements of those liberally, and with some inventiveness and snarky humor. Parker’s The Last Witness was my favorite of the thirty-one 2015 novellas I read, and this story makes it clear that his skill in that one was not a one-off or an accident. This is on my Hugo nomination longlist. (Caveat: Readers who expect faithfulness to classical mythology will be disappointed.)


The Devil You Know, by K.J. Parker (aka Tom Holt) (excerpt)

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care. But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the person making the bargain is not only the greatest philosopher, but also the greatest liar, trickster, and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust. He’s almost certainly up to something… but what?

What I thought: I ended up going back a couple of days later and reading the second half of the book (which is approx 120 pg total) again, because the twists are a bit involved and intricate, and it requires a suspension of disbelief to put oneself into the world as it’s been built here. It’s a clever story, but for some reason it did not wow me in the same way as The Last Witness or Downfall of the Gods.

Filer Comments:

  • GiantPanda: great version of Faust. Goes on my Hugo longlist
  • Arifel: Readable and satisfying but not spectacular.
  • alexvdl: Thought it was a pretty good thought experiment, well in my favored “bureacracy porn” milieu. I didn’t realize before I picked it up that it was the sequel to Blue and Gold, but that was just an added bonus.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (excerpt)

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

Synopsis: An older instructor at a women’s college in the Dreamlands must go on a journey to retrieve a young student who has run away with her lover to the waking world; failure would likely mean the vast destruction of the college, the country in which it is located, and all the people there. The protagonist, on their journey through strange lands populated by unfathomable monsters, is joined by a mysterious and possibly magical SJW credential: Following her into [the ship’s cabin], the cat assumed immediate possession of a yak-wool scarf she tossed for a moment upon the bunk. “I need that, cat,” she warned, but it only curled tighter and gazed up with bright eyes. In the end, the scarf remained there for the rest of the voyage.

What I thought: The plot in this story is rather incidental; it’s there to provide a vehicle for the evocative, beautifully-descriptive prose. The inspiration for this story was The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and it’s my understanding that big Lovecraft fans will especially enjoy it. I’m not one, and I found it enjoyable but not earth-shaking. A strong main character and the aforementioned prose make it well worth the read.

Filer Comments:

  • lurkertype: Great characters, good world-building, and some passages I had to reread for their beauty. Does not need familiarity with Lovecraft to work, but that would probably add another dimension (heh). Lives up to HPL by having somewhat archaic words I had to look up – you can gather the idea in context, but there were some pretty cool nouns I didn’t know in there. Needless to say, not with the HPL racism and sexism.
  • Mark-kitteh: I have to say it’s a setting idea that just grabbed me from the start… It’s very much a travelogue, and has some of the issues that come along with that – is this just a list of places she goes at authorial fiat? – but I think the character and the charm of the setting really pulls you along, and the stakes get built up nicely. I’m not sure how much you’d need to know Lovecraft’s dreamlands to appreciate it – I certainly found the mythos elements enriched it – and I think the ending wasn’t quite as strong as it might have been, but overall I enjoyed it. (Content note: two mentions of rape, in the sense of mentioning it has or could happen, not in the sense of featuring it in any way)
  • Rob Thornton: as a big fan of the original Lovecraft story, overall I found Kij Johnson’s take on the meh side. The story is good and the prose is good, but when the tale is placed in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Johnson is up against a standard that is hard to beat. I have really enjoyed Kij’s other works, though, so I look forward to whatever she does next.
  • Arifel: while all the Lovecraft went completely over my head I enjoyed the world and the plot (older woman explores world, roles for older women in sexist societies) and there were no obvious triggers
  • kathodus: The second trek through Lovecraftia written from the point of view of someone who would have been invisible or reviled in Lovecraft’s writing. This one didn’t have a Lovecraftian atmosphere – it was working within his world, but not working with his vibe. I like what the author did with the gods. And there’s a cat. Or two. But I think just one.

Lustlocked, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #2] (excerpt)

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

This volume also contains the prequel novelette “Small Wars”, which was published on Tor.com in January 2016.

Synopsis: The gang at Sin du Jour catering has been contracted for a really, really big job: the wedding of the Goblin King’s son and his fiancée. And the challenge is immense: prepare pairs of numerous courses, in identical-looking forms, to suit both goblin and human gastronomics. But of course, no catering plan survives contact with the diners… the big question is whether the Sin du Jour crew will survive the ensuing catastrophe – and if they do, how will they escape the Goblin King’s wrath?

What I thought: I found the first entry in this series, last year’s Envy of Angels, to be an unexpected, clever, slyly witty delight. This is a worthy follow-up – and the author manages to weave his supernatural worldbuilding in with the real world so deftly that the reader can almost believe it’s all really true.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I thought Lustlocked didn’t play out quite as well as Envy of Angels, although it does feature an excellent take on goblins with a very interesting choice of goblin king…

Pride’s Spell, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #3] (excerpt)

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

Synopsis: The Sin du Jour Catering Company finds itself unexpectedly double-booked for events on both the East and West Coasts. So the experienced members of the team stay in NYC to put on a gala dinner for a convention, and the boss takes the newest crew members and the pastry chef extraordinaire out to Hollywood for a movie premiere party. But there’s just one thing that none of them have been told: this time around, they’re all intended to be surprise additions to the menu…

What I thought: This is another fun romp, with some new villains, as well as the reappearance of some old villains – and an unexpected hero. I have to say that I love the author’s imaginative cuisine, with dishes concocted from some pretty unusual ingredients. If you liked the previous entries in this series, you’ll enjoy this one, too.


The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde (excerpt)

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): The kingdom has long sheltered under the protection of its Jewels and Lapidaries, the people bound to singing gemstones with the power to reshape hills, move rivers, and warp minds. That power has kept the peace and tranquility, and the kingdom has flourished… but now the Jeweled Court has been betrayed. As screaming raiders sweep down from the mountains, the last princess and the last lapidary of the Valley will have to summon up strength that they’ve never known.

What I thought: There’s a whole lot of ‘splaining about how the jewel magic and lapidaries are supposed to work mixed in with the story, and I think that the plot and action suffer extensively due to that. There is the strong germ of a good story idea here; it’s just too bad that the execution gets so bogged down in the infodumping. I’d like to see the author rework this into a really enjoyable novel. (And I have to say that the cover is one of my favorites from 2016.)

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: This is short – a long novelette rather than a novella, even – but very well put together and definitely worth a read. Only disappointment was that Sima is not actually an aged-up Toph Beifong as the cover seemed to indicate.
  • Mark-kitteh: Not quite as good as recent highlights like Forest of Memory or Every Heart a Doorway, but still a worthwhile entry… It’s a fascinating setting and magic idea, and I suppose that Wilde could either have stopped for a 10,000 word exposition on how it all works or start the story with a crisis in media res and hope that the idea comes through. Obviously she goes for the latter, and although it’s not 100% successful it’s definitely the right choice for a novella. I kept wanting a bit more clarity on how the jewels worked, but as I didn’t want her to stop the story for some As You Know Bob I can’t really complain too much.

The Emperor’s Railroad, by Guy Haley [The Dreaming Cities #1] (excerpt)

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A young boy and his mother struggle to reach a relative in a faraway town after everyone else in their own village in a post-apocalypic U.S. is destroyed by zombies. They are lucky enough to meet up with a Knight who protects them on their journey (for a sizable fee, of course), against zombies and “angels of God” (from what appears to be a dubious religion).

 

 

 


The Ghoul King, by Guy Haley [The Dreaming Cities #2]  (excerpt)

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A healer is interrogated by the authorities about his role in an illegal attempt to retrieve lost and forgotten technology from a dead city – an attempt which, of course, also includes the aforesaid Knight. This time, in addition to zombies, angels, and a whole passel of religious talk, there are “ghouls” – a higher form of zombie which has retained some thinking faculties and is thus a far more threatening adversary.

What I thought: I swear, all zombie stories should be required to include a plausible origin story in order to be published (at least Seanan McGuire, bless her, managed a capital job of that). All of the other zombie stories I’ve read seem to have been written by South Park’s gnomes:

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

While the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is somewhat interesting, I have to admit that I never found these stories particularly gripping or compelling, and I found the religious aspect simply tiresome. And since they’re told from the point-of-view of someone other than the Knight, I felt as though I never really got to see enough of him to feel invested in him. There are hints that the angels are not really angels, but something more interesting – but at this point, I’m not interested enough to read the third story to find out. Rating: 2 Mehs. YMMV.


Runtime, by S. B. Divya (aka Divya Srinivasan Breed) (excerpt)

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A young person who has taught themselves computer engineering since they were a child enters a speed-and-endurance race against well-equipped, well-funded professionals, supported only by home-built-and-programmed cybernetic augments. The prize money for placing in the top 5 would mean being able to earn full personhood, for themselves and for their siblings, and a future livelihood. But on the brink of victory, they are faced with a terrible ethical choice.

What I thought: I loved this short, fast-paced novella. Even in the short length, the author does a good job of creating a complex, nuanced main character. I’m going to be avidly watching for more stories by this author.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: I had a couple of worldbuilding nitpicks (mostly the idea that young people are undergoing gender neutralising surgery as a fashion trend…) but overall I found this well worth my time.
  • Arifel: [story] does have some gender dysphoria and dysfunctional parent child relationships

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

Synopsis: After the conclave is over, Queen Arden Windermere in the Mists has a choice to make, and no one to help her make it. This is the story of Arden’s attempts to awaken her elf-shot brother, Nolan, from his 100-year sleep. At first, Arden believes that all she has to do is give him the cure, but it’s not that simple, because in addition to being elf-shot, Nolan was poisoned – and once he’s given the cure for elf-shot, he will die of the poison. Can Arden find an antidote to the poison? And does she really want to wake him up, when she will have to face him with the fact that she has not yet really established herself, or accomplished anything, as Queen?

What I thought: I thought that this was a great coda to Once Broken Faith, and a great addition to the October Daye universe. It gives the reader insight into, and further character development of, peripheral characters in the series. But like Once Broken Faith, it’s really only going to have a good meaning and impact for those who’ve read the novels in the October Daye universe.

Having said that, the October Daye universe is on my 2016 Hugo Best Series shortlist.


Down and Out in Purgatory, by Tim Powers (Kindle sample)

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: Years ago, one of the guys in the college gang married the girl in the gang – then later on, murdered her. Another one of the gang, who was in love with her, has sworn revenge and spent the last 6 years looking for the killer. A PI finally finds him – in the morgue, having died happy at his Malibu estate with a drink in his hand and his latest girlfriend in his bed. The protagonist thinks the killer got off way too easy, and decides to get the assistance of a practitioner of the occult in achieving revenge in the afterlife.

What I thought: I read Salvage and Demolition a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it, so I had high hopes for this. I thought it was good, but it didn’t quite get to “great” for me. I would have liked to have gotten to see a little more of what was behind the protagonist’s life history and motivations. Worth reading.


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Tazir captains a ship in a world where Windspeakers shape the weather to help ships along their routes – for a price. But now the world is threatened by reavers on Dragon Ships who leave only destruction in their wake. Tazir and her crew take on a wealthy young female passenger and leave port in time to escape the Dragon Ships – but who is the mysterious young woman, and why is she having terrible nightmares?

What I thought:  I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would based on the synopsis. It does some nice character development and worldbuilding without having to resort to infodumping (it’s what I wish The Jewel and Her Lapidary would have been), and the plot does not follow a predictable path. This is on my Hugo Novella longlist.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: This might have been a bit too subtle for me as there were a lot of dynamics between the different crew members and between Tazir and Shina that didn’t really come through for me until right at the end, but I still enjoyed.
  • Mark-kitteh: I thought it was going to get rather cliched but the middle section had some good characters and an interesting ambiguity about how the Windspeakers get created (although it was a theme that The Fifth Season looked at much better). Unfortunately I didn’t think it stuck the ending at all.

The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (excerpt)

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

Synopsis: The protagonist of the story is a young black man living in Harlem, who survives in New York City and supports his ailing father by engaging in petty scams and cons – enduring constant harassment and abuse from police and other white people. Despite his utter lack of singing and guitar-playing ability, he is hired by a mysterious old man to provide background music at a very unusual house party.

What I thought: This novella is a response, written by a black man, to H.P. Lovecraft’s most notoriously racist story, The Horror at Red Hook. I think that fans of Lovecraft will enjoy the way it deconstructs and re-writes HPL’s racism into a uniquely black perspective. Even though Lovecraft, Horror, and Weird really aren’t my thing, I found it interesting and worth reading.

Filer Comments:

  • emgrasso: checks a lot of boxes for Lovecraftiana, but I don’t think it really works as a whole. The sections where the story had atmosphere that worked instead of feeling like it was just going through the motions weren’t the Lovecraftian ones. And even outside the supposedly spooky stuff, there was an important plot point regarding a “shocking” straight razor that fell flat for me – what else would a poor black man in the 1920s have shaved with?
  • Bonnie McDaniel: The story suffers, in my view, from an unnecessary POV shift about halfway through. It would have made for a tighter focus and characterization if the author had stuck to the original POV character throughout, although as the story unfolded, that would have resulted in going to some pretty dark places. This one would also have been better at a greater length, I think. As it is, it’s okay, but nowhere near the fantastic Lovecraft Country.

Everything Belongs to the Future, by Laurie Penny (excerpt)

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

Synopsis: In the near future, the wealthy and talented benefit from vastly-extended lifespans due to a revolutionary drug. A group of futuristic underground Robin Hoods are doing their best to see that the “ordinary” people have the chance to enjoy some of those benefits. But there’s a Judas in their midst: one who has neither their goals, nor their best interests, in mind…

What I thought: Oh, wow. This is a powerful story of “haves” versus “have nots”, of deceit versus informed consent, of cowardice and heroism, of betrayal and retribution and remorse and repentance. I do not recommend reading this when spoon levels are low – but I definitely recommend reading it. This is my first choice for Hugo Best Novella.


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

Synopsis: In a climate-devastated future world, crops are grown in biodomes by workers privileged enough to be allowed to escape the horrible conditions outside, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to those who are wealthy enough to afford them. But the “have-not”s outside the domes have a plan for changing the status quo.

What I thought: This is an incredibly uncomfortable story to read right now, because the main theme is echoed repeatedly throughout the narrative: just how willing will people be, to make the moral and ethical compromises which throw their co-humans “under the bus” – as long as they think that they themselves will benefit? Just how large does the possibility of personal reward have to be, before human beings will choose to be complicit in sacrificing others — and then to look the other way when the inevitable happens? This is a moving and powerful story, and it is on my Hugo Novella longlist.

Filer Comments:

  • Dawn Incognito: Post-apocalyptic UK hitting on the gulf between generations and haves vs. have-nots.
  • Cassy B.: thanks for the pointer to it. Powerful story.

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

Synopsis: A young woman, on the cusp of adulthood after World War I, learns that she has a much larger destiny than even her own high aspirations – but if she follows that destiny, it will mean giving up her own hopes and plans. On May Day, on the village green, she will have to make a choice that will affect her life forever… and change worlds.

What I thought: Well, Brushwork is indeed a powerful story – but I was absolutely blown away by this one. I’m still thinking about it, days later. This is a story about free will, and the choices we make, and the fact that no matter what choice we make, there will often be a cost – to ourselves, or to someone else. This book will speak to anyone who has ever had to sacrifice something life-changingly important to themselves in order place priority on what’s best for someone else (I would describe its theme as “The Lady Astronaut from Mars on speed”). Right now the e-book is still rather expensive, but I encourage everyone to try to get access to it, if it’s not affordable, through the library, a loan from a friend (the kindle version is loanable), or a purchase. I think you will be very glad you did. This is definitely going on my Hugo Novella ballot.


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one – or many – but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X. He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be. But when he discovers the existence of another – above ground, outside the protection of the Warren – X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

What I thought: I was really looking forward to reading this, based on the jacket copy. I’ve read at least 32 of the Tor.com novellas now, and although I liked some of them a lot, and some of them not so much, this is the first one where I’ve actually wondered why it got published. I think that there are a few seeds of a good story here – but that it’s seriously undercooked and full of been-done-before. It’s like a mashup of Wool, Flowers for Algernon, and Impostor. Not recommended, at least by me.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I think this novella gives you fair warning when it begins with a dedication to Gene Wolfe. Someone called X has awoken in a place they know is called the warren. They seem to think they have been created, and that they have the memories of their predecessors, who were also created. They know the hostile conditions will kill them soon, and they’d like to create themselves a successor, but they can’t, and the computer they can talk to is failing and unhelpful. Events occur which start to explain what might be going on, and then I turned the page to see “About the Author” staring at me, and I didn’t really know what it had all been about. If someone else reads this and says it was a wonderful multi-layered narrative then I’ll totally believe them, but I was tired and I just went huh?

A Window Into Time, by Peter F. Hamilton (excerpt) (e-book only)

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

cover art by Kathleen Lynch, using images from CHAINFOTO24/Shutterstock (buildings) and ovi 801/Shutterstock (clock)

Synopsis: A 13-year-old boy with an eidetic memory (and probably a strong streak of Asperger’s) remembers everything he’s ever seen, heard, or experienced. And suddenly, he’s remembering flashes of someone else’s memories. How? And why? And will he be able to figure it out in time to save another person’s life?

What I thought: I liked this better than I thought I would, given the YA protagonist. I would say that it probably provides some good insights into the thought processes of someone who is in the Asperger’s spectrum. The author nails the ending, I think, but it didn’t quite wow me enough for me to consider it for Hugo nomination.

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

cover photo by Wusheng Wang, design by David G. Stevenson

Synopsis: A little boy living in a cottage high above the nearby town witnesses his father killing his mother – or does he? At any rate, she’s gone – and his father is becoming progressively more angry, irrational, and abusive. But then a stranger comes to town – a stranger who sees that something is wrong, and who may be in a position to help.

What I thought: Readers who are looking for any sort of explanation – any sort at all! – will likely be very frustrated with this story. It offers lots of provocative descriptions, and tantalizing hints and clues, but nothing whatsoever of any real explanation or resolution. It’s an interesting read, but in the end, in order for me to love it, I needed a little more than the story was willing to provide. Readers who are okay with unsolved mysteries may find a lot here about which to think and speculate.

Filer Comments:

  • Dawn Incognito: Challenging. Mysterious, haunting, and occasionally brutal. If you’re familiar with Miéville this should not be surprising. There are many questions, and I’m sure many clues, but no easy answers. I may reread shortly to see what I can pick up that made no sense the first time through. The narrative shifts, mostly first-person with the odd second- and third-. Possibly a distancing mechanism from the traumatic events the narrator is going through. Possibly something else. I’m not sure I “got” it. I’m not sure I will. But it will stay with me for some time. Worth the challenge, I think.
  • Bartimaeus: Weird, creepy tale of a small town with sinister secrets lurking under the surface. This story has many intriguing enigmas and a very unreliable narrator. For starters, did his mother kill his father, or his father kill his mother? Miéville’s prose is just hypnotic here, and I love the atmosphere he builds. Though the ending doesn’t reveal all the answers, it is very tantalizing. (I suspect this aspect won’t work for everyone). I really loved this and will probably re-read it sometime.
  • More rot-13 discussion in this thread
  • Vasha: A good essay on This Census-Taker by Daniel Maidman (to be read only after the book).

The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

Del Rey cover photo by Claudia Carlsen, design by David G. Stevenson

Subterranean Press cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: In 1941, an “S-blast” is set off in Nazi-occupied Paris. Nine years later, a Surrealism expert who is a member of the Resistance movement lives a hellish existence in a city overrun with living Surrealist entities, and demons conjured by the Nazis in an attempt to fight back.

What I thought: This story definitely falls into the category of The New Weird. As with Bellitt Voe, the plot here (such as it is) is merely a vehicle for the vivid imagery and nonsensical occurrences. Readers who are fans of Lovecraft, or Surrealism, or VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, may very well enjoy this. I have a college minor in French language, history, and culture, I love Paris, and I have a bit of amateur art education, so hoped that I would enjoy New Paris more than I did. I found the Area X books interesting in a “but a little bit of this goes a loooooong way” sense – and after those, apparently little of my appetite for such things was left over for this story.

There is a “Notes” section, keyed by page number, describing the origin of each of the Surrealist manifestations. Readers may wish to flip back to this each time one appears in the story, as I think it will enhance the appreciation of the imagery. Simultaneous access to Google to look up the referenced images would probably enhance appreciation, as well.

I would say that this is definitely a “Marmite” story – readers will likely either love it or hate it. My reaction was “meh – I’ve got another book sitting here that I’d really rather read”.

Filer Comments:

  • Rob Thornton: It’s a magic realist book about Surrealism and WWII, but the first 50 pages or so felt like a drag. Mieville is usally a crackerjack prose writer but something is missing here. Maybe it’s because I dearly love Lisa Goldstein’s The Dream Years (which is similar in some ways). But I’ll try it again.

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: This story is a recounting of an experience in a near-future time when everyone is wired into the net all the time, by someone who hunts down antiquities and documentation of rare experiences and sells them to collectors for a living. The protagonist gets kidnapped, and cut off from the net, and forced to deal with her kidnappers.

What I thought: Trigger Warning for ALL THE TYPOS. This is an integral part of the premise for the story, but it annoyed the hell out of me and kept kicking me out of it. I really liked the premise of the story, and I thought that it showed a lot of promise, but it just didn’t go far enough to satisfy me. I’m hoping that she’ll develop it into a novel (if she does, I’ll just have to figure out how to deal with the typo angst).

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: The worldbuilding in this is subtle and believable and its very readable but ultimately didn’t feel like a finished story to me.
  • Mark-kitteh: this is a really interesting and elegant story… There’s perhaps not that much to the story, but MRK really digs into her theme and fills the whole story with it. One thing though – there’s a gimmick in which the story is being typed on an antique typewriter, and so there are typos and so on. Sent me mad.
  • Cat Eldridge: Forest of Memory was originally part of the METAtroplis series, so it feels like a part of something bigger because it was. I found that that since there was a shared universe framework, some of the stories really didn’t work if you hadn’t read the stories preceding a given story.

Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods, Penric #2] (Kindle sample)

penricandtheshaman

penricandtheshamansubeditionSpectrum Literary Agency (2016) / Subterranean Press (February 2017), editor unknown

Spectrum cover art “Grindelwald” by Jakob Samuel Weibel (1771-1846)

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

Synopsis: This sequel picks up 4 years after Penric’s Demon left off: with Penric gradually adjusting to the 12-personality demon which inhabits his psyche (and with the demon adjusting to him). There’s the mystery of a murder and a missing man – and Penric is tasked to solve both.

What I thought: It’s a testament to Bujold’s supreme skill that this story, like its predecessor, is just so quietly awesome. The conflicts are, for the most part, subdued – but no less impactful for that. Penric is a flawed but wonderful character who is easy to care about – and his quiet, thoughtful approach, tempered with a wry humor, makes a really nice contrast to the all-too-common over-the-top superhero protagonist.

Filer Comments:

  • lurkertype: I read Penric and the Shaman when it came out in June and quite liked it. I like the earlier part of that world (The Hallowed Hunt, Penric’s Demon) more than the later part. I like the Five Gods.
  • Lee Whiteside: A worthy follow up to the first novella.
  • Mark-kitteh: +1 on Penric and the Shaman – she took it in an interesting direction, I thought.
  • ULTRAGOTHA: Penric and the Shaman is very, very good, too.
  • Greg Hullender: I just read and reviewed Penric and the Shaman and gave it five stars… I think this novella is very readable even for someone who didn’t read Penric’s Demon.
  • Cheryl S.: I also just read Penric and the Shaman. It was good and I liked it, but it was too creamy smooth for me to really like it. I think she’s such a good writer, but not in the least showy and sometimes I find that less than interesting, even if all the parts work well. I wonder if the reason her longer stuff works better is because then the accumulation of her talent and skill is more noticeable?

Penric’s Mission, by Lois McMaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods, Penric #3] (Kindle sample)

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art “View of Ragusa” by Emil Jakob Schindler (1842 – 1892)

Synopsis: Penric has been sent on an undercover mission to another country, to recruit a highly-skilled general who has offered to aid in their own military endeavors. But immediately upon disembarking from his ship, Penric is taken captive by the King’s forces and thrown into a black hole in the prison. What’s more, the general himself has been imprisoned. Penric must somehow find a way to retrieve the situation – balancing duty with personal obligation – with the help of the general’s highly-intelligent sister.

What I thought: Penric has come into his own at this point. He has assimilated well with his demon and its dozen different personalities, and has learned how to use their knowledge and powers to enhance his own intelligence and capabilities. As with the previous stories, Penric’s mission here is to try to reconcile doing his official job with doing what he personally feels is right – and like the previous stories, this one makes the reader feel quietly satisfied and uplifted by the ending. Caveat: this one ends in a bit of a “what happens now?” place, and readers who find that frustrating may wish to wait until the fourth story is released.

Filer Comments:

  • ULTRAGOTHA: unlike the other two novellas, this one ends in a place that cries for another story *right now*. Bujold is writing these novellas fairly quickly (at lightning speed, for her) so I’m hopeful maybe next year?
  • Greg Hullender: While it doesn’t have the plot sophistication of Penric’s Demon or Penric and the Shaman, the writing is excellent, and the story is pure fun.
  • Nickp: Based on the title, I was half-expecting (and half hoping for) Penric’s expedition to convert the Roknari to Quintarianism. But not that kind of mission. Pseudo-Byzantine Empire was fun, anyway.
  • robinareid: it’s pure joy and love and happiness on all levels.

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children] (excerpt)

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photos by Colin Anderson (forest), Martin Barraud (doorway), design by FORT

Synopsis: This is a dark, bittersweet story about the children who fall into fantasy worlds where they become heroes, and then find themselves lost and unable to cope when they are returned to the “real” world. An adult who was one of those children brings as many troubled children as she can find and save to her boarding house, an environment where they can be among others who understand and empathize with their pain.

What I thought: Damn that Seanan McGuire, damn her! Every time I read the backcover synopsis for one of her stories, I think, “Well, that doesn’t sound as though I’d much enjoy it” – and then I read it and enjoy it immensely. On my novella list for next year’s Hugos right now. TW for graphic mutilation scenes. A prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, will be published in June 2017.

Filer Comments:

  • emgrasso: short but intense, with a main viewpoint character I really appreciated and a wonderful ending. I’m very glad there will be more stories in that universe.
  • Snodberry Fields: it was good. If you have enjoyed other works by Seanan McGuire you should read this too. The world building and characterization was first class! I just loved reading about these people. I cannot imagine that his will not be on my ballot next year.
  • Ryan H: I’m going to second Every Heart a Doorway. Anyone who is interested in identity and representation in books needs to give this a read. Oh, and is also a fantastic story!
  • Kyra: Pros: The characters and concepts are great, absolutely on the level of what I consider her best books. It gets recommended by me here on the strength of these. Cons: The plot; it was (in large part) a murder mystery where the perpetrator was completely obvious to me right away. I know she can write a mystery where that isn’t the case, Indexing certainly didn’t have an obvious villain, so I’m not sure why it happened here.
  • robinareid: thought Every Heart a Doorway AMAZING, especially the ending which was a lovely twist on conventional ending of that genre.
  • Vasha: Every Heart a Doorway is simply beautiful… the overriding mood of the story is wistfulness, and it’s perfectly captured… The main characters are tremendously appealing (yes, even the amoral mad scientist); they are a group of clever misfits who support each other fiercely, although recognizing that they can’t provide a true home for each other… It’s a short novella, and it’s just the perfect length. I don’t think anything needed to be added to flesh out its themes and characters; it says what it had to say and ends on the right note.
  • Mark-kitteh: I found it interesting that there was some overlap in concept with Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass, although the execution was from different angles. Each story must have been written without being aware of the other. What I liked about the earlier story was that the concept seemed so clever and natural that I was surprised I’d never seen it treated quite that way before, and then another version comes along!
  • Doctor Science: A great premise, beautifully creepy prose, and not the expected ending. My only problem: it’s a murder mystery, and it fails what I call The John Donne Test (“Any man’s death diminishes me”). The Test is: Is there a second murder? If there is, you fail, boom. If it’s a mystery story without *any* murder, you get an A.
  • Arifel: a good read but not the mind blowing tale I was hoping for from the premise.
  • Chris S.: this is really really good. I was surprised by the depth and complexity which got folded into such a short book. (click on hyperlink for rot-13 comment) She could have spun this out to trilogy length, but I think it’d have lost the impact at that length.
  • Greg Hullender: Although there are a lot of characters, they’re so well drawn that I never mixed them up, and I cared about all the key ones. The plot is multithreaded and works itself out perfectly. And the ending is moving.
  • Lowell Gilbert: I actually thought the ending was a bit predictable to be effecting. McGuire had written herself into a bit of a corner where there were a limited number of ways out. Still a great book, though.
  • Stephen Granade: I’ll be the nth person gushing over Every Heart a Doorway. Eerie, effecting, and in turns frightening and uplifting.
  • Bruce Baugh: has a remarkably good portrayal of a trans boy as one of the main characters. I live with a high degree of dysphoria myself and found much to recognize in his portrayal, and several trans friends have been recommending it independently of each other.
  • Kendall: it was very good – I recommend it! The audiobook narrator was quite good. I enjoyed the world building and characters, especially, and also the plot; it was a well-rounded story. It made a great stand-alone

These novellas are also on my list to read, but have not yet arrived at my library:

A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson [Sorcerer of the Wildeeps #2] (related short fiction with character background)

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind gay romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

Set in the same world as, but not really a sequel to, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.


The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell [Witches of Lychford #2] (excerpt)

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

Synopsis (jacket copy): It’s December in the English village of Lychford – the first Christmas since an evil conglomerate tried to force open the borders between our world and… another. Which means it’s Lizzie’s first Christmas as Reverend of St. Martin’s. Which means more stress, more expectation, more scrutiny by the congregation. Which means… well, business as usual, really.

Until the apparition of a small boy finds its way to Lizzie in the church. Is he a ghost? A vision? Something else? Whatever the truth, our trio of witches (they don’t approve of “coven”) are about to face their toughest battle, yet!


Hammers on Bone, by Cassandra Khaw [Persons Non Grata #1] (excerpt)

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

A sequel, A Song for Quiet, is due out in August 2017.


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

Synopsis (jacket copy): For the last decade we really have been waging a secret war against super-villains. It’s just as well the general public are too common-sense to believe any of it…

It’s 1969. Astronauts have just landed on the moon. In Britain, Harold Wilson is Prime Minister. And the Avengers are on TV. Detective Sergeant Clare Seeley, juggling work and family commitments, is aware of peculiar goings-on at the heart of the concrete-jungle new town that is her patch…

Agnes Doyle, brilliant computer scientist and unwilling precognitive, is about to be plunged into a lethally perilous situation…

The Sergeant and Lucy Pennyweather, gaudy swinging-London adventurers, are drawn to a peculiar conspiracy surrounding a pirate radio ship…

Henry Messen, veteran of the First World War and a special forces operative in the Second under the cover of a bumbling Home Guard officer, is on the track of a fugitive Nazi engineer with a very strange secret…

And Thelma Bennet, head of Project Clio the Cross-Agency League of Intelligence Operatives – is closing in on a global threat.

It’s 1969. Not as you know it. The way you always thought it was.


The Days of Tao, by Wesley Chu [Tao #4] (Kindle sample)

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

Synopsis (jacket copy): Cameron Tan wouldn’t have even been in Greece if he hadn’t gotten a ‘D’ in Art History. Instead of spending the summer after college completing his training as a Prophus operative, he’s doing a study abroad program in Greece, enjoying a normal life – spending time with friends and getting teased about his crush on a classmate.

Then the emergency notification comes in: a Prophus agent with vital information needs immediate extraction, and Cameron is the only agent on the ground, responsible for getting the other agent and data out of the country. The Prophus are relying on him to uncomplicate things.

Easy.

Easy, except the rival Genjix have declared all-out war against the Prophus, which means Greece is about to be a very dangerous place. And the agent isn’t the only person relying on Cameron to get them safely out of the country – his friends from the study abroad program are, too. Cameron knows a good agent would leave them to fend for themselves. He also knows a good person wouldn’t. Suddenly, things aren’t easy at all.


The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler (excerpt)

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): Disgraced government operative Colonel Chu is exiled to the flooded relic of New York City. Something called the Light has hit the streets like an epidemic, leavings its users strung out and disconnected from the mind-network humanity relies on. Chu has lost everything she cares about to the Light. She’ll end the threat or die trying.

A former corporate pilot who controlled a thousand ships with her mind, Zola looks like just another Light-junkie living hand to mouth on the edge of society. She’s special though. As much as she needs the Light, the Light needs her too. But, Chu is getting close and Zola can’t hide forever.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/16 Scroll Ain’t Nothin’ But Pixel Misspelled

(1) ACKERMAN SQUARE DEDICATION. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city did name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor.

The official dedication is November 17.

Come join the ceremony to honor Uncle Forry with commemorative plaques installed on all 4 corners of Franklin and Vermont where he spent so many happy decades visiting with fans and friends. The public is invited to meet at Franklin and Vermont (where the signs will be installed), southwest side, near House of Pies at 9:30 AM, November 17, 2016

(2) SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH. Gail Z. Martin explains “Why #HoldOnToTheLight Matters” at Magical Words.

The 100+ authors who agreed to write for #HoldOnToTheLight run the fame gamut. But all of us have fans and readers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, people who hold us and our books in some regard. And to those people, however many they might be, our opinion matters. Our story matters.

We lost so many people in Southern fandom at the beginning of this year. I got tired to saying ‘good-bye’ and being invited to wakes. It made me mad, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Then in April I saw the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign in Supernatural fandom and how the show’s stars used their fame and their connection to fans to do something really good.

And I wondered—what would happen if the authors whose books create the genre spoke out with their own stories about the impact of mental health issues on them, their characters, and their books?

We might not have the reach or following TV stars have, but we have some following. And when people in the public eye speak out and own taboo issues, the stigma lessens. We could encourage fans and stand in solidarity with the ones who are struggling and let them know that they are not alone.

Most of the blog posts are up now, with a few more straggling in. Life gets in the way, even of good intentions. I’m gobsmacked by the honesty, the willingness to share without flinching, the vulnerability revealed in the posts. You can read them here, as well as new ones when they post.

(3) HANDS OFF THE BRAND. Beset by internet thieves. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson calls out for “Help!”

Working in conjunction with our licensee – Futures Past Editions (a division of Digital Parchment Services, one of the original ebook publishers), we have been steadily producing a number of different publications.

These include – The Amazing Stories Best Of The Year anthologies –

Special “Anniversary” reprints –

Amazing Stories Classics novels –

and Authorized Replicas of individual issues of the magazine …

But there’s a fly in the ointment: lots and lots of other people seem to think they can willy-nilly use the Amazing Stories name to produce their own versions of the same things.  Right now, the bulk of Experimenter’s budget is being spent on intellectual property attorneys.  We’re pleased with their findings so far (but these kinds of things take a lot of time), but in the meantime – if you purchase a facsimile edition of an Amazing Stories issue (or a poster reprinting one of its fantastic covers) from anyone other than Futures Past Editions or this website, not a dime will be going to help fund this project.  It will instead go to people who obviously do not respect the history of the magazine (or the law).

(4) THE FOUNDATIONS OF UTOPIA. In the November 4 Guardian, China Mieville writes about Sir Thomas More’s Utopia on its 500th anniversary, explaining why the utopian impulse is still important in our cynical age.

If you know from where to set sail, with a friendly pilot offering expertise, it should not take you too long to reach Utopia. Since the first woman or man first yearned for a better place, dreamers have dreamed them at the tops of mountains and cradled in hidden valleys, above clouds and deep under the earth – but above all they have imagined them on islands.

… We don’t know much of the society that Utopus and his armies destroyed – that’s the nature of such forced forgetting – but we know its name. It’s mentioned en swaggering colonial passant, a hapax legomenon pilfered from Gnosticism: “for Abraxa was its first name”. We know the history of such encounters, too; that every brutalised, genocided and enslaved people in history have, like the Abraxans, been “rude and uncivilised” in the tracts of their invaders.

A start for any habitable utopia must be to overturn the ideological bullshit of empire and, unsentimentally but respectfully, to revisit the traduced and defamed cultures on the bones of which some conqueror’s utopian dreams were piled up. “Utopia” is to the political imaginary of betterness as “Rhodesia” is to Zimbabwe, “Gold Coast” to Ghana.

(5) FIFTH! Always remember the 5th of November. Preferably more than once.

Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605. But their assassination attempt was foiled the night before when Fawkes was discovered lurking in a cellar below the House of Lords next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. Londoners immediately began lighting bonfires in celebration that the plot had failed, and a few months later Parliament declared November 5 a public day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, has been around in one form or another ever since. Though originally anti-Catholic in tone, in recent times it has served mainly as an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink mulled wine and burn Guy Fawkes effigies (along with the effigies of current politicians and celebrities).

(6) ALLEGRO NON TROOPER. Ryan Britt reacts to news that “‘Starship Troopers’ Reboot Will Give Rico His Real Name Back” at Inverse.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico’s name was actually “Juan” Rico, but the 1997 film turned him into a white guy. Now, a new reboot of Starship Troopers will stick closer to the novel, which probably means Rico will be Filipino again.

Though the Paul Verhoeven take on Starship Troopers is considered something of a kitsch classic among sci-fi movie fans, it’s tone and characters differ enough from the Heinlein text warrant a totally new film adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter producer Neal H. Moritz is gearing up to make a new Starship Troopers for Columbia Pictures. The continuity of this film will have nothing to do with the 1997 film nor any of the direct-to-video sequels. It “is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take.” This means that even the intelligent alien insects — the Arachnids of Klendathu — might be completely reimagined, too.

(7) BABBITT OBIT.  Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016) died October 31.

Natalie Babbitt, the children’s author and illustrator who explored immortality in her acclaimed book “Tuck Everlasting,” has died in her Connecticut home. She was 84.

Natalie Babbitt poses with the cast of “Tuck Everlasting” on Broadway in April.

Babbitt’s husband, Samuel Babbitt, confirmed she died on Monday in Hamden, Connecticut. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was under hospice care at home when she died.

Babbitt wrote or illustrated more than 20 books, but she is perhaps best known for tackling the complex subject of death in her novel “Tuck Everlasting.”

…In 1966, she collaborated with her husband on a children’s book called “The Forty-ninth Magician,” her first published work. While her husband, a university administrator, became too busy to continue writing, the book was only the beginning in Babbitt’s nearly 50-year career. Her last published work was “The Moon Over High Street” in 2012.

Babbitt received the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association’s Notable Book designations, and The New York Times’ Best Book designations, among other awards for her work.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY –- WELL, CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK

Cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, conceived of a day in fictitious Dogpatch, USA, when all unmarried ladies (including the character Sadie Hawkins) could pursue their men. If the men were caught, marriage was unavoidable. The idea took off in real life—and in November 1938, the first recorded “girls-ask-boys” Sadie Hawkins Day dance was held. Today, the observance is usually celebrated on a Saturday in early November.

(9) BULLISH ON TWINKIES. The official health food of sci-fi readers goes public: “Hostess Brands, Purveyor of Twinkies and Ho-Hos, Returning to Wall Street”.

Hostess Brands Inc. is expected to start trading as a public company on Monday, putting the snack business to its first broad test of investor appetite since it was bought out of liquidation almost four years ago.

The 86-year-old brand behind the famous Twinkies cakes is due to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market with the ticker symbol TWNK.

(10) MAKING OF A SELF-PROFESSED “NASTY WOMAN”. Melinda Snodgrass covers a lot of personal history to make a point in “What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says”.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

(11) CASH IN HAND. The Guardian previews the merchandise: “JK Rowling’s hand-drawn Tales of Beedle the Bard go up for auction”.

A handwritten copy of JK Rowling’s story collection The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which she made for the publisher who first accepted Harry Potter for publication, is set to fetch up to £500,000 when it is auctioned next month.

Rowling handwrote and illustrated six copies of her collection of fairytales set in the Harry Potter universe, giving them as presents to “those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books”. A seventh copy, which Rowling made to raise money for her charity Lumos, was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2007 for £1.95m.

(12) FOR A RAINY DAY. We may not have Damien Walter to kick around anymore, however, here’s one of his Guardian essays that appeared in August while I was out of action — “Bureaumancy: a genre for fantastic tales of the deeply ordinary”.

There’s nothing wrong with being a bureaucrat. So you’re a tiny cog in a machine made of abstract rules, paperwork, and the broken dreams of those who do not understand either. So what? You’re just misunderstood. Without you, nobody would know where to file their TPS reports. Nobody would even know what a TPS report is.

But writers understand. As species of personality go, the writer and the bureaucrat are closely related: they’re deskbound creatures who enjoy the comfortable certainties of Microsoft Office and dazzling us with wordcraft, be it small-print legalese or the impenetrable prose of literary fiction. Of course, Kafka understood the true power of the bureaucrat because he was one – and thus portrayed bureaucracy as a looming, all-powerful presence. The wonderful Douglas Adams imagined an entire planet faking the apocalypse just to get all its middle managers to evacuate in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, while in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, hell itself is one endless system of bureaucratic red tape, where doomed souls are made to sit through every last codicil and sub-paragraph of the rules pertaining to Health and Safety – all 40,000 volumes of them.

(13) KEVIN SMITH’S NEXT FLASH. He’s back — “The Flash: Kevin Smith’s ‘Killer Frost’ Episode Synopsis Revealed”.

Smith previously helmed the season 2 episode of The Flash, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ and is set to direct an episode of Supergirl’s second season as well. He has been teasing both episodes on social media; for The Flash, he promised more action than in ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’, revealed the ‘Killer Frost’ episode title, and confirmed the inclusion of Dr. Alchemy — who is proving to be a major antagonist in The Flash season 3. So, much of the ‘Killer Frost’ synopsis seems to confirm details we previously knew or could deduce.

As for Smith’s return behind the camera, since ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ was well received by critics and fans, it stands to reason ‘Killer Frost’ may be similarly received by viewers. Smith himself has earned plenty geek credit given his own status as a fan of comics, so it’s likely he brings a unique perspective to The Flash.

(14) UNBOUND WORLDS LAUNCHES. The Unbound Worlds SFF site is holding a book giveaway contest to attract readers’ attention.

“Unbound Worlds has officially launched, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re giving away a carefully curated library of TWENTY-THREE science fiction and fantasy titles! Enter below by November 18, 2016, at 11 PM EST for your chance to win.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano (who is not to blame for the dialect in the version used).]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/16 Rudyard Pixeling’s Just Scroll Stories

(1) IT AIN’T ME BABE. George R.R. Martin is not at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Now, normally, I would not feel the need to post about where I’m not and what I am not doing… only I am getting reports from friends in San Diego, and friends of friends, that I have been sighted at the con.

It’s not me.

Really. It’s not. It’s some other old fat guy in a Greek sailor’s cap and pair of suspenders, maybe. Who may or may not be consciously cosplaying as me.

((And you have no idea how weird it feels to be typing that sentence. Way back when the show was first starting, there were a couple of Daenerys Targaryen cosplayers at San Diego, and I thought that was way cool. Fans dressing up as my characters, hey, hot damn! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that anyone would ever want to dress up as me. But now I seem to encounter it wherever I go….))

((And just to be clear, no, I do not disappove of fans cosplaying as me. I do find it surreal, but hey, what they hell, have fun… so long as they don’t actually pretend to be me)).

Damn near as funny to me, a friend of mine who uses the handle kalimac truthfully answered:

I am also an old fat guy with a Greek sailor’s cap and a pair of suspenders, though my beard is not yet as white as yours. But I’m not at Comicon either!

(2) FILE EIGHTY-EIGHT FORTY-FOUR. From News.Mic “Turkish Protesters Are Spray Painting ‘8.8.8.8’ and ‘8.8.4.4’ On Wallls – Here’s What It Means”.

As hard as the Turkish government might try, shutting down Twitter isn’t as easy as it seems. At 11:30 p.m. Thursday the Turkish government officially blocked the country’s 33 million Internet users from Twitter, but clever, tech-savvy Turks are sharing a simple and effective method to help fellow citizens bypass the ban — and they’re sharing it everywhere.

Just hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “root out” Twitter, graffiti has been popping up around Istanbul with two IP addresses anyone can use to circumvent the government’s ban. The two numbers — 8.8.8.8. and 8.8.4.4. — refer to Google’s Public DNS, which can be easily utilized to maintain access to Twitter.

And it’s working. Despite a short blackout, many Turks are back on Twitter, and there’s nothing the government can really do to stop them.

” … it seems that masses of ordinary citizens are learning how to use this technology,” wrote Serhatcan Yurdam, a blogger who lives in Istanbul. “Everybody is teaching each other how to change their DNS, how to use VPNs … and clearly they’re catching on quickly, since so many people are still tweeting!”

Step-by-step instructions like this are being widely shared by Turkish Internet users. 

Erdogan’s motivation was to “eradicate” social media, which he considers “the worst menace to society.”

(3) MARKO KLOOS KISSES FACEBOOK GOODBYE. You’ll still find him on Instagram and Twitter, but as of today Marko Kloos is done with Facebook.

I’ve known for a while that it had become more distraction than useful or fun tool, but today things kind of tipped over for me when one of my real-world writer acquaintances got pissed off over a comment I left on their post. (It was, of course, about politics, and that always spells trouble on Facebook because most people who post about politics don’t look to argue or debate. This election in particular has cranked up everyone’s sensitivity up to eleventy-twelve, and 95% of political posts are just there to have one’s opinion reaffirmed by The Tribe, not to actually talk about the subject.) It was my mistake, of course, but it was the proverbial straw for me…..

I’ve had to curate my posts on Facebook for years. Most of my publishing friends are on the left side the fence, and quite a few of my real-life non-publishing friends are libertarians or (GASP!) conservatives. When you have to make sure you have the right audience button selected before you post a picture or an opinion lest you offend half your friends list inadvertently, it stops being fun and starts becoming work–and hazardous work at that, like tap-dancing through a minefield.  The drawbacks have now outweighed the benefits of the platform, at least for me.

(And to be honest–it’s a massive time-waster designed to make you come click for your dopamine pellet a hundred times a day. If I had written fiction in all the times I’ve wasted time scrolling through Facebook over the last five years, Frontlines would now be a 20-book series.)

(4) BUT NOT ONE WORD ABOUT ANY REDSHIRTS. Once he drafted today’s post about Trump’s speech, John Scalzi cleansed his palate by reviewing Star Trek Beyond.

One complaint I do hear from longtime Trek fans is that the new Trek films don’t give enough lip service to Gene Roddenberry’s humanistic ethos, and I have a couple of thoughts on that. The first was that while that ethos was and is laudable, Roddenberry was as subtle about it as a sledgehammer, which is why TOS episodes sometimes now play like Very Special Episodes where learning happens (some TNG episodes play that way too, notably in the first couple of seasons). As a viewer I don’t actually want the Roddenberry Moral Sledgehammer. I’m not a child. The second is that as it happens Beyond is the Kelvin-era film that most overtly signals in the direction of that Trek ethos, both in what it says and what’s on screen. And for me it was the right amount — enough to know it’s there and important, not enough that you feel like you’re being lectured by a tiresome hippie uncle.

(5) SNEAK PREVIEW. Star Trek actors attended the White House’s advance screening of Star Trek Beyond on Tuesday. The highlight was a little gaffe by the First Lady.

After greeting the actors and welcoming the military families, Michelle Obama concluded her remarks with a phrase that was made famous by that other sci-fi franchise, “Star Wars.”

“May the force be with you,” she said. (We think she was kidding by invoking the rival films, but who knows — President Obama once mixed the two by referring to a “Jedi mind meld”).

Urban, slightly sheepishly, added his film’s signature line: “And live long and prosper!”

(6) THE AUTHOR/EDITOR RELATIONSHIP. At Magical Words, Melissa Gilbert used dating as an analogy to help advise self-published authors how to choose the right editor.

Decide you want a date:

First, you have to decide that you want to hire a freelance editor and why. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to learn more and improve your craft? Do you want to improve your chances of getting picked up by an agent? Basically, what’s your endgame? Like a date, are you looking to develop a long term relationship or just have some fun? ….

The First Date:

The first edit is much like a first date. You both are looking to see if you’re a good fit for each other. Writers, the editor is evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the editor, so professional courtesy should be extended by both parties.

Editors: don’t change the writer’s voice, be honest about the level of edit needed, be straightforward about your pricing and other policies, and communicate with the writer.

Writers: don’t rush the editor (ex: if it’s your first novel, your edit will likely take more than a few days, so don’t plan a huge release party!), reply promptly to their emails, remember that their job is to critique your work so it won’t be rainbows and butterflies the whole way through, and communicate with the editor.

(7) LIKE HELL. Playlist says these are the “50 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century So Far”.

The ease with which we sailed to 50 titles and the number we still felt bad about excluding speaks volumes about the health of this thriving and somehow ever-more-necessary genre. We’re hardly the first to notice that recent world events feel distinctly dystopian, and seeing various scenarios play out as extended thought experiments is something that only this genre really affords us.

And number one?

  1. “Children Of Men” (2006) Not just the best sci-fi movie of the last 16 years, but one of the best movies period, Alfonso Cuaron’s bravura dystopian masterpiece cemented the Mexican helmer’s status as not just a fast-rising star, but as one of our very, very best. Based on P.D. James’ novel, it’s set in a world where no children have been born in two decades, and society has collapsed as humanity waits to die out. Theo (Clive Owen) is entrusted with transporting a young immigrant woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is pregnant, the first person in a generation to be so. Aside from its central premise, everything about “Children Of Men” is chillingly plausible, and Cuaron’s vision is brought to life seamlessly with subtle VFX and the never-bettered docudrama-ish photography of Emmanuel Lubezki (including two of the greatest extended shots in cinema history). The cast, including Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Peter Mullan, and Danny Huston, is impeccable, it’s disarmingly funny, deeply sad, enormously exciting, fiercely political, and endlessly inventive, and people will be stealing from it for decades to come. Though many dismissed it on release as being too bleak (and everything from the Zika virus to Brexit is proving it to be all to prescient), that was to miss the point: “Children Of Men” is a film about hope, and in the 21st century, we need all the hope we can get.

(8) FAN ART FOR THE MASSES. Well, to be precise, it’s a fan’s art, but it’s not fan art, nevertheless, Nick Stathopoulos’ portrait of Deng is currently plastered all over Sydney as part of an ad campaign for the Archibald Prize exhibit.

Archibald Prize ad

(9) MERCURY MISSION CONTROL. Larry Klaes covers the launch for Galactic Journey: “[July 22, 1961] Into Space – and the Deep Blue (The Flight of Liberty Bell 7 )”. Regardless of what you may have heard, Gus didn’t screw the pooch….

After three failed attempts just this week, yesterday (July 21, 1961), astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom finally became this nation’s second (and the world’s third) man to reach outer space.  Grissom achieved another sort of milestone when his spacecraft unexpectedly sank after splashdown – and almost took the astronaut with it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean!

(10) PROTIPS FOR CHRONONAUTS. “10 Things You Should Never Do While Time Traveling” is a pretty damn clever and well-researched post – at B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog.

  1. Signal your presence The protagonists of Replayby Ken Grimwood, have an odd method of time travel. Upon death, their consciousness is sent back 25-odd years into their own bodies, with all future memories intact, to relive the same number of years time until they die again, at the exact same moment—creating a kind of Groundhog Dayloop. Naturally, the first thing anyone does is fix old mistakes and use their foreknowledge to become fabulously wealthy, then begin mucking about with history. These actions reach their peak when one of the replayers decides to enlist George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to make her a science fiction film, with the specific intent of finding and meeting other people replaying their lives. It also turns out to be a horrible idea, since at least one of said travelers is a deranged murderer, and a shadowy government agency may be actively seeking replayers for their own nefarious purposes. Telling people when you’re from is usually a bad idea in general anyway.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 22, 1899 — Director James Whale is born in The Black Country region of England. And what did he do, I asked? Does Frankenstein count?  How about Bride of FrankensteinThe Invisible Man?

(12) MOANA. Entertainment Weekly reports from “Comic-Con 2016: Moana heroine won’t have a love interest in the film”.

Disney’s Moana doesn’t hit theaters until November but Comic-Con attendees not only learned the plot of the animated film, they also got to see several clips at the Thursday panel moderated by EW’s own Marc Snetiker.

Set 2,000 years ago in the South Pacific, Moana is the story of the titular 16-year-old girl, voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who goes in search of a banished demi god named Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) in order to, naturally, save the world….

[Directors] Musker and Clements made a point to say that Moana doesn’t have a love interest in this story and that it’s a film about the heroine finding herself.

(13) FANTASTIC BEASTS. Hypable presents the poster released at San Diego Comic-Con for Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Newt is looking over his shoulder in the middle, holding a wand in one hand and a suitcase (with a beast trying to get out!) in the other. Supporting characters Graves, Jacob, Queenie, and Tina appear in the wings. Also here: Our very first looks at two female characters. We believe the one in the bottom left is Mary Lou, played by Samantha Morton. The guy on the right is Credence played by Ezra Miller.

 

fantastic-beasts-sdcc-2016-poster

(14) KEVIN AND URSULA EAT CHEAP. Cally pointed out this opportunity in a comment: If you want to hear someone eat a Carolina Reaper live, here’s the episode of Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap where Our Wombat’s husband Kevin eats a Reaper that Ursula grew in the garden – “Fear The Reaper Redux”. Buildup to Reaper eating begins at about minute 12, actual eating stars at 13:50.

Now that Cally has helped me discover this podcast, here are links to a couple of the most recent installments.

We’re back from Anthrocon, and who should arrive on our doorstep this week, than the chairman himself, Uncle Kage! He has come bearing gifts in the form of Sake and ShoChu, which we pair with Velveeta Chipotle Mac & Cheese, Hot Pockets, pastry puffs, and w hole range of things found on our travels.

Be warned, this one is not for the faint of heart, when We Eat It, So You Don’t Have To!

(Also of note – there is a glitch towards the end, due to a disk issue on the recording machine, so expect a bit of a jump in there)

This week, we have a margarita mixer, which means we break out the tequila, which leads to drunken geekery. We also have the biggest frozen pizza we’ve found to date, beer, mac &  cheese, and lots and lots of chocolate. We even have duck fat caramels. Yes, you read that correctly : DUCK. FAT. CARAMELS.

This is not a drill folks, this week when We Eat It, So You Don’t Have To!

(15) SHOT AT A FREEBIE. LA area fans interest in seeing The Pit and the Pendulum free on July 26 should go to Facebook and sign up.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has graciously offered a block of FREE TICKETS to our customers of CREATURE FEATURES for their archival revival screening of Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM starring Vincent Price, this Tuesday, July 26th at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills at 7:30pm. Featuring a brand new 35mm print, the screening will highlight a Q&A with Roger Corman & Julie Corman, along with four newly restored trailers from other Corman classics. To sign up for your free ticket, simply click “Going” on this event before 11pm on Monday, July 25th and your name will be at the Will Call desk at the theatre entrance. Seating is limited and first come first served, while space lasts. Theater reserves right to limit admission as necessary. Based on the classic shocker by Edgar Allan Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum, with a screenplay by Richard Matheson, deviates somewhat from the original, but Roger Corman, who also produced and directed, succeeds in translating Poe’s eerie mood to the screen. Set in the 16th century, horror film icon Vincent Price stars as a Spanish nobleman whose wife (Barbara Steele) dies under mysterious circumstances. Despite its modest budget of $300,000 over 15 shooting days, Corman employs his legendary “bag of tricks” and the mastery of cinematographer Floyd Crosby to create a colorful, visually impressive and atmospheric film. Cast: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Lynn Bernay, Larry Turner, Mary Menzies, Charles Victor

(16) ALTERNATE HISTORY. Original fiction by Jonathan Edelstein at Haibane.info“Saladin at Jerusalem: A Friday Story”.

This is another alternate history vignette, originally posted here and centering on Abdelkader El Djezairi, one of the most fascinating and heroic characters of the nineteenth century.  The story takes place some years after the end of his resistance to French colonization in Algeria, and after an incident in Damascus which ironically made him into a friend of France.  Those who know what happened there might have some idea of where this story will go… or maybe not.

(17) MORE MIÉVILLE. Tor.com has posted an excerpt from China Miéville’s new book The Last Days of New Paris. Here is the description of the story –

1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer—and occult disciple—Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever.

1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts—and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse. But Sam is being hunted. And new secrets will emerge that will test all their loyalties—to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality itself.

(18) YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND. Steve Fahnestalk has a great tribute to “MY PAL, JERRY SOHL!” at Amazing Stories

Most of you are familiar with Jerry’s main Star Trek script; the episode is called “The Corbomite Maneuver”; but you may not know that as Nathan Butler (one of his pseudonyms) Jerry also wrote and/or co-wrote either the script or the original stories for “Whom Gods Destroy” (with Lee Erwin) and “This Side of Paradise” with D.C. Fontana. Earlier in his career, Jerry was in a writing group called “The Green Hand” which included variously, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan and several others from time to time. When Beaumont fell ill with several Twilight Zone episodes due, Jerry wrote them (“Living Doll,” “Queen of the Nile,” and “The New Exhibit”) to be submitted under Beaumont’s name; Beaumont insisted that Jerry keep half the money. (Jerry was especially proud of “Living Doll”—“My name’s Alicia and I’m going to kill you!” being a line he repeated to me several times.

(19) MYSTERY SOLVED. Did anyone get a memo about there being a “blackout”? What about The Guardian, the LA Times, and other such outlets which have covered the Hugos this year?

(20) STUCK IN THE STONE. Digital Antiquarian tells the developmental history of Infocom’s game “Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur”.

And so at last, twelve years after a group of MIT hackers had started working on a game to best Crowther and Woods’s original Adventure, it all came down to Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur, Infocom’s 35th and final work of interactive fiction. Somewhat ironically, this era-ending game wasn’t written by one of Infocom’s own long-serving Imps, but rather by the relatively fresh and inexperienced Bob Bates and his company Challenge, Incorporated, for whom Arthur represented only their second game. On the other hand, though, Bates and Challenge did already have some experience with era-ending games. Their previous effort, Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels, had been the last text-only Infocom game to be published. As Bates’s buddy Steve Meretzky delights in saying, it’s lucky that Challenge would never get the chance to make a third game. What with them having already “single-handedly killed” the all-text Infocom game with Sherlock and then Infocom as a whole with Arthur, a third Challenge game “probably would have killed the entire computer-game industry.” We kid, Bob, we kid.

(21) THE BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. This is supposed to be a new product from Discworld Emporium (it was on their FB page) but I can’t find it in the online catalog. It’s still funny anyway.

Pratchett blue plaque

(22) HOW THE MOON GOT ITS BLACK EYE. The BBC relays a theory that “Vast asteroid created ‘Man in the Moon’s eye’ crater”. Well, of course it did. But now, math.

One of the Moon’s biggest craters was created by an asteroid more than 250km (150 miles) across, a study suggests.

It smashed into the lunar surface about 3.8 billion years ago, forming Mare Imbrium – the feature also known as the right eye of the “Man in the Moon”.

Scientists say the asteroid was three times bigger than previously estimated and debris from the collision would have rained down on the Earth.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

It would have been a catastrophic period of timeProf Peter Schultz, Brown University

The asteroid was so big it could be classified as a protoplanet – a space rock with the potential to become a fully formed world….

(23) CHART OF THE UNKNOWN. The Literary Gift Company is selling a “Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Map” of the British Isles created by Jonathan Coleclough.

These writers have created amazing new worlds, or have re-imagined the world we think we know. In turn we have mapped their landscapes: the towns and regions that created or inspired these writers. We meet Tolkien not in Middle-Earth, but the Midlands, for example, and we spy Philip Reeve in his current Dartmoor setting. From Angela Carter to Mervyn Peake, by way of John Wyndham, Alistair Reynolds, and over 200 other authors this stunning hand-lettered poster has been compiled and designed by Jonathan Coleclough.

 

 

(24) PLEASE DON’T PET THE ACTORS. Movie Pilot writer Tisha Mae Eaton tries to convince fans “Celebrity Is Not Consent”.

During cons, meeting one of your favorite celebrities can be an incredibly exciting experience, especially if you are able to walk right up to them. Your first instinct may to be a gushing adoration of all of their work, or to get nervous and clam up, or maybe even to just fling your arms around them. While the first two are understandable, the latter is actually quite inappropriate, and it’s become an increasing problem at conventions.

(25) THE HUNGER GAME. Those of you who haven’t followed Marko Kloos out the door at Facebook can click on this silly cat graphic posted by Janis Ian.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcocki, JJ, Aziz Poonawalla, Martin Morse Wooster, Dawn Incognito, David Langford, Bartimaeus, Cally, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Alan Lee To Miss WFC 2013

World Fantasy Con 2013, which takes place in less than two weeks, is truly snakebit. The con has lost yet another guest, Alan Lee announcing he will be too busy working on the second Hobbit movie to attend.

In September, the con’s Master of Ceremonies China Miéville notified the committee he would be unable to attend “due to circumstances completely beyond my control.”

And, of course, Richard Matheson died in June, having already announced health would prevent him from attending. (His son, Richard Christian Matheson, also a GoH, still plans to be there.)

[Via Locus Online.]

Lovecraft Busted

WFC AwardCome August 22 the big Kickstarter-funded bust of H. P. Lovecraft is due for its public unveiling in a Providence library.

Not everyone who’s been given an opportunity to display a bust of Lovecraft has been so enthusiastic – even when it comes in the form of the World Fantasy Award.

China Miéville says he keeps his copy with its face turned to the wall.

The reason? As David Barnett explains in The Guardian

[I]t’s not so much his strange hybrid of science fiction and supernatural terror that is the problem as his racism. When the Nigerian-American Nnedi Okorafor became the first black woman to win the World Fantasy award in 2011, a friend pointed out the fact that the award was problematic – it being a bust of Lovecraft. Okorafor gamely reproduces one of his racist poems on her blog and writes: “I am the first black person to win the World Fantasy award for Best Novel since its inception in 1975. Lovecraft is probably rolling in his grave.”

The full quote at Okorafor’s blog is even better. It continues —

Or maybe, having become spirit, his mind has cleared of the poisons and now understands the err of his ways. Maybe he is pleased that a book set and about Africa in the future has won an award crafted in his honor. Yeah, I’ll go with that image.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the story.]

China Miéville Signs at Chicago Play on 3/16

The stage production of City and the City, based on a China Miéville story, is in the midst of its run at Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre.  It opened on February 15 and closes April 7.

The plot —

Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut case: an American student found dead in the gutters of the city of Beszel. But soon this deceptively simple crime reveals ties to powerful political and corporate factions at the heart of both Beszel and its twin city, Ul Qoma. Forced to cross the divide between two city-states coexisting in the same geographical space yet separated by irreconcilable cultural differences, Borlú must bring to justice the mastermind of the most unusual and dangerous case of his career.

When James Bacon attended Capricon in February he got to listen to director Dorothy Milne, adapter Christopher M. Walsh and marketing director Rob Kauzlauric speak about bringing Miéville’s work to the stage. 

[I] wonder about how the two cities will be discriminated, and it is explained that colours, costumes props and movement all go into that process of identifying the each city, the quality of light and a less subtle ‘shade of blue’ which is mentioned as legal in one, illegal in another in the book, is something that is latched upon. Also accents are used to discriminate from non city people.

Miéville himself will be at the Lifeline Theatre on Saturday, March 16 for a book signing in the lobby at 7 p.m. He’ll hold a conversation with the audience, cast, and production team immediately after the 8 p.m. performance. His book signing and Q&A’s are free.

[Thanks to James Bacon for the story.]

The Mashed-Up Future of Novels

China Miéville speaking in a debate at the Edinburgh international book festival about the future of the novel, called anti-piracy measures for literature in the digital age “disingenuous, hypocritical, ineffectual” and “artistically philistine.”

According to the Guardian he looks forward to open texts:

“Anyone who wants to shove their hands into a book and grub about in its innards, add to and subtract from it, and pass it on, will … be able to do so without much difficulty.”

But Ewan Morrison, author of Tales from the Mall, called Miéville’s vision of the future “naive, and based on what I would call dot-communism, which is a spurious leftism based on collectivity, that we are all heading towards a world where information will be shared”.

Countering another argument, that writers couldn’t make a living in such a world, Miéville called for a uniform, blanket salary for writers, novelists and poets equivalent to the “wage of a skilled worker.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

SF/F Authors Up for International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

The world’s most lucrative prize for a work of fiction published in English is the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The longlist of 147 nominees for the €100,000 prize was announced November 7.

Sf/fantasy writers I recognized on the list and their nominated works are: Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker, Lauren Beukes, Zoo City, Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven, China Miéville, Kraken: an anatomy, Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death.

The shortlist will be announced April 12, 2012, while the winner will be announced June 13, 2012.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

China Miéville on Comics

James Bacon says he was surprised as anyone to discover a French section of London. That’s where he was sent to report about the Bande Dessinée and Comics Passion festival for Forbidden Planet

I am here for the inaugural event, a conversation between China Miéville and Paul Gravett. The weekend is billed as a series of ‘happenings’ by Gravett and a key difference is the nature of the staged encounters between French and British creators, who share a adoration of the medium of sequential art in all its forms. Gravett has rightly amassed a reputation for being a man who adores the subject and works so damnably hard at making events happen. Whether it be South London small press guys or academics or someone like me, just a fan, we all love his efforts and open, inclusive, intelligent style.

That Kind of Fellow

Regardless of what I should think of when I hear “Royal Society”, what I do think of is Patrick O’Brien’s character Jack Aubrey reading papers about nutation to its fellows. Perhaps from now on I shall also think of China Miéville, for when the Royal Society holds the first literary festival in its history on October 1-2 in London the three-time Arthur C Clarke award winner will discuss his work and views on science and fiction with Tom Hunter, director of the awards. Other prize-winning authors are also on the program.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]