Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Smofcon, the con for conrunners has convened in Boston.

  • John Scalzi is there to share what pros expect from conventions.

  • Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories is on hand, too.

The convention is well attended for Smofcons, registration and hospitality were working efficiently the last time I passed through and many interesting conversations have been heard and overheard.

  • An issue of Journey Planet with a con programming theme has been released in time for Smofcon.

  • Jeeze, I played the inaugural version of this game in 1987.

  • Richard Gadsden’s additions to the “Fannish Inquisition” questionnaire are inspired by the virtual wall of TSA.

(2) JUMP IN. Charles Payseur shares his experience and advice to encourage the growth of a deeper and more diverse field of sff short fiction reviewers. “So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What’s more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It’s a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It’s often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it’s also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it’s to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but I’ve left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let’s get started!

(3) GOOD TO GO. NASA will be able to keep the mission going awhile longer: “Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years”.

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

…Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy….

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

(4) MAKE IT SO. Food & Wine reports “New ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Holiday-Themed Beer Getting National Release”.

Courtesy of New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company comes Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Ale – Captain’s Holiday. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but this beer is trying to cover a lot of bases. Not only is this tropically-tinged beer brewed with natural citrus flavors intended as a holiday release, this “Collector’s Edition” product is also meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation which first aired back in 1987. As such, the name “Captain’s Holiday” actually comes from the title of an episode of that series in which “the crew convinces Captain Picard to take a much-needed vacation on the pleasure planet Risa” (of course).

(5) MYTHLORE AT 50. Help the Mythopoeic Society pick what belongs in the collection — “Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years”.

IN 2018 WE CELEBRATE THE FOUNDING OF MYTHLORE, the scholarly journal of the Mythopoeic Society, which published its first issue in January 1969. Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years will collect and reprint the very best articles, artwork, reviews, letters, and creative work, all nominated by readers, along with commentary about the journal’s founding and history, and will be published in time for Mythcon 49.

(6) A GRATEFUL WILLIS. In Connie Willis’ “Thanks on Thanksgiving” post she remembers three people who had a big influence on her.

  1. My eighth-grade teacher, whose name I do remember.

Mrs. Werner was my home-room teacher, and every day after lunch she read aloud to us, one of which was Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS.  This is NOT a children’s book, even though its heroine, Lovejoy, was ten years old.  She was also a thief.  She lived in post-war London, and when she decided she wanted to build a garden in the rubble of a bombed-out church, she not only shoplifted seeds and a trowel, but recruited other kids to steal for her.  She was also thoroughly unpleasant.  Not without reason.  She had a slutty mother with an assortment of nasty boyfriends and was often left with strangers for months at a time.  As I say, not a book for junior-high-schoolers.

I have no idea what anybody else in the class thought about the book, but I loved it AND Lovejoy.  It was my first introduction to Rumer Godden, who I fell in love with, especially her novel about grief, IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE.  It was also my first introduction  to how you can take a classic and update it (AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is actually Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN retold.)

And it was my first introduction to the Blitz, planting a seed which blossomed when I went to St. Paul’s years later and fell in love with the fire watch and the history of London during the war–which had a HUGE impact on my life.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek appeared in the funny papers with a daily comic strip.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston – your choice, My Favorite Martian, or the Devil in Damn Yankees.

(9) CLASSIC MACHADO. Jane Dykema, in “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch’” at Electric Lit, says, “The first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ brings up big questions about who we believe and why.”

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

(10) ELEMENTARY. “The Serial-Killer Detector” in The New Yorker tells how A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010, when he was a reporter for the now defunct Scripps Howard news service. The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex. It also considers whether the rate of unsolved murders in a city is notable, since an uncaught serial killer upends a police department’s percentages. Statistically, a town with a serial killer in its midst looks lawless….

(11) HEAD ‘EM OFF AT THE PASS. Sounds like a Kage Baker story. The Pharaoh’s city from The Ten Commandments is still under the sand south of San Francisco: “Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history”.

The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

 

(12) BABELFISH.  The BBC tells about “The translator that sits in your ear”.
So how does the Pilot earpiece work? It uses a sophisticated microphone array along with noise-cancelling algorithms to listen to spoken words from and around the user.

“Those words are passed to the cloud where it is processed through speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis, before it is sent back to the user and anyone else whose Pilot earpiece is synced into the conversation,” explains Ochoa. “This happens within minimal delay, usually in milliseconds.”

There are a number of competitors hot on the heels of the Pilot, including Clik, Skype, and Google, which last month launched its Pixel Buds, complete with the ability to translate in real time between 40 languages. The Pilor earpiece currently works with 15 languages, but can be ugraded to translate more. But with its head start, and now its prestigious nomination, the Pilot may be a step ahead.

(13) FAKE GUARDIAN. Someone’s trying to act like the actor: “Chris Pratt alerts fans to ‘pervy imposter'”.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt has taken to social media to alert his fans to a “pervy dude” who has been allegedly impersonating him online.

“Somebody is trying to pretend to be me on Facebook,” he wrote on Instagram.

The US actor claimed the “imposter” had been “apparently hitting on a lot of different female fans, trying to get their numbers and who knows what else.”

“I find this behaviour reprehensible,” he continued. “If I find out who it is I’ll have their account shut down.”

(14) MEGAFAME. I read both authors, but it felt surreal to see Lee Child and N.K. Jemisin sharing the marquee in the same article.

(15) A WARNING TO PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.

(16) GREAT COLLECTION. John O’Neill is “Remembering Frank M. Robinson’s Legendary Pulp Collection” at Black Gate.

A complete collection of Weird Tales is a towering achievement. Weird Tales, which had chronically poor circulation, is one of the most sought-after pulps on the market, as it was the most important home of the most significant pulp writers of early fantasy, including H.P Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others. Copies in good condition typically go for several hundred dollars each, and early issues for significantly more than that….

The 1970s might have been the last time it was possible to compile a collection like this, at least for any kind of reasonable sum. His entire collection was auctioned off while Frank was still alive by John Gunnison at Adventure House, and netted a total well north of a million dollars.

(17) ALL WET. Den of Geek goes “Diving Into The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon”, an actor who will also be in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.

Den of Geek: Have you and Guillermo ever talked about working together before?

Michael Shannon: No, this was totally out of the blue. I didn’t know Guillermo. I was out here doing something silly, I don’t know. Maybe I was out for the indie film Spirit Awards or something and my agent said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to have lunch with you while you’re in town this weekend.” I said okay. So he came to my hotel and we sat at this table out back, and he just laid it all out. Said, “I’ve been writing this movie for a long time. I’ve been writing it with particular people in mind, and you’re one of those people. Are you interested?” And I said okay. That was it. It’s an astonishingly simple and concise story.

He said he wrote Strickland with your voice in his head. So when you got to read the character, what struck you about the character?

I thought it was funny. I thought it was a funny character. I saw a lot of humor in it. I liked the opportunity to play some uptight, confused government agent guy. I mean he’s kind of a train wreck inside, but he’s presenting this exterior of authority and competency, which is a total fabrication at the end of the day.

(18) DON’T BE SHY. In 1962 some authors didn’t want to be known for writing sf. Not much different from 2017, eh? Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf gives a rundown on the situation of half a century ago: “[DECEMBER 2, 1962] THEY CAME FROM THE MAINSTREAM (SF BOOKS NOT PUBLISHED AS SF)”.

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabakov, best known for his controversial novel Lolita (toned down somewhat in this year’s film adaptation), creates a very unusual structure in his new book, Pale Fire.  It consists of a poem of 999 lines by an imaginary poet, followed by footnotes written by an equally fictional critic.  Read together, the poem and footnotes come together to form a plot of impersonation, exile, and murder.  What makes this a work of science fiction is the fact that it takes place in a world different from our own.  The story deals with the deposed king of the European nation of Zembla.  It takes place in an alternate version of the USA, which contains the states of Appalachia and Utana.

(19) CUISINE OF THE FUTURE. Sometimes that future doesn’t seem very far away.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

2017 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 the last couple of years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 and 35 of the novellas published in 2016 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

Last year, the result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I decided to do it again this year.

The success of Tor’s novella line seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, and Book Smugglers jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the Big 3 magazines and the online fiction venues – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. Toward the end, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis.

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

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 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)


All Systems Red [The Murderbot Diaries #1], by Martha Wells (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid – a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

What I thought: This seems to be the runaway Filer favorite Novella this year, and I’ll add my voice to everyone else raving about this story. Action, suspense, and adventure with a rogue military AI whose personality is displayed subtly and with a slight bit of delightful snark. This is real SF space opera, the way it should be done. #2, Artificial Condition, comes out in May 2018, and #3, Rogue Protocol, will be released in August 2018. Given how much I enjoyed this, I’m going to have to check out Wells’ Raksura series.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: arrived Tuesday and I finished it Wednesday. Fun was had. I enjoyed the narrator and its humans – the book is stuffed full of potential for touching moments of cyborg-human connections, which would happen in a different book and don’t in this one. It’s on the list for now, it may well stay there, and I’ll definitely tune in for future instalments.
  • Mark-kitteh: a Tor.com novella that is probably the start of a series (it subtitles itself The Murderbot Diaries) but is nicely self-contained. Its narrator calls themselves “Murderbot” because as a cyborg security unit they don’t have a real name and that’s how the real humans seem to see them, even though behind their armour there’s a more complex intelligence that binge-watches soap operas but can’t stand real life melodrama. So there are two story strands – an action-adventure plot as they are assigned to protect a survey group exploring an alien planet while Shenanigans occur, and exploring the narrator’s character as they react to the group of humans they’ve fallen in with. (If you read Questionable Content then you might see some parallels with the recent storyline there as well.) The adventure plot is good, but the personal storyline is great.
  • Greg Hullender: I gave it five stars. I agree wholeheartedly that the development of the character of the “MurderBot” is the strong point of the story, but I loved how the author did such great character development and worldbuilding without a single infodump. All the dialogue was natural. All the narration was transparent. And all the key plot points were adequately foreshadowed. All of that on top of nonstop action.
  • Rose Embolism: So, I really enjoyed the excerpt at Tor.com. The problem is. ..now I just can’t help but visualize Murderbot as Bubbles from Questionable Content.
  • Linda S: I loved it, and I’ll almost certainly be nominating it for a Hugo next year.
  • Ghostbird: I don’t know if I’d call Murderbot a companionable character but I find them very relatable. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s cultivated detachment in an awful workplace.
  • Paul Weimer: The tight first-person point of view really does help here in making Murderbot a relatable character, and Wells shows just how important point of view is to telling the story in the way you want to. I can imagine a good Murderbot novella with a 3rd person limited point of view. We might even get some more details on the worldbuilding that I’d love to have. But we’d lose that deep dive into Murderbot’s mind and soul, and the work, IMO, would be lesser if she had chosen that path. A 2nd person Murderbot story would be interesting, I think.
  • Lee: I would say that Murderbot is a compelling character rather than a companionable one. I would also say that their thought processes are a lot like mine when I’m having to put on a polite face while doing something I would very much rather not be doing. I powered my way right thru the story – it dragged me in from the opening scene, and the mystery element was challenging and well-done. It’s definitely got a place on my Hugo nominations for 2018. I notice a thread of similarity between this, the Ancillary trilogy, and A Closed and Common Orbit; they all involve a created intelligence trying to learn how to function beyond its original parameters. This suggests that I’ve got a strong interest in stories which explore that concept and do it well.
  • lurkertype: So I read Murderbot last night, and liked the story. It’s really good, and the interactions between Murderbot and the humans are great. Lots of action. I agree with @Lee’s analysis. This is going on my embryonic Hugo list for next year.
  • Viverrine: just finished Martha Well’s All Systems Red and can’t wait for more Murderbot stories. Thought it did a great job with the narrator’s perspective.
  • Arifel: [It] has already had a lot of deserving hype among Filers – I also loved it and wrote a little bit about it here.
  • Eve: My short list is Wells’ All systems red (Murderbot)…
  • Bonnie McDaniel: Seconding this rec as well, because of the fantastic title character. (Also because sometimes, the cranky misanthropic Murderbot, with its desire to be left alone with its books entertainment feeds, reminded me of… me.) Seriously, though, I realized that Murderbot is pretty much the anti-Data – the artificial being who doesn’t want to be human. It’s a fresh take on the android trope, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
  • Red Panda Fraction: I finished [it] last night in one sitting, and I really enjoyed it. It’s on my list.
  • Kyra: I’ll chime in along with everyone else who’s already recommended this one. A nice novella with tight plotting and a great main character. I like that it didn’t go for easy answers to the protagonist’s issues. I’m looking forward to the sequels.
  • Cheryl S.: Count me as very pro Murderbot. As soon as I finished it, I started a re-read.
  • Kendall: Y’all have to stop rec’ing things that keep me up two nights in a row. This was excellent, plus it wasn’t what I expected (a good thing, here). The personality, the interactions, the mostly-suppressed-but-expressed emotions – Wells did a great job with everything here. Perfect ending. I look forward to the next two!
  • Cassy B: I just bought and read [it] per Kendell’s rec above. And then immediately started evangelizing about this book to everyone I know. I *love* the narrative voice. Absolutely on my Hugo ballot.
  • Bookworm1398: So far I have… Murderbot for Best Novella.
  • Camestros Felapton: Despite some dark plots, murders and monstrous local fauna, this is a very compassionate story. Beyond Murderbot themselves, the individual characterisation isn’t deep but Wells quickly establishes a feel for what the team Murderbot is protecting is like. A mix of well meaning but wary people, the relationship between the survey team and Murderbot has a strong and plausible arc that gives the story some real soul.
  • Chris S.: I have to admit I inhaled this in one sitting, really enjoyed the concept. Origins of the murderbot personality still seem to be a mystery. Would definitely recommend, despite some dodgy plotting.

And Then There Were (N-one), by Sarah Pinsker (full text)

Uncanny Magazine March-April 2017, editor unknown

Synopsis: A quantomologist who discovers how to access parallel universes arranges a convention for attendees who are all versions of herself from slightly divergent universes.

What I thought: This murder mystery novella uses a format familiar to many SFF fans – a convention with keynote speeches and panels on relevant subjects of interest – to provide the setting for an exploration of the theme in Frost’s Road Not Taken. It’s a powerful metafictional musing on choices and consequences and what’s most important in life – and how one’s priorities can change, depending on the results of previous choices. I loved it. This is definitely going on my Hugo Novella ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • David Goldfarb: Quick note to all, that I’ve just put [this as] the first work this year on my Hugo longlist record for next year… I found it well-written and amusingly meta, although I did guess in advance the outlines of the solution to the mystery.
  • Meredith: Throughly enjoyable multiverse murder mystery where all the suspects are the same person. Ish.
  • Lace: a different, introspective read. A bit more con experience could’ve been fun, but what we saw worked. I was also pleased that whodunnit vf bar ynlre qrrcre guna gur boivbhf fbyhgvba jvgubhg orvat bhg bs yrsg svryq.
  • Arifel I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this, and I wish it had been twice as long.
  • Arifel: wonderful and i keep forgetting it’s a novella as it was published in Uncanny.
  • Andrew: I really liked that one and have been recommending it to a lot of folks.
  • Laura: Here are my favs so far… Novella: And Then There Were (N-One), Sarah Pinsker
  • Short Story Squee and Snark discussion

Lightning in the Blood, by Marie Brennan [Ree Varekai #2, sequel to Cold-Forged Flame] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Once, there was a call – a binding – and so, a woman appeared, present in body but absent in knowledge of her past self. Making the ultimate journey of rediscovery was not without its own pitfalls – or rewards – and now Ree, a roaming archon, spirit of legend and time and physically now bound to her current form, has yet to fully uncover her true identity. Ree has spent her last innumerable seasons on the move – orbiting, in some sense, the lands of her only friend in this world, Aadet, who has become intricately involved in the new post-revolution politics of his people. Swinging back from the forests surrounding Solaike, Ree falls in with another wandering band, some refugees accompanied by their own archon, who seems to know much more about Ree’s own origins than she ever dared to hope.

What I thought: I really enjoyed the first in this series, Cold-Forged Flame, enough to put it on my Hugo ballot last year, and this is a worthy successor. I really love the world and the characters, and I’m looking forward to more in this universe. I thought this series was so good that it convinced me that I need to read the author’s Lady Trent series sooner, rather than later, even though it’s based on a very different premise.


The Runabout, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch [Diving Universe #6] (42677 words) (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017 / WMG Publishing, edited by Sheila Williams

Asimov’s cover art by Jim Simpson; WMG cover art by Philcold/Dreamstime, design by Allyson Longueira

Synopsis: A graveyard of spaceships, abandoned by the mysterious Fleet thousands of years earlier. Boss calls it “The Boneyard.” She needs the ships inside to expand her work for Lost Souls Corporation. Yash Zarlengo thinks the Boneyard will help her discover if the Fleet still exists. Boss and Yash, while exploring the Boneyard, discover a small ship with a powerful and dangerous problem: The ship’s active anacapa drive. To escape the Boneyard, Boss must deal with the drive. Which means she’ll have to dive the ship on limited time and under extremely dangerous conditions. And she can’t go alone.

What I thought: I love love love Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving Universe, which saw the release of The Runabout this year (which is currently on my ballot for Best Novella as well as Best Series). The series focuses on a spaceship-wreck-exploration company, and includes time travel and lots of mystery, action and adventure. The Runabout, and its predecessor The Falls, while they each stand alone, are intertwined stories – but I recommend reading the rest of the series from the beginning, because there’s background and worldbuilding, especially in the first 2 books, which really enhance the rest of them.

Filer Comments:

  • Greg Hullender: I liked The Runabout so much that I went out and bought the rest of the stories in the series.

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Gregory Manchess, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.

What I thought: This story is loosely based on the life of Margaret Brundage, a prolific artist of more than 70 covers plus many interior illustrations for the early SFF pulp magazines (primarily Weird Tales). While the SFFnal elements are slight until the end, I really loved the way the story captured the cultural context of that time and place, as well as telling a poignant story of love and friendship, with beautifully-realized characters. I enjoyed this so much that I was sorry to see it end, and it will definitely be on my Hugo ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I was going to pass on this because the concept sounded far too light on fantastic elements for my tastes, but some rave reviews persuaded me to try it. I was right that it was very light on the actual fantasy, but it was beautifully written with compelling characters and relationships, and the historical elements of 40s San Francisco were fascinating, so I’m glad I picked it up.
  • Kurt Busiek: Started reading [it] last night, and so far it’s terrific.

The Memoirist, by Neil Williamson (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: In a near future where everyone is wired to an interactive evolution of the Internet, ubiquitous tiny recording drones which make everyone’s personal lives fodder for public consumption are an accepted fact of life. A young journalist scores a rare, highly-enviable job writing the memoirs of the reclusive retired lead singer from a historically-famous rock band which mysteriously broke up after something happened… but despite rumors and speculation, no one knows what that something actually was. Why are so many powerful people determined to wipe a poignant gig by a faded rock star from the annals of history? What are they so afraid of? Rhian has no idea of the dangerous path she is treading, nor the implications of her discoveries, which may well alter the course of human history…

What I thought: I really, really liked this story. It blends a realistic projection of future technology with an intriguing mystery. I think that fans of Sarah Pinsker’s Our Lady of the Open Road might really enjoy this one.


The Ghost Line, by Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by John Harris, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The Martian Queen was the Titanic of the stars before it was decommissioned, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel, the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life. But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

What I thought: I thought that the worldbuilding and characterization in this space opera mystery about an awakening AI were really well-done, and am hoping for more from the authors in this universe. Depending on how my Hugo ballot shakes out, this could be in the running for an appearance on it.


Penric’s Fox, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #5, sequel to Penric and the Shaman] (no excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: Some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman, Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: takes place after Penric and the Shaman, with some supporting characters in common. I liked this one more than the pair starting with Penric’s Mission. It’s in the middle of my pack of maybes for the Hugo ballot, though I’ve only collected a couple of probables so far.
  • Kendall: Bujold goes back in time to write a story connected to (and not long after, IIRC) Penric and the Shaman. I enjoy the Penric & Desdemona novellas a lot; this is a very good addition to the line-up, a little mystery-adventure with more talk about cbffvoyr pbaarpgvbaf orgjrra qrzbaf naq funznavp cbjref.

Mira’s Last Dance, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #4, sequel to Penric’s Mission] (audio excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: The injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie, the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards, as the courtesan Mira of Adria, one of the ten dead women whose imprints make up the personality of the chaos demon Desdemona, comes to the fore with her own special expertise.

Filer Comments:

  • ULTRAGOTHA: my least favorite so far of her Penric stories. There doesn’t seem to be as much there there, this time. There will probably be another Penric story as this one ends in a good place for it to end, but there’s obviously more to come. It takes up immediately after Penric’s Mission with the same three characters (or 15 if you count the Lioness and the Mare). I find Bujold’s stories always, always, improve on re-reading. It’s extraordinary how she manages to do that! So I suspect I’ll like it better the next time around.
  • Arifel: I have to give a massive “wait what????” to. Of course it’s all good solid well written Bujold fun, but the main plot makes light of transphobia and violence against sex workers in a way i was really disappointed by (the more spoilery elaboration is that Craevp, jvgu n cnegvphyne snprg bs Qrfqrzban ng gur uryz, ratntrf va na riravat bs frk jbex jvgu n urgrebfrkhny zna juvyr cnffvat nf n jbzna, naq zbfg bs gur punenpgref rkcrpg gur phfgbzre gb erfcbaq jvgu ivbyrapr vs Craevp vf bhgrq – fb sne fb ernyvfgvp, naq V unir ab crefbany vffhr jvgu gur jnl frk jbex be traqre naq frkhnyvgl ner cerfragrq va n ernfbanoyl znggre bs snpg jnl, ohg V URNIVYL dhrfgvba Ohwbyq’f qrpvfvba gb cynl nyy guvf nf n uhzbebhf fbhepr bs grafvba.)

The Prisoner of Limnos, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #6, sequel to Mira’s Last Dance] (no excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.

What I thought: I will say that while I have really enjoyed all of the Penric novellas, possibly Penric’s Mission (which was actually well into novel length) might be the only one I really felt rose to Hugo level for me. Both last year, and this year (so far), the rest of them are in my Top 10 but not in my Top 5. They’re great stories, but they seem a bit slight compared to the Vorkosigan stories; they’re solid but not exceptional. That’s probably a function of length, but also probably of their “quietness”. I suspect that if Mission / Dance / Prisoner had been released as one novel, they’d have more of an impact for me. (I re-read Mission before reading Dance, and I re-read Dance before reading Prisoner. For those who have the ability and the reading time to do that, I recommend doing so.)

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: The new Penric is good.
  • techgrrl1972: I loved the new Penric, although I don’t always appreciate Lois’ choice of where to stop. It’s not like she needs these sortakinda cliffhangers to draw us back for the next instalment!
  • JJ: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it ends with a cliffhanger. It stops at a logical place, having completed this particular story, but with plenty of seeds dropped for future adventures.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children #2, prequel to Every Heart A Doorway] (excerpt Ch 1-2) (audio excerpt Ch 3)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photographs by Getty Images, design by FORT

Synopsis: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter – polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter – adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

What I thought: I really enjoyed the first novella, and this one provides some good character development for the twin sisters from that story. I re-read the first one after reading this, so the inconsistency between the two endings – probably an artifact of trying to retrofit a prequel after the later story has been published – was rather obvious. Nevertheless, I thought this was very good, but it didn’t quite reach the level of Doorway for me. The third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky, comes out in January 2018.

Filer Comments:

  • Beth in MA: Premise: What happened to Jack and Jill before Every Heart a Doorway? We find out about the world they went to and what happened there. I picked this up on my birthday weekend trip and really loved it! The world is creepy and yet, the real world for the twins was creepy too. In fact, in some ways, the real world for them was worse. We see how that world affected them in the otherworld they visited. It is definitely at the top of my 2017 novella longlist.
  • Chip Hitchcock: So with the discussion of Every Heart a Doorway coming back, has anyone else read the partial prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones? I just finished it and am very torn; it’s a powerful story, but there’s much more telling than showing, including a lot of “this is the way Story goes” lines. It’s possible that showing would have taken a much larger book (a very fast count suggests it’s 30-35K words), or even technique McGuire doesn’t have yet (based on my having read most of what’s she’s written), or maybe she’s deliberately writing something that might be called interpreted fiction?
  • Peer Sylvester: Just finished [it]. The short version: Its the Roald Dahlish backstory of Jack and Jill and thats a bit of a problem, because Jack has revealed her backstory in Doorway already and this is just the fleshed-out-version of said backstory. So, there is not much room for surprises here. But its beautifully written – again! If you like Seanan McGuires writing style (and I very much do), you will enjoy this as well. I just hope the third wayward children book will offer a bit more in terms of story.
  • Kendall: I listened to McGuire narrate her novella Down Among the Sticks and Bones this week; she was a pretty good narrator. The book was good, but I liked the first one better. Two minor criticisms (leaving off a third tiny nit I was going to pick): There was too much “I will now talk about how I’m telling you the story that you’re reading” and faux-children’s-book stuff. The former (weirdly) seems like it would work better in print, and was a little clunky; the latter isn’t really my style. Am I misremembering the first novella – did it do this, too?! I want to re-listen anyway, to see the twins now that I’ve listened to the prequel. The twins’ pre-door back story should’ve been shorter. The background helped us understand how they became the people that made the choices they did in the Moors, and how they developed into the characters we met in the first book. But it was too long and a bit tedious. Also, it was the most juvenile-written part (as in, seemingly written for juveniles), too, which isn’t to my taste. The Moors remind me of D&D’s Ravenloft – in a good way. I was very interested to see Qbpgbe Oyrnx pbhyq perngr n qbbe; and to see fbzrbar jub jrag guebhtu n qbbe ohg unq n snvyrq “fgbel” naq jnf genccrq, rgp. Anyway, overall, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one.
  • Karl-Johan Norén: @Kendall: Every Heart a Doorway is very straightforwardly narrated, so no, it differed from [this one] both in tone and in narrative style. I think the main trouble with Sticks and Bones is twofold: first it’s a prequel, so you have start and end points set, second any story set in McGuire’s fairylands is likely to depend heavily on narrative causality. I’m not sure she has leveled up as an author enough yet to tackle works that explore works of narrative causality yet (not like, say, Cat Valente or the late Terry Pratchett).
  • David Goldfarb: I just finished reading [it], and my socks were knocked off to the extent that it made me go back and re-read “Every Heart a Doorway”. The first time I read Heart I was annoyed by some of its flaws (chiefly that I found the solution of the mystery plot a bit obvious), but this time I was able to focus more on the themes of self-acceptance.
  • Bonnie McDaniel: I actually liked this better than Every Heart a Doorway, as it lacked the somewhat distracting murder mystery plot. This tightly written backstory of Jack and Jill, and nightmare parenting, pulls no punches. At the end, the reader knows just what the twins found in their portal world of the Moors, and understands why they would do anything to return there.
  • Arifel: (specifically the audiobook version read by the author: ) I find it hard to pay attention to audio for long periods of time, but I listened to the whole 4 hours of this in almost one sitting without getting distracted. It’s a powerful story about femininity and sisterhood which worked better for me on a first pass than Every Heart A Doorway. Excellent narration. Will be very surprised if this isn’t on All The Lists at the end of the year

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photographs by Emma Cox and Corey Weiner, design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Synopsis: When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline. But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

What I thought: I really enjoyed this story. McGuire’s work, in my opinion, ranges from very good to absolutely fantastic. I’d put this one in the very good range; I thought that it was solid and well-done, but not exceptional.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is… a separate standalone in a new continuity. Any description of the plot spoils a well-played reveal early in the story so I’m going to keep quiet, but it’s just as readable as you’d expect from McGuire. What I particularly liked was that it had some of the older Urban Fantasy feel of being about people and places and the connections between the two. There’s an element that deserves a content note (rot13 although it’s also obvious from the blurb: Gur znva punenpgre jbexf ng n fhvpvqr ubgyvar naq ure fvfgre pbzzvggrq fhvpvqr) but I believe it’s handled sensitively.
  • Peer Sylvester: Thanks to the Filers who recommended [this]! It was just the right read for a sick day in bed… Easy, but very nice indeed, great world Building, great characters, just the story was a bit on the thin side. But beautiful written and as I sad good “Comfy-iterature” (And yes, its best to go in it totally “cold”, i.e. knowing nothing about the story)
  • Cassy B.: A compelling ghost story… written from the point of view of the ghost.

Idle Ingredients, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #4, sequel to #1 Envy of Angels, #2 Lustlocked, and #3 Pride’s Spell] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Catering for a charismatic motivational speaker, the staff of the Sin du Jour catering agency find themselves incapacitated by a force from within their ranks. A smile and a promise is all it took. And for some reason, only the men are affected. It’s going to take cunning, guile and a significant amount of violence to resolve. Another day of cupcakes and evil with your favorite demonic caterers.


Greedy Pigs, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #5] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Politics is a dirty game. When the team at Sin du Jour accidentally caters a meal for the President of the United States and his entourage, they discover a conspiracy that has been in place since before living memory. Meanwhile, the Shadow Government that oversees the co-existence of the natural and supernatural worlds is under threat from the most unlikely of sources. It’s up to one member of the Sin du Jour staff to prevent war on an unimaginable scale. Between courses, naturally.


Gluttony Bay, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #6] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Welcome to Gluttony Bay High Security Supernatural Prison. We value your patronage. For your entertainment this evening, we are delighted to welcome the world’s most renowned paranormal culinary experts. And on the menu: You.

What I thought: I’m another that loves this series: for the appealing characters, the inventiveness of the otherworldly cuisine, the humor which is great without going over-the-top into cringeworthy, and the way he intertwines the supernatural world with the real world so deftly that it’s utterly believable. Content note: While all of the novellas have some element of gore and/or violence, Gluttony Bay is particularly so. The 7th (and ostensibly the last) Deadly Sin du Jour book, Taste of Wrath, comes out in April 2018.

Filer comments on the Sin du Jour series:

  • Alasdair: One of the Crown Jewels of Tor’s novella lone. Inventive, funny and immensely confident writing.
  • Greg Hullender: The biggest problem I have with this series is that there are too many characters, and they can be hard to tell apart. As a consequence, the individual stories (apart from “Small Wars”) don’t stand alone very well.
  • Kendall: I love this series!
  • Cheryl S.: I really love this series and look forward to every new novella, because they’re terrific; well written, with interesting, offbeat characters that grow in unexpected directions. Plus, there’s always something funny but totally plausible in each one (Goblin King anyone?).
  • Kendall: I also finished Greedy Pigs last night – the latest “Sin du Jour” novella. I read Idle Ingredients… and they’re more closely connected plot-wise than previous entries, ISTM… I enjoyed earlier entries a little more, but I can’t pinpoint why, sorry. Unrelated, but it seemed like there was less food?! LOL. I like that Darren’s and especially Lena’s characters are developing, in these two novellas, and I look forward to the final two entries in the series.

Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Stephen Youll, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The Colony left Earth to find their utopia – a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore the colonists’ genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries. Earth has other plans. The original humans have been tracking their descendants across the stars, bent on their annihilation. They won’t stop until the new humans have been destroyed, their experimentation wiped out of the human gene pool. Can’t anyone let go of a grudge anymore?

What I thought: This is an interesting story and an enjoyable read, but perhaps suffers a bit in execution by comparison to similar stories; explaining why would be spoiling the story, so I’ll just suggest reading this if the synopsis appeals to you.


Agents of Dreamland, by Caitlín R. Kiernan (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman. In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible – the Children of the Next Level – and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in. A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact. And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.

What I thought: There are a lot of elements in this work which will only really have meaning for someone who has at least a passing familiarity with Lovecraft’s works. I found it to be more of a “and then this happened… and then this happened…” story, and less what I’d consider a story with a plot and a resolution (but I guess that description would apply to a lot of Lovecraft works). In a review of Dreamland, James K. Nelson says “enough is resolved to satisfy the reader, but we never fully get our bearings on the forces at work. ” I’m going to disagree with him on that; I didn’t think that enough is revealed to be satisfying. I do think that Lovecraft fans will enjoy this, though.

Filer Comments:

  • PhilRM: Two agents from separate, mysterious government agencies – a man known only as the Signalman, and a woman who is even more mysterious than the agency she works for – meet in Winslow, Arizona to trade information on a horrifying event that occurred in a decaying house near the Salton Sea, an event that proves to be only the latest in a series, and will not be the last. No one does modern-day Lovecraft better than Kiernan: this searing, disturbing novella takes place in a universe that, at best, is bleak and indifferent. It also lies at the SF end of the SF/horror spectrum, as in most of late Lovecraft. You will benefit from having read Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness, but it’s not required. Beautifully written and as dark as a dream of Yuggoth.
  • Mark-kitteh: Another in [Tor.com’s] mini-theme of Lovecraftian stories… and probably the one least likely to be accessible to non-fans of Lovecraft. It’s a rather twisty tale about an unnamed investigator looking into a weird cult with a sense of quiet desperation, while a prescient colleague follows similar threads with quiet acceptance. It was suitably moody but I wasn’t that taken with it.
  • Bonnie McDaniel: I loved this. It’s dense, complex, non-linear, with great characterizations and beautiful writing. It’s a surprisingly successful, if bizarre, blending of Lovecraft and The X-Files, with an alien invasion fit to give anyone nightmares. It’s a shame Kiernan isn’t better known, and it would be great if this story could change that. For the moment, at the top of my Hugo list.
  • Rob Thornton: I wasn’t too hot on Kij Johnson’s Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe (paled next to the original despite the 21c updates) but Kiernan’s Dreamland truly captures the feverishly bizarre quality of good Lovecraftian fiction. Highly recommended and of course it is on my Hugo list.

At the Speed of Light, by Simon Morden (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: A breathless drama set in the depths of space. Aboard a ship that has travelled beyond the reach of human knowledge, Corbyn discovers he is not as alone as he ought to be.

What I thought: A novella about how a near-light-speed vehicle might work, with an uploaded mind as an AI and adaptable drones, and the technical aspects of relativity and maneuvering at such a speed. I found it very Interesting, but the plot, such as it is, is just set dressing for the technical aspects. I’m not sorry I read it, but I can’t enthuse about it either. I gave it 3.5 stars. Morden has a murder mystery set on Mars, One Way, coming out in February 2018 (under the name S.J. Morden), which sounds good enough that I’m already on my library’s waiting list for it.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I read [it] as well, and I’d totally agree – all the clever science couldn’t cover for a rather meh story.

Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor [Binti #2, sequel to Binti] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Dave Palumbo, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

What I thought: Like the previous novella, this story has some interesting world-building – but like the previous one, it relies on another deus ex machina in the third act to get where it wants to go. It’s well worth reading, but won’t be on my Hugo ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: a very worthy continuation of 2015’s winner, and I’m very excited to see how the final(?) installment [Binti: The Night Masquerade, coming out in January 2018] pans out.

Brother’s Ruin, by Emma Newman [Industrial Magic #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods. But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect. When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is a Victorian urban fantasy, although apparently they want us to call it a Gaslamp Fantasy which, hmm, let’s see if it catches on. It’s the start of a series and does an ok-but-not-brilliant job of being a standalone story, mostly setting up the world and getting some initial plot, which is that magic in England is controlled by three competing Guilds, rogue mages are caught and forcefully enrolled, and there’s something non-specifically rotten going on with the whole system, which our protagonist will undoubtedly be bumbling into at some point. Speaking of our protagonist, Charlotte is an artist who is already hiding her mundane talent under a bushel by illustrating under a male pseudonym, which leads neatly into the inevitable discovery that she’s also hiding a non-mundane talent under a bushel too… Anyway, Emma Newman is a good writer of UF already, and so this is a good piece of UF and I like the (ahem) gaslamp setting, but I ended up feeling a bit like I’d been served up the first third of a novel. I’ll be picking up the sequel(s) but I really wish first volumes would be a bit more standalone, and if you’re likely to be frustrated by that then you might want to hold off.
  • Kendall: first of two (or four, if they sell well!) in the Industrial Magic set of novellas, which Tor’s calling gaslamp fantasy. IIRC it’s around the 1850s, around the industrial revolution, but powered by magic. Magi are required to work for the Crown via the Royal Society and can’t marry or pursue other endeavors. Hiding your magic (or even not reporting someone else you know has magic) is against the law. It’s all a bit dire and draconian, which makes a good setup for tension and paranoia on the part of the main character – a woman hiding her magic, and a career as an artist, to boot. Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot… there’s a lot of setup here, but for me there was enough plot and intrigue that it felt like a complete story, while obviously setting up the next novella(s). I hope there are more than two; I enjoyed it a lot. It’s way to early to say whether it would be on my Hugo list, but I definitely recommend it!
  • Arifel: great, with an interesting worldbuilding setup and a slightly thin but compelling enough cast, but it does feel like the first third of a really interesting novel, not a complete story in itself – looking forward to more but I recommend anyone who likes solid resolution at the end of their reading hold off for now.
  • Chip Hitchcock: I was looking forward to this as I liked her other fantasy, but was disappointed by [this] first book.

Weaver’s Lament, by Emma Newman [Industrial Magic #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently destroying expensive equipment. And if she can’t identify the culprits before it’s too late, her brother will be exiled, and her family dishonoured…

What I thought: As others have mentioned, these are parts 1 and 2 of a 3-part novel, and may not be satisfying when read individually. I read all 5 of the author’s Split Worlds novels earlier this year, and I really enjoyed them (enough for it to be a Best Series contender), but these first two Industrial Magic novellas feel a lot like re-treads of that series, and I can’t get really enthused about them.


The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (audio excerpt)

(likely not award-eligible, due to 2016 Audible release)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown; Audible version narrated by Zachary Quinto

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death, and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge what they see as a wrong. It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

What I thought: If you can just roll with the utterly unbelievable premise, this is an enjoyable read – but I suspect that it will end up being one of Scalzi’s less successful attempts at expanding his oeuvre. I’m not sorry I read it, but I can’t enthuse about it, either.

Filer Comments:

  • Kendall: I recommend John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher
  • Anne Goldsmith: I think The Dispatcher was my favourite of these, but I may be giving it subconscious bonus points for being read aloud by Zachary Quinto.
  • Cheryl S.: meh, it was fine but I’m not sure what got it so many five star reviews on Amazon

The Dragon of Dread Peak, by Jeremiah Tolbert (prequel The Cavern of the Screaming Eye) (full text Part 1 Part 2)

Lightspeed Magazine #89 October 2017, edited by John Joseph Adams

Illustration by Reiko Murakami

Synopsis: In a world where trans-dimensional portals from RPG universes have intruded upon and devastated the real world, children and teenagers are the defenders against the monsters and further encroachment. But the dangers in dungeonspace are real: Rash, who was an expert monster slayer, never came back from his last mission a year ago – one of many who have died trying to close down the portals. His younger brother, Flip, has secretly become a crawler in defiance of his mother’s grief – and with his inexperienced team, Flip has been taking on progressively more dangerous portals in the hope of finding and rescuing his brother. What’s more, a mysterious voice has been talking only to him inside of dungeonspace, its motives unknown.

What I thought: Despite not being a gamer, I enjoyed this story; I suspect that RPGers will like it even more. I highly recommend reading the short story prequel “The Cavern of the Screaming Eye” first, as it provides a little additional worldbuilding and characterization for this novella.


The Enclave, by Anne Charnock (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: Advances in genetic engineering have created a population free of addictive behaviour. Violent crime is rare. But out in the enclaves it’s survival of the fittest for Lexie – embroiled in a recycling clan and judged unfit for cognitive implants – and Caleb, a young climate migrant working as an illegal, who is eager to prosper and one day find his father.

What I thought: This is an interesting story, set in the same universe as A Calculated Life. I enjoyed it and found it solid but not outstanding.


The Furthest Station, by Ben Aaronovitch [Rivers of London] (excerpt)

Subterranean Press / Gollancz, edited by Editor

cover art by Stephen Walters, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something. Enter PC Peter Grant, junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts. Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog, their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line. And time is running out to save them.

What I thought: This is a nice little standalone side mystery in the Rivers of London universe, quick and enjoyable – and minus any of the laddish, male-gazey aspects of the early novels in the series.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: It’s very consistent with the rest of the series so if, like me, you’re a fan of the series then you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve found it’s not your cup of tea, then this won’t change your mind. The title refers to the fact that parts of the London Underground actually head out to some very far-flung places. (For a non-Londoner like me it’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself traveling through green fields on an “underground” train!) It doesn’t really advance the main plot significantly, but is a nice little mystery solved with a good combo of magic and real police work.

Havergey, by John Burnside (excerpt)

Little Toller Monographs, editor unknown

cover art by Norman Ackroyd, designer unknown

Synopsis: A few years from now on the small and remote island of Havergey, a community of survivors from a great human catastrophe has created new lives and a new world in a landscape renewed after millennia of human exploitation. This is an exploration of what constitutes a utopia, a reminder of how precious and precarious our world is, and a rejection of the idea of human supremacy over landscape and wildlife.

What I thought: This is a bit like a near-future, post-apocalypse version of Thoreau’s Walden, in which a time traveler from our era arrives on an island populated by anarchist utopians who survived a devastating global plague, and consists mainly of manuscript readings of the colony’s historians with the traveler’s own personal musings. Fans of literary speculative fiction and philosophy may really enjoy it, but it’s definitely not an SF adventure.


I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land, by Connie Willis (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: An author, in New York City to meet with his publisher and do promotion for his book, takes refuge from a bad storm in a tiny used bookstore in an unfamiliar area of the city. But the store is much larger inside than it looks from the outside, and there’s clearly something mysterious going on.

What I thought: I’m a big Connie Willis fan, and I enjoyed this story, but honestly, it felt a lot like a re-tread mashup of some of her other stories, especially The Winds of Marble Arch. It’s clear very early on to the reader what is really going on (at least it was for me), so it didn’t have that feel of a mystery eventually followed by a discovery which has made a lot of her other stories so enjoyable for me. I thought it was worth reading, but not award-worthy.


In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle (excerpt)

Tachyon Publications, edited by Rachel Fagundes

cover design by Elizabeth Story

Synopsis: Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

What I thought: This is a lovely little fable and well worth reading, but did not come close to the level of The Last Unicorn for me.


Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White [The Voidwitch Saga #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Before she escaped in a bloody coup, MEPHISTO transformed Mariam Xi into a deadly voidwitch. Their training left her with terrifying capabilities, a fierce sense of independence, a deficit of trust, and an experimental pet named Seven. She’s spent her life on the run, but the boogeymen from her past are catching up with her. An encounter with a bounty hunter has left her hanging helpless in a dying spaceship, dependent on the mercy of strangers. Penned in on all sides, Mariam chases rumors to find the one who sold her out. To discover the truth and defeat her pursuers, she’ll have to stare into the abyss and find the secrets of her past, her future, and her terrifying potential.

What I thought: The worldbuilding in this is pretty well-done, but I found it a little too predictable and tropey to reach the level of excellent. It’s well worth reading, though, and I’ll be picking up its sequel, Void Black Shadow, which comes out in March 2018.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is probably going to suffer from being the novella I read after the excellent All Systems Red, but it was clever enough to cheat by having an exceptionally cute cat-like creature in it for bonus points. It’s a grimy sort of space opera setting, with mercs, bounty hunters, miserable planets and chaotic stations. The protagonist is Mariam Xi, nicknamed Mars, with her not-a-cat Seven. Mars is a powerful telekinetic and she’s permanently running from the big evil corp that made her that way. (You could make a lazy comparison to River Tam and Firefly at this point, but it’s a fairly different plot.) Anyway, shenanigans happen and there’s a rapid tour of various locations in the grimy space opera settings. I would say it’s solid rather than spectacular – none of the elements are especially original on their own but it’s all well put together. One thing that niggled was that her abilities kept on being just powerful enough for the situation, even if she’d dealt with much worse elsewhere in the story. It appears to be the start of a series but stood on its own well enough. I don’t see it troubling my novella shortlist, but on the other hand it appears to be the author’s professional debut – no short stories that I can see – and it was sufficiently interesting that they go onto my Campbell watch list.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy [Danielle Cain #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Diana Pho

cover art by Mark Smith; design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Synopsis: Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious suicide, Danielle ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa, and witnesses a protector spirit – in the form of a blood-red, three-antlered deer – begin to turn on its summoners. She and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town – or get out alive.

What I thought: This story features a great selection of diverse characters, but parts of the plot didn’t really work for me, and it definitely felt like a first novel to me. A sequel, The Barrow Will Send What it May, comes out in April 2018, but I probably won’t be picking it up.

Filer Comments:

  • Bonnie McDaniel: This was an odd little book, and I’m including it because while I don’t think it was really for me, I imagine plenty of other people will like it. It’s a punk anarchist mindtrip, with plenty of zombified demon animals, and yes, it’s just as wacky as it sounds. Whether the story hangs together will depend on your tolerance of its collectivist anarchist mindset, but I appreciate that it’s an ambitious story that takes risks.
  • Mark-kitteh: I wasn’t actually going to pick this out, but then it got strongly recced in several places and so I decided to give it a try – and I’m glad I did, because although it’s a bit uneven I found it really interesting. Danielle Cain travels to a small squatters town of utopian-minded anarchists to find out why her friend died. It turns out that the townsfolk have called up that which they cannot put down – a protector spirit in the form of a demonic deer which has started taking a very… abrupt… view of what protection means. I have to say that the concept didn’t grab me when I first heard about it, but actually it works really well. It’s a warts-and-all portrayal of this type of community – something well outside my experience – with the fantasy element rather acting as a metaphor for the problems that it throws up. This style of story lives and dies by the lead character, and Cain is well-drawn and interesting. I also liked that the fantasy element was very limited and mysterious – there’s not a whole menagerie of magic animals trotting around, just this one weird beast that someone created without really knowing what they were doing.
  • Meredith: The imagery… has really stuck with me (I badly want someone to adapt it, it would look amazing), but I wish I’d come out of it feeling like I knew the viewpoint character, like, at all. There’s a bit about her being The Traveler, and I wondered whether that was a hint that she wasn’t human (anymore?) but sort of took on aspects of the people she travels with and that was why she never seemed like much of a person, but they never went anywhere with it, so… ¯\_(?)_/¯ (But I did like a lot of stuff about it! Characters just matter a lot to me as a reader. Probably still the third most interesting novella I’ve read this year, behind And Then There Were N-One and All Systems Red.)

A Long Day in Lychford, by Paul Cornell [Lychford #3, sequel to #1 Witches of Lychford and #2 Lost Child of Lychford] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Mark Owen, cover design by FORT

Synopsis: It’s a period of turmoil in Britain, with the country’s politicians electing to remove the UK from the European Union, despite ever-increasing evidence that the public no longer supports it. And the small town of Lychford is suffering. But what can three rural witches do to guard against the unknown? And why are unwary hikers being led over the magical borders by their smartphones’ mapping software? And is the immigration question really important enough to kill for?

What I thought: I thought that Witches was great, and that Lost Child was very good (with the exception of the part with the consent-violating physical assault by the “good guys” against another character, which was pretty awful). But this one just didn’t really do it for me. It’s the story of a one-day ordeal experienced by the 3 main characters, but it felt forced and artificial and pointless to me.

Filer Comments:

  • Kendall: Quoting myself: “I suspect I won’t enjoy it as much as the first two”. Well, I was wrong; it was very good! I’m not sure, but I may have enjoyed it more than the second one. It was depressing and made me sad, especially at the end, but it was well done. BTW this seemed shorter than the others (but I presume it’s still a novella). It’ll probably go into the novella cage match on my ballot.

Mightier than the Sword, by K. J. Parker (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: An Imperial legate is called in to see his aunt, who just happens to be the empress running the civilized world while her husband’s in his sick bed. After some chastisement, she dispatches her nephew to take care of the dreaded Land and Sea Raiders, pirates who’ve been attacking the realm’s monasteries. So begins a possibly doomed tour of banished relatives and pompous royals put in charge of monasteries like Cort Doce and Cort Maleston, to name a few. While attempting to discover the truth of what the pirates might be after, the legate visits great libraries and halls in each varied locale and conducts a romance of which he knows – but doesn’t care – his aunt will not approve. With enough wit and derring-do (and luck), the narrator might just make it through his mission alive… or will he?

What I thought: I’ve really enjoyed the author’s other novellas, and this is another which is well worth reading for its sly humor and solid plotting.


The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover photograph by RekhaGarton, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Since she was a small child, Molly has learned that when she sheds blood, Molly-clones magically appear and try to kill her. Her parents have ingrained into her a protective routine to prevent extra Mollys from occurring, and for defending herself and eliminating them when they do occur. But as she gets older, the occurrences become more frequent, and they start to threaten people Molly cares about, too.

What I thought: This isn’t really my sort of thing, but the author actually manages to present a somewhat plausible explanation of the situation at the end of the story which made it interesting reading. If you’re into horror, it might be your sort of thing. Trigger Warning for huge amounts of blood and violence.


Of Things Unknown, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye / April O’Leary] (no excerpt)

(included with the novel The Brightest Fell)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath

Synopsis: April O’Leary, (rot13’ed for those who have not yet read the second novel in the October Daye series, A Local Habitation) n qelnq jub abj rkvfgf cheryl nf n ploreorvat va gur pbzchgre flfgrz bs gur snrevr Pbhagl bs Gnzrq Yvtugavat, vf fgvyy zbheavat gur qrngu bs ure “zbgure”, VG theh Wnahnel B’Yrnel, naq frireny bs gur pbhagl’f bgure orybirq erfvqragf ng gur unaqf bs na rivy vagreybcre. Ohg jvgu Gbol’f uryc, gurer vf n cbffvovyvgl gung n erfheerpgvba, bs ng yrnfg fbzr bs gur ivpgvzf, pna or npuvrirq.

What I thought: I enjoyed this novella, which is a follow-on to the second novel in the October Daye series, A Local Habitation, and is a nice expansion on the personality of a secondary character in it. However, it would not stand alone well, and is only recommended to those who have read that book or who have read a lot of the stories in the series.


Proof of Concept, by Gwyneth Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover by Drive Communication

Synopsis: On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable exoplanet distantly feasible. When the Needle’s director offers her underground compound as a training base, Kir is thrilled to be invited to join the team, even though she knows it’s only because her brain is host to a quantum artificial intelligence called Altair. But Altair knows something he can’t tell. Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?

What I thought: I enjoyed this story, but not as much as I wanted to. It probably warranted a second read to put all the pieces into place once the ending is known, but I didn’t feel compelled to take the time to do so. Readers who find the synopsis appealing will probably enjoy it.


River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey [River of Teeth #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Filer Comments:

  • Bonnie McDaniel: This has been mentioned before, but I’ll second (or third) it – what’s not to love about an alternate history weird Western with hippopotami? Also, I believe Sarah Gailey is still eligible for the Campbell (2nd year).
  • Bruce Arthurs: enjoyed it a lot. I got the feeling that the plot structure was heavily influenced by television writing, rather than standard book plotting.
  • Mark-kitteh: River of Teeth was fun. Perhaps the concept was a bit better than the execution, but still worth a read.
  • Chris S.: pretty fun, good characters, great concept, extremely dodgy geography (naq abg rabhtu sreny uvccbf, frrzrq gb or n irel fznyy nern jurer gurl yvirq pbzcnerq gb jung gur znc fhttrfgf). I enjoyed it..

Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey [River of Teeth #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the dam that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway. Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.” In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

What I thought: These are entertaining little Magnificent Sevenish stories, and the alternate history plotline of the hippos is interesting but rather peripheral to what are essentially standard tropey Westerns set in the Louisiana bayou. They’re readable, but I can’t rave about them.

Filer Comments:

  • Peer: I’m happy to report that I enjoy this more than the first part: It still has the cool setting and the great characters AND it gets going much faster. Im not sure the story is that much deeper or original, but it works better because there is no more need of introduction. Fun, nice read!
  • Mark-kitteh: The sequel to River of Teeth, picking the plot up shortly afterwards… if you liked the first one then pick this up, if you didn’t then I doubt this will improve your opinion. I do think it shows Gailey improving as a writer, as she weaves several storylines together with aplomb.

Snapshot, by Brandon Sanderson (excerpt)

Vault Books / Dragonsteel Entertainment, edited by Peter Orullian and Moshe Feder

cover art by Howard Lyon, design by Isaac Stewart

Synopsis: If you could re-create a day, what dark secrets would you uncover? Anthony Davis and his partner, Chaz, are the only real people in a city of 20 million, sent there by court order to find out what happened in the real world 10 days ago so that hidden evidence can be brought to light and located in the real city today. Within the re-created Snapshot of May 1, Davis and Chaz are the ultimate authorities. Flashing their badges will get them past any obstruction and overrule any civil right of the dupes around them. But the crimes the detectives are sent to investigate seem like drudgery – until they stumble upon the grisly results of a mass killing that the precinct headquarters orders them not to investigate. That’s one order they have to refuse. The hunt is on. And though the dupes in the replica city have no future once the Snapshot is turned off, that doesn’t mean that both Davis and Chaz will walk out of it alive tonight.

What I thought: This is another of what I have come to recognize as standard Sanderson storytelling. It’s a slick little plot along the same lines as Perfect State but better done; unfortunately, I didn’t find the surprise ending very surprising. Solid but not exceptional.


Standard Hollywood Depravity, by Adam Christopher [Ray Electromatic] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art and design by Will Staehle

Synopsis: The moment Raymond Electromatic set eyes on her, he knew she was the dame marked in his optics, the woman that his boss had warned him about. Honey. As the band shook the hair out of their British faces, stomping and strumming, the go-go dancer’s cage swung, and the events of that otherwise average night were set in motion. A shot, under the cover of darkness, a body bleeding out in a corner, and most of Los Angeles’ population of hired guns hulking, sour-faced over un-drunk whiskey sours at the bar. But as Ray tries to track down the package he was dispatched to the club to retrieve, his own programming might be working against him, sending him down a long hall and straight into a mobster’s paradise. Is Honey still the goal – or was she merely bait for a bigger catch? Just your standard bit of Hollywood depravity, as tracked by the memory tapes of a less-than-standard robot hitman.

What I thought: This is a little noir mystery story featuring an android whose programming gets reset after every mission. Enjoyable but not spectacular (but I haven’t read the other stories in the series, which might make a difference).


Other 2017 Novellas:


Bearly a Lady, by Cassandra Khaw (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Muna Abdirahman, design by Kenda Montgomery

Synopsis: Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is not the grim and disturbing Cassandra Khaw you might be expecting. In fact, this is a romcom featuring a Were-bear trying to get on in the big city (London in this case, although it could be NY just as easily) with job, romance, and life. Were-bear in the City, if you will. Anyway… a romcom isn’t really in my wheelhouse but I still enjoyed this – there’s a nice mix of competing life pressures for the lead character to juggle in a slightly madcap way. I suspect that if the lead character speaks to you more strongly than she did to me then you’ll like this very much.

The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang [Tensorate] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While Mokoya received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, they saw the sickness at the heart of their mother’s Protectorate. A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue as a pawn in their mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?


The Red Threads of Fortune, by JY Yang [Tensorate] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Once her visions shaped the lives of citizens across the land, but no matter what tragedy Mokoya foresaw, she could never reshape the future. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom with packs of dinosaurs at her side, far from everything she used to love. On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear.


The Book Club, by Alan Baxter (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ben Baldwin, design by Michael Smith

Synopsis: Jason Wilkes s life takes a turn for the worse when his wife fails to come home from her book club. Jason calls Kate s book buddy , Dave, who assures him she left hours ago. Contacting the police, Jason finds them equal parts sympathetic and suspicious. He tells them almost everything, except that he s been hearing Kate s voice, calling as if from far away. He certainly doesn t mention that he s seeing shadows that reach for him. With the police getting nowhere fast, Jason takes matters into his own hands, even as nightmare images and Kate s distant cries continue to haunt his waking moments and his dreams, and the strange, grasping shadows persist. Jason begins to unravel the mystery, but he s at odds with the police, he s being lied to by Kate s book club friends, and his chances of finding Kate slip ever further away. It seems that everything is going to go as wrong as it possibly can.


Buffalo Soldier, by Maurice Broaddus (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari. Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.

Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.


Case of the Bedevilled Poet: A Sherlock Holmes Enigma, by Simon Clark (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: After narrowly escaping a bomb blast during the blitz in WW-II London, poet Jack Crofton is threatened with death and worse by a mysterious soldier. Fleeing through the war-torn streets, he seeks sanctuary in a pub and falls into company with two elderly gentlemen who claim to be Holmes and Watson, the real life detectives that inspired Conan Doyle’s fictions. Unconvinced but desperate, Jack shares his story, and Holmes agrees to take his case…


Cottingley, by Alison Littlewood (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: In 1917 the world was rocked by claims that two young girls – Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths – had photographed fairies in the sleepy village of Cottingley. In 2017, a century later, we finally discover the true nature of these fey creatures. Correspondence has come to light that contains a harrowing account, written by village resident Lawrence Fairclough, laying bare the fairies’ sinister malevolence and spiteful intent.


The Emperor and the Maula, by Robert Silverberg (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Jim Burns, designer unknown

Synopsis: This is the story of a woman telling a story in order to extend – and ultimately preserve – her life. The Scheherazade of this striking story is Laylah Walis, denizen of a far-future Earth which has been invaded and conquered by a starfaring race known as the Ansaarans. Laylah is a “maula,” a barbarian forbidden, under pain of death, to set foot on the sacred home worlds of the imperial conquerors. Knowing the risks, Laylah travels to Haraar, home of the galactic emperor himself. Once there, she delays her execution by telling the emperor a story – and telling it well. That story, the tale within a tale that dominates this book, is, in fact, Laylah’s own story. It is also the story of the beleaguered planet Earth, of people struggling, often futilely, to oppose their alien masters and restore their lost independence.


Final Girls, by Mira Grant (excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Julie Dillon, designer unknown

Synopsis: What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears? Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole liveswhile running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But… can real change come so easily? Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: just finished [this], and I’m still unpacking some of my thoughts. There are aspects I found underdeveloped though not central, a central story with layers to its horror, and an ending and implications to think through. A scientist has immersive VR technology that’s being used to help people shed psychological trauma; a skeptical reporter comes to write a story about it. Matters develop from there. In general, I don’t like horror, and probably wouldn’t have read this without the combination of picking it up in a Humble Bundle, and generally enjoying Seanan McGuire. Probably worth a look and opinion from someone better suited to weighing it up.

The Girl Who Stole Herself, by R. Garcia y Robertson (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: A young woman escapes being kidnapped by human traffickers to embark on an interplanetary space adventure.


The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes, by Howard V. Hendrix (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction May-Jun 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by NASA

Synopsis: A government agent must investigate and discover the truth in a case of an aborted bombing attack on a classroom full of girls.


Gwendy’s Button Box, by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King [Castle Rock] (excerpt)

Cemetary Dance, editor unknown

cover art by Ben Baldwin and illustrations by Keith Minnion, designer unknown

Synopsis: There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974, twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong – if time-rusted – iron bolts and zig-zag up the precarious cliffside. Then one day when Gwendy gets to the top of Castle View, after catching her breath and hearing the shouts of kids on the playground below, a stranger calls to her. There on a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small, neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat… The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told – until now.


Heaven’s Covenant, by Bud Sparhawk (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Sep-Oct 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Eldar Zakirov

Synopsis: In the run-up to a space colony mission, the expedition’s leader must unravel the threads of conspiracy and political intrigue which threaten it.


Homecoming, by Rachel Pollack [Jack Shade] (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Charles Vess

Synopsis: A paranormal private investigator is hired by a woman to find her missing soul.


How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry, by Alexander Jablokov (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: An investigator is hired to learn the cause of a mysterious death in a planetary colony.


Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (excerpt)

Solaris, edited by Jonathan Oliver

cover art by Maz Smith, designer unknown

Synopsis: Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear. Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralized, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: A group of soldiers/grunts in a near-future war is sent to rescue a wealthy soldier, whose supersuit has inexplicably failed behind enemy lines. Some fun geopolitics, maybe a bit stretched but not cookie-cutter, and an asymmetric war with some eerie opposition. “Bugs” aren’t front and center in this one, but they have an enjoyable role.

Infernal Parade, by Clive Barker (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, edited by Editor

cover art by and interior illustrations by Bob Eggleton, designer unknown

Synopsis: Convicted criminal Tom Requiem returns from the brink of death to restore both fear and a touch of awe to a complacent world. Tom becomes the leader of the eponymous “parade,” which ranges from the familiar precincts of North Dakota to the mythical city of Karantica. Golems, vengeful humans both living and dead, and assorted impossible creatures parade across these pages. The result is a series of highly compressed, interrelated narratives that are memorable, disturbing, and impossible to set aside.


The Keeper of the Dawn, by Dianna Gunn (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by unknown

Synopsis: All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away. From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum – a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace. Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.


The Little Gift, by Stephen Volk (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Pedro Marques, designer unknown

Synopsis: I was Group Manager at forty-six with a Range Rover Evoque, a beautiful wife and two gorgeous, healthy children, and that was all I wanted. Or so I thought…This is the story of a man who takes a path to become the person he always wanted to be, but never believed he was. Fate takes a hand, a very special person enters his life and changes everything. Emboldened by an irrational passion he risks everything he thought he loved and valued – but the price is worth paying for happiness… Isn’t it?


The Man Who Put the Bomp, by Richard Chwedyk [Saur #5] (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Bryn Barnard

Synopsis: Once they were an in-demand toy craze, but now genetically-engineered, sentient tiny dinosaurs which have escaped or been discarded live together in a community, where various plots, mysteries, and agendas intersect.


Mandelbrot the Magnificent, by Liz Ziemska (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art and design by Will Staehle

Synopsis: Born in the Warsaw ghetto and growing up in France during the rise of Hitler, Benoit Mandelbrot found escape from the cruelties of the world around him through mathematics. Logic sometimes makes monsters, and Mandelbrot began hunting monsters at an early age. Drawn into the infinite promulgations of formulae, he sinks into secret dimensions and unknown wonders. His gifts do not make his life easier, however. As the Nazis give up the pretense of puppet government in Vichy France, the jealousy of Mandelbrot’s classmates leads to denunciation and disaster. The young mathematician must save his family with the secret spaces he’s discovered, or his genius will destroy them.


Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Greg Ruth, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew. The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them… at terrible cost.


Native Seeds, by Catherine Wells (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Marianne Plumridge Eggleton

Synopsis: On a post-apocalyptic earth, two groups of survivors must find a way to work together to ensure the genetic diversity of threatened species.


Never Now Always, by Desirina Boskovich (excerpt)

Broken Eye Books, edited by Scott Gable, C. Dombrowski, and Matt Youngmark

cover art and design by Jeremy Zerfoss

Synopsis: A dark future finds humanity imprisoned. Invaders took away our story and rewrote everything: all minds, all lives, all history. Everyone forgot. How could this happen? But in this now, Lolo must reclaim her stolen words – her stolen family – from the silent Caretakers. She must call out to all rapt children, “This world is hell. Let’s run.” When the words needed are forgotten, lying unknown, when memories flit like smoke, how can she recover what is lost? She must. To live in this nightmare without a story would be too much to bear.


Nexus, by Michael F. Flynn (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: The life of a time traveler obsessed with fixing the history he destroyed with his mistake intersects with that of several other humans, aliens and androids, all of whom have their own urgent agendas.


Not Far Enough, by Martin L. Shoemaker (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Rado Javor

Synopsis: The surviving members of disastrous Mars exploration mission must battle a rogue AI to get what they need to stay alive.


Plaisir d’Amour, by John Alfred Taylor (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: A sociologist visits a low-gravity mining colony to study its genetically-engineered inhabitants, and falls in love with one of them despite the fact that there is no possibility for them of having a future together.


A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power, by Rose Lemberg [Birdverse] (full text)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229 July 2017, editor unknown

Synopsis: The Old Royal, a magical bigender being who has reigned for millenia, is threatened by the arrival of a young stranger.

Filer Comments:


The Process (Is a Process All Its Own), by Peter Straub (excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art and design by Michael Fusco Straub

Synopsis: This is the story of a 1950s Jack The Ripper, told from the killer’s perspective, with occasional glimpses into the perspectives of his victims.


The Proving Ground, by Alec Nevala-Lee (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Kurt Huggins

Synopsis: In a near-future where rising sea-levels threaten existing cities, a woman hopes that an island will provide a safe haven for her community. But the birds are behaving very strangely, to the point of becoming threatening the future existence of the colony, and she needs to find out what’s causing their destructive behavior.


Reenu-You, by Michele Tracy Berger (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Emma Glaze, designer unknown

Synopsis: New York City, August 1998. On a muggy summer day, five women wake up to discover purple scab-like lesions on their faces – a rash that pulses, oozes, and spreads in spiral patterns. City clinic doctors dismiss the women’s fears as common dermatitis, a regular skin rash. But as more women show up with the symptoms, one clear correlation emerges: an all-natural, first-of-its-kind hair relaxer called Reenu-You. As the outbreak spreads, and cases of new rashes pop up in black and latino communities throughout New York, panic and anger also grows. When the malady begins to kill, medical providers and the corporation behind the so-called hair tonic face charges of conspiracy and coercion from outraged minority communities and leaders across the country. At the heart of the epidemic are these five original women; each from different walks of life. As the world crumbles around them, they will discover more about each other, about themselves, and draw strength to face the future together.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: Reenu-you by Michele Tracy Berger… [is] great.

Renegat, by Orson Scott Card [Ender’s Universe] (full text)

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

Synopsis: This Ender’s Universe story, a follow-on from Children of the Fleet, is told from Dabeet Ochoa’s point of view as he, Speaker for the Dead Ender, and Valentine try to solve a murder mystery on the planet Catalunya.


River’s Edge by James P. Blaylock [Langdon St. Ives] (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by J.K. Potter, designer unknown

Synopsis: The body of a girl washes up on a mud bank along the edge of the River Medway amid a litter of poisoned fish and sea birds, casting an accusing shadow upon the deadly secrets of the Majestic Paper Mill and its wealthy owners. Simple answers to the mystery begin to suggest insidious secrets, and very quickly Langdon St. Ives and his wife Alice are drawn into a web of conspiracies involving murder, a suspicious suicide, and ritual sacrifice at a lonely and ancient cluster of standing stones. Abruptly St. Ives’s life is complicated beyond the edge of human reason, and he finds himself battling to save Alice’s life and the ruination of his friends, each step forward leading him further into the entanglement, a dark labyrinth from which there is no apparent exit.


Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth, by Cassandra Khaw [Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #2] (excerpt)

Abaddon Books, edited by David Moore

cover art by Sam Gretton, design by Sam Gretton and Oz Osborne

Synopsis: For a man who started a celestial war, Rupert Wong, Seneschal of Kuala Lumpur and indentured cannibal chef, isn’t doing too badly for himself. Sure, his flesh-eating bosses inexplicably have him on loan to the Greek pantheon, the very gods he thrust into interethnic conflict. Sure, the Chinese Hells have him under investigation for possible involvement in the fracas. And sure as hell, he’s already elbow-deep in debt with the Sisyphean gambling ring. But Rupert is alive. For now. Really, it could be slightly worse.


Snowspelled, by Stephanie Burgis [The Harwood Spellbook #1] (excerpt)

Five Fathoms Press, editor unknown

cover art by Leesha Hannigan, design by Patrick Samphire

Synopsis: Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: First-in-series in a Regency-esque England where the humans are at truce with the elves, and women handle the politicking while men do the magic. For me, it almost felt like its own prequel – a lot of fun world-building setting up future installments, but not too much happens. I’ll probably be back to see where Burgis goes from here. If you enjoy Kowal’s Glamourist Histories or Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, or Burgis’s other work, you should take a look.

A Song for Quiet, by Cassandra Khaw [Persons Non Grata #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Deacon James is a rambling bluesman straight from Georgia, a black man with troubles that he can’t escape, and music that won’t let him go. On a train to Arkham, he meets trouble – visions of nightmares, gaping mouths and grasping tendrils, and a madman who calls himself John Persons. According to the stranger, Deacon is carrying a seed in his head, a thing that will destroy the world if he lets it hatch. The mad ravings chase Deacon to his next gig. His saxophone doesn’t call up his audience from their seats, it calls up monstrosities from across dimensions. As Deacon flees, chased by horrors and cultists, he stumbles upon a runaway girl, who is trying to escape the destiny awaiting her. Like Deacon, she carries something deep inside her, something twisted and dangerous. Together, they seek to leave Arkham, only to find the Thousand Young lurking in the woods. The song in Deacon’s head is growing stronger, and soon he won’t be able to ignore it any more.


The Speed of Belief, by Robert Reed [The Great Ship Universe] (no excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Maurizio Manzieri

Synopsis: Travelers on a journey to negotiate with a new alien race for new resources must try to salvage their mission when everything goes horribly awry.


The Squirrel on the Train, by Kevin Hearne [Iron Druid / Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries #2] (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

Synopsis: Oberon the Irish wolfhound is off to Portland to smell all the things with canine companions wolfhound Orlaith and Boston terrier Starbuck, and, of course, his human, ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan. The first complication is an unmistakable sign of sinister agendas afoot: a squirrel atop the train. But an even more ominous situation is in store when the trio plus Atticus stumble across a murder upon arrival at the station. They recognize Detective Gabriela Ibarra, who’s there to investigate. But they also recognize the body – or rather that the body is a doppelganger for Atticus himself. The police, hampered by human senses of smell and a decided lack of canine intuition, obviously can’t handle this alone. Not with Atticus likely in danger. Oberon knows it’s time to investigate once more – for justice! For gravy! And possibly greasy tacos!


Stillborne, by Marc Laidlaw [Gorlen Vizenfirth] (excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Kent Bash

Synopsis: The bard Gorlen Vizenfirthe has been cursed — his hand replaced with the stone paw of a gargoyle named Spar, who is reciprocally afflicted. Together, the two of them search for a cure to their problem and frequently end up in fresh varieties of trouble. In this story, which is perhaps the series finale, Gorlen and Spar travel to join the swarm of the Philosopher Moths: giant insects with telepathic powers, who may be able to finally give them a cure for their curse.


The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer [Borne] (excerpt)

MCD/FSG, edited by Sean McDonald

cover design by Abby Kagan

Synopsis: The Strange Bird is a new kind of creature – she is part bird, part human, part many other things. But now the lab in which she was created is under siege and the scientists have turned on their animal creations. But, even if she escapes, she cannot just soar in peace above the earth. The farther she flies, the deeper she finds herself in the orbit of the Company, a collapsed biotech firm that has populated the world with experiments both failed and successful: a pack of networked foxes, a giant predatory bear. But of the many creatures she encounters, it is the humans – all of them now simply scrambling to survive – who are the most insidious, who still see her as simply something to possess, to capture, to trade, to exploit. Never to understand, never to welcome home.


Strange Dogs, by James S. A. Corey [The Expanse] (excerpt)

Orbit Books, edited by Will Hinton

cover art and design by Kirk Benshoff

Synopsis: Like many before them, Cara and her family ventured through the gates as scientists and researchers, driven to carve out a new life and uncover the endless possibilities of the unexplored alien worlds now within reach. But soon the soldiers followed – and under this new order, Cara makes a discovery that will change everything.


Sunwake, in the Lands of Teeth, by Juliette Wade (full text)

Clarkesworld #127 June 2017, edited by Neil Clarke

cover art by Eddie Mendoza

Synopsis: A member of an alien race which resembles dogs, who has made friends with human visitors, must undertake a dangerous rescue mission to bring back his human friend in time for a meeting with his ruler.


Tao Zero, by Damien Broderick (no excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: The children of two families immersed in different aspects of the Tao philosophy must come together to save the world.


Taste of Ashes, by Charles E. Gannon [Tales of the Terran Republic / Caine Riordan] (no excerpt)

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

Synopsis: This story is set in the author’s Caine Riordan universe; it appears to be an excerpt of the first book in the series, Fire with Fire, about humans’ first encounter with several more advanced races of aliens who have formed an interstellar alliance.


Temporary Duty Assignment, by A.E. Ash (prequel Nice) (no excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by Kenda Montgomery

Synopsis: Samantha Gao is an elite Metro soldier, dedicated to the job and to her team. But following a devastating mission, Sam is handed a new temporary duty assignment. On paper, she’s supposed to babysit a Metro tech-inspector during a routine evaluation of Greenerhouse seed colony’s corporate sponsor. Sam expects to be on duty at all times, ready for whatever comes. But what she didn’t expect was to see him – Caleb – again. Caleb Estes is an engineer at Greenerhouse and cannot believe his luck when his first love, Samantha Gao, walks into his lab – and back into his life. It’s enough to make him believe in second chances after all. But Sam and Caleb’s reconciliation will have to wait when the routine bodyguard job goes sideways, and the future of the seed colony itself is at stake…


There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House, by David Erik Nelson (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Nicholas Grunas

Synopsis: The employee of a professional house renovator/flipper is sent to evaluate a gorgeous old mansion as a possible new project, but the house turns out to be an extra-dimensional horror.


The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover photograph by Roy Bishop, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child. Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.


Published through Tor.com’s Novella line, but NOT novellas

  • The Fortress at the End of Time, by Joe M. McDermott
  • Switchback, by Melissa F. Olson
  • A Red Peace, by Spencer Ellsworth [Starfire #1]
  • Shadow Sun Seven, by Spencer Ellsworth [Starfire #2]

Pixel Scroll 2/28/17 There Are No Pixels Like Scroll Pixels

(1) SF AND THE PARTY. In New Scientist Lavie Tidhar explains why “In China, this is science fiction’s golden age”.

In the 1980s, science fiction once again fell foul of the ruling party, as a new “Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign” emerged as a backlash to Deng Xiaoping’s modernisation and liberalisation policies. Deng’s opponents in the party railed against Western “bourgeois imports” of all kinds, and with sci-fi seeming to fall firmly in that category, it was all but wiped out for a time.

The genre’s recovery was partly led by the emergence of Science Fiction World magazine in Chengdu, and its energetic editor, Yang Xiao, herself the daughter of a prominent party member. Having such influential backing allowed Science Fiction World to bring together many young writers for an “appropriate” reason.

By the end of the century, Chinese sci-fi entered its own golden age. Although the authorities still raised the issue of literary “appropriateness”, the old restrictions had gone. One prominent contemporary sci-fi author is Han Song, a journalist at the state news agency Xinhua. Many of his works are only published outside the mainland due to their political themes, but Han is still widely recognised at home. His fiction can be dark and melancholy, envisioning, for instance, a spacefarer building tombstones to fellow astronauts, or the Beijing subway system being turned into a graveyard in which future explorers, arriving back on Earth, find themselves trapped on a fast-moving train. Along with Liu Cixin and Wang Jinkang, he is considered one of the “Three Generals” of Chinese sci-fi.

(2) SHARING THE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping, reported here the other day as seeking a Hugo nomination for their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery, has raised the ante. Now they are giving away free copies to Hugo voters.

Their goal is to be nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category.

They are distributing free download codes via Twitter, but voters are allowed to share.

I figure it wouldn’t be fair to post it online – Clipping could have done that themselves – but i you’re a Hugo voter who’s not on Twitter and want to get the DL code, email me a mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send it to you.

(3) IMADJINN TIME. Nominations are open for the 2nd annual Imadjinn Awards given to small press and independently published authors. Authors nominate their own titles (a form Is provided at the site).  A professional jury determines the finalists and the winners. The awards will be announced Saturday, October 7 at the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY. (See last year’s winners here.)

(4) GUNN THEME. A book about 2013 Worldcon guest of honor, Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar by Michael R. Page, has just been published by Macfarland.

One of the major figures in science fiction for more than sixty years, James Gunn has been instrumental in making the genre one of the most vibrant and engaging areas of literary scholarship. His genre history Alternate Worlds and his The Road to Science Fiction anthologies introduced countless readers to science fiction. He founded the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982. But Gunn has also been one of the genre’s leading writers. His classic novels Star Bridge (with Jack Williamson), The Joy Makers, The Immortals and The Listeners helped shape the field. Now in his nineties, he remains a prominent voice. His forthcoming novel is Transformation. Drawing on materials from Gunn’s archives and personal interviews with him, this study is the first to examine the life, career and writing of this science fiction grandmaster.

(5) CHUCK TINGLE, VOID WHERE EXHIBITED. I tell you, they can’t give this man a Nobel Prize too soon. The only delay will be thinking up a category for it.

Hugo nominated author Dr. Chuck Tingle is well known for his thoughts on love and romance, but there is another side to this revered modern philosopher that is needed now more than ever. Dispensed within this non-fiction volume is everything that you need to know about The Void, a terrifying place outside reality that is constantly overflowing with cosmic horror. Will you know what to do when The Void starts leaking into your timeline? Within Dr. Chuck Tingle’s Guide To The Void you will find multiple strategies for battling The Void, as well as survival techniques that could save your life, should you ever find yourself lost within The Void’s infinite grasp of existential dread. Most creatures of The Void are covered in detail, including Void Crabs, worms, Ted Cobbler, and The Man With No Eyes And Wieners For Hair. Also included within this guidebook is important information on Void related subjects like reverse twins, Truckman, the lake, and the call of the lonesome train. For anyone interested in the darker planes that lie just outside of The Tingleverse, this book is for you. Warning: This book includes mind-bending depictions of existential cosmic horror. Read responsibly, and stop immediately if you begin to suffer any symptoms of Void Madness.

(6) MEMORIES. Connie Willis added two new posts to her blog this month.

But certainly not to us. My family and I have known him for over forty years. He had dinner with us countless times (and especially one memorably snowed-in Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house), taught my daughter Cordelia to hang spoons from her nose, and loved talking to my husband about science, especially on the trip to the total eclipse we took to Montana in 1979. (I feel so bad he won’t be here for this summer’s eclipse. It’ll be right in his hometown, Wheatland, Wyoming.)

He was one of my best friends, and I’d rather have talked to him than anybody. He was smart, witty, and full of fascinating stories about horror movies and urban legends and weird news articles. At our last dinner a mere two weeks ago at Cosine, an SF convention in Colorado Springs, he had all sorts of wry and insightful comments about Saturday Night Live, the movie Hidden Figures, and Donald Trump.

But he was not just a friend. He was also a mentor to me before that term even became popular. He taught me how to write, how to critique, how to find my way around the complex maze of the science fiction world without getting in trouble. He encouraged me to go to conventions, introduced me to everyone he knew (and he knew everybody from Jack Williamson to Harlan Ellison to George R.R. Martin) and got me onto panels. He even got me my first Hugo nomination by relentlessly talking me up to everybody.

  1. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith.

This book about a girl growing up in New York City in the early 1900s was loaned to me when I was ten or so, by somebody who thought I’d like it, and I adored it, even though I was probably too young to really understand it. But I totally identified with Francie, who loved to read and spent all her time in the public library. At one point, she decided to read her way alphabetically through the library, so I decided to do that, too, and discovered all sorts of books I’d never have read otherwise: Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, Margery Allingham’s A Tiger in the Smoke, Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place (about which more later), and Peter DeVries’s Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, which had the memorable line, “The recognition of how long, how long is the mourner’s bench upon which we sit, arms linked in undeluded friendship, all of us, brief links, ourselves, in the eternal pity.”

Unfortunately, I’d only made it through part of the D’s when I discovered science fiction and I abandoned Francie’s plan to read everything with a spaceship-and-atom symbol on the sign.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 28, 1965 Dr.  Terror’s House of Horrors premieres in North America.

(8) REFERENCE BOOKS. People are still buzzing about Sunday night’s Oscar mixup, especially those hoping to leverage social media attention by mentioning it. But librarians?

(9) ARMAGEDDON ACTOR. Heritage Auctions is auctioning celebrities’ collections in Dallas on March 18. One of the items of genre interest was owned by Bruce Willis.

Among his top offerings is a French Movie Poster from Forbidden Planet (est. $3,000). This large-format poster in French “grande” size (47 by 63 inches), from the 1956 Metro-Goldwyn film, features one of the most iconic images from the science fiction genre: Robbie the Robot carrying an unconscious beauty. All text, including the film’s title, is written in French. The poster includes a letter of authenticity signed by Willis.

 

(10) NEVER SEEN. The following week at the Vintage Movie Posters Signature Auction a rare Invisible Man poster will bring top dollar.

Perhaps one of the most impressive of all of the great Universal Studios horror posters, a terrifying, 1933 one sheet teaser poster for The Invisible Man could sell for as much as $80,000 in Heritage Auctions’ Vintage Posters Auction March 25-26 in Dallas. “Even the most advanced collectors have never seen this poster in person,” said Grey Smith, Director of Vintage Posters at Heritage Auctions. “(Artist) Karoly Grosz does a hauntingly wonderful job capturing the insanity that slowly takes hold of the film’s mad scientist. In only a few instances did, the studio produce a teaser for their horror greats but when they did they were often outstanding.”

(11) WOMEN OF LEGO The proposed “Women of NASA” LEGO set covered in last July in the Pixel Scroll has been approved for production the toy company announced today.

Design, pricing, and availability

We’re still working out the final product design, pricing and availably for the Women of NASA set, so check back on LEGO Ideas in late 2017 or early 2018 for more details.

(12) PROMO. Kameron Hurley sent supporters custom dust jackets forThe Stars Are Legion, released earlier this month.

She also has done a blog tour to promote the book. The posts are listed here.

(13) MAINTAINING HIS IMAGE. French campaigner uses tech to be in two places at once: “Holograms, mistrust and ‘fake news’ in France’s election” from the BBC.

The communications coup of the French presidential election so far goes to far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon who, with a flick of his fingers, appeared at two simultaneous rallies 350 miles apart and created more internet buzz than he could have imagined.

The technology required was nothing new – he does not have the money – but the performance was done with panache. Walking on stage in Lyon, Mr Melenchon materialised at exactly the same moment in hologram form before supporters in Paris. He then made a speech to both audiences for 90 minutes. He likes to talk.

Afterwards Mr Melenchon claimed 60,000 live followers of the event on Facebook and YouTube. Millions more in France and around the world read about the exploit afterwards and clicked online for a taster. In publicity terms it was magisterial.

(14) SHELF SPACE RACE. History of an object important to many fans.

The Billy bookcase is perhaps the archetypal Ikea product.

It was dreamed up in 1978 by an Ikea designer called Gillis Lundgren who sketched it on the back of a napkin, worried that he would forget it.

Now there are 60-odd million in the world, nearly one for every 100 people – not bad for a humble bookcase.

(15) THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. Were Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi channeling their inner McCalmont and Glyer when they had this Twitter exchange?

(16) TERRIBLE PUN. Wish I had thought of it first….

(17) A SPACE TAIL. Spark, a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk and Vix, are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong. Voices by Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, and Patrick Stewart. In theatres April 17.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Eric Franklin, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Karl-Johan Norén.]

Pixel Scroll 1/10/17 Just Tie A Yellow Pixel Round The Ole Scroll Tree

(1) PRIVACY. David Brin’s Chasing Shadows, a collection of short stories and essays by other science fiction luminaries, was released today.

chasing-shadows-cover

As we debate Internet privacy, revenge porn, the NSA, and Edward Snowden, cameras get smaller, faster, and more numerous. Has Orwell’s Big Brother finally come to pass? Or have we become a global society of thousands of Little Brothers–watching, judging, and reporting on one another?

Partnering with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, and inspired by Brin’s nonfiction book The Transparent Society, noted author and futurist David Brin and scholar Stephen Potts (UC San Diego) have compiled essays and short stories from writers such as Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Robert J. Sawyer, Aliette de Bodard, James Morrow, Ramez Naam, William Gibson, Vernor Vinge and many others to examine the benefits and pitfalls of technologic transparency in all its permutations.

Read the introduction by James Gunn and a story by Vylar Kaftan here [Tor.com].

(2) JEANETTE EPPS: She was one of MidAmeriCon II’s special NASA guests:

Next year she’ll be crewing the International Space Station:

NASA is assigning veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel and first-flight astronaut Jeanette Epps to missions aboard the International Space Station in 2018.

Feustel will launch in March 2018 for his first long-duration mission, serving as a flight engineer on Expedition 55, and later as commander of Expedition 56. Epps will become the first African American space station crew member when she launches on her first spaceflight in May 2018. She’ll join Feustel as a flight engineer on Expedition 56, and remain on board for Expedition 57.

 

(3) LIVE FREE. The UC San Diego Library is hosting a live event, Short Tales from the Mothership, on Thursday, January 19 from 7:30-8:30 p.m.in the Geisel Library’s Seuss Room. Want to participate? Send in your entry by January 17.

If you enjoy creative writing or hearing original short stories, you won’t want to miss this Flash-Fantasy-Sci-Fiction open mic event. Taken from the sci-fi aesthetics of UC San Diego’s iconic Geisel Library building, the UC San Diego Library is hosting a written/spoken word event for the campus and San Diego communities…

Writers should send fantasy or science fiction pieces of no more than 250 words to student leader Amber Gallant, at lib-adgallan@mail.ucsd.edu, prior to the live reading. Early entries are due by Tuesday, January 17. At the event you will have the opportunity to read your entry or have it read aloud for you. All are welcome to come listen to these short stories from beyond!

…Otherworldly libations from our refreshment laboratory will be served along with live theremin & synthesizer musical interludes.

This event, hosted by the UC San Diego Library in partnership with The Writing + Critical Expression Hub at the Teaching + Learning Commons, is free and open to the public.

(4) HOLDING THE FUTURE AT BAY. Although a popular image of science fiction writers is people who predict the future, Connie Willis is distraught to find one of her predictions has happened. She learned the news from this Cory Doctorow article on BoingBoing.

Two employees at the East Lake County Library created a fictional patron called Chuck Finley — entering fake driver’s license and address details into the library system — and then used the account to check out 2,361 books over nine months in 2016, in order to trick the system into believing that the books they loved were being circulated to the library’s patrons, thus rescuing the books from automated purges of low-popularity titles

Willis had a character with the same motivation in her short novel Bellwether:

[My] heroine Sandra made a practice of checking out her favorite books and the classics to keep them from being summarily discarded by the public library. I did that because I’d had a terrible experience with my own library, who I caught throwing out their entire set of Beany Malone books.

“What are you doing?” I said, horrified. “Those are by Lenora Mattingly Weber, one of Colorado’s best writers. A whole generation of girls grew up on the Beany Malone books. They’re classics.” “Nobody checked them out,” the librarian explained. “If a book hasn’t been checked out in a year, it gets discarded and put in the library book sale.”

Where if it doesn’t sell, it gets taken to the landfill, she should have added. And it doesn’t matter if the book’s a bestseller or a classic of literature. (If you don’t believe me, go to your local library and try looking for MOBY DICK. Or Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN. Or THREE MEN IN A BOAT.

Or a copy of Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE COMING OF THE FAIRIES, with the original photos taken of the Cottingley fairies (or some fairy paper dolls) by the little girls. My library got rid of that, too, even though it sells for upwards of eight hundred dollars on AbeBooks. “Nobody wanted to read it,” the librarian explained…..

(5) JEMISIN GOES INTO ORBIT. Good news for her readers: “Orbit Acquires Three Books by Hugo Award-Winning Author N.K. Jemisin”.

Orbit has acquired three new novels by Hugo Award-winning author N.K. Jemisin. All three will be published by Orbit in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and as audio editions by Hachette Audio.

Acquiring editor Brit Hvide said, “N. K. Jemisin is one of the most creative, incisive, and important writers working in fantasy today, and her recent Hugo win only underlines that fact. We at Orbit are proud to continue publishing Jemisin’s work and to amplify her remarkable voice.”

…The first newly-acquired book, currently untitled, will be Jemisin’s first set in our world, and is a contemporary fantasy dealing with themes of race and power in New York City. It has a projected publication date of April 2019.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 10, 1904 – Ray Bolger

(7) COMICS AUTHOR CHARGED. Comics/comics history writer Gerard Jones has been arrested, suspected of putting child porn on YouTube.

An accomplished San Francisco comic book and nonfiction author, who has been published in Marvel and a slew of other publications, was arrested on suspicion of possessing more than 600 child pornography files and uploading the graphic videos to YouTube, police said Friday.

Gerard Jones, 59, was arrested after a police investigation and ensuing search warrant at his residence in the 600 block of Long Bridge Street in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood turned up a host of electronic devices storing more than 600 images and videos depicting child pornography, police said.

The longtime author has written screenplays for Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, served as a writing teacher for the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, and put together graphic novels for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, according to his official website.

His works include Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangster, and the Birth of the Comic Book.

(8)  CREEP FACTOR. Nerd & Tie has a well-researched post about a convention acting on its conduct policy, “Artist Scott Windorski Banned From Evercon For Harassment, Smears Event Organizer”.

Artist Scott Windorski, who vends under the name “Knotty Cobbler,” was ostensibly there to sell his wares, but began to make the rounds a few hours into the first day of the con, January 6th. As he did so, Windorski apparently began to interact with the other (mostly women) artists. For some, like Bal Flanagan, Windorski was at their booth to not only push his own wares aggressively, but made unwelcome comments that “made everyone uncomfortable.”

For others, the line was crossed even further.

Windorski approached artist Brittany Smith (who previously vended as part of PinStripes Studio and currently sells as AcuteCastle). Smith had sold art to Windorski at a previous event and he was, initially very complimentary of her work and asking for a picture with her. However, as Smith posted to the Artist Alley Network International Facebook group, Windorski followed up questions about the artist’s eczema by telling her “I would love to see you naked.”

Smith immediately put Windorski in his place, telling him that she was uncomfortable and asked him to leave…

Unfortunately, that was only the beginning.

(9) GASLIGHT LOSES SPARK. Conrunner Anastasia Hunter announces she has left the board of the group that runs San Diego’s Gaslight Gathering.

Due to irreconcilable and escalating differences between myself and members of the Board of Directors of CAASM, Inc. (Non-profit corporation that owns and oversees Gaslight Gathering), I have made the decision to resign as Chair and withdraw myself completely from their organization. A formal letter was mailed to CAASM late last week.

However, the Steampunk party we enjoy here in San Diego is far from over. I will be announcing a new project next week for those of you interested in future steampunk shenanigans!

To everyone on the Gaslight Gathering committee, thank you so very much for volunteering with me these past six years! You are the very best crew of Steampunks and con runners in town!

(10) PACKER OBIT. SF Site News reports Australian fanartist John Packer has died.

Australian fan artist John Packer died the weekend of January 7. Packer was a two-time Ditmar Award winner in 1983 and 1984. In 1983, he also won the Golden Caterpillar Award for services to “triffids” and for redefining the word “vermin.” His cartoon appeared in numerous Australian fanzines. In 1984, he stood for DUFF.

(11) DEEP TWEET. While enjoying his latest Twitter brawl, John Scalzi cut loose with a multi-level bit of snark.

At least I counted it as multi-level, coming from the author of Lock In.

(12) ART ON THE CORNER. For several years a project of the city of Glendale, CA’s arts commission has been having artists paint murals on streetside utility boxes. At the website you can see photos of them all. Many have fantasy, sf, or dinosaur imagery.

There’s a parallel effort in Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar’s district. For example, this one’s at Fletcher Avenue and San Fernando Road, photographed the other day by Tony Gleeson.

utility-box-art

Councilman Huizar’s website also has a gallery of utility box murals. (Incidentally, Councilman Huizar’s district encompasses Ray Bradbury Square — he attended the dedication in 2012.)

(13) MIMEO MANIACS. Moshe Feder reports Fanac.org has put online the video from “a fannishly famous fanzine panel from 1976’s Big MAC (MidAmericon 1) featuring moderator Linda Bushyager and panelists Victoria Vayne, Taral Wayne, Jon Singer, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Gary Farber, and yours truly… Thanks to the late Scott Imes for recording this and David Dyer-Bennet for his restoration work.”

This panel discusses what used to be the commonplace wisdom of mimeography, but today is an esoteric look at the fanzine production practices of 20th century fandom. Includes a wonderful segment early on where Jon imitates a mimeo, and a novel use for the New York Times. There is about a 20 minute period where the video is damaged, but the audio remains clear throughout.

 

[Thanks to Moshe Feder, Arnie Fenner, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/9/16 The Pixel Was Already Scrolling When I Lay Down On It

(1) SPIDERY MARKS. Kameron Hurley’s contribution to sanity today is this excerpt from the epilogue to The Geek Feminist Revolution.

…I have no children, and no legacy but my work— and you.

I have the power to reach back to you long after I am dead, through these spidery marks on paper or pixels, and remind you that you have a voice, you have agency, and your voice is stronger and more powerful than you could ever imagine, and long after I am gone, you can pick up this beer beside me and carry on the work we are doing now, the work we have always been doing, the work we will always do, until the world looks the way we imagine it can be.

I am a grim optimist, and this is my hope for you: that you will be louder than me, and stronger than me, and more powerful than me, and that you will look back at me as a relic, a dinosaur, as the minor villain in your own story, the rock you pushed against in your own flight to fame, to notoriety, to revolution.

That is my wish for you.

(2) SCIENCE FICTION IS A POSITIVE FORCE. Patrick Nielsen Hayden talks about “The Prospect Before Us”.

This morning, at 9:30, saw a long-planned major meeting at Tor, not quite all hands but definitely the majority of our staff plus various Macmillan-level sales and marketing managers.

It could have been better timed, obviously.

I took the opportunity to make some remarks. Here’s what I said:

Last night, I found myself very grateful that I work in science fiction.

Science fiction came into being in response to a new thing in human history: the understanding that not only was the world changing, but also that the rate of change was speeding up. That in a normal lifetime, you could expect to experience multiple episodes of rapid, disorienting change. Science fiction at its best has always been about examining and inhabiting those experiences when the world passes through a one-way door.

Modern science fiction grew up in the Great Depression and flourished in World War II. It thrived in the strangeness of the 1950s and the different strangeness of the 1960s. It has continued to be an essential set of tools for engaging with our careening world.

I don’t want to argue that reading science fiction makes us smarter or morally better. (I personally believe that, but I don’t want to argue it.) But I do believe that good storytelling is a positive force in the world. And I really do believe that science fiction and fantasy storytelling makes us, in some fundamental way, a bit more practiced in the ways of a world caught up in wrenching change—and more open to imagining better worlds that might be possible.

Bottom line: I’ve never been more convinced of the need for more good science fiction and fantasy, and I’ve never been more fired up to find it and publish it, hopefully with the help of everyone in this room. Thank you.

(3) EXPERIENCED VOICE. Here’s what George Takei has to say:

(4) 124C41+. John Scalzi didn’t predict the election, but he now predicts this outcome: “Early Morning Thoughts on the Day After”.

  1. It will be no surprise to anyone I’m unhappy with the result of this election. Donald Trump was manifestly the worst presidential candidate in living memory, an ignorant, sex-assaulting vindictive bigot, enamored of strongmen and contemptuous of the law, consorting with white nationalists and hucksters — and now he’s president-elect, which is appalling and very sad for the nation. I don’t see much good coming out of this, either in the immediate or long-term, not in the least because if he does any of the things he promises to do, his impact will be ruinous to the nation. Add to the fact that he’s the GOP candidate, and the GOP now will have the White House, Congress and will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and, well. There aren’t any grownups in the GOP anymore, and we’re going to find out what that means for all of us.

Here are some of the things it could mean: A conservative Supreme Court for decades, backtracking on climate change, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, curtailment of free speech, loss of medical insurance to millions, tax policy that advantages the wealthy and adds trillions to the national debt, punitive racial policies, the return of torture as a part of the military toolbox, and a president who uses the apparatus of the US to go after his personal enemies. And these are only the things Trump has said he’s ready to do — we don’t know what else he will do when he’s literally the most powerful man on the planet, with a compliant legislature and judiciary.

(5) WHICH CANCER WOULD YOU LIKE? Larry Correia says he predicted cancer would win and that his prediction was correct.

As somebody who didn’t really have a horse in this race, who had to come to terms with not getting what I wanted months ago, I’ve got some comments for the rest of you. (for the record my primary vote was for Ham Sandwich, only All-You-Can-Eat-Shrimp/Colon Cancer supporters declared that was actually Canadian Bacon because they didn’t understand how the Naturalization Acts work, and his dad killed JFK)

I’m not happy Trump won, but I’m ecstatic that Hillary lost.

From what I heard this morning (haven’t looked to confirm yet, and woke up late) Trump got fewer votes than Romney, but Hillary got WAY less votes than Obama. So people decided they wanted colon cancer instead of brain cancer, but I don’t think very many of us were super enthusiastic about either. They just wanted the other crappy one to lose.

This election turned into “My authoritarian New Yorker is better than yours!” And shockingly enough, a authoritarian New Yorker won. Yay! Go cancer! I did not see a Trump victory coming (apparently, neither did any of the professional pollsters). It is a testament to the sheer, banal, corrupt, unlikable nature of Hillary that she couldn’t beat the guy they picked as the most beatable.

(6) PREDICTION FAILURES. Vox Day has written a series of triumphalist posts about Trump’s win. This one is a roundup about inaccurate polling, which people on both sides are pondering — “The hoax media”.

This is why you simply cannot believe anything they say. The final polls and estimates prior to the election.

The New York Times: 80 percent chance of Clinton victory

Huffington Post: 98.1 percent chance of Clinton victory

Nate Silver/538: 72 percent chance of Clinton victory (323 electoral votes)

Bing.com: 89.7 percent chance of Clinton victory

NBC/SM: Clinton +6

IPSOS: Clinton +4

Fox News: Clinton +4

NBC/WSJ: Clinton +4

ABC/WashPost: Clinton +4

Herald: Clinton +4

Bloomberg: Clinton +3

But this is what demonstrates how SHAMELESSLY dishonest they are: Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. In an extremely narrow sense, I’m not that surprised by the outcome, since polling — to a greater extent than the conventional wisdom acknowledged — had shown a fairly competitive race with critical weaknesses for Clinton in the Electoral College. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Clinton will eventually win the popular vote as more votes come in from California. – Nate Silver Oh, shut up, Nate. You were wrong. You were wrong from the start. You were wrong about the primaries. You were wrong about the election. No one should put any faith in your erroneous models ever again. Keep in mind that Silver not only called a 72 percent chance of a Clinton victory, but actually INCREASED it from 65 percent on the day of the election. This isn’t “statistical science”; it’s not even “statistical analysis”. It is nothing more than postmortem media CYA.

(7) DON’T BOTHER, THEY’RE HERE. George R. R. Martin is not in a mood to unify the country today: “President Pussygrabber”.

Over the next four years, our problems are going to get much, much worse.

Winter is coming. I told you so.

(8) SEEING WHAT THEY EXPECT. Nancy Kress broke her usual silence on things political:

Many people will see this election through whatever lens they interpret the world. Those most concerned with misogyny will say that Clinton lost because she’s a woman. Those focusing on race will say Trump won because he’s a racist. Those for whom guns are a major concern will view Trump as their champion, Clinton as their enemy. Etc. These things may or may not be true, but I think it’s important to see Trump’s win as the complex thing it is. Even if he is misogynist, racist, vulgar, insensitive, and pro-gun (and please don’t give me your impassioned arguments on either side–I’ve heard them already), not all of those who voted for him are those things. Over half the country chose this man for president, and many are fundamentally decent people who don’t want to deport undocumented immigrants, ban Muslims, or even repeal Roe v. Wade. We on the left lost this election because something important is going on out there in the heartland, something involving feelings of exclusion and lost jobs and profound distrust of Washington, and we on the left did not realize how deep that feeling went. We were not paying sufficient attention, which is why the commentators all looked so stunned last night when the results came in. I am not moving to Canada, or Ireland, or anywhere else. This is my country. But it is Trump-supporters’ country, too, and we all need to find some way to work together. No, this is not a “can’t-we-just-get-along’ sentimental plea. It’s a statement that we had better all figure out how to not only get along, but get done the things that need doing, and without scapegoating–not Trump voters, not Muslims, not undocumented immigrants. If we don’t, then the next four years will be hell.

(9) HARI HARI. I guess you could think of it that way…

(10) DOOM. Charles Stross has this and a lot more to say in his own post carrying that popular title “The Day After”.

Trump will have to be painfully educated that the office of POTUS is not a CEO’s desk where he can rule by decree, but the head of a 400-person executive team who interact with other agencies and negotiate to get results. The hairpiece that walks like a man won’t like that. In fact, he’ll sulk, and probably retire to his golf course and leave running the USA to Vice President Pence, a man who seems to think that The Handmaid’s Tale was a road map rather than a dystopia, and the likes of Rudy Giuliani (about whom the less said, the better). It’ll be four years of the ugly old white male phobes running the federal government, and only the huge inertia built into the system of checks and balances will prevent it from being a total fright-fest as opposed to a major throwback fright-fest. In the mid-terms of 2018 the Democrats will pick up votes and hopefully re-take the Senate, which will put a brake on Trump … and in 2020, who knows?

But this may not happen, because the airliner of reality which we all ride in has flown straight into a flock of migrating black swans, both engines have flamed out, and that’s not the Hudson River down below. (Also? We now have Donald Trump at the controls.)

I’m calling it for the next global financial crisis to hit before the 2018 mid-terms. Neither Trump nor Pence are far-sighted enough to realize that the USA is not a corporation and can’t be run like one, and that on the macro scale economics is difficult and different from anything they have any experience of. They will, to put it bluntly, screw the pooch—aided by the gibbering chorus of Brexiteers across the pond, who are desperately trying to ensure that the British economy and banking sector commit seppuku in the name of limiting immigration. We’ve already seen Sterling crash, and continue to crash; what happens when the Dollar joins it? Quantitative easing can only stretch so far before we break out in hyperinflation due to basic commodities getting scarce (as witness the 5-20% food price inflation working its way through the UK’s supply chain in defiance of the structural deflationary regime enforced by the supermarkets for the past two decades).

(11) A VOTE AGAINST. David Gerrold has posted a double-handful of responses to the election at Facebook; here’s one.

I feel betrayed.

I used to believe in the good sense and collective wisdom of the American people.

I can’t do that anymore.

A majority of American voters have just declared that they do not care about the rights of Muslims, immigrants, Latinos, LGBT people, women, seniors, the disabled, and so many others. A majority of Americans voted against common human kindness.

I feel betrayed — but if there is a betrayal, it has to be my own, for believing that we were a nation of compassionate and thoughtful people. Apparently, we are not.

… If we truly believe in this thing called “The United States of America” — if we truly believe in the essential strength of our Constitutional processes, then we have no choice but to get to work.

I don’t know what we have to do or how we will have to do it. I do know that we will be facing dire political circumstances. Ahead of us is a decade of frustrating hard work. …

(12) STAY AND FIGHT. Gardner Dozois isn’t leaving the country—but then, who is, really?

Let me make one thing clear, though. I see a lot of my Friends on Facebook talking seriously, more seriously than the half-joking way this is usually mentioned, of moving to Canada. I’m not moving to Canada. This is my country, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay here and fight, and do anything that I possibly can, even if it’s only to encourage others, to stay right here and work as hard as possible to make things as much better as we can.

For those of you who supported Hillary, or at least DIDN’T support Trump–which, after all, included very nearly half of the people in the country–don’t give into despair. Don’t give up. The fight is far from over, and there are many things on all levels that can still be done. One possibility is that, in one of the great historical ironies, the Democrats and the Republicans may end up switching roles, with the Democrats becoming the “obstructionists” in Congress and trying to keep the Republicans from undoing as much as possible of the gains set in place for the last eight years;…

(13) COMEDY TONIGHT. Meanwhile, back at the bookstore… Gary K. Wolfe reviews Connie Willis’s new novel Crosstalk for Locus Online.

So while the characters and their relationships follow a familiar rom-com pattern, there’s also a fair amount of acerbic commentary on a society already overwired and overconnected, but which seems to want to get even more overwired and overconnected. The two SF elements crucial to this commentary, and in fact the only real SF elements in the book, are a new minor brain procedure called EED, which purportedly allows a couple already emotionally bonded to become super-empathetic with each other – and telepathy.

(14) WIL BADEN OBIT. Condolences to Chaz Boston Baden on the loss of his father,  Wil Baden (1928-2016) who died today. Chaz wrote a long post about his life:

This is the man who, as a boy, lived in Hollywood and was an extra in a crowd scene in an “Our Gang” episode about a birthday party.

This is the man whose father took him to the World Science Fiction Convention, in 1939.

He took the bus to visit John W. Campbell Jr. at Astounding Science Fiction magazine’s offices. While at Princeton University, he had tea with Albert Einstein. (Which wasn’t unusual at the time, all the incoming freshmen did.)

He was always good with languages. One day, a man from the government asked the head of the languages department if he could be introduced to the students who were especially good with the following languages? Which is how he ended up spending a summer translating Russian mathematics papers.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 9, 1951 — Lou Ferrigno (TV’s Incredible Hulk).

(16) PRO TIPS. SFWA’s Nebula Suggested Reading List is growing as the year winds down.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/16 A Simple Pixeltory Scrollipic

(1) FREE CLIMATE CHANGE SF ANTHOLOGY. Twelve stories from the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest are collected in Everything Change, a new fiction anthology from Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF). Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the foreword, and there is also an interview with Pablo Bacigalupi.

In the midst of Earth’s hottest year on record, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever. But how do we come to grips with the consequences on the ground, for actual people in specific places? New York Times bestselling science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi believes the answer lies in fiction: “Fiction has this superpower of creating empathy in people for alien experiences. You can live inside of the skin of a person who is utterly unlike you.”

The anthology includes the grand prize winner of the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest, “Sunshine State,” a quasi-utopian disaster story set in the Florida Everglades. The story’s authors, Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson of Oakland, CA, will receive a $1000 prize, and four other prizewinners will receive book bundles signed by Bacigalupi. The contest received 743 submissions from 67 different countries and from more than half of the states in the U.S.

The title Everything Change is drawn from a quote by Margaret Atwood, the first Imagination and Climate Futures lecturer in 2014.

The book is free to download, read, and share in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats at the Imagination and Climate Futures website, and at the Apple iBooks store and the Kobo store.

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
  • Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
  • Matthew S. Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
  • Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
  • Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”
  • Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
  • Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
  • Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
  • Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
  • Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
  • Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
  • Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
  • Ed Finn, “Praying for Rain: An Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi”

(2) THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’. The New York Times reports on another history-making moment in the career of this musician: “Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature”.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901. In choosing a popular musician for the literary world’s highest honor, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.

(3) CALIFORNIA COLLECTIBLES LAW UPDATE. The American Booksellers Association says: “California Collectibles Bill Clarification Expected”.

At press time, Bookselling This Week learned that California Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang plans to submit a letter to the state legislature stipulating that a new law covering the sales of collectibles does not apply to either general bookstores or author signing events. Chang was the sponsor of the bill. The law requires sellers of signed books and artwork to provide the buyer with a certificate of authenticity (COA) for any item sold for $5 or more.

“While ABA’s reading of the bill matched that of Assemblywoman Chang’s intent in drafting the law — that the law was meant specifically for the collectibles industry to stave off fraud — we are grateful for how responsive Assemblywoman Chang and her staff were to the concerns of booksellers,” said David Grogan, senior public policy analyst for ABA. “It also clearly shows how much of an impact booksellers can have when they voice their concerns to their legislators. We are happy that a clarification is expected to be entered into the record.”

The clarification comes as a direct response to a blog post and subsequent letters from independent bookstores in California. Concerned that some might assume the law applied to general bookstores, Eureka Books in Eureka, Book Passage in Corte Madera, and others opposed the new law, fearing that it would have a negative financial impact on their businesses.

(4) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Here’s a clickbait-worthy headline: “Why Obama may have picked the wrong planet”.  And as a bonus, the article quotes SF writer and NASA scientists Geoffrey Landis.

On Tuesday, Obama published an op-ed at CNN laying out his vision (once again) for visiting Mars.

“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” he wrote.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years. But Obama may be overlooking an easier target, if the arguments of one NASA researcher (and numerous supporters) are to be believed. While Mars may seem to be an attractive destination, we should consider sending people to Venus instead, these people argue….

You see, Mars is a challenging destination. It’s far away, the gravity is a fraction of Earth’s — posing additional health hazards beyond the lack of atmospheric radiation shielding — and you have to be suited up just to breathe outside.

By contrast, Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is. At their closest points, Venus is only 25 million miles away, compared with Mars’s 34 million miles. The shorter distance means you’d need less time and fuel to get there, reducing the cost. And although Venus’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug, the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable.

“At about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system,” wrote Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist, in a 2003 paper. Landis has spent much of his career dreaming up ways to make a human trip to Mars actually feasible, so he knows what he’s talking about.

At high altitude, Venusian temperatures are hot but not unbearable, and the barometric pressure drops to the equivalent of one Earth atmosphere. You’d have droplets of sulfuric acid to worry about, but only if your skin is directly exposed.

It helps that NASA has already taken steps to research a manned mission to Venus.

(5) RON MILLER ON SPACESHIPS. Smithsonian.com plugs artist Ron Miller’s new opus from Smithsonian Books in “How Artists, Mad Scientists and Speculative Fiction Writers Made Spaceflight Possible”.

The realization of human spaceflight has long stood as a testament to the power of human temerity, a triumph of will and intellect alike. Pioneers such as Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride have been immortalized in the annals of history. Their impact on terrestrial society is as indelible as the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts on the windless surface of the Moon.

Perhaps yet more wondrous than the Cold War-era achievement of extraterrestrial travel, however, is the long and meandering trail that we as a species blazed to arrive at that result. Such is the argument of author-illustrator Ron Miller, an inveterate spaceship junkie and one-time planetarium art director at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Miller’s just-published book, Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and the Imagined from Smithsonian Books, is a paean to the exploratory yearning of humankind across the centuries. The profusely illustrated volume tracks technological watersheds with diligence, but its principal focus is those starry-eyed visionaries, the dreamers….

(6) TOO TANGLED FOR TINGLE? I was wondering what the chances were of Chuck Tingle setting up his own SadPuppies.com site when it’s Hugo season again. But Huge Domains already has that registered and is asking $1,895 for the rights.

Well then, what about SadPuppies5.com? Nope, that’s registered, too, by a proxy that contains a reference to the real Sad Puppies site, SadPuppies.org – have they been thinking ahead?

Of course, if Tingle wanted  to make a File 770 reference, he could always start up SadPuppiesSecond5th – and that would be fine by me.

(7) VULICH OBIT. Special effects make-up artist John Vulich died October 13. Dread Central recalls:

Vulich worked on some of the horror genre’s most classic films and TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, The Dark Half, Castle Freak, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dolls, TerrorVision, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, The Lost Boys, Two Evil Eyes, “The X-Files,” “Angel,” and “Werewolf: The Series” and was one of the founders of Optic Nerve Studios.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 13, 1957 — Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files.”

(9) FIFTH NEWS IS BEASTLY. We’re always on the lookout for news items featuring the number five. I may run only about 10% of them, but Tor.com broke through with “J.K. Rowling Confirms There Will Be Five Fantastic Beasts Films”.

At Warner Bros’ global fan event for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today, the studio made a big announcement: There will be five Fantastic Beasts films total, instead of the trilogy, as originally thought.

(10) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. In “thoughts on the processing of words” at Text Patterns, a blog on The New Atlantis website, Baylor University English professor Alan Jacobs gives a long review of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, including the revelation that the first author to write a book on a word processor was not Gerrold, Pournelle, or Crichton, but historical novelist Gay Courter.

In any case, the who-was-first questions are not as interesting or as valuable as Kirschenbaum’s meticulous record of how various writers — Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Updike, David Foster Wallace — made, or did not quite make, the transition from handwritten or typewritten drafts to a full reliance on the personal computer as the site for literary writing. Wallace, for instance, always wrote in longhand and transcribed his drafts to the computer at some relatively late stage in the process. Also, when he had significantly altered a passage, he deleted earlier versions from his hard drive so he would not be tempted to revert to them.

(11) LACKING THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING. IGN’s’ video interview with the actor reveals “Why George Takei Doesn’t Like the New Star Trek Movies and the Old Animated Series”.

Mr. Sulu explains why he doesn’t like the Star Trek cartoon and reveals the magic ingredient he believes the new films are missing. The Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection Blu-ray Boxset is out now.

(12) WELLS MEETS SOLOMON. Richard Chwedyk’s “Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic” at the SFWA Blog tells about a fascinating exercise:

Here’s an assignment I give my students:

They receive a copy of the first chapter of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

It is roughly 2,250 words.

I tell the students that Mr. Wells has just received a note from his editor. “Great stuff, Herbie, but you go on too long here. Cut this first chapter in half.”

How to make 2,250 words into 1,125 words?

Mr. Wells, alas, has passed on. Fortunately for us, so has the novel’s copyright.

…Ask students to do this to their own stories and their faces turn ashen. Their babies? By half? What madness is this?

So by practicing at first on Wells, they can see what the process entails before going on to apply the knife to their own deathless prose. The exercise not only requires careful editorial skills, but an equally careful reading of the text. What’s important in the telling? What’s icing on the cake?

(13) DEEP READING. Connie Willis, in an article for Unbound Worlds, discusses her new book Crosstalk“Connie Willis Wants You to Think Twice About Telepathy”.

What led me to write Crosstalk?  Oh, lots of things.  For one, like everybody else, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of telepathy and have often thought how nice it would be to be able to tell what other people were thinking, to know if they were lying and how they really felt about you.  For another, I live in Colorado, home of the infamous Bridey Murphy, who started the whole channeling-past-lives thing back in the fifties by claiming she’d had a previous life in nineteenth-century Ireland.  Which turned out not to be true and which left me with a healthy skepticism of all things paranormal, from psychics to Dr. Rhine’s ESP experiments.

(14) WHAT’S WRONG WITH THINKING OUT LOUD. She also did an interview with The Verge“Novelist Connie Willis explains why telepathy is a terrible superpower”.

You’ve said many of your stories are about working through arguments with yourself, and working through different aspects of the idea you obsess over. Are you working through an argument in Crosstalk?

Well, looking at the society we’re living in right now, we’re bombarded with information. We have all these new ways of communicating. We can talk face-to-face to somebody in Asia, you can have a best friend who lives across the world. But our relationships don’t seem to be improving radically as a result of all this extra communication.

We’re always looking to technology, thinking it can solve our human problems. Usually it does, but with big side effects we hadn’t counted on. It’s an argument I don’t know how to solve. I’m not suggesting we go be Luddites. But occasionally I’m on panels with all these really gung-ho tech people, and they’re like, “Oh this new development will solve all our problems.” And I think “Anything that solves all our problems will create a whole mess of new problems that would have never occurred to us.” We need to start thinking more in terms of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that would be more productive.

But mostly with Crosstalk, I just wanted to have fun with the idea of whether communication is a good idea, generally. Not tech communication, communication between people. Most people would say, “We all need more communication in our relationships.” But really, most relationships benefit from all the things we don’t say, all the things we keep to ourselves.

(15) MEMORIES. In a Rue Morgue interview, the actress looks back: “35 years of pleasant screams: an interview with Cassandra Peterson, aka ELVIRA”.

When it comes to the horror genre, there are many icons in the business but none more so than a woman who created a character that has permeated pop culture; her name is Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, wicked, and hilarious alter ego is Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark. For 35 years, the sexy, dark, and comedic valley girl/gothic goddess has appeared on television, film, pinball machines, comic book covers, record albums, and any other product you could imagine. She is one of the most beloved incarnations in history, and is still surging in popularity to this very day. Peterson herself is now in her mid-sixties but looks like she has discovered the fountain of youth, or made a deal with the devil, she is absolutely beautiful and timeless. Her comedic timing is unmatched, quick fire and quite daunting considering the jokes come straight from her mind like bullets, one of the funniest women alive, hands down. She is also one of the hardest working women in the business, an actress who became her own boss and made her own rules (and still does); truly an inspiration in regard to drive, conviction, and perseverance.

Rue Morgue spoke to Peterson about her 35th Anniversary and her new photo book, entitled ELVIRA MISTRESS OF THE DARK, which is a love letter to her fans, and a testament to her many years as a reigning queen in horror comedy….

(16) ACES AND BAIT. In addition to the news I missed while I was in the hospital, I also fell behind reading Adventures With Kuma. From August “Dodge City Bear”.

Bears wents to lots of places todays. Boys will writes abouts bigs holes in the grounds laters. Bears gots to plays a games in Dodges Citys withs a nices Doctors nameds Hollidays.

Bears saids, “Bears has fives fishes. Whats yous gots?”

 

Kuma Meets Doc Holliday

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Joseph Eschrich, Bartimaeus, Sean R. Kirk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing edtor of the day Cath.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/16 Boys! Raise Giant Pixels in your Cellar!

(1) RAMBO REPORT. “SFWA is Many Things, But Not a Gelatinous Cube” insists Cat Rambo, the organization’s President, in a 3,800 word update published halfway through her two-year term in office.

I was looking at Twitter the other day and reading through mentions of the Nebula Conference Weekend, including celebration of our new Grandmaster C.J. Cherryh, when I hit a tweet saying something along the lines of, “I hope SFWA doesn’t think this excuses the choice of picking (another author) in the past”. The way the sentence struck me got me thinking about the sort of perception that allows that particular construction.

No, SFWA, aka the organization known as The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America doesn’t think that. Because SFWA isn’t a person. It doesn’t think. Sometimes I like to imagine that SFWA. It lives in a basement somewhere and looks much like a pale green gelatinous cube, covered with lint and cat hair, and various unguessable things lurk in its murky depths, like discarded typewriter ribbons, empty Johnny Walker Black Label bottles, and that phone charging cable you lost a few weeks ago.

In actuality, SFWA — at least in the sense they’re thinking of — is an entity that changes from year to year, most notably through the leadership, but also through the overall composition of the 200+ volunteers and handful of staff that keep it running. The President makes a lot of choices for the organization; others are made for them. The President gets to pick the next Grandmaster, for example, although every living past President weighs in on the choice, as well as things like the Service to SFWA Award and the recipient of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. ….

  • I have worked to facilitate the amazing and hard work that CFO Bud Sparhawk and comptroller Oz Drummond have been doing behind the scenes wherever I can, but I cannot take credit for any of that. Nonetheless, SFWA is moving towards a scrupulously-maintained financial state that can go beyond just sustaining itself, but can allow it to grow at a slow but steady pace. When I came on board we were highly dependent on a revenue source that is rapidly diminishing; I’m pleased to say that we are recovering from that and will not be similarly dependent in the future. I hope to replenish what was taken from the reserves within the next few years….
  • Via the efforts of volunteer wrangler Derek Künsken, volunteers are finding roles where they can use and expand existing skills, acquire new ones, and know that they are working to benefit SFWA. At the same time that we’re using more volunteers, we’re being much better about acknowledging their efforts. A few weekends ago I was at the volunteer breakfast at the Nebulas, passing out certificates of appreciation (created by Heather MacDougal) for the second year in a row, and we are making that event an integral part of our annual celebration from now on. When I came onboard, the volunteer situation was bad enough that we were losing members because of it — again, no malice, no intent to hurt people’s feelings or make them feel unvalued, only good desires and intentions that got overwhelmed due to a lack of communication and a team to back up the volunteer coordinator.
  • The SFWA Bulletin, that notoriously troubled and erratic entity, is back on schedule and rapidly proving itself capable of representing SFWA’s mission to the world at large. Editor Neil Clarke has been working to create covers and content that reflect the professional nature of the organization and which are useful to working writers. Among other things, we’ve got writers guidelines up for both it and the SFWA blog, and some members have covered their fees via a couple of blog posts or a Bulletin article. Jaym Gates, John Klima, and Tansy Rayner Roberts did the initial work of digging what seemed like a mortally-wounded Bulletin out from under a pile of criticism and ill-feeling, and deserve much praise for performing that rescue. Both Bulletin and the Blog have writers guidelines available online for what I believe is the first time….

SFWA exists for professional F&SF writers. We can talk about the mission to inform, defend, advocate for and all of that, but it boils down to this: if you are a professional genre writer, you should be able to join the organization and know that you are getting your money’s worth. Recently while researching, I counted ten ways SFWA can help a member promote their work; half of those were created in the past two years. ….

(2) WARNING. Kameron Hurley didn’t set out to write this in an especially tearjerking style. Just get your tissues ready anyway: “Drake the Dog has Passed Away”

As two people with chronic problems, my spouse and I know that you can’t always save everyone. But after dealing with the things we have in our lives, we sure as hell were going to try. Drake put up an incredible effort, and we shuffled our entire lives around his care, but Drake could never catch a break. Not once. Like so many things in life, it was wickedly unfair and cruel in the way that only life can be. You always think hey, if we can just be great caregivers, and come up with the money for the drugs and surgeries, we can save him. But the infection was stronger than us, and stronger than Drake, and it makes me incredibly angry and sad to type that, because it’s an admission that the world is bigger and scarier than we are, and sometimes when the train is moving, you can’t stop it.

(3) FIRST FANDOM NEWS. Steve Francis and Keith W. Stokes will present the Hall of Fame and Moskowitz Awards on August 18th as part of the Retro Hugo Awards

(4) POKEMON GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. The Washington Post passes on a request: “Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokemon here”.

The Museum itself, along with many other landmarks, is a “PokeStop” within the game — a place where players can get free in-game items. In fact, there are actually three different PokeStops associated with various parts of the museum.

“Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told The Post in an interview. “We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game.”

The Holocaust Museum’s plight highlights how apps that layer a digital world on top of the real one, or so-called augmented reality games, can come with unforeseen consequences and raises questions about how much control the physical owner of a space can exert as those two worlds intersect.

(5) WILLIS DOES WALES. Connie Willis begins “Notes From Wales I: Buckland and Westmarch and Elves, Oh My!”

My family and I just got back from England, where we spent two weeks touring Cornwall and Wales. We saw Doc Martin’s village, Tintagel Castle, Dartmoor, Tintern Abbey, the shop of the Tailor of Gloucester, and lots of other fascinating things, which I hope to be writing posts about in coming weeks….

(6) BARROWMAN BRANCHING OUT. SciFiNow has big news for his fans: “John Barrowman Signs Multi-Show Deal at the CW”.

Malcolm Merlyn will pop up in all of The CW’s shows

It certainly seems as though The CW is doing its best to bring their various shows together. Now that Supergirlis officially part of the Network’s small-screen superhero universe, much of the buzz surrounding the upcoming new seasons has centred around crossovers – or the potential for them. To this end, the first seeds seem to have been sown, with John Barrowman (aka Malcolm Merlyn in Arrow) signing a multi-show deal at The CW.

Following in the footsteps of studio co-star Wentworth Miller (aka Leonard Snart/Captain Cold), the deal will in theory see him appear in CW stablemates The Flashand Legends Of Tomorrow, as well as new addition Supergirl. Quite how Barrowman will fit in remains to be seen, but we’re sure that whatever he has planned isn’t good. He has burned his bridges with pretty much every character he’s come across since debuting in Arrow’s first season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces off his counterparts in other shows. We’re particularly intrigued to see an encounter with Supergirl‘s Maxwell Lord.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • July 12, 1923 – James E. Gunn,
  • July 12, 1912 — Joseph Mugnaini

(8) SCI-FI INK. Get yer Temporary Literary Tattoos. In the sf/f department they’ve got slogans from Peter S. Beagle, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells and Franz Kafka.

(9) MONSTER HUNTER SEEKS COMPATIBLE DRAGON. Larry Correia is turning out the vote: “WRONGFANS UNITE! Only a week left to nominate for the Dragon Awards”. Remember, it’s not just Wrongfans who are allowed to vote – you can vote too!

This weekend I was at LibertyCon, and I ran into one of the organizers of the Dragon Awards. He said that he was kind of surprised that he hadn’t seen me talk about them online much. I told him that was because of Sad Puppies, I’m a controversial figure, there are just too many bitter harpies and poo flingers from fandom’s inbred pustulent under-choad who automatically flip out about anything I do, so I didn’t want to rock the boat for them.

But his response? Screw that. This award is for ALL FANS. And you have fans. So GO BUG THEM! We want so many people voting in this thing that no little clique or faction can sway it. The more fans involved, the better.

(10) IQ MARKET REPORT. Camestros Felapton was in another dogfight (well, Timothy wasn’t involved) with the Red Baron: “@voxday gets it wrong on IQ (again)”.

The other day Vox was disparaging about the value of scientific evidence. I’m not entirely sure if he is clear himself about what he means but when it comes to IQ he is happy to post anything that he feels supports his case.

This time, it is a pair of studies that point to a 4 point decline in IQ in France in a 9-10 year period. Vox quotes a second study that was an analysis of the first. This second study was an attempt to discern the cause of the decline by looking at the magnitude of the changes at a subtest level. This second paper concluded that the decline ‘likely has a primarily biological cause’. Vox declares it was due to immigration.

This is a very good example of studies that, while not necessarily wrong, aren’t really saying much at all. To see why you have to track back from Vox’s claim (immigrants somehow making whole countries less intelligent), to what the actual paper he quoted said, to the original paper that the second paper analysed and from there to what the actual original study was.

(11) BOKANOVSKY BLUES. Vox Day indignantly responded in “Wounded Gamma loses again”.

This behavior is so predictable that I not infrequently find myself able to correctly anticipate when a previously wounded Gamma is going to think he sees an opening and launch what I am coming to think of as a restorative rebuttal. However, I did not see this one coming; I did not think that Camestros Felapton was dumb enough to launch what is either his third or his fourth attempt to repair his delusion bubble since being so publicly humiliated about his lack of knowledge concerning rhetoric in Of Enthymemes and False Erudition. Apparently the sting of his repeated defeats at my hands has become more than he can bear, because he is really grasping at straws now.

Running out of brickbats to throw, Vox even resorted to sharing his score from an online vocabulary rating test.

Being a Phi (770) I couldn’t refuse the implicit challenge and rushed off to take the same quiz.

I got an identical score and wondered is that as high as it goes? I only had to guess once, so I either got a perfect score, or missed just one.

English Vocabulary Size

Vox Day shared notes. It seems we each missed one – the same one, in fact, both having got “avulse” wrong.

(12) MEANWHILE, BACK AT TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT’S BLOG. Camestros followed up with “@voxday declares me beneath his consideration, again”.

“Considering that neither paper addresses the USA at all, it would be absolutely remarkable if either of them had.”

Sorry Vox but the first paper does discuss the USA – it is the second paper that doesn’t. Lynn & Dutton discuss the US saying “However, there remains the problem that phenotypic intelligence has continued to increase in recent years in the United States (Flynn, 2012, Table A11i, p.238), despite evidence for dysgenic fertility reviewed in Lynn (2011) and confirmed by Meisenberg (2014). This inconsistency remains one of a number of un- resolved problems.” and cite the gains in WISC-III and WISC-IV scores in table 1 (IQ gains in USA and Britain).

So, where the researchers find a decline it isn’t attributable to immigration because of the relatively small impact immigration could have and where immigration could have a larger impact the ‘declines’ are more ambiguous (or possibly rises).

Meanwhile, the brilliant counter-argument from Vox is him posting an estimate of his vocabulary size from a free internet quiz.

Heck yeah, who would fall for that?

(13) HORTON’S SHORT STORY RANKINGS. Rich Horton explains his ballot entries for the Hugo short story category – after pointing out only one of his real preferences made the final ballot.

So, only one story from this long list of stories I considered – less than I might have hoped. But easily explained – this is clearly the category Vox Day chose to make a mockery of. His nomination choices in the longer fiction categories (Novel, Novella, Novelette), were actually all readable stories, and some quite plausible Hugo nominees. That’s not at all the case in Short Story. And, indeed, the only good story on the list was only added after one of the original nominees withdrew.

(14) THE TRUTH WILL OUT. Adam Rakunas makes a big confession in “Writing Women Characters (Wait, Aren’t You A Dude?)” at SFFWorld.

Earlier this year at the Emerald City Comicon, I was on a panel with my fellow Angry Robot authors Peter Tieryas, Danielle Jensen, Patrick Tomlinson, and K.C. Alexander. As the panel wound down, K.C. turned to me and asked, “How do you write a realistic woman, being a male author?” I did the only sensible thing: I ducked under the table and curled up into a fetal ball.

Now, in my defense, it was the last panel of the last day of the con, and I’d been on my feet for most of that time. A question like this was one that required care and thoughtfulness, and I was in limited supply of both. If I gave any answer, I would not be doing K.C.’s question justice. Also: I am a gigantic wimp.

However, I’ve had a full night’s sleep and a bunch of tacos, so I feel comfortable and confident enough to say this: I fake it and hope I got it right.

It helps that I have a lot of kickass women in my life. I married a woman who grew up in four different countries, went overseas on her own to make her fortune, and now tells people who run companies how to act in a way that won’t make their shareholders panic (which, considering how fragile the economy is these days, is a really important job). Oh, and she also runs triathlons and skis black diamonds and scuba dives. I married an action hero, so it wasn’t too hard to write about one….

(15) EARTHSEA NEWS. From Suvudu, “Ursula K. Le Guin to Publish Two Story Collections and an Earthsea Omnibus with Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press”.

Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced today that it will publish two story collections and a special illustrated edition of the Earthsea novels with exclusive new material by legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

Titles publishing in Fall 2016 include The Found and the Lost, a group of novellas collected for the first time; and The Unreal and the Real, a selection of short stories. A boxed set of both collections will also be available.

For the first time, the complete novels and short stories of Earthsea will be compiled in one volume titled The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. Stories will include the new, never-before-published in print Earthsea story “The Daughter of Odren,” along with the novels A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind, in addition to the stories “The Word of Unbinding” and “The Rule of Names.” This omnibus will also include a new introduction by Le Guin as well as the essay “Earthsea Revisioned.” With color and black-and-white illustrations by award-winning illustrator Charles Vess, The Books of Earthsea will publish in Fall 2018 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of A Wizard of Earthsea.

Bartimaeus sent this news with a note, “I’d like to add that ‘The Daughter of Odren’ isn’t a new story – it was e-published in 2014. Also, I’m particularly happy that they’re including all the shorts – this is the first time all 8 Earthsea shorts will be collected in one volume.” The eight stories are: “The Rule of Names” (1964), “The Word of Unbinding” (1964), the 5 shorts in Tales from Earthsea (1998 – 2001) and “The Daughter of Odren” (2014).

(16) ARITHMANCY FROM WIRED. Also courtesy of Bartimaeus: “Here’s How Fast Harry Potter’s Treasure Trap Would Kill You”.

Each item makes four copies of itself (so one item is now five). Each of these new items then also replicates making four more items. You might think this would be an awesome way to get rich, but the amount of items increases rapidly. I assume the goal is for the explosion of treasure to kill any potential robbers by drowning and crushing them.

You probably know what is going to happen next. I’m going to try to model this treasure replication trap. Yes, that’s what I will do.

The link comes with Bartimaeus’ comment – “But they seem to have forgotten that the coins burn you on touch, so you’d actually die sooner.”

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, Janice Gelb, Martin Morse Wooster, Robert Whitaker Sirignano, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/16 All My Kzins Remembered

(1) PHOTOS FROM THE LOCUS AWARDS.

File 770 was a Locus Award finalist in the magazine category and I did arm someone with an acceptance statement in case I unexpectedly won. It never occurred to me to dramatize my feelings about losing, however, I see First Novel nominee Sylvia Moreno-Garcia refused to admit defeat. (Or was that just her reaction to Nick Mamatas?)

My designated accepter, Suzle Tompkins, stands at the right of this photo.

(2) THUMB UP. Gary Westfahl delivers his verdict at Locus Online: “The Fogeys of July: A Review of Independence Day: Resurgence”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Since I was recently complimented at a conference for writing “honest” film reviews, I feel obliged to begin this one by conveying my honest reaction to Independence Day: Resurgence: although I was bored and appalled by the original Independence Day (1996), and utterly baffled by its tremendous popularity, I somehow found its belated sequel to be surprisingly engaging, even moving, despite some obvious issues in its logic and plausibility. Perhaps this indicates that I am finally becoming senile, unable to distinguish between worthwhile entertainment and reprehensible trash; perhaps this is a sign of the times, so that a film modeled on a film that stood out in 1996 for its risible inanity and clumsy manipulativeness now seems, amidst scores of similar films, merely typical, or even a bit superior to its lamentable competitors. Perhaps, though, it is simply a better film than its precursor, the theory that merits some extended exploration.

(3) ONLINE COMICS. David Brin is back with “A look at Science Fiction webcomics: Part 3”.

Crowded Void, by Mike West offers one of the more unusual concepts. Finding Earth too crowded and people rather distasteful, Vincent Foxwell thought he could find peace when he took a job on a cargo vessel, hauling junk in space, with only an AI for company. Space turns out to be more crowded than he imagined…. when his spacecraft is swallowed by a massive space worm, where there is already an intestinal civilization of over a million humans and aliens, jockeying for position in the worm’s digestive cycle. He must find a way to escape… before digestion is complete. But first he must deal with the The Joint Intestinal Monarchy, which controls the worm, harvesting parts from spaceships. No end of good material for humor… a new theory of wormholes? Start at the beginning here.

(4) BANDERSNATCH. Charles de Lint reviewed Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch in the July/August Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Yes, there is a wonderful font of information about the Inklings, but it also provides one of the better guides to the collaborative process, including a chapter with the end about how to get the most out of a group set up in a style similar to that of the Inklings.  I think one of the best  pieces of advice she gives is the difference between “I don’t personally like this’ and ‘This isn’t any good’ in critiquing a manuscript.

To writers setting up a writing group, I recommend Bandersnatch wholeheartedly,  That said, those who simply love to read–especially those who particularly appreciate the work of Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams–will find much to enjoy as well.

(6) EAU DE MIDCHLORIAN. When you wear Star Wars Perfumes, the Force is with you….

The trilogy of futuristic “must have” perfumes transfers the essence of the Star Wars universe skillfully into a fascinating world of fragrances, which represent the best-known elements and characters from the saga.

The products are presented in a luxurious and lavish flacon which draws upon the symbolism of probably the most emblematic element of the movie – the lightsaber.

There’s Amidala, for women, and Jedi, and Empire for men.

AMIDALA inspired this fragrance through her royal elegance as well as by her strong, indomitable will. The elegant and sensual notes of vanilla, musk and patchouli are complemented by a fruity top note of apple and tangerine and merges into a sovereign seductive aura for any situation by day and by night; a floral perfume with oriental and powdery notes, which makes its wearer irresistible.

Should you want to smell like Darth Vader, spritz yourself liberally with this stuff —

EMPIRE covers you with an aura of masculinity and power. A scent that captures the dark side of the Force; mystical, formidable and superior. It starts with a sparkle of fruity notes from lime and apple. Powerful chords of amber, patchouli and tonka-bean characterize the powerful heart and base note that refine the composition. The result is a distinctive, oriental, seductive fragrance – perfect for the night, made for men which one better does not get in the way.

I just love that The Mary Sue kicks off its post about these perfumes with a GIF from the first Star Wars movie showing our heroes in the garbage bin and Han Solo demanding, “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1951 — On this day in 1951, CBS aired the first commercial color television network broadcast. At the time, no color TV sets were owned by the public. The broadcast was seen on color TV sets in public buildings. (Emphasis on commercial – there were other network broadcasts in color the previous year, 1950.)
  • June 25, 1982 — John Carpenter’s The Thing, seen for the first time on this day.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, whom some remember from Lassie, while fans remember her from Lost in Space.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 25, 1903 – George Orwell

(10) MARK THIS DATE: Neil Gaiman will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers next Friday night, July 1.

(11) HARD TO WIN. Chuck Tingle had a good excuse for not getting a Locus Award.

(12) BREXIT DEBRIEFING. Camestros Felapton registered his disapproval of Brexit by refusing to art containing a notorious Leave supporter.

Not doing cat pictures because Timothy is still running around the house wearing a mop and pretending to be Boris Johnson whilst shouting “effinEurolosers” at squirrels.

(13) FREE SPEECH. The July Harper’s Magazine excerpted the brief the Language Creation Society filed in the Axanar lawsuit claiming that CBS and Paramount did not have copyright over the Klingon language.

Plaintiffs claim copyright over the entire Klingon language.  The notion is meqHutlh (‘lacking reason.’)  If this court commits this qab qech (“bad idea”), an entire body of thought will be extinguished.  Hoch jaghpu’Daj HoHbogh Suvwl’ ylvup-‘ (‘Pity the warrior who kills all his enemies.’)  By Plaintiffs’ account, everyone who translates something into Klingon, writes a poem in Klingon, gives a speech or presentation at a Klingon Language Institute meeting or Star Trek convention, or gives lessons on how to speak Klingon is a copyright infringer. Qam ghu’vam, loD!  (“This will not stand, man!”)  Plaintiffs’ argument that ‘a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate’ is an insulting assertion.  Many humans speak Klingon.  People get married in Klingon.  Linguist d’Armond Speers spent three years teaching his infant son how to speak Klingon. Speaking and writing in Klingon is not simply a matter of transposing words from a different language, either.  The Sesame Street theme-song lyric ‘Sunny day, chasing the clouds away’ translates into Klingon as jaj pen puQmo’, chaw’nIS je Jaj ‘ej Haw’raDchen, or ‘Day of the daytime star, the clouds are filled with dread and forced to flee.’  Klingon is not just a language, but a state of mind.

(14) TEMPLE GRANDIN. A Blank on Blank animation of an interview with Temple Grandin contains lots of food for thought for geeks and nerds. (Don’t be thrown off by the Squarespace ad about 4:30, because Grandin resume talking for another 90 seconds when it’s done.)

(15) RAINING ON A PARADE. Jesse Hudson, in a review of Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City for Speculiction, compares its execution unfavorably with an Iain Banks standby.

This is important to note given the bifurcated storyline, and its intended effect. Seemingly an emulation of the narrative structure of Iain Banks Use of Weapons, Reynolds’ adherence to plot above character does not allow the big reveals to be very big. I will not spoil the story for those unable to put one and one (not even two and two) together, but suffice to say the underlying reality of the situation is telegraphed in the least subtle ways the length of the novel, emphasized by the lack of complete coherence at the character level. Where Banks’ story resolves itself in surprising fashion upon the final chapter, a surprise that feeds logically back through the entire book, I have doubts Chasm City does the same for the majority of readers—this coming from a person who is terrible at predicting endings

I’m not implying any defect in Hudson’s opinion of Reynolds’ book, but I have to say I saw the ending of Use of Weapons coming from a long way off. To me, Banks’ success was in delivering the expected “surprise” in an elegant way.

(16) TOM REAMY. Joachim Boaz reminds readers about a strong award contender, now forgot, Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices (1978), at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations.

Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices (1978) was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and BFSA awards and came in second in Locus voting for best novel in 1979.  Posthumously released, Reamy died of a heart attack while writing in the fall of 1977 at 42.  His take on small town America transformed by the arrival of a traveling circus and its array of wonders will stay with you for years to come.  The science fiction elements (revealed more than halfway through the novel) interlace and add to the elegiac and constrained fantasy feel.  The specter of sexuality and violence spells cataclysm.

(17) OLD SCHOOL FAN. In a piece cleverly titled “Trexit”, Steve Davidson says “Get off Star Trek’s lawn!”

Alec Peters, you asked for it and you got it.  A set of fan work guidelines for the Star Trek universe that pretty much kills everything except maybe Lego animations. (Which are fine for what they are, but…)

I don’t personally do fanfic, fan films, fan art, etc., I’m sufficiently happy to stick with the originals, lament the lack of “more of the same”, and to spend some time dithering over whether or not I want to invest in the latest whatever released by the franchise holders.

But maybe that’s because I’m an old school fan with old school ideas about how one goes about engaging with someone else’s property….

(18) A LIZARD WITHOUT THUNDER. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is falling out of love with one of the major prozines: “[June 25, 1961] The Twilight Years (July 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Like Victorian ladies’ hats, the dinosaurs became increasingly baroque until they were too ungainly to survive.

I worry that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is heading in that direction.  I’m all for literary quality in my sf mags, but F&SF has been tilting so far in the purple direction that it is often all but unreadable.  I present Exhibit A: the July 1961 “All-Star” issue.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Balticon 50 Opening Ceremonies

Last night’s opening ceremonies for Balticon 50, photographed by Sean Kirk. Pictured are the past and present Guests Of Honors in attendance for the convention’s 50th anniversary.

From left to right: George R. R. Martin, Jo Walton, Joe Halderman, Jody Lynn Nye, Charles Stross, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Peter S. Beagle, Steve Barnes, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, Harry Turtledove, Allen Steele, Donald Kingsbury, and Nancy Springer.