It Was a Black and Wilde Night at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, January 18, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series welcomed in 2017 by presenting fantasy authors Holly Black and Fran Wilde at its longtime venue, the second-floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, known for its unique ambience, red walls and Soviet era-themed décor.

Series co-host Matthew Kressel greeted the crowd, reminded all that readings are always free and exhorted us to thank the Bar by buying drinks, and reported on upcoming readings:

February 15 — Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann;

March 15 — Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam;

April 19 — Seth Dickinson and Laura Anne Gilman

May 17 — Sam J. Miller and E.C. Myers.

(Further details are available here.) All dates are the third Wednesday of the month. He concluded by introducing the first reader of the evening.

wilde-cloudbound_comp1-1Fran Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook Award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series – which, to her surprise, has inspired fan-fic(tion) – came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017; it was from the latter that she read, trying to avoid spoilers. The series, she explained, is set on a world of living bone cities that rise above the clouds, and its themes are community, love and squid. Toward that end, and in “an act of derring-do,” Horizon has three narrators. In her chosen selection, it is a flying tower leader who has just captured a “blackwing” from another city, barely ahead of an aerial attack.

After an intermission, co-host Ellen Datlow introduced the evening’s second reader.

Coldest Girl in ColdtownHolly Black has been a recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor, and a finalist for an Eisner Award. Her contemporary dark fantasy titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), the Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. Her forthcoming book, The Cruel Prince, from which she read, is the opener of a new trilogy and “is different;” it is the first story set in Faerie. In the prolog, Madoc, a Faerie noble, pursues his mortal (ex-)wife, who has fled him and taken their daughter to our world; moreover, she has remarried and had two more daughters. Confronting her, he abducts his daughter and her human half-sisters (as his wife’s daughters all are his responsibility) to Faerie where, we are informed, there are no fish sticks. The story – for which one of the magicless human girls is the narrator – picks up a decade later in Faerie. She and her twin, it seems, have adjusted to their new home, but Madoc’s furious and rebellious daughter has not.

At the back of the room, copies of Black’s books The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Darkest Part of the Forest, and of Wilde’s Updraft and Cloudbound were for sale by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (which I still hear in my heart as “Greenpernt”) and Jersey City.

Prior to the reading, as usual, Datlow whirled through the audience, taking pictures. Her photos of the event may be seen on Ellen Datlow’s Flickr page, linked to the Series’ website.

Pixel Scroll 1/7/17 And Someday, If I Can, I’m Gonna Be A Pixel Scroller Just Like My Old Man

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group is voting on the winners of The 2016 Best of r/Fantasy Stabby Awards through January 11. You’re invited.

For 2016, we need you to vote!

The eligible candidates below were set by the 2016 r/Fantasy Nomination Thread and populated by r/Fantasy members. The list was locked in place this past Wednesday at 10PM Pacific.

To vote, please click the upvote arrow next to your choice or choices for ‘best of’ in each category. Yes, you can upvote more than one.

(2) STICKS THE LANDING. The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger reviews Emerald City in “Toto, You’re Not a Basket-Size Terrier Anymore”

Dorothy, the Wizard and the rest of the Oz gang get the “Grimm” treatment as well as the grim treatment in “Emerald City,” a series beginning Friday on NBC, one that’s addictive if you allow it to be. That may, however, require some effort on your part.

emerald-city-nbc

You may not be conscious of just how deeply imprinted the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” is on your psyche until you watch a bit of this show, which initially seems so very wrong in every possible way. Where is the singing? Where are the psychedelic colors? So here’s what you do: At the first commercial break, pause and marvel all over again at what a spectacular achievement in artistry and cross-generational endurance the 1939 Judy Garland film is, and then let it go.

“Emerald City” has its Dorothy, engagingly played by Adria Arjona, but it draws on the full canon of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books (a series that continued after his death in 1919). It is partial to the dark and unsettling aspects of those tales, which it teases out and enhances with flourishes of its own. When this Dorothy lands in Oz, she’s armed, and that dog alongside her is no basket-size terrier.

The result is decidedly not a fairy tale for young children. This version of Oz has bloodshed, charred bodies, a very disturbing multiple suicide and much more. Friday’s premiere consists of two episodes, which is good, because two hours is about how long it takes you to acclimate to the tone and intent. In the third episode, a doozy, the show’s grip on you really tightens.

(3) NOT SINBAD AND NOT SHAZAAM. Kenneth R. Johnson emailed his theory about the misremembered genie movie debated in comments on yesterday’s Scroll:

I think I may have the answer to what the mysterious genie movie is that various people are mis-remembering as “Shazaam.”  I distinctly remember watching a movie on TV back in the 1990s in which the genie was played by a tall black guy with dreadlocks;  he also had some kind of British accent.  After extensive googling I’ve identified it as “Bernard and the Genie,” a TV movie from 1991.  The genie was played by British actor/comedian Lenny Henry.  He may have been doing a Jamaican accent to make the genie appear pseudo-Rastafarian.  The movie also has Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson in it.  It’s very strange.

(4) BUG JACQUES BARRON. French citizens are now automatic organ donors under the law.

All French citizens are now automatic organ donors, unless they officially opt out of the program.

A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 makes everyone an organ and tissue donor. People can opt out of the program, but they must enroll in something called the National Rejection Register in order to do so.

A low number of organ donations prompted the new rule, according to news reports.

France’s biomedicine agency said in a statement on its website that “in the name of national solidarity, the principle of presumed consent was chosen,” The World Post reported.

(5) REMEMBER THE ALICORN. Rick Riordan putting his foot down —

(6) FATE OF THE FRANCHISE. What would you do? HuffPo says “’Star Wars’ Team Grappling With How Leia Will Live On After Carrie Fisher’s Death”.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death, the team responsible for future “Star Wars” projects is reportedly reconsidering the place of her character, Leia Organa, in the franchise’s ever-expanding universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. …

Fisher, who first played the iconic princess in 1977, brought Leia back to the big screen as a general in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. The actress has apparently already filmed her scenes for the second installment in the latest trilogy, but was rumored to have an even larger role in the following film….

The team is reportedly concerned with two key scenes featuring Fisher that would bring her character and the film’s plot full circle: a much belated reunion between Leia and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a faceoff with her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who killed his father and her lover, Han Solo, in “The Force Awakens.”

Shooting for “Star Wars: Episode IX” isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2018, so until then, those at the helm are pursuing a variety of options on how to proceed. Resurrecting Fisher with CGI effects is apparently one alternative in play, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Technological advances have allowed for actors like the late Peter Cushing to return to the screen in the latest “Star Wars” offering, “Rogue One,” so Fisher could continue to have a similar presence, however limited, in future films.

The braintrust is also reportedly discussing writing the character out all together and reshooting certain scenes to lay the groundwork for her eventual exit from the franchise.

(7) BRINGING ATWOOD TO TV. The Daily Mail brings the showbiz news: “Not quite Stars Hollow! Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel set to star in dystopian Handmaid’s Tale as subversive lesbian”. She’s best known for her role as Rory Gilmore in the idyllic Gilmore Girls.

But it seems Alexis Bledel’s next role will be significantly darker, as it was announced she’ll be joining Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, according to TV Line.

The 35-year-old actress will play the role of Ofglen in the 10 episode series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1977:  Michael Winner’s The Sentinel premieres in New York City.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 7, 1903 — Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) is born in Birmingham, England.
  • Born January 7, 1928 – William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist).

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On January 18 the hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Holly Black and Fran Wilde. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY — just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Holly Black is a writer of bestselling contemporary dark fantasy. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor.

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series, came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017. Her novella, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” was published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016. Fran’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

(11) BE YOUR OWN TIME LORD. Cat Rambo tells Risingshadow readers the importance to writers of “Daily rituals”.

The thing I have learned more than anything else is that a writer must defend their time. That everyone assumes that you’re ready to take a break, come down to the coffee shop and kill a couple of hours. A friend complained to my husband that he felt as though I was timing our encounters, and I was. At the hour mark, I needed to get back to work, because otherwise I’d sit there nattering for far too long. Because you must defend that time not just from others, but from yourself and your own human tendencies toward procrastination and farting around on the Internet, while still being mindful that you do deserve a break every once in a while. You become your own manager, and that is a more difficult task than it might seem.

(12) SURVIVAL TACTICS. John Scalzi’s “10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump” is easier to understand than Christopher Priest’s.

Scalzi’s plan, published in the Los Angeles Times, was introduced to Whatever readers in these terms:

First, and in case you missed me talking about it on Twitter yesterday, I have a piece up at the LA Times site (a version of it is also in the Sunday newspaper) about getting creative work done in the Trump years — some advice about how to keep focus when it’s likely to be a challenging time for the creative class. Note that this advice generally probably also works for people working in professions generally considered “non-creative” as well, but I’m working with what I know here. Also, of course, if you’re neutral or positive on the idea of the incoming Trump administration, then this particular piece is probably unnecessary for you. Carry on, then.

One of Scalzi’s ten points is —

  1. Reconnect (judiciously). When you go back to the news of the world, and to social media, it’s perfectly all right to ask yourself: Is this making me happy? Is it giving me useful information? Is it inspiring me to engage in the world or does it make me want to run from it?

If it’s not helping you, let it go. Unfollow that Facebook friend passing along fake news, and block those fake news sites outright. Mute that person on Twitter who is apparently always angry. Evaluate the news sources you read and keep the ones that offer news accurately and truthfully (spin is spin, even if it’s spin you like). Design your media intake to be useful, truthful and less stressful.

As for Christopher Priest, he posted on New Year’s Eve that he’ll be moving 500 miles from Devon, England (he didn’t identify where). He spends nearly the entire post pouring out his fear and loathing of Donald Trump, yet never managing to establish any connection between the move and Trump’s election. Did he just want to insure an audience for his farewell address?

(13) LIVING IN STAR TREK TIMES. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama, in “The Big Takeaway From This Year’s CES”, concludes:

There has been no killer gadget at this year’s International CES technology show. Instead, something more subtle has emerged as the keystone of the tech world.

I’m talking about the smart, central voice assistant. Yes, even that may sound a bit old hat for those who’ve been paying attention….

Virtual assistants can now understand what you say and even interpret the many ways you may say it. Shawn DuBravac, an economist for the Consumer Technology Association, said that machines now have the same word error rate — that is, the batting average of understanding what we’ve actually said — as humans. That’s up from a 23 percent error rate in 2013, meaning that the tech is getting better, and quickly.

That fact has made the dreams of a STAR TREK-like computer come even closer to reality.  The hope is that these assistants will move even beyond our sci-fi dreams and learn our habits and needs well enough to anticipate them.

David K.M. Klaus comments, “I think it’s clear that nobody connected with the program at the time thought it likely that voice-controlled devices would come into mass use in just a half-century — yet the program itself has accelerated technology design in its own direction. I started writing letters to local newspapers pointing out the inspiration when they published articles about new technology thirty years ago.  (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, et al. predated that, of course, but Star Trek in particular has been responsible for how it looks.)  Glad to see that mundane reporters have finally caught up with me.”

(14) WATCH YOUR INTAKE. Cat Rambo shares a second bit of writerly advice at GeekMom in “Artificial inspiration”.

This phenomenon underscores the fact that authors need to pay attention to what they’re putting into their mental buckets, particularly whenever they’re working on a project. The old computer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out,” comes into play. Or turn it around and aim it in another direction: put marvelous things in, get marvelous things out.

In some ways, I think of it like learning a language. We all speak storytelling, we’ve heard it spoken around and to us in fairytales, myths, fables, and a kerjilliion other texts, down to the format of many ads. And just as, when you’re around a number of people all speaking with the same accent, that accent begins to creep into your own speech. So if you’re only hearing one kind of storytelling, all that you speak in that language of storytelling will have that accent–or flavor, or texture, or however you choose to conceptualize it.

Want to create something wonderful? Then you must read wonderful things and not just read them but study them. Take the sentences apart as carefully as a pathologist dissecting an organ and figure out how they work–and then apply that knowledge so you know you’ve got the tool down and have added it to your writerly toolkit.

(15) I’LL BE BACK. At the BBC, Frank Swain tells “Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man”.

The vision of 2017 depicted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 30-year-old dystopian action movie captures how our world is changing today.

In a world beset by a collapsing economy, the US media conspires with the government to keep the population in check with a combination of heavy-handed policing and a steady stream of vapid reality TV shows. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful men in the world is the host of a reality TV show.

Sound familiar? That was 2017 conjured by campy action thriller The Running Man when it was released 30 years ago.

Sci-fi commonly reveals hidden truths about society. So, it makes you wonder: what else could this dystopian vision say about the world we live in today? If we look at where we are in 2017, what can The Running Man tell us about our changing politics, media and technology?

Chip Hitchcock urges, “Note the photo of Erland van Lidth de Jeude partway through; when he was in the MIT Musical Theatre Guild we used to say that he might be the first Olympic victor to sing his own national anthem. The movies typecast him as a hulk, losing the singing voice that he used in roles ranging from Roderick Murgatroyd to Richard Henry Lee.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

2016 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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


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

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


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

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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


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

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

 

 

 


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

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

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


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

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

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

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

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


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

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

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

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


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

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

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


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricandtheshaman

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

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

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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


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

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

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

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


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

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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

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


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

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

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

Easy.

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


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

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Fran Wilde Fulfills Her Early Promise

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde

By Carl Slaughter: Fran Wilde burst onto the scene in 2015 with her Nebula-nominated, Andre Norton-winning, and Compton Crook-winning Updraft from Tor. Publishers Weekly said, “Extraordinary worldbuilding and cascading levels of intrigue make Wilde’s debut fantasy novel soar.” 92% of Amazon reviews were 4 and 5 star.

In September, Wilde came out with Cloudbound, the sequel to Updraft. Consensus among critics is that Cloudbound exceeded Updraft. Ken Liu said, “Cloudbound by Fran Wilde is a thrilling and complex tale about the most difficult stage of a revolution: what do you do after you win? Highly recommended both for the story it tells as well as how it tells that story. Wilde takes risks that pay off hugely.” Aliette de Bodard said,“A fantastic follow-up to Updraft?I liked it better than its predecessor, particularly for what it says about the politics of fear and prejudice, and how giving people what they want isn’t always the best thing.” Locus said, “In terms of pace, style, structure, and sheer flair? Cloudbound represents the opposite of a sophomore slump. It’s that rare bird, the follow-up to a highly praised first novel that doesn’t just equal its predecessor’s accomplishments, but exceeds them. I felt Updraft was a promising debut effort; Cloudbound sees much of that promise realized, with hints of more to come.”

In May, Wilde came out with The Jewel and Her Lapidary. Ken Liu said, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary is a splendid tale of courage and transformation in a world as exquisite as Wilde’s prose. You will be utterly entranced.”

Wilde’s short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Nature, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She also blogs about food and genre at Cooking the Books for the popular social-parenting website GeekMom.

UPDRAFT

wilde-updraft_comp2

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever-if it isn’t destroyed outright.

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

CLOUDBOUND

wilde-cloudbound_comp1-1

After the dust settles, the City of living bones begins to die, and more trouble brews beneath the clouds in this stirring companion to Fran Wilde’s Updraft.

When Kirit Densira left her home tower for the skies, she gave up many things: her beloved family, her known way of life, her dreams of flying as a trader for her tower, her dreams. Kirit set her City upside down, and fomented a massive rebellion at the Spire, to the good of the towers–but months later, everything has fallen to pieces.

With the Towers in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, daily life is full of terror and strife. Nat, Kirit’s wing-brother, sets out to be a hero in his own way–sitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.

But what he finds down-tier is more secrets–and now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear, before a dangerous myth raises a surprisingly realistic threat to the crippled City.

THE JEWEL AND HER LAPIDIARY

wilde-jewel-cover-640x1024

The kingdom in the Valley has long sheltered under the protection of its Jewels and Lapidaries, the people bound to singing gemstones with the power to reshape hills, move rivers, and warp minds. That power has kept the peace and tranquility, and the kingdom has flourished.

Jewel Lin and her Lapidary Sima may be the last to enjoy that peace.

The Jeweled Court has been betrayed. As screaming raiders sweep down from the mountains, and Lapidary servants shatter under the pressure, the last princess of the Valley will have to summon up a strength she’s never known. If she can assume her royal dignity, and if Sima can master the most dangerous gemstone in the land, they may be able to survive.

Pixel Scroll 7/28/16 How Many Files Must A Pixel Scroll Down

(1) OLD PROSE, YOUNG EYEBALLS. This time James Davis Nicoll set the table at Young People Read Old SF with Lawrence O’Donnell’s “Vintage Season” – O’Donnell being a pseudonym used by both C.L. Moore and her husband, Henry Kuttner, though this particular story is believed to be the work of Moore.

I knew Moore would be featured in this series. I just was not sure which Moore story to pick. One of her stories about Jirel, indomitable French swordswoman? Or perhaps Shambleau, which introduced her magnificently useless (but handsome!) adventurer Northwest Smith, who never encountered a deadly trap from which someone else could not rescue him (to their detriment). In the end, I went with Vintage Season, mainly because people often falsely attribute it (in part or whole) to her husband. That made me suspect that the attributors consider it the most significant of her stories. It has been adapted both to film (under the title Grand Tour: Disaster in Time) and to radio and was selected for inclusion in The Best of C.L. Moore . This, I think, is the right Moore.

Reader Lisa had this to say:

Lawrence O’Donnell used a technique that, while transparent, kept me interested enough in this story to keep me reading. (Well, the technique and the fact that I’m part of this project kept me reading.) He tells the story from the perspective of a partly-informed outsider who doesn’t have enough information about the other characters, but notices that something is up with them. (Though he, and the readers, have no idea what.) By continuing to drop treats here and there for the readers, he manages to keep them intrigued.

(2) MILD MELD MOVES. Shana DuBois curates a new Mind Meld, now hosted on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

For years, the essential sci-fi blog SF Signal published Mind Meld, a regular column that featured a monthly roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction. On the sad occasion of the closure of that site, we were happy to offer the feature a new home. Future installments of Mind Meld will appear monthly on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The series resumes with answers from Usman Malik, Zachary Jernigan, Delilah S. Dawson, Django Wexler, Yoon Ha Lee, Caroline M. Yoachim, Haralambi Markov, and Lee Kelly to this question —

Q: How do you see the boundaries between literary and genre fiction adapting as we move forward?

(3) REVIEW SITE ADJUSTS SCOPE. The stress of a young child’s medical problems is contributing to Bookworm Blues policy change because lately the blogger is reading —

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Yes, folks, I’ve been reading an absolute metric ton of UF and PNR recently, which is something I never in a million years thought I’d say, but it’s true. I’m reading it, mostly because I really, really need happy endings, fuzzy feelings, and lighter mental distractions right now. I’m having a shockingly hard time getting into anything else at the moment. I am positive that once my life, and my chaotic emotions settle a little, I will get back to my usual stuff. I also think it is incredibly unfair for me to not mention the authors and books I am reading because I’m afraid to do so for various arbitrary reasons that really don’t matter a fig to a soul.

And, the more I read these types of books, the more I’m kind of amazed at the amount of skill it takes to sell me on a happily ever after, and the books and authors that manage it deserve recognition for their skills.

So as of today, you will officially see the occasional urban fantasy and paranormal romance book reviews on here, and yes, I will open my doors to accept those books to review.

(4) PERSISTENCE. Kameron Hurley on “The Wisdom of the Grind: It’s Always Darkest Before a Breakthrough”.

Lately I’ve been in one of those rough periods where I just want to quit for six months or a year and travel around the world and refill my creative bucket. Cause right now all I can see down there are beer dregs. The truth is that every profession will try and squeeze out of you as much as it can get. While I’d like to be mindful of how much I give it, I also recognize that in order to get to where I want to be, I’m going to have to give it everything. This is a marathon, yeah, but I don’t indeed to have anything left for the way back. This is it. The older I get, the rougher than knowledge is, though: knowing I have saved nothing for the way back. There is only forward.

When it gets dark like this as I sweat over the next book and start putting together ideas for pitching a new series, I remind myself that sometimes it’s the very bleakest right before a major breakthrough. These are the long plateaus in skill and ability that we have to push through to level up. Once you get to the pro level at anything, your effort/skill ratio flips. You no longer see huge gains with minimal effort. There’s a reason you can get 2 years of skill leveling up out of 6 weeks of Clarion. You tend to be newer to the craft. You’ve got more to learn.

My next big level up is taking a lot longer to get to – several books, many stories….

(5) BEER NUMBER FIVE. Narragansett Beer introduces another Lovecraftian brew. Andrew Porter sent a comment with the link, “I had a lidless eye once, but I could never go swimming….”

IPA

Introducing the 5th installment and 4th chapter of our award winning Lovecraft series: The White Ship White IPA. H.P. Lovecraft’s, The White Ship, tells a story of a lighthouse keeper’s adventure aboard a mysterious ship where his curiosity and greed win out over his better judgment.

The label, designed by local Rhode Island artist Pete McPhee from Swamp Yankee, features an image of the story’s grey lighthouse as the north point of a compass rose and represents the narrator’s trip to the other world and back.

White Ship White IPA is a Belgian style IPA is brewed with 4 types of Belgian and American malts and creamy Belgian yeast to create a crisp, delicious beer that blurs style guidelines. We use El Dorado and Mandarina Bavarian hops to give the beer the slight tangerine notes. We then dry hop this adventurous brew with El Dorado hops to enhance the mild citrus aromatics….

(6) MONSTROUSLY GOOD. Petréa Mitchell’s Anime Roundup for July 28 has posted at Amazing Stories.

Re: ZERO – Starting Life In Another World #17

No matter how bad things get for Subaru, it is always possible that they could get worse. And, lately, they do.

The monster that showed up at the end of last episode is a flying leviathan, kind of a cross between Monstro, Jaws, and a plane full of jet engines, which is known as Moby-Dick. Well, okay, it’s called the Hakugei (White Whale), but that happens to be the Japanese title of Moby-Dick, and I do believe it’s a deliberate reference….

(7) DIAL FIVE SEVEN FIVE. Anna Wing summarized both The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings in this haiku:

It is rarely wise
To attach such importance
To your jewellery.

(8) NATURE. “Game of Ants: two new species named after Daenerys Targaryens’s dragons”The Guardian has the story.

They reminded scientists of dragons so much, they named them after two of the fire-breathing beasts from the Game of Thrones.

The two new ant species from Papua New Guinea, named Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion, have spiny barbs along their backs and shoulders with an unusual set of muscles beneath them.

George R.R. Martin responded with in a post.

I suspect there are dragon ants in my world as well… maybe out on the Dothraki sea…

(9) TRIP REPORT. Marko Kloos was in New Mexico for Wild Cards events.

On Monday, I went to a Wild Cards author party thrown by KayMcCauley at Meow Wolf, an art venue in Santa Fe that is pretty spectacular. I had a chance to meet Wild Cards writers and reconnect with those I’ve met before. I also got to meet Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who was whisked into the event by George R.R. Martin after his own signing in town the same evening. (He’s in the US on a book tour for the English version of HEX, his best-selling debut novel.) It was a fun event, and I had a good time, even though I still feel like the new kid in high school among so many well-known high-caliber writers.

(10) JERRY DOYLE OBIT. Actor Jerry Doyle, from Babylon 5, was found unresponsive at his home last night and later declared dead. The family made an announcement through his Twitter account:

Michi Trota posted a spot-on tribute:

(11) EXOTIC RECIPE. Fran Wilde has released her newest Cooking the Books Podcast.

cooking the books

This month’s Cooking the Books Podcast, #025: Space Weevils – Cooking the Books with David D. Levine contains:

  • 100% less gravity
  • Space weevils (you were warned, they get big in a vacuum)
  • Hardtack
  • Lime juice
  • no powdered sugar
  • A Baggywrinkles shout out!
  • Napoleons in Spaaaaace (not the general)
  • Soup
  • a big ball of boiling water

(12) DIABOLICAL PLOTS. Congratulations to David Steffen on this announcement by SFWA

Diabolical Plots, self-described as “a Sci-fi/Fantasy zine that covers virtually every media related to the genre from books to movies to video games” is now a SFWA Qualified market. Payment: Eight cents per word, on publication.

Connect here — http://www.diabolicalplots.com/

(13) RAISE YOUR RIGHT HOOF. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas take another swing at telling the whole truth – “A Space Unicorn Tale: The REAL Story Behind the Creation of Uncanny Magazine at Tor.com.

The Space Unicorn mascot is real. Not only are they real, they edit and publish every single issue of Uncanny Magazine by utilizing their abilities to travel through a series of portals to infinite points in spacetime. You probably suspected this from the beginning.

And congratulations to them, too, because the Uncanny Magazine Year Three Kickstarter hit its goal today!

(14) CROWDSOURCED WEB SERIES WITH TREK ALUMNI. The makers of Regegades hit the $60,000 goal of their Indiegogo appeal and are looking for more.

Renegades is an original, independently fan-funded sci-fi web series, executive produced by Sky Conway, and starring Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Tim Russ, Adrienne Wilkinson, Terry Farrell, Robert Beltran, Gary Graham, Cirroc Lofton, Aron Eisenberg, Manu Intiraymi, Hana Hatae, Bruce Young, and many more. We are currently finishing production on “The Requiem” parts I and II and are now in need of funding for post-production – editing, sound, visual effects, etc…

(15) SCI-FI SAVIORS.

(16) CAST YOUR VOTE. Whether or not the Hugos have been “saved” to your satisfaction, George R.R. Martin urged all eligible voters to get their 2016 Hugo Ballot in by the July 31 deadline.

The Hugo is science fiction’s oldest and most prestigious award. These past few years, however, the awards have been under siege, and that’s true this year as well.

Nonetheless, there are some worthy books and stories up for this year’s rockets, along with some reprehensible shit. I will leave it to your own judgements as to which is which.

Vote your own taste.

Vote your own conscience.

But vote. Every ballot counts.

(17) TENTACLE PARTY. Cthulhu For President, the game, has got a facelift for the US election. Can be bought in PDF here.

Don’t settle for the lesser evil! Heed the call of Cthulhu! Get ready for muck-raking, magic, and mayhem (with a little help from the world of H. P. Lovecraft.)

The Stars Are Right!

In Cthulhu For President, you become an Elder Party staffer tasked with serving the Great Old Ones during their eternal struggle for domination. Cross wits with the other political parties, manipulate voters using non-Euclidian geometry, swear on the Necronomicon, and sacrifice your co-workers to the Elder Gods. Politics has always been evil, but destroying the world has never been so much fun!

CHA0091_-_Cthulhu_for_President_Front_Cover__54717_1468239059_500_659

(18) WHAT WERE THEY TRYING TO KEEP OUT? The Great Wall of China was designed to protect against monsters, according to a new Matt Damon movie.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Dawn Incognito, Hampus Eckerman, Soon Lee, John King Tarpinian, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA and Anthony.]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/16 The Ants Are My Friends, Scrolling In The Wind

(1) FIRST RULE OF GAME WRITING. Creators are interviewed in NPR’s feature “Amid Board Game Boom, Designers Roll The Dice On Odd Ideas – Even Exploding Cows”.

When you play a game, you have to learn some rules, right? Well, same goes for designing a game. And here’s one rule: No idea is too wacky.

Take a game called Unexploded Cow, for instance.

“That’s a game where you’ve discovered two problems with a common solution,” says the game’s co-creator, James Ernest. “There’s mad cows in England and unexploded bombs in the French countryside, and you’re going to bring them together and solve everybody’s problems by blowing up a bunch of cows. ”

Using cows with a debilitating brain disease to get rid of leftover bombs — for most people, that’s just an absurd joke. But Ernest designs board games for a living. He and a colleague took that weird idea and came up with a card game. Each player manages a herd of sick cows and tries to make money blowing them up.

That game, Unexploded Cow, is now one of the most popular he’s created….

Are these guys SFWAns in the making?

(2) GET IN THE GAME. Cat Rambo lists “What SFWA Offers Game Writers” at her blog.

In light of recent discussions, I wanted to jot down a few things that come to mind when what I think about SFWA has to offer game writers, because there’s actually quite a bit.

  • Access to SFWA promotional resources includes a number of venues quite suitable for publicizing games. Our curated Kickstarter page, the New Release Newsletter (which can easily be expanded to include games), the SFWA blog, SFWA’s presences on Facebook and Twitter. It’d be easy to make the Featured Book section a Featured Work section to go with Authors section on the SFWA website.
  • Even the book-specific promotional features, such as the NetGalley program, may be of use to game writers who are doing books or stories as well, as is often the case.
  • SFWA has been working at relationships with a number of companies that will be of interest to game writers. Our Outreach Committee has monthly checkins with representatives at Amazon, Audible, Draft to Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo, Patreon, and more….

(3) MORE SFWA ADVICE. Russell Galen offers his accumulated experience in “Ten Thoughts About The Business Side of Writing”.

  1. Get a written agreement for every transaction, even with people you love and trust. I am still trying to solve feuds stemming from oral agreements for tiny properties that wound up becoming movie/TV franchises.
  2. Don’t ever think, “I don’t want to bother my agent with this trivial matter.” It’s not just that it might be a bigger matter than you realize, but even if it stays small, it may still have to be cleaned up some day. Your agent would rather do the work now than have to deal with a bigger problem later.

(4) NOW ONLINE. Suvudu delivers “SDCC 2016: Chuck Wendig Talks ‘Life Debt’, Snap Wexley, and Writing in the Present”.

SUV: You favorite a third-person present tense which is quite different from the other books in the Star Wars fiction line. Why did you go with that? What are some of the advantages of using this?

CW: On a simple level, what’s great is that Young Adult books tend to take a present tense viewpoint to telling stories. Sometimes first-person, sometimes third-person, but a lot of young adult fiction is written in present tense. For me, a person who likes to write in that already, the great thing is that we’re speaking to young readers and to older readers who are willing to be drawn into the cinematic component. Star Wars begins as film and moves on to TV. To have the books feel exciting in that kind of action-adventure thing, present tense keeps you in the moment. I always say that past tense is like looking at a painting on a wall in a museum, but present tense is like watching the painter paint it. It’s like watching Bob Ross: You see him painting on his half-hour show. You really don’t know what’s going to happen. I love that feeling: What’s he going to paint here? Is that an ocean? Is that a rock? There’s also a component where you think he’s going to mess the painting up completely but by the end he pools it all out. To me, present tense is like watching the painter paint. When you look at the Star Wars crawls, they’re written in third-person, present tense. I want to capture that: I do think that it’s very cinematic, and that’s why we went with it.

(5) SUPERHEROES TO WHO? “Optimism vs Cynicism in Superhero Narratives by Paige Orwin” at SFFWorld.

Now, there are deconstructions of the genre that take a more cynical view, of course, and it’s possible to tell dark superhero tales where those with power lose their way and take advantage of those around them. Marvel’s superheroes are perhaps more prone to making mistakes, while DC’s might be more prone to growing remote from the concerns of the people they protect, but the end result tends to be similar: things get worse, innocents get hurt, much anguish is had, humanity seeks desperately for someone else to take on the new menace and it’s all terribly bleak…

…but, eventually, things pretty much always get better. It helps that evil is fundamentally punchable, once you figure out who/what needs punching and where the head is. It helps that violence is so often the best answer.

(6) COMIC RELIEF. This photo appears in the middle of a huge gallery of cosplayers from San Diego Comic-Con.

gender at comic con

(7) OUTFITS FOR YOUR SJW CREDENTIAL. However, Chip Hitchcock is skeptical about the cosplaying cats featured in an NPR story — “For These Cosplayers, Geek Costumes Are The Cat’s Pajamas”

Nak, 13, and Fawkes, 6, have been cosplaying for a little more than a year. They’ve been ambitious. Their social media pages show off more than 50 geeky costumes: Alien, Star Trek, Fallout and Game of Thrones each make an appearance. During the year they’ve been active, they’ve gained a sizable following with nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter and 18,500 on Instagram.

Oh, and just one little thing: Nak and Fawkes are, well, cats.

Chip says, “Nobody discusses what this does to the cats’ psyches. I’m just amazed the cats put up with it; if I tried that with my part-Coon foundling (14+ pounds) I’d draw back a bloody stump.”

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. In Episode 14 of Scott Edelman’s podcast he is joined by Fran Wilde, the Nebula Award-winning and Compton Crook Award-winning author of Updraft, plus the host of the Cooking the Books podcast, which has a writers + food focus just like his.

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde

(9) FROM THE EARTH TO…? Ken Murphy at The Space Review lists dozens of “Stories of cislunar suspense: Literary adventures on the near frontier (part 2)”.

Part 1, last week, examined literature from the 1950s through the 1980s.

1990s

The movement of the Baby Boomer generation into positions of power that began in the 1980s took full flower in the 1990s. This marked a significant shift (but not a real change) in the status quo, and there began the generation of much more ‘product for the marketplace’. Lots of Shuttle stories as we worked through the trauma of Challenger, but also solar power satellite and space station stories. Gen X coded the World Wide Web, while their bosses day-traded their way to enormous prosperity (oh…wait…), and the Millennials were digging Bill Nye the Science Guy. The Soviet Union didn’t so much collapse as dissolve into a new form of corruption and warlord-led tribalism, and this left writers looking for new enemies, from corporate baddies to Asians with cryptic agendas. The Space Shuttle was ramping up its tempo of flights, boldly going where it had gone so many times before, along with operations of Mir and the genesis of ISS.

Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Michael Flynn (1991): in a future where technology is blamed for the world’s ecological ills, those trapped in orbit in the post-space age must struggle to survive. When a scoop ship is shot down, the race is on by the Fen to rescue the crew and return them to orbit. Don’t know Fen? Then this book is probably not for you. But if you’re a devotee of the science fiction writers cons then this book is entirely for you. [GoodReads: 3.49/1,937] …

(10) FIFTH ITERATION. David C. Handley tells why “Pokémon GO Signals New Social Media Paradigm” at SciFi4Me.

There’s just one issue with the current model for social media: it’s purely virtual. The social component has been lost. That means that apart from location data and images and people becoming connected (“friended” or “followed”) or disconnected (“unfriended” or “kicked to the curb”), there’s no way of determining interactions in the real world. The difficulty has always been to integrate physical reality and virtual reality.

Enter augmented reality. Although not a new concept (it’s been used for heads-up displays (HUD) for fighter jets since the 1970s), the smartphone has given it new applications. In Korea a few years back, for example, people could hold a phone camera up and landmarks would be marked on the screen.

Then camePokémon GO.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know by know that Pokémon GO has become … um … big. Really big. No, I mean huge! And it knows no limits. Players of all ages are collecting ’em all. And they’re changing the face of social media by combining the social with the media.

There are two ways that the game has, well, changed the game. The first is the reintroduction of social interaction. Not only do the catching and training of Pokémon cause interaction between players, but the competition and even the very act of searching for the virtual creatures has created peaceful gatherings that have had the feel of makeshift parties. People are meeting new people and making friends, something that was generally absent from the old flash mobs.

(11) NOMINATED NOVEL. Lisa Goldstein began her review of Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass  with seven things she disliked.

1. Butcher seems to go his own carefree way with many words, heedless of any actual dictionary definitions.  So, for example, the characters in this world live in huge circular towers far above the ground, which he calls “spires” — but spires are tapered or pointed, not cylindrical.  One of the types of airships that sail between the towers is called a “windlass,” which is actually a “device for raising or hauling objects.”  (Yeah, I had to look that one up.)  There are neighborhoods in the spires called spirals, which — as you’ve probably guessed by now — consist of streets in perfectly straight lines.

2. Both female leads are forthright, plucky, and kick-ass, to the point where I started confusing one with the other.  One is rich and small and the other one isn’t and isn’t, and that’s about the only difference I could find between them….

But all is not lost….

(12) GETTING READY TO VOTE. Lis Carey continues her progression through the Hugo-nominated short fiction at Lis Carey’s Library.

(13) MORE THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT. JJ posted a bumper crop of short reviews in comments today.

2016 Novel Reading

  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (2016) (Novella)
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Taylor, Jodi (2016)
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (2016)
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (2016)
  • Arkwright by Allen Steele (2016)

Leftover Novel Reading

  • Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (2014)
  • Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher (2015)
  • Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald (2015)

(14) BUT WHO GETS TO SIT IN THE CHAIR? Five captains all in one place.

(15) BLACK PANTHER. The Guardian reports “’Bad feminist’ Roxane Gay to write new Marvel Black Panther series”.

“It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, and I mean that in the best possible way,” Gay told the New York Times. But “the opportunity to write black women and queer black women into the Marvel universe – there’s no saying no to that.”

Her story, she promised, would be “pretty intimate. There’s going to be all kinds of action, but I’m also really excited to show Ayo and Aneka’s relationship, build on that love story, and also introduce some other members of the Dora Milaje … I love being able to focus on women who are fierce enough to fight but still tender enough to love.”

The recruitment of Gay is part of Marvel’s drive to diversify its offering, both in terms of creators and characters. “So. I am writing a comic book series for Marvel,” Gay tweeted, announcing the news. “Black women are also doing the covers and art … And no. It doesn’t make sense that I am the first, in 2016. But I won’t be the last.” She also tweeted that it was likely to come out in November.

(16) MAN WITH A PLAN. At writing.ie,  “Outline Planning Permission: Part 1” by our own Nigel Quinlan.

This summer will be the summer of me learning to PLAN.

No plan survives first contact with your neurons.

Planing is defined in the dictionary as… I dunno, I haven’t a dictionary handy.

Already we’re off to a disastrous start, highlighting my failings as a planner. Had I planned ahead properly then the dictionary would be in reach. I would have overcome my laziness and inertia and fetched a dictionary from a nearby shelf. I would not have forgotten that I am typing this on a computer connected to the internet which has dictionaries in it. I’m a complete mess.

The ultimate aim of this exercise will be to have two proposals to slide onto the desk of my publisher and turn their eyes to pound signs. One will be for a big scary fantasy MG novel, the other will be for a series of MG books utilising ideas I cut from Cloak. Neither of these may be viable or publishable, but I am going to learn how to plan them and present them.

Nigel adds, “Part 2 should be up next week. I wrote it a few weeks ago and I look back now at few-weeks-ago-me and think, you poor sweet summer child.”

(17) WORKING ON THE FIVE W’S. Now fans know where, but not when — “Mystery Science 3000 Revival to Premiere on Netflix”.

Revealed during a panel at SDCC 2016, as reported by THR, the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K) will be broadcast by streaming giant Netflix, with a tentative start date set for (in a reference to the series’ original theme song) “the not-too-distant future.”

(18) HAMIT WINS. “’Christopher Marlowe’ Script By Francis Hamit Wins Screenplay Category” at Annual Hollywood Book Festival.

Francis Hamit has won the Screenplay category at the 11th Annual Hollywood Book Festival for his soon-to-be-produced script “Christopher Marlowe”. The Elizabethan-era thriller about the poet, playwright and spy has been in development for over six years and is based upon Hamit’s stage play “MARLOWE: An Elizabethan Tragedy”, which was originally presented in Los Angeles in 1988.

It will be directed by Michael John Donahue, DGA, and produced by Gary Kurtz. Negotiations for cast and financing are ongoing.

(19) SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDERS. The Nate Sanders firm completed another auction on July 21.

”Peanuts” comic strip hand-drawn by its creator Charles Schulz, from 9 April 1958. The strip comments on a subject that we think is a modern phenomena, the fact that children can’t concentrate for a long period of time. Here, Schroeder reads that from a book, and Charlie Brown proves its point by watching TV, drawing, playing baseball and paddle ball in the course of four frames. Strip measures 28.75” x 7”. United Feature Syndicate label appears on third frame. Inscribed by Schulz to ”Elizabeth Vaughn and her sixth grade pupils – Charles M Schulz”. Some toning and a light paper backing affixed to verso, overall very good condition.

[Thanks to Nigel Quinlan, Martin Morse Wooster, Dawn Incognito, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/16 Every Bark a Doorway

(1) ATTACKING CREATORS. Devin Faraci at Birth. Movies. Death. lit up the internet with the claim “Fandom Is Broken”.

… Last week the AV Club ran an excellent piece about the nature of modern fan entitlement, and I think it’s fairly even-handed. The piece covers both the reaction to an all-female Ghostbusters reboot but also the hashtag that trended trying to get Elsa a girlfriend in Frozen 2. The author of that piece, Jesse Hasenger, draws a line between the two fan campaigns, rightly saying that whether driven by hate (Ghostbusters) or a desire for inclusion (Frozen 2) both campaigns show the entitlement of modern fan culture. It’s all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators….

The old fan entitlement has been soldered onto the ‘customer is always right’ mindset that seems to motivate the people who make Yelp so shitty. I’m spending a dollar here, which makes me the lord and master of all, is the reasoning (I don’t even want to speculate about whether or not modern fans spend their dollars on licensed, legal products – that’s an essay for another weary day). It’s what makes people act like assholes to servers, and somehow it’s become the way ever-growing segments of fans are behaving towards creators. It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.

And so we have these three elements – one old as fandom itself, one rooted in technological advances and one impacted by the corporatization of storytelling – coming together in such a way to truly break fandom. I wish this was the part of the essay where I come to you with a hopeful pep talk about how we can all be better, but I just don’t see a positive solution. If anything, I see things getting worse – creators walling themselves off from fans while corporate masters happily throw vision and storytelling under the bus to appease the people who can get hashtags trending. “You can’t always get what you want” is a sentiment that belongs to another era when it comes to mass storytelling. I recently read Glen Weldon’s excellent The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture and the arc of fandom it sketches out is a profoundly disheartening one, with Batfans morphing from monkish annotators of the character’s fictional history into crusaders harrassing anyone on the internet who sees Batman differently than they do….

(2) THE RISING OF THE DOUGH. More details about the Sons of Anarchy cast payment problems at a Houston convention this past weekend from Official Ava Jade Cosplay: “Space City Comic (Con) – Thousands Swindled, Contracts Broken and Many Still Looking for Answers”:

The previously included statement about the rooms not being paid for has been retracted-  A representative from the staff contacted me and informed me that I was misinformed about the exact situation. There was a mishap regarding the hotel check in. The credit card for the room was for the reservations and not for incidentals. Upon checking in, some cast members had to pay cash for the incidentals, instead of putting their own credit card up, and risking being charged upon checking out.  The cast was NOT charged for their room.  I was informed during the interview, that there was a problem checking in the hotel due to the credit card not being accepted, it later was realized that we should clarify to what extent.   When Mr. Hunnam took his check to the bank to cash it, he found out that the check that was given to him was written from an account that had been CLOSED. This happened to the entire cast. Many of the actors went to the promoters office to demand payment, where the promoter ended up calling the cops because he was “being held hostage”. The cast was in no way held him hostage, but wanted answers and payment.  The panel schedule was completely jacked up, the cast was not given the correct times for photo ops and for panels. The Friday panel was canceled due to the AVI team refusing to allow anyone onstage until they were paid. They were promised payment upfront, instead they weren’t paid and pulled the plug on the event. The cast was all there, waiting to go on. It seems that the event promoter broke the contract not once, but TWICE.

Bleeding Cool wrote a story of its own based on the Official Ava Jade post with the dramatic headline, “Police Called On Cast Of Sons Of Anarchy After They Demanded Space City Comic Con Pay Up”. Houston police were helpful in protecting the convention staff from an irate customer —

Comments from volunteers included this, from Shelley Montrose,

This will be the last Saturday/Sunday that I volunteer at any Comic Convention. I was shouted at more in the 6 hours that I volunteered on Saturday than I was in the entire year last year. Friday was amazing and Saturday in my LAST 2 MINUTES there HPD had to intervene as a grown man came into my face and threatened to “choke me to death, rape me, and burn me like on YouTube.” I decided not to come to my scheduled 8 hour volunteer shift on Sunday. I thought my life was in danger. One of Charlie’s bodyguards ran over to help me before the guy got to me. Honestly, I thought the guy was gonna to hit me. After reading this article I think I understand what happened a little bit better. I can’t even explain how horrible it was the tell people who traveled all the way from England, China, Australia,etc., that the $800-$3000 that they spent on a prepaid ticket will not be honored at the desk at the majority of the sons of anarchy autograph sessions , and that they would have to go to the ATMs on the inside of the convention ( because all the ATMs on the outside of the entrances were broken ) in order to get money to pay cash for any autographs or photo ops they wanted with the celebrities.I personally ended up going to the ATM to help people pay for the prepaid tickets that they purchased for autographs with the celebrities. I won’t even go into how much that puts me back on my budget, including but not limited to my rent, utilities, and food.I was with Charlie Hunnam for almost four hours, and He pulled it together for all of his fans. Anyone that was there saw me standing beside Charlie Hunnam, I was taking pictures of them with him, knows that he was very giving to fans as well as professional. I feel like I did a good job of keeping the fans calm, entertained, and happy until they got to Charlie Hunnam .Ron Perlman was also professional as well. When I left he was still excepting those bogus tickets that people had pre-purchased.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Speaking of grand theft – Swedish astronomers theorize Planet 9 is a stolen exoplanet.

New research suggests the mysterious and controversial “Planet 9” isn’t an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet — stolen by the sun from its original host star.

“It is almost ironic that while astronomers often find exoplanets hundreds of light years away in other solar systems, there’s probably one hiding in our own backyard,” researcher Alexander Mustill said in a news release….

 

(4) EXCELLENCE IN FILKING. SF Site News reported that nominations have opened for the 2016 Pegasus Awards, given by the Ohio Valley Filk Festival.

pegasus logo

Any member of the worldwide filk community is eligible to win. Past Nominees have hailed from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore as well as the United States.

The nomination and ballot procedure is similar to that of the Hugo, except that one does not need to be a paid member of the convention to nominate or vote. Anyone with an interest in Filking or Filk music can place a nomination and/or vote.

The results are tabulated, the winners determined, and the award is presented at the Pegasus Awards Banquet...

There are currently six Pegasus award categories, including two floating categories that are different each year.

Fans suggested nominees and songs through the Brainstorming Poll, and the results can be seen on these pages:

Ballots must be received by 12:01AM PDT, August 1, 2016, whether cast online or by mail.

(5) BEWARE GAME OF THRONES SPOILER. Here’s something George R.R. Martin revealed at Balticon 50:

According to Vanity Fair, Martin appeared at a convention in Baltimore called Balticon to read aloud to those in attendance a new chapter from his forthcoming book The Winds of Winter. During his time in front of the crowd, the author announced that Brienne of Tarth is the descendant of Ser Duncan the Tall.

For those who don’t know, Ser Duncan the Tall is one of Westeros’ most famous knights, making this connection with Brienne particularly noteworthy, especially when considering he’s one of Martin’s favorite characters.

(6) MORE SHOOTING. ScienceFiction.com says “’Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Gets Planned Reshoots After Disney’s Rumored Unhappiness”.

Many films that are destined for the big screen get re-shoots or planned production times after an initial cut of the film has been done where the crews can go back and shoot additional or replacement footage for certain scenes.  It’s a fairly common practice, although the re-shot and re-edited scenes are usually minimal in nature, comparative to the overall plot of the film.  Rumor has it, however, that the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, ‘Rogue One,’ has heavy reshoots planned by parent company Disney, who is unhappy with how the film has fared so far with test audiences.

There has only been one trailer released so far for the film, which was actually met with great enthusiasm from the fans.  However, a cool-looking trailer does not directly equate to a successful and well-received film — look no further than this very franchise’s ‘Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ for evidence of such.

(7) WHO BLABBED? Cora Buhlert shares Cap’s secret with us:

(8) SFWA YA JURORS. “Andre Norton Award Jury Announced” at the SFWA Blog.  

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce the members of the jury for the 2016 Andre Norton Award. Throughout the coming year, the jury will be compiling its list of picks for the Norton Award. This year for the first time, SFWA will release a Norton Honor list of the top 15-20 books compiled from member votes and jury picks.

Chair Ellen Klages says, “Speculative fiction is a literature about exploration, possibilities, and dreams. The Andre Norton Award honors the best SF/F works written for the people who will create the future — children and young adults. What they read today will influence them — and the world — for decades to come.”

The jury members are: Ellen Klages (jury chair), E.C. Myers, Fran Wilde, Leah Bobet, and Jei D. Marcade. Read their bios at the linked post.

(9) SFWA SFWA. Cat Rambo notes anyone can watch the SFWA Chat Hour, 1st edition, on YouTube, “complete with annoying echo that we will fix next time.”

Come hear Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) officials and staff Cat Rambo, M.C.A. Hogarth, and Kate Baker talk about the recent Nebula conference weekend, current SFWA efforts, and what’s coming in 2016 in the first episode of the biweekly SFWA Chat Hour.

 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, known to the world for other things but to fans for Howard the Duck and Back to the Future.

(11) BUTLER CONFERENCE. UC San Diego will be the site of “Shaping Change: Remembering Octavia E. Butler Through Archives, Art, and Worldmaking”, a conference from June 3-5 that is open to the public.

Shaping change

50 years from now, how have we shaped change (through art, activism, and archives) in the world? What have we left behind that that we can draw from our presents and pasts? What lessons in Butler’s life and writing will help forestall what seems like the inevitable collapse of human civilization?

Organized by Shelley Streeby (UC San Diego) and Ayana Jamieson (founder, Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network), the event will feature talks from: Adrienne Maree Brown, Aimee Bahng, Alexis Lothian, M. Asli Dukan, Ayana Jamieson, Krista Franklin, Lisa Bolekaja, Melanie West, Moya Bailey, Nisi Shawl, Ola Ronke, Rasheedah Phillips, Shelley Streeby, Sophia Echavarria, Ted Chiang, and Walidah Imarisha.

(12) MEETING ABOUT MEDUSA. Steven Baxter and Alastair Reynolds will speak at Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road (tickets required) on June 4.

Foyles talk

Join us for a conversation with two leading figures in science fiction, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, as they discuss their new collaboration The Medusa Chronicles. Inspired by the classic Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s short story ‘A Meeting with Medusa’, The Medusa Chronicles continues the story of Commander Howard Falcon over centuries of space-exploration. One of the most compelling novels of either author’s career, it combines moments of incredible action with an intricately-realised depiction of an expansive universe.

Stephen Baxter is the author of more than forty novels, including the Sunday Times bestselling Long Earth series, co-authored with Sir Terry Pratchett, and the acclaimed Time’s Eye trilogy, co-authored with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He has won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton.

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St Andrews universities, has a Ph.D. in astronomy and worked as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency before becoming a full-time writer. An award-winning as well as bestselling writer, with more than thirteen published novels to his name, Locus described him as ‘the most exciting space opera writer working today’.

Together, Reynolds and Baxter will talk about Clarke’s influence on their own writing, the themes that underpin his work, and how they were inspired to continue his story, as well as their bodies of work as a whole. This will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions and a book signing.

This event is in association with The Arthur C. Clarke Award and SFX.

(13) BYO LIFE ON MARS. SpaceReview.com sifts its favorite ideas from the many conferences about human expeditions to the red planet, in “A Year on Mars”.

How many humans on Mars conferences do we need in a year? That thought came to mind during the recent Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington, DC. There are a lot of them, especially in Washington. There were at least six humans-to-Mars related public events in Washington in 2015, not counting the NASA-sponsored human Mars landing site selection workshop in Houston. Now 2016 is shaping up the same way. Last Tuesday following the H2M conference, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning DC-based think-tank, held a talk “Beyond the Moon: What will it take to get astronauts on Mars?” The Mars Society was in Washington last August and will be back in September, and there will probably be at least one or two other Mars-related meetings or lectures that will happen later this year. And not everything is happening in Washington: the same week as the H2M conference there were a series of talks on Mars at the International Space Development Conference in Puerto Rico.

Some, but not all, of this attention to the humans to Mars subject is due to the success of the movie The Martian and the book that inspired it. But the subject is also culturally bigger than that: witness the attention that Mars One got last year, both positive and negative, and NASA pushing the theme hard as well (every time somebody uses the hashtag #JourneyToMars an angel gets its wings.) Human missions to Mars, or at least talking about humans on Mars, is all the rage these days, and H2M has made a pretty impressive effort at taking the lead.

H2M seems to have upped its game recently. Their website is slick, featuring computer animations and links to video recordings of most of the presentations at their conference, much of which was live-streamed….

(14) ATTENTION ANN LECKIE. “Tea in space” might be a highly scientific idea. Scientists say it could be used to create useful materials for astronauts visiting Mars.

Former Prime Minister William Gladstone said: ‘If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.’

It may also one day help astronauts on Mars.

The humble cup of tea holds the key to new ‘wonder materials’, new research suggests.

The bacteria found in tea could lead to breakthroughs in water filtration and technology.

(15) THIS IS STRANGE. An sf novel hidden in Reddit posts? The BBC interviewed the anonymous author.

The plot ranges across the CIA, hallucinogenic drugs, humpback whales, Nazis and the death of Michael Jackson. But just as mysterious and intriguing is the way in which what is being dubbed ‘The Interface Series’ is emerging into the world.

If you watched the TV-series Lost, you’ll probably be familiar with that feeling of confused anticipation as you hope for several threads of narrative to tie together. Over the course of this month, a new kind of mystery, for a new kind of audience, has been unfolding on Reddit – the online bulletin board where people post articles and comments on threads about a bewildering range of subjects….

The posts appeared in threads about a bizarre range of seemingly unconnected topics including: a debate about whether pirates really did have parrots, the responses to somebody seeking advice about how to help a relative with a drugs problem and the comments under a video of a cat sliding down stairs.

But these weren’t just random nonsensical rants. There is a theme that ties them all together; ‘The Flesh Interfaces’ which seem to be “portals of some kind, made of thousands of dead bodies, which transport biological matter to some unknown place and returns it inside a fleshy sack, heavily dosed with LSD.”

(16) DAILY TRIVIA. George R.R. Martin, wrote 14 episodes of the Beauty and the Beast TV series, which ran from 1987-90.

(17) JOHNSON TRIBUTE VIDEO. See part one of the George Clayton Johnson Memorial held at the Egyptian on February 26.

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Arifel.]

2016 Compton Crook Award

Updraft by Fran Wilde has won the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s 2016 Compton Crook Award.

The award is given by the members of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for the best first novel in the genre published during the previous year.

A check for $1,000.00 and a commemorative plaque will be presented to Wilde on Friday, May 27, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. during Balticon 50 Opening Ceremonies. Balticon is the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention and is celebrating its fiftieth year of existence.

The award is named in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. The award has been presented since 1983 and is also known as the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award.

Updraft was published September 1, 2015 by Tor Books. More information about author Fran Wilde can be found at her website.

Pixel Scroll 4/5/16 If You Pixel Us, Do We Not Recommend? If You Scroll Us, Do We Not Read?

(1) NO MCKELLEN AUTOBIO AFTER ALL. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Ian McKellen Explains Why he Returned $1.4M Memoir Advance”.

“It was a bit painful — I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.”

The world isn’t going to get to read Sir Ian McKellen’s autobiography.

Last year it emerged that the celebrated and Oscar-nominated thespian would be penning his own memoir in a deal with publishers Hodder & Stoughton reported to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million). But earlier this month the 76-year-old stage and screen icon revealed that he’d pulled the plug on the contract.

(2) OVERFLOWING WITH VERSE. Poems that Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden gets a plug at Book View Café . One of the contributors, Ursula K. Le Guin, explains her choice of a poem in the collection:

I chose Robinson Jeffers’ “Hurt Hawks” because it always makes me cry. I’ve never yet got through the last lines without choking up. Jeffers is an uneven poet, and this is an uneven pair of poems, intemperate and unreasonable. Jeffers casts off humanity too easily. But he was himself a kind of maimed, hurt hawk, and his identification with the birds is true compassion. He builds pain unendurably so that we can know release.

(3) KUZNIA MOVES UP. ”Job Moves” at Publishers Weekly reports “Yanni Kuznia, previously director of production, is being promoted to managing editor and COO at Subterranean Press.” SF Signal did an interview with Kuznia last year when she was still Director of Production.

AJ:  Subterranean Press has a pretty small staff, so everyone wears multiple hats. Can you tell us a little about what you do at Subterranean? What is a typical work week like for you?

YK: As Director of Production, it’s my job to keep titles moving through the production machine. I need to make sure every book is proofed, art is commissioned, signature sheets are designed and signed, ARCs are ordered and sent out, authors receive and return page proofs, and that everything is reviewed one last time before we go to press. Of course, I have help doing all of this. I have two wonderful people, Geralyn Lance and Kyle Brandon, who work under me in Production, overseeing the day-to-day of several titles each. We talk continuously throughout the process to make sure every milestone is hit on time.

(4) FAITH. Deborah J. Ross at Book View Café finds three ways out for writers forced to deal with their “Original Vision vs. Compromising With the Market”. Number two is – go indie.

If you believe in your work, how can you be sure but this is not infatuation with your own words but that your work truly is of high quality? Every writer I know goes through spasms of self-doubt. Writing requires a bizarre combination of megalomania and crushing self-doubt. We need the confidence to follow our flights of fancy, and at the same time, we need to regard our creations with a critical eye. Trusted readers, including workshops like Clarion and Clarion West, critique groups, fearless peers, and freelance editors can give us invaluable feedback on whether our work really is as good as we think it might be. Of course, they can be wrong. It may be that what we are trying to do falls so far outside conventional parameters that only we can judge its value. It may also be that we see on the page not what is actually there but what we imagined and hoped.

Assuming that we are writing from our hearts and that the product of our creative labors is indeed extraordinary, what are we to do when faced with closed doors and regretful rejection letters? As discouraging as this situation seems, we do have choices. We writers are no longer solely dependent upon traditional publishers. We live in an era where writers can become publishers, and can produce excellent quality books, both in digital form and Print On Demand.

However, not all of us are cut out to format, publish, and market our work. All of these activities require time in which to acquire skills and time to actually perform them. That’s time we have lost for writing. While becoming your own publisher is a valid choice, it is not right for everyone. Some of us would much rather write in the next book.

(5) YURI’S NIGHT WORLD SPACE PARTY IN SAN DIEGO. Down in San Diego on April 9, Yuri’s Night celebrations will include a movie will include an sf movie showing. They’ll show Contact free at 7:00 p.m. in Studio 106 (San Diego Reader Building, 2323 Broadway, 92102).

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work.

Although it is free, please RSVP as seating is limited.

(6) GUESS WHO? The website for Innominate (“The Con with no name!”) is up.

Innominate is the 2017 Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention. Eastercon’s have been held over the Easter weekend every year since 1955 and is a regular gathering place for science fiction fans from around the UK and elsewhere to celebrate the genre in all of its formats.

Eastercons stand in a long tradition which we intend to celebrate, while aiming to bring in new elements too. The convention will cover books, film, television, art and costume and the programme will include talks, discussions, exhibits, workshops and other entertainment.

(7) FIREFLY LESSONS. Tom Knighton points out what businesses can learn from his favorite TV series in “Loyalty, Firefly, and Captain Mal”.

From a management perspective, Mal may be an ideal leader to emulate.  Oh sure, there are others out there.  Real life examples exist.  I’ve been blessed to work with someone like that myself, but not everyone is exposed to that.  However, anyone can pop in a DVD and watch Mal and learn.

So why is Mal so ideal?

First, he is a hands-on leader.  In the pilot episode, Mal and Jayne are moving crates of their ill-gotten gains, stashing them where prying eyes won’t see.  He doesn’t relegate the task to anyone else, but instead works just as hard as his crew does.  When they don’t eat, he doesn’t eat.  When they work, he works.

This firmly establishes his belief that he’s not better than anyone, despite being captain.  Yes, he issues orders, but because he’s shown that he’ll do anything he asks others to do, his orders are followed.

Second, his top-down loyalty.  Mal doesn’t have to like a member of his crew to be loyal.  He doesn’t care for Simon, not in the least.  It’s obvious to everyone, especially Simon. However, he refused to leave a member of his crew behind, regardless of his personal feelings about the man.

(8) OTTO BINDER BIO. Bill Schelly’s Otto Binder, The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is coming back into print June 7 from North Atlantic Books (paperback, 320 pages, $19.95.) It has 28 new images, of which 14 are new photographs.

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

(9) PENNED BY C. S. LEWIS. There are a couple dozen entries on Brenton Dickieson’s list of “Photographic Plates of C.S. Lewis’ Manuscripts and Letters”, and several illustrate the post.

A reader suggested I add to my collection of previously unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscripts (“The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis“) by providing a list of manuscripts that show up in photographic plates in books and journals. I know that most of these are published by now, but this list is valuable for people who want to get to know C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.

(10) RACHEL SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS FRAN WILDE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Fran Wilde, expert on man-made wings”.

3. Have you ever done skydiving or hang gliding or anything similar?

I haven’t! I’m a sailor. I have relatives who hang-glide, and I spent a lot of my childhood watching storms roll in on the cliffs of the Chesapeake Bay (it gets really windy), but in order to do the research for UPDRAFT, I wanted to feel the physics of being in a wind tunnel, and I wanted to make sure I was writing a flying book, not a sailing book turned sideways. So I went indoor skydiving, which was a hoot. And very spinny.

The wings in the book aren’t hang-gliding wings, they’re more like a cross between furlable wings and wing-suit wings, so I also watched a lot of wingsuit fliers on long-flights and also doing particularly dangerous things like flying through canyons. I researched about 2,000 years of man-made wings in history, and talked a lot with engineers who understand the physics of foils – aka: wings.

(11) YA REVIEWS YA. My favorite YA reader, Sierra Glyer, added a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to her blog.

…It is about a 18 year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She is the most feared assassin on the continent but one day she gets caught. After she gets caught she is sent to a slave camp and this is where the book starts….

(12) WEIST ESTATE AUCTION. The catalog for this year’s Jerry Weist estate auction (to be held at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention April 22-24, 2016) is now available. Over 4,000 pulps, dime novels, men’s adventure magazines and other magazines. Here’s a link to the catalog  (19 pages).

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 5, 1908 – Bette Davis

Bette David fountain

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. Among his many roles: Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

Gregory Peck Moby Dick

  • Born April 5, 1933 — Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on Batman and the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele on an episode of Star Trek.

(15) THREE-BODY. Ethan Mills tackles the “Wobbly Relations of Past, Present, and Future: The Three-Body problem by Liu Cixin (Translated by Ken Liu) at Examined Worlds.

The Philosophy Report: Is Nature Uniform?  What to Expect from ETs?

Philosophy is mentioned several times, including the Chinese philosopher, Mozi, and the German philosopher, Leibniz, who are both characters in the game.  Aside from such small connections, two major issues are the uniformity of nature and the reaction to extraterrestrial intelligence.

In philosophy of science (and regular life for that matter) we all rely on what some philosophers have called the principle of the uniformity of nature.  This is usually discussed in (constant) conjunction with David Hume’s problem of induction.  Could we live as successfully in the world as we do, could we do science, if the laws of nature were not in some sense uniform across time and space?  If the laws of nature varied over time or between countries or planets, could we really get around?  Could we do science?  Or — closer to Hume’s point — whether this principle is really true or not, should we believe it?  Could we stop believing it even if it turned out to be unjustified?

But what if we had lived on a planet where as far as we could tell the laws of nature do sometimes change, where things are never the same over time, could we have evolved as we did and could we have developed science?  Those are some of the intriguing questions raised in The Three-Body Problem.

(16) HEARING MCCARTHY. TC McCarthy is not alone in his opinion:

(17) GETTING THE CAMEL’S NOSE UNDER THE TENT. A list of “11 sci-fi and fantasy books for people who don’t like sci-fi and fantasy” at Minnesota Public Radio News.

Sci-fi picks for people who don’t like sci-fi

So, you think you don’t like sci-fi. What turned you off?

Long descriptions of space ships and their alternative fuels? Too many alien names to keep straight? Just not into “nerd” stuff? Send your stereotypes packing to Planet Zurlong for a minute, and try one of these books that may offer you a new perspective on the genre.

For the record, most of these fall into the category of “soft” science fiction. “Hard” science fiction revels in technical details, whereas soft is not as focused on the specificity of its futuristic elements. Consider this a “soft landing” on your genre dive.

(But yes, sometimes descriptions of space ships can be fascinating.)

1) “The Wool Omnibus” by Hugh Howey

When Howey’s work first caught critics’ eyes in 2012, it was dubbed the “sci-fi version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'” That comparison is purely about how the book was published, not about the quantity of whips or handcuffs in it. Like “Shades,” it took off as a self-published Internet phenomenon.

Howey posted the first 60 pages of “The Wool Omnibus” online as a standalone short story in 2011, but within a year, that turned into a 500-plus page project that topped bestseller lists. The books take place in the Silo, a post-apocalyptic city built more than a hundred stories underground.

(18) DANIEL RADCLIFFE RETURNS. Swiss Army Man will be in theaters June 17.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. You might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

(19) BFG OFFICIAL UK TRAILER 2.

From Director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG” is the exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/5/16 Confessions of a Wrap Artist

(1) NOW YOU KNOW. People will get a lot of use from Camestros Felapton’s video “Why You Are Wrong”.

All purpose explanation of why you (or whoever) is very wrong.

 

(2) PLAY ALONG AT HOME. Here’s what the judges will be starting with — “The Arthur C. Clarke Award complete submissions list 2016”.

Every year before I announce the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature, I first reveal the complete list of submitted books put forward for consideration.

This year we received 113 books from 41 publishers and publishing imprints, the second highest count for submissions after the record-breaking high of 121 submissions received for our 2014 prize.

To be clear, this is not a long list, but rather a complete list of eligible titles received from publishers who must actively submit titles to our judging panel for consideration. In other words, this is where our judges start from every year.

(3) TRINITY REJECTED. The Clarke longlist inspired Damien G. Walter to comment –

(4) JUMP TO HYPERSPACE STREET. Hollywood’s idea of making something new is to combine two old franchises. ScienceFiction.com explains — “What The–?! Sony Moves Forward With Merging ‘Men In Black’ With ’23 Jump Street’”

In what has to be the craziest news to come along in some time, Sony is looking to merge two of its franchises– ‘Men In Black’ and ’21 Jump Street’.  Director James Bobin (‘The Muppets’, ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’) is being courted to direct the film, which will star Channing Tatum (Jenko) and Jonah Hill (Schmidt) who will both also produce.  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed ’21 Jump Street’ and ’22 Jump Street’ but are occupied directing the Han Solo movie for Disney.  The pair will serve as producers, however.

Sony has confirmed that neither Will Smith nor Tommy Lee Jones are being sought for the new film, as the studio hopes to use this installment as a springboard for a new franchise with younger stars.

(5) WHY SQUEEZING TOO HARD DOESN’T WORK. Steve Davidson draws on his intellectual property experience in “Mine! Mine! Mine! ALL Mine!” at Amazing Stories.

Delicately, you want your fans to let you know when you are getting it right and when you are getting it wrong. And if you’re smart, you figure out a way to successfully gauge that response and you use it. If you manage that most of the time, everything is almost always bigger and better and more successful than the last time.

I hear some say “the fans own it!”. Well yes and well no. The fans only own their collective response, but they can make no claim to the property itself. Suppose this P vs A thing totally blows up into open warfare and every Trekker and Trekkie on the entire planet refuses to have anything to do with Star Trek anymore. (Images of mass DVD burnings and the defenestration of action figures.) Paramount* could still create, produce and distribute anything Star Trek they wanted to (and shut down any and every other expression of Trek that isn’t approved), for as long as they wanted to spend the money. Maybe they’ll mine the Chinese audience for several years (decades). Maybe they’ll change the presentation and pick up a whole new audience of fans (Star Trek: Romance).

A few years back, Disney gutted their expanded universe for Star Wars. Part of the reason, I am sure, was to re-exert control over their property. In many respects it was a good way to create a dividing line between things that fans might be allowed to play with and things they weren’t to touch. Individual fans were upset over various decisions made, but it is pretty obvious that the collective response was of acceptance.

(6) DON ANDERSON OBIT. Don Anderson passed away on October 16, 2015. Robert Lichtman says, “In the early 1960s Don was a member of the N3F’s apa.  A search of the Eaton’s fanzine listings shows that he published titles such as Plack, Porp and Cry of the Wild Moose. He joined SAPS with its 199th mailing, April 1997, and remained a member until his death, producing 68 issues of Moose Reducks.”

Wally Weber and Robert Lichtman found the family announcement linked here which includes the information, “Donald was a United States Air Force Veteran who proudly served his country during the Korean War and was a retiree of Eastman Kodak Co.”

(7) GARY HUTZEL OBIT. TrekMovie.com reports

Gary Hutzel, Emmy Award Winning VFX artist known for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, has died at age 60.

Hailing originally from Ann Arbor Michigan, Gary Hutzel left his mechanical engineering studies behind to move to Santa Barbara, CA to pursue a career in the film industry. There he studied photography at the Brooks Institute and subsequently began his motion picture career working as a video camera operator, which sparked his interest in visual effects. His early VFX work was as a freelancer on CBS’s The Twilight Zone, a gig that got him noticed by the team putting together the then Star Trek reboot, The Next Generation.

Hired to work on Trek in 1987, Hutzel lead visual effects for The Next Generation for the first five seasons of its run. After the end of TNG’s fifth season, Hutzel and VFX colleague Robert Legato transferred to the new Star Trek show on the block, Deep Space Nine, which Hutzel worked on for its entire run. One of his most notable contributions to DS9 is his work on the episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” in which Hutzel oversaw the integration of footage from the Original Series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” into the freshly shot DS9 footage.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 5, 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon has its world premiere.

Creature from the black lagoon poster

  • March 5, 1963 — The Hoola Hoop is patented.

(9) KEN LIU’S CALENDAR. Here’s where you’ll find Ken Liu in April:

  • Waterford Public Library, 4/2/2016, Waterford, CT. Reading at 2:00 PM.
  • The Library of Congress, 4/8/2016, Washington, DC.
  • The University of Maryland, 4/8/2016.
  • Thomas Kang Lecture. I’ll be speaking with Professor Christopher Bolton of Williams College as the headliners: “Silkpunk, Technologized Bodies, and Translation: Cases in Chinese, Japanese and American Popular Culture.”
  • Arkansas Literary Festival, 4/15-4/17, Little Rock, Arkansas.

(10) BENFORD ON THE ROAD. Gregory Benford sat for a photo while in Nashville for a signing on March 3.

(11) FREE AIN’T CHEAP. Mark Lawrence crunches the numbers in “The cost of promotion!”

The bottom line is that it’s very hard to know what to do with the ‘free’ books a publisher sends you. Sending them out into the world is the natural thing to do – but it’s going to cost you 100s of $$$ and may very well not generate anything like enough sales to justify the cost.

(12) MEH POWER.

(13) WHO YA GONNA CALL LATER? At Entertainment Weekly, “The painful what-if that haunts ‘Ghostbuster’ Ernie Hudson”.

The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking.

The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, “If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.” So that was pretty devastating.

I’m panicked. I don’t sleep that night. It was like my worst nightmare is happening. The next morning, I rush to the set and plead my case. And Ivan basically says, “The studio felt that they had Bill Murray, so they wanted to give him more stuff to do.” I go, “Okay, I understand that, but can I even be there when they’re established?” And of course, he said no, there’s nothing to do about it. It was kind of awkward, and it became sort of the elephant in the room.

I see this differently now—and I don’t mean any kind of animosity or anything towards anyone, certainly not towards Ivan or the guys. I was a single dad, and we were struggling to kind of hold on and pay the rent. I still needed to do this job. 30 years later, I look back at the movie and it works very well the way it is. I think the character works with what he has to work with. But I’ve always felt like, “Man, if I could’ve played that original character…”

(14) STARTING TO COUNT. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon dips his toe in “The 2016 SFF Awards Meta-List”.

In 2016, 4 different awards have already announced their nominees: the Philip K. Dick, the British Science Fiction Association Awards (BSFA), the Kitschies, and the Nebulas. Not a lot so far, but has anyone emerged as an early leader? Here’s the list of everyone who has gotten more than one nomination:

Europe at Midnight, Dave Hutchinson (2 nominations, Kitschies, BSFA)

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (2 nominations, Nebulas, Kistschies)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the stunning and versatile Will R.]