Pixel Scroll 4/29/17 Let Us Now Pixel Famous Scrolls

(1) YA AWARD NAME. Annalee Flower Horne makes a preemptive strike.

Is this just gratuitous Heinlein hatred? Dude hatred? Have I missed a news item? Or maybe I haven’t. Kevin Standlee recently wrote that if the YA Award passes the Helsinki Business meeting, then the Business Meeting can take up the issue of what its name should be.

There was a nonbinding survey  asking fans’ preferences among six names (Anansi, Lodestar, Ouroboros, Spellcaster, Tesseract, and Worldcon), but that places no limits on the Business Meeting.

(2) A REAL VIKING. Hampus Eckerman recommends, “For those Filers that will combine their visit to WorldCon with a visit to Sweden, a new Viking Museum, called Viking Life, opened this weekend. Some comments about being the only real place to see Vikings in Stockholm has already sparked a fight with the Historical Museum. The Historical Museum retorted that they had largest Viking exhibition in the world and that all authentic artifacts displayed at the Viking Museum had, in fact, been borrowed from the Historical Museum.

“But the thing that put Swedish twitter on fire was not this spat. It was the pictures of the Swedish king at the inauguration. Please enjoy a real Viking King.”

(3) HE’S THIRSTY. OK, Steve Drew is sold on going to the Worldcon.

(4) VON BRAUN’S HUGO. Bill Mullins visited a space shrine:

I was at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today for my son’s graduation from Space Camp. After the ceremonies, we toured the museum and saw Wernher von Braun’s retro-Hugo (1954, from Boston’s Noreascon 4 in 2004) in the Best Related Work category, for his book Conquest of the Moon, co-written with Fred Whipple and Willy Ley. His office at Marshall Space Flight Center has been recreated there as a permanent exhibit, and his award is sitting on his desk.

Patrick Molloy also wrote about it here in 2012.

(5) CONTROVERSIAL EDITS. Natalie Luhrs articulates how “Failures of Empathy” are an sff community issue.

Recently, Seanan McGuire (1, 2, 3) and J.Y. Yang (thread) have talked on Twitter about copyeditors making changes which fundamentally alter the story, and not for the better. The change in question: redacting the use of the singular they—used by nonbinary characters—to whichever binary gender the copyeditor felt like substituting. This is an act of erasure and, as Yang points out in the linked thread, an act of violence.

Many nonbinary people use the singular they as their pronoun—while this is a relatively new usage, it is not incorrect (copyeditors of the world, take note). I have seen it become more widely used over the last few years and at this point anyone griping about it is basically using it as an opportunity to be a prescriptivist jerk.

…We have an empathy problem in the SFF community. These failures are more obvious when a convention dismisses the safety concerns of their female Guest of Honor in favor of their friend the serial harasser, but you can also see it at a smaller scale: World Fantasy’s initial decision to retain the H.P. Lovecraft pin and Brian McClellan suddenly deciding to tweet about how unprofessional it is to talk about your bad copyedit is when a person of color is the one talking. It’s an entire spectrum of failure, this lack of empathy.

(6) COMPANIONABLE ALIEN. ScreenCrush catches up with “Karen Gillan on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ and Nebula’s Near-Death Experience in ‘Guardians 1’”.

I think it’s fair to say that when the first Guardians came out, these were the most obscure characters to get their own Marvel movie. Now, of course, the first movie is beloved and everyone knows the characters. Did that change anything about how you guys went about making the sequel? Was there new pressure that wasn’t there before?

That was quite an interesting thing for me as well, because I was wondering if anyone was going to be feeling the pressure; like second album syndrome or something. Maybe they did and they didn’t really show it, but I didn’t because I didn’t feel I had the responsibility of the film on my shoulders. I just got to come in and play this fun character.

(7) ANCESTRY. I can’t believe a spellchecker did this – but how else would you get that typo?

(8) COMICS EVERYONE BOUGHT. You can infer these are not all that rare, right? Yahoo! News lists “The top 10 best selling comic books of all time”.

#10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #583 – 530,000 copies sold

This comic, featuring Spidey’s encounter with then President Barack Obama, became a must-have collectible after being highlighted on news programs around the country.

#9. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #1 – 533, 000 copies sold

After a yearlong storyline that involved Doctor Octopus posing as Spider-Man, fans were more than happy to celebrate this back-to-basics approach to the friendly neighborhood wall crawler.

(9) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Here’s the moos – The Boozy Cow, a restaurant chain with a charitable foundation and donates all its profits to charity, has opened a fourth location in Scotland: “Charity restaurant chain opens fourth Scottish eatery”.

The Boozy Cow chain – launched by philanthropist Garreth Wood two years ago – already has premises in Aberdeen, Stirling and Edinburgh, has now opened a venue in Dundee.

Mr Wood also revealed that a further five charities will receive a share of the profits from The Boozy Cow chain – Hot Chocolate Trust, Mid-Lin Day Care, Dundee Woman’s Aid, Art Angel and Help for Kids.

This brings the number of good causes currently supported by the company to 18.

Last month, the organisation announced it was giving away £210,000 to charities including CHAS, The Archie Foundation and the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in Edinburgh, with almost half a million pounds given away since the company opened its first venue in Aberdeen in 2014.

(10) DAVIS OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Grania Davis (1943-2017) on April 28.

Author Grania Davis (b.1943) died on April 28. Davis was married to Avram Davidson for 3 years and served as his primary editor after his death. She co-authored several works with Davidson as well as writing works on her own.

(11) DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUE COMPAINTS. Nevertheless, back in 1962, The Traveler tells Galactic Journey readers he is giving a vote of no confidence in new F&SF editor Davidson’s handiwork: “[Apr. 28, 1962] Changing of the Guard (May 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

I never thought the time would come that reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would be the most dreaded portion of my duties…and yet, here we are.  Two issues into new Editor Avram Davidson’s tenure, it appears that the mag’s transformation from a great bastion of literary (if slightly stuffy) scientifiction is nearly complete.  The title of the digest might well be The Magazine of Droll Trifles (with wry parenthetical asides).

One or two of these in an issue, if well done, can be fine.  But when 70% of the content is story after story with no science and, at best, stream-of-consciousness whimsy, it’s a slog.  And while one could argue that last issue’s line-up comprised works picked by the prior editor, it’s clear that this month’s selections were mostly Davidson’s.

Moreover, Robert Mills (the outgone “Kindly Editor”) used to write excellent prefaces to his works, the only ones I would regularly read amongst all the digests.  Davidson’s are rambling and purple, though I do appreciate the biographical details on Burger and Aandahl this ish.

(11a) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 29, 1923 — Irvin Kirschner, filmmaker, director of The Empire Strikes Back.

(11b) TODAY’S DAY

International Astronomy Day

Astronomy allows us to see the history of the universe with our own eyes. The stars that twinkle as you look out on a dark, clear night may not exist right now. They existed at whatever point in history they emitted that light, which has taken millions of years to reach Earth.

(12) LATE EASTER EGG STANDING. Hey, I’d already forgotten there was one — “Explaining the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Suicide Squad’s mid-credits scene features a meeting between Amanda Waller and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. The conversation starts off simply enough: Waller needs help when it comes to keeping everything that happened in Midway City (and her involvement) on the down low. In order to protect herself from Enchantress’ wrath and keep her reputation in the green, Waller makes a deal with Wayne to maintain damage control surrounding the movie’s events. Of course, she has to bring something to the table to make the deal happen…

(13) EXPANSIVE. Aaron Pound reviews Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: The first book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes is a kind of hard-ish medium future science fiction almost Space Opera story that feels a little bit like Firefly and a little bit like a Dashiell Hammett novel. The book is full of adventure, intrigue, and excitement, but it is the kind of industrial, oil-covered adventure, intrigue, and excitement that results in broken bones, bullet holes, and dead characters. Alongside the truckers and detectives in space in the book is just enough alien weirdness to shake things up and add a bit of inhuman horror to the impersonal dangers of living in a hostile environment that will probably kill you if you make a mistake.

(14) NEWS TO SOMEBODY. Vox (the website, not the Rabid Puppy) said in its February review,, “Forget ‘white saviors’: The Great Wall is really about fighting giant lizard monsters”.

A few things you should know about The Great Wall: It’s simultaneously 400 percent more movie than most and 10 percent as much movie as most — huge, bombastic, colorful, explosive, and containing almost no story at all. It’s roughly equivalent to watching the assault-on-Mordor bits of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for 103 minutes. It was filmed in 3D, and I ducked a few times while watching. It also made me seasick, but that’s my own damn fault for sitting too close to the screen.

(15) THE LONG VIEW. AI viewed with alarm: “Viewpoint: Is inequality about to get unimaginably worse?”. Chip Hitchcock snarks, “He probably wouldn’t have been paid if he’d just posted a link to ‘With Folded Hands’…”

Inequality goes back at least 30,000 years.

Hunter-gatherers were more equal than subsequent societies.

They had very little property, and property is a pre-requisite for long-term inequality.

But even they had hierarchies.

In the 19th and 20th Centuries, however, something changed.

Equality became a dominant value in human culture, almost all over the world. Why?

It was partly down to the rise of new ideologies such as humanism, liberalism and socialism.

(16) AND THE THIRD LITTLE MARTIAN PIG… There may be no straw or timber, but — “Scientists just discovered something awesome about the soil on Mars”.

The research, which was published in Scientific Reports, reveals that the soil on Mars is particularly well-suited to brick making. In fact, the dirt is so easily formed into bricks that building a rigid structure out of it wouldn’t require any special substance or even heat to bake them, and it’s all thanks to the same material that gives the Mars surface its reddish hue.

At first, engineers at the university were trying to figure out exactly how much additional polymer would be needed for the Mars soil to be shaped into bricks. As they gradually reduced the amount of additive used with their soil simulant they eventually realized that they didn’t need any at all. The team was able to successfully compact iron-oxide-rich Mars dirt with a flexible container which was then pressurized. The result was small, firm blobs of soil which were stable enough to be cut into brick-like shapes.

(17) SHINY. The New York Times tells where to buy “A Solid Gold Darth Vader for the Sith Who Has Everything”.

For less than the cost of a trip to Tatooine, one lucky Star Wars fan will soon be able to own a solid gold Darth Vader mask — perfect for bartering, though perhaps not so good for heavy breathing.

On Tuesday, the Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka unveiled the imposing headgear and announced that it would go on sale at the company’s flagship store in Tokyo on May the fourth (do we need to spell this out for you?) to celebrate Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary.

The price? A mere 154 million Japanese yen, or about $1.4 million. Tax included!

(18) ON ICE. This is the lede of an article by Helen Brown in the April 22 Financial Times (behind a paywall.)

A survey recently found that the most popular song among prison inmates in the UK was ‘Let it Go,’ the big number from Disney’s 2013 blockbuster Frozen.

Despite the incongruity of old lags carrolling along to a song more easily associated with preschoolers dressed as animated princesses, anyone alive to the emotional truths of the film would not be surprised to find it resonating with prisoners struggling to own the guilt of the past and move on…..

(19) AI SCRIPTWRITER RETURNS. “It’s No Game–A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring David Hasselhoff” is a commentary on the forthcoming writer’s strike, featuring David hasselhoff as an android, that explains what happens when writers are replaced by the Golden-Age-Ophile and the Sorkinator.

 [Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Mullins, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to Fie 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Update: Corrected item one to the name Annalee Flower Horne. (Not Newitz, as I mistakenly wrote to begin with.) Apologies to all concerned.

Pixel Scroll 3/28/17 Nevertheless, She Pixelisted

(1) EXPANSE FREAKOUT PREMATURE. James S. A. Corey says to settle down.

Anyway, they always have the books to fall back on…

(2) DON’T BE SHOCKED. Jim C. Hines didn’t expect people to be surprised when he told them “Yes, I Still Get Rejections”.

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.

Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.

Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so….

(3) SF MUSEUM EXHIBIT. From June through August 2017, the Barbican Centre museum in London will present the exhibition Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction, which is curated by historian and writer Patrick Gyger and will explore science fiction as an experimental genre. The Wire supplies the details in its article “A new Barbican exhibition will explore science fiction from a multidisciplinary angle”.

It’ll include more than 200 books, original manuscripts and typescripts, contemporary and existing art works, 60 film and TV clips, unseen footage, adverts, concept art, film props, comics, video games and robots.

Australian duo Soda_Jerk will present Astro Black, a two-channel video installation with a focus on Sun Ra’s theories of Afrofuturism and featuring footage of Kraftwerk, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy. Plus Ben Frost and Daníel Bjarnason’s score inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1973 film Solaris will be performed with Poland’s Sinfonietta Cracovia, plus video accompaniment by Brian Eno and Nick Robertson.

(4) THIS IS SO WRONG. “Firm Floats Plan to Hang Colossal Skyscraper From an Asteroid”NBC News has the story.

Dubbed Analemma, the fanciful tower wouldn’t be built on the ground, but suspended in air by cables from an asteroid repositioned into geosynchronous Earth orbit just for the purpose.

Over the course of each day, the floating skyscraper would trace a figure-eight path over our planet’s surface, according to plans posted online by Clouds Architecture Office. It would swing between the northern and southern hemispheres, returning to the same point once every 24 hours.

The speed of the tower relative to the ground would vary depending upon which part of the figure eight it was tracing, with the slowest speeds at the top and bottom of each loop, the plans say. The asteroid’s orbit would be calibrated so that the slowest part of the tower’s path would occur over New York City.

…Analemma would be powered by solar panels and use recycled water. Lower floors would be set aside for business use, while sleeping quarters would be sited about two-thirds of the way up. The plans don’t say exactly how people would get on and off the building, though one illustration seem to show people parachuting from the tower to the ground.

(5) EXTENDED FAMILY. Lightspeed Magazine’s Christian A. Coleman interviewed Nnedi Okorafor.

You wrote in the acknowledgments of Binti that your daughter, Anyaugo, essentially came up with the plot of the novella. Was she also involved in plotting Binti: Home?

Anya didn’t come up with the whole plot of Binti. I was stuck on that ship with Binti and the murderous aliens; I knew the ending, but I wasn’t sure what should happen next. I told her about being stuck and she suggested something that went on to become a major part of the plot. The same happened with Binti: Home. When I write, Anya is very often around me or FaceTiming with me. So I’ll look up from writing and talk to her about what I’m writing. She always has something to say, and nine times out of ten, it’s good stuff. The same with part three. There was a major part in part three that we actually argued over because it was disturbing. I wanted one thing; she was like, “Heck no! You can’t do that.”

We live with my characters.

(6) GRRM AND LIBRARIANS. StokerCon is coming up April 27-30 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.

George R.R. Martin will be there on Saturday for an interview and signing.

HWA is sponsoring Librarians’ Day at StokerCon 2017 – which is essentially a day pass for Thursday of StokerCon, as I haven’t seen anything requiring proof of being a librarian in the purchase information.

(7) TUMMY TIME. “Karen Gillan’s ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Costume Explained, but Does the Reason Make It Okay?” Yahoo! Movies ponders the answer.

When the first footage of the film was released during CinemaCon, the reason for her ensemble was revealed. The plot involves four high-school students who are forced to clean out the basement of their school while in detention. They find an old video game (rather than a board game like in the version of the movie starring Robin Williams) and each chooses a character to play. The teenagers become the characters they selected, leading a nerdy boy to become The Rock’s character and a popular girl to become Jack Black‘s character.

A more shy, reserved teenage girl ends up becoming Karen Gillan‘s character. The video game is old and dusty, so presumably the reason that she is dressed in tiny clothing is because that’s how female video game characters used to be dressed.

Is that enough of a reason for a movie to dress the character this way? Should the objectification of the female lead in the movie become permissible because Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s film creators wanted to be hyper-accurate to old video games? Does the fear of being anachronistic by giving Gillan pants or a fully formed top justify the male gaze? Do the critics who hated Gillan’s outfit feel soothed by this explanation?

(8) DON’T SOUND SO SURPRISED. Io9’s take is “The First Footage From Jumanji Is Surprisingly Very Fun”.

…They realize that, because they are in a video game, they each have video game powers. For example, Johnson’s character is super strong and Gillan’s character is a dance fighter, which they joke about. And also, she very quickly acknowledges how ridiculous it is that the game makes her outfit so skimpy. A kind of guide character tells them they have to place a jewel back into a statue to leave—but as they progress, the challenges get greater and greater. Killer animals, evil men on motorcycles, just lots of crazy stuff. And, like a video game, they each have three lives. If they lose those, they die for real.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 28, 1979 Phantasm was released. John King Tarpinian adds, “Angus Scrimm, The Tall Man, used to come to Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theater Company‘s plays.”

(10) IN GREAT DEMAND. James A. Owen’s seven-day Kickstarter to publish an Inklings Art Print Set hit 200% of its goal on Day One. These involve the illustrations he produced for Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer.

Not only can you see the drawings of the individual Inklings at the Kickstarter site, several are matched with photos of scholars and fans who visited to the English locations and recreated the authors’ poses, which I found highly amusing.

(11)THE TRICORDER HAS ARRIVED. And in more than one version. The Washington Post’s Karen Heller, in “This ‘Star Trek’-inspired gizmo could win its inventors $9 million”, profiles George, Basil, and Gus Harris, who are hoping to win a prize of up to $9 million from the Qualcomm Foundation for producing the first successful “tricorder”–defined as a hand-held medical device that could detect blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, and nine other conditions.  The rules are that this device has to weigh less than five pounds and can be mass-produced.

… Harris assembled a seven-member team — himself, three of his siblings and three friends — all of whom were managing full-time jobs. They worked nights and weekends in his home outside Philadelphia, crashed after 72-hour engineering marathons, churned out prototype after prototype on three 3-D printers in Harris’s jumble of an office, each plastic part taking up to 24 hours to fabricate and with his three children, ages 11 to 15, often overseeing sanding and wiring.

The XPrize field began with 312 teams from 38 countries.

Now, improbably, Harris’s group is one of two finalists for the $9 million prize. The winner is scheduled to be announced April 12.

Harris’s competition is Dynamical Biomarkers Group, as formidable as its name: a group of 50 physicians, scientists and programmers, many of them paid for their work, led by Harvard Medical School professor C.K. Peng, a physicist with a 29-page résumé, and backed by the Taiwanese cellphone leviathan HTC and the Taiwanese government.

So, this is basically a Basil and Goliath story….

 

Brothers George, Basil and Gus Harris examine prop tricorders from the Star Trek series. (Courtesy of XPRIZE)

(12) LUCAS INCREASES SCHOLARSHIPS. Liz Calvario on Deadline.com, in a piece called “George Lucas Family Foundation Donates An Additional $10M to USC in Support of Student Diversity”, reports that the George Lucas Family Fund has donated $10 million to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for scholarships for African-American and Hispanic students.

The George Lucas Family Foundation has donated an additional $10 million to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, expanding its support of student diversity, announced Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. The new endowment raises the Foundation’s total donation to $20 million.

Established in the fall 2016 semester with an initial $10 million, the George Lucas Family Foundation Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity was created for students from underrepresented communities who qualify for financial support. African American and Hispanic students in both undergraduate and graduate programs receive priority consideration for support from the Fund. Students are known as George Lucas Scholars or Mellody Hobson Scholars….

(13) IT MUST GO OFF. The File 770 comments section yielded an item for the Wordspy newsletter.

WORD OF THE WEEK

Chekhov’s lesbian n. The principle that every reference to a minority in a fictional story must be relevant and irreplaceable. [This is a play on “Chekhov’s gun,” the Russian short-story writer’s famous dictum that memorable story elements should also be necessary and relevant (see this week’s Quote, Words, Unquote).]

Okay, let’s codify it — Chekhov’s Lesbian: if a character in fiction is portrayed as a member of a minority group, that character’s minority status must become a relevant plot point before the end of the story. (Term used sarcastically.) —Darren Garrison, “Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men” (comment), File 770, May 20, 2016

 (14) SHORT NOTE TO L.D. COLTER. The Michael Glyer who’s on Twitter is not me. I don’t have a Twitter account because occasionally I’d fly off the handle and tweet something dumb and there it would be for the rest of time. The other Michael Glyer doesn’t appear to have that problem. So there could be worse things than me being mistaken for him.

(15) LOVECRAFT IN NEW MEXICO. As the locals say, it’s not new, and it’s not Mexico, H.P. Lovecraft of Ask Lovecraft visited George R.R. Martin in Santa Fe and recorded a couple segments of his vlog, which can be viewed at the link.

Seeing HPL at Meow Wolf was especially fun, since there are a couple of… ahem… decidedly Lovecraftian touches to be found in the House of Eternal Return.

If you ever get a chance to see Leeman Kessler perform as HPL, do catch him. It’s the next best thing to a shuggoth on your doorstep.

(16) MARTIAN ODDITIES. FiveThirtyEight does both a statistical analysis and a historical survey of Mars in the annals of pop culture — “This Is Why We Love Stories About Mars”.

Movies about aliens are getting more popular. Movies about Martians peaked a while ago.

…But multiculturalism was only part of the era’s Mars story. The 1950s and ’60s saw Martians firmly established on television as belligerent invaders. Marvin the Martian was introduced to give Bugs Bunny a worthy foe hell-bent on destroying Earth.3

There is something poetic about Marvin being the referee in “Space Jam” in the game between the Tunes and the Aliens. After all, he’s a creature of both worlds.

A 1960 episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “People Are Alike All Over” featured a Martian society that was just as indifferent and cruel as humans on Earth. The episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” played into the anyone-could-be-the-enemy-spy fears of the early 1960s, with invaders posing as humans to begin their infiltration.

In comic books, Martians are — with one notable exception — the baddies. Martians who show up in a Marvel comic are sure to be villains. Sometimes they’re Nazis dressed up as Martians to scare New York. Either way, these comics are stories about external threats made real, conquerors, spies, warlords and assorted monsters of the week. In DC Comics, the White Martians are boilerplate invader types, as are Yellow Martians and the original Burning Martians. Only the Green Martians, of which there remains one — the Martian Manhunter — aren’t out for Earthling blood, despite their ridiculous power.

In the contemporary era, humans dealing with Martians are occupiers, not collaborators. It rarely goes well….

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, DMS, rcade, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #8

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three

Best Series (Special Category)

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).

Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.

Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.

With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.

This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.

 

Best Novel

Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.

On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.

As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.

Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.

Best Novel

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.

Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).

His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.

Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.

 

 

Best Novel

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.

All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.

Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.

Best Novel

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.

Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.

Just consider the opening paragraph:

As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.

The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.

As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.

And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!