Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/17 Scroll White And The Seven Pixels

(1) BORN ON THE SEVENTH OF JULY. In “Spinning a high-tech web”, the LA Times provides an elaborate, photo-illustrated preview of Tony Stark’s upgrade to the new Spider-Man suit that will be seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due in theaters July 7.

(2) FILK HALL OF FAME. The 2017 inductees to the Filk Halll of Fame were announced at FilkOntario this weekend:

(3) FAHRENHEIT 451 TO SMALL SCREEN? The Bradbury novel is on the road to development once more. “HBO to Adapt Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan”  — BookRiot has the story.

Now, HBO is “moving toward a production commitment” (via Variety) on a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, Fantastic Four) as the protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.

The film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes, At Any Price), who is co-writing with Amir Naderi (99 Homes, The Runner). David Coatsworth (production manager on Underworld: Evolution, Ender’s Game, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) will serve as producer.

(4) THEY’RE HUUGE! “Black Holes Are Bigger Than You Thought” accuses Yahoo! News. (Just how big did you think they were? How did Yahoo! News find out?)

Now meet S5 0014+81.

It’s the largest black hole ever discovered and is heavier than our Sun by 40 billion times (40, 000, 000, 000) in the last observation.

If you plug in the equation above, you’ll find that this black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about… 119 billion kilometers, along with a said diameter of about 236,39 billion km.

(5) THE TOUGHEST AROUND. Let Den of Geek point you at “17 really difficult LEGO sets”.

The Tower Of Orthanc

It may look simple enough on the box, but The Lord Of The Rings’ Tower Of Orthanc is actually a real tough cookie. Because most of its 2,359 pieces are jet black and slim, working out which bit goes where is the stuff of nightmares (in, um, a good way). The Treebeard that comes with it will make the struggle worth it… honest.

Buy The Tower Of Orthanc now for £348.07.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

  • April 23 — World Book and Copyright Day

Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(7) DID YOU KNOW? Last year the International Costumers’ Guild participated in a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, and others, asking the Court to protect the rights of clothing designers and costumers to freely practice their craft.

(8) AT HOME. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Netflix will invest billions to shoot its original content in California”:

Netflix is betting that filming closer to home will produce better content. In 2015, the streaming giant has announced that it would be doubling its output of original content, and it is aiming to have original productions make up half of its of its streaming catalog in the coming years. The goal is to entice users to come to the service by providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, but that goal is proving to be a strain on the existing film studio infrastructure. To cope, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would be investing $6 billion to expand infrastructure in California, rather than chase tax incentives offered by states.

Sarandos explained to The Wrap that the company determined that going after the incentives leads to diminishing returns when it comes to their final products. Filming out of state is hard on the actors and crew of a project, and the move will help bring projects back home to California. That could prove to be costly for the company, even as California has increased its own tax incentive program in recent years. While remaining in the state will likely cost Netflix more, Sarandos seems to think that the extra cost will be worth spending.

(9) SQUEAK UP. YouTube’s TheBackyardScientist set up 10 megaphones end-to-end to see how loud a noise he could make.

The video, posted to YouTube by TheBackyardScientist, features Kevin Kohler explaining he was inspired by Bart Simpson‘s prank in the season 8 Simpsons episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson to place 10 megaphones end-to-end and test the results.

Bart’s experiment led to a shock wave that shattered all of the windows in town — as well as Homer’s fridge full of beer — but Kohler quickly ran into a problem Bart didn’t face: a feedback loop.

 

(10) BITE ON. The number of people who give their smartphones to dogs as chew toys is probably smaller than the number of men who have walked on the moon, but for them — “There’s an anti-dog label inside the Galaxy S8 — here’s what it means”. Let The Verge explain it to you.

Basically, you don’t want Fido in a situation where a battery could hiss and explode in its mouth. It’s obviously possible that a child could bite through the battery as well, but the likelihood of him / her piercing through the battery is lower.

(11) ARTIFICIAL DOG INTELLIGENCE. Amazing. How is it mine doesn’t do that?

(12) FIX THE SLATING PROBLEM FOREVER. That’s what Greg Hullender would like to do. At Rocket Stack Rank he summarizes his views about the effectiveness of 3SV, EPH(+) and their combination. He says, “I  think it makes it really clear that we need both 3SV and either EPH or EPH+. Otherwise, even small slates (100 to 200 people) will be able to control a significant amount of the final ballot, including adding embarrassing nominees.”

For each year, we produced two theoretical maximum graphs. A “finalist graph,” which shows what percentage of finalists a slate could have captured for a given number of slate voters, and a “sweeps” graph, which shows what percentage of entire categories a slate could have captured.

Looking at those four pairs of graphs (2.1-2.4 below), we will draw the following conclusions;

  • Std (5/6) by itself is far too weak.
  • EPH doesn’t protect enough finalists, but it is excellent at preventing sweeps.
  • EPH+ is an improvement on EPH, but it’s still not enough by itself.
  • 3SV is much stronger for protecting finalists, especially for modest numbers of slate voters, but it’s vulnerable to sweeps, and it breaks down for slates above about 300 people.
  • The 3SV/EPH and 3SV/EPH+ combinations are far, far stronger than either component alone. Either combination is probably sufficient, but the second one is stronger.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Business Meeting should ratify both EPH+ and 3SV. That should protect the Hugos from slating interference for the nonce.

(13) DREAM CASTING. Enjoy “Miles To Go” hosted at Archive of Our Own. Note – Password = Vorkosigan (as it says at the post).

There once was a man who dreamt of the stars…

A fanvid based on the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

…Obviously, it’s not so easy to make a feast for a fandom with no existing visual source. But where there’s a will, or in my case an enormous and driving folly, there’s a way. It was always going to be an ensemble vid, with Miles as the star, but the question was how to cast it. I did eventually solve that problem, and I won’t discuss my solution in detail here because… spoilers.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Robin Reid, JJ, Doctor Science, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/1/17 Old Man Pixel, He Just Keeps Scrollin’ Along

(1) HELSINKI NEWS. Worldcon 75 is holding an Academic Poster competition and would very much like participation from as many university students and researchers as possible.

We are hosting a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) poster competition for undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. The competition is also open to posters that explore the connections between STEMM subjects and SF/fantasy/horror. There will be a €100 prize for the poster that best communicates research to the general public.

Presenters will be able to share their research with an audience that is very interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, but where many audience members will not have been formally educated in STEMM subjects. In addition, presenters will be invited to give five minute mini-talks on Saturday 12th August 2017 explaining their research. Taken together, the posters and mini-talks represent an exciting opportunity for the presenters to practice research communication, and for audience to learn about cutting-edge research.

If you are interested in displaying a poster then fill in our web form below or follow this direct link to the form.

The deadline for applications is 1st May 2017 and we will inform you of our decision by mid-June.

(2) DREAM FULFILLED. Phil Kaveny, who I know from the Mythopoeic Society, announced the script for his play “The Munitions Factory” is available from Amazon Kindle.  He calls it “My project of a lifetime.”

The Munitions Factory is a play about love, money, revolution, and the military industrial complex. Set in Imperial Germany in 1917 during the worst winter in German history, The Munitions Factory is really about our world in the 21st century. It is a hard driving play that will jar you out of your complacency, and it is also a compelling love story about characters who walk the razor’s edge between desperate love and repulsion that is common in wartime.

(3) DOWN TO THE WIRE. In comments Jonathan Edelstein pointed out that “a team headed by the heroic Jake Kerr is putting together a 2017 Campbell-eligible anthology.”

The submission form is here for any Campbell-eligible authors (first pro publication in 2015 or 2016) who want to submit a sample of last year’s work.

(4) ODDS FAVOR THE HOUSE. The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance opened voting today for the CLFA Book of the Year Awards.

CLFA an online group of readers, authors and other creative individuals who want to see more freedom-friendly storytelling in the marketplace. We provide our members with networking opportunities as well as a safe, friendly and open environment for both political and creative discussions. We are currently at over 1300 members strong, with new participants joining us on a daily basis….

CLFA Book of the Year Awards, now in their third year, seek to recognize the best in freedom-friendly fiction. To qualify for entry in the CLFA 2017 Book of the Year contest, the work has to be over 50k words and first published in any form in 2016. Our members voted to arrive at the Top 10 list, which is now open to the public for the final vote.

Voting is open until midnight on March 31, 2017. Winners to be announced in April 2017. Voting happens here.

The finalists are:

  • Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright
  • Discovery by Karina Fabian
  • Set to Kill by Declan Finn
  • By the Hands of Men, Book Three: The Wrath of a Righteous Man by Roy M. Griffis
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
  • Domino by Kia Heavey
  • Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by John Ringo
  • Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
  • Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant

At the moment Peter Grant’s novel from Castalia House is leaving the field behind. He’s got 50 votes to 25 votes for John C. Wright’s novel (also from Castalia House). Last year’s Dragon Award-winning Souldancer by Brian Niemeier has one vote so far.

(5) INJUSTICE. Australia writer Tom Taylor, of Injustice Gods Among Us and Injustice 2 comics, told his Facebook readers he won’t be at Emerald City Comic Con this week and or other U.S. events.

Sadly, I won’t be attending Emerald City Comicon in Seattle this week.

I have also turned down all other US signing and convention invitations so far this year.

I know I’m far from the only person concerned about traveling to the States at this time, but I wanted to explain my decision.

I want to start by saying this decision was incredibly difficult. I was really looking forward to this trip. I have traveled to the US regularly since 2009. This year, I have four different books with three different publishers, and a TV series to promote. Beyond this, I have fans and colleagues I was looking forward to meeting. I also have many good friends in the States, and I was looking forward to catching up with all of them. Truth be told, I’m missing them.

But America, through no fault of most of its citizens, doesn’t feel like a safe or welcoming travel destination at this moment.

There have been reports of interrogation, phone data downloads, requests for social media accounts, returns and five-year travel bans and everyone from children to the elderly being detained. All of this has many people I’ve spoken to reconsidering or cancelling their US travel plans.

I’ve had friends and people I work with suggest I leave my phone at home, or delete my twitter account for a month before I come.

I refuse those terms.

My twitter account isn’t complimentary towards the current administration, but it’s far from inflammatory and shouldn’t need to be scrutinized to gain entry to a country where free-speech is so highly valued.

Traveling fifteen hours on a plane is bad enough. Travelling towards uncertainty, half-worried about being caught in limbo by overzealous border security, with my wife and children wondering why I haven’t called, is nightmare fuel…..

(Via Comicsbeat.)

(6) PENRIC SEQUEL. Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest novella Mira’s Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona Book 4) is out.

(7) VOTE FOR PAUL WEIMER. Ten days ‘til Down Under Fan Fund voting closes. The deadline is midnight, March 10 (PST). Our Paul Weimer is the only candidate for the trip to the Australian National Convention, but the contribution of $5 or more accompanying your vote will help keep the fund going during and after Paul’s trip. Click here to get started.

CANDIDATE PLATFORM

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

(8) GLOWING REVIEWS. Jason continues to burn the midnight oil and has melted down another month of online science fiction and fantasy offerings into a shiny list of favorite stories in “Summation of Online Fiction: February 2017” at Featured Futures.

Thirteen February pro-rate webzines (the same as last month’s list except that a new bimonthly issue of Compelling replaced the defunct Fantastic) produced forty-three stories of 196,912 words. I most appreciated six (amounting to 14% of the whole)…

(9) SMALL WORLD, BIG NEWS. ChiZine Publications has cut an illustrated book deal with George A. Romero, creator of The Night of the Living Dead. They have acquired The Little World of Humongo Bongo, an illustrated book, originally published in French.

The Little World of Humongo Bongo is the tale of fire-breathing giant Humongo Bongo, who lives on the tiny planet of Tongo. Gentle and curious, his world is thrown upside down when he encounters a race of tiny people named the Minus, who initially worship him as a God but then turn on him when they succumb to fear, greed and the lust for power….

The Little World of Humongo Bongo will be published in Fall/Winter 2017, in association with Dave Alexander’s Untold Horror, a multi-media brand dedicated to exploring the greatest horror stories never told.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 1, 1692 — The Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts with the conviction of West Indian slave, Tituba, for witchcraft.

(11) CALLING ALL SMOFS. Kevin Standlee shared the news that as of yesterday there was still no bid for the 2019 Westercon, to be selected this July in Tempe.

Any site in Western North America (or Hawaii) is eligible. (Nobody filed by the end of December 2016, so the exclusion zone is suspended.) The filing deadline for the ballot is April 15, 2017. If no bid files by then, site selection won’t have any bids on the ballot, and I probably will have to ask Tempe for a larger room and longer time slot for the Westercon Business Meeting.

So here’s your chance to host a Westercon!

The bidding requirements are in the Westercon Bylaws, Article 3. The bylaws are on the Westercon web site at http://www.westercon.org/organization/business/

It’s approximately the same as Worldcon, with minor differences. The outline is the same: file bidding papers, and if the voters at the administering Westercon select you, you get the bid. If nobody wins, the Business Meeting decides.

(12) SLCC UPDATE. Here’s Bryan Brandenburg of the Salt Lake Comic Con appearing before the Utah Legislature (to the right of the flag). In his address, Bryan emphasized that their intent is to fill the void and not replace the other commercial events.

(13) ROBOMALLCOP. Francis Hamit is sufficiently impressed with the company that he bought some stock. “I thought this might be of interest. Securitas is the largest provider of contract human security officers in the world. Knightscope is a new company with a unique robotic system that does not replace human officers but does greatly extend their range.” And they have some good news.

Knightscope, developer of advanced physical security technologies focused on significantly enhancing US security operations, and Securitas AB (SECU-B.ST), the world’s second largest private security company, announced today that the parties are extending their channel partner agreement through February 2020. The agreement gives Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Securitas, rights to offer Knightscope’s technologies to its significant existing customer base, while Knightscope continues to develop new technologies and provide operational support.

Hamit adds:

Any resemblance to the Daleks is strictly coincidental. I am sure.

(14) UNDERSTANDING FUTURISM. New from McFarland, Science Fiction and Futurism: Their Terms and Ideas by Ace G. Pilkington.

Science and science fiction have become inseparable—with common stories, interconnected thought experiments, and shared language. This reference book lays out that relationship and its all-but-magical terms and ideas. Those who think seriously about the future are changing the world, reshaping how we speak and how we think.

This book fully covers the terms that collected, clarified and crystallized the futurists’ ideas, sometimes showing them off, sometimes slowing them down, and sometimes propelling them to fame and making them the common currency of our culture.

The many entries in this encyclopedic work offer a guided tour of the vast territories occupied by science fiction and futurism.

Beware, it will help multiply the number of books on your TBR pile. In his Foreword, David Brin says, “Provocative and enticing? Filled with ‘huh!’ moments and leads to great stories? That describes this volume.”

(15) RING THAT BELLE. John Ostrander talks about The Other in “The Face in the Mirror” at ComicMix.

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featured an article about and interview with Emma Watson, playing Belle in the upcoming live-action Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. She may be best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films. In addition to being very talented, Ms. Watson is also very smart and very articulate. As the article notes, she has also been a leader in feminist causes.

In the article, she’s asked why it is hard for some male fans to enjoy a female hero. (Witness the fanboy furor at the all-female remake of Ghostbusters and the female leads in the last two Star Wars films.) She replied: “It’s something they [some male fans] are not used to and they don’t like that. I think if you’ve been used to watching characters that look like, sound like, think like you and then you see someone [unexpected] up on the screen, you go ‘Well, that’s a girl; she doesn’t look like me. I want it to look like me so that I can project myself onto the character.’. . .for some reason there’s some kind of barrier there where [men] are like: ‘I don’t want to relate to a girl.’”

That sounds right to me. We’ve seen that attitude prevalent not only in movie fans but comic fans as well. There’s a wish fulfillment, a fantasy fulfillment, in comics and comics-related TV and movies, in fantasy as well and we want to be able to easily project ourselves into that. For some male fans, a woman doesn’t cut it. The bias also can extend to seeing someone of a different race as the hero. I think it’s certainly true about sexual identity as well. To appeal to a certain demographic, the hero, the lead, cannot be female, or black, or gay. And heaven forbid they should be all three; tiny minds might explode….

Are you Arab? Do you wear a turban? Are you black? Are you gay? Are you female? Then you are not like me, you are “Other.” And that is inherently dangerous. We cannot be equal. It comes down to “zero-sum thinking” which says that there is only so many rights, so much love, so much power to be had. If I have more of any of these than you, I must lose some for you to gain.

Some of the people feel they don’t have much. I remember a line from Giradoux’s one-act play The Apollo of Bellac: “I need so much and I have so little and I must protect myself.” Sharing is not gaining; sharing is losing what little you may have.

Except it’s not. If for you to keep your power intact, you must deny someone else the power to which they have a right, it’s not really your power. It’s theirs and it’s been stolen.

Pop culture has its part to play. Putting women, blacks, gays, Latinos, and others in the central role helps normalize the notion of equality. Mary Tyler Moore did it; Bill Cosby (gawd help me) did it, Rogue One does it. However, pop culture can – and has – also re-enforced negative stereotypes. So – how do we engage it for more positive results?

Denny O’Neil, many years ago, when he was editing a special project I was working on told me, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” That’s your ticket in. “Tell me a story” appeals to the very roots of who we are as human beings. It’s how we explain and codify our world. If you want to open a closed mind, go through the heart. Don’t lecture; engage. Show, don’t tell. Showing women, blacks, LGBTQ, Latinos, Asians, and so on as heroes, as something positive, normalizes the notion. If I can be made to identify with them then The Other is no longer strange; they are me and, thus, not other.

(16) BRADBURY ASSOCIATIONAL ITEM. I’d tell you to start shaking the change out of your piggy bank except that will only work if you filled it with gold sovereigns. Still available on eBay, Ray Bradbury-owned oil painting by Raymond Bayless. Price: $15,000.

Ray Bradbury personally owned Raymond Bayless painting, titled, “War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells”. Art depicts the famous naval battle from the story between a martian “Tripod” weapon and English ironclad, the HMS Thunder Child. Cityscape along the horizon is on fire, and the ship also goes up in flames with a cloud of black smoke, the martian chemical weapon, rising from it. Painting features a color palette of predominantly light blues and greys, accented in orange, black and white. Signed, “Raymond Bayless 91,” at lower left. A sticker on verso is also signed by the artist. Oil on Masonite painting is framed to an overall size of 18.75″ x 24.75″. Near fine. With a COA from the Bradbury Estate.

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, JJ, Jonathan Edelstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/17 Scroll ‘Em Danno

(1) SOMETHING IN THE AIR. Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer interviews Lois McMaster Bujold at Tor.com: “Fanzines, Cover Art, and the Best Vorkosigan Planet: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold”. Everyone will have a favorite section – here’s mine.

ECM: You published a Star Trek fanzine in the 1960s, while the series was still on the air. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, so I can’t resist asking you about it. What was it like to be a fan writer in the 1960s?

LMB: It was a lonelier enterprise back then than it is now. I go into it a little in this recent interview.

Other than that, I expect it was like being a newbie writer at any time, all those pictures and feelings churning around in one’s head and latching on to whatever models one could find to try to figure out how to get them down on a page. Besides the professional fiction I was reading, my models included Devra Langsam’s very early ST fanzine Spockanalia, and Columbus, Ohio fan John Ayotte’s general zine Kallikanzaros. It was John who guided Lillian and me through the mechanics of producing a zine, everything from how to type stencils (ah, the smell of Corflu in the morning! and afternoon, and late into the night), where to go to get electrostencils produced, how to run off and collate the pages—John lent us the use of his mimeograph machine in his parents’ basement. (And I just now had to look up the name of that technology on the internet—I had forgotten and all I could think of was “ditto”, a predecessor which had a different smell entirely.)

Fan writing, at the time, was assumed to be writing more about SF and fandom, what people would use blogs to do today, than writing fanfiction. So an all-fiction zine seemed a novelty to some of our fellow fans in Columbus.

John Ayotte! There’s someone I haven’t heard of since I was a young fan.

(2) A GR8 NAME. It’s only fitting that the official Star Wars site be the ones who tell us: “The Official Title for Star Wars: Episode VIII Revealed”.

THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

Last Jedi poster

(3) BUMPER CROP. The Razzie czars, explaining the extra nominees this year, said, “The crop of cinematic crap in 2016 was so extensive that this year’s 37th Annual Razzie Awards is expanding from 5 nominees to an unprecedented 6 contenders in each of its 9 Worst Achievement in Film categories.” Genre films stank up the shortlist, for example —

WORST PICTURE

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Gods of Egypt
  • Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTOR

  • Ben Affleck / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Gerard Butler / Gods of Egypt & London Has Fallen
  • Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Robert  de Niro / Dirty Grandpa
  • Dinesh D’Souza [as Himself] Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Ben Stiller / Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTRESS

  • Megan Fox / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Tyler Perry / BOO! A Medea Halloween
  • Julia Roberts / Mother’s Day
  • Becky Turner [as Hillary Clinton]  Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Naomi Watts / Divergent Series: Allegiant & Shut-In
  • Shailene Woodley / Divergent Series: Allegiant

The “winners” will be announced February 25, the day before the Academy Awards.

(4) CLARKE ESTATE SUES. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the works recast as a “study guide” for elementary school readers. Publishers Weekly has the story: “PRH, S&S Sue Moppet Books’ KinderGuides for Infringement”.

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster have joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and Arthur C. Clarke to file a lawsuit against Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement.

Filed January 19 in the Southern District of New York, the suit alleges that Moppet Books’ KinderGuides, a line of illustrated children’s adaptations that feature versions of The Old Man and the Sea, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Road, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, with “willful copyright infringement of four acclaimed copyrighted classic novels.” The suit notes that PW wrote about the launch of the KinderGuides in August 2016.

The suit charges that the KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

(5) ’69 IS DEVINE. Martin Morse Wooster uncovered a hidden gem. “That Nature profile of Sir Arthur C. Clarke linked to a 1969 New Yorker profile of Clarke by Jeremy Bernstein that  I haven’t seen before. (The New Yorker has been putting some of its older pieces online.) It’s called ‘Out of the Ego Chamber’ and is well worth breaking the paywall for. You learn how Clarke’s experiences in fandom in the 1930s and 1940s informed his fiction, how he wrote many books about the sea even though he never really learned to swim, and how a 16-year old doofus asked Clarke in 1968 to write a scenario for a short film for free in the hopes he would be paid back when the doofus ‘became famous.’”

However, it is only in the last few years—especially since he and Stanley Kubrick wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”—that he has become widely known to the general public. He became even more widely known, of course, during the recent flight to the moon, when he served as one of the commentators assisting Walter Cronkite in his coverage of the event for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Cronkite has been a Clarke fan for many years, and Clarke has done a number of television broadcasts with him, beginning as far back as 1953. In following the Apollo 11 flight, Clarke made some dozen appearances. During an early one, Cronkite asked him if he would mind explaining the ending of “2001,” and Clarke answered that he didn’t think there was enough time—then or later. He went to Cape Kennedy with the C.B.S. team, and at the moment of the launch, as he told a friend on his return, he, like everyone around him, burst into tears. “I hadn’t cried for twenty years,” he said. “Right afterward, I happened to run into Eric Sevareid, and he was crying, too.” After the launch, Clarke returned with the rest of the C.B.S. crew to New York and spent most of the next several days in and out of the C.B.S. studios, watching the flight and, from time to time, going on camera. The actual landing on the moon was, in many ways, the fulfillment of a life’s dreaming and prophesying. “For me, it was as if time had stopped,” he said later.

(6) 2001 ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Sci-Fi writer-director-producer Marc Zicree went to Stan Lee’s Comikaze Convention for his Space Command panel and ran into 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea, who shared a scene cut from the film — and re-enacted it!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 23, 1957 — Machines at the Wham-O toy company roll out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 23, 1923 – Walter Miller, Jr., author of A Canticle for Leibowitz.
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, animation writer, and early leader of the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

(9) BELATED BARBARIAN BIRTHDAY

  • Born January 22, 1906 – Robert E. Howard

(10) THEATER OF THE IMAGINATION. Turner Classic Radio hosts vast quantities of Golden Age shows, which evidently are free to listen to. Includes lots of superheroes (Superman, The Green Hornet) and suspense (Suspense, what else?).

(11) SEVENEVES? Mental Floss compiled a list of “86 Books Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency”, including the Harry Potter series, Seveneves, and The Three-Body Problem.

(12) SIGNERS OF THE TIMES. The Change.org petition to “Repeal California Assembly Bill 1570” (the new law about sale of autographed items) now has 1,612 signatures.

Nearly everyone in California is impacted by AB 1570, California’s new autograph bill, because it affects everyone with a signed item in their possession, whether it’s a painting passed down through generations, an autographed baseball, or a treasured book obtained at an author’s book signing. Under the new law, when a California consumer sells an autographed item worth $5 or more, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity. This requirement applies to anyone reselling the item as authentic, be it a bookseller, auction house, comic book dealer, antiques dealer, autograph dealer, art dealer, an estate sales company, or even a charity.

AB 1570 is fatally flawed and must be repealed with immediate effect. It is rife with unintended consequences that harm both consumers and small businesses. It has been condemned by newspaper editorial boards and the American Civil Liberties Union.

(13) EXPLORE SPACE IN THE DISCOMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME. A BBC reporter speaks of the “lucky” people who have been to ISS, but discovers in just 48 hours that it’s not the least like fun and games: “My unhappy 48 hours as an astronaut”.

Yet, it is not always necessary to travel into space to experience what it is like living as astronauts do. It may come as a surprise to discover on Earth, dozens of people all over the world have spent months, and even over a year, living in specially built confined spaces that mimic life in space. These simulation pods are found in places like China, Hawaii and Russia,  giving researchers the ability to study the effects of long-term isolation and confinement on people in preparation for long-haul space travel.

While we can glean plenty of information from astronauts’ experiences in the ISS and its predecessors, the challenges faced by astronauts will change as space agencies set their sights on the Red Planet. A mission to Mars will mean spending approximately three years in space – six-to-eight months to travel there, several months on the surface, and six-to-eight months to return. The long-term nature of the trip is expected to pose several psychological challenges for those picked to make it

To find out what it might be like, for 48 hours, I tried to live just as astronauts do  – attempting to keep up with the schedule of crewmembers on the ISS. As it turns out, they have a very tightly packed workday. I woke up, drank coffee, ate not-so-great food directly from the bag, worked out, worked and repeated the pattern until the day was done. Oh, and I had to spit into a towel twice a day after brushing my teeth.

(14) NO. 1 SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. Blastr lists “The top 11 composers who have created musical masterpieces for geeky properties”.

  1. Murray Gold

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know the music of Murray Gold. Gold has been the composer for the popular series ever since it returned to television in 2005. Composing for such distinguished Doctors as Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, he’s created some of the best themes and music in the series’ more than 50-year history. His unforgettable work includes “The Doctor’s Theme,” “Doomsday,” “This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home,” and “I Am the Doctor.” His music has made us feel like we’re on other planets, in a different time period, and traveling through time and space in the TARDIS. Gold also created the themes for the spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Notable piece: “A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme)” from Doctor Who

Out of all of Gold’s work, his theme for the current Doctor stands out from the rest. It’s like nothing we’ve heard before in the series and captures Capaldi’s Doctor perfectly, more so I think than a theme has fit any of the previous Doctors. Listening to it, you get a sense of mystery, danger, wonder, adventure and determination. There’s gravity to it as well as playfulness. Gold laces it all together into a complex, catchy piece that makes it hard not to picture everything the Doctor has been through, all he has done and all he will continue to do.

(15) FICKLE FINGERS. Atlas Obscura claims: “One Danger of Flashing the Peace Sign Could Be Stolen Fingerprints”. Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Brunner was right: the future indeed does arrive too soon and in the wrong order.”

Have you ever posed for a photo with your index and middle fingers raised, indicating your desire for world peace? Probably, since the sign has become shorthand for the sentiment after Vietnam War activists popularized it in the 1960s.

But researchers in Japan warned this week that those flashing their exposed fingertips were at risk of fingerprint theft, which in turn could be used for any number of things, like unlocking your iPhone.

Isao Echizen, a researcher at the National Institute of Informatics, said that he and his team were able to lift the fingerprints from someone’s fingers from a photo taken about nine feet away, according to Phys.org.

(16) MAKE AMERICA SMART AGAIN. Owning this shirt will give you an IQ bonus.

Tyson-Nye-Let-Us-Together-Make-America-Smart-Again-600x600

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Steven H Silver, Arnie Fenner, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]

2016 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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


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

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


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

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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


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

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

 

 

 


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

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

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


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

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

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

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

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


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

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

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

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


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

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

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


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricandtheshaman

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

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

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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


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

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

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

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


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

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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

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


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

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

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

Easy.

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


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

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/16 When An Unscrollable Pixel Meets An Irretickable File

(1) THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Dave Langford recalls his experiences at the Milford (UK) writers workshop three decades ago in “Mr Langford’s Milfords”

My Milford attendance record was nothing to write home about, let alone pad out to a six-volume fantasy trilogy.  All “my” Milfords were in the early though not the earliest days at the Compton Hotel, Milford-on-Sea. The Langford era ran from 1977 to 1984, skipping 1979 because that year’s UK Worldcon led to Milford being cancelled, and missing the 1983 event as a personal decision after long and painful study of my credit card statement.

Dave also heartily recommends Christopher Priest’s July post, “The Prequels”:

The misbehaviour of those middle-aged writers at Milford was in fact more or less as described, although I did leave out the bit where one of the most famous writers stormed out in a rage, where two others went for a midnight swim but afterwards couldn’t remember where they’d left their clothes … and when someone suddenly appeared at dinner dressed only in a black plastic bin-liner. No, that was another year.

(2) TYPO IN BRONZE. The Heinlein Society reports a typo was discovered on the dedication plaque of Robert Heinlein’s bust in the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a corrected plaque has now been installed.

(3) CONVERGENCE. Pukeko tries to relate his notions about political reality to Stross’ creation the Laundry Files, and Stross’ own politics, in “The turning is progressing as expected” at Dark Brightness.

The Laundry, on one level, is a horror urban fantasy. On another level, a spy story, And on the third, it has become a satire of the pretensions of the British Civil Service. The British Civil Service still is a good reason to move to than Antipodes.

But there is a tide in the seasons of man, and his neo-liberal political model — which he hates — is becoming one with the Soviet and Tyre. The Luddites he despises are on the flood. And the organisations he writes about, supports, and have his loyalty are converging, which means they are becoming unreliable, without utility, and forked….

Stross and I are of an age. Our youth was the time of Thatcher, Gorbachev, Clinton and brush wars in failing states. Our leaders became neo conservatives, including the converged leftist ones, and broke the social contract of the welfare state. We remember the welfare state. And we remember the Christmas strikes.

But that world has gone, along with the rules that made our society decent, functional, and allowed us to align with those who did not have the same religion, politics or lifestyle. The current social justice cadre instead demand we all double down and quackspeak.

My fear is that Stross will do this. I would much rather he pull the plot off, as he did when he introduced vampirism into the world. He moved too far into the uncanny valley with the last book. I want his cynical, but believable, Bob back. He is too good a writer to quack. And he does not deserve to go down with this death dealing elite.

(4) KEEP THAT RED NOSE UNDER COVER. McDonald’s downplays Ronald McDonald while ‘creepy clown’ sightings spread, reports the Los Angeles Times.

(5) SPACE TOURISM. Carl Slaughter points out —

Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: Vulcan
by Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward

Plan your next trip to the planet Vulcan! Find restaurants that serve the best fried sandworms and Vulcan port. Take a trip to the Fire Plains or experience spring break at the Voroth Sea. Learn all about the native Vulcan people and their unusual customs. Discover how to correctly perform the traditional Vulcan salutation (you really don’t want to get this wrong). Learn key Vulcan phrases such as Nam-tor puyan-tvi-shal wilat: “Where is your restroom?” Find out what to do if you suddenly find yourself host to a katra—a Vulcan’s living spirit—at an inconvenient moment. All this and more can be found within the pages of this essential travel guide to one of the most popular—and logical—destinations in the known universe.

This Hidden Universe travel guide draws on 50 years of Star Trek TV shows, films, and novels to present a comprehensive guide to Spock’s iconic home world. Modeled after real-world travel guides, the book will explore every significant region on Vulcan with fascinating historical, geographical, and cultural insights that bring the planet to life like never before. Also featuring a dynamic mixture of classic Star Trek imagery and original illustrations created exclusively for the book, Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Star Trek: Vulcan is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek and will thrill pop culture fans and hardcore Star Trek fans alike.

(6) HOLD ON TO THE LIGHT. Cat Rambo has posted her contribution to the HoldOnToTheLight campaign, “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Be Kind to Yourself”.

I’ve found that writers excel at angst and guilt, at worrying at 2 am over whether or not they stuck their foot in their mouth (human nature being what it is, the answer is sometimes yes), at being anxious and projecting futures far out of proportion to actuality in their horror.

They’re also tough on themselves, holding themselves to sometimes impossible standards. It involves being willing to forgive yourself and the illness you live with, to not just know yourself but be comfortable with yourself.

(7) IN THE BEGINNING. EverydayFangirl interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold on her early fannish life:

When do you realize you were a Fangirl?

LMB:

Before the term “fangirl” was invented. I started reading science fiction for grownups at about age nine, because my father, an engineering professor, used to buy the magazines and books to read on the plane when he went on consulting trips, and they fell to me. Got my first subscription to Analog Magazine at age 13. So when Star Trek came along in 1966, when I was in high school, the seed fell on already-fertile ground; it was an addition, not a revelation. At last, SF on TV that was almost as good as what I was reading, a miracle! I would have just called myself a fan then, or a reader, ungendered terms I note.

In my entire high school of 1,800 students, there was only one other genre reader I knew of (later we expanded to 4 or 6), my best friend Lillian, and she only because we traded interests; I got history from her, she got F&SF from me. So there was no one to be fans with, for the first while.

(8) GHOST OF HALLOWEENS PAST. The Los Angeles Times invites readers to “See what’s killing haunted houses and other independent Halloween attractions”

For every success like Carbone’s, there are several mom-and-pop haunted attractions that have been killed off by mounting insurance and other expenses, as well as extensive government regulations…

“It’s getting so expensive that unless you have $100,000 to put into it and $30,000 into the marketing, you are not going to make it,” said Jeff Schiefelbein, chief executive of Sinister Pointe Productions, and Orange County company that builds haunted attractions for theme parks and individual entrepreneurs.

(9) KAIJU IN THEATERS THIS WEEK. Shin Godzilla, the latest addition to the mythos, is having a limited theatrical run with subtitles right now in the US and Canada.

Make way for the ultimate homage to one of the most enduring legends of the big screen—Godzilla! The King of the Monsters is back in Tokyo for a city-crushing crusade that speaks to the very roots of the world-renowned franchise.

It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. As the government scrambles to save the citizens, a rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.

(10) UNDERRATING INDIES. Amanda S. Green gives a Passive Voice columnist a stern talking to about his short-selling indie authors in “Oh my, are they protesting too much” at Mad Genius Club.

Yesterday, when I started looking for something to blog about, I made my way over to The Passive Voice. TPV is an excellent source of information for every author out there, traditionally published or indie. One post in particular caught my eye. It asks the question we have heard asked so many times over the last few years: Are self-published books inferior to professionally published books?

Now, without even reading the article, I knew I wasn’t going to like the post TPV had linked to. The title of the article itself shows a bias, not by TPV but by the author of the article TPV linked to. It assumes that self-published books, what we call indies, aren’t professionally published. Take that one step further. By phrasing the headline the way it did, the author of the article signals from the beginning that indies aren’t as professional or as good as traditionally published books. Otherwise, why not rephrase the title of the article as “are self-published books inferior to traditionally published books?”

So, without even reading the underlying article, my back is up. I can’t speak for anyone except myself but I am a professional writer. I make money from writing, enough to pay my bills. I simply chose not to take the traditional publishing route. That does not make me any less of a professional than any other writer who has chosen to try to find an agent, get a contract and publish with one of the Big 5 publishers.

(11) ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING. Jim C. Hines adds his observations about the Weingart/Worldcon 75 controversy.

The Beale Effect: I’m bemused at how effectively Theodore Beale managed to unite Worldcon and Weingart, both of whom came together as if to say, “Oh hell no. F**k that guy.” As soon as Beale jumped in, Weingart pulled his posts, Worldcon called Weingart to apologize, then posted their public apology. It pretty much ended the public dispute right there.

Tuesday-Afternoon Quarterbacking: I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. But as I understand it, Weingart notified the staff from the beginning that the other individual had set boundaries about not wanting to interact or work with him. Bringing Weingart on but restricting his interactions seems like a solution destined to cause problems. If this other individual was already working for the con, my hindsight solution would be to simply not bring Weingart on staff. Yeah, it might mean losing a good volunteer in Weingart, but it would have more effectively respected the other individual’s boundaries, and would have avoided the mess that eventually followed.

(12) PLUTO’S NEW PAL ISN’T GOOFY. The discovery-by-software of another dwarf planet: “A Friend For Pluto: Astronomers Find New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System”.

Scientists in Michigan have found a new dwarf planet in our solar system.

It’s about 330 miles across and some 8.5 billion miles from the sun. It takes 1,100 years to complete one orbit.

But one of the most interesting things about the new object, known for the time being as 2014 UZ224, is the way astronomers found it.

David Gerdes of the University of Michigan led the team that found the new dwarf planet. Gerdes describes himself as “an adult-onset astronomer,” having started his scientific career as a particle physicist.

He helped develop a special camera called the Dark Energy Camera that the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned to make a map of distant galaxies.

A few years ago, Gerdes had some undergraduates visiting him for the summer. He decided to give them a project: He asked them if they could find some solar system objects lurking in the galaxy map.

Chip Hitchcock joked, “Clyde Tombaugh is spinning in his grave and grumbling ‘You punks don’t know how easy you have it these days!’”

(13) X MARKS THE SPOTS. “Why Are There X’s In The Desert?” In the first place, you probably never knew there were. But for the high-tech answer, you need to search back to the Cold War.

We step out in the searing heat and into a desolate landscape — just cactus and tumbleweed.

“Middle of nowhere,” Penson says.

We walk toward the base of a small mountain range, and that’s when we see it: four 25-foot slabs of concrete inlaid in the desert floor that form a giant “X.”

Penson kneels down to brush off the sand covering a tarnished brass plate at the very center. The engraving reads: “$250 fine or imprisonment for disturbing this marker — Corps of Engineers – U.S. Army.”

That’s who Penson and Owen contacted to get their answer.

These X’s were once part of a top-secret government program called CORONA — the nation’s first reconnaissance satellite program.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Heather Rose Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/16 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right to Be Free

(1) LEARNING SPACE. Steve Davidson has a fine interview with Jim C. Hines about the Launch Pad Academy Workshop.

Steve Davidson for Amazing Stories Magazine: How did you hear about the Launch Pad Workshop?

Jim C. Hines: I heard about it years ago online — I think it might have been the Speculations writing boards, back when it was still active. At the time, I didn’t feel qualified to apply, in part because I was only writing fantasy.

But I kept an eye on how it was going from year to year, as well as the comments and reports from other attendees.

ASM:  Was it a program you always wanted to participate in or was your interest piqued when you learned about it?

JCH: I’ve been interested in attending ever since I heard about the program, but there was the combination of needing to be able to leave for a week without causing difficulties with work or at home, and having a project where I thought the knowledge would be useful. This year, I’ve started working on my first SF trilogy, and I’d quit my day job last fall, so the timing was perfect.

ASM: How would you describe your familiarity with astronomy, cosmology, etc., prior to attending?

JCH: I think I had some basic foundational knowledge, but most of it wasn’t anything I’d studied in depth. I knew enough to answer most of my kids’ basic questions about space, which astronomical bodies orbit one another, how the seasons work, and so on. And I’d read Douglas Adams, so I knew space was big. Really big.

(2) WOMEN IN SF, 1961. At Galactic Journey, in “[June 28, 1961] The Second Sex in SFF, Part IV”, The Traveler issues an invitation to increase our history of the genre:

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF.

The six are Kit Reed, Jane Dixon Rice, Jane Roberts (the only woman invited for the first science-fiction writers conference in Milford, PA – I didn’t know that), Joanna Russ, Evelyn Smith, and Margaret St. Clair.

(3) YOUR HOUSE IN NORTH AMERICA. At Tor.com, Emily Asher-Perrin has scouted Pottermore for the latest additions: “Get Sorted Into Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts!”

A ton of new information on the North American magic school, Ilvermorny, was just dropped onto Pottermore. But that’s not all! You can now get Sorted into the various Houses (if you have a Pottermore account, so sign on up).

As a reminder, the four Ilvermorny Houses are Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird! Here is where you go for the Sorting, provided you have a Pottermore account. (I got Horned Serpent, which seems to be the brainy house? Not what I expected.) These Houses don’t break down quite the same way the Hogwarts ones do; instead, they are associated as follows….

 

(4) HOLD THAT TIGER. Lisa Goldstein reviews another Hugo nominee at inferior4 + 1 “Short Story: ‘Seven Kill Tiger’”.

This review contains spoilers.

“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao is a disturbing story, but maybe not for the reasons the author thinks.  We start with a deeply unpleasant main character, Zhang Zedong, a company man sent from China to Zambia who needs to improve his production numbers and who is prone to thinking things like “Africa would be a glorious place were it not for the Africans.”  “What he needed was more Han people,” he thinks, and the solution he comes up with is to wipe out the native population of Africa using genetic warfare.

(5) BEST FANCAST. Joe Sherry is “Listening to the Hugos: Fancast” for Nerds of a Feather.

Admission of Bias Time: The longer the podcast, the less interested I am in listening to it. 30 minutes is my sweet spot, I’m comfortable up to an hour, and the farther a podcast goes past an hour the less interested I become, even when the topic and conversation is interesting. Most of the episodes of 8-4 Play run over 90 minutes, with a not insignificant number running over 120 minutes.

8-4 Play did not include links to recommended episodes, so I pulled one from 2015 that was focusing on some video games I was interested in (Zelda and Dragon Quest). 30 minutes later, I was done. 8-4 Play is a video game focused podcast, and it took way too long for the hosts to actually start talking about the games. The opening seemed more focused on refreshing each other what they’ve been up to than moving on to the games. Now, first main section on one guy’s Retro Collection was okay (and I love me some old school games) and they were only just moving into Fallout 4 by the time I gave up on the podcast, so maybe there is solid game talk and a reason why I should consider listening to 8-4 Play in the future, but this particular episode is more than two hours long and that’s really tough for me to overcome, and given that for this particular episode the hosts took waaaaaay too long getting to the meat, I won’t be coming back to it. Perhaps I selected the wrong episode and perhaps I should have skipped forward to the 38 minute mark, but perhaps this podcast is simply not for me. Pass.

(6) OBAMA’S TAKE ON STAR WARS. In the series “Conversations With Tyler,”  Tyler Cowen interviews Cass Sunstein about his Star Wars book. The Star Wars geekery begins at about 18:00 and continues to about 40:00, and all of the audience questions are about Star Wars. (There’s also a full text transcript available.) Many examples of the public policy ramifications of Star Wars are discussed, and at one point Sunstein, who served in the Obama administration as chief regulator of the Office of Management and Budget, reveals that he asked President Obama about which Star Wars movie was his favorite and argued with his boss that The Empire Strikes Back was better than A New Hope.

(7) WEDDING. Congratulations to Becky Thomson and Tom Veal, who married on June 25 in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

(8) KYRA IS BACK. Mini-reviews from Kyra today:

Airplane read #1: In the Time of Dragon Moon, by Janet Lee Carey (here)

Airplane read #2: The Wrath & The Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh (here)

Airplane read #3: Kingfisher, by Patricia McKillip (here)

Airplane Read #4: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (here)

Airplane Read #5: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (not SFF) (here)

Airplane Read #6 (last one!): Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Moon (here)

(9) ENTERPRISE DUE TO LEAVE DRYDOCK. NPR has a progress report: “Smithsonian Sets Phasers To Restore On Original Starship Enterprise”.

Sorry to disappoint Trekkies who still believe, but the actual USS Enterprise did not really take up much space.

That famous starship of Mr. Spock and Capt. James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series — which turns 50 this year — was a model. Quite a large one, to be fair: 11 feet long and about 200 lbs., made out of blow-molded plastic and wood. But not life-sized.

And for more than a decade, it hung in the gift shop of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.

“From a conservator’s standpoint, that is probably one of the worst places to put an artifact,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator of the National Air and Space Museum….

On Tues., June 28, the USS Enterprise will reach its final frontier beside other famous and historical aircraft in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 28, 1926 – Mel Brooks. He’d like to make Spaceballs 2.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day

(12) THE ACTOR IS IN. At the invitation of Samantha Bee (Full Frontal), “David Tennant Unleashes His Inner Time Lord On Donald Trump”

The “Full Frontal“ host called on Scottish actor David Tennant to read a series of anti-Trump tweets that his fellow countrymen posted after the real estate magnate erroneously said they were “going wild“ for Brexit.

In contrast to the United Kingdom as a whole, the majority of Scots actually voted to remain inside the European Union.

By proxy, “Jessica Jones“ star Tennant called Trump a “wiggy slice,” “weapons-grade plum” and “ludicrous tangerine ball bag” in the segment that aired Monday.

 

(13) HOWARD DAYS. Keith West delivers a “Report on Howard Days 2016” at Adventures Fantastic.

Howard Days has grown, something that was emphasized since this year marked the 30th anniversary of the first Howard Days.  While things officially don’t start until Friday, people are showing up on Wednesday evenings.  Space is becoming a consideration, with events this year moved from the library to the high school auditorium or the Senior Center across the street from the library.  There were a number of new attendees, which is always a healthy thing for an event, and I’m not referring the 10,000 or so mosquitoes that showed up.There were multiple anniversaries, such as the first Frazetta cover on a Lancer paperback and both the publication and film version of Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir, One Who Walked Alone (filmed as The Whole Wide World).

There have been some excellent reports on the 2016 Howard Days, such as this one by Lee Breakiron and this one by David Piske.  Also, Ben Friberg has uploaded Mark Finn’s interview with guest Michael Scott Myers and the boxing panel to YouTube.  I expect there will be more videos coming.  I’ll not repeat what they’ve said, especially since I don’t trust my memory on some of the details and didn’t make some of the panels that they did.  Rather I’ll focus on some personal highlights…..

(14) ENCELADUS. Scientific American discusses why “Excitement Builds for the Possibility of Life on Enceladus”.

Saturn’s frozen moon Enceladus is a tantalizing world—many scientists are increasingly convinced it may be the best place in our solar system to search for life. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn, has made intriguing observations of icy jets spewing from a suspected underground liquid ocean on the mysterious world that might be hospitable to alien life.

Cassini’s tour is due to wind down in 2017, and scientists badly want to send a dedicated mission to Enceladus to look for signs of life. In fact, some have already started seriously thinking about exactly how they might do this—including planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, who is the imaging team leader for Cassini. Earlier this month, she gathered a group of researchers including oceanographers, organic chemists and astrobiologists at the University of California, Berkeley, to strategize how to search for extraterrestrials on Enceladus—which, according to Porco, “is a total bitch of a problem to solve.”

Although Enceladus is small in size and shrouded in a thick shell of ice, it appears to be a habitable world: It has a source of energy from friction created by its orbit around Saturn, organic compounds that are building blocks for life and a liquid water ocean underneath all that ice. But just because Enceladus may be hospitable to life does not mean life exists there; it will take much more work to definitively prove it.

(15) TEACHING WITH COMICS. San Diego Comic-Con International has teamed up with the San Diego Public Library to host a free four-day “Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians” from July 20-23.

This first-of-its-kind educational conference will take place during Comic-Con, and will explore the role comics play in promoting education and literacy for all ages.

Library professionals and educators are invited to this free event to learn creative and exciting ways to incorporate comics and graphic novels into their work. Through presentations and panel discussions, the conference aims to engage the community, promote comics as a powerful tool for learning, and celebrate the medium as an important literary art form. The Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians is also an opportunity for attendees to connect and dialogue with publishers and industry professionals.

The Conference will be located in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the ninth floor of the San Diego Central Library. Each day of the Conference will have different themes….

The conference is free to attend, but space is limited and registration is required for each day. Comic-Con badge-holders with valid single same-day or four-day badges are welcome to attend and are not required to register. Further details about the Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians will be provided for registrants in the coming weeks.

(16) THE TWINKIE OFFENSE. “The World’s Oldest Twinkie” is has spent 40 years on display at a Maine school.

Bennatti had students buy a package of Twinkies from a nearby store during a 1976 lesson on food additives and shelf life. He placed the Twinkie on the blackboard for the class to observe, and there it remained until Bennatti retired in 2004 and passed custody of the aging snack cake to Rosemeier, who placed it in a case in her office.

(17) HOYT SERIES. Jeb Kinnison has kind words for “Sarah Hoyt’s Through Fire – Darkship Book 4”.

Through Fire, Book 4 in Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship series, came out last month and I bought it immediately, but despite its can’t-put-it-down action, I had to put it down until this week.

It’s a fine entry in the series, plunging us into action on the Seacity Liberté, which unlike the last book in the series I read, A Few Good Men (review here) is dominated by French cultural influences, with the rebellion set in motion in the first scene modeled on the French Revolution and its Terror.

(18) LMB ON SELF-PUBLISHING. At Eight Ladies Writing,“Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three Questions about Self-Publishing”, now that she’s self-pubbing increasingly large parts of her back-catalog, and her novellas.

LMB: I first had some e-publishing experiences starting in the early 00s with the e-books company Fictionwise (later to be bought out and terminated by B&N.) This was not self-pubbing; they just took my manuscript files, or in some cases made OCR files themselves of my older paper books, did everything else themselves, and sent me checks. (These were the selection of my books whose old contracts predated e-books, hence those rights were still mine.) Their sales were all through their own website. But for one very interesting statement, my Fictionwise backlist e-titles were for sale on or via Amazon, for which the maybe $500-to-$1000-a-quarter they’d been jointly clearing shot up seven-fold, which riveted my attention. But then that went away as mysteriously as it had arrived, for corporate reasons I never discovered….

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Lisa Goldstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/17/16 The Second Fifth Season

(1) RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU’RE A GREAT WRITER. Photos from George R.R. Martin’s sit-down with Stephen King last night in Albuquerque, in “The King and I” at Not a Blog.

(2) NON-ENGLISH SCHOLARSHIP AWARD. Through September 1, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts is taking entries for the 10th annual Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for a critical essay on the fantastic written in a language other than English.

The IAFA defines the fantastic to include science fiction, folklore, and related genres in literature, drama, film, art and graphic design, and related disciplines.

The prize is $250 U.S. and one year’s free membership in the IAFA.

(3) FUTURE IAFA. In 2017, “Fantastic Epics” will be the theme of the 38th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, to be held March 22-26 in Orlando, Florida. Guests of Honor: Steven Erikson and N.K. Jemisin; Guest Scholar: Edward James; and Special Guest Emeritus: Brian Aldiss.

(4) INVENTIVE SF WRITER. Mike Chomko salutes “120 Years of Murray Leinster” at the Pulpfest website.

Although magazines have been around since the seventeenth century, it wasn’t until the last month of 1896 that the pulp magazine was born. It was left to Frank A. Munsey – a man about whom it has been suggested, “contributed to the journalism of his day the talent of a meat packer, the morals of a money changer and the manner of an undertaker” – to deliver the first American periodical specifically intended for the common man — THE ARGOSY. In his own words, Munsey decided to create “a magazine of the people and for the people, with pictures and art and good cheer and human interest throughout.”

That same year, on June 16, a child was born who would become one of THE ARGOSY’s regular writers for nearly four decades — William Fitzgerald Jenkins. Best known and remembered under his pseudonym of Murray Leinster, Jenkins wrote and published more than 1,500 short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Active as a writer for nearly seven decades, Jenkins’ writing career began in early 1916 when his work began to be featured in H. L. Mencken’s and George Jean Nathan’s THE SMART SET.

(5) JEMISIN INTERVIEWED BY WIRED. “Wired Book Club: Fantasy Writer N.K. Jemisin on the Weird Dreams That Fuel Her Stories”.

We asked readers to submit questions. Here’s one: “I love how this storyline seemed to play with the idea that a person is fluid rather than static, especially when discussing the concept of mothering. Women tend to be judged very harshly on whether or not they want a family, and on the decisions they make when they do have a family. To see one person travel along all different points of the mother spectrum was very interesting. Am I reading too much into this?”

No! I’m glad that reader saw that. I tend to like writing characters that are not typical heroes. I have seen mothers as heroes in fiction lots of time, but they tend to be one-note. You don’t often see that they weren’t always that interested in having kids. They weren’t always great moms. You don’t often see that they are people beyond being mothers, that motherhood is just one aspect of their life and not the totality of their being. I had some concern about the fact that I am not a mother. It’s entirely possible that I made some mistakes in the way that I chose to render that complexity. But it’s something I wanted to explore.

(6) YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN. In fact, they have.

(7) JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Joe Zieja, gaining fame as a genre humorist, proves his mettle in “Five Books I Haven’t Read But Want To and Am Going to Summarize Anyway Based on Their Titles and Covers” at Tor.com.

The Grace of Kings—Ken Liu

The year is 2256. The Earth is a barren wasteland of oatmeal raisin cookies and hyper-intelligent cockroaches Everything is pretty much firmly settled in a dystopian, post-apocalpytic mess, and nobody can grow any plants. Except one girl: Grace King. This is the story of one girl’s attempt to grow a dandelion out of a really fancy upside-down ladle. As she struggles to find the courage inside herself—and maybe some water or fertilizer, or something—we recognize that her quest for the ladle is not unlike our own, deeply personal quest for soup.

This game sounds tailor made for Filers…

(8) FATHERS DAY READS. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog comes up with “5 Great Dad Moments in Science Fiction & Fantasy History”.

Aral Vorkosigan Saves His Son (The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold) Aral Vorkosigan is not a man who easily bends his principles or behaves counter to his beliefs; you can probably count the number of times he’s actually used his power and influence for personal gain on one hand—remarkable considering how much power he wields at various times in his career. At the end of the second book in Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, his son Miles stands accused of raising a private army and is poised to be drummed out of the military and executed, but Aral influences the proceedings so that Miles is charged instead with the equally serious crime of treason. Why is having your son accused of treason a grand Dad Moment? Because Aral knew treason could never be proved—while it was pretty clear that Miles had indeed raised a private army (even if he had a really good reason). It’s a neat way for Aral to demonstrate his loyalty to his son without, technically, violating his own moral code.

(9) NOW WE HAVE FACES. Yahoo! News brings word that Supergirl has cast its Superman.

For Season 2, though, the Last Son of Krypton will finally have a face, and he’ll look a lot like Tyler Hoechlin. The Teen Wolf star takes flight in a role previously played on The CW by Smallville’s Tom Welling, who portrayed a pre-Superman Clark Kent for 10 seasons.

Hoechlin actually has comic book roots that pre-date his Supergirl assignment. At the age of 14, he won the coveted role of Tom Hanks’s son in Road to Perdition, the Sam Mendes-directed adaptation of an acclaimed graphic novel. In addition to his role as Derek Hale on Teen Wolf, the actor will also appear in the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

(10) QUALITY EMERGENT. At Amazing Stories, MD Jackson continues the series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? (Part Two)”.

His talents did not go unnoticed. Everett M. “Busy” Arnold, publisher of Quality Comics, wanted to integrate the comic book format into the more prestigious world of the Sunday Funnies. He lured Eisner away from the studio to create a weekly comic book that would be distributed by a newspaper syndicate. Eisner agreed and came up with his most famous creation, The Spirit, which would continue to break new ground artistically, but also in the comic book business. Eisner insisted on owning the copyright to his new creation, a situation almost without parallel in comics at that time and almost without parallel on any popular basis for several decades to come. “Since I knew I would be in comics for life, I felt I had every right to own what I created. It was my future, my product and my property, and by God, I was going to fight to own it.” Eisner said. That was a watershed moment in terms of the artist being acknowledged as a creator of comics rather than just part of an assembly line.

(11) A LOONEY IDEA. A BBC video explains why Earth probably has more than one moon a lot of the time.

Or, as JPL explains it:

As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well. It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.”

“Since 2016 HO3 loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity. This new asteroid is much more locked onto us. Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth’s companion for centuries to come.”

(12) IT’S A THEORY.

(13) A DOCTOR ON DYING. Rudy Rucker Podcast #95 shares with listeners an essay/memoir by Michael Blumlein called “Unrestrained and Indiscreet” originally read at the SF in SF series in San Francisco.

And then all at once Blumlein … tells about learning that he himself has lung cancer, about having large sections of his lungs removed, and about learning that the treatments have failed and that he’s approaching death. Blumlein is a doctor as well as as science-fiction author, and he ends with a profound meditation on the process and experience of death…

(14) SCALES AND TALES. William Wu has released the final cover for Scales and Tales, the anthology created to benefit three different animal adoption programs in the LA area.

Wu’s small press is printing 500 copies. An e-version will follow.

There will be a signing at the San Diego Comic-Con in July, and another at Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank on August 28 at 2 p.m.

Scales-and-Tales-cover COMP

(15) SIXTIES HUGO WINNER. Nawfalaq at AQ’s Reviews is not the least blown away by Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station, a book that was at the very top of my list of favorite sf novels for a number of years.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (1904 – 1988) is the third novel by the author that I have read. It was published in 1963 and won the 1964 Hugo Award for best novel.  Off the bat, I have to say that this is the most polished of the three novels by Simak that I have read. Nevertheless, I admit that this was not an easy read for me to get through. The setting and the tone really caused the big slowdown with my reading of this novel.

The review makes me want to “revenge read” Way Station to prove to myself it is as wonderful as I remember. But what if it’s not…?

(16) SECURITY THEATRE? JJ calls this a “replicant check.”

(17) IT PAYS TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. In this installment of Whatever’s “The Big Idea” series, Yoon Ha Lee reveals the thinking behind Ninefox Gambit.

Not so fast. Both of them were also supposed to be geniuses: Jedao at tactics and psychological warfare, Cheris at math. It’s possible that writing geniuses is easy when one is a genius oneself; I wouldn’t know, because I’m definitely not a genius. (I have since sworn that maybe the next thing I should do is write slapstick comedy about stupid-ass generals, not brilliant tacticians.)

So I cheated.  A lot. One of the first things I did was to reread James Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi’s Victory and Deceit: Dirty Tricks at War. I wrote down all the stratagems I liked, then tried to shove all of them into the rough draft. (And then there was too much plot so I had to take some of them out.)  And of course, their opponent also had to be smart. I’d learned this from reading Gordon R. Dickson’s Tactics of Mistake, a novel I found infuriating because the “tactical genius” mainly geniused by virtue of the opponent being stupid, which I’m sure happens all the time in real life but makes for unsatisfying narrative. Besides all the military reading I did, I also hit up social engineering and security engineering.

(18) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 17, 1955 — Bert I. Gordon’s King Dinosaur premieres in theaters.

ws_Vintage_Cinema__King_Dinosaur!_1440x900 COMP

(19) MONSTERKID. Rondo Award emcee David Colton presents Steve Vertlieb with the Lifetime Achievement, Rondo Award “Hall Of Fame” plaque at the Wonderfest film conference on June 4.

Vertlieb receives rondoRondo Hall of Fame

(20) STAR WARS 8 FINISHES SHOOTING IN IRELAND. Post-Star Wars filming in Ireland, the studio put an ad in a local Kerry newspaper complete with Gaelic translation of may the force be with you. The commenters tried to make it look like the translation was wrong. All I can say is Google Translate made nonsense of it.

Then local Credit Union decided to capitalize on the zeitgeist with Darth Vader as Gaeilgoir (Irish speaker).

(21) FURNISHING THE FUTURE. Stelios Mousarris is a designer with a fantastic imagination.

A Glass Coffee Table propelled by a team of rockets makes a nice Father’s Day gift.

table-1

Ever since I was a little boy, I loved playing with action figures and spent my weekend mornings watching cartoons on the TV. I have been collecting toys and action figures and anything nostalgic from my childhood until this day.

Every time I take a look at my collectibles I remember my childhood, when I used to play for hours on end without a care in the world.

I wanted to recreate that feeling of carefreeness and nostalgia with the Rocket Coffee Table. The design is visually playful bringing cartoon-like clouds and aerial rockets from a personal toy collection to life, in the form of a table.

Combining various techniques from lathe to 3d printing, resin casting and traditional hand curved pieces, this table is fashioned to draw a smile on the face of nostalgic adults, children, and children trapped in adult bodies.

The rockets are not attached to the glass giving the opportunity to each owner to form their own desired structure of the table.

Price: €5000

Or look at the Wave City Coffee Table:

another table 2 COMP.jpg

 

Inspired by a film this table is a well balanced mixture of wood, steel and 3D printed technology.

Price: €8500

[Thanks to Nigel, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and robinareid for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

New Penric Story Is On The Way

Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads she has turned in a new Penric &  Desdemona novella titled “Penric and the Shaman”.

Some of my stories grow their titles organically somewhere along the way; others have to be wrestled out of them at the end, and this was one of those.

The file is now in the hands of the folks who will dress it properly with e-book formatting and a cover image, and vendor-page copy. This will take a while yet, mostly depending on what else is in their work queues. (Strangely, they do not work on weekends. Very mysterious.)

…What’s it about? It’s about 37,700 words…

She’s also posted the first two paragraphs there.

Next Saturday, June 11, Bujold will be signing the new Subterranean Press hardcover edition of Penric’s Demon, and her other works, at Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis. The event begins 1 p.m.

[Thanks to Angel Johnston for the story.]

Four Nominees’ Statements About Staying on the Ballot

Since Thomas A. Mays decided to withdraw his Hugo-nominated short story as his way of dealing with its having been on the Rabid Puppies slate, some Hugo and Campbell nominees in the same position have made statements to explain why they are not withdrawing. Alyssa Wong and Alastair Reynolds posted theirs today, and Brandon Sanderson yesterday. Also included is a quote from Lois McMaster Bujold — made prior to Mays’ withdrawal — addressing her story’s presence on the slate.

ALYSSA WONG

Alyssa Wong says she is staying, in “Toe the Line:” On Being a 2016 John W. Campbell Award Finalist.

There is no way in hell I’m withdrawing. The fact is, in spite of the Rabid Puppies attempts to lock people like me out of the finalists list through slate voting, some truly deserving folks and their works who weren’t on their slate slipped onto the list anyway….

And that’s the crux of it. If you are on this list despite the Rabid Puppies’ slate voting, it means you absolutely, absolutely deserve it. It means that enough SFF fans appreciated your work and contributed their individual voices to overwhelm a slate being pushed by an organized mob of malicious people determined to “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” And to withdraw is to let them win.

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS

The author posted “Slow Bullets on the Hugo Ballot” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

…I’d had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That’s not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.

The adminstrators, quite reasonably, wanted a clearer, less ambiguous commitment from me. After a friendly and productive transatlantic phone call, I came around to the view that I’d not only accept the nomination, but take whatever came after it.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.

Since the announcement of the ballots, there’s been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I’m very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn’t, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I’m keeping “Slow Bullets” on the ballot. I can’t say I’m exactly over-joyed about this decision, though – from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for “Troika”, and my mood couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope things are better next year….

BRANDON SANDERSON

Brandon Sanderson, author of a slated Hugo finalist, the novella Perfect State, says he is staying on the ballot and urges other nominees to do the same. This excerpt is just part of his lengthy post, which also describes what he tried to achieve behind-the-scenes during last year’s puppy travails. Oddly, while he mentions the Sad Puppies he never names the Rabid Puppies, obviously the “list” under discussion here —

If I’d known I was on this list, I would have asked to be taken off of it. This year, their list seems to include some people (I can’t know if I’m one) who are mainstream. People liked in the community, or likely to get a nomination anyway. They’ve done this, I presume, in order to see whether these people too would get “No Award.”

I can’t know how much the nomination of my novella was helped by this group, and even contemplating the idea is distasteful to me. This puts me in the position of having to decide whether or not to withdraw my nomination. It wouldn’t be heartbreaking for me to do so. I’ve won a Hugo in this category before, during the pre-Puppy years. I think my story is strong, but I will write other, stronger stories in the future. I’d be fine sitting it out this year.

I think that would be bad for fandom, and the award. Though I agree with those who withdrew nominations last year, I think we’re entering into a dangerous area. If we withdraw anytime someone like this person puts us on a slate, that gives them an enormous amount of power over us and the award. In addition, if we vote something under No Award anytime someone we don’t like advocates for it, then that’s the same as letting that person win the award whenever they want. Either way, we’re just being pushed around by a troll.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned from last year, and I have decided not to withdraw my nomination. I realize I’m setting myself up for being part of a potential blanket “No Award” voting slate this year. I will accept that, if it happens. But I don’t think letting a troll dictate my actions is going to work out better for me. And I certainly don’t want to insult the fans who nominated my work in good faith.

Therefore, I will stand by what I’ve always said: Nominate and vote for me only if you think the story itself deserves the recognition. Don’t vote for (or against) any person or their ideas. Vote for or against the story. Even when the nomination rules change next year (assuming the proposal gets enough votes again this year), we’re still likely to have a candidate in every category that was nominated in by certain elements.

In many cases, I feel it’s going to be impossible to separate which nominees are the result of trolls throwing rocks at us and which are the result of passionate fans who simply have different views from the mainstream. We’re going to have to do better than counter-voting, a point which many voices in the community, including Scalzi and GRRM, made last year.

I request that my fellow nominees consider not withdrawing. And I request that voters continue to look at the individual stories, artists, and editors, and judge based on the nominee themselves—rather than judging based on who is advocating for them.

LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD

On the day the nominees were announced, Lois McMaster Bujold also posted a brief statement — “Penric’s Demon” is a Hugo nominee – about the slate:

…(As a point of information, “Penric’s Demon” was conscripted onto the “Rabid Puppies” slate without my notification or permission, and my request that it be removed was refused.)

Ta, L.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh and Greg Hullender for the links.]