Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/17 Scroll Me A Pixel And I Reply, Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie

(1) EARTH ][. Or maybe Seveneves for Seven Brothers. “NASA Telescope Reveal Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star”

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

 

(2) COMMON SENSES. Mary Robinette Kowal did a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” today where someone asked her opinion of this writing advice —

“Include all five senses on every single page of your manuscript. That’s every 250 words.”

This is stupid. Yes, you should include all five senses, but at that pace, it becomes muddy. Plus your main character probably isn’t running around licking the walls.

When you’re there, check the schedule of upcoming AMA’s on the right-hand side of the page. An almost-relentless list of heavy hitters, including Yoon Ha Lee on March 30, Aliette de Bodard on April 25, and Gregory Benford on May 16.

(3) SF HALL OF FAME IS BACK. “Prepare to party like it’s 3001” may not scan very closely with Prince’s lyrics, but that’s how MoPOP is inviting people to attend the new Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame which opens March 4 in Seattle.

Join MoPOP for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Celebration honoring the Hall of Fame’s 20th anniversary.

  • Featuring guests of honor: Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency); Wende Doohan, wife of the late James Doohan (Star Trek); Robyn Miller (Myst co-creator); and more
  • Live performances by Roladex, DJ Kate (False Prophet), and the all-female Wonder Woman-loving marching band, Filthy FemCorps
  • Trek Talk panel exploring Star Trek’s 50-year impact on pop culture, fandom, and geekery
  • Hall of Fame spotlights on the mammoth Sky Church screen
  • Costume parade, MovieCat trivia, gaming, and activities
  • Stellar photo ops, themed food and drink specials, and beyond

Tickets include admission into MoPOP’s Infinite Worlds of Science FictionFantasy: Worlds of Myth & Magic, Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds, and the new Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame gallery.

(4) TECHNOLOGY SHOULD NOT BE MUSHED UP. The future is not yet: UPS drone has glitches.

The delivery firm UPS has unveiled a drone-launching truck – but the event did not go completely to plan.

One aircraft failed to launch properly and was then nearly destroyed….

The Horsefly octacopter involved was made by Ohio-based Workhorse Group.

The initial test went well, with the aircraft launching from a platform built into the truck’s slide-open roof.

But a second attempt was more problematic.

The drone tipped over when it tried to take off, rocked back and was then nearly crushed when the truck’s roof began to close over the launch pad where the machine was still sitting.

(5) BUGS MR. RICO! This Saturday is the annual Insect Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois here in Champaign-Urbanana (typo intentional). Jim Meadows explains:

The festival is put on by the university’s entomology department, using cheesy insect sf movies with bad science, to educate the public through reverse example.

This weekend, their guest is University of Illinois alumnus Paul Hertzberg, executive producer of the two movies being shown:  “Caved In” (2006) (with nasty beetles, I think) and 2016’s “2 Lava 2 Lantua” (nasty tarantulas — a sequel to “Lavalantula” which was shown at the festival last year).

The SyFy cable channel and its commissioning of cheap TV movies, often involving bugs, has been a godsend to the Insect Fear Film Festival, giving it a fresh supply of insect sf movies to draw from.

(6) BRYANT’S WILD CARDS INTERVIEW. George R.R. Martin has online the video recorded at MidAmeriCon II of Ed Bryant talking about the Wild Cards series.

After we heard about Ed’s death, I contacted Tor to ask them if Ed had been one of the writers they had talked with in Kansas City. I am pleased to say he was, and we can now present his interview to you complete and uninterrupted.

All those who knew and loved him will, I hope, appreciate the opportunity to see and hear from Ed one last time… but I should warn you, there is a bittersweet quality to this tape, in light of what was coming. Sad to say, Ed never did finish that last Wild Cards story he was working on, nor any of the other tales that he hoped to write.

Sooner or later, all of us have to see The Jolson Story. Be that as it may, for one last time, I am honored to present my friend Edward Bryant…

 

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 22, 1630 — Popcorn was first introduced to English colonists by Native Americans.

(8) SPAM OF THE DAY. Daniel Dern tells the story —

I got this PR email (not unreasonably, since I’m a tech journo):

Subject: Feb. 2017: Marketing Tech Secrets Powering Unicorns

To which I replied: Why do I feel this is a Peter S Beagle / Cory Doctorow mashup novel?

(9) EXTRA CREDIT READING. Yes, I should mention The Escapist Bundle again.

You see, the eleven fantastic books in this bundle come from authors tied together by, among other accolades, their inclusion in a single volume of Fiction River, in this case a volume called Recycled Pulp. For those of you unfamiliar with Fiction River, it’s an original anthology series that Adventures Fantastic calls “one of the best and most exciting publications in the field today.”

With 22 volumes published so far, Recycled Pulp proves one of the most creative volumes. Inspired by the fantastic, escapist pulp fiction of the last century, the amazing authors in this volume were tasked with creating modern escapist fiction from nothing but a pulp-inspired title. The results were fantastic, indeed.

The initial titles in the Escapist Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Waking the Witch by Dayle A. Dermatis
  • Hot Waters by Erica Lyon
  • Recycled Pulp by Fiction River
  • The Pale Waters by Kelly Washington
  • Isabel’s Tears by Lisa Silverthorne

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • A Death in Cumberland by Annie Reed
  • Neither Here Nor There by Cat Rambo
  • The Slots of Saturn by Dean Wesley Smith
  • The War and After by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Revolutionary Magic by Thomas K. Carpenter
  • Tales of Possibilities by Rebecca M. Senese

This bundle is available for the next 22 days only.

(10) VIRGIN FIELD EPIDEMIC. Steven Brust thinks con crud has been around for awhile.

Yes – that’s practically the Curse of King Tut’s Tomb.

(11) OH THE HUMANITY. “Two Huge Sci-Fi Novels Were Snubbed by the Nebula Awards” and Inverse contributor Ryan Britt is overwrought:

On Tuesday, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America released its nominees for the 2016 Nebula Awards and there were two glaring omissions in the category for Best Novel. Cixin Liu’s Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey. Does the nominating committee of the Nebulas have something against science fiction that everyone loves?

(12) STICK YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS AND GO ‘LA LA LA’. Can Arrival win? Inverse skeptically takes “A Historical Look at Why Science Fiction Always Gets Screwed at the Oscars”.

1969’s 41st Academy Awards is a kind of patient zero for how respectable science fiction movies would be treated at the Oscars for the rest of time. The Academy had to acknowledge some good special effects and makeup, and at least give a shout-out to original writing. Science fiction received a pat on the head in 1969, but 2001: A Space Odyssey — maybe the best sci-fi movie ever made — didn’t even get nominated for Best Picture. And, like 1969, 2017’s intelligent sci-fi movie, Arrival, is pitted against an Oscar-bait favorite: the musical La La Land. In 1969, the musical Oliver! won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Art Direction. Clearly, the Academy prefers singing and dancing to thoughtful reflection on the meaning of existence.

Although when you put it in those terms, who doesn’t?

(13) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD SPACEMEN. Woody Harrelson has had a pretty good career, and will soon add to his resume an appearance in a spinoff from Star Wars. The first picture of the Han Solo film team was released the other day. (Westworld star Thandie Newton will also have a role in the film, though she is not in the photo.)

L to R: Woody Harrelson, Chris Miller, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo (as Chewbacca), Phil Lord and Donald Glover

(14) BRUNCH. Not to be outdone, Twentieth Century Fox issued a photo of the Alien: Covenant cast. Unfortunately, they didn’t furnish a handy key telling who’s who. Maybe that’s less important because so many of these characters will probably get killed before the end of the movie? That’s what we expect to happen in an Alien movie, anyway.

(15) STAR CLICKIN’. ScreenRant found it easy to remember “17 WTF Things Captain Kirk Did”. Here are some of the subheads from the middle of the list. How many of them can you associate with the right episode or movie even before you look?

  1. Threatened To Spank a Planetary Leader
  1. Took Scotty To A Bordello To Cure His “Total Resentment Towards Women”
  1. Created the Khan Problem in the First Place
  1. Didn’t Tell Anyone Else He Knew They Weren’t Really “Marooned For All Eternity”
  1. Cheated on a Test — And Made It Really Obvious
  1. Pissed Off “God”

(16) PROPOSED WORLDCON 75 PANEL. It isn’t the joke, it’s how you tell it.

The Rosetta Stone for deciphering this cryptic exchange is Ursula Vernon’s 2012 blog post “In Which I Win A Hugo And Fight Neil Gaiman For Free Nachos”.

…Pretty much the minute I handed the Hugo to Kevin and sat down, the fact that I was running on a mango smoothie and crabcakes hit me, and I wanted a cheeseburger or a steak or something RIGHT NOW. The Loser’s party had a small free nacho bar. It was very tight quarters, and I had to squeeze past a curly-haired man in a dark suit who was….ah.

Yes.

“I shall dine out for years,” I said, “on the story of how I shoved Neil Gaiman aside to get to the free nachos.”

He grinned. “When you tell the story, in two or three years, as you’ve added to it, please have me on the floor weeping, covered in guacamole.”

“I think I can promise that,” I said.

(17) MEANWHILE, BACK IN 1992. Tom Hanks frames a clip of Ray Harryhausen receiving the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from Ray Bradbury at the Academy’s Scientific & Technical Awards.

[Thanks to Jim Meadows, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/17 With Many Alternative Facts About The Square Of The Hypotenuse

(1) TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS. Sue Duff thought it would be easy to destroy the Earth, but noooo! She explains the difficulties in a guest post for SFFWorld.

When I plotted out my five-book series a couple years ago, I knew that by book four, it would be time to give my characters a break and began to torture my worlds. I needed to increase the stakes across both dimensions for the big finale in book five. It took quite a bit of research, in spite of my amateur earth and space science interests, and found that it’s not easy to make reality align with your imagination! The challenge was to have my antagonist destroy Thrae, Earth’s mirror dimension, while salvaging enough of the planet to support life. Luckily, I sat on a panel with two NASA scientists at Denver Comic Con and cornered them afterwards to verify my research. I was thrilled, and more than a little relieved, to discover that the details were accurate!

(2) LOCUS AWARD POLL IS OPEN. John Scalzi has beaten me to a pair of headlines today – I’m lucky he spends most of his time on books. John was first with the Audie Awards, and now this —

(3) SHADOW CLARKE. Paul Kincaid tells how he thinks the shadow Clarke jury will operate.

I have never been involved with a shadow jury before, so I’m probably going to be making it up as we go along. But my take on it is that the Clarke Award has become central to the way we see science fiction in Britain, so the shadow jury will use it as a jumping off point from which to expand the discussion of science fiction.

We’ll be starting with the submissions list, which is due to be published shortly and which is probably the best and most convenient way to discover what science fiction has been published in Britain during any particular year. From this we will each, individually, draw up our own preferred shortlists, based on what we’ve read and what we want to read. (No plan survives an encounter with the enemy, so I assume that as we read through our chosen books our views about what should or should not be on the shortlist will change. In many ways, I suspect that will be the most interesting part of the exercise.) We will also, of course, be reading the actual shortlist when that is announced, so the whole exercise will be a scaled-up version of Maureen Kincaid Speller’s wonderful Shortlist Project from a few years back.

(4) THE RIGHTS. Read “SFWA Statements on Register of Copyright and Copyright Reform” at the SFWA Blog.

On January 31, SFWA submitted two sets of copyright-related commentary (authored by SFWA’s Legal Affairs Committee) — one to the Librarian of Congress offering recommendations for choosing the new Register of Copyrights, and one to the House Judiciary Committee regarding its first proposal for copyright reform. SFWA also signed onto a submission from the National Writers Union to the US Copyright Office concerning Group Registration of Contributions to Periodicals.

(5) HEAR THIS ONE BEFORE? From the “Traveler” essay in Larry Niven’s Stars and Gods collection:

Lost luggage? Air France lost a passenger in the Soviet Union, because he annoyed them. They dropped Tom Doherty in Moscow when he only had an internal passport for Leningrad.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PUPPETEER

  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GARÇON

  • February 8, 1828 — Jules Verne

(8) SQUEE. Walter Jon Williams has signed the contract for three more books in the Praxis series. He discusses the deal in “Unto the Breach”.

And so (I hear you ask) why seek publication by the Big Five after all?  Because (1) they offered me money, and (2) I don’t want to put all my career eggs into a single basket.   Ebook sales are volatile, many sales are generated by gimmicks that quickly grow obsolete, and I’m in competition with a couple million self-published authors who can’t write their way out of a paper bag, but who get just as much shelf space as I do.  If you’re published by a traditional publisher, it demonstrates that someone cared enough for your work to pay more than taxi-fare money for it.

And if the books fail, I’ll get them back, and then I’ll market them myself.  Win/win.

The headline was JJ’s reaction to the news.

(9) CONGRATULATIONS. Jason Sanford’s short story collection Never Never Stories has been translated and released in China by Douban Reads.

The collection is being released as two separate books with similar but different covers. Here’s the link to Never Never Stories Book 1 and here’s Book 2.

(10) MAKE YOUR OWN KESSEL RUN. Graeme McMillan at The Hollywood Reporter says Disney has announced that Star Wars Land will open in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios section in 2019, with a smaller one in Anaheim. They’re mum about what will be in it, but it’s 14 acres!

It’s like ‘La La Land,’ but with less dancing and more Jedi.

Disney is planning something big to mark the conclusion of the current Star Wars trilogy. How big? The size of a theme park.

On a call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger on Tuesday revealed that the 14-acre Star Wars Land attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando will open in 2019, the same year as Star Wars Episode IX, the final chapter in the current “Skywalker Saga” arc of the beloved space opera.

Construction started on the Hollywood Studios attraction last April, following its August 2015 announcement. Until Iger’s statement on Tuesday, Disney had remained quiet about the attraction — which will be paired with a similar one in Disneyland Anaheim — beyond the release of concept artwork last summer. While it’s still unconfirmed just what the attraction will include, a Disney Parks blog post promised “guests will get the opportunity to pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” after climbing on board a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. These are the authors who wrote the most short fiction in 2016 that was published in any of the eleven publications or eleven anthologies Rocket Stack Rank reviewed last year. — “2016 Prolific SF/F Short Fiction Authors”

Here are Rocket Stack Rank’s 35 most prolific science fiction & fantasy short fiction authors of 2016. Click on their names in the two tables below to see their stories, and use the Score and AvgScore columns to try some authors you might not have read before. They were selected from the 818 original stories reviewed by RSR in 2016, which include 568 authors who wrote 5.8 million words published in 11 SF/F magazines and 11 SF/F anthologies. (RSR does not read horror magazines or horror anthologies.)

Greg Hullender adds, “Not a surprise to see Rick Larson and Robert Reed at the top in terms of number of stories. The counts by number of words are strongly affected by novella writers, but still interesting.  Could be a useful resource to people looking for a new author to try out.”

(12) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Biblio.com has tips on “Storing A Book Collection”.

We routinely hear from customers who want to know the best way to store collectible books. Sadly, even more commonly, we hear from customers who have inadvertently stored their books improperly, eroding the value of their beloved book collection.

We thought we’d take an opportunity to share with you some tips for proper storage of books, gleaned from not only our own personal experience, but that of seasoned professional booksellers. But before we dive right in to the stacks, let’s preface the whole thing by reminding you that:

CONDITION IS EVERYTHING!

Even the most scarce of titles is rarely worth much when it is in poor condition or beyond repair. Mildew, broken spines, torn or faded dust jackets, cocked bindings and similar issues can conspire to move a desirable book from the display case to the bargain bin.

Ok, that said, let’s learn how we can keep your book collection from ruin when you need to put it in storage for a period of time…

(13) OB SF. The Washington Post’s Michael E. Ruane, in “An American filmed the German army in WWI — until they became the enemy”, has an interesting article about the Library of Congress’s restoration of On the Firing Line with the Germans, a documentary Wilbur H. Durborough did on the Eastern Front in Germany in 1915.

The sf connection is that Durborough’s cameraman, Irving G. Ries, had a long, distinguished career in Hollywood capped by an Oscar nomination for his work on the special effects in Forbidden Planet in 1956.

(14) THE MATRYOSHKA TWEETS. It began when Cat Rambo reminded SFWA members to make their Nebula nominations.

(15) DISBELIEF SUSPENDERS. College Humor poses the question — Which Is Nerdier: Star Wars or Star Trek?

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster,JJ, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/17 I Wanted To Know The Exact Pixels Of Scroll

(1) DESIRED FUTURE. While we were wondering if Whoopi Goldberg was getting enough love from Star Trek conventions, the truth came out – what she really wants is a role on Doctor Who. Den of Geek has the story —

“I like the idea of doing things the way y’all do them,” the Sister Act and Star Trek: The Next Generation star added. “You do some really fun stuff like Black Mirror or, you know, I’m still dying to do Doctor Who.”

She added: “I always hope when I come to England the BBC will say, ‘Hey we want you to do something [on Doctor Who]’. I would love that.”

(2) A SECOND HELPING. ScienceFiction.com says Arrival is being re-released immediately to capitalize on its Oscar nominations.

This Friday, January 27th, 2017, Paramount is re-releasing ‘Arrival‘ on the big screen with an added 8 minutes of bonus material! Now, this isn’t an extended cut of the film but could be thought of as more of a preview of the special features from the eventual Blu-Ray. Think commentary and behind-the-scenes material that includes the Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and even more of the cast and crew from the film.

(3) STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds tells more about the stage adaptation of Diamond Dogs in Chicago. He’ll be in the audience next month.

Directed by Nathan Allen, the play is an adaptation by Althos Low , a pen name for Shanghai Low Theatricals, a group dedicated to bring challenging works to the stage. Frankly you couldn’t get much more challenging than a piece of space-operatic dark SF, involving interstellar travel, cyborg prosthetics and a monstrous alien structure – but suitably undaunted, Shanghai Low (with chief adaptor Steve Pickering) have put together what is by all accounts a very striking and inventive production, involving hi-tech stage design, imaginative costume work, and the resourceful and skilled puppetry of Mary Robinette Kowal, already greatly respected within SF circles as a fine writer. The script, which I read some months ago, is clever and involving, and very true to the beats of the original story. This is the first adaptation of any of the Revelation Space stories into another medium, and I can’t wait to see it.

(4) BLAST FROM THE PAST. The Traveler from Galactic Journey has a request — “[January 25, 1962] Shameless Self-Promotion (Nominate Galactic Journey For The Hugo!)”.

Galactic Journey has brought you the latest in science fact and fiction for over three years, since October 1958.  It’s been a tremendous pleasure and privilege to review the monthly sff digests, the new books, the best (and worst!) scientifiction TV shows and movies, enormously rewarding to report on the myriad space shots as they happen.  Coverage of 1960’s pitched election season was eye-opening and exciting.

Though it was not originally our mission, the Journey has become a progressive entity, focusing on the women and minority contributors that add to the diversity and value of our fandom, yet who are overlooked and underrepresented.

Oh, how we’ve grown in three years!  Since this column’s humble beginnings, our staff of two has grown to ten, including an overseas correspondent.  Last June, we began providing the latest news on the right-hand side of our pages.  In August, no less a personage than Rod Serling honored us for our coverage of The Twilight Zone….

It’s the 2017 Hugo he’d like to be nominated for – he’s leaving the 1962 field to front-runners Warhoon and Cry of the Nameless.

(5) PLEASE EXCUSE ME. Charles Stross, on the other hand, asks that fans not nominate his work in this year’s trial Hugo category.

(6) YOG’S LAW ENFORCEMENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in “SFWA Statement on Magazines and the Monetization of Writers”, frowns on magazines cashing in on the slush reading.

In the past year SFWA has seen several examples of magazines contemplating monetizing the writers submitting work to them for publication. Strategies for doing so have ranged from the subtle to the overt, including submission fees, fees for personalized feedback, statements that contributors who are subscribers will get preferential treatment, and other charges.

One tenet that SFWA holds to strongly is Yog’s Law, the idea that money should always flow towards the writer. The organization strongly condemns any practice where a magazine take money from a writer and allows it to or implies it will affect the reception of the writer’s submission(s) in any way.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

January 25, 1999 The Blair Witch Project is seen for the first time.

(7a) TODAY’S BELATED BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold

(8) ASK ME ANYTHING. Authors of The Expanse James S. A. Corey are doing an AMA on Reddit on January 26 at Noon EST (9 a.m. PST) — https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/. Got a question about the series? Go on!

(9) BRING ‘EM BACK ALIVE. The topic for the 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate is “De-Extinction.” At New York City’s Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday, March 29 moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson and a panel of experts will take on this topic —

Biologists today have the knowledge, the tools, and the ability to influence the evolution of life on Earth. Do we have an obligation to bring back species that human activities may have rendered extinct? Does the technology exist to do so?

2017 Asimov Debate panelists are:

  • George Church – Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University and MIT
  • Hank Greely – Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University
  • Gregory Kaebnick – Scholar, The Hastings Center; Editor, Hastings Center Report
  • Ross MacPhee – Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology; Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Beth Shapiro – Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

(10) PROP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar:  “San Jose Councilman Takes Oath of Office With Captain America Shield: ‘I Want to Shine a Ray of Optimism’”.

A new San Jose city councilman held a Captain America shield as he was sworn in on Tuesday night, telling NBC Bay Area that the Marvel Comics character “embodies the ideas of America.”

Lan Diep, a Republican legal aid attorney, received cheers after he said “I do solemnly swear” when the clerk asked if he would defend his oath of office. His final vote of his first meeting? Joining the council in unanimously banning the communist Vietnamese flag from flying in San Jose.

In an interview after the meeting, the proud comic book geek and Houston-born son of Vietnamese refugees said that Captain America stands for the “kinds of things I strive for: equal justice, fair play and democracy.” …

(11) WHO KNEW? Cnet blew my trivia-loving mind by proving “The Star Wars Death Star trench isn’t where you think it is”.

Vaziri has some theories about why the mistaken impression is so widespread, even among hard-core fans.

He points out that the Death Star’s two biggest features are the dish and the equatorial trench. “Our brains want to connect this new trench with something we’ve seen before, and because of their similarities, and the simplicity of that connection, it’s not a big leap for us to (incorrectly) deduce the two trenches are one and the same,” he writes.

(12) SPACEWAY ROBBERY. Remember – being ripped off is the sincerest form of flattery. ScreenCrush lists “The Top Five Most Shameless ‘Star Wars’ Rip-Offs”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Porter, and Doctor Science for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m. c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/17 Old King Cole Had A Merry Old Scroll

spectrum-24-call-for-entries

(1) SPECTRUM 24 CALL FOR ENTRIES. John Fleskes, Spectrum Director, has issued an invitation for professional and student artists, art directors, publishers and artists’ representatives to submit entries to the 24th Annual Spectrum International Competition for Fantastic Art.

All artworks in all media embracing the themes of science fiction, fantasy, horror and the surreal are eligible for this show. Fantastic art can be subtle or obvious, traditional or off-the-wall, painted, sculpted, done digitally or photographed: There is no unacceptable way to create art, and there are no set rules that say one piece qualifies while another does not. Imagination and skill are what matters. Work chosen by the jury will be printed in full color in the Spectrum annual, the peer-selected “best of the year” collection for the fantastic arts.

Entries will be accepted until January 25. Click here to submit.

The Spectrum 24 jury is a five member panel of exceptional artists working in the industry today, Christian Alzmann, Laurie Lee Brom, Mark Newman, John Picacio and Victo Ngai.

Spectrum represents such a rich visual history and standard of excellence for what we collectively dream in the fantastic art field,” states John Picacio. “I’ve always been grateful any time my work was selected for inclusion in the annual, and it’s a profound honor and responsibility to give back to the book this year as a juror.”

(2) GOLDEN GLOBES. Although there were a lot of Golden Globe nominees of genre interest in the December announcement, all lost except one:

Best Motion Picture – Animated

  • Zootopia

(3) ERIC FLINT HEALTH. Flint did not get the best possible news from his medical tests:

I’ll have more to report by the end of the month, when all the tests and biopsy results finally come in. But here’s what definite:

I do have a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, although they still don’t know exactly what type. (That’s what’s taking so long for the biopsy to be finished.) Once they know what kind it is, they’ll start me on a chemotherapy program.

Sadly, my hopes in the hospital that since the surgery had gone so well maybe the cancer was completely gone turned out to be childish delusions. (Which I suspected myself, but…) Lymphoma is what they call a systemic cancer, which means that surgery by itself can’t do anything but arrest the malignancy for a while and provide the material needed for a thorough biopsy. But to really fight lymphoma, you need chemotherapy.

The good news is that lymphoma generally responds well to chemo, and it’s not uncommon for people to be cured of the disease altogether. We’ll see what happens in my case, but even in the worst case scenario it looks as if I’ll have quite a few years to fend the cancer off.

However, he says frankly that after chemo he may live for years to come —

if you look at it the right way. I’ll be 70 in a month. I don’t have to fight off lymphona indefinitely. I just have to fight it off long enough for something else to bump me off.

(4) EYES WIDE WHAT? Myke Cole’s next tweet will explain how his stories are like radio except with no sound.

(5) HOMAGE. The late Gordon Archer did a lot of commercial art for Weetabix cereal involving Doctor Who, Star Trek, Asterix and other pop culture subjects which his son now has on display on a website[Corrected, because Archer is still with us, as his son states in a comment below.]

weetabix-dr-who

(6) HITLER UNBEARABLE. “A A Milne letter features in Imperial War Museum’s anti-war show”, from The Guardian.

Winnie the Pooh creator’s letter reflects moral dilemma of pacifists faced with rise of Hitler in interwar period

…The Milne letter has been retrieved from its vast collection of documents and reflects the conflict felt by many pacifists who had experienced the horrors of the first world war and earnestly hoped “never again”.

“It encapsulates the moral dilemma that a lot of pacifists had in the interwar period,” said curator Matt Brosnan. “Milne opposed war but increasingly saw Hitler and the Nazis as an evil that had to be met by force.”

In his letter, Milne declared himself a “practical pacifist”, writing: “I believe that war is a lesser evil than Hitlerism, I believe that Hitlerism must be killed before war can be killed.”

(7) KOWAL INTERVIEW IN LOCUS. An excerpt of Locus’ interview with Mary Robinette Kowal has been posted at Locus Online.

The moment I knew I was setting something during the First World War, I knew that darkness was going to be part of it, and that I would have to work really hard to keep the darkness from completely overwhelming Ghost Talkers. When you do any reading at all about the First World War, it becomes very clear why it made such a huge, permanent mark on Europe – and the US less so, because we were not directly touched by it. It wasn’t even the death tolls, because in England a lot of men actually came home, but everyone came home wounded in some way, either physically or emotionally. I read interview after interview of survivors saying, ‘I went over the top of the trench, and everyone in my platoon died. I don’t know why I lived.’ I knew going in that dealing with someone who deals with ghosts as her job, during WWI, would mean a darker book than people are used to from me. On the other hand, the last book in the Glamourist series, I jokingly refer to as ‘Regency Grimdark.’

(8) DIVERSITY DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN. Nalo Hopkinson’s advice “To Anthology Editors”.

But here’s where those voices have a point: if you wait till after you’ve put out your call for submissions to run around trying to fill in diversity slots for your anthology — you know, the “one of each so long as there aren’t too many of them” approach — you will more likely than not end up with a dog’s breakfast of a volume in which it’s clear that you selected writers for their optics, not their writing. That’s tokenism, not sound editorial practice. The time to be trying to make your anthology a diverse one is before submissions come in, not during or after.

On the other hand, if you just put your call for fiction out there and cross your fingers, you’ll end up with mostly the usual suspects. It’s not enough to simply open the door. Why? Because after centuries of exclusion and telling us we’re not good enough, an unlocked door is doing jack shit to let us know that anything’s changed. Most of us will continue to duck around it and keep moving, thank you very much. We’ll go where we know there are more people like us, or where there are editors who get what we’re doing.

So make up your mind that you’re going to have to do a bit of work, some outreach. It’s fun work, and the results are rewarding….

(9) RARA AVIS. Definitely not on my bucket list.

(10) CHRISTENSEN OBIT. Artist Jim Christensen died January 8 of cancer. He was 74.

Christensen saw himself not as the “fantasy artist” label given him, but rather as an artist who paints the fantastic.

“I paint things that are not real,” he told the Deseret News in 2008. “But fantasy often ventures into the dark and scary stuff. I made a decision long ago that I would not go to dark places. There’s a lot of negativity in the world. I try not to be part of it.”

His honors and awards include being named a Utah Art Treasure as well as one of Utah’s Top 100 Artists by the Springville Museum of Art and receiving the Governor’s Award for Art from the Utah Arts Council. He had won all the professional art honors given by the World Science Fiction Convention as well as multiple Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Christensen had served as president of the National Academy of Fantastic Art, and he co-chaired the Mormon Arts Foundation with his wife, Carole.

christensen-art

Dave Doering paid tribute: “I loved this man. For various years he was our Artist GoH at LTUE but also quite well known in all fantasy art circles.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 9, 1493 — On this date, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

(12) WORLDBUILDERS. At Tor.com, David Weber discusses five authors who he says are “great world-builders.” All five of the authors are women: Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz, Mercedes Lackey, Barbara Hambly, and Patricia McKillip:

“[McKillip] is, without a doubt, one of my two or three all-time favorite authors. When I first read The Riddle-Master of Hed in 1978, I immediately went out and found Heir of Sea and Fire and then waited impatiently for Harpist in the Wind. In many ways, the Riddle-Master’s world is less fully articulated than Pern or Gwynedd, but I think that’s because so much of the detail is cooking quietly away in the background behind the land rulers. There’s a sense of an entire consistent, coherent foundation and history/backstory behind all of it, but the struggles of Morgon, Raerdale, and Deth take front stage with an intensity that reaches out and grabs the reader by the shirt collar and shakes him or her to the bone. Patricia’s prose is absolutely gorgeous and evocative and her stories fully satisfy the deep love for the language my parents taught me as a very young reader. I literally don’t think it’s possible to over-recommend this series … and the rest of her stuff is pretty darn good, too.”

(13) ST. ELSEWHERE. But did it work? “This Brazilian Grandma Has Been Accidentally Praying to a ‘Lord of the Rings’ Statuette”  —

Saint Anthony of Padua’s the patron saint of Brazil, Portugal, pregnant women, and the elderly. He wears brown robes, and he usually holds baby Jesus and lilies. And – as one Brazilian woman discovered – a miniature figure of Santo Antônio also vaguely looks like Elrond, the elf lord of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. Brazilian makeup artist Gabriela Brandao made the hilarious discovery last week and posted about it on Facebook for all to see. Brandao explained that her daughter’s great-grandmother prayed to the Elrond figurine daily, erroneously believing it was Santo Antônio.

(14) IMAGINARY HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. There is no such work, except in your mind:

Well, and Chuck’s mind.

(15) BRIANNA WU’S CAMPAIGN. She’s already gaining media attention in Boston.

Brianna Wu was at the center of “Gamer-Gate” and received some horrific threats over social media. But instead of keeping a low profile, she tells Jim why she’s now planning on running for Congress.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Arnie Fenner, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Kowal Drops SFWA Candidacy

Mary Robinette Kowal, who intended to run for SFWA President in 2017, has withdrawn after learning Cat Rambo will seek re-election.

Well, this is awkward… But here’s the thing. When I decided to throw my hat into the ring for SFWA president, I thought Cat Rambo wasn’t running again. I think contested elections are good, because it allows members to make decisions about the direction an organization is headed. Cat and I?

The fact is that she and I are politically aligned on where SFWA should be heading. We’re both interested in keeping things moving in a more inclusive and supportive direction. She’d already created a committee to start looking at getting health insurance for SFWA members, headed by board member Sarah Pinsker.

She’s the one who has been driving the changes to the Nebula Conference.
So… After a good deal of conversation, I realized that if I signed up to be on the health insurance committee and keep doing the programming for the Nebula Conference, that it allows me to focus my full attention on both of those things, while leaving Cat to handle the board and all the minutiae of making the organization run.

Kowal indicated she might be interested in running again in 2019.

Pixel Scroll 1/1/17 The Early Scroll Catches The Pixel

(1) CELEBRATING IN ORBIT. Happy New Year from the International Space Station.

(2) MAKING IT COUNT. Camestros Felapton celebrates a milestone on his blog – “A Thousand Posts of Pedantic Nonsense”.

WordPress tells me I’ve written a thousand posts here. Gosh. [OK, technically some of those are by Timothy but they still have my name on them]

I assume this means I level up and get extra blogging powers.

(3) PERMANENT PARTY STARTS TODAY. Cancer survivor Pat Cadigan has an even better reason to be giddy — “Hi, I’m Not Dead Yet—Hahahahaha, Suck It, Mortality!”

I’m glad to be alive but I can’t help being a little nervous. I have now exceeded the original estimate of the time I had left. I’m not in any way surprised as it’s been obvious for a year that I would. And I still can’t help being a little nervous because, as the kids say, sh!t just got real. I knew I was going to do this. I never believed I was going to do anything else. But it’s no longer something in the future; now it’s put up or shut up: You’re on, kid––careful you don’t trip on your super-hero cape as you make your entrance.

Every day is still going to be a party. Every day is Anything-Can-Happen Day until further notice. Of course, every day is Anything-Can-Happen Day for everyone, not just me. Indeterminacy Are Us. But certain probabilities are a little higher for me and it’s the sort of thing that I can’t help being aware of, sometimes more so than other times.

(4) LIFE CHANGING. Jason Ahlquist “Complexity Makes Suffering Invisible”

In 2016, I saw a child die in the street. That’s not a metaphor. It was a violent crime that actually happened. I haven’t talked about it publicly for two reasons. The first reason was that it didn’t feel right to do so while his family and friends mourned. The second reason was that the event entered into a complex stream of events in my life that have been dramatically changing me. It wasn’t so much that I watched a death; it was that the death was framed by other experiences reacting together on my insides. And all those things took a while to fully catalyze.

(5) YOU’RE FIRED SOME MORE. A dealer and former PCC director who offended management tells Bleeding Cool “What It Looks Like To Get Excommunicated From Phoenix Comicon”

Anabel Martinez used to be a director at Phoenix Comicon and she, as well as other folk, has been critical of Phoenix Comicon’s move to restricting volunteers to those who pay to be member of the Blue Ribbon Army fan society, of which Phoenix Comicon’s Matt Solberg is also a board member.

Martinez says –

Matt will always spin it when people voice concerns. My big critique that got me banned from a convention I love and adore? Being upset that volunteers have to pay for the privilege to volunteer now. He says I stepped down as a marketing director – that was a volunteer gig.

Solberg’s side of things is —

Since her dismissal in 2010 Ms. Martinez has pursued a vendetta against Phoenix Comicon, our staff, and myself. She has increasingly grown vindictive and bullying in her comments and actions. We made a business decision as a privately held company that we no longer need to tolerate her behavior by allowing her to participate within our event. I stand by the letter I sent her which she has posted to social media.

(6) MORE ON ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS. Blogcritics Celina Summers, in “Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors”, wants to know where the money is.

The ebook industry has undergone several transitions in the past few years, where authors have become increasingly victimized by e-pirates, vanity presses, and scams designed to keep writers from making money on their intellectual property. Earlier today, December 28, 2016, the industry hit a new low when longtime e-tailer All Romance E-Books (Are), LLC (with its non-romance genre partner Omni Lit) released a surprise notice to its authors and publishers. ARe’s CEO and owner, Lori James, announced that the retailer was closing its doors in three days’ time…

Because let’s be for real here. It’s not like ARe’s owners aren’t paying authors because they don’t have the money for the sales. They do have it. They banked all that cash and are now trying to keep it. And by hanging the threat of filing for bankruptcy out there, the company is attempting to threaten authors into agreeing legally to let them retain that money without future legal responsibility.

While that might be true, it’s probably not true – when businesses go under, the liquid assets generally have already gone into salaries and wages and any operating expenses needed to make the business appear viable up til the bitter end.

(7) SFWA CANDIDATE. Mary Robinette Kowal is running for President of SFWA in 2017.

I’m running for the position of President. For four years, I was privileged to work with an extremely active and committed board, first as Secretary of SFWA and then as Vice President. I stepped down because I believe that new voices are vital to a service organization such as SFWA. But there are still things that I want to see accomplished, particularly trying to find affordable health care for our members.  I feel that after five years off the board, the time is right to run again.

(8) ANCHORS AWEIGH. The 2017 Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat will depart aboard a passenger ship from Kiel, Germany on July 28.

The base price of $1700 covers the full week of intensive seminars, writing exercises, and free writing time, plus meals, double-occupancy lodging on the ship, and a cruise to four different European destinations. (We have arranged for a hotel, breakfast, and transfer to the ship for $150, but staying there is optional.) Attendees will also be invited to attend live recordings of episodes of Hugo award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells.

At sea. Seriously.

Desiree Burch, John Berlyne, Wesley Chu, Aliette de Bodard, Jasper Fforde, Ken Liu, Thomas Olde Heuvelt and Carsten Polzin will also participate.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 1, 1929 — Suit actor Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla) is born in Japan.
  • Born January 1, 1938 – Frank Langella.

(10) THAT LOVELY OLD PARTY IN 221B. Sherlock is changing — Variety got it from the horse’s mouth, “Benedict Cumberbatch on How Sherlock Holmes Is Softening”

Is Sherlock Holmes going soft? Benedict Cumberbatch explained to an audience of British grandees in London that his character has been on a journey of enlightenment over the past three seasons of “Sherlock,” and in season four, which premieres on New Year’s Day, audiences will see him humanized further, or as one journalist crudely put it: “He’s slightly less of a d**k.”

“He is becoming slightly more… well, in a very clear way… responsible for his actions,” Cumberbatch explained during an onstage discussion that followed a screening of “The Six Thatchers,” the opening episode of season four.

“But I think he understands that it’s a slow, slow process that began in the very first instance when he met John [Doctor Watson], who supplies the missing piece of that jigsaw that is him. That friendship, that partnership in crime, has been the humanizing element all the way through [the three seasons], and I think he is now becoming more of a human-being.”

(11) CLARKE CENTER. “The Hard Problem: An Audio Voyage”, Episode 3 of Into the Impossible, the podcast of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination, features Kim Stanley Robinson, Adam Tinkle, and Marina Abramovic.

In winter of 2015, the Clarke Center produced a collaborative project with the performance artist Marina Abramovic and the science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson.

The multi-day workshop cultivated a series of interactions between a story that Stan was writing about a multi-generational spaceship heading to another star, and the performance art gestures of Marina’s that are a journey into our inner self. We improvised readings and performance actions to find the ways in which these seemingly diametric experiences touched on the common idea of how we extend our sense of time and space from the moment to the eternal.

Out of this, we created an installation with multiple audio tracks, which was then further developed for the Venice Biennale. We also made a short film, which you can find below, and the audio tracks were mixed and choreographed by Adam Tinkle into the podcast.

 

(12) FISHER BID FAREWELL NEW ORLEANS STYLE. New Orleans’ Leijorettes and Chewbacchus krewes held a parade to honor Carrie Fisher.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/16 Scroll Measured By Weight. Pixels May Settle In Packing

(1) PROMETHEUS AWARDS RECOMMENDATIONS. Members of the Libertarian Futurist Society can formally nominate a work for any category of the Prometheus Awards.

Here are the works nominated so far in 2016 for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

2016 Prometheus Award Best Novel nominations
(Nominations as of Dec. 17, 2016. Nominations deadline: Feb. 15, 2017)

  • Morning Star: Book III of The Red Rising Trilogy, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey, Feb., 2016)
  • Speculator, by Doug Casey and John Hunt (HighGround Books, Sept. 2016)
  • Dark Age, by Felix Hartmann (Hartmann Publishing, June 2016)
  • Kill Process, by William Hertling (Liquididea Press, June 2016)
  • Through Fire, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit, 2016)
  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (TOR Books, 2016)
  • Written in Fire, (Book 3 of The Brilliance trilogy) by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, Jan. 2016)
  • The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo and Lola Rogers (Grove Press/Black Cat, January 2016)
  • Blade of p’Na, by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick, October 2016)
  • Arkwright, by Allen Steele (TOR Books, March 2016)
  • On to the Asteroid, by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • Necessity, by Jo Walton (TOR Books, July 2016)

(2) THEATRICAL ALIENS. Alastair Reynolds’ story is being brought to the stage using puppets designed by Mary Robinette Kowal — “The House Theater of Chicago to Stage World Premiere of Sci-Fi Thriller DIAMOND DOGS”.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents their initial production in 2017, Diamond Dogs, adapted from Alastair Reynolds’ science fiction adventure by Althos Low and directed by Artistic Director Nathan Allen, playing at the Chopin Upstairs Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., January 13 – March 5. Diamond Dogs is also a participant in the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, January 19 – 29. Preview performances are January 13 – 20. Opening/press night is Sunday, Jan. 22.

Diamond Dogs follows a 26th century team of humans and transhumans as they investigate a mysterious alien tower, bent on brutally punishing all intruders. Uncovering clues and solving puzzles, each crusader will make dangerous, eye-popping sacrifices to get to the mysteries atop the spire. Blood will spill. This thriller is one of 16 stories set in novelist Reynolds’s expansive Revelation Space Universe. Artistic Director Nathan Allen teams up with The House’s most inventive designers and guest artists to bring this unique universe to life. Body modification is the norm in the future, and award-winning puppet designer Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also an award-winning sci-fi author, articulates and re-shapes the actors’ human forms into powerful mechanized players battling for their lives. Reynolds is one of a new generation of hard science-fiction authors, a craft he began during his decade-long career as an astrophysicist with the European Space Agency. Diamond Dogs is a pure example of the “Deadly Maze Story,” a staple of Science Fiction since H. P. Lovecraft. This world premiere production at The House Theatre of Chicago marks the first of Reynolds’ works to be adapted for another medium.

(3) RESNICK ON WRITING. Joshua Sky interviews Mike Resnick for Omni.

JS: What other elements are important in a new writer? Is it attitude, is it talent? What’s your take on that?

MR: First, you’ve got to be a smooth enough writer so that it’s not an effort for the editor, or the reader to get to the bottom of each page. That’s essential. You’ve got to know how to push a noun up against a verb with some grace. And of course you should have a knowledge of the field, because while there’s still a million ideas we haven’t touched, there’s probably half a million ideas that have already seen print. And unless you have a totally new take on it you’re not going to sell it. There used to be a rejection slip from Amazing Stories, back when Ted White was editing it, where there’d be a number of boxes he could check to explain why he’d rejected it. The box he checked most was, “Heinlein did it better – and earlier.”

I would love to have a rejection slip like that, but all Galaxy’s Edge’s rejections are personal. But yeah, you’ve got to know the field if you want to write in it. Which makes sense. I mean, shouldn’t you care enough about the field in which you want to make all or part of your living so that you’ve been reading it and know about it, and know what has been done to death and what hasn’t?

(4) ANSWERS WANTED James Davis Nicoll wants to tap into File 770 readers’ collective wisdom about project management tools useful for conrunners.

A local theatrical organization has ongoing communications challenges. The current means of communication (email, facebook, facebook messages) all seem to lend themselves to communications breakdowns [1]. I recall that Basecamp worked pretty well for the Tiptrees but Hipchat, Slack and Telegram have also been suggested as well. I know a bunch of you run cons. Would you recommend any of these tools?

[1] Facebook lends itself to amnesia but even in email it can be hard to find the specific email you want, particularly if you’ve forgotten it exists. Or never knew.

(5) BILL WARREN REMEMBERED. Scott Shaw! told Facebook readers that Svengoolie paid tribute to the late Bill Warren on this week’s program.

Tonight on Me-TV, during his presentation of Hammer’s 1960 classic THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, Svengoolie (AKA Rich Koz) made a VERY nice mention of Bill Warren‘s passing. He showed the photo of Bill with Robby the Robot and Kerry Gammill‘s cover for the new edition of Bill’s KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES! Sven mentioned Bill’s work with Forry Ackerman and his insanely voluminous knowledge about the films we all love. He even mentioned Beverly Warren! It made me very proud to see such a wonderful acknowlegement of the sweet, funny guy we all miss.

I wasn’t aware that Sven’s tribute to Bill was gonna be tonight, but surely some of you out there recorded tonight’s episode of SVENGOOLIE

(6) GABOR OBIT. Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) died December 18. Her Internet Movie Database bio says —

Undoubtedly the woman who had come to epitomize what we recognize today as “celebrity”, Zsa Zsa Gabor, is better known for her many marriages, personal appearances, her “dahlink” catchphrase, her actions, life gossip, and quotations on men, rather than her film career.

Her biggest genre credit was the movie Queen of Outer Space. She also appeared in Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and episodes of Night Gallery (segment “The Painted Mirror”), Batman, and Supertrain.

queen-of-outer-space

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of the Moon. (“Say ‘Cheese!’”)
  • December 18, 1968Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born December 18, 1913 – Alfred Bester
  • Born December 18, 1946 — Steven Spielberg (Amazing Stories) and
  • Born December 18, 1958 — Steve Davidson (Amazing Stories)

(9) OUR REPLACEMENTS. Kate Macdonald looks back at early cyborgs in her “Review of ‘No Woman Born’ (1944) by C.L. Moore and ‘Lady in the Tower’ (1959) by Anne McCaffrey” at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

I teach sf to university students, and knew from the critical literature about gender in sf that sometime in the 1940s a writer called C. L. Moore published a landmark story about the first female cyborg. I tracked down a copy of ‘No Woman Born’ this year, and was deeply impressed. This story is a glowing beacon of fine writing and an impressive acceleration of how the cyborg operates in fiction. No longer a destructive masculine, war-making automaton from the post-WW1 years, this cyborg is a dancer and singer whose new flexibility and vocal range enhance her art, and successfully disguise her strength of purpose by using her femininity to cloak her developing ambitions. Deirdre is a person who is now a cyborg, and her humanity is totally present throughout this novella, despite her gleaming gold body, and her inhuman speed and agility.

The story could just as well be a three-act play. It’s set in Deirdre’s apartment where Harris, her former manager, comes to visit her for the first time after her rehabilitation following a disastrous fire, then when he and her besotted surgeon Maltzer watch her first public performance on TV in her new body, and finally when Harris witnesses Maltzer’s threat to prevent any more cyborgs being made, and Deirdre’s command. ‘No Woman Born’ is not just a story of one person, it’s an opening up of possibilities: cyborgs are stronger and faster, so what will that mean for women, as well as for men? What will that mean for the humans left behind? Can relations between a man and a woman be the same now that the woman is made of metal? How will a woman feel about her body, when no-one is there to admire it? And does this matter? By creating a female cyborg whose primary attributes, in the eyes of the men who managed and created her, are her grace and beauty, Moore shows us that when a cyborg claims autonomy, she becomes nobody’s creature, and can decide how she will live her extended, augmented life. It is a tremendous, game-changing story for feminism in sf, and for how we need to learn to think about being post-human. It’s also beautifully written, with unforgettable images of Deirdre learning to see, to stand, move and dance humanly again, in her glittering robe of metal mesh, and her golden, visored face.

(10) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY MUSIC. If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite dark ambient fan, the Cryo Chamber label has been releasing massive collaborations named after Lovecraftian gods. The latest one is named Nyarllathotep. The albums are available in CD and digital formats.

A 190 minute dark soundscape album recorded by 25 ambient artists to pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. Field recordings from the deepest dark corners of 4 continents. Dusty tapes out of forgotten archives. Strings through crackling amplifiers and distorted drone combine into a sea of pitch black. Nyarlathotep is a manipulative being in the Lovecraftian Mythos. Unlike Cthulhu, or Azathoth, he delights in cruelty and deception. Causing madness is more important than destruction to him.

Smell the burning embers as you kneel outside the sunken temple before Nyarlathotep. Feel the raspy touch of the faceless pharaoh as he leads you to the ancient Pyramid. Hear his inhuman summoning call to gods beyond reality.

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The New York Times highlighted Afrofuturism in their Year in Style 2016 section. In the article, Ytasha L. Womack, author of the 2013 Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, speaks almost in counterpoint to the Puppies:

“When…in the imaginary future… people can’t fathom a person of non-Euro descent a hundred years into the future, a cosmic foot has to be put down.”

…Afrofuturism’s resurgence could not be more timely, arriving as it does in a climate perceived as indifferent, if not downright inimical, to racial and ethnic minorities. In her book, Ms. Womack recalls a time when black or brown sci-fi characters were all but invisible in the culture at large. As a girl, she would fantasize that she was Princess Leia of “Star Wars.”

“While it was fun to be the chick from outer space in my imagination,” Ms. Womack writes, “the quest to see myself or browner people in this space age, galactic epic was important to me.” It was in the absence of minorities from pop lore, she goes on, “that seeds were planted in the imaginations of countless black kids who yearned to see themselves in warp-speed spaceship too.”

Count among them Tim Fielder, a New York graphic artist and animator whose sci-fi illustrations, produced over a 30-year span, drew visitors last spring to “Black Metropolis,” at the Gallatin Galleries at New York University. Mr. Fielder’s pioneering cartoon narratives — notably those of “Matty’s Rocket,” his spirited black female cosmonaut, who will lift off next year in graphic novel form — are particularly relevant now, he maintained: “They let young artists know that they’re not on dangerous turf, that someone has gone there before them.”

(12) BEFORE YOUR EYES. NPR combines story and video in its report “Google assembles decades of satellite photos to show changes on Earth”.

Google Earth’s time lapse videos of earth’s landscape could make you think about the great baseball player Yogi Berra.

“I thought about one of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra,” says Marc Levy, a political scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who specializes in issues of global health and development. “He said, ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.'”

To show just how much the Earth’s landscape has changed over the past three decades, Google sifted through 5 million satellite images containing three quadrillion pixels. The result is a series of high-resolution, zoomable time-lapse videos that capture, in unprecedented detail, the human impact on this planet.

 

(13) SCIENCE HISTORY. Genevieve Valentine reviews “’Hidden Figures,’’The Glass Universe,’ And Why Science Needs History” for NPR.

But history tends to get simplified; a map becomes a single road leading from point to point. It’s not surprising that some scientists who contributed invaluably to the field have been kept out of the dominant narrative because they were women, and they were considered anomalies of their time. (That those times practically overlap — meaning a steady line of crucial work being done by women — is one of those scientific patterns that tend to get forgotten.)

But in the last days of the 19th century and the early days of the 20th, Henrietta Swan Leavitt — one of the many woman “computers” at the Harvard Observatory — used the measurements of variable stars to determine fixed distances across space. And fifty years later, Katherine Johnson — a black woman working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia when the state was still deeply segregated — would map John Glenn’s space flight, and America’s trip to the moon.

(14) RADIO ART. A few months ago we reported the drawing competition BBC Radio 4 was having  to draw episode art for their re-broadcast of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust radio adaptation. The program is airing this month – there will be a repeat Christmas weekend. Schedule here: Stardust – Next on – BBC Radio 4.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian,  Bruce Arthurs, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, and Rob Thornton for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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.