Pixel Scroll 11/27/17 And All I Ask Is A Tall Scroll And A Pixel To Godstalk Her By

(1) MORE GIFT POSSIBILITIES. C.F. Payne, who has produced covers for Time and Reader’s Digest among others, has been doing portraits of various creatives (writers, artists, musicians, et al) as demos for his art students and selling them on his Etsy page. These three examples are Lucas, Méliès, and Bradbury.

(2) OFF THE GROUND. George R.R. Martin’s 10-episode Season 1 of Nightflyers has been greenlit by SyFy.

NIGHTFLYERS will be shot in the Republic of Ireland, I’m told, on sound stages in Limerick… which will give them access to the same great pool of Irish and British actors that GAME OF THRONES has tapped in Belfast (and considering how many characters we’ve killed, a lot of them should be available). … If all goes according to schedule, the series should debut this summer, in late July. It will be broadcast on SyFy in the USA, and on Netflix around the world.

(3) ROOM DISRUPTION. Arisia 2018 takes place January 12-15 in Boston, but they just learned they’ll have to get by with almost 200 fewer rooms in their main hotel.

Q: What happened?

A: In early November the Westin informed us that its parent company has scheduled guest-room renovations. These renovations will be happening all winter and overlap the convention. During Arisia, three floors of guest rooms will be unavailable.

“Innkeeper” Holly Nelson is appealing to members to volunteer to move their reservations to a secondary hotel:

…One month into my role, Arisia received the news from the Westin about the renovations scheduled this winter. We were told 196 rooms would be unavailable and those reservations would need to transfer to the Aloft across the street. I was shocked and worried about how we would address the situation. Arisia staff members worked with the Westin to negotiate a better deal for those who would be required to move, as well as increasing how much of the Westin is reserved for our attendees to use.

If we don’t get enough volunteers, we’ll need to make involuntary transfers. If that happens we will be considering what is best for everyone who is concerned about moving. We’re working to meet the needs of as many people as possible – with the help of Arisia staff, including our Con Chair – in the most fair, impartial way we can. I would love to avoid this unpleasant duty, but that’s only possible if you volunteer by Thursday….

There are incentives for volunteering – see the FAQ.

(4) ABOUT HUGO AWARDS SITE LINKS TO THIRD PARTIES. The official Hugo Awards website’s response to criticism of Rocket Stack Rank, one of the “Third Party Recommendation Sites” linked there, has been to add a disclaimer:

I asked Kevin Standlee, who is part of the committee that runs the website, to address the broader question of why the Hugo Awards site links to other sites and how they are chosen:

The sites we’ve added have been as they came to our attention or when people asked us to add them. But a key thing is that they had to have a fixed address. People who set up a list for one year, then a new address for another year, then another new address, and so forth, we won’t add, because it’s too difficult to maintain. That has been apparently too high a bar for most people, who want to do things like set up Google Sheets for 2017, 2018, 2019, etc, with a new one every year. I’ve turned down the people whose request amounted to, “Add my site, and constantly monitor it so that when I change it to a different address, you’ll also change yours.” I have enough trouble keeping up with routine maintenance as it is.

Renay of Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, will recognize Kevin’s example.

(5) BLOCKED. In “Star Trek Fight:  Shatner Blasts Isaacs on Twitter”, James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly notes that William Shatner has blocked Jason Isaacs on Twitter, because he says that Isaacs is preventing him from a guest role on Star Trek: Discovery.  Isaacs responds that since Star Trek:Discovery takes place just before Star Trek TOS, James T. Kirk would be about 16 on the show which leaves no room for Shatner.

William Shatner has set his Twitter shields to maximum.

The actor who played the most iconic Star Trek captain has blocked the newest actor to play a Star Trek captain —  Jason Isaacs on Star Trek: Discovery — on the social network following the latter’s comments in an interview.

Shatner hasn’t publicly stated a reason for the blocking. But it follows a UK tabloid story posted a couple of weeks ago headlined, “Jason Isaacs hopes William Shatner won’t appear in Star Trek: Discovery.” Which admittedly does sound pretty bad. But Isaacs didn’t say that — or at least didn’t seem to mean that — but rather was making a point about how it wouldn’t make sense to have Shatner in the series since his character would only be about 16 years old during the Discovery time period.

(6) THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT. John Hertz could tell from the way I spelled the lyric “A-WEEMA-WEH” that I was missing cultural nuances – beginning with the correct spelling – readily available from the Wikipedia’s entry about “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

Apparently I’m first in directing your attention to the Zulu mbube (“lion”) and uyimbube (“you’re a lion”), the spelling “Wimoweh” by Pete Seeger, and a cross-language cross-cultural trail of creativity and intellectual property (some Filers would add “appropriation”) worthy of B. Pelz’ coinage Berlitzkrieg.

The Wikipedia says this about the song’s origin:

“Mbube” (Zulu for “lion”) was written in the 1920s, by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who later worked for the Gallo Record Company in Johannesburg as a cleaner and record packer. He spent his weekends performing with the Evening Birds, a musical ensemble, and it was at Gallo Records, under the direction of producer Griffiths Motsieloa, that Linda and his fellow musicians recorded several songs including “Mbube,” which incorporated a call-response pattern common among many Sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, including the Zulu.

(7) 2017’S TOP HORROR. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog brings us the editors’ picks for “The Best Horror Books of 2017”. The list begins with –

Chalk, by Paul Cornell
Chalk tells the story of Andrew Waggoner, who suffers a horrifying act of violence at the hands of his school’s bullies. In his grief and anger, the boy makes contact with an old and ancient presence, which offers to help make him whole and exact terrible revenge—if he allows it. The occult horror masks a genuine exploration of how trauma can affect a person, cutting them out of the world, instilling violent fantasies of revenge, and leaving psychological wounds that linger long after the physical trauma had healed. It’s heartfelt, surreally terrifying, and utterly wrenching in ways I can only struggle to describe, and worth all the attention you can give it. Read our review.

(8) MYTHS FOR OUR TIME. Let The Guardian tell you why this is a good idea: “Mythos review – the Greek myths get the Stephen Fry treatment”.

Ever since William Godwin persuaded Charles Lamb to retell The Odyssey as a novel for younger readers in The Adventures of Ulysses (1808), the myths of ancient Greece have been retold in contemporary prose by every generation. Most of these retellings were originally poetry – the epics of Hesiod, Homer and the philhellene Latin poet Ovid, the Athenian tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides – in Mythos, Stephen Fry has narrated a selection of them in engaging and fluent prose. But do we need another version of the Greek myths in an already crowded market? Such treasured collections as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales (1853), Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942) and Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (1955) are still in print. Countless family car journeys are enlivened by Simon Russell Beale’s audiobook of Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths. So should a reader looking for an initiation into the thrilling world of the ancient Greek imagination choose Fry’s book?

…Yet Fry’s ear is finely tuned to the quaint tonality of some of his ancient sources. This is best revealed in his retelling of two Homeric Hymns, to Demeter and Hermes. They deal respectively with the abduction of teenage Persephone and the theft by the newborn Hermes of his big brother Apollo’s cattle. Fry’s distinctive voice undoubtedly adds something lively, humorous and intimate to myth’s psychological dimension. People who enjoy his media personality and particular style of post?Wodehouse English drollery are in for a treat. He tells us that he imagines Hera, queen of the gods, “hurling china ornaments at feckless minions”. Ares, god of war, “was unintelligent of course, monumentally dense”. Baby Hermes tells Maia: “Get on with your spinning or knitting or whatever it is, there’s a good mother.” Epaphus, child of Zeus and Io, “was always so maddeningly blasé about his pedigree”.

(9) MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TO END — WELL, NOT REALLY. “Secrets of the Marvel Universe” by Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair is a lengthy interview with MCU supremo Kevin Feige, including the revelation that the MCU will officially end with the release of Avengers 4 in 2019, although there will still be plenty of Marvel superhero movies after the MCU ends.

On a sweltering October weekend, the largest-ever group of Marvel superheroes and friends gathered just outside of Atlanta for a top-secret assignment. Eighty-three of the famous faces who have brought Marvel’s comic-book characters to life over the past decade mixed and mingled—Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, bonded with Vin Diesel, the voice of Groot, the monosyllabic sapling from Guardians of the Galaxy. Angela Bassett, mother to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, flew through hurricane-like conditions to report for duty alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Laurence Fishburne, and Stan Lee, the celebrated comic-book writer and co-creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

Their mission: to strike a heroic pose to commemorate 10 years of unprecedented moviemaking success. Marvel Studios, which kicked things off with Iron Man in 2008, has released 17 films that collectively have grossed more than $13 billion at the global box office; 5 more movies are due out in the next two years. The sprawling franchise has resuscitated careers (Downey), has minted new stars (Tom Hiddleston), and increasingly attracts an impressive range of A-list talent, from art-house favorites (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange) to Hollywood icons (Anthony Hopkins and Robert Redford) to at least three handsome guys named Chris (Hemsworth, Evans, and Pratt). The wattage at the photo shoot was so high that Ant-Man star Michael Douglas—Michael Douglas!—was collecting autographs.

(10) BIZARRE HOLLYWOOD. Life and times: Escapes is a Winningly Off-Kilter Doc About the Screenwriter of Sci-Fi Classic Blade Runner” at The Stranger.

If the name Hampton Fancher rings a bell, you probably have strong opinions on the best version of Blade Runner. The screenwriter of that sci-fi classic, Fancher sports one of the damndest backstories in Hollywood, including acting appearances on Bonanza, literal ditch digging, and occasional bouts of flamenco dancing. The documentary Escapes tells the thoroughly odd, strangely endearing saga of a genial bullshitter who somehow keeps stumbling, if not always upwards, at least sideways through show business. Think Robert Evans with a smidge of self-consciousness, and prepare for a wild ride.

Beginning with a long, shaggy story involving Teri Garr, director Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) gives his subject ample room to spin his yarn, wittily utilizing a slew of media clips as Fancher wanders hither and yon between topics such as his relationship with Lolita’s Sue Lyon, Philip K. Dick’s hilariously unsmooth attempt to hit on Fancher’s then-girlfriend, and the sexual exploits of the (human) star of Flipper. As for Blade Runner, that seemingly career-defining experience receives the same breezy pass-through as the rest of his stories, further painting the picture of a man who’s proud of his achievements, but doesn’t always seem entirely certain of how all the dots came to connect….

(11) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE BURRITO. Perhaps you’ve already seen this culinary steampunk extravaganza — it’s dated 2007: “The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel” at Idle Words.

Who can imagine New York City without the Mission burrito? Like the Yankees, the Brooklyn Bridge or the bagel, the oversize burritos have become a New York institution. And yet it wasn’t long ago that it was impossible to find a good burrito of any kind in the city. As the 30th anniversary of the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel approaches, it’s worth taking a look at the remarkable sequence of events that takes place between the time we click “deliver” on the burrito.nyc.us.gov website and the moment that our hot El Farolito burrito arrives in the lunchroom with its satisfying pneumatic hiss.

The story begins in any of the three dozen taquerias supplying the Bay Area Feeder Network, an expansive spiderweb of tubes running through San Francisco’s Mission district as far south as the “Burrito Bordeaux” region of Palo Alto and Mountain View. Electronic displays in each taqueria light up in real time with orders placed on the East Coast, and within minutes a fresh burrito has been assembled, rolled in foil, marked and dropped down one of the small vertical tubes that rise like organ pipes in restaurant kitchens throughout the city.

Once in the tubes, it’s a quick dash for the burritos across San Francisco Bay. Propelled by powerful bursts of compressed air, the burritos speed along the same tunnel as the BART commuter train, whose passengers remain oblivious to the hundreds of delicious cylinders whizzing along overhead. Within twelve minutes, even the remotest burrito has arrived at its final destination, the Alameda Transfer Station, where it will be prepared for its transcontinental journey….

(12) SIX BOOKS. From Nerds of a Feather comes “6 Books with Mira Grant”:

  1. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about over time–either positively or negatively?

The Dead Zone, by Stephen King. I originally read it when I was way too young, and thought it was incredibly boring. Revisiting it as an adult was a revelation.

(13) VINTAGE DARKNESS. It used to be all you had to do was look up. Night is getting harder to find: “Idaho Dims The Lights For One Of The Best Night Skies Anywhere”.

In a high mountain valley in central Idaho over 6,000 feet in elevation, the last hint of a glow from sun fades in the western sky. The conditions are perfect as Steve Botti, an astronomy enthusiast and city councilman for the tiny town of Stanley, holds his sky quality meter to the heavens. There are no clouds, and the moon has dipped behind the craggy Sawtooth Mountains as he assesses the darkness of the sky with the little device that looks like a pager.

His arm extended and his head snugly wrapped in a beanie, Botti says, “A reading of 21.75 or higher is considered by the dark sky association to be exceptionally dark.”

On a clear night here you can see the purple cloud of the Milky Way stretched across the sky. The rare sight is possible because people are making an effort to keep the night sky dark. Dark enough, they hope, to earn a seal of approval from the International Dark-Sky Association…

(14) CARTLOADS OF CARATS. An asteroid’s leavings: “The German town encrusted with diamonds”.

During construction of the town, which was first mentioned in records in the 9th Century AD, the settlers didn’t realise the stone they were using was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds, in a concentration seen nowhere else in the world.

As I looked down on the sleepy Bavarian town from the top of the tower, it was hard to picture the area as being anything other than tranquil. It was, in fact, a violent and otherworldly event – an asteroid strike that hit 15 million years ago – that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town.

… Not long after Shoemaker and Chao first visited Nördlingen, it was estimated by local geologists that the town walls and buildings contained approximately 72,000 tons of diamonds. Although suevite can be found in other parts of the world from similar impacts, nowhere is the gemstone concentration as high as it is in Nördlingen.

(15) NEW VOICE. Editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald has joined the Skiffy and Fanty Show.

I’ll be working as their YA reviewer and my first post will go up in December. In the meantime, you can hear my first outing as co-host of one of their podcasts. Paul Weimer and I chatted with C.B. Lee, Cat Rambo and Nicky Drayden about participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Last year Fitzgerald was a co-winner of the Ditmar Award for Best Fan Publication with the team of interviewers who created the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot.

(16) 70 MM. How long will people be able to see 2001 in its original format? “Dying arts can be saved — but is it worth it?” (From the Boston Globe: may be paywalled in the near future, but isn’t yet.)

When cinema buffs celebrate the 50th anniversary of “2001: A Space Odyssey” next year, an uncomfortable question will loom larger than a malicious monolith. Does the epic sci-fi movie — the one that to its most ardent fans delivers a near-religious experience — have any future?

To true believers, the 1968 Stanley Kubrick cult classic must be viewed in its original wide-screen 70-millimeter format, an immersive visual experience augmented by the classical music score. Lauded for its crisper colors, deeper blacks, and higher-resolution images, fans see 70-millimeter as the highest expression of Hollywood artistry. The format was popularized in the 1950s to showcase movies’ technical superiority over television, and reserved for major productions like “Ben-Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” But today, with Hollywood’s near-total shift to digital projection, the format faces an uncertain future — and is only held together, as a labor of love, by the efforts of a passionate community of movie fans.

…The worst case scenario is that, in a generation or two, the movie theaters may still exist, but the practical skills to build, fix, and use the specialized projectors will have vanished.

(17) GRATITUDE. Joe Stech of Compelling SF found plenty to be thankful for in his Thanksgiving post “10 issues of Compelling Science Fiction: a retrospective”.

I get asked every couple months why I spend so much time on this magazine. Most of the time I give a brief canned answer, something along the lines of “everyone needs a hobby, this is one of mine.” While that’s true, it’s a bit of a non-answer. Let me try and give a real answer here, in a few parts:

  1. Science fiction is fascinating. Like many art forms, good science fiction requires a base layer of technical skill. That’s the starting line. However, there’s a secondary layer of subject matter expertise, and a third layer that involves actually saying something meaningful about the universe we live in.
  2. Evaluating that third layer is deeply subjective, which means that no two readers will necessarily see eye to eye when reading a story. This also means that every publisher has its own set of biases when selecting stories to publish, which means that many stories that I’d enjoy never get out into the world. I want to help change that.
  3. There are extremely talented people out there producing wonderful content who never get paid for their work — I want to help support them, which is why I’ve always paid professional rates, even at the beginning when nobody was supporting the magazine. I’ve always been a proponent of putting my money where my mouth is, and I’m extremely grateful to have found magazine supporters who feel the same way.

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

2017 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last couple of years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 and 35 of the novellas published in 2016 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

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

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

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

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

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Uncanny Magazine March-April 2017, editor unknown

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Gregory Manchess, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

The Memoirist, by Neil Williamson (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by John Harris, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photographs by Getty Images, design by FORT

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

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

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

Filer comments on the Sin du Jour series:

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

Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Stephen Youll, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Dave Palumbo, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (audio excerpt)

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

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

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

Illustration by Reiko Murakami

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

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


The Enclave, by Anne Charnock (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

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

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


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

Subterranean Press / Gollancz, edited by Editor

cover art by Stephen Walters, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Havergey, by John Burnside (excerpt)

Little Toller Monographs, editor unknown

cover art by Norman Ackroyd, designer unknown

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

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


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

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

cover art by Bob Eggleton

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

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


In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle (excerpt)

Tachyon Publications, edited by Rachel Fagundes

cover design by Elizabeth Story

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Diana Pho

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Mark Owen, cover design by FORT

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover photograph by RekhaGarton, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

(included with the novel The Brightest Fell)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath

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

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


Proof of Concept, by Gwyneth Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover by Drive Communication

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Snapshot, by Brandon Sanderson (excerpt)

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

cover art by Howard Lyon, design by Isaac Stewart

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

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art and design by Will Staehle

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

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


Other 2017 Novellas:


Bearly a Lady, by Cassandra Khaw (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Muna Abdirahman, design by Kenda Montgomery

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

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


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

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

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


The Book Club, by Alan Baxter (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ben Baldwin, design by Michael Smith

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


Buffalo Soldier, by Maurice Broaddus (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

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


Cottingley, by Alison Littlewood (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

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


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

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Jim Burns, designer unknown

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


Final Girls, by Mira Grant (excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Julie Dillon, designer unknown

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

cover art by Bob Eggleton

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


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

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

cover art by NASA

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


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

Cemetary Dance, editor unknown

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

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


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

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

cover art by Eldar Zakirov

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


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

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

cover art by Charles Vess

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


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

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

cover art by Bob Eggleton

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


Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (excerpt)

Solaris, edited by Jonathan Oliver

cover art by Maz Smith, designer unknown

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Infernal Parade, by Clive Barker (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, edited by Editor

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

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


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

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by unknown

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


The Little Gift, by Stephen Volk (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Pedro Marques, designer unknown

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


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

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

cover art by Bryn Barnard

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


Mandelbrot the Magnificent, by Liz Ziemska (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art and design by Will Staehle

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


Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Greg Ruth, design by Christine Foltzer

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


Native Seeds, by Catherine Wells (no excerpt)

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

cover art by Marianne Plumridge Eggleton

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


Never Now Always, by Desirina Boskovich (excerpt)

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

cover art and design by Jeremy Zerfoss

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


Nexus, by Michael F. Flynn (excerpt)

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

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

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


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

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

cover art by Rado Javor

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


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

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

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

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


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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229 July 2017, editor unknown

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

Filer Comments:


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

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art and design by Michael Fusco Straub

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


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

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

cover art by Kurt Huggins

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


Reenu-You, by Michele Tracy Berger (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Emma Glaze, designer unknown

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

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


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

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by J.K. Potter, designer unknown

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


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

Abaddon Books, edited by David Moore

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

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


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

Five Fathoms Press, editor unknown

cover art by Leesha Hannigan, design by Patrick Samphire

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

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


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

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

cover art by Maurizio Manzieri

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


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

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

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


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

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

cover art by Kent Bash

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


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

MCD/FSG, edited by Sean McDonald

cover design by Abby Kagan

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


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

Orbit Books, edited by Will Hinton

cover art and design by Kirk Benshoff

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


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

Clarkesworld #127 June 2017, edited by Neil Clarke

cover art by Eddie Mendoza

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


Tao Zero, by Damien Broderick (no excerpt)

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

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

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


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

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

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


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

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by Kenda Montgomery

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


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

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

cover art by Nicholas Grunas

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


The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover photograph by Roy Bishop, design by Christine Foltzer

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


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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

2016 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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


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

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


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

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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


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

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

 

 

 


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

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

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


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

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

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

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

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


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

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

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

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


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

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

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


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricandtheshaman

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

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

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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


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

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

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

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


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

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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

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


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

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

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

Easy.

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


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

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Paul Weimer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/16 Is That a Pixel In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Glad To Scroll Me?

(1) BBC RADIO 4 SF. BBC Radio 4 is presenting Dangerous Visions, a series of science fiction radio plays, both original and adaptations of classic works, beginning May 22. Adapted works include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New Worlds, Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes, William Morris’ News From Nowhere, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

The list of upcoming episodes is here. They’ll be available for listening to online “shortly after broadcast” for a limited time (usually 30 days).

(2) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. The BBC’s Dangerous Visions site also offers lessons in “How To Speak Sci-Fi”, a selection of 10 popular taglines.

It takes a LOT of training to be a fully-fledged, proud sci-fi nerd. If someone can speak fluent Italian, they’re revered (assuming they’re not actually Italian) but fluent Klingon? You’re considered a joke. We’re here to set this right….

3. “If I can just reverse the polarity of the neutron flow…”

Try saying that when you’re fighting with the automatic checkout at the supermarket and every Doctor Who fan within earshot will snigger. Jon Pertwee said it originally but it’s used by fans as general shorthand for the Doctor’s more unlikely technological experiments.

(3) CHESTERTON. Elsewhere on BBC Radio 4, they’re in the middle of an adaptation of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. The first 4 (of 13) episodes are available for online listening so far — GK Chesterton – The Man Who Was Thursday – Episode guide – BBC Radio 4 Extra.

(4) HITCHCOCK AND LUCAS. If the two famous directors combined forces the result would be nothing like Darth By Darthwest but who cares?

(5) EAT THE ADS. Tor.com explains why “We Are Sad That We Cannot Go to Japan and Eat Captain America: Civil War Ramen”.

What’s inside these familiar-looking decorative bowls, you ask? Civil War in a soup! Marvel teamed up with the popular Japanese ramen chain Ippudo in May to give the public a dose of superhero-themed food.

And we are very sad that we do not live in Japan right now.

RocketNews24, the source for Tor’s item, has additional details and photos.

cap america ramen

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

(7) CORNELL RECLAIMS CRICKET. In each episode of Unjustly Maligned, comics and games writer Antony Johnston asks a new guest to explain why that thing you hate is actually really great. Episode 51 is “’Cricket’ With Paul Cornell”

As St George’s Day approaches, gentlemen in England’s green and pleasant land take to the field for a game that can last five days, yet still somehow end in a draw…! Author Paul Cornell goes to bat to spread the good word of cricket.

(8) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. MiceAge has news about a Disneyland ride makeover.

This Elevator Travels Directly To . . . The Marvel Zone

Elsewhere in DCA, a wild rumor got out earlier this spring about a plan to remake Tower of Terror into a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. We can tell you that the Guardians of the Galaxy rumor is true, and TDA’s executive suite was furious when the rumor leaked out from Glendale-based sources. The plan is for the original Twilight Zone backstory to be removed entirely, and replaced with an all new show based around the Collector character from the Guardians movie franchise. WDI had been testing and experimenting with the new show in the elevators for months and the Tower of Terror hourly CM’s were all aware of what WDI had been cooking up since this winter. But when the plan finally leaked online in April, the TDA executive suite hit the roof in anger.

The current plan for Tower of Terror is to close the attraction this fall and give the entire building a full interior and exterior refurbishment so that the new version of the ride can open next May, with the Guardians of the Galaxy movie premiere held at DCA the same week the new ride opens. Assuming this gets the green light by August, and a disastrous Shanghai opening summer is about the only thing that could derail it at this point, the CM’s will be treated to another round of approved Talking Points that will somehow explain that they can now believe what they read online about Guardians of the Galaxy taking over Tower of Terror. The hourly CM’s, of course, are already several steps ahead of TDA.

This Tower of Terror proposal is part of a multi-year plan to get more Marvel into DCA, being pushed heavily by Bob Chapek. Since Chapek arrived a year ago as the new Parks Chairman, he’s been shocked to learn that after five years of owning Marvel there still isn’t a new Marvel ride in the California parks, and that the only thing TDA has done with Marvel is slap together some cheap meet n’ greets over the years.

(9) PRESERVED IN AMBER. Theodore Krulik, creator of the encyclopedia of Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels, The Complete Amber Sourcebook, dips into his trove of quotes and stories about the author in a post at Tor.com.

He had allowed me into his home that November day to conduct a week-long series of interviews for Roger Zelazny, the literary biography I was writing for Frederick Ungar Publishers in New York. My interviews with him at his home and in later interviews over the next ten years were much more than simple Q&A. Roger didn’t stop at a brief statement to anything I asked. He responded with deep insights that revealed experiences and perspectives that he rarely talked about anywhere else.

The final anecdote is a wry revelation about where Zelazny supposedly got his ideas.

(10) HERE KITTY KITTY. JJ calls Tom Gauld’s New Scientist cartoon “SJW Credentials Gone Wild”. The official intro is “Why science needs more funding…”

(11) IS IT A SINKING FEELING? The Travel goes to the movies at Galactic Journey — “[May 19, 1961] One of our Continents is Missing! (Atlantis: The Lost Continent)”.

Without giving too much of the ending away, I can confirm that the sinking of Atlantis does occur, and it is magnificent.  Some excellent model work mixed with clever optical effects makes for a satisfying conclusion.  Other noteworthy elements are the score (though there is some recycling of motifs from The Time Machine) and the acting, particularly the performances turned in by John Dall (Zaren, who was in Spartacus) and Paul Frees.  The latter is never seen; rather, his vocal talents are evident throughout.  The versatile Frees, who you’ve assuredly heard in prior films, and will hear in films to come, is the film’s narrator and the looped-over voice of many of the characters.

(12) NO, IT’S A TINGLING SENSATION. This offer could easily be over by now, as I’m sure people raced to take their pics —  “Chuck is nominated at this year’s Hugo Awards, the most prestigious award in science fiction. Help show your support!”

 The first 20 people to post a photo on Instagram or Twitter with this flyer hanging in their favorite bookstore will get a free Audible code direct messaged to them for Chuck’s classic tale BUTTCEPTION: A BUTT WITHIN A BUTT WITHIN A BUTT. The poster of 1 photo (best or most creative), as chosen by Chuck himself, will receive the honor of appearing by name as a side character in an upcoming tingler. Post your photo with the hashtag #BelieveInChuckTingle to enter!  Below is the flyer, which can be printed in black and white on standard 8.5 by 11 paper.

(13) BLUE AUTHOR. Alexandra Erin outlines a crowdsourced future in “Okay. So. Business plans”.

So the details are still firming up in my brain and probably won’t settle completely until after WisCon, but starting in June, my creative and insightful output is basically going to, in some form, be shaping up into Alexandra Erin: The Crowdfunded Zine. I’ll still be writing and posting stuff to my blog or directly to Patreon throughout the month, but I’m going to be collecting, collating, and polishing it as I go so that at the end of each month I have a shiny package I can give to my patrons and sell to anyone else who wants it, and that I myself can look at with pride, knowing that yes, I definitely accomplished things this month.

(14) IF YOU WERE A PATREON MY LOVE. Rachel Swirsky’s Patreon is raising money this month by Making Lemons into Jokes. Greg Machlin has a progress report.

ATTENTION! Talented sci-fi writer Rachel Swirsky has been getting harassed ever since she wrote an award-winning short story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” She’s now doing a patreon fundraiser for an LGBT health group, Lyon-Martin.

The patreon’s at $437/month. If she hits a $900 stretch goal, the prize is a satirical essay by ME. Please donate. I’d love to write it!

Meanwhile, Swirsky has announced some other stretch goals.

We have achieved the $400 stretch goal: “If You Were a Cuttlefish, My Love.” I showed it to Mary Robinette Kowal and a few other folks, and she gave me an unintentional blurb: “I LOVE THIS WITH THE LOVE OF A THOUSAND CUTTLEFISH EGGS.” I hope y’all enjoy it, too!

We’re partyway to the $500 stretch goal when Liz Argall will make an original comic in her series… Things Without Arms and Without Legs… and Without Butts?

(15) FINDING GOOD STUFF. On her blog today, Swirsky did her weekly recommendation post — Friday Read! “The Migratory Patterns of Dancers” by Katherine Sparrow.

In a future where birds are extinct, genetically modified men take their motorcycles around the country to perform dances that remind people of the migrations that once took place.

Katherine Sparrow is one of my classmates from Clarion West 2005, and I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. In addition to her lovely and lyrical short stories, she also writes young adult novels which center on the theme of collective action.

(16) INCONSISTENCIES. Cracked wants to change the way you watch seven wildly successful sci-fi films – and not in a good way. BEWARE SPOILERS GALORE. It’s sort of How It Should Have Ended using still photos.

(17) SMOFCON 34. The 2016 Smofcon has opened online registration. The con will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont (the Chicagoland area) December 2-4.

(18) HEINLEIN AWARD ACCEPTANCE VIDEO. Dr. Jerry Pournelle told Chaos Manor readers, “The National Space Society award ceremony in Puerto Rico was a bit too far for me to travel to, but we did make a video for the acceptance.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Will R., Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day BigelowT.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/16 You’re on Canid Camera

(1) SUPERGIRLS. Carrie Goldman writes “An Open Letter To Supergirl Stars Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh, From An Adoptive Mom” in Chicago Now.

Her relationship with her younger sisters is complicated. They are our biological daughters, and this creates deep and unavoidable conflict for her. No matter how much we reassure her that we love her the same as the younger girls, she tests us.

During the scenes in Supergirl where Alex and Kara explore the painful aspects of their relationship as sisters through adoption, our whole family absorbs every word, every expression, because seeing this dynamic on mainstream television makes our family feel less alone.  The fact that both Alex and Kara are kickass, strong, smart, flawed, beautiful women who work hard, cry, laugh, yell, fight, and make mistakes has been an incredible model for all of our girls.

(2) READING RESOURCES. The 1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide database includes several sf/f titles.

[From Marley’s Welcome.] Welcome to the #1000blackgirlbooks Resource Guide. I started this campaign because I wanted to read more books where black girls are the main characters. With your help we have collected over 4000 books; many of them are have the same title, but we do have lots of unique ones as well. This guide includes 700 of those books and more is coming.

I believe black girl books are really important because when you are young you want to read lots of books, but you especially like to read books with people that look like you. While I have books at home about black girls, the books at school were not diverse. Children do most of their reading in schools or because of schools. Teachers assign books that you must read. If those books are not diverse and do not show different people’s experiences then kids are going to believe that there is only one type of experience that matters. Also, if books are not diverse then kids will not learn about the experiences of other members in their community.

(3) BELGIUM CALLING. Nicholas Whyte checks in from Brussels, in “Losers” at From the Heart of Europe.

I finally made it to the office at 1022, those last two kilometres having taken me 90 minutes to drive, to find most of my colleagues gathered ashen-faced in the lobby, greeting me tearfully – I was the only person who was unaccounted for, due to my phone being out of order – and giving me the headlines of what had happened. It’s nice to feel appreciated, still more so when I logged on and saw many concerned messages from friends and family, and even more so when people responded to my posts confirming that I was safe. One of the great things about the interconnectedness of today’s world is that we can often catch up with our friends quickly – Facebook’s check-in system in particular is a source of reassurance.

The horror has hit very close to home. I have flown out of Brussels airport in the morning five times this year, and was originally due to do so again on Friday to go to Eastercon in Manchester (in fact my plans have changed and I’ll take the Eurostar to London for work tomorrow and travel on up by train). My wife was flew out on Monday for a funeral in England and was due to fly back last night; her flight was cancelled and she will now return by Eurostar this evening. Maelbeek metro station (the four-pointed star on my map) is in the heart of the EU quarter, and I go past it almost every day and through it several times a month; a former colleague was actually on the train that was bombed, but fortunately escaped without injury; another former staffer (from before my time) was in the departure hall of the airport, and is recovering well from minor injuries.

… This happened because they [the terror movement] are losing. Less than a week ago, a major figure in the terror movement was arrested in Brussels; perhaps yesterday was revenge for his arrest, perhaps it was rushed into because they were afraid he would start talking (or knew that he already had). On the ground, their allies and sponsors are losing territory and resources in Syria and Iraq. I wrote a week ago about violence as story-telling, in the Irish context. This is an attempt to write a story about the weakness of our interconnected world, attacking places where people travel and meet, where many nationalities and cultures join together and build together.

It is a narrative that must not and will not win…

(4) MIND MELD. SF Signal’s current Mind Meld, curated by Andrea Johnson, asks —

Q: What non-mainstream Scifi/fantasy Graphic Novels do you recommend?

The answers come from: Matthew Ciarvella, Sharlene Tan, Taneka Stotts (Full Circle), Stacey Filak, Carl Doherty, Myisha Haynes (The Substitutes), Pipedreamergrey, Christa Seeley (Women Write About Comics), Martin Cahill, Larry Gent, and Jacob Stokes.

(5) VERICON. Ann Leckie has captioned a set of photos of Ancillary cosplayers from Vericon.

It’s obvious what’s going on here, right? That’s Hamilton/Breq in the middle, and she’s recruited Agent Carter, Lieutenant Peepsarwat, and Translator Zeiat in her search for the Presger gun. That case Agent Carter is carrying?

(6) INHUMAN PASSENGERS. “More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought” reports Phys Org.

Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it’s even less human than scientists previously thought.

Nineteen new pieces of non-human DNA—left by viruses that first infected our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago—have just been found, lurking between our own genes.

And one stretch of newfound DNA, found in about 50 of the 2,500 people studied, contains an intact, full genetic recipe for an entire virus, say the scientists who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Whether or not it can replicate, or reproduce, it isn’t yet known. But other studies of ancient virus DNA have shown it can affect the humans who carry it.

In addition to finding these new stretches, the scientists also confirmed 17 other pieces of virus DNA found in human genomes by other scientists in recent years…

(7) LUNAR POLE DANCING. “Earth’s Moon wandered off axis billions of years ago, study finds” at Phys Org.

A new study published today in Nature reports discovery of a rare event—that Earth’s moon slowly moved from its original axis roughly 3 billion years ago.

Planetary scientist Matt Siegler at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and colleagues made the discovery while examining NASA data known to indicate lunar polar hydrogen. The hydrogen, detected by orbital instruments, is presumed to be in the form of ice hidden from the sun in craters surrounding the moon’s north and south poles. Exposure to direct sunlight causes ice to boil off into space, so this ice—perhaps billions of years old—is a very sensitive marker of the moon’s past orientation….

“The moon has a single region of the crust, a large basaltic plain called Procellarum, where radioactive elements ended up as the moon was forming,” Siegler said. “This radioactive crust acted like an oven broiler heating the mantle below.”

Some of the material melted, forming the dark patches we see at night, which are ancient lava, he said.

“This giant blob of hot mantle was lighter than cold mantle elsewhere,” Siegler said. “This change in mass caused Procellarum—and the whole moon—to move.”

The moon likely relocated its axis starting about 3 billion years ago or more, slowly moving over the course of a billion years, Siegler said, etching a path in its ice.

(8) INDICATION OF TOR. John C. Wright still has one last book on the way from Tor – The Vindication of Man. Rather a dim-looking cover on the preorder page. The release date for the hardcover is November 22.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 23, 1952 — Kim Stanley Robinson. The other great sf writer born in Waukegan!

(10) HE WRITES ABOUT THEY. Although John Scalzi’s post about gender-neutral pronouns is interesting, I found his personal demonstration in the comments even more so:

Also, for the record, my stance on pronouns, as they regard me:

He/him/his: My preferred set. Please use them in all things involving me.

They/them/their: Not my preferred set, but I don’t mind them being used for me.

It/it/its: This is a non-gender construction but generally isn’t used for individual humans (excepting, from time to time, infants), and is mostly used for animals and objects. Please don’t use them for me; if you do I’ll wonder why you are, and also wonder if you see me as an object, which would make me wonder if you’re a sociopath of some sort.

She/her/her: Not my gender! Be aware that in my experience when someone uses these for me, they’re usually trying to insult me in one way or another. So unless you want my default impression of you to be that you’re a sexist twit, please don’t use this set for me.

Other constructions: Really, no. “He” or “They” is fine. Thanks.

(11) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY? Claire Rousseau’s series of tweets ends on a rather optimistic note, considering the 2016 Hugo ballot isn’t out yet.

(12) GEOMETRIC LOGIC.

(13) A SELECTED QUOTE. Sarah A. Hoyt takes time out from moving to post at Mad Genius Club.

And after being selectively quoted by Jim Hines who pretended I was calling anyone not with the puppies worse than those who abetted the holocaust and the holodomor, by cutting out the part where I addressed those who destroy lives and reputations for a plastic rocket, we have at least established what Jim Hines is.  He’s not duped by those destroying reputations and lives.  He’s one of the principals.  I have only one question for him: But for Wales, Jim?

(14) PUPPYING WITHOUT UMLAUTS. Some of Declan Finn’s days are better than others. “The Evil of the Puppy Kickers” at A Pius Geek.

But last time I checked, Vox Day has really never dismissed his enemies as being subhuman. Nor has he suggested murdering any of them. Not even NK Jemisen, who has her own little war with Vox going that stretches back at least two years. He’ll still debate, or reason, or scream right back at her, but he’ll at least reply to whatever is thrown his way.

You may not like what he says, but he at least acknowledges that she’s someone worth having a fight with.

Can’t say that for the Puppy Kickers. They like being the ubermensch of their own little Reich, and it’s getting tiresome, really. The ones who are really in charge rarely, if ever, acknowledge any argument outside of their own little echo chamber.

(15) KEEP BANGING ON. Michael Bane, the producer of Outdoor Channel’s Gun Stories hosted by Joe Mantegna, announced Larry Correia will appear in an episode.

Did I mention that the MAIN MONSTER HUNTER HIMSELF, LARRY CORREIA, will be joining us on GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA this season? The MONSTER HUNTER books are modern classics. I just finished reading SON OF THE BLACK SWORD, the first book in his newest series, and it was excellent.

(16) CROWDFUNDED CON. The Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC is running a Kickstarter appeal to fund guests for Escape Velocity, a convention it plans to hold July 1-3. At this writing, people have pledged $14,348 toward the $18,000 goal.

Something special is coming to National Harbor, Maryland – a science fiction convention on a mission. This July 1st to 3rd, the Museum of Science Fiction will be launching ESCAPE VELOCITY, a micro futuristic world’s fair where STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) and science fiction will collide to create a geeky-fun, educational, and above all, fascinating spectacle for kids and adults alike!

A couple of the guests they expect to have are —

Rod Roddenberry, recently announced executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series for 2017 will make a keynote presentation to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary and discuss his work with the Roddenberry Foundation.

Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, is coming to Escape Velocity to discuss his father’s legacy and his new documentary film, For the Love of Spock.

In addition to screening parts of the documentary, Nimoy will join Rod Roddenberry on an Escape Velocity discussion panel moderated by screenwriter and Museum of Science Fiction advisory board member, Morgan Gendel, who wrote the Hugo Award-winning Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light.” “I’ve known both Adam and Rod for years and it’s fascinating to see how each has found a way to celebrate the work of their famous fathers,” said Gendel. “I expect the panel to be a very insightful look into the lives and legacies of two Trek icons.”

 

(17) BALLARD REMEMBERED. Malcolm Edwards will guest on The Guardian’s live webchat about JG Ballard on March 25 at noon (UK time).

Malcolm Edwards was JG Ballard’s editor for several years and worked with him on Empire of The Sun, among other classics. He should be able to give invaluable insights into Ballard’s working methods and the wonderful books he produced – and so is uniquely placed to talk about this month’s Reading Group choice, High-Rise, not to mention the recently released film.

(18) NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY’RE NOT WRITTEN ON? Max Florschutz takes a deep dive into the value of ebooks at Unusual Things.

You don’t see articles from music sites talking about how MP3 downloads are worthless and shouldn’t cost more than ten cents. You don’t see game review sites asking how dare Steam or Origin have a digital game on launch day cost the same as its physical compatriots.

So why in the book industry is this such a problem? Why is it that a person will look at a digital MP3 download from their favorite artist and buy it without a second of remorse, but then look at a digital book from their favorite author and send them an angry message about how that ebook shouldn’t be more than a dollar?

I don’t actually have an answer to this question. All I have are theories based on what I’m reading and hearing from other people around the internet. Maybe you’ll agree with some of these, maybe you won’t. But all of these are things I’ve heard expressed in one way or another….

1A- Physical books have physical difficulties that imply value to their purchasers. Yes, this much is true. While the story inside the pages remains the same, the trick with an ebook is that it’s hard to compete with an observation of value when looking at one. A physical book? Well, for one, you can pick it up and feel the weight of it, which, to most people, does imply a value. But you can also flip through it, jostle it, check a few pages, see how long it is.

You know what’s interesting? We can do all these things with an ebook. You can flip through it and read a sample. You can see how many pages there are. You can even check reviews—something you can’t do at a bookstore.

And yet … people don’t value that either. And why? Because it’s easy. It’s fast.

(19) GOTHIC INSPIRATION. Paul Cornell starts watching all the Hammer movies in order: “My Hammer Journey #1”.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The first thing that strikes one is how much of a Val Guest movie this is, and how much, therefore, as a director, Val Guest establishes the Hammer ethos.  Guest’s forte is a kind of poetic modernist postwar British craft, a deceptive air of understated hard work that nevertheless not only gets everything right, but elevates, through the little details, the whole thing into art.  (Again, that reminds one of the best years of Hammer all in all.) ….

(20) FURY FURIOUS. This was new to me, although it has been making the rounds for several years…

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Dawn Sabados, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/16 The Scrolls Are Alive With The Sound of Pixels

(1) MEDIA CON INFLATION. Rob Salkowitz at ICv2 says “As The 2016 Con Season Begins, Seams Are Starting To Show”.

Competition for big names is getting crazy. Every show wants the top names to draw fans, but the bidding war for A-list talent is starting to sound unsustainable. I’ve heard reliable reports that the appearance fees for the Wizard World Show in Philadelphia in June, which lists Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and the stars of Back to the Future, top $1 million in guaranteed money.

Well sure. Those are all the stars of what seems likely to be 2016’s biggest movie, all in one place.

But this is having a trickle-down effect. Because this is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the surviving original cast members and just about everyone associated with all versions of the show, are in unusually high demand. Competition to get these names on the marquee has reportedly led to cancelled contracts, bidding wars, waivers of exclusives, a shift from guaranteed revenues for autograph sales to straight appearance fees, and other cutthroat tactics.

Cons need to make that money back somewhere, and it’s coming from three places: fans, exhibitors and sponsors.

Costs are rising for attendees. Badges for 3- and 4-day events are starting to crack the $100 level, and that’s just the start. More and more events are not only adding VIP packages, which start around $195 and can go as high as $800-900, but are also requiring fans to pre-pay for celebrity photo ops and celebrity autographs in advance. SVCC even experimented with charging a $10 surcharge for admission to the Back to the Future Panel in its big room on Saturday afternoon, only to oversell the event and not have room for prepaid customers.

(2) PATHFINDER. Marion Deeds has an excellent report on FOGCon 2016 at Fantasy Literature.

Is 72 Letters Enough? In Search of the Perfect Language

I consider a panel “good” if I come away with new book titles to track down, or lots of ideas. By those two measurements, this panel was the best panel of the convention. Panelists included Ted Chiang, who took his inspiration from the Umberto Eco book In Search of the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe). The other panelists were Cathy Hindersinn and Steven Schwartz, with Michelle Cox moderating. There was another panelist but I don’t remember her name and it doesn’t appear in the program. Hindersinn studied linguistics before making a lateral move and becoming a computer programmer. Schwartz is part of the FOGCon committee and writes speculative fiction and epic poetry. He loves language and he loves to talk about language. Cox has an MA in Church History and theology and is a technical writer.

Chiang is scary-smart, articulate if a bit abstract at times, and serious, but he has a great wit, which was on display during the panel. This panel was held in the large room and, as near as I could tell, there was one empty chair. Several people were standing. The panelists were opinionated, and in some cases their passion outstripped their knowledge; the audience was the same way. It was brilliant.

Chiang used the Eco book as a jumping off point for a discussion and critique of the conceit of a “perfect” language; one that existed in the past, in humanity’s “golden age;” a language that all humans could speak and understand. There are two parts to that idea: universalism; the idea that there is one language every human on the planet can communicate in, (perhaps as a second language); and then a language that has the smallest possible divide between the signifier and the thing signified.

(3) STRANGE PUBLISHING TREND. The New Republic reports “The Mass-Market Edition of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Is Dead”.

We may never know what Lee’s will stipulates, but the estate’s first action in the wake of Lee’s death is both bold and somewhat baffling: The New Republic has obtained an email from Hachette Book Group, sent on Friday, March 4 to booksellers across the country, revealing that Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird…..

That said, mass-market paperbacks have been on a precipitous decline lately, though TKAM’s success, particularly in the education market, makes it a notable exception. But many publishers are moving away from the format. Pressed for further comment, a HarperCollins spokesperson informed me that “Like many American classics, To Kill A Mockingbird’s primary paperback format will be the trade paperback edition.” That’s an important distinction: The general trend in publishing has been against the mass-market and toward more expensive (and durable) editions—many American classics, including The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath no longer have mass-market editions.

(4) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Murray Leinster’s warning is just waiting for tech to catch up. A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech. 70 years later, Murray Leinster’s disaster scenario is the internet you know and love.”

The story goes on to tell how “Joe,” a rogue logic with a slight manufacturing defect, becomes self-aware and resolves to provide his owners and all other “logic” users with whatever information they require. Leinster says of Joe:

Joe ain’t vicious, you understand. He ain’t like one of those ambitious robots you read about that make up their minds the human race is inefficient and has got to be wiped out an’ replaced by thinkin’ machines. Joe’s just got ambition. If you were a machine you’d wanna work right, wouldn’t you? That’s Joe. He wants to work right. And he’s a logic, an’ logics can do a lotta things that ain’t been found out yet.

This, in turn, leads to logics around the city providing tips on everything from poisoning spouses to covering up drinking binges and robbing banks. Only when Joe is taken offline is that information hidden away from humanity and order restored.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner. The whole internet is barely big enough to contain everything there is to know about his show biz career. Google revealed to me that Shatner was on the old What’s My Line? game show in January 1965.

He was there to plug the premiere episode of his (then) new lawyer drama series For The People — which fortunately for all concerned failed in time for him to be cast in Star Trek.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAY BOY

trekkie-recipe-william-shatners-cappuccino-muffins_w654

(7) RECORD STRAIGHTENER. Larry Correia has been unfairly charged with abandoning the battlefield, as he explains in “The Guardian’s Village Idiot Declares Another Career Ruined”.

I wasn’t going to write anything about SP, but it has come to my attention that a new narrative has arisen amongst the mushy headed dope punditry of fandom, because they are always scrambling for something to get their collective panties in a bunch over. This time it is that Brad and I are cowards—and are probably misogynistic women haters too—because we abandoned poor female Kate to their mighty wrath.

Well, you’ll have to forgive Brad’s cowardice, because he has been deployed by the US Army to the Middle East for the last year, supporting missions against terrorists, but that’s nothing compared to the courage it takes to have a good fandom slapfight. (And really? Scared of what? There are only so many ways you guys can send out a press release alleging that somebody is a racist).

And you’ll have to forgive me too, because I thought I had made my point in 2014 that the system was biased, and I was done. Only Brad asked me to come back to help in 2015, so I did, and after the CHORFs proved my point for me far better than I ever could—wooden assholes and No Awarding the most deserving editor in the business—I said at the end of that I was done.

Why am I out? Mostly because it was a giant time suck, and I’ve got stuff to do. Unlike most of my detractors, I actually write books for a living. I wrote a novella worth of posts on SP in public, and another one worth of emails on the topic behind the scenes. Then there is the joy of spending an hour on the phone with reporters, so that they can quote one sentence from you, and then quote paragraphs from some dolt who knows jack about the topic but belongs to the right clique.

Honestly, in the time I spent on Sad Puppies, I probably could have gotten another book out the door. Plus in 2016 I’ve got my European research trip, I have a new business venture I’ve not talked about at all, I bought a big chunk of property, and mountain fortress compounds don’t build themselves. All that’s in addition to the three novels that are coming out this year, the short fiction collection I have to put together, and the MHI anthology I have to edit.

So I could either try to prove again the point that I’ve already proven, or I can get paid more. Hmmm…. Tough call.

(8) A PUPPY SURPRISE. Apparently Jeffro Johnson was the last person on Earth to realize this was the game plan from Day 1. “Comments on Sad Puppies IV and Rabid Puppies II” at Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog.

You know, I have to say… making the Puppies lists for Best Related Work was a real shock for me. That’s just not something that ever even occurred to me as being a possibility. Maybe it’s a bit ironic, but it’s actually humbling to have even a modest number of people think that well of me. I honestly don’t know what else to say, but “thank you.” So: thank you! 

(9) HONORED. Cheah Kai Wai (Benjamin Cheah) is also pleased to be included. See “Rabid Puppies Recommended”.

I am greatly honoured to accept such praise, and am deeply humbled by the fact that there are people who believe I am worthy of standing beside such luminaries as Stephen King and Andy Weir. Looking at the rest of the Rapid Puppies recommendations, I am fully confident that the recommendations will live up to the Rapid Puppies’ mission of making the Hugos great again.

Further, I am especially pleased by Vox Day’s inclusion of Space Raptor Butt Invasion. Science fiction is the literature of ideas, allowing radical concepts to be explored in great detail. This story is indubitably a masterwork that skilfully portrays interspecies non-heterosexual relations within a vividly-created science fictional universe, and would surely be a shoo-in for the Hugos among certain quarters.

(10) REMOVAL REQUEST. In revolutionary Boston the tea had to be thrown overboard. This time it jumped.

Emma Newman speaks “Regarding Tea and Jeopardy being included on a certain list”.

All I know is that I would like Tea and Jeopardy to be removed from this latest list. I don’t want something that Pete and I spend a hell of a lot of time and energy creating to be associated with anything like this. Our podcast has made it to the nominations shortlist two years in a row on its own merit and if we are lucky enough to be shortlisted for a third time, I want it to be because people listen to the show and are moved to nominate it. Nothing more.

Sadly, it seems that requests to be removed for the Sad Puppies 4 list are being ignored. Whilst part of me agrees that people can put whatever they like into a list on their own website, the part that values courtesy disagrees with the refusal to respect a creator’s requests to remove something from it. I’m sorry if this hurts the feelings of the people involved, but no matter what the intentions are this year, no matter the reasons why our podcast made it onto that list, I personally do not want my work to be associated with it.

(11) SECOND CUP. Peter Newman affirms the request in “Tea and Jeopardy, Hugo nominations and Sad Puppies”.

To be clear, I have never solicited the attention of this group, nor do I endorse it. I was not asked if Tea & Jeopardy could be included and I am told that requests to be taken off the list will be ignored. That said, I’d like Tea & Jeopardy to be taken off the Sad Puppies 4 list.

(12) SCHMIDT ASKS OUT. Bryan Thomas Schmidt tells Facebook readers he’s unhappy to find himself on the Rabid Puppies slate.

So apparently the abominable Vox Day put me on his Hugo list this year. First I heard if it. I have paid NO attention this year to lists, etc. I would demand removal but he clearly cares not what people think and states flat out he will not entertain removal requests. I “No Awarded” him last year and would again. I do not approve of this and see it as his attempt to do me further harm. Just going to ignore.

He’s also got an asterisk next to his name on the Sad Puppies 4 List now, too.

In fact, Schmidt says he would rather not be considered for the Hugo at all.

Although I am flattered when friends say they nominated me for the Hugo, please do not waste votes on me this year. I do not want to participate in this broken, biased process, at least until perhaps people of all creeds and levels can be fairly considered without politics ruling the day. I would decline a nomination if offered, though I highly suspect there will be no need. Instead, please consider MISSION: TOMORROW for the Locus Awards. Thanks.

(13) LIMITING DAMAGE. David D. Levine also got his short story “Damage” asterisked by asking to be removed from the Sad Puppies 4 List in a comment.

(14) SUPPORT FOR KATE PAULK. Amanda S. Green in “Cranky Writer is, well, cranky” said —

As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

(15) BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARDSHELL. Alexandra Erin brings back the field’s most insightful reviewer, John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired) – “Sad Puppies Review Books: Yertle the Turtle”.

The villain of the piece is a turtle named Mack who is so dissatisfied with his place in the world that rather than climbing the ladder and making something of himself, he instead blames society for such petty things as the pain in his back and his lack of food. Not content to merely complain, he uses his extraordinary power and privilege to impose his will upon all other turtles. Lacking the gumption and will to raise himself up, he instead only tears down, and will not be satisfied until all other turtles have been brought down to his level.

(16) DELVING. Alexandra Erin’s “Nineteen Puppy Four” contains her opinion of the Sad Puppy worldview and motivations.

Well, so much for the notion that this year’s litter of Sad Puppies were kinder, gentler, or even more moderate than last year’s. Over the past weekend, when the initial reactions to their new list were still more initial, Sarah Hoyt posted a response that was… well, we’ll say “typically hyperbolic”, but also quite telling.

A lot of it follows the “BUT MOM, I’m NOT Touching Him!” school of legalism that sprouts up whenever reactionaries try to argue with or by what they think is progressive logic, but as she goes on, she eventually compares Puppy critics to such nuanced things as German citizens whipped into a frenzy of anti-Semitism by the Nazi party, only “worse” because those who disagree with the Pups are doing it of our own free will. In the same piece, she refers to those who dissent from her party line as being slaves bound in chains.

(17) NOT THE DOG IN THE NIGHT. Paul Cornell can still hear them.

(18) AND NOW ABOUT SOME BOOKS. Book Smugglers Publishing thinks you will be interested in Superheroes in Space.

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow has earned a Starred Review by Publishers Weekly, a super great review by Foz Meadows over at Hugo Award winner A Dribble of Ink and has sold TV rights. Broken is Book Smugglers Publishing’s first novel and the opening act in The Extrahuman Union Series….

Introducing readers to Susan Jane Bigelow’s sprawling series in which Extrahumans will fight wars, overthrow governments, fall in and out of love, have life-changing adventures and travel the stars in search of a home—and their promised freedom—Broken is out now and is available as a trade paperback and ebook (EPUB & MOBI) from all major retailers online. The print book contains the novel, two illustrations from Kirbi Fagan, and a sneak peek at Sky Ranger, the second book in the series (published this June). The ebook edition also contains a prequel short story, Crimson Cadet, as well as an essay from the author and a Q&A with the artist.

(19) ET TU PENTAWERE? Scanners do not live in vain when it comes to extracting secrets from the mummies of Pharoahs.

The New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III was assassinated by multiple assailants — and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to improve his mummy’s appearance.

Those are some of the new tidbits on ancient Egyptian royalty detailed in a new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem, “Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies” (American University in Cairo Press, 2016).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darren Garrison, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/16 Pixels Gather And Now My Scroll Begins

(1) WHAT A SAVINGS. Get your Grabthar’s hammer t-shirt from TeeChip. These babies are going for $22.99, while they last!

Grabthars hammer t fruit-of-the-loom-cotton-t-131313

(2) WOODEN IT BE LUVERLY. It took over a year to carve, and “This Beautiful Millennium Falcon Was Made With Over 3,000 Pieces of Wood”.

(3) HISTORY OF A MYSTERY. Memorabilia of the 1955 Cleveland and 1956 NYC World Science Fiction Conventions  is up for auction on eBay. There are publications, etc., but the most interesting part to fanhistorians would be the Cleveland committee’s file copies of correspondence, like the letter sent in advance of the con to its “mystery guest of honor” Sam Moskowitz (lower right). The seller is looking for a starting bid of $499.99, and the auction has six days to run.

clevention correspondence

(4) CORNELL’S SHERLOCK. Paul Cornell’s episode of Elementary will be broadcast in the US this week. You can view the trailer on his blog.

On this coming Sunday, the 20th March, at 10pm, my episode of Elementary, ‘You’ve Got Me, Who’s Got You?’ will be broadcast on CBS.  Those in the Central and East Coast time zones should note that the NCAA March Madness second round (I assume that’s something to do with sport) will be taking place that day, so there’s a chance the episode might be delayed.  At any rate, I’ll be up at 3am my time to live tweet along with the show.  So that’ll be fun.  And possibly quite weird.  If you haven’t already found me on Twitter, I’m @paul_cornell.

As the official synopsis says: ‘when a man who secretly fought crime dressed as a popular comic book superhero is murdered, Holmes and Watson must discover his real identity before they can find his killer.  Also, Morland makes a surprise donation to Watson’s favorite charity, in order to compel her to do him a business-related favor.’

Which is spot on, really!

(5) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LOOKING-GLASS. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter tries to ease fantasy fans into the idea of reading sf – “Trying Out Science Fiction: A Guide For Fantasy Purists”. I’ve always had to listen to sf fans who talk about their dislike of fantasy (and, oh, the howls of rage when a Harry Potter book won the Hugo), but it never occurred to me there might be fantasy fans who had to be convinced to read sf. Now I know.

I picked up a trashy sci-fi novel in my teens and immediately encountered a confusing story full of alien languages and weird words, with unappealing characters and an empty, lacklustre world. I couldn’t make any sense of it and it made me vaguely depressed, so I put it down. I decided science fiction wasn’t for me.

Over a decade later, I finally gave it another go. I had often heard science fiction works mentioned by fellow fantasy fans and seen the genres placed side-by-side at conventions, in bookstores, and online. I thought: I really ought to explore this “other side of the coin” and see what all the fuss is about.

So, I started reading sci-fi. And found books I loved – even books I adored. I added several science fiction works to my all-time favourites list. In the process, I learned a few things that might be helpful to any fantasy lovers wanting to embark on a similar exploration of this sister genre:

Don’t Start With The Classics

There are many online forums where people ask, “I’ve never read any science fiction but I want to try it out, what should I read first?” and get a stream of comments recommending classic works like Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation. These are indeed important works that have been enjoyed by many, but they’re probably not the best ones to start with. It’s like telling someone who’s never read fantasy to begin with Lord of the Rings or Elric of Melniboné. Yes, these are important stories and forerunners of the genre but they’re not exactly accessible or easy reads for a newcomer. (The exception here would be Ender’s Game, as it’s very accessible and easy to read despite its “classic” status).

You’re better off tackling the classics later, after you’ve cut your teeth on a modern, accessible read and worked up a taste for more….

(6) THEY PEEKED. Spy pics show off Star Wars’ new cool aliens and vehicles in “Meet Your New Favorite Alien From Star Wars Episode VIII” at Birth. Movies. Death.

Star Wars Episode VIII has committed the cardinal sin of filming outside, which means people with cameras have had a chance to snap pictures of the set. Most of the pics that have turned up have been kinda dull, but a whole slew appeared recently that have me beyond excited.

 

(7) DON’T DRINK AND TIME TRAVEL. That’s the lesson of this review of Version Control at Mashable.

Now comes Version Control, the trippy second novel by Dexter Palmer and the first pick for our new series — science fiction novel of the week. It’s easily one of the smartest, most unusual time-travel stories you’ll ever read — and one you don’t need a PhD. to understand, because it’s focused entirely on some very fascinating and flawed characters.

If time travel ever happened in the real world, it would probably look something like this: a bunch of obsessive scientists blandly insisting that what they’ve built is a serious-sounding “causality-violation device” (CVD), rather than a super-cliched “time machine.” And like many of our greatest technological advances, it would come with a whole bundle of unintended consequences

(8) KEN ADAM OBIT. Production designer Ken Adam, whose work included the war room in Dr. Strangelove and some of the sets in Dr. No, died March 10 reports the New York Times.

With “You Only Live Twice,” the fifth Bond film, Mr. Adam had more than half the total budget at his disposal. He spent $1 million of it building a volcano that contained a secret military base operated by the international terrorist organization Spectre.

“He was a brilliant visualizer of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves,” Christopher Frayling, the author of two books on Mr. Adam, told the BBC in an article posted on Friday . “The war room under the Pentagon in ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the interior of Fort Knox in ‘Goldfinger’ — all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

Mental Floss has “10 Inventive Myths About Einstein Debunked”:

10. THE MYTH: HE WAS ONE OF ONLY 10 OR 12 WHO COULD UNDERSTAND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.

Tired of being questioned about this idea, Einstein told the Chicago Daily Tribune in May 1921, “It is absurd. Anyone who has had sufficient training in science can readily understand the theory. There is nothing amazing or mysterious about it. It is very simple to minds trained along that line, and there are many such in the United States.” Today, a number of experts have taken on the challenge of decoding the complex theory and succeeded.

 

  • Born March 14, 1957 – Tad Williams

(11) THE SEMI-COMPLEAT RABID PUPPY. Vox Day reaches the finale of his slate: Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novel.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novel category.

  • Seveneves: A Novel, Neal Stephenson
  • Golden Son, Pierce Brown 
  • Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller

(12) FOR THE RECORD. In a comment on the above post, John C. Wright summarized his experience at Sasquan last year.

Instead of criticizing me for bring unenthused and indifferent to World Con, which was the case and would have been a legitimate criticism, the Morlock here invents the idea out of nothing that I expected a warm welcome from the hags and termagants who have been sedulously ruining science fiction for twenty years, and that I was foolish for having such foolish expectations. Actually, I was treated quite warmly by the people I met there, the fans and other professionals. It was only David Gerrold and Patrick Hayden who were rude.

(13) AXANAR SUIT AMENDED. Trek Today presents as a list of bullet points all the newly specified copyright infringements performed by Axanar.

The Hollywood Reporter headlined a particular one: “Paramount Claims Crowdfunded ‘Star Trek’ Film Infringes Copyright To Klingon Language”.

After the Star Trek rights-holders sued producers, led by Alec Peters, who put out a short film and solicited donations with the aim of making a studio-quality feature set in the year 2245 — before Captain James T. Kirk took command, when the war with the Klingon Empire almost tore the Federation apart — the defendants brought a dismissal motion that faulted Paramount and CBS with not providing enough specificity about which of the “thousands” of copyrights relating to Star Trek episodes and films are being infringed — and how.

Ask and ye shall receive.

On Friday, Paramount and CBS filed an amended complaint that responded in a few ways.

To the argument that because the crowdfunded film hasn’t actually been made yet, the lawsuit is “premature, unripe and would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the plaintiffs point to defendant’s Facebook post that mentioned a “locked script.” They also note a press interview that Peters gave on Feb. 1 where he said, “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” as an admission he indeed is violating copyright.

Click to read the amended lawsuit in full.

(13) WESTERCON 70 PR. Dee Astell, Chair of Westercon 70 (a.k.a. ConAlope 2017/LepreCo43) announced the con’s Progress Report #0 and #1 are available for download.

(14) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Vanity Fair Hollywood says “Xena Reboot Series to Turn Implied Homoerotic Undertones into Glorious Homoerotic Overtones”.

NBC has ordered a new Xena pilot from writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, architect behind the CW’s cult hit The 100, and he plans to be a little more forthcoming about the undeniable chemistry between Xena and Gabrielle with this updated iteration. During a Q&A session on Tumblr, Grillo-Marxuach confirmed that the two women would be lovers, no bones about it:

i am a very different person with a very different world view than my employer on the 100 – and my work on the 100 was to use my skills to bring that vision to life. xena will be a very different show made for very different reasons. there is no reason to bring back xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s. it will also express my view of the world – which is only further informed by what is happening right now – and is not too difficult to know what that is if you do some digging.

His passing reference to differing worldviews alludes to a minor kerfuffle among devotees of The 100 following the death of fan-favorite character Lexa, who was in a relationship with the also-female Clarke prior to her untimely demise. Fans cried foul and the choice to extinguish one of the small lights of hope for LGBTQ viewers on television, and Grillo-Marxuach has evidently heard their pleas loud and clear. This new series—the fate of which is still something of question mark, considering that NBC is still far from ordering it to series—will right past wrongs and placate the fans in one fell swoop. And best of all, it’ll provide young viewers with a hero with whom they can identify.

(15) DESPERATELY SEEKING MARVIN. Yahoo! News has the story: “Europe-Russia mission blasts off on hunt for life on Mars”.

One key goal of the Trace Gas Orbiter is to analyse methane, a gas which on Earth is created in large part by living microbes, and traces of which were observed by previous Mars missions.

“TGO will be like a big nose in space,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars project scientist.

Methane, the ESA said, is normally destroyed by ultraviolet radiation within a few hundred years, which implied that in Mars’ case “it must still be produced today”.

TGO will analyse Mars’ methane in more detail than any previous mission, said ESA, in order to try to determine its likely origin.

(16) MARS ATTACKS GAME. Here’s a video demonstration of how to play Mars Attacks: The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games. (If this really turns you on, there are four more videos about the game at the SJG site.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/16 Grandstand on Zanzibar

(1) THAT’S WHO. Paul Cornell has a few paragraphs about Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who convention he attended in LA last weekend.

An edition of The Cornell Collective recorded there will be going live in a few days, but in the meantime, you can find me guesting on another podcast from the convention, Doctor Who: The Writers’ Room, where myself, Graeme Burk, Stephen Schapansky and regular host Kyle talk about the career of Robert Holmes.

I also appear in this edition of Doctor Who: The Fan Show, recorded on the convention floor, and providing a wonderful snapshot of everything that makes ‘gally’ special.

 

Conrunner Shaun Lyon, Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, Paul Cornell, Laura Sirikul (Nerd Reactor), Sarah Dollard, and Steven Schapansky (Radio Free Skaro), all appear.

(2) GWEN COOPER R.I.P. ScienceFiction.com says it’s over: “’Torchwood’: Eve Myles Lays Gwen Cooper To Rest”.

The actress took to Twitter to respond to fan inquiries regarding the nebulous status of ‘Torchwood’ which aired its last episode in 2011, after the show was picked up by Starz and relocated to the U.S.  Fans have held out hope that the show would revert back exclusively to the BBC, but Captain Jack, Gwen and whoever was still alive haven’t materialized on ‘Doctor Who’ or anywhere else.  It’s been five years and at least Myles has given up hope and said goodbye to Gwen.

(3) YOUR WRITE. Joseph Bentz has an outstanding post about writing – “Don’t Let Them Squash Your Creativity”.

Growing up, I always felt vaguely embarrassed about wanting to be a writer. I feared that if I said too much about it, I was simply opening myself up to mockery. It felt so pretentious to want to write a novel. Who was I?

So I hid it. I wrote my first novel almost secretly. When I would go off to write, I would be vague with family and friends about what I was doing, telling them simply that I had work to do. In college, I was so paranoid about my roommates reading over my shoulder that I developed a secret coded language in which I could write when others were around, which I then had to decode later.

Today I am still tempted to let my creativity be squashed, not so much by naysayers, but by other enemies such as procrastination, the pressures of life, fear of rejection, weariness.

Yet the words, the ideas, keep bubbling up. When the ideas come, I think, I have to write this. Why is no one else saying this? I find myself writing as fast as I can, letting the momentum carry me. In those great moments, the creativity blasts right through the doubts, tiredness, discouragement, and second-guessing. I write. I create.

(4) TOCK OF THE WALK. From UPI: “Harry Potter fan builds working GPS replica of Weasley clock”

Tbornottb used a gutted broken clock that he purchased from an antique store as the base and had a friend illustrate the new face of the clock, which featured locations such as on the way, home, work, holiday, forest and mortal peril.

He then used a Particle Photon that would communicate with an application known as “If This Then That” that would move the clock’s hand depending on each family members GPS location.

Each family member then set the parameters for what each geographical location would be represented by on the clock.

“Most of the rules are location-based (setting me to WORK if I enter my university library, HOME if I enter my dorm), but you can set other triggers too (set me to HOLIDAY if the forecast calls for snow, set me to MORTAL PERIL if the stock of the company I’ll be working for next year drops too low),” tbornottb wrote.

 

View post on imgur.com

(5) VR. Steven Spielberg tries The VOID and declares, “Woah, that was a great adventure!”

Steve Spielberg headed into The VOID’s unique brand of free-roaming, mixed-reality VR experience at TED 2016, and it seems he was pleasantly surprised.

“Woah, that was a great adventure!”, was Steven Spielberg’s exclamation after stepping out of the bespoke, made-for-TED mixed-reality, VR experience constructed by the team behind the VOID.

Spielberg, who recently co-founded the immersive production startup The Virtual Reality Company, stepped through the specially constructed, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style VR experience, which has players exploring ancient ruins, avoiding traps and snakes and, we understand, some clever heart-quickening physical stage manipulation to coincide with some worrying virtual events.

David Doering says, “The Void’s scenarios will come from the pen of master storyteller Tracy Hickman, our own hometown hero of fantasy fame.”

(6) MORE VR. The New York Times has its own VR story — “Virtual Reality Companies Look to Science Fiction for Their Next Play”. Ready Player One’s Ernest Cline gets more ink, and so does Neal Stephenson –

Magic Leap, based in Dania Beach, Fla., and which counts Google as one of its big investors, has gone even further than most companies by hiring three science fiction and fantasy writers on staff. Its most famous sci-fi recruit is Neal Stephenson, who depicted the virtual world of the Metaverse in his seminal 1992 novel “Snow Crash.”

In an interview, Mr. Stephenson — whose title is chief futurist — declined to say what he was working on at Magic Leap, describing it as one of several “content projects” underway at the company.

More broadly, Mr. Stephenson said science fiction books and movies are often useful within tech companies for rallying employees around a shared vision.

“My theory is that science fiction can actually have some value in that it gets everyone on the same page without the kind of expensive and tedious process of PowerPoint,” he said. But the influence of the genre within tech companies is “surprising and mysterious to me as well,” he added.

(7) A MIGHTY OATH. George R.R. Martin pledged to a Not A Blog commenter yesterday:

I am not writing anything until I deliver WINDS OF WINTER. Teleplays, screenplays, short stories, introductions, forewords, nothing.

And I’ve dropped all my editing projects but Wild Cards.

(8) CON OR BUST DONATION. Crystal Huff, Worldcon 75 Co-Chair, announced —

Worldcon 75 [the 2017 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Helsinki, Finland] has donated 25 memberships and hotel room nights to Con or Bust to help People of Color attend our convention. We appreciate any assistance in spreading the news to interested fans. More details can be found at the Con or Bust website, including their application process: http://con-or-bust.org/2016/02/con-or-bust-now-accepting-requests-for-assistance-9/

(9) CREATIVITY DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. Jim C. Hines has a good post “My Mental Illness is Not Your Inspirational Post-it Note”  that doesn’t lend itself to out-of-context excerpts… so just go read it anyway.

(10) LAUNCHING MADE SIMPLE. How To Go To Space (with XKCD!) was posted last November but I don’t recall linking to it, and in any event, these things are always news to somebody!

(11) MARK JUSTICE OBIT. Horror author and radio host Mark Justice (1959-2016) passed away February 10 from a heart attack. Brian Keene discussed his writing in a memorial post.

Mark’s books included Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye and (with David Wilbanks) the Dead Earth series. He also ran one of the first — and best — horror fiction-centric podcasts, Pod of Horror [with Nancy Kalanta].

He was also a long-time morning show disc jockey in Ashland, Kentucky. He occasionally used that morning show to promote horror fiction, featuring friends and peers like Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, J.F. Gonzalez, and myself. I’ve signed in Ashland numerous times throughout the last twenty years, and Mark was always happy to have me on the show anytime…

He was generous and genuine, and very, very funny. He knew this genre’s history like few others. He will be missed.

(12) HELP BY BUYING BUD’S BOOKS. ReAnimus Press has a plan to benefit the late Bud Webster’s wife, Mary:

To help Mary with the financial burden, I wanted to announce that ReAnimus Press will be donating our publisher’s share of sales from all sales of Bud’s book back to Mary, so sales of those titles will be entirely to help Mary. We’ve published the ebook editions of Bud’s ANTHOPOLOGY 101 (http://reanimus.com/store/?i=1256 ) and THE JOY OF BOOKING ( www.reanimus.com/1409 ). We have PAST MASTERS in process.

I would also note that, if you can, purchasing through those links is of almost 50% more benefit to Mary, since there’s no chunk being paid to Amazon. (FYI this is for the ebook editions only; another publisher, Merry Blacksmith, has the print editions.)

Also, anyone know who I can contact who’s handling the Marscon donations? I’d like to offer copies of the ebooks to donors to sweeten the pot, say, one ebook for a $25 donation, all three for $50, and all three plus any three other ebooks from the ReAnimus store for $100+. (Retroactive to anyone who’s already donated, so don’t wait to donate.)

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 17, 1922 — Terrified audiences gaze upon FW Murnau’s Nosferatu for the very first time.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born February 17, 1912 — Andre Norton

(15) THEY SWEAR THESE ARE GOOD IDEAS. In Comic Riffs at the Washington Post, Michael Cavna and David Betancourt attribute Deadpool’s huge success to its attracting both superhero fans and people who enjoy R-rated snark such as is found in Judd Apatow films. Then they say — “These are the ‘R-rated’ comics that Hollywood should put on the screen next”.

MICHAEL CAVNA: So you and I knew that “Deadpool” would do reasonably well, but these monster box-office numbers that practically rival “The Dark Knight’s” debut certainly speak to a thirst for R-rated comics adaptations that don’t feel like the same old tales of origin reboots and capes-vs.-urban apocalypses. So if you were a Hollywood executive, what’s the first “mature content” comic you’d now try to option and adapt?

DAVID BETANCOURT: The top two that come to my mind are American Vampire and Y: The Last Man. Last Man [which was adapted in 2011 in short form] has been in movie limbo for a while now, and I’m surprised someone hasn’t scooped up American Vampire. Fox has somewhat of a fun dilemma on their hands. “Deadpool” literally made twice what most folks were thinking it would for its opening weekend. So if you can spawn X-Force out of “Deadpool,” given Deadpool’s connection with Cable, do you continue the “R” momentum and make an X-Force movie rated R as well? If X-Force was in development [prior to “Deadpool’s” release], Fox must have been thinking PG-13 — just like the X-Men films. But now, seeing the success of “Deadpool,: maybe Fox executives have more than one R-rated franchise. They have to at least be thinking about it. And because of “Deadpool’s” success, if that character [now] appears in an X-film, does he [himself[ seem diluted if he’s in a PG-13 movie?

(16) HE WAS THERE. Matthew Surridge looks back on “The Great Hugo Wars of 2015”, and devotes many paragraphs to how he decided to decline his Hugo nomination.

Then the next night I opened my email to find a message from the Worldcon administrators congratulating me for being nominated for a Hugo. If I wouldn’t be at Worldcon, could I please select someone who’d be able to pick up the award for me if I won?

I emailed Black Gate editor John O’Neill, and asked him if he’d be in Spokane. He said he wouldn’t, and also mentioned that Black Gate had been nominated for a Fanzine Hugo. That meant I’d now heard of three Puppy picks who’d gotten nominations. I poked around some message boards and found speculation from various people plugged into the field guessing that the Puppies would do spectacularly well when the full list of nominees was made public. One (non-Puppy) editor said that he’d heard that the Puppies had three of the nominations for Best Novel—the most prestigious category. I began to wonder if I wanted to be nominated for an award that was being shaped by the Puppy tactics. If nothing else, what kind of backlash would this create?

Over the next few days I did more research on the Puppy program. Beyond politics, it was clear I didn’t share the Sad Puppy sense of what was good and bad in fiction. Beale only spoke about “the science fiction right,” but Torgersen was putting forward an aesthetic argument about the value of adventure writing over “message fiction.” I like good pulp fiction, but prefer experimental writing. More: it became clear to me that Torgersen and Beale knew that what they were doing was a slap in the face of the SF community—the people who attended events like Worldcon and administered the Hugos. As far as they were concerned, many of the existing institutions of science fiction fandom were not only dominated by liberals, but corrupt, and therefore had to be either reformed or burned down. The Puppies were looking for a fight.

Black Gate put up a link to the post as well, which led to an exchange of comments between Surridge and his former admirer, Wild Ape.

(17) GRAPHIC ARTS. Camestros Felapton in “SP4 Book Families” proves Hugo voters and Sad Puppies 4 recommenders are equally innocent. Or equally guilty. Never mind, look at the pretty graph.

Another stray observation from SP4 Best Novel data partly inspired by an odd claim at Mad Genius that ‘weak correlations’ in Hugo2015 nomination data was evidence of secret-slate/cabals/whatever (um, nope it is what you’d expect).

I looked at which books had nominators in common and how many nominators in common they had. I then tabulated those books with more than 2 in common and drew a pretty picture.

(18) NEBULA PREDICTION. Chaos Horizon looked at the SFWA Recommended Reading List data from 2011-2014.

3/4 times, the top vote getter from the Recommended List went on to win the Nebula. Schoen must be dancing right now for Barsk, which topped the 2015 list with 35 votes (Gannon did get 33, and Wilde 29, so Schoen shouldn’t start celebrating yet). The only exception to this rule was Kim Stanley Robinson in 2012. Maybe KSR, who had 11 prior Nebula nominations and 2 prior wins, was just so much better known to the voting audience than his fellow nominees, although that’s just speculation. That KSR win from the #4 spot does stand out as a real outlier to the other years.

The Top 6 recommended works got nominated 19/24 times, for a staggering 79.1% nomination rate. If you’re predicting the Nebulas, are you going to find any better correlation than this? Just pick the top 6, and bask in your 80% success rate.

(19) LEGO. This year Lego will release 25 Star Wars-themed sets. The “Assault on Hoth” set, coming May 1, has 2,144 pieces and costs $250.

the-assault-on-hoth-set-will-be-available-may-1

(20) MONOPOLY UPDATE. No paper money in Hasbro’s “Ultimate Banking” version of the Monopoly game – bank cards only, fortunes are tracked electronically, and that’s not all —

The latest version of Monopoly adds a new spin to the debate over who gets to be the banker. The decades-old board game, a Hasbro Inc. brand, is getting a modern upgrade this fall with an “Ultimate Banking” version that does away with the game’s iconic paper money in favor of bank cards.

Transactions, including purchasing property and paying rent, will be handled as they are in modern-day real life, with the tap of a card on the “ultimate banking unit.”

And for the real-estate mogul in the making, the bank cards also track wealth and property values, which can rise and fall. Rents for properties on the board also fluctuate, according to Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of the gaming division of Hasbro

(21) OVER THE TRANSOM. Alan Baumler sent this in email – a bit long to use as a Scroll title, so I’ll quote it here:

In place of a pixel, you would have a scroll!

Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn!

Treacherous as the sea!

Stronger than the foundations of the earth!

All shall love me, and despair!

(22) KYLO REN’S TEEN ANGST. Mamalaz has a whole series of ridiculous “Modern Solo Adventures”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]