Pixel Scroll 1/27/18 Vaster Than Pixels And More Scroll

(1) GOOD NEWS FOR A CLARION WEST STUDENT. George R.R. Martin is funding another scholarship at a writing workshop, as he explains in “Worldbuilding in Seattle”.

Every great story requires interesting characters, an engrossing plot, evocative prose, an important theme… but epic fantasy also requires a memorable setting. A “secondary universe,” as J.R.R. Tolkien termed it, a world both like and unlike our own, with its own rich history and geography and customs, its own beauties and terrors….

These days, the world is more need of wonder than ever before. To that end, I am pleased to announce that I am sponsoring a new annual scholarship at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. https://www.clarionwest.org/ An intensive six-week course for aspiring authors of science fiction and fantasy, Clarion West is one of the longest-running and most successful workshops in the world. Its instructors and graduates make up an honor roll of the best and the brightest in science fiction and fantasy. This summer the instructors will be Daniel Abraham, Ken MacLeod, Karen Lord, Yoon Ha Lee, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ellen Datlow. The deadline for applying is March 1.

Our new WORLDBUILDER SCHOLARSHIP will cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student each year. The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes. For further details, query Clarion West at info@clarionwest.org

(2) DWINDLING. Larque Press has compiled the “2017 Total Paid Distribution” statistics from the publisher’s statement of ownership for Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF, among others. Print circulation diminished slightly over the past year, except for F&SF. See the numbers at the link.

Dell and F&SF sell far more issues via subscriptions than newsstands. For the most part, combining the two gives you the total paid circulation. However, it’s important to note these numbers don’t include digital sales, which are likely on the rise. Below is the “total paid distribution” from Jan/Feb 2017 and 2018 of the print editions…

…Except for F&SF, the year-over-year numbers show declines of ~500–1000. Is this due to thicker, less frequent issues, general magazine publishing trends, distribution challenges, or something else?

(3) EVERMORE. If you want to see a fantastic sculpture being created for Evermore Park in Utah, click this Facebook link:

Here’s Cory Clawson sculpting while our shop dog, Woody, supervises. Have a little sneak peek at some of the talent behind Evermore’s Creative Studio.

(4) ADD TWO. John Picacio says Christopher Brown has contributed two Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx creators/fans.

UPDATE!!! VERY GOOD NEWS: Our sponsorship team is GROWING. John and I are now officially joined by ace photographer Ctein (hooray for you, man!!) who is sponsoring two more Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx. We are also now joined by Ty Franck — one-half of the James S.A. Corey writing juggernaut. He’s sponsoring one Worldcon membership for a deserving Mexicanx. Right on, Ty!! And this just in — Christopher Brown, author of TROPIC OF KANSAS, is sponsoring two more Mexicanx for attending Worldcon memberships. Too good. And this crazy train is going to keep rolling because I’m confirming more sponsorships right now, to be announced soon. This has become A THING. ‘Keep you posted.

(5) EUROCON UPDATE. The committee for Eurocon Nemo 2018, to be held in Amiens, France, has had to arrange another meeting place in the city after finding its planned facilities aren’t ready. The committee has updated its website to show the new location, and posted an explanation on Facebook. The con takes place July 19-22.

Hello everyone
It was a real commotion for the Nemo 2018 team for the past ten days. So, we had to play radio silence. We must apologise.
Indeed, last week, the news suddenly fell that, finally, because of various delays on the building site, we could not have the visa of the committee of security to organize as planned the convention on the site of the Citadel.
It was therefore urgent to find a plan B. It is now done, thanks to the University of Amiens, and in particular to its cultural service and library. Thanks to Anne-Sophie, Justin and Jennifer.
The Convention will take place as planned, with an unchanged program, but it will be at the Pôle Universitaire Cathedral, in the center of Amiens, at the foot of the cathedral, in the middle of a lively district, filled with restaurants, cafes , with exhibition halls, meeting rooms, amphitheatres, a cafeteria, theaters and cinemas all around!
And as a bonus, we will still have the right to visit the site Citadel, to admire the architectural creation of the cabinet Renzo Piano.
Finally, here is a setback that results in even more facilities and animations …

(6) FROM MOLTEN GLASS. “One Meredith goblet coming up,” says Hampus.

(7) PETER S. BEAGLE ON LE GUIN. SFWA’s newest Grandmaster says farewell to another: “In memoriam, Ursula K. LeGuin” at Support Peter S. Beagle.

…I didn’t know her well. She lived in Portland, and I’ve been all over northern California in the last half-century, with six years out for the Seattle area. We hadn’t yet met when I followed her by a week into the Clarion West workshop (1972, was it?), to be greeted by a note saying, “Welcome, Unicorn! Make the little kobolds work their tails off!) Mostly we ran into each other at various conventions, grabbing coffee where we could. I do like to recall a serious conversation, initiated by me in increasing alarm at having become known more and more, in the intervening years, as the Unicorn Guy. Meanwhile, Ursula’s recently-published Earthsea novels had, as far as I was concerned, put paid to dragons as literary figures: I felt – and still feel – that dragons should be off-limits to all other writers, no matter how gifted or inventive they might be. But I was younger then, and had the chutzpah to offer to trade my unicorns even-up for her dragons. “Unicorns are really easy to housebreak. They always ask to go outside.” I remember that I was even willing to throw in a utility infielder, if she insisted.

Ursula’s response: “Do you know how impossible it is to keep dragons off the curtains? And they’re absolute hell on carpets!” We never did make the deal, but not for my lack of trying. As I say, I was younger then….

(8) MORE ON LE GUIN.

A few years later, I entered an MFA program populated by folks whose idea of engaging with speculative fiction was trying to comprehend Harry Potter. I was also newly married, and my husband had six or seven of Le Guin’s books. Discouraged, again, about writing science fiction and fantasy, I started reading The Left Hand of Darkness, which shattered what I thought a science fiction novel could be, how gender could be portrayed, how an invented world could shape my worldview. More importantly, it changed how I encountered gender on a daily basis—one of the most empathy-producing moments in my life to date. As I closed the covers and promptly fell into a book hangover, I couldn’t understand why none of my professors had taught Le Guin or pushed one of her books into my hands. Yes, folks had suggested her, but one book deep into her work, and I’d found a complex thinker, writer, reader, teacher all rolled into one.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

(9) PLAUDITS. Book View Café proudly reports Le Guin’s  No Time to Spare Is Finalist for Essay Prize”.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s 2017 collection of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, is one of the five finalists for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

This prize, one of the PEN America Literary Awards, is “[f]or a book of essays published in 2017 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.”

Many of the essays in this collection began as blog posts, some of which were published here on the Book View Cafe blog.

Winners will be announced at a February 20 ceremony in New York.

(10) HONOR ROLL. Steven H Silver’s “2017 In Memoriam” list is posted at Amazing Stories.

(Editor’s Note: Every year, Steven H Silver compiles the obituaries of those we have lost.  This information is published in various locales and is incorporated into the honor roll displayed during the Hugo Awards presentations.

It’s an unenviable task, though a necessary one.  Our community and our genres are built upon a foundation of people and it is fitting that we remember them.)

(11) IHINGER OBIT. Minneapolis fan Rob Ihinger (1955-2018) died of leukemia on January 27 his wife, Peg Kerr, announced at CaringBridge (more medical details at the link).

We waited for his mother and other family members who flew in from around the country, and family and friends gathered in his ICU room, sharing laughter, telling stories, and giving Rob his last tastes of Coca Cola Classic and ice cream. Rob was able to recognize and greet with pleasure the visitors who came to say goodbye. Then around midnight, we withdrew the tubes and monitors and simply stopped the medication which was keeping his blood pressure stable. Shortly thereafter, Rob slipped into sleep.

My beloved husband Rob Ihinger passed away peacefully this morning at 9:15 a.m. in the presence of his family.

(12) WALKER OBIT. Cartoonist Mort Walker (1923-2018), creator of Beetle Bailey and other strips, died January 27.

The character that was to become Beetle Bailey made his debut as Spider in Walker’s cartoons published by the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Walker changed Spider’s name and launched “Beetle Bailey” as a college humor strip in 1950.

At first the strip failed to attract readers and King Features Syndicate considered dropping it after just six months, Walker said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press. The syndicate suggested Beetle join the Army after the start of the Korean War, Walker said.

“I was kind of against it because after World War II, Bill Mauldin and Sad Sack were fading away,” he said. But his misgivings were overcome and Beetle “enlisted” in 1951.

Walker attributed the success of the strip to Beetle’s indolence and reluctance to follow authority.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found the Star Wars translation for a contemporary faux pas in Off the Mark.
  • Will R. enjoyed the Laugh out Loud Cats sending up the title of a popular movie.

(14) A PORG TWEETS. David Gerrold knows how he feels….

(15) STOKERCON 2018 NEWS. At the StokerCon 2018 Website you can find the complete program for The Second Annual Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

The Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference is part of the Horror Writers Association’s Outreach Program. Membership to the Horror Writers Association is not required to submit or present, however registration to StokerCon 2018 is required to present.

And the full program for Librarians’ Day

Join Stoker Con for a special day-long program of panels and presentations for librarians! Becky Spratford, author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd edition (ALA, Editions) and horror reviewer for Booklist and IndiePicks Magazine and Kristi Chadwick, Consultant, Massachusetts Library System and Library Journal’s Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror columnist are coordinating the event.

(16) GRAMMAR POSSE. The latest Horror Writers Association newsletter includes Anthony Ambrogio’s feature, “The Grumpy Grammarian: Ms. Speaking Speaks about Misspeaking (and Gives Me a Chance to Wax Pedantic)”.

Poet and HWA Proofer Supreme Marge Simon offered a couple of additions to those frequently misspoken phrases I talked about in my January column. I hope I do justice to her comments here.

“Hope your cold is better now.”

Marge writes, “Everyone says it that way, but, in truth, if your cold is better, then it is doing well—flourishing—and you are not! … So, to be correct, one should say, ‘I hope your cold has gone away/is over/has let up, etc., and you are feeling better now.’” However, she concedes, “That one is beyond reasonable criticism.” Doesn’t hurt to point it out, though.

(17) MONTH OF JOY. Where have I been? I just found out about the Skiify and Fanty “Month of Joy.” The latest installment is “Cooking and a Recipe by Cora Buhlert”. Learn how to make “Grandma Buhlert’s Herring Salad.”

During the trashfire of a year that was 2017, I’ve found that no matter how upset I am, sitting down in the kitchen to prepare a meal inevitably makes me feel better. To me, there is something incredibly soothing about assembling ingredients and spices, chopping vegetables, meat or fish and finally stirring the pot or pan, waiting for it all to come together.

So what sort of food do I make? For starters – and I know that may surprise some – very little traditional German food. German cuisine is too greasy and too meat and salt heavy for my tastes. And here in North Germany, traditional food quite often means “throw everything into a big pot and boil it, until it turns to mush”. There are some German dishes I like and make on occasion – herring salad, North Sea shrimp salad, pea soup, venison stew with red cabbage, sailor’s curry (which is a North German take on South/South East Asian food), apple puree, several cakes and cookies. And I suspect I could make most of the traditional dishes of my region, if necessary.

(18) THE LID IS OFF. Civilization-wide mind control is here!  Bloomberg video: “Tristan Harris Says Tech Companies Have Opened Pandora’s Box”. Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist, discusses changing Silicon Valley’s culture and the fight against online extremism with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.” Says Harris:

[These social media companies] have unleashed this civilization-scale mind-control machine, and they don’t even know what thoughts it’s pushing into 2 billion people’s minds…. Two billion people use Facebook; that’s more than the number of followers of Christianity. One-point-five billion people use YouTube; that’s more than the number of followers of Islam. These products have that much daily influence over people’s thoughts.

(19) DOWN THE TUBES. The Mother Nature Network asks “Is this housing solution just a pipe dream?”

As Hong Kong continues to grapple with an affordable housing crisis of epic proportions, no potential solution, no matter how unconventional or quixotic, is overlooked. And this includes single-occupancy dwellings fashioned out of concrete water pipes.

 

(20) SHARP GUESSES. Author of the bestselling Outlander time-travel novels Diana Gabaldon says: “Note that this is NOT a confirmation–but it’s a pretty good bit of speculation.” — “Outlander Seasons 5 and 6 Are Almost Definitely Happening”.

”There are ten books, and we are having very productive conversations about the future of the show.

“We have joined the legions of fans of Outlander around the world. Our biggest concern is making sure that we don’t kill Caitriona [Balfe] and Sam [Heughan] along the way,” [Starz CEO Chris] Albrecht [said], noting how incredibly hard both stars work on the show.'”

(21) POTTERDIVERSE. Emeraldbirdcollector authored a delightful short fanfic on what would have happened “If Harry had gotten a less conventional, but more loving adoptive family”

Dear Minerva,

Thank you so much for your kind letter of the 17th. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I do appreciate your waiving the rules about familiars to allow Wednesday to bring little Homer – she dotes on that spider, and I don’t think she could consider Hogwarts home without his company.

We were delighted but completely unsurprised by the children’s Sorting. Of course Wednesday is a Ravenclaw – she has always had a brilliant mind, and it is rather traditional for the women in our family….

(22) TIME PASSAGES. In 1963, Galactic Journey has received the very latest issue of New Worlds: “[February. 03, 1963] The Freeze Continues (New Worlds, February 1963)”

I Like It Here, by Mr. James White

This month’s guest editorial is from a New Worlds regular, who I know you will recognise in the US for his Sector General stories. With characteristic humour he adeptly summarises the contradiction in the current argument in s-f, between writers who don’t care what they write (as long as it sells) and writers who do not produce the sort of s-f that readers want. In typically droll manner, the many trials and tribulations of the modern writer is recognised in this editorial, determined to amuse. For a slightly less amusing consequence of this we also have Mr. John Carnell’s ‘View from the Hill’ at the end of this issue, of which more later….

(23) ARISTOTLE. Always three movements ahead!

Novice jughead?

(24) A POSITED FUTURE. Via the Welcome to you’re “DOOM!”  site.

https://welcometoyouredoom.tumblr.com/post/160735741191

(25) STAND BY TO FIRE HEADCANON. Scott Lynch fills in some missing pieces of Star Wars. Jump on the thread here —

[Thanks to Dave Doering, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Laura Resnick, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Lenore Jones, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Peter S. Beagle Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master

Peter S. Beagle

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has selected Peter S. Beagle as the 34th Damon Knight Grand Master for his contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.” Beagle joins the Grand Master ranks alongside such legends as C. J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Joe Haldeman. The award will be presented at the 52nd Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in Pittsburgh, PA, May 17-20, 2018.

Beagle, best-known for his novel The Last Unicorn, and has also explored our fascination with the mythical in The Innkeeper’s Song, A Fine and Private Place, and a wide variety of short fiction. Beagle won the Hugo and the Nebula Award for his 2005 novelette “Two Hearts.” He has won the Mythopoeic Award for his novels The Folk of the Air and Tamsin. He was nominated for a Hugo for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for Ralph Bakshi’s animated version and wrote the screenplay for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sarek.”

SFWA President Cat Rambo said:

Peter Beagle’s work has been the gateway for multitudes of fantasy readers, but also writers as well, including myself. His work shines a light on the human heart and its beauties even when that heart is flawed and wanting, showing how that beauty arises from such imperfect conditions. Beagle unquestionably belongs among the greats, and I count it a privilege to invite him to be the next SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master.

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 17-20.

On May 20, a mass autograph session will take place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center and is open to the public. For more information on the conference, including a link to register, visit nebulas.sfwa.org.

In addition to the Nebula Awards, SFWA will present the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

[Based on the press release.]

Cochran Files Bankruptcy on Eve of Trial

Connor Cochran and his companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, one day before trial was scheduled to begin in Peter S. Beagle’s lawsuit against his former manager.

Beagle sued Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc.

Cochran filed with United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. The details are public record. Cochran listed these as the largest unsecured claims against him:

$626,558  Rimon, PC – Legal fees
$500,000  Peter S. Beagle – Pending litigation (est.)
$400,000  Justin Bunnell – Judgment (*)
$ 83,592  Gloria Cheng – Property settlement
$ 24,915  Kathleen Hunt – Court-assessed fee
$ 20,000  Law Office of James R. Thompson – Legal fees
$  7,800  Son-Rise Property Management – Residential lease

Plus ten personal loans of $5,000 or less, and miscellaneous other small debts and claims.

(*) The Bunnell judgment relates to an investment by Sandbox LLC, a California partnership, and Justin Bunnell in The Last Unicorn screening tour launched in 2013. Projected for more than 150 different cities, Cochran and Beagle drove to tour destinations in a car loaded with stuff for sale. To quote the Bunnell complaint —

Specifically, on or around February 15, 2012, Defendant Avicenna and Plaintiff Sandbox entered into a written joint venture agreement whereby, in exchange for Sandbox’s remittance of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00) to Defendants, Defendant Avicenna agreed to, among other things, oversee the distribution and marketing of the Picture through a “special limited release film tour” and remunerate Plaintiff, at a minimum, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($450,000.00) and, thereafter, twenty-five percent (25%) of all profits derived from the the film tour and/or the exploitation of the Picture (the “Joint Venture Agreement”).

Commenting on the bankruptcy filing, Beagle’s attorney Kathleen Hunt said —

My favorite document so far is the one claiming that Connor has had literally $0 income for the past six months. (Presumably this is justified in his mind because the $ went to the companies, and he didn’t transfer it to his personal bank account – he just used the company bank accounts as if they were his personal accounts.)

She says the bankruptcy has put the lawsuit “trial on hold for awhile.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]

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]

Beagle and Cochran Issue Statements About Authorship

Peter S. Beagle, now 78, sued his former manager Connor Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, and other injunctive relief. Cochran’s cross-complaint was dismissed by the Superior Court of Alameda County on November 7. Beagle’s suit is scheduled for trial in January. Within the past month both litigants have made statements about the authorship of some of Beagle’s published work in recent years.

From the Support Peter S. Beagle blog on October 26: “AN Important Message from Peter S. Beagle”.

As many people are aware, Peter Beagle, beloved author of “The Last Unicorn”, “A Fine And Private Place”, and  “Summerlong”, is suing his former manager and business partner, Connor Cochran. Now Cochran is publicly claiming co-authorship of most, if not all, of Peter’s titles, from the point at which Peter and Cochran first worked together.

Here is Peter’s statement, in his own words, slapping down Cochran’s claims. As usual, Peter says it better than anyone else could. Please read and share.

I am 78 years old.  I have been publishing professionally for almost sixty years.  Telling stories, in one way or another, one medium or another, is what I do, and all I ever wanted to do.  From the beginning, starting with my first book, A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, I have worked with various publishers and editors, most of them helpful, and a few truly excellent.  Connor Cochran, at his best, was for many years one of this latter group.  I have said this many times in public, particularly commending his sense of structure; he even suggested titles for several of my stories. I have been grateful over our long acquaintance for such things.

But he did not write my stories, as he is now claiming publicly.  They are my work, and no one else’s – as are all my other books, all the way back to that first one, published in 1960, when I was twenty-one.  They are my legacy.

To quote a remembered line from the classic movie All About Eve, “It is about time that the piano realized that it has not written the symphony.”

And to quote partially from the words of my lawyer, Kathleen Hunt, addressed to Connor Cochran’s  former lawyer, Richard Mooney:

“Your claims are plainly false and inconsistent with the letter and application of U.S. copyright law. The statements may also constitute libel or other injurious action towards Beagle…. You surely knew that there is no evidence of a joint authorship relationship between Cochran and Beagle, that  there  was  no  objective  manifestation  to  create  a  work  of  joint  authorship, that the parties’ conduct at the time the works were created suggests a clear intent not to create a work of joint  authorship, and  that  the  statute  of  limitations  had  long  expired.  Under  these  circumstances, there can be little doubt that the sole purpose of your Correspondence was to fraudulently obtain authorship credit in the 27 Works in order to acquire leverage over my client in pending litigation.”

For fifteen years, over the counsel of true and knowledgeable friends, I trusted Connor Cochran implicitly  with all that I believed to be of any real value: my work, and the future of my legacy.  I was certain beyond any question that he was a man of honor and creativity.  I will forever regret that I was wrong.

Peter S. Beagle

Connor Cochran made this public Facebook statement on November 17:

Earlier this year I wrote a letter to certain editors, and shared with my Facebook friends, the fact that some of the “Peter S. Beagle” works published in the last 15 years were actually written by me and Peter in collaboration. The decision to finally share the truth was driven in part because I wanted to set a proper example for my daughter Brigid’s future, and in part because after two years I have gotten pretty sick of being lied about by Peter and the people who are controlling his life.

When word of what I had done got to Peter and his enablers, they did not take it well. On October 25th Peter released a public statement completely denying that we had ever collaborated, and further impugning my integrity and motives.

I was going to ignore it, but two days ago the LOCUS newszine got in touch to tell me they were going to run Peter’s statement. The editor wanted to know if I had any comment about it, or about the current status of the lawsuit.

And you know…once again I found that I was really tired of Peter making public statements that just aren’t true.

So after discussions with my attorney I wrote up a response and sent it to LOCUS. I am posting it here as well. In fairness to Peter I have put his own statement first in the attached image, so everyone can understand the context.

The surrogate who originally posted Peter’s statement asked folks to share it around as they saw fit. I invite anyone reading this to do the same.

———————————————–

11/17/17 — CONNOR COCHRAN’S RESPONSE (AT THE REQUEST OF LOCUS MAGAZINE) TO PETER S. BEAGLE’S 10/25/17 PUBLIC STATEMENT

Just like the allegations in his lawsuit, Peter’s most recent public statement is not true. The only question is whether it is knowingly false, or another example of the memory problems Peter displayed that forced suspension of THE LAST UNICORN Screening Tour in 2015.

First, I have never claimed that I “wrote his stories,” as he asserts. What I *have* recently shared — with the editors who bought the pieces in question, with my friends on Facebook, and now with LOCUS readers — is the fact that between 2002 and 2015 I CO-wrote nine published “Peter S. Beagle” stories, plus one novel manuscript and several screen treatments; as well as making substantial creative contributions to another seventeen works of fiction published under Peter’s byline and several of the poems and song lyrics in our yearlong 52-50 PROJECT. On everything else we did together (which is at least another 70-100 items, if not more) I was indeed just his editor, albeit a highly demanding one.

I was never public about co-writing at the time because Peter and I both thought that keeping my contribution to certain stories under wraps was the best thing for the Beagle literary “brand.” But that does not mean my co-authorship was a strict secret – it was well-known to some of our mutual friends. And, of course, anyone who reviews our working drafts and emails will see the cited stories are collaborations. (For just one example, comparing all the drafts of the 1,888-word story “The Fable of the Octopus,” from Peter’s 2006 collection THE LINE BETWEEN, shows that he wrote only 62% of the final text. I wrote the other 38% of it, including the ending, the denouement, and the moral. More importantly, Peter did not alter a single word of my contribution, responding to my writing only with a short email that began “I think it works fine this way, Connor — thank you again!”)

As for the status of the lawsuit: the court recently dismissed my counter-suit when it proved physically impossible to process hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to determine which related to the broad discovery requests, let alone which might be private or privileged, in the allotted timeframe. That certainly doesn’t make me happy, but so it goes. I have nonetheless handed over to Peter and his attorney more than 50,000 pages of documents refuting the allegations in his lawsuit, with another 100,000 pages of documents currently being prepped to turn over. In contrast, Peter has never provided ANY documentation that supports the wild allegations in his complaint, or refutes my counter-suit. Further, Peter has twice filed for “injunctions” in this same matter, only to have them flatly rejected with stern lectures from the judge because his filings contained no evidence.

The last two years have been a nightmare for me and my family. But come trial in January I am confident the jury will see who is telling the truth. And so, eventually, will everyone else.

Court Dismisses Cochran’s Countersuit Against Beagle

Peter Beagle and Connor Cochran in 2013.

Peter S. Beagle won a round in his lawsuit against his former business manager, Connor Cochran, on November 7 when the Superior Court of Alameda County dismissed Cochran’s countersuit against Beagle. It was dismissed with prejudice, which means Cochran can’t try it again. Meanwhile, Beagle’s suit against Cochran is proceeding, with trial scheduled to begin on January 5, 2018.

Beagle, one of the top fantasists of his generation, and Connor Freff Cochran, the lifelong sf/f fan who became Beagle’s manager shortly after they met in 2001, spent 14 years rallying fans around the author’s campaign to get what he was due from sales of The Last Unicorn movie, and get back other rights controlled by exploitative corporations. Although they succeeded on both counts, the story of their teamwork came to an ugly end in 2015 when Beagle and Cochran sued each other in California courts.

Beagle’s lawsuit against Cochran [PDF], filed in November 2015 with the Superior Court of California in Alameda County, alleges Cochran committed fraud, elder abuse, and defamation.

Beagle, now 78, asked for $52 million in damages (or more as determined by the court), disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, and other injunctive relief.

Cochran’s answer and cross-complaint, filed in January 2016, asked the court to dismiss Beagle’s suit as “frivolous, issued without capacity or under undue influence,” and to award damages in an amount to be determined.

Beagle hasn’t been free to go on his way and resell his earlier published works because he had turned over his intellectual property and all of his rights to Avicenna Development Corporation, which he and Cochran formed in 2008 to manage and protect Beagle’s intellectual property rights, each man owning 50%.

The intellectual property held by Avicenna not only includes Beagle’s own works, but also rights in works he inherited from Edgar and Mary Pangborn, from his mother, and the rights in Cochran’s own previously created works.

The judge’s November 7 decision dismissed Cochran’s cross-complaint, and mirror complaints by the corporations, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc., with prejudice, because of prolonged failure to comply with court orders to produce documents and answer interrogatories. The court also renewed its order for Cochran and the defendant corporations to pay $24,915 in sanctions that have remained unpaid since September 2016, and levied an additional $3,060 sanction against Cochran.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/17 (Isn’t It Good) Norwegian Groot

(1) WHAT A CONCEPT. ScienceFiction.com delivers the news in a very amusing way: “Is Jabba The Hutt In Line For His Own ‘Star Wars’ Anthology Film?”

Look out ’50 Shades’ and ‘Magic Mike’!  Some real sexy is about to hit the big screen!  Namely, a stand-alone ‘Jabba The Hutt’ movie.  Yes, following the now-in-production ‘Han Solo’ film, Disney is in some stage of development on additional films that focus on individual members of the vast ‘Star Wars’ mythology, including Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Now comes word that the space version of ‘The Godfather’ (who is just slightly slimmer than Marlon Brando later in his career) might also get similar treatment.

This news comes from a write-up by Variety about the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ movie and is just casually thrown out…

…As you probably know, Jabba doesn’t speak English.  This is something that helped protect C-3PO who he kept around (and intact) in order to translate for him.  American audiences rarely embrace foreign films.  Does Disney really think The Force is so strong with fans that they will turn out for a movie spoken entirely in a fake alien language?

(2) GALAXY QUEST. A new writer will help the beloved movie resume its trek to TV? Promises, promises!

Amazon’s Galaxy Quest TV revival is back on track. Writer-actor-comedian Paul Scheer of The League has been tapped to pen the script for the Paramount Television-produced series. Scheer takes over for the feature film’s original scribe, Robert Gordon, who was on board to pen the script for the Amazon reboot. The Amazon series is described as a new take on the cult movie that starred Tim Allen, the late Alan Rickman as well as Sigourney Weaver. The original 1999 movie centered on the cast of a since-canceled beloved sci-fi show that was forced to reunite to save the planet after aliens believe their show was real. Plans for the Amazon series were put on hold after Rickman’s passing.

 

(3) ECLIPSE GUILT. You tell ‘em.

(4) HEROIC EFFORT. Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte has posted packet coordinator Jo Van Ekeren’s deeply interesting “2017 Hugo Voter’s Packet Debrief”. Did we mention, this job is not that easy? Here’s the part about eligibility issues:

Eligibility Issues encountered: after consultation with the Hugo Admins, an explanation was sent to the Finalist of the issue and what the resolution was going to be, and the Finalists were all quite gracious about understanding:

  • Short Form Editor including stories they published but did not edit resolution: they resubmitted a document without those stories
  • Short Form Editor including a short Novel they edited resolution: the Novel was not included in the packet
  • Short Form Editor including an entire issue of a magazine in which they had an editorial published resolution: an extract with only the editorial was included in the packet
  • Professional Artist including two works from an non-eligible publication resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist requested inclusion of non-fiction work in the packet resolution: this was not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist including a story from a non-eligible market, and a poem resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Fanzine creating an online web page with links to reviews of 2016 works which included a vast majority of reviews written in 2016, but a handful written in 2015 and 2017 resolution: let them know that I was going to let it slide, but that a future Packet Coordinator might not, and if there had been more of them, I wouldn’t have either, and suggested this might be something they wish to take into consideration in future as far as the timing of posting reviews
  • Explicit Content: The porn novelette was placed inside a subfolder which included “Note – Explicit Content” in the folder name. The Fan Writer whose work included cartoon nudity and explicit verbiage agreed to create an online page on their website, and a document with a link to that webpage was included in the packet (at my recommendation, this URL was added to their robots.txt file, so that it would not be indexed by search engines).
  • Editor Long Form: My original e-mail to the finalists referred to novels edited during the year, and it was called to my attention that the definition actually specifies novel-length works which were published during the eligibility year, and that those works could be either fiction or non-fiction. I sent a revised e-mail to the Editor Long Form Finalists to reflect these changes

(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA’S CREATOR. Mark Peters details “8 Ways Comic Book Legend Jack Kirby Fought Fascism” at Paste.

  1. He Scouted for the Army

When Kirby joined the army, his reputation as the co-creator of Captain America preceded him—but this talent didn’t get him a cushy job, like many luckier writers and artists. Rather, Kirby ended up serving as a scout, a thankless job that involved sneaking into enemy territory and drawing what he saw to help prepare future missions. This was extremely dangerous. As Kirby put it, “If somebody wants to kill you, they make you a scout.” Before setting off for duty, the auteur cranked out an increased flow of comics, stating that he wanted “to get enough work backlogged that I could go into the Army, kill Hitler, and get back before the readers missed us.”…

  1. He Was Ready to Fight Nazis Anywhere

Kirby, who grew up in Manhattan’s rough Lower East Side, knew how to throw a fist and didn’t back down from anyone—especially a Nazi. As Mark Evanier describes in his biography Kirby: King of Comics, “…Jack took a call. A voice on the other end said, ‘There are three of us down here in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comic book and show him what real Nazis would do to his Captain America’. To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. The callers, however, were gone by the time he arrived.” Based on everything we know about Kirby, these Nazi crank-yankers got lucky.

(6) THE WALKING SUITS. A billion dollars is at stake: “Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman Joins Lawusit Against AMC”. ComicsBeat has the story.

It’s a giant chess game out there in the entertainment world, with streaming giants and known content producers vying for the upper hand. Mark Millar signing with Netflix and Robert Kirkman going with Amazon made headlines on their own, but a new lawsuit makes the reason for Kirkman’s new home even more apparent.

On August 14, The Walking Dead’s series co-creator Robert Kirkman, joined producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara and David Alpert in a complaint filed against the AMC television network. The complaint alleges breach of contract, tortious interference, and unfair or fraudulent business acts under California business code. The damages being sought could exceed $1 Billion dollars.

Filed at Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit alleges that AMC “exploited their vertically integrated television structure” to keep “the lion’s share of the series’ profits for itself.” The Hollywood Reporter has provided a great breakdown of the major claims in the suit. The complaint alleges the network in effect reduced series profits using various means, thereby diminishing the percent owed to the named plaintiffs. One of the ways this was accomplished, the suit claims, is by AMC Network paying a lower than fair market licence value than the show is worth–a violation of the plaintiff’s signed agreements.

(7) HODGELL. On the Baen Free Radio Hour for August 18, P.C. Hodgell discusses The Gates of Tagmeth, her latest entry in the Kenycyrath Saga high fantasy series; and part thirteen of the complete audiobook serialization of Liaden Universe® novel Alliance of Equals by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 19, 1692 — Five hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts
  • August 19, 1983 Yor, the Hunter from the Future premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 19, 1921 – Gene Roddenberry

(10) THE COLOR ORANGE.  The Horror Writers Association has opened its Halloween Pumpkin Recipe Contest.

(11) THE COLOR PINK. Safety first! “Bed and breakfast helps chickens cross street with high visibility vests”.

A bed and breakfast in Scotland fitted a group of chickens with high-visibility vests to help them cross a local road.

Glenshieling House shared video Friday of a pair of chickens wearing the bright pink vests as they strolled across the rainy street.

(12) PAINOPISTE. The fans who produced Worldcon 75’s newsletter will be happy to tell you how they did it.

A central feature in the preparation of the newsletter was two parallel concerns: we resolved to make the W75 newsletter as accessible to fans with dyslexia & other reading issues as possible; and we resolved to make the newsletter visually impressive and professional-looking.

The Design AH’s experience with several years of Finncons had led to the emergence of a Finncon “house style,” including preferred typefaces & colors, through which Design sought to present a unified visual identity for W75. Consequently Design was able to provide the newsletter with an adaptable, minimalist & clear template design including a custom masthead and footer. This template was produced using Adobe Indesign and some custom graphics.

For my part, I concentrated on the question of accessibility. Early in this process, I noted that while W75 had agreed to follow the SWFA’s document “Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces,” that document contained no discussion on the question of readability. Discussions between myself, the Design AH, the Design DH, and the Member Services DH Vanessa May, resulted in a number of recommendations which were incorporated into the final W75 newsletter. These recommendations were drawn from a combination of personal experience, systematic reviews in academic literature on readability, the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Style Guide, and the UK National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign’s guidance on accessible printed materials.

(13) PRO TIP. There’s some truth in what she says –

(14) IN THE BEGINNING. James Cooray Smith, in “Starting Star Wars: How George Lucas came to create a galaxy” in New Statesman, has a lot of good information about how Star Wars came to be created, including how the first character Lucas created was Mace Windu and how much of Star Wars was filmed at EMI Elstree because the Harold Wilson government was trying to keep the facility open and one condition of studios filming there was that they had to bring in their own technicians, which suited Lucas fine.

The script development money gave Lucas enough to live on whilst he continued work on the screenplay. As he did so it changed again; a ‘Kiber Crystal’ was written in and then written out. Skywalker became Deak Starkiller’s overweight younger brother before becoming the farm boy familiar from the finished film. Characters swapped names and roles. A new character named Darth Vader – sometimes a rogue Jedi, sometimes a member of the rival ‘Knights of Sith’ – had his role expanded. Some drafts killed him during the explosion of the Death Star, others allowed him to survive; across subsequent drafts his role grew. Some previously major characters disappeared altogether, pushed into a “backstory”, Lucas choosing to develop the practically realisable aspects of his story.

This is an important clarification to the idea that Star Wars was “always” a part of a larger saga, one later incarnated in its sequels and prequels. That’s true, but not in an absolutely literal way. Star Wars itself isn’t an excerpted chunk of a vast plotline, the rest of which was then made over the next few decades. It’s a distillation of as much of a vast, abstract, unfinished epic as could be pitched as a fairly cheap film to be shot using the technology of the mid 1970s. And even then much of the equipment used to make the film would be literally invented by Lucas and his crew during production.

(15) ANALYZING WINNERS. Cora Buhlert has “Some More Words about the 2017 Hugo Awards”.

Last I said in my last Hugo post, I did not expect The Obelisk Gate to win, because it was the second book in a trilogy and those rarely win and also because it was competing in a very strong ballot. In fact, I suspected that All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders would win (which also wasn’t one of my three top picks), since it already won the Nebula and Locus Awards (in the end, it came in second). I’ve been wondering how my predictions for this category could have been so totally off and I suspect that we’re seeing an effect at work here we often see with awards of any kind, from genre awards via general literature prizes to the Oscars, namely that more serious works focussed on serious issues tends to trump lighter works. Now both All the Birds in the Sky and A Closed and Common Orbit are lighter and more hopeful works, even though they do tackle serious issues as well. Coincidentally, A Closed and Common Orbit addresses very similar issues as The Obelisk Gate, namely who is viewed as a person and who is viewed as a thing or tool, but it handles these issues in a very different way. And due to a general bias towards more serious works that can be found in pretty much all awards, a darker book like The Obelisk Gate trumped a lighter and more hopeful treatment of the same theme like A Closed and Common Orbit (or the equally lighter and more hopeful All the Birds in the Sky). It was always pretty obvious that Death’s End and Too Like the Lightning were not going to win, since both were love it or hate it books, which leaves Ninefox Gambit as the other darker and more serious work on the ballot.

(16) THE RETURNS. Steven J. Wright also pores over the order of finish in “Hugo Awards 2017: The Relentless Detail”. For most readers “gone are the days when everyone just voted for Langford and forgot about it” is a lighthearted jape about Best Fanwriter (medic!), while I found it easier to admire this turn of phrase about Best Fancast:

And a big (though genteel) yay from me for Tea and Jeopardy, there, easily my favourite among the podcasts. Not much to say about the vote, except that Ditch Diggers got gradually jostled down into its final place. Next one down the long list is Verity!, which has got to be more fun than The Rageaholic, if only because groin surgery is more fun than The Rageaholic, and yes, I am qualified to make that comparison.

(17) PSYCH. Alexandra Erin did an analysis of how professed beliefs can interact with internal worldviews to lead to apparently contradictory behavior. She used as an example Brad Torgersen and the Hugos. The thread begins here —

(18) DRAGON AWARDS RUNNERS. Rebecca Hill viewed the recording of last year’s Dragon Awards ceremony and noted the names of the organizers are, besides President Pat Henry, David Cody, Bill Fawcett, and Bev Kaodak. Of course, we reported last year that David Cody left a comment on Monster Hunter Nation on a thread, making sure people knew how to register.

(19) BETTER HUMOR. The death of a space-age “treat”: astronauts no longer have to eat freeze-dried ice cream: “The Best Item In An Astronaut’s Care Package? Definitely The Ice Cream”.

We all remember astronaut ice cream, those little dehydrated bricks of neopolitan.

The reason astronauts generally don’t have much access to the real stuff isn’t rocket science, but rather something we’ve all encountered: a lack of freezer space.

What limited refrigeration there is on the space station is given over to blood samples, urine samples, etc. — stuff you don’t really want next to your Moose Tracks.

Unlike previous cargo vehicles used by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule has the ability to return to Earth without burning up on re-entry.

That means it can bring stuff back. The spacecraft is equipped with freezers to transport medical and scientific samples back to Earth. And sometimes, those freezers are empty when they go up to the station — which leaves room for ice cream, Vickie Kloeris, manager of NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory, tells NPR.

Before the capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Monday, she says, NASA’s cold storage team packed it with a sweet array of frozen treats: 30 individual cups of Bluebell ice cream and some Snickers ice cream bars.

(20) HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN. NASA attacks a bigger worry than asteroid collisions: “NASA’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano”.

There are around 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, with major eruptions occurring on average once every 100,000 years. One of the greatest threats an eruption may pose is thought to be starvation, with a prolonged volcanic winter potentially prohibiting civilisation from having enough food for the current population. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that food reserves worldwide would last 74 days.

When Nasa scientists came to consider the problem, they found that the most logical solution could simply be to cool a supervolcano down. A volcano the size of Yellowstone is essentially a gigantic heat generator, equivalent to six industrial power plants. Yellowstone currently leaks about 60-70% of the heat coming up from below into the atmosphere, via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up inside the magma, enabling it to dissolve more and more volatile gases and surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.

But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt….

(21) NOW IN SESSION. A Chinese ‘cyber-court’ has been launched for online cases:

The Hangzhou Internet Court opened on Friday and heard its first case – a copyright infringement dispute between an online writer and a web company.

Legal agents in Hangzhou and Beijing accessed the court via their computers and the trial lasted 20 minutes.

The court’s focus will be civil cases, including online shopping disputes.

Judges were sworn in and the first case was presented on a large screen in the courtroom.

(22) BEAGLE SUIT. Cat Eldridge has made the latest filing by Peter S. Beagle’s attorney in his suit against his former manager Connor Cochran available here. The filing includes a brief history of the litigation, including the information that in 2016 the court awarded a firm representing Beagle’s attorney $24,000+ in attorneys fees.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/17 Let Us Sit Upon The Ground And Scroll Sad Pixels

(1) UNORTHODOX APPROACH. Beginning July 18, a weekly podcast will be hosted by Sixth & I in Washington DC — “Harry Potter and The Sacred Text”.

What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast the reads Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text.

Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah, and Muslims read the Quran, Harvard chaplains Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile embark on a 199 ­episode journey (one chapter per week) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have in store.

The chaplains read the beloved series through the lens of instructive and inspirational text and extract lessons that can be applied to our own lives.

At the end of 199 weeks will something more emerge from these readings?

(2) JUSTICE IS BLIND. At Sharps & Flatirons, Peter Alexander says blind orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field — “Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News” .

First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.

The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.

The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.

… In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.

(3) CON OR BUST AUCTION. The Con or Bust annual fundraising auction has begun and runs until May 7 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions.

The available items include a signed galley of Ann Leckie’s next novel Provenance (to be published in October.) When I last looked, bidding was already up to $120.

Here are a few examples of the wide variety of auction items –

The whole list of auction tags is here.

(4) EMOJI CODE. There are four summaries, and I didn’t understand even one. Your turn! “Can you guess the Doctor Who episodes told in emojis?”

Test your Doctor Who knowledge by deciphering these emoji plots and guessing the episode!

If you’re stuck, answers are at the bottom of the page…

(5) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY. Talk about timing! Carl Slaughter referenced Larry Page in the other day’s flying car roundup, and today the news is “Larry Page’s flying car will be available to buy before the end of the year”

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is an electric aircraft that, in its current version, looks a bit like a flying Jet Ski. Cimeron Morrissey, who test flew the aircraft, wrote in a review that the final version would look quite different from the prototype, which doesn’t look all that practical.

A New York Times profile of the Flyer describes it as “something Luke Skywalker would have built out of spare parts.” The vehicle weighs about 100 kilograms and, according to Morrissey, can travel up to 25 mph. She likened the Flyer to “a toy helicopter.”

(6) PETER S. BEAGLE. Initially Barry Deutsch was signal-boosting an appeal for funds — “Peter S Beagle, author of ‘The Last Unicorn,’ is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help.” However, Beagle’s fans immediately came through on the short-term goal, which still leaves two longer-term needs:

LONG-TERM:

Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.

BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!

Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.

To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.

(7) UNGRADED HATE MAIL. Margaret Atwood answers Patt Morrison’s questions in the LA Times.

I can imagine your fan mail. I can’t imagine your hate mail.

I’ve gotten lots of hate mail over the years. I’ll probably get more once the television series comes out. But I’m not advocating for one thing or the other. I’m saying that what kind of laws you pass — those laws will have certain kinds of results. So you should think carefully about whether you want to have those results or not.

If you’re going to ban birth control, if you’re going to ban information about reproduction, if you’re going to defund all of those things, there will be consequences. Do you want those consequences or not? Are you willing to pay for them or not?

Listen to the “Patt Morrison Asks” podcast and read the full interview at here.

(8) WHO’S THAT SHOUTING? Two writers here for the LA Festival of Books indulge in shenanigans. (Hm, just discovered my spellchecker has a different opinion of how shenanigans is spelled than I have – dang, it did it again!)

(9) CITIZEN SCIENCE. And they call the wind aurora whatever-it-is… Steve? “Aurora photographers find new night sky lights and call them Steve”

Relatively little else is known about the big purple light as yet but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are reports that the group called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children’s film, Over the Hedge, where the characters give the name to a creature they have not seen before.

Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity.

“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. “It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.”

(10) A CERTAIN GLOW ABOUT THEM. If you don’t already know this story, you should: “Dark Lives Of ‘The Radium Girls’ Left A Bright Legacy For Workers, Science”,an interview with the book’s author Kate Moore.

In the early days of the 20th century, the United States Radium Corporation had factories in New Jersey and Illinois, where they employed mostly women to paint watch and clock faces with their luminous radium paint. The paint got everywhere — hair, hands, clothes, and mouths.

They were called the shining girls, because they quite literally glowed in the dark. And they were dying.

Kate Moore’s new book The Radium Girls is about the young women who were poisoned by the radium paint — and the five who sued United States Radium in a case that led to labor safety standards and workers’ rights advances.

(11) WHILE YOU WERE OUT: One big step for…. “Astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks new space record”.

Peggy Whitson has broken the record for most days in space by a US astronaut.

Dr Whitson already holds records for the most spacewalks carried out by a woman astronaut and is the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) twice.

Now she’s beaten the record previously set by Jeff Williams, who had a total of 534 days in space.

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka have called Dr Whitson to congratulate her.

(12) AN EYEFUL. Forbes has a gallery of “The Top Cosplayers From Silicon Valley Comic Con”.

This weekend the second Silicon Valley Comic Con took place, featuring robotics, virtual reality and a wax statue of Steve Wozniak. But everyone knows that Comic Con is really about one thing, and that’s the jaw dropping cosplay. From menacing Jokers to an adorable Hatsune Miku costume, enjoy this roundup of some of the most eye-catching costumes at the show…

 

My cape means business 😬😎

A post shared by Melanie Rafferty 🌻 (@songbird3685) on

(13) DOC WEIR AWARD. British Eastercon members voted the 2017 Doc Weir Award to Serena Culfeather and John Wilson.

The Doc Weir Award was set up in 1963 in memory of fan Arthur Rose (Doc) Weir, who had died two years previously. Weir was a relative newcomer to fandom, he discovered it late in life – but in the short time of his involvement he was active in a number of fannish areas. In recognition of this, the Award is sometimes seen as the “Good Guy” Award; something for “The Unsung Heroes”.

(14) SCIENCE QUESTION. I thought you could only get hit by a meteorite? (Unless it’s being smacked by a wet echinoderm he’s worried about.)

(15) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 24, 1184 B.C. – Traditional date of the Fall of Troy, calculated by Eratosthenes.
  • April 24, 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope launched.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SCHLOCK MEISTER

  • Born April 24, 1914 – Filmmaker William Castle

(17) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Cat City” by Victoria Vincent on Vimeo explains what happens when a cat runs away from home to become a hairdresser and drinks too much!

(18) WILL WORK FOR CLICKS. Camestros Felapton renders another much-needed public service: “See how your favourite Games of Thrones Characters are related”. Go there to see the family trees.

(19) NOVELLA INITIATIVE. The Book Smugglers published the first 2017 entry in their Novella Initiative last week, Dianna Gunn’s novella Keeper of the Dawn.

In Keeper of the Dawn, the first novella from Book Smugglers Publishing, author Dianna Gunn introduces readers to strong-willed Lai. All her life she has dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and becoming a priestess in service to her beloved goddesses. But even after lifelong preparation, she fails trials and her next instinct is to run away.

Off in the north kingdom of Alanum, as she works to recalibrate her future, Lai becomes the bodyguard of a wealthy merchant, who is impressed by her strength and bravery. One night she hears stories about a mountain city where they worship the same goddesses she does. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple and do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn, rich with female empowerment, is a multi-layered LGBTQIA YA Fantasy story about fate, forgiving yourself, and the endurance of hope.

Gunn also wrote a post about her inspirations and influences.

In many ways Lai’s story also mirrors the story of my own career. I’ve dreamed about being an author since the age of eight, and as a child I stubbornly believed I would have my first novel published before my eighteenth birthday.

Well, my eighteenth birthday came and went some years ago, and only now is my first book coming out. But I have already been a working writer for six years, writing marketing materials for many different companies and non-profits. More importantly, my dream still came true—just a few years later than planned.

(20) CLARKE AWARD CONTENDERS. A couple of Shadow Clarke jurors take their turn discussing what have proven to be group favorites, while another visits less familiar ground.

Part of the way it reworks things is that it’s not about the Up and Out, but the ups and downs. The rigors of life are always present: people make decisions, those decisions impact life, and they rarely have anything to do with that giant monstrosity towering from the south that hurls people into outer space. The Central Station of Central Station is a mere landmark, an economic hub and cultural icon, but as Maureen K. Speller points out in her review, “…even in science fiction, that so-called literature of the future, nothing lasts forever. The symbolic tropes – space ships, robots, AIs – will all eventually be absorbed and become part of the scenery.” The Central Station of the future is the airport of today: not that big of a deal.

This is a difficult, intractable, Gordian knot of a novel, the kind you recommend to like-minded friends more out of curiosity to see what they’ll make of it than from any reasonable belief that they’ll enjoy the book. Whether this novel – formally and stylistically perfect though it is, a rare gem of a debut that hints at that rare beast, a writer who knows precisely where he’s going and what he wants – can be enjoyed on anything other than a purely intellectual level is a debatable point; whether it can be enjoyed as science fiction still more so.

The Underground Railroad is about as significant a novel as American literary culture is capable of producing in the first quarter of the 21st century.

If you care enough about books to be reading this kind of essay then chances are that you have either purchased or taken an interest in this novel. Far from being organic and spontaneous, your decision to purchase Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is the result of almost every facet of American literary culture coming into alignment and choosing to imbue a single work with as much cultural significance as those institutions can conceivably muster. Already a winner of many prestigious literary awards and a beneficiary of both the Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Colson Whitehead has now seen his sixth novel celebrated not only by Pulitzer and National Book Award judges but also by the – arguably more influential and economically important – face of Oprah’s Book Club.

(21) DOCTOR TINGLE AI. Applied Digital Studies Project uses a twitter bot to form new titles based on novels by Dr. Chuck Tingle. Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of butt and pounding in these titles. Still, some of them are funny.

(22) MYTHIC FIGURE. Today Chuck Tingle is busy burnishing his legend.

(23) READERCON. Tracy Townsend announced she will be at Readercon in Quincy, MA from July 13-16.

Guests of Honor:

Naomi Novik & Nnedi Okorafor

Memorial Guest of Honor:

Tanith Lee

Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” there is no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word….

(24) MOVIE RESTORATION. The Verge says those who have heard of it should be pleased — “Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic Stalker is getting an HD restoration”. And those like me, who haven’t, will be intrigued.

Cinephiles, rejoice! Criterion Collection will be adding a major science-fiction classic to its roster this summer: a restored version of Stalker, directed by Solaris filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Based off the 1971 Russian science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Stalker was originally released in 1979. The film follows a man known as “the Stalker” as he leads an expedition into a mysterious, forbidden area known as “The Zone.” In the book, the mysterious Zone is the location of an alien visitation decades before the story, littered with fantastic pieces of technology and dangers; in the film, its origins are more obscure. But in both cases, reality there is distorted, and somewhere inside is a room that will grant visitors’ innermost desires. The journey to get there is physically and philosophically arduous, and it tests the trio of men traveling there.

(25) SUBTITLES IN I KNOW NOT WHAT LANGUAGE. The Justice League Official International Trailer dropped today.

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

(26) A VISIT TO MARVEL. SlashFilm leads readers on a “Marvel Studios Offices Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look”. (Photos at the site.)

The Marvel Studios offices are located on the second floor of the Frank G. Wells Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot. When you exit the elevators, you are greeted by a wall-to-wall mural featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a big Marvel Studios logo.

Marvel Studios began in a tiny office in Santa Monica that they shared with a kite factory. After that, the company moved to an office above a Mercedes dealership in Beverly Hills. They were based out of Manhattan Beach Studios for a few years before Disney asked them to move onto the Burbank lot in 2014. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Marvel fully decorated their offices….

(27) BOMBS AWAY. A new record for a domino toppling specialty was set in March.

A group of domino builders in Michigan created the world’s largest “circle bomb” using nearly 80,000 dominoes.

The Incredible Science Machine team broke the Guinness World Record for “Most dominoes toppled in a circle bomb/circle field” by creating a series of 76,017 dominoes that toppled from the center of a circle to its outer edge.

“The Incredible Science Machine Team is very passionate about domino art and sharing it with an audience to amaze and inspire them,” team leader Steve Price, 22, said.

A total of 18 builders from the United States, Canada, Germany and Austria spent 10 days constructing the domino formation at the Incredible Science Machine’s annual event in Westland, Mich.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/16 Snort, Harlequin, Said the Ear, Nose, Throat Man

(1) HEARTS MADE OF TIN. David Brin says robots will be so charming they won’t have to conquer us physically, in “Endearing Visages”.

I’ve been pondering Artificial Intelligence or AI a lot, lately, with several papers and reviews pending. (Indeed, note who is one of the ‘top ten people followed by AI researchers.’) One aspect that’s far too-little discussed is how robots are being designed to mess with human emotions.

Long before artificial intelligences become truly self-aware or sapient, they will be cleverly programmed by researchers and corporations to seem that way. This – it turns out – is almost trivially easy to accomplish, as (especially in Japan) roboticists strive for every trace of appealing verisimilitude, hauling their creations across the temporary moat of that famed “uncanny valley,” into a realm where cute or pretty or sad-faced automatons skillfully tweak our emotions.

Human empathy is both one of our paramount gifts and among or biggest weaknesses. For at least a million years, we’ve developed skills at lie-detection (for example) in a forever-shifting arms race against those who got reproductive success by lying better!  (And yes, there was always a sexual component to this.)

But no liars ever had the training that these new, Hiers or Human-Interaction Empathic Robots will get, learning via feedback from hundreds, then thousands, then millions of human exchanges around the world, adjusting their simulated voices and facial expressions and specific wordings, till the only folks able to resist will be sociopaths. (And sociopaths have plenty of chinks in their armor, as well.)

(2) READERCON. A lot of good tweets coming out of Readercon this weekend. Here’s a small sampling.

(3) THE TWINKIE OFFENSE. Hostess has marketed two new Twinkie flavors to celebrate the release of the new Ghostbusters movie — Key Lime Slime and White Fudge Marshmallow.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wouldn’t be able to contain himself! Or maybe he would — isn’t that kind of like cannibalism? Either way, if you like marshmallows, you are going to like these Twinkies.

Key Lime Green Slime Twinkies

GBWhiteFudgeMarshmallowTwinkiesByHostessSc01 COMP(4) FEZ CLAIM TO FAME. Closed for renovation in 2012, the world’s oldest library in Morocco reopened this year.

A wealthy Tunisian merchant’s daughter, Fatima al-Fihri, founded al-Qarawiyyin University as a mosque in 859 CE. By the 10th century, Atlas Obscura reports, it grew into a full-fledged university with a library. Today, it’s considered to be the world’s oldest existing and continually operating institute of higher education, as well as the first degree-awarding educational institution. Eventually, the University of al-Qarawiyyin moved to another location in Fez, but the mosque and library remained at the original site.

(5) CROTCHETY DOESN’T MEAN WRONG. Steve Davidson has a point – “Pay for the Privilege” at Amazing Stories.

…sometimes a new way of doing things comes along and it is Just. Not. Right.

Take the internet as a perfect example.

Why are we all still individually paying for it?

It watches and records us without our consent.  Data miners have found all manner of ways to entice us into revealing even more behaviors and data through the internet of things.  Those useful, free apps and games aren’t really free, are they?

Aggregated data and its derivatives are both earning and saving business concerns billions of dollars annually.  And we’re just in the infancy of this technology.

(6) MONKEYING AROUND. Those with Facebook accounts might get a kick out of the Turner Classic Movies video of Dr. Zaius sharing stories about working with Charlton Heston on the set of Planet of the Apes.

Dr. Zaius

Dr. Zaius

(7) NOT AS ANIMATED AS THEY USED TO BE. How old are your favorite cartoon characters? Artist Andrew Tarusov has created a gallery of favorites who show their age.

(8) PHYSICIST WHO DID FANAC. Sidney Coleman remembered on the Not Even Wrong blog.

A couple months ago there was a session at an APS meeting with the topic Sidney Coleman Remembered. Slides are available for talks by Coleman’s student Erick Weinberg and colleague Howard Georgi. Georgi has recently posted a written version of the talk here. He also a few years ago wrote this biographical memoir about Coleman for the National Academy of Sciences.

David Derbes and collaborators [see comment section for details] are putting together a book version of Coleman’s famous lectures on quantum field theory, hope to be finished with this by the end of the summer.

Coleman was a long-time Boston fan and a founder of Advent:Publishers.

Sidney, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton. Photo taken and copyright by Andrew Porter.

Sidney, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton. Photo taken and copyright by Andrew Porter.

(9) FEYNMAN TALES. Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek writes in Quanta Magazine “How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space”. The story begins in 1982 when Wilczek asked Feynman, “Why doesn’t empty space weigh anything?”

I asked Feynman the most disturbing question in physics, then as now: “There’s something else I’ve been thinking a lot about: Why doesn’t empty space weigh anything?”

Feynman, normally as quick and lively as they come, went silent. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him look wistful. Finally he said dreamily, “I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful.” And then, excited, he began an explanation that crescendoed in a near shout: “The reason space doesn’t weigh anything, I thought, is because there’s nothing there!”

(10) BEAGLE COMING TO SDCC. Peter S. Beagle will be at Comic Con 2016, participating in a panel entitled “Creating Your Own Universe”, in addition to signing autographs and meeting fans at his table.

His first novel in well over a decade, Summerlong, will be released September 15 on Tachyon.

(11) SULU STILL BEING DEBATED. Adam-Troy Castro answered a reply to his post about Sulu being revealed as a gay character in Star Trek Beyond.

Concerned STAR TREK fan in a thread, on the revelation of Sulu’s sexuality:

“It is also pointless for the story to just make the character gay for no other reason than to be so. Is important to the plot? Does it advance the story somehow? This is ultimately the only way it would make sense.”

What you’re talking about is the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. Not Pavel Chekov, but Anton Chekhov, who held that if you put a gun on the mantelpiece in one scene, then at some point somebody was going to have to take it down and fire it.

What perplexes is just how any STAR TREK character’s homosexuality could possibly “be important to the plot” or “advance the story somehow.”….

In the original series, one crew member being Asian, another being Scottish, another being a southern gentleman, another being Russian, another being African, was all texture. It was there, and then for the most part unremarked-upon, because Gene Roddenberry wanted to establish, within the boundaries of his time, that in the far future he wished to present, this was nothing unusual. (And even then, we had manifestations of his time’s near-sightedness, as when Janice Lester bitterly complains that the profession of starship captains is closed to women.)

Similarly, that brief shot of Sulu’s husband does not “advance the plot;” chances are that there will be no action climax where the ship can only be saved by the two of them having sex atop the warp nacelles. It does, however, provide more texture to the hypothetical universe around them, by establishing for the first time ever that Sulu has a personal life, that he must leave his family behind every time he goes on some mission for Kirk’s glory, that in the utopian world where he lives a marriage like his is just something that exists and that it is not remarked-upon as unusual, by anyone.

Texture….

(12) ALL’S QUIET ON THE DRAGON FRONT. Nominations for the inaugural Dragon Awards close on July 25, just a little over two weeks from now. If anybody’s excited about that, they’re mostly keeping it a secret from the internet.

Declan Finn wrote a long post about what to vote for so that he could ask people to nominate his book Honor at Stake (which is absolutely fine under the rules). Then he used the Sad Puppies list as a memory prompt for the rest of his suggestions.

Alfred Gennesson’s picks for the new Dragon Awards led off with John C. Wright, Larry Correia, and Rod Walker (published by Castalia House). Then he signed off with these thoughts —

I like the Dragon Awards already. Quality indicators for the year are going to be more honest than Hugo/Nebula, just in nomination process. And those ignore games. When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Two other writers are looking for support on Twitter —

However, since June 1, the only tweets about the Dragon Awards other than from people already mentioned were generic calls to vote from Larry Correia and Daddy Warpig.

(13) FELAPTON SPEAKS. Camestros Felapton reviews all five Hugo-nominated Novellas.

I think this is one of the most interesting categories this year. Each one of the nominees is a plausible candidate as a finalist but there isn’t a real stand-out winner. Three out of the five are by well-established writers and two are by newer writers. The least good (IMHO) has some excellent writing and made me want to read more by the same author. The best felt lacking in places and didn’t hit knock-your-socks-off great.

(14) STATE OF MIND. The Publishers Weekly story poses the question “Was Philip K. Dick a Madman or a Mystic?”, but do we really have to ask?

In The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, Kyle Arnold delves into the complicated psyche of one of the 20th century’s most important writers. At the center of the subject is the profound vision Dick experienced in 1974, which he referred to as “2-3-74.” Arnold, a psychologist at Coney Island Hospital and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, explains the experience and its significance.

In February of 1974, Philip K. Dick was home recovering from dental surgery when, he said, he was suddenly touched by the divine. The doorbell rang, and when Dick opened the door he was stunned to see what he described as a “girl with black, black hair and large eyes very lovely and intense” wearing a gold necklace with a Christian fish symbol. She was there to deliver a new batch of medications from the pharmacy. After the door shut, Dick was blinded by a flash of pink light and a series of visions ensued. First came images of abstract paintings, followed by philosophical ideas and then, sophisticated engineering blueprints. Dick believed the pink light was a spiritual force which had unlocked his consciousness, granting him access to esoteric knowledge.

(15) ASIMOV SINGS! Fanac.org has uploaded a third segment of  sound recording of the 1971 Hugo Banquet at Noreascon.

Banter and badinage from Robert Silverberg and Isaac Asimov, and the awarding of the Hugos. Asimov sings!

 

(16) RENT LONG AND PROSPER. Treknews featured this movie-related promotion.

In the commercial, entitled “Business Is Going Boldly,” Enterprise employees are shown beaming, speaking Klingon in the break room and renting the Starship Enterprise to customers.

Remember, the Romulans always get the damage waiver.

As we’ve previously reported, select Enterprise locations will have Star Trek related signage, plus Enterprise airport shuttle buses in New York City and Philadelphia will be wrapped with images of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the phrase: “Until We Can Beam You Up, We’ll Pick You Up”.

The dialect jokes are amusing, but should Enterprise Rent-A-Car really be renting starships to Klingons?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson. (OK Steve – now it’s up to you whether you record a hat trick.)]

Mystery & Imagination To Close

mystery-imagination-bookstore

Since Ray Bradbury’s 88th birthday party was held there in 2008, Mystery and Imagination & Bookfellows in Glendale has been the source of countless File 770 stories about its author signings and celebrations.

Unfortunately, owners Christine and Malcolm Bell, who founded the business in 1975, have now decided it’s time to close their brick-and-mortar store and sell only online. They’re going out with a 70%-off sale.

Christine wrote in a note to customers, “Thank you for your past support and the beautiful memories we shared here at the bookstore…. Your memories will go with us.”

Bruce Kimmel, first author to autograph their wall, has written a farewell column – “The end of an era”

One of the last remaining mom and pop stores, Mystery and Imagination Books, was thankfully still there for us. I found them when they were on Broadway in Glendale, and I loved the folks who ran it, Malcolm and Christine Bell, and I loved the atmosphere there and they always had great books in stock and behind their glass cases. At some point, they moved to Brand and had a great location just north of the Alex Theater. In the last few years, a lot of trendy little joints have moved in and you’d think that with all that trendy stuff that those people would have perhaps moseyed on over to Mystery and Imagination, if for no other reason than nostalgia. But no, the trendy types live inside their little boxes – so they go to Porto’s but can’t be bothered to look to the left or right of wherever they are.

In 2002, my first novel, Benjamin Kritzer, came out. It was a huge thing for me – I was so proud of the book and having written it. And I wanted to do a signing, and the first place I thought of was Mystery and Imagination, and they said yes and I became the first author to ever sign there. In the back where the stairs lead to a second floor, they had me sign the wall – the first author to do so. There are now hundreds of signatures there and sixteen of them are mine. They hosted author events, Ray Bradbury signed there often, and it was just the friendliest most wonderful place. Every time I finished a new book over the next sixteen years I knew the first signing would be at Mystery and Imagination. Our signings there were so much fun, with camaraderie and cake and a reading and stories.

Others who signed their names are on the wall include Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J. Ackerman, Mickey Spillane, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Anne McCaffrey, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Alan Young, Jim Butcher, Norman Corwin, Tim Powers, Brian Lumley, Peter S. Beagle, Robert Fate, Denise Hamilton, Marc Zicree, Jonathan/Jesse/Faye Kellerman, Michael Mallory, Bruce Kimmel, Michael B. Druxman, Peter Atkins, Dennis Etchison, Charles Stross, Jeanne C. Stein and many more.

John King Tarpinian visited this week to photograph some of the autographs for File 770 readers.

Christopher Rice COMP

Christopher Rice

George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson

Harry Turtledove, and Grandson of L. Frank Baum.

Harry Turtledove, and Grandson of L. Frank Baum.

Diana Pavlac Glyer

Diana Pavlac Glyer

John J Lamb

John J Lamb

Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Robert Fate

Robert Fate

Tim Powers

Tim Powers

Another Tim Powers autograph.

Another Tim Powers autograph.