John Ringo’s Selection as ConCarolinas Guest Sparks Controversy

ConCarolinas, happening in Charlotte, NC from June 1-3, has become another battleground in sff’s culture wars since announcing John Ringo as an Author Special Guest on April 9. Ringo is well-known for sharing his social and political views in a frank and provocative way. His selection as a special guest has caused other writers in ConCarolina’s orbit to rethink their participation, whether by actually dropping out, or publicly explaining their reasons for remaining on the program.

John Ringo

John Ringo defined the controversy from his viewpoint in a response on Facebook on April 12.

ConCarolinas:

An ‘issue’ has been raised at ConCarolinas, not by members of the con but by some of the other invited guests and attendees. It is the usual SJW sort of thing. I am a bad person with bad opinions and I need to shunned from society.

(Though they appear to have missed various of the usual ad hominems. They hit the regular ‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘homophobic’ etc but seemed to have overlooked ‘xenophobic’, ‘transphobic’ and ‘Islamophobic.’ Just an oversight I’m sure they will correct.)

I am discussing this with the ConCommittee. However. It is currently between myself and the concom and I would prefer to keep it there for the time being. While I appreciate shows of support, try not to respond to this in kind. Just let me work the issue.

Were ConCarolinas the usual and standard ‘SJWCon’ I would not have accepted their invitation. But they’ve never had to deal with something like this so it’s a learning curve. Let them find their path, please.

Afrofuturist author Gerald L. Coleman provided the most thorough explanation for opposing Ringo’s appearance in an April 12 Facebook post:

Gerald L. Coleman

Seeing as people are beginning to draw lines and to share what they think is an appropriate response to the current situation at ConCarolinas, I think it would be illuminating, especially to the demographic of people who are not the target of the Special Guest in question, to understand why a person who would be a target (and often is) would decide not to go in response. I had not planned on sharing this but I think it’s important. Here is my letter withdrawing from ConCarolinas:

[Redacted],

I heard a lot of good things about ConCarolinas from the same people, but the decision to have someone like Ringo as a Special Guest has forced me to reconsider that assessment. ([Redacted] was in one of the fraught discussions online where she was attacked by people trying to defend both Ringo and the invitation. I’m not sure [redacted] will be attending either). Here’s a link to one of his vile diatribes, which includes this passage:

“The first point that has to be recognized as historically valid: White males have dominated the planet’s art, music, culture, politics and wars for centuries and often deliberately at the expense of non-European, non-white, etcetera. This is historically unquestionable and unassailable.”

http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/…/oh-puppies-when-will-…/

Now, is what follows a right and just evisceration of that behavior? No. He’s defending the agenda of the Sad Puppies and their toxic ilk. And using the pejorative term “SJW” or Social Justice Warrior as a derogatory insult as he attempts to attack the efforts to diversify publishing and fandom and make them more inclusive.

This is the guy you, and by you I mean the Con, have invited to be a Special Guest.

People of color in general and black folks in particular, who are members of the geek/nerd fandom community, including authors, often have difficulty finding conventions that are safe places for us to revel in our shared love of all things geek. Often we are given the impression, sometimes unconsciously, many times consciously, that we are not welcome – that it is not our space, and we don’t belong. So, it becomes vitally important for our sanity, our safety, and our well-being to be very selective in choosing which Cons we will attend.

To spend time, energy, and a not insignificant amount of money to attend a Con that doesn’t take our sanity, safety, and well-being seriously, by inviting a toxic voice who rails against our inclusion – and who is defended by members of the Con, it’s guests, and perspective attendees, is not only a bad investment but a bad idea in general.

I have been to Cons (Boskone, recently) where I was welcomed warmly and felt accepted and included. I’ve also been to Cons where a fellow Panelist told me discrimination against black authors was a figment of my imagination. I’ll be returning to one and not the other.

Who we give a platform to is incredibly important. Given the times we live in, the current state of our political affairs, and the general climate for people of color in general and black folks in particular, it says a lot that ConCarolinas is giving a platform to someone like Ringo. I can’t support that and am unwilling to subject myself to him or his fans who are in agreement with his toxic beliefs.

When I was a kid I knew how unwelcoming the world in general was going to be to me. But I always thought that fellow geeks/nerds who loved the same things I did like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, comic books, and science fiction and fantasy would be different. That because they consumed content that talked about justice, equality, exploration, tolerance, acceptance, being kind and never cowardly, that I wouldn’t have to face that same toxicity in the ranks of the fandom. Sadly, that wasn’t and isn’t true. The same prejudices, biases, and toxicity exists in fandom and I have to navigate it.

I was excited to be accepted as a Guest for ConCarolinas. Imagine my disappointment when Ringo was invited as a special guest.

I won’t be attending. Please remove me as a Guest for the Con.

Coleman later posted a screencap of the ConCarolinas committee answer —

— which he described in these terms:

Here is ConCarolinas response to legitimate criticism and concern from black folks and women over their invitation to a “Special Guest” author whom we find deeply problematic (he’d start by calling me an “SJW” and go on to rant about the supremacy of white men in all things: see comments for attribution) and whom women in particular see as deeply misogynist (just Google John Ringo misogyny). Somehow they’ve managed to confuse resisting bias and toxicity with hatred. Several of us guests have withdrawn from our invitation over it. ConCarolinas? They apparently think we are engaging in hatred and they have no obligation to curate their guest list. So anyone can be a Guest? Anyone? And if “their passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy” happens to mean that people of color and women aren’t welcome? What then? The mind boggles …

It’s no longer possible to trace the full extent of the protests, as ConCarolinas has deleted some entries from their Facebook page which contained relevant comments, and at least one fan has restricted her FB remarks after being attacked by trolls.

Stephy Hamrick’s Facebook post from April 10 is perhaps the earliest example still accessible:

Just letting y’all know that I don’t feel safe attending with you bringing John Ringo there. He and his fans have such a long history of open misogyny that I can’t trust that I and other women will be safe with them there.

The next day, Stuart Jaffe wrote on FB:

I will not be at ConCarolinas this year. Y’all probably know why. If you don’t, I’m not getting into it on FB. That kind of conversation only goes in one direction on FB.

By April 12, the discussion had gone viral.

Jason Graves of Prospective Press wrote:

Choosing division over community isn’t a choice I expected from ConCarolinas. Prospective Press supports and welcomes diverse voices—voices of color, voices of gender, voices of inclusion, and voices of identity—and always has. When people CHOOSE to be hateful, they are no longer welcome at our table—inclusivity is based on mutual respect.

Madison Metricula Roberts said she was pulling out of the con:

I regret that I am no longer attending or performing at ConCarolinas. I wish the event, guests, attendees, and volunteers well!

While I have confidence in ConCarolina’s commitment to safety at the event, I still have concerns about comfort, safety, and response of the con in light of recent events.

And in a further comment on the same post Roberts said:

I want to be clear that I understand CC is in a difficult position, and it’s run by people I like. That said, I feel like they were unprepared for the backlash in booking a controversial guest who is known for cultivating or emboldening a subset of fandom that is not just politically conservative (that’s not the issue) but anti-inclusion. I am confident in CC’s harassment policy and security, but my gamergate-style anxiety is through the roof in spite of my rational assessment of the thing.

Other authors have felt pressured to drop out, or justify why they are not.

David B. Coe is still going:

Why I will be attending ConCarolinas:

  1. I made a commitment to the convention. Indeed, I signed an agreement saying I would attend. That agreement gives me no veto power over the people they may or may not invite. In short, I feel that I have a professional obligation to go. Others feel differently, and that is their right. But I have to do what feels right to me.
  2. I don’t believe in ceding ground to racism, misogyny, or bullying in any form. I don’t live in the Carolinas, but I have considered ConCarolinas my “home” con for years now. It is just about my favorite con to attend. Many of my closest friends in the business are usually there. I love it. And I will be damned if I will allow that convention and that community to be ruined for me by the presence of one guest.
  3. I believe (ME — this does not mean that I condemn any of my colleagues for thinking differently) that we on the Left have a responsibility to be tolerant, and I believe tolerance cuts many ways. If I saw that a con had invited a progressive author to attend, and that in response to this the attending conservative writers withdrew from the con, I would be appalled by their actions. I cannot in good conscience do what I would fault others for doing.
  4. I believe that for every voice at a convention that is inclined to attack those who would advocate for social justice and for the most vulnerable in our society and in fandom, there should be ten voices present who will defend those people and those principles. I wish to be one of that latter group of voices.

I understand that people I consider friends will see my intention to attend the convention as a betrayal. I am deeply, deeply sorry for that. To those who have withdrawn, I respect your decisions. I hope that you can bring yourselves to respect mine.

S.H. Roddy was far more emphatic in “Bad Decisions, Social Justice, and the ConCarolinas Kerfluffle” at Creepy Author Girl, explaining “Why my attendance at ConCarolinas is more important than my absence.”

Yeah, so everyone has heard the nonsense going down over ConCarolinas, right? If not, let me catch you up in three sentences:

  1. The ConComm invited John Ringo to be a special guest and he accepted.
  2. THE WORLD EXPLODED – meaning the mostly-liberal, mostly-welcoming regular ConCarolinas crowd freaked the absolute fuck out over this guy’s historical behavior and some not-so-far-fetched hypotheticals stemming from it.
  3. Some people got pissed and others withdrew from the con.

…Keeping this in mind, I’ll be going into ConCarolinas weekend wary, but professional. This is my career, damn it, and I refuse to give anyone enough power over me to make me walk away from a chance to further myself professionally and spend time with my friends. Neither this man nor his followers have any sort of pull or control over me. So what if there’s a chance there could be an altercation? I’m willing to take that chance, because to me, my presence and my ability to stand up for myself and the people I care about will be more effective than walking away. Why? Because I don’t have the same social pull as the man the con world is currently rallying against. Because my actual VOICE and my ACTIONS will speak louder than my absence.

Which brings me to my next point:

A very dear friend of mine felt so emotionally threatened over this announcement that she has withdrawn her attendance. I completely understand her decision, because this wouldn’t be her first racism rodeo, were it to happen.

Her action was based on previous personal experiences with this person. It’s not arbitrary or unjustified.

I support her decision, because she’s doing what she feels is best for her. I will always be there to support her, no matter what, because I love her. Do I wish the situation were different and she was still going to be there with me? Yes. Absolutely. I would love for any resolution which would guarantee her a seat beside me. But that isn’t the case, and it’s her decision to make.

Which brings me to my third point:

Someone else made the statement yesterday that basically amounted to “you can’t be everybody’s friend and if you’re not resigning in solidarity, then you’re not an ally.”

That pissed me right the hell off.

See, I’m usually pretty quiet on political and social issues. I’m not a political creature. If I were, I’d be in politics. I’m a freaking writer. I use words to entertain people. Well, mostly myself, but anyone else who happens to come along can enjoy them, too. I’m also not the type to use my books as a sociopolitical platform. That isn’t what I do.

Do I have opinions? Oh, yeah. Loads of ‘em. But I choose to conduct myself in a more or less professional manner because my opinions should have absolutely no bearing on my book sales.

So a fellow author piping up and telling me I’m suddenly not good enough because I’m not pissed off enough? Yeah, no. Bullshit.

Gail Z. Martin made a similar statement:

Please do not presume to tell me that I am not an ally or not genuine in support of a cause just because I do not hop-to every time someone gets upset about something.

I will decide which battles I fight and how I fight them. I will not be ally-shamed and manipulated into actions that violate my own judgment. Telling me I dare not make my own decisions or I’m somehow not pure enough by someone else’s arbitrary standards is bullshit.

I have been an ally and fighting some of these battles since before some of you were born, in times and places where there were serious consequences like losing a job, getting expelled or cutting ties with communities and family.

Working within the system for change is just as valid (and usually a whole lot more effective, albeit requiring patience) as just saying ‘f***-it, let’s burn the whole thing down’. You have no idea what conversations happen behind the scenes in private to advance causes, conversations that often yield results because of friendships built between people who don’t always agree on everything or walk in lockstep.

So do what your conscience demands. But don’t you dare attempt to shame others or judge the sincerity of their convictions because they didn’t make the same choice.

This is a manifesto, not a debate. Civil comments are welcome, but I’m in no mood to be f***ed around with, and if you piss me off I’ll block your ass.

Two other writers who posted justifications for why they still are going to ConCarolinas are Michael G. Williams and Faith Hunter:

Michael G. Williams wrote:

ConCarolinas’ choice to invite John Ringo is an affront to many people of color and women who were planning to attend. Ringo writes works containing unabashed aggression towards marginalized populations(1), then says in interviews he largely does not see what his characters do or say as “particularly controversial, crazy, evil, or illogical,”(2) though he does say in that same interview that he excludes “some of the stuff” in his novel “Ghost” from that.

I’ve seen a lot of conflicting opinions between other guests who feel the only right choice for themselves is to withdraw and those who say they want to go as a voice for the opposition rather than cede the platform to Ringo. I sympathize with both sides.

ConCarolinas had to know the situation they would create when they made this choice. No matter how apolitical they may declare an event to be, inviting an overtly political writer whose statements about writing and conventions are overtly political to attend a convention to discuss their writing is to create a political event. Speculative fiction in general is inherently and fundamentally political to begin with. Ringo’s is quite explicitly so.

As people have spoken out, Ringo’s fans have shown up to harass them.(3) The convention has remained silent on this obvious, observable behavior. I am forced to wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by these same fans, people who clearly are willing to go looking for a fight, who clearly are searching (of their own volition or at another’s direction) for any mention of Ringo so they can harass those who object.

All these – the invitation, the trolls, the silence – have made it impossible to feel good about participating, but at the moment I still plan to participate for two reasons:

– If I can use the privilege I enjoy as a white man to attend in greater safety and comfort than others in order to be a voice for a more humane view, to some degree I feel I should try. I’m the smallest of the small-fries. If I withdraw, no one notices. If I go, maybe I get a word in edge-wise.

– There are very few loudly queer guests at ConCarolinas. If there’s no presence by the two or three of us who always lobby for a Queer Fandom panel, who put ourselves out there as queer people who can be approached safely by attendees, and who make sure there is an unmistakeable queer voice in the proceedings, then queer fans may be left out to dry. I feel I have some degree of responsibility to be there for them, with them.

But as I say, this has made it VERY difficult to do so without tremendous reservation and regret. I am ready to walk into a tense situation on behalf of friends who no longer feel welcome. I am ready to be there to make sure my own community’s members do not feel targeted or harassed. But I can’t necessarily recommend anyone else do the same. I think already-marginalized people who are going should do some research into Ringo, observe the behavior of his fans, and carefully consider their choices. A number of guests have withdrawn. More may do so. I share their concerns and objections. We should not all lay down our dignity and our sense of safety because another guest has “Special” in their announcement, and the way the convention treats those who withdraw or feel threatened will certainly be remembered.

References:

(1) https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-revi…/john-ringo/ghost-3/

(2) https://michaelaventrella.com/…/interview-with-new-york-ti…/

(3) See, for instance, Faith Naff’s experience of having to lock a post because trolls showed up within minutes.

Faith Hunter said:

I have spent the last three days in a quandary over the ConCarolinas controversy and how to address it. I am keeping it simple. I have this to say.

ConCarolinas is my local convention.
I’ve attended it for over a decade.
I’ve met many friends and fans through the con.
I’ve signed a contract to attend the convention.
I will honor this commitment.
I will be attending the convention, where I plan to make my voice and views heard on panels. That’s how I’m choosing to deal with this. I understand there are others who feel they cannot attend, and I respect that decision. The convention has an explicit anti-harassment policy which all attendees must adhere to, and while I am there I will do my best to make sure that no one feels insulted, afraid, put down, or abused.
Edited to add — Y’all, I am asking you to please not call names or bring confrontation into the comments. I have been as non confrontational as possible. I’d like you to let it lie.

Seanan McGuire is one of 2018 ConCarolina’s Guests of Honor, therefore one of the faces of this year’s con, more so than any of the special guests. Attempts have been made to embroil her in the controversy, however, she has yet to make any comment.

Then, if you haven’t had enough, Fail. Fandom. Anon. is devoting a thread to arguments about the issue.

But things are by no means one-sided. John Ringo has received hundreds of expressions of support on his posts, and from his friends and colleagues.

One of them, Sarah A. Hoyt, even took the opportunity to relitigate the Sad Puppies controversy:

Sarah A. Hoyt You know, John Ringo is being stigmatized for a very distant correlation with Sad Puppies. A movement led by a man the state dept classifies as Latin, and which included a female ditto.
BUT minorities are offended that John supported this “racist” (Yep, we only supported writers who belonged to the human race. That’s how racist we are) movement, and feel they have to leave cons where he’s invited.
You know what, these aren’t the crazy years. The crazy years were semi-understandable. These are the running-down-the-street-with-underwear-on-head-singing-I’m-a-little-teapot years.

Stephanie Souders argues that Ringo’s conduct at Dragon Con should allay any fears:

John Ringo subsequently wrote a second response:

Here’s pretty much my take on the whole thing:

I spent four years ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to go wheels up anywhere in the world in 18 hours for the purposes of going head to head with Soviet tanks in a war sure to end with nuclear fire.

I was willing to do so to support a simple word: Liberty.

A major part of that liberty was the right to freedom of expression. That ten thousand voices may be heard.

There was no such freedom in the Soviet Union. Freedom of expression is anathema to Marxism.

In this day and age, the SJWs, thought children of that evil empire, attack the right to freedom of expression at every turn.

I shall not be silent. I shall not be quelled. If facing down T-72s did not quell me, my current detractors (just the latest of many) stand little chance.

They have their right to free speech. They can say what they will, even if the attacks are petty, false and irrelevent. That is part and parcel of the freedom of speech.

They have that right due, in great part, to myself and my brothers and sisters in arms going back not just to our revolution, but to the battles at Marathon, Salamis and Thermopylae. This is a war that has gone on for two thousand years and will not end in victory to either side any time soon.

Let ten thousand voices be heard.

Let freedom ring.

In a comment on the same post he also said:

I do not bow to the social justice mobs? I speak my own truth? I judge a person not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character? And by that judgement, I find most SJWs (not your type, the type that ‘bans’ authors for their words) to be contemptible?

Meanwhile, ConCarolinas con chair Jada Hope has pulled the Ringo announcement from their FaceBook page, taking all comments with it. Hope also has gone to the FB walls of some people who’ve made negative posts saying “You’ve made yourself quite clear. If you have further concerns they may be sent to concarolinas@concarolinas.org” in an attempt to stem the flow of public complaints.

And the committee’s latest social media (April 13) was a tweet linking to the con’s anti-harassment policy which says in part —

…ConCarolinas reserves the right to deny membership to any individual who has practiced harassment or bullying either at other conventions or on social media sites.

ConCarolinas is an apolitical, non-religious organization. Discussions in panels and on our social media are to remain polite. Trolling will not be tolerated….

— in effect, brandishing the antiharassment policy at con members who criticize the Ringo choice in social media, implying their memberships are at risk.

Pixel Scroll 3/16/18 My Very Educated Mother Just Scrolled Us Nine Pixels

The Management regrets that a long day necessitates a short Scroll.

(1) PERFECT PITCH. Seanan McGuire’s Twitter sonnet is linked here too late to influence your Hugo nominations, yet you might enjoy it anyway. Jump on the thread here —

(2) SPEAKER TO KERMIT. Muppet Guys Talking is available today – see it for $9.97. (There’s probably some reason for that nice round coff number.)

Five of the original Muppet performers/innovators come together to discuss the creation of their iconic characters under the visionary leadership of Jim Henson.

(3) REBUTTAL. Will Shetterly airs his full and complete responses to File 770 comments in his own post: “Writers at File 770 validate my concern about the Fourth Street ban”.

For the record, I omitted the emails about planning the seminar before I was kicked off it, I omitted the emails we shared once it was settled that I’d be doing a panel at the convention, and out of consideration for Alex Haist, I omitted some insulting notes that she incompetently or maliciously left on the copy of the letter she sent me to answer my four questions. If there’s anything I left out that seems pertinent, I invite anyone from the Board to share it with the assurance that I have no intention of suing anyone.

(4) CANTINA SCENE. Io9 asks “Can You Name Every Alien in This All-Encompassing Scifi Cantina?” Artists Vance Kelly and Kevin M. Wilson have created a cantina scene filled with characters from different sf works, prints of which go on sale 21 March at the Hero Complex Gallery in LA. See the image at the link,

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT WHITE SATELLITE? Thar she blows!: “Big harpoon is ‘solution to space junk'”.

Airbus is testing a big harpoon to snare rogue or redundant satellites and pull them out of the sky.

The 1m-long projectile would be attached, through a strong tether, to a chase spacecraft.

Once the target was captured and under control, the chase vehicle would then drag its prey down into the atmosphere to burn to destruction.

(6) KIRBY ADAPTATION. The BBC says “Ava DuVernay ‘to direct superhero film'”.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, is in talks to direct a superhero film based on DC Comics characters, according to reports.

DuVernay, whose other films include the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, has been linked to The New Gods, based on a comic book created by Jack Kirby.

DuVernay seemed to confirm the news by posting a photo of Kirby on Twitter.

The New Gods would be the second major superhero film directed by a woman, after Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

(7) JEOPARDY! TONIGHT. Andrew Porter says “In the category African-American Literature, the answer and the photo shown was: ‘This author of Kindred and Xenogenesis combined African-American literature with science fiction themes.’

“No one got the question: ‘Who is Octavia Butler?’”

(8) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. 2CELLOS, “Game of Thrones.”

And JJ assures me, “If you’ve never seen these guys before, they do an absolutely hilarious version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.”

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

2018 Alex Awards

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has selected 10 adult books with special appeal to teen readers to receive the  2018 Alex Awards, including many genre works. The awards, sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust and Booklist, were announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Denver on February 13.

Seanan McGuire has a book on the 2018 list, achieving a rare accomplishment —

The 2018 Alex Award winners are:

  • “All Systems Red,” by Martha Wells, a Tor.com Book, published by Thomas Doherty Associates (9780765397539). Stuck on a distant planet with an exploratory crew, a Security Robot kills time watching soaps. After a group of scientists is killed, the robot (now calling itself “Murderbot”) must figure out how to save its crew from a similar fate.
  • “The Clockwork Dynasty,” by Daniel H. Wilson, published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC (9780385541787). Automata Elena and Peter are “born” in Peter the Great’s Russia… or are they? Can they really live in the power-hungry world of humans? And can they find the “breath of life” before it is too late?
  • “Down Among the Sticks and Bones,” by Seanan McGuire, a Tor.com Book, published by Thomas Doherty Associates (9780765392039). In this dark fable, twins Jillian and Jacqueline venture to a dangerous world where they must choose one of two paths. As they discover their true selves, they find that love and adventure are among the most hazardous things.
  • “Electric Arches,” by Eve L. Ewing, published by Haymarket Books (9781608468560). Wielding words and images like lasers, and bending genres to her will, Ewing’s poetry and prose tells stories both personal and universal. With humor and gravitas, this collection spotlights the joy, cruelty, and struggle of life.
  • “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea,” by Melissa Fleming, published by Flatiron Books (9781250105998). This gripping account follows Doaa Al Zamel’s journey to Egypt and her harrowing days at sea as she leaves her war-torn home for the promise of a better life in Europe.
  • “Malagash,” by Joey Comeau, published by ECW Press (9781770414075). Already grieving for her dying father, Sunday plans to release a computer virus that memorializes his words and laugh. But she begins to realize that to fully understand him, she needs to embrace his relationships with other family members.
  • “Roughneck,” by Jeff Lemire, published by Gallery 13, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (9781501160998). In the snowy recesses of northern Canada, a down-and-out former hockey player must confront his past when his long-lost sister returns to town battling demons of her own. Can they save each other? Or will violence swallow them both?
  • “She Rides Shotgun,” by Jordan Harper, published by Ecco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers (9780062394408). Polly, an 11-year-old girl with “gunfighter eyes,” her teddy bear, and her estranged father suddenly find themselves struggling for survival in a world ruled by gangs. Fast-paced and thrilling, this will get even reluctant readers’ hearts racing.
  • “Things We Have in Common,” by Tasha Kavanagh, published by MIRA Books (9780778326854). Yasmin wants to be close to the most beautiful girl in her school, but surely a freak like her has no chance. Unless, that is, she can save her from the man who was staring at her from the woods.
  • “An Unkindness of Magicians,” by Kat Howard, published by SAGA Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (9781481451192). The Wheel is turning and Sydney is determined to have fate spin her way. Meanwhile, magic is faltering and there are people who will do whatever it takes to save it.

The Alex Awards were created to recognize that many teens enjoy and often prefer books written for adults, and to assist librarians in recommending adult books that appeal to teens. A full list of official nominations will be available online here.

The award is named in honor of the late Margaret Alexander Edwards, fondly called “Alex” by her closest friends, a pioneer in providing library services to young adults. At Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Edwards used adult books extensively with teens to broaden their experience and enrich their understanding of themselves and their world.

Responses from other authors —

Martha Wells

Kat  Howard

Daniel H. Wilson

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/12/18 One Night In Genre And Worlds Are Your Oyster

(1) FIVE FAVORITES. Uncanny Magazine released its 2017 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results. Six stories made the Top Five – now that’s uncanny!

1- And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker

2- Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

3- IS A TIE!!!

Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara

Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon

4- Monster Girls Don’t Cry by A. Merc Rustad

5- Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde

(2) BANKS ART BOOK COMING. Did you know Iain M. Banks could draw, too? “Orbit announces the publication of original Culture drawings from the Estate of Iain M. Banks”.

Original drawings by Iain M. Banks, author of the hugely popular Culture novels, will be included in a book that celebrates the author’s vision of the Culture universe. The previously unseen drawings, most of which are annotated by the author, and many of which predate the writing of the novels themselves, will be curated by the Estate of Iain M. Banks and Iain’s life-long friend and science fiction writer Ken MacLeod. With additional commentary by MacLeod, further notes on the Culture, and extracts from the Culture novels, the book will provide a unique insight into the Culture, including its history, language, technology, philosophy and values.

(3) KEEP THE HONOR IN GOH. Seanan McGuire has spot-on advice for conrunners about GoH invitations and etiquette. Jump on the thread here —

(4) WOMBAT IN DEMAND. A gig at Anthrocon is in her future.

(5) THE WAY TO SAN JOSE. John Picacio revealed more recipients of Mexicanx Initiative sponsored Worldcon memberships.

(6) THE SCHOOL OF BAD EXAMPLES. Diana Pharaoh Francis tells how to learn craftsmanship in “The Classroom of Dissatisfaction” at Book View Café.

Likewise, he’s never noticed her and suddenly she’s his ‘mate.’ (This is a shifter story). He’s apparently been dreaming about her and even though he’s known her previously, never paid attention to her. But what bothers me is that when he realizes he has to work to win her affections, he doesn’t stop to consider what their relationship has been, how they’ve interacted before, and why she might not like him.

The more I read, the less I’m convinced that their attraction is real instead of shoehorned into a situation without enough attention to actually building a believable foundation.

So what do I learn from this? Well, stuff I already knew. The motivations have to be believable. The character interactions have to be genuine and real. That readers want to stick with the story but won’t waste their time if there are significant cracks in it. But I also learned that you can have things in the story that will pull a reader along despite problems. That a reader *wants* to like the characters and will be fairly forgiving if you just smooth out the road a little.

I’ve read books that I wanted to put down because of the problems, but I kept getting dragged along because *something* in the book demanded it. But then I get to the end and I have regrets that the book wasn’t executed better. And those regrets make me sad.

(7) STAR TREK DISCOVERY WITH SPOILERS. Looking ahead: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Producers on Season 1 Finale, and How Season 2 Will Be ‘What Trek Does Really Well’”.

According to “Star Trek: Discovery” co-showrunner Gretchen Berg, legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling is the reason why no major character dies in the season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery.”

“We worked on the original ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’” she told IndieWire, “And somebody was going to die or not going to die, and his attitude came back down that he didn’t want the person to die and I was like, ‘Why? Come on, that’s life!’”

Added Aaron Harberts, her co-showrunner, “The Mr. Spelling in me is always like, ‘You don’t kill a character! You just don’t. Because it’s good to be able to bring them back.’”

(8) CRIDER OBIT. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider died February 12 at the age of 72. Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” had entered hospice care in December.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 12, 1931 — Bela Lugosi’s famous role of Dracula hit the silver screen in New York
  • February 12, 1940The Invisible Man Returns premiered theatrically.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 12, 1915 — Lorne Greene, Commander Adama (or Pa Cartwright, if you prefer.)

(11) MUSIC TO WRITE BY. Neil Gaiman has written an essay about ex-Pixies guitarist Kim Deal’s band The Breeders to celebrate their new album All Nerve:

The first time I heard of Kim Deal, it was because the co-owner of Dark Carnival, the bookstore in San Francisco I was signing in had been mistaken for her the night before by a waiter, who had taken her protestations that she was a bookshop person as a cover story and brought her and the people she was with, bookstore people whom he believed to be the rest of the Pixies, free drinks all night. I now knew a band called the Pixies existed.

I owned a tiny black and white television that sat on the corner of my desk, and kept me company when I wrote, all alone, too late at night, playing badly dubbed European Detective shows, late night rock shows, cheap television. Somewhere in 1989 it played a Pixies video. A week later I had every Pixies CD you could find in London record shops. I loved the aesthetic as much as the music: the Vaughn Oliver art and typefaces.

Information scarcity. I didn’t know who these people were. I was 29 years old, writing Sandman, in England, with two small children. I bought the CD of Pod, and I wrote Sandman to the jangly Breeders music.

(12) PRO TIP. From Sarah Gailey:

(13) SEVENTIES WOMEN SFF WRITERS. James Davis Nicoll is back with “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part II” at Tor.com. First up —

Sally Miller Gearhart

Gearhart may be best known now for her political activism and her decades of scholarly work. The Sally Miller Gearhart Chair in Lesbian Studies at the University of Oregon is named for her. SF fans unacquainted with her work might do well start with The Wanderground, a novel about feminist separatism set in a near future. Any of you planning to write a feminist separatist novel (or found a separatist feminist community) might want to explore prior art, including Gearhart’s contributions.

(14) SCRIPTER AWARDS.  SyFy Wire reports “Under His Eye The Handmaid’s Tale wins yet another award”.

On Saturday night, the 30th annual Scripter Awards were hosted at the University of Southern California. The Scripter Awards are given out annually honoring adaptations of “printed word into film” and are awarded to both the original author and writer of the screenplay. The pilot episode of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale won in the television category with writer Bruce Miller, who is also the creator and executive producer of the show, picking up the award.

(15) OPEN FIELD. Diane Duane is one writer unaffected by last year’s version of Best Series, as she explains in “2018 Hugo Award eligibility: for those who were asking”.

First of all: the 2017 e-publication* of Interim Errantry 2: On Ordeal means that the Young Wizards series is once again eligible for Hugo consideration. In 2017 this would have been because of the 2016 publication of Games Wizards Play, which made the series eligible for the Best Series one-time “special” Hugo awarded by Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. That, however, was a different award from the new Best Series Hugo. (A distinction that apparently may make a difference for last year’s award finalists, if this year’s Hugo Administrator decides to rule out their nomination this year. But that’s hardly an issue for me.)

So — as confirmed here on the list of Best Series Hugo eligibles at File 770 — the Young Wizards series is eligible for nomination for the 2018 Best Series Hugo. Yay! …And if (as someone eligible to nominate) you feel inclined to nominate it, then I encourage you to do so.

(16) SECRET SFWA OPERATION CODENAMES REVEALED. The leak came right from the top!

(17) LIFE PRESERVER. The BBC, in “UK team set for giant Antarctic iceberg expedition”, tells about a team looking at life hidden over 100K years, now exposed by calving.

Scientists will set out in the next week to study an Antarctic realm that has been hidden for thousands of years.

A British Antarctic Survey-led team will explore the seabed ecosystem exposed when a giant iceberg broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula in 2017.

The organisation has also released the first video of the berg, which covers almost 6,000 sq km.

(18) USA TODAY’S TOP 100 SELLERS OF 2017. Here are the works of genre interest that made the top 100 books of the year, according to data from USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
12. It by Stephen King
15. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
19. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
31. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
32. 1984 by George Orwell
41. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
54. Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown, art by Clement Hurd
55. Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
57. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPré
59. The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
63. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling; art by Jim Kay
65. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book by Eric Carle
66. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
70. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
76. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
80. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
86. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
92. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
93. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
94. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

(19) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. SFF is the latest fashion — “Philipp Plein takes NY Fashion Week on snowy spaceship ride”.

Provocateur Philipp Plein descended on New York Fashion Week with a giant spaceship, silvery rock formations and Migos lighting up the crowd Saturday night as fake snow fell and covered the floor of a huge industrial space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

And there were clothes. Skiwear mostly, lots emblazoned with Plein’s name, skulls and crossbones and some Playboy logos.

The show roared to life with a couple of motorcycle riders and a space utility vehicle that plowed through Plein’s fake wall of rocks. Later came a schmoozy transformer (big person in costume) who greeted Irina Shayk as she slinked out of the ship in a black bodysuit emblazoned with “I Love You Philipp Plein.”

(20) HUMANS EVOLVED. The Titan Official Trailer.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Soon Lee, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

2018 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting Awards and Honors

Today at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards event during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Denver, these works of genre interest were among those recognized:

2018 Notable Books List: Year’s best in fiction, nonfiction and poetry

Fiction

  • American War by Omar El Akkad. Alfred A. Knopf.
    A second Civil War turns lives upside down in this devastating vision of a dystopian future.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
    Three characters stuck in an ambiguous limbo after their deaths narrate the story of the president’s visits to the graveyard following the tragic loss of his son.
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
    A lyrical and psychologically astute exploration of the gravity of history that still ripples through the lives of a Mississippi family.

Nonfiction

  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone. Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
    A biography of the forgotten heroine who founded American cryptography and cracked the Nazi Enigma machine.
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
    This candid account lays bare the author’s personal demons.
  • Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. Sourcebooks.
    In early twentieth century watch factories, dial painters suffer the deterioration of their bodies and fight to pave the way for workplace safety standards.

2018 Reading List: Year’s best in genre fiction for adult readers

Fantasy

Winner

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire. A Tor.com Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates.
    Twin sisters Jack and Jill discover a portal that leads them to the Moors, a dark and unsettling world that reveals their true selves. But will their conflicting desires tear them apart?

Horror

Winner

  • Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Inkshares.
    An homage to horror and the authors who write it, “Kill Creek” features four prominent authors who are lured into spending the night in a famous haunted house as a publicity stunt. The aftermath is both unexpected and terrifying.

Science Fiction

Winner

  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. Tor, a Tom Doherty Associates Book.
    In the Interdependency, each planet relies on its far-flung neighbors for survival. Now a galactic change is transforming the universal order, a new empress has been crowned, a rival is plotting a revolution, and a foul-mouthed captain is caught in the middle.

2018 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners

  • “Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders. Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, and a full cast. Books on Tape. Abraham Lincoln pays one last visit to son Willie, laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery amidst a host of spirits keeping watch as the boy makes his final passage. An unprecedented cast of 166 narrators combine in a spectral chorus, telling their stories in an astonishing gabble of voices that teems with pathos, tragicomedy, and the tenderest love.

Patreon Cancels Fee Changes, Will Find A Different Fix

Patreon’s Jack Conte has walked back the controversial new fee structure that was scheduled to go into effect later this month, with the implied promise the company will find a solution to its problems that doesn’t hurt creators.

Conte’s statement, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change”, says in part —

Creators and Patrons,

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

  • The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
  • Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
  • Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes….

Although Patreon folded on their proposed fee changes, the damage to creators’ income has already been done. One author offered this analogy to describe the moral effect of today’s announcement:

Webcomic artist Zack Morrison voiced what must be a lingering concern for many creators:

Here are some reactions tweeted by people in the sff field:

  • Kameron Hurley

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Seanan McGuire

  • M.C.A. Hogarth

  • Kevin Sonney

  • Patrick Rothfuss

  • Aidan Moher

  • Fireside Fiction Company

[Thanks to Dann and Mark Hepworth 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]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/17 You Cannot Move This Pixel. It Is Still Used By A Scroll On Your Computer

(1) JUST DESERTS. Will Collins describes a little-known influence on Frank Herbert’s Dune, in “The Secret History of Dune” at LA Review of Books.

Melange, the hallucinogenic drug at the heart of Herbert’s book, acts as a prerequisite for interstellar travel and can only be obtained on one harsh, desert planet populated by tribes of warlike nomads. Even a casual political observer will recognize the parallels between the universe of Dune and the Middle East of the late 20th century. Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert’s genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus.

Lesley Blanch, the book’s author, has a memorable biography. A British travel writer of some renown, she is perhaps best known for On the Wilder Shores of Love (1954), an account of the romantic adventures of four British women in the Middle East. She was also a seasoned traveler, a keen observer of Middle Eastern politics and culture, and a passionate Russophile. She called The Sabres of Paradise “the book I was meant to do in my life,” and the novel offers the magnificent, overstuffed account of Imam Shamyl, “The Lion of Dagestan,” and his decades-long struggle against Russian encroachment.

Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch’s work.

(2) THE STORY THAT KEEPS ON GIVING. Pajiba’s Kayleigh Donaldson is still hot on the trail of the fake bestseller: “The ‘Handbook For Mortals’ Saga Continues As Lani Sarem Goes On The No Apologies Tour”.

Remember Handbook For Mortals, the urban fantasy novel about magic in Las Vegas that catapulted out of nowhere to take the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list? We thoroughly documented the torrid tale of Lani Sarem’s debut novel, which gamed the system through bulk purchases in order to debut at number 1 on the YA list, knocking off Angie Thomas’s mega-hit The Hate U Give. It had everything – scams, Carrot Top, Blues Traveller, Glory from Buffy, the guy from Rookie of the Year, an in development film adaptation with the author set to play the lead role, art theft, and Jasper from Twilight. It was such a fascinatingly layered scam that even the author of the worst fan-fiction of all time came forward to deny any involvement with it.

The book is no longer on the list, and clearly that’s upset Sarem and her team. While GeekNation, the near abandoned geek news website who published the novel, have been silent on the subject, Sarem has gone into PR overdrive to try and scrape together a semblance of goodwill after angering YA fans, the publishing community and John Popper himself. First, the music manager turned author wrote a piece for Billboard. You know, that bastion of publishing, where she defended her actions. Now she’s over at the Huffington Post doing the same….

(3) LOSING A LANDMARK. More coverage about the closing of a historic bookshop (the story is from July): “After 41 years, Berkeley sci-fi bookstore Dark Carnival is closing”.

“Passion or mania would certainly have played a factor,” he wrote. “One long-time friend described him as a ‘business genius,’ though I felt that, due to the nature of small bookstore business, he was actually more adept at responding to crises (financial) which regularly crept up on him.”

Juricich continued: “It was probably the best stocked, most complete store for sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery fiction in most of California, though The Other Change of Hobbit might have given it a run for its money before it, too, finally closed some years ago. I’m sad for the loss of the store to the community and no one could ever blame Jack for not having applied his intelligence and passion to its continued survival, but, much like the business of comic book retail, selling reading matter is an uphill climb.”

As Juricich points out, running a brick-and-mortar bookstore, or indeed any retail business, in the age of Amazon is notoriously tough, and it’s not the first time Rems has struggled with Dark Carnival. In December 2013, he put out a public plea to the community, writing: “No other way to say this. We need your help. To our staunch supporters: it’s thanks to all of you that we’re still here. Please, if you have any shopping to do, now and for the holidays, do some of it here… P.S.: If you’re broke, and believe me I understand, please come in anyway, say hi, hang out, I’ll give you something good to read, no charge.”

(4) NIGHT OF THE LIVING AUTHORS. Jeff VanderMeer told Facebook readers about his nightmare:

I had this horrible dream last night that I was the host of the World Fantasy Award ceremony, but this was sometime in the future when there were 1,200 categories instead of the dozen or so there are now. And the banquet hall was so huge and I had no assistant, so I had to ride a tiny tricycle (!?) to the back of the hall each time before announcing a winner….

And it gets worse/funnier after that.

(5) LIVE FROM NEW ZEALAND. Well, it was a live performance – now hear Seanan McGuire’s LexiCon concert online.

Did you miss Seanan McGuire’s concert on Saturday night – or enjoy it so much you want to listen again? We recorded it for you and it’s now on YouTube! You can hear Seanan – accompanied by local fans Daphne Lawless of Vostok Lake and Alastair Gibson.

 

(6) ABOUT THOSE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. In From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars),  Random House Audio Publishing invites fans to “experience Star Wars: A New Hope from a different point of view.” All participating authors have donated their proceeds to charity.

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, more than forty contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the forty short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

  • Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
  • Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
  • Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
  • Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter’s final flight during the Rebellion’s harrowing attack on the Death Star.
  • Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.

Plus thirty-four more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from: Ben Acker • Renée Ahdieh • Tom Angleberger • Ben Blacker • Jeffrey Brown • Rae Carson • Adam Christopher • Zoraida Córdova • Delilah S. Dawson • Kelly Sue DeConnick • Paul Dini • Ian Doescher • Ashley Eckstein • Matt Fraction • Alexander Freed • Jason Fry • Kieron Gillen • Christie Golden • Claudia Gray • E. K. Johnston • Paul S. Kemp • Mur Lafferty • Ken Liu • Griffin McElroy • John Jackson Miller • Daniel José Older • Mallory Ortberg • Beth Revis • Madeleine Roux • Greg Rucka • Gary D. Schmidt • Cavan Scott • Charles Soule • Sabaa Tahir • Elizabeth Wein • Glen Weldon • Chuck Wendig

Narrated by a full cast, including: Jonathan Davis, Ashley Eckstein, Janina Gavankar, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, January LaVoy, Saskia Maarleveld, Carol Monda, Daniel José Older, and Marc Thompson.

All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book—a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books—valued at $1,000,000—to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past sixteen years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than eighty-eight million books to First Book.

And the contributors have been hyping the book with designer pull quotes.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television on this date.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) PAY TO PLAY. Gabino Iglesias, in “Submission Fees are Classist as Fuck”, delivers an invigorating rant, but it’s just as full of holes as the cases he’s criticizing.

  1. “It’s really about gatekeeping”

If you don’t want to read bad fiction/nonfiction/poetry, don’t edit a book/magazine/blog/journal. Bad writing is to the writing game what dirty teeth are to dentistry; it will happen all the time, the only that varies is the level of awfulness. Submission guidelines, genre specifications, and word counts should help you do your precious gatekeeping. If you need to rely on charging writers $30 to enter your chapbook contest in order to keep what you think are bad writers away, know these two things: having money has absolutely nothing to do with having writing chops and your fees, not to mention your bland gatekeeping excuse, are nothing but classism in action. I’ve also heard that charging writers is just a way to “reduce the workload for overworked editors.” Get the fuck outta here with that. You’re sitting in front a computer because you want to, not working in the mines. Don’t want to edit? Don’t be an editor. There’s a ton of jobs out there that need to get done that don’t involve the arduous task of having to deal with a huge slush pile.

(10) TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK. The Kingsman “funny dinner” movie clip —

(11) OUTRAGED. Lou Antonelli issued a strong challenge to Chris Barkley’s column posted yesterday at Amazing Stories, in particular the part where he was named:

“Their views vastly contrast with The Rabid Puppies, primarily represented by Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day), John C. Wright and Lou Antonelli, they are unabashedly and enthusiastically racist in their worldview and their fiction. They believe a white male hegemony over all peoples of color, women and the LGBTQ community is the best course for the human race AND any aliens we may encounter, to put it mildly.”

Ok, I don’t know what kind of stupid bullshit rumors have wafted through Mr. Barkley’s empty cranium, but it is specious to lump me in with Vox Day and John C. Wright. Plus to claim I am “unabashedly and enthusiastically racist” in my worldview is simply libelous. I dare this hatemonger to point to anything I have ever said or did that was racist – because I’m not. As the first generation non-white child of an illegal immigrant, I have always felt revulsion towards ethnic and racial prejudice – I have been on the receiving end, believe me….

…Just to make my position on racism clear, I’m a Christian. God made man – all men: White, Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, whatever. A racist is God-defiant. He’s putting himself above God by saying God made a mistake. A racist does the Devil’s work.

(12) DANIEL JOSE OLDER NOVEL REVIEWED. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Older’s Shadowhouse Fall for NPR: “In ‘Shadowhouse Fall,’ Magical Threats Map Real-World Peril”.

Everything I loved about Shadowshaper is found in Shadowhouse Fall, but sharper and fiercer, pushed harder and farther. The love and loyalty Sierra and her friends feel for each other is all the more affecting for being forged in fire: They walk through metal detectors into school every morning, endure and resist casual assaults on their personhood and bodies in relentless routine. As with Shadowshaper, the parts I loved best were the characters, the exuberance of these people’s voices, the intimacy and honesty of their interactions. I loved seeing more of Sierra’s relationship with her best friend Bennie, more of Izzy and Tee’s romance, more of Juan and Pulpo’s devotion to each other. All of these relationships are complex and full of friction, and the sparks they give off illuminate important facets of the story.

(13) DOESN’T PASS GAS. A new type of space drive? “Will This ‘Impossible’ Motor Take People to Other Planets?”

When NASA one day sends humans to Mars, the journey could take six to nine months each way. But there’s a highly-experimental device being developed that could help get us there in less than half that time — if it really works.

A small lab at NASA is creating a motor to propel ships through space much faster than today’s conventional rockets can. Decades from now, a trip to Mars might take mere weeks, without burning any fuel. The only problem? The motor seems to violate the laws of physics.

To power a spacecraft, a propellant is ejected out of the rocket’s end, because you can’t accelerate forward without pushing back against something. But NASA’s alternative gadget, called an EM drive, would generate thrust without the need to belch exhaust. And dropping the weight from fuel could make ships much lighter and space travel more efficient.

(14) SPACE SNAPPERS. The BBC has “In pictures: Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017”, with the winning picture and many runners-up:

The winning images from this year’s competition have now been announced, with Artem Mironov’s vibrant clouds of dust and gas in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex scooping first place.

(15) IG NOBELS. SJW Credentials studied: “Ig Nobels Awarded For Research Into Big Ears, Feline Fluidity”.

Can a cat be both a liquid and a solid? Does contact with a crocodile influence a person’s willingness to gamble? And do old men really have big ears?

Those are just a few of the questions studied by scientists who received Ig Nobel Prizes at Harvard University on Thursday, at the less-than-prestigious ceremony put on by the otherwise-august institution for the past 27 years.

“Each winner has done something that makes people laugh, then think,” said Marc Abrahams, who founded the awards in 1991 and writes for the decidedly non-peer-reviewed journal Annals of Improbable Research.

The complete list of winners is available from Improbable.com.

(16) MAKES THEM WONDER. The Columbian believes “Jenkins the future of DC movies, but not the way you think”.

Jenkins will lead WB/DC into a future where story comes first, not multimovie connectivity. Yes, the potential of “Justice League” movies is exciting, but every single DC film doesn’t have to be a two-hour commercial for the super-team’s gathering. “Wonder Woman” taking place in the past — far away from Batman, Superman, Doomsday and horrible Daily Planet story-budget meetings (why is Clark Kent going from the city beat to covering football?) — was the best thing that could have happened to DC. It showed that singular stories and a strong supporting cast are more important than movie-universe building.

Jenkins also showed the power of having DC Entertainment president Geoff Johns, formerly one of DC Comics’ top comic-book writers who now spends most of his time on the movies, at her side. As the new president, “Wonder Woman” was the first DCEU movie where Johns could provide his superhero storytelling skills in a more authoritative way.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Auto Nom” by Foam Studio is a silly story about all the fun a yellow Mercedes-Benz has in the city.

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/17 There Are As Yet Insufficient Pixels For A Meaningful Scroll

(1) ABRAMS BACK AT THE HELM. The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven and Umberto Gonzalez, in “J.J. Abrams To Replace Colin Trevorrow on STAR WARS:  EPISODE IX”, say that Disney says that Abrams has been signed to direct this Star Wars film after Trevorrow, who has been attached to Episode IX since 2015, was given the boot.

 “With ‘The Force Awakens,’ J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy in a statement.

Abrams directed and produced “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. He is also serving as an executive producer on the upcoming film “The Last Jedi,” out this December, which Rian Johnson is directing. Abrams will co-write “Episode IX” with Chris Terrio.

(2) A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY. Time-lapse photography unexpectedly reveals that starships are built from wood.

(3) TOOTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM. And it’s time that the new series theme embarked on a shakedown cruise.

When it comes to Star Trek, a dynamic main title theme is key. In this behind-the-scenes video for Star Trek: Discovery, composer Jeff Russo leads a 60-piece orchestra in recording the new series theme.

 

(4) THANKS FROM THE CENTER. The Center for Bradbury Studies hit its fundraising goal.

THANK YOU! Because of your generous support, the #CenterforRayBradburyStudies exceeded its #fundraising goal to raise over $6,000! In May, the Center received a generous grant from the Indiana Historical Society with a matching requirement that you helped raise. Thanks to you, we will be able to move forward in our mission to preserve and advance #RayBradbury's amazing legacy. We promise to steward your investments wisely. We'll do our best to keep you up to date on what's happening at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and the impact of your support. For those who missed the opportunity, the Preserving the World of Ray Bradbury crowdfunding site is still open. The collection is huge and our preservation needs continue. Thank you again, great Bradbury supporters, including those of you who support us regularly!!! #RayBradbury @indianahistory https://iufoundation.fundly.com/preservingtheworldofraybradbury

A post shared by Cntr for Ray Bradbury Studies (@bradburycenter) on

(5) VINTAGE TUBE. Echo Ishii has a new installment in her series of reviews of antique TV shows: “SF Obscure: The Tripods”

The Tripods TV series is a 1984-1985 YA SF series based on a series of books The Tripods by John Christopher. It ran for two seasons on the BBC. There are many changes from the books to the tv series though the basic concept remains the same.

The show begins in the future 2089. We see a pre-industrial version of England. Horse drawn carriages, family farms, etc. A young man in a suit is being congratulated by his friends and family for his “capping “ceremony. He takes off his hat to reveal his shaven head. Out of the sky comes a giant metal tripod, that lands in the lake and pulls the young man up inside.

(6) BELIEVERS IN THE MISANDRY CONSPIRACY. At the Emperor’s Notepad a blogger who writes books as Xavier Lastra is convinced he has come up with a more profound explanation for the anti-male bias claims Jon Del Arroz has been selling online this week: “‘Lit Bait’ and preferences/discrimination in genre literature”.

Because the artistic preferences of SF&F editors go way beyond a possible gender bias (which I’m sure exists in some places.) You could be a woman of color with an African-Asian name and a card-carrying member of the Communist Party that if you write a certain type of story, it will be ignored. If it gives off just a whiff of testosterone or sounds like an action-packed adventure yarn with a preference for honest and unironic drama and fun, without any pretense of being “mature,” it won’t be accepted. After all, they have an artistic image to maintain. They can’t just publish any pulpy trash!

And here’s where the feminine aspect comes into play. Obviously, women write all sort of stories, but there is a specific female subset that seems to be especially apt at writing the sort of sentimental Literary Bait, dripping with status anxiety and cheap progressive performances, that routinely gets awarded. It happens at all levels, from school contests to international literary awards. Call it “discrimination” or simply “preferences,” but it’s there.

(7) CAN YOU SAY, “ECOLOGICAL DISASTER”? I KNEW YOU COULD. The more I hear about these hippo books, the more intriguing they become. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fic & Fantasy Blog’s Martin Cahill gives Sarah Gailey’s latest two tusks up: “The Hippo Mayhem Continues in Taste of Marrow.

Earlier this year, Sarah Gailey treated us to a book that made the phrase “alternate history western hippo caper” part of the vernacular. River of Teeth is a fun, nuanced tale of an alternate 19th century United States in which hippopotami were introduced into the environment to make up for a livestock shortage and soon overran their boundaries (something that really almost happened, save for a fateful vote in Congress).  It’s a novella chock full of what we love in a debut: memorable prose, a lush setting, precise worldbuilding, and a cast of diverse characters trying their best to pull off a caper, even with the odds against them.

If River of Teeth asked why and how this hippo-hunting posse formed up, sequel Taste of Marrow asks a different question: why do they stay together? Especially with the caper is in shambles, a key member of the crew dead, and another presumed dead at the hands of a pregnant assassin?

Several weeks after River of Teeth, the feral hippos once penned into the Mississippi have been let loose, and Archie and Houndstooth are fleeing to parts left un-feraled.

(8) WEIN REMEMBRANCE. NPR’s Glen Weldon paid tribute to the late Lein Wein on Morning Edition: “Comic Book Legend Len Wein Dies At 69”.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Len Wein wrote and edited the adventures of many well-known superheroes over the course of his career – your Batmans, your Hulks. But he created Wolverine with artists John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe. Hugh Jackman played him on screen for years. With his extendible, razor-sharp, adamantium claws, he isn’t much of a talker.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

WELDON: He’s more of a grunter, and slasher and stabber.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLASHING)

WELDON: Wolverine was an innovative superhero in several ways. He was hotheaded. He was hyperviolent. He was Canadian. Most importantly, he was an antihero, one of an emerging breed of characters who strained against the good-guy-versus-bad-guy formula of old-school comics. As Wein explained in the 2016 PBS documentary, you couldn’t pin the guy down.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Video Games Day

History of Video Games Day

The history of Video Games Day is really the history of the video game, and that history goes back much farther than most people imagine. The first game ever created is often thought to be Bertie the Brain, an artificial intelligence designed to play Tic-Tac-Toe. Considering that Bertie was a 4 meter high machine built on vacuum tube technology, you can imagine it didn’t get out much, in fact, it was disassembled after the Canadian National Exhibition it was revealed at, and never rebuilt. A year later a computer was built called Nimrod, Nimrod was a computer built and displayed at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and designed to play a game called Nim.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob premiered.
  • September 12, 1993 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered on the small screen.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY POET

  • Born September 12, 1942 – Marge Simon, Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association.

(12) HURRICANE HARVEY FALLOUT. The 100 Year Starship Symposium that was scheduled for this weekend in Santa Monica has been postponed til next year.

While we were busily and excitedly preparing for the debut of the NEXUS 2017 event in Santa Monica this month, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the administrative, programming and operational headquarters of 100 Year Starship (100YSS).

As you know from all the news reporting, Hurricane Harvey effectively stopped Houston business, transportation, commerce and private activities at homes for five days or more.  All aspects of the work on NEXUS was severely disrupted.  And though the skies are clear in Houston now, the problems of catching up in the face of clean-up and remediation of this natural disaster — currently called the most severe in U.S. history – continue.  We tried diligently, but it has been impossible to overcome Harvey’s impact.

The NEXUS event team huddled and decided to postpone NEXUS so that it will be the type of wildly transformational, engaging and magical event planned.

Space. Radical. Vital. Down to Earth.

We are working to reschedule NEXUS for the first quarter of 2018 and should have new dates shortly.

However, one of the weekend’s scheduled events will still take place —

The 25 Strong! Celebration under the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the Oschin Pavilion of the California Science Center will take place in Los Angeles on Friday, September 15 as originally scheduled since most of the planning and logistics activities were handled there.  If you had planned to attend, are local or have safe travel plans, then please join us.

Patrick S. Tomlinson will be hosting 25 Strong.

(13) LAWS WERE BROKEN. In “Still A Harsh Mistress – Andy Weir: Artemis” at Spekulatív Zóna, Bence Pintér reviews the new novel by the author of The Martian.

Nevertheless, Jazz needs money. Very, very much. And that’s the point when one of her old clients, a Norwegian billionaire businessman comes up with a plan. It is complicated, but it’s a piece of cake for a woman as talented as Jazz. The job pays a lot of money. It is also illegal as hell. And as it turns out, it can really affect the future of Artemis. By the way: why everyone is suddenly crazy about the failing aluminium industry?

The start is a bit bumpy, but after we learn more about Jazz and her ways, the novel shifts to full throttle. The elements are almost the same as in The Martian: a lot of fun in the narration by the badass protagonist and loads of Moon-science instead of Mars-science. Also with some sparkling dialogues and one-liners, the Brazilian mafia, and a collection of misfit friends of Jazz. Jazz is doing a lot of illegal stuff, so forget about the heroism of Mark Watney. And also say goodbye to space potatoes: all you got in exchange is algae-based food called Gunk, which is awful by all accounts.

(14) 19TH-CENTURY RESISTANCE LEADER. GF Willmetts of SFCrowsnest has some iconoclastic things to say about “The Forgotten Genius Of Oliver Heaviside by Basil Mahon (book review)”.

Much of the formulas and his science, especially his legacy, are in the footnotes at the back of the book. It would have made more sense to have incorporated much of this into the main contents of the book. If readers couldn’t understand it, they can easily skip it but placing in notes brings it to secondary importance. I think even Heaviside would agree his maths is more important than his life.

(15) NOTE FROM THE DEAN. Crooked Timber’s John Holbo helps you visualize what happens when “Robert Heinlein writes letters to editors and librarians”.

Enough Lovecraft! Robert Heinlein! I’m reading Innocent Experiments:Childhood and the Culture of Popular Science in the United States, by Rebecca Onion. Chapter 4, “Space Cadets and Rocket Boys: Policing the Masculinity of Scientific Enthusiasms” has quite a bit of good stuff on Heinlein – well it would have to, wouldn’t it? If you’ve read some Heinlein you kind of know what Heinlein is like. But there’s good stuff here about his exchanges with editors. The guy was one serious SJW, insisting on his minority quotas. Of course, he always manages to make it weird in his cosmopolitan-but-All-American, messianic-rationalist-masculinist libertarian-disciplinarian anti-authoritarian-but-in-an-authoritarian-way way.

(16) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY GAINS RECRUIT. Marvel says you can expect to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar space when the comic’s next issue appears.

The Guardians have been tasked with some wacky and big adventures while doing the Grandmaster’s bidding, which includes stealing from The Collector – and Star-Lord even accidently destroyed one of his favorite mix-tapes. Now, as they prepare for their Legacy arc THE INFINITY QUEST, they’ll have to team up with the group that has been on their tails – the Nova Corps – as well as one ex-Avenger if they want to keep the universe safe.

“We’re excited to have an Avenger joining the ranks of the Guardians…or is it the Nova Corps? Or both? Oh, you’ll see,” teased editor Jordan D. White. “Just know, he beat out some stiff competition, as you can tell by that cover of issue #12!”

Who exactly is this Avenger? One of the five Marvel superstars on this cover should give you a hint…

(17) HWA ANTHOLOGY. The Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Nights will be released October 3:

Sixteen never-before-published chilling tales that explore every aspect of our darkest holiday, Halloween, co-edited by Ellen Datlow, one of the most successful and respected genre editors, and Lisa Morton, a leading authority on Halloween.

In addition to stories about scheming jack-o’-lanterns, vengeful ghosts, otherworldly changelings, disturbingly realistic haunted attractions, masks that cover terrifying faces, murderous urban legends, parties gone bad, cult Halloween movies, and trick or treating in the future, Haunted Nights also offers terrifying and mind-bending explorations of related holidays like All Souls’ Day, Dia de los Muertos, and Devil’s Night.

  • “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Dirtmouth” by Stephen Graham Jones”
  • “A Small Taste of the Old Countr” by Jonathan Maberry
  • “Wick’s End” by Joanna Parypinski
  • “The Seventeen Year Itch” by Garth Nix
  • “A Flicker of Light on Devil’s Night” by Kate Jonez
  • “Witch-Hazel” by Jeffrey Ford
  • “Nos Galen Gaeaf” by Kelley Armstrong
  • “We’re Never Inviting Amber Again” by S. P. Miskowski
  • “Sisters” by Brian Evenson
  • “All Through the Night” by Elise Forier Edie
  • “A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds” by Eric J. Guignard
  • “The Turn” by Paul Kane
  • “Jack” by Pat Cadigan
  • “Lost in the Dark” by John Langan
  • “The First Lunar Halloween” by John R. Little

(18) NOPE. Madeleine E. Robins explains “No, I Won’t Put You in My Book” at Book View Café.

I have a lot of friends who tuckerize, or even kill off people who have hurt them in their fiction. Sometimes they auction off  naming for a character for charity. Sometimes a friend just works his/her way into a story. I found myself a member of the NYPD a few years ago, which was kind of interesting. I have nothing against having real-world names or real-world people showing up in fiction; I sometimes find it distracting, if it’s a real-world name or person I personally know, but that’s not enough reason to demand a practice be stopped. I don’t kill off my enemies (wait, I have enemies?) or exes in my work, but again–that’s me.

(19) CAT HERDERS. SJW symbols survive Irma: “Hurricane Irma: Rare animals survive devastating storm”.

As Hurricane Irma cut a devastating path through the Florida Keys islands, a colony of six-toed cats appears to have survived without a scratch.

The furry felines, descended from a pet owned by Ernest Hemingway, ignored orders to evacuate as the winds swept through the writer’s historic house.

Endangered deer native to the islands also appear to have survived the storm.

Florida Keys and western parts of the state bore the brunt of Irma in the US, with winds of up to 120mph (192km/h).

“Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off!” the late Mr Hemingway’s granddaughter, Mariel, urged in a video posted on Friday.

Staff responsible for maintaining the Hemingway Home Museum in Key West, Florida, chose to ride out the storm over the weekend in the property with 54 of their feline friends.

(20) SJW CREDENTIALS – ALL ABOARD! Unfortunately I can’t get my computer to pick up an excerpt from “What It’s Like to Ride Japan’s Cat Café Train” at Atlas Obscura. You’ll love the photos.

(21) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. To make up for it, I will run another SJW Credential story I missed when it came out in 2016: Seanan McGuire and the TSA.

(22) SCARES MORE THAN CROWS. “Giant Star Wars AT-AT model built in front garden” – video at the link.

A man has built a giant Star Wars model in his front garden.

The 20ft (6m) replica AT-AT – a combat vehicle in the Star Wars films – was built by Ian Mockett, 54, at his home in Harpole, Northamptonshire.

It took him and his friends a month to make it out of wood for the village’s annual scarecrow festival.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Burn Out. JJ has anointed this a “strong contender for the DP Short Form Hugo.”

Stella, a space mechanician, has broken down and ended on a desert planet. While she is in despair, a little girl appears out of nowhere. Following the child into a tunnel, in the depths of the planet, she discovers a big cave full of objects that belonged to her, reminding her the dreams she has left behind.

 

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

Seanan McGuire’s Portals to Fantasy Worlds

Seanan McGuire

By Carl Slaughter: Seanan McGuire’s 2016 Every Heart a Doorway won the Nebula, was nominated for the Hugo, and made the Tiptree honor list.  In June 2017, she followed with Down Among the Sticks and Bones.  The third in the series, Beneath the Sugar Sky, is scheduled for January 18, 2018.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

No Solicitations

No Visitors

No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

PRAISE FOR EVERY HEART A DOORWAY

  • “Seanan McGuire once again demonstrates her intimate knowledge of the human heart in a powerful fable of loss, yearning and damaged children.” ? Paul Cornell, author of London Falling and Witches of Lychford
  • “So mindblowingly good, it hurts.” ? io9
  • “With Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire has created her own mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy ? a jewel of a book that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll’s and C. S. Lewis’ classics, even as it carves its own precocious space between them.” ? NPR
  • “Seanan McGuire has long been one of the smartest writers around, and with this novella we can easily see that her heart is as big as her brain. We know this story isn’t true, but it is truth.” ? Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (TV’s True Blood)
  • “Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is one of the most extraordinary stories I’ve ever read.” ? V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author of A Gathering of Shadows

DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES

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.

BENEATH THE  SUGAR SKY

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.