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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But a second attempt was more problematic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

Subject: Feb. 2017: Marketing Tech Secrets Powering Unicorns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This bundle is available for the next 22 days only.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

“I think I can promise that,” I said.

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/12/17 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Heart Of Scrolls?

(1) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Chip Hitchcock writes, “Boston has declared a snow emergency, so I followed the email link for information. The front page, https://www.boston.gov/winter-boston, says –“

(2) AGAINST ALL ODDS. Seanan McGuire tweets her animal rescue stories. Worst houseguest, lemur or emu, YOU DECIDE!

(3) 2017 BAFTA WINNERS. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced the winners of the EE British Academy Film Awards for 2017 on February 12. Although there originally were items of genre interest in 14 categories, only a few took home the hardware —

ANIMATED FILM

  • KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Travis Knight

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock

SOUND

  • ARRIVAL Sylvain Bellemare, Claude La Haye, Bernard Gariépy Strobl

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

  • THE JUNGLE BOOK Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon, Andrew R. Jones, Adam Valdez

(4) NOW BATTING FOR SUNIL PATEL. The Everyone: World Without Walls Kickstarter launched with a cover mockup featuring Sunil Patel’s name first among the story contributors. Today the publisher announced Patel is out, and most of the graphics have been changed to remove his name.

  • Before

  • After

No further explanation was given – the decision likely involves the reasons that other publications cut ties with Patel last October.

(5)  FLAMMABLE TOPIC. The cover of  the YA fantasy novel Before She Ignites, which features a black girl in a pretty ballgown, struck Justina Ireland as worthy of complaint, not because of the art, but the context.

Last night, someone sent me a link to Jodi Meadows’ new book, Before She Ignites.  I didn’t really understand the context until I saw the cover.

The cover, which is gorgeous, features a Black Girl in a pretty dress.  Awesome.

But the fact that the cover appears to be the first of it’s kind and it belongs to a white author serves to reinforce the absolute whiteness of publishing.  Because even when it wants to increase representation, publishers look to white authors to fill that need.

And that is the exact opposite of what should be happening…

(6) PUSHBACK. Mia Sereno (Likhain), a 2016 Tiptree Fellow, has published a letter to the editors of Apex Magazine complaining about their choice of Benjanun Sriduangkaew to host the “Intersectional SFF Roundtable”, posted on February 10.

I am deeply disappointed to find Benjanun Sriduangkaew, who previously also wrote under the pseudonym Requires Hate (RH), as a contributor to your roundtable on intersectionality in SFF.

It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.

It is a well-known fact that RH caused harm to people in the SFF community, disproportionately targeting women of color; there was even a published report on it, which garnered its writer a Hugo. Whether you agree with the circumstances surrounding the publication of the report or not, it cannot be denied that women in the SFF community, among them women of color, spoke about the harm RH caused them.

This leads me to some questions: does intersectionality in SFF not include women, especially women of color? Is intersectionality only important enough that we must write about it, but not so important that we actively value it by considering how much further harm giving RH a platform to talk about intersectionality would cause? By this I mean that RH speaking about intersectionality, when she herself has harmed marginalized people — when she has caused harm by using people’s marginalizations against them — is a grievous injury.

I wonder whether you did not consider these things, or whether you did, but simply valued having RH’s contributions to your intersectional roundtable more than preventing harm. Neither bodes well for your commitment to marginalized people in the community.

I state again: it is not your decision to publish RH that appalls me; you have published her before, and I have simply not read the work. It is your decision to publish her in this specific, slap-in-the-face, salt-in-the-wounds context. Many of those harmed by RH — and the names attached to public reports or posts are not the entirety of them — are meant to be included by the idea of intersectionality; instead, you do worse than exclude.

(7) DAY OF THE DAY

  • February 12 – If you’re not living somewhere that celebrates Lincoln’s birthday, then naturally you’ll have to make the best selection you can —

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities. still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. – Charles Darwin

There was a pivotal moment in history when we began to look at ourselves, and at life, in a new way. It changed not just how we perceived ourselves, but how we were related to all the other life and species on Earth. We came to realize, along the way, that we were kin, however distant, of every lifeform on Earth, and that moment was both aggrandizing and humbling, all at once. That moment was when Charles Darwin brought the idea of Law of Natural Selection into the limelight of the scientific world, and we began to see with clear eyes how everything, absolutely everything, was connected.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 12, 1931 — Today marks the 86th anniversary of the release of Dracula starring the iconic Bela Lugosi.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COMMANDER

  • February 15, 1915 – After he finished playing Pa Cartwright, today’s birthday boy Lorne Greene became Battlestar Galactica’s Commander Adama.

(10) CALHOUN NULLIFIED. Yale dumps slavery supporter’s name on “college”, replaces with computer hero.

Calhoun College will be renamed to honour Grace Murray Hopper, who helped transform the way people use technology.

Hopper earned Yale degrees in the 1930s and became a US Navy rear admiral.

Saturday’s announcement, which follows years of debate, reverses a decision made last year.

The Ivy League university said the move ends the controversy over the former politician and defender of slavery John C Calhoun, whose legacy led to campus protests in 2015.

Four people were arrested in a peaceful protest as recently as Friday after they blocked a road near the residential college.

Yale University president, Peter Salovey, announced in April that the school would keep Calhoun’s name. However he later appointed an advisory panel to determine whether the decision was correct.

Chip Hitchcock amplifies, “For those not familiar with this peculiarity: ‘colleges’ were nominally modeled after Oxbridge but are residential/social only; all undergraduates are enrolled in Yale College.”

(11) DON’T BUY THAT STAR BALONEY. Columnist John Kelly gets to play Snopes when someone asks him if “the Washington Post film critic was fired for giving Star Wars a bad review“; the critic, Gary Arnold, notes that his review of Star Wars was, in fact, highly favorable.

Arnold was quite prescient when it came to how “Star Wars” would be remembered, predicting that the film was “virtually certain of overwhelming popular and critical success. It has a real shot at approaching the phenomenal popularity of ‘Jaws.’?”

Although Arnold never heard the rumor that his “Star Wars” review cost him his job, he has heard another urban myth: that a top Post editor ordered his dismissal after his negative review of Robert Duvall’s “Tender Mercies.”

That’s not true, either. Well, it is true that Arnold didn’t like 1983’s “Tender Mercies.” Duvall played a glum country-western singer by the name of Mac Sledge — “more like Mac Sludge,” Gary wrote.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/16 “You’ll scroll your eye out, kid!”

(1) NEW BOOK REVEAL: The Refrigerator Monologues – basically it’s The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. Catherynne M. Valente tells the book’s origin story at The Mary Sue.

My partner answered, “Sweetheart, you know you can’t fix Gwen Stacy dying. She was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing.”

And I said, “YES I CAN. I’m going to write something and it’s going to be called The Refrigerator Monologues and it’s going to be The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. I’m going to fix it. Hold my drink. Don’t believe me? Just watch!”

It’s not like I didn’t know Gwen Stacy was going to die. As has been noted, she always dies. But the way the movie was paced, I kind of thought they’d keep that for the third movie, because the Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield chemistry was kind of all that iteration had going for it. So, it blindsided me in a way that Gwen Stacy taking her dive should never blindside anyone born after 1970, and it was a sucker punch, because more or less the last thing Emma Stone does before she quite literally flounces off to meet her doom is snit, “Nobody makes my decisions for me, nobody! This is my choice. Mine.”

I can make my own decisions! Boom. Splat. Death. Girl down.

It felt like such a harsh slap in the face. People so often think of iconic characters as organic things that proceed semi-autonomously while the writer just records their actions, but someone chose to give her those words. They made it through many rounds of editing and screen-testing. Someone chose to have her say that right before it all goes to hell. To make those powerful words the punchline to a sad joke about female agency by punishing her for them, by making sure that no matter how modern and independent the new Gwen might seem, everything is just as it has always been. That old, familiar message slides into our brains with the warm familiarity of a father’s hug: when women make their own choices, disaster results.

(2) WRITER HOSPITALIZED. Peter David’s wife, Kathleen, reports “Yes, Peter is in the hospital. No, we are not entirely sure why”.

Well this time it is not a stroke or a heart attack. Right now we are eliminating things rather than getting a diagnosis because every time we think we know what is going on, we get another curve that sets us back to figuring out what is going on.

What we do know that Peter is in the hospital with severe leg weakness. He can’t walk and even standing is dicey.

(3) BEST TV. SciFiNow ranks the “20 Best TV Shows of 2016”. At the top of the polls is —

1) Stranger Things

We bet Netflix wished all of their shows delivered like this. Stranger Things became a phenomenon almost instantly, and it’s easy to see why. The Duffer Brothers created a show that was a love-letter to all of our favourite horror and fantasy films and books from the 80s (hands up who started re-reading Stephen King’s IT after finishing the last episode), while remaining thrilling, scary and accessible to a wider audience. It’s perfectly paced (going for eight episodes instead of 13 was a great decision), it’s both sharp and sensitive, and it is perfectly cast. There’s a reason why everyone went nuts over the Stranger Things kids, and why we were just as invested in Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) as we were in Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). There’s no weak link in the ensemble, and there is nothing about the show that lets it down. From the awesome opening credits to the teasers for the second season, we love everything about this show.

(4) BEST HORROR FILMS. Lower on the same page SciFiNow also picks the 16 Best Horror Films of 2016. And what movie was the most horrific?

  1. The Witch

Now that Black Phillip is a bona fide cultural icon, what’s left to say about Robert Eggers’ The Witch? Well, perhaps the most important thing is that it’s still, after repeat viewings, a truly chilling experience. It doesn’t get less powerful, it just gets more interesting. Eggers’ much-publicised attention to detail creates a film that really does immerse in you in the cold, uncaring wilderness with this broken family that’s wondering why God has decided to abandon them, and it is a very scary place to be. There’s nothing about the film that isn’t perfect, from the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke to the score by Mark Korven, and the cast is amazing, with Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson bringing a heartbreaking tragedy to their Puritan pilgrims and Anya Taylor-Joy providing a complex emotional anchor. There are moments when it definitely establishes itself as a genre film, but it’s the harsh reality of that life and the fear of God that really drive the horror of The Witch. It’s the horror film of the year and we can’t wait to watch it again.

(5) CURIOSITY. The child in me wants to know what story Lou Antonelli created to go with his title “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love”.

Looks like I will have one last publication before the end of the year. Gallery of Curiosities is slated to podcast my story “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love” as part of a double bill on Dec. 28. Mark your calendars!

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #23. The twenty-third of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed book and an album from Seanan McGuire.

Our final auction comes from award-winning and bestselling author, filker, and all-around talented person Seanan McGuire. Today’s winner will receive an autographed hardcover of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, as well as a copy of McGuire’s album WICKED GIRLS.

About the Book:

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.

(7) A 3M REVIEW. James Davis Nicoll has posted a review of Heather Rose Jones’ The Mystic Marriage “Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood”.

2015’s The Mystic Marriage is the second volume in Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series.

Antuniet Chazillen has lost everything: her foolish brother has been executed for treason and her mother is dead by her own hand. Antuniet has been stripped of her aristocratic rank. Determined to restore the family honour, Antuniet flees Alpennia for Austria, there to use her alchemical skills to win back for her family the respect and position her brother cost it.

In Austria she finds a treasure of rare value, a treasure others are determined to wrest from her. She escapes from Vienna to Heidelberg, but her enemies are still close on her heels. She sees no choice but to trade her virtue for transportation to safety.

Which means returning to Alpennia…

(8) SHORT BEER. Beer’d Brewing in Connecticut has a beer called Hobbit Juice. Martin Morse Wooster asks, “Is this what hobbits drink when they are tired of being small and want to ‘get juiced?’”

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(9) A VINTAGE YEAR IN SPACE. Robert Picardo hosts another installment of the Planetary Society’s video series The Planetary Post – “2016: A Magnificent Year for Space Exploration”

Greetings, fellow space fan! Robert Picardo here. As 2016 comes to a close, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year’s highlights in space science and exploration (and a few of the best bloopers from yours truly).

 

(10) BSFA AWARDS SUGGESTION DEADLINE. Members of the British Science Fiction Association – remember that December 31 is the deadline to suggest works for the BSFA Awards. The categories are — Best Novel, Best Short fiction, Best Artwork, Best work of Non-Fiction. Use the online form. Members will have the month of January to vote for the works that belong on the shortlist.

(11) WHEN SCOTTY INVADED NORMANDY. War History Online tells how  “Star Trek star shot two snipers on D-Day and was shot seven times in WWII”.

The beach was so thick with Canadians the later arrivals could not advance. As darkness fell, there was a risk they would end up shooting at each other – which was exactly what happened; not just at Juno Beach, but also at the other landing sites.

At about 11:20 that evening, Doohan finished a cigarette and patted the silver cigarette case he kept in his breast pocket. It had been given to him by his brother as a good luck charm… and a good thing, too.

Some ten minutes later, he was walking back to his command post when he was shot. Six times. By a Bren Gun. The first four bullets slammed into his leg, the fourth whacked him in the chest, while the sixth took off his right middle finger.

It was not a German sniper.  He had been shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Canadian sentry. Fortunately, the cigarette case stopped the bullet aimed at his chest. Doohan later joked it was the only time being a smoker saved his life.

(12) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. “The Twelve Days of Christmas:  A Tale of Avian Misery” is a cartoon on Vimeo about what happens when a British woman living in a small flat gets ALL the presents from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jim C. Hines for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

2016 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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


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

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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


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

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


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

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

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

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


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

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

 

 

 


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

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

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


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

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

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

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

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


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

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

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

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


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

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

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


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

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

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


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricandtheshaman

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

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

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

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

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

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

Filer Comments:

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

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

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

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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


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

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

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

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


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

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

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

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


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

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

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

Easy.

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


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

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/16 Schroedinger’s Kzin

(1) ARM-WRESTLING WITH A PUBLISHER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees writers as too prone to follow rules, and too prone to think themselves as powerless in the face of contractual language: “Business Musings: Thus, Lawyers, and Writers (Contracts/Dealbreakers)”.

Lawyers aren’t afraid of thugs and goons and cartoon characters that go bump in the night. They’re not afraid of someone who plays the Big Dog and says, You’ll never work in this town again. Lawyers generally say, Well, let’s see.

Lawyers know there’s usually a solution—and it’s often as simple as standing up and saying to the person on the other side of the contract, I’m not playing your silly game. No. I’m not doing it. Now, what are you going to do?

…. Here’s the bottom line, people. I know a bunch of you are stuck in contracts you don’t like. Publishers are reinterpreting contracts in whole new ways, ways that they never looked at in the past.

The big shift is that publishers no longer see themselves as manufacturers and distributers of books. They’re running a rights management business, which means taking advantage of the full copyright on a property, instead of licensing a tiny part of that copyright. (If you don’t understand that sentence, get a copy of the Copyright Handbook. If you’re too damn lazy or cheap to do that, at least see this blog post of mine.)

(2) ATWOOD. “Margaret Atwood awarded 2016 PEN Pinter Prize”.

Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. She will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13 October, where she will deliver an address.

Margaret Atwood was chosen by this year’s judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.

The judges praised Atwood as a ‘consistent supporter of political causes’, adding ‘her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights … she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of PEN and of Harold Pinter’.

Atwood said:

I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him – he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid’s Tale, back in 1989 – and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then. Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year’s stand-in.

(3) GUY WITH A GUN. Bruce Arthurs wrote about this army experience in 2012 after the Aurora theater shooting, and it’s relevant again this week: “Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter”.

Several ammo clips later, I and the other trainees have finished the Night Firing exercise and gather around to get our scores. I get a high score.  I get a surprisingly high score.  I get an astonishingly high score, far above the type of scores I’d gotten during daytime firing exercises.  I get a score so high that suddenly I’ve moved up into Sharpshooter-level numbers. That Holy Shit guy?  He skunked it.  Didn’t hit a single target. Well, let’s revise that statement, because it doesn’t take much time or brains to figure out what happened.  In the dark, with everyone firing around him, with multiple targets and multiple dim flashes, he’d gotten his orientation just slightly off and had been shooting at the wrong target.  The target of the guy next to him.  At my target.

(4) HOWARD TAYLER’S TAKE ON GUN OWNERSHIP.

(5) FIRST FIFTH. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”. Number five on his ballot is: The Aeronaut’s Windlass:

Butcher’s novel is the only finalist not on my nomination ballot. Prior to last year, I was completely unfamiliar with Butcher’s work. I knew that it existed, but until Skin Game‘s nomination, I had never read anything Butcher wrote. Happily, Skin Game was a solid read and one that I vastly preferred over the eventual winner, The Three-Body Problem. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in a steampunk epic fantasy series from Butcher. I like it more than Skin Game, and I’m happy to be getting in on the ground floor of the series rather than jumping in at Book 15 like I did with the Dresden Files. The setting was fantastic (airships and insanely tall towers), but what drew me in was the characters. Gwen, Benedict, Brother Vincent, Bridget Tagwynn, Rowl, Captain Grimm, and pretty much everyone across the board are what sold me on this book. These are characters I would love to spent more time with.

This is one of those spots on my ballot that I could realistically swap positions with the next one up. I think Seveneves is an overall a better book, but I enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windlass just about as much as I did Seveneves, just in different ways. They are two very different sorts of novels, and I’m down for more of Butcher’s Cinder Spires series, but Seveneves gets the nod today.

Sherry’s first installment was – “Watching the Hugos: Dramatic Presentation Long Form”.

(6) CONCLUSION OF FROZEN SKY. “Jeff Carlson has finished his Frozen Sky trilogy and the third book is by far the biggest and most ambitious of the 3 books,” reports Carl Slaughter. Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided was released June 11.
Carl interviewed Jeff in 2014 for Diabolical Plots. He was nominated for the John Campbell and Philip Dick awards and has been published in Asimov’s.

The aliens in The Frozen Sky are intelligent, but they look a bit like squids, they don’t speak and they don’t have sight. Why not bipedal aliens like Vulcans or Klingons or Romulans with vocal cords and eyes?

Because I’m not constrained by a production budget! Ha. “Let’s glue some ears on him. We’ll glue some forehead thingies on them. Okay, we’re done.”

Star Trek is good fun but limited in presentation. That’s the beauty of being a novelist. The medium requires the reader’s imagination. Yes, I direct the action, but hard sf readers are smart readers. They want to be strangers in a strange land. So I can say, well, I have this claustrophobic three-dimensional low-gravity environment like the mazes of an ant farm inside Europa’s icy crust. What would kind of creatures would evolve here? Six-foot-tall bipedal creatures like people? Heck no.

Jeff’s other series is the Plague series.

(7) GREAT GHOSTBUSTERS POSTER.

(8) EARLY WRITING. Jami Gray gets a great interview — “Hugo award winner, Seanan McGuire visits with latest InCryptid novel!”

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

My first serious attempt at writing was a fourteen-page essay when I was nine, explaining to my mother why she had to let me read Stephen King. It had footnotes and a bibliography. I finished my first book when I was twelve. It was called Dracula’s Castle, and if I knew where it was, I’d probably put it online.

(9) MORE STORIES. Editor Glenn Hauman’s Indiegogo appeal to fund the Altered States of the Union anthology has an update – “We’re annexing new territory!”

The response to the concept behind Altered States has inspired a lot of authors to join in the fun, so we’re proud to announce we’re expanding the book by almost 60%, adding new stories by:

  • Russ Colchamiro
  • Peter David
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Robert Greenberger
  • Meredith Peruzzi
  • Aaron Rosenberg
  • David Silverman & Hildy Silverman
  • Anne Toole

(10) A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be on a book tour in the US in June and July, courtesy of TOR. The trip includes three appearances in California, including an LA-vicinity stop at Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank on the evening of Tuesday, July 19.

TOH-US-Tour-2016

(11) MEDIA STRATEGY. Vox Day’s tells followers at Vox Popoli that his new philosophy is “Don’t talk to the media!”

In light of my ridiculous experience with Wired and after seeing how multiple media outlets turned to George RR Martin and John Scalzi to ask them to interpret my actions, I now turn down most media requests. I do so literally every week; I just turned down two yesterday alone. The media is not in the business of reporting the news, they are in the business of selling their masters’ Narrative.

(12) A MAD GENIUS ON THE HUGOS. Kate Paulk devotes half of “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fanzine” to criticizing Gregory Benford’s intention to vote for Steve Stiles in the Best Fan Artist category. Yet his reasons for supporting Stiles — Steve’s years of accomplishment as a cartoonist — parallel my reasons for voting for Toni Weisskopf as Best Pro Editor in 2015.

(13) PRINCE OF TIDES, THE GREAT SANTINI. George R.R. Martin urges readers to donate:

Pat [Conroy] passed away in March… but his books will live on, and so will his memory. In his memory, his family has now establishing a Pat Conroy Literary Center in his beloved home town of Beaufort, South Carolina. You can read about it here: http://patconroyliterarycenter.org/ A worthy project, I think. I’ll be donating. I urge all of you who love good writing to do the same.

(14) LOOKING FOR LAUGHS? The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is enthusiastic about Joe Zieja’s humorous Mechanical Failure.

Comedy is a tricky beast, especially in science fiction. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is unquestionably a towering achievements of the form, but after than, opinions vary wildly (we’d wager John Scalzi has equal numbers of fans who either want him to stop trying to be funny, or to stop writing books that are so serious). It’s rare in genre to find a book that can do satire without being preachy, comedy without being entirely silly (not that a little silliness is a bad thing), and still manage toss a little “science fiction” into the mix. Joe Zieja’s debut novel, Mechanical Failure (the first part of the Epic Fail trilogy, which gives you a hint as to what you’re in for) makes as good a bid as we’ve seen in quite some time, diving headfirst into full-on military SF parody and making it look easy.

(15) UPJOHN OUTPACED BY REALITY? Alexandra Erin’s facing a challenge that reminds me of the one Garry Trudeau faced while producing Doonesbury during the Watergate era — it’s hard to be more absurd than real life.

Mr. Upjohn’s post-con report from WisCon is still forthcoming; it’s evolved and grown a few times since the con actually ended as I took reality onboard , which once again has made parody seem tame. When actual flesh and blood con attendants are decrying the “dystopian” tape lines designating travel lanes on the crowded party floor, I clearly need to step up the game.

Meanwhile, Erin writes, “I’d really love to close out my WorldCon fundraiser” – still needs $375.

(16) CHANGE OF ADDRESS. Juliette Wade has ported her TalkToYoUniverse content to her Dive Into Worldbuilding site.

Introducing the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop at Patreon!

Dive into Worldbuilding started in 2011 – five years ago – when Google+ introduced their hangouts feature and I decided it would be fun to hang out with fellow writers and talk about worldbuilding. Since then, it has grown and changed, from just a bunch of friends meeting online with no record except my written summaries, to a meeting that got recorded and sent to YouTube, to a show featuring a wide variety of guest authors as well as regular topic discussions. With each change, my goal has been to reach a wider variety of interesting people, listen to more interesting views on worldbuilding, and share insights with as many people as possible.

Today, I’m taking it a step further with the Dive into Worldbuilding Patreon – which is also the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop.

This Patreon will do more than just support my research into panel topics. It will help me to pay my guest authors for their time and expertise – but it will also let me help more of you.

(17) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1816 — At the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron reads Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests—Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori—and challenges each guest to write a ghost story, which culminates in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

[Thanks to Petréa Mitchell, Vincent Docherty, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Two Antipodean NatCons Pick Seanan McGuire as GoH in 2017

Seanan McGuire, urban fantasy and horror author, filk composer, and cartoonist, has been confirmed as the Guest of Honour at LexiCon 2017, the 38th New Zealand National SF and Fantasy Convention.

She has also been named International Guest of Honour by Continuum 13 in Melbourne, the 2017 Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

Seanan McGuire is the author of the October Daye and InCryptid urban fantasies and the Newsflesh novels (under the pseudonym Mira Grant). She also records CDs of her original filk music and is the creator of the autobiographical web comic “With Friends Like These…”

Winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

LexiCon co-chair Cassie Hart said, “There are a lot of fans in our membership who are very much looking forward to hearing her speak, and sing,” says Cassie. “Plus, we’ve just finished finalising our Fan Guest of Honour as well, so you can expect another announcement very soon!”

LexiCon is being held at the Suncourt Hotel in Taupö, New Zealand from June 2-4, 2017 (Queen’s Birthday Weekend).

[Thanks to Errol Cavit for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/16 Second Pixelscroll To The Right

(1) LATEST MOWATT RHINO RUN CUT SHORT BY INJURY. Jim Mowatt tried to follow his London Marathon triumph by running the Edinburgh Marathon but midway through his knee gave out.

At around 15 miles Steve asked me for his Lucozade bottle. I dig around in his back pack and hand it to him. My leg is hurting so I cadged some ibuprofen gel from him. His tendons were hurting and he asked me to rub some gel on his knee also.

Steve ran on, I stepped out to try and catch up and found the knee pain had increased dramatically. I gritted my teeth and tried to carry on and then suddenly discovered that I could no longer put any weight on my left leg without it buckling from the pain. I staggered over to the side of the road and found a tree to prop myself upon with one leg held in the air. A marshall came to help, asked if I needed medical assistance and I said yes.

While we were waiting I heard various exchanges on his radio. Not everyone was as willing to stop and receive assistance. Someone else apparently was weaving all over the road in considerable distress, bumping into other runners. Marshalls had asked him to stop but he didn’t seem to hear them and carried on. Someone was shouting over the radio, “stand in front of him, it’s the only way to stop them when they are like this.” I had no such problems stopping myself running. Putting any weight on that leg at all sent huge rolling waves of agony flashing out sharply from my knee. I wasn’t keen on the notion of letting that foot touch the ground anytime soon.

….Carrie pointed me at the train station and we began our long slow walk up the hill. A very tall man appeared from nowhere and asked if we wanted a lift up to the train station. “Yes, absolutely!” yells I, “that would be brilliant”. He vanishes for several minutes and then reappears in a car and drives us to the train station. I think he must have seen us from his living room window and made the decision to help. Just a downright wonderful thing to do. Thank you tall man from Longniddry. You are a damn fine chap.

(2) TIE UP YOUR BOAT TO IDAHO. Steve Fahnestalk recalls his “Moscon Memories” at Amazing Stories.

As I mentioned we asked Robert A. Heinlein to be our GOH, but he demurred at first, saying his health would not allow him to commit to any convention (Figure 5); he later said he would commit to coming as long as his health would allow. Later, closer to the con, he suggested Verna Smith Trestrail as a GOH instead, because her father, E. E. “Doc” Smith, had attended the University of Idaho in Moscow. None of us, of course, had known this. (And if you don’t know who Doc Smith was, your reading is sadly behind the times. Check out the Wikipedia article.) I corresponded with Verna, and she gave us an enthusiastic “yes!” Figure 6, the Kelly Freas convention badge, is a portrait of Verna leaning out of the back of a train—don’t ask me why; I’ve forgotten—and holding out her arms to Worsel of Velantia, one of Doc’s non-human Lensmen. Verna and Al, her husband, trekked out to Moscow from the wilds of Leesburg, Indiana, and we were all hooked. Verna on us, and we on Verna. (Al wasn’t into all this stuff, being more of a Western kind o’ guy, but he bore up really well.) Verna bustled around MosCon, buttonholing anyone who stood still for five minutes, and gave them the lowdown on Doc; she also gave a talk on Doc at the con. Because Heinlein couldn’t attend, he wrote a short article about Doc, which I put in the program book; being a thrifty sort, Heinlein recycled it and reprinted it in Expanded Universe; we PESFANs, of course, are proud of printing it first.

(3) BUSBY RITES. The Memorial Service for James M. Busby will be held on Tuesday, June 14 at The Church of Latter Day Saints 2000 Artesia Blvd., Torrance. Service begins at 11a.m.

The family requests no flowers instead please make a donation in Jim’s memory to continue his life’s passion to educate and preserve space to the Aerospace Legacy Foundation.

(4) THE WINNER. Black Gate’s John O’Neill’s choice as “The Most Successful Anthology of 2015 [is] Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan”. Why?

It’s beginning to look as if Jonathan Strahan’s Meeting Infinity is the most successful SF anthology of 2015… at least if you use story reprints as your yardstick (which I kinda do).

Nine of the anthology’s stories were picked for year’s best collections by Horton, Clarke and Dozois.

(5) ROOMMATE NEEDED. A female reader has just had their MidAmeriCon roommate withdraw, and if there’s a female reader who’d be interested in sharing, e-mail a message to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will forward it. (Or if you prefer to work it this way, communicate to me and I will have the person write a message to be forwarded via email to you.)

(6) SPEAR OF LIGHT AUTHOR. SFFWorld interviews Brenda Cooper.

Are strong female characters important for you?

Thanks for the lovely leading question! Of course they are. And even more important, strong female characters that are complete with brilliance and challenges.  I’m not impressed when “strong female characters” translates to “women who act like men.”  I also like balance – I have strong men and strong women, and sometimes weak men and weak women.  Not so much in this book as Lym and the Glittering are placed that reward strength rather deeply. But still, characters should be complex, interesting, and they should grow. Women should be at least as strong as men, and just like in our current world, sometimes they need to be a little stronger.

(7) FIRST PITCH. Patrick Redford asks “What the Hell, Japan?” at Deadspin.

All sorts of people throw out first pitches before baseball games. Old guys, dinosaurs, washed rappers—you name it, they’ve done it. But this week, Nippon Professional Baseball—ever the innovators—went and put every quirky MLB first pitch into the toilet with this bizarre, unsettling play-within-a-play first pitch faceoff between Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge.

The post has lots of GIFs of the action.

(8) PORTALS. Jonathan Thornton reviews Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire at Fantasy-Faction.

The story is set in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It is set up by Eleanor West after she returned from her own magical world to help other children who’ve been through the same thing as her adapt. The novella follows Nancy, a girl who’s just returned from the Halls of the Dead, where she has spent decades pretending to be a statue and is promised to the Lord of the Dead, as she joins the school and begins to adapt to her new life. Nancy’s parents are thrilled to have her back and just want to give her their love and help her, but they are unable to understand her experience, or what she’s going through now. This has obvious parallels with the experiences of those who suffer from mental health problems or victims of trauma – indeed, Eleanor tells the parents of the afflicted children that her school is a sanitarium.

The children’s experiences also have parallels with those whose sexual orientation or gender identity comes between them and their family. Nancy is asexual, and her parents are having difficulty understanding this aspect of her life. Kade is a trans man who is living as an intelligent and productive young man at the school while his parents still want their little girl back. More generally still the children’s condition could also be read as a metaphor for the transition from childhood to being a young adult, the point when you grow away from being your parents’ child into your own identity as an individual member of society. McGuire explores all these themes and ideas in the novella, and throughout it all treats her characters with respect and sensitivity, whatever aspect of their pain or personal history she is exploring.

(9) FOOTAGE FROM THE CULTURE WARS. Jason Ahlquist’s About Tomorrow is a feature-length documentary in progress “about the intersection of science fiction and politics told through the 2015 Hugo Award balloting controversy.” He plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in July.

Also known as “Puppygate,” the controversy revolved around the efforts of two right-wing groups and their use of coordinated voting blocs to influence the outcomes of one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards…..

“I want this film to be a vehicle for exploration of the larger depths of sci-fi’s role,” said Ahlquist, “not only in how we see our future, but how we’ll act on our hopes and fears.” Ahlquist went on to say that production on the film is nearly complete, and that, “production will wrap at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City before we move into post-production.”

 

(10) X-MEN. “Meet the Underappreciated Woman Who Invented X-Men’s Apocalypse” – a profile at Vulture.

Her name is Louise Simonson, and she co-created Apocalypse (his look came courtesy of artist Jackson Guice) in the pages of Marvel Comics’ X-Factor, in 1986. Simonson — “Weezie” to her friends — is one of the better superhero-comics writers of the past 40 years, a person who crafted beloved stories about the X-Men and DC Comics’ Superman, just to name a pair of the more famous properties she has worked on. The 69-year-old was also a pioneer: She did much of her most famous work when women writers were a rarity in the comics industry. Despite all that, she’s never gotten her due in mainstream media outlets. But within the comics world, her name reverberates.

(11) NEWS, WEATHER AND SUPERMAN’S DEATH ON THE TEN. From Gamespot I learn “Superman Is Dead Again – What That Now Means”.

Back in 1993, Superman died while fighting Doomsday. In the comics, the world mourned the death of the Man of Steel, and soon saw other Supermen rise to take his place. The real Superman eventually returned to life, and his adventures continued. That was in the previous comic continuity. In the current continuity, which started in 2011, Superman is dying again. This time, his death and return is something different.

Yeah, sure it is. Excuse me while I don’t give a damn. Superman’s life status has become as routine as the weather report.

(12) APPERTAINING YOUR OWN CON. Alexandra Erin explains in considerable detail that just because a Helsinki Worldcon co-chair hopes Erin will be at next year’s con it doesn’t mean they’re paying her way. Apparently not everyone immediately understands that.

This is probably the last time I’ll bother qualifying something neat like “a WorldCon head personally told me she’d be jazzed if I were there” by explaining the real world to dedicated denizens of a carefully constructed artificial reality, for the simple reason that I know it doesn’t work. It’s more my fascination with the disconnect between actual reality on the ground and the stories that swirl based on a few glimmers of that reality and much speculation that prompts this post.

What a different world we live in than the one that is ascribed to us.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

NYRSF Readings Feature Machado and McGuire from The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy

Carmen Maria Machado, John Joseph Adams and Seanan McGuire at the NYRSF Readings. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Carmen Maria Machado, John Joseph Adams and Seanan McGuire at the NYRSF Readings. Photo by Mark Blackman.

By Mark L. Blackman: For over two decades (this is its 25th season), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series has presented some of the best American (and British) science fiction and fantasy.  On the evening of Tuesday, November 10, 2015 (there is no Veterans Day Eve), it did so literally, spotlighting The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, and featuring two writers from that anthology, Carmen Maria Machado and Seanan McGuire.

The event, held at the Series’ current venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, sensibly located in the borough of the same name and convenient to public transportation, kicked off as usual with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy.  (The show broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 am and worldwide at wbai.org, and for a time afterwards may be heard on-demand as well as an RSS feed for podcasts.  There is no escape.)  Tonight’s readings, he reported, were streaming live via Livestream, where they would remain archived for a period of time.  (Catch them by going to Livestream.com and searching for NYRSF.)  Further thanks were due Terence Taylor, sf/fantasy writer and video producer.

Next month’s readings, held, as were November’s, on the second Tuesday, December 8th, Freund announced, would be the Series’ traditional Family Night, equally traditionally featuring the family of Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner.  Finally, he thanked the audience for contributing (readings are free, but there is a suggested donation of $7), as the Series pays to rent the present space and an anticipated Kickstarter campaign to fund the season has not yet happened, then turned center stage (there are now spotlights!) over to guest host John Joseph Adams.

John Joseph Adams. Photo by Mark Blackman.

John Joseph Adams. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Adams, the editor of many anthologies (he’s been called “the reigning king of the anthology world”), including Wastelands and The Living Dead (which were spotlighted at past NYRSF readings), as well as the editor and publisher of the magazines Nightmare and the two-time Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed, and a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, has been absent from the Series for a while.  His return was in his capacity as series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy.  For several decades, he explained, distinguishing it from similarly-named tomes, Houghton (pronounced “Hootin’,” like what a Southern owl does) Mifflin Harcourt has been annually publishing a “Best American” series showcasing the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.  While sf and fantasy stories have been included in past editions, this is the first time that there is a volume devoted to the genre.  Adams, naturally, feels that our genre can stand up to the best fiction out there, “but that’s preaching to the choir,” he paused, regarding the audience.  Joe Hill, an award-winning author in his own right (whom his parents are is no secret), was the guest editor of this inaugural volume, which contains 20 stories, equally divided between fantasy and sf.  (There will be a second.)  Concluding, he introduced Seanan McGuire, the first reader of the night, whom he asserted is in every one of his anthologies.

McGuire is the author of more than a dozen novels and (“literally”) uncounted short stories; she was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2013 became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.  (No “Puppies” were involved; McGuire has two “abnormally large blue cats.”)  “I am not a subtle beast,” she declared at one point, lifting her leg to display her bright orange sneakers.  Her offering was her story from the collection, “Each to Each,” which originally appeared in Lightspeed Magazine’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue.  Fitting in with the theme, the story centered on a U.S. Navy all-woman crew of submariners patrolling and charting the seabeds (in this instance the Pacific), “the most valuable real estate” of the future era.  For their mission, the women (dubbed “military mermaids”) have been modified for the depths, surgically and genetically altered (likely irreversibly) – their musculature has been transformed, bones have been cut away, and they’ve been given gills and some fishtails – modeled on a variety of sea creatures, from sharks to lionfish, jellyfish and eels.  (Their psychology, it would appear, has correspondingly shifted away from human.)  No Disney little mermaids they.

Seanan McGuire and Carmen Maria Machado at NYRSF Readings. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Seanan McGuire and Carmen Maria Machado at NYRSF Readings. Photo by Mark Blackman.

During the recess, there was a raffle for, appropriately, a copy of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015.  Adams then presented the second and final reader.

Carmen Maria Machado is a Nebula-nominated fiction writer, critic, and essayist.  Her story from the anthology, “Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead,” unusually was framed as a Kickstarter campaign; aptly, its first appearance was in Help Fund My Robot Army!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects (ed. Adams).  It is not a “heartwarming sibling reunion.”  The narrator is trying to raise the funds to travel to the portal to the titular realm to chase after her “ungrateful wastrel” (the campaign understandably omits that term) younger sister; she is not dead, but has, essentially, crashed a party.  Oddly, the motivation for her pursuit is to tell her that their parents have died (the details of their death are also fudged for the campaign).  The story was laugh-out-loud funny … until its final sad turn.

As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and cheese and crackers were on hand, along with leftover Hallowe’en candy and even Hallowe’en-themed fortune cookies (“A creepy crawly will be on your shoulder tonight” – does a housefly count?).  For beverages and other wants, the Café was a few steps away. Copies of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy were available for sale and autographs, as were McGuire’s CDs.

The capacity crowd of about 65 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Amy Goldschlager, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Wrenn Simms and Terence Taylor.  Following more photos and schmoozing, Freund, the guests and some members of the audience adjourned to the Café.

Adams, Machado, McGuire at NYRSF Readings 11/10

John Joseph Adams presents writers from The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Carmen Maria Machado and Seanan McGuire, at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on November 10.

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado is a Nebula-nominated fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, AGNI, The Fairy Tale Review, Tin House’s Open Bar, NPR, The American Reader, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her stories have been reprinted in several anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction and Best Women’s Erotica. She has been the recipient of the Richard Yates Short Story Prize, a Millay Colony for the Arts residency, and the CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire is the author of more than a dozen novels, and uncounted short stories. Her latest work, A Red-Rose Chain, was released in September 2015. Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as many other anthologies, such as Wastelands, The Living Dead, Brave New Worlds, Operation Arcana, Press Start to Play, and The Apocalypse Triptych. He is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Nightmare and the two-time Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed, and is a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor—a leading writer in the field—then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected—and most popular—of its kind.

The event at the Brooklyn Commons Cafe (388 Atlantic Avenue) begins at 7:00 p.m.

Pixel Scroll 10/15 Trial by Filers

(1) Martin Morse Wooster opened my eyes to a previously unrealized fact — Wil Wheaton is a celebrity homebrewer.

On November 7, 2015, the American Homebrewers Association hosts Learn to Homebrew Day across the country. This year, celebrity homebrewers Wil Wheaton and Kyle Hollingsworth have teamed up with the AHA to promote the celebration! Kyle and the AHA created a video together, which can be viewed here.

Wheaton even has a dedicated blog for his homebrew activities – Devils Gate Brewing. He’s also appeared on Brewing TV.

(2) While researching the homebrew story, I observed Wheaton deliver this absolute home truth —

(3) Crowdfunding conventions doesn’t always work. The fans who’d like to hold Phoenix Sci-Fi Con 2016 have only managed to raise $50 of the $12,500 goal in 13 days. The last donation was almost a week ago.

(4) “Neiman” has launched a new science-fiction and fantasy news aggregator, Madab, which is the word for “sci-fi” in Hebrew. (Says Neiman: “It fits, since I’m an Israeli in origin.”) The website focuses on books and written stuff, and follows more than a hundred sources.

(5) Zoë Heller, in “How Does an Author’s Reputation Shape Your Response to a Book?” for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, said about her experience as a slush pile reader:

The important thing was to send back manuscripts at a steady rate and to keep the slush pile low. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Under my supervision, the slush pile grew and grew until it became several tottering ziggurats of slush. I’d like to say that it was the thought of dashing writers’ hopes that paralyzed me. But I was quite heartless about that. What stopped me in my tracks was the dread of having to make independent literary judgments. I had never before been asked to evaluate writing that was utterly ­reputation-less and imprimatur-less. In college I had read I.A. Richards’s famous study, ‘Practical Criticism,’ in which Richards asked Cambridge undergraduates to assess poems without telling the students who had written them. The point of the experiment was to show how, when deprived of contextual clues, students ended up making embarrassingly ‘wrong’ judgments about what was good and bad. I was convinced that the slush pile was my own ‘Practical Criticism’ challenge and that I was going to be revealed as a fraud, with no real powers of literary discrimination.

Andrew Porter made a comment about his own experiences, which the Times published:

I read the slush pile at “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” for 8 years, from 1966 to 1974, going in once a week to sort through anywhere from 100 to 140 unsolicited manuscripts. The ultra-short stories of under 500 words were usually rejected—none of the writers measured up to Fredric Brown, master of the short-short—while poetry, seldom published, also got the boot. Holiday stories sent in during the holidays were also rejected; most authors have no idea what sort of lead time magazines require. Then there were so many stories with punchline endings: “We’ll go to the third planet: the natives call it ‘Earth'” or “Eve? Gosh, my name’s Adam!” Some of those were 25,000 words, and most ended badly.

Occasionally there was a gem among the dross; I pulled Suzette Haden Elgin’s first published story from the piles, and it went on to be published and anthologized many times.

I was paid a pittance, yes ($25 a week), but did my best by the magazine and the authors. We sent them rejection forms, with sometimes a note encouraging more submissions—which was usually a mistake; they sent in their vast files of unpublishable stories. But sometimes…

All life is a is a judgement call, whether of unpublished stories, where to live, who to marry, or what to have for dinner. Heller failed the writers and her employers. I hope her subsequent life judgements have been wiser.

(6) Aaron Pound’s well-written CapClave report on Dreaming About Other Worlds ends with this insight:

After the convention, I spoke with my mother on the phone. She had traveled to New York to visit my sister for the weekend, and she was somewhat perplexed that the redhead and I had gone to CapClave rather than New York ComicCon. While the redhead and I enjoy big conventions with tens of thousands of attendees every now and then – we have been to DragonCon once, and we go to GenCon every year – there is simply no substitute for the congenial and friendly atmosphere of the smaller fan run conventions like CapClave, Balticon, Chessiecon, and the hundreds of other small conventions that take place every year. The blunt truth is that the large professionally run media conventions like New York ComicCon are simply exhausting. New York ComicCon had about 170,000 attendees this year. CapClave had about 400. To attend almost any panel at New York ComicCon, you have to wait in line, often for hours. You might be able to see stars like Chris Evans, George Takei, or Carrie Fischer, but you’ll likely see them from the back of an auditorium as they speak to a couple of thousand people. Or if you want a personal interaction you’ll pay for the privilege, and you will likely only be able to interact with them for a minute or two. At CapClave, on the other hand, the panels are small and interactive. I have never had to spend any appreciable time waiting in line for anything. Most of the authors who attend are more than happy to sit down and talk with you, whether after a panel, sitting in the con suite, or simply while hanging out at the hotel bar. An event like New York ComicCon is a spectacle, while CapClave, by contrast, is a conversation. There is room for both in the genre fiction world, but as for myself, I prefer the conversation.

(7) A Brian K. Vaughn comic may be made into a TV series.

After years of trying, Hollywood finally threw in the towel last year and stopped trying to make a movie version of Y: The Last Man. Brian K. Vaughan’s epic 60-issue series recounts the adventures of Yorick Brown, his pet monkey Ampersand, and all the ladies on Earth who want a piece of him because he is—spoiler alert—the last man, after a mysterious plague kills everything with a Y chromosome except for him. After the rights were returned to Vaughan following New Line dropping the ball on the films, it was unclear if anything would ever happen with it, given the creator had left television and was concentrating on comics once more.

But much like astronauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, Y: The Last Man has returned to the world of filmed adaptations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sci-fi comic is being developed into a series for cable channel FX. Along with producers Nina Jacobsen and Brad Simpson, the network is looking for a writer to develop the show with Vaughan.

(8) Ross Andersen reports on “The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy” for The Atlantic.

Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009…..

The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice.

But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

It appears to be mature….

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

Boyajian is now working with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The three of them are writing up a proposal. They want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.

If they see a sizable amount of radio waves, they’ll follow up with the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, which may be able to say whether the radio waves were emitted by a technological source, like those that waft out into the universe from Earth’s network of radio stations.

(9) George R.R. Martin announces that Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive…

…is Emilia Clarke, our own Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea.

The Esquire magazine article is here..

(10) Tom Knighton reviews the novel The Martian:

I’d heard all about the science, how it was supposed to be so accurate.  I’d heard that Weir wrote a pretty compelling story.  While I’m not sure about the former, I do agree with the latter, they left out one key piece of commentary on The Martian.  It’s actually funny!

Mark Watney, the main character, is a natural smart ass and an independent spirit…in addition to a mechanical engineer and botanist.  Honest, if you’re going to strand a guy on Mars, it might have been the perfect choice, which some may perceive as a chink in Watney’s armor on this story, but I disagree.

(11) SFFWorld interviews Seanan McGuire:

SFFWorld: With so many interesting universes that you create, you have fans who like them all. But do you ever have fans getting mad at you because you are working on one series and they want a new book in their favorite series?

McGuire: Fans are people, and people sometimes get mad at air.  I know I do.  So I have people huff at me because I’m not doing what they want, but I also have people get mad because I use profanity, or because I exist in material space, or because I was at Disneyland when they thought I should be writing.  I just keep swimming.  I need to switch between projects to keep from burning myself out, and I like to think that my true fans would rather have me writing for a long time than get exactly what they want the second that they want it.  Unless what they want is a puppy.

(12) “Most of the story team for the next Star Wars film is female” reports Fortune.

Today, Kennedy is president of Lucasfilm, producer of the next installment in the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens. Still, she believes the challenges for women have remained much the same since the late 1970s. “I don’t think things have changed much for women for jobs in the entertainment industry, especially in technical roles,” she said. Kennedy added that at a recent Saturday Night Live taping she attended, she saw no women operating the cameras….

“People in powerful positions are not trying hard enough [to bring women into the industry] and there are an alarming number of women who are not able to get those jobs,” she explained.

And — “Kathleen Kennedy Promises She’ll Hire A Female Director For A Star Wars Movie” reports GeekTyrant

“I feel it is going to happen — we are going to hire a woman who’s going to direct a Star Wars movie. I have no doubt. On the other hand, I want to make sure we put somebody in that position who’s set up for success. It’s not just a token job to look out and try to find a woman that we can put into a position of directing Star Wars.”

(13) No matter what William Shatner told the Australians, Justin Lin is directing Star Trek Beyond — and people are leaking photos of the aliens from Lin’s movie.

(14) “One step closer to Star Trek: New 3-D printer builds with 10 materials at once” from Christian Science Monitor.

It’s built from off-the-shelf parts that cost about $7,000 in total, and is capable of printing in full color with up to 10 materials at a time, including fabrics, fiber-optics, and lenses.

Traditional multi-material printers use a mechanical system to sweep each layer of the printed object after it’s laid down to ensure that it’s flat and correctly aligned. The extreme precision of such a system is a big part of the reason that printers are so expensive. But the MultiFab uses a machine-vision system instead of a mechanical one, which allows for precise scanning – down to 40 microns – without the need for so many pricey components, project engineer Javier Ramos told Wired.

(15) All six Bonds together, that is, at Madame Tussaud’s!

(16) Frock Flicks: The Costume Movie Review Podcast, does a serious, in-depth study of historical costuming in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – which gets high marks despite having been done cheap, cheap, cheap!

The Historical Setting of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The movie is supposedly set in 932 A.D., and, of course, the story is King Arthur, which is quasi-fictitious anyway. The person who might be the historical basis for the Arthurian legends could have lived in the 5th to 7th century, and 932 is right around the reign of Æthelstan, who was a king of the Anglo-Saxons and the first to proclaim himself King of the English in 927. But hey, whatever this is a comedy, who pays attention to the title cards, right? Other than all those moose and llamas…

In a way, it doesn’t matter because medieval clothing, at least for men, is somewhat vaguely defined from the 5th though 12th centuries, being mostly belted tunics and such. But for reference, here are a few examples of how ruling men were depicted in documents of the period in England. The garment shapes are simple, and the higher up in status a man was, the more decorative trims and jewelry he got. It’s also interesting to note the hair and beard styles.

(17) John Hertz offers a piece he entitles, “Do you, Mister Jones?” —

All this throwing round of the word “geek” recalls a handy little acronym I had published a while ago in The MT Void 1279 (or you may have seen it later in Vanamonde 956, where I added “Among reasons to form one’s own opinions, people can be vigorous in accusing one of one’s virtues”; not to burden the File 770 Reference Director, I allude to Aesop, H. Andersen, B. Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and “The Marching Morons”).

Grapes are sour.
Emperor has no clothes.
Each put-down of you means I win.
Kornbluth didn’t tell the half of it.

[Thanks to James H. Burns, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]