Pixel Scroll 3/30/17 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) WAX TREK. The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon should get a Pulitzer Prize for the first line of his article “$80,000 later, why this trio gave up their ‘Star Trek’ wax figures, Enterprise replica”:

Mr. Spock’s head cooled in a wooden crate for 10 years before someone noticed something was wrong.

Equally good is the rest of the article — about the fate of the wax Star Trek crew since the defunct Movieland Wax Museum sold its exhibits in 2006.

Steve and Lori had 24 hours to decide whether they wanted to pay about $40,000 for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Chekov and Scott. Or they could buy just one, or just a few.

They went to Don Jose’s restaurant and had margaritas over dinner. They knew other people wanted to buy the individuals in the crew. One guy wanted to put Spock in a bar. Another guy wanted to put Captain Kirk in his house. So they decided to buy them all, to keep the crew together. They made it their mission to save the crew of the Enterprise.

“Let’s protect them,” Steve told Lori.

“We took them home and put them in our dining room,” Lori said.

That’s when it got weird. Steve couldn’t stand the life-like eyes looking at him all the time.

“We put paper bags over their heads,” Steve said.

 

Steve Greenthal puts on the head of his Captain Kirk wax figure at the Fullerton Airport before donating them to the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The figures were purchased when the Movieland Wax Museum went out of business. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

(2) NOT ENOUGH HAMMER. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for The Guardian and finds it very well-written but wanting in some ways:

Gaiman plays down the extreme strangeness of some of the material and defuses its bleakness by a degree of self-satire. There is a good deal of humour in the stories, the kind most children like – seeing a braggart take a pratfall, watching the cunning little fellow outwit the big dumb bully. Gaiman handles this splendidly. Yet I wonder if he tries too hard to tame something intractably feral, to domesticate a troll.

… What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

(3) FROM BUFFY TO BATGIRL. Joss Whedon is in talks to do a Batgirl movie says The Hollywood Reporter.

Whedon is in negotiations to write, direct and produce a Batgirl stand-alone movie for Warner Bros., adding another heroine to the studio’s DC cinematic universe.

Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich will oversee the project, along with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns….

Batgirl will be the second female superhero stand-alone in Warner Bros. DCU (Wonder Woman will hit theaters on June 2). Whedon has long been credited as a pioneering voice for female-focused genre fare, having created the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer two decades ago.

(4) DIETZ ESTATE SALE. Over 300 sf/f collectible books and other items from Frank Dietz’ are for sale on eBay. Dietz passed away in 2013.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans.

(5) WOTF IN TOWN. Ron Collins reports on Day 2 of the annual Writers of the Future Workshop.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Andrew Peery told me during a break after the opening session. He meant it in a good way. Peery, from North Carolina, is the 4th quarter first prize winner. The group had just walked through the Author Services Hall of Writers and been given a presentation of past judges throughout the contest’s history. People here have asked me how things have changed in the 18 years since my last visit. One thing that’s different is that the list of judges has gotten a little longer and a little more prominent. It’s very cool to think about.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the purpose of the workshop.

“Our goal in this workshop is to help you train yourself to be a professional writer,” Dave Farland said in his opening remarks. He and Tim [Powers] then covered several topics, focusing on things like how to develop writerly habits, how stories are structured, and how to create and use suspense. And that was just before lunch. Along the way the two of them did a little brotherly bickering about the speed with this things should be done. “If you’re here, we already know you’re good,” Dave said. “But now we want to help you think about producing that good work more quickly.” Tim, followed that up with: “My first drafts take forever and are never any good.” Then he explained why that was just fine by him. I’ve seen that before, but, yeah, it holds up on second viewing! It’s always great to see how creativity is different for two such high-caliber artists.

Other authors have written about Day 1 and Day 3.

(6) EGYPT IN SF. Tim Powers was recently interviewed by Rachel Connor and described his preparation.

Rachel: I was first introduced to your work when I read The Anubis Gates, a historical fiction with time-travel, Victorian corruption and ancient Egyptian folklore. Can you tell us a little about your approach to historical fiction? What is it about a certain period of time that intrigues you?

Tim: A novel for me generally starts with something I stumble across in recreational non-fiction reading. I’ll notice some peculiarity — like Edison working on a phone to talk to dead people with, or Albert Einstein going to a séance — and I’ll start to wonder if a story might not be built around what I’m reading.

If I come across another oddity or two — like Edison’s last breath being preserved in a test tube in a museum in Michigan, or Einstein turning out to have had a secret daughter who disappears from history in 1902 — I’ll decide that this isn’t recreational reading after all, but research for a book.

For The Anubis Gates, it was a note in one of Lord Byron’s letters. He said that several people had recognized him in London at a particular date in 1810, when at that time he was in fact in Turkey, very sick with a fever.

I wondered how he might have a doppelganger, and started reading all about Byron, and his doctor in Turkey, and London at the time, looking for clues

(7) EVERY JOT AND TITTLE. Tom Easton and Michael Burstein’s collaborative short story Sofer Pete” has been published in Nature

The visitors were crowded against one wall of bookcases, facing a large table on which was stretched a long piece of parchment. An inkwell filled with black ink sat off to the side. A hand holding a traditional goose-quill pen moved over the parchment, leaving rows of Hebrew characters behind it more quickly than a human hand ever could.

Because the hand did not belong to a human. The gleaming metal hand belonged to a humanoid robot seated on the other side of the table. Its name was Pete.

(8) THANKS DAD! Most people know Joe Hill’s father is Stephen King. Here’s what happened when young Joe turned to him for advice….

(9) “EVERY WINDOW’S A SEAT”. How much will people pay to be in space for a few minutes? “Jeff Bezos just revealed a mock-up of the spacecraft his rocket company will use to take tourists into space”.

Each launch will rocket a handful of wealthy tourists more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth on a roughly 11-minute trip.

Near the top of a high arc, the rocket will detach from the space capsule, which will fall toward the ground, granting passengers about four minutes of weightlessness and letting them take in an incredible view of the fringes of our planet’s outer atmosphere.

(10) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. The BBC says the animated Ghost in the Shell was good, but the live-action is better.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell isn’t just one of the most acclaimed science-fiction cartoons ever made, it’s one of the most acclaimed science-fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually breathtaking, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk detective flick bridged the gap between analogue blockbusters and digital ones, between Blade Runner and The Terminator, with their cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps and virtual realities. The makers of The Matrix, in particular, were happy to acknowledge that they were following in Oshii’s future-noir footsteps.

The question is, then, is it worth bothering with a belated live-action version? Considering that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and that several other films have taken its innovations and run with them, can a mega-budget Hollywood remake have anything of its own to offer? The answer to both questions is a definite yes.

(11) RELAUNCH. First reuse of a SpaceX recoverable boosterNPR reports:

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that has already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

(12) NOT FIVE? At the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, Corinna Lawson shares the four rules that tell her “How to Know When It’s Okay to Read a Series out of Order”.

  1. When the character arcs are resolved by book’s end

In Sins of Empire, there are three leads, and all set out on emotional journeys that are fully resolved by book’s end.

Meanwhile, ASoIaF readers are still waiting to see what happens via-à-vis Jamie Lannister’s redemption arc, whether the Khaleesi will ever seize her birthright, if Tyrion’s suffering will amount to anything, or if Jon Snow will ever stop flailing about and realize who and what he is.

In Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, a young man who dreams of being a soldier finds more than he bargained for, and, at the end, his journey has a resolution, despite a fair dozen books that follow.

But Bishop’s Others, series, well, readers have been waiting for four books to see what happens with Simon and Meg, and though their patience is rewarded, it took four other books to get there.

(13) REVIEW HAIKU. Aaron Pound begins with a 17-syllable plot summary, then goes on to tell why he loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic story Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike.

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

(14) THREE SHALL BE THE NUMBER THOU SHALT COUNT. This is a public service announcement from N.K. Jemisin.

(15) KORSHAK COLLECTION. An exhibit from “The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature” will be on display April 10-May 16 at the Albin O Kuhn Library and Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The collection, now owned by Stephen Korshak, was started by his father Erle Korshak, past Worldcon chair and founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, and has its own impressive website.

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations is far-reaching.

The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

(16) BEYOND ORWELL. The 2084 Kickstarter has funded. The collection —

features 11 stories from leading science fiction writers who were all asked the same question – what will our world look like 67 years from now? The anthology features new and exclusive stories from:

Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Desirina Boskovich, Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, and Oliver Langmead.

(17) BOOKS WERE SOLD. This is John Scalzi’s executive summary of The Collapsing Empire’s first week:

So, in sum: Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.

That’s a pretty good week, y’all.

Fuller details at the post.

(18) JURY CALL. The Shadow Clarke Jury continues to review its Clarke Award picks.

I put this novel on my shadow shortlist after reading the opening chapters on Amazon, because I was fascinated by the premise: the seemingly inexplicable overnight irruption of masses of full-grown trees into our familiar world. I said, when I explained my choices, that I was intrigued because it reminded me somewhat of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, in which the world is transformed, first by meteors, which cause mass blindness, and then by the apparently coordinated escape of the triffids, seizing the opportunities afforded by this new blindness. I was curious to see how much The Trees might be in conversation with Triffids more than half a century on.

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub.

Any work of fiction is a formal exercise in the controlled release and withholding of information. What is withheld and for how long is a key element in how we read the work and even how we classify it. To give an obvious example, in a detective story in the classical mode it is essential that the identity of the killer is withheld until the last page, the structure of the novel is therefore dictated by the need to steadily release information that leads towards this conclusion without actually pre-empting it. How successful the novel is depends upon the skill with which this information is managed. If too much is given away so that readers can guess whodunnit too early, the work is adjudged a failure; similarly, if too little is revealed so that the denouement comes out of the blue, it is seen as a cheat and again the work fails.

In a recent article for the Guardian, ‘How to build a feminist utopia’, Naomi Alderman briefly sets out some pragmatic measures for helping pave the way to a world in which genitals, hormones and gender identification don’t matter because ‘everyone gets to be both vulnerable and tough, aggressive and nurturing, effortlessly confident and inclusively consensus-building, compassionate and dominant’. Among suggestions such as trying to establish equal parenting as the norm and teaching boys to be able to express their emotions, she also proposes teaching every girl self-defence at school from the age of five to sixteen. In effect, this is what happens in The Power when it becomes apparent that a generation of teenage girls across the world have developed the capacity to emit electric shocks. The only difference is that this doesn’t just allow the girls to defend themselves against male violence but instead enables them to become the aggressors.

(19) STATUARY GRIPE. Copied to Twitter, a grumpy letter to the editor from a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” type about a proposed Terry Pratchett statue.

(20) TV IS COMING. HBO’s latest series promo, Game of Thrones Season 7: Long Walk.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mario Day

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

  • International Bagpipe Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

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(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

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.

Mystery & Imagination To Close

mystery-imagination-bookstore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Rice COMP

Christopher Rice

George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson

Harry Turtledove, and Grandson of L. Frank Baum.

Harry Turtledove, and Grandson of L. Frank Baum.

Diana Pavlac Glyer

Diana Pavlac Glyer

John J Lamb

John J Lamb

Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Robert Fate

Robert Fate

Tim Powers

Tim Powers

Another Tim Powers autograph.

Another Tim Powers autograph.

Philip K. Dick Conference 2016 at CSUF

Philip K Dick event at Cal State Fullerton

The Philip K. Dick Conference 2016 runs from April 29-30 on the California State University, Fullerton campus, where Dick’s papers are deposited in the CSUF Library’s Special Collections.

The conference theme is “Philip K. Dick, Here and Now”, exploring his influence on sf and film.

There will be talks by Dr. Ursula Heise and Jonathan Lethem, and Recollections of and reflections on PKD by Tim Powers and James Blaylock, two sf authors and alums of CSUF.

Some of the conference schedule highlights are:

FRIDAY, APRIL 29               (Rooms in Titan Student Union unless stated otherwise)

9-10:15

Titan Student Union event                                                                     Gabrielino  

Curios and Artifacts–come talk about…                                                                                                      

  • Philip K. Dick’s original record collection, with musicologist Sean Nye

Library Panel                                                                                        Pollak Library North 130 

Philip K. Dick at CSUF, Discussion and Q and A

  • James Blaylock, Tim Powers
  • Moderators: Nicole Vandever, Paige Patterson, and Jasmine Romero

12-1:15

TSU Event                                                                                   TSU Theater  

On Steampunk, movie premiere, a film interview with Tim Powers

  • Moderator: Susan Geers

Library Panel                                                                                  Pollak Library North 130

Philip K. Dick from Marin County to Orange County, Discussion

  • Grania Davis, Tessa Dick, William Sarill
  • Moderator: Ted Hand

3-5

Keynote Talk                                                                                     Pollak Library North 130

Jonathan Lethem, The Philip K. Dick Society: A Preliminary Archeology

SATURDAY, APRIL 30

Library Panel                                                                                    Pollak Library North 130

Philip K. Dick, Here and Now

  • Howard Hendrix, Gregg Rickman, Jacob Weisman

12-1:15

TSU Event                                                                                          TSU Theater

Philip K. Dick Goes to the Movies, Discussion and Q and A

  • Daniel Gilbertson, Gary Westfahl, Paul Sammon

1:30-2:45

Library Panel                                                                                       Pollak Library North 130

Philip K. Dick in the Future

  • Greg Benford, Bruce McAllister, Maer Wilson
  • Moderator: David Kelman

3-5

2016 LA Vintage Paperback Show

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

The 37th Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show took place April 3 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

I finally made it!

It’s a great event. I really enjoyed it. Book dealers fill the exhibit hall, and at a row of tables next to the stage waves of writers and artists autograph their works for fans, free, throughout the day. Some of the people signing when I first arrived were Karen Anderson, Barbara Hambly, and Tim Kirk. Joe Lansdale and his daughter, Kasey, were at one of the dealers tables.

Kasey Lansdale and her father Joe Lansdale.

Kasey Lansdale and her father Joe Lansdale.

On the way in I met Tim and Serena Powers. Tim said he looks in on the File 770 blog, which was nice to hear. I had a long conversation with Marc Schirmeister, who I last saw at Sasquan.

I met artist Tony Gleeson for the first time – an artist often mentioned here in news stories — and he in turn introduced me to author Odie Hawkins.

Quite a few LASFS members were present — Matthew Tepper, Michelle Pincus, Karl Lembke – in addition to the member/authors who were signing. I hear Robert J. Sawyer visited the Loscon table later, after I had gone.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

While touring the dealer tables I saw lots of classic old stuff — but got a giggle out of seeing a copy of Zotz! Among the precious wares in a glass case. That’s the book which became a (negative) legend and running joke in the LASFS Xmas Gift Exchange — even though it’s a hardcover, you couldn’t get credit for contributing ZOTZ! as a gift unless you included with it something else that was worth the minimum. One year I unwrapped a copy which came with a $5 bill…

The event staff were doing a really good job — seemed to have an eye open for everything, and treated people very nicely.

I can’t end without mentioning the Civic Auditorium’s rather odd parking structure. The property is built into a hillside. You enter the structure on the bottom level, as you would expect, however, to exit you have to drive all the way up to the roof — which puts you on a level with another driveway to the street.

Pixel Scroll 3/4/16 Mellon Scrollie and the Infinite Sadness

(1) ABCD16 AWARDS. Ben Summers’ cover design for Lavie Tidhar’s novel A Man Lies Dreaming has won an Academy of British Cover Design Award in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category.

a-man-lies-dreaming

The complete shortlist with images of all the covers is at ABCD16 Shortlist and Winners. There are more sf/fantasy books among the finalists in other marketing categories.

(2) MAC II LEADERSHIP REORGANIZES. The 2016 Worldcon decided its communications will be better with a single voice at the top and replaced its three-co-chair structure (“Team LOL”) with a single chairperson, Ruth Lichtwardt.

Diane Lacey, another of the co-chairs, will become a Vice-Chair, and the third, Jeff Orth, is said to be deciding among several options for continuing his work on the con. The decision was shared with the division heads at a meeting last weekend.

(3) AMAZING CELE. Mike Ashley chronicles the reign of Amazing editor Cele Goldsmith in “The AMAZING Story: The Sixties – The Goose-Flesh Factor”. Pulpfest is serializing Ashley’s history of the magazine, first published in its pages in 1992.

[Cele] Goldsmith chose all the material, edited everything, selected the title and blurb typefaces and dummied the monthly magazines by herself. [Norman] Lobsenz, who arrived for an editorial conference usually once a week, penned the editorials, read her choices, and wrote the blurbs for the stories. They did cover blurbs together, and Goldsmith assigned both interior and cover art.

Goldsmith had no scientific background but had a sound judgment of story content and development, and this was the key to her success. She accepted stories on their value as fiction rather than as science fiction. “When I read something I didn’t understand, but intuitively knew was good,” she said, “I’d get ‘goose flesh’ and never doubt we had a winner.” That “goose flesh” was transmitted to the readers. I know when I encountered the Goldsmith AMAZING and FANTASTIC in the early 1960s, I got goose flesh because of the power and originality of their content. As I look now at the 150 or more total issues of those two magazines that Cele Goldsmith edited, that thrill is still there.

Other installments already online are:

(4) JAR JAR JERSEYS. The Altoona Curve minor league baseball team will host another Star Wars night – if the team isn’t too embarrassed to take the field….

Last year, the team wore these beautiful Jabba the Hutt jerseys. For our Star Wars Night, we’re following that up with a jersey featuring another controversial Star Wars character, Jar Jar Binks. Like last season, we will have appearances by the Garrison Cardida of the 501st Legion.

 

Meanwhile, the Birmingham Barons have enlisted fans to pick the Star Wars-themed jersey their players will wear during a game this season.

(5) GREAT POWERS. An interview with Tim Powers conducted by Nick Givers has been posted at PS Publishing.

NICK GEVERS: In your new novel, Medusa’s Web, you set out a very interesting and mesmerizingly complex metaphysical scheme, of spider images that draw human minds up and down the corridors of time. What first suggested this scenario to you?

TIM POWERS: I thought it would be fun to play around with two-dimensional adversaries after reading Cordwainer Smith’s short story, “The Game of Rat and Dragon.” I decided that since such creatures would be dimensionally handicapped by definition, why not have them be fourth-dimensionally handicapped too? I.e. they don’t perceive time, and therefore every encounter these creatures have with humans is, from the creature’s point of view, the same event. So by riding along on the point of view of one of them, you can briefly inhabit whatever other encounters it’s had with humans, regardless of when those encounters happened or will happen.

This seemed like an opportunity for lots of dramatic developments, and even one very intriguing paradox for our protagonist to blunder through.

(6) A MOVIE RECOMMENDATION. Zootopia is getting a lot of buzz, and Max Florschutz agrees it’s a winner in a review at Unusual Things.

First, a quick summary for those of you who just want the yay or nay: Zootopia is an excellent, wonderful film with a lot of heart, a lot of adventure, and a wonderful moral at its core that wraps up everything in a fantastic way. Put it on your list.

Now, the longer explanation….

(7) TIM BURTON PROJECT. Entertainment Weekly has a report on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (film)”, due in theaters September 30.

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the latest fantasy from director Tim Burton, Asa Butterfield plays Jake, a 16-year-old plagued by nightmares following a family tragedy.

On the advice of his therapist, the teen embarks on an overseas journey to find the abandoned orphanage where his late grandfather claims to have once lived. Not only does the place turn out to be real, it also serves as the gateway to an alternate realm where children with strange powers are looked after by a magical guardian (Penny Dreadful star Eva Green) and time moves of its own accord.

 

(8) POLITICAL SCIENCE FICTION. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Andrew Liptak names “6 Political SF Novels as Bingeable as House of Cards”. One of them is –

Jennifer Government, by Max Barry

Max Barry’s second novel is a fantastic satire of globalized trade and the deregulation of industry. In this alternate future, the United States has taken over much of north and south America, with government and its services privatized. Citizens take on the names of their employers, and the titular Jennifer Government is an agent tasked with tracking down the perpetrators of a series of murders . The crime turns out to be an attempt by Nike to drum up notoriety for a new line of shoes, but the plot quickly escalated beyond what anyone planned. It’s a ridiculous, often funny book that shows off a very different, but scarily plausible, hyper-commercial world.

(9) ONCE MORE INTO THE SPEECH. MD Jackson touts favorite examples of “The Rousing Speech” at Amazing Stories.

There’s always a rousing speech.

When the odds are against you, when the forces of darkness, or the alien invaders, or the giant lizards have gathered and your pitifully small band of heroes stand against them, the single vanguard against annihilation, what does your leader do?

Well, if he’s any kind of leader he starts talking.

Motivational speeches keep your team together and focused. Rousing speeches keep your smallish army from losing soldiers due to desertion rather than the upcoming decimation. And it’s got to be a doozy of a speech in order to make otherwise sensible men and women stand with you against almost certain death….

One of my favorite rousing speeches comes from an episode of Star Trek. In Return to Tomorrow, a second season episode from 1968, William Shatner throws all the weight of his dramatic acting into a rousing speech: The infamous “Risk is our business…” speech. It doesn’t come before a battle, but before three of the crew, including Kirk, decide to have ancient powerful aliens take over their bodies. Despite the context and the odd placement of the speech which doesn’t really further the plot, the speech has become iconic for its application to the entire Star Trek universe through all the series and movies. It kind of sums up what Star Trek is all about.

Risk. Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.

And with Shatner`s just-shy-of-bombast delivery, the speech is kind of powerful.

(10) TONY DYSON OBIT. The builder of the original R2-D2, Tony Dyson, died March 4 reports the BBC.

The 68-year-old Briton was found by police after a neighbour called them, concerned his door was open.

He is thought to have died of natural causes. A post-mortem is being carried out to determine cause of death.

Dyson was commissioned to make eight R2-D2 robots for the film series. He said working on it was “one of the most exciting periods of my life”.

The look of R2-D2 was created by the conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie who also created Darth Vader, Chewbacca and C-3PO.

Prof Dyson, who owned The White Horse Toy Company, was commissioned to make eight models plus the master moulds and an additional head.

He made four remote control units – two units for the actor Kenny Baker to sit in with a seat fitted inside and two throw away units to be used in a bog scene in Empire Strikes Back where a monster spits out the droid onto dry land, from the middle of the swamp.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 4, 1967 — Neal Hefti won a Grammy for our favorite song, the “Batman Theme.”

(12) YO, GROOT! According to the Daily News, Sylvester Stallone has joined the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Who might Stallone be playing? Perhaps, Peter Quill’s (Pratt) father. We know that coveted role will appear in the sequel. However, most people assume Kurt Russell already snagged that part and a source for the Daily News says Stallone’s role is just a cameo.

(13) KRYPTON ENNOBLED. As Yahoo! News tells the story, “Polish chemists tried to make kryptonite and failed, but then made a huge discovery”.

Avert your eyes, Superman, because according to news out of Poland this morning, a team of chemists just got awfully close to actually creating the fictional substance of kryptonite. Don’t sweat too much though, Clark — the scientists were only able to bond the element of krypton with oxygen (as opposed to nitrogen) which wound up creating krypton monoxide. Inability to create real kryptonite notwithstanding, the fact the chemists successfully bonded krypton with anything is a revelatory achievement for an element previously known to be entirely unreactive. In light of the success, krypton (which is a noble gas like helium and neon) is no longer considered inert.

Conducted at the Polish Academy of Sciences, a team of chemists ran krypton through a series of various tests to build off a previous study positing that the chemical may react with hydrogen or carbon under extreme conditions. What they discovered — and subsequently published in Scientific Reports — was that krypton, while under severe pressure, also has the ability to form krypton oxides after bonding with oxygen. Thing is, the chemists didn’t actually see the reaction happen, but rather, used genetic algorithms to theorize its likelihood.

(14) GUESS WHY ZINES ARE COMING BACK? News from Australia — “Sticky Institute: Internet trolls sparks resurgence of zines ahead of Festival of the Photocopier”.

Photocopied zines are making a comeback, with some young self-publishers keen to escape the attention of online trolls.

While the internet has democratised publishing, allowing anyone to potentially reach a global audience with the click of a button, vitriolic internet comments are pushing some writers back to a medium last popular in the 1990s.

Zines, or fanzines, are self-published, handmade magazines usually produced in short runs on photocopiers or home printers.

Thomas Blatchford volunteers at Melbourne zine store Sticky Institute, which is preparing for its annual Festival of the Photocopier later this month….

While unsure of the exact reason for the resurgence of zines, Mr Blatchford said it was more than just a “weird nostalgia thing”.

He said some zine-makers had been scared away from online publishing because of unkind comments from people on the internet.

“There’s some horrible people on there,” he said.

(15) BATTLE OF THE BURRITO. John Scalzi is engaged in a culinary duel with Wil Wheaton.

Some of you may be aware of the existential battle that Wil Wheaton and I are currently engaged in, involving burritos. I am of the opinion that anything you place into a tortilla, if it is then folded into a burrito shape, is a burrito of some description; Wil, on the other hand, maintains that if it is not a “traditional” burrito, with ingredients prepared as they were in the burrito’s ancestral home of Mexico, is merely a “wrap.”

Expect someone to write a post soon complaining that Scalzi is doing to Mexican food what he did to sf, by which I mean someone longing for the days when you could tell what you were buying by looking at the tortilla cover…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Tim Powers Unlocks The Anubis Gates

Nobodys_Home_by_Tim_Powers_200_323Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers returns to the 19th century London warrens of The Anubis Gates and features one of the novel’s characters. His new 80-page story has just been sent to the printer by Subterranean Press and is expected to ship around year-end.

This is the first time Powers has revisited the world of his time travel novel, a book whose sustained popularity inspired a stage production at this year’s Worldcon.

Tracking the murderer of her fiancee through 19th century London’s darkest warrens, Jacky Snapp has disguised herself as a boy—but the disguise fails when, trying to save a girl from the ghost of her jealous husband, Jacky finds that she has made herself visible to the ghosts that cluster around the Thames–

—And one of them is the ghost of her fiancee, who was poisoned and physically transformed by his murderer but unwittingly shot dead by Jacky herself.
 
Jacky and the girl she rescued, united in the need to banish their pursuing ghosts, learn that their only hope is to flee upriver to the barge known as Nobody’s Home—where the exorcist whose name is Nobody charges an intolerable price.

There’s a lengthy excerpt on the publisher’s website that shows Powers’ gift for fantastic and forbidding prose:

Midnight was long past, and the London streets were quiet except for the occasional rattle of a carriage and horses, or a distant bell from out on the river. Jacky had spent the evening tracking down a beggar who was rumored to have fur growing all over him like an ape, but when she had cornered the man in the basement of an old pub off Fleet Street, her hand tense on the flintlock pistol under her coat, he had turned out to be only a very hairy old fellow with a prodigious beard—not the half-legendary man she had devoted her life to finding and killing.

J. K. Potter has copiously illustrated the book, which is printed in two colors throughout.

Nobodys_Home_by_Tim_Powers_Interior_One

Anubis Gates on Stage at Loncon 3

A stage adaptation of Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates will receive its world premiere at Loncon 3, the 2014 Worldcon.

Current Theatrics, a theatre company based in Las Vegas and New York, will bring 15 characters and a 400-page time travel novel to life — ancient Egyptian wizards, modern American magnates, holes in the river of time, Horrabin the Clown’s puppet show, werewolf-like creatures, cheeky urchins, and California literature professors, not to mention famous Romantic poets Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Ashbless.

Formed in 2010 by Ruth Pe Palileo and Thomas Costello of New York, Current Theatrics specializes in travelling theatre, and has previously brought French absurdist classic The Chairs to Las Vegas, seven new Irish plays to Cleveland, and a gender-swapped Merry Wives of Windsor to Pittsburgh. Pe Palileo has previously produced and directed stage adaptations of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog and Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge.

The Las Vegas-based cast have been in rehearsal since Tim Powers approved the project in December 2013. The six-member cast comprises Erik Amblad, JJ Gatesman, Brandon Oliver Jones, Johnny Miles, Ariana Helaine, and Geo Nikols, all of whom are playing several roles—a task made easier by the novel’s story line, which involves body switching.

The full press release follows the jump.

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