Pixel Scroll 3/9/17 ‘Is There Anyone There?’ Said The Pixeler, Knocking On The Moonlit Scroll.

(1) DINOS DOUBLE DOWN. Jurassic Park 2, planned for release in 2018, is starting to crank up its publicity machinery 

(2) BLOGGERS STICK TOGETHER. Steve Vertlieb reminds me his blog Better Days, Benner Nights, is up for a Rondo Award as Best Blog of 2016.

It’s an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces all over the world. Return with us now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when Zorro, “Space Patrol,” Ming, The Merciless, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe lit the early days of television, and Saturday afternoon motion picture screens, with magical imagery and unforgettable excitement.

Anyone can vote in the Rondos – see the nominees here —  just send your selection (along with your name and E-Mail address) to David Colton whose voting address is taraco@aol.com prior to Sunday night, April 16th, 2017, at midnight.

(3) TO THE MOON. A Business Insider writer says we’re getting close to having a Google Lunar XPrize winner.

A real lunar race that has been in the making for years is now in the final stretch.

The Google Lunar XPrize Foundation recently announced five final teams that will compete for the honor of being the first private group to land on the moon — and a $20 million prize.

The Google Lunar XPrize is more than pronouncements by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It will prove the utility of commercial lunar exploration.

Sometime before the end of 2017, one or more of the final five groups will shoot for the moon. The Final Five are Moon Express, SpaceIl, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto.

All the winning team has to do to gain the prize is to cross a quarter of a million miles of space, soft land on the lunar surface, return high resolution videos and images to Earth, and move 500 meters from the landing site.

(4) UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Cat Rambo is grieving the loss of her cat Raven.

I record the notes of my grief: my eyes feeling as though filled with hot sand, the tired and lonely ache inside my heart, the way my throat hardens,  my vision blurring more at the bottom than the top when tears well. The wet tremble as they linger on my cheeks. It’s the only thing I can think to do.

(5) IT’S COMPLICATED. Paul La Farge writes about “The Complicated Friendship of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow, One of His Biggest Fans” in The New Yorker.

On June 18, 1931, a young man named Robert Barlow mailed a letter to the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s stories about monstrous beings from beyond the stars were appearing regularly in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, and Barlow was a fan. He wanted to know when Lovecraft had started writing, what he was working on now, and whether the Necronomicon—a tome of forbidden knowledge that appears in several Lovecraft tales—was a real book. A week later, Lovecraft wrote back, as he nearly always did. It’s estimated that he wrote more than fifty thousand letters in his relatively short lifetime (he died at the age of forty-six). This particular letter was the beginning of a curious friendship, which changed the course of Barlow’s life, and Lovecraft’s, too—though almost no one who reads Lovecraft these days knows anything about it. Who keeps track of the lives of fans?

Raises hand.

(6) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY LONGLISTS. The longlists for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals have been announced.

The Carnegie Medal, established in 1936, is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. The Kate Greenaway Medal has been given since 1955 for distinguished illustration in a book for children.

Locus Online identified the following as titles of genre interest:

Carnegie Medal

  • Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Frank Cottrell Boyce (Pan Macmillan)
  • Whisper to Me, Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
  • Beetle Boy, M.G. Leonard (Chicken House)
  • Beck, Mal Peet & Meg Rosoff (Walker)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press)
  • Orbiting Jupiter, Gary D. Schmidt (Andersen)
  • Island, Nicky Singer (Caboodle)
  • Time Travelling with a Hamster, Ross Welford (HarperCollins)

Greenaway Medal

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay (Bloomsbury)

The shortlists will be announced on March 16, and winners will be announced June 19.

(7) ALETA JACKSON OBIT. Loretta Jackson Delong, known in fandom as Aleta Jackson, died December 4, 2016.

Aleta worked for Xerox for ten years as a repair technician and wrote both science fiction and non-fiction stories. She worked for the L-5 Society, both in Tucson and later in Washington DC. During her stay in DC, Aleta became an aide to General Daniel Graham and helped create the DC-X launch vehicle, later renamed the Clipper Graham. She also edited the Journal of Practical Applications of Space while with Graham’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

As an indefatigable supporter of launch vehicle development, Aleta then became one of Rotary Rocket Company’s first employees, where she was general office manager. When the propulsion group was laid off from Rotary, Aleta was the person who told Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong, and Doug Jones that they had to stick with it, and founded XCOR Aerospace.

I first met her at NOLAcon II in 1988. Years later, when she was at XCOR and I was organizing Loscon program we crossed paths again.

(8) WELCOME ABOARD. “’Star Trek: Discovery’ Finds Its Captain In Jason Isaacs” reports Deadline Hollywood.

Former Awake and Dig star Jason Isaacs has been cast in Star Trek: Discovery for CBS All Access as Captain Lorca, Captain of the Starship Discovery. It is a major role opposite lead Sonequa Martin- Green in the series, which eyes a debut in late summer or fall….

Isaacs’ recently co-starred in the Netflix mystery drama series The OA and will next be seen in Weinstein Co.’s Hotel Mumbai and Armando Iannucci’s Death of Stalin.

(9) FACE THE TRUTH. Wesley Chu, the Edison of digital publishing, has invented a new service for authors.

(10) ANOTHER GAME OF THRONES CASUALTY? The Azure Window of Malta collapsed into the sea after a recent storm. The Azure Window was a backdrop for the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen, a recurring character played by Emilia Clarke, to Khal Drogo, portrayed by Jason Momoa, in the first episode in mid-2011.

(11) TRASH BECOMES TREASURE, AGAIN. Atlas Obscura says they were hidden in a circulation chamber in an old Chicago theater — “Found: A Treasure Trove of Candy Wrappers Dating Back to the Depression”. Pictures over there.

Eric Nordstrom of Urban Remains has been exploring Chicago’s Congress Theater, which was built in 1926 and is currently under renovation. Earlier this year, Nordstrom, whose business reclaims objects from old buildings, started working his way through the old theater, finding newspapers, pipes, tools, and blueprints left there since the 1920s.

Recently, he returned to the theater, and this time, as DNAInfo reports, he found a trove of candy wrappers and matchbooks that date back to the theater’s earliest years.

(12) WHEN MAN PURSUETH. Motherboard says the “Anti-Social ‘Shybot’ Rolls Around the Sonoran Desert, Running Away From Humans”.

We’re all afraid of our future robot overlords, but what if those robots were afraid of us, too?

Over the course of the last week, California’s Coachella Valley hosted a strange, anti-social visitor. Its name was Shybot, a six-wheeled rover whose only purpose in life is to roam the Sonoran desert avoiding humans at all costs.

(13) A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. In “This Land of Mine Revised” on Vimeo, Nina Paley updates the classic song from Exodus to show the bloody history of the Middle East.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

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.

Wesley Chu Keeps Time

Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu

By Carl Slaughter:

TIME SIEGE
by Wesley Chu
sequel to Time Salvager
Tor

timesiege_comp_hi-min

Having been haunted by the past and enslaved by the present, James Griffin-Mars is taking control of the future.

Earth is a toxic, sparsely inhabited wasteland–the perfect hiding place for a fugitive ex-chronman to hide from the authorities.

James has allies, scientists he rescued from previous centuries: Elise Kim, who believes she can renew Earth, given time; Grace Priestly, the venerated inventor of time travel herself; Levin, James’s mentor and former pursuer, now disgraced; and the Elfreth, a population of downtrodden humans who want desperately to believe that James and his friends will heal their ailing home world.

James also has enemies. They include the full military might of benighted solar system ruled by corporate greed and a desperate fear of what James will do next. At the forefront of their efforts to stop him is Kuo, the ruthless security head, who wants James’s head on a pike and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

TIME SALVAGER
by Wesley Chu

time-salvager-publication-cover

Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.

PRAISE FOR TIME SALVAGER

  • Chu creates a fascinating world, strange and familiar, infused with humor, sorrow, courage, greed, and sacrifice. This page-turner is a riveting, gratifying read. – Publishers Weekly
  • An utterly captivating time-travel adventure. To put it simply, Chu’s worldbuilding is extraordinary. – RT Book Reviews (4 ½ stars, a Top Pick!)
  • Smart, fast, and fun. – Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of the Lightbringer series
  • Time twisting action-adventure as only Wesley Chu could imagine it. I enjoyed it a lot. Read this book! – Ann Leckie, author of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ancillary Justice
  • A gripping, taut space opera about keeping hope in hopeless circumstances. Immensely enjoyable. – Robert Jackson Bennett, author of City of Stairs
  • Chu has taken a simple, brilliant premise and built upon it an epic universe full of thrills and wonder. – Jason M. Hough, New York Times bestselling author of The Darwin Elevator
  • More than a compelling, innovative take on the perks and pitfalls of time travel – Time Salvager is a sharp study of how human nature might prove mankind’s salvation, or eventually doom us all. This is world-building that will make you fear for the future. In a good way. – Cherie Priest, author of Maplecroft
  • A powerful and compelling search of the past for redemption in the present, by turns thrilling and sweet and gut-wrenching. – Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid Chronicles
  • A clever, cautionary sf tale with cool gadgets, characterization that surprised me in the best possible way, and multiple cunning twists. – Kate Elliott, author of the Crown of Stars series
  • With time travel, force-field kung fu, and a huge helping of wit, Wesley Chu transmogrifies a bleak long-whimper apocalypse into vicious, high-octane fun. – Max Gladstone, author of the Craft Sequence
  • A fast-paced ride that offers a fresh spin on time travel, combines it with a high-stakes plot and genuinely innovative action, and spices the blend with a healthy dose of irreverent humor. – Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel’s Dart
  • Exciting, interesting, and never forgetting the fun of ideas, this is brilliant new stuff. – Paul Cornell, author of London Falling
  • A time-warping science fiction thrill ride. – Jaye Wells, author of the Sabrina Kane series

Pixel Scroll 9/18/16 I Scroll The Pixel Electric

(1) WISCON GOH SPEECH. Justine Larbalestier posted “My WisCon 40 Guest of Honour Speech” in August.

Teens have made YA the second most profitable fiction category in the USA—after romance. Twelve years ago I mostly had to explain what YA is. These days not so much. Some of those folks who were bewildered as to why anyone would write YA back then, now read it, and some of them even write it. YA advances are, on average, higher than those for SFF writers.

Most of the top-selling SFF books in the USA are YA, not adult. Many YA books sell millions of copies all over the world. Not my YA books, alas. Can’t have everything.

YA, of course, could not be this huge if only teens were reading it. The Hunger Games trilogy sold far more copies in the USA than there are teenagers. Adults are reading YA in huge numbers. Adults are making YA super profitable for publishers.

But it was teens that started the YA explosion. They were the ones who pushed the Harry Potter, then Twilight, then Hunger Games series on their parents and teachers and other adults in their lives. Pretty much every mega-hit YA book starts out that way.

You’d think the shared bond of loving books would diminish the hatred and suspicion of teenagers and the things they like.

You’d be wrong.

There’s now a whole genre of op ed pieces about how YA is destroying the minds of the adults foolish enough to read it, turning them into blithering, infantalised ninkompoops who will never grow up. At the same time we YA writers are also corrupting the teens who read our books. Multi-tasking!

(2) SEUSS/STAR TREK MASHUP. A Kickstarter appeal is raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-go

[It’s] a parody mash-up from the mind that brought you “The Trouble With Tribbles” that brings together two of the most beloved creations in history in a joyous celebration that will inspire you to join the high fliers who soar to high heights!

We’re creating a 48 page, 8.5″ x 11″ book that’s familiar and brand new at the same time, a perfect gift for children and adults of all ages, for anyone looking forward to the future.

  • David Gerrold is one of those gee-whiz-bang writers Who’s written for Star Trek, and Babylon 5, and Sliders, He wrote the Dingilliad, When HARLIE Was One, And won Hugos and Nebulas for his Martian son. (And really, to answer the question that wearies, He promises there’s a book 5 in the series.)
  • Ty Templeton‘s also a name you should know; We’ve followed his work back from Stig’s Inferno. He’s done Spider-Man, Star Trek, and Batman (it’s true!) And won Eisners and Shusters, and taught comics too.
  • Glenn Hauman‘s the person we brought in to edit. He’s okay, we guess. (Hey, don’t blame us, he said it). He’s wrote Star Trek and X-Men and colored some pics And now does the works over at ComicMix

The Kickstarter has raised $18,818 of its $20,000 goal at this writing, and has 11 days left to run.

(3) BOOK COVER AWARD. The ingenious Camestros Felapton’s new project is ranking SFF book covers from the current year. Here’s what he’s got so far – “Best SFF Award Nominee Book Cover Award 2016: longlist”.

Last year I ranked the Hugo best novels by book covers. I am going to do the same this year but I’ll extend the field to include the Nebulas, Clarkes and whattheheck The Dragons (winners only – too many nominees). So not quite the Felapton Towers award for best SFF book cover because that is wayyyy to big a field but instead the Felapton Towers award for best SFF book cover for books that got nominated for an award.

PLUS: BONUS AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION! Regular readers (yes, even Phantom) please suggest one other book not on the initial list!

And here’s his scoring system: “Best SFF Award Nominee Book Cover Award 2016: Criteria”.

Eligibility: yeah whatever

Prize: A jpeg of Timothy the Talking Cat

Criteria: Not going to just rank the covers but consider them on the basis of some different strands:

  • Artwork: 0 to 4 points. Not every book cover needs its own epic painting but if it has one then the work gets graded from 0 to 4. Note that this is purely in terms of the artwork on its own merits. Relevance and appropriateness to the book will be covered elsewhere.
  • Functionality: 0 to 3 points. A cover has a basic job to do. Can you read the title and who wrote it? Is all the relevant information there? Is the information well ordered?
  • Graphic design (aesthetic): 0 to 6 points. Text, art, borders, colour, everything – as a complete image how good is the cover in terms of making all the bits work together aesthetically? An extra couple of points are available here for covers with no artwork per-se, so that artwork-heavy covers don’t get an in-built advantage.
  • Relevance/appropriateness: 0 to 2 points. I haven’t read all the books, so I don’t want to weight this too heavily. Based on plot synopsis/reviews, does the book cover fit its contents? Does this horror story set in feudal Japan look like a cyberpunk western set in Mexico?

Jump in and give him a hand!

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born September 18, 1917 – June Foray, voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and innumerable other cartoon characters. Chuck Jones is reported to have said, “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

(5) FLYING W. Rumor has it that ”Whataburger is having words with DC Comics over Wonder Woman’s new logo.

w-logos

The worlds of fast food and comic book superheroes are colliding in a way that we’ve never seen before.

According to a Whataburger spokesperson, the San Antonio-based burger chain and DC Comics are currently involved in what the chain terms as a “friendly trademark discussion” with the classic comic book brand over the recent redesign of Wonder Woman’s stacked W logo.

A story making the rounds on a handful of comic book blogs suggested that the two parties were at war with each other. It seemed like bunk on the outset but we decided to go directly to Whataburger to see if this was anything of note.

“Contrary to some suggestions, Whataburger is not at war with Wonder Woman over her newly redesigned logo. In fact, Whataburger supports superheroes like Wonder Woman and her friends in the Justice League,” a Whataburger company spokesperson wrote in a statement to Chron.com. “Truth be told, Whataburger’s own superhero – Whataguy – would love to team up with Wonder Woman and her friends sometime to battle evil together.”

(6) YOU ORDERED SHELLFISH? John Scalzi, in Hawaii for a convention, has found all kinds of things to pretend to be distressed about at his luxury accomodations. For example:

(7) NEVER WERE TRUER WORDS SPOKEN. Wesley Chu hit the bull’s-eye:

[Thanks to Glenn Hauman, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, and Darren Garrison for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program

Darrell Schweitzer released the program for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention and promptly came under a hail of criticism from writers.

Much of it was directed at a program title found to be offensive – “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories.” During the afternoon the item was renamed “Outrageous Aviation Stories, Flying Pulp Oddities.”

Other Twitter users complained that women are underrepresented in the overall count of writers mentioned by name in panel topics, as are fantasy works written less than 20 years ago.

Sarah Pinsker discussed her concerns in a series of tweets, now collected on Storify.

Here are some of the highlights of the conversation.

SARAH PINSKER

KEN LIU

https://twitter.com/kyliu99/status/760221655532732417

CARL ENGLE-LAIRD

LIZ BOURKE

HEATHER CLITHEROE

JAYM GATES

GREG VAN EEKHOUT

JOHN SCALZI

DAVE PROBERT

ANN LECKIE

DAVID MACK

DONGWON SONG

WESLEY CHU

KAMERON HURLEY

ANDREA PHILLIPS

And in the meantime Justin Landon has been tweeting suggested revisions to make the problematic items workable – or snarkier, depending on how they struck him….

JUSTIN LANDON

Pixel Scroll 5/11/16 Time Enough For LOVE IS REAL!

(1) REDWOMBAT LOVEFEST. Tor.com is hosting — “’THE POTATO GOD WILL RISE.’ We Are Obsessed With Ursula Vernon’s Tumblr”.

But even if you don’t head over for the sketches and art, there are stories in abundance. For example, a true story about Vernon’s childhood, and “the thing” that she knew hid right behind her in her grandmother’s bathroom. (This tale eventually veers into precognition and predestination, believe it or not):

It seemed to me, looking in the enormous bathroom mirror, that I could see every part of the bathroom except the spot directly behind me, so that was where the unseen creature must be standing.

I didn’t know what it looked like. I had a vague feeling it was grey and shadowy and very flat, with long arms. I thought it would probably have eyes, but no mouth, but that was only a guess.

If I moved suddenly, it moved with me. At first, I thought it was just much faster than me, but that seemed sort of improbable–and when my mother would come into the bathroom, it wouldn’t matter how fast it was, it might risk being caught because there wouldn’t be any place it could stand that one of us couldn’t see it.

If fairy tales are more your beat, Vernon wrote her own version of the story about frogs falling from a girl’s lips when she speaks….

(2) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORIES. The FANAC Fan History Project is making available online as many 1940 Retro Hugo Nominees as it can. Joe Siclari writes:

For those of you planning to vote in this year’s Retro Hugo Fan Categories, the FANAC Fan History Project is providing relevant original materials for your reading pleasure.  Too many times, Retro Hugos go to the nominee with the best name recognition.  We have worked to make this material available so that everyone has a chance to read for themselves and cast a more knowledgeable vote.

The fanzines are here. They already have —

  • Ray Bradbury’s Futuria Fantasia
  • Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie and
  • Harry Warner, Jr.’s Spaceways

They are trying to get 1940 copies of Forrest J Ackerman’s and Morojo’s Novacious and Ackerman’s Voice of the Imagi-Nation.

If you have copies that you can scan for us or loan to us to scan, please contact Joe Siclari (jsiclari@fanac.org) or Edie Stern (fanac@fanac.org).

FANAC’s Retro Hugo page also includes works by Best Fan Writer nominees from other 1940 fanzines than the fanzines listed above.

They have also made available an array of other fanzines from 1940: Shangri-La, Fantasy News, Futurian Observer and Fantascience Digest. Look for these at Classic Fanzines.

(3) HINES REPOST. Our Words, the new site about disabilities in sf, continues its launch by reposting Jim C. Hines on “Writing with Depression”, which first appeared on SF Signal in 2014.

From what I’ve seen, that anxiety is pretty typical for most novelists. But I’m particularly nervous about my next book, Unbound. This is the third book in my current series, and will probably be out in very early 2015, give or take a few months. I’ve put my protagonist Isaac through an awful lot in the first two books. As a result of those events, when we see Isaac again in Unbound, he’s struggling with clinical depression.

This isn’t the casual “had a rough day” depression people often think about. This is the debilitating one, a mental disability that’s damaging Isaac’s health, his job, and his relationships. This is…well, in a lot of ways, it’s similar to what I was going through two years ago. (Admittedly, Isaac’s depression is a bit more extreme, and I didn’t have to worry about cursed thousand-year-old magical artifacts, or accidentally setting a cathedral on fire with a lightning gun.) …

(4) BESIDES DUNE. John Bardinelli makes sure you don’t miss “5 Overlooked Masterpieces by Frank Herbert” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

This week, Brian Herbert released a collection of his late father Frank’s unpublished short stories. It’s an odd, genre-spanning assemblage from creator of Dune, filled not only with science fiction tales, but mysteries, thrillers, “men’s adventure stories,” and more. It’s an intriguing look at the unheralded work of one of the most influential authors of the 20th century—proof that success in publishing doesn’t mean everything you’ve ever written will be a success, and another reminder the when you write one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, everything else you’ve done suddenly becomes a footnote.

The phenomenon hardly stops with Herbert’s short fiction. Both before and after his signature series took off, he wrote thoughtful, mind bending sci-fi novels that you probably haven’t read, or even heard of, that deserve (almost) as much praise as Dune. Here are five worth tracking down.

Whipping Star One thing Star Trek tends to gloss over is how difficult it is to communicate with alien life. Linguistic and cultural barriers are a challenge, but what if a species doesn’t experience reality the same way we do? The Calebans in 1970’s Whipping Star are the perfect example: they look like stars to our squishy little eyes, and the concepts of linear time and occupying a singular position in space are completely foreign to them. When one of the Caleban needs help from a human, communication is an instant problem. Whipping Star treats us with a firsthand account of this puzzle, feeding us nearly nonsense dialogue until its ideas slowly start to make sense. It’s one of those books that gives you a solid “Ah ha!” moment, independent of the storyline…..

(5) BRITISH BOOK INDUSTRY AWARDS. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley won Book of the Year at the British Book Industry awards. The Guardian has the story.

First published in a limited print run of just 300 copies by independent publisher Tartarus Press, The Loney tells of a pilgrimage to the Lancashire coast, “that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune [where] the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents”. Word-of-mouth success with the small Yorkshire publisher meant it went on to be acquired by John Murray, and to win the Costa first novel award in January.

The British Book Industry awards, for “books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published”, called The Loney a “true British success story”. “A debut novel suspended between literary gothic and supernatural horror, it was written by an unknown author in his 40s, who worked part-time for 10 years to be able to write,” said organisers of the awards, which are run by The Bookseller magazine. “[The Loney] quickly became the hot literary novel, with almost 100 times its original print run.”

The Loney beat titles including Paula Hawkins’s international hit The Girl on the Train, and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman to the top prize at the British Book Industry awards this evening. The award for non-fiction book of the year went to Lars Mytting and Robert Ferguson’s guide to wood-chopping, Norwegian Wood, a title which organisers said “demonstrated great publisher faith and vision”, while best children’s book was won by David Solomons’s My Brother is a Superhero.

(6) NOMINATION CLUSTERS. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon continues his search for statistical clues to the Hugo-winning novel in  “Checking in with the 2016 Awards Meta-List”. Who’s leading the Meta-List? Here’s a hint: it involves the number five.

For this Meta-List, I track 15 of the biggest SFF awards. Since each award has its own methodologies, biases, and blind spots, this gives us more of a 10,000 foot view of the field, to see if there are any consensus books emerging.

As of early May we have nominees for 10 of the 15 awards. I track the following awards: Clarke, British Fantasy, British SF, Campbell, Compton Crook, Gemmell, Hugo, Kitschies, Locus SF, Locus Fantasy, Nebula, Dick, Prometheus, Tiptree, World Fantasy. I ignore the first novel awards….

(7) RACHEL SWIRSKY IN CHICAGO. She has posted her Nebula Awards schedule.

Thursday, 4pm-5pm: Come visit me to discuss short stories: “Brainstorm a problem area, or ask questions about writing short fiction.”

I’m also on three panels:

Friday, 1pm: The Second Life of Stories: handling backlist and reprints. Panelists: Sarah Pinsker, Rachel Swirsky, Colleen Barr, Marco Palmieri, John Joseph Adams, Don Slater

Friday, 4pm: Medicine after the End of the World: managing chronic conditions and serious illness after the apocalypse. Panelists: Annallee Flower Home, Nick Kanas, Daniel Potter, Rachel Swirsky, Michael Damien Thomas, Fran Wilde

Saturday, 4pm: Redefining the Aliens of the Future. Panelists: Juliette Wade, Charles Ganon, Nick Kanas, Fonda Lee, PJ Schnyder, Rachel Swirsky.

I’m also participating in the mass autographing, Friday, 8-9pm. 

(8) MARS MY DESTINATION. David D. Levine, whose Arabella of Mars will be out from Tor in July, also has a full dance card this weekend.

I’m at the airport again, heading for the Nebula Conference in Chicago, where I will learn whether or not my short story “Damage” won the Nebula Award. I will also appear on programming:

  • Thursday May 12, 2:00-3:00 pm: Interfacing with Conventions in LaSalle 2 with Lynne Thomas, Dave McCarty, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota
  • Friday May 13, 8:00-9:30 pm: Mass Autographing in Red Lacquer Room. Free and open to the public. I will have ARCs of Arabella of Mars to give away!
  • Saturday May 14, 8:30-10:00 pm: Nebula Award Ceremony in Empire Room.
  • Saturday May 14, 10:00-11:00 pm: Nebula Alternate Universe Speeches in Empire Room.
  • Sunday May 15, 10:00-11:00 am: When Is It Time for a New Agent? in LaSalle 2 with Kameron Hurley.

As long as I am in Chicago, I will also be appearing at Book Expo America, signing ARCs of Arabella of Mars 1:00-2:00 pm at autograph table 7.

(9) CHECK ANYONE’S NEBULA SCHEDULE. Here’s the tool that will let you find any SFWAn’s panel at this weekend’s event – Nebula Conference 2016 Schedule.

(10) CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CHU FAMILY. No need to look up Wesley Chu’s Nebula schedule –

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 11, 1936 Dracula’s Daughter was released. Trivia: Bela Lugosi was paid for his participation in publicity photos for this film even though he did not appear in it.

DraculasDaughter

  • May 11, 1984 Firestarter premiered, a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

(12) ELLIOTT REVIEWED. We mustn’t overlook a book with the magic number in the title — Microreview [book]: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott at Nerds of a Feather.

It might be easy to, at first glance, compare this book with other YA franchises because of its use of death sports and young people. Fives is a game where participants are part athletes, part combatants, and routinely die or are seriously injured on the court. It’s a game that involves complex traps and requires a keen mind and strong body. And it sits at the heart of a plot that revolves around political intrigue, oppression, and privilege. So at first blush it might seem slightly familiar. And yet the character work and the setting set it apart, give it a more historically grounded feel where Fives is more reminiscent of chariot racing than anything more contemporary.

(13) ADVANCED READING CODEX. At Black Gate, Elizabeth Cady argues “The Birth of the Novel” happened a thousand years earlier than some academics believe.

In my last post, I described one product of the Hellenistic period of ancient art as the invention of the novel. This surprised many people, who thought that the novel was an invention of a much later time. So of course, being an academic of leisure (she says as she ducks a flying juice box), I had to say more about it.

Some scholars do date the invention of the novel to the Modern period in Western Europe. I will display my ignorance and say I do not know why this is. Many books exist outside of English, outside of the Modern period, and in fact outside of the Western hemisphere that easily qualify as novels, so it is difficult for me to see this claim as much more than chauvinism. But if someone wants to correct me on this point, I am willing and eager to be enlightened. Or to fight you on it.

The first novel that we have comes from somewhere between the 2nd Century BCE and the 1st Century CE. It is a positively charming little book called Callirhoe, and it describes the travails of a beautiful young woman who marries her true love, an equally handsome young man named Chaereas. Shortly after their wedding, he kicks her in a fit of jealous rage and she dies.

At least that’s what everyone thinks. She has in fact been put into a coma, only to awaken when pirates invade her tomb. These pirates kidnap her and take her to Miletus to sell her at the slave market; she is then sold to a man named Dionysius. Callirhoe is so beautiful and virtuous that Dionysius falls in love with her as well, and asks her to marry him. She would refuse but she has discovered she is pregnant with her first husband’s child, and agrees to the marriage out of maternal devotion….

(14) THE PEEPS LOOK UP. John DeChancie reposted his homage to the LASFS clubhouse on Facebook.

…I only remember the good times. I remember the late nights, the Mah Jongg, the Hell games, the cook outs, the late night bull sessions. . .but what I cherish most is the sheer pleasure of meeting and talking with other people who share my view of the universe.

No, let me rephrase that. I look forward to people who have a view of the universe to share. Not everyone does. What most distinguishes the mentality of SF and its fandom from that of the mundane is the capacity to be aware of the vastness of everything out there, all the wild possibilities, the fantastic vistas, the realms of infinite regress, the black reaches and streams of bright plasma. Most humans have their myopic eyes fixed on the dirt. They don’t look up much. When they do, it is with fear and apprehension….

(15) AEI STAR WARS PANEL. The American Enterprise Institute presents “The world according to Star Wars”, part of the Bradley Lecture Series, on Tuesday, July 14. RSVP to attend this event, or watch live online here on June 14 at 5:30 PM ET. (Registration is not required for the livestream.)

Cass Sustein joins AEI scholars Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain to discuss his new book, “The World According to Star Wars,” a political and economic comparison of the “Star Wars” series and today’s America.

Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, has turned his attention to one of the most beloved and successful film series of our time, “Star Wars.” In his new book, “The World According to Star Wars” (Dey Street Books, 2016), Mr. Sunstein, who has written widely about constitutional and environmental law and behavioral economics, argues the legendary series can teach us a lot about economics, law, politics, and the power of individual agency.

Mr. Sunstein will be joined by AEI’s Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain for a discussion of the timeless lessons from “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Books will be available for purchase, and a book signing with follow the event.

(16) NEW SAMPLES AT GRRM SITE. George R. R. Martin told Not A Blog readers where to find new samples from two forthcoming books.

For all the Wild Cards fans out there, we’ve got a taste of HIGH STAKES, due out this August. HIGH STAKES is the twenty-third volume in the overall series, and the third and concluding part of the ‘Fort Freak’ triad. The sample is from the pen of the talented Ian Tregillis, and features Mollie Steunenberg, aka Tesseract. You’ll find it at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/wild-cards-excerpt/

((Readers with weak stomachs be warned, HIGH STAKES is our Lovecraftian horror book, and things do get graphic and bloody and… well… horrible. Althought not so much in the sample)).

And… because I know how much bitching I’d get if I offered a new sample from Wild Cards without also doing one from A SONG OF ICE & FIRE… we’ve also changed the WINDS OF WINTER sample on my wesbite, replacing the Alayne chapter that’s been there for the past year with one featuring Arianne Martell. (Some of you may have heard me read this one at cons).

Have a read at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/excerpt-from-the-winds-of-winter/

You want to know what the Sand Snakes, Prince Doran, Areo Hotah, Ellaria Sand, Darkstar, and the rest will be up to in WINDS OF WINTER? Quite a lot, actually. The sample will give you a taste. For the rest, you will need to wait.

And no, just to spike any bullshit rumors, changing the sample chapter does NOT mean I am done. See the icon up above? Monkey is still on my back… but he’s growing, he is, and one day…

(17) ZOOM BY TUBE. From Financial Times: “Musk’s Hyperloop in step towards reality”. (Via Chaos Manor.)

Elon Musk’s dream of ultra-high speed travel through a tube came a small step closer to reality on Tuesday, when one of the companies set up to pursue the idea announced it had raised another $80m and said it was ready to show off a key part of the technology.

Mr Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, stirred a wave of interest in 2013 in a technology known as hyperloop — a tube from which air is pumped out to maintain a near-vacuum, theoretically making it possible for pods carrying people or freight to move at close to the speed of sound.

The idea was floated as a potential alternative to California’s plans for a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Coming from an entrepreneur who has come to be seen in some tech circles as a visionary, it attracted enough attention to trigger a race among start-ups trying to prove the technology is in fact practical.

(18) AGENT CARTER. E!News asks“Did ABC Just Secretly Cancel Agent Carter?”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Warning: The following contains mild spoilers for both last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: Civil War. If you’re particularly averse to those sorts of things, you may want to turn away. Consider yourselves warned.

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to pay tribute to to the life of Agent Peggy Carter. But is it also time that we begin mourning Agent Carter, too?

If you didn’t make it out to the megaplex over the weekend to catch Captain America: Civil War, last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. probably dropped quite a bomb on you with their brief mention about the passing of the beloved founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the age of 95. That’s right, friends—Peggy Carter is dead….

(19) RED S GOING FROM CBS TO CW? ScreenRant explains why “Supergirl Season 2 Move to The CW Now a Stronger Possibility”.

CBS joined fellow TV networks FOX and The CW in airing its own DC Comics-based TV show in 2015 with Supergirl. However, the future of the series, starring Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers a.k.a. Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin), is currently up in the air following the airing of its season 1 finale. Although CBS CEO Les Moonves previously appeared to suggest that Supergirl season 2 is all but a done deal, the show has yet to be formally renewed, even now that the deadline for such a renewal is staring CBS right in the face.

There have been rumors that Supergirl could make the move to The CW – the place that Supergirl co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg’s other DC superhero TV shows (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) call home – for its sophomore season. While those claims were relatively shaky in nature, it’s now being reported that Supergirl moving to The CW is more of a real possibility and that steps are being taken to prepare for such a change, behind the scenes on the series.

(20) QUICK SAVE. “Here’s hoping The Flash wrote Kevin Smith a big fat check” says Polygon.

Whatever they paid for last night’s episode, it wasn’t enough

Whatever amount of money CW paid Kevin Smith to direct last night’s episode of The Flash, it wasn’t enough. The man responsible for Clerks (and everything that’s followed in its wake) single-handedly pulled the show out of a narrative tailspin the likes of which haven’t been seen on television since the second season of Heroes.

Now it’s up to the show’s core team to follow through and finish on a high note. Here’s how it went down.…

(21) MOVIES TO WATCH FOR. Hampus Eckerman recommends keeping an eye open for a chance to see these three movies.

A group of online gamers are invited to try a state-of-the-art virtual reality video game but things take a turn for the sinister when these masters of the shoot ’em up discover they will literally be fighting for their lives.

 

 NEUROO-X, a German-Swiss-Chinese entertainment company group, stands for games that dissolve the boundary between reality and gaming). A new gadget, the myth-enshrouded RED BOOK, offers the ultimate gaming experience. The most secret longings of gamers are scanned by the engine and transformed into fantastic adventures. The conspiracy psychoses of users are the raw material for the storytelling of NEUROO-X. Marcus, Chief Development Manager of NEUROO-X dies shortly before completion of the RED BOOK. His lover Ryuko finds out that something terrible happened during testing of the game in China, and the deeper she submerges into the secret of NEUROO-X, the more she loses touch with reality. She neglects her son Walter, who logs into the game and disappears into the digital parallel world. The more Ryuko fights the corporation in order to rescue her son, the more she updates the narrative desired by NEUROO-X. Ryuko finds herself in a world full of demons, witches, knights and terrorists.

 

Three ordinary guys are thrust into a parallel world of an old Sci-Fi movie. Trapped in a low budget universe they must somehow fight their way home before it is too late.

 

(22) TEACH YOUR HATCHLINGS WELL. “Godzilla Celebrates Take Your Child to Work Day!” at Tor.com features wonderful kaiju humor.

Take Your Child To Work Day is a chaotic time – hordes of tiny creatures swarming office spaces, demanding attention and snacks and opportunities to spin around in swivel chairs. But imagine, if you will, Godzilla participating in this tradition! Tumblr-er CaqtusComics proposed such a scenario to fellow Tumblr-er Iquanamouth, and the resulting comic is perfection.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, Rachel Swirsky, David D. Levine, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/16 Pixel Like It’s 1999

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO COMPANION. ScreenRant reports the “Doctor Who Season 10 Companion To Be Revealed This Weekend” – in the middle of the BBC One Match of the Day Live soccer broadcast.

[A] new companion has now been cast, the big reveal of exactly who that companion is, will be made this Saturday, April 23rd, on BBC1.

The announcement will be made during half-time of the soccer match between Everton and Manchester United, at approximately 6pm GMT. The news will be posted on all Doctor Who social media sites as it’s announced, enabling viewers across the world to all find out who has been cast at the same time.

 

(2) VIRTUOUS SIGNALING. Rob Boffard at Medium says “You can talk to the International Space Station right now. Here’s how to do it”.  Do you have what it takes?

Of all the things that shouldn’t be possible but are, talking to the International Space Station ranks right up there with Steph Curry’s basketball skills and the existence of Donald Trump.

Think about it. How weird is it that NASA can put a $150bn space station into orbit, which can then be contacted by anybody on Earth? Even you? It’s one of those things that gives you pause?—?the kind of thing you’re vaguely certain is against the law, somewhere.

It’s not something you’re going to be doing tonight?—?not unless you have the relevant equipment already to hand. It takes a little bit of work. But it’s entirely possible, even for those of us who aren’t geeks….

(3) BLOWN AWAY. James Bacon highly recommends The Great British Graphic Novel Comic art exhibition at the Cartoon Museum on the Forbidden Planet blog.

This is a phenomenal experience, it exceeded my expectations and I was blown away by the calibre of the artwork on display. The Cartoon Museum has amassed the finest examples of comic art, an incredible mix of exemplary work, providing a beautiful tapestry of the history and breadth of the greatest works from Britain for public consideration….

Soon I was looking at lovely pieces, starting with Hogarths ‘A Harlots Progress’ from 1732, ‘The Bottle’ from 1847 by George Cruikshank, ‘Ally Sopers; A Moral Lesson’ from 1873, Ronald Searle’s Capsulyssese from 1955, written by Richard Osborne. All giving one a real sense of history, showing that illustrated stories are nothing new in Britain.

Then as I rounded a corner I saw a grouping of Commando Comics placed next to a full colour cover of Charley’s War, and four pages of this seminal work of the First World War. Undoubtedly Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s masterpiece is indeed a crucial addition here, but I had a feeling of true appreciation of the comic form when I saw this colour cover and four original pages lined up. Juxtaposed with this was My Life in Pieces, The Falklands War by Will Kevans from 2014. Original art, cover and concept sketch made for a great grouping….

(4) CHABON AND HASBRO? Birth.Movies.Death almost cannot be believed this time — “Michael Chabon And Brian K. Vaughan To Make Hasbro Cinematic Universe Worth Taking Seriously”. Is there a way to get G.I. Joe taken seriously?

Last December, word came out that Hasbro was going to try their hand a making a cinematic universe based on their various toy properties, namely G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM. I was a little flip about it.

But now Hasbro, lead by Akiva Goldsman, has assembled its writers room and it’s no laughing matter. The big stars of the list are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’s Michael Chabon (who also worked on Spider-Man 2), Brian K. Vaughan, who you should know from comics like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga, Runaways and a bunch of other impressive titles, and Nicole Perlman, co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.

(5) SPACE MARINES. If you remember Space: Above and Beyond, you may be ready for the Space: Above and Beyond 20th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, August 6 at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel.

In 1996, Fox Studios produced the TV series: Space: Above And Beyond (aka S:AAB). The show had Drama, action, mystery and followed the lives of a diverse group of U.S. Marine Space Aviators while fighting against a powerful alien force on the ground, in the air and in outer space. It was part Top Gun, part James Cameron’s Aliens, and all exciting!

This short lived show (1995 to 1996), which fell victim to scheduling conflicts like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, is considered one of the best of Military Science Fiction series to air and is deserving of a convention of its own….

VIP tickets and Premium tickets are both on sale NOW at early-bird prices, and general admission tickets will go on sale starting May 1st.

(6) BEFORE THEY WERE BOTTLED. Syfy may order a pilot for David S. Goyer’s Superman prequel series Krypton.

The series, set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, would tell the story of the man of steel’s grandfather as he fights to restore the family honor of the House of El after it has been shamed.

The pilot will be produced by Warner Horizon Television. Goyer — who penned the screenplays for “Batman Begins,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — will write the pilot with Ian Goldberg. He will executive produce through his company Phantom Four with Damian Kindler, who will serve as showrunner. Colm McCarthy is set to direct the pilot.

(7) KIT WEST OBIT. British special effects artist Kit West (1936 – 17 April 2016), known for his work in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, died April 17.

(8) BOND FILM EDITOR HAMILTON OBIT. From the BBC:

Guy Hamilton, who directed four James Bond films, has died aged 93.

Former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore tweeted that he was “incredibly, incredibly saddened to hear the wonderful director Guy Hamilton has gone to the great cutting room in the sky. 2016 is horrid”.

Hamilton directed Sir Roger in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.

He also directed Sir Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever.

…Speaking about his style of directing he said he wanted value for money.

“In the making of Bond films we are some of the meanest toughest film makers. If we spend a million dollars it had better be up there on the screen.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of  Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, journeyed into space.

(10) CAN YOU SAY “CANONICALIZATION”? Will Frank discusses “The Duties of the Hugo Administrative Team” in a MidAmeriCon II blog post.

Once nominations close at the end of March, we go through the data and process it. There are a few steps to this, the biggest one being canonicalization. We review the data to make sure that votes for, for example, “The Three-Body Problem” and “The 3-Body Problem” and “Three Body Problem” and “ The There Body Problem ” —which would all appear separately in our database—are all set up to be recognized as nominations for the same book. And if you think that’s bad, imagine what it’s like when episodes of television get nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, where there are series title, episode title, and season and episode number, and a thousand different ways to put those together…

Once that’s done, we have our preliminary finalists. That’s when we start reaching out to nominees, letting them know they’ve been nominated, and a bit about the awards. That can be surprisingly difficult if we don’t know people’s email addresses. Sometimes, they’re public…but fairly often they’re not. There’s a certain amount of Googling, guessing, or asking people with impressive Rolodexes just to figure out a valid email address sometimes.

(11) SELECTIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY. Kate Paulk says Sad Puppies have a future, in “Miscellany” at Mad Genius Club.

In other news, this of the Puppy-related kind, I’ve heard rumors from several sources (but nothing official, alas) that more than 4000 Hugo nomination ballots were cast. I’ve also heard there are some saying that Sad Puppies 4 is a nonentity, that it’s run out of steam, it’s dead, pining for the fjords, gone to a better place… (erm, sorry?). Well, no.

Sad Puppies 4 is waiting to hear who the nominees (*ahem*. The Hugo Site says they aren’t being called nominees any more. They’re ‘finalists’ from a shortlist. Whatever) are before congratulating them for their recognition, whoever they are, and starting the next round of campaigning to boost involvement in the Hugos process.

(12) CAT PITCHER. He’s mad as a wet you-know-what! “Timothy Under Attack by SJW Warrior Feminist Filers” at Camestros Felapton.

A certain “website” which I shall not name because I shall not provide it with anymore publicity because I am sure nobody but a tiny number of far left Bernie Sanders supporters in a gated community ever read, as they sip champagne frappucinos in their la-di-da literati bookclub but whose name rhymes with smileearnestbevinbeventy, has SELECTIVELY QUOTED ME in a truly monstrous way to suggest that I am nothing but a poo-poo head! The calumny! The outrage!

(13) A MULTIPLE-CHUS PANEL. This program idea was dropped in the MidAmeriCon II suggestion box….

https://twitter.com/kyliu99/status/722967958054666241

(14) IN FACT IT’S COLD AS HELL. Science Alert reports “An abandoned probe just discovered something weird about the atmosphere of Venus”.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express probe spent eight years collecting information on Venus before plunging down to the surface and out of range back in November 2014. But now we finally have the last batch of data it transmitted back to Earth before going offline, and there are some big surprises in all those recordings.

Turns out, the polar atmosphere of Venus is a whole lot colder and a lot less dense than we previously thought, and these regions are dominated by strong atmospheric waves that have never been measured on Venus before.

Maddie Stone from Gizmodo reports that the Venus Express probe found polar areas of Venus to have an average temperature of -157 degrees Celsius, which is colder than any spot on Earth, and about 70 degrees lower than was previously thought.

This is rather surprising, considering Venus’s position as the hottest planet in the Solar System overall.

Not only is Venus much closer to the Sun than we are, it also has a thick, dense cloud layer that traps heat. However, Venus Express also found that the planet’s atmosphere was 22 to 40 percent less dense than expected at the polar regions.

(15) FAMOUS FURNITURE. Heritage Auctions now calls it “The Chair Heard ‘Round the World”.

The online and print publicity pieces for J. K. Rowling’s chair reached over 90 countries, plus all 50 states and all news aggregator sites. It saw total media coverage nationwide, with special interest in New York, Silicon Valley, and major cities in the Midwest, as well as the nation’s capital. The chair also garnered attention with 4,428 mainstream media hits, a number that is still rapidly growing. Print media circulated to 291.7+ million, while 15.6+ billion unique viewers visited websites carrying the article.

(16) THE TRUTH MAY NOT BE OUT THERE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Effie Seiberg, Liar”. (Effie needs an introduction Camestros Felapton’s cat.)

4) Wait, how do I know you aren’t sneakily telling the truth?

The answer to question 3 is a lie.

5) All right, I’ll let it go. Just know that I’m aware that at any point you could be LYING. So. You studied philosophy and logic. Do you use that in your fiction?

Absolutely! There’s a long tradition of slipping philosophy into speculative fiction, especially since they’re both about exploring ideas and taking them to their logical conclusions. Some of my favorites are Italo Calvino’s “All at One Point” and Asimov’s “The Last Question” for metaphysical cosmology, Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware” for ethics, and Roald Dahl’s “William and Mary” for epistemology, and the movies Labyrinth and Monty Python’s Holy Grail for classic logic. Also the entire Discworld series for all the philosophy ever.

(17) FARE LADY. Ann Leckie wrote about her GoH stint at Japan’s Hal-Con, including a special souvenir —

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:… And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:…

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough….

And I learned from her post that when cooked a coelacanth, like every other exotic creature, reportedly “tastes like chicken.”

(18) RUN A LINE THROUGH IT. “SFWA Contracts Committee Alert” at the SFWA Blog.

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways. Writers may choose to bring out a range of books from different publishers — science fiction from one publisher and fantasy from another publisher, for example — and may have to do so in order to earn anything like a living wage.  The problem becomes even worse for hybrid authors who self-publish works in parallel with their traditional publications. Several contracts that we have seen include overlapping restrictions that could keep the author from publishing another book for more than a year….

Our recommendations:

Any limitation on the author’s ability to write new works at any time is unacceptable and should be deleted.

“Competing work” should be defined in the contract as clearly and narrowly as possible, and preferably limited to a work in the same series (whether one is planned or not). The burden should be on the publisher to prove that another work published elsewhere by the author would reduce their sales.

(19) THRONES RETROSPECTIVE. BBC devoted a long post to Game of Thrones at 20: How the saga became a TV hit”.

Still, HBO wavered over whether to make a fantasy show that would be so drastically different from their trademark series, which tended toward the grittily realistic. And even after HBO tentatively signed on, Benioff and Weiss’s original pilot episode had to be completely reshot before the show finally debuted in 2011 – another six years after the producers had first acquired the rights from Martin. But there was hope from another perspective: the rise of prestige television had paralleled the rise of cult fandoms. The passionate online exchanges among fans of books like Martin’s made them desirable targets for marketing. Suddenly, HBO had proof that a Game of Thrones series would have an intensely engaged audience from the start, and the network’s marketers knew exactly how to reach those fans – right on those websites and message boards where they gathered to discuss the minutiae of the books. If the network got particularly lucky, those fans would become ambassadors to a wider audience.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link together with these comments, “They do mention the proper title at one point, although it seems a lost cause generally. OTOH, the night before my cruise got to Dubrovnik two weeks ago, the tour manager specifically called out A Song of Ice and Fire — so some people actually know the original collective.”

(20) HEAD OF THE CLASS. Entertainment Weekly explains what went down.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Late Late Show With James Corden, host James Corden and some high-wattage Game of Thrones cast members spoofed House of Black and White’s Hall of Faces (a prominent part of the show’s season 6 marketing campaign), with a segment imagining what an obnoxious disembodied head might do to the larger group.

The sketch featured recent guests Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, and Iwan Rheon…

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Will R., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the Top Level Poster. On his head be it!]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/16 I’m Not A Pixel, I’m A Free Scroll

(1) SPEAKING OF FREE SCROLLS. R. Graeme Cameron will start a “SciFi Fiction Magazine” for Canadian writers if his GoFundMe appeal generates $1,500. Issues will be a free read.

When I was a teenager I decided I wanted to be a Science Fiction Writer. Fifty years later I’m a curmudgeonly pensioner who never sold a darn thing, not one novel, not one story. Del Rey books rejected one of my novels with the comment “We don’t like your main character and we don’t think anyone else will either.”

As a life-long beginning writer I know your pain. Always dreaming of that first sale. That’s why I’m starting up POLAR BOREAL, a Canadian SF&F fiction magazine actively encouraging beginning Canadian writers to submit short stories (3,000 words or less) and/or poems. The magazine will be free to anyone who wants to download it, yet all contributors will be paid on acceptance (if I can get the money) at one cent a word for short stories and $10 per poem.

(2) THE CLASSICS. Alexander Dane makes it sound like every day is Black Friday…

(3) NOT EGGSACTLY SURE. TV Guide promises “The 15 Coolest Easter Eggs from Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. SPOILER WARNING, naturally, but my question is – how many of these are really Easter Eggs as opposed to simple casting reveals? Do I not understand what an Easter Egg is? Straighten me out here….

(4) WILD GUESS. Umm, maybe look at the MidAmeriCon II committee list and use the contact information?

(5) HOW AUTHORS DON’T GET PAID. Philip Pullman has resigned as Patron of the Oxford Literary Festival the organization has announced. The reason is very simple.

Our President, Philip Pullman, has resigned as a Patron of Oxford Literary Festival because they do not pay authors.

He explained his decision:

My position as President of the Society of Authors, which has been campaigning for fair payment for speakers at literary festivals, sat rather awkwardly with my position as Patron of the Oxford Literary Festival, because (despite urging from me and others over the years) it does not pay speakers. So I thought it was time I resigned as a Patron of the OLF.

The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture-halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?

(6) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Y-3 creates spacesuits for Virgin Galactic pilots on world’s first commercial space flights

(7) BUGS, MISTER RICO! The newly-christened “Las Vegas of ants” is visible on Google Earth.

Not far from the Grand Canyon, near a landmark called Vulcan’s Throne, the ground is dotted with strange, barren circles, visible from orbit.

Evidence of an alien encounter? Nope. The likely culprit is actually ants — a lot of them. So many that the scientists who discovered them are referring to the area as “the Las Vegas of ants.”

Physicist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a specialist in image processing and satellite imagery analysis at the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy, noticed the bizarre polka- dot features while studying the dimensions of the Grand Canyon rim in Google Earth.

(8) VOX DAY COLLECTIBLES. Vox Day devoted a post to Camestros Felapton’s “Hugo”/Lego “Sad Larry” trading card.

While they, apparently, are occupied with making Lego figures of us. It seems that is what they do when they are not obsessing over what they think we are thinking. Even in light of how poorly they anticipated me last time, it’s mildly amusing to see that they still don’t understand my perspective at all.

The Dread Ilk commenters, however, were more concerned that Vox get a “Hugo” trading card of his own, so Felapton reassured them in “Vox links to the Larry pic”

Vox appeared in an earlier post and has a new figure in a couple of days – with a flaming sword no less!

So it looks like we won’t get to riff off Lucy’s “Was Beethoven ever on a bubblegum card?” after all.

(9) GRABTHAR’S HAMMER OF LOVING CORRECTION. Steve Davidson’s self-imposed moratorium on writing about Sad Puppies at Amazing Stories has ended in the only way it could. Here are a few salient paragraphs.

In moving forward, I believe it is important that the message sent last year be reinforced this year. We’ve already seen at least one author declaring that begging for votes is no longer a problem.  If we do not want that mindset to take hold, we will continue to repudiate slate voting this year.

Fans who discover a loophole in the voting rules don’t seek personal advantage – they bring it to the attention of other fans and make proposals at the business meeting and generally use their new found knowledge for the benefit of the whole.  (Or, if unhappy with the process, they go off and do their own thing, which is then rewarded or ignored based on the merit of the accomplishment, not a tally of internet one upsmanship points.)  Hugo voting actions this year should send that message.  Therefore –

I will be nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards this year in the same way I voted last year:  I’ll read and watch and listen to everything I can on the final ballot, will vote my conscience and will make sure that any work that appears on a slate (a voting list with a political agenda behind it) will be below No Award and off the ballot.

(10) RATINGS TIME. Gregory N. Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank says:

We analyzed all the RSR data to come up with a list for Best Editor (short form) Hugo nominations.

We construct several different lists, using different assumptions, and urge fans to use our data to make their own lists, so I don’t think this amounts to a slate.

This should be fun reading for anyone who’s really into short fiction, since I don’t believe anyone has ever done this kind of analysis before.

If anyone feels to the contrary — there are any slate-like tendencies in play here — please share your analysis.

(11) WE ALL DREAM IN GOLD. Since we always try to cover Guillermo del Toro’s doings on File 770 whenever we can, John King Tarpinian was disgustipated (I think that’s the technical term) that I overlooked this golden opportunity in my post about the 2016 Oscar nominations.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Guillermo del Toro, John Krasinski and Ang Lee will announce the 88th Academy Awards® nominations in all 24 Oscar® categories at a special two-part live news conference on Thursday…

(12) SHRUNKEN HEADS. Cass R. Sunstein at Bloomberg News breaks down “How Facebook Makes Us Dumber”.

Why does misinformation spread so quickly on the social media? Why doesn’t it get corrected? When the truth is so easy to find, why do people accept falsehoods?

A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information.

I thought so. Or is it just confirmation bias at work if I agree that Facebook lowers my IQ?

(13) FOREVER DIFFERENT. Tobias Carroll checked with “28 Authors on the Books That Changed Their Lives”. The New York Magazine article has contributions from SF authors Elizabeth Hand, Ken Liu, Cathrynne M. Valente, Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer, and Jo Walton, among others.

Maria Dahvana Headley, author of Magonia and The Year of Yes “This question is both easy and difficult! I grew up a very rural and very gluttonous reader, in Idaho, about ten miles outside a town of 500 people. Essentially, I spent my reading childhood playing with other people’s imaginary friends, and I’ve grown into the kind of writer who does the same thing. So, in that regard, everything I’ve ever read has been life-changing. The first massive Rock My World book, though, was Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which I read when I was 17. Not only was I clueless about race in America at that point, coming from where I came from, I was also clueless about living female genius writers. I didn’t know there were any. Up to that point, I’d read almost entirely white men. KA-BAM. I got blasted out of the universe of dead white boys, and into something much more magnificent. Morrison’s way of flawlessly entwining her haunting with her history left me dazzled, sobbing, and bewildered. Morrison is obviously a genre-leaping master of style, and reading her not only made me aware of what was possible as a writer, it led me to all of the poets, songwriters, playwrights, and librettists who continue to influence my work today.”

(14) BOWIE AND SF. Jason Heller’s Pitchfork article “Anthems for the Moon: David Bowie’s Sci-Fi Explorations” is one more list of SF parallels and influences on Bowie’s work. Moorcock, Heinlein, Bradbury, Dick, Burgess, and others are mentioned.

In its celebration of androgyny, glam also lined up with Ursula K. Le Guin’s visionary 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which takes place on an alien planet where transitions between genders are as routine as any other biological process—a concept that certainly resonates with Bowie’s aesthetic. “Androgynous sexuality and extraterrestrial origin seemed to have provided two different points of identification for Bowie fans,” notes Philip Auslander in Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music. “Whereas some were taken with his womanliness, others were struck by his spaciness.”

(15) MARS MUSIC I. Matthew Johnson adds another number to that award-winning musical, The Martian.

(With apologies to David Bowie)

Hello, I feel I have to remind
You that you kind of left me behind
Is there life on Mars?

 

Four years alone could be a slog
I guess I ought to keep a log
Is there life on Mars?

 

On Mars a man dies by his wits
He even has to science his shit
Is there life on Mars?

 

The greatest scientist on the planet
I can plant it and grow it and can it
Is there life on Mars?

 

Disco hell is kind of groovy
Matt Damon plays me in the movie
Is there life on Mars?

 

Four years is a long time to be alone
There might be a new Game of Thrones when I’m done
Is there life on Mars?

(16) MARS MUSIC II. And Seth Gordon likewise swings and sways to a melody in his head

As I walk through the valley with the sand so red
I take a look at my suit and realize that I’m not dead
’Cause I’ve been science-ing this shit for so long that
Even Houston thinks that my ass is gone…

[Thanks to Bret Grandrath, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Will R., and Nick Mamatas for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]