2019 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2019-published works, which people have read and recommend to other Filers.

There will be no tallying of recommendations done in this thread; its purpose is to provide a source of recommendations for people who want to find something to read which will be Hugo-eligible next year.

You don’t have to stop recommending works in Pixel Scrolls, please don’t! But it would be nice if you also post here, to capture the information for other readers.

The Suggested Format for posts is:

  • Title, Author, Published by / Published in (Anthology, Collection, Website, or Magazine + Issue)
  • Hugo Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, etc)
  • link (if available to read/view online)
  • optional “Brief, spoiler-free description of story premise:”
  • optional “What I liked and didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

Re-Writing The World: Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside

 

By JJ: I’ve been outspoken here in the past about my appreciation for Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, which was a finalist last year for the Hugo Award for Best Series.

I’ve been looking forward to more work from Bennett, and was delighted to see that he’d published a new novel: Foundryside. This is set in a new universe, and while it’s very different from that of The Divine Cities, it’s a fascinating, fully-realized world which combines fantasy with engineering in what could be called “scriberpunk”.

The engineering in this world, instead of being driven by steam, is driven by inscriptions written on ordinary objects. Linked to, and powered by, “lexicons” – which are essentially databases of definitions of various types of reality – these inscriptions instruct objects to behave in ways contrary to their normal nature.

Imagine the power with which an object could be hurled if you’ve convinced it that it’s falling to the earth from 10,000 feet up. Imagine knowing what is happening right now in a place far away, because you hold an object for which its metaphysical twin is being altered to deliver that news.

The world itself is a complex and contradictory one: wealthy people live in compounds where wonderful food, clothing, shelter, and luxuries are widely available – while poor people beg and steal in the streets outside, trying to survive in their own world of violence and privation.

And this is a world which has risen from the ashes of a much older, more advanced civilization. The scrivings currently being done by the wealthy Founders’ research scientists and by the clever science-inclined denizens of the city’s struggling underclass are merely the comparatively tiny scraps they have desperately managed to reverse-engineer from the relics of that civilization, which fell to an unknown cataclysm.

Sancia is an inhabitant of the poor section of the city of Tevanne, known as Foundryside. She is scrappy and resourceful, a clever thief who hides a frightening secret: she is the lone survivor of the brutal experiments conducted on slave plantations outside the city which attempted to create scrived human beings. Because of the inscriptions which have been placed in her skull, she has abilities of which no one is aware. But she is in danger, because her actions with her special powers have given her away, and there are several powerful people with numerous opposing motives who are all searching for her.

Touching on themes of wealth vs. poverty, the ability of the rich to exploit the poor, slavery, colonialism, and corporations for which the only concern is the accumulation of yet more wealth, Bennett’s novel is a tantalizing view of our own world transferred to a universe where engineers are gods and ordinary people do their best to take care of themselves and each other against seemingly-insurmountable odds.

I found this story utterly engaging and couldn’t put it down until I finished. I can’t wait for the next entry in this world to come out. Shorefall will be released in February 2020.

Read more…

Where To Find The 2018 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

By JJ: The Nebula Finalists have just been announced, and if you’d like to check them out to see whether you think they’d be good contenders for your Hugo ballot, you can use this handy guide to find material which is available for free online.

Where available in their entirety, works are linked (most of the Novelettes and Short Stories are free). If not available for free, an Amazon link is provided. If a free excerpt is available online, it has been linked. (In some cases, you may need to scroll down the linked page and/or click on an “Excerpt” link to see the excerpt.)

Have you read / seen / played any of these already? What did you think?

Fair notice: All Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit fan site Worlds Without End.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Game Writing

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

2019 Hugo Awards Best Series Discussion

 
By JJ: With the Hugo Award nomination deadline only a month away, I thought it would be helpful for Filers to have a discussion about the potential nominees for Best Series. What follows is a précis of the series which I’m considering nominating for the Hugo Awards, telling you why I think these series are worthy.

Of the (as of this writing) 170 series listed on the Best Series Hugo: Eligible Series from 2018 page, I’ve read all or most of 43 series, 2 or 3 books each in five of the series, and 1 book each in thirteen of those series. That gives me more than 60 possibilities which I have to whittle down to a shortlist of 5 series.

While I do feel that some of the Best Series finalists from the past two years are Hugo-worthy, I’d like to highlight excellent series for which the individual volumes have not received much in the way of Hugo recognition thus far. So I’ve selected 10 series which I’ve especially enjoyed to feature in this post. These series, I feel, epitomize what the Best Series Hugo Award should be about: groups of works which, as a whole, are greater than the sum of their parts, and which, even if they’re still ongoing, can be said to have told a complete story at this point.

Because this post is about what I’ve read and liked, please bear in mind the following:

  1. I read predominantly science fiction, though I do read a fair bit of fantasy, and I especially enjoy science-fictional mysteries.
  2. I apparently had a stunted, defective childhood and do not find Tolkien-style fantasy, nor fairytale retellings or subversions, particularly compelling.
  3. I am not a big fan of urban fantasy or horror, especially not of vampires or Lovecraft.
  4. I have very definite opinions about what I like and don’t like, but these are of course entirely subjective, and the opinions of people who disagree with me are just wrong  as valid.

This means that I am counting on you Filers to make a compelling case for your own favorites, to broaden the scope of this post. Please talk about the series you like in the comments, and tell everyone what you think makes them Hugo-worthy.

(As always, please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Hyperlinks are to stories and excerpts which are available to read for free on the internet.


Sin du Jour by Matt Wallace (list of works)
2018 work: Taste of Wrath (novella)
Notes: series contains 7 novellas and 1 short story; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Sin du Jour Catering has a specialty: they prepare banquets and dinners for supernatural beings and extraordinary events. But of course, no catering plan survives contact with the diners… the big question is whether the Sin du Jour crew will survive the inevitable catastrophes which ensue.

Why I think it’s great: This is an unexpected, clever, slyly-witty delight. The catering staff members are a diverse, idiosyncratic group of people who have managed, despite their annoying habits and their weaknesses, to make a true family with each other – 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. Each volume tells a new story, but only the first novella really stands well on its own. As a whole, this series is the story of that family’s journey: lots of amusing and terrifying subplots to enjoy, full of adventure, heartbreak, humor, and caring.


Kylara Vatta / Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon (list of works)
2018 work: Into the Fire (novel)
Notes: subseries contains 2 novels; previous subseries Vatta’s War contains 5 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes. The author’s notes in the most recent novel give me concern that there won’t be any further volumes; I’d really like to see this series recognized while it’s still eligible.

What it’s about: Forced to resign in disgrace from the spaceforce academy due to another cadet’s treachery, Vatta’s family gets her out of the way by assigning her to captain one of their decrepit merchant cargo ships. She proves to be a capable, inventive captain, who must marshal her crew and allies when her extensive family group and their mercantile empire are attacked and assassinated on multiple planets and in space. Her strategic skills and leadership ability aid in her rise to lead the fleet in a galactic war… but even in victory, there are enemies lying in wait to take down her family’s company and the government.

Why I think it’s great: This is smart, fast-paced space adventure with a complex, clever, and competent main character and a supporting cast whose personalities become more deeply-developed over the course of each book. The strength of the series is that, while each book works as a standalone entry, the individual plots are woven into a larger, complex story, full of edge-of-the-seat action and political machinations.


Diving Universe by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (list of works)
2018 works: Searching for the Fleet (novel), The Rescue of the Renegat (novella), Dix (novella), Joyride (novella), and “Lieutenant Tightass” (novelette)
Notes: series contains 7 novels, 11 novellas, and 2 novelettes

What it’s about: The owner of a small spaceship-wreck exploration company discovers tantalizing clues to an ancient, more advanced spacefaring civilization, and embarks on an obsessive search for the relics which will bring more knowledge of those who came before… resulting in one really big, unexpected answer – which leads to many further mysteries.

Why I think it’s great: Scuba diving, but on spaceships! Time Travel! Ancient Mysteries! With an ever-widening cast of well-developed, complex characters, its extensive worldbuilding for a vast spacefaring civilization, mysteries to be solved, and adventures on many worlds, this series hits all of my sweet spots.


Andrea Cort / Draiken by Adam-Troy Castro (list of works)
2018 work: Blurred Lives (novella) and A Stab of the Knife (novella)
Notes: subseries contains 4 novellas; main series contains 3 novels, 4 novellas, and a novelette; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient word count

What it’s about: A brilliant, tenacious investigator and prosecutor, Andrea Cort serves the Diplomatic Corps of the Hom.Sap.Mercantile Empire, sent on missions to preserve the fragile peace between humans and other races. But Cort has a very dark past, and there are a lot of beings who, in their anger and contempt for her, wish to bring her a death from which the Corps protects her only as long as it suits their purposes. Draiken has retired from a profession as a highly-skilled spy and assassin for a powerful galactic organization… but his past, and his own demons, won’t let him escape so easily. Each of them faces encounters where only their own brilliance at finding the answers keeps them from being killed – but eventually their courses are destined to collide, in a game of cat-and-mouse that one of them may not survive.

Why I think it’s great: Not only is each of the stories in this series a standalone science-fictional mystery, they are so deftly-plotted, featuring intricate twists, that it’s only when the pieces slot into place that the brilliance of the plotting becomes apparent. The author has created compelling, well-fleshed-out characters, and fascinatingly-alien races and worlds, served up with intriguing spycraft and detective work.


Planetfall by Emma Newman (list of works)
2018 work: Before Mars (novel excerpt 1 excerpt 2)
Notes: series contains 3 novels

What it’s about: The first novel in the series tells the stories of the colonists on a distant, far-from-ideal planet and their gradual disintegration after their charismatic leader disappears. The second tells the stories of the people left behind on Earth, especially that of the son of one of the colonists and the resentment he faces from the rest of the planet. The third novel tells the story of an artist who accepts a position in-residence at a Mars habitat funded by an extremely wealthy man.

Why I think it’s great: Each of the novels in this series stands alone well, though they are set in the same near-future Earth universe and do have some interlinked threads. Each novel features a different compelling mystery and main character who must solve it in order to save their own life. The worldbuilding is plausible, and the characters wonderfully multi-faceted. I think that each novel has been progressively more intricate and skillful, creating a well-crafted vision of a possible not-too-distant future.


Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard (list of works)
2018 work: The Tea Master and the Detective (novella – scroll down for excerpt)
Notes: series consists of 25 short stories novelettes, and novellas; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Xuya is an alternate history universe where China discovered the Americas before the West, which led to a global Asian domination of the globe rather than the Western one – and to a space age initially dominated by Chinese and Vietnamese galactic empires.

Why I think it’s great: The author’s worldbuilding through the numerous stories in this universe is deep and extensive. The different cultural perspective makes it a refreshing change from Western-oriented science fiction. It features sentient ships capable of subdimensional intergalactic travel, resulting in widespread colonization of space, and mysterious technologies of weaponry and teleportation. Rather than featuring a small core cast of characters, this series finds its strength in the breadth of the worldbuilding details and insights into the personalities of many different characters.


Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (list of works)
2018 work: The Mortal Word (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels

What it’s about: As a librarian for the mysterious Library, Irene is not only a researcher, but a professional spy and thief, acquiring variant versions of significant works from alternate realities (some of which are very like our own, and some which differ wildly). Time spent in The Library is outside of real time – librarians do not age while they are there, and thus are nearly immortal. However, Irene is at the beginning of her career, just out of training, and after being viciously betrayed by her mentor, must undertake missions to prove her value. After being saddled with her own inexperienced apprentice – who has some dark secrets of his own – she is sent to various worlds, where others with their own nefarious purposes will try to thwart her success in favor of her own.

Why I think it’s great: Like many avid readers, I admire and adore librarians, with their seemingly-magical powers of knowing which books will meet various needs, and their ability to find almost anything. The adventures in this series include mysteries, dragons, fae, magical language which can compel objects to behave contrary to their ordinary nature, endless alternate timelines to explore, complex villains, and books, books, and more books. The author’s storytelling skills have leveled-up as the series has progressed, and each new entry released is an automatic addition to my TBR.


Fractured Europe by Dave Hutchinson (list of works)
2018 work: Europe at Dawn (novel)
Notes: series contains 4 novels

What it’s about: This fantasy series features a near-future Europe where the Union has fallen apart in the wake of a catastrophic pandemic and subsequent economic collapse. The borders of countries are constantly shifting and increasingly fragmented with the political winds, making mail and freight service unreliable and impractical. A mysterious spy/courier organization has come into existence, with agents who are heavily trained in spycraft and subterfuge and who will, for a hefty fee, deliver packages in a timely fashion across what are now frequently tightly-controlled and policed – or even impassable – borders. The main character, a chef who moonlights as a courier, discovers a shocking revelation: na nygreangr jbeyq shyy bs crbcyr ybfg va gvzr, juvpu pb-rkvfgf jvguva gur fnzr trbtencul nf Rhebcr, naq juvpu pna or npprffrq ivn n srj frperg ragenaprf. Naq vgf erfvqragf unir gurve bja frperg ntraqn, bar juvpu znl cebir sngny gb gur Rhebcr ur xabjf.

Why I think it’s great: The first novel can be read on its own, but the full depth of the worldbuilding slowly develops over the course of the series, with each successive volume producing new revelations which gradually weave a larger tapestry. The mysteries and spycraft are of the sort found in Le Carré novels, with some deadpan humor and lots of suspense as the mysteries unfold and random events take on significance. This is one of those series which richly rewards a re-read, as hindsight provides a new perspective on events as they occur.


The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams (list of works)
2018 work: The Accidental War (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels, 2 novellas, and a short story

What it’s about: This series begins with the end of the rule of a powerful alien race who conquered humans as well as numerous other alien species, setting them all under a rigid doctrine of laws known as The Praxis. The power vacuum created by the end of their empire (bored with life after many millennia, they have deliberately wiped themselves out) provides the opportunity for one of the other races to attempt a takeover – one in which the humans will be on the receiving end of some serious oppression. However, two different officers of the Terran navy, each a brilliant tactician in their own way, fight on different fronts to prevent that takeover and change the empire into some version of democracy (or at least an approximation of equality among species).

Why I think it’s great: Readers who appreciate military and social strategy, tricks, and tactics will find a lot to enjoy here – and there are some good mysteries and suspense thrown in, to boot. The main characters are well-developed and sympathetic, while still being complex and flawed, and the author continues to expand the worldbuilding with each entry in the series. As a whole, this series is very much a greater adventure than the sum of its parts.


Hail Bristol / Farian War by K. B. Wagers (list of works)
2018 work: There Before the Chaos (novel)
Notes: first novel in this subseries; previous subseries Indranan War contains 3 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes

What it’s about: After her father is killed, a younger daughter of the Empress, who disdains life in the royal court, runs off to become a feared gunrunner with criminal ties. When her sister-heirs are assassinated, with the Empress deathly ill, the royal bodyguards come to drag her, unwillingly, back to her obligations to the throne. But there are forces still hiding within the empire who want her – and her family – out of the picture for good, and she must fight to stay alive while she tries to bring some stability to her planet and her people.

Why I think it’s great: Not only does this series feature a kickass strong protagonist, it also portrays a matriarchal ruling structure which she recognizes as being inherently sexist and wrong, and must work to reform. Even her enemies are people who do what they do for the sake of what they believe is right, and there is no simple good vs. bad story here. It’s also a story of finding your family among the people around you, of obligation and duty versus desire, of loyalty and betrayal, of cruelty and kindness, and of hope.


Unfettered III – Great Stories, Helping Authors and Artists


By JJ: Grim Oak Press and editor Shawn Speakman produce the Unfettered anthologies and other special editions – part of the proceeds of which is used to help pay medical fees for authors and artists in need:

Unfettered: Lacking health insurance and diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, Shawn quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he did not have the ability to pay. That’s when New York Times best-selling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story Shawn could sell toward alleviating those bills – and suggested Shawn ask the same of his other friends.

The first Unfettered anthology was the result, an anthology unfettered by story theme restrictions, featuring short fiction works by some of the best fantasy writers in the genre – many of which were set in those authors’ popular series universes. It paid off more than $200,000 in medical bills.

Unfettered II: In an effort to pay forward the aid he received – and to memorialize his mother who passed away from stomach cancer in early 2016 – Speakman again collaborated with celebrated genre authors to publish Unfettered II. All proceeds from the anthology went to help eliminate medical debt for other authors or be donated to cancer research hubs around the world.

To date, the project has given approximately $24,000 from Unfettered and Unfettered II, two large donations to two fantasy authors in need of funds for medical debt and hospice care and around $10,000 in donations to cancer research. Once the applied-for 501c3 charitable organization status is approved, they will be able to disburse more funds to needy authors and artists, without having to pay taxes on them.

The list of authors to be included in Unfettered III is full of well-known names, and the book will be available as a hardcover ARC signed by at least six contributors (250 copies only, available January 15), a trade hardcover and an ebook (both available March 19), and a numbered hardcover edition signed by all contributors (available May 14). Preorders can be made now from the link below.

Unfettered III: New Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman, Grim Oak Press (2019)
cover art by Todd Lockwood

List of Authors

  • Callie Bates
  • Terry Brooks
  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Jason Denzel
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Lev Grossman
  • John Gwynne
  • Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
  • Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Megan Lindholm (Robin Hobb)
  • Todd Lockwood
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Naomi Novik
  • Peter Orullian
  • Cat Rambo
  • Robert V. S. Redick
  • Ken Scholes
  • Scott Sigler
  • Anna Smith Spark
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Anna Stephens
  • Patrick Swenson
  • Ramon Terrell
  • Marc Turner
  • Carrie Vaughn
  • Tad Williams
  • Deborah A. Wolf

… and according to Brandon Sanderson, it will include a never-published, 20,000-word Wheel of Time novella:

As some of you know, during the revision process of A Memory of Light, two lengthy sections ended up on the cutting room floor. The first, which we titled River of Souls, was included in the first Unfettered Anthology. The second, I assumed, would never see the light of day.

However, Grim Oak Press (and Shawn Speakman, who runs it) has continued the Unfettered anthologies – the income of which is used to help pay medical fees for authors and artists in need. I thought the arrival of the third anthology would be a great chance to use this other deleted scene. (Which involves Perrin traveling into the Ways.) Harriet has graciously agreed to let it be published, so I’m thrilled to be able to announce its inclusion in the anthology.

I’ve long been fond of this sequence, and it was quite difficult to cut from the book. (In the anthology itself, I’ll explain why we eventually decided that the sequence needed to go.)

The earlier Unfettered anthologies are still available in trade, e-book, and special editions; the first one has been reissued in a second edition which features a new cover and contains an extra story. Purchasing any of these anthologies directly from the Grim Oak Press site allows more of the money to go to the charitable fund – however, Speakman is happy for readers to purchase at any of the usual retail sites.

Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman, Grim Oak Press (2013)
First edition cover art by Todd Lockwood
Second edition cover art by Stacie Pitt

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Patrick Rothfuss: “On Becoming Unfettered”
  • Introduction by Shawn Speakman
  • “The Unlocked Tome” by Shawn Speakman
  • “Imaginary Friends” by Terry Brooks [Word & Void]
  • “How Old Holly Came To Be” by Patrick Rothfuss [Kingkiller Chronicle]
  • “The Old Scale Game” by Tad Williams
  • “Game of Chance” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “Martyr of the Roses” by Jacqueline Carey [Kushiel]
  • “Mudboy” by Peter V. Brett [Demon Cycle]
  • “The Sound of Broken Absolutes” by Peter Orullian [Vault of Heaven]
  • “The Coach With Big Teeth” by R.A. Salvatore
  • “Keeper of Memory” by Todd Lockwood [Summer Dragon]
  • “Heaven in a Wild Flower” by Blake Charlton
  • “Dogs” by Daniel Abraham
  • “The Chapel Perilous” by Kevin Hearne [Iron Druid Chronicles]
  • “Select Mode” by Mark Lawrence [Broken Empire]
  • “All the Girls Love Michael Stein” by David Anthony Durham
  • “Strange Rain” by Jennifer Bosworth [Struck]
  • “Nocturne” by Robert V. S. Redick
  • “Unbowed” by Eldon Thompson [Legend of Asahiel]
  • “In Favour With Their Stars” by Naomi Novik [Temeraire]
  • “River of Souls” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Wheel of Time]
  • “The Jester” by Michael J. Sullivan [Riyria Chronicles]
  • “The Duel” by Lev Grossman [Fillory]
  • “Walker and the Shade of Allanon” by Terry Brooks [Shannara]
  • “The Unfettered Knight” by Shawn Speakman [Annwn Cycle]
  • “The Twilight Dragon” by Shawn Speakman (UK edition only)

Unfettered II: New Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman, Grim Oak Press (2016)
cover art by Todd Lockwood

Table of Contents

  • Foreword: “Remembering Kathy Speakman” by Terry Brooks
  • Introduction: “The End of Magic’s Beginning” by Shawn Speakman
  • “Castle Coeurlieu” by Naomi Novik
  • “A Slow Kill” by Peter Orullian [Vault of Heaven]
  • “And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Day One” by Jim Butcher [Dresden Files]
  • “Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village” by Bradley P. Beaulieu [Song of Shattered Sands]
  • “Aokigahara” by John A. Pitts
  • “The Decoy” by Janny Wurts [Wars of Light and Shadow]
  • “The King’s Despatcher” by David Farland [Runelords]
  • “Figures” by Rachel Caine
  • “The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tóu Ma” by Aidan Moher
  • “Magic Beans” by Django Wexler
  • “The Hedgewitch” by Sarah Beth Durst [Queens of Renthia]
  • “Victim with a Capital V” by Scott Sigler
  • “A Duel of Evils” by Anthony Ryan [Raven’s Shadow]
  • “The Raven” by Erin Lindsey [Bloodbound]
  • “Bulletproof” by Mark Lawrence
  • “The Gunnnie” by Charlaine Harris [Gunnie Rose]
  • “Little Wren and the Big Forest” by Michael J. Sullivan [First Empire]
  • “The Thrill” by Brandon Sanderson [Stormlight Archive]
  • “The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch” by Shawn Speakman

Unbound: Tales by Masters of Fantasy, edited by Shawn Speakman, Grim Oak Press (2015)
cover art by Todd Lockwood

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: “A Geek Trying to Do Good”, by Shawn Speakman
  • “Small Kindnesses” by Joe Abercrombie [First Law]
  • “An Unfortunate Influx of Filipians” by Terry Brooks [Landover]
  • “Mr. Island” by Kristen Britain
  • “Jury Duty” by Jim Butcher [Dresden Files]
  • “Madwalls” by Rachel Caine
  • “The Way Into Oblivion” by Harry Connolly
  • “Uncharming” by Delilah Dawson
  • “All In a Night’s Work” by David Anthony Durham
  • “Son of Crimea” by Jason M. Hough [Zero World]
  • “A Dichotomy of Paradigms” by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • “A Good Name” by Mark Lawrence [Broken Empire]
  • “River and Echo” by John Marco
  • “Seven Tongues” by Tim Marquitz
  • “The Siege of Tilpur” by Brian McClellan [Powder Mage]
  • “Fiber” by Seanan McGuire [Fighting Pumpkins]
  • “Stories Are Gods” by Peter Orullian [Vault of Heaven]
  • “Heart’s Desire” by Kat Richardson
  • “The Hall of the Diamond Queen” by Anthony Ryan [Raven’s Shadow]
  • “The Dead’s Revenant” by Shawn Speakman [Annwn Cycle]
  • “The Farmboy Prince” by Brian Staveley
  • “The Game” by Michael J. Sullivan
  • “The Ethical Heresy” by Sam Sykes
  • “The Rat” by Mazarkis Williams

About Grim Oak Press:

Unfettered launched Grim Oak Press, a brand new SF&F publishing press with the big dream of helping others. It has grown ever since. After five years, Grim Oak Press spawned the non-profit Grim Oak Shield, both businesses working hand-in-hand to defeat medical debt for authors and artists in need. Such notable authors as Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, Jacqueline Carey, Stephen R. Donaldson, Raymond E. Feist, and Janny Wurts support that mission and in 2018 Grim Oak Press will publish beautiful, limited editions of their books.

Each project we take on has its own life and style. We try to match the best artists in SF&F with the story to make a perfect match. We work directly with the authors and artists, giving them a creative freedom to re-envision their worlds like never before. New wrap around cover art, new interiors, and full color foldouts make these books extremely unique.

We also use the best materials around. Each book is printed on extremely high quality paper, cloth bound and leather wrapped, making them feel just as good in your hands as they look on your shelves. Details in the design and layout, sewn in ribbons, cover stamps, and many other fine touches are how we separate ourselves from other small publishing presses.

It is a magical time for those who love SF&F. Thank you to all who purchase books from Grim Oak Press. We will continue producing them as long as you enjoy placing them on your shelves.

– Your Grim Oak Team
Shawn Speakman & Jeff Lawson

2018 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

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 which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

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

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please 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)

Read more…

Best Professional Artist Hugo: Eligible Works from 2018

By JJ: To assist Hugo nominators, this post provides information on the artists and designers of more than 560 works which appeared in a professional publication in the field of science fiction or fantasy for the first time in 2018.

These credits have been accumulated during the course of the year, from copyright pages, Acknowledgments sections, and public posts by artists, authors, and publishers, as well as other sources on the internet.

Because it is difficult to provide a list ordered by name when artwork is frequently credited to two or more artists and/or designers, I have uploaded my main spreadsheet with all accumulated data here.

In this post I will display up to 12 images of artworks for each artist for whom I have identified 4 or more works which appeared in a professional publication in the field of science fiction or fantasy for the first time in 2018.

Please note carefully the eligibility criteria according to the WSFS Constitution:


Professional Artist

3.3.12: Best Professional Artist. An illustrator whose work has appeared in a professional publication in the field of science fiction or fantasy during the previous calendar year.

3.2.11: A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria:
(1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
(2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

3.10.2: In the Best Professional Artist category, the acceptance should include citations of at least three (3) works first published in the eligible year.


Under the current rules, artwork for semiprozines and fanzines is not eligible in this category. You can check whether a publication is a prozine or a semiprozine in this directory (the semiprozine list is at the top of the page, and the prozine directory is at the bottom).

Please be sure to check the spreadsheet first; but then, if you are able to confirm credits missing 2018-original works and the names of their artists from Acknowledgments sections, copyright pages, or by contacting authors and/or artists, go ahead and add them in comments, and I will get them included in the spreadsheet, and if the artist is credited with at least 4 works, in this post. If you have questions or corrections, please add those also. Please note that works may or may not be added to the list at my discretion.

PLEASE DON’T ADD GUESSES.

Artists, Authors, Editors and Publishers are welcome to post in comments here, or to send their lists to jjfile770 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Only those bying stoute of heyrte and riche in bandwydthe shouldst click hither to proce’d…

Lee Billings (1956-2018)

Lee Billings at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City in 2016

Lee Billings at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City in 2016

By JJ: Originally part of Nashville fandom, Lee (Van Deest) Billings was a member of the Middle Tennessee Science Fiction Society, active in club events, part of the lively community at alt.callahans on Usenet, and participating in conventions all over the country. A singer and brilliant lyricist, she became a big Filker, coordinating the Filk programming at many conventions.

Up to the 1990s, there was a lack of strong filk programming in Southern Fandom. She filled that gap by creating and chairing Musicon for 5 years. She describes that evolution in The History of Musicon 1992-1996.

She was Guest of Honor at Harmonicon III in 1995, and was honored as Toastmistress at GAFilk 1 in 1999, which picked up the mantle of Southern Filkdom after the final Musicon.

Lee was nominated for a Pegasus Award (the Filkers’ Hugo Awards) for Best Military Song in 1995 for The Ballad of Fleet Sergeant Ho. Thanks to Eli Goldberg, her album can be found here.

After moving to Houston two decades ago, she became a strong supporter of Apollocon, and assisted that convention in various roles.

Lee was a jewelry artisan, creating unique and interesting pieces. She and her partner Russ had a Dealer’s Table at many conventions. She regularly posted photos of unusual and fascinating geological specimens on her Facebook wall. In her business’ “About” section, she said, “Starcat Designs came into being in 2002, growing out of my love of rocks and minerals. Most of my jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind.The materials used include stone, glass, organics (pearls, bone, shell, wood, etc.), and metals.”

I only got to know Lee during the last three and a half years, through her participation in the File 770 community and in conversations with her at Worldcon and on Facebook. I’m far from an expert on her contributions to fandom and filkdom; I welcome comments from those who have more knowledge of her life, and links to tributes to her elsewhere on the web.

After being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer more than a year ago, Lee defied the odds and continued to contribute her wit, wisdom, and assistance to others while fighting to overcome her own illness.

Lee was an incredibly clever, vibrant, and eloquent person, a fierce advocate of fair and considerate treatment for the marginalized and less-privileged, and she will be greatly missed not only by me, but by all who knew her. She is survived by her domestic partner of 20 years, Russ Ault, and their seven rescue cats.

Lee’s partner Russ says:

There will be a memorial service of some sort at a later date. There will be no funeral. Lee requested that her remains be cremated. I will be collecting remembrances to sort through for the memorial. They can be emailed to rault42 [at] gmail [dot] com.

If desired, memorial donations can be made to Project Purple.

Vale, Starcat.
 

Best Editor Long Form and Short Form Hugo: Eligible Works from 2018

By JJ: To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the editors of works published for the first time in 2018.

These credits have been accumulated from Acknowledgments sections and copyright pages in works, as well as other sources on the internet.

Feel free to add missing 2018-original works and the name of their editors in the comments, and I will get them included in the main post. Self-published works may or may not be added to the list at my discretion.

PLEASE DON’T ADD GUESSES.

If you are able to confirm credits from Acknowledgments sections, copyright pages, or by contacting authors and/or editors, then go ahead and add them in comments. If you have questions or corrections, please add those also.

Authors, Editors, and Publishers are welcome to post in comments here, or to send their lists to jjfile770 [at] gmail [dot] com.


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