What’s In The 2019 Hugo Voter Packet?

By JJ: On May 11, the 2019 Hugo Awards voter packet became available for download by Attending, Supporting, First Worldcon, Young Adult, and Child members of Dublin 2019. The packet is an electronic collection which helps voters become better informed about the works and creators on the ballot. Works which are included have been made available through the generosity of finalists and their publishers.

The voter packet contains complete texts of many Hugo-nominated works, preview versions of some works, and directions for finding some finalists’ works online. Some novels have been made available through NetGalley, which requires a user account for access (registration is free).

The packet is available for download from the Dublin 2019 website in the Membership section by clicking “Vote for the 2019 Hugo Awards”. You must have a valid Membership login link to download the packet. If you have recently joined Dublin 2019, you will be sent a Membership login link shortly after joining. You can request that your Membership login link be re-sent to you by entering the e-mail address you used when you registered with Dublin 2019 on the Membership page. If you do not receive the e-mail, or your Membership login link fails to authenticate, you can e-mail hugohelp@dublin2019 for assistance.

If you haven’t yet downloaded this year’s Hugo Voter Packet and wish to download only selected parts, or if you’re still trying to decide whether to purchase a membership, a breakdown of its contents is presented below.

The Hugo Voter Packet will be available for download until the voting deadline at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time on Wednesday July 31st, 2019 (7.59 am, Irish time, on 1 August 2019). Voters can make as many changes as they wish to their ballot until the deadline. Changes are automatically saved, and a copy of the voter’s current ballot will be emailed to them 30 minutes after they finish modifying it.

As in previous years, WSFS and Dublin 2019 ask that voters honor publishers’ and creators’ request that they reserve these copies for their personal use only, and that they do not share these works with non-members of Dublin 2019.

Only members of Dublin 2019 can access the 2019 Hugo Award Voter packet and vote on the 2019 Hugo Awards. To become a member of Dublin 2019, see the membership page.

If you don’t have access to the Hugo Voter Packet, here is a list of links to read the 2019 Hugo Finalists which are available for free online. Some detailed discussions of the Finalist works can be found on the 2019 Hugo Award Finalists announcement thread, as well as in other posts on File 770.

Dublin 2019 and WSFS are deeply appreciative of the publishers, authors, artists, editors, and other creators who have generously provided their works to this year’s Hugo Voter Packet, and ask that voters who feel the same way consider posting on social media to thank the publishers, editors, and creators who have participated in the packet.

Read more…

Waiting For Online Hugo Voting And The 2019 Voter Packet

By JJ: Enquiring Hugo voter minds want to know: When will we be able to vote online? When will the Hugo Voter Packet be available?

In the fine tradition of similar File 770 posts on the subject in years past, and using my highly-refined statistical skills gained while acquiring my Master’s degree from Cattimothy U*, here is a comparison of the deadlines and availability dates of recent Worldcons.

Because what the hell, we’ve got time to kill. And a year from now, someone is going to ask about this again, the way they do every year.

UPDATE May 11, 2019:
The Hugo Voter Packet and Online Voting are now available.

Notes:

  • In 2008 and 2009, the Hugo Voter Packet was put together by John Scalzi
  • In 2012, the Hugo Voter Packet was released in stages starting on May 18, becoming fully available on May 30
  • With the exception of 2009, 2016, 2017, and 2019, all Finalist Announcements were made on Easter weekend

Timing Observations:

  • Aussiecon 4 in 2010 had online nominations available the earliest, on January 1.
  • Aussiecon 4 and Loncon 3 in 2014 had online nominations available the longest, at 82 days.
  • Chicon 7 in 2012 and Renovation in 2011 were the Worldcons which had online voting up and running the fastest, at 2 and 5 days following the announcement of the Finalists.
  • Chicon 7 had online voting available the longest, at 113 days.
  • Denvention 3 in 2008 and Renovation were the Worldcons which had the Hugo Voter Packet available the most quickly, at 3 and 4 weeks following the Finalist announcement.


1 – days between online nominations becoming available and nomination deadline
2 – days between nomination deadline and finalist announcement
3 – days between finalist announcement and online voting becoming available
4 – days between finalist announcement and Hugo Voter Packet becoming available
5 – days between online voting becoming available and voting deadline
6 – days between voting deadline and the start of Worldcon


While you’re waiting for the Hugo Voter Packet, here’s a list of links to read the 2019 Hugo Finalists which are available for free online.

*The Camestros Felapton University for Beating Statistical Horses Until They Are Thoroughly Dead

Clean-up On Planet 3:
Jim C. Hines’ Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse

Humor. It is a difficult concept.
– Saavik, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan


By JJ: A couple of centuries ago, a plague destroyed the human race as it existed on Earth, turning them into mindless, carnivorous zombies and destroying their civilization. They – or at least a small number of them – were saved by one of the galaxy’s alien races, which cured the feral condition of a few thousand of them, and gave them back at least some semblance of sentience. Now grateful humans serve their alien saviors on their starships and space stations, as throwaway infantry soldiers and in menial maintenance and housekeeping roles.

This might sound like the synopsis for a grimdark science fiction series – and certainly the series has its grim moments – but it’s actually the premise for the humorous Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series by Jim C. Hines.

I’d like to head off the inevitable comparisons to Douglas Adams right here. Certainly this series has a bit of the whimsy and absurdism of which the Hitchhiker series is constructed – but it’s got plenty of grist for more serious thought, as well. And I have to say that while the humorous gimmick of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy got old
and tedious really, really fast for me, the first book in this series amused and amazed me, and left me wanting more. The second book of the trilogy has now arrived, and it did not disappoint.

When a bioweapon attack from another race of aliens wipes out the alien crew of their own spaceship, the team leader of the human janitorial staff must try to learn how to run the ship and save their benefactor race from further attack. But of course, nothing is as simple as it seems at first.

With their historical records pretty much eradicated in the fall of of their civilization, the uplifted humans have had to rely on what they are told about their species’ past by their alien rescuers – who, it turns out, are pretty damned unreliable narrators.

I adore the protagonist of this series, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos, for many of the same reasons I adore the characters in books by Ursula Vernon / T. Kingfisher: she’s practical and pragmatic and does not suffer from idealistic delusions, but she refuses to be defeated by her circumstances, and her pragmatism is leavened with humor and with hope.

This series manages to provoke thought about what it means to be human, what constitutes really living versus merely existing, the tragedy of failing to accept responsibility and make amends for mistakes, the danger of blaming – and punishing – entire races for the evil actions of only some of their members, whether the ends can sometimes justify the means, and the question of whether it’s ever really possible to accept and move on (and maybe even forgive) after being on the receiving end of a catastrophic, grievous wrong.

And in these novels, just as in real life, the beings on the receiving end of the wrongs can sometimes be the ones who are also committing transgressions. These are not stories of cut-and-dried heroes and villains, but of well-developed, complex and flawed beings with understandable motivations – wrapped up in a mystery and delivered with both pathos and levity.

I really enjoyed these books. They employ some great humor, have some imaginative alien races, and explore the role of support staff (which is largely ignored in most science fiction and fantasy) in the context of some serious themes – while managing, in my opinion, to avoid the annoying “tryhard” humor which characterizes so many of the SFF books which are intended to be amusing. I loved the major role played by librarians, and I especially enjoyed the character which is an ongoing meta-reference to a notorious late 20th-century villain. I’m really looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, Terminal Peace.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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


Terminal Alliance [Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse #1], DAW Books, 2017 (excerpt)

The Krakau came to Earth to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species. However, they happened to arrive after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know – your standard apocalypse.

The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn around and go home. (After all, it’s hard to have diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.) Their second impulse was to try to fix us. Now, a century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they’re no longer trying to eat everyone. Mostly.

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is surprisingly bright (for a human). As a Lieutenant on the Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish, she’s in charge of the Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. When a bioweapon attack wipes out the Krakau command crew and reverts the rest of the humans to their feral state, only Mops and her team are left with their minds intact.

Escaping the attacking aliens – not to mention her shambling crewmates – is only the beginning. Sure, Mops and her team of space janitors and plumbers can clean the ship as well as anyone, but flying the damn thing is another matter.

As they struggle to keep the Pufferfish functioning and find a cure for their crew, they stumble onto a conspiracy that could threaten the entire alliance… a conspiracy born from the truth of what happened on Earth all those years ago.


Terminal Uprising [Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse #2], DAW Books, 2019 (excerpt)

Human civilization didn’t just fall. It was pushed.

The Krakau came to Earth in the year 2104. By 2105, humanity had been reduced to shambling, feral monsters. In the Krakau’s defense, it was an accident, and a century later, they did come back and try to fix us. Sort of.

It’s been four months since Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos learned the truth of that accident. Four months since she and her team of hygiene and sanitation specialists stole the EMCS Pufferfish and stopped a bioterrorism attack against the Krakau homeworld. Four months since she set out to find proof of what really happened on Earth all those years ago.

Between trying to protect their secrets and fighting the xenocidal Prodryans, who’ve been escalating their war against everyone who isn’t Prodryan, the Krakau have their tentacles full.

Mops’ mission changes when she learns of a secret Krakau laboratory on Earth. A small group under command of Fleet Admiral Belle-Bonne Sage is working to create a new weapon, one that could bring victory over the Prodryans… or drown the galaxy in chaos.

To discover the truth, Mops and her rogue cleaning crew will have to do the one thing she fears most: return to Earth, a world overrun by feral apes, wild dogs, savage humans, and worse. (After all, the planet hasn’t been cleaned in a century and a half!) What Mops finds in the filthy ruins of humanity could change everything, assuming she survives long enough to share it.

Perhaps humanity isn’t as dead as the galaxy thought.


Magic Ex Libris

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic.

Read more about the books in this series


Fiction available to read for free online


Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines’ first novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Actor and author Wil Wheaton described the book as “too f***ing cool for words,” which is pretty much the Best Blurb Ever. After completing the goblin trilogy, Jim went on to write the princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from northern Michigan, as well as the Fable: Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes.

Hines has written more than fifty published short stories. His first professional story sale was the award-winning “Blade of the Bunny,” published way back in 1999.

Hines is an active blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols, and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.

He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters in English. He lives with his wife and two children, who have always shown remarkable tolerance for his bizarre and obsessive writing habits. (The cats, on the other hand, have no tolerance
whatsoever, and routinely walk across his desk when he’s trying to work.)

Where To Find The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online

By JJ: Dublin 2019 has announced the 2019 Hugo Award Finalists. Since the Hugo Voter’s packet has not yet arrived, if you’d like to get a head start on your reading, 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, as are the Pro and Fan Artist images, and many of the Semiprozines and Fanzines).

If not available for free, an Amazon link is provided. If a free excerpt is available online, it has been linked. Excerpts are web pages, except where otherwise indicated. Overdrive excerpts are usually longer than web excerpts, and are read by clicking the right side of the page or swiping right-to-left to advance pages.

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

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS

Best Novel

Best Novella

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

Best Series

Best Related Work

Best Graphic Story

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (trailer)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (trailer)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (full video on YouTube & Vimeo)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s)” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (trailer)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (trailer)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (trailer)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

Best Professional Artist

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
  • Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

Best Fancast

Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Artist

Best Art Book

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

RELATED: What’s In The 2019 Hugo Voter Packet?

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