Pixel Scroll 3/7/18 I Lurk Therefore I Scroll

(1) PITCH IN. John Picacio calls for donations to help Mexicanx Initiative attendees afford travel to Worldcon 76.

While the initial Membership Fund is essentially “mission accomplished” because we fully funded 50 Attending Memberships, the Assistance Fund has been accepting separate monies since January, for helping Recipients with their travel, hotel and food needs because so many face an expensive, sometimes complex, journey. I’ve been doing that without going public, but as of today — anyone can give to The Fund, encouraging diversity and inclusion toward a stronger, more balanced sf/f field.

And here’s where you make it happen:

Donate To MEXICANX INITIATIVE ASSISTANCE FUND.

Your money will go directly to Worldcon’s Treasury. They will allocate it toward The Assistance Fund (different from the already-completed Sponsored Membership Fund). How will the Assistance Fund money be distributed to the Recipients? Every dollar will be given to the Recipients via Worldcon 76’s Registration Team at the convention in August, and will be distributed in equal portions. I suspect our south-of-the-border Mexicanx will receive the bulk of the funds, divided evenly amongst them. The north-of-the-border Mexicanx will receive the remainder, again divided evenly amongst them. No Assistance grants will be distributed until funding is completed, but 100% will go to our Membership Recipients at Worldcon 76.

This way, all will receive a share of assistance, but the south-of-the-border attendees will receive more than the north, which is what I want. In the coming weeks, I hope we can generate at least $15,000 to help these folks make their Worldcon dream come true, and from what I’m hearing, we already have $6000 toward that figure.

Make donations through Worldcon 76’s “Mexicanx Initiative Assistance Fund”.

This fund is to assist members sponsored via Guest of Honor John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative to cover their travel and lodging expenses. Worldcon 76 and SFSFC are managing this fund independently of the main Worldcon 76 budget as directed by Mr. Picacio.

(2) MARKET INFO. Parvus Press’ focused submission call for writers of color and indigenous persons — “Open Call: Writers of Color” continues until April 30, 2018 at midnight US Eastern Time. Managing editor John Adamus says:

Everyone should have a chance to see themselves in art, and not as caricature or as some demonized trope solely in the story to make some other character look better. Authorial voice and truth are what make stories passionate and dynamic expressions of the personal and the creative, and no one should ever feel like their voice and truth somehow aren’t worth making known.

I think one of the great creative crimes that we’re now really starting to prominently see reversed is the silencing and minimizing of authors and creators who aren’t the majority or who don’t identify along majority lines. All stories have the potential to affect and move other people, but only if they’re given equal space on shelves and in minds and hearts.

It is so important to me that Parvus Press be a place where the minority author find opportunity and that their voice and story not be relegated to the side or the back because of biases or differences. I’m proud to be able to work with all authors and see them succeed, no matter who they are or how they identify. Representation matters.

(3) HOPPER’S GENRE WORK. You recognize Nighthawks, but what came before that? Not sff, but what the heck. LitHub tells about “The Unlikely Pulp Fiction Illustrations of Edward Hopper”.

In the winter of 1956, Alexander Eliot, art critic for Time magazine, interviewed Edward Hopper for a cover feature on the painter’s roundabout path to fame. Intended to familiarize general audiences with the man behind classic paintings like Nighthawks and Early Sunday Morning, the resultant profile reads today like a paean to an American master. Eliot was taken with Hopper’s “unalterable reserve.” Presenting the artist as a frugal and unsentimental old man who often conflated self-effacement and self-flagellation, he painted his own portrait of a folksy messiah—a humble savant capable of rescuing American realism from a clique of “clattering egos.”

Given this messianic tilt, it’s not surprising that as Eliot broached Hopper’s early days as a commercial artist, he referred to the period as his “time in the desert.”

… Between March 1916 and March 1919, Hopper illustrated five issues for the publication. In these magazines, the famed realist—a man whose plaintive portraits and landscapes now sell for tens of millions of dollars—drew heading art for stories like “The Sourdough Twins’ Last Clean-Up,” “Snuffy and the Monster,” and “A Fish Story About Love.” Hopper enlivened these stories with images that ranged from amusing to maudlin. One illustration, perched above Holda Sears’ “The Finish,” shows an explorer in a life-and-death struggle with a man-sized python. Another, atop Hapsburg Liebe’s “Alias John Doe,” depicts two cowboys “tabletopping” a patsy—one of his subjects kneeling behind their victim while the other topples him over. Additional pictures portray rampaging apes, spear-wielding natives, and pioneers wearing coonskin caps.

(4) BURTON READS BRADBURY. Phil Nicols’ Bradburymedia naturally was first to spot “LeVar Burton Reads… Bradbury”.

LeVar Burton – Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning actor-director, and star of Star Trek – has a weekly podcast where he reads selected short stories. Think of it as PBS’ Reading Rainbow for adults! The most recent episode is a full reading of Ray Bradbury’s “The Great Wide World Over There”.

The production values are high in this series. Not just a straight reading of the story, the episode includes subtle sound effects and almost subliminal music cues. Burton performs each character distinctly – and the sound design separates the characters out from the narration, so that it almost sounds like a full cast dramatisation, but the cast is just LeVar alone.

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ hopes this future fan isn’t cured — Bizarro.

(6) GAME OF BREW. Ommegang Brewing has announced the final one of their Game of Thrones beers, Bend the Knee, which is coming out on Memorial Day with three different labels, so you can choose whether you want the Stark, Targaryen, or Lannister versions.

This is a beer that’s nine percent alcohol by volume, which is a lot!  So it leads to a new definition of binge-watching:  while you’re at home watching the show, you can binge AND watch at the same time!

(7) AND A SHIRT TO STEER ME BY. There can’t be many things left on his bucket list. This is one: “William Shatner Wants to Play a Red Shirt on ‘Star Trek'”.

Star Trek icon William Shatner has a surprising role on the top of his list of Star Trek characters he’d like to play who are not James T. Kirk.

Shatner is out promoting his new film Aliens Ate My Homework and in speaking to Cinema Blend he revealed that if he were to play someone else in Star Trek, it would be a simple red shirt.

I guess it technically doesn’t count that he died in a Trek movie wearing a red vest.

(8) CSI: FOREST. Unlike redshirts, red squirrels are the survivors in this forest: “Red squirrel numbers boosted by predator”.

This is according to scientists at the University of Aberdeen, who carried out an in-depth forensic study of the relationship between the three species.

The pine marten is a predator of the reds, but in areas where it thrives, the number of grey squirrels reduces.

The journal study suggests that the pine martens reverse the “typical relationship” between red and grey squirrels, where the red always loses out, according to lead researcher Dr Emma Sheehy.

“Where pine marten activity is high, grey squirrel populations are actually heavily suppressed. And that gives the competitive advantage to red squirrels,” she said.

“So you see lots of red squirrels and you see them coming back into areas where they hadn’t been for quite some time.”

…Pine martens – cat-sized members of the weasel family – are gradually becoming re-established in parts of Scotland, after their near extinction in the UK.

They used to be trapped in large numbers by game-keepers, and also hunted for their fur, which was a valuable export from Scotland.

It is has been illegal to hunt the animals since the 1980s, and their numbers are now increasing.

(9) A BETTER SCARECROW. This should have been an entry on Shark Tank: “‘Super Monster Wolf’ a success in Japan farming trials”.

A robot wolf designed to protect farms has proved to be such a success in trials that it is going into mass production next month.

The “Super Monster Wolf” is a 65cm-long, 50cm-tall robot animal covered with realistic-looking fur, featuring huge white fangs and flashing red eyes, Asahi Television reports.

It’s been designed to keep wild boar away from rice and chestnut crops, and was deployed on a trial basis near Kisarazu City in Japan’s eastern Chiba prefecture last July.

When it detects an approaching animal, its eyes light up and it starts to howl, Asahi TV says.

(10) ROBERT MOORE WILLIAMS. Galactic Journey reviews an Ace Double issued 55 years ago — “[March 6, 1963] Generation Gap (Ace Double F-177)”. The Traveler wasn’t impressed with Robert Moore Williams’ side of the volume:

Robert Moore Williams was first published in the pre-Campbell days of Analog.  He has since written more than a hundred stories for a variety of magazines, but his DNA was baked in the Golden Age of science fiction.  The future world of The Star Wasps is an archaic, mechanistic one.  Society simplistically hinges on the activities of a half-dozen people.  There is a Resilient Woman Character whose primary role is to be the Love Interest.  After the intriguing set-up, Wasps degenerates into a figurative car chase, with people running around and pulling levers until the enemy is defeated.

Robert Moore Williams was one of the first sf writers I personally met, and he was impressive for unapologetically calling himself a “hack” whose career depended on avoiding a too-literary style. As he would say: “I have to stink ‘em up just right.”

(11) RETRO OSCARS. Io9’s Germain Lussier makes his pitch for “12 Scifi Movies That Totally Deserved to Win Best Picture Before The Shape of Water”. Hells yeah, give cousin Judy an Oscar!

The Wizard of Oz

Even in 1939, the Academy acknowledged that The Wizard of Oz was a masterpiece. The movie got six nominations, including Best Picture, but only won statuettes for song and score. It probably would’ve had a better chance if it wasn’t up against Gone With the Wind. Still, The Wizard of Oz remains one of the most beloved films of all time regardless of genre, and would have been a worthy recipient of the biggest honor in movies.

(12) PORGS MEET TERPSICHORE. And while I’m talking about io9, I say bless them for pointing out this video:

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

61 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/7/18 I Lurk Therefore I Scroll

  1. (6) GAME OF BREW

    Drink enough of it and the knee bending isn’t optional?

    (12) PORGS MEET TERPSICHORE

    Adorable!

  2. Camestros Felapton on March 7, 2018 at 11:31 pm said:
    (12) You’d think those critters would be more into porg-rock

    *points to the pun jar* Put a quarter in there and then hang your head in shame for the next hour.

  3. 7) I still think that was a terrible send off for Captain Kirk. Gah. Even in 5333, we think that Star Trek Generations ended his story badly.
    @Camestros Oooh, bad bad pun.

  4. Feminist Sci-Fi from Storybundle, curated by Cat Rambo

    In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

    https://storybundle.com/scifi

  5. 10) The one (battered, old, used) Ace Double I owned back when I was young had Roger Moore Williams’ King of the Fourth Planet backed with Charles DeVet and Katherine MacLean’s Cosmic Checkmate. Of those two, Cosmic Checkmate was definitely the better.

  6. Well, I’d sign on with somehow giving a Best Picture nod to THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s certainly a top ten pic pick for me, and for years I said it was my favorite movie. It might still be, but now I acknowledge how hard it is to tell sometimes. It’s not just the songs, or the effects, or the message (which, sentimental though it is, has long struck me as borderline horrific), but the way it becomes opera for a while, and for Judy Garland’s reactions that show her character not getting the myriad of snarky little jabs that abound around her. Even the backstory of the movie makes me like it all the more.

    A while back, I liked to indulge in fantasy recasting of the picture. Some of my choices have aged out, and even died, and I have thought more about the male roles than female ones. For Professor Marvel/the Wizard, John Goodman, a master at treading the line between real sentiment and cynical manipulation. For the Scarecrow, Bill Irwin, who showed in POPEYE that he can be a human cartoon. For the Lion, it’s long been a tossup between a mighty triad of talent: Shatner, Schwarzenegger, and Jerry Lewis. One of these men is now dead. The other two could maybe still do it. For the Tin Man, it’s always been Christopher Walken. Carol Kane could have done an awesome Glinda. Imelda Staunton would be a strong Wicked Witch. The head of the flying monkeys… well, I don’t guess we could get H. Ross Perot for that, so I’m open to suggestions. Dorothy is someone I have no ideas for, because by the time I’m aware of an actress, she’s already too old. If Sarah still watched comedies on The Disney Channel, I’d probably have a name or two to put forward.

  7. With that Storybundle – 3 of those titles I originally read because of File770 suggestions: Happy Snak, Code of Conduct, and The Steerswoman. Thank you!

  8. Meredith Moment:

    The Hobbit is on sale for $2.99 at Amazon (Kindle Daily Deal)

    Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is also $2.99 and also an Amazon KDD.

    Here in 9922, Zager and Evans are still an earworm.

  9. @Camestros Felapton

    Damn you sir, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use that!

  10. So, my Aces Doubles story:
    Back when I was a kid, I got this Van Vogt paperback. One of the Null-A books, I believe.

    (I don’t recall whether I borrowed it from a neighbor — the husband was a co-worker of my dad, also had the Lord of the Rings in hardcover, before it went popular, or elsewhere, but I can’t think where else I would have gotten/borrowed it).
    Anyhoo… the book kept DISAPPEARING. And more or less concurrently, some other book that I didn’t remember getting/borrowing, kept APPEARING.
    It wasn’t until many years after that I realized it must have been an Ace Double… which by then I’d seen and bought a bunch of, but the penny didn’t drop for a surprising length of elapsed time.

  11. King Kong would have been up against Duck Soup. Sorry Kong, no contest in my mind.

    The Wizard of Oz lost to Gone with the Wind, but 1939 was a tough year beyond those 2: DARK VICTORY, GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS, LOVE AFFAIR, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, OF MICE AND MEN, STAGECOACH, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME…

    2001 was beaten out of a nomination by Oliver!, Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Rachel, Rachel, and Romeo and Juliet (the Zeffrelli one). Losing to Oliver is the sort of thing that happens, not getting nominated is a disgrace.

    You can’t give 1969s Best Picture to 2001 upthread and then to Planet of the Apes below.

    Even if you took The Godfather out of the The Exorcists year, it would surely have lost to Cabaret.

  12. Iphinome on March 8, 2018 at 1:13 am said

    *points to the pun jar* Put a quarter in there and then hang your head in shame for the next hour.

    [Heads off to porgatory for awhile]

  13. With awards its always a bit of luck who youre up against. But 1969 was a weak year.
    Im still not over the firstlord of the rings movies losing against a beautiful mind and Chicago…

  14. (12) I’m waiting for their Riverdance video.

    They scroll pixels, don’t they?

  15. Heck, I’m still not over Titanic taking Best Picture over The Full Monty, much less over L.A. Confidential.

    Now scroll it! Into shape! Pixel up! File straight!

  16. Kip W. : I’ve grown to dislike the Judy Garland WIZARD OF OZ because it grew irritating. It’s her phrasing, barking her lines in an annoying manner. Perhaps it might be worthwhile to re digitalize the whole movie and replace her with Pee Wee Herman or Mary Tyler Moore.

    I recall that there was a long exchange in the old ALIEN CRITIC which Richard Geis wrote to Robert Moore Williams and asked about his career. Yes, he said he “learned to write badly” and didn’t think he could unlearn that streak.

  17. @11: Some of those I’ve never bothered to see — but I’m always appalled when CE3K gets raised as a great movie; the appalling anti-intellectualism and the idiotic behavior of the UFOs (I saw with a USAF electronics officer who said they were obviously fighter jocks) grated when I first saw it and haven’t settled with the years. It gave “Closet Cases of the Nerd Kind” so much to work with….

  18. But in the late 70s and early 80s, UK punks used to porgo like crazy to ska and Two-Tone.

  19. Porgkayne of Mars.

    The Porg That Shouted “Nee” At The Heart Of the Death Star

    Porg E. Tirebiter For President!

    Porgo R. Possum And His Universal Porgbots

    Porg Ain’t Nothin’ But Gorp Misspelled

    All The Porgs In The Sky

  20. Robert Reynolds, thanks so much for the heads-up on the discounted Six Wakes!

  21. @Chip Hitchcock
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind definitely hasn’t aged well, particularly compared to Star Wars, which came out the same year. Either of them would still be better choices than Annie Hall IMO, which I already disliked long before all the revelations about Woody Allen.

    Wizard of Oz had no chance against Gone with the Wind, at least not in 1940. The Exorcist had no chance against The Godfather.

    And while Alien has held up a lot better than Kramer vs. Kramer, Kramer vs. Kramer was the sort of serious topical picture (divorce rates had been rising troughout the 1970s and people were worried) that the Academy likes to award. Though I’m surprised that Apocalypse Now didn’t win, especially since it’s a serious film (TM) that has also held up much better than Kramer vs. Kramer.

    Regarding 1969, there really is no excuse for those nominees and that winner, especially considering that they could have nominated 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes and Rosemary’s Baby (again pre-Polanski revelations, not that the Academy ever cared) instead as well as Bullitt, the original Thomas Crown Affair, Ice Station Zebra and The Producers, if they wanted a good musical.

  22. Ah, the wonderful Ace Doubles.

    “If Donald Wollheim had published the Bible (as an Ace Double), it would be War God of Israel / The Thing With Three Souls.” — Terry Carr

  23. ” The head of the flying monkeys… well, I don’t guess we could get H. Ross Perot for that, so I’m open to suggestions.”

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third.

  24. Jamoche: “The head of the flying monkeys…” Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third.

    YOMANK. 😂

  25. An essay once proposed that 1939 was the greatest year for movies. To add to the famous titles already listed: My favorite non-genre movie comes from that year. La Regle du Jeu / Rules of the Game, director Jean Renoir

  26. @Michael J. Walsh: that’s hard snark, but debatable; DAW titles don’t show that kind of meddling. Yes, there are some Ace Doubles with lurid titles, but do we know whether The Atlantic Abomination had any less-lurid title?

  27. The version of Terry Carr’s joke I’ve seen has a different title for the Old Testament half of the Ace Double: Master of Chaos.

  28. @Cat Rambo: “With that Storybundle – 3 of those titles I originally read because of File770 suggestions: Happy Snak, Code of Conduct, and The Steerswoman. Thank you!”

    It’s so groovy to see recs get re-rec’d (or more than rec’d, really, in this case!). 🙂

    @Bill: “When a problem comes along, you must scroll it!”
    @Joe H.: “Now scroll it! Into shape! Pixel up! File straight!”

    LOL.

    ETA: Great scroll title, @Stoic Cynic & @Mike Glyer.

  29. 2017 Novel Reading Part 2 (Part 1 here)

    Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine (2018) by T. Kingfisher
    [The Clocktaur War #1 and #2]
    Synopsis: A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. A murderous band of criminals and a prim, uptight scholar are thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager’s city. If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way.

    What I thought: The synopses for Kingfisher’s books don’t match what I usually look for in my SFF reading, but every book I’ve read by her (or her alter ego Ursula Vernon) has been an absolute revelation in terms of unpredictable storylines, worldbuilding, and character development. Her works are dark, but always hopeful; humorous, but always wise; sarcastic, but always kind.

    This latest duology (accurately blurbed by some guy from Aberdeen as “Fun, lots of action, and over way too soon”) is a satisfying, unputdownable buddies-on-a-heroic-quest delight. It is full of darkness and adversity, with captivating characters (along with a high body count), and I highly recommend it. However, I think that my e-book edition of the novel is defective. It contains exactly zero (0) stoats. It is stoatless. It is utterly lacking in stoats. It is stoat-deficient. No stoats whatsoever. BYOS.

     
    The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDonald
    Synopsis: Connected by ansible and long-distance cloning technology, humanity has spread across galaxies and fought a war against an enemy that remains a mystery. At the edge of human space sits the Citadel – a relic of the war and a listening station for the enemy’s return. For a young Ensign, fresh from the academy and newly cloned across the ansible line, it’s a prison from which he may never escape. Deplorable work conditions and deafening silence from the blackness of space have left morale on the station low and tensions high. His only hope of transcending his station, and cloning a piece of his soul somewhere new is both his triumph and his terrible crime.

    What I thought: Even though this was published as part of Tor.com’s novella line, it is actually a short novel. Based on the synopsis, I expected to really enjoy it – but if it had been a full-length novel, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. In order to be emotionally involved in this story, I think that you have to be willing to buy into the premise of the characters’ religion. And I just didn’t buy it. Which meant that my response to the “horror” of the “terrible crime” was basically rolling my eyes. The main character is not terribly sympathetic, and sexual assault is normalized in his grim, depressing universe.

    There are some positive reviews out there; if you think that you might be interested in this book, I encourage you to get the opinion of people who felt more moved by the story.

     
    Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
    Synopsis: Hundreds of miles above Earth, the space station Ciudad de Cielo – The City in the Sky – is a beacon of hope as the construction launchpad for humanity’s eventual expansion into the stars. But not everyone aboard shares such noble ideals. Bootlegging, booze, and prostitution form a lucrative underground economy for rival gangs, to which (along with the occasional suspicious death) the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye, until a disassembled corpse – the first murder which cannot be passed off as an accident – is discovered. In charge of the murder investigation is a local law officer with their own money-making sidelines, who is not thrilled to have an uptight Earth government goody-two-shoes riding shotgun. As the bodies pile up, and the partners are forced to question their own memories, they begin to realize that gang warfare may not be the only cause for the violence.

    What I thought: At first I wasn’t sure whether I would want to finish this, because it starts out with a hint of a misogynistic social setup, and two really unlikable main characters. But a little patience was rewarded, and it ended up being a solid SF mystery on a space station with great worldbuilding and character development. I really, really enjoyed this book, enough that it is on my Top Ten-ish list for 2017 novels.

     
    The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren
    Synopsis: The galaxy is mired in a cold war between two superpowers. Two spy operatives from opposite sides must match wits in a covert battle to tip the balance of power, and the war, to their own side.

    What I thought: I thought that this novel was pretty good for a debut author, but that it would have benefited from some judicious editing to tighten the story up a bit. If the premise sounds like your cup of tea, I recommend giving it a try.

     
    Forsaken Skies (2016), Forgotten Worlds, and Forbidden Suns by D. Nolan Clark (David Wellington)
    [The Silence #1, 2, 3]
    Synopsis: The civil war left one of the Navy’s greatest space fighter pilot heroes with nothing but painful memories. But when he is accidentally pulled into an investigation of illegal stowaways on a cargo ship, he stumbles upon the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced. After millenia of humans believing that they are alone in the universe, an unknown armada has emerged from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away. But he has never run from a fight, and he will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate. And in the process of saving their planet, he finds an answer to the Fermi Paradox which is more horrifying than anyone ever imagined.

    What I thought: These are big, 600+ page epics, but I found the pages flying by. It was easy to get immersed in, and care about, the various characters despite some pretty large character flaws in their personalities. The scope of the plotting is complex and epic. I’ve got to hand it to the author: I didn’t think that they’d be able to resolve the 3-book arc in a way that massively satisfied me, but wow, did they ever stick the landing. This has a good chance of ending up on my Hugo ballot for Best Series.

     
    Corpselight by Angela Slatter
    [Verity Fassbinder #2]
    Synopsis: A half-human, half-weyrd investigator can walk the line between the denizens of those two worlds, and so she is entrusted by the supernatural creatures to keep the peace, shield the humans from becoming aware of them, and – when crimes involving the weyrd occur – investigating and ensuring that their fragile hidden existence is not threatened. She’s several months pregnant, but an insurance investigation sounds like a pretty low-risk undertaking, even if it is for “Unusual Happenstance”. But things get serious very quickly, with mysterious mud avalanches inside a house, followed by dry-land drownings, and she must find and stop the cause before more deaths occur.

    What I thought: I read the first book in this series, Vigil, because I thought that the author’s novella Of Sorrow and Such, was absolutely fantastic. Despite not considering myself as being “into urban fantasy”, I really, really enjoyed it and thought that this was a worthy follow-up. It’s especially notable for having a strong, fierce protagonist who is very pregnant, but just gets on with her business anyway.

     
    The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
    [The Laundry Files #8]
    Synopsis: Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond spacetime, has entailed high combat, brilliant hacking, ancient magic, and combat with indescribably repellent creatures of pure evil. It has also involved a wearying amount of paperwork and office politics. Now the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither he nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize. Inch by inch, he and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself.

    What I thought: This is another good entry into the series. After having his last novel made obsolete by Brexit before it was even published, the author has managed to change course a bit to align with the sudden dramatic changes in the real-life UK political situation. If you’re a Laundry Files fan, you’ll enjoy it. If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ll probably be hopelessly lost.

     
    The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
    Synopsis: In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. The 3 selected candidates must prove they’re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic isolation simulation ever created. Constantly watched and monitored by corporation’s team of observers, they must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters – and each other.

    What I thought: While ostensibly a science fiction story, this is really just an elaborate construction of psychological interactions and breakdowns among 3 people who are stuck in isolation. Very little SF actually happens. Upon completion, I was so angry that I threw this book against the wall (sorry, library). If you enjoy books exploring the disastrous unraveling of human psyches, this may be your thing.

     
    The Rift by Nina Allan
    Synopsis: As children two sister were closest companions, but as they grow towards maturity, a rift develops between them. Then the older sister goes missing at the age of seventeen. When she suddenly reappears twenty years later, she tells her sister an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. The younger sister has an impossible choice to make: does she dismiss her sister as a damaged person, the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity in the process? Is the returned prodigal daughter really who she says she is, and if she isn’t, what does she have to gain by claiming the missing sister’s identity?

    What I thought: This is another “so did SF actually happen, or didn’t it?” story. It’s somewhat similar to Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl, in that you have an unreliable character describing SFFnal events which may or may not be true, but you never find out for sure. I felt very bait-and-switched by this story, and was pretty unhappy about having invested time in it. If you enjoy stories in which you never find out any real answers, you may enjoy this one.

     
    Remnants of Trust (2016) and Breach of Containment by Elizabeth Bonesteel
    [Central Corps #2 and #3]
    Synopsis: In The Cold Between, a Central Corps chief engineer on a military spaceship races against time to solve a mystery in order to save the life of an innocent man who was framed for murder. The death is tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a starship at a wormhole twenty-five years ago. But the truth was far more terrifying than she ever imagined, and it leads to a conspiracy deep within the government of their own organization. Court-martialed for their role in an event Central Gov denies ever happened, she and her captain have been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector. But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when their ship picks up a distress call, and their investigation places them in the middle of a conspiracy of sabotage and secret agendas which may lead to intergalactic war.

    What I thought: This is great space adventure with mystery and political intrigue mixed in with well-developed characters and plausible SF. The author is on my “must read” list now, and I definitely recommend reading the entire trilogy.

  30. @JJ: Hahaha, yes.

    – – – – –

    Apparently Robert Jackson Bennett has a new book coming out later this year. 🙂 I am intrigued. The excerpt will be read a bit later tonight, before sleepy time.

    – – – – –

    Meredith Moment:

    Gaie Sebold’s Babylon Steel (#1 of 2, so far) is $0.99 in the U.S. from Solaris (uses DRM). A few folks here (e.g., @Kyra & @Rev. Bob, if I didn’t misread in my haste) enjoyed this fantasy about a swordswoman*/brothel-owner/prostitute (?) who lives in an interesting-sounding area that’s at the juncture of various planes/worlds. (I’m a sucker for funky stuff like this.) This is the first adventure of two so far; Sebold’s web site mentions there may be a third at some point, but at this point I kinda wonder.

    * Stupid autocorrect on my laptop changing it to swordsman, grumble; outdated dictionary, grumble grumble.

  31. @JJ: Thanks for the mini-reviews! Brookmyre’s & Moren’s books had intrigued me, but the sample for Brookmyre’s may have turned me off (I forget, but it’s not on my list) and I was a little unsure about Moren’s, though it’s still on my list. (Side Note: I know of Dan Moren from his Macworld [Mac computer magazine] days; he wrote a few articles about stuff like software for writers, IIRC.) Anyway, I’ll give them another shot.

    You may recall, I loved Forsaken Skies! I need to get moving on the other two. 🙂 Er, maybe after Hugo noms close.

    The sample & reviews I’d seen for McDonald’s turned me off, though the premise intrigued. I mean I really, really couldn’t get into that sample, despite wondering what the big thing was. Oh well.

    I loved “Of Sorrow and Such” and can’t remember why I haven’t checked out the first Verity Fassbinder book (or maybe I just lost track of it in my various ways of keeping track of All the Books). ::making notes::

    BTW I am LOL’ing at your “if you enjoy [thing I can’t imagine why you’d enjoy], you may like this” snark. 😉

  32. Kendall: BTW I am LOL’ing at your “if you enjoy [thing I can’t imagine why you’d enjoy], you may like this” snark.

    It’s not really snark. It’s more like (in all sincerity) “I totally hate this sort of thing, but I recognize that it is absolutely up some peoples’ alley”. 🙂

    I’ve gradually set my barometer for other Filers’ recommendations based on whether I generally agreed or disagreed with their previous faves and dislikes. I figure that other Filers have done the same with mine: “Oh, JJ loved this one, so it is obviously total shyte” and “Oh, JJ hated this one, so I’ll probably love it.” 😉

  33. JJ, Wholeheartedly second your rec of The Clocktaur Wars. And my copy of The Wonder Engine was also disappointingly stoatless. I even did a word search just to be sure I didn’t miss any rogue mustelids. (For those who are scratching their heads, apparently some early ebook copies went out with an unfortunately uncorrected typo of the name of the heroine, Slate. This despite the fact that the typo was corrected in drafts….)

    And I’ve just bought some Bonesteel on your recommendation.

  34. @me: I note that The Atlantic Abomination was paired with The Martian Missile (by Wollheim under pseudonym), so whichever of the pair edited them may have succumbed to alliteration rather than spectacle. Certainly their own fiction shows Wollheim as more pulpish and Carr as more modern (not surprising given >20-year age difference), but ISTM that Wollheim did at least as much to drag the field forward (e.g., publishing Le Guin’s and Cherryh’s first novels) as Carr did.

    @JJ, re Brookmyre: there was at least one huge tech error (instant zero-G [early enough that this isn’t a spoiler]) that probably didn’t ruin the puzzle, and I thought the ending was somewhat improbable. OTOH, it was a good ride as usual (I’ll read anything of his I can find — some of it wasn’t published in the US and predates e-books), not to mention massively better than every other “mundane author decides to dabble in SF” novel I’ve seen. Minor note: the station is cis-lunar but much further away than “hundreds of miles”; getting there starts with a space-elevator ride to geosync orbit.

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