2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

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,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me 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 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – 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). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

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 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(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)

Waterlines by Suzanne Palmer, Asimov’s July-August (full text)

Synopsis: This is a far-future mystery story taking place on a wintry planet colonized by a few hundred descendents of the Earth diaspora, who share the planet by treaty with a race of humanoid-robot symbionts who live under the sea. When the aliens bring three human bodies to the colony administrator, he must figure out who they are (no one is missing) and how and why they were killed – but as he begins to investigate, he is targeted by the killers, who are hiding a very big secret.

What I thought: The author of the Hugo-winning “The Secret Life of Bots” has hit it out of the park again. The worldbuilding is vivid – I felt the surroundings quite keenly, as if I was there – the plot is engrossing, and the characterization is excellent, with the added bonus of the author’s lovely brand of subtle snark. The story, about who gets to be considered as human, granted agency, and treated with respect, touches on themes of racism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism. This was the only novella out of the 48 I’ve read this year that made me jump up and down. It’s definitely going on my 2020 Hugo ballot.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: +1 to JJ’s rec, fascinating setting and a great story.
Bonnie McDaniel: Thirding Suzanne Palmer’s “Waterlines.” Fascinating setting and story. I’ve only read a few novellas so far this year, but this one’s definitely at the top of the list.
Nina: There’s a good balance between interesting worldbuilding, character moments, action, and investigation. The growing friendship between the two main characters was well-written, and I liked the descriptions of the aliens’ technology.

The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore, Asimov’s July-August (full text)

Synopsis: This story is told from the viewpoint of an enhanced-intelligence trained K9 Search-and-Rescue dog which has been enabled with the ability to communicate with her trainer more fully than normal dogs. The trainer is uncomfortable with her new, highly-sentient partner, and the dog describes her efforts to win over the affections of her trainer, while also relating the details of their search missions.

What I thought: I thought the worldbuilding of a near-future Earth affected by global warming and the enhanced intelligence of the dog is extremely plausible and well-done (the author is a professional dog trainer, which no doubt contributes to the verisimilitude). And the story itself is not only entertaining, but packs a real punch. Highly recommended; this is on my Hugo Novella ballot.

Filer comments:
Kendall: that was great! I also rec it.

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: In 2080, at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. In 2028, a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery, but in the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely.

What I thought: I think this novella is excellent, with an interesting scientific twist and a plausible near future. The exception is that I had a hard time buying the idea that their goal was going to be enough to save them – but I guess that truly desperate people will grasp at the slightest chance for hope, if it’s the only chance they’ve got. This is one of the few 2019 novellas I’ve read that I feel I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A solid, interesting, and exciting tale of ecological disaster and time travel. This is clever and well-written stuff, with a twisty structure that suits a time-travel tale. Being a novella there’s a lot not explored – the tech and time travel is rather sketched out, and more importantly I wanted to get more of the protagonist’s backstory – but that’s the nature of the novella length.
Bonnie McDaniel: Unfortunately, I was pretty meh about the overall story.
StephenfromOttawa: I… thought it was very, very good. A sophisticated time travel story, brilliantly executed.

Gremlin by Carrie Vaughn, Asimov’s May-June (full text)

Synopsis: This story is sort of a reversal on the famous Shatner Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”: it’s a multi-generational story of a family line of women pilots, stretching from WWII to the Iraq War to the far future, and the supernatural creature which shapes their destinies.

What I thought: Each of the focal characters gets enough screentime for us to get a feel for their personalities, and the author has done her research on real-life pilots, planes, and wars. Themes include respect and kindness for all living things, remorse at the costs and waste of war, and the recognition that other sentient beings are not pets, but full-fledged beings with their own agency and needs. There are some war battles and off-screen deaths, but this is a great feel-good story, and if you’re looking for something that’s interesting, engrossing, and enjoyable, I highly recommend it.

Unauthorized Bread by Cory Doctorow, in Radicalized, Tor Books (full textaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a tale of immigration, the toxicity of economic and technological stratification, and the young and downtrodden fighting against all odds to survive and prosper.

What I thought: This novella is the gem of the quartet in Doctorow’s collection Radicalized. It’s a near-future extrapolation of the present, where the Internet of Things has been unsurprisingly used to prevent poor people from being able to exercise personal agency, followed by the inevitable consequences of hacking an unjust system. This story manages to be both uplifting and depressing at the same time. Highly recommended.

Filer comments:
Olav Rokne: I’ll second Unauthorized Bread. Possibly the best thing Doctorow has written.

Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom by Ted Chiang, in Exhalation, Knopf/Picador

Synopsis: Quantum possibilities have been made reality in a device known as the “prism”, the Plaga interworld signaling mechanism. Once activated, it connects to a parallel universe which gradually starts to diverge from that point on – and people can talk to their “paraselves” in that other universe to see how things have gone differently for them in another life.

What I thought: As with all Chiang stories, this one is excellent, with musing on what makes us uniquely ourselves, how our decisions shape the person we will become in the future, and whether those decisions really matter if all possible variations of each decision are made by us in other universes. It didn’t quite have the “wow” ending I was expecting, but it’s nevertheless satisfying.

The Savannah Problem by Adam-Troy Castro [Andrea Cort / Draiken #5], Analog Jan-Feb (full text)

Synopsis: After decades as a covert operative, Draiken finally saw the light and has dedicated himself to destroying the machiavellian organization for which he once worked, along with its counterparts, all of which are engaged in committing a heinous crime against humanity. Now he is on a mission to capture a deadly enforcer/killer who works for a crime boss on a space station. But who are the mysterious clients waiting for delivery of the hostage on a nearby asteroid, why does him believe that the killer will be willing to cooperate with him, and how will this help him achieve his revenge?

What I thought: 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.

Once, Future by Kat Howard, in A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, Saga Press

Synopsis: The students in a literature course at a modern-day university are engaged in a semester-long study of the Arthurian mythos and how its pattern is echoed in many events down through the course of history. As part of their immersion in the story, the students take on the names and roles of the various characters in Arthurian legend. And then something strange starts to happen…

What I thought: I’m not big on Arthurian retellings, but I think that this is a very good, rather unique contemporary take on The Matter of Britain. To say any more would spoil the story, so I won’t, but this is well worth the read.

Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Uprooted from his hometown by his father’s failures, a young man finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, he finds his only comforts in the land, and he will live or die by the Orme.

What I thought: Set on Great Orme in Wales, this is a mythic fantasy of a young boy and the damage caused by emotional abuse and infidelity. Also, dragons! Ordinarily, this is not what I consider the sort of thing I enjoy, but I found it really well-written and full of vivid imagery.

Glass Cannon by Yoon Ha Lee [Machineries of Empire], in Hexarchate Stories, Solaris

Synopsis: More than a decade after the empire-revolutionizing events of Revenant Gun, Kel Cheris’ quiet existence as a teacher on her home planet is destroyed when Jedao shows up begging for his 400+ years of memories, pursued by a small army of Shuos assassins. As they go on the run, they discover secrets about the empire’s technological tools — servitors and mothships — which mean that everything is about to change drastically once again.

What I thought: Taking place after the events of the final entry in the Hexarchate trilogy, this story is a great new fast-paced, suspenseful adventure. Those who have not read the Machineries of Empire series will be totally lost, but this is a definite must-read for the series’ fans.

Filer comments:
Bonnie McDaniel: I don’t know if Lee intends to write more novels in the Machineries of Empire universe, but if so, this makes for a terrific springboard. It deals with the reveals and aftermath of Revenant Gun, and throws a strategically placed bomb into the status quo. It probably doesn’t stand alone well (or at all), but for me, it was very satisfying to see my favorite undead General get his memories and his groove back.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets which are known to harbor life. A team of four explorers are hard at work on a survey mission, but as they shift through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Is anyone back home still listening?

What I thought: In a switch-up from the usual colony terraforming stories, this novella features a crew sent from Earth with the ability to adapt themselves biologically to each of the planets they explore, rather than changing planets to suit their biological form and wreaking eco-biological havoc in the process. As with the author’s other books, this one is a quiet, thoughtful exploration of human striving, touching on themes of colonialism and human arrogance and the kind of unintentional devastation which has so often come as a result. Well worth the read.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: It’s a very optimistic view, and also in common it’s got much about the successful social dynamics of the ship. Although it’s never mentioned you get the impression the crew’s dynamics themselves have been engineered to last on years-long missions – the viewpoint character comes over as the glue holding together the rest.
I can see people tripping over the ending – news from home precipitates a major decision, and the solution might seem odd but to me fitted well with the themes of the story. If you are someone who dislikes the Wayfarers series for its cosy nature or unapologetic optimism, then you’ll find nothing here to improve your opinion. On the other hand if you object to her, ahem, loose use of science you may find more pleasing elements here as (at least per her acknowledgements) she’s put in the time and research to get elements of space travel and astrobiology right.
Kyra: A well-written novella and a welcome paean to the concept of science for its own sake. I found the very end a little bit heavy-handed – I had already gotten what was being said without the need for it to be spelled out for me – but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the rest of the book.
Contrarius: Hit my Chambers sweet spot. Her novel-length stories often end up boring me, but this one was just the right length to keep me interested. Yes, a decision made at the end is jarring, but we can also call it thought-provoking.
bookworm1398: Chambers’ writing is really remarkable. Some pretty horrible things happen in this book, but she fills it all with love and hope and it doesn’t seem so bad. If you liked her previous books, you’ll like this one. If you thought the previous ones were too slow, that’s true here also.

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: In the U.S. in 2030, a man executive-produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize. The TV audience is not the only one that’s watching though, and he soon finds out what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.

What I thought: This a well-written near-future story of the “If This Goes On…” sort, in a world where gun violence has been fetishized into a reality show – but it’s far, far too close to current-day reality, and so utterly believable that it makes for extremely unpleasant reading. Definitely not recommended for those who have no spoons available.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Vigilance is an excellent story that I wish I’d never read. I’ve started a review of it several times, but just can’t express my simultaneous admiration of and revulsion at what Bennett managed to write.

The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde [Gemworld #2], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Jewels and their lapidaries and have all but passed into myth. Jorit, broke and branded a thief, just wants to escape the Far Reaches for something better. Ania, a rumpled librarian, is trying to protect her books from the Pressmen, who value knowledge but none of the humanity that generates it. When they stumble upon a mysterious clock powered by an ancient jewel, they may discover secrets in the past that will change the future forever.

What I thought: This is a cogent critique of religious fanaticism and persecution, wrapped up in an engaging adventure. Back when I read the first entry in this series, The Jewel and Her Lapidary – twice – I thought that it was too steeped in infodumping and wasn’t convinced that it held together quite well enough to be outstanding. I re-read Jewel before reading this one, and not only did I come away with a better estimation of the first story this time, I felt that this sequel really leveled-up in terms of plot and storytelling. Highly-recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who enjoyed The Jewel and Her Lapidary.

Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor.com Publishing (Prequel story “Precious Little Things“) (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: In yet another of the author’s retellings of folk stories, this take on the E.T.A. Hoffmann story The Sandman and the ballet adaptation Coppelia features a young woman who makes tiny automatons, and the way they are brought to life and become their own little race of people.

What I thought: I found this story far more enjoyable than Walking to Aldebaran. Its length as a novella suits the depth of the story. I would possibly have found a full-length novel more satisfying, but perhaps the author’s judgment was wise in not trying to make more of the story than is supplied by its premise. Recommended as a quick, enjoyable read.

Filer comments:
BravoLimaPoppa: [On] my best list.
Mark-kitteh: An extremely readable and entertaining novella, featuring a young street thief who has acquired some very interesting little friends – the Made Things of the title – who are magically infused little figures. Add in a a very flavourful fantasy city, controlled by a magical oligarchy and survived-in by a criminal underclass, and some interesting worldbuilding, and there’s a lot packed into this novella.
Xtifr: Seconding the rec for Made Things. Very well done, and just about the perfect size for the story it told.

The Gurkha And The Lord Of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the djinn king wakes up after millennia of imprisoned slumber, he finds a world vastly different from what he remembers. Arrogant and bombastic, he comes down the mountain expecting an easy conquest: the wealthy, spectacular city state of Kathmandu, ruled by an all-knowing, all-seeing tyrant Artificial Intelligence. To his surprise, he finds that Kathmandu is a cut-price paradise, where citizens want for nothing and even the dregs of society are distinctly unwilling to revolt. Everyone seems happy, except for an old Gurkha soldier who is a convicted murderer and outcast. Together, they discover that this paradise has a dark side.

What I thought: I figured out pretty early on where this story was going, but the author’s dialogue, description, and characterization made it enjoyable. Recommended for those who enjoy science-fictional versions of folktales.

Filer comments:
Sylvia Sotomayor: It was delightful. It knocked my socks off. It is one of those books that leads you down the garden path and you end up in a completely different place than you thought. Even if it doesn’t sound like your thing, I highly recommend it. I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers. It will go on my hugo ballot unless six other things knock it off.

The Lights Go Out In Lychford by Paul Cornell [Witches of Lychford #4], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: The borders of Lychford are crumbling. Other realities threaten to seep into the otherwise quiet village, and the resident wise woman is struggling to remain wise. The local magic shop owner and the local priest are having troubles of their own. And a mysterious stranger is on hand to offer a solution to everyone’s problems. No cost, no strings (she says). But as everyone knows, free wishes from strangers rarely come without a price…

What I thought: The next-to-last installment in the series, this entry deals with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease, with a bit of hopefulness in the way that a dying character is given the opportunity to make their death count for something, as well as a renewal of the alliance of the protectors of the village which sits on the border of the real world and the malign faerie world. A worthy return to this world, well worth reading.

Filer comments:
Kendall: what a great novella! Emma Newman was amazing as narrator, as I expected. I especially loved how she did Judith. One point almost made me want to cry, maybe just because things were building up emotionally in various ways throughout the book and I didn’t expect [rot13] Nhghza gb gel gb fnpevsvpr ure shgher ybir [/rot13]. Other scenes were affecting as well, but for some reason that one hit me very hard in the feels. I’m underwhelmed at yet another end-of-the-book scene that felt like it should just be the first scene in the next book… I mean a cliffhanger’s okay, but this just didn’t feel like that. To me, it didn’t add anything to this book; it just felt like “hey I’m writing another one, here’s the first scene.” Regardless, this is a wonderful series and I recommend it (and the audiobooks)!

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch [Rivers of London / Peter Grant], Gollancz/Subterranean Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: Trier: famous for wine, Romans and being Germany’s oldest city. When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. Enter an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural, and a frighteningly enthusiastic local cop. To solve the case they’ll have to unearth the secret magical history of a city that goes back two thousand years.

What I thought: The plot of this novella is quite similar to previous works in the Rivers of London series, but it features new protagonists and a new location. I can’t speak for the depiction of German culture, but it seemed authentic to me, and the author acknowledges the contributions of his German fans as beta readers and consultants in achieving that. I quite enjoyed it, even if it’s not a revolutionary entry in the series. Recommended for Peter Grant fans and oenophiles.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Although part of his Rivers of London series, this is a new character and location… While Tobias is differentiated from Peter, and the locale is well-drawn, I’d have liked to see something a bit more different here. Still, an entertaining installment and perhaps a good jumping on point if you’ve never tried the series before.
Red Panda Fraction: I enjoyed [it] too, but it does seem a little too parallel to Peter Grant. I imagine it’s a prelude to more international magical cooperation in the future in the series. I’m also sure that Aaronovitch worked hard to get the details right about Germany based on the questions he asked on Twitter and the responses he got. Great premise for the story too.
Chip Hitchcock: [It} gave us an unbelievably ignorant viewpoint to let the author infodump, but turned into a reasonable story (shorter and not as serious as Rivers of London, but in the same universe, just in the Rhine valley in Germany).

Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Orphaned at an early age, the police detective grew up in a small, restrictive Welsh coastal town. As soon as she was old enough, she ran away to London and joined the police. Now, fifteen years later, she’s back in her old hometown to investigate what seems at first to be a simple hit-and-run, but which soon escalates into something far deadlier and unexpectedly personal.

What I thought: Despite it being more of a ghost story and less of a detective story and therefore theoretically not my thing, I really enjoyed this novella and was emotionally-invested in the main character, who must come to terms with her past and that of others, facing regrets and revenge. Recommended for fans of SFFnal crime mysteries.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Interesting stuff, and evoked a really good sense of place, but if you write in the more of gritty police procedural you need to get things right, and the lack of intervention from above given an ongoing sequence of enough deaths to be making national news really wasn’t plausible.

Silver In The Wood by Emily Tesh [Greenhollow Duology #1], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of forest, and he listens to the wood. Tethered to the forest, he does not dwell on his past life, but lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. When the nearby estate acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and he is forced to reckon with his troubled past – both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.

What I thought: This is a folktale retelling which I enjoyed far more than I expected, featuring themes of betrayal and redemption, malice and kindness, wrapped up in descriptive imagery and prose.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: [This] has a really evocative sense of place… It’s a meet-cute of sorts, starting a very long-burning slow romance in amongst finding out exactly who [the main character] is. It falls down a bit with some structural choices towards the end of the story, where it tries to rush through events in a way that doesn’t match the earlier drifting tone, but it’s promising enough that I’d read more by Tesh.

The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsay Drager, Dzanc Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: Breadcrumbing back in time from 2365 to 1378 in 75-year snapshots which coincide with the appearance of Halley’s Comet, siblings reimagine, reinvent, and recycle the narrative of Hansel and Gretel to articulate personal, regional, and ultimately cosmic experiences of tragedy.

What I thought: A gimmick such as this often ends up failing by trying to be too clever – but I think this lyrically-poetic work manages the trick successfully. This is ultimately an examination of whose stories are recorded and remembered, and whose stories get forgotten. I didn’t know Ruth Coker Burks’ story, but I thought that it was melded perfectly into this one, and am glad that this story prompted me to find out more about her.

Kyra: This one is going to appeal only to those fans who still like SF when it’s served up litfic style – this novella is about as litfic as it gets, and the SF elements are only a small part of it. But for those who do like that particular intersection of narrative techniques, it’s a good one.

The Orphans Of Raspay by Lois Mcmaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods / Penric], Spectrum Literary Agency / Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon-composite Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

What I thought: This is another enjoyable Penric adventure, with some great humor and snark, but the stakes never quite seem high enough to really make it one of the better entries. It’s possibly a good entry point for those who haven’t read the other stories, since it includes enough background to make sense to those who are unfamiliar with the backstory. And Penric fans will definitely want to pick it up.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A decent instalment in the Penric stories, which means it’s enjoyable and interesting, but not breaking any new ground in this series.
BravoLimaPoppa: [On] my best list.

How Sere Looked for a Pair of Boots by Alexander Jablokov [City of Storms], Asimov’s January-February (excerpt)

Synopsis: A detective in a city populated with a variety of alien races and cultures agrees to try to free a niece’s possibly-wrongly-convicted boyfriend – but when the prisoner declines to be rescued, it’s obvious that there’s something deeper going on.

What I thought: There’s some good humor and worldbuilding in this noirish mystery. It stands alone fairly well, and I found it more enjoyable than last year’s entry. Fans of the author’s ongoing series with this character will enjoy this.

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, Saga Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: This novella is greatly-informed by Fritz Leiber’s Change War series and its descendents: two factions, each working continuously to change elements of history to achieve a more favorable outcome for their side. Instead of Spiders and Snakes, this story features Red and Blue, two time-traveling agents from opposing groups who develop a correspondence through messages left for each other in strange, arcane ways such as bones and lava flow patterns.

What I thought: Every year, there is one work that a lot of people rave about, which I just… don’t. This year, this is that work. The prose is absolutely poetic and lovely, but the worldbuilding and plot are almost non-existent, and what there is of it is not really believable. This story is the literary equivalent of angel-food cake: beautiful and sweet and enjoyable in the moment, but with no actual substance to it. However, those who appreciate lavish prose, such as in Catherynne M. Valente’s works, will likely enjoy this book.

Filer comments:
Kyra: Well, this was fantastic. Both a great time travel story AND a great romance story. I’m also a sucker for epistolary writing, so that was a nice bonus for me. Highly recommended.
Iphinome: Socks knocked off. Socks flew across the room announced they were leaving me and have since taken up with a younger, more-active paladin.
Contrarius: I’m not generally fond of time travel, but very nicely done. I could just feel how much fun the authors had in writing it! In audio: two narrators, one of whom is the excellent Emily Woo Zeller. I’m not familiar with the other one, but she did a mostly fine job, aside from a few gaffes like pronouncing “causality” and “causal” as “casuality” and “casual”.
Contrarius: But seriously – at times I thought the authors were having a little TOO much fun, and allowing the writing to get in the way of the story. But that’s a minor quibble. It isn’t supposed to be realistic – it’s supposed to be atmospheric and evocative and romantic, and it succeeds admirably in all three of those. Definitely going on my Hugo longlist.
Standback: I enjoyed it, but also came out with very mixed feelings. I loved the concept, the writing, the feel, the tone – every page sucks you in and dances around you, laughing. OTOH, I kept feeling bits were missing – just basic groundwork of what’s going on, what the context is. Like, I never get any sense that I know how Red or Blue feel about the Time War or about their own sides before they start writing, and that feels like… something the story kind of needs? The worst for me was, I just didn’t feel like I could tell Red and Blue apart. They just felt the same. Which is… kind of the whole point? That they’re more like each other than their own sides? But it makes for a weird romance, between two characters who are hardly distinguishable from one another. So I came out with, basically, dual feelings – like, if I look at the story from this angle it’s kind of shoddily constructed, but if I look from that angle it’s fantastic and pitch-perfect. Based mostly on what you focus on as you read, I guess.
Peace Is My Middle Name: I read this book last month and was deeply moved. [It] has so much that appeals to me: Time wars and time travel, super-soldiers, spectacle, poetry, luxuriously gorgeous prose, and a sweet f/f romance. Maybe it’s a prose-poetical form that may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s certainly unconventional. If you like a story that unfolds as a series of more and more outlandish communications, if reading love letters is your jam, this might be the book for you. Highly recommended!
Lace: I listened to this one and found it a good fit for the fun with language in the letters.
Mark-kitteh: I found it.a leeeetle bit too much in places but there’s no doubt it was beautifully written and I can see why so many people are loving it – it’ll be a serious contender.
Mister Dalliard: No words on paper have made me squee with joy this much in years. Does it all hold together? Who cares! It is wildly inventive, emotionally satisfying and beautifully written. Taking issue with the story feels like whining about the lack of coherent narrative in the best sex you’ve ever had. (Yes, I have strong feelings about this one.)
Peace Is My Middle Name: I love the sweet poetry of the writing, and the hesitant, almost disbelieving growing awareness of how much these characters care about each other.

The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities – handling a possessed tram car. Soon, however, two of the ministry’s agents are exposed to a new side of Cairo stirring with suffragettes, secret societies, and sentient automatons in a race against time to protect the city from an encroaching danger that crosses the line between the magical and the mundane.

What I thought: As a worldbuilding book – say, for an RPG – this is fairly interesting, with lots of good cultural details. But as a story, the huge amounts of info-dumping make it tedious and slow for at least the first 2/3 of this 140-page novella. At around 100 pages, the story finally picks up some steam and becomes reasonably enjoyable. There are some good themes of anti-colonialism and womens’ rights worked in, but the lengthy info-dumping keeps it from getting to the level of a great story. Recommended for readers looking to expand their cultural reading experience.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Another triumph of worldbuilding from PDC. This is a vibrant, magical Cairo, but one that is evolving and growing – there’s a subplot around the culmination of a suffrage campaign – and the investigations of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities is the perfect vehicle to explore it. (Set in the same world as A Dead Djinn in Cairo but only tangentially connected.) As a procedural investigation it benefits from a stronger structure than last years The Black God’s Drums, but perhaps loses a little of the surprise. I’d happily read more of these.
CeeV: My response to the author’s previous work has ranged from “liked it with caveats” to “meh,” but this novella I loved… The characters are distinctive and engaging, the plot involving, and the writing style generally* smooth and pleasant. I laughed out loud several times while reading this novella and cried happy tears once. It’s a great story in its own right, though I’m also very much hoping to see more stories set in this world.
* Nitpicky kvetching about the writing style goes here. Clark’s fondness for unique dialogue tags has, if anything, gotten worse. At one point he actually uses the word “drolled.” That’s in addition to uncountable other near-synonyms for “said.” There’s also a scene where the sole female character present is referred to as “the smaller woman,” and one in which a character “had the decency” to do something which required no decency whatsoever, and by now I’m seriously wondering if Clark’s formative writing experiences involved writing fanfic. Though if that’s the case, I wish he’d relied on better beta readers while developing his personal writing style.

More Walls Broken by Tim Powers, Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: A trio of academics have just entered a deserted California cemetery late at night, bringing with them a number of arcane devices aimed at achieving an equally arcane purpose: to open a door between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and to capture the ghost of their recently deceased colleague. Their experiment, naturally, fails to come off exactly as planned. A door between the worlds does, in fact, open, letting in something – someone – completely unexpected.

What I thought: My first work by Powers was Salvage and Demolition, which I absolutely loved, and to which any of his works read since then inevitably get compared. This is an enjoyable little tale of crossed wires and alternate universes, but it’s a bit predictable. It would make a great Twilight Zone episode. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but Powers fans are sure to appreciate it.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a disturbing but interesting thought experiment about a future UK where paranoia about immigrants has caused the creation of a system whereby foreign applicants are put through a rigorous psychological process to determine whether their character and ethical traits warrant them being let into the country.

What I thought: This story raises some good questions about the roots of human bias and the way it manifests in peoples’ behavior, and about how we judge the relative value of the lives of others. While an interesting idea, ultimately the story falls down on the fact that no anti-immigration country would invest this massive of a quantity of money and human and technological resources into administering such tests (never mind the futility of trying to keep them secret, as the story claims they have done) – especially when this has the ultimate self-defeating result of leaving those who “pass” the test emotionally-damaged and perhaps no longer able to be good citizens. Such countries would just disallow immigration entirely, or settle for a much less expensive triaging system. This is worth reading, but in my opinion the implausibility renders it not award-worthy.

Filer comments:
Contrarius: Ho – leeee – SHIT. I highly recommend listening to this rather than reading it. It’s a very disturbing read – not gory or anything, but very emotionally taxing. But I STRONGLY recommend it. It’s only 2 hours – well worth the time investment.
Contrarius: I agree that the necessary nuts and bolts (expense and so on) make such a program unrealistic in the Real World – but so are things like the setup for The Hunger Games and a bazillion other sff stories. That isn’t the point. With this story, it’s the emotional impact – the wallop of being hit over the head with “THIS is what you’re doing to people” – that really got to me. It’s not just about literally testing immigrants – it’s about everything we carelessly do in our comfy first-world lives that impacts on people whom we can thoughtlessly label as The Other, and the real cost of that carelessness. And it’s for sure on my longlist. I’ll have to see how the impact holds up on reread, closer to nomination.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A hot new band on the scene has been releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band’s fans. A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following the band on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band’s lead singer is hiding an incredible, impossible secret.

What I thought: This novella is a bit hard to classify, ranging from science fiction to fantasy to horror to the New Weird. It was interesting enough for me to read the whole thing, but I wasn’t really blown away by the story. There’s lots of atmosphere and fantastical description with a soupçon of futuristic technology, but it’s very light on the character development. Recommended for those who enjoy Lovecraftian or weird fiction; others may find it less to their taste.

Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system on a near-miss trajectory past Earth. A group of eco-minded young people are taking no chances: they board a mobile aquaculture rig, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. But as the object draws nearer, its updated trajectory shows it coming much closer than predicted, and it will change the conditions of life across the globe forever.

What I thought: I’m generally an avid fan of Egan’s stories, but I found this to be fairly basic post-apocalyptic YA which did not really get me emotionally-invested. The plot and characterization are unexceptional, but it’s nevertheless worth reading for his usual rigorous worldbuilding.

Filer comments:
Lorien Gray: This was my favorite thing I’ve read so far this year. It’s not your typical post-apocalypse story as it focuses more on the slow build-up of stress and reaction as our protagonists try to find ways to help before civilization gets overwhelmed. It captured, in an understated way, how difficult it is when you’re just a few people trying to do the most you can but it’s horribly inadequate in the face of a slow motion, but global threat.
Mark-kitteh: I also liked it. It’s about people preparing for, and surviving, extreme climate change, albeit not of the AGW kind. I thought the choice of finale a bit odd though.

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children #5], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A misfit young woman accidentally finds her way into the Goblin Market, spends years living there and bonding with a good friend, and then returns to the real world. Unable to choose between the worlds, both of which hold great attractions for her, she ends up paying a terrible price.

What I thought: I never gained an appreciation for portal fantasies as a child, which probably colors my opinion here. I feel as though this story is just a variation on the same theme as the previous series entries, and does not really bring much that is new to the table. But this backstory for one of the Wayward Children will definitely appeal to fans of folktale retellings, portal fantasies, or the earlier entries in this series.

Filer comments:
Nina: I really enjoyed it – as usual, the world McGuire created for her protagonist to run away to was fascinating. Interestingly, both [it and In the Shadow of Spindrift House] share the theme of a protagonist feeling torn between her biological family and her found family.
Contrarius: We are back to doesn’t-quite-do-it-for-me on this one. McGuire can obviously write effective prose, and it’s a gracefully told story. There’s just… something… about the way she looks at things that I don’t quite get. I can’t describe it. Too preachy, too moralistic, too…something. I dunno. In audio this is read by Cynthia Hopkins, who did a good job.

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the human side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman. A man with a troubled past comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

What I thought: This novella is a cross between a mystery and a quest fantasy, in a folktale setting. The prose and worldbuilding are vivid, but there’s not a lot that’s innovative here in terms of plot or characterization. Recommended for those who enjoy folk- and fairy-tale retellings.

Filer comments:
Kyra: Weird and wild. I liked it. If you’re fond of fantasy books that throw you in the deep end without explanation so you can enjoy the swim, this one is for you. I’m kind of surprised this one hasn’t attracted more attention, actually.

A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan [The Seven Swords #1], Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: It is two hundred years since a deity went mad and destroyed the Kingdom, transforming it into the Execration, a blasted wasteland filled with nameless terrors. For decades, desperate souls have made pilgrimage to the centre of this cursed land to seek the Mad God’s favor, their fate always unknown. Now a veteran warrior known only as Pilgrim, armed with a fabled blade inhabited by the soul of a taunting demon, must join with six others to make the last journey to the heart of the Execration.

What I thought: This is an enjoyable but unexceptional quest fantasy following role-playing tropes, with a group of adventurers possessed of varying skills. It’s apparently the first of 7 novellas, each featuring a sword of different powers.

Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world in Naples with Ferdinand and a throne. Instead she finds herself a captive in her father’s castle in Milan, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts. Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.

What I thought: A sequel of sorts to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this novella tells the story of Miranda after her return from the island, when she finds herself prisoner in her father’s castle and must devise a way to escape after being faced with a terrible truth. The prose is beautiful and evocative, but the story itself does not rise above the usual dark family secret fantasy level. Recommended for Shakespeare fans.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: I think it takes a certain level of self-assurance to take Shakespeare’s iconic characters and write your own continuation of their story, but this version works nicely… There’s a nice romance as Miranda finds someone other than her distance prince – I’m often a bit meh on romance but I rather liked this one, as it worked to create a realistic relationship and reveal the characters. This is really nicely written, an interesting concept that takes a different direction from some others I’ve seen but is justified by the source material, and the lead characters grabbed me.

The Gorilla in a Tutu Principle or, Pecan Pie at Minnie and Earl’s by Adam-Troy Castro, Analog Sep-Oct (full text) (full text of prequel Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl’s)

Synopsis: A young engineer working on the Moon repeatedly encounters a couple of strange astronauts doing bizarre things – but it never happens when one of his co-workers is around. Is he going crazy? Or is he being pranked? And who would have the ability to pull off pranks requiring this level of technological advancement?

What I thought: I really, really recommend reading the Nebula-nominated prequel story (linked above) before reading this one, because that context makes it even better. I think that the prequel is a better story than this one, which seems a bit heavy-handed and takes quite a while to really get to the payoff, but I enjoyed both of them.

A Time to Reap by Elizabeth Bear, Uncanny Magazine November-December (full text)

Synopsis: The cast in a play about a never-solved true-crime murder mystery visits the site of the murders. The actress who plays one of the victims finds herself thrown back in time, with the opportunity to find out what really happened.

What I thought: The premise of this story is really interesting, as is much of the story itself, and I enjoyed it. But I thought that the time-travel paradox of events which did and did not happen due to the main character’s intervention was inconsistent and doesn’t really make sense – which is a shame, because I liked the rest of the story enough to want it to make sense. Content warning for domestic violence and allusions to sexual abuse.

Hope Is Swift by Seanan McGuire [October Daye], in The Unkindest Tide, DAW Books

Synopsis: This novella fleshes out the backstory for Raj, the heir to the Kingdom of Cats, with an adventure involving his changeling girlfriend and his best friend, which may mean the end of him, nine lives notwithstanding.

What I thought: As with all the later October Daye entries, new readers are not advised to start here, but this will be enjoyable for fans of the series.

Instantiation by Greg Egan [3-adica #2], Asimov’s March-April (excerpt) (full text PDF of prequel 3-adica)

Synopsis: The sentient computer personalities who escaped from Sludgenet’s control in 3-Adica now face a different threat; Sludgenet is going out of business, and they’re utterly dependent on its hardware resources to survive.

What I thought: I thought 3-Adica was really good, but this story seems like a bit of a re-tread, and I didn’t think it brought much new to the table, but fans of the first installment may enjoy these further adventures.

The Lost Testament by Allen Steele [Arkwright], Asimov’s March-April

Synopsis: A descendent of long-ago human colonists is seeking artifacts which may unlock secrets of their past, but the planet’s indigenous race is doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.

What I thought: This is another case where I thought the first entry, Starship Mountain, was really good, but didn’t think this sequel brought much new to the table, and it’s more of an installment in the series than a complete story.

Escape from Sanctuary by Allen M. Steele [Arkwright], Asimov’s November-December

Synopsis: This new installment of the story begun in Starship Mountain” and The Lost Testament brings further revelations into the mystery of the ancient human explorers who colonized the planet.

All of Me by R. S. Benedict, Fantasy and Science Fiction March-April

Synopsis: This modern update of “The Little Mermaid” features a sea creature who rescues a man from drowning and ends up being mercilessly exploited for her trouble.

What I thought: I really, really did not care for this story. Theoretically, the main character should be a sympathetic one, but I kind of just wanted every single character in this story to die in a fire. Recommended for readers who enjoy fairytale subversions or dark mermaid stories.

Filer comments:
Standback: A very weird story, and typically of Benedict, sharp and haunting as well.

Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell, Jr. (expansion of Who Goes There?), Wildside Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: Recently discovered at Harvard by scholar Alec Nevala-Lee, long buried in John W. Campbell’s papers, here is the original version of Who Goes There? It adds 3 prequel chapters to the classic story.

What I thought: I can see why these chapters were cut: they put all of the worldbuilding revelations into the front of the story and leave nothing for the reader to gradually figure out. I also doubt that this is a substantial-enough addition to re-qualify this novella for the Hugo Awards; there’s certainly not enough new here to make it a nominee for me. Campbell fans and those who loved The Thing may want to pick this up.

A Wasteland Of My God’s Own Making by Bradley P. Beaulieu [The Song of Shattered Sands], Quillings Literary Agency (Overdrive excerpt)

Synopsis: A renowned warrior left the grasslands of her homeland long ago and rose to prominence in the fighting pits in the big city. What she revealed to no one, however, is the terrible secret that drove her to leave her home in the first place. That secret is brought back to the fore when her sister tribeswoman comes to the city unannounced and tells her that if she fights one final bout in the killing pits, both their demons will be excised. How can she start a new life with her beloved when the terrible acts she committed in her homeland still haunt her?

What I thought: As with the other novellas in the Shattered Sands universe, this one provides the back story for one of the ancillary characters. This one stands less on its own, I think, than the other novellas; without a basic knowledge of the universe, I do not think it can be truly appreciated. Recommended for completists, but not required reading for the series.

Escaping Amnthra by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Asimov’s September-October / WMG Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the captain and senior crew abandon their ship which is stranded millions of light-years from home, the ship’s linguist assumes command. She needs to get the ship and remaining crew home despite her lack of leadership abilities and technical training. As the ship comes under attack from the planet below, she must figure out how to operate the ship’s weaponry while battling her own past to become captain in more than just name alone.

What I thought: This short novella is a backstory side-trip which did not fit into the novel The Renegat. It will likely be of interest to fans of the Diving Universe series, but is not likely to make much sense to anyone who has not read The Renegat. Recommended only for Diving Universe completists.

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, in Radicalized, Tor Books (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: A darkweb-enforced violent uprising against insurance companies is told from the perspective of a man desperate to secure funding for an experimental drug that could cure his wife’s terminal cancer.

What I thought: This is an all-too-plausible story of a good person whose devastating personal experiences send him down the slippery slope into radicalism and terrorism. It’s interesting, but I didn’t rate it as exceptional. Readers who study social media may especially find it of interest.

Masque of the Red Death by Cory Doctorow, in Radicalized, Tor Books (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: This story hearkens back to Doctorow’s Walkaway, taking on issues of survivalism versus community.

What I thought: This is the story of a small group of selfish, self-absorbed survivalists and the way that their advance preparations fail to ensure their survival after the collapse of civilization. It’s good, but doesn’t quite rise to the level of great. Humanists will appreciate the ending.

Model Minority by Cory Doctorow, in Radicalized, Tor Books (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: A Superman-like figure attempts to rectify the corruption of the police forces he long erroneously thought protected the defenseless… only to find his efforts adversely affecting their victims.

What I thought: This is a darker take on some recognizable superhero tropes and the downside of vigilantism. The obvious-but-not-named-franchise superhero characters didn’t do much for me, but fans of superhero stories will likely appreciate it.

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald [Luna], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A young woman growing up on the Moon has a new sister who is everything she is not: tall, beautiful, confident. They’re unlikely allies and even unlikelier sisters, but they’re determined to go on an adventure to find the moon’s first footprint, even if the lunar frontier is doing its best to kill them before they get there.

What I thought: This is, unsurprisingly, a Heinlein homage set in the author’s Luna universe and written from a slightly different angle. Those who enjoyed the childish jealousy and competitive stupidity of the original will likely enjoy this as well. Those who are not into angsty teenage angst may have less appreciation for it. I found the first part rather annoying and tedious, but the story does get better as it goes along, and there is some nice imagery and adventure for those who stick it out.

Her Silhouette, Drawn In Water by Vylar Kaftan, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: All she has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet with only a fellow prisoner for company. The other prisoner says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. She has no reason to doubt her companion – until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.

What I thought: This novella is a take on the “virtual reality as a prison” story, with some interesting worldbuilding but a rather predictable plot. The story is far too much sex and personal relationship for my taste and not enough of the other story elements. It reads a bit as if it’s a transcript of a roleplaying game. Recommended for those who enjoy SFFnal stories about relationships, such as Karen Memory.

Longer by Michael Blumlein, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A married couple who are R&D scientists for a pharmaceutical giant on an orbiting station are wealthy enough to participate in rejuvenation: rebooting themselves from old age to jump their bodies back to their twenties. Rejuvenation will “take” two times, but never a third. After one of them has juved for the second and final time but the other refuses to do so, questions of life, death, and morality test their relationship.

What I thought: This novella uses life rejuvenation and extension as a mcguffin to explore the marriage of two scientists which is imploding due to growing apart and having different needs and goals. There’s a lot of bickering and internal monologuing, which I found tedious. Recommended for those who enjoy lengthy relationship autopsies.

The Undefeated by Una McCormack, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a story of a retired journalist and her journey back to her home planet, and of persons who are artificially-created for slavery, and the accounting which eventually comes to the slave owners for their crimes.

What I thought: I thought that the backstory of this novella was really interesting, but the story itself mostly consists of narrative relating events which occurred in the past rather than taking the reader along for the ride as they occur, which has a disappointing distancing effect and makes it difficult to get emotionally invested in the main characters. [I think that the choice of “jenjer” as a designation for the slave race was unfortunate in that it kept making me think that the slaves were all redheads, and pulling me out of the story. Given the author’s apparent haircolor, this may have been an intentional dig at childhood tormentors.]

Macsen Against The Jugger by Simon Morden, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Two centuries after the Earth fell to enigmatic alien machines known as the Visitors, humanity survives in sparse nomadic tribes. An adventurer undertakes hazardous quests; quests that have made him a hero. He never fails, but this time he crosses the path of one of the deadliest of all the Visitors. Can he find a way to defeat the alien and survive?

What I thought: I’ve read several novellas and novels by this author now, and I feel that they’re pretty consistently strong in terms of worldbuilding but less so in terms of plot and character development. This one reads like a transcript of a role-playing game to me, but is worth reading for the worldbuilding.

Auberon by James S.A. Corey [The Expanse], Orbit Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: Auberon is one of the first and most important colony worlds in humanity’s reach, and the new conquering faction has come to claim it. A Governor has been sent to bring civilization and order to the far outpost and guarantee the wealth and power of the Empire. But Auberon already has its own history, a complex culture, and a criminal kingpin with very different plans.

What I thought: This is an interesting bit of backstory for one of the colony worlds of the Expanse novels. Fans of the series should enjoy it, but readers who are unfamiliar with the universe may find something to appreciate here as well.

The Man Who Would Be Kling by Adam Roberts, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When two strangers ask the manager at Kabul Station to take them into the Afghanizone he refuses. What sane person wouldn’t? Thought to be the result of an alien visitation, the zone is deadly. Nothing works there. Electrical items are your enemy; they malfunction or simply blow up. The pair go in anyway, and the biggest surprise is when one of them walks out again. Nobody survives the zone, so how has she?

What I thought: This homage to the Strugatskys’ Roadside Picnic is a rather caustic takedown of the naivety, colonialism, and privilege inherent in the worldbuilding of Star Trek. Trek fans may find it either annoying, or food for thought; I got a little of both. Ultimately, however, I think the story suffers from trying to be too clever (note the bad pun in the title, for example), and I don’t think it’s successful.

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud finds a strange alien rock, an international team of scientists and astronauts is put together to go and look at it. When disaster hits and the team is split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, one astronaut somehow survives. But there is something terrible in the tunnels with him.

What I thought: This is a mythic retelling, translated to a science-fictional horror setting, with a subversion similar to that in Peter Watts’ The Things, but less compelling (I was rolling my eyes at the end). This story would possibly be enjoyable for fans of classic myth.

Angels of the Silences by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: Emily and Biff are seventeen and best friends. They have been dead for nine months…

What I thought: This is a rape-revenge horror fantasy, and it pretty much follows the usual tropes. Content warning for rape, mutilation, violence and death.

The School House by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: A man who works at a psychiatric home must confront his past, after a childhood friend is committed for burning down their old school, and dark memories start to resurface.

What I thought: This is a dark take on the long-excused “boys will be boys” bullying and abuse, and its aftermath. Content warning for bullying, sexual assault, suicide, violence and death.

And Cannot Come Again by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: The events of a long-ago summer and first love return with lethal consequences for four childhood friends.

What I thought: I really didn’t need to read about any more cruelty or abuse; these 3 novellas are probably the last I’ll read of this author. Content warning for bullying, murder, mutilation, mental illness, and suicide.

Aeota by Paul Di Filippo, PS Publishing

Synopsis: On the trail of a missing con man, a private eye uncovers a vast conspiracy that stretches from the dawn of time to the Omega Point – and finds himself central to the whole enigmatic game.

Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield [Alice Payne #2], Tor.com Publishing (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: After abducting Arthur of Brittany from his own time in 1203, thereby creating the mystery that partly prompted the visit in the first place, Alice and her team discover that they have inadvertently brought the smallpox virus back to 1780 with them. Searching for a future vaccine, they find that the various factions in the future time war intend to use the crisis to their own advantage.

Ark by Veronica Roth, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: It’s only two weeks before an asteroid turns the Earth to dust. Though most of the planet has already been evacuated, it’s one woman’s job to catalog plant samples for the survivors’ unknowable journey beyond. Preparing to stay behind and watch the world end, she makes a final human connection. As certain doom hurtles nearer, the unexpected and beautiful potential for the future begins to flower.

The Ascent To Godhood by Jy Yang [Tensorate #4], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: For fifty years, the Protector ruled, reshaping her country in her image and driving her enemies to the corners of the map. For half a century the world turned around her as she built her armies, trained her Tensors, and grasped at the reins of fate itself. But now, the Protector is dead, and her greatest enemy can only mourn her loss, immersed in memories of how it all began.

The Bone Shaker by Edward Cox, NewCon Press

Synopsis: In the heart of the Great Forest, nothing is as it should be. Sir Vladisal and her Knights of Boska are lost and far from home. The son of their Duchess has been kidnapped, spirited away to a nameless place within these dark and endless woodlands.

Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise, Broken Eye Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: The Royce family has been a plague on their small Southern town for generations. Rumors about the family circulate in that small town, as do rumors about a monstrous creature known as Catfish John living in the swamp. When the Royce house burns down, the sheriff takes in the sole survivor, a young girl who becomes friends with his son. Years later, the sheriff’s son has now become the sheriff himself, and the monsters of his childhood return.

Chivalry by Gavin Smith, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When a knight follows his chivalric hero to war, he soon discovers that heroes are often better worshipped from afar. Betrayed, badly injured, left for dead, he is nursed back to half-life by a ghoul necromancer. Joining forces with a taciturn professional murderess, he returns to the war, determined to set the record straight.

The City of Lost Desire by Phyllis Eisenstein [Tales of Alaric the Minstrel], Fantasy and Science Fiction January-February

Synopsis: The caravan that Alaric joined as an entertainer has finally completed its desert crossing and arrived at the ancient city that was always its goal, bringing trade goods that include fine furniture, salt from the mines of the desert, and a potent, addictive drug that the rich and royal of the city crave. Alaric is drawn by the mystery of the tower that stands outside the city and by the secrets that seem to pervade the royal palace and its inhabitants.

Cruel Fate by Kelley Armstrong [Cainsville], Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: Three years after discovering that her biological parents are convicted serial killers, Olivia finally has her life back. She loves her new job, as investigator for her partner who is a notorious defense attorney, and her role as the legendary Mallt-y-Nos to Cainsville’s fae population. She’s finally seeing her father freed from jail, where he’s been wrongly imprisoned for over twenty years. But someone has arranged for a victim’s body to appear, with clues leading back to her father.

Dangerous People by Ursula K. Le Guin [Kesh / Always Coming Home], Library of America

Synopsis: The story of one missing woman and the people around her who may or may not be implicated in her death or disappearance, this novella explores larger questions about what – in relationships, in society – make a person “dangerous”; and in giving us the Kesh perspective, the author ultimately shines a light on our own society’s perceptions of truth, gender, and relationships.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Hodder & Stoughton (excerpt)

Synopsis: Yetu holds the memories for her people – water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners – who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one – the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu, but the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Desdemona And The Deep by C.S.E. Cooney, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: The spoiled daughter of a rich mining family must retrieve the tithe of men her father promised to the world below. On the surface, her world is rife with industrial pollution that ruins the health of poor factory workers, while the idle rich indulge themselves in unheard-of luxury. Below are goblins, mysterious kingdoms, and an entirely different hierarchy.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: [Features] a great character, very much flawed – impulsive, not considering others enough, but also determined and with a sense of morals. The fantastical elements are great – this isn’t a twee faerie, or an unremittingly evil one, but one that acknowledges that its inhabitants are just very very different. The conclusion that the real monsters are at home is perhaps a bit on the nose but I think it was well-earned. This is a lyrical, atmospheric story with a complex main character.

Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind – hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out ages ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved.

The Esteemed by Robert Reed [Veritas], Asimov’s January-February

Synopsis: It’s the mid-1970’s, Gerald Ford is President, and a time traveler arrives with dire warnings about the future – and the evidence to convince the masses that he’s telling the truth. The people of the world make changes to avoid the horrible future he predicts. But the time traveler keeps returning, each time with new warnings which must be heeded.

Gabriel’s Road by Laura Anne Gilman [The Devil’s West], Book View Cafe (excerpt)

Synopsis: Most folk in the Territory never think about the magic around them. They’ve never encountered a magician, fought a spell-beast, or bargained with the devil. But Gabriel is not most folk. A year spent mentoring the woman who is the Devil’s Left Hand has brought him closer to the Territory’s magic than he’d ever wanted. But now he is on his own again, free of all obligation. Except the Territory – and his own destiny – isn’t quite done with him yet…

A Hazardous Engagement by Gaie Sebold, NewCon Press

Synopsis: A young woman’s brother presents her with a challenge. If she wants to join his gang, she and her team have to steal a magical belt that’s locked to the waist of a bride, on her wedding night, in a fortified castle, on a rock in the middle of the sea. She takes him up on it. But when she discovers just how much her brother didn’t know, the job proves even more hazardous than she bargained for…

How Alike Are We by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Jihyun Park and Gord Sellar, Clarkesworld October (full text)

Synopsis: After being diverted from their original destination to assist with an emergency at a colony on Titan, a transport ship is subjected to demands by a mysterious AI.

In The Shadow Of Spindrift House by Mira Grant, Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: A young woman who was raised by her grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her parents has become part of a tight-knit teen detective agency which agrees to investigate the mystery behind a decrepit house of uncertain ownership. But the house may have its own ideas…

Filer comments:
Nina: [It] was really good too, though that’s straight-up horror rather than fantasy or sci-fi. Interestingly, both [it and In An Absent Dream] share the theme of a protagonist feeling torn between her biological family and her found family.

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold [Sharing Knife], Spectrum Literary Agency / Subterranean Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: After a two-year stint on patrol, a Lakewalker returns only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of his mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.

The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who you are, how you got there, or where you were before. All you have is the disconnected voice of an attentive caretaker. Dr. Kuhn is there to help you – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She’ll help you remember everything. She’ll make sure you reclaim your lost identity. Now answer one question: Are you sure you want to?

Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade [Conversation Pieces #70], Aqueduct Press

Synopsis: All our monsters are mirrors. And when Mary Shelley’s monster – built from her life rather than her pen, born out of biography instead of blood – outlives its mother, that monster goes looking for a substitute. But all the monster really knows of women is that women write, and so the search for a replacement takes it first to Katherine Mansfield, and then to other women who know what mutilated things can be made from ink and mirrors…

The Monster Of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, Tor.com Publishing (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: The city sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats – a monster who cannot die. The monster and its master will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.

Morpho by Philip Palmer, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When the corpse on the mortuary slab sits up and speaks to a woman, asking for her help, she thinks she’s losing her mind. If only it were that simple. She discovers a secret society through which the privileged govern from the shadows, that immortality is being bought at a horrific price, and that a rebellion threatens to undermine the social order of the entire world.

New Atlantis by Lavie Tidhar, Fantasy and Science Fiction May-June

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic utopia where the few survivors of the climate change collapse now live in harmony with their environment, an elderly woman tells the story of her adventure to a ruined city to see the remaining marvels left behind by the ancient ones.

Nomads by Dave Hutchinson, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Are there really refugees from ‘elsewhere’ living among us? If so, what cataclysmic event are they fleeing? When a high speed car chase leads a police sergeant to a farm, he finds himself the focus of unwanted attention from Internal Affairs, and is faced with the prospect of things being unearthed that he would far rather stayed buried.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Does a good job on maintaining a sense of mundanity before delivering a nice SFnal twist. Interesting but felt like it had more ideas than it could fit into the length, and the end was rather inconclusive.

Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness by Aliette de Bodard [Dominion of the Fallen], in Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Subterranean Press

Synopsis: This is a comedy of manners set in the Dominion of the Fallen universe, where a Fallen angel attempts to throw a relaxing birthday party for her lover, and everything goes wrong in all the worst possible ways.

The Rampant by Julie C. Day [Conversation Pieces #69], Aqueduct Press

Synopsis: Two 16-year-old young women have spent most of their lives enduring the nightmare of the never-ending rapture. It’s been a decade since the ancient Sumerian gods descended on Indiana, promising that the chosen people would ascend to Nibiru, but the terrifying entity called the Rampant – the last of the Evil Messengers heralding the destruction of civilization – seems to have missed the memo. Until he shows up, the rapture can’t happen.

Randomize by Andy Weir, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: An IT whiz at the casino is enlisted to upgrade security for the game of keno and its random-number generator. The new quantum computer system is foolproof. But someone on the inside is no fool. For once the odds may not favor the house – unless human ingenuity isn’t entirely a thing of the past.

Recrossing Brooklyn Ferry by John Richard Trtek, Asimov’s May-June

Synopsis: This homage to Walt Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is a near-future story of a time-travel agent and his lost love, in which they are part of a resistance group attempting to undermine the current totalitarian government.

Serpent Rose by Kari Sperring, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Camelot: there are four sons of Lot at court and Sir Gaheris knows himself to be the least of them. Yet the charismatic and headstrong young knight Sir Lamorak looks up to him in particular, despite more obvious choices. When Lamorak catches his mother’s eye, Gaheris knows there’s trouble brewing. Soon he finds himself at the centre of family tensions, deceit and tragedy. Can he prevent the bloodshed that seems inevitable?

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A tale of family feuds and personality clashes in a nicely gritty-feeling version of Arthurian Britain, with no fantastical elements as such (except for being a non-existence history, of course). The plot rather depends on the main character being clueless, which was frustrating at times, and it didn’t quite stick the landing, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy aboard a living, breathing ship which seems determined to develop a will of its own. When the order receives a distress call from a newly-formed colony, the sisters discover that the bodies and souls in their care are in danger… and not from void beyond, but from the nascent Central Governance and the Church itself.

Summer Frost by Blake Crouch, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: The minor non-player character in the world Riley is building was made to do one thing: die. But when the NPC makes her own impossible decision – veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map, Riley gets curious and extracts her code for closer examination, and an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing her into the real world. But what if the NPC has real-world plans of her own?

Surfers at the End of Time by Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw, Asimov’s November December (full text)

Synopsis: These are the continuing mad antics of accidental mathematicians Zep and Del, who take to the waves after inventing a surfboard that can surf through time.

The Survival Of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson [Molly Southbourne #2], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Who was Molly Southbourne? What did she leave behind? A burnt-out basement. A name stained in blood. Bodies that remember murder, one of them left alive. A set of rules that no longer apply. Molly Southbourne is alive. If she wants to survive, she’ll need to run, hide, and be ready to fight.

Winter Wheat by Gord Sellar, Asimov’s Sep-Oct (full text)

Synopsis: This story of gene-hackers and small-farmer resistance begins in the dead of winter and progresses through a twelve-year cycle in a near-future Saskatchewan.

You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: When his wife first tells him about a twenty-first-century fertility lab, a man sees this as the natural next step in trying to help their future child get a “leg up” in a competitive world. But the more he considers the lives that his child could lead, the more he begins to question his own relationships and the choices he has made in his life.

You Must Remember This by Jay O’Connell, Analog November-December (full text)

Synopsis: When she’s resurrected into a post-catastrophe world 13 years after dying, Maura finds herself in a changed society, and she must re-invent herself to survive while trying to find the person who brought her back.

Pixel Scroll 11/16/19 It Must Be Pixels, ‘Cause Ink Don’t Scroll Like That

(1) NEBULA ACTIVITY. SFWA is now selling tickets to the 2020 Nebula Conference taking place May 28-31, 2020 in Woodland Hills, CA (part of Los Angeles)

SFWA members and other individuals who are interested in the field of science fiction and fantasy are welcome to attend SFWA’s Nebula Conference. Attendees may participate in workshops, programming and special events throughout the weekend.

You do not need to be a member of SFWA to attend. We encourage anyone with a connection to the field to join us.

And SFWA members can now cast nominating ballots for the Nebulas.

(2) HORN TOOTING. A.C. Wise is collecting links to eligibility posts, and already has a great many here – “What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2019”.

It’s that time of year again! Editors, publishers, and authors’ minds turn toward Year’s Best list, and awards. Which also means it’s time for said authors, editors, and publishers to get out there and self-promote. It can feel icky or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable service to those who nominate for awards, and those who just want to catch up reading what they might have missed during the year. So step forward, take a deep breath, and shout about what you wrote this year. While you’re at it, shout about the things you loved too! No one can read everything that comes out in a given year, but together we can help each other find excellent things to read, and perhaps even nominate.

(3) WORDS & MUSIC. The lyric video of Taylor Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” from the motion picture Cats is online.

(4) UPON REFLECTION. Some who commented about a new YA Twitter donnybrook linked in yesterday’s Scroll (item #16) have adopted a new perspective, including N.K. Jemisin whose thread starts here.

(5) RAPID CONTRACTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog reportedly has severed ties with all its freelancers:

(6) FORD RIGHTS. Will Shetterly’s comment on Slate’s article “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” (linked here yesterday with news that Ford’s books are coming back into print) shed additional light:

I was one of Mike Ford’s friends and editors, and I want to go on record with this: Martha Fry was extremely helpful when we wanted to keep his Liavek stories in print. The breakdown in communication between his original family, his fannish family, and his agent has many reasons, but there are no villains in that story. There are only gossips who love drama, as there are in any community. If anyone claims his first family tried to make his work unavailable, I will point to the Liavek anthologies as evidence that’s not true.

(7) KSR STUDY. The University of Illinois Press has released Kim Stanley Robinson by Robert Markley, the Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Award-winning epics like the Mars trilogy and groundbreaking alternative histories like The Days of Rice and Salt have brought Kim Stanley Robinson to the forefront of contemporary science fiction. Mixing subject matter from a dizzying number of fields with his own complex ecological and philosophical concerns, Robinson explores how humanity might pursue utopian social action as a strategy for its own survival.

Robert Markley examines the works of an author engaged with the fundamental question of how we—as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species—might go forward. By building stories on huge time scales, Robinson lays out the scientific and human processes that fuel humanity’s struggle toward a more just and environmentally stable world or system of worlds. His works invite readers to contemplate how to achieve, and live in, these numerous possible futures. They also challenge us to see that SF’s literary, cultural, and philosophical significance have made it the preeminent literary genre for examining where we stand today in human and planetary history.

(8) DISNEY+. “Disney+ Warns Users About ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ in Titles”The Hollywood Reporter works to discern how the policy is applied.

At the bottom of the description for Disney’s 1940 classic animation Fantasia on the studio’s newly minted Disney+ service, there is a line that is garnering attention from viewers: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The disclaimer can be found in the streaming platform’s synopsis of many of Disney’s classic animated titles, including 1941’s Dumbo, 1967’s The Jungle Book, 1953’s Peter Pan and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as other offerings like 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1955’s Davy Crockett. 

Disney+ features the studio’s massive library that dates back over eight decades, and the verbiage serves as a caution against some racist and culturally insensitive depictions and references in Disney’s older offerings.

While Lady and the Tramp features Siamese cats depicted as East Asian stereotypes and Peter Pan includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?,” it is unclear what the criterion is for Disney titles to receive the “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimer. Aladdin, which has been critiqued for its racist depictions of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, does not feature the disclaimer in its synopsis.

Disney has not returned The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

One feature entirely absent from the streaming platform is the 1946 live-action animation hybrid Song of the South. The movie, which inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of African-Americans and apparent glorification of plantation life. It has been the studio’s policy to keep the film from theatrical and home entertainment rerelease. 

The new streaming service is also making news for another decision: “‘Simpsons’ Episode Featuring Michael Jackson Kept Off Disney+”.

Disney did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the episode is missing and who made the call. 

It is assumed “Stark Raving Dad” is off Disney+ because Michael Jackson (not officially credited) was the guest star. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a man Homer meets while in a mental institution who sounds like Jackson. The episode was a favorite among fans for several years. 

In March of this year, “Stark Raving Dad” was pulled from broadcast circulation following the release of the HBO documentary film Leaving Neverland, in which the late pop star was accused by multiple men of molestation when they were boys. 


  • November 16, 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, the film is both a financial and critical success. It currently has a hundred percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The Invaders, The Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did. Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all…  (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Shigeru Miyamoto, 67. Video game designer and producer at Nintendo. He is the creator of some of the best-selling game franchises of the company, such as Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 67. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are Sunshine, Chalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire,UK. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She was Hera in Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome.
  • Born November 16, 1967 Lisa Bonet, 52. First genre work was isEpiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, a decidedly strange horror film. More germane was that she was Heather Lelache in the 2002 A&E adaptation of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. She later played Maya Daniels in the Life on Mars series as well. 
  • Born November 16, 1967 Eva Pope, 52. Genre is a slippery thing to define. She was a one-off in Adventure Inc. (might be genre) as well the Splinter film (horror with SF pretensions), Life on Mars (SF maybe) and Spooks: Code 9 (alternate UK history). Is she genre? 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 47. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave SF films of all time. Also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Haunted House 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  Roswell, The Tick, Pushing Daisies and Z Nation.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 42. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be best remembered for her role as a Nebari who was a member of the crew on Moya on the Farscape series. Other genre appearances include Beastmaster, The Lost World, Quantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the web series Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Maggie Gyllenhaal, 42. She’s had some impressive genre appearances in such works as Donnie DarkoThe Dark Knight, voice work in the superb Monster House and the equally superb Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

(11) ELLISON REMEMBERED. Fanac.org has uploaded an audio recording of the Worldcon 76 (2018) “In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison” panel.

Worldcon 76 was held in San Jose, CA in 2018. This Memoriam panel (audio, with pictures) features memories and anecdotes from Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg (who was a friend of Harlan’s for 65 years), Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat Segaloff (Harlan’s biographer). Each of the panelists had a close relationship with Harlan, and these loving but clear-eyed reminiscences are a comfort to those that miss him, and hopefully to those readers who never had a chance to meet him. Harlan was an enormous presence in science fiction. His stories, his scripts, his kindnesses and his sometimes unbelievable missteps will be long remembered. Recording provided by Karen G. Anderson and Richard Lynch.

(12) ABOUT LEWIS. Publishers Weekly is right to hedge its bet in the title — “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis “ because I knew three of these, and a few of you probably know them all!

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

(13) A MEMORY REVERED. “Wales’ Tecwyn Roberts hailed as ‘hero of the space age'” – BBC has the story.

Tributes are being paid to “one of the great unsung heroes of the space age”.

Tecwyn Roberts, from Anglesey, helped set up mission control rooms and enabled astronaut Neil Armstrong to communicate with Earth from the Moon.

Experts have hailed Roberts’ expertise as events are held to mark the 50 years since Nasa’s second lunar landing.

A flag will be placed on his grave during the anniversary of Apollo 12 which flew from 14-24 November 1969.

“Without Tec[wyn], Nasa and mission control as it exists today would probably not have happened,” said Nick Howes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Tecwyn Roberts could rightly be labelled as one of the great unsung heroes of the space age.”

Mr Howes was speaking in an interview published by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which has also hailed Roberts as a “pioneer”.

He was chief of the network engineering division by the time of the first landing on the Moon and helped to ensure there was communication with astronauts.

…Gary Morse, a former Nasa space shuttle network director, said Roberts “essentially invented” the flight director position.

“He didn’t say much but when he did it was very important,” he said.

(14) MORE TOR BUCKS. Here’s a number most writers would be happy to sign for – “James Rollins lands huge 7-figure deal for epic fantasy series”. Entertainment Weekly is there when the cash register rings.

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author best known for his blockbuster thrillers has signed a major seven-figure deal with Tor Books for Moon Fall, a fantasy series that’s been eight years in the making.

Moon Fall opens a riven world trapped between fire and ice, merging his fascination with the natural world, his love of adventure, and his knowledge of the wonders found at the evolutionary fringes of scientific exploration. It centers on a young girl who foretells a new apocalypse approaching, one that will end all life for all time. Her reward is a charge of grave heresy, punishable by death. As she flees, she gathers an unlikely alliance of outcasts to join her cause to save their world. The journey will take them into lands both burning bright and eternally frozen, to face creatures unimaginable and enemies beyond reason. All the while, hostile forces will hunt them. Armies will wage war around them.

(15) R-RATED B.O. Joker is still bringing people through the turnstiles: “The Joker Hits $1 Billion at Box Office — Making It the First R-Rated Movie to Reach the Milestone”.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has surpassed $1 billion in gross sales at box offices world wide, Entertainment Weekly reports. The milestone makes the blockbuster the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark, according to the outlet.

It also means that the movie, which tells the tale of the rise of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has now officially beat out Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. The Ryan Reynolds-stared film made $783 million.

(16) WELL-KNOWN BRAND. Martin Morse Wooster assures us, “I normally wouldn’t write about Tanya Edwards’s Yahoo! Lifetstyle story ’10 Gifts That Will Impress The Ultimate Star Wars fan’ because it is an Ebay infomercial.  BUT the Darth Vader Helmet 2-Slice Toaster is definitely worth a photo!”

(17) PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. Starlux Airlines is an actual company that begins operations in Taiwan in 2020, with all new Airbus planes. They just launched their safety video:

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/18 Ringworlds For Sale or Rent, Moons To Let Fifty Cents

(1) PLANE SPEAKING. CollegeHumor shows what happens when a ticket agent has to deal with the argument that “My Dinosaur Is a Service Animal” (features Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard).

(2) EARLY RETURNS ON 451. Phil Nichols of BradburyMedia saw a preview screener of “HBO’s new Fahrenheit 451” and weighed in on his blog:

…The new Fahrenheit does take many liberties with Bradbury’s story (what, no Millie? Clarisse as a police informant?), but it knows what it’s doing. Specifically, it knows what Guy Montag has to learn, and what he has to become; and it knows what Beatty is in relation to Montag. Most importantly, it knows how to show the relevance of Fahrenheit to today’s world of sound bites, clickbait headlines and fake news. Bradbury said that you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture; you just have to get people to stop reading. And that’s exactly the world Bahrani has created here….

(3) MORE WORK FOR HOLLYWOOD LAWYERS. “Stan Lee Files $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The epic battles in Stan Lee’s comics may be nothing compared to the array of legal fights he’s waging — which now includes a billion-dollar lawsuit against the company he co-founded.

Lee is suing POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company.

POW! was acquired in 2017 by Hong Kong-based Camsing International, and Lee says POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion didn’t disclose the terms of the deal to him before it closed. At the time, Lee claims, he was devastated because his wife was on her deathbed and they took advantage of his despair — and his macular degeneration, which rendered him legally blind in 2015.

Lee says last year Duffy and Champion, along with his ex-business manager Jerardo Olivarez, whom he’s currently suing for fraud, asked him to sign a non-exclusive license with POW! for the use of his name and likeness in connection with creative works owned by the company. Instead, what he purportedly signed was a “fraudulent” intellectual property assignment agreement that granted POW! “the exclusive right to use Lee’s name, identity, image and likeness on a worldwide basis in perpetuity.”

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Lee has been selective about licensing his name and likeness and will only authorize the use on a non-exclusive basis.

(4) AWARD NOMINEE. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert! Her story “’Baptism of Fire’ is a nominee for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Award”.

The nominations for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards, which are run by the small press Bards & Sages, were announced today.

I was going to put the link to the announcement into the weekly link round-ups at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene respectively, but first I took a gander at the list of nominees and all but fell from my chair, because there, a bit down the page, was my name. For it turns out that “Baptism of Fire”, my contribution to the science fiction anthology The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw, has been nominated in the “Best short story” category. I had absolutely no idea about this, until I saw the nominee list.

(5) BLABBAGE. Derek Stauffer, in “Star Wars Comic May Hint At Leia’s Episode 9 Fate” in ScreenRant, says that Marvel’s Poe Dameron comic may have clues about what will happen to Leia Organa in Episode 9.

Given Leia’s weakened state in the comic, it seems even more obvious that she will end up passing the torch to Poe as leader of The Resistance at some point in the near future. The only real question is if that passing will come with Leia’s retirement, or her death.

(6) ARTISTS TO BE INDUCTED. The Society of Illustrators will honor the following artists at its Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony on June 21.

2018 Hall of Fame Laureates
Robert Crumb
Hilary Knight
Jim McMullan
CF Payne
Kate Greenaway
Rene Gruau
Jack Kirby
Heinrich Kley
Kay Nielsen

(7) NEW TO SHORT FICTION? Lady Business offers a “Short & Sweet Roundtable Discussion: Short Fiction Reading Habits” with A.C. Wise, Bogi Takács, Brandon O’Brien, Vanessa Fogg, and Bridget McKinney.

One thing I’ve learned from talking to people about short fiction is that there are many different styles of reading short fiction. There are people like me who read one story (generally online) and then stop and do something else. There are people who sit down with a print or ebook magazine and read the whole thing cover to cover. There are people who only listen to short fiction in podcast form. So I was thinking about the different ways people read short SFF, and I wanted to find out more about these differences. I also thought that since lots of people have different short fiction reading habits, people who want to try short fiction might find that different pieces of advice are helpful to different people. So I’ve invited several guests to the column to talk about their short fiction reading habits and to share advice for people new to short fiction.

This roundtable features prolific short fiction readers, so they have a lot of great ideas for where to find short fiction, but I know it can be a little intimidating when there’s so much to choose from and people who read so much! I hope this roundtable gives readers a taste of how many ways there are to read short fiction and how many entry points there are, and that there’s no wrong way to read, including how much you read or at what point in life you start reading short fiction.

(8) LEND ME YOUR EARS. From Tested in 2013, “ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets”. News to me — the crowds of the pod races in Star Wars Episode I were half a million painted q-tips.

Don Bies: One of the cool things, whenever we’re working together, is people thinking outside the box, and trying to come up with practical solutions. And in the early days, certainly it was ‘let’s see if we can beat the CG guys at their own game.’ Michael Lynch, one of the modelmakers–he was always really good at looking at things this way–he was looking at the crowds. And when you see a crowd in a stadium you’re really just seeing shapes and colors, you’re not really seeing people or individual faces.

So he came up with the idea…of using q-tips, cotton swabs, colored, in the stands of the Mos Espa arena. So there were something like 450,000 q-tips painted multiple colors, and he even researched it to find out how many reds versus yellows and blues and greens that should be in there.

And it was a process of just days of painting. Think about 450,000 cotton swabs, how you paint them, and then how you put them in. Everyone took turns at one point sticking them into the stands. And by blowing a fan underneath they kind of twinkled, like people moving around. Ultimately they did put some CG people on top of it, but I always thoght it would be funny if they caught to a close-up of the stands and you saw a cotton swab sitting in the stands next to the aliens…

(9) ALFRED THE GREAT. Hollywood Reporter headline: “’Gotham’ Boss Sets New Batman Prequel Series at Epix (Exclusive)”. Premium cable network Epix will air Pennyworth. The series has some behind-the-camera personnel ties to Gotham, but is not a prequel of that Fox series. No cast has been announced.

Epix is getting into the DC Comics business.

The MGM-owned premium cable network has handed out a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for Pennyworth, a drama set in the Batman universe from Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller.

The series will revolve around Alfred Pennyworth, the best friend and butler to Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). The series is not a Gotham spinoff but rather an entirely new story exploring Alfred’s origins as a former British SAS soldier who forms a secret company and goes to work with Thomas Wayne — Bruce’s billionaire father — in 1960s London. Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred Pennyworth on Fox’s recently renewed Gotham, is not involved. Casting has not yet begun and the series is set in a completely different universe despite hailing from Heller and producers Warner Horizon. (Others who have played the Alfred role include Jeremy Irons, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, Alan Napier and William Austin, among others.)


Hershey Kisses were named after the “kissing” sound made by the nozzle that drops the chocolate onto a cooled conveyor belt during their production. Hershey started making its version in 1907 but “kiss” was commonly used as a generic term for candies wrapped with a twist as early as the 1820s. Hershey managed to trademark the term in 2000 after arguing that consumers almost exclusively associated the word “kiss” with their brand versus other candies.

Source: Time


(12) SCALZI FREE READ. The Electronic Frontier Foundation enlisted John Scalzi to help make their point: “EFF Presents John Scalzi’s Science Fiction Story About Our Right to Repair Petition to the Copyright Office”.

A small bit of good news: Congress designed a largely ornamental escape valve into this system: every three years, the Librarian of Congress can grant exemptions to the law for certain activities. These exemptions make those uses temporarily legal, but (here’s the hilarious part), it’s still not legal to make a tool to enable that use. It’s as though Congress expected you to gnaw open your devices and manually change the software with the sensitive tips of your nimble fingers or something. That said, in many cases it’s easy to download the tools you need anyway. We’re suing the U.S. government to invalidate DMCA 1201, which would eliminate the whole farce. It’s 2018, and that means it’s exemptions time again! EFF and many of our allies have filed for a raft of exemptions to DMCA 1201 this year, and in this series, we’re teaming up with some amazing science fiction writers to explain what’s at stake in these requests.

This week, we’re discussing our right to repair exemption. Did you know the innards of your car are copyrighted?

… The use of DRM to threaten the independent repair sector is a bad deal all-around. Repair is an onshore industry that creates middle-class jobs in local communities, where service technicians help Americans get more value out of the devices they buy. It’s not just cars: everything from tractors to printers, from toys to thermostats have been designed with DRM that stands in the way of your ability to decide who fixes your stuff, or whether it can be fixed at all. That’s why we’ve asked the Copyright Office to create a broad exemption to permit repair technicians to bypass any DRM that gets in the way of their ability to fix your stuff for you.

Our friend John Scalzi was kind enough to write us a science fiction story that illustrates the stakes involved.

(13) HOUSE OF REPUTE. Real estate news site 6sqft profiles a celebrity abode which once housed sf author Robert Silverberg: “Former home of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia lists for $3.5M in Fieldston section of Riverdale”. Numerous photos of the inside and outside.

A stately English Tudor mansion in the historic Fieldston neighborhood of Riverdale, considered one of the city’s best preserved early 20th century suburbs, has just hit the market for $3.5 million, and it’s oozing history filled ghosts, science fiction, New York master politicians, and urban planners. Former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved to 5020 Goodridge Avenue after serving three consecutive terms as mayor and living in Gracie Mansion….

In 1961, Robert Silverberg, a well-known science fiction author – and not as well-known as the prolific writer of erotica novels for quick cash – bought the house. In his 1972 novel, The Book of Skulls, Silverberg mentioned the neighborhood, writing, “How unreal the whole immortality thing seemed to me now, with the jeweled cables of the George Washington Bridge gleaming far to the southwest, and the soaring bourgeois towers of Riverdale hemming us on to the right, and the garlicky realities of Manhattan straight ahead.”

(14) PROBLEM FIXER. Michael Z. Williamson’s advice is to ban the people who complain about a convention GoH.

…Your only rational, immediate response to avoid “controversy” is just to ban the person making the public scene. They’ve already told you by this action that they intend to cause trouble for at least one of your guests and that guest’s followers.

“I wouldn’t feel safe with this person at the con!”
“We’re sorry you feel that way.  Here’s a full refund.* We hope to see you at a future event.”

Then stop responding. You’ll only give attention to an attention whore.

Having seen this happen to guests at least three times, any future guest invitations I accept will involve a signed cancellation clause and a cash penalty for doing so, because once a guest has made arrangements for your event, they can’t schedule something else, and you’re eating up their writing/art/production time. They are there for YOUR benefit, not you for theirs. In my case, I currently have three novels, a collection, an anthology, all contracted, another novel offer, three on spec, an article request, three short stories and a lengthy stack of products to test and review, and an entire summer of professional bookings. I have a not-quite four year old and a teenager. Don’t waste my time then roll over for some worthless whiner….

(15) MAKING PLANS. John Ringo, in a public Facebook post, advises writers —

…With every other convention, assume you’re being set-up at this point and don’t be played for a sucker.

Oh, yeah, and as fans and lovers of liberty, never, ever attend Origins again if you ever have. Or ConCarolinas. (Sorry, Jada.) Or ArchCon. Or WorldCon.

We need a list. They never will be missed. No they never will be missed.

(16) ALTERNATE SPORTS HISTORY. Counterfactual: “Blimps Full Of Money And 30 Other Sports Fantasias In ‘Upon Further Review'”. What if football had stayed boring, or the US had boycotted the Berlin Olympics, or …?

Mike Pesca assembled the new book titled Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs In Sports History and a companion podcast. In an interview, he explained some of the book’s 31 different scenarios written by 31 sportswriters.

(17) SYMBOLISM. “Henrietta Lacks’ Lasting Impact Detailed In New Portrait” — shoutouts to unwitting donor of a cell line that has been used all over biomedicine.

When Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in 1951, her cells were harvested without her knowledge. They became crucial to scientific research and her story became a best-seller. Since then, Lacks has become one of the most powerful symbols for informed consent in the history of science.

On Monday, when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., honored Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks’ grandchildren were there.

(18) BIRD IS THE WORD. “Dinosaur parenting: How the ‘chickens from hell’ nested”. “How do you sit on your nest of eggs when you weigh over 1,500kg?”

Dinosaur parenting has been difficult to study, due to the relatively small number of fossils, but the incubating behaviour of oviraptorosaurs has now been outlined for the first time.

Scientists believe the largest of these dinosaurs arranged their eggs around a central gap in the nest.

This bore the parent’s weight, while allowing them to potentially provide body heat or protection to their developing young, without crushing the delicate eggs.

The feathered ancient relatives of modern birds, oviraptorosaurs lived in the Late Cretaceous period, at least 67 million years ago.

(19) SF TV ARCHEOLOGY. Echo Ishii’s tour of old sf TV leads this time to “SF Obscure: Cosmic Slop.

Cosmic Slop was a 1994 TV anthology series on HBO featuring three short black science fiction movies. (I have also seen the broadcast date listed as 1995.) It features three short “Space Traders” based on the Derrick Bell short story; “The First Commandment” and “Tang”. It’s kind of a Twilight Zone vibe with George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic during the intros. (It’s as bizarre in the way only George Clinton can be.)

(20) TREK MEDICINE TODAY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination hosts “Star Trek, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE & the Future of Medicine” on June 2, with Qualcomm XPRIZE Tricorder Prize winner Basil Harris, Robert Picardo (actor, Emergency Medical Hologram, Star Trek: Voyager), and Dr. Rusty Kallenberg, Chairman of Family Medicine and Director of the UCSD XPRIZE Test Program.

June 2, 2018
Liebow Auditorium
UC San Diego

Artificial intelligence is already impacting healthcare is numerous ways. Are we far from the future portrayed in Star Trek: Voyager, of an AI holographic doctor with encyclopedic medical knowledge? What are the pathways that will yield the most profound results for AI in medicine? And what are the ethical and regulatory issues we need to consider as we develop these technologies?

Hosted by Erik Viirre, associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, The Future of Medicine is an exploration of these questions and more, as they impact the UC San Diego innovation ecosystem and beyond. Our master of ceremonies is Robert Picardo, actor and star of Star Trek: Voyager, where he left a cultural impact as the face of AI medicine as the Emergency Medical Hologram, known as “The Doctor.” Basil Harris, founder of Basil Leaf Technologies and winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to develop a real-world Tricorder-like medical device, will share his experience developing DextER, an autonomous medical diagnostic device, and the future of this pathway for innovation. And leaders from UC San Diego will join a panel on artificial agents in medical technology development.

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

Pixel Scroll 2018-01-02 The Scroll Awakens the Last Pixel

By JJ:

(1) INSPIRING THE RIGHT STUFF.  Space.com reports that American Girl’s latest entry in their doll line is an aspiring astronaut created with advice from NASA.

An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year.

Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a “distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side.” She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.

American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat “loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play.”

In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana’s story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic… [and] “Blast Off to Discovery,” an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game.

(2) RECRUITING THE RIGHT STUFF.  In honor of Nichelle Nichols’ birthday on December 28, NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi told a story of a past encounter with her: (click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread)

(3) BOOK SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Apex has announced that it is currently accepting submissions of Novels and Novellas.

Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Anything sent outside of this time period will be deleted unread.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

We only accept email submissions to apex.submission@gmail.com.

Additional details on the submission process can be found at the link.

(4) SHORT FICTION SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Kaleidotrope Magazine has announced that it is currently open to submissions of Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Artwork until April 1, 2018.

Kaleidotrope tends very heavily towards the speculative – towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror – but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore interested to read compelling work that blurs these lines, falls outside of neat genre categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves, and ghostly ax murderers alone, after all. We’d suggest looking through the archives to familiarize yourself with the zine, and/or checking out other work by our past contributors, to get a sense of what we’re looking for and what we like.

In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing.

We are also interested in publishing diverse writers. Kaleidotrope welcome writers of color and other groups, as well as work that represents the diversity of characters we want to see more of.

(5) SPOILER WARNING.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has Taken a hard-line on spoilers for The Last Jedi:

The following items have been carefully curated to provide interesting non-spoilery information on the movie, but click judiciously if you haven’t seen it yet.

(6) PLUS ÇA CHANGE.  In a piece at Critical Hit, Kate Willaert engages in some cultural archaeology to find out how fans reacted to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980: [WARNING: Spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back at the link]

Today the general consensus is that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.8/10 on IMDb, compared to A New Hope’s 96% and 8.7/10, respectively. These user scores weren’t generated until decades after the original trilogy was released, but it’s not like fan opinion could have shifted that much, right?

Thankfully, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog, so let’s take a look at issues #39-41. What were the fans saying?

As with The Last Jedi, fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Some felt it was better than the first one, some enjoyed it but had complaints, and some were disappointed. But what’s most interesting is how specific comments or criticisms mirror those of The Last Jedi…

(7) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING.  Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the linked blog post.)

I fucking loved it.

That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met

Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit – sometimes a lot – of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

But here’s the thing:

Stories can never be written for the fans.

Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing – it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.

The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.

Oh, it knows them.

It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.

And then the movie hits you with the porg.


That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.

The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.

It’s just not going to meet them.

(8) IT’S A THEORY.  On Twitter, Amelia Rose explains why she thinks that the much-maligned Star Wars prequels contain a very nuanced story told very, very incompetently. (Click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread; there are no spoilers for The Last Jedi in the main thread, but after the “FIN” there may be some SPOILERS in commenters’ tweets.)

(9) PAYBACKS ARE SWELL.  The Hollywood Reporter says that gross revenues on the new editions of the Star Wars franchise have exceeded $4 Billion, eclipsing Disney’s price to acquire Lucasfilm.

Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.

Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5).

(10) EDITORIAL LICENSE.  On Facebook, Amanda Downs Champlin has taken artistic liberties with the newest character in the Star Wars franchise. [WARNING: NO SPOILERS, JUST TERMINAL CUTENESS]

(11) WITHERING HEIGHTS.  The Last Jedi has sparked widely-varying opinions on the appeal of Kylo Ren.


  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov, Author and Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor (Tor Books)
  • Born January 2, 1973 – Lucy Davis, Actor (Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman)
  • Born January 2, 1980 – David Gyasi, Actor (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises)

(13) CAUGHT IN THE ACT.  SFF author Jason Sanford reports on a newly-revealed case of genre plagiarism:

Jake Bible, author of the Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that Balogun Ojetade plagiarized his writing in Ojetade’s novel Scorpion Wine (Qiq, the Bounty Hunter). Bible released the image above showing extreme similarities between a section of Ojetade’s book (at left) and his own novel.

Bible said on Facebook that Ojetade’s novel “changed character names and the setting, but it is an almost word for word ripoff.”

Bible requested Amazon take down Ojetade’s novel, which it did. However, an entry for Scorpion Wine was still on Amazon as of this writing.

In a personal message Bible told me that because “bounty hunter is such a niche sub-genre that one of my readers found (the plagiarism) right away.” But Bible suggested other authors may want to examine Ojetade’s works for other possible cases of plagiarism.

(14) SHOPPING WHILE INTOXICATED.  SFF author Cherie Priest got a surprise delivery:

(15) TAKE THAT, COMCAST.  Motherboard explains how someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection:

As the FCC prepares to the destroy the US internet by rolling back net neutrality protections, it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for alternatives to their corporate internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs own all the cable that routes information through the internet, and trying to replace these networks with community-owned cable is a costly and challenging process.

Fortunately, a UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string.

It’s an old joke among network technicians that it’s possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it’s just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string…

Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection.

(16) DON’T LET THE CAT DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.  Never underestimate the power of an SJW credential, especially if it’s a reader. KRLD reports that a White Settlement, Texas, City Councilman lost his showdown with the library’s beloved cat.

Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer.

Browser got his job at the library when he was just a kitten. He was recruited from a local animal shelter as an inexpensive, effective method of pest control at the library.

In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal.

The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.

Browser got a reprieve following a world-wide backlash, and reports say there were still some hard feelings among council members after the cat fight.

Councilman Clements eventually ran out of his 9-lives after he was defeated in a landslide in November’s election.

(17) NEXT WEEK, SKYNET.  Artificial learning algorithms are developing in unexpected directions:


(18) ARCHIVE THIS.  A digital museum is seeking a DMCA exemption for “abandoned Online games”, to preserve defunct gaming titles from being lost.

Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery claims to be “the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games.”

The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer – City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example…

Supporters of the proposal had until December 18, 2017, to submit comments or evidence to the US Copyright Office. Opponents to the request now have until February 12, 2018, to present written arguments against it. Supporters will then be allowed a rebuttal period until March 14. The USCO will make its decision soon after the final rebuttals are read.

(19) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, REALLY.  SFF author Catherynne M. Valente, explaining the contents of boxes of fannish detritus to her fiance as they unpack in their new home:

(20) DEEP IMPACT.  Geologists from the Birkbeck University of London have discovered mineral forms never before reported on Earth on the Isle of Skye:

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye got more than they bargained for when examining volcanic rocks on the Scottish site, finding mineral forms from a pre-historic meteorite impact that have never before been found on Earth.

The team, including members of Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andy Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca, discovered evidence of a previously unknown, 60 million-year-old meteorite impact.

They had been examining a thick layer at the base of a 60 million-year-old lava flow, which they at first thought was a volcanic flow deposit called ignimbrite. After putting it under an electron microprobe, they discovered that it, in fact, contained rare minerals from outer-space…

These mineral forms – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite – have never before been reported on Earth, only collected in space dust on a prior NASA mission.

The Isle of Skye has been well explored by geologists, and the scientists were surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before. The first site of discovery, Drake explained, was steep, rough and very boggy, which may have deterred previous researchers from exploring the layer.

(21) QUICK THINKING.  A DungeonMaster recounts a player’s narrow escape on his “Shit My Players Say” Tumblr blog:

(22) HELPFUL RESOURCE.  To assist award nominators, SFF Author A. C. Wise is maintaining an aggregated list of eligibility post links, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

(23) GALACTIC POSITIONING SYSTEM.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has installed a new kinetic sculpture to assist spacefarers in their travels:

[Thanks to Substitute Editor of the Day JJ for pilfering all of these stories from friends, acquaintances, and randos on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Credit for spelling and grammar goes to Copyeditor of the Day JJ. Blame for spelling and grammar mistakes goes to Scapegoat of the Day Camestros Felapton. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ. Any complaints should be directed to – oh, who are we kidding? complaints will be ignored.]

Pixel Scroll 4/11/16 Of Pixels And A Scroll I Sing

(1) KEPLER STRAIGHTENS UP AND FLIES RIGHT. NASA reports that the Kepler spacecraft has been stabilized and is no longer wasting fuel. They won’t resume science operations until they think they know what went wrong.

(2) GALAKTIKA PIRACY. Author Malcolm F. Cross discusses what it feels like to discover his story was swiped by Hungary’s Galaktika magazine.

And the bad?

My short story, Pavlov’s House, which was both my first pro-sale and something I wrote as part of the early work on figuring out Dog Country, was ripped off by Galaktika.

What is Galaktika? It’s a Hungarian SFF magazine, which has over the past few years apparently ripped off a lot of authors. (There are some articles by A.G. Carpenter on the issue here: here) They went ahead and translated it into Magyar/Hungarian, then sold it in print, without asking me for translation rights, without notifying me, without offering me a contract or payment. They stole my story.

Getting my head around that has been kind of traumatic for me. My writing career is one of the most important things I have in my life, and part of that career is having a say in where and how my work appears. Stories are part of a conversation, by submitting my fiction for publication, by trying to sell it, by getting involved in where and how it appears, I am adding to that conversation. But when I get ripped off…? I’m not sure I’m part of that conversation anymore, and that’s been bugging me immensely.

For now I’m in touch with SFWA (I’m a member, if you did not know!) and figuring out what I can/should do about it.

In the meanwhile, though, if you haven’t already, go enjoy Pavlov’s House where it was originally published, at Strange Horizons, over here….

(3) BURNSIDE ON WEIGHING CREDIBILITY. At Medium, Ken Burnside takes issue with those skeptical about the sexism and assaults reported by women gamers, in “For Good Men To See Nothing”.

I specifically AM addressing this piece to the people of “my tribe”: white, heterosexual male gamers who wouldn’t dream of grabbing anyone in a non-consensual or sexual way in public, and find descriptions of these kinds of acts inconceivable, because they don’t happen in front of us.

Our starting point is an article by Emily Garland, who won a judgment from a Canadian court about entrenched sexism she experienced as a customer at a game store. It’s the “Tabletop Gaming Has a White Male Terrorism Problem” piece that came to public notice in early April 2016. To our credit as human beings, it’s gotten a lot of positive responses?—?positive in the sense of “Yes, this is believable, and we’ve got to do something about it.” However, it’s also gotten the “I think she’s making it up to get attention” backlash that’s common when discussing sexism.

No, guys. She isn’t. And as long litanies and lists of licentious license being taken won’t convince you…I’m going to pose this a different way….

The people who do this are incredibly facile with a plausible explanation for why what they’re doing is “not wrong” or “normal”?—?“It’s just a joke.” “Oh, she left something with me and I needed to return it to her.” They know that the vast majority of good men (like you, the people I’m writing this to) will accept that kind of explanation rather than act on it.

A friend of mine, New York Times bestselling author Steven Barnes, has a term for these kinds of people: “Smiling monsters.” They’ll smile and be cheerful to your face when you confront them, and expect you to forget them entirely while they go back to whatever it was you caught them at. These people rely on two facts: The first is that their victim doesn’t want to trigger a confrontation: even bold, brave women like the cosplayer I befriended at Sasquan get jittery about direct confrontation. The second is that good men, like you, won’t believe they’re doing what they’re doing, because they can’t imagine doing it. It’s easy to overlook smiling monsters when they give a glib answer and scuttle out of sight.

When you accept the explanation of the smiling monster, you give the victim the impression that you won’t listen to what they have to say. The smiling monster is betting on that, and 99% of the time, he’s right….

(4) A SPECULATIVE REVIEW. From Stephenie Sheung, “Review: Almost Infamous by Matt Carter” at The Speculative Herald.

If you’re a fan of comics and are looking for a clever, humorous, and merciless riff on the superhero genre, then Almost Infamous is most definitely the book for you! Matt Carter’s novel is a wildly entertaining, satirical take on the characters and worlds we imagine when we picture the Marvel or DC universes, and as a twist, his protagonist is a horny, uppity teenage supervillain.

To get a sense of the zaniness you’re in for, just take a peek at the book’s first few pages, featuring a “Brief History of Superheroes.” Super powers—whether you were born with them, cursed with them, granted them as a result of radioactive freak accident, changed by a gene-splicing experiment gone wrong, and so on and so forth—are just a common fact of life. Superhumans are real. Oh, and by the way, so are Atlanteans, Lemurians, magicians, aliens, demons, golems, mortal gods who walk the earth, and pretty much every kind of power-endowed beings you can think of. All real.

(5) A BRIEF HISTORY OF FANFIC. Andrew Liptak explores “Unauthorized Stories: Fan Fiction and Fandom” at Kirkus Reviews.

Looking at the phenomenon, Fan Fiction is a wholly new type of medium that arrived because of the close-knit genre communities, and it demonstrates the unique environment of these communities. They’re also coupled with the rise of larger media franchises that typically expand far beyond the reach of novels. Fan fiction has provided a unique opportunity for fans to push the boundaries of the stories that they’ve come to love, and contribute to it in their own ways.

(6) HOPPING. In part 8 of Black Gate’s Choosing Your Narrative Point of View Series, Tina Jens reveals “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: The Multiple Personalities of Omniscient 3rd Person: Spotlight on ‘Head-Hopper’”, at Black Gate.

Virginia Woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse, does a brilliant job with our next POV style:

7. Head-Hopper

If you’ve not read her novel, I urge you to do so. I also urge you to read it aloud, even if you’re sitting outside at a café, which I did a few summers ago. The book is graced with many long, complex sentences that loop and flow, and sometimes change point of view from one clause to the next. Reading it out loud helps the brain make sense of the phrases and clauses in a way that eyes-only reading can’t manage as well. When done well, as Ms. Woolf did, it is a brilliant writing stratagem. But it works best in stories where there is very little physical plot. The conflict comes mainly from the contrast of how different characters perceive the same moment, and in the shifting emotions of characters.

Which means, generally, it is not a good point of view choice for action-packed genre stories.

(7) ISLAMIC SF CONTEST. The Islamicate Science Fiction short story writing contest is open and will accept submissions until  to the beginning of Ramadan/Ramzan/Ramjan (June 8, 2016). The winner will be announced on the day of Eid – July 6, 2016. Cash prizes will be given to the first, second and third place stories.

The Islam and Science Fiction project has been running since 2005, we just entered our second decade. While the depiction of Muslims in Science Fiction and Islamic cultures has improved we still have a lot way to go, as is the case with many other minority groups. To kickstart things in this genre we have decided to start a contest centered around Science Fiction with Muslim characters or Islamic cultures (Islam in the cultural sense and not necessarily in the religious sense)….


Islamicate refers to the cultural output of predominantly Islamic culture or polity. Thus while the culture has its foundation and inspiration from the religion of Islam, it need not be produced by someone who is Muslim. The term Islamicate is thus similar to the term West as it encompasses a whole range of cultures, ethnicities and schools of thought with shared historical experience. The contest is open to all people regardless of their religious affiliation or lack there of. Thus a person of any religion, nationality, ethnicity race, gender, sexual orientation can submit. A collection of the best stories from the submissions will be released as an epub and available to download for free.

Submission rules:

  • The stories must be either set in a predominantly Muslim culture AND/OR have Muslim protagonist(s).
  • Short stories in almost any variant of Science Fiction (space opera, time-travel, apocalyptic, reimaging classic themes, techno-thrillers, bio-punk, science mystery, alternate history, steampunk, utopian, dystopian etc) is encouraged.
  • No reprints: No simultaneous submissions: No multiple submissions.
  • Submission are limited to one per person.
  • Since we are talking about short stories, any story with less than 8,000 words will be accepted.

Islamic sf contest COMP

(8) A KITTEN’S PERSPECTIVE. “Happy Kittens Smile Back” at Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens.

Whew, Hugo nominations have closed and I managed to actually consume enough good SFF to nominate five things in most categories. The extraordinary new resources like Rocket Stack Rank and various longlists really came in handy.

Of course, the Hugo nomination deadline is just an excuse. Discovering new writers and fanzines you hadn’t heard of before is the thing, not some weird, phallic awards that never (or very very seldom) are given to your absolute top favorites anyway. I do like the fan community aspect of it — people reading the shortlisted works at the same time and discussing them, and getting together to throw the annual party  — but it’s all more or less sideshow. The books, the stories and the other exciting things are what it’s about for me.

So, to some extent, nevermind what the eventual nomination results are going to look like on April 26th. Even if a certain former disco musician manages to make his MRA troll army sweep the ballot like he did last year, there will be terrific thing to read and watch on the various recommendation lists that many fans have put together. Next year, the necessary rule changes are ratified and we get rid of him. (Truth be told, I don’t think that it will be as easy for them to wreak havoc as it was last year, but who knows.)

(9) LOCUS AWARDS DEADLINE. Voting closes April 15.

(10) SF AUTHORS WRITE BREAKFAST STORIES. By gifting some virtual birthday waffles to Sarah Pinsker, A. C. Wise started a breakfast meme on Twitter.

And lots more where those came from….

(11) WE ARE IN KANSAS TOTO. What happens when you are accidentally assigned 600 million IP addresses? Learn about “How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell” at Fusion.

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat….

The trouble for the Taylor farm started in 2002, when a Massachusetts-based digital mapping company called MaxMind decided it wanted to provide “IP intelligence” to companies who wanted to know the geographic location of a computer to, for example, show the person using it relevant ads or to send the person a warning letter if they were pirating music or movies.

There are lots of different ways a company like MaxMind can try to figure out where an IP address is located. It can “war-drive,” sending cars around the U.S. looking for open wifi networks, getting those networks’ IP addresses, and recording their physical locations. It can gather information via apps on smartphones that note the GPS coordinates of the phone when it takes on a new IP address. It can look at which company owns an IP address, and then make an assumption that the IP address is linked to that company’s office.

(12) HANNA BARBERA. See the photos at Fred Seibert’s Tumblr, “Hanna & Barbera, the last portraits. By Jeff Sedlik”.

Without knowing it, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera presented me with the reasons I got into the cartoon business in 1992.

Looney Tunes, Popeye the Sailor, Tom and Jerry and Crusader Rabbit were the first favorites in my cartoon diet, but my fandom really kicked into gear with Hanna-Barbera’s The Huckleberry Hound Show, and their first wave that ended with The Jetsons. When I started traveling to Hollywood in my 30s, whenever I passed their classic Googie studios, I would wonder what went on in that hallowed fortress. Little could I know that I’d end up as the last president of the company.

One of the missions was to give some respect to Bill and Joe that I felt they’d missed over the decades when they’d disrupted the industry and vintage cartoon partisans never forgave them. They were abused as having limited creative imaginations, so I commissioned a series of essays written by Bill Burnett to set the record straight.

In 1996, towards the end of my tenure (owner Ted Turner sold his entire operation to Time-Warner), I commissioned a series of formal portraits by one of my favorite Los Angeles based photographers, Jeff Sedlik. Bill was 86, Joe 85, and they deserved to be remembered as the American cultural titans that they were.

(13) NEW SUICIDE SQUAD TRAILER. Aired during the MTV Movie Awards.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, Darren Garrison, Barry Newton, Will R., and Greg Hullender for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Sylvia Sotomayor.]

At NYRSF Readings, A Clockwork Melange

_CP5_cover_mockup_small COMPBy Mark L. Blackman: On the still-wintry-cold evening of Tuesday, April 5 the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, heading into the “home stretch” of its 25th Anniversary Season, hosted a launch party for the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5 at its venue The Commons Café in Brooklyn. Guest-emcee was Mike Allen, editor of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, as well as of Mythic Delirium magazine and, in addition, a Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist and winner of three Rhysling Awards for poetry. The occasion featured readings from seven(!) of the contributors to the volume. (A beautiful, full-color program spotlighting the anthology and the septet of readers was crafted by Series producer/executive curator Jim Freund.)

The festivities opened with the customary welcome from Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy. The show broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 am and worldwide at wbai.org, and for a time afterwards may be heard on-demand as well as an RSS feed for podcasts. Additionally, the Readings stream live via Livestream – this evening was, in essence, a broadcast – where they remain archived for a period of time, and may be accessed by going to Livestream.com and searching for NYRSF. (Here is the link to tonight’s Readings.)

The Readings Series, Freund reminded us, is supported entirely by donations. They are free, but there is a suggested contribution of $7.) Next month’s event, on May 3, he announced, will be a play, a project by Andrea Hairston and Pan Morigan; and on June 7 a gala will celebrate Space & Time Magazine’s 50th anniversary, with Gordon Linzner and Hildy Silverman. He concluded by thanking Terence Taylor, the Series’ technical director, and the Café’s landlady, Melissa Ennen. The Café, he noted, now has a special menu for us as well as table service, and directed attention to its menu. Not remarked on was the change in décor, the room’s long tables replaced by small, two-person round tables. This would prove difficult in a full house. Finally, Freund turned hosting duties over to Mike Allen.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen

Tonight was not only a launch party for Clockwork Phoenix 5, said Allen, but its actual all-over-the-world launch day. He described how great it was to edit the anthologies, and how proud he was that the fantastic stories don’t easily fit in commercial categories. They have an offbeat feel and a powerful emotional impact. Those in Clockwork Phoenix 5 explore the intersection between love and death. All five volumes, indicated Allen, were for sale here. He nodded to the volume’s cover artist, Paula Arwen Owen (she too should be asked to autograph the book, he said), before introducing the first reader in what Freund had quipped was “a cast of thousands.”

Brooklynite Rob Cameron paused from “working on his Buddha-like glow” to read “Squeeze.” The narrator, in the throes of lost love, encounters a ghost-child on the #7 train (much of the audience was familiar with the 7, which runs between Mid-Manhattan and Flushing, Queens) that only he and an African woman with one arm (and a phantom limb) can see.

Next to read was South Asian fantasy writer Shveta Thakrar. In her charming story, “By Thread of Night and Starlight Needle,” a twin brother and sister consult a plain-speaking witch, their requests revealing both their similarity and their differences. The tale included footnotes, perhaps indicating how influential Terry Pratchett was.

The third reader was Barbara Krasnoff, a very familiar face at the NYRSF Readings, another Brooklynite, and, in Allen’s words, “a repeat offender,” having appeared also in Clockwork Phoenix 2 and 4. Having read from her story, “Sabbath Wine,” here just two months earlier, she opted for sharing a different portion of it. In the story, set in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 1920, a pre-adolescent Jewish girl befriends a black boy, who tells her that he’s dead, and invites him to her home for a full-ceremonial Sabbath dinner. Her loving father, who has abandoned religion for radicalism, nevertheless gives in to her entreaty and goes off to obtain the titular kosher wine, a task complicated by it being the Prohibition Era and the local rabbi being only all-too-aware of his irreligiosity. Needless to say, the two argue, and her father seeks out the boy’s father, a bootlegger. (Some of us recall the story’s heartrending ending.)

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing with the first two prizes a grab bag from Mythic Delirium and the grand prize “a real doozy,” all five volumes of Clockwork Phoenix.

Resuming, Allen introduced the next reader, Sonya Taaffe, a short fiction writer and award-winning poet.  (It is noteworthy that several of the guests were poets.  Taaffe’s biography also notes that she once named a Kuiper Belt Object.) In “The Trinitite Golem,” J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had headed the Manhattan Project, here already under surveillance by the FBI and on the verge of losing his security clearance, is visited by the titular creature who asks him to “undo” him.

A.C. Wise was another “a repeat offender,” having been represented also in Clockwork Phoenix 4, and is the author of the recently published debut collection The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. Her offering, “A Guide to Birds by Song (After Death),” was beautiful and eerie, as a woman tries to understand her lover’s suicide through her typed manuscript. “Absence shapes the world around it.”

The final reading of the evening was a “fun” collaboration between C.S.E Cooney, a Nebula Award nominee for “Bone Swans” and, like Allen, a Rhysling Award-winning poet (for “The Sea King’s Second Bride”), and Carlos Hernandez, author of the short story collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria. The two met at Readercon a couple of years ago and their story, “The Book of May,” began as a Facebook dare. In a series of e-mail exchanges with her old D&D buddy (with Cooney and Hernandez enlivening their respective parts), a young woman with a brain tumor muses about what type of tree she wants to become after death, an oak?, a sugar maple? Amid the underlying sadness there were shifts to hysterical, laugh-out-loud bits that brilliantly illuminated the protagonists’ deep friendship.

Allen returned to the podium to be presented by Freund with a suitably decorated apple cake for him and the readers. (For the audience, it was, as someone near me quipped, “Let them watch cake.”)

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, while the Café saw to “wining, dining and other worldly needs.”

It was a record-breaking crowd of about 90 – the Series biggest turnout ever – and not all were readers or even contributors to Clockwork Phoenix. Included among the audience were (to name a small few) Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Amy Goldschlager (filling in as ticket-taker for Barbara), Lynn Cohen Koehler, Ellen Kushner, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Gordon Linzner, James Ryan, Delia Sherman and Terence Taylor. Afterward, many stuck around to schmooze, and some adjourned to the Café.