Pixel Scroll 6/11/20 How Do You Turn The Duck Off?

(1) COMIC-CON ONLINE. More information has been released about the replacement for the annual San Diego event: “Comic-Con@Home Sets July Dates”. As Greg Weir joked on Facebook, “The virtual lines will be enormous.”

Comic-Con@Home was first teased in early May with a short video announcement and a promise of details to come. Pop culture enthusiasts will note that this initiative joins the Comic-Con Museum’s virtual endeavor, Comic-Con Museum@Home, already ongoing.

Although conditions prevent celebrating in person, the show, as they say, must go on. With Comic-Con@Home, SDCC hopes to deliver the best of the Comic-Con experience and a sense of its community to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in all aspects of pop culture. Plans for Comic-Con@Home include an online Exhibit Hall complete with everyone’s favorite exhibitors offering promotions, specials, and limited-edition products unique to the celebration. As well, Comic-Con@Home promises exclusive panels and presentations about comics, gaming, television, film, and a wide variety of topics from publishers, studios, and more. As if that weren’t enough, Comic-Con@Home will also have a Masquerade, gaming, and many other activities in which fans can participate from their own homes.

Although Comic-Con@Home will provide badges for fans to print and wear proudly, all aspects of the initiative are free and there are no limits to how many can attend…. Comic-Con@Home will be held on the same dates as the previously canceled Comic-Con, July 22-26, 2020, and online attendees are encouraged to use the official #ComicConAtHome hashtag to be included in the virtual activities. …Interested fans are encouraged to check Toucan, the official Comic-Con and WonderCon blog, SDCC’s website and social channels, and the official channels of their favorite pop culture creators in the weeks to come.

Follow us on social media at: Facebook: Facebook.com/comiccon; Twitter: @Comic_Con; Instagram: @comic_con

(2) ORIGINS ONLINE CANCELLED. Kotaku summarized a social media controversy surrounding the Game Manufacturers Association and the Origins Online event that was planned for this month: “Board Gaming’s Industry Body Refuses To Say A Word About Black Lives Mattering”.

An increasing number of prominent board game industry and community members have pulled out of an upcoming show over The Game Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) inability (or refusal) to make a statement about Black Lives Matter.

GAMA owns and operates Origins Online, a big virtual show running later this month that was intended to replace the usual Origins Games Fair (a physical event that has been postponed to October). It was supposed to feature panels, video and support appearances by notable board games people like Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, Blood Rage creator Eric Lang, Geek & Sundry’s Ruel Gaviola, Boardgamegeek and Man vs Meeple.

Instead those listed, and loads more, have withdrawn from the show over GAMA’s inability, when even the least sanctimonious corporations and sporting leagues on the planet have managed some kind of message, to make even the most basic statement of support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the United States since the beginning of the month.

GAMA now has made a pro-Black Lives Matter statement, but also cancelled the online event.

The Game Manufacturers Association believes that Black Lives Matter. We unequivocally condemn racism and violence against people of color. We have been too late in making that statement with force, and we apologize. The injustices of today demand that every person of good conscience make clear where they stand and we wish we had been more proactive, more strident, and more effective with our voices. Innocent people of color are being killed in the streets of the communities where we live, and it is not acceptable.

We cannot responsibly hold our virtual convention, Origins Online, in this setting. Even if it were possible to hold it, it would not be appropriate to do so. So, we are announcing here that Origins Online is cancelled.

However, GAMA’s apology is flawed say some critics, including Patrick Leder of Leder Games:

Late last night, GAMA made an official statement to cancel Origins Online. Though this statement answered some concerns, it too contains several notable omissions that highlight some of the challenges facing any effort to make the hobby more inclusive. Specifically: 

  1. Their apology has no mention of the BIPOC members of the industry who stood up to them. It also fails to note that those voices were the catalyst for their decision to cancel Origins Online. 
  2. Their plan to make amends by asking attendees and publishers to forfeit their Origins Online payments shows a lack of initiative and imagination. As our industry’s governing body, we expect GAMA to take the lead without waiting for the initiation of others.
  3. There is no actionable statement on how they can work on uplifting the BIPOC community or an attempt to broaden their board or staff, nor does it recognize the board’s failures in this regard.

(3) ROLLING OVER. Loscon 47, which the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society planned to hold this Thanksgiving Weekend, has been postponed to 2021. Chair Scott Beckstead wrote:

With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in many sectors, we are not immune I’m sorry to say. The fallout of these effects sadly means that we will be postponing Loscon 47 until next year. We are rescheduling Loscon 47 for Thanksgiving weekend (November 26th through November 28th 2021). We will be rolling Guests, members, and dealer room participants over to next yea

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon and Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and are looking forward to being there next year. There will be more info as we re-assemble our teams to bring this to fruition in November of 2021. As always you may ask questions at info@loscon.org and I look forward to seeing you all Thanksgiving weekend 2021

(4) RED SOFA LITIGATION. Publishers Lunch reports in “Briefs” that lawyers are getting involved in the Red Sofa Literary meltdown.

Agents Beth Phelan and Kelly Van Sant and author Isabel Sterling received cease & desist letters from an attorney representing agent Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary after speaking out about Frederick’s response to protestors in St. Paul.

The trio’s response, “An Open Letter to Dawn Frederick in Response to Threats of Litigation”, begins –

On June 8, 2020, we received cease and desist letters from a lawyer on behalf of Dawn Frederick, literary agent and founder of Red Sofa Literary. The letters demanded that we delete our respective posts regarding Dawn’s actions and further, publish retractions stating that “she did not make any racist or other improper statements,” validating the behaviors that we had previously condemned. Failing this, we were told Dawn will pursue legal action against us for defamation. We interpret these demands as an attempt to not only silence us, but to compel us to lie for her. We refuse.

After we and others spoke out against her tweets, Dawn posted a public apology on her website owning up to her wrongdoing, but then turned around to privately send threatening letters to people who spoke up. In that apology, Dawn admitted that her actions were “careless,” that “[t]he authors and agents who may now question whether or not we share the same ideals have every right to feel this way,” and that her “actions were tone-deaf and the product of [her] own privilege.” That she is now threatening to sue people for agreeing with her apology makes it impossible to interpret the apology as anything but insincere. So, which is it, Dawn? You said in your apology that you would “work to be better.” Is this what “better” looks like?…

They are  asking for donations to their legal defense fund, which has raised $12,177 as of today.

(5) HE DIDN’T COME BACK TO THE FUTURE. Ranker refreshes our recollection about an old lawsuit with a contemporary vibe: “When ‘Back To The Future II’ Recreated Crispin Glover’s Face, He Took The Studio To Court”.

In 1985, Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, director Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale gave the world an all-time classic motion picture, Back to the Future. Four years later, they tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Back to the Future Part II had a little secret, one the participants tried to keep from being discovered. It was slightly easier in that pre-internet time. As it turned out, a key actor from the original, Crispin Glover, decided not to return for the sequel. Since the character of George McFly was fairly prominent in the follow-up, that presented a rather large problem. 

Their solution was unique, but it also got them entangled in some unpleasant legal action. Essentially, the filmmakers recreated Glover’s face with prosthetics, then put it on another actor. They wanted to make it seem as though Glover was in the sequel when, in fact, he was not. Glover was none too happy about this, so he sued everyone involved. 

That’s the short version. The more detailed version is a fascinating tale of an actor desperate to protect his image, filmmakers desperate to protect their franchise, and the clash these dueling desires created. It’s also an account of a watershed moment in cinema history, when it became clear that modern technology was making it easier to “steal” someone’s likeness. The impact of Crispin Glover’s Back to the Future Part II case continues to reverberate today….

(6) PINSKER STORY POSTED. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Notice,” a story about unexpected mail and the limits of self-reliance by Sarah Pinsker.

Malachi happened to be mowing down by the gates when the mail carrier arrived in her ancient truck. He wasn’t supposed to talk to Outsiders until he turned twenty-five, another six years, but he couldn’t help trying on the rare occasions an opportunity presented itself….

On Monday, 6/15 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Sarah in conversation with Punya Mishra, an expert in integrating arts, creativity, design, and technology into learning. Registration required.

(7) HOMAGE OR FROMAGE? Bloody Disgusting applauds: “These Horror Fans Remade the Key Moments from ‘Alien’ With No Budget During the Quarantine”.

A group of creative horror fans just put together a 5-minute, zero-budget remake of Ridley Scott’s Alien while stuck at home!

Described as a “low-budget, high-cardboard remake of Alien,” the video comes courtesy of YouTube channel Cardboard Movie Co, which specializes in this sort of thing. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982E.T. – The Extraterrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credit was shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was  written by Melissa Mathison and starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 99% rating. 
  • June 11, 1993 — Eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. It’s  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a 91% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  We can claim at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the Sixties, he became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. One of his creation was the Cybermen. He also wrote three scripts —  “The Tenth Planet” (co-writtenwith Gerry Davis),  “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen“. Pedler and Davis went in to create and co-write the Doomwatch Series. He wrote a number of genre novels including Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (co-written with Gerry Davis) and Doomwatch: The World in Danger. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”,  “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available…. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 75. She’s memorably in Swamp Thing. She’s also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet, 1984; given the Evans-Freehafer, our service award, 1986; moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is BASFS (Bay Area SF Soc.) sergeant-at-arms, a position they take about as seriously as we take ours.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 52. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1971 P. Djèlí Clark, 49. Ok, I want a novel from this brilliant author whose The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is in the running for a Best Novella Hugo this year. (A Dead Djinn in Cairo is set in the same alternate universe.) The Black God’s Drums was a finalist for the same award last year. And yes, he has a novel coming out — Ring Shout, a take on the KKK with a supernatural twist. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann.  Digital illustrator, once of San Francisco, now of Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her May 2018 cover for Apex magazine.  This March 2020 interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! It was a great night on Jeopardy! if you like bad answers. Andrew Porter took notes.

First—

Category: TV Catch-Phrases

Answer: “Nanu-Nanu”

Wrong questions: “What is Star Trek?”; “What is Alf?”

Correct question: “What is Mork & Mindy?”

Second –

Also, no one could link “Bazinga!” to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Third –

Final Jeopardy: Medical History

Answer: One of the first recorded autopsies was performed on this man & revealed 23 puncture marks.

Wrong question: “Who is Bram Stoker?”

Correct question: “Who was Julius Caesar?”

(12) RUBE GOLDBERG WINNER. CBC says “Toronto family ‘thrilled and a little bit surprised’ to win Rube Goldberg Challenge”.

Tony Round says he was “stunned into silence” the first time he watched his family’s elaborate Rube Goldberg machine wind its way through their house and successfully drop a bar of soap into his daughter’s hands.That’s because it took the Toronto family more than 50 failed attempts and three weeks to make the machine work.

(13) FOLLOWING SUIT. “Amazon Halts Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Technology”

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

It is unclear how many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. deploy Amazon’s artificial intelligence tool, but an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon confirmed that it will be suspending its use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology.

Researchers have long criticized the technology for producing inaccurate results for people with darker skin. Studies have also shown that the technology can be biased against women and younger people.

IBM said earlier this week that it would quit the facial-recognition business altogether. In a letter to Congress, chief executive Arvind Krishna condemned software that is used “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

And Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Washington Post during a livestream Thursday morning that his company has not been selling its technology to law enforcement. Smith said he has no plans to until there is a national law.

(14) RUN TO DINNER. The ancestor of crocodile boots? BBC says they’ve found “Fossil tracks left by an ancient crocodile that ‘ran like an ostrich'”.

Scientists have been stunned to find that some ancient crocodiles might have moved around on two feet.

The evidence comes from beautifully preserved fossil tracks in South Korea.

Nearly a hundred of these 18-24cm-long indentations were left in what were likely the muddy sediments that surrounded a lake in the Early Cretaceous, 110-120 million years ago.

The international team behind the discovery says it will probably challenge our perception of crocodiles.

“People tend to think of crocodiles as animals that don’t do very much; that they just laze around all day on the banks of the Nile or next to rivers in Costa Rica. Nobody automatically thinks I wonder what this [creature] would be like if it was bipedal and could run like an ostrich or a T. rex,” Martin Lockley, an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, US, told BBC News.

The study is sure to provoke a lively debate. Not all researchers will necessarily accept the team’s interpretation.

(15) JOHN ON THE DOTTED LINE. It’s never too late to study a historic document: Phyllis Irene Radford is in the middle of “Blogging the Magna Carta #12” at Book View Café. Today’s section is about administering the estates of the deceased.

…Those catalogs of chattels tell historians a lot about how people lived during the period and what they considered valuable, due to purchase price or import costs, or how labor intense to make.  Historians love these.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the original copies when it was displayed in LA in the Seventies.

(16) LUNAR LIVING. Joe Sherry calls it “hopeful science fiction” in “Microreview [book]: The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There’s a lot going on in The Relentless Moon and Kowal keeps everything moving and flowing together with remarkable deftness and an underlying compassion that smooths the edges off even the harshest aspects of the novel – including Nicole’s eating disorder, racial issues, domestic terrorism, and a desperate fight for survival on the Moon. Everything is handled with sensitivity, though Kowal does not shy away from the emotion of the worst moments – it’s more that Kowal is such a smooth writer that the reader is in safe hands. The novel leans into the pain, but with a light touch.

(17) YOUNG PEOPLE. In the new installment of James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF, the panel encounters “’The Deer Park’ by Maria Russell”.

This is Maria Russell’s only known published story.

… Still, her low profile does mean my Young Readers won’t have heard of her and won’t have expecations going in. What will they make of ?“Deer Park”?

(18) AN AUTHOR OF DRAGONS. Here is the first of “6 Books with Aliette de Bodard”, Paul Weimer’s Q&A with the author at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently doing comfort reads, which means I’ve embarked again on a reread of Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo--Gothic quest for revenge is the best.

(19) BAIT FOR CLICKS. Clare Spellberg, in the Decider story “‘Paw Patrol’ Under Fire for Depiction of Police: Is ‘Paw Patrol’ Being Canceled?” says there is a Twitter campaign to cancel Paw Patrol for its depiction of cops, but it’s not clear that the campaign is real or satire.

… Have the anti-racism protests come for Paw Patrol? According to Amanda Hess of the New York Times Paw Patrol fans have (albeit jokingly) called for the popular Nickelodeon show to be canceled as protests against police brutality continue to sweep the globe and shows like Cops and Live PD are cancelled by networks. While the Paw Patrol protests may not be totally real, Eric Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz seem to think fans are serious: both tweeted that the protests for Paw Patrol are “truly insane,” and they blasted the left for “targeting” cartoons.

…This is a long story with a short answer: as of now, Paw Patrol is not being cancelled despite the fake “protests” against it. In fact, Nickelodeon just renewed the series for an eighth season in February, and a theatrical film Paw Patrol: The Movie is currently scheduled for an August 2021 release.

(20) STAYING IN PRACTICE. The Screen Junkies, having no new summer blockbusters, decided to take on The Fifth Element in a trailer that’s two days old.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rose Embolism, with an assist by Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

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)

Continue reading

Asimov’s Reposts Spinrad Column with Statement

Asimov’s has put Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column back online.

It’s now preceded by this statement from editor Sheila Williams:

We took the Norman Spinrad column down from our website because we heard many concerns from readers. I’m putting it back up now with some thoughts from me. Norman Spinrad has been a provocative voice in Asimov’s for thirty years, but his opinions do not represent the magazine anymore than James Patrick Kelly’s opinions in his On the Net column represent us. However, Norman does appear to speak for us when he writes:

“Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?”

This is in no way the editorial position at Asimov’s. I am much more in agreement with the writer, Karen Osborne, who says: “Modern genre writers write everything— SF *and* fantasy. We play with literary forms. We push boundaries, because where we’re going, we don’t need old, restrictive rules of who can & who can’t. I’m going to quote James Joyce when I say that modern SF is HERE COMES EVERYBODY.”

Asimov’s is a magazine that welcomes literary speculative diversity. We are delighted to publish new authors and the innovative and imaginative work that they are producing. We whole-heartedly support SFWA and the provocative new writers who are celebrated by recent Nebula Awards.

Karen Osborn’s Twitter thread was linked by File 770 yesterday. In the meantime, more writers have reacted to the column or the initial decision to remove it.

Adam-Troy Castro launched a discussion on Facebook that has almost 200 comments. John Scalzi, Roby James, Nick Mamatas, Erika Satifka, Alma Alexander, Michael Burstein, Rev. Bob, Jason Sanford, and Beth Meacham are in the mix.

Alex Acks’ thread starts here.

Vernonia Schanoes’ thread starts here.

Aliette de Bodard wrote:

2018 Nebula Awards

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) announced the winners of the 54th Annual Nebula Awards in Woodland Hills, CA on May 18.

The Nebula Awards, given annually, recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the previous year. They are selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The first Nebula Awards were presented in 1966.

2018 NEBULA AWARD WINNERS

Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

Novella

  • The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)

Novelette

  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)

Short Story

  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)

Game Writing

  • Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Charlie Brooker (House of Tomorrow & Netflix)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Screenplay by: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman

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

  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)

OTHER AWARDS PRESENTED

The Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award

  • Lee Martindale

The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award

  • Neil Clarke
  • Nisi Shawl

Damon Knight Memorial Grandmaster Award

  • William Gibson

Tweeted photos of winners who were present:

2018 BSFA Awards

The British Science Fiction Association have announced the winners of the BSFA Awards for works published in 2018.

The Awards were presented on April 20 at Ytterbium, the 70th Eastercon in London.

Best Novel

  • Gareth L Powell – Embers of War (Titan Books)

Best Shorter Fiction

  • Ian McDonald – Time Was (Tor.com)

Best Non-Fiction

  • Aliette de Bodard – On motherhood and erasure: people-shaped holes, hollow characters and the illusion of impossible adventures (Intellectus Speculativus blog)

Best Artwork

  • Likhain – In the Vanishers’ Palace: Dragon I and II (Inprnt)

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Gareth Powell

Lee A. Harris accepting for Ian McDonald

Aliette de Bodard accepting her Best Non-Fiction award

Aliette de Bodard accepting for Likhain

Host Jeanette Ng

2019 Hugo Awards Best Series Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Pixel Scroll 1/27/19 My Daddy Was A Pixel – I’m A Son Of A Dot!

(1) ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS. No genre works were on the shortlist, so needless to say today’s Andrew Carnegie Medal winners were all non-genre books. The omnivorous readers among you might like to know what they are anyway:

(2) ST:D PREMIERE FREE FOR A SHORT TIME. Thanks to The Verge I learned: “You can now watch Star Trek: Discovery’s season 2 premiere on YouTube”.

According to ComicBook.com, the episode will be available for the next two weeks, long enough to serve as a reminder that the series is back,

(3) OUTSPOKEN AI. Tansy Rayner Roberts and Rivqa Rafael listed “5 Books that Give Voice to Artificial Intelligence” for Tor.com readers. Among their picks is —

The Tea Master & the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The trouble with reading SFF is that you end up with amazing life goals that probably will not be attained during your own lifetime. It’s bad enough when a favourite book leaves you wanting a dragon librarian to be your best friend, or a magic school to invite you in when you turn eleven… and now I need a spaceship who brews tea in my life.

A really good cozy mystery balances rich characters with charmingly creepy murders, and de Bodard hits all the right notes in this wonderful, warm homage to Sherlock Holmes in which our detective is Long Chau, an angry and traumatised scholar, and her Watson is a calm, tea-brewing shipmind.

As with the original Watson, Long Chau’s story is told from the point of view of the detective’s friend, which allows a contrast between the detective’s technical brilliance, and our narrator’s emotional intelligence. Yes, the emotional work in the story is largely done by the spaceship. That’s how great it is. –Tansy

(4) HEMMING DEADLINE. If you’re going to nominate for the Norma K. Hemming Award, you need to get it done by January 31. Details at the website.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work.

Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Nominations are open to all relevant and eligible Australian work produced in 2018

(5) FOOD REVELATIONS. Fran Wilde did a class about “Fantastic Worldbuilding.” Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights.

Fran Wilde’s online writing class talks about how to build a vivid, compelling world in the context of writing about an event set in that world. For other Rambo Academy live classes, see http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/

(6) BASED ON CIXIN LIU STORY. A trailer for The Wandering Earth has shown up on The Verge (“A new trailer for The Wandering Earth shows off a desperate plan to save the planet”). The film is slated for a limited release starting on February 8.

A new trailer for The Wandering Earth — described as China’s biggest science fiction movie ever — landed earlier this week, showing off an ambitious adventure that follows the efforts to save Earth after scientists discover that the sun is about to go out. 

The movie is based on a story by Chinese author Cixin Liu — who’s best known for his Three-Body Problem trilogy and last year’s Ball Lightning. While those books are huge, epic stories, The Wandering Earth is no less ambitious: when scientists realize that the sun will go out in a couple of decades, they hatch a desperate plan: to move the planet to Proxima Centauri. The construct thousands of giant engines to move the planet out of orbit, where it can then slingshot post Jupiter and out of the Solar System. 

And there was a previous trailer in December.

(7) THEY’D RATHER PLAY SOMEONE ELSE. Travis M. Andrews in the Washington Post tells about actors who really didn’t like their roles. People know Harrison Ford doesn’t like Han Solo, and Robert Pattinson apparently won’t like you if you tell him you really loved Twilight: “Penn Badgley thinks his ‘You’ character is a creep. Here are 5 other actors who hated the people they played.”

Robert Pattinson despises his iconic “Twilight” character, Edward Cullen, with a fury unlike any other. Pattinson has complained throughout so many interviews about Edward, the century-old telepathic vampire who falls for Kristen Stewart’s Bella (a witch or something), that there’s an entire Tumblr feed dedicated to his most (self-) scathing comments.

Among his harshest words: He has said “Twilight” “seemed like a book that shouldn’t be published.” That “if Edward was not a fictional character, and you just met him in reality — you know, he’s one of those guys who would be an ax murderer.” He called his performance “a mixture of looking slightly constipated and stoned.”

(8) OBSCURE AWARD. The Society of Camera Operators’ awards were presented January 26, and if you scan The Hollywood Reporter article closely enough you’ll be able to discover the single winner of genre note: “‘A Star Is Born’ Camera Operator Tops SOC Awards”.

Movie category had no genre nominees

Movie category winner

* P. Scott Sakamoto for A Star Is Born

TV category winner

* Chris Haarhoff and Steven Matzinger for Westworld

Other awards presented

* Jane Fonda — Governor’s Award

* Harrison Ford— President’s Award

* “Lifetime Achievement award recipients were Dave Emmerichs, camera operator; Hector Ramirez, camera operator (live and non-scripted); Jimmy Jensen, camera technician; John Man, mobile camera platform operator, and Peter Iovino, still photographer.”

* Technical achievement award — makers of the Cinemoves Matrix 4 axis stabilized gimbal

(9) HARPAZ OBIT. Former Israel Air Force Pilot Colonel (Res.) Rami Harpaz passed away January 24 at the age of 80: “Father of iconic ‘Hebrew Pilots’ translation of Tolkien dies” in the Jerusalem Post (behind a paywall).

Rami Harpaz lead a group of IAF pilots in Egyptian captivity to translate the iconic fantasy work into Hebrew while in prison, the book introduced Tolkien to Israeli readers and remains iconic.

…He was captured by the Egyptians during the War of Attrition, while in captivity he was given a copy of the Hobbit, the famous fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, by his brother who was able to deliver the book to him via the Red Cross. 

Prison conditions were harsh and the Egyptians tortured the Israeli prisoners, yet despite of this, Harpaz and his fellow  prisoners began to translate the book into Hebrew. The initial motivation was to allow Israelis who could not read English well to enjoy the book in Hebrew. 

The translation was done in pairs with one person reading in English and speaking it out in Hebrew and the translation partner writing it down in Hebrew and editing it. Harpaz and three other captured pilots were the translators of what became known as ‘the pilots translation’ of the Hobbit. The final product was seven notebooks written by hand, the book was published in 1977 with funding provided by the IAF.   

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also  produced  his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem exploring the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 79. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact  which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, RobotSpider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 62. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3, Sin City, 300, Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 56. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?). 
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 49. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction. Interestingly she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) KIPLING, SFF AUTHOR? Fred Lerner’s well-regarded essay “A Master of our Art: Rudyard Kipling considered as a Science Fiction writer” addresses a topic that surfaced in comments the other day.

…Like Verne and Wells, Kipling wrote stories whose subject-matter is explicitly science-fictional. “With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.” portrays futuristic aviation in a journalistic present-tense that recalls Kipling’s years as a teenaged subeditor on Anglo-Indian newspapers. “The Eye of Allah” deals with the introduction of advanced technology into a mediaeval society that may not be ready for it.

But it is not this explicit use of science and technology in some of his stories that makes Kipling so important to modern science fiction. Many of Kipling’s contemporaries and predecessors wrote scientific fiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Conan Doyle are among them. Yet echoes of their work are seldom seen in today’s science fiction. Kipling’s appeal to modern readers lies instead in his approach and his technique.

The real subject-matter of Rudyard Kipling’s writing is the world’s work and the men and women and machines who do it. Whether that work be manual or intellectual, creative or administrative, the performance of his work is the most important thing in a person’s life. As Disko Troop says in Captains Courageous, “the most interesting thing in the world is to find out how the next man gets his vittles”….

(12) PACIFIC INKLINGS FESTIVAL. Sørina Higgins, Editor of The Inklings and King Arthur, will be the featured speaker when The Southern California C.S. Lewis Society presents The Pacific Inklings Festival and General Meeting on March 9.

(13) NOT A STAN FAN. HuffPost reports “Bill Maher Doubles Down On Trashing Stan Lee Fans, Adults Who Like Comics”.

His latest was supposed to address a controversial blog post from shortly after Stan Lee’s death. Address it, yeah. Back down from it? Not at all.

Bill Maher is not backing down when it comes to criticizing fans of Marvel giant Stan Lee, and fans of comic books in general.

On Friday’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” the host insisted that he had nothing against the late Lee, but that adult fans of comics simply need to “grow up.”

“I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead, I’m sad you’re alive,” Maher said.

But the head of Marvel did not respond as you might have predicted SYFY Wire learned: “Bill Maher receives high-profile invite to Stan Lee tribute event after controversial comic book remarks”.

Bill Maher received an invite to the Stan Lee tribute event in Los Angeles this coming Wednesday from none other than Marvel‘s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada.

This came after Maher found himself in hot water once again after doubling down on his controversial comments about how comic books cannot be considered “literature” and how superhero movies are not “great cinema.” Moreover, he said that people who think otherwise “are stuck in an everlasting childhood.”

Maher played himself in a deleted scene in Iron Man 3, where he blames America for creating The Mandarin

(14) NEEDS SOME LUCK. Paul Weimer says this epic fantasy novel is well worth your time and attention in a review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons”

Kihrin is a thief, an apprentice musician, and a resident of the Capital. He’s also possesses a rather powerful artifact whose provenance he does not quite understand, one that is difficult to take from him except by his free will. Even more than this, Kihrin and his artifact are pawns in a long simmering plot that would see him as key to the destruction of an empire. Instead of being a prophesied hero come to save the world, Kihrin’s role is seemingly destined for a much darker fate, unless his patron goddess, the goddess of luck, Taja, really IS on his side.

(15) MORE GOOD REVIEWS. Lady Business links to selected reviews around a theme — “Eight Book Minimum: Bring me queer ladies or bring me death!”

1. Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband by Joanna Russ [Top]
Someone’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband is Joanna Russ talking about the narrative tropes of gothic fiction from the late sixties and early seventies. The essay itself was originally published in 1973; I first read it in the collection To Write Like A Woman, which is great if you have a chance to read it. I found Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me at work though, and ah, it’s good to have it back.

The premise of this essay is that Joanna Russ, faced with the new wave of gothic fiction, had a publisher friend send her some of the most representative examples of the genre and broke down all of the common elements and analysed them as expressions of the “traditional feminine situation.” I would argue that regardless of how representative those books were, that’s a very small sample size (she mentions about half a dozen titles, and I’m just trying to picture the reaction today if someone tried this with, say, romantic suspense books). But her analysis is interesting? She’s analysing it, justifiably, as an incredibly popular genre with female readers, and picking out the elements that might be contributing to that (“‘Occupation: housewife’ is simultaneously avoided, glamorised, and vindicated” is one of the stand-out points for me, especially when coupled with the observation that the everyday skills of reading people’s feelings and faces are often the only thing keeping the heroine alive), but it’s a little strange to read. It’s interesting, and I can definitely relate some of her points to female-led genres today (I’m mainly thinking of things like cozy mysteries), but it is definitely an outsider to a genre picking apart its building blocks. So, interesting as a dissection of those specific titles and tropes, but maybe not representative of the wider genre.

(16) HOURS OF WITCHING. Phoebe Wagner checks in about the first season of a TV reboot: “Microreview [TV Series]: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In addition to balancing the magical aspects of the show, multiple episodes explore issues of feminism, smashing the patriarchy, race, sexual orientation, disability, and bullying. Through Sabrina, these becomes issues of her world rather than political statements. While TV shows at times have issue-driven episodes that seem to be responding to the political climate of the previous six months, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina focuses on the lives of the characters, and since this is part of their lives, of course Sabrina is going to help them. That being said, especially early in the season, it at times felt a little white-savior as Sabrina works behind the scenes with magic to help her friends….

(17) THAT LEAKY WARDROBE. In this Saturday Night Live sketch, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy, reprising a character he played in a movie) meets several women who have recently arrived in Narnia.

(18) REVIEW OF “I AM MOTHER”. Variety: “Sundance Film Review: ‘I Am Mother’”. “After a mass extinction, a robot raises a little girl in a handsome, if derivative sci-fi thriller that salutes its own parentage.” The review gives much of this female-cast-led gerne film generally good marks, though significant issues are also pointed out. Bottom line:

What really presses [Director Grant] Sputore’s buttons is proving that he can make an expensive-looking flick for relative peanuts. If this were his job application for a blockbuster gig, he’d get the job. Though hopefully he and [Screenwriter Michael Lloyd] Green realize that the best sci-fi thrillers don’t just focus on solving the mystery of what happened — they explore what it all means. Sputore is clearly an intelligent life form. But as even his robot creator knows, “Mothers need to learn.”

  • Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne (voice), Hilary Swank, Luke Hawker (motion capture), Tahlia Sturzaker.

(19) SPONSOR WILL DROP MAN BOOKER. BBC reveals that the sponsoring hedge fund feels “underappreciated” — “Man Booker loses £1.6m hedge fund sponsor amid talk of tension”.

Britain’s most famous literary award is looking for a new sponsor after hedge fund Man Group said it would end its support after 18 years.

The UK-based financial giant said its annual £1.6m backing of this year’s Man Booker Prize would be its last.

The link between the hedge fund and the literary world has not always been a smooth, with novelist Sebastian Faulks last year calling the firm “the enemy”.

Man Group said in a statement it had been a privilege to sponsor the prize.

But the BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, said relations between Man Group and Booker organisers had been strained for some time, with a company source suggesting they felt underappreciated.

(20) DID IT MAKE A SOUND? A celebrity tree is no more: “Game of Thrones: Dark Hedges tree falls in high winds”.

A tree made famous by the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones has fallen in strong winds.

Gale force winds of up to 60 mph hit Northern Ireland overnight on Saturday.

The Dark Hedges are a tunnel of beech trees on the Bregagh Road near Armoy that have become an an international tourist attraction since featuring in the hit series.

(21) OVER THE TOP. Let Quinn Curio tell you “The Dumbest Things About Gotham.”

What are the dumbest things that have ever happened on Fox’s Gotham show? Welcome to the party. The pain party.

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

2018 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

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

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

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

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

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 12/16/18 Cold-Hearted Scroll That Rules The File, Removes The Pixels From Our Pile

(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:

…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….

(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LE GUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.

One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.

Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.

(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.

2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.

(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!

(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:

GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express

GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus

GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil

(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.

Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?

A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.

(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.

Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.

This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost:Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).

So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.

And we thought the last “Avengers” trailer was better when every character was Deadpool.

Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth. 

(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:

2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?

C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive. 

Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • December 16, 1927Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
  • December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)

(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”

In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.

(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.

On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.

Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.

(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —

Jenny

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.

(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.

Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?

(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.

Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.

I mean, that’s a little strong.

Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.

If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.

Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.

“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.

(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.

The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.

(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.  

Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.

In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.

As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”

She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.

[Thanks to rcade, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Craig Russell, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]