AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Autumn 2020

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this fall.

DON’T PANIC: Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • by Neil Gaiman | Read by Simon Jones, Neil Gaiman [Intro.]
  • [Harper Audio]

If you’re a superfan of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you’ve likely already encountered this book, first written in 1987 (and revised several times since) by young journalist Neil Gaiman. However, with the narration of Simon Jones—who starred in the original Hitchhiker’s radio drama—this audio version offers something new. The real joy comes when Jones gets the chance to perform script excerpts from various incarnations of Hitchhiker’s—and play all of the parts.

ALLIANCE: Devotion Duology

  • by E.B. Bridenstine | Read by Kirby Heyborne
  • [Bridenstine Books] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Kirby Heyborne narrates a captivating fantasy romance centered on an unlikely place: a magical circus in which creatures are forced to perform for humans. Elven Ranamayve, who stands out even among her kind, finds herself thrust into a world of brutality. But she finds solace in the warm heart of a half-orc named Bozek. Heyborne commands listeners’ attention with a careful tone that captures the ear before unleashing a bevy of strange and wondrous accents, including the thundering voice of Bozek.

THE DEVIL IN AMERICA

  • by Kai Ashante Wilson | Read by Janina Edwards
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrator Janina Edwards’s compelling tone draws listeners into Wilson’s searing narrative as a family reckons with a supernatural legacy. Chilling events and mythology are interspersed with descriptions of historical events. As Easter and her family wield old magic against sinister forces, these elements illustrate how the evils of this story persevere into today’s world. Immersive world-building heightens skilled characterizations of Easter’s loving, courageous family and friends, the fervently whispering Angels, and the slippery, unyielding Devil.

MALORIE

  • by Josh Malerman | Read by Cassandra Campbell
  • [Random House Audio]  Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Cassandra Campbell exquisitely evokes the existential dread that permeates Malerman’s well-wrought follow-up to his popular sci-fi suspense novel, BIRD BOX. America remains rife with creatures that drive viewers insane. Blindfolded and hooded, Malorie has kept her now-teenage children safe for 16 frightening years. Campbell’s vivid audio portraits of fierce Malorie, rebellious Tom, and conflicted Olympia heighten the drama and draw listeners into a story that takes place as much inside the protagonists’ heads as in the action.

THE SANDMAN

  • by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast
  • [Audible, Inc.]   Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

James McAvoy leads an all-star cast in narrating this magnificent audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series, The Sandman. McAvoy, who portrays Morpheus, the King of Dreams, leans hard on his polished English accent, the embodiment of the Brits’ determination to keep calm and carry on—no matter what. As listeners are swept up in a saga, special mention goes to the production staff. The sound effects are immersive, and there is a wonderful cinematic score. Listeners won’t be able to pause once they hit play.

TROUBLE THE SAINTS

  • by Alaya Dawn Johnson | Read by Shayna Small, Neil Shah
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrators Shayna Small and Neil Shah transport listeners to 1940s New York in this dark fantasy set against a backdrop of racial tension and brewing war. In a world in which people of color are sometimes born with magical powers that manifest through their hands, three characters struggle to survive in the city’s seedy underbelly. Small portrays Phyllis, a Black woman whose hands make her a master assassin. Shah is equally outstanding as her lover, Dev, an Indian man whose hands sense threats. His tone is lighter and often tinged with longing and humor. This audiobook is a fully immersive experience.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020

From AudioFile Magazine, a sampler of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to listen to over the summer.

NETWORK EFFECT

  • by Martha Wells | Read by Kevin R. Free
  • [Recorded Books | 12.75 hrs.]

Kevin R. Free narrates the first full-length Murderbot novel, after four previous novellas. Once again, Murderbot has to rescue its humans from the idiotic mess they have gotten themselves into when it would really rather be left alone to watch its media in peace. Narrator Free perfectly captures the acerbic, exasperated tone of Murderbot that makes it so relatable.

Video with Kevin R. Free about Wells’s All Systems Red, (previous Murderbot title)

BONDS OF BRASS

  • by Emily Skrutskie | Read by James Fouhey
  • [Random House Audio | 10.25 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

James Fouhey’s outstanding narration heightens every nuance of the complicated characters and lush world-building in this queer space adventure. Orphaned by war, Ettian has built a life for himself as a military pilot when he learns that his best friend is heir to the empire that destroyed his homeworld. Then, an attempted assassination causes the boys to flee on a cross-galaxy quest for safety.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

  • by M.R. Carey| Read by Theo Solomon
  • [Hachette Audio | 14.25 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Theo Solomon’s narration is astounding in this story of a ruined future in which humanity is slowly dying and technology is viewed as magic from the past. While the audiobook is outstanding in its examination of humanity’s struggle in an evolving world, it’s the authenticity of Solomon’s voice that makes it so emotionally compelling and deeply personal.

THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY

  • by Luke Arnold | Read by Luke Arnold
  • [Hachette Audio | 8 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Australian actor Luke Arnold narrates his debut fantasy novel in which a magical city shudders at the sudden loss of its magic. Fetch Philips takes odd jobs as a detective in Sunder City; his latest task is finding a missing teacher, a vampire whose body is slowly turning to dust without magic. Arnold portrays Fetch with pathos and differentiates the other characters, giving the production the feel of a full-cast production.

THE LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE 4

  • by Michael J. Sullivan | Read by Terence Aselford and a Full Cast
  • [GraphicAudio | 6 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Terence Aselford and a full cast lead a GraphicAudio production of a sweeping fantasy epic kicked off by the death of a god. The balance of power and trust between the gods and humans is forever shifted, prompting a few to stand and defend humanity. A large cast of voice actors brings the characters to life with comic and heartrending deliveries.

THE SISTERS GRIMM

  • by Menna van Praag | Read by Adjoa Andoh
  • [Harper Audio | 15.5 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Adjoa Andoh narrates a fantastical adventure in which four half-sisters connect in a dreamworld and learn of their unusual shared fate. The sisters have wild adventures in the supernatural realm known as Everwhere until they’re cut off on their 13th birthday. Upon turning 18, the four must fight to the death against inhuman monsters—to the delight of their demonic father.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

AudioFile Magazine Honors Five with Golden Voice Lifetime Achievement Awards

AudioFile Magazine has honored Julia Whelan, Ramón de Ocampo, JD Jackson, Arthur Morey, and Emily Woo Zeller, with its highest accolade, the Golden Voice Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Since 1992, AudioFile has bestowed the Golden Voice prize on only 24 voice artists.  The award celebrates an artist’s iconic role in the field of narration and honors those who have made significant contributions to the audiobook art form. You’ll find the complete list of AudioFile Golden Voices including videos, interviews, and samples of their audiobooks here.

AudioFile Magazine’s new Golden Voices have won numerous awards, including Earphones, Audies, and Best Audiobook of the Year.  Individually, they narrate everything from Biography to Mystery to Science Fiction to Young Adult.

JULIA WHELAN: Narrator Julia Whelan brought home the 2019 Audie Awards for Best Female Narrator and Autobiography/Memoir for her narration of Tara Westover’s Educated, which has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Whether she’s narrating a memoir or a novel, such as Linda Holmes’s Evvie Drake Starts Over, Julia sweeps listeners up in the characters’ emotional journeys. As an author herself (My Oxford Year), she feels empathy for all authors and thus an emotional connection to every book she narrates.

Essential Listening

RAMÓN DE OCAMPO: As the voice of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid audiobooks, Los Angeles-based actor Ramón de Ocampo has an army of young fans. He brings authenticity to children’s and young adult audiobooks, connecting with coming-of-age stories and taking the listener on an emotional journey. The winner of multiple Earphones Awards and an Audie Award, Ramón is also a stage and screen actor.

Essential Listening

JD JACKSON: JD Jackson narrated the audiobook versions of two 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners—Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (Fiction) and Jericho Brown’s The Tradition (Poetry). Narrating everything from biography to gritty detective novels, Jackson brings strong characterizations to the table—and wins awards as well as listener admiration.

Essential Listening

ARTHUR MOREY: Award-winning audiobook narrator Arthur Morey is an accomplished actor, writer, writing teacher, and singer. He is known for giving attentive and well-researched narrations to nonfiction audiobooks, as in his eloquent delivery of E.B. White’s essay collection, On Democracy. His performances consistently rank among AudioFile’s “Best of the Year” audiobooks.

Essential Listening

EMILY WOO ZELLER: “Humanity is colorful,” narrator Emily Woo Zeller says, “and I hope to always celebrate that.” Whether she’s narrating Asian American fiction and nonfiction, or fantasy or young adult audiobooks, Zeller offers absorbing and multilayered portrayals of a wide range of characters and subjects. This Earphones and Audie Award-winning narrator is also a fan favorite.

Essential Listening

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

[Thanks to Microtherion, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Lise Andreasen, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/20 Do Ansibles Dream Of Electronic Beeps?

(1) NEW MARVEL COMICS ON THE WAY. Today, Marvel Comics announced its plans to resume releases for its comics starting Wednesday, May 27. Said a press releasem “True Believers everywhere will now be able to escape back into the Marvel Universe and continue following their favorite Marvel stories and characters.”

Over the next few weeks, Marvel will keep a balanced release schedule for its comics and trade collections as the industry continues to restart distribution and comic shops begin to reopen and adapt to current social distancing policies. Stay tuned for more information as Marvel continues to release new comics in the most thoughtful way we can for fans, creators, and the industry during these unpredictable times.

(2) THINGS COVID-19 MAKES UNPREDICTABLE. Fantastika 2020 today announced that they have optioned March 19-21, 2021 as a backup in case their first deferred date – October 23-25 this year – doesn’t pan out. All four guests of honor — Adrian Tchaikovsky, Aliette de Bodard, Peadar Ó Guilín, and Eva Holmquist — are planning to come to Fantastika 2020 in October, but right now no one knows if they will be able to come next March.

(3) A CERTAIN CONVENTION CASUALTY. Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon, which was to be held July 2-5, announced on April 27 that they have cancelled this year’s event:

(4) AN UNEXPECTED OMEN. Tor.com’s Emmet Asher-Perrin directed fans how to eavesdrop on an exchange between two favorite characters: “Crowley and Aziraphale Weather the Lockdown on Good Omens’ 30th Anniversary”.

It’s the 30th anniversary of Good Omens’ publication, so Neil Gaiman, David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and the other folx involved with last year’s miniseries have offered up a brand new scene. As a (literal) treat.

(5) MEREDITH MOMENT. Barbara Krasnoff’s mosaic fantasy novel of the past and future of two Jewish families, The History Of Soul 2065, is available today for only 99 cents at Amazon & other venues! — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes, Kobo, Google Play. Read Daniel Dern’s January 27 File 770 review of the book.

(6) ABOUT JEMISIN’S AUDIOBOOK. AudioFile has posted a Behind the Mic video with Robin Miles and her Earphones Award winning performance on N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.

AudioFile Magazine’s review begins —  

Robin Miles gives voice to everything New York in this fantastical celebration of the city’s spirit. As the novel opens, New York City is going through a transformation–it’s becoming sentient, embodied by six human avatars who represent the city’s five boroughs plus New York as a whole…. 

(7) A SHAGGY DOG STORY. Margaret Lyons, the New York Times television critic, asks “How Much Watching Time Do You Have This Weekend?”

Robbie Amell on “Upload.” The dog is his character’s therapist.

‘Upload’
When to watch: Starting Friday, on Amazon.

“Upload” feels like a hybrid of “The Good Place,” “Black Mirror” and “Idiocracy,” a cheeky, cynical but still lyrical sci-fi romantic dramedy. Robbie Amell stars as Nathan, a tech bro in 2033 whose consciousness is uploaded to a chichi but bizarre afterlife. Corporate greed is a defining pillar of modern life, and on “Upload” it’s a defining pillar of death, too, where the indignities of being advertised to, of always feeling shaken down, of being little more than a revenue stream, can endure for eternity. But hey, free gum! If you like big, imaginative shows with bite, watch this.

(8) HOPS TO IT. The bibulous Camestros Felapton shares the results of exhaustive testing in “Beers and Hugos: what to pair with your novel finalists”.

What to drink as you sit in your favourite reading spot with a good book is a vexing question of no import whatsoever. Wine has its advocates but I think drinking beer or slowly sipping spirits is a better a match for novels.

But what to match with this year’s Hugo Finalists for Best Novel?

So many factors to consider about each book! For example —

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. Do we need a high-strength beer here to match the mind-twisting plot or something with more flavour and less alcohol so we can concentrate and try to work out what is going on? I’ve drunk Chocolate Fish Milk Stout before which is a suitably disorientating car-crash of nouns but I don’t think that is the right tone for this novel. I want something that is sharp but very much not what it seems to be — a drink that makes you want to know what is going on and why? Perhaps something with a hint of a terrible experiment gone wrong… …

(9) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO dropped a teaser trailer. The series debuts in August.

HBO’s new drama series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

(10) MORE BUDRYS. David Langford says, “Research for the recent Budrys SF essay collection Beyond the Outposts uncovered a mass of material that didn’t fit the scope of that already oversized book. I’m happy to report that the Budrys family liked the idea of my releasing a free ebook of other writings by our man — from a tasty 1960 fanzine to his final editorials in Tomorrow SF.”

Now you can download free A Budrys Miscellany: Occasional Writing 1960-2000 at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Free Ebooks page – and please consider making a donation to TAFF.

(11) IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO. Onward came and went with good reviews but an otherwise muted reception placing it much lower than Pixar’s more beloved films. YouTuber 24 Frames of Nick gives it a reappraisal. “You’re wrong about Onward.”

(12) TODAY’S DAY.

SPACE DAY is celebrated annually on the first Friday of May. An unofficial educational holiday created in 1997 by Lockheed Martin, Space Day aims to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields among young people.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 1, 1953 Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Evil Within” episode first aired. A scientist has perfected a chemical that unleashes the beast within, but before he can create an antidote, his wife takes it when he takes a sample home to keep it refrigerated. It was directed by  Don Medford from a script by David E. Durston and Manya Starr. It starred James Dean, Margaret Phillips and Rod Steiger. It was Dean’s only genre role.  You can watch it here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 E. Mayne Hull. She was the first wife of A. E. van Vogt and a genre writer in her own right with two novels to her credit, Planets for Sale and The Winged Man (which is co-written with her husband), and about a dozen stories. The Winged Man is a finalist for the Retro Hugo this year. She does not appear to be available in digital form. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1923 Ralph Senensky, 97. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleThe Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 73. No, she was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fullly intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episode are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel which starred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll  find her playing The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death in the 2017 Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andrew Sawyer, 68. Librarian by profession, critic and editor as well being an active part of fandom. He is the Reviews Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. I’ve also got him doing Upon the Rack in Print, a book review column in Interzone and elsewhere and contributing likewise the Rust Never Sleeps column to Paperback Inferno as well. He hasn’t written much fiction, but there is some such as “The Mechanical Art” in the  Digital Dreams anthology.
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 65. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about some SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s better than The Gripping Hand.
  • Born May 1, 1956 Philip Foglio, 64. He won the Hugo Award Best Fan Artist at SunCon and IguanaCon 2. He later did work for DC, First and Marvel Comics including the backup stories in Grimjack. He and his wife are responsible for the totally ass kicking Girl Genius series
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 63. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties as well. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. 
  • Born May 1, 1972 Julie Benz, 48. I remember her best as Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but she’s had other genre roles such as Julie Falcon In Darkdrive, a very low budget Canadian Sf film, Barbara in the weirdly good Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, and Angela Donatelli in Punisher: War Zone. 

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check tells how one robot family overcame its hereditary medical problem.
  • Reality Check also demonstrates the importance of grammar when instructing one’s fairy godmother.
  • Speed Bump describes a drug with questionable effects.

(16) THE LAST OF SHE-RA. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Final Season Trailer.

(17) HISTORY IMPROVED UPON. David Doering wonders if this is where the tradition of fabulous meeting minutes began for the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society:

“Bruce A. Yerke’s position as the most entertaining Secretary the LASFS ever corralled, and as founder and editor of Imagination (the magazine which precipitated the  unprecedented hordes of LASFS publications on the fan world ), is doubtless well known to most fans, but it wouldn’t do to forgo mention of his fabulously hilarious minutes. Those priceless documents were probably the indirect cause of the attendance of many otherwise uninterested persons, who came around solely to discover whether they had been libeled or praised, and to writhe or bask in a flow of words as the minutes were read.”

“The Damn Guy” in Fan Slants, Sept. 1943

Some of Yerke’s other attempts at jocularity in 1943 were more sophomoric.

“I was resting on a couch in one corner of the LASFS clubroom, dozing contentedly. Yerke entered, espied my recumbent form, and concluded that this was a splendid opportunity for some real fun. Producing an enormous sheet of wrapping paper, he tucked it about me, and then gleefully set fire to it. Luckily I came to my senses at this point and prevented an uncomfortable experience. When I demanded an explanation for his unseemly conduct, he replied, ‘I was giving you a hot-torso!’” 

(18) CIRCULAR FILE. James Davis Nicoll shares the addresses in “Put a Ring On It: Potential Planetary Ring Systems and Where to Find Them” at Tor.com.

… The mediocrity principle would suggest that other ring systems exist—systems that may be even more spectacular than Saturn’s. Recent discoveries hint that this may be the case. Data from the star 1SWASP J140747—have I complained yet today that astronomers are terrible at naming things?—suggests that its substellar companion may have a ring system that could be 180 million kilometers wide. That is about 30 million kilometers more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. If Saturn had a ring system like that, it would be naked-eye visible.

(19) THE NAVY VS. THE DAY MONSTERS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY WIRE readers: “So, Those Navy Videos Showing UFOs? I’m Not Saying It’s Not Aliens, But It’s Not Aliens.” He gives a kind of Reader’s Digest condensation of the work done at MetaBunk.

On 27 April 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense officially released three unclassified videos, footage taken on Navy fighter jets. These videos, leaked to the public in 2007 and 2017, appear to show three unidentified flying objects moving in weird and unexpected ways. The Navy had already acknowledged the videos were real, but pointedly did not say what they show.

Do these videos show alien spaceships? If you do a lazy search on Google for them, the results might give you the idea they do. A lot of electrons have been spilled claiming these show alien vehicles making impossible maneuvers, are surrounded by a glow indicating some sort of advanced tech like a “warp drive,” and are clearly beyond our own miserable human technology.

But is any of this actually true?

Yeah, no. I mean, sure, the objects in the footage are unidentified, but something being a UFO doesn’t make it, y’know, a UFO….

(20) LINNAEUS NEVER HEARD OF THESE. Maybe you want to know, maybe you don’t, but you’re about to find out! “The 7 Strangest Real-Life Species Named After Star Trek Characters” courtesy of StarTrek.com.

Ever since Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi series blasted off in 1969, scientists across Earth have been naming newly-discovered species after the franchise’s characters and cast. Which animals share names with Star Trek’s most beloved and why? We’ve energized the etymology behind seven real-life Star Trek species into one handy databank below.

First on the list:

Ledella spocki (named after Mr. Spock)

At first, naming a mussel after Leonard Nimoy’s Science Officer may seem highly illogical. However, when tasked to title a newly-discovered mollusk in 2014, Spanish researchers led by Dr. Diniz Viegas opted to pay homage to Spock. The reason? They noted the shape of the mussel’s valves resembled the pointed ears of Star Trek’s most famous human-Vulcan hybrid.

(21) OPINIONS — EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber earns his check this week arguing“Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated”.

…This might come across as a contrarian hot take, but it seems obvious to me that the best film in the Star Wars series is, in fact, Star Wars. (I know we’re supposed to call it ‘A New Hope’ these days, but it was called Star Wars when it came out in 1977, so that’s good enough for me.) What’s more, it seems obvious that The Empire Strikes Back is the source of all the franchise’s problems. Whatever issues we geeks grumble about when we’re discussing the numerous prequels and sequels, they can all be traced back to 1980.

…My grievance with The Empire Strikes Back isn’t that it sticks to the winning formula established by Star Wars: that’s what most sequels do, after all. My grievance is that it also betrays Star Wars, trashing so much of the good work that was done three years earlier. My un-Jedi-like anger bubbles up even before the first scene – at the beginning of the ‘opening crawl’ of introductory text, to be precise. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion,” says this prose preamble. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.”

Haaaaang on a minute. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed”? “Although”? The sole aim of the heroes and heroines in Star Wars was to destroy the Death Star, a humungous planet-pulverising spaceship of crucial strategic importance to the Empire. One of their big cheeses announced that “fear of this battle station” would keep every dissenter in line. Another hailed it as “the ultimate power in the universe”. But now the Rebels’ demolishing of the ultimate power in the universe is waved aside with an “although”? That, frankly, is not on. And it’s just the first of many instances when The Empire Strikes Back asks us to pretend that Star Wars didn’t happen….

(22) LITTERBUGS. “High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor”.

Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.

The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy.

The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.

These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.

The researchers’ investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents.

“These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes,” explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team.

“They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They’re made predominantly of very fine silt, so it’s intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them,” he told BBC News.

(23) IT’S SAD TO BE ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD. Or so I remember someone telling Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie. “Animals in zoos ‘lonely’ without visitors”.

A number of zoos around the world are reporting that their animals are becoming “lonely” without visitors.

Zoos have had to close to members of the public due to Covid-19.

At Phoenix Zoo, keepers have lunch dates with elephants and orangutans, and one sociable bird needs frequent visits. Primates have gone looking for missing visitors.

Dublin Zoo said animals were also “wondering what’s happened to everyone”.

Director Leo Oosterweghel said the animals look at him in surprise.

“They come up and have a good look. They are used to visitors,” he told the Irish Times.

…Without visitors, some animals lack stimulation, Paul Rose, lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, told the BBC.

“Some individuals, such as primates and parrots get a lot of enrichment from viewing and engaging with visitors. It is beneficial to the animal’s wellbeing and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,” he said.

It’s not just the mammals: “Garden eels ‘forgetting about humans’ need people to video-chat”.

Keepers at Toyko’s Sumida Aquarium, which has been closed since 1 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to worry about their garden eels.

The sensitive little creatures had become used to seeing hundreds of faces peering into their tanks.

Now the aquarium is deserted they’ve started to dive into the sand whenever their keepers walk past.

This makes it hard to check they’re healthy.

The aquarium says the eels are “forgetting about humans” and is making what it calls an “emergency plea”.

“Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?”

Yes, they’re asking people to call in for a sub-aqua video chat and remind the eels that humans are friendly.

(24) COMIC STALK. Marvel Entertainment announced today the launch of a brand-new digital series, Marvel Presents: The World’s Greatest Book Club with Paul Scheer, a six-episode weekly series celebrating your favorite comics and the community around them. This fun, light-hearted series is hosted by actor and comedian Paul Scheer, who will be joined by celebrity guests including Damon Lindelof, Gillian Jacobs, W. Kamau Bell, Phil Lord, Yassir Lester, and Jason Mantzoukas. The series is produced in partnership with Supper Club with Paul Scheer, Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, and David Gelb as executive producers.

For fans, comic shops have and always will be the heart of the comic book community; a place for new and longtime fans to come together and share their passion, fandom, and appreciation for the artform while learning about something new. As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, Scheer will look to capture some of that comic shop experience by diving into the personal origin stories with comics and beyond with each guest in the series. Scheer will be joined by Marvel New Media Head of Content Stephen Wacker to provide an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and unlock forgotten treasures from the Marvel vault.

In the first installment, Scheer and special guest Damon Lindelof and Marvel’s Stephen Wacker take an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and forgotten treasures, discussing Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk (2005) #1, New Mutants (1983) #1, and The New Mutants Marvel Graphic Novel (1982).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2020

From AudioFile Magazine, a sampler of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to listen to this spring.

QUALITYLAND by Marc-Uwe Kling | read by Patricia Rodriguez | (Earphones Award Winner)

Narrator Patricia Rodriguez delivers a sensational performance of this dystopian satire in which the most successful company in the world uses algorithms to predict and deliver what you want before you even know you want it. When Peter Jobless receives a product he most definitely doesn’t want, he commences an elaborate plan to return it with the help of his band of robotic misfits….

DEATH’S MANTLE by Harmon Cooper | read by Andrea Parsneau | (Earphones Award Winner)

The “death” who comes for Lucien has been helping people pass over for more than 300 years. Narrator Andrea Parsneau portrays him as an old, tired, and somewhat feeble man. In contrast, although Lucien has outlived his doctors’ estimate of his life expectancy by two and half times, Parsneau makes him seem vital and feisty when he tries fending off death by drawing a gun on him. When he becomes Old Death’s successor, Parsneau imbues Lucien with a passion for discovering his powers and limitations….

TIME’S CHILDREN Islevale, Book 1  by D.B. Jackson | read by Helen Keeley | (Earphones Award Winner)

Narrator Helen Keeley follows the journey of 15-year old Tobias as he makes the transition from novitiate to walker in the sovereign’s court of Daerjen. At the behest of the sovereign, walkers travel back in time at a cost of one year off their lives for each year they travel back and forth….

THE SEEP by Chana Porter | read by Shakina Nayfack | (Earphones Award Winner)

Shakina Nayfack’s warm, potent tones highlight the deeply personal and humane side of Porter’s profound, ethereal alien-invasion story. The Seep has overhauled the world, allowing expanded consciousness and endless new experiences. Trina Fasthorse Goldberg-Oneka, a 50-year-old trans artist, cannot embrace this reality as others have, and when her wife leaves to become a child again, her world begins to unravel….

THE LIGHT OF ALL THAT FALLS  by James Islington | read by Michael Kramer | (Earphones Award Winner)

Michael Kramer narrates the epic conclusion to an epic fantasy trilogy. Four friends are led by the troubled Caeden to the northern border of Andarra to confront evil forces. As this story twists and weaves through time, morality shifts, and the cost of survival mounts. Kramer’s gravelly voice engages listeners with his masterful cadence and reflective tone….

THE KILLING FOG: The Grave Kingdom, Book 1  by Jeff Wheeler | read by Emily Woo Zeller

Narrator Emily Woo Zeller provides a spellbinding performance as she takes listeners on a young woman’s journey to achieve her own destiny and fulfill a legendary prophecy. Zeller embodies Bingmei, who fights to save humanity from despair and destruction while, at the same time, vacillating over whether to please her ancestors or her heart….

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks for Winter 2020

From AudioFile Magazine, a sampler of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to listen to this winter.

THE BONE SHIPS  by RJ Barker | Read by Jude Owusu (Earphones Award Winner)

Jude Owusu narrates a vibrant nautical fantasy featuring a ship made from the bones of dragons and populated with criminals. Centuries after the total disappearance of dragons, the sighting of one lone creature propels two nations into a race to capture it….

THE OUTSIDE  by Ada Hoffmann | Read by Nancy Wu (Earphones Award Winner)

Nancy Wu captures the essence of Yasira Shien from this audiobook’s opening scenes. Shien is an autistic math and physics prodigy who has designed a new generation reactor to power a space station in the 28th century….

TRINITY SIGHT  by Jennifer Givhan | Read by January LaVoy (Earphones Award Winner)

January Lavoy narrates a powerful dystopian saga that merges science and religion. After a bright flash, Calliope Santiago is one of only a handful of survivors in a seemingly postapocalyptic wasteland….

THE WILL AND THE WILDS  by Charlie N. Holmberg | Read by Angela Dawe (Earphones Award Winner)

In a story full of myth and magic flawlessly narrated by Angela Dawe, a young woman puts her soul at risk by bargaining with a monster. As the creature, Maekallus, becomes more human, Enna struggles to release the curse connecting them and let go of her changing feelings toward him….

HIGHFIRE   by Eoin Colfer | Read by Johnny Heller

Narrator Johnny Heller’s pitch-perfect timing and thoughtful characterizations make the action and humor pop in this very adult contemporary fantasy. The setting is a Louisiana bayou; characters include the last of the dragons, an opportunistic teenager, and a dirty constable….

ANYONE   by Charles Soule | Read by Emily Woo Zeller

Emily Woo Zeller’s fast-paced narration underscores the life-and-death stakes in this speculative sci-fi thriller, which traverses two near-future timeframes. Scientist Gabrielle White accidentally discovers an astonishing technology for transferring consciousness into the body of another person. Fast-forward 25 years, and a young woman, Annami, navigates a disturbing future in which Gabrielle’s technology allows bodies to be rented and abused….

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YA FANTASY

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE  by Tomi Adeyemi | Read by Bahni Turpin (Earphones Award Winner)

Bahni Turpin exquisitely narrates the second book in this fantasy series, Legacy of Orïsha. Her steady pace and West African accent draw us into the story of Zélie, a Maji warrior, and Princess Amari– both of whom fight against a monarchy that threatens to destroy the people of Orïsha….

AudioFile’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks
of 2019

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories — AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2019 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks.

They are listed here with links to the AudioFile review.

2019 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks

THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie, read by Adjoa Andoh

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E. Harrow, read by January LaVoy

BLACK LEOPARD, RED WOLF by Marlon James, read by Dion Graham

GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir, read by Moira Quirk

FULL THROTTLE by Joe Hill, read by Zachary Quinto, Wil Wheaton, Kate Mulgrew, Neil Gaiman, Ashleigh Cummings, Joe Hill, Laysla De Oliveira, Nate Corddry, Connor Jessup, Stephen Lang, George Guidall

EDGEDANCER by Brandon Sanderson, read by Terence Aselford and a Full Cast

Narrator Video on YouTube

  • Dion Graham, narrator of Marlon James’s Fantasy Epic Black Leopard, Red Wolf:

Escape into Other Worlds with Science Fiction & Fantasy Listening

Guest Post by Aurelia C. Scott: [Reprinted from AudioFile with permission.]  

A company named Deep Space Industries is working on a plan to harvest minerals from asteroids. Not immediately, but as soon as they can configure “high performance propulsion systems, deep space buses and precision control systems.” Once they’ve done it, the asteroid mining subplot in Martha Wells’s marvelous MURDERBOT series (read by Kevin R. Free) won’t be fictional science anymore. Rocket trips aren’t for me, but a deep-space bus? That I could do. Today’s Audio Adventures leave today behind.

Let’s start on an independent mining station within the Teixcalaan Empire, where the new ambassador from Lsel,  Mahit Dzmare, arrives to discover that her predecessor has been murdered, the technology she needs to communicate with her home planet has failed, and her own life is threatened. Arkady Martine’s debut space opera, A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE, is an other-world murder mystery cum political thriller that has critics raving. Our reviewer applauded Amy Landon’s “cool, calm narration” and her skill in differentiating characters while navigating the fascinating diplomatic subplot. Even better, it’s the first in a proposed series.

I’m continuing with space-thriller adventures in ONE WAY and NO WAY by S.J. Morden, a planetary geologist and winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for science fiction writing. Both recent novels are well narrated by William Hope and take place on Mars, where our ex-convict/everyman hero, Frank, has been sent to help build a corporate research station. Absolutely nothing goes according to plan, and without giving too much away, I’ll say that Frank must plumb all his smarts and inner resources in order to survive. The science stuff is as fun as the drama.

Those of us not in space will soon be dealing with a changed home planet. In the first two installments of Rebecca Roanhorse’s terrific The Sixth World series, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING and STORM OF LOCUSTS, energy wars, devastating climate change, and governmental disintegration have flooded the planet. The Navajo tribal land of Dinétah is one of the few dry places in North America. There we meet monster-hunter Maggie Hoskie, beautifully voiced by Tanis Parenteau, who’s won rave reviews and an Earphones Award for narrations that honor Native intonations and rhythms. The first book pairs Maggie with an unconventional medicine man as they search for a missing girl. The second sets her on a quest for a mysterious cult leader. Throughout, mythic gods, heroes, and monsters walk the land along with people, which is just as complicated and exciting as it sounds.

How do you feel about games?  Not the digital kind that divert the attention of my nearest and dearest (one of whom fell off a curb into traffic while playing Pokémon Go). But traditional, wholesome games such as chess, backgammon, and hide-and-seek. Well, World Fantasy award-winning author Claire North turns that wholesomeness upside down in her mind-bending novel THE GAMESHOUSE, which combines three earlier novellas into one. The “gameshouse” can appear anywhere in the world in any era, and inside, the most talented players compete for unimaginable stakes. Narrator Peter Kenny is a marvel as he transforms himself into a myriad of characters. Think of them the next time you’re considering whether or not to join your friends in an Escape Room.

Finally, I also recommend Claire North’s 2015 THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, for which narrator Peter Kenny won an Earphones Award. The titular Harry is a member of the Cronus Club, composed of rare people like him who live many times and remember everything. Club members keep each other from trying to change the course of history. Then someone tries, and in this terrific blend of fantasy and literary fiction, it’s up to Harry to avert disaster.

Have fun in the future, everyone.


Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia Scott often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.