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 12/21/17 Look! It’s The Pixel Scroll Repair Man!

(1) FRACTURED EUROPE. Bence Pintér interviewed Dave Hutchinson (in English) for his Hungarian zine Spekulatív Zóna.

The first installment of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence, Europe in Autumn will be published soon in Hungary. Years ago I read that one and the two sequels, and now I wanted to know what Mr. Hutchinson think about the future of Europe, and how he came to create a spy, who is in fact a chef.

Europe in Autumn was published only three years ago, but the near-future you imagined with a fractured Europe could be the present soon. Independence movements are booming, Brexit in talks… Do you think the world you created for the books can become reality?

It’s been kind of horrifying to watch world events over the past few years – I started writing Autumn sometime in the very late 1990s and back then the idea of a fractured Europe really was a thing of fiction, although independence movements and micronations are nothing new. Now, it seems a lot more plausible. I’d like to say that I hope the world of the books doesn’t come about; I’m a big fan of the EU ideal and of Schengen. On the other hand, Rudi’s world has always seemed to me to be vibrant and full of possibility. I’ve heard it described as a dystopia, but I don’t think it is – certainly it wasn’t intended that way. I think it would be a very interesting place to live. Whether it will actually happen, I don’t think anyone can predict that. We seem to have gone from the old black-and-white certainties of the Cold War to something a lot more uncertain and fluid, with only a very brief period of hope between them.

(2) THE GOOD STUFF. Ann Leckie returns to tell us about “Some things I’ve read lately”.

Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already….

(3) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Anika Dane of Women At Warp cheers Star Trek: Discovery “I’m an Age-Appropriate Woman In Command: Hear Me Roar!”

It’s no secret Hollywood has a problem with women aging. There are fewer leading roles for women over the age of 40, and the supporting ones tend to be underdeveloped and fall into the category of mother, wife, woman sad because she’s old, or villain (sad because she’s old). …

[Discovery’s Admiral Cornwell] is experienced and she’s accomplished, and she’s Lorca’s peer, and also his superior. She couldn’t be that at twenty-seven, or thirty-six. Moreover, she’s a woman over fifty, whose eye crinkles and grey hairs have not been erased, who is presented on screen as attractive and desirable. Admiral Cornwell is not beautiful despite her age, she’s beautiful and powerful because of it.

(4) CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS. The James Tiptree Jr. Award made their Giving Thursday goal

We made it! The donations raised through our Facebook fundraiser plus the donations through the Tiptree website total more than $2400! The Tiptree Award will receive all the matching funds available to us! With the help of all who have donated and shared our fundraising message and matched the donations, we’ve raised more than $4800, half of our annual budget. Thank you all for your help. This award wouldn’t be possible without you!

Of course, it’s never too late to add your support to this successful effort. With your donations, you make possible our efforts to encourage the creation of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. And since the Tiptree Award is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. https://tiptree.org/support-us/donate

(5) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM TRANSCRIPTS. The expanded talks from the 2016 Tiptree Symposium have been published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology Issue #12.

(6) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Applications are being taken for the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS). The deadline to apply is January 5, 2018. Full guidelines here.

Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.

Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2018, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

Past Le Guin Fellows — 2013: Kathryn Allan; 2014: Andrew Ferguson; 2014: Jennifer Rea; 2015: adrienne maree brown; 2016: Roxanne Samer; 2017: Theodora Goss.

(7) NAME THAT TUNE. By George, I think he’s got it.

(8) FEAT IN SEARCH OF AN AWARD. Not sure what category this deserves to win. Since he got it right the first time does that rule out editing?

(9) LAST JEDI. If reading articles about The Last Jedi now leaves me feeling jaded, then you probably started feeling that way two days ago (or fill in your own number). However, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter hooked me with the pop culture insights in “New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101”.  YMMV. Also, BEWARE SPOILERS.

And that’s where we left off before the start of this new trilogy of Star Wars films. After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.

As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.

(10) FAUX SHOW. And hey, this is sweet! The absolutely fake Disney/Pixar’s X-Wings Movie Trailer.

(11) ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. The BBC asks “Is The Last Jedi the most divisive film ever?”

Its audience score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s the proportion of users who have rated it 3.5/5 or higher) is the lowest of any Star Wars film, including the much-maligned prequels (The Phantom Menace has 59%).

But something else is going on too – while fans are divided, film critics were largely in agreement.

The LA Times called it the “first flat-out terrific” Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Time Out said it “dazzles like the sci-fi saga hasn’t in decades”. The Daily Telegraph said it is “Star Wars as you’ve never felt it”.

The Last Jedi has a critics’ score of 93% – that’s the proportion of writers who gave it a positive review – putting it level with A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and just 1% behind The Empire Strikes Back.

That puts The Last Jedi at number 49 on Rotten Tomatoes’ all-time list. And of the all-time top 100 films, The Last Jedi has by far the biggest gap between the critics’ score and the audience score.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1968 — Apollo 8, the first manned mission to visit the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. and The Black Hole both premiered on this day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY JEDI

  • Born December 21, 1948 — Jedi Master Samuel L. Jackson

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) DREAM STREAM. Nerds of a Feather contributor “English Scribbler” can say it out loud: “Television review of 2017 – the year it beat cinema”.

…Sure, I went to see The Last Jedi  this week like everyone else with the inclination and ability to do so, and it was wonderful. But it felt like, well, a box of popcorn in nutritional terms compared to the hearty vegetable stew of series below. So in no particular order, here is a very personal, haphazard list of series I have been amazed by. Whilst they don’t all quite fit into the classic Nerds Of A Feather, Flock Together genre areas, all share a spirit and flavour with the incredible works highlighted on these pages…

(1) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Originally feeling like a compelling yet shallow computer nerd version of Mad Men (all mysterious arrogant male protagonist dipped in retro nostalgia), this series became, long before this astonishing forth and final season, one of the most accomplished and daring dramas of this decade, and culminated in the best conclusion to a series I’ve seen since possibly Six Feet Under (a work to which this owes much debt). Nothing else this year matched the emotional impact of seeing these five colleagues and friends arrive at a finish line that for once was allowed to be set with purpose and patience by the creators. The setting and subject became less and less relevant (though no less enjoyable) as the masterplan of the writers emerged – that this, like all the greatest tales, was about emotional connections and the rewards that they bring, and the tolls they take. The last three episodes made my smile and cry more than any film, book or other show this year. Exemplary acting, music, sound, cinematography, dialogue to wallow in… superb.

(16) HEERE’S RAY. A wise friend of mine hinted that there hasn’t been enough Bradbury in these pages lately. Let’s drop in Ray’s appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on March 1, 1978:

(17) TWO RAYS. And Episode 17 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury”.

A very special episode of the Ray Harryhausen podcast, as we explore the Ray’s lifelong friendship with legendary author Ray Bradbury.

Phil Nichols from The Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies joins us for an in depth discussion on a relationship which was to span 8 decades. After meeting in the mid-1930s, the two became best friends, and would speak on at least a monthly basis for the rest of their lives. We explore the circumstances that would lead both men to become legends within their own fields of interest, and the early influences which inspired them both to greatness. Both Rays left an incredible archive of their own, and so we examine the parallels between the collection of the Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies, and the Foundation’s own archive.

The show also contains a never-heard-before interview with Ray Bradbury’s daughter Susan, recorded at Ray Harryhausen’s memorial in 2013, where she shares her memories of ‘Uncle Ray’ and their enduring friendship.

(18) HORTON ON SHORT SFF. One of the field’s grandmasters has added a prime story to his resume: “Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction’ at Locus Online. (Covers F&SF 9-10/17, Analog 9-10/17, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17/17, Lightspeed 10/17, Tor.com 9/6/17.)

The most exciting short fiction news this month is surely the appearance in the September/October F&SF of a new story by Samuel R. Delany. Even better, “The Hermit of Houston” is exceptional work! It’s set some time in a strange future and is hard to get a grip on (the best kind). From one angle it seems a sort of pastoral utopia, from other angles utterly horrifying. It’s mostly about the narrator’s long-time lover, an older man named Cellibrex (sometimes), and about the hints he lets drop of some of the true nature of this future. There is extremely interesting treatment of gender, politics, law, custom, and memory – and I don’t get everything that’s going on in the story, in a good way. One of the stories of the year, I think.

(19) DEVELOPING FIELD. The Washington Posts’s Rachel Rackza, in “In young-adult novels, queer love stories have begun to feel mainstream”, discusses how teenage LGBT readers have read novels by Cassandra Clare, Audrey Coulthurst, and Anna-Marie McLemore and found comfort in reading YA fantasy with gay characters.

For Mackenzi Lee’s whip-smart “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” the author wanted to showcase an authentically positive representation of queer identity in centuries past. “I wanted so badly with this book to say to queer teenagers: ‘You have always existed even before there were words or vocabulary or acceptance,’ ” she said. “I wanted them to know they have not only existed, but they thrived and had fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with people they love.”

(20) SUN-DAY DRIVERS. See: “What Happens When 2 Neutron Stars Collide” — text, and very short video.

An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.

A neutron star is what’s left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.

That’s exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.

(21) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. You could send wild game (dead) or people (living) once upon a time — “The strangest things sent in the UK post”

“There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people”, Mr Taft said.

In 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, used the Royal Mail’s same-day courier service to post themselves to 10 Downing Street so they could deliver their message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.

But a Downing Street official refused to sign for them and the delivery boy had to return the women and explain to his bosses why he had failed to make the delivery.

Yet Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were not the UK’s first “human letters”.

W Reginald Bray, an accountant from Forest Hill in south-east London, claimed to hold that honour having posted himself successfully in 1900, then again in 1903 and for a last time in 1932

(22) THE NEXT GENERATION. Funny but not exactly sensitive — Robert Jackson Bennett’s post at Tor.com: “My Terrible Children Are Both Fake Geeks”.

This is way different than when I grew up, when we kept renting a wobbly VHS of A New Hope from the library, and then my dad brought home The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly we realized that they had made more of these movies, oh my God.

So the Large Son is absolutely drowning in genre exposure. He lives in an age of abundance that I was utterly denied. But does he take advantage of it? Does he religiously memorize all of the various planets, as well as the types of ships?

No. He does not. For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.

(23) GHOST NOUN. An annual tradition continues — Larry Correa’s “CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST”. (Thoughtfully linked here to a Wayback Machine page.)

Santa gestured for one of his elves to start the PowerPoint slide show.

“As you can see, this reality is much like ours, but their timeline diverged in the 1980s. Because of the misguided actions of their less militant Christmas Ghosts, they were deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”

“The Firefly Christmas Special?” asked the elf running the computer.

“Oh no, very few lucky universes got that.” Santa chuckled, as he thought about the heartwarming scene where Jayne’s mom had knitted him a Santa hat, which he’d later used to strangle a reaver. “Besides, that was a two hour TV special that aired during Firefly’s fifth season. I’m talking about how this world was deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made… Die Hard.

There were gasps around the conference table. That was inconceivable. And only boring losers and communists didn’t think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

“I know, right? Christmas there is dull and lame now. So we’re going to use the Christmas Noun to send Tim back to 1988, so he can make sure Die Hard actually happens like it’s supposed to.”

“I don’t know, Santa… Since this crosses into another alternate universe’s jurisdiction, isn’t this a job for Tom Stranger?”

Santa shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, since Larry Correia first started writing the Christmas Noun stories, Audible.com came along and offered him large sums of money to write Tom Stranger stories exclusively for them, so I doubt Tom will show up here. This is up to us and Tim and any other characters who we still own the rights for!”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

2017 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 couple of 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 and 35 of the novellas published in 2016 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

Last year, the result of this was the 2016 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 decided to do it again this year.

The success of Tor’s novella line seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, and Book Smugglers jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the Big 3 magazines and the online fiction venues – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. Toward the end, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis.

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 in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, 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?

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 11/23/17 Secondfox Scrollbit In My Pixelmoth

(1) JURASSIC PEEK. Colin Trevorrow, co-writer of Jurassic World: Hidden Kingdom, sent out a tweet with the first six seconds of this 2018 film.

(2) AT THE CORE. James Davis Nicoll says there are “Twenty Core Urban Fantasies Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. They include —

(3) SANTA’S VENGEANCE. Naomi Kritzer has a very handy list: “Gifts For People You Hate, 2017”. You’ll love the wine-holder. It would be unfair of me to gank the picture, so hurry there to gaze upon it.

…Sometimes you’re shopping for a gift because it’s worth that $15 to keep the peace and even though you know that, you resent every moment trying to figure out what would please this person. And that’s where my shopping guide comes in! Free yourself from the burden of trying to make an asshole happy, and embrace the idea of giving them something that won’t.

There are certain basic principles that apply every year. It should be cheap, but untraceably cheap. (Buying them a hand-crocheted who-knows-what for $2 at a thrift shop and pretending it came from a craft show is a terrific idea but you will need to make sure it looks new and doesn’t have that distinctive, identifiable Smell Of Savers wafting from it.) It should be easy to get, and it should look like a gift you might honestly have picked out because you thought they’d like it….

… There are a whole lot of terrible movies in this ad. Based on the Rotten Tomato ratings, it looks like Fifty Shades Darker is probably the absolute worst of any of the movies in here, but I do not recommend giving it to your mother-in-law, especially if there is any chance that she’ll pop it in while you’re still visiting. Warcraft is also supposed to be pretty terrible and the best anyone can say about the Angry Birds movie is that it’s better than you’d expect of a movie based on this video game. If you’re willing to splurge $8, The Emoji Movie (shown in a different section of the ad) was heavily regarded as the worst movie of 2017. For $10, you can get it on Blue-Ray!

(4) REUSED ARTWORK. Walter Jon Williams discovered a piece of cover art that is awfully popular.

John Scalzi sent me the cover of the Italian edition of his novel The Collapsing Empire, which may look just a little bit familiar to you.  It uses the same piece of stock art (by Innovari) that I used for my own editions, ebook and paperback, of Angel Station.

Furthermore, I know of at least one other ebook that’s using that piece of art….

(5) CRAFT TIME. She did it herself: “A Real Wonder Woman Spends 50 Hours And $30 On Crafting This Costume From A Cheap Yoga Mat And Duct Tape”.

Some superheroes inspire people to get super crafty. Australian makeup artist and children’s party entertainer Rhylee Passfield took inspiration from everyone’s now-favorite female superhero, Wonder Woman, and using a yoga mat, duct tape, and a little magic from a heat gun, she created a wonderful costume.

“Basically, I started by duct-taping myself”, the artist explained the process to the Daily Mail Australia. “Then I cut out a pattern from the duct tape form, copied it onto a Kmart yoga mat and glued it together using contact adhesive.”

(6) BEYOND PRONOUNS. The BBC observes from across the Channel how “‘Sexist’ inclusive writing row riles France”.

The French, as is well known, are obsessed by one thing – language.

The latest topic to consume a nation of lexicologists is “inclusive writing”.

This is the attempt to erase all trace of sexism in a language where gender is a central feature – French nouns are either masculine or feminine, dictating all adjectives and some verbal forms (a point that is sometimes made painfully clear to foreigners who happen to get those wrong).

In such a charged linguistic context, the fight for sex equality is not exactly new. In recent decades the names of traditionally male professions have been feminised.

French people now often talk about “la juge” or “la ministre”. Many writers add an etymologically daring “e” to “professeure” or “auteure”.

But supporters of “inclusive writing” go further. They want to expunge any vestige of male chauvinism from the language of Molière.

…The Académie française – which, contrary to legend, not every French person regards as the final arbiter in those things – pronounced that inclusive writing constituted a “mortal danger” for the language.

(7) LEST WE RUN OUT OF ENGLISH. “Twenty-six words we don’t want to lose”:

Now, Paul Anthony Jones has compiled 366 ‘forgotten words’ in his new book The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities. It has a different phrase for every day of the year (including 29 February) – with entries ranging from ‘ambilaevous’, or ‘equally clumsy in both hands’, to ‘stirrup-cup’, ‘one last drink before a departure’. While it offers titillation for the curious mind, it also serves a more noble purpose – retrieving words from languishing unread and unspoken.

Lingo lovers

In September, academics in Britain uncovered 30 words ‘lost’ from the English language: researchers spent three months looking through old dictionaries to find them, in the hope they could bring the words back into modern conversations.

Purist Chip Hitchcock, who provided the link, adds: “I’ve sent a complaint about their referring to Smoot’s ‘attempt’ to measure the Harvard Bridge.”

(8) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. Superversive SF, seeking new lows to descend to, harassed K. Tempest Bradford with remarks like this —

Bradford responded with a long tweet soliloquy worth a look. While there doesn’t seem to be an individual tweet that links to the whole exchange, they aren’t difficult to find on her page.

(9) JUSTUS OBIT. Meg Justus (1959-2017), who published supernatural historicals as MM Justus died November 22 of cancer. Prior to her death she prepared this obituary for her blog:

But Meg’s true passions were writing and travel. She published a number of books under the moniker M.M. Justus. She liked to say what she wrote was 90% history and 10% fantasy, set in the Old West. Due to her background she was a stickler about getting the history right, and her books were set in places she’d traveled to herself. Her travels included two long trips of multiple months each; the first was documented in the travel memoir Cross-Country.

She liked to call herself a professional dilettante. Her other passions included quilting and other needlework, gardening, meteorology, and wild plant identification, especially wildflowers.

Meg is survived by her three older sisters, Susan Moore, Nancy Nowell, and Ann Mattas, her best friend of 52 years Jan Hanken, who was the sister she should have had, and more wonderful friends than she ever expected to make.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 – The first Doctor Who aired in the UK.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff

(12) FLAT EARTH. Will he wind up flatter than the Earth? “‘I Don’t Believe In Science,’ Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket”.

On Saturday, a limousine driver plans to launch himself on a mile-long flight over the Mojave Desert in a rocket of his own making.

His name is “Mad” Mike Hughes, his steam-powered rocket is built of salvaged metals, his launch pad is repurposed from a used mobile home — and he is confident this will mark the first step toward proving the Earth is flat, after all.

“It’s the most interesting story in the world,” Hughes told The Associated Press of his jury-rigged quest to overturn more than two millennia of scientific knowledge. And the whole thing is costing him just $20,000, according to the AP. (It goes without saying, but we’ll say this anyway: Do not try this at home — or anywhere.)

“I don’t believe in science,” Hughes added. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.”

(13) THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES. Or so it looks from space: “Earth Is Lit, And That’s A Problem”

The ever-widening use of artificial lights is making the nighttime Earth glow increasingly brighter, with the amount of global light growing about 2 percent each year.

That worries advocates for the protection of dark skies, who say that artificial night glow can affect wildlife like migrating birds and keeps people from connecting to the stars. What’s more, they say, all that wasted light sent out into space is effectively wasted money.

The findings are in a new study in the journal Science Advances that used five years of data from a satellite launched in 2011. This satellite has an instrument that gives scientists a more reliable way to measure nighttime light than they’ve had in the past.

(14) GLOBAL WARMING WITH THAT? “Deep fat fryers may help form cooling clouds”

Fatty acids released into the air from cooking may contribute to the formation of clouds that cool the climate, say scientists.

Fatty acid molecules comprise about 10% of fine particulates over London, and such particles help seed clouds.

But researchers dismiss the idea that cooking fats could be used as a geo-engineering tool to reduce warming.

Instead, the research is designed to help reduce uncertainties about the role of cooking fats on climate.

Researchers believe the fatty molecules arrange themselves into complex 3-D structures in atmospheric droplets.

These aerosols persist for longer than normal and can seed the formation of clouds which experts say can have a cooling effect on the climate.

(15) MR. MEMORY. Little Brother is watching, too: “More than 480 web firms record ‘every keystroke'”.

Hundreds of web firms are tracking every single keystroke made by visitors, a study from Princeton University has suggested.

The technique – known as session replay – is used by companies to gain an understanding of how customers use websites.

More than 480 websites used the technique, according to the study.

Experts questioned the legality of using such software without user consent.

“These scripts record your keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behaviour, along with the entire contents of the pages you visit, and send them to third-party servers,” the researchers said in a blog.

(16) ARTS AND SCIENCES. From BBC we learn, “World’s only particle accelerator for art is back at the Louvre”.

The world’s only particle accelerator used regularly in the analysis of art has gone back into use at the Louvre museum in Paris.

The accelerator has been rebuilt to allow it to investigate paintings without risking damage to the artworks.

The upgrade cost €2.1m (£1.8m; $2.5m). The machine is 37m (88ft) long.

Paintings were rarely analysed with earlier versions of the accelerator because of fears that the particle beam might change the colours.

(17) TODAY’S LYRIC. Dave Hutchinson, author of the Fractured Europe trilogy and the Tor.com novella Acadie, broke out in song – with emphasis on the broke,

(18) FILE MAINTENANCE. If you’re not getting comment notifications from File770.com, it may be possible that you have hit the individual thread comment subscription limit. Not that I really know about how comment notifications work — I have no control over it, and just use what Jetpack provides.

However, there are Filers who have gone into their WP dashboard and deleted a bunch of subscriptions, or have abandoned individual thread subscriptions and just turned on “All Comments for File 770,” and reported afterwards that they’re getting notifications again. So if you are having this problem, give it a whirl.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]