Iphinome Reviews Novik’s
A Deadly Education

By Iphinome:

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, Book 1) by Naomi Novik. YA, contemporary fantasy.

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it? The YA tradition of unsubtle names is well represented–people need to know she’s powerful. Her future outside of school depends on building a reputation good enough for acceptance into one of the world’s magical enclaves. She won’t last out there alone.

She won’t even last in school alone.

Malficaria, creatures that survive by taking mana from other beings (if humans do it they’re called maleficers) see the young with their growing magic and low defenses as tasty snacks, in the outside world magical children have a low survival rate. The Scholomance built in a pocket dimension with only tiny connections to the outside world was designed to keep malficaria out so the kids – teens, in this case, it’s a high school – have a chance.

Bit of a failure, that. The place is infested. Students have to travel in groups, watch each other’s backs and always check over their shoulders because the place is infested. Only four out of five make it to graduation of which half of those make it past the maleficaria waiting in the graduation hall for their yearly feast.

The 40% chance of living to 18 and making it out the door alive is still considered better odds than being a magical kid on the outside. Good times.

This brings us back to El, she wants to live. In the teacherless, libertarian, capitalist, world of the Sholomance, where every bit of material even pencils must be bartered for or life risked to obtain, she has to show people she’d make a good ally. With her affinity for destruction and death magic that should be easy. It takes a lot of juice though and unlike most, El can’t just flirt with a dark side a little bit, sacrifice a bunny for a little malia, and juice a flashy spell — if she goes bad it’ll be the full Sauron. She hoarded mana the hard way, waited for a chance to show her stuff, and got rescued like a helpless waif.

Orion doesn’t have El’s problems. Filling the rich kid/star athlete role he has a much easier time at the Scholomance. His mother is a politically powerful member of the large New York magical enclave, he arrived with people who’ve known him since he was a toddler all prepared to help him out. He has access to a store of mana and magical artifacts that have been passed down inside the school for years, generations. There’s still danger but he has the resources to face it. And that’s all he does, half-assing his classes Orion gets to white knight around the school hunting down maleficaria.

Orion, hunter. Maybe in the meta world of YA, the characters are like cats and some magic forces them to take after their names.

After convincing Orion that she doesn’t need saving – like so soon it should be funny – El’s ambushed by one of the students who’s gone full murdery maleficer. So now she does need saving.

Or she could go bad, rip out the guy’s magic and live on.

El doesn’t do it, she passes the test, she will diminish and remain Galadriel – not my joke, the text hits hard on the love me and despair line. Orion swoops in to save the day then spends the night in El’s room guarding her.

And is seen leaving in the morning.

Now he’s sitting with her at meals. People see her as Orion’s girlfriend even though she’s totally NOT. And the rise from outcast to having the rich, popular guy follow her around leads to dangers on a different level, cliques, jealousy, rivalries, maybe – for the first time –friendships.

The YA tropes are well represented, from the politics of who can sit where in the library and lunchroom to more than a few Hunger Games parallels. Some students come in with allies, the less privileged need to find them, oftentimes by taking on personal risk in exchange for favor from the haves. El, like Katness, resents the enclave kids yet even she has to offer what she can do for what they have.

Which leads us to the theme of balance. Magic requires it. El’s mother is a hippie healer living in a commune so El is a potential dark lord navigating a world where everything from notebooks to keeping watch for maleficaria while someone else showers is a negotiated exchange for advantage. Orion with his Targaryen-silver hair is liked and even held in awe while ambiguous brown El is unpopular and suspect. Until Orion’s hunting leaves the malfaceria starved of low-hanging fruit and to balance it out, the privileged and powerful have to suffer attacks. For all that it’s heavy-handed – YA remember? – it all pulls together rather well.

Your own enjoyment is going to depend on a tolerance for the many YA stereotypes and for an angry-snarky-unpleasant at times teenage protagonist. I like El, I like her arrogance and paranoia and surprise when not everyone’s as bad as she thinks they are. A potential evil overlord should have a chip on her shoulder. It makes doing the right thing harder and it makes it more rewarding when she does. I’m eager for the sequel.

I’d rate A Deadly Education slightly lower than Spinning Silver and slightly higher than Uprooted both of which got four stars from me so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Fou…

Did you think I wasn’t going to mention it?

Controversy: An early edition of the book contains a racially insensitive passage about the danger of wearing hair in locs (dreadlocks), I didn’t notice it in my read-through and couldn’t find it with a text search which makes it difficult to comment on. There is an apology posted on Naomi Novik’s website. https://www.naominovik.com/apology/

The second controversy: Midway through the book I came across this passage:

Predictably, an Arabic worksheet appeared on my desk the instant I sat down that morning. There wasn’t a single word of English on it; the school didn’t even give me a dictionary. And judging by the cheery cartoonish illustrations next to the lines—most notably a man in a car about to mow down a couple of hapless pedestrians—I had the strong suspicion that it was modern Arabic, too.

Predictably, I grabbed my notebook and added this eloquent line, “51% Man mowing down pedestrians, WTF?”

Mowing down pedestrians has in recent years become a fixture of the American extreme right-wing. From driving over Standing Rock protesters to the vehicular murder of Heather Heyer while protesting the Unite the Right rally and now several Republican-controlled states introducing laws that specifically make it legal to drive over protesters, it’s completely unfair to treat native Arabic speakers as sharing the same murderous impulse that Republicans have regarding people on foot.

More seriously, what the hell? A comment about hairstyles gets an apology and an edit, a line that implies Arabic speakers are violent stays in the book? Even if El’s other language worksheets imply violence–which would make sense for El though it goes unmentioned–singling out Arabic specifically strikes me as a Bad Idea. She does later follow this scene having El hang out in the library near a bunch of Arabic speakers who show no particular propensity for vehicular homicide but still. It is–as the kids say–messed up, yo.

And I hope it was a one-off because I really did like the rest of the book.

Four stars.

Four Reviews by Iphinome

By Iphinome: Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) By Martha Wells. Space Opera

This story takes place between Exit Strategy and Network Effect.

It all starts with a body of a human–the dead kind–dumped in a hallway. This doesn’t happen often on Preservation station, station security is used to dealing with intoxicated humans not conducting murder investigations. Because they have the same sort of media infused-preconceptions about SecUnits as most other humans and augmented humans, they see Muderbot as, well, a murder bot, a possible suspect. This leaves them less than enthused about accepting help from a dangerous weapon that, even if innocent, presents a far greater danger than any single human or augmented human murderer.

What’s one murderer compared to the threat presented by a murderbot?

Murderbot could leave this one alone, it knows it didn’t kill the human, but not knowing who the killer or the identity-obscured victim is means not knowing if GrayCris is involved or if Dr. Mensah is in more danger. Gotta get that risk assessment down.

Fugitive Telemetry is a classic whodunit wherein Murderbot must work with the humans, augmented humans–even a few “free bots”–collect evidence and eliminate suspects (not that way!) alongside humans who know exactly what a SecUnit is. Humans who wonder if Murderbot did the murder.

Don’t worry, Murderbot still finds time to shoot things with the energy weapons in its arms, attempt a daring rescue, and watch Sanctuary Moon.

All the stuff we know and love is in there.

Let’s look at my notes.

16% Security insists that Murderbot can’t be stealth, it has to be out loud and proud in its feed identifier so people don’t get fooled. Two cycles later, not being satisfied with outing Murderbot as a SecUnit to any passers-by, a photo is published in the planetary newsstream.

Won’t that be fun when the next rogue SecUnit comes through and gets instantly read?

21% Ooooo is this the bot on the cover?

36% Someone else can hack Preservations crappy surveillance

40% Oh, maybe this is the cover bot. So many bots.

70% Time to shine baby. This is a job for Murderbot.

The inclusion of a heroic SecUnit really made this story work, more writers should do it.

I liked it. I always like Murderbot and feel a bit bad about not rating it higher but while Murderbot experiences a bit of personal growth we’ve already seen the results of in Network Effect. There’s a disadvantage in having this released non-chronologically.

Three stars plus a half because Murderbot. Recommended.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. Space opera.

This story takes place at the truck stop in Little America Wyoming where a group of travelers are trapped by a blizzard. No, wait. I’m being told that this book takes place under a small habitat dome at the Five-Hop One-Stop on the planet Gora, an airless rock that serves as a convenient anchor for five interstellar tunnels. My bad.

The proprietor is Ouloo a Laru, (a quadrupedal mammalian species with long necks and long fur) helped by her adolescent child Tupo. Three ships are scheduled to arrive for short shopping trips. Her deal is to keep the customers happy and coming back. She’s a sort of suburban business owner.

Tupo, Ouloo’s adolescent child. Xe has created a small natural history museum (on a lifeless planet) and otherwise helps out around the One-Stop in a sometimes sulky and sometimes excited way. Xe’s the moody teenager archetype.

Gapei Tem Seri, an Aeluon (fine scales, no natural hearing). Pei’s still dating Ashby from The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, still, despite declarations to the contrary, apprehensive about the potential social stigma her people assign to those in interspecies relationships. She’s just gotten a bit of free time and is en route to Wayfarer for a little waterball. Wink wink nudge nudge.

In some ways, Pei represents the partially closeted homosexual. She’s not quite hiding her relationship as much as controlling who does and doesn’t know but she still fears the very real consequences that come with openness. Some Aeolins might be open and comfortable with interspecies sexuality but staying in the closet keeps her employed. In other respects, she’s just a woman making hard choices in the work/relationship/friends balance. Straight people have to figure it all out too.

Roveg, a Quelin (They have shells and lots of legs) exiled from his people. He makes his living as an artist who designs sims. In video game parlance we’d call his genre walking simulators. No plot, just lots of pretty stuff to walk through and look at. He’s on his way to an important and very time sensitive appointment.

For Pei Roveg represents a cautionary tale. He knowingly violated the taboos of his people, now he’s paying the price far from home, a pariah to other Quelin. To Tupo he’s the wise and understanding adult, to Speaker he’s someone who can empathise and to Ouloo he’s low maintenance.

For himself, he’s apprehensive about his looming appointment and while usually possessed of a healthy outlook regarding his status and some of the opportunities it allows him there’s some melancholy there. You can make the best but can’t always have all the things you want.

Speaker an Akarak. The species made an appearance in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as the raiders in mech suits who infiltrated Wayfarer and injured Ashby. The Mech suits are necessary to survive in an oxygen atmosphere and thematically exist to create an outsider status, physical separation for a member of a lesser-known and distrusted species.

A life of mistrust and misunderstanding along with an uncountable number of microaggressions leave Speaker’s feather easily ruffled, er, so to speak, but she’s practiced at not showing it. She’s a very kindhearted person and her main concern is getting off Gora and back to her ailing sister who remained in orbit while Speaker made a supply run.

Kyra described this as The most Becky Chambers plot of all time. Soooooooooooo apt.

While our three travelers are making scheduled stops between wormhole tranists an accident happens. The planet’s orbital infrastructure undergoes catastrophic failure, the linkings are down and space is full of junk. It’s not safe to leave, and anyone who tries is going to get so many points on their license that they’ll be walking between planets for the rest of their lives.

Our characters are stranded in Ouloo’s habitat dome with strangers around them and their own problems weighing. Imagine the modder colony visit in Angry Planet but as a whole book. They begin in the overly polite and guarded way as one does when in close confines with strangers. They talk, they hold different opinions, they gain understanding, they bond.

And yeah. There’s a complete lack of humans which makes things a bit more interesting. The characters do a far better job of drawing you in than anyone in Spaceborn Few which seriously dragged. All the themes of the previous books are there. As a worldbuilding bonus, we get some backstory on why the Quelin were such dicks to Corbin in the first book.

It didn’t have the same charm as the first book and didn’t have the same power as the second. On the bright side, it wasn’t as mind numbingly boring as the third and it managed to do what it intended. I cared about these people. It was pretty good.

Recommended if you like Becky Chambers, not recommended if you’re looking for action.

  • Liked The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. 4 stars.
  • Loved, love, will always love A Closed and Common Orbit. 5 stars.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few bored me, not enough to deduct a star though. 3 stars
  • The Galaxy and the Ground Within. It didn’t bore me, also didn’t quite meet the threshold for a fourth star. 3 stars.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht. Space opera.

Our protagonist, Angel–introduced in chapter 3–leads a mercenary squad of former corpse soldiers. Their job was to go on suicide missions and then get revived later. They keep doing that till the cumulative physical and psychological damage makes them unfit for military service. Good times. Now she and her team work for Rosie, a local crime boss. Their current assignment is an assassination which goes according to plan until a second team pulls off another assassination–the planet’s corporate owners’ local head honcho–at the same party. Angel’s group along with a woman from the party named Kennedy Liu make their escape.

Knocking off someone for Rosie is something Angel can get away with. Criminal knocks off rival is an old story, but this second death means that not only does Angel have to explain the situation to Rose but being blamed for assassinating a corporate VIP buys a whole load of trouble.

Rosie owns a bar that they use as a base for extra-legal dealings. Don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t space Casablanca. Then again, space Casablanca would be like Barb Wire and that sucks so maybe do raise your hopes a little bit.

Angel makes her way there and Rosie is quite forgiving, she even has a new job that will get Angel and company out of town. Protect a very secret town of Persephone’s native sentients–so secret that Rosie and the Serrao-Orlove corporation plus any number of smugglers know all about it–from an impending invasion by corporate mercs.

It’s another suicide mission and this time no revivification boxes.

The B-plot centers on Kennedy Liu, she’s an AI in a highly illegal human appearing body. People in these stories always get it wrong. Things not to give AIs: Nukes. Things that it’s okay to give AIs: Bodies that appear human, cat pics. She comes to Persephone after receiving a call for help and gets drawn into the Angel/Rosie versus Serrao-Orlove struggle.

Chapter one: This is a prologue, it doesn’t call itself a prologue even though the epilogue calls itself an epilogue. It concerns a people called the Emissaries, a species with some shapeshifting abilities attempting to negotiate with the planet Persephone’s owners, the Serrao-Orlove corporation, and in particular one corporate representative Vissia Corsini who has betrayed the Emissaries in the past. It goes badly for the Emissaries and Vissa commits a war crime.

And it’s completely skippable. Our protagonist learns about the Emissaries and Vissia’s cruel nature as the story progresses.

Chapter two: It’s a couple pages long and mostly serves as a second prologue. Rosie, a local tavern owner (and crime boss) finds a corpse dropped on their doorstep. They know who the person is and after offering a quick prayer for the dead Rosie continues with their day.

Skippable. The death and the identity of the deceased are revealed to Angel in short order.

Chapter 3: Start here because this is where our protagonist steps on stage.

10% Things started flowing and I was afraid to let myself relax into the story. My notes say this book is like a mechanical bull that keeps trying to toss me out.

That was a lie. My actual written note says “10% now it’s going. Mechanical Bull Book!”

Sophisticated and erudite I’m not.

39% Welcome to Emissarytown. No, that’s emISSARy, not emBASsy. China Mieville’s not here.

We’re not human but we have all the human stuff right down to a standard pre-fab landing bay. Shhh, no one knows we exist and if you need anything we’ll order it for the next regularly scheduled smuggling run.

We know you have a choice when it comes to suicide missions, thank you for choosing Emissaries.

43% “Four women, one man, and two non-binary people approached”

I have so many questions the worldbuilding didn’t address. At no point does the narrative explain how a non-binary person might declare themselves such without stating it. There’s very little information about gender presentation or stereotypes. Rosie is non-binary and wears makeup and skirts. Is it color-coded? How the eff were you able to tell at a glance?

Ah well, not today mechanical bull, not today. Gonna press on.

Retroactive bonus point to Winter’s Orbit which did explain the culture-specific gender signifiers.

76% I’m a leaf on the wind.

It took eight days to get through this book, more than once I had a feeling of dread when reaching for the kindle, would I get bounced again? Not so much, it tried once or twice but if not for the bad taste left by the first two chapters then I wouldn’t have spent the rest of the book with a lingering fear about it all going wrong.

The story was fine. The characters are fine. My complaints are–to my everlasting shame–the complaints of a backseat editor. Some worldbuilding lapses some poor authorial choices in the opening chapters.

Leave that aside and you have an average sci-fi adventure story of the mercenaries decide to stand for something variety.

I could drop half a star for the beginning but I round up anyway so what the hell, three stars.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno. Media tie-in, space opera.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of civil war. Separatist systems, led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku, use battle droids to fight The Grand Army of the Republic in a never-ending struggle to control the border worlds. After one battle, Republic operators managed to obtain plans for the separatist ultimate weapon, a battle station the size of a small moon. The side that completes the battle station first will have the power to win the war.

Republic engineer Orson Krennic searches for Galen Erso, the researcher who can complete the weapon, save the Republic, and restore peace and security to the galaxy.

Dah dah dah daaaa daaaa dun dun dunt duhhhh duhhh.

Since this is a media tie-in, readers are expected to be familiar with the first six Star Wars films.

Galen Erso–because of course there’s a Galen, as the length of a genre series increases, the probability of there being a Galen approached one–is a deep thinker. He’s the kind of scientist who stops speaking and ignores people to start scribbling. He’s the kind of scientist who forgets to comb his hair because he’s thinking thank you very much. He’s also the kind of scientist who doesn’t want his work used to create weapons despite his specialty being crystals and power generation–exactly what you need to make laser weapons in Star Wars–that’s why he and his wife left Coruscant for the Vallt system where he can sit out the Clone Wars working in the private sector.

The war comes to him in the form of a coup switching the planet to the Separatist cause and the arrest of Erso on fabricated charges with the understanding that if he just transfers his loyalties, he’ll go free. At this point, Galen switches from absent-minded professor to expert in psychology and influence techniques–which totally isn’t going to last–allowing him to hold firm even when his wife Lyra gives birth to their daughter Jyn while he’s in captivity.

Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic, Republic Corps of Engineers, and ambitious member of the Special Weapons Project sees getting his old school chum Galen involved as the key to his eventual rise. With a combination of money, threats, and plausibly deniable sabotage, smuggler Has Obitt is convinced to work as Krennic’s agent. They rescue Erso who, while thankful to see his old buddy and get a ride out of prison, doesn’t want to work for the government.

Krennic arranges for Erso to both be under suspicion for his time spent with Separatists and thankful for the only crappy non-military job available to him and he finishes out the war-making communication devices.

Despite the Jedi and Dooku being gone, the Galactic Empire still doesn’t know peace. Pockets of resistance remain along with anarchists and criminals, the battle station still needs completion and Krennic finally has the leverage he needs over his old friend. Kyber crystals, hoarded and hidden by the Jedi, now available for research. Perfectly above-board civilian research.

Project Celestial Power, the Emperor’s dream Galen’s told. Renewable energy, unimaginable amounts for developing worlds using Kyber crystals. Will Erso lead the project? He will.

Catalyst was released ahead of Rogue One as a way of building hype and giving bookish fans easter eggs to search for. It’s a tough situation, being unable to spoil the future, being very limited even in how much you can telegraph when the movie’s where the money comes in and the author’s job is to combine storytelling with ad copy. I’m not sure it was a great idea but only the Disney accountants know for sure.

Early chapters might fool the reader into thinking Galen Erso is the protagonist. It’s Krennic. Story events focus on his lies, power grabs, struggles against Tarken,, and the bodies of anyone who stops being useful. His I’m your friend approach to Galen Erso echos Palpatine with Anakin and his trail of bodies echoes Vader with anyone who disappoints him. But the Sith lords embrace evil. Orson Krennic’s actions come off more creep than mustache-twirling.

Call it the banality of darksideism.

A few notes.

My spell-check already knew the word Coruscant. That tells you all you need to know about Star Wars and popular culture.

Dropping a beast of a word like somnambulantly into the middle of a sentence is a good way to bounce a reader out of the text, at least momentarily.

There’s an odd spate of excess scenery detail for a couple chapters around 70% of the way through. There hadn’t been as much earlier in the book so it came out of nowhere.

Tarkin makes a dad joke, Tarkin should not make dad jokes. My brain hurts.

Catalyst ends at 87% on my kindle. Any readers keeping track of how much story is left be aware that the last 10% is the preview for another Star Wars book.

As a stand-alone novel, I’d give it two stars, much is left unexplained. As a media tie-in where you’re expected to know and judging by the standards of other media tie-ins, three stars.

Pixel Scroll 8/25/18 The Quidditch Policeman’s Union

(1) BRING ME MY SPEAR OF BURNISHED BRONZE, BRING ME MY CHARIOT OF FILE. Prior to the pacemaker being put in the staff worked hard to convince me to stay in San Jose a week before attempting to drive home. One it was in, the cardiologist cleared me to drive home immediately. That was a surprising, though positive, development.

Not that I really felt ready to drive right away. I stayed in a motel overnight, then got on the road this morning.

Many thanks to David Bratman for his daily hospital visits, and Spike, Michael Ward, and Karen Schaffer for helping get me and my stuff to the Motel 6. Plus Michael and Karen for picking up a nice dinner of Chinese take-out.

Getting ready to leave the hospital — photo by Karen Schaffer.

With all the Bay Area conventions I’ve been to over the years, I’ve done the trip down I-5 many times. The closer I got to LA, the more familiar the roads looked, and the smoother the drive seemed to go. I reached home in about 6 hours.

John King Tarpinian asked me if I’ll have to make a lot of changes to accommodate my newly-implanted device. While there are warnings about various electronics, I’m okay to microwave as long as I’m not staring into the window while it’s nuking the food. Also can’t hover over a running car engine. (Not that I ever do.) Hovering over a blogging laptop — okay. Phone held on the right side is okay — which I already do (pacemaker is on left). Nothing I really have to change in respect to the tech I already use.

And I’m not only grateful for all the comments and good wishes, but for Filers working overtime to turn all this into publishable material. Waste not, want not is on my list of mottos….

Tom Becker wrote:

GlyerBot could have gone rogue after he hacked his pacemaker module, but then he realized he could post pixel scrolls on the entertainment feed of the company satellite.

Iphinome responded:

Part human part machine. If we could get a picture of a cat sleeping on you, you can be Iphinome’s murderbot of the month.

And in other themes…. Cathy said:

I join the others in welcoming our File 770 Cyborg Overlord.

And Ryan wrote:

Congrats Locutus of Mike

(2) DEEP DIVE. Juliette Wade’s new Dive into Worldbuilding features “Alex White and A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe”. Watch the video conversation and read the summary at the link –

…I asked Alex about his research sources, and much of the material comes from his life experiences and those of his friends. This includes attitudes toward autistic people that he’s seen growing up with his child. He says, “the cultural baggage we drag around we assume is the right way to be.” This gets translated into things like Loxley’s boss telling her how to live, saying “I know a spinster who will police you,” and robbing the vulnerable of their agency. Even looking people in the eye is cultural and not universal.

I asked him also about his research sources for A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe. He said the magic/tech blends were influenced by recent games, and that Cowboy Bebop had influenced some of the action sequence writing. He asked, “what is the worst goofy thing that can go wrong?” That’s the first question he asks, he says, when writing an action sequence. He told us about his podcast, The Gearheart, and said that this novel was a spiritual successor to the podcast, occurring 800 years later. Alex spent a lot of time running D&D there and getting to know the world….

 

(3) A GIFT TO THE WHOLE CULTURE. An editorial at The Guardian does more than simply praise N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo win: “The Guardian view on science fiction: The Broken Earth deserves its Hugo”

Ms Jemisin is the first black winner of a Hugo award for novels (the redoubtable Samuel Delany won twice for his short stories). Most of her characters are black, though this becomes only gradually apparent, and the system of slavery on her planet is not based on skin colour. Yet science fiction allows her to display some of the fundamental characteristics of any system of slavery, however much her account derives from the particular experience of African Americans. It may be the ultimate ambition of novelists to make characters who are entirely three-dimensional but in practice most of them produce bas-reliefs, where only aspects of their characters spring from the page and much of the background is undifferentiated.

(4) INSIDE THE NUMBERS. Nicholas Whyte’s analysis of the 2018 Hugo voting statistics is full of all kinds of interesting observations: “The 2018 Hugo Awards in detail”. For example:

Declined nomination:

  • Best Series – The Broken Earth (N.K. Jemisin);
  • Best Editor Long Form – Liz Gorinsky;
  • Best Professional Artist – Julie Dillon;
  • Best Fancast – Tea and Jeopardy
  • For Best Series, N.K. Jemisin declined for The Broken Earth;

the following were ruled ineligible, due to not having added enough to the series since last year:

  • The Expanse,
  • The Craft Sequence,
  • the October Daye books

And what Whyte said about the Best Fanzine stats I probably wouldn’t have noticed myself!

(5) THANKS TO ALL FILERS. Here’s a link to the Hugo ceremony video. Jo Van Ekeren’s File 770 acceptance speech begins at 48:34.

(6) THE FANNISH TITHE. Kevin Standlee says one in ten Worldcon 76 attenders volunteered – “Worldcon 76 Day 5+1: That’s a Wrap”.

(7) HECK OBIT. German TV personality and actor Dieter Thomas Heck died yesterday, reports Cora Buhlert.

He was mainly known for hosting music and game shows, but he was also an actor and had a memorable SF role as the game show host in “Das Millionenspiel”, a 1970 adaptation of a Robert Sheckley story. And since I couldn’t find an English language obituary for him anywhere, I wrote one myself.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) AFTER ACTION REPORT. Joe Sherry tells how he appreciates the value of a fanzine’s community, like the one they have at Nerds of a Feather: “Thoughts on the 2018 Hugo Awards”.

Being a finalist for the Hugo Award means that Nerds of a Feather is a part of the history of science fiction and fantasy fandom. I treasure that. I’m fairly sure I also speak for both Vance and The G when I say that. It is an amazing feeling to receive that notification and we’re grateful for it.

I said this privately to our writers, but I would like to say it publicly as well. The reason we even had an opportunity for a Hugo is not because of the work Vance, G, and I are doing behind the scenes. It’s because of the high quality of the work our writers are putting out every day. It’s the cumulative power of the book reviews and essays and special projects and interviews and none of that happens without these fantastic writers. We may not have won the Hugo Award, but we are absolutely confident that we deserved to be at that table, that the work our writers are doing is as good as anything on that ballot for Fanzine. The name on the ballot might say “The G, Vance Kotrla, Joe Sherry”, but it is that full list of contributors, past and present that have built the reputation we have and the every day excellence they deliver that allowed us to even have a chance. They’re the best.

(11) SPACE CATS. Steve Davidson announced in comments there is a call out to help many, many SJW credentials living at the Arecibo radio telescope site in Puerto Rico – “Arecibo Observatory’s Space Cats Need Your Help!”

When Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico last September, destroying tens of thousands of homes and damaging the observatory, staff and other members of the local community sought shelter and supplies at the observatory’s visitor center. And the local cats did the same. [The Arecibo Observatory: Puerto Rico’s Giant Radio Telescope in Photos]

The Arecibo Observatory has long been known for its felines, and it has become an increasingly popular cat hangout ever since the hurricane hit last year, Flaviane Venditti, a researcher at the observatory, told Space.com. “After the hurricane, many people left the island and, in the process, left their animals behind,” Venditti said. “We can see that based on how people-friendly some of the cats are. They might have come to the observatory to shelter during the storm.”

(12) THEY’RE QUACKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy]. What do you get when both The Joker and Daffy Duck show up in the same continuum? SYFY Wire says “Comics and cartoons collide in sneak peek at DC’s The Joker/Daffy Duck crossover”. The fertile (or fevered) minds at DC are cooking up not just The Joker/Daffy Duck one-shot, but also Catwoman/Sylvester and TweetyHarley Quinn/Gossamer, and Lex Luthor/Porky Pig. These follow-up previous Warner Bros. or Hanna-Barbera crossovers with DC superheroes titles like Black Lightning/Hong Kong PhooeyBatman/Elmer Fudd, The Flash/Speed Buggy, Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian, Aquaman/Jabber Jaw, and Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam.

The  SYFY Wire article has a 6-page preview of The Joker/Daffy Duck Special #1, “which finds Daffy visiting Gotham City to tour the ACME headquarters, only to discover that the building has been abandoned and taken over by the infamous Clown Prince of Crime.”

(13) IRON FIST. Trailer for Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2

It’s not a weapon to be held. It’s a weapon to be used. Season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist debuts exclusively on Netflix September 7, 2018.

 

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Rick Moen, Steve Davidson, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/17 We Have Always Been At Scroll With Arisia

Happy birthday CROP

(1) HAPPY NINTH BIRTHDAY FILE 770! January 15, 2008 is when I wrote my first post for File 770. That’s the day it all began, although you can find posts here with earlier dates imported from an old Blogspot site I never did much with, or are copies of posts written for Victor Gonzalez’s Trufen.net.

(2) INSTANT WINNER. Iphinome has scripted a line for the must-have confrontation scene in Star Wars IX:

Hello. My Name is Leia Organa. You killed my husband. Prepare to die.

(3) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Cameron gets first billing over sf in this series — “’James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’ will debut on the cable network in 2018”.

AMC has ordered a new documentary series from James Cameron that will explore the evolution of sc-fi.

Tentatively titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, the six-episode series will delve into sci-fi’s origins as a small genre with a cult following to the blockbuster pop-culture phenonmenon it is today. The show is slated to debut in 2018.

In each hourlong episode, the Avatar director will introduce one of the “big questions” that humankind has contemplated throughout the ages, and reach back into sci-fi’s past to better understand how our favorite films, TV shows, books, and video games were born, and where the genre — and our species — might be going in the future. Cameron and his contemporaries, who have helped to fuel sci-fi’s spectacular growth over the last several decades, also debate the merit, meaning and impact of the films and novels that influenced them.

(4) THE SEQUEL. Unless Hugh Jackman consents to a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, here’s what’s on the drawing board — “’Deadpool 2’ Writers Talk Return of Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Colossus, Dopinder, and Arrival of Cable”

First, scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick chatted with Collider, confirming that when Reynolds’ anti-hero returns, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the two X-Men who joined him on his mission of revenge in last year’s $783 million-grossing hit, will be on screen again as well. The extent of their participation remains unknown (“They’ll make at least an appearance,” says Wernick), but clearly, the makers of the upcoming sequel — including new director David Leitch (John Wick) — are interested in maintaining some continuity between their new effort and its predecessor.

For further proof, Wernick then went on to tell Nerdist that Deadpool will also once again pal around with Karan Soni’s Dopinder, the cab driver who bonded with — and heeded the advice of — the Marvel assassin in the original film. As the writer said, “I would say that the relationship between Dopinder and Deadpool was the most fun for me. I love that relationship and I love that character. And he’ll be in the sequel.”

(5) LUPIEN OBIT. SF Site News reports that Montreal fan Leslie Lupien (1921-2016) died on October 25.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 15, 1831 — Victor Hugo finishes writing Notre Dame de Paris, also known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 — Robert Silverberg

(8) DIVERGENT AUTHOR. There is a profile of Veronica Roth by M.B. Roberts in the January 15 Parade Magazine, as part of a regular feature on how celebrities spend their Sundays.  We learn that Roth wears pajamas most days unless she is going out to exercise, how her favorite breakfast is Kashi Oat Flakes and Blueberry Clusters,and even her favorite wine (Petilant-naturel).  The profile is tied to the publication of the first book of Roth’s new series, Carve the Mark, and is unusual because it’s the first profile of a novelist in this feature, which usually interviews actors or musicians.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. I wrote to the person who sent me yesterday’s item about Jonathan McCalmont refusing award nominations —

I’ll use this, though it will violate the unspoken I’ll-ignore-you-if-you-ignore-me truce I have enjoyed since we moved past the whole platforming fascists thing.

McCalmont making this kind of announcement is news, after all.

McCalmont may or may not have been responding in this tweet.

There are, after all, hundreds of sf blogs in America. However, our mutual friend Mondyboy is sure he could only be talking about mine —

— because peace would be too long….

(10) READING ASSISTANCE. Greg Hullender says Rocket Stack Rank’s information for the three short fiction Hugo categories is up, as is the info for the Campbell Award.

The professional artist page will be available on January 16.

The best editor (short form) page will be available on January 23.

Hullender adds, “We decided not to try to do Best Fan Artist this year because the field is just too vast to have any hope of doing it right.”

Help Making Short-Fiction Nominations

If you’re still looking for things to read

You can find information on this page for:

The stories in each of these lists are grouped by a “recommendation score” from six prolific short-fiction reviewers, and each entry includes links to reviews.

(11) TINGLE TIME. This weekend at Arisia Pablo Vazquez and Mark Oshiro were part of a panel about Chuck Tingle. Vazquez invited the good doctor to send a statement for them to read.

The text is posted on Pablo M.A. Vazquez’s blog: Dr. Chuck Tingle’s 2017 State of the Buck Address.

The following is Dr. Chuck Tingle’s (World’s Greatest Author) State of the Buck Address, delivered by yours truly on his behalf at Arisia 2017. Enjoy the wisdom and thanks to the eternal Dr. Chuck Tingle, constantly helping us find ourselves as bucks. It is unedited, presented in its original true buckaroo purity.

here is important statement: hello this is DR CHUCK TINGLE writing to you from billings thanks to online bud name of pablo and online bud name of mark! tonight is a good way son jon and clowy are watching a BIG TIME MOVE in the living room name of MATTS DAMON TAKES LAS VEGAS it is very loud and handsome matt just punched a scoundrel. i have had three chocolate milks jon thinks i have had 1. so that is my night how is yours buckaroos? …

(12) FIRST TRUMP. I’m guessing this isn’t going to be a hagiography: “Roger Corman Revs Up ‘Death Race 2050’; ‘We Have the First Picture to Portray Donald Trump as the President of the United States”.

Prior to Death Race 2050, the Death Race franchise was revived as a 2008 feature by Paul W.S. Anderson followed by a series of direct-to-DVD spin-offs. What were your contributions to those versions?

My work as a producer on those was almost zero. They gave me the script to the first one, and the others, and asked for my notes on the first one, but other than that I had no actual function. But I know Paul Anderson and I know what he was doing [with Death Race]. He was going for a straight action picture, which was what the first draft of Death Race 2000 was as well. When I read it, I thought there was something missing, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the drivers’ killing of the pedestrians, as a way to integrate the public with the violent sport that they love. But you couldn’t take that too seriously, so that’s when I introduced the element of comedy. When I called Universal about [their plans for] Death Race, I told them that [satire] was really essential to the original idea. So they asked me if I would like to make one. I went back to the original idea and here we are.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Fandango shows some alternatives to the aliens who made the screen — “’Arrival’ Concept Art Reveals Much Creepier Aliens”.

The final movie features contact with an alien species (partially pictured above) that is awe inspiring and yet comforting, albeit in a strange, unsettling kind of way. They’re enormous, but they’re gentle. They’re clearly capable of great things, but they constantly act with restraint. Their very presence is a perfect balance between shock and curiosity. Had the aliens looked a little different, however, that balance may have been thrown off quite a bit. And now thanks to some early, unused concept art from Peter Konig, we can imagine what could have been, and appreciate what ended up happening all the more.

Perhaps the most impactful difference between Konig’s proposed designs and the final version is the presence of eyes. Director Denis Villenueve wisely opted to go for a design that didn’t have eyes as a focal point, which helps defuse a lot of potential baggage by blocking up those pesky windows to the soul.

(14) STILL SPEAKING OF ARRIVAL. In “Emergency Dialect” in Real Life Magazine, Paco Salas Perez explains why Arrival is based on a surprisingly deep understanding of linguistics.

Linguists and computer scientists use a rubric known as the Chomsky hierarchy, first put forward by Noam Chomsky in 1956, which seeks to describe the major classes of formal grammars — the rules that define the possible sentences of a language. There are four types, ranked by computational power, with Type 3 being the simplest and smallest family of grammars, and Type 0 the most powerful. Any programmer is aware that some higher-level languages are more powerful than lower-level ones, but that lower-level languages are often easier to use for certain dedicated tasks that require verbose solutions in more powerful languages. The same is true for communication systems produced by evolution. Gestural systems like those found among primates are simple and highly effective: they’re based on individual signals, each associated with broad meanings like “food” or “danger,” but with no regular relations between signs, which are instead produced in an unordered and unstructured, “stream of consciousness” manner, even by primates who have been taught to sign by humans. Human language, and only human language, exhibits properties from Types 1, 2, and 3.

Heptapod B doesn’t play by the rules we’re used to….

(15) THE B TEAM. Carl Slaughter confesses, “Spoof, parody, satire, I can never remember the difference.  Anyway, if you want to watch a spoof-parody-satire series of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, try Interns of Field’ from Screen Junkies.  If Shield is the B team to Avengers, Field is the B team to S.H.I.E.L.D. – ‘Interns, assemble!’” This video was first posted a year ago —

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Harold Osler, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3 The Red Scroll of Westmarch

(1) Harry Potter fans taking the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London have been trying to “free” Dobby the house elf by leaving socks beside his display case.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lucious Malfoy is tricked into freeing Dobby by handing him a sock. (A house elf can only be freed from its service if its master gives it a gift of clothing.)

(2) James H. Burns recounts a memory of 1973, about the Mets clinching the pennant, and his 6th grade teacher, in the Long Island Press.

(3) Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post says, “Don’t worry. Matt Damon won’t get stuck on Mars. NASA can’t get him there”. He explains why it’s highly unlikely that NASA will lead an expedition to Mars in the next 25 years. Two key points: we don’t have a rocket, and NASA has no plans to develop a Martian lander.

(4) A collection of Vince Clarke’s fanwriting, assembled by David Langford, is a free download on the TAFF Ebooks page. More details and the list of contents here.

Vince Clarke Treasury cover

Mike Moorcock approves: “Glad the Vince Clarke book’s out. I mention Vince quite a lot in The Woods of Arcady. Sequel to W.Swarm … As I say in the book, Vince was something of a mentor to me and really helped me. Great bloke.”

(5) Patrick May reviews Dark Orbit:

“Dark Orbit” by Carolyn Ives Gilman tells the story of Saraswati “Sara” Callicot, a researcher who spends her life traveling via lightbeam, and Thora Lassiter, a member of an elite caste who was involved in an uprising of the women on the planet Orem against a male-dominated, Sharia-like government.

(6) Cedar Sanderson’s “A List of Books for Big Girls” at Mad Genius Club, while recommending characters, is also a built-in set of book and story recommendations.

Character! That’s what we want. And inspiring heroes, and damsels who can’t be bothered to be distressed, and the men who respect them… You’ll find all that and more in the list of books below.

I want to thank everyone who helped with suggestions for the lists. I’m not including all of the titles that were given to me, some because I wasn’t looking for YA, and some because I was emphasizing character rather than other features. You will find that I’m listing the books by character name, rather than individual books, as many of these are series. Some of the comments in the list are from the people who gave the recommendations to me (I’ve anonymized the lists since they were collected in private groups). 

(7) I’m always a sucker for those internet list posts and get hooked into clicking through a whole series of pages by sites trying to maximize their ad exposure. I rarely post those here.

An exception I can recommend in the Scroll is complete on one page: “My Favorite Movie Endings of All Time”.

(8) I bet she’s right —

(9) Can’t get it out of my mind. Iphinome’s lyrical comment on File 770.

We built this concom, we built this concom on pixel scroll.

Say you don’t scroll me, or pixelize my face,
Say you can’t lose Hugos with any grace.
Knee deep in the hoopla, sinking in your fight,
Too many puppies, yapping in the night.

Glyer posts a roundup, givin’ us the pixel scroll
Don’t you remember?
We built this concom
We built this concom on pixel scroll.

(10) Larry Correia explains in the beginning of his “Fisking the New York Times’ Modern Man”

See, I have two sons. As a father, it is my duty to point out really stupid shit, so they can avoid becoming goony hipster douche balloons. So boys, this Fisk was written for you.

His target is Brian Lombardi’s “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man”, which is sort of wryly serious and so lends itself to Correia’s mockery.

SELF-HELP

Even the header is wrong. This article is the opposite of self-help. This is like the instruction guide for how to live life as a sex-free eunuch.  …

  1. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

Most real men have whatever flooring their wife wanted when they built their house, because we don’t care, because we’re working all day so don’t get to stand on it much. Or they have whatever flooring came with the house when they moved in, and eventually when they can afford to they’ll put in whatever flooring their wife wants, because they don’t care. Some men do care, and they can put in whatever floor they feel like. Good for them. All of those men think this reporter is a douche.

I don’t even know what a Kenneth Cole is. I’m not sure what an oxford is, but from the context I believe it is a type of shoe. As a man who usually wears size 15 Danner boots, this is my Not Impressed Face.

(11) This Day in Non-Science-Fictional History

Debuted on this date in 1961, the first successful TV-show-within-a-TV-show, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” When Carl Reiner created and starred in the pilot that preceded the hit show, it was not a success. Casting Dick was the one major change that propelled the show into a five-season successful run on CBS.

Also –

In 1955, the children’s TV show Captain Kangaroo with Bob Keeshan in the title role was broadcast for the first time.

(12) Marc Zicree delivers a quick tour of the Science Fiction Exhibit at the LA County Fair — complete with Rod Serling, Jurassic Park, the Back to the Future DeLorean and HAL 9000.

[Thanks to Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]