2018 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 8/3/18 That’s The Pixel Scroll Eraser Button, You Fool!

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman serves up a Sunday brunch with JY Yang in Episode 73 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing, which so far includes The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and The Descent of Monsters, with a fourth still to come. Their short fiction has been published in more than a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. And not only had The Black Tides of Heaven been on the Nebula Awards ballot that weekend, but it’s also on this year’s Hugo Awards and World Fantasy Awards ballots as well.

In previous incarnations, they’ve been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers, and a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

We met for Sunday brunch that weekend at Casbah, which offered a Mediterranean-inspired menu filled with comfort food. I’d heard good things about those Sunday brunches, and what I’d heard turned out to be true, because that morning’s braised lamb and eggs was the most umami-filled meal I had all weekend, and probably my favorite dish while in Pittsburgh.

We discussed why they consider themselves “a master of hermitry,” the catalyst that gave birth to their award-nominated Tensorate Universe, why they think of themselves as terrible at world-building, how their dislike of the Matt Damon movie The Great Wall gave them an idea for a novel, the surprising results after they polled fans on which of their works was most award-worthy, their beginnings writing Star Trek and Star Wars fan fiction, why they never played video games until their 30s, the Samuel R. Delany writing advice they hesitated to share, and much more.

(2) UNTOLD AI. At Medium.com there’s an interview with Chris Noessel, creator of the “What Stories aren’t we Telling Ourselves About AI” info graphic, which analyzed the themes of a large number of movies and shows about AI — “Untold AI?—?A conversation with Chris Noessel of SciFi Interfaces”

It goes quite a bit into the process behind creating the poster, “Untold AI: Poster”.

The AP: This was a pretty massive project, what was the scope and parameters of what you were going to look at?

CN: Oh my yes it was. It took nights and weekends for several months after Juvet. (And it’s still going!)

The scope was big by design. I wanted it to be pretty comprehensive. My authority and expertise in this domain is built on screen sci-fi, since you need to see a thing in use before you can evaluate it. That means movies and TV shows. There’s a lot of sci-fi literature that investigates AI (for instance, I’m reading the Culture series right now by Ian Banks, and it’s got AI baked deep into its worldbuilding), but I just don’t have authority in that domain. But still, screen sci-fi is massive, and I like to be as comprehensive as possible. So I looked back through all the movies and TV shows I could find that had an AI component: A robot, a spaceship AI, a disembodied one. I looked at lists people had collected online. I looked for keywords on IMDb. I don’t think I got them all, but I think I got most.

I’d have liked to include more narrow AI, but that would have expanded the survey of shows by an order of magnitude, and ultimately, the purpose of the project is to help guide sci-fi to be in-line with the science so we hedge our bets in the right way. Narrow AI is already here in the world around us (and less of an existential threat) so there’s not as much need to address it at scope.

(3) CREWED TALK. On Twitter, Karen James, a biologist, points out that instead of saying space missions are manned, one should say “crewed”, as outlined in NASA’s actual style guide: “All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic).”

Unsurprisingly, she gets a lot of pushback in the comments. She does have Phil Plait and Elizabeth Moon weighing in on her side. The thread starts here.

The Planetary Society wrote about non-gendered nomenclature in 2015: “Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans”:

Historically, human spaceflight was described using the words “manned” and “unmanned,” but NASA has shifted to using gender-neutral words to describe human space exploration. Since 2006, the NASA History Program Office Style Guide has stated:

All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic). The exception to the rule is when referring to the Manned Spacecraft Center, the predecessor to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, or any other official program name or title that included “manned” (e.g. Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight).

(4) POOH CRACKDOWN. Winnie’s a controversial bear there: “Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ Won’t Get China Release Amid Pooh Crackdown”.

For only the second time this year, a Disney movie has been denied release in China. Christopher Robin, a live-action/CGI family film that stars Ewan McGregor, received a no-go from the country’s film authorities.

No reason was given for the denial, but a source pinned the blame on China’s crackdown on images of the Winnie the Pooh character, which is featured in a central role in Christopher Robin. Last summer, authorities began blocking pictures of Winnie the Pooh on social media given that the character has become a symbol of the resistance in China with foes of the ruling Communist Party, namely Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Bloggers have drawn comparisons between the pudgy bear and Xi, which has put the country’s censors in overdrive. In June, Chinese authorities blocked HBO after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver mocked Xi’s sensitivity over being compared to Winnie the Pooh.

But an insider counters that the decision likely has to do with the size and scope of the film given the foreign film quota and the fact that there are several new Hollywood tentpoles in the Chinese market right now.

The New York Times explains the political significance of Pooh in this February 2018 article — “China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power Grab”.

…But the move to abolish term limits, announced on Sunday, has resurrected deeper fears in Chinese society, where memories remain of the personality cult of China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and the fevered emotions and chaos that it conjured.

Anxious to suppress criticism, and maintain an appearance of mass support, the Communist Party’s censors have scoured the internet and social media for content deemed subversive. The sanitizing has included many images of Winnie the Pooh — Mr. Xi is sometimes likened to the cartoon bear — and search terms like “my emperor,” “lifelong” and “shameless.”

For a short time, even the English letter “N” was censored, according to Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor, apparently to pre-empt social scientists from expressing dissent mathematically: N > 2, with “N” being the number of Mr. Xi’s terms in office.

(5) CON MARKETING. Savan Gupta can’t stand it anymore [Facebook link].

Okay. I am going to give away some advice that I usually charge HARD CASH for, as part of my consulting services, as I need to stop seeing such mediocrity glut my feed….

Branding – This is key. There are certain universal standards, of clean design. Your branding should reflect your event, your values, and your overall identity. It’s so much more than ‘just grab a font you like’. And yes, all of us have had a learning curve with this. Hell, I keep copies of my older foibles in my wallet, to remind me of where I’ve been, and the constant quest for improvement. The Key here is, you have to LOVE it. You and your team. Not ‘like’ it, LOVE it. To pine and suffer and STRIVE to bear that standard through thick and thin, and hold it above the dirt-and-water line, brandishing it. Without that, you WILL be surpassed by some upstart that simply CARES more about these things, and is willing to learn faster. Clean design be damned, speaking as that upstart that has repeatedly surpassed my contemporaries. Hell, we’ve seen “Fuzzy McDumpTruck” and his five-ring-Latrine fire parade march some EGREGIOUS HORSE SHIT, that disrespected his endeavors, his performers, and his vendors. To the point of getting names and web URLs wrong (having skipped and skimped on hiring the usual professionals who prevented him from looking *quite* like a bag of ass). And yet, the band played on, and he continued to fail upwards, due to some reject OSHO grade Cult-Leadership skills, and being zealously in love with every derpy idea his pop-rocks-and-soda brain excreted. Because yes, you can actually polish a turd with Heat and Pressure. It won’t be a diamond. But it will not longer be a turd.

I don’t know how much of this will be new to you, but it’s very lively writing….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak
  • Born August 3 — Martin Sheen, 78. Uncle Ben in both the of The Amazing Spider-Man films. Roles also in Total Recall 2070Babylon 5: The River of Souls, The Outer Limits, The Dead ZoneBeyond the Stars (another riff on the Apollo mission), Spawn and voice work in the animated Captain Planet and the Planeteers series.
  • Born August 3 — John Landis, 68. Extensive genre work as producer or executive producer including the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video, Twilight Zone: The Movie, some episodes of the Honey, I Shrunk the KidsWeird Science and Sliders series, a one-off Munsters Christmas special, The Lost Worldgilm and series which are not related to each other and the forthcoming An American Werewolf in London. Oh and Clue which I adore even if it’s not genre.
  • Born August 3 — John C. McGinley, 59. Extensive voice work in such animated productions as Spider-Man, Justice League UnlimitedSuperman/Batman: Public Enemies and Justice League; live work in Highlander II: The QuickeningIt’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and the current demon hunting entered Stan Against Evil.
  • Born August 3 — Michael Ealy, 45. Dorian, an android police officer, in the short-lived Almost Human series, Leo the equally short-lived FlashForward series and the Underworld Awakening film in which vampires and werewolves team up to destroy humanity.
  • Born August 3 — Evangeline Lilly, 39. MCU films such as Ant-Man and the Wasp as The Wasp, two of the Hobbit films as Tauriel, and in the Lost series as Katherine ‘Kate’ Austen. Also in Freddy vs. Jason and in multiple nameless roles in the Smallville series.
  • Born August 3 — Hannah Simone, 38. A role in the film remake of The Greatest American Hero, The H+ series in which humanity is nearly wiped and addicted to the internet and host for several seasons of the WCG Ultimate Gamer series.
  • Born August 3 — Max Landis, 33. Son of Joe Landis. Wrote a run of Superman comics called ‘Superman: American Alien’, writer of the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR LOOT. The Time Ladies will tell you about it: “Merchandise of the Thirteenth Doctor”. For example –

Titan Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor

If the adventure doll isn’t quite for you, then how about a cutesy, kawaii version of our first female Doctor? The Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor Titan figure is ADORABLE and brightens any shelf. With her huge painted eyes and exaggerated features, we couldn’t help but pop her straight into our basket. The 6” figure launched at SDCC a few weeks ago but is available to order from Forbidden Planet now.

Order Titan’s Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor figure here

(9) BEDROCK CONFIDENTIAL. NPR’s Mallory Yu reviews a comic-book reboot: “Yabbadabba-What? These Aren’t The Flintstones You Remember”.

…But before he could tackle that dark comedy, Russell says, he “really wanted to start with the characters and make them relatable and sympathetic, because they’re basically just living their lives.” He credits artist Steve Pugh with bringing humanity to his characters: “You can see the personalities, really, in their design. Fred’s a big beefy guy, looks like he played football in high school and has kind of let himself go since then, but he’s got a lot of love and sadness in his face.”

Fred’s an Everyman in Russell’s Bedrock, a veteran who’s haunted by his actions during the “Paleolithic Wars.” And remember his famous “Yabbadabbadoo?” Russell “sort of turned it into a nonsense mantra to help them deal with PTSD and stress of everyday life.”

Russell says he was able to bend and twist the Flintstones’ world because he didn’t have a lot of childhood nostalgia for the cartoons. “Nothing was sacred, in fact, that was kind of my mission. This was not going to be some reverential homage to The Flintstones.” So Fred works for a terrible boss at a terrible job, trying to make just enough money to afford the latest household appliance. Or, as Russell calls it, “the exploitation of animals as free labor, which to me it’s like they’re the interns of the prehistoric world.”

(10) HEAD SPACE. “Asgardia: the problems in building a space society” — liberal and not-so-liberal rules.

…The constitution also contains some other red flags for utopians:

“To ensure information security, the Government regulates the circulation of certain types of information”.

Asgardia’s “legal instruments” include not only “referendum decisions” and “Acts of Parliament”, but also “decrees of the head of nation”.

Also, Asgardia’s head of nation has the constitutional power to nominate his successor “on the basis of genealogy or on any other basis”. Candidates may also be nominated by the parliament and the Supreme Space Council”, but it’s the Head of Nation who appoints the Chairman of the Space Council, which “is a special governance body” that reports to, guess who, the Head of Nation.

The head of nation also “appoints and removes” the supreme justice of the court and the prosecutor general. Additionally, he or she “has the right to veto candidates” for other top positions, including the National Bank of Asgardia and justices of the court. And to “dissolve Parliament”.

(11) MORE FROM THE SHIRE. More from the Shire: “Small height evolved twice on ‘Hobbit’ island of Flores” – the island’s current short inhabitants are not descended from branch recently discovered.

Scientists decoded the DNA of modern-day “pygmy” people to find out if they might be partly descended from the extinct Hobbit species.

The remains of these Hobbits were found during an archaeological dig on Flores 15 years ago.

The new analysis, published in the journal Science, found no trace of the Hobbit’s DNA in the present-day people.

This is important because some scientists had wondered whether modern humans (Homo sapiens) could have mixed with the Hobbit population when they first arrived on the island thousands of years ago. In theory, this could have led to Hobbit genes being passed down into living people on the island.

(12) THUNDER TOES. Nature found a big foot, so to speak “A dinosaur that stomped the Jurassic scene on size XXXXL feet”.

Large reptile had bigger clodhoppers than any other dinosaur of its kind.

Enormous toe bones excavated in Wyoming belonged to a dinosaur whose feet were more than 1 metre wide — probably a record for dinosaur foot size.

The owner of the gargantuan feet was a sauropod, a group that includes the biggest known dinosaurs. No other known sauropod foot is bigger than the Wyoming animal’s, say Anthony Maltese at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado, Emanuel Tschopp at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and their colleagues. The fossils bear similarities to those of sauropods called brachiosaurs, which could measure 25 metres long.

The dinosaur, which lived roughly 150 million to 160 million years ago, walked on four legs, but the authors whimsically nicknamed it “the real Bigfoot”.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/18 Where Late The Sweet Pixels Scrolled

(1) F&SF. Gordon Van Gelder has unveiled the cover for F&SF’s Sept/Oct. 2018 issue. The cover art is by Michael Garland.

(2) SPINER BECOMES A SUPER VP. ScienceFiction.com has the results — “Data From Polling Numbers Are In: Brent Spiner Elected To Join ‘Supergirl’”.

Brent Spiner (‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’,’Independance Day’) has just been elected by the casting department of The CW’s ‘Supergirl‘ to join the show. His role? Vice President of the United States! That’s right folks, in the fourth season of ‘Supergirl’ were going to have Spiner joining the cast as a regular to work with Lynda Carter (‘Wonder Woman’) who is the President of the United States.

I suspect that she won’t be staying in the Oval Office for long though as Spiner’s role is being described as:

Adept and politically minded, Vice President Baker makes for an unlikely leader but steps up in a big way when his country needs him most

(3) ROGUE AGENT. Publishers Weekly listens as “Agent Danielle Smith’s Former Clients Speak Out”. Quite a bit of material here.

The children’s book publishing world has been roiling for the past week over the disclosure that Danielle Smith, the principal of Lupine Grove Creative, an agency specializing in children’s and YA authors, acted more like a literary grifter than a literary agent. Since Smith emailed a letter to her clients on July 24, confessing that recently she had “not handled a situation as well as I should have” and thus was dissolving the agency effective immediately, 19 former clients have reached out to PW, sharing tales of a pattern of malfeasance that has shaken their confidence and adversely affected their careers.

According to some former clients, she claimed to have had offers in hand that didn’t exist, such as, one author requesting anonymity disclosed, a $50,000 two-book deal. She informed others that editors had expressed interest in their submissions, but subsequently told them that either the editors had then lost interest or had outright rejected those submissions. Clients also complained about Smith’s refusal to communicate with them honestly and in a timely fashion, as well as the lack of transparency, including a reluctance to render submission lists to them upon request. Several clients allege that she even forged emails from editors and passed this correspondence along to them.

(4) CALL FOR EISNER IMPROVEMENTS. Each award has and needs its critics. In “Comic-Con’s Eisner Judging and the New ‘Comics & Design Awards’” Michael Dooley of printmag.com pinpoints some shortcomings and workarounds he’s identified.

…Every year, Comic-Con International’s awards committee assembles a panel of a half-dozen or so judges. Each bring a unique interest, perspective, and expertise: creator, scholar, critic/reviewer, retailer, librarian, and a Comic-Con rep. Together, they critically winnow down an enormous amount of published material to arrive at a small handful under each category. CalState Northridge professor Charles Hatfield, who was part of the selection committee a few years ago, has described the process as “like going to Comics Heaven—if Heaven is a place where you work really hard, fence with a table full of smart, demanding, and dedicated people, and learn something about your own biases in the process.” He was also pleased to learn what he describes as “the importance of voting past my prejudices.” Now there’s an attribute that’s practically nonexistent among the voters.

Diligence and dedication such as this is why anyone in search of recommend reading should check out all the nominees in all categories of interest. You also might jump to Wonder Women of the Eisner Awards, my feature from last year that included several judges’ choices who didn’t bring home a trophy but who are nevertheless not to be overlooked. However, locating worthwhile info on these artists and publications is much easier said than done. You can’t rely on the official site; its design is a frightful mess, and very difficult to navigate quickly and efficiently. Plus, its page of nominees is merely a basic bullet point listing….

(5) OPEN THE GARAGE BAY DOOR SAL. Adweek shows how an insurer is capitalizing on the latest high-tech fears: “See a Smart Home Go Rogue in New State Farm Campaign”.

In the ad an unnerved husband, Dave, recounts to State Farm agent Amy all the ways SAL has been majorly unhelpful, including closing the garage door on their car, turning on the in-home sprinklers, and erroneously blasting The Ring instead of the requested music. Amy assures Dave that while State Farm can’t fix SAL, they can certainly cover the home and auto damages. For anyone who has ever had to angrily repeat a simple question for Siri syllable-by-syllable, this scenario feels all too plausible. Truly, we could all use an Amy to assure us during our more frustrating brushes with technology that everything will be fine.

 

(6) CONTESTED GROUND. In Luke Shelton’s reading of Lord of the Rings, “Caradhras Changes Everything”.

I have always had inordinately strong opinions about the passage about Caradhras. In fact, it was changes made to this episode that made me shout “no!” when I went to see Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Rings in theaters.

I was familiar with other literature that gave a sense of autonomy to nature before I read LotR, and I was excited to see that Tolkien does the same throughout the text, even before getting to the fully autonomous Treebeard. As a child, I loved the idea that trees could have volition and emotions. Tolkien takes this wondrous idea and pushes it one step further in the Caradhras episode. As the snows on Caradhras foil the attempt of the Fellowship to pass over the mountain, this exchange occurs…

Here Boromir tries to attribute the malevolent weather to Sauron or one of his agent; however, but Aragorn and Gimli are quick to halt this impulse and clarify that there are other forces at play in the world. Gimli goes so far as to specify that the will is probably that of Caradhras himself.

I cannot emphasize this enough: this passage changed my worldview the first time I read it. To ascribe volition to not just plants, but to all of nature, to the very earth itself! This was a truly awe-inspiring thought for me. I remember walking around for days thinking about the ramifications of this idea. What does it mean to till an earth that could feel the cuts? What does it mean to dynamite a mountain that can fight back?

(7) WOTF ADDS FIRST READER. Kary English comes aboard — “Writers of the Future Announces Kary English as New First Reader”.

Over its 34 year history, the Contest has recognized 404 winners who have gone on to publish 1,150 novels and 4,450 short stories. Of these, 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s over 40%. Twelve of these Contest winners have gone on to become NYT bestselling authors: Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland), Sean Williams, Jo Beverly, Nancy Farmer, Lisa Smedman, Karen Joy Fowler, Patrick Rothfuss, Tim Myers, Eric Flint, Dean Wesley Smith, Tobias Buckell and Elizabeth Wein. And Contest Winners have garnered 155 major awards. Collectively, the winners of the contests have sold over 60 million books over the years.

And with the last 4 volumes of Writers of the Future hitting national bestseller lists—and each of the winners becoming national bestselling authors and illustrators as a result—contest entries continue to increase each quarter with entries from around the world.

Dave Wolverton, himself a Writers of the Future winner from the 3rd year of the contest, is the Coordinating Judge for the Writer Contest and was asked to help in the selection of a 1st reader to keep pace with the expansion. “Obviously, I’ve had a number of amazing authors that I’ve helped mentor over the years, and so when I considered who I might ask to help out as a first reader, I really suffered from an embarrassment of riches. A dozen names almost instantly leapt to mind, but Kary English was right near the top.

He continued, “I wanted someone with a great eye for style, someone who understood storytelling well. Kary, as an award-winning author, has proven over and over to have a great eye, but more than that, her strong support for and commitment to helping new authors spoke volumes….”

(8) 1970S SFF HISTORY. In “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part X”, James Davis Nicoll winds up his Tor.com series with a segment covering “T” to the end of the alphabet —

Alison Tellure had a very small but very memorable body of work. “Lord of All it Surveys,” “Skysinger,” “Green-Eyed Lady, Laughing Lady,” and “Low Midnight” are all set on an alien world dominated by a single, vast, godlike creature. Existence there is complicated by the presence of competing, considerably tinier beings not entirely unlike humans. Contributors over on my blog, More Words, Deeper Hole, dug up biographical details from old Analog Biologs and con appearances, but the exchange raised more questions than it answered. As far as I know, Tellure never had a single author collection, but readers might be able to track down the June 1977 issue of Analog, which contains “Lord of All it Surveys.”

(9) THE MAGIC NUMBER. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog hails “5 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Spoofs That Stand on Their Own”. For example —

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, by A. Lee Martinez
Sometimes, having a fairy godmother really backfires. That is certainly the case for Constance Verity, blessed with (cursed by?) a life of being the world’s greatest adventurer. She’s got a history of adventuring filled with just about every genre trope and cliché you could imagine, and she’s on a mission to end it—by killing that darned godmother. This final quest puts the idea of destiny—and the monomyth—into its crosshairs with a wink and an absurdist sense of humor—Martinez’ specialties.

(10) GRINDSTAFF OBIT. Classic Trek had a sound as well as a look because of creators like him: ComicBook.com has the story — “Doug Grindstaff, Creator of Iconic Sounds of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 87”.

Grindstaff worked with Jack Finlay and Joseph Sorokin on Star Trek. Together they created the background sounds for the iconic series, including the iconic red alert klaxon and the sound the doors make when they slide open. They also developed the sounds of space battle in the Star Trek universe, transporter materialization, and sickbay scanners.

In a 2016 interview with Audible Range, Grindstaff discussed working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

“And he wanted sounds everywhere. One time I asked him, ‘Don’t you think we’re getting too cartoony?’ Because I felt it should be a little more dignified, but he wanted sound for everything. For example, I worked on one scene where [Dr. McCoy] is giving someone a shot. Gene says, ‘Doug, I’m missing one thing. The doctor injects him and I don’t hear the shot.’ I said, ‘You wouldn’t hear a shot, Gene.’ He said, ‘No, no, this is Star Trek, we want a sound for it.’

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 2 — Edward Furlong, 41. John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment DayPet Sematary II (Cat Eldridge notes, “Courtesy of knowing the on-site medics, I visited the props room fort he original Pet Sematary — weird seeing actual props of dead people and lots of pets managed horribly”), various Terminator shorts, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, and Star Trek: Renegades (“…which I think is fanfic.”)
  • Born August 2 — Sam Worthington, 42. Avatar film franchise, Clash of The Titans and its sequel Wrath Of The Titans, and The Titan, a space exploration film that may or may be a horror film.
  • Born August 2 — Simon Kinberg, 45. Genre director for a very long list of projects including the forthcoming Logan’s Run, an X-Men one-off called Multiple Man, the Boba Fett project, The Martian, the Legion series, and the animated Star Wars: Rebels series. Also the writer for another X-Men one-off titled  X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
  • Born August 2 — Jacinda Barrett, 46. Genre roles include series work in Campfire TalesZero Hour, Millennium, NightMan and Hercules: The Legendary Journey.
  • Born August 2 — Matthew Del Negro, 46. Genre roles in Teen WolfStargate: Atlantis and Eastwick series, horror films such as Ghost Image and Trailer Park of Terror.
  • Born August 2 — Kevin Smith, 48. Well-loved comics writer with work for DC, Marvel and other venues with work on both Daredevil  Green Arrow. He directed the pilot for the CW supernatural comedy series Reaper, produced and appeared in reality television series Comic Book Men, and appeared as a character in the animated Superman: Doomsday as a commentary on a Superman unused script he wrote.
  • Born August 2 — Mary-Louise Parker, 54. Genre roles are the R.I.P.D. fil, The Spiderwyck Chronicles and Persephone, a generation ship film that may or may not happen.

(12) TRUE CONFESSION. JY Yang shares a writing crisis —

(13) IN THE ISS LIBRARY. The Independent has “The Book List: What do astronauts read on the International Space Station?” Plenty of sff, including 11 Bujold novels and 13 David Weber books.

The astronauts on the International Space Station are obviously busy people, but even busy people need some time to relax and unwind. In addition to a well-stocked film library (particularly strong on movies with a space theme, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity), there are also plenty of books in their informal library.

Some are brought up by the astronauts – Susan Helms was allowed ten paperbacks and chose Gone With the Wind, Vanity Fair and War and Peace in her carryon. Others come with space tourists such as billionaire businessman Charles? Simonyi, who brought Faust and Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

(14) ROT-180. Bounding Into Comics analyzed a sly slam against JDA — “Nasty Personal Attack Against Jon Del Arroz Appears in Dynamite Comics and Atari’s ‘Centipede’ Comic” [Internet Archive link].

Comic book writer and the lead singer of Say Anything Max Bemis, artist Eoin Marron, and letterer Taylor Esposito decided to use Atari’s Centipede intellectual property in a Dynamite Comics published book to attack fellow comic book writer Jon Del Arroz.

What’s supposed to be a balloon full of alien gibberish becomes all too easy to understand if you turn it upside-down.

In Centipede #4, which was published on October 25, 2017, Bemis writes, “Jon Del Arroz is a never was fat piece of sh**who blames everyone but himself for his ineptness.”

As you can tell Bemis and letterer Taylor Esposito tried to disguise the personal attack through an alien language. Not only did they disguise it as an alien language they also inverted it.

We’ve inverted the image so you can read it better.

Several more examples from the same comic are at the post.

JDA accepted the publisher’s statement that they knew nothing about it, securing an apology and some publicity in compensation — “Official Statement On The Personal Attacks In Dynamite Entertainment’s Centipede Book” [Internet Archive link].

Last night I discovered that a print book of Atari’s Centipede property referenced me in multiple places by name in an effort to defame and diminish me as a comic creator and a human being….

However, I have been in contact with Dynamite Entertainment, who apologized themselves and said they were unaware of the situation and that it slipped past editorial by mistake. They also say it’s been corrected for the trade paperback edition. They also very cordially said they would support my Flying Sparks indiegogo effort as I’m trying to launch my own comic career.

I believe them.

It would have been very easy for Dynamite to ignore me and to let this go, but they in their quick response and quick taking action to remedy this are doing the right thing. The company was hoodwinked by a rogue contractor who has lost the trust of the entire industry by inserting personal animus into a book, and saying the most horrific things about a fellow creator. They understand this, they are doing what they can to make it right even though the hurtful damage has been done.

I do not want my fans and followers to boycott Dynamite or take any action to try to harm them. As I said, the company has been consummate professionals to me and I appreciate their efforts they’re going to to make this right….

(15) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Rosemary Benton considers “[August 2, 1963] Sinister Geometry (Daniel F. Galouye’s Lords of the Psychon)” at Galactic Journey.

But what if the shift in humanity’s daily life is beyond explanation, bordering on paranormal? And what if the alien force that is bringing about that change is so far removed from known biology that it appears extra-dimensional? Daniel F. Galouye’s new book, Lords of the Psychon, takes the reader to that terrifying reality with an invader that is unnervingly simple – a large, floating, metallic sphere – and their mission which can be surmised as absorbing compatible human minds and letting the rest die in the grip of mind shredding madness.

(16) ON THE ROAD. They came, they saw, they rocked? “First Stonehenge residents came from west Wales”. Isotopes identify oldest cremains as coming from same area as the stones themselves. No explanation for the unusual eastward movement.

… While it is already known that the “bluestones” that were first used to build Stonehenge were transported from 150 miles (240 km) away in modern-day Pembrokeshire, almost nothing is known about the people involved.

The scientists’ work shows that both people and materials were moving between the regions and that, for some of these people, the move was permanent.

When their lives ended, their cremated remains were placed under the ancient monument in what is now Wiltshire. …

However, Dr Rick Schulting, senior author on the study, said: “These must have been important people. Being buried at Stonehenge is the ancient equivalent of being interred in Westminster Cathedral today.”

He said: “The evidence suggests that some of the people buried at Stonehenge must have spent much of their last 10 or so years in Wales. Although we tend to think that immigration is a new thing, these people were obviously able to travel substantial distances across difficult terrain.”

(17) SLIP SLIDING AWAY. BBC knows “How Greenland scorched its underside”. All of Greenland slid over the hotspot that later created and is now augmenting Iceland.

It’s like the underside of the island got a good roasting in the distant past and still has the big scar to prove it.

That hotspot, by the way, is the one which today is building Iceland in the middle of the North Atlantic.

The plume of broiling rock rising from deep inside the Earth has broken through the thin ocean floor at Iceland’s location and is now creating new land with regular eruptions of lava.

(18) A THOUSAND AND ONE FLAVORS. “The world’s oldest ice cream?” The BBC video feature says Iran had ice storage to make chilled treats over 2000 years ago.

(19) ROBOTS IN THE MUSEUM. The Robot Show is on display at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, California from August 4 through September 26.

The Robot Show is comprised of eight exhibitions exploring the place robots, and other forms of artificial intelligence, have in a contemporary social landscape – from popular culture to nature and spirituality. Featured in the Main Gallery at MOAH is a retrospective of Emmy-nominated artist and animator, Dave Pressler. The Robot Show also showcases the solo exhibitions of Jeff Soto, Patrick McGilligan, Robert Nelson and Karen Hochman Brown, with site specific installations by artists Cristopher Cichocki, Alexander Kritselis, and Chenhung Chen.

Dave Pressler’s 20-year retrospective, Idea to Object, is a narrative of his career, which focuses on how he made his ideas a reality. Pressler’s robots are fixtures in popular culture and he is best known for his Emmy-nominated Nickelodeon series, Robot and Monster.  “Pressler’s work appeals to audiences of all ages,” says Andi Campognone, Curator at MOAH. “His work is a great example of the combination of strong contemporary concepts and expert craft, and we are so excited to exhibit his work for both the Lancaster and greater Los Angeles communities.”

Jeff Soto, in the East Gallery, is a pop-surrealist who also features robots prominently in his bold paintings and murals, which are meant to evoke nostalgia and the natural environment. In the South Gallery, Cristopher Cichocki furthers this connection between the artificial and the natural with his newest body of work, Divisions of Land and Sea, which combines audiovisual performance and black light painting into an immersive environment. Karen Hochman Brown’s digital photographic compositions will be highlighted in the North Gallery joining Robert Nelson’s robot paintings in the Wells Fargo Gallery along with Patrick McGilligan’s work in the Museum’s lobby and atrium. Alexander Kritselis will feature one of his multimedia installations in windows of the Museum’s Hernando and Fran Marroquin Family Classroom. Rounding out this exhibition is Chenhung Chen, a Los Angeles-based artist, who will be installing her technology-based towers in the Vault Gallery.

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

Worldcon 76 Program Troubles

When Worldcon 76 program participants were sent their schedules over the weekend such controversy resulted that the schedule was taken offline this morning, Chair Kevin Roche issued an apology, and the committee now is reviewing the participant bios, asking to hear from Hugo nominees who haven’t been put on the program and, presumably, filling the vacancies left by writers who have now dropped out.

Three issues drawing the most fire in social media have been —

  1. Respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation);
  2. Whether new writers are being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who are Hugo nominees are not on the program); and
  3. Dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division.

Lighting off the social media cycle was Hugo nominee Bogi Takács’ call for an apology after seeing eir bio in the program database. (The thread starts here.)

Takács also pointed to undeserved criticism from Worldcon 76 Program Division Head Christine Doyle for going public:

Takács received an apology from Chair Kevin Roche:

Unfortunately, Roche’s general apology was preceded by another one based on some wrong information, leading to this exchange:

Hugo nominee JY Yang voiced concerns for POC as well:

Another comment:

Yang later wrote another thread (starts here) to make such points as these –

Michi Trota, in a thread that starts here, reminded programming why these creators are Hugo nominees in the first place —

In other thread, Trota wrote:

Amal El-Mohtar did this roundup of the issues —

For the record, the email Program Division Head Christine Doyle sent to program participants yesterday said in part:

We had over 2000 people ask to be on the program, and unfortunately there was no way to accommodate everyone. Similarly, we had over 2000 program items submitted, with lots of duplication in some areas, and we couldn’t schedule them all.

We realized that many people didn’t receive our initial communications, because they were either blocked without us getting notice (i.e., earthlink), or filtered into the promotions bin (gmail).

We may contact some people for headshots and bios. If the headshot and/or bio that we have for you is not to your liking, please contact us with suggested edits or replacements. A note about names: for consistency and fairness, we are not using any prefixes (honorifics) or suffixes for your name unless it changes who you are (Sr/Jr/III). That said, we fully expect all of those details to be in the bios. Let us know if we need to edit the bio to get this included.

The present controversy has cost Worldcon 76 some of its best-known participants.

N.K. Jemisin dropped out of Worldcon 76 programming:

Mary Robinette Kowal is going to the con but is getting off the program:

Several writers say they are dropping off the program to (in effect) leave room for newcomers.

John Scalzi, in “Being Seen at Worldcon”, sums up what he terms to be —

A Twitter thread on the recent contretemps at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate

Including this comment:

David Gerrold said on Facebook:

Re: Worldcon.

There are program items I cannot step out of (specifically the memorial panel for Harlan Ellison), but I have written to the Worldcon Committee and asked them to cancel my reading and slot in a Hugo nominee or a person of color or a woman into that spot instead.

I will be taking a second look at a couple other panel assignments as well.

David D. Levine also offered to vacate his place on Worldcon 76 program.

(This is unlikely to be an exhaustive list, just the ones I found.)

Worldcon 76 Chair Kevin Roche has announced on Facebook (with a parallel Twitter thread):

(From the Chair)

I directed the Program Division to take down the preliminary program information that was released yesterday evening. There were too many errors and problems in it to leave it up.

I am sorry we slighted and angered so many of the people we are gathering to meet, honor, and celebrate. This was a mistake, our mistake. We were trying to build a program reflecting the diversity of fandom and respectful of intersectionality. I am heartbroken that we failed so completely.

We are tearing the program apart and starting over. It was intended to be a reflection of the cultures, passions, and experiences of Worldcon membership, with room for both new voices and old. What we released yesterday failed to do that; we must do better.

Many of you have offered to help us do a better job. Thank you. We cannot accept all those offers, but yes, we will be turning to some of you to help us do it better this time.

We will continue to reach out to the Hugo Finalists we have missed connections with, to ensure any who wish to be on the program will have a place on it.

Kevin Roche
Chair, Worldcon 76 in San Jose

An additional complaint about how the bios seem to have been created:

More dissatisfaction about program from two Hugo nominees.

Suzanne Palmer (thread starts here).

K.M.Szpara (thread begins here)

Alexandra Erin responded to the latest social media cycle with these thoughts about the application of lessons from the culture wars to the science fiction community. (Thread starts here.)

Furthermore, Alexandra Erin has decided what is needed is a “Queer Rapid Response Team for WorldCon 76”.

So, this is one of those posts that’s going to be mystifying to a lot of people but make perfect sense to others. It’s a busy day and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to go into the background. The short version is: WorldCon 76 is fudging up quite badly in how it treats attendees, up to and including finalists for its crown jewel Hugo Award. Multiple genderqueer, non-binary, and non-conforming members have spoken up about feeling unsafe and disrespected, and WorldCon’s safety team is not inspiring a lot of confidence.

Accordingly, I am taking one of my standing offers at WisCon and expanding and formalizing it for the larger WorldCon: I am forming a Queer Rapid Response Team. Before the convention next month, I will set up an automated channel that will text any messages onward to everybody on the team. The idea is that if anybody in the family needs an escort, needs a friendly face, needs emotional support, or whatever, we can form up on them like queer Voltron.

Pixel Scroll 4/13/18 Soylent Scroll is Pixels

(1) ARTEMIS IS NOT THE EXPANSE. Ioannis Kokkinidis gives an analysis of how realistic Andy Weir’s Artemis is in “The polis of Artemis on the Moon” at Centauri Dreams.

Over the years many rationales have been given to colonize the Moon. This is the only story I have read – granted I have not been able to read that much science fiction – where tourism is the primary driver of colonization. Andy Weir has said that he first created an economy of the town and then went on to write the novel. His description of a tourist dependent city though has several assumptions that, while mostly true for some American destinations, are quite odd for tourist destinations outside the US. This is an analysis by a person who comes from a country whose economy is highly dependent of tourism, has visited some 30 countries and lived in 5 of them. I am trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible so as not to ruin the enjoyment of the book to anyone who has not read it, though I hope that those that have not read the book will be able to follow my arguments and form their own opinions.

Kokkinidis’ article includes the surprise that Andy Weir and James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have agreed that his stories are set in the same universe as The Expanse series.

Or not, says Greg Hullender, who sent the link along with his own research into the matter.

There was a tweet from Corey back in 2015 that said the stories were part of the same continuity —

But a few months ago, Weir denied it during a  Reddit AMA session:

I love The Expanse – fantastic stories. But no, The Martian and The Expanse are not in the same continuity. They just threw in the reference for fun. I’m honored.

And a month later, Daniel Abraham admitted it was just a joke:

It was a friendly joke at SDCC a few years back. Andy’s awesome, and we’re fans. I think we can keep the copyright lawyers in their cages for the time being.

Ah well. It was a pretty idea while it lasted.

(2) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind takes the recent controversy over Terry Goodkind’s criticism of cover srt on his new book as a starting point for a dive into sff art history, “Author Vs Art”.

In 1973 Dennis Stocks organized a science fiction convention in Brisbane. At this convention there was a panel titled: “SF Illustration… A Dying Art?” In preparation for this panel he asked various authors their opinions. He received some fascinating answers:

….Perhaps we’ll have more luck with Robert Bloch:

About science fiction illustration being a dying art – I’d be more inclined to regard the patient as not dying but merely partially crippled. My diagnosis is as follows:

His skin – that is to say, cover illustrations in both magazines and paperbacks – has a good, healthy tone and radiates a high degree of vitality,

His insides – i.e. interior illustrations in the magazines are ailing. And have been for many a long year. Much black-and-white is crude, hastily-executed and poorly reproduced, and necessarily limited as to size by the digest format of the pages on which it appears.

(3) FELAPTON PIRATED! Camestros Felapton real life is far more exciting than mere fiction: “Avast! And Splice the Epub Me Hearties! Pirates Off the Starboard iBook!”

So 2018 has so far been a strange year for the Felapton brand, aside from a being a Hugo finalist, being reported to the Federal Police for running a blog and not forgetting being accused of secretly lecturing in philosophy in Aberdeen, I’ve now been pirated!

The Apple iBooks store has two version of The Felapton Digest available. One is the correct one distributed by Smashwords and is free. The other is…I’m not sure, I haven’t looked inside it because whoever is selling it is charging $39.99!

(4) NEW BAT CHANNEL. George R.R. Martin has moved his blog off of LiveJournal. Here’s the link to the new URL for Not A Blog.

(5) FREE COMICS. Free Comic Book Day is coming May 5.

(6) REAL LIFE PODCASTING. Cat Rambo shares a… pro tip? Confession?

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge agrees with xkcd’s Narnian punchline about Turkish Delight.

(8) NIHIL NECCO? Meanwhile, the fate of another candy hangs in the balance — “Necco wafers may disappear forever due to candy factory shutdown”:

Still, Necco Wafers are not as flashy as more modern confections, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Baby Ruths. Naysayers have complained that Necco Wafers taste like drywall or chalk; time and again, the wafers have topped lists of America’s most hated candy.

Be that as it may, Necco Wafers are suddenly having a huge revival. Why? Because the candy factory — the New England Confectionary Company, or Necco — that makes these deliciously despised candies may shut down.

In March, Necco CEO Michael McGee told the Boston Globe that the failing company would be closing down — and laying off nearly 400 people — if it could not find a buyer.

(9) A REAL SPACE MUSEUM. The BBC tells about : “The ambitious proposal to create a space ‘museum’ in orbit” — preserving the Hubble as an exhibit now that there’s no shuttle to keep refurbishing it.

One of the most significant scientific endeavours of all time, Hubble is destined to burn apart as it re-enters the atmosphere in the early 2030s. It will go the same way as many other historic space objects – from the first satellite and Laika the space dog, to Skylab and the Mir space station.

But there may be an “impossible” alternative.

“It seems an ignominious end for such a celebrated object,” says Stuart Eves, chair of the Space Information Exchange – a UK government and industry forum for space security and infrastructure – who is a satellite engineer and expert on space debris. “Instead, in the same way we preserve historic ships, aircraft, cars and trains in museums,” he says, “we ought to look after Hubble and preserve it for posterity.”

Rather than bring it back to Earth – a costly and challenging mission (successfully attempted by the Space Shuttle in 1984 with two communications satellites) – Eves is urging the US to preserve the telescope in space.

(10) THE GOAL. Greg Hullender explains the reviewing philosophy of Rocket Stack Rank in “A Word for Authors”. “It tries to give authors some guidance on when they ought to engage with us about a review they had problems with,” he says. “The key thing is that it separates our reviews, which are matters of opinion, from our index, which should be a matter of fact. We have an adversarial relationship with authors regarding reviews, but we ought to be cooperative when it comes to the index. It’s the one place where we have the same goal: to attract readers to stories that might interest them.” Here’s an excerpt —

Honest Doesn’t Mean Cruel

Some authors can’t handle any amount of criticism of their work. One author complained about five negative words in thousand-word 5-star review which otherwise gushed over how great the story was. Another complained that a 5-star review praised their story for the wrong reasons. We can’t make everyone happy, and we aren’t going to try.

But there’s no reason to be cruel either. Nothing I post is ever meant to hurt an author’s feelings. If I’ve overstepped the line, anyone (readers, authors, editors, etc.) should feel free to let me know. In particular:

  • A review should never be personal. “This story suffers from a weak plot” is okay. “This author can’t plot his way out of a paper bag” is not.
  • A review should not pile on. Once I’ve cited enough reasons to explain why the story got a 2-star review, I should stop. There’s no point in trying to list 50 things that bothered me if 5 will do.
  • A review should never use the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability of an author or the characters portrayed as factors for or against a story. (Unrealistic portrayal is a different story, of course. “But a Mainer would neverbe best friends with a New Yorker!”)

Beyond that, if an author believed I was unnecessarily harsh, he or she should feel free to let me know. If I somehow wrote “This was the most awful thing I’ve ever read,” I’d almost certainly be willing to soften that to “I didn’t enjoy this story at all.”

(11) YANG AT HIGH TIDE. Joe Sherry covers three books in “Nanoreviews: Good Guys, Penric’s Fox, The Black Tides of Heaven” at Nerds of a Feather.

He really likes this one –

Yang, JY. The Black Tides of Heaven [Tor.com Publishing]

Have you ever read a book and midway through you’re actively angry at yourself for not reading it sooner? That was me after maybe twenty pages of The Black Tides of Heaven. By the end of the book my jaw was on the floor in amazement at just how spectacular this novella is. Told over the course of more than thirty years, The Black Tides of Heaven is not quite the story of revolution, but it is more a story of politics, of family, of personal choice, with a bit of revolution in the mix. All of that, and more, is woven together to something that is far superior than any facile description I could possibly give. I’m not sure I am up to the task of properly reviewing thie novella. I can only give The Black Tides of Heaven my highest possible recommendation.
Score: 10/10 

(12) THE U.S. ARMY’S OWN MILSF. The IEEE Spectrum says “To Illustrate the Dangers of Cyberwarfare, the Army Is Turning to Sci-fi”.

Graphic novelettes issued by the U.S. Army Cyber Institute aim to educate soldiers about digital threats…

The books grew out of the ACI’s collaboration with the Threatcasting Lab at Arizona State University, in Tempe. Brian David Johnson is the director of the Threatcasting Lab and Intel’s former in-house futurist. He wrote the books—Dark Hammer, Silent Ruin, Engineering a Traitor, and 11/25/27—with Sandy Winkelman as creative director.

“We do two-day threatcasting events where we…model possible threats 10 years in the future,” Johnson says. “Threats to national security, threats to the economy, threats to civilization. And once we’ve established those, then we look backward and say, ‘How do we disrupt and mitigate those threats?’ ” he says.

The ACI decided they wanted more than just the lab’s traditional reports, Johnson says. “They wanted something that was much more visceral, that could be put in front of an 18-year-old cadet and also in front of a three-star general. They chose a process of mine called science fiction prototyping. You write science fiction stories based on science facts to explore possible futures. We used the threatcasting reports as the science facts, and we developed these four comic books as a way to illustrate these possible threats.”

(13) THE NEXT JOB FOR ROBOTS. Never mind hamburgers: “Could a robot pip people picking peppers?” [Video]

A pepper-picking robot named Harvey is being developed by Queensland University of Technology with the aim of reducing crop waste.

Moving between crop rows autonomously, the robot can detect when the fruit is ripe and picks the pepper with the aid of a suction grip and an electric saw.

(14) WINTER IS COMING. Europe could get colder: “Climate change dials down Atlantic Ocean heating system” — “the Atlantic Ocean circulation system is weaker now than it has been for more than 1,000 years – and has changed significantly in the past 150.”

The study, in the journal Nature, says it may be a response to increased melting ice and is likely to continue.

Researchers say that could have an impact on Atlantic ecosystems.

Scientists involved in the Atlas project – the largest study of deep Atlantic ecosystems ever undertaken – say the impact will not be of the order played out in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

But they say changes to the conveyor-belt-like system – also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) – could cool the North Atlantic and north-west Europe and transform some deep-ocean ecosystems.

(15) PAY THE WRITER. The BBC article “Dealing with clients who expect you to work for free” is a collection of sleazy lines turned into cartoons — not specifically genre, but a common concern in the field. (Cartoons at the link.)

She calls this a “graphic survey” approach –  drawing illustrations that put a face with the crowd-sourced quote – that would create a space for creatives to share their experiences.

“It’s fun to create that in-joke where people have experienced these things,” she says. “But the other people [who aren’t in on the joke] are like, ‘What’s going on, am I getting made fun of?’ It creates awareness, and hopefully it gets shared.”

The goal of For Exposure, beyond creating a platform for frustrated creatives? It’s not only to arm them to be savvier – it’s also hold the people they work for accountable.

“I want artists to learn to recognise red flags,” Estrada says. “And I want clients to learn how not to be insulting.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Greg Hullender, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 2/22/18 Scroll Up For The Pixelly Tour!

(1) IT COULD BE A REAL PLACE. Nadia Maddy hopes people will look beyond their headspace for the answer to “Where Is Your Wakanda?”

Where is your Wakanda? Wakanda is real but have you found it? Is it really in East Africa or is it in Central Africa? Perhaps its in Nigeria? What do you think?

 

(2) LE GUIN WINS A PEN AWARD. PEN America held its 2018 Literary Awards ceremony on February 20 at New York University reports Publishers Weekly “Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards”.

[Ursula K.] Le Guin won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare. The author’s son, Theo [accepted the] award on behalf of the late Ursula K. Le Guin.

(3) A SINGAPORE FIRST – AND SECOND. The Straits Times interviews “Two Singaporeans on Nebula awards shortlist”, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Yang, a science communications officer, recalls: “When I was growing up, I would print out a list of the works that had won the Hugo and Nebula and try to make my way through them. I would never have imagined that one day I would be a finalist. I’m so proud to be one of the Singaporeans on the list, it’s just fantastic.”

Prasad, 27, a full-time writer, started submitting to science-fiction magazines only last year, but has already been shortlisted twice. “I’m overwhelmed and really honoured,” she says.

She is up for Best Novelette for A Series Of Steaks, about two women in Nanjing who forge quality beef – inspired by the real-life counterfeit food industry – and Best Short Story for Fandom For Robots, in which a sentient robot discovers Japanese anime and starts writing fan fiction.

(4) AT YOUR SERVICE. For anyone who wants paper Hugo and Retro-Hugo ballots, there’s now a way to print them.

Worldcon 76 has published PDFs of the paper nominating ballots for the 2018 Hugo Awards/Award for Best Young Adult Book/John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards.

(5) NOMMO NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until March 31 to nominate works for the 2018 Nommo Awards. The awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2018.

(6) BUZZWORDKILL. In The Atlantic, Bruce Sterling commands people to “Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities'” – “Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.”

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

(7) IN TRAINING. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Carmen Maria Machado about her learning experiences.

I know that you also went to the Clarion science fiction writers workshop. I wonder if you could contrast Iowa and Clarion a little bit?

Clarion is not an MFA program. Clarion is a six-week, insane, exhausting boot camp. It’s a totally different process. The MFA program is more moderate, in the sense that it’s happening over the course of several years. I don’t know really how to compare them. The workshop style is really different. Genre places tend to use the system where everybody goes around in a circle and says their piece and then is silent.

The Milford system?

Oh yeah, the Milford. Which, actually, I do not like that workshop system, but that is the way it’s done at Clarion. It was done that way when I went to Sycamore Hill. That’s just the sort of tradition. Whereas, in my MFA program, it was more of a style of people talking and responding to each other in real time, which I prefer. It’s hard to compare Clarion and Iowa. They’re just inherently really different in terms of what you’re getting out of them. What I got out of Iowa was two years of funded time to work on my own shit, which was amazing and really wonderful. What I got out of Clarion was this really bombastic, high-intensity, octane-fueled, genre extravaganza where I barely slept. I was writing a lot of stuff, some of which was really terrible, and some of which was pretty good, and workshopping non-stop and barely sleeping. They’re really different programs.

(8) IF YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING NICE. Marshall Ryan Maresca helps sff readers pay attention to some people who are doing it the right way in “On My Mind: Building Community”.

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I’ve also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won’t give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people– they’re the ones who deserve notoriety.  They’re the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention…..

Names follow.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian says Brevity found a way to make a joke at the expense of two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk.

(10) STORY AMPLIFIED. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to the latest release in Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series, “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor. Joey Eschrich notes that it was published along with a response essay by Internet of Things expert Stacey Higginbotham, focusing on the smart home technology in the story.

(11) SHORT FICTION DISCOVERIES. The prolific Charles Payseur has launched a column at Book Smugglers X Marks The Story. The first installment leads readers to such treasures as —

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” by Jamie Berrout (published in Strange Horizons, 01/2018 )

What It Is: Coming in a special issue of Strange Horizons featuring transgender and nonbinary authors, “A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” stars Lupita, a trans woman stuck in an awful job as a security guard at a museum, hoping that she can work her way out of mistakes she made when she was younger and her world was imploding. The changing nature of employment, learning algorithms, employer greed and entitlement, and the dream of economic mobility all collide in a plot that kept the reading experience for me fast and tight and devastating. (And for fans of this story, I also recommend checking out “Dream Job” in January’s Terraform SF, which also explores themes of employment and the traps of late capitalism).

Why I Love It: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but stories exploring the future of employment and capitalism seem to be on the rise. For me, it’s a constant reminder of the realities of growing up and entering the workforce in a time where so many things that previous generations take for granted are in shambles or completely gone. Retirement contributions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave, debt forgiveness—the present isn’t exactly a cheery place for many hoping to live and maybe reach for that dream of comfort, security, and autonomy. …

[Via Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(12) BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE! At Featured Futures, Jason has posted an “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” which begins its additional coverage with Ellen Datlow’s freshly announced The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten.

By request, this is an expanded edition of Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!). That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This will add Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran.

(13) SIGNAGE. Culver City, CA’s Ripped Bodice Bookstore gives fair warning:

(14) PASSING THE BUCKING BRONCO. Something else we know that ain’t so: “Why The Last ‘Wild’ Horses Really Aren’t”.

A Mongolian horse that has long been hailed as the last truly wild horse species in existence isn’t really all that wild.

It turns out that Przewalski’s horses are actually feral descendants of the first horses that humans are known to have domesticated, around 5,500 years ago.

What’s more, the modern horses that people ride today cannot be traced to those early steeds. That means humans must have tamed wild horses once again later on, somewhere else, but no one knows where or when.

(15) CAVE DWELLERS. If the pics remind you of a kindergarten project, remember your kids didn’t have to be the first people to ever have the idea: “Neanderthals were capable of making art”.

Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.

A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.

They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.

Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.

The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.

(16) YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS STORY IS LEADING. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t get to enjoy it for long: “Ancient Britons ‘replaced’ by newcomers”.

Prof Reich told BBC News: “Archaeologists ever since the Second World War have been very sceptical about proposals of large-scale movements of people in prehistory. But what the genetics are showing – with the clearest example now in Britain at Beaker times – is that these large-scale migrations occurred, even after the spread of agriculture.”

The genetic data, from hundreds of ancient British genomes, reveals that the Beakers were a distinct population from the Neolithic British. After their arrival on the island, Beaker genes appear to swamp those of the native farmers.

Prof Reich added: “The previous inhabitants had just put up the big stones at Stonehenge, which became a national place of pilgrimage as reflected by goods brought from the far corners of Britain.”

He added: “The sophisticated ancient peoples who built that monument and ones like it could not have known that within a short period of time their descendants would be gone and their lands overrun.”

(17) DON’T MISS THIS NON-GENRE LINK. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the surviving cast and writers for “‘MAS*H’ Oral History: Untold Stories From One of TV’s Most Important Shows”.

(18) NO ARMY CAN STOP AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Adam-Troy Castro offered this subtle suggestion on Facebook:

Let’s run an International Science Fiction Asshole Convention.

People who want to go to conventions or to award ceremonies in order to be disruptive assholes — all while filling thousands of pages of blog posts with their fiendish snickering about the trouble they intend and how much it will bother everyone else — will finally have their annual event, where they can hand out awards to honor The Year’s Biggest Asshole, The Year’s Biggest Dickweed, the Year’s Most Appalling Runner-Up, as well as the Award for Best Newcomer (which at the Hugos are named after a luminary with J, W, and C as initials, and can be done here as well, albeit in different order).

Steve Davidson has volunteered to do the con’s Souvenir Book. In fact, he’s not even going to wait for the convention to be founded —

I’m soliciting articles for this, lol. Someone want to write a history of the (what was it, the ISFC?) from its founding to the present?

Anyone want to do short profiles of award winners from the past?

(19) JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND.  Annalee Newitz tells about the “8,000-year-old heads on spikes found in a remote Swedish lake” at Ars Technica. Warning – the article is full of grisly medical commentary.

In east-central Sweden, workers demolishing a railway that crossed the Motala Ström River discovered something bizarre. For roughly 7,500 years, a shallow, swampy lake in the area had hidden a pile of stones that contained the skeletal remains of at least 10 people and weapons made of stone and antler. They also found the bones of bears, deer, boar, and a badger. Two of the human skulls were mounted on pointed stakes.

Thousands of years ago, this semi-submerged burial ground must have been an imposing sight for the small settlements located nearby. A pile of rocks rose above the water, covered in weapons, wooden structures, and the grisly remains of fearsome animals—as well as the skulls of some carefully chosen people. Now dubbed “Kanaljorden,” the archaeological site has finally begun to yield some secrets about the people who created it. In a recent article for Antiquity, Stockholm University archaeologist Sara Gummesson and her colleagues explain what the evidence reveals about how this ritual site was used.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich,  Chip Hitchcock, Kendall, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

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…