Pixel Scroll 5/18/19 The Filer Who Went Up A Scroll But Came Down A Pixel

(1) NEBULA LIVESTREAM. You can see it on SFWA’s YouTube channel at 8:00 p.m. Pacific.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are presenting the 2018 Nebula Awards for excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing, live from the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA.

(2) NEW OWNERSHIP. Have you ever rescued something a neighbor put out in the yard? The Toronto Globe and Mail has a story to share: “Starship Enterprise replica seeks new life, new civilization with new Toronto owner”.

The Starship Enterprise has travelled far and wide throughout the galaxy, encountering countless civilizations — and now it is sitting in a garage in eastern Toronto.

…Bill Doern, a 51-year-old who runs a boutique public relations and marketing firm in Toronto, watched reruns of the original Star Trek television series as a boy. His favourite character is Spock. His favourite captain is Picard. When his wife was pregnant with their first child, he hoped to name the boy Mr. Sulu (they ended up naming him Elijah).

Mr. Doern is, in other words, about as much of a Trekkie as a Trekkie can be.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, he was driving home from doing some grocery shopping when he saw a scale replica of the Enterprise NCC-1701-A, last seen in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released in 1991, on a neighbour’s front lawn.

Mr. Doern stopped to get a picture of the ship, which is about as big as a small car. As he was snapping a pic, the homeowner came out with a “For sale” sign.

(3) ARTIFICIAL OBSTREPOROUSNESS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has a lot of fun foretelling “The Coming of the Fanbots”.

…It should come as no surprise then that a joint team comprised of members of MIT’s Media Lab (Artificial Intelligence Division) and Hanson Robotics was recently formed to address the need for Fanbots – electronic replacements for geeks and nerds.

“This project actually began in Hollywood”, said Dr. Calvin, Chief Administrator for the project.  “Studio heads approached us a few years ago and asked us to blue-sky a response to the negativity that was surrounding, among other things, Disney’s evisceration of the Star Wars extended universe, not to mention Paramount’s problems with Star Trek fan films, the on-going complaints about Fox’s cancellation of Firefly, the regular eruption of re-make hysteria, the encroachment of real world politics into entertainment.”

Calvin went on to explain that the studios were expressing grave concern over the reliability of fans, and concern over the increasing sense of “ownership” fans were expressing regarding favored properties.  One director stated that he was “sick and tired of being told what prior works he had stolen his ideas from; another expressed dismay over fan’s insistence that some degree of logicality accompany the plots of entirely fictional characters; marketing division heads complained about the complete and utter unreliability of fan audiences who seemed to select favorites and stinkers in an entirely arbitrary and fickle manner.”…

(4) FIRST UNMEN IN THE MOON. Print covers the release of “Robert Grossman’s Moon Walk”.

Three years before he died last year, the brilliant caricaturist, illustrator, animator and comic strip artist, Robert Grossman completed his as-of-then unpublished magnum opus, a decade long passion titled Life On The Moon: A Completely Illustrated Novel (Yoe Books). Grossman prided himself on illustrating “the un-illustratable” — an historical graphic novel based on the “Great Moon Hoax,” the most successful  fake news story ever published.

Robert Grossman and the Moon

In 1835, The New York Sun published a series of six articles declaring the discovery of life–and advanced civilization–on the moon, which the newspaper attributed to the famous contemporary astronomer Sir John Herschel. According to the Sun, the lunar inhabitants included unicorns, bison, bipedal tail-less beavers, and intelligent humanoids with bat-like wings.

(5) SCOFFER. Karen Yossman gives a right-wing take on the various controversies in YA publishing at Spectator: “Writers blocked: Even fantasy fiction is now offensive”.

…Nor is the contagion confined to American authors. Last month John Boyne, best known for the Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, received such a barrage of abuse prior to the publication of his latest book, My Brother’s Name Is Jessica, which features a transgender central character, that he was briefly forced off Twitter. Critics labelled the book ‘transphobic’, suggesting that because Boyne is not transgender the story ‘lacked authenticity’ and its title ‘misgendered’ the fictional protagonist.

At almost the same moment that Boyne was deleting his Twitter account, Lincolnshire-based Zoe Marriott, a prolific writer of YA fiction, was also being hounded on the site over her new fantasy novel, The Hand, the Eye and the Heart, because it’s set in ‘fairy-tale China’. One prominent YA blogger warned: ‘White authors need to stay the hell away from the stories of people of color.’ Curiously, said blogger’s day job involves manning the tills at Foyles, one of London’s most revered bookshops — pity the poor sod who dares trouble her for a copy of Othello, or Tolkien for that matter.  The father of fantasy fiction has come in for criticism for his portrayal of orcs in The Lord of the Rings. Some feel his work is ‘racialized’. And what’s a sensitive young bookseller to do if a young customer requests a C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books were branded ‘blatantly racist’ and misogynistic by fellow fantasy author Philip Pullman? Pullman has since been labelled ‘transphobic’ himself after tweeting in October that he was ‘finding the trans argument impossible to follow’.

(6) FELDGRAU DISCOURAGED. Unsurprisingly, Bounding Into Comics needles this new policy: “Anime NYC Institutes Ban on Cosplays of ‘Fictitious Nazis or Nazi-Like Organizations’”

…Though the rule in question specifically targets the promotion or display of “fictitious Nazis or Nazi-like organizations,” Anime NYC has been highly inconsistent in its application of the rule. Tanya the Evil, a series specifically noted in the rules, features allusions to aspects of World War II (such as the appearance of the World War II-era MP40 submachine guns or a character based on Werner Von Braun) but is entirely set in a fictional country based heavily on World War I-era Europe.

Furthermore, in a move deemed hypocritical by some fans, the close professional partnership between LeftField Media and Crunchyroll led to Anime NYC promoting a special screening of The Saga of Tanya the Evil – the Movie:…

(7) THE SCIENTIFIC ANSWER. Readers can discover “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones” at Scientific American.

… The show did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn goes way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories.

At its best, GOT was a beast as rare as a friendly dragon in King’s Landing: it was sociological and institutional storytelling in a medium dominated by the psychological and the individual. This structural storytelling era of the show lasted through the seasons when it was based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, who seemed to specialize in having characters evolve in response to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them.

After the show ran ahead of the novels, however, it was taken over by powerful Hollywood showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Some fans and critics have been assuming that the duo changed the narrative to fit Hollywood tropes or to speed things up, but that’s unlikely. In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author. What they did is something different, but in many ways more fundamental: Benioff and Weiss steer the narrative lane away from the sociological and shifted to the psychological. That’s the main, and often only, way Hollywood and most television writers tell stories….

(8) SJWS CAN WALK. Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes thought there was good news for the Tonopah in 2021 Westercon bid – that Streamliner Lines is inaugurating bus service to the city:

We’re pleased to see that an inter-city bus carrier has begun to sell tickets for intercity bus service Reno-Tonopah-Las Vegas-Phoenix, starting July 3, 2019. This should give people traveling to Tonopah by air to Reno or Las Vegas an additional way of getting to Tonopah without having to rent a vehicle or group with other people doing so.

The good feeling only lasted until Lenore Jones told Filers what she read in Streamliner’s “contract of carriage”, a document with many remarkable restrictions, such as:  

Prohibition of Social Justice Warriors

Due to attempted vandalism, Social Justice Warriors may not travel on Streamliner. Social Justice Warriors include:

  • Persons self-proclaiming to be “Social Justice Warriors” or “SJWs”.
  • Persons supporting California regulations prohibiting or restricting Streamliner operations.
  • Persons supporting boycotts, sabotage, agitation, protests, and terrorism against Streamliner.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Artist Dennis Neal Smith, chair of the first WesterCon in San Diego in 1966, has died reports Greg Bear.

Fond farewell to Dennis Neal Smith, famous for many things, and scholar of many things, who inspired Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” with his richly textured illustrations, and who illustrated my first story collection for Arkham House, as well as Joanna Russ’ collection.

Jackie Estrada says Smith died of cancer:

But his biggest claim to fame was his artwork. Harlan Ellison based several of his short stories on drawings by Dennis, including “Bright Eyes,” “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” and “Delusions for a Dragonslayer.” He also did the art for the first progress report for the 1972 San Diego Comic-Con and served on the committee back then.

The 1966 San Diego Westercon hotel inspired Poul Anderson to write the immortal filk “Bouncing Potatoes”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” based on a story by Ray Bradbury.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series. Some are outstanding, some less so. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 18, 1934 Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time Tunnel, Land of The Giants, Bewitched, The Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 18, 1946 Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He alsohad appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 18, 1948 R-Laurraine Tutihasi, 71. She’s a member of LASFS and the N3F. She publishes Feline Mewsings for FAPA. Not surprisingly, she’s had a number of SJW credentials in her life and her website gives honour to them here.
  • Born May 18, 1949 Rick Wakeman, 70. English musician who did a number of genre themed recordings including Journey to the Centre of the EarthThe Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Nineteen Eighty-four
  • Born May 18, 1952 Diane Duane, 67. She’s known for the the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. 
  • Born May 18, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 61. The only thing I’ve read by him is a number of works in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra. 
  • Born May 18, 1969 Ty Franck, 50. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that s James Corey, author of the Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it!

(12) SCARES THAT CARE. [Item by Dann.] Episode 219 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene included an announcement of the 3rd Horror Show telethon to benefit the Scares That Care charity. The first telethon in 2017 raised over $10,000, last year’s telethon raised over $20,000.  Both events took place in Pennsylvania and heavily featured guests living on the east coast of the United States.

This year’s event will take place on September 27-28 at Dark Delicacies located at 822 N. Hollywood Way located in Burbank, CA.  This is a new location for the bookstore that bills itself as the “Home of Horror”.

One feature of holding this year’s event in California is the ability to draw on the talented people in the horror genre that live and work on the west coast of the United States.

Unlike the first two telethons, this year’s event will take place in a location with less room for live viewing.  It is hoped that attendees will circulate in and out of the viewing area that patrons of the store will still be able to shop.

The telethon will be broadcast live via one of the streaming services.  Online fundraising will be performed via the Scares That Care website.

Fans wanting to participate in a Scares That Care event on the east coast can attend the “Scares That Care Weekend from August 1 to August 4 in Williamsburg, VA.

(13) GEOGRAPHY OF FANTASY. At Fantasy Literature, Brad Hawley reviews “God Country: A Sentient Sword Comes to Texas”.

…The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him….

Does that mean it’s supposed to be a long distance between Texas and Hell?

(15) AT THE KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the KGB Readings on May 15.

Kai Ashante Wilson and Simon Strantzas read from their short work and they were riveting

(16) THOSE DARNED HUGOS. Galactic Journey’s Traveler notes with asperity that almost none of the Hugo nominees this year (that being 1964) were good enough to be shortlisted for his own Galactic Stars. “[May 18, 1964] Aspirations (June 1964 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”. (The Traveler needs to buy a bigger hat.)

If you plunked down your $2 for a Worldcon membership (Pacificon II in San Francisco this year), then you probably sent in your nominations for the Hugo Awards, honoring the best works of 1963. Last month, you got the finalists ballot. Maybe, like me, you were surprised….

(17) ANDERS ANSWERS. “Bay Area sci-fi author Charlie Jane Anders dishes on planets, books” in the Mercury News.

What do you think accounts for the recent boom in speculative fiction?

There’s been a trend over the last 20 years of “mainstream” literary authors dipping into speculative fiction — Margaret Atwood, John Updike. (But) we’re living in a time where everything is a little more science fictional. Technology has transformed lives in a short time, things like smartphones, medical technologies. A third thing is that speculative fiction is finally opening out and including authors who had previously been kept out of the genre: people of color, women, queer people, transgendered people, disabled people. That, I think, leads to an explosion of creativity and a ton of really interesting stories.

(18) NEBULA CONFERENCE VIDEOS. SFWA has posted several panel discussions from this weekend’s event.

  • Shifting To Games. With Phoebe Barton, Kate Dollarhyde, Darusha Wehm, Natalia Theodoridou, and Kate Heartfield.
  • Now What? Emerging writers discuss life after their debut. With Rebecca Roanhorse, Peng Shepherd, Mike Chen, R.R. Virdi and R.F. Kuang
  • How do the writers of 2019 incorporate modern themes while writing in past settings? With Susan Forest, Connie Willis, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kate Heartfield

(19) STAR WARS PITCH. ScreenRant lets you step inside the pitch meeting that led to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope!

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Jim Caughran, Dann, Nancy Sauer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/19 Get Your Clicks On Scroll 6-6-6!

(1) DEALING WITH DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. Chuck Wendig, who doesn’t want people using social media to shove their negative reviews of his work in his face – point taken – goes on to make an unconvincing distinction between customer complaints about his fiction and everything else: “Hi, Definitely Don’t Tag Authors In Your Negative Reviews Of Their Books”.

…You might note also that negative reviews are one of the ways we communicate with creators of products and arbiters of service in order to improve the quality of that product or that service — which is true! If someone at American Airlines shits in my bag, I’m gonna say something on Twitter, and I’m going to say it to American Airlines. If the dishwasher I bought was full of ants, you bet I’m going to tag GE in that biz when I go to Twitter. But books are not dishwashers or airlines. You can’t improve what happened. It’s out there. The book exists. You can’t fix it now. And art isn’t a busted on-switch, or a broken door, or a poopy carryon bag, or an ant-filled dishwasher….

(2) THE PERIPHERALS WHISPERER. Ursula Vernon has many talents – this is another one.

(3) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Simon Strantzas and Kai Ashante Wilson on Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is the author of five collections of short fiction, including Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), and is editor of the award-winning Aickman’s Heirs and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3. His fiction has appeared in numerous annual best-of anthologies, in venues such as Nightmare, Postscripts, and Cemetery Dance, and has been nominated for both the British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.

Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson won the Crawford award for best first novel of 2016, and his works have been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. Most of his stories are available on Tor.com. His novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey may be ordered from local bookstores or online. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.

(4) FAT ISSUES IN ENDGAME? Adam-Troy Castro rejects complaints about Thor’s character in Avengers: Endgame. Beware Spoilers.

I am a fat guy. I will likely always be a fat guy.

Fat Thor is not fat-shaming.

Fat Thor is character humor: the man has given up. Tony Stark went in one direction, the Odinson went in another. He’s a binge-drinking, binge-eating, emotionally fragile shell of himself, and while some of the other characters make unkind (and, dammit, funny) remarks, it is his diminishment and not his enlargement that is the source of the humor.

Sure, bloody explain it to me now.

I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Fvck you, I’m a fat guy. I do know, I do understand. I have been mocked for my weight, sometimes viciously. I know it all.

(I haven’t personally encountered these complaints, I can only assume there must be some, else why Castro’s post.)

(5) JUNE SWOON. It’s 1964. the prozine pendulum is swinging, and apparently it’s getting away from Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus: “[May 8, 1964] Rough Patch (June 1964 Galaxy)”.

I think I’ve got a bad case of sibling rivalry.  When Victoria Silverwolf came onto the Journey, she took on the task of reviewing Fantastic, a magazine that was just pulling itself out of the doldrums.  My bailiwick consisted of Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, IF, and Galaxy, which constituted The Best that SF had to offer.

Ah for those halcyon days.  Now Fantastic is showcasing fabulous Leiber, Moorcock, and Le Guin.  Moreover, Vic has added the superlative Worlds of Tomorrow to her beat.  What have I got?  Analog is drab and dry, Avram Davidson has careened F&SF to the ground, IF is inconsistent, and Galaxy…ah, my poor, once beloved Galaxy

(6) TERRAIN TERROR. Laird Barron now writes crime novels set in Alaska.  But he used to be a horror writer, and “In Noir, Geography Is a Character” on CrimeReads, Barron has anecdotes about Michael Shea and the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose.

…A decade ago, bound for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I stared out the window of a light commercial plane swooping in low over the Central Valley. Low enough I made out details of oak trees covering big hills and the rusty check patterns of the yards of individual homes. Country roads radiated like nerves from a plexus. Cars crawled along those snaking roads through golden dust. The rumpled land subtly descended toward the haze of the Pacific. I realized this was where Michael Shea got his flavor. This “obvious” revelation slapped me in the face.

Michael left us too soon five years later in 2014. His memory looms large in the weird fiction and horror fields as the man who wrote the landmark collection Polyphemus. A deep vein of mystery and noir travels through his work, grounding the fantastical tropes. I’d read him since my latter teens, absorbing the unique cadence of his prose without giving conscious thought to how echoes of the natural world inflected his grimiest urban settings, how the superstructures and sprawl of his version of LA and San Francisco were influenced by the ancient earth they occupy….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

This was a big date in sff history.

May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered.

May 9, 1986 Short Circuit debuted in theatres.

May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element arrived in movie houses.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn was the pen name of Philip Klass. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 68. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 40. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) INTERZONE BEGINS. SFFDirect downloads the history of a famed sf magazine from one of the founders: “Early years of Interzone, told by Co-Ed Simon Ounsley”.

In 1981, Eastercon was held in Leeds. Four attendees were David Pringle, Simon Ounsley, Alan Dorey (then chairman of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA)) and Graham James. David Pringle was a co-chairman of the convention and Simon Ounsley was assisting with the finances. The convention made a profit of £1,300, which Simon states was completely unintentional and purely down to cautious budgeting. At Graham James’ suggestion, the committee agreed to use the money to launch an SF magazine. Simon recalls how controversial this decision was at the time, but in any event, the four men teamed up to start a magazine.

At the same time, four friends in London were also trying to get an SF magazine off the ground. They were Malcolm Edwards, who worked for SF publisher Gollancz, and SF critics John Clute, Colin Greenland, and Roz Kaveney. They had asked the BSFA if they would publish the magazine and it had declined. However, Alan made David aware of the London proposal and the two groups got together.

As Simon says, this was an ideal match because the Leeds contingent had the money and the London team had the connections. The name of the magazine was suggested by David. It was an imaginary city in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch

(11) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. Stephen Colbert helped fans get a head start watching the new biopic: “Stephen Colbert Hosts First ‘Tolkien’ Screening With Cast and Director” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Moviegoers across the country were able to see Tolkien ahead of its release this Friday, along with a Q&A moderated by Lord of the Rings super-fan Stephen Colbert, even if they weren’t at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey on Tuesday for the first-ever screening of the movie.

The panel, featuring the Fox Searchlight film’s stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins with director Dome Karukoski, was simulcast to select theaters following special screenings. In Montclair, Karukoski revealed what goes into a film like Tolkien, which chronicles the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as he forms friendships, goes to war and falls in love….

To close out the Q&A, Colbert praised Karukoski’s efforts and Tolkien itself. “Thank you for the film you created. It reminds me of the power of story, and how it can give us hope,” the late-night host said before citing one of Tolkien’s quotes from The Return of the King: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Continued Colbert, “I cried many times watching this film, and I want to thank you for those tears of pain and of those tears of joy and thank you for what you have given me of his [Tolkien’s] life and for your beautiful performances.”

(12) CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE. “Australia’s A$50 note misspells responsibility” – time to get the appertainment flowing Down Under.

Australia’s latest A$50 note comes with a big blunder hidden in the small print – a somewhat embarrassing typo.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) spelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty” on millions of the new yellow notes.

The RBA confirmed the typo on Thursday and said the error would be fixed in future print runs.

But for now, around 46 million of the new notes are in use across the country.

The bills were released late last year and feature Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

What looks like a lawn in the background of Ms Cowan’s portrait is in fact rows of text – a quotation from her first speech to parliament.

(13) HEAVY METAL. Alas behind a paywall at Nature: “Collapsars  forming black holes as a major source of galaxy’s heavy elements” [PDF file]. Here scientists report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks (in black hole formation) yield sufficient heavy elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe.

Although these supernovae are rarer than neutronstar mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process heavy element content of the Universe.

(14) HE CALLED FOR HIS BOWL. BBC calls “Southend burial site ‘UK’s answer to Tutankhamun'”.

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their “best guess” is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend on permanent display for the first time.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were “astounded” to find the burial chamber intact.

(15) STAR BLECCH. Matt Keeley encounters one of the earliest Star Trek parodies while revisiting a Sixties issue of MAD: “Not Just a Classic Issue, MAD #115 (December 1967) Predicted the Future”.

…Mort Drucker’s art is exquisite as always, and DeBartolo’s writing is top notch, loaded with puns and hilarious jokes. (Spook: “That’s what your MIND says! What does your HEART say?” Kook: “Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat — just like everybody else’s!”) But one of the most interesting things about this parody is the way the story wraps up — the solution is for the Boobyprize to reverse orbit and go back in time. You might recognize this plot device from the first Superman movie. Somehow DeBartolo ripped it off, despite “Star Blecch” coming out 11 years before the film.

(16) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MARVEL. Nerds of a Feather panelists Adri Joy, Mike N., Phoebe Wagner, and Vance K assemble for a “Review Roundtable: Avengers: Endgame”.

Today I’ve gathered Brian, Mike, Phoebe and Vance to chat about our Endgame reactions: what made us punch the air in glee and what had us sliding down in our seats in frustration. Needless to say, all the spoilers are ahead and you really shouldn’t be here unless you’ve had a chance to see the movie first.

Adri: So, Endgame! That was fun. Even more fun than I expected after, you know, all the dead people and the feelings about them.

Brian: First impressions are that I thought this was a great conclusion to all of the movies that came before it. The MCU could stop here (it won’t, but it could) and I would be completely satisfied.

Vance: The woman seated next to me — and I’ve never experienced this in a movie theater — started taking deep, centering breaths the moment the lights went down. And I love her for it. Infinity War was a gauntlet for fans, yet she was there opening day for whatever came next, no matter how gutting. Turned out the movie was a lot of fanservice, so she made it through. As did I!

(17) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. (If you see that sign, it won’t lead you to a fabulous new alien, I guarantee!) The LA Times tries to find out — “After hyping a $1-billion Star Wars land, how does Disney get visitors to leave?”

…Once a time window expires, park employees dressed as “Star Wars” characters will politely tell parkgoers that they need to leave the land to make way for new visitors.

Disneyland representatives say they expect that most guests will abide by the courteous directions to move on. But they remain mum about what will happen if guests ignore the requests.

“Four hours is a long time in the land,” said Kris Theiler, vice president of the Disneyland Park. “Most guests are going to find that they’re ready to roll after four hours.”

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

2016 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 last year, I made a concerted effort to read a good sampling of works in the shorter fiction categories. I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

This sort of comprehensive survey of the category was an entirely new experience for me. I found some real gems – several of them utterly unexpected – and perhaps for the first time, I really felt as though I was able to do nominations for the novella category in an informed way. So I decided to do it again this year.

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. I’ve opined on a few of these previously on File770, so I’ve put those at the end, so as to not give them an unfair amount of bandwidth.

Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2016 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(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)


Cold-Forged Flame, by Marie Brennan (aka Bryn Neuenschwander) (excerpt)

coldforgedflameTor.com, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Sam Weber, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A woman comes to consciousness with a bloody animal sacrifice laid out before her. She realizes that she is bound to the shaman who did the sacrifice, by a geas that will force her to follow his command: to bring back “blood from the cauldron of the Lhian”. Never mind that he doesn’t tell her who or what the Lhian is, or where the cauldron is located: she doesn’t even know who she herself is – and he won’t tell her that either, because he says it’s safer if she doesn’t remember.

What I thought: I really, really liked this. It features a strong but flawed female character, and avoids or subverts a lot of the quest tropes. This is definitely on my longlist for next year’s Hugo nominations – and I’ll be seeking out some of Brennan’s other works, as well. There’s a sequel, Lightning in the Blood, coming out in April 2017.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: For a character who has no idea who she is, she’s strangely compelling, and the story itself is more adventure and (self) discovery than hack-and-slash, although there’s a bit of that too. It’s about 20,000 words, so fairly short for a novella, and it feels like a fully expanded short rather than a compressed novel, but that’s no bad thing – the story is complete by the end, although I suspect sequels are possible, and some intriguing bits of worldbuilding have been revealed.
  • Arifel: probably the best novella I’ve read this year – intriguing, well paced fantasy with a great main character and world building that I can’t wait to read more of.
  • kathodus: I noticed it on my Kindle when I had just a little time to read, decided to check it out, and remembered that it was recommended as being a tightly written story with good action and characterization, because that’s what it was. I think there is another novella or something written within this world, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Patchwerk, by David Tallerman (excerpt)

patchwerkTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The inventor of an extremely powerful device, realizing that it could be used as a horrible weapon by people with sinister intentions, is trying to smuggle it out of the country in the cargo hold of an airship. But of course, an evil person who wants the weapon is on the ship as well – and knows way more about it than they should, because of a betrayal from the inventor’s past. This is the story of their confrontation, and the battle for control of the powerful device.

What I thought: Halfway through this story, I was really excited. I really liked where it was going, and how the author was taking it there. But the ending didn’t quite live up to my expectations; I’m not sure why, perhaps it seemed a little too pat. Nevertheless, I still think it is a very good story, and it’s on my Hugo nomination longlist.


Downfall of the Gods, by K.J. Parker (aka Tom Holt) (excerpt)

downfallofthegodsSubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: A spoiled, petulant goddess who refuses to forgive the man who murdered her favorite musician-poet is overridden by her all-powerful father, who orders her to forgive him anyway. So she decides that her forgiveness will be given only if the man asking for it is able to complete a heroic task: to bring back the musician from the dead.

What I thought: I have more than a passing familiarity with, and appreciation for, Greek and Roman mythology, and this story combines elements of those liberally, and with some inventiveness and snarky humor. Parker’s The Last Witness was my favorite of the thirty-one 2015 novellas I read, and this story makes it clear that his skill in that one was not a one-off or an accident. This is on my Hugo nomination longlist. (Caveat: Readers who expect faithfulness to classical mythology will be disappointed.)


The Devil You Know, by K.J. Parker (aka Tom Holt) (excerpt)

thedevilyouknowTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care. But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the person making the bargain is not only the greatest philosopher, but also the greatest liar, trickster, and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust. He’s almost certainly up to something… but what?

What I thought: I ended up going back a couple of days later and reading the second half of the book (which is approx 120 pg total) again, because the twists are a bit involved and intricate, and it requires a suspension of disbelief to put oneself into the world as it’s been built here. It’s a clever story, but for some reason it did not wow me in the same way as The Last Witness or Downfall of the Gods.

Filer Comments:

  • GiantPanda: great version of Faust. Goes on my Hugo longlist
  • Arifel: Readable and satisfying but not spectacular.
  • alexvdl: Thought it was a pretty good thought experiment, well in my favored “bureacracy porn” milieu. I didn’t realize before I picked it up that it was the sequel to Blue and Gold, but that was just an added bonus.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (excerpt)

thedreamquestofvellittboeTor.com, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

map by Serena Malyon

Synopsis: An older instructor at a women’s college in the Dreamlands must go on a journey to retrieve a young student who has run away with her lover to the waking world; failure would likely mean the vast destruction of the college, the country in which it is located, and all the people there. The protagonist, on their journey through strange lands populated by unfathomable monsters, is joined by a mysterious and possibly magical SJW credential: Following her into [the ship’s cabin], the cat assumed immediate possession of a yak-wool scarf she tossed for a moment upon the bunk. “I need that, cat,” she warned, but it only curled tighter and gazed up with bright eyes. In the end, the scarf remained there for the rest of the voyage.

What I thought: The plot in this story is rather incidental; it’s there to provide a vehicle for the evocative, beautifully-descriptive prose. The inspiration for this story was The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and it’s my understanding that big Lovecraft fans will especially enjoy it. I’m not one, and I found it enjoyable but not earth-shaking. A strong main character and the aforementioned prose make it well worth the read.

Filer Comments:

  • lurkertype: Great characters, good world-building, and some passages I had to reread for their beauty. Does not need familiarity with Lovecraft to work, but that would probably add another dimension (heh). Lives up to HPL by having somewhat archaic words I had to look up – you can gather the idea in context, but there were some pretty cool nouns I didn’t know in there. Needless to say, not with the HPL racism and sexism.
  • Mark-kitteh: I have to say it’s a setting idea that just grabbed me from the start… It’s very much a travelogue, and has some of the issues that come along with that – is this just a list of places she goes at authorial fiat? – but I think the character and the charm of the setting really pulls you along, and the stakes get built up nicely. I’m not sure how much you’d need to know Lovecraft’s dreamlands to appreciate it – I certainly found the mythos elements enriched it – and I think the ending wasn’t quite as strong as it might have been, but overall I enjoyed it. (Content note: two mentions of rape, in the sense of mentioning it has or could happen, not in the sense of featuring it in any way)
  • Rob Thornton: as a big fan of the original Lovecraft story, overall I found Kij Johnson’s take on the meh side. The story is good and the prose is good, but when the tale is placed in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Johnson is up against a standard that is hard to beat. I have really enjoyed Kij’s other works, though, so I look forward to whatever she does next.
  • Arifel: while all the Lovecraft went completely over my head I enjoyed the world and the plot (older woman explores world, roles for older women in sexist societies) and there were no obvious triggers
  • kathodus: The second trek through Lovecraftia written from the point of view of someone who would have been invisible or reviled in Lovecraft’s writing. This one didn’t have a Lovecraftian atmosphere – it was working within his world, but not working with his vibe. I like what the author did with the gods. And there’s a cat. Or two. But I think just one.

Lustlocked, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #2] (excerpt)

lustlockedTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

This volume also contains the prequel novelette “Small Wars”, which was published on Tor.com in January 2016.

Synopsis: The gang at Sin du Jour catering has been contracted for a really, really big job: the wedding of the Goblin King’s son and his fiancée. And the challenge is immense: prepare pairs of numerous courses, in identical-looking forms, to suit both goblin and human gastronomics. But of course, no catering plan survives contact with the diners… the big question is whether the Sin du Jour crew will survive the ensuing catastrophe – and if they do, how will they escape the Goblin King’s wrath?

What I thought: I found the first entry in this series, last year’s Envy of Angels, to be an unexpected, clever, slyly witty delight. This is a worthy follow-up – and the author manages to weave his supernatural worldbuilding in with the real world so deftly that the reader can almost believe it’s all really true.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I thought Lustlocked didn’t play out quite as well as Envy of Angels, although it does feature an excellent take on goblins with a very interesting choice of goblin king…

Pride’s Spell, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #3] (excerpt)

pridesspellTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutgen

Synopsis: The Sin du Jour Catering Company finds itself unexpectedly double-booked for events on both the East and West Coasts. So the experienced members of the team stay in NYC to put on a gala dinner for a convention, and the boss takes the newest crew members and the pastry chef extraordinaire out to Hollywood for a movie premiere party. But there’s just one thing that none of them have been told: this time around, they’re all intended to be surprise additions to the menu…

What I thought: This is another fun romp, with some new villains, as well as the reappearance of some old villains – and an unexpected hero. I have to say that I love the author’s imaginative cuisine, with dishes concocted from some pretty unusual ingredients. If you liked the previous entries in this series, you’ll enjoy this one, too.


The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde (excerpt)

thejewelandherlapidaryTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): The kingdom has long sheltered under the protection of its Jewels and Lapidaries, the people bound to singing gemstones with the power to reshape hills, move rivers, and warp minds. That power has kept the peace and tranquility, and the kingdom has flourished… but now the Jeweled Court has been betrayed. As screaming raiders sweep down from the mountains, the last princess and the last lapidary of the Valley will have to summon up strength that they’ve never known.

What I thought: There’s a whole lot of ‘splaining about how the jewel magic and lapidaries are supposed to work mixed in with the story, and I think that the plot and action suffer extensively due to that. There is the strong germ of a good story idea here; it’s just too bad that the execution gets so bogged down in the infodumping. I’d like to see the author rework this into a really enjoyable novel. (And I have to say that the cover is one of my favorites from 2016.)

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: This is short – a long novelette rather than a novella, even – but very well put together and definitely worth a read. Only disappointment was that Sima is not actually an aged-up Toph Beifong as the cover seemed to indicate.
  • Mark-kitteh: Not quite as good as recent highlights like Forest of Memory or Every Heart a Doorway, but still a worthwhile entry… It’s a fascinating setting and magic idea, and I suppose that Wilde could either have stopped for a 10,000 word exposition on how it all works or start the story with a crisis in media res and hope that the idea comes through. Obviously she goes for the latter, and although it’s not 100% successful it’s definitely the right choice for a novella. I kept wanting a bit more clarity on how the jewels worked, but as I didn’t want her to stop the story for some As You Know Bob I can’t really complain too much.

The Emperor’s Railroad, by Guy Haley [The Dreaming Cities #1] (excerpt)

theemperorsrailroadTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A young boy and his mother struggle to reach a relative in a faraway town after everyone else in their own village in a post-apocalypic U.S. is destroyed by zombies. They are lucky enough to meet up with a Knight who protects them on their journey (for a sizable fee, of course), against zombies and “angels of God” (from what appears to be a dubious religion).

 

 

 


The Ghoul King, by Guy Haley [The Dreaming Cities #2]  (excerpt)

theghoulkingTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A healer is interrogated by the authorities about his role in an illegal attempt to retrieve lost and forgotten technology from a dead city – an attempt which, of course, also includes the aforesaid Knight. This time, in addition to zombies, angels, and a whole passel of religious talk, there are “ghouls” – a higher form of zombie which has retained some thinking faculties and is thus a far more threatening adversary.

What I thought: I swear, all zombie stories should be required to include a plausible origin story in order to be published (at least Seanan McGuire, bless her, managed a capital job of that). All of the other zombie stories I’ve read seem to have been written by South Park’s gnomes:

Step 1: Normal world

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: ZOMBIES!!!

While the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is somewhat interesting, I have to admit that I never found these stories particularly gripping or compelling, and I found the religious aspect simply tiresome. And since they’re told from the point-of-view of someone other than the Knight, I felt as though I never really got to see enough of him to feel invested in him. There are hints that the angels are not really angels, but something more interesting – but at this point, I’m not interested enough to read the third story to find out. Rating: 2 Mehs. YMMV.


Runtime, by S. B. Divya (aka Divya Srinivasan Breed) (excerpt)

runtimeTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Juan Pablo Roldan, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A young person who has taught themselves computer engineering since they were a child enters a speed-and-endurance race against well-equipped, well-funded professionals, supported only by home-built-and-programmed cybernetic augments. The prize money for placing in the top 5 would mean being able to earn full personhood, for themselves and for their siblings, and a future livelihood. But on the brink of victory, they are faced with a terrible ethical choice.

What I thought: I loved this short, fast-paced novella. Even in the short length, the author does a good job of creating a complex, nuanced main character. I’m going to be avidly watching for more stories by this author.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: I had a couple of worldbuilding nitpicks (mostly the idea that young people are undergoing gender neutralising surgery as a fashion trend…) but overall I found this well worth my time.
  • Arifel: [story] does have some gender dysphoria and dysfunctional parent child relationships

Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye]

dreamsandslumbers(included with the novel Once Broken Faith)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath, design by G-Force

map by Priscilla Spencer

Synopsis: After the conclave is over, Queen Arden Windermere in the Mists has a choice to make, and no one to help her make it. This is the story of Arden’s attempts to awaken her elf-shot brother, Nolan, from his 100-year sleep. At first, Arden believes that all she has to do is give him the cure, but it’s not that simple, because in addition to being elf-shot, Nolan was poisoned – and once he’s given the cure for elf-shot, he will die of the poison. Can Arden find an antidote to the poison? And does she really want to wake him up, when she will have to face him with the fact that she has not yet really established herself, or accomplished anything, as Queen?

What I thought: I thought that this was a great coda to Once Broken Faith, and a great addition to the October Daye universe. It gives the reader insight into, and further character development of, peripheral characters in the series. But like Once Broken Faith, it’s really only going to have a good meaning and impact for those who’ve read the novels in the October Daye universe.

Having said that, the October Daye universe is on my 2016 Hugo Best Series shortlist.


Down and Out in Purgatory, by Tim Powers (Kindle sample)

downandoutinpurgatorySubterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Dave McKean, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: Years ago, one of the guys in the college gang married the girl in the gang – then later on, murdered her. Another one of the gang, who was in love with her, has sworn revenge and spent the last 6 years looking for the killer. A PI finally finds him – in the morgue, having died happy at his Malibu estate with a drink in his hand and his latest girlfriend in his bed. The protagonist thinks the killer got off way too easy, and decides to get the assistance of a practitioner of the occult in achieving revenge in the afterlife.

What I thought: I read Salvage and Demolition a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it, so I had high hopes for this. I thought it was good, but it didn’t quite get to “great” for me. I would have liked to have gotten to see a little more of what was behind the protagonist’s life history and motivations. Worth reading.


The Drowning Eyes, by Emily Foster (excerpt)

thedrowningeyesTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Cynthia Sheppard, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Tazir captains a ship in a world where Windspeakers shape the weather to help ships along their routes – for a price. But now the world is threatened by reavers on Dragon Ships who leave only destruction in their wake. Tazir and her crew take on a wealthy young female passenger and leave port in time to escape the Dragon Ships – but who is the mysterious young woman, and why is she having terrible nightmares?

What I thought:  I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would based on the synopsis. It does some nice character development and worldbuilding without having to resort to infodumping (it’s what I wish The Jewel and Her Lapidary would have been), and the plot does not follow a predictable path. This is on my Hugo Novella longlist.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: This might have been a bit too subtle for me as there were a lot of dynamics between the different crew members and between Tazir and Shina that didn’t really come through for me until right at the end, but I still enjoyed.
  • Mark-kitteh: I thought it was going to get rather cliched but the middle section had some good characters and an interesting ambiguity about how the Windspeakers get created (although it was a theme that The Fifth Season looked at much better). Unfortunately I didn’t think it stuck the ending at all.

The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (excerpt)

theballadofblacktomTor.com, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Robert Hunt

Synopsis: The protagonist of the story is a young black man living in Harlem, who survives in New York City and supports his ailing father by engaging in petty scams and cons – enduring constant harassment and abuse from police and other white people. Despite his utter lack of singing and guitar-playing ability, he is hired by a mysterious old man to provide background music at a very unusual house party.

What I thought: This novella is a response, written by a black man, to H.P. Lovecraft’s most notoriously racist story, The Horror at Red Hook. I think that fans of Lovecraft will enjoy the way it deconstructs and re-writes HPL’s racism into a uniquely black perspective. Even though Lovecraft, Horror, and Weird really aren’t my thing, I found it interesting and worth reading.

Filer Comments:

  • emgrasso: checks a lot of boxes for Lovecraftiana, but I don’t think it really works as a whole. The sections where the story had atmosphere that worked instead of feeling like it was just going through the motions weren’t the Lovecraftian ones. And even outside the supposedly spooky stuff, there was an important plot point regarding a “shocking” straight razor that fell flat for me – what else would a poor black man in the 1920s have shaved with?
  • Bonnie McDaniel: The story suffers, in my view, from an unnecessary POV shift about halfway through. It would have made for a tighter focus and characterization if the author had stuck to the original POV character throughout, although as the story unfolded, that would have resulted in going to some pretty dark places. This one would also have been better at a greater length, I think. As it is, it’s okay, but nowhere near the fantastic Lovecraft Country.

Everything Belongs to the Future, by Laurie Penny (excerpt)

everythingbelongstothefutureTor.com, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

cover photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko, design by FORT

Synopsis: In the near future, the wealthy and talented benefit from vastly-extended lifespans due to a revolutionary drug. A group of futuristic underground Robin Hoods are doing their best to see that the “ordinary” people have the chance to enjoy some of those benefits. But there’s a Judas in their midst: one who has neither their goals, nor their best interests, in mind…

What I thought: Oh, wow. This is a powerful story of “haves” versus “have nots”, of deceit versus informed consent, of cowardice and heroism, of betrayal and retribution and remorse and repentance. I do not recommend reading this when spoon levels are low – but I definitely recommend reading it. This is my first choice for Hugo Best Novella.


Brushwork, by Aliya Whiteley (read online)

brushworkGigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

Synopsis: In a climate-devastated future world, crops are grown in biodomes by workers privileged enough to be allowed to escape the horrible conditions outside, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to those who are wealthy enough to afford them. But the “have-not”s outside the domes have a plan for changing the status quo.

What I thought: This is an incredibly uncomfortable story to read right now, because the main theme is echoed repeatedly throughout the narrative: just how willing will people be, to make the moral and ethical compromises which throw their co-humans “under the bus” – as long as they think that they themselves will benefit? Just how large does the possibility of personal reward have to be, before human beings will choose to be complicit in sacrificing others — and then to look the other way when the inevitable happens? This is a moving and powerful story, and it is on my Hugo Novella longlist.

Filer Comments:

  • Dawn Incognito: Post-apocalyptic UK hitting on the gulf between generations and haves vs. have-nots.
  • Cassy B.: thanks for the pointer to it. Powerful story.

The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley (excerpt)

thearrivalofmissivesUnsung Stories, edited by George Sandison

cover art by Jana Heidersdorf, design by Martin Cox

Synopsis: A young woman, on the cusp of adulthood after World War I, learns that she has a much larger destiny than even her own high aspirations – but if she follows that destiny, it will mean giving up her own hopes and plans. On May Day, on the village green, she will have to make a choice that will affect her life forever… and change worlds.

What I thought: Well, Brushwork is indeed a powerful story – but I was absolutely blown away by this one. I’m still thinking about it, days later. This is a story about free will, and the choices we make, and the fact that no matter what choice we make, there will often be a cost – to ourselves, or to someone else. This book will speak to anyone who has ever had to sacrifice something life-changingly important to themselves in order place priority on what’s best for someone else (I would describe its theme as “The Lady Astronaut from Mars on speed”). Right now the e-book is still rather expensive, but I encourage everyone to try to get access to it, if it’s not affordable, through the library, a loan from a friend (the kindle version is loanable), or a purchase. I think you will be very glad you did. This is definitely going on my Hugo Novella ballot.


The Warren, by Brian Evenson (excerpt)

thewarrenTor.com, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art by Victor Mosquera, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one – or many – but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X. He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be. But when he discovers the existence of another – above ground, outside the protection of the Warren – X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

What I thought: I was really looking forward to reading this, based on the jacket copy. I’ve read at least 32 of the Tor.com novellas now, and although I liked some of them a lot, and some of them not so much, this is the first one where I’ve actually wondered why it got published. I think that there are a few seeds of a good story here – but that it’s seriously undercooked and full of been-done-before. It’s like a mashup of Wool, Flowers for Algernon, and Impostor. Not recommended, at least by me.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I think this novella gives you fair warning when it begins with a dedication to Gene Wolfe. Someone called X has awoken in a place they know is called the warren. They seem to think they have been created, and that they have the memories of their predecessors, who were also created. They know the hostile conditions will kill them soon, and they’d like to create themselves a successor, but they can’t, and the computer they can talk to is failing and unhelpful. Events occur which start to explain what might be going on, and then I turned the page to see “About the Author” staring at me, and I didn’t really know what it had all been about. If someone else reads this and says it was a wonderful multi-layered narrative then I’ll totally believe them, but I was tired and I just went huh?

A Window Into Time, by Peter F. Hamilton (excerpt) (e-book only)

awindowintotimeawindowintotimeusDel Rey / Pan Books, edited by Bella Pagan

cover art by Kathleen Lynch, using images from CHAINFOTO24/Shutterstock (buildings) and ovi 801/Shutterstock (clock)

Synopsis: A 13-year-old boy with an eidetic memory (and probably a strong streak of Asperger’s) remembers everything he’s ever seen, heard, or experienced. And suddenly, he’s remembering flashes of someone else’s memories. How? And why? And will he be able to figure it out in time to save another person’s life?

What I thought: I liked this better than I thought I would, given the YA protagonist. I would say that it probably provides some good insights into the thought processes of someone who is in the Asperger’s spectrum. The author nails the ending, I think, but it didn’t quite wow me enough for me to consider it for Hugo nomination.

 

 

 

 

 

 


This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thiscensustakerDel Rey, edited by Mark Tavani

cover photo by Wusheng Wang, design by David G. Stevenson

Synopsis: A little boy living in a cottage high above the nearby town witnesses his father killing his mother – or does he? At any rate, she’s gone – and his father is becoming progressively more angry, irrational, and abusive. But then a stranger comes to town – a stranger who sees that something is wrong, and who may be in a position to help.

What I thought: Readers who are looking for any sort of explanation – any sort at all! – will likely be very frustrated with this story. It offers lots of provocative descriptions, and tantalizing hints and clues, but nothing whatsoever of any real explanation or resolution. It’s an interesting read, but in the end, in order for me to love it, I needed a little more than the story was willing to provide. Readers who are okay with unsolved mysteries may find a lot here about which to think and speculate.

Filer Comments:

  • Dawn Incognito: Challenging. Mysterious, haunting, and occasionally brutal. If you’re familiar with Miéville this should not be surprising. There are many questions, and I’m sure many clues, but no easy answers. I may reread shortly to see what I can pick up that made no sense the first time through. The narrative shifts, mostly first-person with the odd second- and third-. Possibly a distancing mechanism from the traumatic events the narrator is going through. Possibly something else. I’m not sure I “got” it. I’m not sure I will. But it will stay with me for some time. Worth the challenge, I think.
  • Bartimaeus: Weird, creepy tale of a small town with sinister secrets lurking under the surface. This story has many intriguing enigmas and a very unreliable narrator. For starters, did his mother kill his father, or his father kill his mother? Miéville’s prose is just hypnotic here, and I love the atmosphere he builds. Though the ending doesn’t reveal all the answers, it is very tantalizing. (I suspect this aspect won’t work for everyone). I really loved this and will probably re-read it sometime.
  • More rot-13 discussion in this thread
  • Vasha: A good essay on This Census-Taker by Daniel Maidman (to be read only after the book).

The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville (excerpt)

thelastdaysofnewparisthelastdaysofnewparissubeditionDel Rey / Subterranean Press, edited by Mark Tavani

Del Rey cover photo by Claudia Carlsen, design by David G. Stevenson

Subterranean Press cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: In 1941, an “S-blast” is set off in Nazi-occupied Paris. Nine years later, a Surrealism expert who is a member of the Resistance movement lives a hellish existence in a city overrun with living Surrealist entities, and demons conjured by the Nazis in an attempt to fight back.

What I thought: This story definitely falls into the category of The New Weird. As with Bellitt Voe, the plot here (such as it is) is merely a vehicle for the vivid imagery and nonsensical occurrences. Readers who are fans of Lovecraft, or Surrealism, or VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, may very well enjoy this. I have a college minor in French language, history, and culture, I love Paris, and I have a bit of amateur art education, so hoped that I would enjoy New Paris more than I did. I found the Area X books interesting in a “but a little bit of this goes a loooooong way” sense – and after those, apparently little of my appetite for such things was left over for this story.

There is a “Notes” section, keyed by page number, describing the origin of each of the Surrealist manifestations. Readers may wish to flip back to this each time one appears in the story, as I think it will enhance the appreciation of the imagery. Simultaneous access to Google to look up the referenced images would probably enhance appreciation, as well.

I would say that this is definitely a “Marmite” story – readers will likely either love it or hate it. My reaction was “meh – I’ve got another book sitting here that I’d really rather read”.

Filer Comments:

  • Rob Thornton: It’s a magic realist book about Surrealism and WWII, but the first 50 pages or so felt like a drag. Mieville is usally a crackerjack prose writer but something is missing here. Maybe it’s because I dearly love Lisa Goldstein’s The Dream Years (which is similar in some ways). But I’ll try it again.

Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal (excerpt)

forestofmemoryTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Victo Ngai, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: This story is a recounting of an experience in a near-future time when everyone is wired into the net all the time, by someone who hunts down antiquities and documentation of rare experiences and sells them to collectors for a living. The protagonist gets kidnapped, and cut off from the net, and forced to deal with her kidnappers.

What I thought: Trigger Warning for ALL THE TYPOS. This is an integral part of the premise for the story, but it annoyed the hell out of me and kept kicking me out of it. I really liked the premise of the story, and I thought that it showed a lot of promise, but it just didn’t go far enough to satisfy me. I’m hoping that she’ll develop it into a novel (if she does, I’ll just have to figure out how to deal with the typo angst).

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: The worldbuilding in this is subtle and believable and its very readable but ultimately didn’t feel like a finished story to me.
  • Mark-kitteh: this is a really interesting and elegant story… There’s perhaps not that much to the story, but MRK really digs into her theme and fills the whole story with it. One thing though – there’s a gimmick in which the story is being typed on an antique typewriter, and so there are typos and so on. Sent me mad.
  • Cat Eldridge: Forest of Memory was originally part of the METAtroplis series, so it feels like a part of something bigger because it was. I found that that since there was a shared universe framework, some of the stories really didn’t work if you hadn’t read the stories preceding a given story.

Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods, Penric #2] (Kindle sample)

penricandtheshaman

penricandtheshamansubeditionSpectrum Literary Agency (2016) / Subterranean Press (February 2017), editor unknown

Spectrum cover art “Grindelwald” by Jakob Samuel Weibel (1771-1846)

Subterranean Press cover art by Lauren St. Onge

Synopsis: This sequel picks up 4 years after Penric’s Demon left off: with Penric gradually adjusting to the 12-personality demon which inhabits his psyche (and with the demon adjusting to him). There’s the mystery of a murder and a missing man – and Penric is tasked to solve both.

What I thought: It’s a testament to Bujold’s supreme skill that this story, like its predecessor, is just so quietly awesome. The conflicts are, for the most part, subdued – but no less impactful for that. Penric is a flawed but wonderful character who is easy to care about – and his quiet, thoughtful approach, tempered with a wry humor, makes a really nice contrast to the all-too-common over-the-top superhero protagonist.

Filer Comments:

  • lurkertype: I read Penric and the Shaman when it came out in June and quite liked it. I like the earlier part of that world (The Hallowed Hunt, Penric’s Demon) more than the later part. I like the Five Gods.
  • Lee Whiteside: A worthy follow up to the first novella.
  • Mark-kitteh: +1 on Penric and the Shaman – she took it in an interesting direction, I thought.
  • ULTRAGOTHA: Penric and the Shaman is very, very good, too.
  • Greg Hullender: I just read and reviewed Penric and the Shaman and gave it five stars… I think this novella is very readable even for someone who didn’t read Penric’s Demon.
  • Cheryl S.: I also just read Penric and the Shaman. It was good and I liked it, but it was too creamy smooth for me to really like it. I think she’s such a good writer, but not in the least showy and sometimes I find that less than interesting, even if all the parts work well. I wonder if the reason her longer stuff works better is because then the accumulation of her talent and skill is more noticeable?

Penric’s Mission, by Lois McMaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods, Penric #3] (Kindle sample)

penricsmissionSpectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art “View of Ragusa” by Emil Jakob Schindler (1842 – 1892)

Synopsis: Penric has been sent on an undercover mission to another country, to recruit a highly-skilled general who has offered to aid in their own military endeavors. But immediately upon disembarking from his ship, Penric is taken captive by the King’s forces and thrown into a black hole in the prison. What’s more, the general himself has been imprisoned. Penric must somehow find a way to retrieve the situation – balancing duty with personal obligation – with the help of the general’s highly-intelligent sister.

What I thought: Penric has come into his own at this point. He has assimilated well with his demon and its dozen different personalities, and has learned how to use their knowledge and powers to enhance his own intelligence and capabilities. As with the previous stories, Penric’s mission here is to try to reconcile doing his official job with doing what he personally feels is right – and like the previous stories, this one makes the reader feel quietly satisfied and uplifted by the ending. Caveat: this one ends in a bit of a “what happens now?” place, and readers who find that frustrating may wish to wait until the fourth story is released.

Filer Comments:

  • ULTRAGOTHA: unlike the other two novellas, this one ends in a place that cries for another story *right now*. Bujold is writing these novellas fairly quickly (at lightning speed, for her) so I’m hopeful maybe next year?
  • Greg Hullender: While it doesn’t have the plot sophistication of Penric’s Demon or Penric and the Shaman, the writing is excellent, and the story is pure fun.
  • Nickp: Based on the title, I was half-expecting (and half hoping for) Penric’s expedition to convert the Roknari to Quintarianism. But not that kind of mission. Pseudo-Byzantine Empire was fun, anyway.
  • robinareid: it’s pure joy and love and happiness on all levels.

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children] (excerpt)

everyheartadoorwayTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photos by Colin Anderson (forest), Martin Barraud (doorway), design by FORT

Synopsis: This is a dark, bittersweet story about the children who fall into fantasy worlds where they become heroes, and then find themselves lost and unable to cope when they are returned to the “real” world. An adult who was one of those children brings as many troubled children as she can find and save to her boarding house, an environment where they can be among others who understand and empathize with their pain.

What I thought: Damn that Seanan McGuire, damn her! Every time I read the backcover synopsis for one of her stories, I think, “Well, that doesn’t sound as though I’d much enjoy it” – and then I read it and enjoy it immensely. On my novella list for next year’s Hugos right now. TW for graphic mutilation scenes. A prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, will be published in June 2017.

Filer Comments:

  • emgrasso: short but intense, with a main viewpoint character I really appreciated and a wonderful ending. I’m very glad there will be more stories in that universe.
  • Snodberry Fields: it was good. If you have enjoyed other works by Seanan McGuire you should read this too. The world building and characterization was first class! I just loved reading about these people. I cannot imagine that his will not be on my ballot next year.
  • Ryan H: I’m going to second Every Heart a Doorway. Anyone who is interested in identity and representation in books needs to give this a read. Oh, and is also a fantastic story!
  • Kyra: Pros: The characters and concepts are great, absolutely on the level of what I consider her best books. It gets recommended by me here on the strength of these. Cons: The plot; it was (in large part) a murder mystery where the perpetrator was completely obvious to me right away. I know she can write a mystery where that isn’t the case, Indexing certainly didn’t have an obvious villain, so I’m not sure why it happened here.
  • robinareid: thought Every Heart a Doorway AMAZING, especially the ending which was a lovely twist on conventional ending of that genre.
  • Vasha: Every Heart a Doorway is simply beautiful… the overriding mood of the story is wistfulness, and it’s perfectly captured… The main characters are tremendously appealing (yes, even the amoral mad scientist); they are a group of clever misfits who support each other fiercely, although recognizing that they can’t provide a true home for each other… It’s a short novella, and it’s just the perfect length. I don’t think anything needed to be added to flesh out its themes and characters; it says what it had to say and ends on the right note.
  • Mark-kitteh: I found it interesting that there was some overlap in concept with Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass, although the execution was from different angles. Each story must have been written without being aware of the other. What I liked about the earlier story was that the concept seemed so clever and natural that I was surprised I’d never seen it treated quite that way before, and then another version comes along!
  • Doctor Science: A great premise, beautifully creepy prose, and not the expected ending. My only problem: it’s a murder mystery, and it fails what I call The John Donne Test (“Any man’s death diminishes me”). The Test is: Is there a second murder? If there is, you fail, boom. If it’s a mystery story without *any* murder, you get an A.
  • Arifel: a good read but not the mind blowing tale I was hoping for from the premise.
  • Chris S.: this is really really good. I was surprised by the depth and complexity which got folded into such a short book. (click on hyperlink for rot-13 comment) She could have spun this out to trilogy length, but I think it’d have lost the impact at that length.
  • Greg Hullender: Although there are a lot of characters, they’re so well drawn that I never mixed them up, and I cared about all the key ones. The plot is multithreaded and works itself out perfectly. And the ending is moving.
  • Lowell Gilbert: I actually thought the ending was a bit predictable to be effecting. McGuire had written herself into a bit of a corner where there were a limited number of ways out. Still a great book, though.
  • Stephen Granade: I’ll be the nth person gushing over Every Heart a Doorway. Eerie, effecting, and in turns frightening and uplifting.
  • Bruce Baugh: has a remarkably good portrayal of a trans boy as one of the main characters. I live with a high degree of dysphoria myself and found much to recognize in his portrayal, and several trans friends have been recommending it independently of each other.
  • Kendall: it was very good – I recommend it! The audiobook narrator was quite good. I enjoyed the world building and characters, especially, and also the plot; it was a well-rounded story. It made a great stand-alone

These novellas are also on my list to read, but have not yet arrived at my library:

A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson [Sorcerer of the Wildeeps #2] (related short fiction with character background)

atasteofhoneyTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind gay romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

Set in the same world as, but not really a sequel to, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.


The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell [Witches of Lychford #2] (excerpt)

thelostchildoflychfordTor.com, edited by Lee Harris

cover photo by Getty Images, design by FORT

Synopsis (jacket copy): It’s December in the English village of Lychford – the first Christmas since an evil conglomerate tried to force open the borders between our world and… another. Which means it’s Lizzie’s first Christmas as Reverend of St. Martin’s. Which means more stress, more expectation, more scrutiny by the congregation. Which means… well, business as usual, really.

Until the apparition of a small boy finds its way to Lizzie in the church. Is he a ghost? A vision? Something else? Whatever the truth, our trio of witches (they don’t approve of “coven”) are about to face their toughest battle, yet!


Hammers on Bone, by Cassandra Khaw [Persons Non Grata #1] (excerpt)

hammersonboneTor.com, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

A sequel, A Song for Quiet, is due out in August 2017.


Project Clio, by Stephen Baxter (Kindle sample)

projectclioP.S. Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ilan Sheady

Synopsis (jacket copy): For the last decade we really have been waging a secret war against super-villains. It’s just as well the general public are too common-sense to believe any of it…

It’s 1969. Astronauts have just landed on the moon. In Britain, Harold Wilson is Prime Minister. And the Avengers are on TV. Detective Sergeant Clare Seeley, juggling work and family commitments, is aware of peculiar goings-on at the heart of the concrete-jungle new town that is her patch…

Agnes Doyle, brilliant computer scientist and unwilling precognitive, is about to be plunged into a lethally perilous situation…

The Sergeant and Lucy Pennyweather, gaudy swinging-London adventurers, are drawn to a peculiar conspiracy surrounding a pirate radio ship…

Henry Messen, veteran of the First World War and a special forces operative in the Second under the cover of a bumbling Home Guard officer, is on the track of a fugitive Nazi engineer with a very strange secret…

And Thelma Bennet, head of Project Clio the Cross-Agency League of Intelligence Operatives – is closing in on a global threat.

It’s 1969. Not as you know it. The way you always thought it was.


The Days of Tao, by Wesley Chu [Tao #4] (Kindle sample)

thedaysoftaothedaysoftaosubeditionAngry Robot / Subterranean Press, editor unknown

Angry Robot cover art by Argh! Nottingham

Subterranean Press cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

Synopsis (jacket copy): Cameron Tan wouldn’t have even been in Greece if he hadn’t gotten a ‘D’ in Art History. Instead of spending the summer after college completing his training as a Prophus operative, he’s doing a study abroad program in Greece, enjoying a normal life – spending time with friends and getting teased about his crush on a classmate.

Then the emergency notification comes in: a Prophus agent with vital information needs immediate extraction, and Cameron is the only agent on the ground, responsible for getting the other agent and data out of the country. The Prophus are relying on him to uncomplicate things.

Easy.

Easy, except the rival Genjix have declared all-out war against the Prophus, which means Greece is about to be a very dangerous place. And the agent isn’t the only person relying on Cameron to get them safely out of the country – his friends from the study abroad program are, too. Cameron knows a good agent would leave them to fend for themselves. He also knows a good person wouldn’t. Suddenly, things aren’t easy at all.


The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler (excerpt)

theburninglightTor.com, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis (jacket copy): Disgraced government operative Colonel Chu is exiled to the flooded relic of New York City. Something called the Light has hit the streets like an epidemic, leavings its users strung out and disconnected from the mind-network humanity relies on. Chu has lost everything she cares about to the Light. She’ll end the threat or die trying.

A former corporate pilot who controlled a thousand ships with her mind, Zola looks like just another Light-junkie living hand to mouth on the edge of society. She’s special though. As much as she needs the Light, the Light needs her too. But, Chu is getting close and Zola can’t hide forever.

Season of the Witch at NYRSF Readings, Featuring N.K. Jemisin and Kai Ashante Wilson

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 27 at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series skirted the haunting season of Hallowe’en, presenting fantasy writers N.K. Jemisin and Kai Ashante Wilson.

The event opened as usual with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (the show broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 am and worldwide at wbai.org, and for a time afterwards may be heard on-demand as well as an RSS feed for podcasts), and a tongue-in-cheek caution that we were on Livestream (video and audio).  Admission to the readings are always free, but, to fund the Series (which pays to rent its current space), the suggested donation (currently $7) may be raised; crowdfunding plans are in the thinking stage.

He then announced upcoming readings:  November 1st (All Saints’ Day – not All Souls’ Day) will be the inaugural Margot Adler Memorial Reading; on November 15th, readers will be Kij Johnson and Sonya Taaffe; and Monday, December 12th, will be the traditional Family Night with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.  Looking ahead to 2017, take note that April 1st will be Samuel R. Delany’s 75th birthday.

The first reader, Kai Ashante Wilson, is a rising star of fantastic fiction, the author of the stories “Super Bass” (pronounced like the musical instrument, not the fish), “The Devil in America” (nominated for both the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards) and “Kaiju maximus®,” the novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey.  His offering was a selection from his novelette, “Légendaire,” which appeared in the anthology, Stories for Chip (which celebrates the legacy of the aforementioned science fiction grandmaster Samuel R. Delany). Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.  Dedicated to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, and subsequently Prince, the fable, set in a sort of fantasy New Orleans, concerns a small boy whose prodigious dancing has attracted the attention of the local witches, or racosi (spelling uncertain).  One counsels him to “get in some trouble” because the best dancers all have broken hearts.  The imagery was beautiful.

During the break, a raffle was held, the prizes a copy of “The Devil in America” and what Freund described as the Kai Ashante Wilson Chapstick, and access at the $50 level to N.K. Jemisin’s Pantheon blog, Epiphany 2.0, along with a print out of part of her blog.

The evening’s second reader, N.K. (the “N” stands for Nora)  Jemisin, has been nominated multiple times for the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards; shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar and the Tiptree Awards.  In addition, she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice Award, and, last month, won the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season.  (She is, noted Freund, the first black writer to win the Hugo Award in that category, Delany and Octavia Butler having received it in other categories.)  Seven of her novels, a novella and a short story collection are out now from Orbit Books (the most recent is The Obelisk Gate, a follow-up to The Fifth Season and the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy).  Besides all that, she is the New York Times’ science fiction reviewer.

She shared “Red Dirt Witch,” a story that is not finished (this was its second draft), though it has already been sold, and that she is “not entirely happy with.”  In Deep South Alabama in the still-segregated early ’60s, a poverty-stricken black herbalist is confronted both in this world and in dreams by a White Lady (the capitals soon became clear), a Celtic fae who steals (and taps) children of Power, and wants her newly adolescent daughter.  In return, she offers an unsavory deal, that one life for the family’s prosperity and safety.  (The Civil Rights movement would involve great struggle and lead to triumphant progress.)  By audience demand, Jemisin read to the story’s (as it stood) conclusion.

In a Q&A, a woman asked “How are you not happy with that?”  Another even said that she cried.  Jemisin was “not sure” about why, and what was off.  (The first draft was longer.)  In response to another question, Jemisin revealed that it was based in part on her father’s side of the family; he was from the named town outside Birmingham, that her great-grandmother made a living healing and working magic for people, and that her grandmother was named Pauline, like the daughter in the story.  (Perhaps the deeply personal connection to the story is why she was dissatisfied?)  Wilson reported that he has other stories in that universe, and was urged to write a full novel.  A photo session followed.

View this post on Instagram

N. K. Jemisin reads for NYRSF Readings.

A post shared by Jim Freund (@jimfreund) on

As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and, for food and beverages, the Café was a few steps away.

The capacity crowd of about at least 70 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Catelynn Cunningham, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff, Matt Kressel, John Kwok, Mark Richards and Terence Taylor, the Series’ Technical Director, plus a cheering section of members of the Altered Fluid writing group and a brief walk-in from WBAI’s Max Schmid.  Schmoozing and more partaking of the Café’s wares ensued.

World Fantasy Award Ballot Revised

Corrections to the World Fantasy Award ballot were posted July 11.

Kai Ashante Wilson’s “The Devil in America” was moved to the Novella category.

Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” was added to the Short Fiction category.  (Congratulations!)

John Joseph Adams’ editing credits have been amended to include Fantasy and remove Lightspeed.

Click for the full corrected ballot.