World Fantasy Con 2020 Apology for Program Draft Seeks to Stem Participant Attrition

After seeing the complaints voiced about the draft program for World Fantasy Convention 2020 (“Virtual WFC 2020 Program Attracts Criticism”), the WFC 2020 committee directed an apology at several writers on Twitter.

We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.

And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.

WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’s post in a comment here, saying in part:

We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.

But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.  

David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.

Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.

The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)

Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.

Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.

One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:

There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.

Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.

Cat Rambo has also dropped out.

2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

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

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

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

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

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

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

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

2019 Aurora Awards

The 2019 Aurora Awards were presented by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association on October 19 at Can-Con 2019 in Ottawa.

Best Novel

  • Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield, ChiZine Publications

Best Young Adult Novel

  • Cross Fire: An Exo Novel by Fonda Lee, Scholastic Press

Best Short Fiction

  • “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach” by Kelly Robson, Tor.com Publications

Best Graphic Novel

  • It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic

Best Poem/Song

  •  “Ursula Le Guin in the Underworld” by Sarah Tolmie, On Spec issue 107 vol 28.4

Best Related Work

  • Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction edited by Dominik Parisien and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Uncanny Magazine

Best Visual Presentation

  • Deadpool 2, written and produced by Ryan Reynolds, Twentieth Century Fox

Best Artist

  • Samantha M. Beiko, covers for Laksa Media

Best Fan Writing and Publications

  • She Wrote It But…Revisiting Joanna Russ’ “How to Suppress Women’s Writing” 35 Years Later, Krista D. Ball

Best Fan Organizational

  • Derek Künsken and Marie Bilodeau, co-chairs, Can*Con, Ottawa

Best Fan Related Work

  • Edward Willett, The Worldshapers (Podcast)

Hall of Fame Award

  • Tanya Huff
  • R. Graeme Cameron
  • Eileen Kernaghan

Tanya Huff (right)

Marie Bilodeau and Derek Kunsken

Samantha Beiko

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Samantha Beiko wins best artist! #AuroraAwards

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Kelly Robson and Charles de Lint

Kate Heartfield (right)

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Best novel to Kate Heartfield! Yay! #AuroraAwards

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Update 10/20/2019: Added the names of two more Hall of Fame inductees.

2018 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 3/21/18 Where In The Scroll Is Pixel Sandiego?

(1) WHAT FILERS LOVE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong put together a page summarizing the Filers’ Hugo nominations for the three short-fiction categories: “Annotated 2017 File 770 List for Short Fiction”. Here are some highlights:

In the Annotated 2017 File 770 List for Short Fiction, there were 34 stories with a tally of three or more nominations. Here are a few interesting findings from the 14 novellas, 10 novelettes, and 10 short stories:

  • 21 stories are free online(62%), including all novelettes and short stories. [Highlight free stories]
  • 4 stories are by Campbell-eligible writers. [Group by Campbell Year]
  • None are translated stories.
  • 14 publications are represented (including standalone novellas) with the top three being Tor novellas (9), Tor.com (5) and Uncanny (6). [Group by Publication]
  • RSR recommended 18, recommended against 4, and did not review 2. [Group by RSR Rating]
  • 25 of the 33 stories had a score > 1, meaning many were highly recommended by prolific reviewers, inclusion in “year’s best” anthologies, and award finalists. [Group by Score]

Greg Hullender adds, “Note how well we predicted the actual results last year” —

Last year, the top 55 novellas, novelettes and short stories nominated by Filers resulted in the following matches:

(2) DUBLIN 2019 FAMILY SAVINGS. The Irish Worldcon has a plan: “If you are bringing your family, a family plan might save you a bit of money”.

Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon has announced a new family plan for those members who are attending with members of their family. If you sign up for a family plan you will receive 10% off the total costs for the included memberships. This new plan can be used in conjunction with the recently announced Instalment Plan as long as the Family Plan is set up first.

The Dublin 2019 Family Plan enables fans to bring their whole family with them and save 10% on the total costs of memberships. A family plan will consist of  2 “Major” and at least 2 “Minor” Individuals.  A “Major” membership is an individual born on or before 15 August 2001 (18+ on the first day of the convention).  “Minor” memberships are individuals born between 16 August 2001 and 15 August 2013 (ages 6-17 on the first day of the convention). There is also a single parent variation. Details can be found on the website.

Under the Plan, you first buy a Supporting Membership and then fill in the Dublin 2019 Family Plan Request form. The registration team will then be in touch with your membership invoice. The charge for your family plan will be frozen at the time your application is received, accepted, and calculated.  If you have not chosen to apply for the instalment plan we will issue an invoice for the balance which you will have 30 days to pay. If that lapses without payment, then you will need to start the process over again, and costs will be calculated from the date of new application.

With the Attending Membership rates rising at 00:01 hours Dublin time on April 3, 2018, this is an ideal time to consider a Family Membership Plan and ensure that you and your family can attend Dublin 2019 at the current cost.

Full terms and conditions for the Dublin 2019 Family Plan can be found at www.dublin2019.com/family-plan/.

(3) JEOPARDY STRIKES AGAIN. Andrew Porter watched the first Jeopardy! contestant make a miss-take.

Wrong question: “What is Mars?”

Rich Lynch says a second contestant got it right.

(Thanks to Rich for the image.)

(4) AND ANOTHER GAME SHOW REFERENCES SF. Did I mention, The Chase is my mother’s favorite TV show?

(5) DON’T BITE WIZARDS. Middle-Earth Reflections continues its series with “Reading Roverandom /// Chapter 1”.

Rover’s adventures begin one day when he plays with his yellow ball outside and bites a wizard for taking the ball, which is not to the dog’s liking. The animal’s misfortune is that he has not got the slightest idea that the man is a wizard because “if Rover had not been so busy barking at the ball, he might have noticed the blue feather stuck in the back of the green hat, and then he would have suspected that the man was a wizard, as any other sensible little dog would; but he never saw the feather at all” (Roverandom, p. 41-42). Being really annoyed, the wizard turns Rover into a toy dog and his life turns upside down.

It is because of such poor control of emotions that Rover is bound to embark on an adventure of some kind in a rather uncomfortable form. There also seems to be a lack of knowledge on his behalf. It is not the only time when Tolkien uses the “if they knew something, they would understand a situation better” pattern in Roverandom, as well as in some other of his stories. These references can be either to existing in our world myths, legends and folktales, or to Tolkien’s own stories. In his mythology the character wearing a hat with a blue feather is none other than Tom Bombadil, who is a very powerful being indeed, so a blue feather seems to be a very telling sign to those in the know.

(6) ACCESSIBILITY ADVICE. Kate Heartfield tells “What I’ve Learned about Convention Accessibility” at the SFWA Blog.

Can*Con is in Ottawa, Canada in October. My job is pretty minor: I wrote our accessibility policy and revise it every year, and I advise the committee about how to implement it when we have particular problems or concerns. Most importantly, I’m there as the dedicated person to field questions or concerns.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned…

The whole convention committee has to be on board. Programming policies affect accessibility. So do registration procedures, party plans, restaurant guides. If anyone involved shrugs it off, accessibility will suffer. From the beginning, every person on the committee of Can-Con, and every volunteer, has been entirely supportive of me and the policy. When I bring a concern to the committee, the response is always constructive and never defensive. There are limits to what we can do, as a small but growing convention, and so much depends on the physical accessibility of the venue itself. But I’m learning that the limits are actually a lot farther away than they might appear, and with good people working together, a lot is possible….

Accessibility is about inclusion, and it’s a broader topic than you might think. Mobility barriers are probably the first thing that comes to mind, and they’re hugely important, but they’re not the whole picture. Accessibility is also about making sure that everyone is called by the correct pronouns and has access to a washroom where they’ll be safe and comfortable. It’s about trying not to trigger allergies and sensitivities. It’s about making sure that people have the supports they need. One of the most frequent requests we’ve had is simply for quiet recovery space.

(7) IN THE BEGINNING. Sarah A. Hoyt, having finished her Mad Genius Club series defining various genres and subgenres thoroughly and accurately, has embarked on a specialized tour of different ways to start a story. Today it’s “The Atmospheric”. Very interesting, and besides, there’s a Bradbury quote!

…“In the year A.D. 400, the Emperor Yuan held his throne by the Great Wall of China, and the land was green with rain, readying itself towards the harvest, at peace, the people in his dominion neither too happy nor too sad.” – Ray Bradbury, The Flying Machine.

Look at those openings above. They’re obviously not “these people” because except for the first — and it’s not exactly people — there are no people to be “these”.

Is there action?  Well, sort of.  I mean things are happening.  But if those are the main characters of your novel they’re kind of weird, consisting of a hole in the ground, a light in the sky, noise and apparently the Emperor Yuan.

Of course these are atmospheric beginnings.

Atmospheric beginnings are hard to do.  It’s easy to get lost in writing about things in general, but will they capture the reader?  And while you — well, okay, I — can go on forever about the beautiful landscape, the wretched times, the strange events in the neighborhood, what good is that if your reader yawns and gently closes the book and goes to sleep?

To carry off an atmospheric beginning, too, you need impeccable wording, coherent, clear, and well… intriguing.  If that’s what your book calls for, a touch of the poetic doesn’t hurt either….

(8) THE BIT AND THE BATTEN. So much for security: “Teenager hacks crypto-currency wallet”.

A hardware wallet designed to store crypto-currencies, and touted by its manufacturer as tamper-proof, has been hacked by a British 15-year-old.

Writing on his blog, Saleem Rashid said he had written code that gave him a back door into the Ledger Nano S, a $100 (£70) device that has sold millions around the world.

It would allow a malicious attacker to drain the wallet of funds, he said.

The firm behind the wallet said that it had issued a security fix.

It is believed the flaw also affects another model – the Nano Blue – and a fix for that will not be available “for several weeks”, the firm’s chief security officer, Charles Guillemet told Quartz magazine.

(9) FINAL HONOR. BBC reports “Stephen Hawking’s ashes to be interred near Sir Isaac Newton’s grave”.

The ashes of Professor Stephen Hawking will be interred next to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey, it has been revealed.

The renowned theoretical physicist’s final resting place will also be near that of Charles Darwin, who was buried there in 1882.

(10) SKY CEILING. In the Netherlands, “The world’s oldest working planetarium”, over two centuries old.

There was a beat of silence as the room’s atmosphere shifted from inward reflection to jittery disbelief. “How is that even possible?” said one visitor, waving a pointed finger at the living-room ceiling. “Is it still accurate?” asked another. “Why have I never heard of this before?” came the outburst from her companion. Craning my neck, I too could hardly believe it.

On the timber roof above our heads was a scale model of the universe, painted in sparkling gold and shimmering royal blue. There was the Earth, a golden orb dangling by a near-invisible, hand-wound wire. Next to it, the sun, presented as a flaming star, glinting like a Christmas bauble. Then Mercury, Venus, Mars, and their moons in succession, hung from a series of elliptical curves sawn into the ceiling. All were gilded on one side to represent the sun’s illumination, while beyond, on the outer rim, were the most-outlying of the planets, Jupiter and Saturn. Lunar dials, used to derive the position of the zodiac, completed the equation.

The medieval science behind the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium is staggering, no matter how one views it….

(11) NIGHTLIGHT. The Independent tells readers: “Mysterious purple aurora dubbed ‘Steve’ by amateur stargazers spotted in Scotland”.

Stargazers were treated to a rare and mysterious sight named “Steve” as it lit up the night skies.

The unusual purple aurora was first discovered by a group of amateur scientists and astrophotographers who gave it the nickname, Nasa said.

Its striking purple colour and appearance closer than normal to the equator sparked interest in Scotland where it was visible from the isles of Lewis and Skye this week,

(12) NIGHTFLYERS. Here’s a teaser from the Syfy adaptation: “‘Nightflyers’: Syfy Unveils First Footage of George R.R. Martin Space Drama”.

A day after replacing showrunners, Syfy has unveiled the first look at its upcoming George R.R. Martin space drama Nightflyers.

Nightflyers is, without question, a big swing for Syfy. The drama, based on Game of Thrones creator Martin’s 1980 novella and the 1987 film of the same name, follows eight maverick scientists and a powerful telepath who embark on an expedition to the edge of the solar system aboard The Nightflyer — a ship with a small, tight-knit crew and a reclusive captain — in hopes of making contact with alien life. But when terrifying and violent events begin to take place, they start to question each other, and surviving the journey proves harder than anyone thought.

 

(13) JOB APPLICATION. A video of Shatner and Nimoy at Dragon Con is touted as “the funniest Star Trek convention of all time” by the poster.

William Shatner repeatedly asked Leonard Nimoy, “Why am I not in the movie?!”

 

(14) IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY: Jason sends word that Featured Futures has added a couple of items regarding markets receiving accolades and magazines receiving coverage by prolific review sites.

Noted Short SF Markets: 2017 is the first variation on a theme:

The following is a list of short fiction markets which had 2017 short stories, novelettes, or novellas selected for a Clarke, Dozois, Horton, or Strahan annual or which appeared on the final ballot of the Hugos or Nebulas. They are sorted by number of selections (not individual stories, which sometimes have multiple selections).

This is a variant of “The Splintered Mind: Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2017.” This only tabulates six factors over one year rather than the many factors over many years of the original. That version helps flatten out fluky peaks and valleys but this provides an instant snapshot of major accolades. (This version also includes whatever venue the stories come from while that version focuses on magazines.) I’d thought about doing this before but stumbling over that finally got me to do it.

The second variation on a theme is Magazines and Their Reviewers

This page presents a table of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines covered by five “prolific review sites.” Its primary purposes are to help people find the coverage of the zines they want to read about and/or to help them see which zines are covered from multiple viewpoints.

This is a variant of Rocket Stack Rank‘s “Magazine Coverage by Reviewers.” There are two significant differences and a minor one. First, this lists all the magazines regularly covered by the reviewers. Second, the list of reviewers includes Tangent Online but not the editors of annuals who presumably read most everything but don’t maintain review sites (though Dozois, Horton and others do review recommended stories for Locus). The minor difference is just that there’s no number column because this isn’t being done for “stack ranking” purposes.

(15) UP TO SNUFF? Zhaoyun covers a feature available on Netflix in “Microreview [film]: Mute, directed by Duncan Jones” at Nerds of a Feather.

The name ‘Duncan Jones’ will immediately evoke, in the minds of the small but powerful(ly voiced) group of cine-nerds, the masterful 2009 film Moon, and/or the respectable cerebral (get it?!) thriller Source Code of 2011. Garden-variety meathead non-nerds, on the other hand, might recall him as the director of the 2016 video game-to-film adaptation of Warcraft—you know, the movie that absolutely no one was eagerly awaiting. No matter your nerd credentials, then, you probably associate Duncan Jones with a certain cinematographic pizzazz, and like me, your expectations were probably quite high for his latest brainchild, the only-on-Netflix 2018 futuristic neo-noir Mute. The question is, were those expectations met?

Nah. But before we get to the bad news, I’ll give the good news. The film is breathtakingly beautiful, leaving no rock of the delectably dirty futuristic Berlin unturned, and what’s more, it is full of quirky little visual predictions of what the world will be like in twenty years (you know, mini-drones delivering food through the drone-only doggy door on windows, etc.). Plus, Paul Rudd was, in my opinion, an excellent casting choice, as his snarky-but-harmless star persona helps mask the darkness lurking deep within his character here.

(16) PASSING THROUGH. Renay praises a book: “Let’s Get Literate! In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan” at Lady Business.

Portal fantasies feel like a staple of childhood. I missed most of the literary ones. I loved In Other Lands, but as much as it is a portal fantasy it’s also a critique of them, a loving celebration and deconstruction of their tropes and politics, and I probably missed 95% of everything this book does. Does it do what it set out to do well? Yes, says the portal fantasy newbie, whose experience with portal fantasy as a Youngster comes in the form of the following:

  • Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise
  • Labyrinth, starring David Bowie
  • The Neverending Story; too bad about those racial politics
  • Cool World starring Brad Pitt, which I watched when too young
  • Space Jam, the best sports movie after Cool Runnings

(17) X FOR EXCELLENT. Also at Lady Business, Charles Payseur returns with a new installment of “X Marks the Story: March 2018”, which includes a review of —

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (published at Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

What It Is: As the title of this short story implies, it is a history of sorts of the people behind the teeth that George Washington bought to use for his dentures. Structured into nine sections, the story builds up a wonderfully imagined alternate past full of magic, monsters, and war—even as it uncovers the exploitation and abuse lurking at the heart of the very real history of the United States of America. Each story explores a different aspect of the past through a fantasy lens, and yet the truth of what is explored—the pain and atrocities that people faced under the rule of early America—rings with a power that echoes forward through time, reminding us of the origins, and continued injustices, of this country….

(18) RUSS TO JUDGMENT. Ian Sales takes a close look at “The Two of Them, Joanna Russ” (1978) at SF Mistressworks.

…The depiction of Islam in The Two of Them would only play today on Fox News. It is ignorant and Islamophobic. Russ may have been writing a feminist sf novel about the role of women, but she has cherrypicked common misconceptions about women in Islamic societies as part of her argument, and ignored everything else. This is not an Islamic society, it’s a made-up society based on anti-Islamic myths and clichés….

There’s a good story in The Two of Them, and the prose shows Russ at her best. Toward the end, Russ even begins breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the reader. The narrative also discusses alternative outcomes of Irene’s story, probabilistic worlds and events that would naturally arise out of the premise of the Trans-Temporal Authority. Her depiction of Irene, contrasting both her lack of agency in 1950s USA and her agency in the Trans-Temporal Authority, makes an effective argument. But the attempt to contrast it with Islam is a definite mis-step….

(19) AUDIENCES LOVE NEXT DEADPOOL. The Hollywood Reporter learned “‘Deadpool 2’ Outscores Original in Test Screenings”.

The Ryan Reynolds-fronted sequel has been tested three times, with the scores for the first two screenings coming in at 91 and 97. The final test, which occurred in Dallas, tested two separate cuts simultaneously, which scored a 98 and a 94. The 98-scoring cut is the version the team is using, a source with direct knowledge told THR.

The crew attended the final screenings in Dallas, and a source in the audience of the 98 screening describing the environment to THR as being electric and akin to watching the Super Bowl.

It’s worth noting the highest test screening the original Deadpool received was a 91, according to insiders. The film went on to gross $783 million worldwide and stands as the highest-grossing X-Men movie of all time.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isle of Dogs: Making of: The Animators” is a look at how 27 animators and ten assistants used state-of-the-art animation to make – you guessed it — Isle of Dogs..

[Thanks  to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, Jason, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]