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…

2017 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

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

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

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

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 6/30/17 There’s A Million Ways To Scroll, Ev’ry One’s A Pixel

(1) AND ALL THAT ROT. Omnivorcious interviews “Mira Grant” and M.R. Carey in “The Scientific Case for Zombies”.

It turns out the idea of living dead—depending how you define both “living” and “dead”—may not be as far-fetched as it might seem. Some science fiction writers have found inspiration—and trepidation—in real-life parasites. We talked to two of them, Mira Grant and M.R. Carey, about their newest books and the concept of scientific zombies.

…Carey searched for a pathogen that met his criteria for the cause of the hungry epidemic, and realized that Cordyceps fit perfectly. It was also a unique choice. “At the time nobody had ever used a fungus as the vector for a zombie plague,” he says, though the creators of a console game called The Last of Us came up with the same idea independently, around the same time.

… Besides reading, Grant also “spent a lot of time on the phone with the CDC, which was an incredible amount of fun.” Grant savored the information she gleaned that way, but her friends “had to make new rules about what I was allowed to discuss over food,” so they didn’t lose their appetites.

(2) MITHER TONGUE. I don’t suppose the Scots laugh when they read this, do they, but my God… “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone finally arrives in Scots translation”.

Though still working on the translation, Fitt and his publisher released the opening paragraph, which reads: “Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

In his first adventure, Harry leaves the cruel Dursley family to attend Hogwarts wizarding school, which has long been understood to be based somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, where Scots speakers exist in their highest numbers.

(3) WU CAMPAIGN. Candidate for Congress Brianna Wu’s fundraising email says Our national tech policy is failing:

Something has to change. Our elections are being targeted by Russia, our shipping system was hijacked this week and congress continues to try to spy on you with your smartphone.  It doesn’t have to be this way. I have a plan

Just 15 people in the US House determine our nation’s tech policy on the Science and Technology Subcommittee.

Meaning just 8 votes control our policy on privacy, encryption, and net neutrality. The giant telecoms have a voice. Shouldn’t you?

Please contribute, so we can get Brianna Wu elected to US Congress in 2018, representing Massachusetts District 8!  Help fight for a braver, bolder Democratic party!

(4) DECLINE AND FALL OF THE GALACTIC EMPIRE. Will they succeed where others have failed? “Skydance Trying Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ As TV Series; David Goyer, Josh Friedman To Adapt”.

Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy Foundation heavily informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series, but for decades it has confounded Hollywood attempts at a straight adaptation. I’m hearing that Skydance, David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman are going to try to crack it. Skydance Television is closing a deal with the Asimov estate to try turning Foundation into a sprawling TV series.

… The biggest creative quandary, I’ve heard from those who tried to adapt Foundation, is that so many of Asimov’s themes found their way into George Lucas’s Star Wars that the challenge is to not appear to be ripping off one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, even though Asimov wrote his books 75 years ago. Considering that Lucasfilm continues to borrow from that mythology with myriad Star Wars sequels and spinoff films, perhaps a TV series is the best bet.

(5) QUALIFYING MARKET. Joe Stech, publisher/editor of Compelling Science Fiction, is delighted to report —

Compelling Science Fiction is now one of the few magazines worldwide that is considered a professional “Qualifying Market” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Short fiction Qualifying Markets

SFWA is a wonderful organization that supports authors in a huge number of ways (our own publishing contract is adapted from SFWA’s model magazine contract). SFWA also hosts the annual Nebula Awards. While we have always paid professional rates, this recognition means that our published authors will find it much easier to use their publication in our magazine to meet SFWA membership requirements, because we have already been vetted.

(6) NOT JUST FOR COMPULSIVE READERS: Jason’s Featured Futures is back with another selection of stories (with links and comments) in the “Summation of Online Fiction June 2017”.

The twelve prozines of June produced thirty-eight stories and I read thirty-five of them at about 165K words. (Tor.com should have posted a fourth story on the 28th but didn’t. If it comes out today or tomorrow, I’ll update this post accordingly.) The random flukes of this month were a large number of honorable mentions (with not so many recommendations) which were mostly SF, half of which came from almost the entire issue of Compelling Science Fiction. Given that, I’ll basically do a mini-review of the whole issue after the lists.

(7) DEATH FROM ABOVE. Scientists have found what appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater near the Falkland Islands. Is it ground zero for Earth’s largest-ever extinction event? “Did a Planetary Society citizen scientist help find one of Earth’s biggest impact craters?”

About 66 million years ago, a 10-kilometer-wide hunk of rock smashed into Earth near what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The impact created a global dust cloud that snuffed out the sunlight, leading to the demise of 80 percent of Earth’s plants and animals—including most of the dinosaurs. A 200-kilometer-wide crater buried near the city of Chicxulub is all that’s left. It’s ground zero for one of the world’s most notable extinction events.

But throughout Earth’s history, there have actually been five major extinction events. The largest of these occurred about 250 million years ago, when a whopping 96 percent of life on Earth died. Scientists aren’t sure what caused the event, known as “the Great Dying.” If it was a Chicxulub-sized impact; no one has ever found the crater.

Until possibly now.

A trio of scientists—one of whom is funded by The Planetary Society—thinks they may have found it. Off the coast of South America, near the Falkland Islands, there appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater buried under ocean sediment. An upcoming paper in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal Terra Nova suggests it was formed by a massive asteroid or comet bigger than the one that hit Chicxulub.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Asteroid Day

A global awareness event where people from around the world come together to learn about what we can do to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. Did you know that, as you’re reading this, there are likely one million near-Earth asteroids large enough to do severe damage if they hit Earth? We don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs. Learn more about what we can do to reduce the threat:

 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released.
  • June 30, 1972 — The fourth film in the series — Conquest of the Planet of the Apes — premiered theatrically.

(10) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian calls your attention to Bizarro for June 30.

(11) DISNEYLAND. When the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is updated the bride auction scene will be going away. However, the iconic redhead will still be around – as a pirate helping to rob the townspeople. According to the Orange County Register:

The pirates will no longer be saying “We wants the Redhead” in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland after the auction scene undergoes a modification in 2018.

The Walt Disney Company plans to make changes to the auction scene in the classic attraction at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in the coming year, according to Suzi Brown, spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

While the scene has long been a favorite of many Disney fans, it has occasionally been the brunt of criticism for what some believed to be a “sexist” approach to women. Years ago, the scene that comes after the auction scene, which used to have pirates chasing women, was changed to pirates chasing women for food, and one where a woman was chasing a pirate.

When asked about the sexism Brown said, in a statement, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”

In the auction scene, the Redhead will become a pirate, helping the Auctioneer gather valuables from the townspeople to auction off to the pirates.

The first version of the attraction to receive the new scene will be at Disneyland Paris next month, with the two domestic parks receiving it within the next year or so.

There was nothing amusing or cute about what real-life pirates did when they sacked a town, so in the midst of a musical horror fantasy about such an event it’s interesting where they think they need to redraw the line in 2017 to keep people from being reminded of that.

(12) URB APPEAL. Andrew Porter noticed you can now buy a condo in Detroit where the 1959 Worldcon (Detention) was held. If that idea appeals to you.

When the Fort Shelby became a Doubletree Hotel in 2008 on the first ten floors, the developers used tax credits to turn the 56 units above into apartments. Now that the time has passed for the credits, the apartments can be turned into condos, and a few of them have already listed.

They start at $280,000 for a one-bedroom and go up to $570,000 for a three-bedroom on a higher level. Six penthouses will also be available on the 21st floor, and those will run from $350,000 to $815,000.

According to the Loft Warehouse, the listing firm, four are ready now and another 19 are in the pipeline for the year as apartment leases run out.

(13) FRED AND WILMA SELL THEIR HOUSE. After dropping a million from the asking price, “‘Flintstones’-style house in California sells for $2.8M”.

A California house designed to resemble a home from the Flintstones cartoon sold for nearly $3 million after multiple price drops.

Judy Meuschke of Alain Pinel Realtors said the unique property sold for $2.8 million in May after arriving on the market for a price of $4.2 million in 2015.

The property features a rounded, stone-like exterior with grey and orange walls, closely resembling the cavelike homes in the Flinstones’ home of Bedrock City.

 

(14) ONE MILLION BC. More information about the forthcoming Marvel Legacy.

It all starts with MARVEL LEGACY #1.

Journey to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC – when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Starbrand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1 on sale this September in comic shops everywhere!

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries, secrets, and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock, and adventure as possible!”

(15) PULLMAN’S MATERIALS. Entertainment Weekly interviews the author: “Golden Compass’ Philip Pullman on returning to His Dark Materials”.

Golden Compass author Philip Pullman surprised millions of fans late last year when he announced that he would be returning to the world of the immensely popular His Dark Materials trilogy.

His three new books — the first set 10 years before the original trilogy and the next two coming after the events in those books — will once again transport readers to Lyra’s Oxford. The first volume in the companion Book of Dust trilogy is La Belle Sauvage (for which you can exclusively see the cover below), which centers on Malcolm Polstead and is in fact named for his canoe, which will become a central part of the story. But fans needn’t worry, as not only will Lord Asriel (and his daemon Stelmaria) definitely make an appearance in the book along with baby Lyra Belacqua (the main protagonist of the best-selling books), but careful readers of the previous books may remember that Malcolm himself had had a brief appearance in them….

This new trilogy has an interesting timeline. What inspired you to make the first book in this companion trilogy more of a prequel to the original trilogy, as opposed to a sequel like the two proceeding books?

The story I found myself telling had a beginning that closely involved Lyra, but it happened when she was about six months old. Then came an interval, during which some of the consequences of the first part were worked out in the story of His Dark Materials, when she was about 11 or 12. But other things were still lying in the ground, waiting to germinate. About 10 years after the events in His Dark Materials, the first shoots of those other things begin to emerge from the ground. But because they’re not really a consequence of His Dark Materials, I don’t want to call them a sequel; and because I don’t like the word “prequel,” I didn’t want to call the first book by that word. So I call The Book of Dust an “equel.”

(16) RESERVATIONS MADE. There is no end in sight for superhero movies. SyFy has the story: “Fox schedules 6 more Marvel movies from 2019-2021”.

If you thought Fox was slowing down on movies based on Marvel Comics properties, the 2018 slate, featuring New Mutants on April 13, 2018, Deadpool 2 on June 1, 2018, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2, 2018, probably put that thought to bed. If even that plan didn’t show you their dedication to the franchise, well, this should: 20th Century Fox has reserved release dates for 2019, 2020, and spring 2021 marking six Marvel movie releases in just 21 months.

New Fox/Marvel movies will hit theaters on June 7, 2019, November 22, 2019, March 13, 2020, June 26 2020, October 2, 2020, and March 5, 2021. The production house has not indicated at all whether those will be X-Men or Fantastic Four films, the two properties they currently own film rights to from Marvel Entertainment. This is a common practice in the blockbuster release category nowadays;

(17) FLYING CLOUD. “This enormous Chinese blimp could replace satellites”. The link leads to a BBC video.

There’s a new type of airship called the Cloud, and it has a silver lining. (It’s also a giant, floating communications hub.) Finn Aberdein goes to watch a nerve-wracking flight with its maker KuangChi Science.

(18) THE WONDER WOMAN WHO MARRIED A MAN. It’s cosplay. In “The ultimate fantasy wedding: Wonder Woman weds Deadpool at Awesome Con”, the Washington Post’s Megan McDonough talks about how Megan Mattingly and Adam Merica got married at Awesome Con, and how her Wonder Woman gown was stitched together by three female cosplayers in 48 hours.

They decided right away that a full cosplay wedding, right down to the dress, would suit them best. By that point, Megan had accumulated a following in the cosplay community (she has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram) and founded the local group DC CosGeeks. She also didn’t want a repeat of her first wedding, which was much more conventional.

(19) LIFE CYCLES. Artis Lives on Vimeo is a fun cartoon promoting the Amsterdam Royal Zoo.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Jason, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Westercon 68 News

Having been deprived of Spider Robinson due to his health problems, it is perhaps not entirely tongue-in-cheek that the San Diego Westercon has announced its new Guest of Honor is Mira Grant. However, fans should stay alert for appearances by Mira Grant in the same place at the same time as another Westercon guest, Seanan McGuire. Some say they are inseparable.

John Hertz also draws my attention to his post about the Westercon Fanzine Lounge on the con website.

Fanzine Lounge

By John Hertz: In the science fiction community, fanzines are amateur publications by fans, for fans, one of the most distinctive forms of fan activity, beginning well before the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.  They publish anecdotes, essays, drawings, reviews, letters of comment.  Pros sometimes contribute.

Many SF cons have a Fanzine Lounge, where fanzines and those who love them may be found.  We’ll have one at Westercon this year.  I’ll be your host.  We’ll have some historical and some current fanzines you can hang around and browse through; I hope also some free copies you can take away.

Some fanzines go on for decades; some vanish, or re-emerge.  Some seem hardly to talk about SF at all: that and much else may be taken for granted.  A love of SF is the thread on which the beads of fan activity are strung.

A picture is worth a thousand words; that was true when fanzines were mainly illustrated with a stylus on a mimeograph stencil, and is true still.  Artwork in a fanzine may not be illustrative; it may suit a mood, or a layout.  A love of whimsy often runs with a love of SF.  Some of the best fanart is monochrome line drawing.

Until the rise of the Internet it was understood fanzines would be on paper, although there are legends about slices of bologna, or worse.  Circulation for paper fanzines then and now may be a few dozen or a few hundred.  Today electronic zines too appear.

Besides the thread of SF, fanzines are a voluntary world of letters, where people write, and read, and draw, for love.

Classically, one writes to faneditors requesting sample copies of their fanzines; one returns letters of comment, offers contributions which seem suitable, proposes to trade for one’s own fanzine, “the usual” for which fanzines are ordinarily exchanged.

The fundamental guides remain “To become one, ask one” and more generally “Seek and you shall find”.