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)

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Pixel Scroll 1/20/20 The Filers Scroll Round And Round, And They Come Out Here

(1) DREAMER’S BIOGRAPHY. “N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds” in The New Yorker is Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of the extraordinary author.

…In 2018, she released “How Long ’til Black Future Month?,” a collection of short stories. She also completed her next novel, “The City We Became,” the first installment of another trilogy, which is due out this March. Submitting the novel to her editor, a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, she felt depleted; for more than a decade, she had been writing nearly a book a year. She resolved to take 2019 off, but she couldn’t stay idle. She sketched out the new trilogy’s second installment, while also navigating calls from Hollywood, speaking engagements, side gigs. Marvel Comics invited her to guest-write a series—an offer she declined, because she had already agreed with DC Comics to create a “Green Lantern” spinoff. As we sat in her office, the first issue of her comic was slated for release in a few weeks. “This is an unusual year for me,” she said. “Usually, I have only one thing to concentrate on.”

Above her desk she had hung family photos: glimpses of a truncated generational story. “Like most black Americans descended from slaves, it basically stops,” she told me. She once wrote about this loss—not merely the erasure of a backstory but also the absence of all that a person builds upon it; as she put it, the “strange emptiness to life without myths.” She had considered pursuing genealogy, “the search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche.” But ultimately she decided that she had no interest in what the records might say. “They’ll tell me where I came from, but not what I really want to know: where I’m going. To figure that out, I make shit up.”

(2) DROPPING THE PILOT. Jeremy Szal’s tenure at StarShip Sofa has run its course: “All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal”.

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed stepping down this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

…See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more….

(3) THE ISABEL FALL STORY. Doris V. Sutherland, self-described “tubular transdudette”, weighs in with “Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Debate” at Women Write About Comics. The in-depth summary and analysis of the issues ends —

…Meanwhile, Isabel Fall has maintained her justifiably low profile. Even during the height of the controversy, she issued statements through mediators — first “Pip,” then Neil Clarke — rather than take a public platform herself. It remains to be seen what paths her creative career will take after her needlessly hostile reception this month.

Another concern is the lasting effect that the controversy will have on trans authors as a whole. The affair of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” makes plain a dilemma for contemporary transgender literature: fiction that is personal and boundary-pushing, that takes insults and abuse and turns them on the head to create something new, clearly runs the risk of being wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. But the alternative — of creating only art that conforms to a narrow notion of “proper” transgender experience, that strives to avoid even the hypothetical possibility of causing offence or discomfort — is hardly appealing.

If transgender fiction is to soar, then it cannot afford for people like Isabel Fall to be bullied off the launchpad.

(4) OSHIRO RETURNS. Mark Oshiro recently announced plans to resume work. Thread starts here.

(5) LET ROVER COME OVER. Future Engineers’ student contest to Name the Rover announced the semifinalists on January 13. There are over 150 – see them all in this gallery.

The finalists will be announced January 21, and the winning name on February 18.

(6) TRAINS IN SPACE. Featured in the 2020 Lionel Train Catalog are Star Trek trains. New: Tribble Transport Car; Romulan Ale Tank Car; Capt. Kirk Boxcar; Capt. Picard Boxcar… (They also have trains from other shows and movies – Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Frozen II, and other Pixar productions, Scooby-Doo, and Harry Potter.

Batman looks pretty wild, too,

(7) MAYBE THERE’S A PONY UNDERNEATH. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on “The White Pony” by Jane Rice.

Jane Rice is an author familiar to me solely though this story. Everyone gets to be one of the ten thousand sooner or later. She was a respected author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If this story is an example of her skill, I can see why her fans followed Rice. This meet-cute gone wrong is engaging enough for me to seek out more of Rice’s writing1. But what will my Young People think?

(8) RIDE AT GALAXY’S EDGE. When LAist made it to the head of the line, here is what they experienced: “We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'”. Lots of detail and photos, without spoiling the dramatic conclusion.

…As the transport’s doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They’re empowered to be a little strict with you — we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.

“I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer — so hey, why not do it for real?” Imagineer John Larena said.

But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, “It turns out that it’s actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale.” The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy’s Edge.

But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets….

(9) ASK THE FANTASY WRITERS. Be one of today’s lucky 10,000! View this old episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect featuring a team of fantasy writers composed of Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams. In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. The show ran from 2008 til 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 20, 1936 Cosmic Voyage Is remembered as being one of the first films to depict spaceflight, including weightlessness in realistic terms. It was shot as a silent film and had only a short release window being banned by Soviet censors until the collapse of the USSR. And yes you, can indeed see it here.
  • January 20, 1972 — The first Star Trek convention took place in New York City from this day for two very full days.  Memory Alpha notes that “Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand had turned up before the end of the convention, which featured a program of events of an art show, costume contest, a display provided by NASA and a dealers room.“ Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, D.C. Fontana and Isaac Asimov were among the SFF community members who showed up.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 86. The Fourth Doctor of course and the longest serving one to date with a seven-year run. My favorite story of his? “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. He wrote an autobiography, Who on Earth Is Tom Baker?, and just did his first Doctor Who novel, Scratchman, co-written with James Goss. 
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 62. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 39. OK, she was in The Clash of Titans as Athens. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 37. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent  Hugh Jackman led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvels fans will recognise that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian titled productions so I’m not sure…

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur finds two guys who are unprepared for a UFO to land in their bar, but not for the reason you might expect.

(13) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The winners of the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s 2019 Short Story Contest were announced in TNFF.

First Prize: “As Day Follows Night” by Karen L. Kobylarz, a tale of heroic fantasy, highly embla-zoned with both heroism and fantasy, a “quest” story following a magic student on a harrowing journey into myth and sacrifice.

Second Prize: “The Safety of Thick Walls” by Gus-tavo Bondoni, a tale of the Roman Republic…with zombies!

Third Prize: “Where You G-O-H When You Die” by Adam R. Goss, following a fallen space hero in his astonishing afterlife, more fantastic than he could possibly have imagined.

Honorable Mention: “The Captain” by Michael Simon, a three-time loser is sentenced to serve as the captain of a spaceship: does the punishment really fit the crime?

(14) INSIDE DIVERSITY. Whether Tim Waggoner’s advice proves valuable to the reader, it does surface a lot of good questions for writers to think about: “Mix it Up! Handling Diversity in Your Fiction”.

…I understand the basic idea of staying in your lane when it comes to diversity in fiction, and to a certain extent, I support it. I think writers shouldn’t try to tell a story meant to illuminate important aspects of another group’s experience. Only a person who was raised in and still is steeped in a culture/race/gender/etc. can ever know it well enough to write in-depth fiction exploring the issues that group faces. No amount of research can ever give you as authoritative an experience as someone who actually belongs a group other than your own, and you will never do as good a job as a writer from that group would at telling those stories. That said, I think if your story isn’t about the African-American experience or the gay experience, or the fill-in-the-blank experience, you can write from the point of view of a character unlike yourself if their racial/gender/cultural identity isn’t central to the story. Men in Black is a good example. Agents J and K could be people of any race, gender, or sexuality without having an appreciable impact on the film’s plot. (One does need to be older than the other, though.) Some character bits, such as J’s jokes which arise from his race would change, but the characters’ essential personalities and how they solve problems would remain the same. The story isn’t about J being black and K being white. It’s about the weird aspects of their job and saving the world. I’m perfectly comfortable writing from the point of view of someone with a different racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation background than myself in this circumstance. I focus on the character’s personality, and while their backgrounds will affect the expression of their character to a certain extent, I don’t attempt to delve very deep into their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And if I do go a little deeper than usual, it’s because I have close relationships with people from those backgrounds, and I’m comfortable asking them if I misrepresented the group they belong to (or rather one of their groups, since we all belong to multiple ones).

(15) STREAMING GHIBLI. If you’re paying for the right streaming service, you’re in for a treat: “Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films”.

Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.

It means new people will be introduced to “the ultimate escapism” of Studio Ghibli’s films – up until now they’ve only been available on DVD or illegally.

Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

“It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world,” says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has “been with Ghibli” since she was 16 years old.

(16) WHAT GOES UP. BBC says “Barometric pressure in London ‘highest in 300 years’ at least” but no one’s head exploded.

The weather forecasters have just given us an impressive display of their skill by predicting the scale of the current high pressure zone over the UK.

Overnight, Sunday into Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a barometric pressure of 1,049.6 millibars (mbar).

It’s very likely the highest pressure ever recorded in London, with records dating back to 1692.

But the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts had seen it coming well ahead of time.

“Computerised forecast models run by the Met Office and the ECMWF predicted this development with near pinpoint precision, forecasting the eventual position and intensity of the high pressure area several days in advance, before it had even begun to form,” said Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at Reading University’s department of meteorology.

…”The reason for the extremely high pressure can be traced back to the rapid development of an intense low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard of the United States a few days previously (this is the storm that dumped around 75cm of snow in Newfoundland),” he explained.

(17) COULD CARRY ASTRONAUTS THIS YEAR. “SpaceX Celebrates Test Of Crew Dragon Capsule That Will Carry NASA Astronauts”, following up yesterday’s Pixel.

…With Sunday’s successful test, Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said it is now “probable” that the first mission with astronauts on board could happen as early as the second quarter of 2020. He told reporters the test “went as well as one could possibly expect.”

(18) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Something else to do around CoNZealand:“‘Earth sandwich’ made by two men 20,000km apart”.

Two men in New Zealand and Spain have created an “Earth sandwich” – by placing slices of bread on precise points, either side of the planet.

The man behind the sandwich, Etienne Naude from Auckland, told the BBC he wanted to make one for “years”, but had struggled to find someone in Spain, on the other side of the globe.

He finally found someone after posting on the online message board, Reddit.

The men used longitude and latitude to make sure they were precisely opposite.

That meant there was around 12,724km (7,917 miles) of Earth packed between the slices – and some 20,000km between the men, for those forced to travel the conventional route.

…Mr Naude only had to travel a few hundred metres to find a suitable public spot on his side of the world. His Spanish counterpart had to travel 11 km (6.8 miles).

“It’s quite tough to find a spot which isn’t water on the New Zealand end – and where public roads or paths intersect in both sides,” Mr Naude said.

As if he hadn’t gone to enough effort, Mr Naude – a computer science student at Auckland University – made specially-decorated white bread for the occasion.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Horror Musical Instrument — The Apprehension Engine” on YouTube shows off a machine that comes up with the electronic scary music used in horror movies.

[Thanks to N., Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Giant Panda, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Nimmhaus.]

Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
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Pixel Scroll 10/9/18 PIXËL SCRØLL IK DEN HØLIË MÜRDËRBØT NØMINEE

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE. Patrick McGoohan had to keep asking but Star Trek answered the question right away: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’s Rebecca Romijn Releases First Look Photo Of Number One”.

Romijn will play Number One (a character featured in the original 1966 Star Trek pilot) who serves as Captain Christopher Pike’s second-in-command on the USS Enterprise. The original Number One was played by Star Trek creator Gene Roddeberry’s wife Majel Barrett-Roddeberry.

(2) THE TRAILER OF DOCTOR DEATH. Honest Trailers has answered the plea to do trailers for the Classic and Modern versions of Doctor Who.

You know his name, you know his faces, but maybe these faces not as much- it’s Honest Trailers for Doctor Who! (Classic Version)

 

From fancy PBS comes a show where anything can happen and none of the continuity matters- it’s Honest Trailers for Doctor Who! (Modern Version)

 

(3) SKILLFUL RESEARCH. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive into Worldbuilding features “Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff and The Antiquities Hunter”. This interview was really interesting for me — I’m always curious about the process of figuring out the right questions, so you can go get good answers. Read the summary, and/or watch the video —

I asked Maya about her research process. She said this book took a very long time to write. It started with the character of Gina. Gina’s mom, Nadya, was initially in psychology, but then later changed to folklore. Maya did research on Russian Orthodox magic with the book “The Bathhouse at Midnight: A Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia.” For the archaeological aspects, Maya drew on Archaeology Magazine, where she found a lot of information on National Park Service Agents. There was a story about a woman with a family who was in the field conducting sting operations on antiquities thieves and black market dealers. For the background of a character named Rose, Maya looked at black market antiquities that showed up at Sotheby’s and the English Museum, like the Elgin Marbles (a set of marble statues that once stood in the Parthenon). Maya also had questions like, “What is it like to go to a Police Academy?” and “How are police departments structured?” which she got answered by police officers she connected with in online chatrooms. She also explored questions of what happens when jurisdictions collide, how departments work together, etc.

…Maya suggests if you want to make stuff up well, you should study Science, History, and Psychology. That way when you make stuff up, you’ll be using solid pieces to do it.

 

(4) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tim Pratt and Lawrence M. Schoen on Wednesday, October 17 the KGB Bar.

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt has won a Hugo Award for short fiction, and was a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, and Philip K. Dick Awards, among others. He is the author of 25 novels and four story collections, and works as a senior editor at Locus magazine. His latest project is the Axiom space opera series, begun with The Wrong Stars in 2017 and continuing this year with The Dreaming Stars.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. A variety of small presses have published a series of humorous short stories, novellas, and novels about his protagonist the Amazing Conroy, a stage hypnotist turned CEO who travels the galaxy with Reggie, his alien companion animal that eats anything and farts oxygen. On a somewhat higher level, Lawrence’s book Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard won the Cóyotl Award for Best Novel. Its sequel, The Moons of Barsk, was published by Tor Books this past August.

Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(5) FINDING THE BUCKS FOR WAUKEGAN’S BRADBURY MUSEUM. The Chicago Tribune paints a word picture of the proposed exhibits: “Fundraising for Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan kicks off as designs take shape”. The organizers are looking for a million dollars to get the museum completely up and running, and are pursuing a mix of grants, large donors and smaller individual donations.

Themed around the Waukegan-born author’s “Martian Chronicles,” the room will allow visitors to explore the concepts of space, time travel and “the limits of human endeavor,” Petroshius said.

An adjustable periscope could use augmented reality to transform the view of Genesee Street beyond the front windows into Mars or another vista.

A sphere in the center of the room could show the surface of Mars, Earth or the planet of the aliens that appear in the story “The Fire Balloons” and glow with blue flames in crystal spheres. Also, using tablets, visitors can explore the stories of the “Martian Chronicles.”

Design work on a room dedicated to “Fahrenheit 451” just began this past week, Petroshius said. The room will examine freedom of expression, censorship and creativity, as well as Bradbury’s experiences being investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era.

The goal is to appeal to grown-ups who are already fans of Bradbury as well as students who haven’t yet been exposed to his work, said Keith Michalek, a senior designer with Chicago Exhibit Productions Inc., the firm behind the renderings.

(6) WAR GAMES ANNIVERSARY. Slate tells “How Sci-Fi Like WarGames Led to Real Policy During the Reagan Administration”.

This year, John Badham’s WarGames—one of the movies most beloved by hackers, techies, and tech policy wonks (like me!)—celebrates its 35th anniversary. Though it may look a little kitschy now, it was notable for several firsts: It was the first popular film depiction of the now well-known hacker archetype. It raised the specter of an artificial intelligence starting World War III a year before James Cameron’s The Terminator did, and it introduced America to a young Matthew Broderick….

Larry Niven was interviewed for the article.

However, the biggest sci-fi influence on Reagan—arguably the biggest example of sci-fi influence on policy ever—came directly from a group of sci-fi writers and aerospace professionals. The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy was primarily led by two sci-fi writers: Larry Niven, best known for the sci-fi classic Ringworld, hosted a council meeting of dozens of authors and experts at his home over a long weekend shortly after Reagan’s election. That meeting was organized and led by his friend and regular co-author Jerry Pournelle, who died in 2017. As Niven recently told me in a phone interview, the conservative cold warrior Pournelle was “the beginning, the middle, and the end” of the council and its proposals for the future of America’s presence in space. Several of Pournelle’s ideas were distinctly ahead of their time—ideas about mining asteroids for mineral resources, or developing reusable rockets that could take off and land vertically “just as God and [legendary sci-fi writer] Robert Heinlein intended,” as he once put it. (That’s a phrase Sigma Forum founder Arlan Andrews Sr. first used in 1993 in the sci-fi magazine Analog.)* That proposal ultimately led to Vice President Dan Quayle supporting the development of the DC-X test rocket that Elon Musk has credited as a key predecessor to the reusable rocket systems now deployed by SpaceX.

(7) THE LATEST FROM STAN LEE. Mark Ebner, in “Stan Lee Breaks His Silence:  Those I Trusted Betrayed Me” on The Daily Beast, has a lengthy interview with Lee, where he strikes back at some hangers-on he says betrayed him and says he is reconciled with his daughter J.C.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there have been stories out, and at least one upcoming story with allegations of elder abuse on you by your daughter.

STAN: I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC.

J.C. LEE: [Interjecting] He wishes everyone was so abusive.

STAN: She is a wonderful daughter. I like her. We have occasional spats. But I have occasional spats with everyone. I’ll probably have one with you, where I’ll be saying, “I didn’t say that!” But, that’s life.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 9, 1894 – Harlan Thompson, Screenwriter, Lyricist, Stage and Screen Director and Producer. After an early career co-writing scripts and lyrics for Broadway musicals, he turned his talents to Hollywood, creating films and musicals which starred names such as Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Mae West, and W.C. Fields. His genre connection is his credit for the official novelization in 1972 of the movie Silent Running. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction notes that “The novel quietly patches some plot holes in the film’s script.”
  • Born October 9, 1900 – Harry Bates, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom. Editor from 1930 to 1933 the new pulp magazines Astounding Stories of Super-Science (which later became Astounding Stories, then Analog) and Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. His Retro Hugo finalist novelette “Farewell to the Master” was the source of the classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. He wrote a number of other stories under his own name and under various pseudonyms. In 1976 he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame.
  • Born October 9, 1936 – Brian Blessed, 82, Actor, Writer, and Comedian from England known to genre fans as Prince Vultan in the Hugo-nominated Flash Gordon and as Richard IV in Blackadder (I don’t care what you say, it’s alternate history, I’m calling it genre). He has also appeared in the films Dark Ascension, Shed of the Dead, MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, and the Gerry Anderson space opera pilot The Day After Tomorrow, had guest roles on episodes of The Avengers, Space:1999, Doctor Who, and Blake’s 7 – and even contributed a character voice in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – as well providing that magnificent voice to characters in a long list of animated shows and videogames.
  • Born October 9, 1953 – Tony Shalhoub, 65, Actor of Screen and Stage, known for his role in the Hugo-winning Galaxy Quest and character roles in a number of Hugo-nominated movies including Gattaca, Men In Black, and Addams Family Values, as well as Thirteen Ghosts and the adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s Impostor and Stephen King’s 1408. He has provided voices to main characters in Pixar’s Cars films and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot movies.
  • Born October 9, 1954 – Scott Bakula, 64, Actor, Singer, and Director with lead roles on the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise (for which he received 3 Saturn nominations) and Quantum Leap (for which he won a Golden Globe), and the movie adaptations of Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions and Tom Clancy’s NetForce.
  • Born October 9, 1956 – Robert Reed, 62, Writer who has published at least 17 novels and more than 200 short fiction works, many of them in his superb Great Ship universe, his series about a Big Dumb Object and how it gets reused once it enter our galaxy. He was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1987, and since then has racked up 7 Hugo nominations, in addition to winning Best Novella for A Billion Eves, and an impressive array of Nebula, Campbell, World Fantasy, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Sidewise, Imaginaire, Asimov’s, and Locus Award nominations.
  • Born October 9, 1960 – Dr. Cheryl Ann Brigham, 58, Astrophysicist who is married to Dr. David Brin and credited in many of his science fiction works for providing research and critical assistance.
  • Born October 9, 1961 – Matt Wagner, 57, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator whose greatest work is no doubt his Grendel series, of which I recommend Grendel: Behold the Devil, Grendel: War Child, and the first sequence of Batman/Grendel. He’s done quite a bit of work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other comic houses over the years. In 1991, he illustrated part of the “Season of Mists” story arc in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, and his work on Sandman Mystery Theatre #1-60 was one of his longer runs. Mage #1-15 for Image Comics is exemplary work as well. He has been nominated for an Eisner Award nine times, winning three of those, and he received an Inkpot Award in 1988.
  • Born October 9, 1964 – Jacqueline Carey, 54, Writer of the long-running mildly erotic Kushiel’s Legacy universe which contains three trilogies, the first novel of which, Kushiel’s Dart, won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her about this series called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”. Her most recent works are the standalone novels Miranda and Caliban, which is a re-telling of The Tempest, and the epic fantasy Starless.
  • Born October 9, 1964 – Guillermo del Toro, 54, Oscar-winning Writer, Director, and Producer originally from Mexico who has become especially known for his deeply fantastical Hugo-winning film Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hugo finalist The Shape of Water, as well as Pacific Rim, The Hobbit, Crimson Peak, Hellboy and Hellboy II, Blade II, and Mimic.
  • Born October 9, 1968 – Pete Docter, 50, Oscar-winning Screenwriter, Animator, Voice Actor, Director and Producer, of works Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, and Up which were all Hugo finalists, and WALL-E, which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. At the age of 21, he was one of the first people hired at Disney’s Pixar Studios in 1990, and he was named Chief Creative Officer at Pixar in June this year.
  • Born October 9, 1979 – Brandon Routh, 39, Actor known for the lead role in Superman Returns, as well as the science fiction film 400 Days, and the movie version of the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In 2014, he began a recurring role on Arrow, which spun off into a recurring role on The Flash, and a starring role on Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Born October 9, 1980 – Arnold Chon, 38, Actor, Producer, and Stunt Coordinator and Performer who began Tae Kwon Do lessons at the age of 4, earned a Black Belt at the age of 11 and became a NASKA World Karate champion. He has had guest roles and performed stunts in more than a hundred movies, including Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fear the Walking Dead , Doomsday Device, The Last Airbender, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Invasion, and the Hugo-nominated Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  • Born October 9, 1985 – Amanda Richer, 33, Actor, Writer, and Producer from Canada. As an 18-year-old, she starred in Deafplanet, a Gemini-nominated Canadian children’s show which ran for 4 years, about a boy who accidentally launches himself into space on a museum rocket and becomes stranded, with his robot, on a planet where everyone is deaf and only communicates through sign language. She spent 4 months coaching Sally Hawkins in ASL for the Oscar-winning and Hugo finalist film, The Shape of Water.
  • Born October 9, 1994 – Jodelle Ferland, 24, Saturn-nominated Actor from Canada whose genre credits include roles in Twilight: Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and the SyFy series Dark Matter, as well as many other movies, mostly horror, including They, Tideland, Silent Hill, The Messengers, Seed, Bloodrayne II, Cabin in the Woods, and guest roles in many TV series including Stargate: Atlantis, Supernatural, and Smallville.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Brewster Rockit, Dr. Mel Practice has a suggestion on how to ensure funding for science (and it involves a certain credential).
  • A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, and arriving a little late to do any good — Strange Brew.
  • And an embarrassing false alarm at Off the Mark.

(10) FANSPLAINING. Somebody on Twitter decided Paul Cornell didn’t know Who he was talking about. Somebody was wrong.

(11) MORE NYCC COSPLAY. Gothamist has an enormous gallery of cosplayers from New York Comic Con: “Photos: Huge Cosplaying Crowds Pack Javits Center For Comic Con 2018”

Comic Con has grown so huge that it takes over the entire convention hall—some 200,000 people were expected to attend over the four-day run—and on Saturday and Sunday it often felt like every square foot was packed with bizarre creatures, grim warriors, heroic men and women and aliens and animals looking to save or possibly destroy the world. There are no rules of cosplay, of course, except for maybe that no store-bought, factory-made outfits are allowed. Which is why many of the most jaw-dropping costumes took months to create.

(12) GOT WHISKEY? Vinepair reports “Winter Is Here: Johnnie Walker Debuts Nine Game Of Thrones-Themed Scotches”

The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection includes eight blends. Seven are paired with the Houses of Westeros, and one is dedicated to the Night’s Watch:

  • Game of Thrones House Tully – Singleton of Glendullan Select
  • Game of Thrones House Stark – Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost
  • Game of Thrones House Targaryen – Cardhu Gold Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Lannister – Lagavulin 9 Year Old
  • Game of Thrones The Night’s Watch – Oban Bay Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Greyjoy – Talisker Select Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Baratheon – Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old
  • Game of Thrones House Tyrell – Clynelish Reserve

Also promised — “Johnnie Walker Teases Game of Thrones-Themed ‘White Walker’ Scotch”.

A Game of Thrones-themed Scotch is on its way from Johnnie Walker. Dubbed “White Walker,” the Scotch whisky is set to debut this fall. You know, that season that comes before winter. In other words, when winter is coming.

(13) BLUE SKY. Branson says: “Virgin Galactic to reach space in ‘weeks not months'”

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has said that Virgin Galactic is “weeks” away from its first trip into space.

“We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years,” the firm’s founder and chief executive told news website CNBC.

He said the firm would be taking people into space “not too long after” that.

(14) DISABILITY IN DOCTOR WHO. Tom Gerken tells BBC readers: “Doctor Who: How the dyspraxic assistant became my hero”.

In Doctor Who, Ryan becomes angry at his failures as he relentlessly falls off his bicycle. Later in the episode, he attempts to channel his frustration and learn again – yet he still fails.

It cannot be overstated how happy I was at this moment. I didn’t want Ryan to suddenly, magically succeed. I wanted him to keep failing.

Don’t call him inspirational

Dyspraxia doesn’t have an overnight fix. You can’t will yourself to not be disabled anymore. It’s always there, always present, always making things harder than they should be.

I don’t want to see people using the word “inspirational” to describe him. He’s not an inspiration. He’s a normal guy, who happens to have a disability.

(15) BEWARE THE POINTY BITS. The warning from the transformed David Bowman in 2010: Odyssey Two (“All these worlds are yours—except Europa. Attempt no landings there.”) may have taken on a new meaning. A new scientific paper (Nature Geoscience: “Formation of metre-scale bladed roughness on Europa’s surface by ablation of ice”) warns that sharp spikes of ice could form on Europa, potentially making it very difficult to land. The Nature Geoscience article is behind a paywall, but Popular Mechanics stepped up to make the key info accessible (“Menacing Ice Spikes on Europa Could Endanger Future Landers”).

All eyes are on Europa right now, with a dedicated NASA mission headed there in 2022, and the European Space Agency launching a more general Jupiter moon probe that will have a couple encounters with Europa that same year.

But if these orbiters are the first step toward more widespread exploration of the ocean moon, they may reveal a giant complication. Like 50 foot spikes of ice jutting out from the crust of the moon.

…[Dr. Daniel] Hobley [of Cardiff University] and his team looked toward another place with a deep ice shell and liquid water below: Antarctica. Specifically, they looked at the formation of penitentes. These structures begin their formation below, jutting out areas of higher altitude into the ice shell.

In turn, sublimation—the process of turning a solid directly into a gas—leaves behind some more compacted areas, that appear as spikes of ice, some of them taller than a human and sharp as a blade. Because the surface of Europa is ever-changing, geologically speaking, Hobley thinks there may be different kinds of spikes at different latitudes. Some of them could even reach as tall as 50 feet high.

(16) BRAAAAAAINS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SingularityHub brings the story of “How BrainNet Enabled 3 People to Directly Transmit Thoughts,” based on a preprint paper on arXiv.org (“BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains”). The usual grain of salt (or 10) should be applied since preprints are not yet peer reviewed.

For a remarkably social species, we’re not particularly effective communicators.

Finding the right words to clearly, efficient transmit our thoughts to another consciousness—even something as simple as driving directions—can be a challenge, especially in-the-moment and under pressure.

What if we could do away with words altogether? What if, rather than relying on an intermediary, we could directly transmit our thoughts through a digital, internet-like space into another mind?

Technology mediated brain-to-brain communication (basically a binary signal) has been demonstrated before. This would appear to be the first time than multiple (two) senders have been connected to a receiver, though. The network was used to play a Tetris-like video game with the senders viewing the full game but the receiver only being able to see part of it. The senders try to signal the receiver to either rotate or not rotate a falling block. The research team claims that the average accuracy is 81.3%, far better than chance. They even injected noise into one sender’s signal (call it “fake news”), but the receiver was able to learn which sender is more reliable “based solely on the information transmitted to their brains.” The researchers consider this the first step toward a social network.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “An Object at Rest” on Vimeo, Seth Boyden tells the story of the past few thousand years from the viewpoint of a very sleepy rock!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/20/18 The Pixie With the Moxie Is The Scroll That Is Droll

(1) JAMES GUNN CANNED BY DISNEY. The director’s offensive tweets were unearthed and have led to him being fired by Disney according to Yahoo! Entertainment “Disney Drops James Gunn From ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Franchise After Offensive Tweets”.

Director James Gunn has been dropped from Disney’s Marvel franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy” over old tweets.

“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” said Alan Horn, chairman of  Walt Disney Studios, in a statement.

Gunn, the writer-director of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, apologized late Thursday after a series of old (now deleted) tweets resurfaced in which the filmmaker made what he admitted were “offensive” jokes about taboo topics like rape and pedophilia.

Gunn frequently tweets about his opposition to President Donald Trump, and thus drew the ire of fans of the president such as right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich, who began posting a series of old tweets by Gunn, many of which were subsequently deleted.

Online sleuths then dug up dozens of old tweets of the sort Gunn admitted were “offensive,” many from between 2008 and 2011.

“Expendables is so manly I f–ed the s– out of the p-ssy boy next to me,” he wrote in one.

“The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’” read a tweet from February 2009.

Deadline’s coverage adds these details: “James Gunn Fired From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Franchise Over Offensive Tweets”.

Disney and Marvel had never announced that Gunn would direct the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy, but Gunn certainly declared it on social media. And after Guardians of the Galaxy 2 last summer grossed $863 million worldwide, to the original’s $773 million, there was every expectation he would remain at the helm. After all, the sly humor and tone that just crushed his career trajectory helped fuel the irreverently humorous tone of the Guardians franchise.

Unsurprisingly – “James Gunn Won’t Appear At Comic-Con After Being Axed From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’”. Deadline has the story.

James Gunn, who was fired today from Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise after past offensive tweets surfaced, will not make a planned appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego today where he was set to appear on Sony Pictures’ Hall H session to tout an upcoming horror film he is producing.

Gunn has made the following response:

(2) WORST TOWN ON TV. Reason.com’s Glenn Garvin says don’t even stop there for gas — “Stephen King’s Nightmare Town Castle Rock a Distillery of Horrors”.

…Hulu’s new series Castle Rock is clearly an attempt to answer a question that has occurred to nearly every King reader multiple times over the years: Do the folks in this town ever notice the unholy frequency with which their neighbors fall into quicksand pits, get ravaged by their house pets, or are driven insane by mundane household items purchased at pawn shops?

Oh, yes they do, and you’ll have a creepy good time as Castle Rock follows their efforts to figure out why their town is such a demonic piece of crap. One of the lead investigators is even a Realtor, who I imagine faces some serious professional challenges in a town like this. (“It’s very cute little Cape Cod at an owner-was-murdered-by-a-jealous-neighbor-for-having-sex-with-the-ghost-of-Elvis price!”)

(3) CATCHING UP WITH THE PRISONER. It’s news to me! Apparently this sequel came out 20 years ago. Titan Comics is bringing it back.

Cult classic The Prisoner has been captivating audiences and firing imaginations since it first aired in the UK in 1967 and in the US the following year. Now fans can go even deeper into The Village with this official graphic novel sequel set twenty years after the events of the iconic TV series.

Originally published in 1988, Shattered Visage tells the story of former secret agent Alice Drake, whose round-the-world solo voyage is interrupted when she is accidentally shipwrecked and washes up on the shores of The Village. There she encounters Number Six, finds out what has become of Number Two, and discovers the true purpose of The Village.

Titan Comics, a licensee of ITV Studios Global Entertainment, are delighted to release this long out-of-print classic with new material, including character sketches and notes from writer/artist Dean Motter . Fans can finally get their hands on the unmissable next chapter in THE PRISONER saga for the first time in years.

(4) HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOR.COM. As part of Tor.com’s tenth anniversary celebration, Stubby the Rocket chronicles “15 Rituals The Tor.com Office Has Developed”.

Tor.com has existed on the internet for 10 years. And when you work in an office and you also work on the internet, where one day gives you a week’s worth of events to react to, you develop a lot of shorthands and rituals to get through the day….

6.) Dressing Up The Office, Part 1: Unicorn Lamp/Rocket Lamp

We had an in-office fundraiser for our unicorn lamp, and we adore it. (We also gave each color of the unicorn a different name after trying and failing to apply a single name.) Then we had an in-office fundraiser for a rocket lamp as well. It makes the place more homey, particularly during the darker parts of the year, and reminds us that we are all unicorns on the inside and rockets on the outside.

(5) RAMBO ACADEMY. The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has posted a new list of classes. Notably, Seanan McGuire will be teaching a new class, an Ann Leckie’s doing her awesome space opera class again. Cat Rambo says if money’s an issue, see the info about scholarships below: “Classes for the Rambo Academy through October”.

Free scholarships: If you cannot afford a class but really want to take one, apply for a Plunkett Scholarship. Each class has a slot reserved for such a student, and the sole criteria is that you can’t afford the class but really think it would be useful for you. To apply, mail me with your name, the class name/date, and a brief statement about why you want to take the class. QUILTBAG and PoC candidates are especially encouraged to apply. The Plunkett Scholarships are named for Edward Plunkett, who wrote as Lord Dunsany. Scholarship recipients will be notified the week before the class.

(6) SCHNEPP OBIT. Jon Schnepp (1967 – 2018): US actor, animator, director; died July 19, aged 51. Animation work includes Aqua Teen Hunger Force (18 episodes, 2000-02), Space Ghost Coast to Coast (eight episodes, 1995-99), Metalocalypse (62 episodes, 2006-12); he has a voice role in The Oracle of Outer Space, due out later this year.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 – How could it be 49 years already?

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

  • July 20, 1976 — Viking I landed on Mars to explore the surface of the Red Planet. The first robots on Mars, Viking I and its successor gave scientists their first information about the planet’s surface, including information they hoped would allow people to walk there. Although the Viking probes found no evidence of life on Mars, they returned detailed pictures of the planet and information about the soil’s composition. (John King Tarpinian will eat a Mars bar after he finishes his Moon Pie.)

(8) PROBABLY SOMETHING BUT NOT A TUX. The message Worldcon 76 sent to encourage Hugo nominees to dress up for the ceremony generated a certain amount of resentment, and things were already touchy before Paul Cornell’s tweet threw gasoline on the fire. Cornell soon banished it from Twitter. However, there’s a screencap in Kay Taylor Rea’s response —

Some of these selected tweets were direct comments on Cornell’s, while others addressed the general conversation rippling through the sff community.

Alternatively –

(9) ON THE RUNWAY. Meanwhile, Jodie Whittaker made a fashion statement wearing a hood at “Comic-Con 2018”

In the midst of this year’s Her Universe fashion show, founder Ashley Eckstein stepped forward and apologized for a last-minute addition to the line-up, a model who was late but who really wanted to walk the runway. And since it was the day of Comic-Con in which the new Doctor Who crew had been introduced, it was appropriate that the model would be wearing some new Whovian fashion.

From the moment she stepped on to the runway, though, the model looked familiar. Head down, hair dangling, it was clear she was almost made for the jacket that looked like the 13th Doctor’s. Of course, it’s because she is the 13th Doctor, making a surprise appearance for fans and to talk with an excited Eckstein.

 

(10) TAKEI MEMOIR. A graphic novel about George Takei’s childhood in a California concentration camp in WWII will come out next year: “George Takei Memoir ‘They Called Us Enemy’ Coming in Summer 2019”.

With immigration and the detention of migrant children in the news, IDW Publishing has announced details of They Called Us Enemy, a graphic novel memoir of George Takei’s childhood in American internment camps.

To be released in summer 2019, They Called Us Enemy will be co-written by Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, with art from Harmony Becker. Its plot revisits the actor and activist’s childhood as one of 120,000 Japanese Americans held in American concentration camps run by the United States during the Second World War.

According to the publisher’s official description, the book is “Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the terrors and small joys of childhood in the shadow of legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s tested faith in democracy and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. What does it mean to be American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?”

“It has always been my mission in life to raise the awareness of the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans in barbed-wire prison camps during World War II,” Takei told The Hollywood Reporter. “But I had no idea how chillingly relevant that dark chapter of American history would be to our times today.”

(11) DOOR DRAGONS. Here’s a chance to avoid missing the party:

(12) HE’S GOT THAT COVERED. Let Boing Boing tell you about the latest nuisance filing: “Trademark troll who claims to own “Dragon Slayer” now wants exclusive rights to book covers where someone is holding a weapon”.

Austin’s Michael-Scott Earle, last seen around these parts when he filed a trademark on the phrase “Dragon Slayer” for use in fantasy novel trademarks, has found a new depth to plumb: he’s filed a trademark on book covers “one or more human or partially human figures underneath, at least one of the figures holding a weapon; and an author’s name underneath the figures; wherein the title/series and author’s name are depicted in the same or similar coloring.”

(13) NIGHTMARE. Charles Payseur connects you with short fiction — “Quick Sips – Nightmare #70”.

The pair of stories from Nightmare’s July issue focus on people trapped in situations where they don’t have a lot of power, mostly because of their age. They weigh in on opposite sides of the specrtum, though, one character made vulnerable because of his old age, put in a home where he might be preyed upon at any moment and aware always of his own approaching death. The other piece focuses on a young person in a stifling household, living with rules that aren’t designed to protect him so much as to make his parent’s life easier. In both situations, the toxicity of the environment manifests in ways great and small (and sometimes furred) and forces the characters to choose if they’ll stay and try to face them or try to escape from a power they might not be able to defeat head on. Let’s get to the reviews!

(14) LEST DARKNESS PALL. Nature has a line on “A planet the colour of charcoal”.

A hot and gaseous planet orbiting a distant star is one of the darkest ever found.

Astronomers led by Teo Mo?nik at Keele University, UK, used NASA’s Kepler telescope to study a star called WASP-104, which lies roughly 144 parsecs from Earth in the constellation Leo. Earlier observations had documented a dimming of WASP-104’s light every 1.76 days, indicating that a planet was regularly crossing the star’s face. But Mo?nik’s team could not detect starlight reflecting off the planet, as scientists usually expect after discovering a new world. That led the researchers to conclude that the planet is nearly pure black in colour.

(15) TOAD IN THE HOLE. That’s what Ellen Klages ordered in Episode 72 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ellen Klages

…And then move on to this episode’s guest, Ellen Klages, who won the Nebula Award in 2005 for her novelette, “Basement Magic.” Her novella, “Wakulla Springs” (co-authored with previous guest of the show Andy Duncan), was a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula awards and won the World Fantasy Award in 2014.

She won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Lopez Award for Children’s Literature, and the New Mexico State Book Award for Young Adult Literature for her first novel, The Green Glass Sea. She has served for twenty years on the Motherboard of the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. Her novella “Passing Strange” was one of the finalists for this year’s Nebula award.

Our venue for this episode was the relatively new Whitfield at Ace Hotel. This was certainly the most picturesque setting for a meal I experienced in Pittsburgh, because the building which housed both hotel and restaurant was a century-old former YMCA.

We discussed why it took 40 years from the time she wrote the first sentence of her Nebula Award-nominated story “Passing Strange” to finish the tale, what a truck filled with zebras taught her about the difference between storytelling and real life, how cosplaying helped give birth to her characters, what she finds so fascinating about creating historical science fiction, why revising is her favorite part of writing, the reason she’s the best auctioneer I’ve seen in my lifetime of con-going, what she teaches students is the worst mistake a writer can make, how her collaboration with Andy Duncan gave birth to an award-winning novella, whether she still feels like “a round peg in genre’s polyhedral hole” as she wrote in the afterword to her first short story collection, and much more.

(16) ON THEIR WAY. Tor.com’s Lee Harris promised readers A Pair of Solarpunk Novellas from Becky Chambers without giving a definite date when they’ll come out.

Ever since I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet I’ve wanted to work with Becky. She has a lightness of touch that makes you want to keep turning the page. So, when I contacted her and she suggested we work together on a couple of solarpunk books I was delighted. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, today, and I can’t wait to bring you Becky‘s trademark adventure style, wrapped up in a bundle of positive SF. It’s what we need, right now.

(17) CAPITAL CATS. In our national’s capital, a credential census is planned: “Washington, D.C., Is Counting All Its Cats. It Will Take 3 Years And $1.5 Million”.

…Various groups are working to spay and neuter stray cats or facilitate cat adoptions. Thousands of cats each year are spayed or adopted.

But groups like the Humane Rescue Alliance “have little sense if their programs are the lion’s share of adoptions in the city, or if their trap-neuter-return program is effective in helping to control the cat population,” Fenston writes.

It’s not easy to gauge a city’s cat population by eye alone.

“Cats are hard to see,” conservation biologist Tyler Flockhart told The New York Times. “You see very few cats when you’re out walking around. And that’s because they’re secretive animals. When you see a cat, there is almost certainly more than one there.”

(18) UNCREDENTIALS AND GAMING. Linda Holmes of NPR made the connection — “Put Your Face In It: How Gaming Helped Me Understand My Dog”

When I am walking my dog around the neighborhood now, I imagine him going boop-boop-boop as he wanders along wondering what he should approach, much as I do when I walk from my Stardew Valley farm to the place where I will once again sell my virtual parsnips. And when he sees an empty Doritos bag lying on its side on the street, I realize that he is having the same experience I did the first time I picked up an imaginary oyster on the imaginary beach. He is saying to himself, “This could be some wonderful and magical key to a benefit yet unrealized! This could be magic! This could taste delicious! This could transport me to another dimension!” Most importantly, he is thinking what I am always thinking any time I fail to investigate anything: “But what if I really neeeeeed it?” And he is pushing the only button he has. His action button.

(19) SUGGEST A NAME. But Spacy McSpaceFace need not apply: “Wanted: Inspiring name for Europe’s 2020 Mars rover”. This time suggestions will go to a panel instead a popular vote.

Here’s your chance to name the European rover that will go to Mars in 2020.

Currently called ExoMars, the six-wheeled robot needs something a bit more engaging and inspiring for when it lands on the Red Planet.

Astronaut Tim Peake is leading the hunt for a great moniker.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/27/18 What Has It Got In Its Retro Packet?

(1) ANAHEIM EVENT GOES DOWN THE TUBER. With dreams of rivaling VidCon, YouTuber Tana Mongeau tried to stage her own event in Anaheim. How did that go? New York Magazine titled its coverage “A Mouth to Hell Opened This Weekend at Tanacon, a Fyre Festival for the YouTube Set”.

Tana Mongeau wanted to throw an alt-VidCon. Instead, she threw a Fyre Festival redux.

Mongeau is a YouTuber. She has 3.5 million followers and her name might sound vaguely familiar if you’re at all versed in the surprisingly engaging world of vegan YouTube drama. VidCon is an annual YouTube-centric convention organized by brothers and YouTube royals Hank and John Green. Tanacon is the event that Mongeau organized — and named after herself — last week in California.

Tanacon was inspired by Mongeau’s self-professed dislike of VidCon. In a video you can watch if you have an hour and eighteen minutes to kill, Mongeau explained she would not be attending VidCon this year, citing drama over not being designated a featured creator at the event. And so, Tanacon was born. And, in a way, so Tanacon died. The event was barely six hours into its first day when it was shut down by officials for overcrowding, sending thousand of teens — many who had been waiting hours outside in the sun — into a tizzy. A dehydrated tizzy we can now recount for you to gleefully relive from the relative comfort of wherever you’re presently posted up. (We can only assume it’s not still the parking lot of the Anaheim Marriott Suites.)…

…The fan horde did not take well to the event cancellation. “After the lady said it was canceled, everyone started screaming, complaining, and cussing her out,” 13-year-old Alyssa, who bought a VIP ticket and waited six hours to be turned away empty-handed, said. “Everyone ran to the registration tent and threw the merch … pop sockets, Tanacon bags, stickers, Tanacon condoms, badges. This led to everyone destroying everything.”

Mongeau eventually came outside to calm the crowd. This, reader, will you believe … also did not end well, as evidenced by clips of screaming fans, phones raised above their heads with cameras at the ready, running through the parking lot to spy their queen….

 

(2) AND A BAD TRACK RECORD GETS WORSE. Louisville’s Fandomfest, which unaccountably did not go out of business last year after the loss of more than half its celebrity guests and a last-minute move to an old Macy’s store, (“Louisville’s Fandom Fest Shambles On”), has failed its attempt to relaunch in 2018. Co-promoter Myra Daniels announced on Facebook yesterday they’re “rescheduling” Fandomfest 2018 and plan to divide it into two more affordable events.

Hey Guys!!!

We are rescheduling Fandomfest 2018 this year.

A number of reasons why.

When we picked the date last year it was a different date range then we normally pick. It was the date closest to the previous few years of Fandomfest. The Omni is a great hotel and we wanted to have it there this year.

Unfortunately several things happened. The date we chose made it very difficult to get vendors and bigger named celebs for that date because there were 6 other big conventions on that date.

So many of our normal vendors had already paid and booked other shows for that date. That made it difficult to procure vendors which helps to pay for everything.

Another reason is the pre-sale tickets were at a lower rate then ever. The guests we have chosen to bring in to the event weren’t a big enough pre-ticket purchase draw for the fans.

Putting these shows on costs money. A lot of money. The idea is to have an idea of the excitement for your guest list and the pre-sales are a huge way for us to gauge that in our plan.

We worked with the great people at The Omni to try and find another date there at their beautiful facility but they are completely booked all the way into 2019.

So we are excited to announce that we are working to reschedule and instead of bringing one show in the summer we are going to bring 2 events to better serve you guys. We know we hear all the time how expensive the shows are getting with the autograph prices and the photo op prices as well as admission. We think the time is right to have shows that don’t cost the fans as much money.

All of us love meeting our favorites from our Superhero Movies or favorite TV Shows out there but lets face it, it can get expensive.

Daniels says they’ll “be refunding the few ticket purchases and vendor booths” starting on June 30.

(3) STILL EARTHBOUND. It was an open secret that the launch of James Webb Space Telescope would be delayed again; now it’s just plain open. The schedule now calls for a launch on March 30, 2021. Once launched, the JWST will be inserted into a solar orbit at the Earth-Sun L2 point.

NASA says

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

Quoting The Verge’s article “NASA’s next flagship space telescope is delayed again”:

NASA has again delayed the launch of its next-generation space observatory, known as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the space agency announced today. The telescope now has a new launch date of March 30th, 2021. It’s the second delay to the program’s timeline this year, and the third in the last nine months.

“We’re all disappointed that the culmination of Webb and its launch is taking longer than expected, but we’re creating something new here. We’re dealing with cutting-edge technology to perform an unprecedented mission, and I know that our teams are working hard and will successfully overcome the challenges,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video statement. “In space we always have to look at the long term, and sometimes the complexities of our missions don’t come together as soon as we wish. But we learn, we move ahead, and ultimately we succeed.”

(4) TAKE NOTE. The Guardian answers the question:  “Who is Segun Akinola? The composer reinventing the Doctor Who theme”.

Segun Akinola has been announced as the sci-fi show’s new composer, and he’s in for a challenge almost as significant as hers: reinventing one of TV’s best-known theme tunes. The British-Nigerian musician’s unveiling continues the trend for bringing in fresh blood all around for the show’s new era. Composer Murray Gold worked on all 10 series of the revived show, winning acclaim for his blockbustery orchestral scores – despite many fans complaining they became invasive and overbearing.

Akinola, an alumnus of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and part of 2017’s Bafta Breakthrough Brit programme, could prove an altogether different prospect for a remodelled show. Could fans look forward to hearing something a little more pared down, modern and minimalist?

…Yet his latest challenge sets the bar high. Composing soundtracks for all 10 episodes of Whittaker’s debut series might provide the lion’s share of his workload – but he is also tasked with providing a ‘fresh take’ on the show’s theme music. That’s one of the most iconic elements of Doctor Who – just like the show itself, it’s always changing while remaining, broadly, the same.

Composed by Ron Grainer, the eerie, warping titles first emerged in 1963 in an arrangement now synonymous with Doctor Who’s renegade spirit….

(5) TRAVEL BAN CONSEQUENCES URGED. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision upholding Trump’s travel ban, several leading sff figures voiced a new resolve to deprive the United States of future Worldcons. Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s Twitter thread starts here. Adam Roberts carried on the theme in his Twitter thread, and Paul Cornell ratified it.

(6) CHRISTOPHER STASHEFF REMEMBERED. The daughter of the late Christopher Stasheff gave an interview about the author to the Champaign, IL News-Gazette.

A daughter of the prolific author who brought literary depth to the science fiction and fantasy genres with books like “The Warlock in Spite of Himself” said he used the people of Champaign as his muse.

“He gained inspiration from the people around him,” said Eleanore Stasheff, whose father, Christopher Stasheff, died June 10 at age 74.

“He always believed home is where the heart is, which is Champaign,” she said. “He found beauty anywhere we were at, but to him, people were more important than nature.”

(7) HEART OBIT. Frank Heart (1929-2018), a U.S. engineer who led the team that built the Interface Message Processor, heart of internet precursor ARPAnet, died on June 24 aged 89. The New York Times recalls his achievements: “Frank Heart, Who Linked Computers Before the Internet, Dies at 89”.

Data networking was so new that Mr. Heart and his team had no choice but to invent technology as they went. For example, the Arpanet sent data over ordinary phone lines. Human ears tolerate low levels of extraneous noise on a phone line, but computers can get tripped up by the smallest hiss or pop, producing transmission errors. Mr. Heart and his team devised a way for the I.M.P.s (pronounced imps) to detect and correct errors as they occurred.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 27 – Tobey Maguire, 43. Spider-Man films of course.
  • Born June 27 — J.J. Abrams, 52. Executive Producer of Alias, Lost: Missing Pieces, Star Trek, Lost, Fringe, Star Trek Into Darkness, Almost Human… Well you get the idea.
  • Born June 27 – Samuel George Claflin, 32. Performer, the Hunger Games film series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted a Return of the Jedi joke in Brewster Rockit.

(10) KING KONG V GODZILLA. At Galactic Journey, The Young Traveler gives a blow-by-blow account of monstrous showdown: “[June 26, 1963] Double or Nothing (King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962))”.

Though the epic monster fight was the main spectacle of the movie, it also managed to have a plot too. Well, sort of. The movie follows a dying Pharmaceuticals company whose executive is trying to get business by gaining traction on TV. Obviously the best way to get TV viewership is to send two of your employees to a small exotic island in search of giant monsters you can exploit. So that’s just what they do, discovering King Kong in the process. An awesome fight breaks out between King Kong and a giant octopus, for some reason, and after a much too long “exotic” dance sequence from the island’s “natives” King Kong drinks some special juice and falls asleep.

(11) READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP. BBC reports “Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft reaches cosmic ‘diamond'”.

A Japanese spacecraft has arrived at its target – an asteroid shaped like a diamond or, according to some, a spinning top.

Hayabusa 2 has been travelling toward the space rock Ryugu since launching from the Tanegashima spaceport in 2014.

It is on a quest to study the object close-up and deliver rocks and soil from Ryugu to Earth.

It will use explosives to propel a projectile into Ryugu, digging out a fresh sample from beneath the surface.

(12) HISTORY ONLINE. Did you know the BBC once sold a home computer? “BBC releases computer history archive”.

A slice of computing history has been made public, giving people the opportunity to delve into an archive that inspired a generation of coders.

The Computer Literacy Project led to the introduction of the BBC Micro alongside programmes which introduced viewers to the principles of computing.

It included interviews with innovators such as Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak.

The BBC hopes the 1980s archive will encourage today’s youngsters to become involved in computing.

With the release of the archive, viewers can now search and browse all of the programmes from the project.

They will be able to:

  • watch any of the 267 programmes
  • explore clips by topic or text search
  • run 166 BBC Micro programmes that were used on-screen
  • find out the history of the Computer Literacy Project

(13)  DRAGON CON LOSES POC PARTICIPANT. Gerald L. Coleman, who withdrew as a ConCarolinas guest, has decided Dragon Con isn’t suitable either.

Here’s a little thread I just sent. I still haven’t heard back from Cisca Small after emailing her twice this month about whether #DragonCon intends to invite John Ringo. According to Ringo he’s been invited. If that’s true I’ll be withdrawing my participation as an Attending Professional. I don’t have the luxury of pacifying, appeasing, or normalizing these decisions with my presence. I’m sure a number of authors who aren’t people of color or women will find all kinds of justifications for why it’s ok to attend but still call themselves “allies”. Just know I don’t buy it. I understand though, selling a few copies of your books is more important than letting a Con know that who they invite says everything about who they are.

Coleman also wrote a Twitter thread, which starts here.

(14) MANIFESTUNG. The Daily Dot’s Michelle Jaworski shows that “‘The Last Jedi’ backlash ‘campaign’ demands to be taken seriously “.

More than six months after the theatrical release of The Last Jedi, just about every aspect of the backlash against it has already been argued and debated to death. But that hasn’t stopped old arguments appearing in new formats.

Last week, we saw an almost certainly fake campaign “raise” millions of dollars to remake a film that earned more than $1.3 billion at the box office. This week, we’re seeing a “manifesto” written by “We the fans of Star Wars” go viral several weeks after it was originally posted. The emergence of the post, which didn’t get that much traction when it was first posted, is almost solely so people can mock it.

The creators of the manifesto believe that “those in charge of a Franchise derives its power as a creative force from the consent of the fandom of that Franchise.” The creators take umbrage with the direction that Lucasfilm has gone since being purchased by Disney and the perceived “misguided political agenda” that it’s pursuing with the new films. It includes grievances against The Last Jedi and the newer films as a whole, characterizing the films as desecrating the legacies of characters we’ve known for decades. And they certainly have an issue with people assuming that they’re racist, sexist, or part of the alt-right for disliking a movie.

“To these ends, we pledge our merchandise, our honor, and our wallets,” the manifesto stated in its final line.

These Star Wars fans, you see, demand to be taken seriously.

For the historians among us, this June 3 Twitter thread contains both the manifesto and a flag (complete with explanation of all its symbolism).

(15) A FORK IN THE ROAD. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews Laura Anne Gilman’s novel: “‘Red Waters Rising’ Leads Old Friends Into New Trouble”.

In the Devil’s West trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman has given us an imagined history of the United States — one that feels nearly as true as facts, both crazier and more reasoned than our Old West reality. Silver On The Road defined that world. One where the Devil — the actual Devil, smelling warmly of whiskey and tobacco, dressed in a prim cardsharp’s suit — holds dominion over everything in the United States west of the Mississippi, and defends it and its people from the predation and influence of Washington, Spain, the French and all of the East. From a town called Flood, he makes his deals and sends his chosen out into the world — one of them being Isobel, a teenaged girl, raised at the Devil’s knee and then sent forth (along with her mentor, Gabriel) into the Territory as his Left Hand. She is the Devil’s cold eye, final word and, when necessary, his justice.

(16) LUKE CAGE. The Orlando Sentinel interviews “’Luke Cage’ showrunner on its controversial killing”.

Before Cheo Hodari Coker began plotting Season 2 of Netflix‘s “Luke Cage,” he had to address the elephant in the room.

Actually, it was more like a snake in the room. A Cottonmouth to be specific.

Coker, a director, writer and producer who can frequently be found on social media answering both positive and negative questions and comments from viewers of his works, had frequently seen comments online saying that the killing of Season 1 villain Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) was a huge mistake.

There was a method to Coker’s perceived madness. One reason he gleefully accepted working on “Luke Cage” in the first place was his love of superhero comics. Coker still remembers vividly how he felt the moment he read the 12th issue of “Alpha Flight” (published by Marvel Comics in 1983), when legendary comics scribe and artist John Byrne killed the character Guardian.

“When (Bryne) killed Guardian I was verklempt,” Coker told The Washington Post. “I wanted to bring that kind of thing to Marvel television. I wanted to kind of do what Hitchcock did with ‘Psycho,’ because it was a big deal to kill Janet Leigh. And so, that was the thing. Cottomouth in that structure was always going to die. Even though people liked him a lot.”

(17) NIGHTFLYERS. Syfy Wire was terrified: “Nightflyers: George R.R. Martin goes ‘Psycho’ in new teaser”.

In the latest intense and unnerving teaser for George R.R. Martin’s upcoming sci-fi/horror series, Nightflyers, a young girl seems to recite some sort of incantation while we’re treated (if that’s the right word) to brief flashes of the rest of the cast in tight, dark spaces looking concerned, being set on fire, being dragged across the floor by some unseen force, and running for their lives. It’s all pretty terrifying, to tell the truth.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/27/17 And All I Ask Is A Tall Scroll And A Pixel To Godstalk Her By

(1) MORE GIFT POSSIBILITIES. C.F. Payne, who has produced covers for Time and Reader’s Digest among others, has been doing portraits of various creatives (writers, artists, musicians, et al) as demos for his art students and selling them on his Etsy page. These three examples are Lucas, Méliès, and Bradbury.

(2) OFF THE GROUND. George R.R. Martin’s 10-episode Season 1 of Nightflyers has been greenlit by SyFy.

NIGHTFLYERS will be shot in the Republic of Ireland, I’m told, on sound stages in Limerick… which will give them access to the same great pool of Irish and British actors that GAME OF THRONES has tapped in Belfast (and considering how many characters we’ve killed, a lot of them should be available). … If all goes according to schedule, the series should debut this summer, in late July. It will be broadcast on SyFy in the USA, and on Netflix around the world.

(3) ROOM DISRUPTION. Arisia 2018 takes place January 12-15 in Boston, but they just learned they’ll have to get by with almost 200 fewer rooms in their main hotel.

Q: What happened?

A: In early November the Westin informed us that its parent company has scheduled guest-room renovations. These renovations will be happening all winter and overlap the convention. During Arisia, three floors of guest rooms will be unavailable.

“Innkeeper” Holly Nelson is appealing to members to volunteer to move their reservations to a secondary hotel:

…One month into my role, Arisia received the news from the Westin about the renovations scheduled this winter. We were told 196 rooms would be unavailable and those reservations would need to transfer to the Aloft across the street. I was shocked and worried about how we would address the situation. Arisia staff members worked with the Westin to negotiate a better deal for those who would be required to move, as well as increasing how much of the Westin is reserved for our attendees to use.

If we don’t get enough volunteers, we’ll need to make involuntary transfers. If that happens we will be considering what is best for everyone who is concerned about moving. We’re working to meet the needs of as many people as possible – with the help of Arisia staff, including our Con Chair – in the most fair, impartial way we can. I would love to avoid this unpleasant duty, but that’s only possible if you volunteer by Thursday….

There are incentives for volunteering – see the FAQ.

(4) ABOUT HUGO AWARDS SITE LINKS TO THIRD PARTIES. The official Hugo Awards website’s response to criticism of Rocket Stack Rank, one of the “Third Party Recommendation Sites” linked there, has been to add a disclaimer:

I asked Kevin Standlee, who is part of the committee that runs the website, to address the broader question of why the Hugo Awards site links to other sites and how they are chosen:

The sites we’ve added have been as they came to our attention or when people asked us to add them. But a key thing is that they had to have a fixed address. People who set up a list for one year, then a new address for another year, then another new address, and so forth, we won’t add, because it’s too difficult to maintain. That has been apparently too high a bar for most people, who want to do things like set up Google Sheets for 2017, 2018, 2019, etc, with a new one every year. I’ve turned down the people whose request amounted to, “Add my site, and constantly monitor it so that when I change it to a different address, you’ll also change yours.” I have enough trouble keeping up with routine maintenance as it is.

Renay of Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, will recognize Kevin’s example.

(5) BLOCKED. In “Star Trek Fight:  Shatner Blasts Isaacs on Twitter”, James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly notes that William Shatner has blocked Jason Isaacs on Twitter, because he says that Isaacs is preventing him from a guest role on Star Trek: Discovery.  Isaacs responds that since Star Trek:Discovery takes place just before Star Trek TOS, James T. Kirk would be about 16 on the show which leaves no room for Shatner.

William Shatner has set his Twitter shields to maximum.

The actor who played the most iconic Star Trek captain has blocked the newest actor to play a Star Trek captain —  Jason Isaacs on Star Trek: Discovery — on the social network following the latter’s comments in an interview.

Shatner hasn’t publicly stated a reason for the blocking. But it follows a UK tabloid story posted a couple of weeks ago headlined, “Jason Isaacs hopes William Shatner won’t appear in Star Trek: Discovery.” Which admittedly does sound pretty bad. But Isaacs didn’t say that — or at least didn’t seem to mean that — but rather was making a point about how it wouldn’t make sense to have Shatner in the series since his character would only be about 16 years old during the Discovery time period.

(6) THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT. John Hertz could tell from the way I spelled the lyric “A-WEEMA-WEH” that I was missing cultural nuances – beginning with the correct spelling – readily available from the Wikipedia’s entry about “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

Apparently I’m first in directing your attention to the Zulu mbube (“lion”) and uyimbube (“you’re a lion”), the spelling “Wimoweh” by Pete Seeger, and a cross-language cross-cultural trail of creativity and intellectual property (some Filers would add “appropriation”) worthy of B. Pelz’ coinage Berlitzkrieg.

The Wikipedia says this about the song’s origin:

“Mbube” (Zulu for “lion”) was written in the 1920s, by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who later worked for the Gallo Record Company in Johannesburg as a cleaner and record packer. He spent his weekends performing with the Evening Birds, a musical ensemble, and it was at Gallo Records, under the direction of producer Griffiths Motsieloa, that Linda and his fellow musicians recorded several songs including “Mbube,” which incorporated a call-response pattern common among many Sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, including the Zulu.

(7) 2017’S TOP HORROR. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog brings us the editors’ picks for “The Best Horror Books of 2017”. The list begins with –

Chalk, by Paul Cornell
Chalk tells the story of Andrew Waggoner, who suffers a horrifying act of violence at the hands of his school’s bullies. In his grief and anger, the boy makes contact with an old and ancient presence, which offers to help make him whole and exact terrible revenge—if he allows it. The occult horror masks a genuine exploration of how trauma can affect a person, cutting them out of the world, instilling violent fantasies of revenge, and leaving psychological wounds that linger long after the physical trauma had healed. It’s heartfelt, surreally terrifying, and utterly wrenching in ways I can only struggle to describe, and worth all the attention you can give it. Read our review.

(8) MYTHS FOR OUR TIME. Let The Guardian tell you why this is a good idea: “Mythos review – the Greek myths get the Stephen Fry treatment”.

Ever since William Godwin persuaded Charles Lamb to retell The Odyssey as a novel for younger readers in The Adventures of Ulysses (1808), the myths of ancient Greece have been retold in contemporary prose by every generation. Most of these retellings were originally poetry – the epics of Hesiod, Homer and the philhellene Latin poet Ovid, the Athenian tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides – in Mythos, Stephen Fry has narrated a selection of them in engaging and fluent prose. But do we need another version of the Greek myths in an already crowded market? Such treasured collections as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales (1853), Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942) and Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (1955) are still in print. Countless family car journeys are enlivened by Simon Russell Beale’s audiobook of Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths. So should a reader looking for an initiation into the thrilling world of the ancient Greek imagination choose Fry’s book?

…Yet Fry’s ear is finely tuned to the quaint tonality of some of his ancient sources. This is best revealed in his retelling of two Homeric Hymns, to Demeter and Hermes. They deal respectively with the abduction of teenage Persephone and the theft by the newborn Hermes of his big brother Apollo’s cattle. Fry’s distinctive voice undoubtedly adds something lively, humorous and intimate to myth’s psychological dimension. People who enjoy his media personality and particular style of post?Wodehouse English drollery are in for a treat. He tells us that he imagines Hera, queen of the gods, “hurling china ornaments at feckless minions”. Ares, god of war, “was unintelligent of course, monumentally dense”. Baby Hermes tells Maia: “Get on with your spinning or knitting or whatever it is, there’s a good mother.” Epaphus, child of Zeus and Io, “was always so maddeningly blasé about his pedigree”.

(9) MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TO END — WELL, NOT REALLY. “Secrets of the Marvel Universe” by Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair is a lengthy interview with MCU supremo Kevin Feige, including the revelation that the MCU will officially end with the release of Avengers 4 in 2019, although there will still be plenty of Marvel superhero movies after the MCU ends.

On a sweltering October weekend, the largest-ever group of Marvel superheroes and friends gathered just outside of Atlanta for a top-secret assignment. Eighty-three of the famous faces who have brought Marvel’s comic-book characters to life over the past decade mixed and mingled—Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, bonded with Vin Diesel, the voice of Groot, the monosyllabic sapling from Guardians of the Galaxy. Angela Bassett, mother to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, flew through hurricane-like conditions to report for duty alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Laurence Fishburne, and Stan Lee, the celebrated comic-book writer and co-creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

Their mission: to strike a heroic pose to commemorate 10 years of unprecedented moviemaking success. Marvel Studios, which kicked things off with Iron Man in 2008, has released 17 films that collectively have grossed more than $13 billion at the global box office; 5 more movies are due out in the next two years. The sprawling franchise has resuscitated careers (Downey), has minted new stars (Tom Hiddleston), and increasingly attracts an impressive range of A-list talent, from art-house favorites (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange) to Hollywood icons (Anthony Hopkins and Robert Redford) to at least three handsome guys named Chris (Hemsworth, Evans, and Pratt). The wattage at the photo shoot was so high that Ant-Man star Michael Douglas—Michael Douglas!—was collecting autographs.

(10) BIZARRE HOLLYWOOD. Life and times: Escapes is a Winningly Off-Kilter Doc About the Screenwriter of Sci-Fi Classic Blade Runner” at The Stranger.

If the name Hampton Fancher rings a bell, you probably have strong opinions on the best version of Blade Runner. The screenwriter of that sci-fi classic, Fancher sports one of the damndest backstories in Hollywood, including acting appearances on Bonanza, literal ditch digging, and occasional bouts of flamenco dancing. The documentary Escapes tells the thoroughly odd, strangely endearing saga of a genial bullshitter who somehow keeps stumbling, if not always upwards, at least sideways through show business. Think Robert Evans with a smidge of self-consciousness, and prepare for a wild ride.

Beginning with a long, shaggy story involving Teri Garr, director Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) gives his subject ample room to spin his yarn, wittily utilizing a slew of media clips as Fancher wanders hither and yon between topics such as his relationship with Lolita’s Sue Lyon, Philip K. Dick’s hilariously unsmooth attempt to hit on Fancher’s then-girlfriend, and the sexual exploits of the (human) star of Flipper. As for Blade Runner, that seemingly career-defining experience receives the same breezy pass-through as the rest of his stories, further painting the picture of a man who’s proud of his achievements, but doesn’t always seem entirely certain of how all the dots came to connect….

(11) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE BURRITO. Perhaps you’ve already seen this culinary steampunk extravaganza — it’s dated 2007: “The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel” at Idle Words.

Who can imagine New York City without the Mission burrito? Like the Yankees, the Brooklyn Bridge or the bagel, the oversize burritos have become a New York institution. And yet it wasn’t long ago that it was impossible to find a good burrito of any kind in the city. As the 30th anniversary of the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel approaches, it’s worth taking a look at the remarkable sequence of events that takes place between the time we click “deliver” on the burrito.nyc.us.gov website and the moment that our hot El Farolito burrito arrives in the lunchroom with its satisfying pneumatic hiss.

The story begins in any of the three dozen taquerias supplying the Bay Area Feeder Network, an expansive spiderweb of tubes running through San Francisco’s Mission district as far south as the “Burrito Bordeaux” region of Palo Alto and Mountain View. Electronic displays in each taqueria light up in real time with orders placed on the East Coast, and within minutes a fresh burrito has been assembled, rolled in foil, marked and dropped down one of the small vertical tubes that rise like organ pipes in restaurant kitchens throughout the city.

Once in the tubes, it’s a quick dash for the burritos across San Francisco Bay. Propelled by powerful bursts of compressed air, the burritos speed along the same tunnel as the BART commuter train, whose passengers remain oblivious to the hundreds of delicious cylinders whizzing along overhead. Within twelve minutes, even the remotest burrito has arrived at its final destination, the Alameda Transfer Station, where it will be prepared for its transcontinental journey….

(12) SIX BOOKS. From Nerds of a Feather comes “6 Books with Mira Grant”:

  1. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about over time–either positively or negatively?

The Dead Zone, by Stephen King. I originally read it when I was way too young, and thought it was incredibly boring. Revisiting it as an adult was a revelation.

(13) VINTAGE DARKNESS. It used to be all you had to do was look up. Night is getting harder to find: “Idaho Dims The Lights For One Of The Best Night Skies Anywhere”.

In a high mountain valley in central Idaho over 6,000 feet in elevation, the last hint of a glow from sun fades in the western sky. The conditions are perfect as Steve Botti, an astronomy enthusiast and city councilman for the tiny town of Stanley, holds his sky quality meter to the heavens. There are no clouds, and the moon has dipped behind the craggy Sawtooth Mountains as he assesses the darkness of the sky with the little device that looks like a pager.

His arm extended and his head snugly wrapped in a beanie, Botti says, “A reading of 21.75 or higher is considered by the dark sky association to be exceptionally dark.”

On a clear night here you can see the purple cloud of the Milky Way stretched across the sky. The rare sight is possible because people are making an effort to keep the night sky dark. Dark enough, they hope, to earn a seal of approval from the International Dark-Sky Association…

(14) CARTLOADS OF CARATS. An asteroid’s leavings: “The German town encrusted with diamonds”.

During construction of the town, which was first mentioned in records in the 9th Century AD, the settlers didn’t realise the stone they were using was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds, in a concentration seen nowhere else in the world.

As I looked down on the sleepy Bavarian town from the top of the tower, it was hard to picture the area as being anything other than tranquil. It was, in fact, a violent and otherworldly event – an asteroid strike that hit 15 million years ago – that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town.

… Not long after Shoemaker and Chao first visited Nördlingen, it was estimated by local geologists that the town walls and buildings contained approximately 72,000 tons of diamonds. Although suevite can be found in other parts of the world from similar impacts, nowhere is the gemstone concentration as high as it is in Nördlingen.

(15) NEW VOICE. Editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald has joined the Skiffy and Fanty Show.

I’ll be working as their YA reviewer and my first post will go up in December. In the meantime, you can hear my first outing as co-host of one of their podcasts. Paul Weimer and I chatted with C.B. Lee, Cat Rambo and Nicky Drayden about participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Last year Fitzgerald was a co-winner of the Ditmar Award for Best Fan Publication with the team of interviewers who created the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot.

(16) 70 MM. How long will people be able to see 2001 in its original format? “Dying arts can be saved — but is it worth it?” (From the Boston Globe: may be paywalled in the near future, but isn’t yet.)

When cinema buffs celebrate the 50th anniversary of “2001: A Space Odyssey” next year, an uncomfortable question will loom larger than a malicious monolith. Does the epic sci-fi movie — the one that to its most ardent fans delivers a near-religious experience — have any future?

To true believers, the 1968 Stanley Kubrick cult classic must be viewed in its original wide-screen 70-millimeter format, an immersive visual experience augmented by the classical music score. Lauded for its crisper colors, deeper blacks, and higher-resolution images, fans see 70-millimeter as the highest expression of Hollywood artistry. The format was popularized in the 1950s to showcase movies’ technical superiority over television, and reserved for major productions like “Ben-Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” But today, with Hollywood’s near-total shift to digital projection, the format faces an uncertain future — and is only held together, as a labor of love, by the efforts of a passionate community of movie fans.

…The worst case scenario is that, in a generation or two, the movie theaters may still exist, but the practical skills to build, fix, and use the specialized projectors will have vanished.

(17) GRATITUDE. Joe Stech of Compelling SF found plenty to be thankful for in his Thanksgiving post “10 issues of Compelling Science Fiction: a retrospective”.

I get asked every couple months why I spend so much time on this magazine. Most of the time I give a brief canned answer, something along the lines of “everyone needs a hobby, this is one of mine.” While that’s true, it’s a bit of a non-answer. Let me try and give a real answer here, in a few parts:

  1. Science fiction is fascinating. Like many art forms, good science fiction requires a base layer of technical skill. That’s the starting line. However, there’s a secondary layer of subject matter expertise, and a third layer that involves actually saying something meaningful about the universe we live in.
  2. Evaluating that third layer is deeply subjective, which means that no two readers will necessarily see eye to eye when reading a story. This also means that every publisher has its own set of biases when selecting stories to publish, which means that many stories that I’d enjoy never get out into the world. I want to help change that.
  3. There are extremely talented people out there producing wonderful content who never get paid for their work — I want to help support them, which is why I’ve always paid professional rates, even at the beginning when nobody was supporting the magazine. I’ve always been a proponent of putting my money where my mouth is, and I’m extremely grateful to have found magazine supporters who feel the same way.

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

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 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

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.