Pixel Scroll 5/19/18 For Once A Goof In A Pixel I’ve Provided Wasn’t Introduced By Me

(1) #NEBULAS2018. Cat Rambo is ready for the banquet:

(2) #NEBULAS2018. Tell me this doesn’t send a shiver down a writer’s spine:

That comes from a thread with livetweeted highlights of a Nebula Conference panel.

(3) #NEBULAS2018. Pin at the Nebula banquet.

(4) UNWASHED MASSES. Don’t tell this to writers, but Jimmy Kimmel has been prowling the streets asking strangers, “Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???”

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost one in four Americans has not read a book in the past year. So to find out if that is true, we sent a team to the street to ask pedestrians to name a book, and here are the very sad results.

 

(5) STARSHIP TROOPERS AS SPAGHETTI WESTERN. Fabrice Mathieu has done an incredible job with his new mashup called Far Alamo (Vimeo Staff Pick) in which John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and other Sixties western stars meet the world of Paul Verhoeven when the Alamo is attacked by BUGS!

(6) LATE ARRIVAL. Jeb Kinnison wants to convince you “Why ‘Arrival’ is Bad Science Fiction”.

The value of science fiction: narratives predicting science and technology and effects on future society. Stories enabled by the new, that help readers grasp what is to come and where they might place themselves to affect the outcome of their own stories. These can be more or less inherently entertaining, but the fascination of young people (especially young men) for them is in dreaming of mastery: to understand and control Nature, to vanquish enemies and nurture their families through something other than brute force and violence (though a blend of both is often very popular!)

“Junk science” is those beliefs promoted to persuade or entertain that have either been shown to be false or are simply unsupported by empirical tests. The media world is flooded with it, with sober studies making one small data point on some topic oversimplified and promoted as a breakthrough, to get clicks or publicity for research funding. “Junk science fiction” is therefore a story that borrows the authority of science to make unsupported or frankly false claims as part of a narrative, which nonscientists will accept as plausible or possible. And Arrival is junk science fiction.

(7) NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Tor.com’s Brandon O’Brien says “It’s Time to Talk About Marvel’s Gamora Problem”. Were you running out of things to criticize about Avengers: Infinity War? This will restock your cupboard.

To be clear, this is not me saying that that the movie is bad, or unenjoyable in a general sense. The action was engaging for the most part, and there are some character progressions that I think elicited real dramatic effort from the film. I like how it sets up Tony Stark’s pained, traumatic franchise-long journey from selfish, egotistical brat to responsible, self-sacrificing, if conflicted leader, which I hope they go all in on in upcoming installments. Thor, being my absolute favourite character from the franchise in general, has one really committed throughline, from losing everything that ever mattered to him in two back-to-back genocides to literally taking a beam of white-hot suffering through his body just to regain trust in his own heroic potential. Individual moments, like when Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon have their first fight with Thanos’ Black Order goons in Scotland, are delightful to look at, visually. And some of the more unlikely on-screen team-ups, like Tony with Doctor Strange, or Thor with Rocket, actually make room for really interesting dialogue.

But ultimately, there’s one aspect of the film that I simply can’t get past. We need to talk about what happens to Gamora….

(8) CAPTAIN MARVEL. The promise of Carol Danvers – What Culture makes a case for “Why Thanos Should Fear Captain Marvel.”

She is one of Marvel’s all time most beloved and powerful characters, especially in more recent years.  Since then, she’s had a new look, gone in various new directions, and has been at the absolute forefront of everything the company has tried to do.  A transition into the MCU was inevitable.

…Even Kevin Feige has said Danvers is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie.  Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we have ever had.”

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 19, 1944 – Peter Mayhew

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Pearls Before Swine how bookstores can compete against Amazon. Turns out it may be hard on the customers, though.

(11) DON’T STEAL THAT SMELL! Apparently they just got around to this, 62 years after the product went on the market: “Hasbro officially trademarks Play-Doh smell”.

Toy maker Hasbro announced it has trademarked one of the most recognizable aspects of one of its most iconic products: the smell of Play-Doh.

The Pawtucket, R.I., company announced Friday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has officially recognized the distinctive Play-Doh smell as a registered trademark of the brand, which first hit stores in 1956.

(12) CURIOSITY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Why: What Makes Us Curious, with Mario Livio” on June 11.

June 11, 2018
6:00pm
Roth Auditorium
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine
UC San Diego

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling (literature, film, TV, or even a simple conversation) that delights rather than bores.

In a fascinating and entertaining lecture, astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio surveys and interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  As part of his research into the subject, Livio examined in detail the personalities of two individuals who arguably represent the most curious minds to have ever existed: Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also interviewed 9 exceptionally curious people living today, among them Fabiola Gianotti, the Director General of CERN (who is also an accomplished pianist), paleontologist Jack Horner, and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who also holds a PhD in astrophysics), and Livio presents fascinating conclusions from these conversations.

(13) GRANDMASTER’S TRADING CARD. Walter Day presented SFWA Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle with his souvenir trading card during tonight’s Nebula ceremony.

(14) A CHARMING CONVENTION.

(15) GAIMAN ADAPTATION. NPR’s Chris Klimek says it’s OK: “London Calling (Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft): ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties'”. Last year at Cannes this was being called a disaster; no word on whether it’s been reworked.

Men Are From From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a best-selling early-’90s relationships guidebook argued. How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a sweet, slight comic fantasy expanded from an early-aughts Neil Gaiman short story, knows the truth is far more complex: Men and Women Are from Earth, Members of an Advanced Extraterrestrial Species on a Reconnaissance Mission Here While Temporarily Wearing the Bodies of Men and Women are from…. well, we never find out where they’re from, exactly. But every planet has its misfits.

(16) STILL READY PLAYER ONE. Did I already link to Glen Weldon’s review of this movie? Just in case: “Arcade Firewall: ‘Ready Player One’ REALLY Loves The ’80s”.

There will be grunts.

Grunts of recognition, that is. If you watch Steven Spielberg’s solidly built sci-fi phantasmagoria Ready Player One in a crowded theater, there will be grunts aplenty, so prepare yourself for them.

You can’t, you won’t — but try.

Every time any beloved or at least recognizable nugget of 1980s popular culture turns up onscreen, one or (likely) more of your fellow audience members will let out a low, pre-verbal phoneme, a glottal unh, to signify that they do, in fact, recognize said nugget and wish to inform those around them of this key development. This grunt, by the way, is a subspecies of the one heard at live theater, whenever a given patron wishes to express their comprehension of, and/or amusement at, some passage of dialogue they find particularly trenchant (that one’s more an amused hm!).

(17) VEGGIES IN ORBIT. GeekWire headline: “Small seeds could lead to a giant leap in space farming”.

The next Orbital ATK delivery to the space station will carry several strains of seeds for Arabidopsis, a flowering plant that’s closely related to cabbage and mustard. These will be grown in the Final Frontier Plant Habitat which was delivered on an earlier mission. The same genetic variants will be grown on Earth and used as baselines to compare harvested specimens sent back from the space station. You may recall that an earlier experiment in the overall mission to test growing of plants (including crops) in space involved lettuce, which was actually consumed by astronauts onboard the station.

When Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket launches a robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship toward the International Space Station, as early as Monday, it’ll be sending seeds that could show the way for future space farmers.

The Antares liftoff is currently set for 4:39 a.m. ET (1:39 a.m. PT) on Monday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather. NASA’s live-streaming coverage of the countdown begins at 1 a.m. PT Monday.

More than 7,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments will be packed aboard the Cygnus. One of the smallest payloads consists of seeds for the Final Frontier Plant Habitat — part of a $2.3 million, NASA-funded initiative that involves researchers from Washington State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The automated habitat was delivered during previous cargo resupply missions and set up for planting. Once the Cygnus’ cargo arrives, astronauts can proceed with the habitat’s first official science experiment, which is aimed at determining which genetic variants of plants grow best under weightless conditions.

(18) STAND BY TO SCORCH YOUR CREDIT CARD. Ars Technica delivers a “Peek at LEGO’s upcoming sets: Star Wars crafts, Hogwarts, Ninjago city, and more”, sharing pics of LEGO’s upcoming summer and holiday 2018 sets, including:

  • Jedi Starfighter ($19)
  • Collector Series Y-Wing Starfighter ($199)
  • Snoke’s Throne Room ($69)
  •  Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter ($79)
  • Sandcrawler ($139)
  • Kessel Run version of the Millenium Falcon ($169)
  • Hogwarts Express ($79)
  • Hogwarts Great Hall ($99)
  • Quidditch Match ($39)
  • Ninjago City Docks ($229)
  • Ninjago Destiny’s Wing ($19)

Non-genre sets pictured include:

  • Arctic Supply Plane ($79)
  • Cargo Train ($229)
  • LEGO City Passenger Train ($159)
  • Creator Expert: Roller Coaster set ($379)
  • Mobile Stunt Show ($49)

(19) CATS SITTING WITHIN SF. Cory Doctorow discovered “Bandai is manufacturing armored cats”. Here’s an example. More photos at the link.

(20) DEADPOOL’S HISTORY. ScienceFiction.com explains how “‘Deadpool 2’ Mocks Marvel’s 10-Year Anniversary Video” in “Deadpool 2 – The First 10 Years.”

The clip chronicles the history of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise from 2008 to 2018, also giving it a 10-year history like Marvel Studios’ MCU – it even has the same format, aesthetic, as well as the use of dramatic background music. Clocking in at just over a minute, the clip features only Deadpool, unlike the MCU’s version which had commentaries from several key players in the film series, as he narrates what happened in the last decade that led to the creation of the upcoming sequel. The clip is filled with the character’s signature brand of humor as he honestly speaks about Reynolds’ starring in ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ which certainly didn’t help their cause, as well as Fox’s multiple rejections of the project

 

(21) DEADPOOL IS HISTORY. Mark Kermode’s review of Deadpool 2, “…not as bad as Kick Ass 2” ouch.

Main problem in his view is it has tried to be more than the first and lost what he liked about the first one.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/18 And Then The Pixels Began

(1) #2018NEBULAS. More from Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle’s reception.

(2) #2018NEBULAS PANEL LIVETWEET. All summed up here: “Thread by @sfwa: ‘Hello ! Panel live tweet starts NOW, with “How to fail gracefully,” with Michael Underwood, Carrie DiRisio, Vanessa Rose Phin, […]’”

(3) #2018NEBULAS LIVESTREAM. Really?

(4) SF EXHIBIT. Six Pasadena museums will open their doors on May 20, including the Pasadena Museum of History — “Free Day: 2018 Museums of the Arroyo Day at PMH”. Guess what you can see for free…

At PMH, delve into the worlds of science fiction in the multifaceted exhibition, Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California. The exhibit explores how the literary genre interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society during five pivotal decades, the 1930s to the 1980s. Visitors will enjoy a fantastic array of vintage costumes and movie props, fantasy art and illustrations, original manuscripts, robotic toys, and fan gear.

(5) F&SF. Galactic Journey’s time traveler Gideon Marcus experienced an especially good day in 1963 — “[May 18, 1963] (June 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Every so often, you get a perfect confluence of events that makes life absolutely rosy.  In Birmingham, Alabama, the segregationist forces have caved in to the boycott and marching efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Two days ago, astronaut Gordo Cooper completed a day-and-a-half in orbit, putting America within spitting distance of the Russians in the Space Race.  And this month, Avram Davidson has turned out their first superlative issue of F&SF since he took the editorial helm last year….

(6) ETERNAL FLAME. Michael Moorcock tells why Fahrenheit 451 endures: “The Truth of Ray Bradbury’s Prophetic Vision” at LitHub.

In the late 1960s my friend J. G. Ballard phoned me full of outrage. Feeling weighed down by the bad prose cluttering his study, he had dug a pit in his back garden and thrown his review copies in, splashing them with a little petrol. But they proved harder to burn than he thought, so he put one in the kitchen oven, which had a suitable thermometer, to test the igniting heat of book paper. “Bradbury was wrong!” he complained. “Fahrenheit 451 isn’t the temperature at which book paper burns!” But, I asked, hadn’t Bradbury phoned the Los Angeles Fire Department to get the temperature right?

“Well, they’re wrong, too!” announced Ballard, who admired Bradbury and whose own early Vermilion Sands stories echo Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury, he said, had shown him that science ?ction was worth writing.

…Although Bradbury obviously held up a mirror to the world so that it might see itself the better, I believe him when he claims that he was not setting out to do what Orwell did in 1984, nor even what Pohl and Kornbluth did in a later Galaxy serial “The Space Merchants.” Rather, like Philip K. Dick, he let his excellent instincts have their way. They told him what to put in while his taste told him what to leave out. He was doing what he had always done by letting the resonances in his own imagination determine the kind of story he told: Fahrenheit 451 remains as readable as when it was written, some sixty-odd years ago, thanks to Bradbury’s almost psychic sense of how the world works.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by the legendary Ray Bradbury. This served as the thirty-fifth episode for the program’s third season.

(8) HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver celebrates Jonathan Maberry’s natal day in his Black Gate column: “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Maberry’s ‘Red Dreams’”.

Maberry won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for Ghost Road Blues, which was also nominated for Best Novel. The next year he won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Nonfiction with David F. Kramer for their book The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre. In 2012, he won the Bram Stoker for Best Young Adult Novel for Dust & Decay, and again the following year for Flesh & Bone. In 2015, he shared a Bram Stoker Award for Best Graphic Novel with Tyler Crook for Bad Blood.

(9) SEND FOR MORE CANDLES. And Tor.com coincidentally (not) reposted Elizabeth Bear’s tribute “The Perfect Chaotic Worlds of Diane Duane on Duane’s birthday.

In all her genres, Diane Duane is one of my favorite writers.

She spreads her talents around, too. She writes in multiple genres and forms—scripts to novels, tie-ins to original fiction, young adult urban fantasy to historical fantasy to science fiction to second-world fantasy. And whether she’s writing Y.A., as with her Young Wizards series, or Star Trek media tie-ins, she always brings an inimitable playful voice and a startling sense of “Yes; that’s right; that’s just like people.” to her work.

(10) TESS SEES ITS FIRST LIGHT. Mashable headline: “First photo from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite is full of stars”. The latest exoplanet-hunting satellite has begun opening it’s “eyes” and taken its first photos. Though still undergoing shakeout tests, these first photos from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite are nonetheless spectacular.

A new NASA telescope, sailing toward its assigned orbit, took a moment to look around before it starts its ultimate mission: searching the galaxy for alien planets.

NASA’s TESS spacecraft — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — beamed home one of its first photos taken from space, and it’s a doozy.

The photo, which effectively amounts to a test of one of the satellite’s four cameras, contains more than 200,000 stars, NASA said.

But that’s only a fraction of the number of stars it will eventually study in order to find alien worlds out there circling them.

(11) NOT DEAD YET? ThinkProgress says a climate science NASA mission may not be completely dead. Time to visit Miracle Max: “Critical NASA program cut by Trump re-introduced in latest budget”.

The House Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for overseeing NASA, voted on Thursday to approve $10 million in funding for a “climate monitoring system” intended to help the agency better “understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.” In a unanimous vote, lawmakers gave the green light to an amendment in a 2019 spending bill mandating that NASA fund such a system, Science first reported Thursday.

…That system’s description sounds nearly identical to the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10 million-per-year program established to measure carbon dioxide and methane using satellite technology and similar mechanisms. The CMS has played a crucial role in the study of greenhouse gases, but last week the Trump administration confirmed that the program had ended after its funding was cut from the 2018 budget passed in March.

Now, it appears the CMS might be back from the dead — in everything but name.  The $62 billion 2019 CJS Appropriations bill approved on Thursday extends to a number of departments, including the Justice Department and numerous science-linked agencies, NASA among them.

“This bill invests our hard-earned tax dollars into the safety and security of our nation,” said Culberson [(R-TX), chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee.], who went on to detail various elements within the legislation.

(12) WINNING WWII AGAIN. Cnet reports “Steven Spielberg making a DC movie, punching Nazis again”.

Fresh from squeezing Batman and other DC comics cameos into Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg is now taking on the real thing. The legendary director is set to make a movie based on DC’s fighter ace Blackhawk.

Like DC’s smash hit Wonder Woman, and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies, Blackhawk is a retro wartime story, this time about a squadron of aerial adventurers battling Nazis and supervillains in World War II. Blackhawk was created in 1941 by Bob Powell, Chuck Cuidera and comic book legend Will Eisner.

(13) VULCAN DINOS ON EARTH. Popular Science realizes these creatures can only come from one place – and it’s not Earth — “Green bones, green hearts, can’t lose: these lizards survive with toxic green blood”.

Several species of New Guinea lizards seem to be from Vulcan, what with having green blood and all. But unlike Mr. Spock, their blood isn’t based on copper… they’ve evolved to tolerate a blood breakdown produce called biliverdin (which marks both jaundice and the sometimes spectacular green color of a bruise) at levels that would be fatal to a human.

In the forests of New Guinea, lizards scurry around with green bones, green hearts, green tongues, and green blood. At least six species share this enigmatic trait, which didn’t originate from one bizarre mutation but evolved four different times, according to new research in Science Advances.

These lizards have green insides because their bile carries super high levels of a deadly compound called biliverdin, the product of old red blood cells. People make the same pigment—you can see it when you get a gnarly, green-tinged bruise—but our livers filter it from our blood. Trace amounts of biliverdin cause jaundice, a disease common in infants and adults with liver failure. The levels found in these lizards would kill us. But for these lizards, well, it sure is easy being green.

(14) MAKE EVERY MOVIE A DEADPOOL SEQUEL. Adweek found out how to do it: “Here’s the Story Behind Deadpool’s Incredible Blu-ray Takeover at Walmart”.

When a display of Blu-rays, with each covered photobombed by Deadpool, popped up this week at Walmarts across the country, we had more questions that we had answers.

Who had created this amazing in-store activation, and how did such a sweeping takeover—entailing new, customized cover sleeves for The Terminator, Predator, Office Space, Fight Club and many more—come about?

Well, now we know. The short answer is that it was a collaboration between the in-house teams at Fox Home Entertainment and Los Angeles creative agency Neuron Syndicate, which designed the covers….

(15) CYBORGASM. Stephen Colbert reviews the latest news about robots in a Late Show comedy segment.

Google demonstrated its new Google Duplex, an A.I. assistant that can have realistic conversations with humans. But what happens when they talk to each other?

 

(16) REAL STINKERS. The finalists in the 2018 Lyttle Lytton Contest, which seeks the worst first sentence ever, have been posted. This year’s winner of the “found division” is:

The atmospheric molecules that filled the Rose Bowl were in full vibration as kickoff approached.

Ryan McGee, espn.com, 2017.0915
quoted by Ryan S.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/18 The Furry With the Kzin On Top

(1) #NEBULAS2018. Tonight SFWA held a reception for its latest Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle.

(2) THE SWAG IS OUT THERE. Cat Rambo reveals cool SFWA stuff.

(3) GENRE TV UPDATES. Deadline reports “‘Siren’ Renewed For Season 2 By Freeform”.

Ahead of the May 24 season 1 finale, Freeform has picked up a second season of its hit mermaid thriller Siren. The network ordered a 16-episode Season 2, up from 10 episodes this season. The renewal was announced just ahead of the network’s upfront presentation today in New York City.

Siren has been a ratings success for Freeform, debuting as the No. 1 new cable drama with young women 18-34 and 12-34.

Rev. Bob provides background:

If you’re not familiar with Siren, it’s an hour-long drama in which (a) mermaids and sirens are the same thing, (b) a fishing boat catches one in a net, and (c) the military swoops in and takes her before even the crew can get a good look, so (d) her sister comes ashore to find her and get her back. Naturally, this being a prime-time cable show, hot twenty-somethings, brooding guys, and romantic entanglements ensue. It’s actually rather well done, forgoing the usual “sanitized, waist-down” transformation for a more visceral full-body transformation more reminiscent of werewolf effects.

A commercial during tonight’s episode advertised SIREN Season 2 as “Coming 2019,” with next week’s episode as the Season 1 finale. This clears the decks for the June 7 two-hour premiere of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger. Both shows air on Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family).

Cloak & Dagger are well-established Marvel characters. For some reason, the TV show moves them from their usual NYC to New Orleans.

“Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” is the story of Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph) – two teenagers from very different backgrounds, who find themselves burdened and awakened to newly acquired superpowers which are mysteriously linked to one another. Tandy can emit light daggers and Tyrone has the ability to engulf others in darkness. They quickly learn they are better together than apart, but their feelings for each other make their already complicated world even more challenging.

 

(4) WORLDCON 76 PROGRESS REPORT. The San Jose Worldcon has issued Progress Report #3 [PDF file].

Hugo voting has begun, and much more stuff is on the way. Check out our latest Progress Report for stories on past Worldcon, local places to visit when you’re here, and an interview with Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio about his #Mexicanx Initiative.

(5) WORLD FANTASTY CON PR. And the 2018 World Fantasy Convention has posted its own Progress Report Three [PDF file].

(6) VORKOSIFLORIST. Lois McMaster Bujold’s novella “The Flowers of Vashnoi” is now available for purchase. There are links to various sellers in her Goodreads Post.

Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

This novella falls after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance in the Vorkosigan series timeline, but may be read entirely independently. The Vorkosigan saga was the recipient of the first Hugo Award for best science fiction series in 2017.”

(7) KGB PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow posted photos from their latest reading — “Fantastic Fiction at KGB May 16”.

Tina Connolly and Caroline Yoachim read stories — Caroline’s was nominated for the Nebula Award. Tina’s is forthcoming in a couple of months. They were both excellent readers and left us all wanting desperately to know the ends of their stories.

Caroline Yoachim and Tina Connolly

(8) STAN’S FAVORITE AUTHOR IS SHAKESPEARE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett proves some ephemera is valuable: “So here’s an article about the surprising things one can find in a collection and the day I encountered the unexpected Stan Lee. If you thought Marvel films were the only place that Mr Lee made cameos well have I news for you” — “The Unexpected Stan Lee”.

One tip towards owning a collection.

Despite the title above this story doesn’t start with Stan Lee. Well get get to him in due course don’t worry, Stan Lee is inevitable after all, but first there needs to be some scene setting.

Like any profession the folk who deal in the buying and selling of second-hand books can recite a litany of peeves and dislikes in regards to their work. Not surprisingly most of these complaints revolve around the behaviour of the general public. Not you, I hasten to add, I’ve no doubt that if you’re reading this then you are the thoughtful and discerning type who wouldn’t dream of adding to a book dealer’s woes. Even so it’s possible for the average collector to miss a few tricks, some of which may surprise you. Consider for example the following complaint lifted from a private mailing list:

You need to add to that list the frustration of being offered a recently inherited collection only to discover that before calling the seller has thrown away everything they assumed was irrelevant rubbish. Why somebody not familiar with a collection and who usually has little or no interest in the subject the collection is built around assumes they are the best qualified person to decided what is valuable and what is not is beyond me. People don’t understand about ephemera!

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1957 Monster From Green Hell premiered in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COMPOSER

  • Born May 17, 1961—Enya. An Academy Award nominee and a Golden Globe Award winner for “May It Be”, a song she wrote for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

(11) END OF AN ERA. Romantic Times and the related convention are going away. “’This is the last RT’ – Kathryn Falk Announces End of Romantic Times”Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has the story.

At a breakfast this morning at the 2018 RomanticTimes BookLovers Convention, Kathryn Falk and her husband Ken Rubin announced that they are retiring, and that this year is the last year for the RT Convention. While there had been rumors before the announcement, her words, delivered at the end of a farewell speech that focused on what she would be doing next, were met with gasps and audible shock.

Shortly afterward, the following email went out to RT Subscribers and newsletter members announcing that the convention as well as the RT Magazine online and the RT VIP Lounge would all be closing effective immediately…

… No mention was made regarding the new 2019 BookLovers Convention, which will be run by current RT Convention coordinator Jo Carol Jones. BookLovers Con will be held in New Orleans, May 15-19 2019.

JJ adds, “There are lots of fond comments, but take particular note of comments # 8, 11 and 20.”

(12) MARVELOUS SURPRISE, MAYBE. CNN declares “‘Captain Marvel’ won’t be what you might expect”. (Did any of you tell CNN what you expect?)

“That’s a lot of times what a typical origin movie is structured like, but as we introduce new characters moving forward, we want to find ways to subvert that structure, so at least the experience of the film feels new to audiences,” [Marvel producer Nate] Moore added. “We’re very conscious of making sure that audiences don’t get things that feel like they’ve seen them before.”

(13) KOMINSKY-CRUMB. The New York Times profiles “The Yoko Ono of Comics, on Her Own Terms”:

Among the few women making underground comics in 1970s San Francisco, the feminist infighting was fierce. Aline Kominsky (who would soon take the name of her famous and infamous boyfriend, Robert Crumb) was berated for drawing strips that female cartoonists in her collective thought were too crude and confessional, not uplifting enough, wallowing in the depths of self-loathing — about being too fat, too sexually voracious, too loud, too neurotic. This was not the work of an “evolved feminist consciousness,” she was told.

When she broke off and started her own comic book, Twisted Sisters, the first issue’s cover made it clear just how little she cared about anyone’s judgment: It was a drawing of her sitting on the toilet, underwear around her ankles, wondering, “How many calories in a cheese enchilada?”

“She specialized in outgrossing anyone who was going to call her gross,” said Diane Noomin, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb’s co-conspirator in Twisted Sister.

She didn’t care — and hasn’t for a long time now. For over four decades, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb has been shining an unabashedly unflattering light on her own life. It’s the theme that runs through “Love That Bunch,” a new book gathering her solo comics from her mid-20s until these past few years, as she turns 70 this summer.

(14) SEVENTIES SFF. James Davis Nicoll’s series continues with the letter L: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part VI”.

J.A. Lawrence may be best known as an illustrator, but she is also an author. She is perhaps best known for “Getting Along” (featured in 1972’s Again, Dangerous Visions) as well as for the collection Star Trek 12, which was part of a long-running series adapted from scripts of the original Star Trek. While many of her works were co-authored with her then-husband, the late James Blish, 1978’s Mudd’s Angels is a solo work by Lawrence.

(15) YOUR 451 SCORE. B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog writer Jeff Somers thinks he found “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Eh. I scored 8 out of 10, and one of them I “missed” is dubious (about a “prequel”). Good post all the same. Here is the one that was news to me:

There’s a video game adaptation, and it was written by Bradbury

If you’re jonesing for a sequel, you can find the nearest approximation if you can track down a copy of the 1984 video game Bradbury developed—and an old computer to play it on. It’s a direct continuation in which you play as Guy Montag, former Fireman, now seeking to make contact with the underground resistance working to save books. An interactive text adventure with some graphics, the game relies on quotes from famous written works that Montag must collect and pass on to resistance members to memorize them for posterity.

(16) SF WHERE IT’S LEAST EXPECTED. Narrative online magazine has a reputation for being very, very literary. Bruce D. Arthurs says, “So I was quite croggled to see that their latest ‘Poem of the Week’ was titled ’Alderaan’ by Maria Hummel.”

You can only read the first half of the poem at the link. To read the last half, you have to sign up and login.

Bruce read the whole thing and his verdict is, “Not particularly impressed by the poem, myself. But seeing it appear in a high-falutin’ literary mag like Narrative was quite the surprise. Maybe science fiction really is taking over the world.”

(17) GAS HISTORY. The earliest O2: “Scientists detect oxygen legacy of first stars”.

Astronomers have made the most distant ever detection of oxygen.

They observed it in a galaxy of stars that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

But what is really fascinating is that this oxygen can only have been produced in an even older group of stars that would have dispersed it when they died and blew themselves apart.

That means we could be witnessing the traces of events that occurred a mere 250 million years after the Big Bang.

(18) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Southwestern solar calendar: “Arizona’s mysertious clock of ancient times” is traceable to past tribes, not space aliens.

In 2005, Zoll, then 57 and a volunteer at the forest’s V Bar V historical ranch site, detected a pattern to the shadows cast on the park’s huge rock art panels, which are covered with more than 1,000 petroglyphs.

Could this, he wondered, be an ancient calendar?

He shared his observation with a forest service archaeologist, who wasn’t particularly impressed. Archaeo- or cultural astronomy, the study of how ancient peoples tracked the seasons and studied the cosmos, has fought for respectability. It’s hard to prove that alignment with the sun, moon or stars isn’t mere coincidence. And in the past, some advocates haven’t helped their case, suggesting that prehistoric sites could have been fashioned by space aliens.

(19) WOULDA COULDA WAKANDA. HISHE gives us “How Black Panther Should Have Ended.”

(20) COLBERT. Live For Live Music explicates a Late Show comedy bit: “Kids Pitch A New TV Show: ‘Strangest Things: The Golden Mysteries'”.

On last night’s edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the late-night host recruited a slew of prominent actors and entertainers to help bring the ideas of a panel of “the most influential minds in the prized 6-8-year-old demographic” to life in a hilarious sketch dubbed “Kids Pitch.”

After an exhaustive session with the kids, Colbert’s focus group came to the conclusion that the new TV show they wanted to pitch would need to feature “very famous group band,” The Beatles (one kid, a young Beatles superfan, stuck to his Revolver when challenged on what their best album was). The focus group also came up with various thematic criteria including fighting and music (which, of course, means “rap battle”) as well as creepiness, aliens, Nick Cannon and Brooke Shields, among other things.

Playing three of The Beatles are John Oliver (Paul McCartney), David Tennant (George Harrison), and Michael Shannon (Ringo Starr).

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

Connor Cochran Bankruptcy Update

U.S. Bankruptcy Court has granted the trustee’s motion to convert the Avicenna and Conlan Press bankruptcies from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, a liquidating bankruptcy. The orders were entered April 30.

Peter S. Beagle sued his former manager Connor Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc. Cochran and his companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, one day before trial was scheduled to begin in Beagle’s lawsuit against them.

Whether liquidating the corporations’ assets will financially benefit anyone is a question. Several of Cochran’s creditors allege he has converted their assets to his personal use.

However, as reported here in March, the court lifted the automatic stay that took effect when Cochran filed bankruptcy, and allowing Beagle to proceed in California state court against Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc. and obtain a final judgment.

Then, in April, the court also lifted the stay for Sandbox LLC and Justin Bunnell, investors in The Last Unicorn Tour, allowing them to proceed with state litigation against Avicenna Corporation.

And last month Patrick Lake filed with U.S. Bankruptcy court a “Complaint To Determine Dischargeability of Debt and Related Declaratory Relief” which allowed him to publicly rehearse the grounds for his defamation suit against Cochran. Over the course of several years, Cochran issued updates about his efforts to identify the anonymous source of some allegedly libelous blog posts and tweets, a person he ultimately claimed was Bay Area resident Patrick Lake.

Lake’s statement to the court (see the link below) argues:

…The true facts were that Plaintiff had not forged a contract with Plaintiff; that he does not engage in an “ongoing pattern of deception” in his attorney-client relationships or in his other business relationships; he is not a “stalker” nor “crazed” i.e., mentally unstable, mentally incompetent, or insane; and he was not fired from his employment as an art instructor when he left that employment over five years ago.

…As a proximate result of the defamatory statements of Defendant, Plaintiff has been harmed in that he has suffered past and future loss of income, as well as shame, mortification, emotional distress, public opprobrium, and humiliation, as well as attorneys’ fees incurred to attempt to correct the misleading and false statements of Defendant that have been repeated by others relying on Defendant’s widely published false and defamatory statements. Said damages are in an amount subject to proof at trial.

Lake’s attorney seeks a court ruling that Cochran’s debts to his client are nondischargeable in Cochran’s Chapter 11 proceeding.

Bankruptcy Court Allows Beagle To Resume Cochran Lawsuit

Peter Beagle can resume litigation against former manager Connor Cochran and related corporations under a motion granted by U.S. Bankruptcy Court on March 23. The federal court order has lifted the automatic stay that took effect when Connor Cochran and his companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, one day before trial was scheduled to begin in Peter S. Beagle’s lawsuit against them.

The order allows Beagle to proceed in California state court against Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc. and obtain a final judgment.

Beagle sued Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc.

The Bankruptcy court order says any judgments obtained in state court may only be executed with its permission. The order also frees Justin Bunnell and Sandbox LLC, a California partnership, to intervene in the Beagle/Cochran state action and pursue its claims for $300,000 invested in The Last Unicorn screening tour launched in 2013.

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/18 The White Zone Is For Scrolling And Filing Only. There Are No Ticky-Boxes In The White Zone

(1) MORE MEXICANX. John Picacio announced more picks to receive Worldcon 76 memberships from the Mexicanx Initiative.

(2) MANY DOLLARS WERE MADE. From NPR: “‘Black Panther’ Breaks Records And Barriers In Debut Weekend”

Black Panther pounced on the weekend box office, breaking cultural barriers and earning the highest debut ever for a February film, with an estimated three-day domestic gross of $192 million, said Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

The opening was the fifth highest-earning of any film, according to Disney. The only other movies that have brought in more are Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World and The Avengers, according to The Associated Press.

(3) WAKANDA. Abigail Nussbaum weighs in on “A Political History of the Future: Black Panther” at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog:

From architecture to interior design to costuming, every aspect of Wakanda was designed from the ground up to incorporate traditional African imagery while projecting it into a bold, positive future. Costume designer Ruth Carter’s bywords for the film were “Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful.” Camille Friend, head of the movie’s hair department, has spoken about her determination to feature only natural black hair, in varying styles reflecting the different characters’ personalities. (In one amusing scene, no-nonsense Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) complains about having to wear a Western-style wig while undercover. Later, during a fight, she throws the wig in her opponent’s face as a distraction.) Star Chadwick Boseman has explained his decision to give T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, an African accent as an attempt to forestall the preconception that as a cosmopolitan member of the elite, he would naturally have been educated in Europe. In every respect, Black Panther is hard at work crafting an image of African life that is sophisticated, knowledge-based, and futuristic, while at the same time producing a society that is just, prosperous, and benevolent.

(4) CATALANO’S HAT TRICK. Frank Catalano has had three sf-related stories on GeekWire this week:

“I interviewed Peter S. Beagle about his memories of Pittsburgh, where he is getting his SFWA Grand Master Award this year, and also about Seattle, where he used to live. It was done as a study in contrasts between GeekWire’s home city of Seattle and Pittsburgh, a city it is highlighting for the month of February. I happened to think Beagle and the SFWA Nebula Conference were a natural tie.”

Beagle said he came to the University of Pittsburgh as a writing student in 1955, when he was 16 years old. “It was the Steel City of legend then: legendary for its griminess, its foul air, its wretched baseball team, the blazing mills along the river going night and day,” he recalled. “Seeing it from an airplane at night (which was my first sight of the city) was truly like being welcomed to hell.”

Yet the city grew on him. “I came to cherish Pittsburgh, as I still do, even though there literally isn’t a brick on a brick remaining of the mid-fifties town I knew,” he said.

“I also interviewed Ramez Naam, author of the Nexus trilogy of science-fiction thrillers, about his take on why the world is trending more toward the positive than the negative (plus the status of turning Nexus into something more than a novel), and had him re-visit some predictions he made in 2015, for my podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts. It led to two stories, the first on the state of the world and tech (and the state of Nexus), and the second on his predictions”:

If you were to ask globally known clean energy expert Ramez Naam what makes him optimistic about technology and the future, it may boil down to one word: scale.

Naam has a long history of thinking about the effects of scale, even before his current role as co-chair for energy and the environment at Singularity University. In his award-winning Nexus science fiction trilogy, Naam tackled the implications of widespread brain-to-brain communication. And in his past role as a computer scientist at Microsoft leading teams working on early versions of Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Bing, Naam came to appreciate what sheer magnitude can do.

“I learned that we can create tools that really improve people’s lives, and that technology can scale to help billions of people,” Naam said. “And that, I think, inspired me with the power of using our minds and our imaginations to make the world better.”

Many of these what-ifs recall a frequent theme of Naam’s writing and speaking: building resilience, both organizationally and individually, to technological change. “Technology moves faster than society, and society even has multiple strata,” he explained. Each is subsequently more sluggish, starting with how fast the next generation learns, to how fast we learn, to how fast organizations learn, and finally to how fast government learns.

So to deal with rapid change, Naam said, “We have to be more experimental as a society.” Governments may have to try different policies just to see which ones work. “That would be anathema to the way that politicians voice certainty of, ‘X will do Y.’ But that’s how science works. It’s how innovation in business works,” he said.

“Finally — and this is a personal favorite — a story that Tacoma will soon have a park named for Dune, honoring Frank Herbert. Why a personal favorite?  Back in 1986, I was asked by Frank Herbert’s family to help field news media calls about his literary legacy when he died (at the time, I was very active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and had been an officer of the organization).  And the park’s setting is especially appropriate, as my story notes.”

There likely won’t be any sandworms, but that’s not needed to spice up this news: Tacoma, Wash., native Frank Herbert, best known for the hugely popular Dune science-fiction novels, is getting a namesake park in his home town.

The Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners has approved naming an 11-acre waterfront site “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park,” and a winding pedestrian loop being built on the same site the “Frank Herbert Trail.” The public space is currently under construction on land that once housed the former ASARCO copper smelting operation, next to the Tacoma Yacht Club boat basin.

(5) JOE HILL ON VINYL. HarperAudio, the audio imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish Dark Carousel, a “vinyl-first” audiobook by New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill on April 20, a release timed to coincide with Record Store Day on April 21. Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover of Dark Carousel along with an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

 Says author Joe Hill, “My hard rockin’ fantasies are pretty well documented at this point — the hero of my first novel was, after all, a world-famous heavy metal rocker. I’ve always wanted to have my own LP, and the idea that one of my stories is being released as an audiobook on vinyl blows my Beatles-quoting, Stones-fixated, Zeppelin-obsessed mind. Even better, I’m on the record with Matthew Ryan, a great American rocknrolla. His cover of “Wild Horses” is the best version of the song since the original. I’m so excited for readers and listeners to drop the needle on this story and Matt’s song.”

Written about a balmy summer night in 1994. Dark Carousel is the tale of four teenagers out for an evening of fun on the boardwalk who take a ride on the “Wild Wheel” – an antique carousel with a shadowy past – and learn too late that decisions made in an instant can have deadly consequences. What begins as a night of innocent end-of-summer revelry, young love, and (a few too many) beers among friends soon descends into chaos, as the ancient carousel’s parade of beasts comes chillingly to life to deliver the ultimate judgment for their misdeeds.

(6) HAVE YOU ORDERED YOURS YET? Hasbro wants 5,000 pre-orders to greenlight production: “Hasbro’s first HasLab toy is a replica of Jabba the Hutt’s barge”.

At this year’s Toy Fair in New York, Hasbro announced HasLab, a new program that aims to bring to life special creations like a massive, four-foot long recreation of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge. The company is taking inspiration from platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, too: In order for the barge to become a real for-sale production item, Hasbro wants to gather 5,000 $499 pre-orders by midnight on April 3rd.

If the project reaches its funding goal, Jabba’s Sail Barge (or The Khetanna if you’re a Star Wars geek) will come with a 64-page booklet with behind-the-scenes details, set photos, interviews and blueprints of the actual set piece in the film as well as production information on the toy. The barge also comes with a 3.75-inch scale Jabba the Hutt and soft cloth sails for the top of the sand boat.

(7) JOHN BROSNAN. Kim Huett’s next Doctor Strangemind post is “John Brosnan & the Abomnibus”. In 1969 John joined a group of other young Australians who were planning to travel by double-decker bus to England. The attempt was somewhat less than successful…

Something that John wrote extensively about in the early days was his attempt to travel by bus from Australia to England. Up until the eighties there was something of a tradition among young Australians to visit ‘Mother England’ before settling down to lives of quiet desperation in the sun-baked suburbs of Australia. Most such adventurers travelled to the mother country via cruise liner, a few lucky ones flew there, but John, being inexplicably drawn to doing everything the hard way, decided that he would spend several months of 1969 travelling to ‘Ye Merry England’ with a group of other young Australians in a double-decker bus. My impression from what he wrote is that he enjoyed it more in retrospect than he did at the time…

Huett is keeping Brosnan’s non-book material alive. There’s a PDF collection that can still be downloaded for free from eFanzines. More recently Dave Langford asked Huett to put together a new, even larger version, which can be downloaded for free here.

(8) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver celebrates another author with “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Lostronaut’” at Black Gate.

…Lethem won the World Fantasy Award for his collection The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award four times, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, and the Shirley Jackson Award, Sidewise Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award one time, each. His novel Gun, with Occasional Music received the William L. Crawford Award and won the Locus Poll for best first novel….

(9) NEW TWIST ON PARK MAPS. Mental Floss reports “A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style”:

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports

Click here to see his impressive Yellowstone National Park map.

(10) HUGO RECS. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton wrapped up his Hugo recommendations with “Final 2018 Hugo Recommendation Post” – Semiprozine, Fancast,  Best Related Work, Professional Artist.

The others in the series are:

(11) FILLING IN SOME BLANKS. Mark Kaedrin also shares his picks for “Hugo Award Season 2018”, beginning with —

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo Awards is open, so it’s time to get out the vote before the requisite whining and bitter recriminations start in earnest. I’ve read a bunch of eligible works, but of course not all will make the cut. Here’s where I’m at right now:

(12) CHOCOLATE CHAMPS. Congratulations to Filer Daniel P. Dern for scoring second in Boskone 55’s Chocolate for Trivia event.

CHOCOLATE TRIVIA SCORES

Bob Devney  52
Dan Dern  44
Tim Liebe  27
Peter Turi  23

(13) QUICKER SIPPER. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Shimmer #41 [February stuff]”.

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

(14) GUITAR CITY. A popular movie has paid off in more than one way: “A Town In Mexico Sees Guitar Sales Soar Thanks To The Movie ‘Coco'”.

Real-life sales of guitars like Miguel’s guitar have soared thanks to the movie. And not just in U.S. stores. A small town in Mexico’s western highlands, famous for its generation of guitar makers, is also enjoying a Coco boon.

Paracho, in the state of Michoacán, is the former home of the very guitar maker who helped design the instrument seen in the film.

(15) NOT EXACTLY THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. A marker for the beginning of the Anthropocene: “‘Loneliest tree’ records human epoch”.

It’s been dubbed “the loneliest tree on the planet” because of its remote location, but the Sitka spruce might represent something quite profound about the age in which we live.

The tree, sited on Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean, records in its wood a clear radioactive trace from the A-bomb tests of the 1950s and 60s.

As such, it could be the “golden spike” scientists are seeking to define the start of the Anthropocene Epoch – a new time segment in our geological history of Earth.

The suggestion is that whatever is taken as the golden spike, it should reflect the so-called “Great Acceleration” when human impacts on the planet suddenly intensified and became global in extent.

This occurs after WWII and is seen for example in the explosion in plastics production.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. It’s 1963 and producer Roger Corman turns to Poe for his forty-seventh movie. Galactic Journey tells whether it’s worth seeing: “[February 18, 1963] An Odd Beast (Roger Corman’s The Raven)”.

The Raven hit theaters last month not so much to terrify audiences, but to reel them in with a star studded cast and a light, Edgar Allan Poe-flavored, fantasy comedy story. Starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Hazel Court, the film is very loosely based around the narrative Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. By this I mean that Hazel Court is, of course, the sassy and longed-for Lenore, and Vincent Price quotes segments of the poem. There the similarities end.

(17) A BETTER USE FOR THAT MONEY. K. Tempest Bradford argues her fundraiser is a bargain at half the price.

(18) SPEAKING UP. Sophie Aldred gives Uncanny Magazine readers a captivating account of “My Voice-Over Life”.

Sophie Aldred has been working as a professional actress, singer, and director for the last 35 years in theatre, TV, film and audio. She is perhaps best known as the 7th Doctor Who’s companion, Ace, who beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat….

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to read stories to her brother. She liked to put on funny voices for all the different characters and found that she was rather good at mimicking accents and odd vocal characteristics. Sometimes her brother would beg her to stop reading as he had had enough; sometimes she listened.

The little girl also liked listening to the radio programmes that her Mummy had on in the kitchen while she was making supper for Daddy who came in hungry and tired from the office (it was the 1960’s after all). Although she didn’t understand any of the so-called jokes, she loved a man called Kenneth Williams, whose strangulated vocal gymnastics she tried to imitate, and another one called Derek Nimmo, who you could tell was rather vague and very posh just by the tone of his voice….

(19) I SEE FOUR JELLYBEANS! A psychiatrist in a mental hospital has a disturbing conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician, in the SF short film The Secret Number by Colin Levy.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/27/18 Vaster Than Pixels And More Scroll

(1) GOOD NEWS FOR A CLARION WEST STUDENT. George R.R. Martin is funding another scholarship at a writing workshop, as he explains in “Worldbuilding in Seattle”.

Every great story requires interesting characters, an engrossing plot, evocative prose, an important theme… but epic fantasy also requires a memorable setting. A “secondary universe,” as J.R.R. Tolkien termed it, a world both like and unlike our own, with its own rich history and geography and customs, its own beauties and terrors….

These days, the world is more need of wonder than ever before. To that end, I am pleased to announce that I am sponsoring a new annual scholarship at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. https://www.clarionwest.org/ An intensive six-week course for aspiring authors of science fiction and fantasy, Clarion West is one of the longest-running and most successful workshops in the world. Its instructors and graduates make up an honor roll of the best and the brightest in science fiction and fantasy. This summer the instructors will be Daniel Abraham, Ken MacLeod, Karen Lord, Yoon Ha Lee, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ellen Datlow. The deadline for applying is March 1.

Our new WORLDBUILDER SCHOLARSHIP will cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student each year. The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes. For further details, query Clarion West at info@clarionwest.org

(2) DWINDLING. Larque Press has compiled the “2017 Total Paid Distribution” statistics from the publisher’s statement of ownership for Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF, among others. Print circulation diminished slightly over the past year, except for F&SF. See the numbers at the link.

Dell and F&SF sell far more issues via subscriptions than newsstands. For the most part, combining the two gives you the total paid circulation. However, it’s important to note these numbers don’t include digital sales, which are likely on the rise. Below is the “total paid distribution” from Jan/Feb 2017 and 2018 of the print editions…

…Except for F&SF, the year-over-year numbers show declines of ~500–1000. Is this due to thicker, less frequent issues, general magazine publishing trends, distribution challenges, or something else?

(3) EVERMORE. If you want to see a fantastic sculpture being created for Evermore Park in Utah, click this Facebook link:

Here’s Cory Clawson sculpting while our shop dog, Woody, supervises. Have a little sneak peek at some of the talent behind Evermore’s Creative Studio.

(4) ADD TWO. John Picacio says Christopher Brown has contributed two Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx creators/fans.

UPDATE!!! VERY GOOD NEWS: Our sponsorship team is GROWING. John and I are now officially joined by ace photographer Ctein (hooray for you, man!!) who is sponsoring two more Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx. We are also now joined by Ty Franck — one-half of the James S.A. Corey writing juggernaut. He’s sponsoring one Worldcon membership for a deserving Mexicanx. Right on, Ty!! And this just in — Christopher Brown, author of TROPIC OF KANSAS, is sponsoring two more Mexicanx for attending Worldcon memberships. Too good. And this crazy train is going to keep rolling because I’m confirming more sponsorships right now, to be announced soon. This has become A THING. ‘Keep you posted.

(5) EUROCON UPDATE. The committee for Eurocon Nemo 2018, to be held in Amiens, France, has had to arrange another meeting place in the city after finding its planned facilities aren’t ready. The committee has updated its website to show the new location, and posted an explanation on Facebook. The con takes place July 19-22.

Hello everyone
It was a real commotion for the Nemo 2018 team for the past ten days. So, we had to play radio silence. We must apologise.
Indeed, last week, the news suddenly fell that, finally, because of various delays on the building site, we could not have the visa of the committee of security to organize as planned the convention on the site of the Citadel.
It was therefore urgent to find a plan B. It is now done, thanks to the University of Amiens, and in particular to its cultural service and library. Thanks to Anne-Sophie, Justin and Jennifer.
The Convention will take place as planned, with an unchanged program, but it will be at the Pôle Universitaire Cathedral, in the center of Amiens, at the foot of the cathedral, in the middle of a lively district, filled with restaurants, cafes , with exhibition halls, meeting rooms, amphitheatres, a cafeteria, theaters and cinemas all around!
And as a bonus, we will still have the right to visit the site Citadel, to admire the architectural creation of the cabinet Renzo Piano.
Finally, here is a setback that results in even more facilities and animations …

(6) FROM MOLTEN GLASS. “One Meredith goblet coming up,” says Hampus.

(7) PETER S. BEAGLE ON LE GUIN. SFWA’s newest Grandmaster says farewell to another: “In memoriam, Ursula K. LeGuin” at Support Peter S. Beagle.

…I didn’t know her well. She lived in Portland, and I’ve been all over northern California in the last half-century, with six years out for the Seattle area. We hadn’t yet met when I followed her by a week into the Clarion West workshop (1972, was it?), to be greeted by a note saying, “Welcome, Unicorn! Make the little kobolds work their tails off!) Mostly we ran into each other at various conventions, grabbing coffee where we could. I do like to recall a serious conversation, initiated by me in increasing alarm at having become known more and more, in the intervening years, as the Unicorn Guy. Meanwhile, Ursula’s recently-published Earthsea novels had, as far as I was concerned, put paid to dragons as literary figures: I felt – and still feel – that dragons should be off-limits to all other writers, no matter how gifted or inventive they might be. But I was younger then, and had the chutzpah to offer to trade my unicorns even-up for her dragons. “Unicorns are really easy to housebreak. They always ask to go outside.” I remember that I was even willing to throw in a utility infielder, if she insisted.

Ursula’s response: “Do you know how impossible it is to keep dragons off the curtains? And they’re absolute hell on carpets!” We never did make the deal, but not for my lack of trying. As I say, I was younger then….

(8) MORE ON LE GUIN.

A few years later, I entered an MFA program populated by folks whose idea of engaging with speculative fiction was trying to comprehend Harry Potter. I was also newly married, and my husband had six or seven of Le Guin’s books. Discouraged, again, about writing science fiction and fantasy, I started reading The Left Hand of Darkness, which shattered what I thought a science fiction novel could be, how gender could be portrayed, how an invented world could shape my worldview. More importantly, it changed how I encountered gender on a daily basis—one of the most empathy-producing moments in my life to date. As I closed the covers and promptly fell into a book hangover, I couldn’t understand why none of my professors had taught Le Guin or pushed one of her books into my hands. Yes, folks had suggested her, but one book deep into her work, and I’d found a complex thinker, writer, reader, teacher all rolled into one.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

(9) PLAUDITS. Book View Café proudly reports Le Guin’s  No Time to Spare Is Finalist for Essay Prize”.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s 2017 collection of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, is one of the five finalists for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

This prize, one of the PEN America Literary Awards, is “[f]or a book of essays published in 2017 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.”

Many of the essays in this collection began as blog posts, some of which were published here on the Book View Cafe blog.

Winners will be announced at a February 20 ceremony in New York.

(10) HONOR ROLL. Steven H Silver’s “2017 In Memoriam” list is posted at Amazing Stories.

(Editor’s Note: Every year, Steven H Silver compiles the obituaries of those we have lost.  This information is published in various locales and is incorporated into the honor roll displayed during the Hugo Awards presentations.

It’s an unenviable task, though a necessary one.  Our community and our genres are built upon a foundation of people and it is fitting that we remember them.)

(11) IHINGER OBIT. Minneapolis fan Rob Ihinger (1955-2018) died of leukemia on January 27 his wife, Peg Kerr, announced at CaringBridge (more medical details at the link).

We waited for his mother and other family members who flew in from around the country, and family and friends gathered in his ICU room, sharing laughter, telling stories, and giving Rob his last tastes of Coca Cola Classic and ice cream. Rob was able to recognize and greet with pleasure the visitors who came to say goodbye. Then around midnight, we withdrew the tubes and monitors and simply stopped the medication which was keeping his blood pressure stable. Shortly thereafter, Rob slipped into sleep.

My beloved husband Rob Ihinger passed away peacefully this morning at 9:15 a.m. in the presence of his family.

(12) WALKER OBIT. Cartoonist Mort Walker (1923-2018), creator of Beetle Bailey and other strips, died January 27.

The character that was to become Beetle Bailey made his debut as Spider in Walker’s cartoons published by the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Walker changed Spider’s name and launched “Beetle Bailey” as a college humor strip in 1950.

At first the strip failed to attract readers and King Features Syndicate considered dropping it after just six months, Walker said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press. The syndicate suggested Beetle join the Army after the start of the Korean War, Walker said.

“I was kind of against it because after World War II, Bill Mauldin and Sad Sack were fading away,” he said. But his misgivings were overcome and Beetle “enlisted” in 1951.

Walker attributed the success of the strip to Beetle’s indolence and reluctance to follow authority.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found the Star Wars translation for a contemporary faux pas in Off the Mark.
  • Will R. enjoyed the Laugh out Loud Cats sending up the title of a popular movie.

(14) A PORG TWEETS. David Gerrold knows how he feels….

(15) STOKERCON 2018 NEWS. At the StokerCon 2018 Website you can find the complete program for The Second Annual Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

The Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference is part of the Horror Writers Association’s Outreach Program. Membership to the Horror Writers Association is not required to submit or present, however registration to StokerCon 2018 is required to present.

And the full program for Librarians’ Day

Join Stoker Con for a special day-long program of panels and presentations for librarians! Becky Spratford, author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd edition (ALA, Editions) and horror reviewer for Booklist and IndiePicks Magazine and Kristi Chadwick, Consultant, Massachusetts Library System and Library Journal’s Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror columnist are coordinating the event.

(16) GRAMMAR POSSE. The latest Horror Writers Association newsletter includes Anthony Ambrogio’s feature, “The Grumpy Grammarian: Ms. Speaking Speaks about Misspeaking (and Gives Me a Chance to Wax Pedantic)”.

Poet and HWA Proofer Supreme Marge Simon offered a couple of additions to those frequently misspoken phrases I talked about in my January column. I hope I do justice to her comments here.

“Hope your cold is better now.”

Marge writes, “Everyone says it that way, but, in truth, if your cold is better, then it is doing well—flourishing—and you are not! … So, to be correct, one should say, ‘I hope your cold has gone away/is over/has let up, etc., and you are feeling better now.’” However, she concedes, “That one is beyond reasonable criticism.” Doesn’t hurt to point it out, though.

(17) MONTH OF JOY. Where have I been? I just found out about the Skiify and Fanty “Month of Joy.” The latest installment is “Cooking and a Recipe by Cora Buhlert”. Learn how to make “Grandma Buhlert’s Herring Salad.”

During the trashfire of a year that was 2017, I’ve found that no matter how upset I am, sitting down in the kitchen to prepare a meal inevitably makes me feel better. To me, there is something incredibly soothing about assembling ingredients and spices, chopping vegetables, meat or fish and finally stirring the pot or pan, waiting for it all to come together.

So what sort of food do I make? For starters – and I know that may surprise some – very little traditional German food. German cuisine is too greasy and too meat and salt heavy for my tastes. And here in North Germany, traditional food quite often means “throw everything into a big pot and boil it, until it turns to mush”. There are some German dishes I like and make on occasion – herring salad, North Sea shrimp salad, pea soup, venison stew with red cabbage, sailor’s curry (which is a North German take on South/South East Asian food), apple puree, several cakes and cookies. And I suspect I could make most of the traditional dishes of my region, if necessary.

(18) THE LID IS OFF. Civilization-wide mind control is here!  Bloomberg video: “Tristan Harris Says Tech Companies Have Opened Pandora’s Box”. Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist, discusses changing Silicon Valley’s culture and the fight against online extremism with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.” Says Harris:

[These social media companies] have unleashed this civilization-scale mind-control machine, and they don’t even know what thoughts it’s pushing into 2 billion people’s minds…. Two billion people use Facebook; that’s more than the number of followers of Christianity. One-point-five billion people use YouTube; that’s more than the number of followers of Islam. These products have that much daily influence over people’s thoughts.

(19) DOWN THE TUBES. The Mother Nature Network asks “Is this housing solution just a pipe dream?”

As Hong Kong continues to grapple with an affordable housing crisis of epic proportions, no potential solution, no matter how unconventional or quixotic, is overlooked. And this includes single-occupancy dwellings fashioned out of concrete water pipes.

 

(20) SHARP GUESSES. Author of the bestselling Outlander time-travel novels Diana Gabaldon says: “Note that this is NOT a confirmation–but it’s a pretty good bit of speculation.” — “Outlander Seasons 5 and 6 Are Almost Definitely Happening”.

”There are ten books, and we are having very productive conversations about the future of the show.

“We have joined the legions of fans of Outlander around the world. Our biggest concern is making sure that we don’t kill Caitriona [Balfe] and Sam [Heughan] along the way,” [Starz CEO Chris] Albrecht [said], noting how incredibly hard both stars work on the show.'”

(21) POTTERDIVERSE. Emeraldbirdcollector authored a delightful short fanfic on what would have happened “If Harry had gotten a less conventional, but more loving adoptive family”

Dear Minerva,

Thank you so much for your kind letter of the 17th. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I do appreciate your waiving the rules about familiars to allow Wednesday to bring little Homer – she dotes on that spider, and I don’t think she could consider Hogwarts home without his company.

We were delighted but completely unsurprised by the children’s Sorting. Of course Wednesday is a Ravenclaw – she has always had a brilliant mind, and it is rather traditional for the women in our family….

(22) TIME PASSAGES. In 1963, Galactic Journey has received the very latest issue of New Worlds: “[February. 03, 1963] The Freeze Continues (New Worlds, February 1963)”

I Like It Here, by Mr. James White

This month’s guest editorial is from a New Worlds regular, who I know you will recognise in the US for his Sector General stories. With characteristic humour he adeptly summarises the contradiction in the current argument in s-f, between writers who don’t care what they write (as long as it sells) and writers who do not produce the sort of s-f that readers want. In typically droll manner, the many trials and tribulations of the modern writer is recognised in this editorial, determined to amuse. For a slightly less amusing consequence of this we also have Mr. John Carnell’s ‘View from the Hill’ at the end of this issue, of which more later….

(23) ARISTOTLE. Always three movements ahead!

Novice jughead?

(24) A POSITED FUTURE. Via the Welcome to you’re “DOOM!”  site.

https://welcometoyouredoom.tumblr.com/post/160735741191

(25) STAND BY TO FIRE HEADCANON. Scott Lynch fills in some missing pieces of Star Wars. Jump on the thread here —

[Thanks to Dave Doering, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Laura Resnick, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Lenore Jones, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Peter S. Beagle Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master

Peter S. Beagle

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has selected Peter S. Beagle as the 34th Damon Knight Grand Master for his contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.” Beagle joins the Grand Master ranks alongside such legends as C. J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Joe Haldeman. The award will be presented at the 52nd Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in Pittsburgh, PA, May 17-20, 2018.

Beagle, best-known for his novel The Last Unicorn, and has also explored our fascination with the mythical in The Innkeeper’s Song, A Fine and Private Place, and a wide variety of short fiction. Beagle won the Hugo and the Nebula Award for his 2005 novelette “Two Hearts.” He has won the Mythopoeic Award for his novels The Folk of the Air and Tamsin. He was nominated for a Hugo for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for Ralph Bakshi’s animated version and wrote the screenplay for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sarek.”

SFWA President Cat Rambo said:

Peter Beagle’s work has been the gateway for multitudes of fantasy readers, but also writers as well, including myself. His work shines a light on the human heart and its beauties even when that heart is flawed and wanting, showing how that beauty arises from such imperfect conditions. Beagle unquestionably belongs among the greats, and I count it a privilege to invite him to be the next SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master.

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 17-20.

On May 20, a mass autograph session will take place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center and is open to the public. For more information on the conference, including a link to register, visit nebulas.sfwa.org.

In addition to the Nebula Awards, SFWA will present the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

[Based on the press release.]

Cochran Files Bankruptcy on Eve of Trial

Connor Cochran and his companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, one day before trial was scheduled to begin in Peter S. Beagle’s lawsuit against his former manager.

Beagle sued Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owns with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc.

Cochran filed with United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. The details are public record. Cochran listed these as the largest unsecured claims against him:

$626,558  Rimon, PC – Legal fees
$500,000  Peter S. Beagle – Pending litigation (est.)
$400,000  Justin Bunnell – Judgment (*)
$ 83,592  Gloria Cheng – Property settlement
$ 24,915  Kathleen Hunt – Court-assessed fee
$ 20,000  Law Office of James R. Thompson – Legal fees
$  7,800  Son-Rise Property Management – Residential lease

Plus ten personal loans of $5,000 or less, and miscellaneous other small debts and claims.

(*) The Bunnell judgment relates to an investment by Sandbox LLC, a California partnership, and Justin Bunnell in The Last Unicorn screening tour launched in 2013. Projected for more than 150 different cities, Cochran and Beagle drove to tour destinations in a car loaded with stuff for sale. To quote the Bunnell complaint —

Specifically, on or around February 15, 2012, Defendant Avicenna and Plaintiff Sandbox entered into a written joint venture agreement whereby, in exchange for Sandbox’s remittance of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00) to Defendants, Defendant Avicenna agreed to, among other things, oversee the distribution and marketing of the Picture through a “special limited release film tour” and remunerate Plaintiff, at a minimum, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($450,000.00) and, thereafter, twenty-five percent (25%) of all profits derived from the the film tour and/or the exploitation of the Picture (the “Joint Venture Agreement”).

Commenting on the bankruptcy filing, Beagle’s attorney Kathleen Hunt said —

My favorite document so far is the one claiming that Connor has had literally $0 income for the past six months. (Presumably this is justified in his mind because the $ went to the companies, and he didn’t transfer it to his personal bank account – he just used the company bank accounts as if they were his personal accounts.)

She says the bankruptcy has put the lawsuit “trial on hold for awhile.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]

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.)

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


All Systems Red [The Murderbot Diaries #1], by Martha Wells (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid – a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

What I thought: This seems to be the runaway Filer favorite Novella this year, and I’ll add my voice to everyone else raving about this story. Action, suspense, and adventure with a rogue military AI whose personality is displayed subtly and with a slight bit of delightful snark. This is real SF space opera, the way it should be done. #2, Artificial Condition, comes out in May 2018, and #3, Rogue Protocol, will be released in August 2018. Given how much I enjoyed this, I’m going to have to check out Wells’ Raksura series.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: arrived Tuesday and I finished it Wednesday. Fun was had. I enjoyed the narrator and its humans – the book is stuffed full of potential for touching moments of cyborg-human connections, which would happen in a different book and don’t in this one. It’s on the list for now, it may well stay there, and I’ll definitely tune in for future instalments.
  • Mark-kitteh: a Tor.com novella that is probably the start of a series (it subtitles itself The Murderbot Diaries) but is nicely self-contained. Its narrator calls themselves “Murderbot” because as a cyborg security unit they don’t have a real name and that’s how the real humans seem to see them, even though behind their armour there’s a more complex intelligence that binge-watches soap operas but can’t stand real life melodrama. So there are two story strands – an action-adventure plot as they are assigned to protect a survey group exploring an alien planet while Shenanigans occur, and exploring the narrator’s character as they react to the group of humans they’ve fallen in with. (If you read Questionable Content then you might see some parallels with the recent storyline there as well.) The adventure plot is good, but the personal storyline is great.
  • Greg Hullender: I gave it five stars. I agree wholeheartedly that the development of the character of the “MurderBot” is the strong point of the story, but I loved how the author did such great character development and worldbuilding without a single infodump. All the dialogue was natural. All the narration was transparent. And all the key plot points were adequately foreshadowed. All of that on top of nonstop action.
  • Rose Embolism: So, I really enjoyed the excerpt at Tor.com. The problem is. ..now I just can’t help but visualize Murderbot as Bubbles from Questionable Content.
  • Linda S: I loved it, and I’ll almost certainly be nominating it for a Hugo next year.
  • Ghostbird: I don’t know if I’d call Murderbot a companionable character but I find them very relatable. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s cultivated detachment in an awful workplace.
  • Paul Weimer: The tight first-person point of view really does help here in making Murderbot a relatable character, and Wells shows just how important point of view is to telling the story in the way you want to. I can imagine a good Murderbot novella with a 3rd person limited point of view. We might even get some more details on the worldbuilding that I’d love to have. But we’d lose that deep dive into Murderbot’s mind and soul, and the work, IMO, would be lesser if she had chosen that path. A 2nd person Murderbot story would be interesting, I think.
  • Lee: I would say that Murderbot is a compelling character rather than a companionable one. I would also say that their thought processes are a lot like mine when I’m having to put on a polite face while doing something I would very much rather not be doing. I powered my way right thru the story – it dragged me in from the opening scene, and the mystery element was challenging and well-done. It’s definitely got a place on my Hugo nominations for 2018. I notice a thread of similarity between this, the Ancillary trilogy, and A Closed and Common Orbit; they all involve a created intelligence trying to learn how to function beyond its original parameters. This suggests that I’ve got a strong interest in stories which explore that concept and do it well.
  • lurkertype: So I read Murderbot last night, and liked the story. It’s really good, and the interactions between Murderbot and the humans are great. Lots of action. I agree with @Lee’s analysis. This is going on my embryonic Hugo list for next year.
  • Viverrine: just finished Martha Well’s All Systems Red and can’t wait for more Murderbot stories. Thought it did a great job with the narrator’s perspective.
  • Arifel: [It] has already had a lot of deserving hype among Filers – I also loved it and wrote a little bit about it here.
  • Eve: My short list is Wells’ All systems red (Murderbot)…
  • Bonnie McDaniel: Seconding this rec as well, because of the fantastic title character. (Also because sometimes, the cranky misanthropic Murderbot, with its desire to be left alone with its books entertainment feeds, reminded me of… me.) Seriously, though, I realized that Murderbot is pretty much the anti-Data – the artificial being who doesn’t want to be human. It’s a fresh take on the android trope, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
  • Red Panda Fraction: I finished [it] last night in one sitting, and I really enjoyed it. It’s on my list.
  • Kyra: I’ll chime in along with everyone else who’s already recommended this one. A nice novella with tight plotting and a great main character. I like that it didn’t go for easy answers to the protagonist’s issues. I’m looking forward to the sequels.
  • Cheryl S.: Count me as very pro Murderbot. As soon as I finished it, I started a re-read.
  • Kendall: Y’all have to stop rec’ing things that keep me up two nights in a row. This was excellent, plus it wasn’t what I expected (a good thing, here). The personality, the interactions, the mostly-suppressed-but-expressed emotions – Wells did a great job with everything here. Perfect ending. I look forward to the next two!
  • Cassy B: I just bought and read [it] per Kendell’s rec above. And then immediately started evangelizing about this book to everyone I know. I *love* the narrative voice. Absolutely on my Hugo ballot.
  • Bookworm1398: So far I have… Murderbot for Best Novella.
  • Camestros Felapton: Despite some dark plots, murders and monstrous local fauna, this is a very compassionate story. Beyond Murderbot themselves, the individual characterisation isn’t deep but Wells quickly establishes a feel for what the team Murderbot is protecting is like. A mix of well meaning but wary people, the relationship between the survey team and Murderbot has a strong and plausible arc that gives the story some real soul.
  • Chris S.: I have to admit I inhaled this in one sitting, really enjoyed the concept. Origins of the murderbot personality still seem to be a mystery. Would definitely recommend, despite some dodgy plotting.

And Then There Were (N-one), by Sarah Pinsker (full text)

Uncanny Magazine March-April 2017, editor unknown

Synopsis: A quantomologist who discovers how to access parallel universes arranges a convention for attendees who are all versions of herself from slightly divergent universes.

What I thought: This murder mystery novella uses a format familiar to many SFF fans – a convention with keynote speeches and panels on relevant subjects of interest – to provide the setting for an exploration of the theme in Frost’s Road Not Taken. It’s a powerful metafictional musing on choices and consequences and what’s most important in life – and how one’s priorities can change, depending on the results of previous choices. I loved it. This is definitely going on my Hugo Novella ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • David Goldfarb: Quick note to all, that I’ve just put [this as] the first work this year on my Hugo longlist record for next year… I found it well-written and amusingly meta, although I did guess in advance the outlines of the solution to the mystery.
  • Meredith: Throughly enjoyable multiverse murder mystery where all the suspects are the same person. Ish.
  • Lace: a different, introspective read. A bit more con experience could’ve been fun, but what we saw worked. I was also pleased that whodunnit vf bar ynlre qrrcre guna gur boivbhf fbyhgvba jvgubhg orvat bhg bs yrsg svryq.
  • Arifel I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this, and I wish it had been twice as long.
  • Arifel: wonderful and i keep forgetting it’s a novella as it was published in Uncanny.
  • Andrew: I really liked that one and have been recommending it to a lot of folks.
  • Laura: Here are my favs so far… Novella: And Then There Were (N-One), Sarah Pinsker
  • Short Story Squee and Snark discussion

Lightning in the Blood, by Marie Brennan [Ree Varekai #2, sequel to Cold-Forged Flame] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art by Jaime Jones, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Once, there was a call – a binding – and so, a woman appeared, present in body but absent in knowledge of her past self. Making the ultimate journey of rediscovery was not without its own pitfalls – or rewards – and now Ree, a roaming archon, spirit of legend and time and physically now bound to her current form, has yet to fully uncover her true identity. Ree has spent her last innumerable seasons on the move – orbiting, in some sense, the lands of her only friend in this world, Aadet, who has become intricately involved in the new post-revolution politics of his people. Swinging back from the forests surrounding Solaike, Ree falls in with another wandering band, some refugees accompanied by their own archon, who seems to know much more about Ree’s own origins than she ever dared to hope.

What I thought: I really enjoyed the first in this series, Cold-Forged Flame, enough to put it on my Hugo ballot last year, and this is a worthy successor. I really love the world and the characters, and I’m looking forward to more in this universe. I thought this series was so good that it convinced me that I need to read the author’s Lady Trent series sooner, rather than later, even though it’s based on a very different premise.


The Runabout, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch [Diving Universe #6] (42677 words) (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017 / WMG Publishing, edited by Sheila Williams

Asimov’s cover art by Jim Simpson; WMG cover art by Philcold/Dreamstime, design by Allyson Longueira

Synopsis: A graveyard of spaceships, abandoned by the mysterious Fleet thousands of years earlier. Boss calls it “The Boneyard.” She needs the ships inside to expand her work for Lost Souls Corporation. Yash Zarlengo thinks the Boneyard will help her discover if the Fleet still exists. Boss and Yash, while exploring the Boneyard, discover a small ship with a powerful and dangerous problem: The ship’s active anacapa drive. To escape the Boneyard, Boss must deal with the drive. Which means she’ll have to dive the ship on limited time and under extremely dangerous conditions. And she can’t go alone.

What I thought: I love love love Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving Universe, which saw the release of The Runabout this year (which is currently on my ballot for Best Novella as well as Best Series). The series focuses on a spaceship-wreck-exploration company, and includes time travel and lots of mystery, action and adventure. The Runabout, and its predecessor The Falls, while they each stand alone, are intertwined stories – but I recommend reading the rest of the series from the beginning, because there’s background and worldbuilding, especially in the first 2 books, which really enhance the rest of them.

Filer Comments:

  • Greg Hullender: I liked The Runabout so much that I went out and bought the rest of the stories in the series.

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover art by Gregory Manchess, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.

What I thought: This story is loosely based on the life of Margaret Brundage, a prolific artist of more than 70 covers plus many interior illustrations for the early SFF pulp magazines (primarily Weird Tales). While the SFFnal elements are slight until the end, I really loved the way the story captured the cultural context of that time and place, as well as telling a poignant story of love and friendship, with beautifully-realized characters. I enjoyed this so much that I was sorry to see it end, and it will definitely be on my Hugo ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I was going to pass on this because the concept sounded far too light on fantastic elements for my tastes, but some rave reviews persuaded me to try it. I was right that it was very light on the actual fantasy, but it was beautifully written with compelling characters and relationships, and the historical elements of 40s San Francisco were fascinating, so I’m glad I picked it up.
  • Kurt Busiek: Started reading [it] last night, and so far it’s terrific.

The Memoirist, by Neil Williamson (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: In a near future where everyone is wired to an interactive evolution of the Internet, ubiquitous tiny recording drones which make everyone’s personal lives fodder for public consumption are an accepted fact of life. A young journalist scores a rare, highly-enviable job writing the memoirs of the reclusive retired lead singer from a historically-famous rock band which mysteriously broke up after something happened… but despite rumors and speculation, no one knows what that something actually was. Why are so many powerful people determined to wipe a poignant gig by a faded rock star from the annals of history? What are they so afraid of? Rhian has no idea of the dangerous path she is treading, nor the implications of her discoveries, which may well alter the course of human history…

What I thought: I really, really liked this story. It blends a realistic projection of future technology with an intriguing mystery. I think that fans of Sarah Pinsker’s Our Lady of the Open Road might really enjoy this one.


The Ghost Line, by Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by John Harris, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The Martian Queen was the Titanic of the stars before it was decommissioned, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel, the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life. But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

What I thought: I thought that the worldbuilding and characterization in this space opera mystery about an awakening AI were really well-done, and am hoping for more from the authors in this universe. Depending on how my Hugo ballot shakes out, this could be in the running for an appearance on it.


Penric’s Fox, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #5, sequel to Penric and the Shaman] (no excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: Some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman, Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: takes place after Penric and the Shaman, with some supporting characters in common. I liked this one more than the pair starting with Penric’s Mission. It’s in the middle of my pack of maybes for the Hugo ballot, though I’ve only collected a couple of probables so far.
  • Kendall: Bujold goes back in time to write a story connected to (and not long after, IIRC) Penric and the Shaman. I enjoy the Penric & Desdemona novellas a lot; this is a very good addition to the line-up, a little mystery-adventure with more talk about cbffvoyr pbaarpgvbaf orgjrra qrzbaf naq funznavp cbjref.

Mira’s Last Dance, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #4, sequel to Penric’s Mission] (audio excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: The injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie, the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards, as the courtesan Mira of Adria, one of the ten dead women whose imprints make up the personality of the chaos demon Desdemona, comes to the fore with her own special expertise.

Filer Comments:

  • ULTRAGOTHA: my least favorite so far of her Penric stories. There doesn’t seem to be as much there there, this time. There will probably be another Penric story as this one ends in a good place for it to end, but there’s obviously more to come. It takes up immediately after Penric’s Mission with the same three characters (or 15 if you count the Lioness and the Mare). I find Bujold’s stories always, always, improve on re-reading. It’s extraordinary how she manages to do that! So I suspect I’ll like it better the next time around.
  • Arifel: I have to give a massive “wait what????” to. Of course it’s all good solid well written Bujold fun, but the main plot makes light of transphobia and violence against sex workers in a way i was really disappointed by (the more spoilery elaboration is that Craevp, jvgu n cnegvphyne snprg bs Qrfqrzban ng gur uryz, ratntrf va na riravat bs frk jbex jvgu n urgrebfrkhny zna juvyr cnffvat nf n jbzna, naq zbfg bs gur punenpgref rkcrpg gur phfgbzre gb erfcbaq jvgu ivbyrapr vs Craevp vf bhgrq – fb sne fb ernyvfgvp, naq V unir ab crefbany vffhr jvgu gur jnl frk jbex be traqre naq frkhnyvgl ner cerfragrq va n ernfbanoyl znggre bs snpg jnl, ohg V URNIVYL dhrfgvba Ohwbyq’f qrpvfvba gb cynl nyy guvf nf n uhzbebhf fbhepr bs grafvba.)

The Prisoner of Limnos, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Penric #6, sequel to Mira’s Last Dance] (no excerpt)

Spectrum Literary Agency, editor unknown

cover art and design by Ron Miller

Synopsis: Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.

What I thought: I will say that while I have really enjoyed all of the Penric novellas, possibly Penric’s Mission (which was actually well into novel length) might be the only one I really felt rose to Hugo level for me. Both last year, and this year (so far), the rest of them are in my Top 10 but not in my Top 5. They’re great stories, but they seem a bit slight compared to the Vorkosigan stories; they’re solid but not exceptional. That’s probably a function of length, but also probably of their “quietness”. I suspect that if Mission / Dance / Prisoner had been released as one novel, they’d have more of an impact for me. (I re-read Mission before reading Dance, and I re-read Dance before reading Prisoner. For those who have the ability and the reading time to do that, I recommend doing so.)

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: The new Penric is good.
  • techgrrl1972: I loved the new Penric, although I don’t always appreciate Lois’ choice of where to stop. It’s not like she needs these sortakinda cliffhangers to draw us back for the next instalment!
  • JJ: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it ends with a cliffhanger. It stops at a logical place, having completed this particular story, but with plenty of seeds dropped for future adventures.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children #2, prequel to Every Heart A Doorway] (excerpt Ch 1-2) (audio excerpt Ch 3)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photographs by Getty Images, design by FORT

Synopsis: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter – polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter – adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

What I thought: I really enjoyed the first novella, and this one provides some good character development for the twin sisters from that story. I re-read the first one after reading this, so the inconsistency between the two endings – probably an artifact of trying to retrofit a prequel after the later story has been published – was rather obvious. Nevertheless, I thought this was very good, but it didn’t quite reach the level of Doorway for me. The third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky, comes out in January 2018.

Filer Comments:

  • Beth in MA: Premise: What happened to Jack and Jill before Every Heart a Doorway? We find out about the world they went to and what happened there. I picked this up on my birthday weekend trip and really loved it! The world is creepy and yet, the real world for the twins was creepy too. In fact, in some ways, the real world for them was worse. We see how that world affected them in the otherworld they visited. It is definitely at the top of my 2017 novella longlist.
  • Chip Hitchcock: So with the discussion of Every Heart a Doorway coming back, has anyone else read the partial prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones? I just finished it and am very torn; it’s a powerful story, but there’s much more telling than showing, including a lot of “this is the way Story goes” lines. It’s possible that showing would have taken a much larger book (a very fast count suggests it’s 30-35K words), or even technique McGuire doesn’t have yet (based on my having read most of what’s she’s written), or maybe she’s deliberately writing something that might be called interpreted fiction?
  • Peer Sylvester: Just finished [it]. The short version: Its the Roald Dahlish backstory of Jack and Jill and thats a bit of a problem, because Jack has revealed her backstory in Doorway already and this is just the fleshed-out-version of said backstory. So, there is not much room for surprises here. But its beautifully written – again! If you like Seanan McGuires writing style (and I very much do), you will enjoy this as well. I just hope the third wayward children book will offer a bit more in terms of story.
  • Kendall: I listened to McGuire narrate her novella Down Among the Sticks and Bones this week; she was a pretty good narrator. The book was good, but I liked the first one better. Two minor criticisms (leaving off a third tiny nit I was going to pick): There was too much “I will now talk about how I’m telling you the story that you’re reading” and faux-children’s-book stuff. The former (weirdly) seems like it would work better in print, and was a little clunky; the latter isn’t really my style. Am I misremembering the first novella – did it do this, too?! I want to re-listen anyway, to see the twins now that I’ve listened to the prequel. The twins’ pre-door back story should’ve been shorter. The background helped us understand how they became the people that made the choices they did in the Moors, and how they developed into the characters we met in the first book. But it was too long and a bit tedious. Also, it was the most juvenile-written part (as in, seemingly written for juveniles), too, which isn’t to my taste. The Moors remind me of D&D’s Ravenloft – in a good way. I was very interested to see Qbpgbe Oyrnx pbhyq perngr n qbbe; and to see fbzrbar jub jrag guebhtu n qbbe ohg unq n snvyrq “fgbel” naq jnf genccrq, rgp. Anyway, overall, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one.
  • Karl-Johan Norén: @Kendall: Every Heart a Doorway is very straightforwardly narrated, so no, it differed from [this one] both in tone and in narrative style. I think the main trouble with Sticks and Bones is twofold: first it’s a prequel, so you have start and end points set, second any story set in McGuire’s fairylands is likely to depend heavily on narrative causality. I’m not sure she has leveled up as an author enough yet to tackle works that explore works of narrative causality yet (not like, say, Cat Valente or the late Terry Pratchett).
  • David Goldfarb: I just finished reading [it], and my socks were knocked off to the extent that it made me go back and re-read “Every Heart a Doorway”. The first time I read Heart I was annoyed by some of its flaws (chiefly that I found the solution of the mystery plot a bit obvious), but this time I was able to focus more on the themes of self-acceptance.
  • Bonnie McDaniel: I actually liked this better than Every Heart a Doorway, as it lacked the somewhat distracting murder mystery plot. This tightly written backstory of Jack and Jill, and nightmare parenting, pulls no punches. At the end, the reader knows just what the twins found in their portal world of the Moors, and understands why they would do anything to return there.
  • Arifel: (specifically the audiobook version read by the author: ) I find it hard to pay attention to audio for long periods of time, but I listened to the whole 4 hours of this in almost one sitting without getting distracted. It’s a powerful story about femininity and sisterhood which worked better for me on a first pass than Every Heart A Doorway. Excellent narration. Will be very surprised if this isn’t on All The Lists at the end of the year

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photographs by Emma Cox and Corey Weiner, design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Synopsis: When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline. But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

What I thought: I really enjoyed this story. McGuire’s work, in my opinion, ranges from very good to absolutely fantastic. I’d put this one in the very good range; I thought that it was solid and well-done, but not exceptional.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is… a separate standalone in a new continuity. Any description of the plot spoils a well-played reveal early in the story so I’m going to keep quiet, but it’s just as readable as you’d expect from McGuire. What I particularly liked was that it had some of the older Urban Fantasy feel of being about people and places and the connections between the two. There’s an element that deserves a content note (rot13 although it’s also obvious from the blurb: Gur znva punenpgre jbexf ng n fhvpvqr ubgyvar naq ure fvfgre pbzzvggrq fhvpvqr) but I believe it’s handled sensitively.
  • Peer Sylvester: Thanks to the Filers who recommended [this]! It was just the right read for a sick day in bed… Easy, but very nice indeed, great world Building, great characters, just the story was a bit on the thin side. But beautiful written and as I sad good “Comfy-iterature” (And yes, its best to go in it totally “cold”, i.e. knowing nothing about the story)
  • Cassy B.: A compelling ghost story… written from the point of view of the ghost.

Idle Ingredients, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #4, sequel to #1 Envy of Angels, #2 Lustlocked, and #3 Pride’s Spell] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Catering for a charismatic motivational speaker, the staff of the Sin du Jour catering agency find themselves incapacitated by a force from within their ranks. A smile and a promise is all it took. And for some reason, only the men are affected. It’s going to take cunning, guile and a significant amount of violence to resolve. Another day of cupcakes and evil with your favorite demonic caterers.


Greedy Pigs, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #5] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Politics is a dirty game. When the team at Sin du Jour accidentally caters a meal for the President of the United States and his entourage, they discover a conspiracy that has been in place since before living memory. Meanwhile, the Shadow Government that oversees the co-existence of the natural and supernatural worlds is under threat from the most unlikely of sources. It’s up to one member of the Sin du Jour staff to prevent war on an unimaginable scale. Between courses, naturally.


Gluttony Bay, by Matt Wallace [Sin du Jour #6] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Peter Lutjen

Synopsis: Welcome to Gluttony Bay High Security Supernatural Prison. We value your patronage. For your entertainment this evening, we are delighted to welcome the world’s most renowned paranormal culinary experts. And on the menu: You.

What I thought: I’m another that loves this series: for the appealing characters, the inventiveness of the otherworldly cuisine, the humor which is great without going over-the-top into cringeworthy, and the way he intertwines the supernatural world with the real world so deftly that it’s utterly believable. Content note: While all of the novellas have some element of gore and/or violence, Gluttony Bay is particularly so. The 7th (and ostensibly the last) Deadly Sin du Jour book, Taste of Wrath, comes out in April 2018.

Filer comments on the Sin du Jour series:

  • Alasdair: One of the Crown Jewels of Tor’s novella lone. Inventive, funny and immensely confident writing.
  • Greg Hullender: The biggest problem I have with this series is that there are too many characters, and they can be hard to tell apart. As a consequence, the individual stories (apart from “Small Wars”) don’t stand alone very well.
  • Kendall: I love this series!
  • Cheryl S.: I really love this series and look forward to every new novella, because they’re terrific; well written, with interesting, offbeat characters that grow in unexpected directions. Plus, there’s always something funny but totally plausible in each one (Goblin King anyone?).
  • Kendall: I also finished Greedy Pigs last night – the latest “Sin du Jour” novella. I read Idle Ingredients… and they’re more closely connected plot-wise than previous entries, ISTM… I enjoyed earlier entries a little more, but I can’t pinpoint why, sorry. Unrelated, but it seemed like there was less food?! LOL. I like that Darren’s and especially Lena’s characters are developing, in these two novellas, and I look forward to the final two entries in the series.

Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Stephen Youll, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The Colony left Earth to find their utopia – a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore the colonists’ genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries. Earth has other plans. The original humans have been tracking their descendants across the stars, bent on their annihilation. They won’t stop until the new humans have been destroyed, their experimentation wiped out of the human gene pool. Can’t anyone let go of a grudge anymore?

What I thought: This is an interesting story and an enjoyable read, but perhaps suffers a bit in execution by comparison to similar stories; explaining why would be spoiling the story, so I’ll just suggest reading this if the synopsis appeals to you.


Agents of Dreamland, by Caitlín R. Kiernan (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover photograph by Getty Images, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman. In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible – the Children of the Next Level – and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in. A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact. And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.

What I thought: There are a lot of elements in this work which will only really have meaning for someone who has at least a passing familiarity with Lovecraft’s works. I found it to be more of a “and then this happened… and then this happened…” story, and less what I’d consider a story with a plot and a resolution (but I guess that description would apply to a lot of Lovecraft works). In a review of Dreamland, James K. Nelson says “enough is resolved to satisfy the reader, but we never fully get our bearings on the forces at work. ” I’m going to disagree with him on that; I didn’t think that enough is revealed to be satisfying. I do think that Lovecraft fans will enjoy this, though.

Filer Comments:

  • PhilRM: Two agents from separate, mysterious government agencies – a man known only as the Signalman, and a woman who is even more mysterious than the agency she works for – meet in Winslow, Arizona to trade information on a horrifying event that occurred in a decaying house near the Salton Sea, an event that proves to be only the latest in a series, and will not be the last. No one does modern-day Lovecraft better than Kiernan: this searing, disturbing novella takes place in a universe that, at best, is bleak and indifferent. It also lies at the SF end of the SF/horror spectrum, as in most of late Lovecraft. You will benefit from having read Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness, but it’s not required. Beautifully written and as dark as a dream of Yuggoth.
  • Mark-kitteh: Another in [Tor.com’s] mini-theme of Lovecraftian stories… and probably the one least likely to be accessible to non-fans of Lovecraft. It’s a rather twisty tale about an unnamed investigator looking into a weird cult with a sense of quiet desperation, while a prescient colleague follows similar threads with quiet acceptance. It was suitably moody but I wasn’t that taken with it.
  • Bonnie McDaniel: I loved this. It’s dense, complex, non-linear, with great characterizations and beautiful writing. It’s a surprisingly successful, if bizarre, blending of Lovecraft and The X-Files, with an alien invasion fit to give anyone nightmares. It’s a shame Kiernan isn’t better known, and it would be great if this story could change that. For the moment, at the top of my Hugo list.
  • Rob Thornton: I wasn’t too hot on Kij Johnson’s Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe (paled next to the original despite the 21c updates) but Kiernan’s Dreamland truly captures the feverishly bizarre quality of good Lovecraftian fiction. Highly recommended and of course it is on my Hugo list.

At the Speed of Light, by Simon Morden (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: A breathless drama set in the depths of space. Aboard a ship that has travelled beyond the reach of human knowledge, Corbyn discovers he is not as alone as he ought to be.

What I thought: A novella about how a near-light-speed vehicle might work, with an uploaded mind as an AI and adaptable drones, and the technical aspects of relativity and maneuvering at such a speed. I found it very Interesting, but the plot, such as it is, is just set dressing for the technical aspects. I’m not sorry I read it, but I can’t enthuse about it either. I gave it 3.5 stars. Morden has a murder mystery set on Mars, One Way, coming out in February 2018 (under the name S.J. Morden), which sounds good enough that I’m already on my library’s waiting list for it.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: I read [it] as well, and I’d totally agree – all the clever science couldn’t cover for a rather meh story.

Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor [Binti #2, sequel to Binti] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Dave Palumbo, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

What I thought: Like the previous novella, this story has some interesting world-building – but like the previous one, it relies on another deus ex machina in the third act to get where it wants to go. It’s well worth reading, but won’t be on my Hugo ballot.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: a very worthy continuation of 2015’s winner, and I’m very excited to see how the final(?) installment [Binti: The Night Masquerade, coming out in January 2018] pans out.

Brother’s Ruin, by Emma Newman [Industrial Magic #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods. But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect. When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is a Victorian urban fantasy, although apparently they want us to call it a Gaslamp Fantasy which, hmm, let’s see if it catches on. It’s the start of a series and does an ok-but-not-brilliant job of being a standalone story, mostly setting up the world and getting some initial plot, which is that magic in England is controlled by three competing Guilds, rogue mages are caught and forcefully enrolled, and there’s something non-specifically rotten going on with the whole system, which our protagonist will undoubtedly be bumbling into at some point. Speaking of our protagonist, Charlotte is an artist who is already hiding her mundane talent under a bushel by illustrating under a male pseudonym, which leads neatly into the inevitable discovery that she’s also hiding a non-mundane talent under a bushel too… Anyway, Emma Newman is a good writer of UF already, and so this is a good piece of UF and I like the (ahem) gaslamp setting, but I ended up feeling a bit like I’d been served up the first third of a novel. I’ll be picking up the sequel(s) but I really wish first volumes would be a bit more standalone, and if you’re likely to be frustrated by that then you might want to hold off.
  • Kendall: first of two (or four, if they sell well!) in the Industrial Magic set of novellas, which Tor’s calling gaslamp fantasy. IIRC it’s around the 1850s, around the industrial revolution, but powered by magic. Magi are required to work for the Crown via the Royal Society and can’t marry or pursue other endeavors. Hiding your magic (or even not reporting someone else you know has magic) is against the law. It’s all a bit dire and draconian, which makes a good setup for tension and paranoia on the part of the main character – a woman hiding her magic, and a career as an artist, to boot. Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot… there’s a lot of setup here, but for me there was enough plot and intrigue that it felt like a complete story, while obviously setting up the next novella(s). I hope there are more than two; I enjoyed it a lot. It’s way to early to say whether it would be on my Hugo list, but I definitely recommend it!
  • Arifel: great, with an interesting worldbuilding setup and a slightly thin but compelling enough cast, but it does feel like the first third of a really interesting novel, not a complete story in itself – looking forward to more but I recommend anyone who likes solid resolution at the end of their reading hold off for now.
  • Chip Hitchcock: I was looking forward to this as I liked her other fantasy, but was disappointed by [this] first book.

Weaver’s Lament, by Emma Newman [Industrial Magic #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Cliff Nielsen, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently destroying expensive equipment. And if she can’t identify the culprits before it’s too late, her brother will be exiled, and her family dishonoured…

What I thought: As others have mentioned, these are parts 1 and 2 of a 3-part novel, and may not be satisfying when read individually. I read all 5 of the author’s Split Worlds novels earlier this year, and I really enjoyed them (enough for it to be a Best Series contender), but these first two Industrial Magic novellas feel a lot like re-treads of that series, and I can’t get really enthused about them.


The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (audio excerpt)

(likely not award-eligible, due to 2016 Audible release)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown; Audible version narrated by Zachary Quinto

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death, and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge what they see as a wrong. It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

What I thought: If you can just roll with the utterly unbelievable premise, this is an enjoyable read – but I suspect that it will end up being one of Scalzi’s less successful attempts at expanding his oeuvre. I’m not sorry I read it, but I can’t enthuse about it, either.

Filer Comments:

  • Kendall: I recommend John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher
  • Anne Goldsmith: I think The Dispatcher was my favourite of these, but I may be giving it subconscious bonus points for being read aloud by Zachary Quinto.
  • Cheryl S.: meh, it was fine but I’m not sure what got it so many five star reviews on Amazon

The Dragon of Dread Peak, by Jeremiah Tolbert (prequel The Cavern of the Screaming Eye) (full text Part 1 Part 2)

Lightspeed Magazine #89 October 2017, edited by John Joseph Adams

Illustration by Reiko Murakami

Synopsis: In a world where trans-dimensional portals from RPG universes have intruded upon and devastated the real world, children and teenagers are the defenders against the monsters and further encroachment. But the dangers in dungeonspace are real: Rash, who was an expert monster slayer, never came back from his last mission a year ago – one of many who have died trying to close down the portals. His younger brother, Flip, has secretly become a crawler in defiance of his mother’s grief – and with his inexperienced team, Flip has been taking on progressively more dangerous portals in the hope of finding and rescuing his brother. What’s more, a mysterious voice has been talking only to him inside of dungeonspace, its motives unknown.

What I thought: Despite not being a gamer, I enjoyed this story; I suspect that RPGers will like it even more. I highly recommend reading the short story prequel “The Cavern of the Screaming Eye” first, as it provides a little additional worldbuilding and characterization for this novella.


The Enclave, by Anne Charnock (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Chris Moore, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: Advances in genetic engineering have created a population free of addictive behaviour. Violent crime is rare. But out in the enclaves it’s survival of the fittest for Lexie – embroiled in a recycling clan and judged unfit for cognitive implants – and Caleb, a young climate migrant working as an illegal, who is eager to prosper and one day find his father.

What I thought: This is an interesting story, set in the same universe as A Calculated Life. I enjoyed it and found it solid but not outstanding.


The Furthest Station, by Ben Aaronovitch [Rivers of London] (excerpt)

Subterranean Press / Gollancz, edited by Editor

cover art by Stephen Walters, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something. Enter PC Peter Grant, junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts. Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog, their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line. And time is running out to save them.

What I thought: This is a nice little standalone side mystery in the Rivers of London universe, quick and enjoyable – and minus any of the laddish, male-gazey aspects of the early novels in the series.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: It’s very consistent with the rest of the series so if, like me, you’re a fan of the series then you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve found it’s not your cup of tea, then this won’t change your mind. The title refers to the fact that parts of the London Underground actually head out to some very far-flung places. (For a non-Londoner like me it’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself traveling through green fields on an “underground” train!) It doesn’t really advance the main plot significantly, but is a nice little mystery solved with a good combo of magic and real police work.

Havergey, by John Burnside (excerpt)

Little Toller Monographs, editor unknown

cover art by Norman Ackroyd, designer unknown

Synopsis: A few years from now on the small and remote island of Havergey, a community of survivors from a great human catastrophe has created new lives and a new world in a landscape renewed after millennia of human exploitation. This is an exploration of what constitutes a utopia, a reminder of how precious and precarious our world is, and a rejection of the idea of human supremacy over landscape and wildlife.

What I thought: This is a bit like a near-future, post-apocalypse version of Thoreau’s Walden, in which a time traveler from our era arrives on an island populated by anarchist utopians who survived a devastating global plague, and consists mainly of manuscript readings of the colony’s historians with the traveler’s own personal musings. Fans of literary speculative fiction and philosophy may really enjoy it, but it’s definitely not an SF adventure.


I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land, by Connie Willis (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: An author, in New York City to meet with his publisher and do promotion for his book, takes refuge from a bad storm in a tiny used bookstore in an unfamiliar area of the city. But the store is much larger inside than it looks from the outside, and there’s clearly something mysterious going on.

What I thought: I’m a big Connie Willis fan, and I enjoyed this story, but honestly, it felt a lot like a re-tread mashup of some of her other stories, especially The Winds of Marble Arch. It’s clear very early on to the reader what is really going on (at least it was for me), so it didn’t have that feel of a mystery eventually followed by a discovery which has made a lot of her other stories so enjoyable for me. I thought it was worth reading, but not award-worthy.


In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle (excerpt)

Tachyon Publications, edited by Rachel Fagundes

cover design by Elizabeth Story

Synopsis: Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

What I thought: This is a lovely little fable and well worth reading, but did not come close to the level of The Last Unicorn for me.


Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White [The Voidwitch Saga #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Tommy Arnold, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Before she escaped in a bloody coup, MEPHISTO transformed Mariam Xi into a deadly voidwitch. Their training left her with terrifying capabilities, a fierce sense of independence, a deficit of trust, and an experimental pet named Seven. She’s spent her life on the run, but the boogeymen from her past are catching up with her. An encounter with a bounty hunter has left her hanging helpless in a dying spaceship, dependent on the mercy of strangers. Penned in on all sides, Mariam chases rumors to find the one who sold her out. To discover the truth and defeat her pursuers, she’ll have to stare into the abyss and find the secrets of her past, her future, and her terrifying potential.

What I thought: The worldbuilding in this is pretty well-done, but I found it a little too predictable and tropey to reach the level of excellent. It’s well worth reading, though, and I’ll be picking up its sequel, Void Black Shadow, which comes out in March 2018.

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is probably going to suffer from being the novella I read after the excellent All Systems Red, but it was clever enough to cheat by having an exceptionally cute cat-like creature in it for bonus points. It’s a grimy sort of space opera setting, with mercs, bounty hunters, miserable planets and chaotic stations. The protagonist is Mariam Xi, nicknamed Mars, with her not-a-cat Seven. Mars is a powerful telekinetic and she’s permanently running from the big evil corp that made her that way. (You could make a lazy comparison to River Tam and Firefly at this point, but it’s a fairly different plot.) Anyway, shenanigans happen and there’s a rapid tour of various locations in the grimy space opera settings. I would say it’s solid rather than spectacular – none of the elements are especially original on their own but it’s all well put together. One thing that niggled was that her abilities kept on being just powerful enough for the situation, even if she’d dealt with much worse elsewhere in the story. It appears to be the start of a series but stood on its own well enough. I don’t see it troubling my novella shortlist, but on the other hand it appears to be the author’s professional debut – no short stories that I can see – and it was sufficiently interesting that they go onto my Campbell watch list.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy [Danielle Cain #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Diana Pho

cover art by Mark Smith; design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Synopsis: Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious suicide, Danielle ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa, and witnesses a protector spirit – in the form of a blood-red, three-antlered deer – begin to turn on its summoners. She and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town – or get out alive.

What I thought: This story features a great selection of diverse characters, but parts of the plot didn’t really work for me, and it definitely felt like a first novel to me. A sequel, The Barrow Will Send What it May, comes out in April 2018, but I probably won’t be picking it up.

Filer Comments:

  • Bonnie McDaniel: This was an odd little book, and I’m including it because while I don’t think it was really for me, I imagine plenty of other people will like it. It’s a punk anarchist mindtrip, with plenty of zombified demon animals, and yes, it’s just as wacky as it sounds. Whether the story hangs together will depend on your tolerance of its collectivist anarchist mindset, but I appreciate that it’s an ambitious story that takes risks.
  • Mark-kitteh: I wasn’t actually going to pick this out, but then it got strongly recced in several places and so I decided to give it a try – and I’m glad I did, because although it’s a bit uneven I found it really interesting. Danielle Cain travels to a small squatters town of utopian-minded anarchists to find out why her friend died. It turns out that the townsfolk have called up that which they cannot put down – a protector spirit in the form of a demonic deer which has started taking a very… abrupt… view of what protection means. I have to say that the concept didn’t grab me when I first heard about it, but actually it works really well. It’s a warts-and-all portrayal of this type of community – something well outside my experience – with the fantasy element rather acting as a metaphor for the problems that it throws up. This style of story lives and dies by the lead character, and Cain is well-drawn and interesting. I also liked that the fantasy element was very limited and mysterious – there’s not a whole menagerie of magic animals trotting around, just this one weird beast that someone created without really knowing what they were doing.
  • Meredith: The imagery… has really stuck with me (I badly want someone to adapt it, it would look amazing), but I wish I’d come out of it feeling like I knew the viewpoint character, like, at all. There’s a bit about her being The Traveler, and I wondered whether that was a hint that she wasn’t human (anymore?) but sort of took on aspects of the people she travels with and that was why she never seemed like much of a person, but they never went anywhere with it, so… ¯\_(?)_/¯ (But I did like a lot of stuff about it! Characters just matter a lot to me as a reader. Probably still the third most interesting novella I’ve read this year, behind And Then There Were N-One and All Systems Red.)

A Long Day in Lychford, by Paul Cornell [Lychford #3, sequel to #1 Witches of Lychford and #2 Lost Child of Lychford] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover photograph by Mark Owen, cover design by FORT

Synopsis: It’s a period of turmoil in Britain, with the country’s politicians electing to remove the UK from the European Union, despite ever-increasing evidence that the public no longer supports it. And the small town of Lychford is suffering. But what can three rural witches do to guard against the unknown? And why are unwary hikers being led over the magical borders by their smartphones’ mapping software? And is the immigration question really important enough to kill for?

What I thought: I thought that Witches was great, and that Lost Child was very good (with the exception of the part with the consent-violating physical assault by the “good guys” against another character, which was pretty awful). But this one just didn’t really do it for me. It’s the story of a one-day ordeal experienced by the 3 main characters, but it felt forced and artificial and pointless to me.

Filer Comments:

  • Kendall: Quoting myself: “I suspect I won’t enjoy it as much as the first two”. Well, I was wrong; it was very good! I’m not sure, but I may have enjoyed it more than the second one. It was depressing and made me sad, especially at the end, but it was well done. BTW this seemed shorter than the others (but I presume it’s still a novella). It’ll probably go into the novella cage match on my ballot.

Mightier than the Sword, by K. J. Parker (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Vincent Chong, design by Desert Isle Design

Synopsis: An Imperial legate is called in to see his aunt, who just happens to be the empress running the civilized world while her husband’s in his sick bed. After some chastisement, she dispatches her nephew to take care of the dreaded Land and Sea Raiders, pirates who’ve been attacking the realm’s monasteries. So begins a possibly doomed tour of banished relatives and pompous royals put in charge of monasteries like Cort Doce and Cort Maleston, to name a few. While attempting to discover the truth of what the pirates might be after, the legate visits great libraries and halls in each varied locale and conducts a romance of which he knows – but doesn’t care – his aunt will not approve. With enough wit and derring-do (and luck), the narrator might just make it through his mission alive… or will he?

What I thought: I’ve really enjoyed the author’s other novellas, and this is another which is well worth reading for its sly humor and solid plotting.


The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover photograph by RekhaGarton, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Since she was a small child, Molly has learned that when she sheds blood, Molly-clones magically appear and try to kill her. Her parents have ingrained into her a protective routine to prevent extra Mollys from occurring, and for defending herself and eliminating them when they do occur. But as she gets older, the occurrences become more frequent, and they start to threaten people Molly cares about, too.

What I thought: This isn’t really my sort of thing, but the author actually manages to present a somewhat plausible explanation of the situation at the end of the story which made it interesting reading. If you’re into horror, it might be your sort of thing. Trigger Warning for huge amounts of blood and violence.


Of Things Unknown, by Seanan McGuire [October Daye / April O’Leary] (no excerpt)

(included with the novel The Brightest Fell)

DAW Books, edited by Sheila Gilbert

cover art by Chris McGrath

Synopsis: April O’Leary, (rot13’ed for those who have not yet read the second novel in the October Daye series, A Local Habitation) n qelnq jub abj rkvfgf cheryl nf n ploreorvat va gur pbzchgre flfgrz bs gur snrevr Pbhagl bs Gnzrq Yvtugavat, vf fgvyy zbheavat gur qrngu bs ure “zbgure”, VG theh Wnahnel B’Yrnel, naq frireny bs gur pbhagl’f bgure orybirq erfvqragf ng gur unaqf bs na rivy vagreybcre. Ohg jvgu Gbol’f uryc, gurer vf n cbffvovyvgl gung n erfheerpgvba, bs ng yrnfg fbzr bs gur ivpgvzf, pna or npuvrirq.

What I thought: I enjoyed this novella, which is a follow-on to the second novel in the October Daye series, A Local Habitation, and is a nice expansion on the personality of a secondary character in it. However, it would not stand alone well, and is only recommended to those who have read that book or who have read a lot of the stories in the series.


Proof of Concept, by Gwyneth Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Jonathan Strahan

cover by Drive Communication

Synopsis: On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable exoplanet distantly feasible. When the Needle’s director offers her underground compound as a training base, Kir is thrilled to be invited to join the team, even though she knows it’s only because her brain is host to a quantum artificial intelligence called Altair. But Altair knows something he can’t tell. Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?

What I thought: I enjoyed this story, but not as much as I wanted to. It probably warranted a second read to put all the pieces into place once the ending is known, but I didn’t feel compelled to take the time to do so. Readers who find the synopsis appealing will probably enjoy it.


River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey [River of Teeth #1] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Filer Comments:

  • Bonnie McDaniel: This has been mentioned before, but I’ll second (or third) it – what’s not to love about an alternate history weird Western with hippopotami? Also, I believe Sarah Gailey is still eligible for the Campbell (2nd year).
  • Bruce Arthurs: enjoyed it a lot. I got the feeling that the plot structure was heavily influenced by television writing, rather than standard book plotting.
  • Mark-kitteh: River of Teeth was fun. Perhaps the concept was a bit better than the execution, but still worth a read.
  • Chris S.: pretty fun, good characters, great concept, extremely dodgy geography (naq abg rabhtu sreny uvccbf, frrzrq gb or n irel fznyy nern jurer gurl yvirq pbzcnerq gb jung gur znc fhttrfgf). I enjoyed it..

Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey [River of Teeth #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Justin Landon

cover art by Richard Anderson, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the dam that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway. Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.” In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

What I thought: These are entertaining little Magnificent Sevenish stories, and the alternate history plotline of the hippos is interesting but rather peripheral to what are essentially standard tropey Westerns set in the Louisiana bayou. They’re readable, but I can’t rave about them.

Filer Comments:

  • Peer: I’m happy to report that I enjoy this more than the first part: It still has the cool setting and the great characters AND it gets going much faster. Im not sure the story is that much deeper or original, but it works better because there is no more need of introduction. Fun, nice read!
  • Mark-kitteh: The sequel to River of Teeth, picking the plot up shortly afterwards… if you liked the first one then pick this up, if you didn’t then I doubt this will improve your opinion. I do think it shows Gailey improving as a writer, as she weaves several storylines together with aplomb.

Snapshot, by Brandon Sanderson (excerpt)

Vault Books / Dragonsteel Entertainment, edited by Peter Orullian and Moshe Feder

cover art by Howard Lyon, design by Isaac Stewart

Synopsis: If you could re-create a day, what dark secrets would you uncover? Anthony Davis and his partner, Chaz, are the only real people in a city of 20 million, sent there by court order to find out what happened in the real world 10 days ago so that hidden evidence can be brought to light and located in the real city today. Within the re-created Snapshot of May 1, Davis and Chaz are the ultimate authorities. Flashing their badges will get them past any obstruction and overrule any civil right of the dupes around them. But the crimes the detectives are sent to investigate seem like drudgery – until they stumble upon the grisly results of a mass killing that the precinct headquarters orders them not to investigate. That’s one order they have to refuse. The hunt is on. And though the dupes in the replica city have no future once the Snapshot is turned off, that doesn’t mean that both Davis and Chaz will walk out of it alive tonight.

What I thought: This is another of what I have come to recognize as standard Sanderson storytelling. It’s a slick little plot along the same lines as Perfect State but better done; unfortunately, I didn’t find the surprise ending very surprising. Solid but not exceptional.


Standard Hollywood Depravity, by Adam Christopher [Ray Electromatic] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Miriam Weinberg

cover art and design by Will Staehle

Synopsis: The moment Raymond Electromatic set eyes on her, he knew she was the dame marked in his optics, the woman that his boss had warned him about. Honey. As the band shook the hair out of their British faces, stomping and strumming, the go-go dancer’s cage swung, and the events of that otherwise average night were set in motion. A shot, under the cover of darkness, a body bleeding out in a corner, and most of Los Angeles’ population of hired guns hulking, sour-faced over un-drunk whiskey sours at the bar. But as Ray tries to track down the package he was dispatched to the club to retrieve, his own programming might be working against him, sending him down a long hall and straight into a mobster’s paradise. Is Honey still the goal – or was she merely bait for a bigger catch? Just your standard bit of Hollywood depravity, as tracked by the memory tapes of a less-than-standard robot hitman.

What I thought: This is a little noir mystery story featuring an android whose programming gets reset after every mission. Enjoyable but not spectacular (but I haven’t read the other stories in the series, which might make a difference).


Other 2017 Novellas:


Bearly a Lady, by Cassandra Khaw (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Muna Abdirahman, design by Kenda Montgomery

Synopsis: Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?

Filer Comments:

  • Mark-kitteh: This is not the grim and disturbing Cassandra Khaw you might be expecting. In fact, this is a romcom featuring a Were-bear trying to get on in the big city (London in this case, although it could be NY just as easily) with job, romance, and life. Were-bear in the City, if you will. Anyway… a romcom isn’t really in my wheelhouse but I still enjoyed this – there’s a nice mix of competing life pressures for the lead character to juggle in a slightly madcap way. I suspect that if the lead character speaks to you more strongly than she did to me then you’ll like this very much.

The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang [Tensorate] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While Mokoya received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, they saw the sickness at the heart of their mother’s Protectorate. A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue as a pawn in their mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?


The Red Threads of Fortune, by JY Yang [Tensorate] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Yuko Shimizu, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Once her visions shaped the lives of citizens across the land, but no matter what tragedy Mokoya foresaw, she could never reshape the future. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom with packs of dinosaurs at her side, far from everything she used to love. On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear.


The Book Club, by Alan Baxter (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Ben Baldwin, design by Michael Smith

Synopsis: Jason Wilkes s life takes a turn for the worse when his wife fails to come home from her book club. Jason calls Kate s book buddy , Dave, who assures him she left hours ago. Contacting the police, Jason finds them equal parts sympathetic and suspicious. He tells them almost everything, except that he s been hearing Kate s voice, calling as if from far away. He certainly doesn t mention that he s seeing shadows that reach for him. With the police getting nowhere fast, Jason takes matters into his own hands, even as nightmare images and Kate s distant cries continue to haunt his waking moments and his dreams, and the strange, grasping shadows persist. Jason begins to unravel the mystery, but he s at odds with the police, he s being lied to by Kate s book club friends, and his chances of finding Kate slip ever further away. It seems that everything is going to go as wrong as it possibly can.


Buffalo Soldier, by Maurice Broaddus (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Lee Harris

cover art by Jon Foster, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari. Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.

Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.


Case of the Bedevilled Poet: A Sherlock Holmes Enigma, by Simon Clark (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: After narrowly escaping a bomb blast during the blitz in WW-II London, poet Jack Crofton is threatened with death and worse by a mysterious soldier. Fleeing through the war-torn streets, he seeks sanctuary in a pub and falls into company with two elderly gentlemen who claim to be Holmes and Watson, the real life detectives that inspired Conan Doyle’s fictions. Unconvinced but desperate, Jack shares his story, and Holmes agrees to take his case…


Cottingley, by Alison Littlewood (no excerpt)

NewCon Press, edited by Ian Whates

cover art by Vincent Sammy, design by Andy Bigwood

Synopsis: In 1917 the world was rocked by claims that two young girls – Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths – had photographed fairies in the sleepy village of Cottingley. In 2017, a century later, we finally discover the true nature of these fey creatures. Correspondence has come to light that contains a harrowing account, written by village resident Lawrence Fairclough, laying bare the fairies’ sinister malevolence and spiteful intent.


The Emperor and the Maula, by Robert Silverberg (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Jim Burns, designer unknown

Synopsis: This is the story of a woman telling a story in order to extend – and ultimately preserve – her life. The Scheherazade of this striking story is Laylah Walis, denizen of a far-future Earth which has been invaded and conquered by a starfaring race known as the Ansaarans. Laylah is a “maula,” a barbarian forbidden, under pain of death, to set foot on the sacred home worlds of the imperial conquerors. Knowing the risks, Laylah travels to Haraar, home of the galactic emperor himself. Once there, she delays her execution by telling the emperor a story – and telling it well. That story, the tale within a tale that dominates this book, is, in fact, Laylah’s own story. It is also the story of the beleaguered planet Earth, of people struggling, often futilely, to oppose their alien masters and restore their lost independence.


Final Girls, by Mira Grant (excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Julie Dillon, designer unknown

Synopsis: What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears? Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole liveswhile running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But… can real change come so easily? Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: just finished [this], and I’m still unpacking some of my thoughts. There are aspects I found underdeveloped though not central, a central story with layers to its horror, and an ending and implications to think through. A scientist has immersive VR technology that’s being used to help people shed psychological trauma; a skeptical reporter comes to write a story about it. Matters develop from there. In general, I don’t like horror, and probably wouldn’t have read this without the combination of picking it up in a Humble Bundle, and generally enjoying Seanan McGuire. Probably worth a look and opinion from someone better suited to weighing it up.

The Girl Who Stole Herself, by R. Garcia y Robertson (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: A young woman escapes being kidnapped by human traffickers to embark on an interplanetary space adventure.


The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes, by Howard V. Hendrix (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction May-Jun 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by NASA

Synopsis: A government agent must investigate and discover the truth in a case of an aborted bombing attack on a classroom full of girls.


Gwendy’s Button Box, by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King [Castle Rock] (excerpt)

Cemetary Dance, editor unknown

cover art by Ben Baldwin and illustrations by Keith Minnion, designer unknown

Synopsis: There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974, twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong – if time-rusted – iron bolts and zig-zag up the precarious cliffside. Then one day when Gwendy gets to the top of Castle View, after catching her breath and hearing the shouts of kids on the playground below, a stranger calls to her. There on a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small, neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat… The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told – until now.


Heaven’s Covenant, by Bud Sparhawk (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Sep-Oct 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Eldar Zakirov

Synopsis: In the run-up to a space colony mission, the expedition’s leader must unravel the threads of conspiracy and political intrigue which threaten it.


Homecoming, by Rachel Pollack [Jack Shade] (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Charles Vess

Synopsis: A paranormal private investigator is hired by a woman to find her missing soul.


How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry, by Alexander Jablokov (excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Bob Eggleton

Synopsis: An investigator is hired to learn the cause of a mysterious death in a planetary colony.


Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (excerpt)

Solaris, edited by Jonathan Oliver

cover art by Maz Smith, designer unknown

Synopsis: Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear. Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralized, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: A group of soldiers/grunts in a near-future war is sent to rescue a wealthy soldier, whose supersuit has inexplicably failed behind enemy lines. Some fun geopolitics, maybe a bit stretched but not cookie-cutter, and an asymmetric war with some eerie opposition. “Bugs” aren’t front and center in this one, but they have an enjoyable role.

Infernal Parade, by Clive Barker (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, edited by Editor

cover art by and interior illustrations by Bob Eggleton, designer unknown

Synopsis: Convicted criminal Tom Requiem returns from the brink of death to restore both fear and a touch of awe to a complacent world. Tom becomes the leader of the eponymous “parade,” which ranges from the familiar precincts of North Dakota to the mythical city of Karantica. Golems, vengeful humans both living and dead, and assorted impossible creatures parade across these pages. The result is a series of highly compressed, interrelated narratives that are memorable, disturbing, and impossible to set aside.


The Keeper of the Dawn, by Dianna Gunn (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by unknown

Synopsis: All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away. From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum – a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace. Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.


The Little Gift, by Stephen Volk (excerpt)

PS Publishing, editor unknown

cover art by Pedro Marques, designer unknown

Synopsis: I was Group Manager at forty-six with a Range Rover Evoque, a beautiful wife and two gorgeous, healthy children, and that was all I wanted. Or so I thought…This is the story of a man who takes a path to become the person he always wanted to be, but never believed he was. Fate takes a hand, a very special person enters his life and changes everything. Emboldened by an irrational passion he risks everything he thought he loved and valued – but the price is worth paying for happiness… Isn’t it?


The Man Who Put the Bomp, by Richard Chwedyk [Saur #5] (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Bryn Barnard

Synopsis: Once they were an in-demand toy craze, but now genetically-engineered, sentient tiny dinosaurs which have escaped or been discarded live together in a community, where various plots, mysteries, and agendas intersect.


Mandelbrot the Magnificent, by Liz Ziemska (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ann VanderMeer

cover art and design by Will Staehle

Synopsis: Born in the Warsaw ghetto and growing up in France during the rise of Hitler, Benoit Mandelbrot found escape from the cruelties of the world around him through mathematics. Logic sometimes makes monsters, and Mandelbrot began hunting monsters at an early age. Drawn into the infinite promulgations of formulae, he sinks into secret dimensions and unknown wonders. His gifts do not make his life easier, however. As the Nazis give up the pretense of puppet government in Vichy France, the jealousy of Mandelbrot’s classmates leads to denunciation and disaster. The young mathematician must save his family with the secret spaces he’s discovered, or his genius will destroy them.


Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover art by Greg Ruth, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew. The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them… at terrible cost.


Native Seeds, by Catherine Wells (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Marianne Plumridge Eggleton

Synopsis: On a post-apocalyptic earth, two groups of survivors must find a way to work together to ensure the genetic diversity of threatened species.


Never Now Always, by Desirina Boskovich (excerpt)

Broken Eye Books, edited by Scott Gable, C. Dombrowski, and Matt Youngmark

cover art and design by Jeremy Zerfoss

Synopsis: A dark future finds humanity imprisoned. Invaders took away our story and rewrote everything: all minds, all lives, all history. Everyone forgot. How could this happen? But in this now, Lolo must reclaim her stolen words – her stolen family – from the silent Caretakers. She must call out to all rapt children, “This world is hell. Let’s run.” When the words needed are forgotten, lying unknown, when memories flit like smoke, how can she recover what is lost? She must. To live in this nightmare without a story would be too much to bear.


Nexus, by Michael F. Flynn (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: The life of a time traveler obsessed with fixing the history he destroyed with his mistake intersects with that of several other humans, aliens and androids, all of whom have their own urgent agendas.


Not Far Enough, by Martin L. Shoemaker (no excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Rado Javor

Synopsis: The surviving members of disastrous Mars exploration mission must battle a rogue AI to get what they need to stay alive.


Plaisir d’Amour, by John Alfred Taylor (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: A sociologist visits a low-gravity mining colony to study its genetically-engineered inhabitants, and falls in love with one of them despite the fact that there is no possibility for them of having a future together.


A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power, by Rose Lemberg [Birdverse] (full text)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229 July 2017, editor unknown

Synopsis: The Old Royal, a magical bigender being who has reigned for millenia, is threatened by the arrival of a young stranger.

Filer Comments:


The Process (Is a Process All Its Own), by Peter Straub (excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art and design by Michael Fusco Straub

Synopsis: This is the story of a 1950s Jack The Ripper, told from the killer’s perspective, with occasional glimpses into the perspectives of his victims.


The Proving Ground, by Alec Nevala-Lee (excerpt)

Analog Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by Trevor Quachri

cover art by Kurt Huggins

Synopsis: In a near-future where rising sea-levels threaten existing cities, a woman hopes that an island will provide a safe haven for her community. But the birds are behaving very strangely, to the point of becoming threatening the future existence of the colony, and she needs to find out what’s causing their destructive behavior.


Reenu-You, by Michele Tracy Berger (excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Emma Glaze, designer unknown

Synopsis: New York City, August 1998. On a muggy summer day, five women wake up to discover purple scab-like lesions on their faces – a rash that pulses, oozes, and spreads in spiral patterns. City clinic doctors dismiss the women’s fears as common dermatitis, a regular skin rash. But as more women show up with the symptoms, one clear correlation emerges: an all-natural, first-of-its-kind hair relaxer called Reenu-You. As the outbreak spreads, and cases of new rashes pop up in black and latino communities throughout New York, panic and anger also grows. When the malady begins to kill, medical providers and the corporation behind the so-called hair tonic face charges of conspiracy and coercion from outraged minority communities and leaders across the country. At the heart of the epidemic are these five original women; each from different walks of life. As the world crumbles around them, they will discover more about each other, about themselves, and draw strength to face the future together.

Filer Comments:

  • Arifel: Reenu-you by Michele Tracy Berger… [is] great.

Renegat, by Orson Scott Card [Ender’s Universe] (full text)

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

Synopsis: This Ender’s Universe story, a follow-on from Children of the Fleet, is told from Dabeet Ochoa’s point of view as he, Speaker for the Dead Ender, and Valentine try to solve a murder mystery on the planet Catalunya.


River’s Edge by James P. Blaylock [Langdon St. Ives] (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by J.K. Potter, designer unknown

Synopsis: The body of a girl washes up on a mud bank along the edge of the River Medway amid a litter of poisoned fish and sea birds, casting an accusing shadow upon the deadly secrets of the Majestic Paper Mill and its wealthy owners. Simple answers to the mystery begin to suggest insidious secrets, and very quickly Langdon St. Ives and his wife Alice are drawn into a web of conspiracies involving murder, a suspicious suicide, and ritual sacrifice at a lonely and ancient cluster of standing stones. Abruptly St. Ives’s life is complicated beyond the edge of human reason, and he finds himself battling to save Alice’s life and the ruination of his friends, each step forward leading him further into the entanglement, a dark labyrinth from which there is no apparent exit.


Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth, by Cassandra Khaw [Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #2] (excerpt)

Abaddon Books, edited by David Moore

cover art by Sam Gretton, design by Sam Gretton and Oz Osborne

Synopsis: For a man who started a celestial war, Rupert Wong, Seneschal of Kuala Lumpur and indentured cannibal chef, isn’t doing too badly for himself. Sure, his flesh-eating bosses inexplicably have him on loan to the Greek pantheon, the very gods he thrust into interethnic conflict. Sure, the Chinese Hells have him under investigation for possible involvement in the fracas. And sure as hell, he’s already elbow-deep in debt with the Sisyphean gambling ring. But Rupert is alive. For now. Really, it could be slightly worse.


Snowspelled, by Stephanie Burgis [The Harwood Spellbook #1] (excerpt)

Five Fathoms Press, editor unknown

cover art by Leesha Hannigan, design by Patrick Samphire

Synopsis: Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

Filer Comments:

  • Lace: First-in-series in a Regency-esque England where the humans are at truce with the elves, and women handle the politicking while men do the magic. For me, it almost felt like its own prequel – a lot of fun world-building setting up future installments, but not too much happens. I’ll probably be back to see where Burgis goes from here. If you enjoy Kowal’s Glamourist Histories or Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, or Burgis’s other work, you should take a look.

A Song for Quiet, by Cassandra Khaw [Persons Non Grata #2] (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Carl Engle-Laird

cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: Deacon James is a rambling bluesman straight from Georgia, a black man with troubles that he can’t escape, and music that won’t let him go. On a train to Arkham, he meets trouble – visions of nightmares, gaping mouths and grasping tendrils, and a madman who calls himself John Persons. According to the stranger, Deacon is carrying a seed in his head, a thing that will destroy the world if he lets it hatch. The mad ravings chase Deacon to his next gig. His saxophone doesn’t call up his audience from their seats, it calls up monstrosities from across dimensions. As Deacon flees, chased by horrors and cultists, he stumbles upon a runaway girl, who is trying to escape the destiny awaiting her. Like Deacon, she carries something deep inside her, something twisted and dangerous. Together, they seek to leave Arkham, only to find the Thousand Young lurking in the woods. The song in Deacon’s head is growing stronger, and soon he won’t be able to ignore it any more.


The Speed of Belief, by Robert Reed [The Great Ship Universe] (no excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jan-Feb 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Maurizio Manzieri

Synopsis: Travelers on a journey to negotiate with a new alien race for new resources must try to salvage their mission when everything goes horribly awry.


The Squirrel on the Train, by Kevin Hearne [Iron Druid / Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries #2] (no excerpt)

Subterranean Press, editor unknown

cover art by Galen Dara, designer unknown

Synopsis: Oberon the Irish wolfhound is off to Portland to smell all the things with canine companions wolfhound Orlaith and Boston terrier Starbuck, and, of course, his human, ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan. The first complication is an unmistakable sign of sinister agendas afoot: a squirrel atop the train. But an even more ominous situation is in store when the trio plus Atticus stumble across a murder upon arrival at the station. They recognize Detective Gabriela Ibarra, who’s there to investigate. But they also recognize the body – or rather that the body is a doppelganger for Atticus himself. The police, hampered by human senses of smell and a decided lack of canine intuition, obviously can’t handle this alone. Not with Atticus likely in danger. Oberon knows it’s time to investigate once more – for justice! For gravy! And possibly greasy tacos!


Stillborne, by Marc Laidlaw [Gorlen Vizenfirth] (excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Kent Bash

Synopsis: The bard Gorlen Vizenfirthe has been cursed — his hand replaced with the stone paw of a gargoyle named Spar, who is reciprocally afflicted. Together, the two of them search for a cure to their problem and frequently end up in fresh varieties of trouble. In this story, which is perhaps the series finale, Gorlen and Spar travel to join the swarm of the Philosopher Moths: giant insects with telepathic powers, who may be able to finally give them a cure for their curse.


The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer [Borne] (excerpt)

MCD/FSG, edited by Sean McDonald

cover design by Abby Kagan

Synopsis: The Strange Bird is a new kind of creature – she is part bird, part human, part many other things. But now the lab in which she was created is under siege and the scientists have turned on their animal creations. But, even if she escapes, she cannot just soar in peace above the earth. The farther she flies, the deeper she finds herself in the orbit of the Company, a collapsed biotech firm that has populated the world with experiments both failed and successful: a pack of networked foxes, a giant predatory bear. But of the many creatures she encounters, it is the humans – all of them now simply scrambling to survive – who are the most insidious, who still see her as simply something to possess, to capture, to trade, to exploit. Never to understand, never to welcome home.


Strange Dogs, by James S. A. Corey [The Expanse] (excerpt)

Orbit Books, edited by Will Hinton

cover art and design by Kirk Benshoff

Synopsis: Like many before them, Cara and her family ventured through the gates as scientists and researchers, driven to carve out a new life and uncover the endless possibilities of the unexplored alien worlds now within reach. But soon the soldiers followed – and under this new order, Cara makes a discovery that will change everything.


Sunwake, in the Lands of Teeth, by Juliette Wade (full text)

Clarkesworld #127 June 2017, edited by Neil Clarke

cover art by Eddie Mendoza

Synopsis: A member of an alien race which resembles dogs, who has made friends with human visitors, must undertake a dangerous rescue mission to bring back his human friend in time for a meeting with his ruler.


Tao Zero, by Damien Broderick (no excerpt)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar-Apr 2017, edited by Sheila Williams

cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Synopsis: The children of two families immersed in different aspects of the Tao philosophy must come together to save the world.


Taste of Ashes, by Charles E. Gannon [Tales of the Terran Republic / Caine Riordan] (no excerpt)

Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

cover art by Julia Lloyd

Synopsis: This story is set in the author’s Caine Riordan universe; it appears to be an excerpt of the first book in the series, Fire with Fire, about humans’ first encounter with several more advanced races of aliens who have formed an interstellar alliance.


Temporary Duty Assignment, by A.E. Ash (prequel Nice) (no excerpt)

Book Smugglers Publishing, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

cover art by Reiko Murakami, design by Kenda Montgomery

Synopsis: Samantha Gao is an elite Metro soldier, dedicated to the job and to her team. But following a devastating mission, Sam is handed a new temporary duty assignment. On paper, she’s supposed to babysit a Metro tech-inspector during a routine evaluation of Greenerhouse seed colony’s corporate sponsor. Sam expects to be on duty at all times, ready for whatever comes. But what she didn’t expect was to see him – Caleb – again. Caleb Estes is an engineer at Greenerhouse and cannot believe his luck when his first love, Samantha Gao, walks into his lab – and back into his life. It’s enough to make him believe in second chances after all. But Sam and Caleb’s reconciliation will have to wait when the routine bodyguard job goes sideways, and the future of the seed colony itself is at stake…


There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House, by David Erik Nelson (no excerpt)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Jul-Aug 2017, edited by C.C. Finlay

cover art by Nicholas Grunas

Synopsis: The employee of a professional house renovator/flipper is sent to evaluate a gorgeous old mansion as a possible new project, but the house turns out to be an extra-dimensional horror.


The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford (excerpt)

Tor.com Publishing, edited by Ellen Datlow

cover photograph by Roy Bishop, design by Christine Foltzer

Synopsis: All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child. Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.


Published through Tor.com’s Novella line, but NOT novellas

  • The Fortress at the End of Time, by Joe M. McDermott
  • Switchback, by Melissa F. Olson
  • A Red Peace, by Spencer Ellsworth [Starfire #1]
  • Shadow Sun Seven, by Spencer Ellsworth [Starfire #2]