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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunn has made the following response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

Alternatively –

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen Klages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/18 Come Away, O Meredithed Book, To The Kindle And The Nook

(1) ADVICE AND DISSENT. When Elon Musk described himself as “…a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks” on Twitter he got plenty of pushback. Soon Lee and Rob Thornton report that the pushers included Charles Stross, Hal Duncan, Cory Doctorow, and —

For those who need an introduction, Edward Champion’s 2013 essay “The Culture Novels of Iain M. Banks” looks promising:

When not committing his considerable energies to such intense Bildungsromans as The Wasp Factory or bleak-humored narratives like The Crow Road, Banks inserts an M into “Iain Banks” and writes science fiction novels. Most of these speculative volumes concern the Culture, a utopian-anarchist society that extends across a sizable cluster of the universe. These Culture vultures gambol across the galaxy in ships with such eccentric names as Don’t Try This at Home and Serious Callers Only. Culture citizens live for centuries, and can even change their appearances if they grow discontent with their corpora. These conditions encourage these civilized sybarites to have more fun than a flighty Dalmatian discovering a chiaroscuro sea of spotty companions. Never mind that there’s always an intergalactic war going on.

(2) DOLLAR BLAST. Just as you’d expect superheroes to do: “‘Incredibles 2’ crushes animation box office record”.

The Disney and Pixar film premiered to an estimated $180 million at the domestic box office this weekend. The sequel to the popular 2004 computer animated film soared past the record for biggest animated film opening in box office history by $45 million.

That record belonged to another Pixar film, “Finding Dory,” which opened to roughly $135 million two summers ago.

So far the film brought in $231.5 million around the world.

(3) BIG CAT. Should an owner discourage the ambitions of an SJW credential?

(4) HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED LEX. Some fantastic beasts who practice law in Hollywood are sowing darkness across the land: “Warner Bros. Crackdown Puts Dark Mark Over Harry Potter Festivals”.

Warner Bros. is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the country, saying it’s necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they wll transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic.

“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that has coincided with an annual Harry Potter festival in suburban Philadelphia.

Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the film series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.

(5) WELL ABOVE MINIMUM WAGE. Owen King tells readers of The New Yorker about “Recording Audiobooks For My Dad, Stephen King”.

My father gave me my first job, reading audiobooks on cassette tape. He had caught on to the medium early, but, as he explained later, “There were lots of choices as long as you only wanted to hear ‘The Thorn Birds.’ ” So, one day, in 1987, he presented me with a handheld cassette recorder, a block of blank tapes, and a hardcover copy of “Watchers,” by Dean Koontz, offering nine dollars per finished sixty-minute tape of narration.

This was an optimistic plan on my father’s part. Not only was I just ten years old, but when it came to reading aloud I had an infamous track record. My parents and I still read books together each night, and I had recently begun demanding an equal turn as narrator. Along our tour through Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” I had tested their love with reckless attempts at a Scottish accent for the revolutionary Alan Breck Stewart, whom the novel’s protagonist, David Balfour, befriends. Even as they pleaded for me to stop, I made knee-deep haggis of passages like the following:

“Do ye see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye’ll taste this steel throughout your vitals.”

Despite this, my father enlisted me to narrate “Watchers.”

(6) WHAT A RUSH. It’s not going to take long for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 to fill up –

(7) ARCHEOVIDEOLOGY. Echo Ishii returns to the history of TV sff in “SF Obscure: Ace of Wands.

Ace of Wands is an ITV fantasy show broadcast in 1971 to 1972. It’s technically a children’s/ family show, but it’s fairly sophisticated and one that held my interest. Ace of Wands ran for three series, however, only the third series remains. At the time, ITV wiped old series due to the high cost of production materials and storage.

(8) CATCHY TITLE. Anna-Marie Abell gave her novel an irresistible name — Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth. For the next couple of days it’s a 99-cent special on Amazon. If somebody reads it they can tell the rest of us whether it lives up to the promise of the cover.

Anna-Marie Abell grew up in a trailer park. Well, several actually. Her trailer was on wheels so she got to experience the Pacific Northwest’s vast array of mobile home parks as her parents moved her from one to the other. Somewhere along the way, she got totally into UFOs. Probably because she was hoping extraterrestrials would come and abduct her. But they never did. Luckily for her she was smart, because her only hope of escaping trailer life was college and a full scholarship. Moving to sunny California on her almost full ride to Chapman University, she was well on her way to her new life. Two bachelor degrees later (Film and Television Production and Media Performance), and several honors and awards for her accomplishments, she managed to start working in an almost completely unrelated industry from her majors: infomercials.

It was in college that she got bit by the “ancient alien” bug after listening to Zecharia Sitchin on Coast to Coast AM. In her pursuit to uncover the truth, she has spent the last twenty years researching the ancient Sumerian culture—in particular their “gods” called the Anunnaki—and their connection to the creation of the human race. What she found changed her life, her beliefs, and her understanding of the universe and everything beyond. Her humorous science fiction trilogy, The Anunnaki Chronicles, is a culmination of all her research, her borderline obsession for all things paranormal, and approximately 2,300 bottles of wine.

(9) FRONT, PLEASE. Dorothy Grant’s “Cover caveats” at Mad Genius Club is a great introduction to the process.

So where do you find your cover art and cover designer? Well, you can search the premade options put together by artists and designers, so you know exactly what it’ll look like when you get the “Your Title” swapped out for your actual title, and “Author Name” swapped for your pen name or real name.

Or you can get one designed for you. If you have no idea what you want or need, this can involve writing up a short description of the book or sending the book to the designer. Be aware that a busy professional designer probably will not read your entire book, but is skimming for worldfeel, character descriptions, possibly an iconic scene.

Or, if you’re a little more artistically inclined, you’ll send the designer / artist basically three sets of URLs.

First, links to bestselling books in the same subgenre that have covers similar to what you want. (send 3, so they can get a feel for what’s standard to that subgenre vs. particular to that single cover.)

Second, Send them URLs from stock photo sites that say “models like this”

Third, URLs from stock photo sites saying “backgrounds like this”

Artists think in pictures, not words, so communicate in visuals as much as possible.

(10) IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. I watched the first part of Live Slush Session 2 and was intrigued to hear Baen’s publisher and a contributing editor give candid reactions to authors’ manuscripts.

Baen Books’ Publisher Toni Weisskopf and “Slushmaster General” Gray Rinehart read the openings of volunteer submissions to give writers some insight into the evaluation process.

 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw how Deadpool celebrates Father’s Day at Brevity.
  • And Ben Solo’s dad featured in yesterday’s Brevity.
  • Mike Kennedy sent along Pearls Before Swine’s suggestion for how to get people to read. (He didn’t say it was a good suggestion….)

(12) ALDEBURGH FESTIVAL. The Stage’s George Hall reviews the opera based on a Silverberg story: “To See the Invisible review at Britten Studio, Snape – ‘a musical patchwork’”.

New at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, Emily Howard’s chamber opera To See The Invisible has been freely adapted by playwright Selma Dimitrijevic from a taut and distinctly Kafkaesque short story by the American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg.

The central character has been found guilty of the crime of coldness and is sentenced to a year’s invisibility, during which he is completely ignored by (almost) everyone he meets.

In Dimitrijevic’s libretto the character’s isolation remains severe, though he now has a family consisting of a mother, father and sister. His encounters with them and other individuals – in court, in a public gardens and a brothel – ameliorate his plight while also allowing some of Silverberg’s focused purity to dissipate.

In the opera he also has a kind of shadow in the shape of what the libretto describes as The Other Invisible – Anna Dennis’ female soprano regularly in synch with Nicholas Morris’ baritonal male. The character’s dual vocality is undoubtedly one of the more successful features of Howard’s score….

(13) IT’S NOT EASY BEING MEAN. Olga Polomoshnova analyzes the villain who gave evil a bad name — “On Sauron’s motives” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.

Having risen like the shadow of Morgoth, Sauron was nevertheless different from his former lord. His downfall arose out of good motives, nor was he the beginner of discord. Sauron belonged to the Maiar — spirits created from Ilúvatar’s thought. He came into existence before the physical world took shape. Originally Sauron, who was known as Mairon (the Admirable) at that time, was associated with the people of Aulë, so he was a very skillful smith….

(14) EATON PHOTOS ONLINE. Andrew Porter labors on, identifying people in Jay Kay Klein’s photos. At the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3, this shot of a panel audience showed Walt Liebscher, Ray Fisher, Arnie Katz, Lee Hoffman, and Bob Tucker:

(15) A PENNYFARTHING FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. Ninety years ago, when Frank R. Paul painted his cities of the future, he didn’t include any bicycles at all. Now the BBC is asking — “Tomorrow’s Cities: Will the bike become an urban must-have?”

Fifteen years ago there were just four bike-sharing schemes in cities around the world, but now there are close to 1,000.

Most require you to pick up and leave a bike at a designated area, but new “dockless” schemes from China are coming to cities around the world – and proving controversial.

(16) THE MUMMY DIET. There’s a blog devoted to mummies, and Michele Brittany’s Musing on Mummies is up to “Episode 11: Sokushinbutsu and the Mummification Method Not Often Discussed”.

Ii-wey! Natural or intentional is usually what comes to mind when discussing the process of mummification. Certain environments, deserts, high altitudes or arid cold for example, will naturally dry the deceased, arresting the process of decay as a result. Intentional mummification requires human intervention after a person has died and most often, the Egyptian mummies come to mind. However, there is a third process that is not as well known.

Sokushinbutsu is a Japanese term that refers to a Buddhist mummy that remained incorrupt, or without decay after death….

(17) RADIO FREE BRADBURY. Listen to Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre on BBC Radio 4. Four episodes are available online, with three more to come.

(18) NOT THIS WAY. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won’t take people to Mars” — Hadfield told Business Insider why he’s skeptical.

…NASA’s Space Launch System, which is slated to debut in the 2020s, will power its engines with a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuels. Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is also looking to use liquid hydrogen. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is staking its future on burning liquid methane, which the company believes it can generate on the Martian surface.

Like other experts, Hadfield doesn’t doubt that any of the vehicles could actually get to Mars; his issue is about the safety of any humans on board. Explosions, radiation, starvation, and other problems would constantly threaten a mission.

“We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk,” he said. “The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it. They’d die. Because the technology is still quite primitive.”

(19) EMMY TREK. Star Trek: Discovery submitted a long list of material to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in over 20 categories. The full list is available at the linked GoldDerby story: ”’Star Trek: Discovery’ Emmy Submissions: How Many Will it Win?”.

That post also links to a separate story showing Trek Emmy winners from the past series.

The original “Star Trek” series ran from 1966-1969 and didn’t win any Emmys, but it was nominated 13 times, including twice for Best Drama Series (1967-1968). “Star Trek: The Next Generation” followed two decades later and aired for seven seasons from 1987 to 1994, during which time it won a whopping 19 Emmys, all in Creative Arts categories. “TNG” struggled in top races, however, and wasn’t nominated for Best Drama Series until 1994 for its final season.

(20) DON’T QUIXOTE. Terry Gilliam’s tragedy-plagued project is still plagued but it may not be his anymore. Io9 reports: “Terry Gilliam Has Lost the Rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.

Well, this is a strange new chapter in one of the strangest stories in modern film. For decades, famed genre director (and former Monty Python, uh, snake) Terry Gilliam struggled to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, his own surreal take on the classic Spanish novel. He succeeded, finally, with a rendition starring Adam Driver, and the film premiered this year at Cannes Film Festival.

Except, uh, apparently Terry Gilliam just lost the rights to it. Yes, that’s correct: as reported by Screen Rant, the Paris Court of Appeal just ruled in favor of the film’s former producer, Paulo Brancho, who sued for rights to the project on the grounds that Gilliam made the film illegally.

(21) OH NOOO…. When will they make an end? Comicbook.com is spreading the alarm, er, the — “Rumor: ‘Star Wars’ Actor Claims 9 Movies in Development, Including More ‘Story’ Stand-Alones”. Voice actor Tom Kane is said to have claimed there are nine Star Wars movies in some stage of development. Kane has provided voices for Star Wars video games (starting with Shadows of the Empire in 1996), TV shows (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), and several of the more recent movies (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi).

Only six of the projects are known:

Disney-owned Lucasfilm also has plans for fan-favorite Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and famed bounty hunter Boba Fett, who will reportedly receive his own stand-alone from 3:10 to Yuma and Logan director James Mangold.

Lucasfilm is also said to be developing an all-new trilogy under The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson, which will be unconnected to the Skywalker saga depicted in the episodic installments and set in an unexplored corner of the galaxy.
Johnson’s producer, Ram Bergman, recently gave an update on the “completely new trilogy,” saying, “It’s all new characters. Everything is new.” The project, he added, is “just in the early stages.”

Abrams’ Episode IX, Johnson’s planned three-movie series, and two new anthologies in Obi-Wan and Boba Fett make six, leaving three supposed projects on the docket.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Stephen King To Receive PEN America Literary Service Award

At the 2018 PEN America Literary Gala, Stephen King will receive the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award. The award is presented annually to a critically-acclaimed author whose work embodies PEN America’s mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity.

Among his many accolades are the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts presented by Barack Obama. His depictions of horror and violence have also earned him a title as one of the most banned or challenged authors in recent decades. King is an impassioned advocate of freedom of expression, literacy, and access to information, which he and his wife Tabitha support through their philanthropy. King’s Haven Foundation also provides unique and generous support to writers and other freelancers in the arts who have suffered personal hardship. His outspoken defense against encroachments on free speech and pointed public criticism of policies that infringe on this and other rights have resulted in his being blocked by President Trump on Twitter.

Andrew Solomon, President, PEN America, comments —

No stranger to the dark side, Stephen King has inspired us to stand up to sinister forces through his rich prose, his generous philanthropy, and his outspoken defense of free expression. Stephen has fearlessly used his bully pulpit as one of our country’s best-loved writers to speak out about the mounting threats to free expression and democracy that are endemic to our times. His vivid storytelling reaches across boundaries to captivate multitudes of readers, young and old, in this country and worldwide, across the political spectrum. He helps us all to confront our demons—whether a dancing clown or a tweeting president.

The Bangor, Maine resident’s new novel The Outsider is being published on May 22, the date of the PEN America award presentation.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]

AudioFile’s Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks of 2017

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2017 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks. They are listed here with links to the AudioFile reviews and, for some, a sample sound clip. (To see the winners in all the other categories, page through the AudioFile 2017 Best Audiobooks ezine.)

2017 Best of SCI-FI, FANTASY & HORROR Audiobooks

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden, read by Kathleen Gati

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM by J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander, read by Eddie Redmayne

GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX by Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, read by Maggie Siff

IT DEVOURS! by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, read by Cecil Baldwin

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King, Owen King, read by Marin Ireland

THE STONE SKY by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles

STRANGE WEATHER by Joe Hill, read by Wil Wheaton, Dennis Boutsikaris, Kate Mulgrew, Stephen Lang

MARVEL: THANOS by Stuart Moore, read by Richard Rohan and a Full Cast

UNIVERSAL HARVESTER by John Darnielle, read by John Darnielle

Exclusive Narrator Video

  • Robin Miles, narrator of THE STONE SKY

Pixel Scroll 11/28/17 Peering Into The Scrolloscope, I Perceived The Pixels of Mars

(1) COLD TRUTH. Rudy Rucker was a Windycon 44 GoH – and he confesses what was going through his mind at the time.

…Despite the good moments, I did have a very strong flash of “What am I doing here?” when I awoke on each of my three mornings at the con. It’s usually like that. And then I feel guilty and ungrateful for tiring of these dear and all-too-human souls. This annual event is their source of joy, their gay holiday of fun and magic, and they look forward to it, and work on it, and plan for it, and make all the pieces come together, and I, the aloof interloper, I have grave doubts. So I’m a horrible person. What a payoff.

“Why can’t you just relax, Rudy?” says my wife’s voice in my head. “Be happy for them that they’re having fun. They’re touching. Love them.” Well, maybe my wife wouldn’t go that far. Maybe that’s Jesus’s voice, or the Buddha’s, or the White Light’s…

…Well, okay, I was nice to everyone except for a fellow panelist on a “What are your fave books? panel. It was all the GoHs on the panel: GoHs for science, art, videogames, writing, cosplay, and signing (in the sense of translating talks into sign language in real time).

The panelist sitting next to me wouldn’t shut up about some dipshit fantasy books, lavishing cliché praises upon them, trading heartfelt hosannahs with a another motor-mouthed fellow panelist, who claimed to be the “moderator.” And they get onto William Goldman’s Princess Bride (a fine work but, I would humbly submit, not the greatest novel ever written).

And I manage to break in and mention that Goldman wrote a good coming-of-age novel called The Temple of Gold and that it was, in a way, a bit like Catcher in the Rye. And the panelist next to me cries: “The Temple of Gold is SO much better than Catcher in the Rye!” And I’m like, “Well, they’re different.” And the panelist is like “No, Catcher in the Rye is whiny garbage!” And, without turning my head, I deliver what is, for me, the mild-mannered math prof / SF writer, a withering put-down. “And you’re an…English teacher? Hm.”

(2) SEEKING AUTHENTICITY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “How Pixar’s ‘Coco’ became a huge box-office hit”, looks at the ways that Disney/Pixar worked with Mexican consultants on Coco, which not only solved cultural sensitivity problems, but made for a better story.

The company was about two years into the making of “Coco” when it committed a significant PR blunder. For its marketing, Disney in 2013 applied to trademark “Día de los Muertos” — the Mexican holiday the movie centers on — sparking a backlash from prominent Latino voices.

Mexican American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”) helped give image to the outcry. Alcaraz, who had tweeted that trying to brand the holiday came across as “awful and crass,” created the Mickey Mouse-spoofing cartoon “Muerto Mouse,” with the caption: “It’s coming to trademark your cultura.”

According to Jason Katz, the story supervisor on “Coco,” the backlash to the Southern California parent company’s trademark attempt was tough to take in the Bay Area, where Pixar’s Emeryville studio is located.

“Working at Pixar, you’re in a little bit of a bubble. We’re removed from the machine to a certain extent,” Katz told The Post’s Comic Riffs while in Washington. “[We were] trying to be as genuine and authentic as you can. It wasn’t something we were expecting. We were all just disappointed and sad.”

The incident, though, led to a realization. “We needed to make sure that even though we were reaching out to folks, we needed to make this movie differently than any other movie we’d made…”

(3) BY DESIGN. Ada Hoffman’s series of tweets begins with a swing at Rocket Stack Rank, but it’s also a thought experiment about building an sff review site:

Here’s one of her thoughts:

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC (OR COULD BE). Likewise, Vajra Chandrasekera — critic, author, fiction editor at Strange Horizons, and one of this year’s Shadow Clarke jurors – blasts away at Rocket Stack Rank in a set of tweets you enter here. Apart from that, he is thought-provoking on the issue of awards-driven reviews and criticism.

(5) GONE GUY. New tech issues, new “solutions”: “Foiled! Electrician Used A Snack Bag As A Faraday Cage To Sneak Off The Job”.

For a while, Tom Colella had found his escape at the bottom of a bag of crunchy corn snacks. But it was not to last.

Earlier this month in western Australia, the Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, found that the electrician — who was fired last year — had indeed been fired for good cause: He had been ditching work while on the clock, the commission concluded, and had hidden his whereabouts from his employer by MacGyvering a Faraday cage out of an empty bag of Twisties.

But let’s back up a step: A Faraday cage, named for 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, blocks electromagnetic fields. Faraday found that an enclosure — or, in this case, the foil-lined interior of the cheesy corn snack bag — can keep these charges out if there’s enough conductive material.

It appears Colella, 60, had slipped his company-mandated, GPS-enabled personal digital assistant into the bag to block the signals that enabled the device to track his movements.

(6) FROM CARD COUNTING TO GEIGER COUNTING. Another tech trick: “Berlin police find radioactive iodine on playing cards”.

Police raiding a Berlin restaurant have discovered playing cards which had been laced with a radioactive substance.

Detectives believe players could wear a hidden detector on their bodies allowing them to recognise certain cards, giving them an advantage.

The scheme was discovered when a routine check at a waste treatment facility uncovered an increased level of radioactivity in a rubbish truck.

Police managed to trace the vehicle to a restaurant in Berlin.

(7) CONSPIRACY THEORY? Visit Ingolstadt, “The birthplace of the Illuminati”.

The idea that clandestine Illuminati gatherings could be taking place in the small Bavarian city may seem far-fetched, but Ingolstadt does have a history of them. The city is the birthplace of the infamous secret society that has become part myth, part historical truth, and the foundation of countless conspiracy theories.

(8) GROUND SHORTAGE. “The buildings designed to house the dead” — Chip Hitchcock says, “Not exactly Silverberg’s urban monads, but a vertical solution to a different kind of population problem.”

In the last 50,000 years, it’s been estimated that around 101 billion people have lived and died on planet Earth. Like it or not, everyone alive today – and that’s more than seven billion of us – is likely to join them within the next century. So what will we do with all the bodies?

As human populations continue to expand and flood into crowded cities, traditional methods of handling bodies after death are coming unstuck. The issues range from a shortage of vultures in India – which has led the Zoroastrian community to abandon the ancient practice of sky burials in favour of dystopian “solar concentrators” instead – to the 40-year old corpses in Germany that remain mysteriously fresh after decades in the ground. In many European countries, it’s normal to re-use graves after 15-20 years. But recently some of their inhabitants have been refusing to rot.

(9) LEGO IDEA. BrickBros UK’s “Tron Legacy Light Cycle” has been selected as the next LEGO Ideas set.

The tron light cycle is based on the Disney : Tron Legacy film and consists of a tron light cycle with a user minifigure Sam Flynn it also comes with a Grid base to mount the light cycle on for display.

The light cycle allows a minifigure to easily fit into and clip onto the handles, the light cycle its self has a console in front of the user, two handle bars and detailing down the sides, there is also a power stream behind connected to the light cycle. The Sam Flynn minifigure comes in a tron suit with helmet and disc connected on the back of the minifigure for added detail. The light cycle can easily be mounted on to the Grid base with two connection points and the base has the Grid effect with black and trans-blue tiles creating a tron feel and has a medium azure trim for finish.

(10) POLITICAL FOOTBALL. Vox Day blogged something that reminded Camestros Felapton he hadn’t finished critiquing the new anti-SJW book: “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: I forgot this was a series”.

Vox is engaged in a similar exercise in extreme ontology to divide each and every fuss about something into either an example of

  • whiny SJWs being whiny and destroying civilisation because they are so evil and lefty…or….
  • a valiant struggle of brave souls against the forces of SJWs even if it doesn’t seem much to do with them.

Unhappy with how Marvel is directing it’s comic books? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is an anti-SJW crusade regardless of what your opinion is or that you are objecting to how a major corporation is acting.

Unhappy with the choice of coach for a college football team because of his past association with a convicted child abuser? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is lunacy and you must be one of them evil SJWs.

You can retrospectively sort of work out why one and not the other but it is hard to spot in advance.

(11) THE NOT-SO-NEWBORN KING. The Bangor Daily News wants to simplify your shopping — “Eight holiday gifts for the Stephen King fanatic in your life”.

Overlook Hotel keychains

You can let fellow Constant Readers know you’re a fan in a low key kind of way (pun intended) with these cool, retro-looking keychains inspired by various locations in King’s novels. Places like the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining,” Room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York, and a keychain from Darnell’s Auto Repair from “Christine.” Speaking of “Christine,” how about this fun replica of the famed 1958 Plymouth Fury from both the book and the movie?

(12) LEIVA. In 2010, Steven Paul Leiva created and organized Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles. Steven’s novel Made on the Moon has just been published as an ebook by Crossroad Press. For $3.99 you, too, can be made on the moon. Find it on Amazon here.

(13) BRADBURY PRESERVED. The Indiana University Foundation wants to crowdfund $5,000 for the work done by “Students Preserving the World of Ray Bradbury”. They’ve raised $1,139, with 32 days left in the campaign.

Students help preserve over 100,000 papers of correspondence, documents, and photographs in the collection at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Their work has just begun and we need your support.

…Graduate interns and research assistants are important to helping preserve Bradbury’s collection of books, literary works, artifacts, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and so much more. Hear these students tell what they do in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and what this work means to them.

 

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

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]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —

  • For THE MAGICIANS

“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”

  • For THE EXPANSE

“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”

  • For A GAME OF THRONES:

“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KAIJU

  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/17 Like The Best And Worst Of Typos That Lose Control

(1) TASTING SESSION. James Davis Nicoll feeds his test subjects “Ugly Chickens” by Howard Waldrop at Young People Read Old SFF.

With so many works to choose from, which of Waldrop’s stories to pick? “The Ugly Chickens” seemed like a safe bet; the setting is comfortably mundane and it won both the Nebula and World Fantasy Award, as well as garnering nominations for the Hugo, the Locus and the Balrog. I’ve been wrong before; what did the Young People actually think?

Some say yay. Not Mikayla:

I’m not generally a fan of this style of story anyway, but it didn’t matter because I was pretty much done by the third paragraph.

(2) HOME COOKING. Aaron Pound has launched the “The Ad Astra Cooking Project” at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

I recently acquired Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, a collection of recipes from members of the Science Fiction Writers of America edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde. As with all things, I intend to review it, but reviewing a cookbook poses a challenge that most other books do not: There is really no way to accurately review the book based upon reading it. Cookbooks are interactive – you can only appreciate them if you cook the recipes and eat them. So that is exactly what I am going to do….

The book was created to raise funds for the SFWA Legal Fund to support writers in need. The overall theme of the recipes in the book is supposed to be “party”, working on the theory that writers know how to throw a party. A lot of the recipes were solicited for this work, but some were originally collected by Astrid and Greg Bear for a cookbook that was never published. The introductory material includes Connie Willis passing on some excellent cooking advice from Charles Brown, and Carrie Vaughn explaining how to create a cocktail laboratory, including a couple of recipes for some classic cocktails to try. Larry Niven contributes a chapter on how to serve hundreds of cups of Irish Coffee to eager convention-attendees, an essay that is clearly informed by lots of experience….

First out of the oven is — “Ajvar by K.V. Johansen”.

The first recipe in Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook is one that K.V. Johansen discovered when some of her books were translated into Macedonian and she began traveling to the Republic of Macedonia, presumably to promote her work. Ajvar is an eggplant and bell pepper concoction flavored with garlic, cider vinegar or lemon juice, and hot sauce that can be served as a spread on naan or bread….

(3) CHANGING COLORS OF THE SEASON. It’s time for Petréa Mitchell’s “Fall 2017 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories. Here’s one example of what you have to look forward to –

ClassicaLoid 2

The premise: More surreal comedy about characters patterned on famous composers using musical powers to bend reality. And Antonín Dvo?ák will be a pygmy hippopotamus.

Derivative factor: Sequel

The buzz: The first ClassicaLoid was a surprise hit in Japan, but there’s less enthusiasm about it in English-speaking fandom.

Premiere: October 7

(4) ALL FALL. Meanwhile, back on American TV — “Your Guide To (The Many, Many) Sci-Fi And Fantasy TV Premieres And Returns In October” from Creators.

The Fall season launched in September with over a dozen returns and premieres, but things really kick into gear in October. At current count there are 23 (!) shows returning to the schedule or starting their freshman seasons this month, and that means you have quite a lot of #scifi and #fantasy shows to pick from. Below is a rundown of the October entries and you can see the full Fall schedule here.

 

(5) CLASSIC SF BOUND FOR TV. Deadline has a blast of genre news: “Amazon Developing ‘Ringworld’, ‘Lazarus’ & ‘Snow Crash’ In Genre Series Push”.

Amazon has set up three high-profile drama series for development: Ringworld, based on Larry Niven’s classic science fiction book; Lazarus, based on the comic book by Greg Rucka (Jessica Jones); and Snow Crash, based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel.

The streaming platform has been ramping up its slate with new projects as part of a programming strategy overhaul in search of big, buzzy shows. A major emphasis has been put on fast-tracking big-scope genre drama series in the mold of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, with Sharon Tal, brought in earlier this year as Head Of Event Series, tasked with spearheading efforts. The deals for Ringworld, Lazarus and Snow Crash are part of that push….

More discussion at the link.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman beckons his audience to “Ruminate over reindeer with Johanna Sinisalo in Episode 48 of Eating the Fantastic.

Johanna Sinisalo

Joining me this episode was Johanna Sinisalo, who was one of this year’s Worldcon Guests of Honor. Her first novel, Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (Not Before Sundown) won the Finlandia Prize for Literature in 2000 and the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial award in 2004. Her novel Enkelten vert (Blood of Angels) won the English PEN Award. She was a Nebula Award nominee in 2009 for “Baby Doll.” Her novel Auringon ydin (The Core of the Sun) recently won the 2017 Prometheus Award for Best Novel. She has won the Atorox award for the best Finnish-language SF short story seven times.

We discussed what she learned in advertising that helped her be a better writer, how Moomins helped set her on the path to becoming a creator, why she held off attempting a novel until she had dozens of short stories published, the reason the Donald Duck comics of Carl Barks were some of her greatest inspirations, the circuitous way being an actor eventually led to her writing the science fiction film Iron Sky, and more.

(7) KINGS GO FORTH. Daniel Dern says, “This NPR segment gives a good sense of what the King father/son event I went to was like – some of the readings and the schmoozing, including many of the same points and anecdotes I heard them do in person. (hardly surprisingly).” — “Stephen And Owen King On The Horror Of A World Without Women In ‘Sleeping Beauties’, Author interview by Mary Louise Kelly”, initially on NPR’s Morning Edition.

(8) CAVEAT EMPTOR. These are supposed to be Top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Star Trek Discovery. If it turns out you knew them, I don’t know where you go for a refund.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Chip Hitchcock and John King Tarpinian send this warning about a peril for Filers, in yesterday’s Bizarro.

(10) SAFETY FIRST. John Scalzi’s question elicits a thread of entertaining answers….

(11) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY. Teresa Jusino is giving orders at The Mary Sue: “Star Trek: TNG at 30: Here’s Why Wesley Crusher Was Awesome, So You Just Shut Up.”.

Basically, the moral of so many episodes of TNG was basically Hey adults! Maybe if you’d listen to Wesley instead of telling him to shut up all the time, you might learn something! In “The Naked Now,” the entire Enterprise crew is infected with a Polywater intoxication that makes everyone all primal and horny and totally into their own deepest desires. So, naturally, what’s the oft-ignored Wesley’s deepest desire? (Besides Ashley Judd?) That’s right, he makes himself the Acting Captain of the ship thanks to a doohickey that he made for fun that can replicate Captain Picard’s voice.

And yet, even while under the influence, he’s such a genius that he’s able to figure out how to quickly turn the ship’s tractor beam into a repulsor beam when the adult Chief of Engineering tells him it would be too hard. He uses the repulsor beam to propel the disabled Enterprise away from another ship, narrowly avoiding the fragments of an exploding star that would’ve hit them. This is the kind of thing Wesley Crusher was capable of on a bad day….

(12) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. Vox Day’s crowdfunded Alt*Hero raised $37,000 of its $25,000 goal in about a day. Three donations account for $10,000 of the receipts, however, the site reports 426 backers so far.

A new alternative comic series intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel.

(13) AVENGERS GO BOOM. But he may not be able to keep pace with Marvel’s effort to replace itself —

It’s the end of an Avengers Era as we know it! And in the team’s final days, a change has come to the Marvel Universe in the form of a story that’s filled with so much action and so much drama, Marvel had no choice but to make it a weekly epic!

Beginning this January, Marvel will unleash the epic AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER with AVENGERS #675, a weekly saga that unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into an epic tale of heroic action, jaw-dropping cliffhangers, and drastic adventures! The AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a powerhouse of an event that will be unleashed in a story as spectacular and epic as the Marvel Universe itself.

Featuring one of Marvel’s biggest collaborations to date, each issue will be co-written by superstar writers Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz for the first month, Kim Jacinto for the second month, and Paco Medina for the third month.

(14) REMINDS ME OF HEINLEIN. More dreams: “Elon Musk says rockets will fly people from city to city in minutes”.

Mr Musk made the promise at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.

A promotional video says the London-New York journey would take 29 minutes.

Mr Musk told the audience he aimed to start sending people to Mars in 2024. His SpaceX company would begin building the necessary ships to support the mission next year.

He says he is refocusing SpaceX to work on just one type of vehicle – known as the BFR – which could do all of the firm’s current work and interplanetary travel.

(15) SURF’S UP. The BBC reports a journal article: “Tsunami drives species ‘army’ across Pacific to US coast”.

Scientists have detected hundreds of Japanese marine species on US coasts, swept across the Pacific by the deadly 2011 tsunami.

Mussels, starfish and dozens of other creatures great and small travelled across the waters, often on pieces of plastic debris.

Researchers were surprised that so many survived the long crossing, with new species still washing up in 2017.

The study is published in the journal Science.

(16) GENE FIXING. Beyond CRISPR: “DNA surgery on embryos removes disease”.

Precise “chemical surgery” has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC.

The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code.

They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted.

The team says the approach may one day treat a range of inherited diseases.

(17) DANGER UXB. Neat video: “WW2 bombs blown up at sea in Japan”.
US-made shells have been destroyed in a controlled underwater explosion in Japan.

(18) KILLING GROUND. Real-life source of some “Call of Duty” scenery: “The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets”.

That expert was Dave Butler, who ended up going with them. “There was a lot that could have gone wrong,” he says. As a precaution, Butler put the entire team on antibiotics, starting the week before. As a matter of necessity, they wore gas masks with hi-tech air filters, thick rubber boots and full white forensic-style suits, from the moment they arrived.

They weren’t being paranoid. Aerial photographs taken by the CIA in 1962 revealed that while other islands had piers and fish-packing huts, this one had a rifle range, barracks and parade ground. But that wasn’t even the half of it. There were also research buildings, animal pens and an open-air testing site. The island had been turned into a military base of the most dangerous kind: it was a bioweapons testing facility.

(19) THANKS, DONORS. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology is getting longer — “3 Novellas Added! All 3 Print Copies Reward!”

9 days left to go in the campaign, and we’ve reached another stretch goal to add 3 novellas which adds another 58,000 words to the book!  All 3 excellent science fiction stories by S.B. Divya, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Gu Shi with translation by Ken Liu and S. Qiouyi Lu.

I’ve also added a reward level that includes a print and ebook copy of each of the 3 volumes of the anthology for $80–if you’ve already pledged but you’d like print copies of all 3 you can choose to upgrade.

There are still a couple of stretch goals left.  The next one’s just a short hop of $58 from where we are now to add “We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You” by Rebecca Ann Jordan.  And another $300 beyond that to add one more novella “Hammers on Bone” by Cassandra Khaw.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

An Evening With (As In, They’re On Stage, I’m In The Audience) Stephen and Owen King, On Tour Promoting “Sleeping Beauties”

By Daniel Dern: One of the many great things about attending science fiction conventions — regional ones like Arisia, Boskone and ReaderCon, and, where schedule and budget permit, Worldcons — is getting to see/hear, and with luck, planning, and more luck, even getting autographs, perhaps even the chance to chat.

For example, I’ve had, over the years, the privilege of seeing many of my faves (your list will of course vary) like Larry Niven, Anne Leckie, Jerry Pournelle, Samuel R. (“Chip”) Delany, Patricia McKillip, Harlan Ellison, Kit Reed, Barry Malzberg… you get the idea, and, I’m sure, have your own list, and perhaps also stack of autographed books.

But I haven’t seen Stephen King at any of the cons I go to. I became a fan when I encountered his remarkable short story, “Quitters, Inc.” in an anthology. Since then, my King faves include Different Seasons (novellas, including “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”), Firestarter, 1963, The Dome, and his two books of essays on/about writing.

(Although he clearly does go some places: Here’s an hour of King with George, in 2016.)

So back in June when my SO forwarded me an announcement that he was going to be doing an event IN THE TOWN WHERE I LIVE — within reasonable walking distance, no less — as one stop of a book tour that he and his younger son Owen King would be doing for their new (available starting September 29) book, Sleeping Beauties ,you can be I quickly checked my schedule for conflicts and then webbed in my $35 for a ticket.

Note, this event was sponsored or otherwise run by/with Newtonville Books, a local (to me) independent bookstore.

That day has come, I went, I’m back, here’s my report.

A WELL-RUN EVENT

Even before the event proper, it was clear this was done by folks who knew what they were doing. The ticket sales process (using Brown Paper Tickets) was clear and seamless. About a week before, they sent out two or three emails, advising/reminding us how things would go, e.g.:

• The schedule times for “lines start” (5PM), “doors open” (6PM), “event starts” (7PM)”

People were invited to email questions for the Kings, from which a few would be selected and read.

• There would not be any public autographing. (Although I did hedge my bets, bringing my copy of King’s On Writing… just in case a legitimate opportunity arose.)

• Everybody gets a hardcover copy of the new book — at the end of the event. Some would have been pre-autographed.

I got there around 5:15 PM, and there were a fair number of people already. There were two lines, A-L and M-Z. (I assume that was last name, although for me, same difference anyway.) I didn’t see anybody I knew. Some people were wearing or carrying King-themed shirts, handbags, etc. I didn’t see anybody in costume. Everybody was cheerful and well-behaved. (It didn’t hurt that we had perfect New England fall weather.)

Like any experienced fan, I had come prepared — i.e., I’d brought a book. In my case, my library reserve-request of Ann Leckie’s brand-new Provenance, which I’d picked up earlier in the day. I did schmooze some with my fellow in-liners, one of whom had a carry-bag whose design was images of King’s book covers.

The venue was full (the tour’s web site shows all the events SOLD OUT). I’ll guesstimate between 700-800 seats. The background music while we were waiting (once seated) was interesting. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but one cut sounded like the Jefferson Airplane doing a concert version of “Somebody To Love” (i.e., not from their original Surrealistic Pillow album), and later, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen.”

THEY READ, THEY CHATTED, THEY DID Q&A

Stephen and Owen King began by talking briefly about the book. (Per the book’s website: “Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men.”)

They then each read a page or two. Then they dialogued with each other, talking about growing up, becoming writers, how this book happened.

This segued to a Q&A, where they took turns asking each other questions, including Owen asking his dad two questions from the Shawshank Redemption section of The Stephen King Quizbook, which Owen said he’d found in their attic. Then one of the organizers read several of the pre-submitted questions, and they took one from the audience.

The book’s tour web site includes a video of the Kings talking about their new book:

and here they are on Good Morning, America:

One thing that stood out for me is that as part of one of his answers, Stephen King quoted a line from Alfred Bester on the writing process. I’ve always been impressed by King’s familiarity with the canons (the pulps, early sf, comics, etc. — authors and works) and his acknowledgements and citations of them in his essays.

I’m looking forward to reading Sleeping Beauties.

It’s not the first with this premise; the one that springs to mind is The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (Within SFdom, Wylie is/was probably best-known for Gladiator, considered to be one of the influences/predecessors for Superman, and co-authoring When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide. Within popular culture, Wylie is (well, was) probably best known for “momism” in his Generation of Vipers. Other Wylie to check out: Finnley Wren. And my fave, the stories of Florida fishermen Crunch & Des, there’s one or more collections available.

But the world has changed (some) since Wylie’s 1951 take on this kind of event. Plus the “event” is different here. And Wylie and the Kings are, well, very different authors.

Anyhoo, now I can add Stephen King to my (mental) checklist of authors I’ve seen, and heard read.

And oh yeah, my copy of the book from the event includes the authors’ autographs. Whoohoo!