2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

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

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

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

The result of these reading sprees were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/19 You Have The Right To A Dragon. If You Do Not Have A Dragon, Or Cannot Afford One, One Will Be Provided To You Free of Charge.

(1) A DAY OBSERVED. At Book View Café, Diana Pharoah Francis marks the U.S. holiday: “Memorial Day”.

Today is the day we remember and honor those who’ve served in the military and those who continue to serve. Those who died in service to their country, and those who gave up more than any of us can possible know, even though they kept their lives.

This is the day we say thank you, paltry though that is. For me, it’s also the day to remember those who’ve fallen in service to others in all capacities. You give me hope.

(2) PLUS ÇA CHIANG. Ted Chiang authored “An Op-Ed From The Future” for the New York Times: “It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning”. An editor’s note explains, “This is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future…”

…We are indeed witnessing the creation of a caste system, not one based on biological differences in ability, but one that uses biology as a justification to solidify existing class distinctions. It is imperative that we put an end to this, but doing so will take more than free genetic enhancements supplied by a philanthropic foundation. It will require us to address structural inequalities in every aspect of our society, from housing to education to jobs. We won’t solve this by trying to improve people; we’ll only solve it by trying to improve the way we treat people….

(3) GAME OF FORKS. “4000 misplaced forks and knives became a cutlery throne” – translated from Swedish by Hampus Eckerman:

About 300 forks, knives and spoons are separated each day from the food remains of the Uppsala populace, by their local biogas plant. In order to, in a fun way, show how important it is to sort properly, Uppsala water has built a magnificent cutlery throne.

– We believe that the majority of cutlery comes from catering establishments and schools where cutlery is easier to get lost among leftovers. But we do not know for sure, says Jasmine Eklund, Communicator at Uppsala Water.

The cutlery throne consists of about 4,000 pieces of cutlery which corresponds to two weeks of cleaning. The cutlery has been washed and then welded together.

– We do not think that people have thrown the cutlery among the leftovers on purpose. Therefore, we hope that the throne will make people more aware of what they throw out and how they sort, says Jasmine Eklund.

“Great fun that people want to come here”

Until easter Thursday, anyone who wants to visit the Pumphouse in Uppsala can sample the huge glittering throne.

 – We have had many visitors this weekend, and hope for more during the Easter week. It is great fun that people want to come here and learn more about our work, says Jasmine Eklund.

 On Monday morning, Vilgot Sahlholm, 11 years old, visited Pumphouse with his brother, grandmother and grandfather.

 – I think the throne was pretty hard, so it wasn’t so comfy to sit in, he says.

 Cutlery Throne

 Weight: 120 kg.

Number of cutlery: About 4000 pieces.

So much cutlery is sorted out each year: 3,5 tons, which means around 100 000 pieces.

(4) LANGUAGE BUILDING. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, weighs in with  “A Lesson for (and From) a Dystopian World” in the New York Times.

…Throughout his life, the American writer Russell Hoban produced a number of startlingly original novels. Perhaps the most startling of them all is “Riddley Walker,” first published in 1980. (Hoban died in 2011.) The book belongs to the dystopian genre that has become fairly popular in recent decades. What makes it unlike any other is its language — a version of English as it might be spoken by people who had never seen words or place names written down, an idiom among the ruins of half-remembered scientific jargon, folklore and garbled history. In the post-apocalyptic universe created by Hoban, words create ripples of meaning, echoes reaching into the heart of language and thought through a thick fog of cultural trauma and loss…

(5) DOES ANYONE READ THIS STUFF? Ersatz Culture has produced an ambitious set of “Charts showing SF&F award finalists and their rating counts on Goodreads”:

First off, I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no agenda here about how awards should reflect popularity, or that awards that don’t meet someone’s personal perception of what is “popular” are bad/fixed/etc, or any similar nonsense. (Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.)

Award pages

(6) CLARKE AWARD. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, who explains why the six Clarke nominees are worth reading.

Categorisation was something I wanted to touch on. Looking at the list of your previous finalists, I was interested to see books that I wouldn’t initially have considered to be sci fi. For example: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won in 2017. So I wonder if you might say a bit more about the definition of ‘science fiction’ and what you consider it to encompass.

Yes. Going right back to the beginning, to the award’s creation: one of Arthur’s stipulations was that it wasn’t to be an award for the best book-that-was-a-bit-like-an-Arthur-C-Clarke-book. He wanted it to be very broad in its definition. And science fiction is a phenomenally hard thing to define anyway. It’s one of those things, like: I know it when I see it. And it changes – going back to my previous point about how publishing’s view has changed.

(7) CLOSURE FOR D&D TV SERIES. Fans of the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons TV series know that the series never truly ended. Well, Renault Brasil has decided to wrap things up in their new and rather impressive commercial for the KWID Outsider. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.

…Someone also usually writes to ask if there was ever a “last” episode where the kids escaped the D&D world and got back to their own…and occasionally, someone writes to swear they saw such an episode on CBS. No, no such episode was ever produced. One of the writers on the series later wrote a script for such an episode but it was not produced until years later as a fan-funded venture. I do not endorse it and I wish they hadn’t done that…but if you like it, fine.

The show is still fondly remembered and is rerun a lot in some countries. It’s popular enough in Brazil that the folks who sell Renault automobiles down there spent a lot of money to make this commercial with actors (and CGI) bringing the animated characters to life.

(8) WOULD HAVE BEEN 85. Adam Dodd of the Cleveland News-Herald is “Remembering Harlan Ellison: local writer and professional troublemaker”.

“I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket,” wrote Ellison, describing himself while writing the introduction to Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre.’ “My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Ellison’s prickly attitude was typified by the manner in which he left Ohio State University in 1953 after only attending for 18 months. After a writing professor questioned his ability to craft a compelling story Ellison physically attacked him and was subsequently expelled.

(9) THORNE OBIT. Doctor Who News reports the death of Stephen Thorne (1935-2019) at the age of 84.

In the 1970s Stephen Thorne created three of the greatest adversaries of the Doctor, characters whose influence endures in the programme today.

His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first witnessed in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.

He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. No, the author of The Maltese Falcon did not write anything of a genre nature but he did edit early on Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills. I note there are stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long among a lot of writers of writers less well known as genre writers. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. OK, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in the House of Horrors sketch they did. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Expressand so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun,  Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also, she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will.
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1958 Linnea Quigley, 61. Best know as a B-actress due to her frequent appearances in low-budget horror films during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them no one remembers but she did play a punk named Trash in The Return of the Living Dead which is decidedly several steps up from  Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She’s currently Joanie in the 86 Zombies series which streams pretty much everywhere.
  • Born May 27, 1966 Nina Allan, 53. Author of two novels to date, both in the last five years, The Race and The Rift which won a BSFA Award. She has done a lot of short stories hence these collections to date, A Thread of TruthThe Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time DisruptedMicrocosmosStardust: The Ruby Castle Stories and Spin which has also won a BSFA Award. Partner of Christopher Priest.
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 52. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I love even when it wasn’t terribly well-written. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HOME ON THE PULP RANGE. At Galactic Journey, Gideon Marcus tells why some big names are returning to genre (in 1964): [May 26, 1964] Stag Party (Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet and Time of the Great Freeze).

…A lot of authors left the genre to try their luck in the mainstream world.  That’s why we lost Bob Sheckley, Ted Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick for a while.  But times are tough in the real world, too.  Plus, of late, sff seems to be picking up again: IF is going monthly, we’ve got a couple of new mags in Worlds of Tomorrow and Gamma, books are coming out at an increasing rate.  And so Dick is back in force, and others who have left the field are nosing their way back in….

Robert Silverberg is another one of the authors who wrote sff like the dickens back in the ’50s and then disappeared.  He’s still writing and writing and writing, but most of his stuff doesn’t end up on our favorite shelves or in our favorite magazines.

But sometimes…

(12) THINK WESTEROSILY, ACT LOCALLY. In “Name of Thrones:  Why Baltimore-Area Parents Are Naming Their Kids After Characters From the HBO Series”, the Baltimore Sun’s John-John Williams IV reports that a lot of babies in the Baltimore area have become named Arya, Emilia, Khaleesi, Maisie, Meera, and Daenerys because their parents love Game of Thrones.

…Kucharski said she wanted to name her daughter after another strong female. (Arya’s twin is named after Maya Angelou.) The character Arya Stark stood out to Kucharski because of the heroine’s strong-willed nature and the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer.

“She was able to carve her own way,” Kucharski said…

(13) A STORY OF OUR TIMES. No idea if this is true. Have a tissue ready: “Valar Morghulis”.

Footnote – translation of “Valar Morghulis”.

(14) WHAT IS LIFE FOR. Joseph Hurtgen reviews “Holy Fire – Bruce Sterling” at Rapid Tramsmissions.

…By the way, Sterling is a master of juxtaposing the brightness of futurity with dark pessimism. And for presenting the wonder of the future and then darkening and wrecking that vision, Holy Fire might be Sterling’s apotheosis. Sterling’s analysis of the future in this novel is ahead of the curve in the spheres of tech, psychology, human culture, and art. The novel takes place in 2090, a hundred years from when he wrote it, and going on 25 years later, it still reads as if it occurs in a future several decades out. But the real beauty of the work is the pessimism about what some of the early attempts at radical life extension could look like–namely, lost souls, people shadows of their former selves living a second youth, this time more reckless because they’ve already lived a century of making good decisions, so why not?

(15) SPACE OPERA COMPANY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Microreview [book]: The Undefeated, by Una McCormack” at Nerds of a Feather.

There are many ways to tell a Space Opera story. Big space battles with fleets of ships using their silicon ray weapons to destroy the enemy. Or perhaps a story of diplomatic intrigue, where the main character journeys to the heart of an Empire , using words as a weapon to direct, and divert the fate of worlds. Or even have an Opera company tour a bunch of worlds in a spacecraft of their own.

Una McCormack’s The Undefeated goes for a subtler, more oblique approach, by using the life story of a famous, award winning journalist, Monica Greatorex,, whose journey back to her home planet braids with not only the story of her planet’s annexation into the Commonwealth, but of the enemy who seeks in turn to overthrow that Commonwealth.

(16) BREW REVIVAL. The brew that made Macchu Picchu famous: “Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results”.

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Once he got to brewing, the corn-quinoa-spit mixture gelatinized in a stainless steel tank, creating a dense blob equivalent in volume and texture to about seven bathtubs of polenta. Oops.

In another go, Rupp managed to avoid the brew’s gelatinous fate, but encountered a new problem when it came time to drain the tank. “It literally turned into cement in the pipes because the corn was so finely ground,” says Rupp. “People were a little cranky.”

These are the kinds of sticky situations that come with trying to bring ancient flavors into modern times.

A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilizations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co., he has concocted eight of them in a series called “Ales of Antiquity.” The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.

(17) TALL TERROR. BBC profiles “Javier Botet: Meet the actor behind Hollywood’s monsters”.

On first glance, you probably wouldn’t recognise Javier Botet.

Though not a household name, the Spaniard has a portfolio that many in the movie business would kill for.

Over the last few years, the 6ft 6in actor has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest horror and fantasy productions.

From It to Mama to Slender Man – with a Game of Thrones cameo along the way – Javier has forged a reputation as one of the best creature actors in the industry.

…At one point, he went along to a special effects workshop. Both he and the tutor suggested his frame would be perfect to try out monster make-up on.

“I didn’t realise but I was born to perform,” Javier says.

(18) HOW’S THAT BEARD COMING ALONG? Norse Tradesman would be delighted to sell you the Viking Rune Beard Bead Set (24) – Norse Rings for Hair, Dreads & Beards.

(19) IT’S NOT THE REASON YOU THINK. Advice some of you globetrotters may be able to use: “Why You Should Fly With Toilet Paper, According to the World’s Most Traveled Man”.

And when I speak to people, I always put a roll of toilet paper on the podium and let them wonder about it till the end of my lecture. I’m given maybe five to 10 bottles of wine when I travel, so how do you pack wine so it doesn’t break? You put a toilet roll around the neck, because that’s where the bottle is going to break. I’ve never had one break.

(20) SINGULARITY SENSATION. Certifiably Ingame is here to help Trek fans with the question “Fluidic Space: What is it?”

Everything you need to know (but mostly stuff you didn’t) about about the home of Species 8472, the realm of Fluidic Space. This video is mostly theory-crafting about what exactly Fluidic space is as shown in Star Trek as there are no defined answers, but like most Science Fiction, it has may have a basis in reality. Or realities in this case. The laws of physics seem the same, as seen by crossing over, but the USS Voyager also get there by flying into a singularity made by gravitons because its Star Trek.

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

2018 Novellapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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