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)


Waterlines by Suzanne Palmer, Asimov’s July-August (full text)

Synopsis: This is a far-future mystery story taking place on a wintry planet colonized by a few hundred descendents of the Earth diaspora, who share the planet by treaty with a race of humanoid-robot symbionts who live under the sea. When the aliens bring three human bodies to the colony administrator, he must figure out who they are (no one is missing) and how and why they were killed – but as he begins to investigate, he is targeted by the killers, who are hiding a very big secret.

What I thought: The author of the Hugo-winning “The Secret Life of Bots” has hit it out of the park again. The worldbuilding is vivid – I felt the surroundings quite keenly, as if I was there – the plot is engrossing, and the characterization is excellent, with the added bonus of the author’s lovely brand of subtle snark. The story, about who gets to be considered as human, granted agency, and treated with respect, touches on themes of racism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism. This was the only novella out of the 48 I’ve read this year that made me jump up and down. It’s definitely going on my 2020 Hugo ballot.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: +1 to JJ’s rec, fascinating setting and a great story.
Bonnie McDaniel: Thirding Suzanne Palmer’s “Waterlines.” Fascinating setting and story. I’ve only read a few novellas so far this year, but this one’s definitely at the top of the list.
Nina: There’s a good balance between interesting worldbuilding, character moments, action, and investigation. The growing friendship between the two main characters was well-written, and I liked the descriptions of the aliens’ technology.


The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore, Asimov’s July-August (full text)

Synopsis: This story is told from the viewpoint of an enhanced-intelligence trained K9 Search-and-Rescue dog which has been enabled with the ability to communicate with her trainer more fully than normal dogs. The trainer is uncomfortable with her new, highly-sentient partner, and the dog describes her efforts to win over the affections of her trainer, while also relating the details of their search missions.

What I thought: I thought the worldbuilding of a near-future Earth affected by global warming and the enhanced intelligence of the dog is extremely plausible and well-done (the author is a professional dog trainer, which no doubt contributes to the verisimilitude). And the story itself is not only entertaining, but packs a real punch. Highly recommended; this is on my Hugo Novella ballot.

Filer comments:
Kendall: that was great! I also rec it.


Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: In 2080, at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. In 2028, a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery, but in the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely.

What I thought: I think this novella is excellent, with an interesting scientific twist and a plausible near future. The exception is that I had a hard time buying the idea that their goal was going to be enough to save them – but I guess that truly desperate people will grasp at the slightest chance for hope, if it’s the only chance they’ve got. This is one of the few 2019 novellas I’ve read that I feel I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A solid, interesting, and exciting tale of ecological disaster and time travel. This is clever and well-written stuff, with a twisty structure that suits a time-travel tale. Being a novella there’s a lot not explored – the tech and time travel is rather sketched out, and more importantly I wanted to get more of the protagonist’s backstory – but that’s the nature of the novella length.
Bonnie McDaniel: Unfortunately, I was pretty meh about the overall story.
StephenfromOttawa: I… thought it was very, very good. A sophisticated time travel story, brilliantly executed.


Gremlin by Carrie Vaughn, Asimov’s May-June (full text)

Synopsis: This story is sort of a reversal on the famous Shatner Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”: it’s a multi-generational story of a family line of women pilots, stretching from WWII to the Iraq War to the far future, and the supernatural creature which shapes their destinies.

What I thought: Each of the focal characters gets enough screentime for us to get a feel for their personalities, and the author has done her research on real-life pilots, planes, and wars. Themes include respect and kindness for all living things, remorse at the costs and waste of war, and the recognition that other sentient beings are not pets, but full-fledged beings with their own agency and needs. There are some war battles and off-screen deaths, but this is a great feel-good story, and if you’re looking for something that’s interesting, engrossing, and enjoyable, I highly recommend it.


Unauthorized Bread by Cory Doctorow, Radicalized, Tor Books (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a tale of immigration, the toxicity of economic and technological stratification, and the young and downtrodden fighting against all odds to survive and prosper.

What I thought: This novella is the gem of the quartet in Doctorow’s collection Radicalized. It’s a near-future extrapolation of the present, where the Internet of Things has been unsurprisingly used to prevent poor people from being able to exercise personal agency, followed by the inevitable consequences of hacking an unjust system. This story manages to be both uplifting and depressing at the same time. Highly recommended.

Filer comments:
Olav Rockne: I’ll second Unauthorized Bread. Possibly the best thing Doctorow has written.


Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom by Ted Chiang, in Exhalation, Knopf/Picador

Synopsis: Quantum possibilities have been made reality in a device known as the “prism”, the Plaga interworld signaling mechanism. Once activated, it connects to a parallel universe which gradually starts to diverge from that point on – and people can talk to their “paraselves” in that other universe to see how things have gone differently for them in another life.

What I thought: As with all Chiang stories, this one is excellent, with musing on what makes us uniquely ourselves, how our decisions shape the person we will become in the future, and whether those decisions really matter if all possible variations of each decision are made by us in other universes. It didn’t quite have the “wow” ending I was expecting, but it’s nevertheless satisfying.


The Savannah Problem by Adam-Troy Castro [Andrea Cort / Draiken #5], Analog Jan-Feb (full text)

Synopsis: After decades as a covert operative, Draiken finally saw the light and has dedicated himself to destroying the machiavellian organization for which he once worked, along with its counterparts, all of which are engaged in committing a heinous crime against humanity. Now he is on a mission to capture a deadly enforcer/killer who works for a crime boss on a space station. But who are the mysterious clients waiting for delivery of the hostage on a nearby asteroid, why does him believe that the killer will be willing to cooperate with him, and how will this help him achieve his revenge?

What I thought: Not only is each of the stories in this series a standalone science-fictional mystery, they are so deftly-plotted, featuring intricate twists, that it’s only when the pieces slot into place that the brilliance of the plotting becomes apparent. The author has created compelling, well-fleshed-out characters, and fascinatingly-alien races and worlds, served up with intriguing spycraft and detective work.


Once, Future by Kat Howard, in A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, Saga Press

Synopsis: The students in a literature course at a modern-day university are engaged in a semester-long study of the Arthurian mythos and how its pattern is echoed in many events down through the course of history. As part of their immersion in the story, the students take on the names and roles of the various characters in Arthurian legend. And then something strange starts to happen…

What I thought: I’m not big on Arthurian retellings, but I think that this is a very good, rather unique contemporary take on The Matter of Britain. To say any more would spoil the story, so I won’t, but this is well worth the read.


Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Uprooted from his hometown by his father’s failures, a young man finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, he finds his only comforts in the land, and he will live or die by the Orme.

What I thought: Set on Great Orme in Wales, this is a mythic fantasy of a young boy and the damage caused by emotional abuse and infidelity. Also, dragons! Ordinarily, this is not what I consider the sort of thing I enjoy, but I found it really well-written and full of vivid imagery.


Glass Cannon by Yoon Ha Lee [Machineries of Empire], in Hexarchate Stories, Solaris

Synopsis: More than a decade after the empire-revolutionizing events of Revenant Gun, Kel Cheris’ quiet existence as a teacher on her home planet is destroyed when Jedao shows up begging for his 400+ years of memories, pursued by a small army of Shuos assassins. As they go on the run, they discover secrets about the empire’s technological tools — servitors and mothships — which mean that everything is about to change drastically once again.

What I thought: Taking place after the events of the final entry in the Hexarchate trilogy, this story is a great new fast-paced, suspenseful adventure. Those who have not read the Machineries of Empire series will be totally lost, but this is a definite must-read for the series’ fans.

Filer comments:
Bonnie McDaniel: I don’t know if Lee intends to write more novels in the Machineries of Empire universe, but if so, this makes for a terrific springboard. It deals with the reveals and aftermath of Revenant Gun, and throws a strategically placed bomb into the status quo. It probably doesn’t stand alone well (or at all), but for me, it was very satisfying to see my favorite undead General get his memories and his groove back.


To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets which are known to harbor life. A team of four explorers are hard at work on a survey mission, but as they shift through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Is anyone back home still listening?

What I thought: In a switch-up from the usual colony terraforming stories, this novella features a crew sent from Earth with the ability to adapt themselves biologically to each of the planets they explore, rather than changing planets to suit their biological form and wreaking eco-biological havoc in the process. As with the author’s other books, this one is a quiet, thoughtful exploration of human striving, touching on themes of colonialism and human arrogance and the kind of unintentional devastation which has so often come as a result. Well worth the read.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: It’s a very optimistic view, and also in common it’s got much about the successful social dynamics of the ship. Although it’s never mentioned you get the impression the crew’s dynamics themselves have been engineered to last on years-long missions – the viewpoint character comes over as the glue holding together the rest.
I can see people tripping over the ending – news from home precipitates a major decision, and the solution might seem odd but to me fitted well with the themes of the story. If you are someone who dislikes the Wayfarers series for its cosy nature or unapologetic optimism, then you’ll find nothing here to improve your opinion. On the other hand if you object to her, ahem, loose use of science you may find more pleasing elements here as (at least per her acknowledgements) she’s put in the time and research to get elements of space travel and astrobiology right.
Kyra: A well-written novella and a welcome paean to the concept of science for its own sake. I found the very end a little bit heavy-handed – I had already gotten what was being said without the need for it to be spelled out for me – but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the rest of the book.
Contrarius: Hit my Chambers sweet spot. Her novel-length stories often end up boring me, but this one was just the right length to keep me interested. Yes, a decision made at the end is jarring, but we can also call it thought-provoking.
bookworm1398: Chambers’ writing is really remarkable. Some pretty horrible things happen in this book, but she fills it all with love and hope and it doesn’t seem so bad. If you liked her previous books, you’ll like this one. If you thought the previous ones were too slow, that’s true here also.


Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: In the U.S. in 2030, a man executive-produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize. The TV audience is not the only one that’s watching though, and he soon finds out what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.

What I thought: This a well-written near-future story of the “If This Goes On…” sort, in a world where gun violence has been fetishized into a reality show – but it’s far, far too close to current-day reality, and so utterly believable that it makes for extremely unpleasant reading. Definitely not recommended for those who have no spoons available.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Vigilance is an excellent story that I wish I’d never read. I’ve started a review of it several times, but just can’t express my simultaneous admiration of and revulsion at what Bennett managed to write.


The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde [Gemworld #2], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Jewels and their lapidaries and have all but passed into myth. Jorit, broke and branded a thief, just wants to escape the Far Reaches for something better. Ania, a rumpled librarian, is trying to protect her books from the Pressmen, who value knowledge but none of the humanity that generates it. When they stumble upon a mysterious clock powered by an ancient jewel, they may discover secrets in the past that will change the future forever.

What I thought: This is a cogent critique of religious fanaticism and persecution, wrapped up in an engaging adventure. Back when I read the first entry in this series, The Jewel and Her Lapidary – twice – I thought that it was too steeped in infodumping and wasn’t convinced that it held together quite well enough to be outstanding. I re-read Jewel before reading this one, and not only did I come away with a better estimation of the first story this time, I felt that this sequel really leveled-up in terms of plot and storytelling. Highly-recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who enjoyed The Jewel and Her Lapidary.


Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor.com Publishing (Prequel story “Precious Little Things“) (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: In yet another of the author’s retellings of folk stories, this take on the E.T.A. Hoffmann story The Sandman and the ballet adaptation Coppelia features a young woman who makes tiny automatons, and the way they are brought to life and become their own little race of people.

What I thought: I found this story far more enjoyable than Walking to Aldebaran. Its length as a novella suits the depth of the story. I would possibly have found a full-length novel more satisfying, but perhaps the author’s judgment was wise in not trying to make more of the story than is supplied by its premise. Recommended as a quick, enjoyable read.

Filer comments:
BravoLimaPoppa: [On] my best list.
Mark-kitteh: An extremely readable and entertaining novella, featuring a young street thief who has acquired some very interesting little friends – the Made Things of the title – who are magically infused little figures. Add in a a very flavourful fantasy city, controlled by a magical oligarchy and survived-in by a criminal underclass, and some interesting worldbuilding, and there’s a lot packed into this novella.
Xtifr: Seconding the rec for Made Things. Very well done, and just about the perfect size for the story it told.


The Gurkha And The Lord Of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the djinn king wakes up after millennia of imprisoned slumber, he finds a world vastly different from what he remembers. Arrogant and bombastic, he comes down the mountain expecting an easy conquest: the wealthy, spectacular city state of Kathmandu, ruled by an all-knowing, all-seeing tyrant Artificial Intelligence. To his surprise, he finds that Kathmandu is a cut-price paradise, where citizens want for nothing and even the dregs of society are distinctly unwilling to revolt. Everyone seems happy, except for an old Gurkha soldier who is a convicted murderer and outcast. Together, they discover that this paradise has a dark side.

What I thought: I figured out pretty early on where this story was going, but the author’s dialogue, description, and characterization made it enjoyable. Recommended for those who enjoy science-fictional versions of folktales.

Filer comments:
Sylvia Sotomayor: It was delightful. It knocked my socks off. It is one of those books that leads you down the garden path and you end up in a completely different place than you thought. Even if it doesn’t sound like your thing, I highly recommend it. I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers. It will go on my hugo ballot unless six other things knock it off.


The Lights Go Out In Lychford by Paul Cornell [Witches of Lychford #4], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: The borders of Lychford are crumbling. Other realities threaten to seep into the otherwise quiet village, and the resident wise woman is struggling to remain wise. The local magic shop owner and the local priest are having troubles of their own. And a mysterious stranger is on hand to offer a solution to everyone’s problems. No cost, no strings (she says). But as everyone knows, free wishes from strangers rarely come without a price…

What I thought: The next-to-last installment in the series, this entry deals with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease, with a bit of hopefulness in the way that a dying character is given the opportunity to make their death count for something, as well as a renewal of the alliance of the protectors of the village which sits on the border of the real world and the malign faerie world. A worthy return to this world, well worth reading.

Filer comments:
Kendall: what a great novella! Emma Newman was amazing as narrator, as I expected. I especially loved how she did Judith. One point almost made me want to cry, maybe just because things were building up emotionally in various ways throughout the book and I didn’t expect [rot13] Nhghza gb gel gb fnpevsvpr ure shgher ybir [/rot13]. Other scenes were affecting as well, but for some reason that one hit me very hard in the feels. I’m underwhelmed at yet another end-of-the-book scene that felt like it should just be the first scene in the next book… I mean a cliffhanger’s okay, but this just didn’t feel like that. To me, it didn’t add anything to this book; it just felt like “hey I’m writing another one, here’s the first scene.” Regardless, this is a wonderful series and I recommend it (and the audiobooks)!


The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch [Rivers of London / Peter Grant], Gollancz/Subterranean Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: Trier: famous for wine, Romans and being Germany’s oldest city. When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. Enter an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural, and a frighteningly enthusiastic local cop. To solve the case they’ll have to unearth the secret magical history of a city that goes back two thousand years.

What I thought: The plot of this novella is quite similar to previous works in the Rivers of London series, but it features new protagonists and a new location. I can’t speak for the depiction of German culture, but it seemed authentic to me, and the author acknowledges the contributions of his German fans as beta readers and consultants in achieving that. I quite enjoyed it, even if it’s not a revolutionary entry in the series. Recommended for Peter Grant fans and oenophiles.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Although part of his Rivers of London series, this is a new character and location… While Tobias is differentiated from Peter, and the locale is well-drawn, I’d have liked to see something a bit more different here. Still, an entertaining installment and perhaps a good jumping on point if you’ve never tried the series before.
Red Panda Fraction: I enjoyed [it] too, but it does seem a little too parallel to Peter Grant. I imagine it’s a prelude to more international magical cooperation in the future in the series. I’m also sure that Aaronovitch worked hard to get the details right about Germany based on the questions he asked on Twitter and the responses he got. Great premise for the story too.
Chip Hitchcock: [It} gave us an unbelievably ignorant viewpoint to let the author infodump, but turned into a reasonable story (shorter and not as serious as Rivers of London, but in the same universe, just in the Rhine valley in Germany).


Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Orphaned at an early age, the police detective grew up in a small, restrictive Welsh coastal town. As soon as she was old enough, she ran away to London and joined the police. Now, fifteen years later, she’s back in her old hometown to investigate what seems at first to be a simple hit-and-run, but which soon escalates into something far deadlier and unexpectedly personal.

What I thought: Despite it being more of a ghost story and less of a detective story and therefore theoretically not my thing, I really enjoyed this novella and was emotionally-invested in the main character, who must come to terms with her past and that of others, facing regrets and revenge. Recommended for fans of sffnal crime mysteries.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Interesting stuff, and evoked a really good sense of place, but if you write in the more of gritty police procedural you need to get things right, and the lack of intervention from above given an ongoing sequence of enough deaths to be making national news really wasn’t plausible.


Silver In The Wood by Emily Tesh [Greenhollow Duology #1], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of forest, and he listens to the wood. Tethered to the forest, he does not dwell on his past life, but lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. When the nearby estate acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and he is forced to reckon with his troubled past – both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.

What I thought: This is a folktale retelling which I enjoyed far more than I expected, featuring themes of betrayal and redemption, malice and kindness, wrapped up in descriptive imagery and prose.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: [This] has a really evocative sense of place… It’s a meet-cute of sorts, starting a very long-burning slow romance in amongst finding out exactly who [the main character] is. It falls down a bit with some structural choices towards the end of the story, where it tries to rush through events in a way that doesn’t match the earlier drifting tone, but it’s promising enough that I’d read more by Tesh.


The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsay Drager, Dzanc Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: Breadcrumbing back in time from 2365 to 1378 in 75-year snapshots which coincide with the appearance of Halley’s Comet, siblings reimagine, reinvent, and recycle the narrative of Hansel and Gretel to articulate personal, regional, and ultimately cosmic experiences of tragedy.

What I thought: A gimmick such as this often ends up failing by trying to be too clever – but I think this lyrically-poetic work manages the trick successfully. This is ultimately an examination of whose stories are recorded and remembered, and whose stories get forgotten. I didn’t know Ruth Coker Burks’ story, but I thought that it was melded perfectly into this one, and am glad that this story prompted me to find out more about her.

Kyra: This one is going to appeal only to those fans who still like SF when it’s served up litfic style – this novella is about as litfic as it gets, and the SF elements are only a small part of it. But for those who do like that particular intersection of narrative techniques, it’s a good one.


The Orphans Of Raspay by Lois Mcmaster Bujold [World of the Five Gods / Penric], Spectrum Literary Agency / Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon-composite Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

What I thought: This is another enjoyable Penric adventure, with some great humor and snark, but the stakes never quite seem high enough to really make it one of the better entries. It’s possibly a good entry point for those who haven’t read the other stories, since it includes enough background to make sense to those who are unfamiliar with the backstory. And Penric fans will definitely want to pick it up.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A decent instalment in the Penric stories, which means it’s enjoyable and interesting, but not breaking any new ground in this series.
BravoLimaPoppa: [On] my best list.


How Sere Looked for a Pair of Boots by Alexander Jablokov [City of Storms], Asimov’s January-February (excerpt)

Synopsis: A detective in a city populated with a variety of alien races and cultures agrees to try to free a niece’s possibly-wrongly-convicted boyfriend – but when the prisoner declines to be rescued, it’s obvious that there’s something deeper going on.

What I thought: There’s some good humor and worldbuilding in this noirish mystery. It stands alone fairly well, and I found it more enjoyable than last year’s entry. Fans of the author’s ongoing series with this character will enjoy this.


This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, Saga Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: This novella is greatly-informed by Fritz Leiber’s Change War series and its descendents: two factions, each working continuously to change elements of history to achieve a more favorable outcome for their side. Instead of Spiders and Snakes, this story features Red and Blue, two time-traveling agents from opposing groups who develop a correspondence through messages left for each other in strange, arcane ways such as bones and lava flow patterns.

What I thought: Every year, there is one work that a lot of people rave about, which I just… don’t. This year, this is that work. The prose is absolutely poetic and lovely, but the worldbuilding and plot are almost non-existent, and what there is of it is not really believable. This story is the literary equivalent of angel-food cake: beautiful and sweet and enjoyable in the moment, but with no actual substance to it. However, those who appreciate lavish prose, such as in Catherynne M. Valente’s works, will likely enjoy this book.

Filer comments:
Kyra: Well, this was fantastic. Both a great time travel story AND a great romance story. I’m also a sucker for epistolary writing, so that was a nice bonus for me. Highly recommended.
Iphinome: Socks knocked off. Socks flew across the room announced they were leaving me and have since taken up with a younger, more-active paladin.
Contrarius: I’m not generally fond of time travel, but very nicely done. I could just feel how much fun the authors had in writing it! In audio: two narrators, one of whom is the excellent Emily Woo Zeller. I’m not familiar with the other one, but she did a mostly fine job, aside from a few gaffes like pronouncing “causality” and “causal” as “casuality” and “casual”.
Contrarius: But seriously – at times I thought the authors were having a little TOO much fun, and allowing the writing to get in the way of the story. But that’s a minor quibble. It isn’t supposed to be realistic – it’s supposed to be atmospheric and evocative and romantic, and it succeeds admirably in all three of those. Definitely going on my Hugo longlist.
Standback: I enjoyed it, but also came out with very mixed feelings. I loved the concept, the writing, the feel, the tone – every page sucks you in and dances around you, laughing. OTOH, I kept feeling bits were missing – just basic groundwork of what’s going on, what the context is. Like, I never get any sense that I know how Red or Blue feel about the Time War or about their own sides before they start writing, and that feels like… something the story kind of needs? The worst for me was, I just didn’t feel like I could tell Red and Blue apart. They just felt the same. Which is… kind of the whole point? That they’re more like each other than their own sides? But it makes for a weird romance, between two characters who are hardly distinguishable from one another. So I came out with, basically, dual feelings – like, if I look at the story from this angle it’s kind of shoddily constructed, but if I look from that angle it’s fantastic and pitch-perfect. Based mostly on what you focus on as you read, I guess.
Peace Is My Middle Name: I read this book last month and was deeply moved. [It] has so much that appeals to me: Time wars and time travel, super-soldiers, spectacle, poetry, luxuriously gorgeous prose, and a sweet f/f romance. Maybe it’s a prose-poetical form that may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s certainly unconventional. If you like a story that unfolds as a series of more and more outlandish communications, if reading love letters is your jam, this might be the book for you. Highly recommended!
Lace: I listened to this one and found it a good fit for the fun with language in the letters.
Mark-kitteh: I found it.a leeeetle bit too much in places but there’s no doubt it was beautifully written and I can see why so many people are loving it – it’ll be a serious contender.
Mister Dalliard: No words on paper have made me squee with joy this much in years. Does it all hold together? Who cares! It is wildly inventive, emotionally satisfying and beautifully written. Taking issue with the story feels like whining about the lack of coherent narrative in the best sex you’ve ever had. (Yes, I have strong feelings about this one.)
Peace Is My Middle Name: I love the sweet poetry of the writing, and the hesitant, almost disbelieving growing awareness of how much these characters care about each other.


The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities – handling a possessed tram car. Soon, however, two of the ministry’s agents are exposed to a new side of Cairo stirring with suffragettes, secret societies, and sentient automatons in a race against time to protect the city from an encroaching danger that crosses the line between the magical and the mundane.

What I thought: As a worldbuilding book – say, for an RPG – this is fairly interesting, with lots of good cultural details. But as a story, the huge amounts of info-dumping make it tedious and slow for at least the first 2/3 of this 140-page novella. At around 100 pages, the story finally picks up some steam and becomes reasonably enjoyable. There are some good themes of anti-colonialism and womens’ rights worked in, but the lengthy info-dumping keeps it from getting to the level of a great story. Recommended for readers looking to expand their cultural reading experience.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Another triumph of worldbuilding from PDC. This is a vibrant, magical Cairo, but one that is evolving and growing – there’s a subplot around the culmination of a suffrage campaign – and the investigations of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities is the perfect vehicle to explore it. (Set in the same world as A Dead Djinn in Cairo but only tangentially connected.) As a procedural investigation it benefits from a stronger structure than last years The Black God’s Drums, but perhaps loses a little of the surprise. I’d happily read more of these.
CeeV: My response to the author’s previous work has ranged from “liked it with caveats” to “meh,” but this novella I loved… The characters are distinctive and engaging, the plot involving, and the writing style generally* smooth and pleasant. I laughed out loud several times while reading this novella and cried happy tears once. It’s a great story in its own right, though I’m also very much hoping to see more stories set in this world.
* Nitpicky kvetching about the writing style goes here. Clark’s fondness for unique dialogue tags has, if anything, gotten worse. At one point he actually uses the word “drolled.” That’s in addition to uncountable other near-synonyms for “said.” There’s also a scene where the sole female character present is referred to as “the smaller woman,” and one in which a character “had the decency” to do something which required no decency whatsoever, and by now I’m seriously wondering if Clark’s formative writing experiences involved writing fanfic. Though if that’s the case, I wish he’d relied on better beta readers while developing his personal writing style.


More Walls Broken by Tim Powers, Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: A trio of academics have just entered a deserted California cemetery late at night, bringing with them a number of arcane devices aimed at achieving an equally arcane purpose: to open a door between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and to capture the ghost of their recently deceased colleague. Their experiment, naturally, fails to come off exactly as planned. A door between the worlds does, in fact, open, letting in something – someone – completely unexpected.

What I thought: My first work by Powers was Salvage and Demolition, which I absolutely loved, and to which any of his works read since then inevitably get compared. This is an enjoyable little tale of crossed wires and alternate universes, but it’s a bit predictable. It would make a great Twilight Zone episode. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but Powers fans are sure to appreciate it.


The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a disturbing but interesting thought experiment about a future UK where paranoia about immigrants has caused the creation of a system whereby foreign applicants are put through a rigorous psychological process to determine whether their character and ethical traits warrant them being let into the country.

What I thought: This story raises some good questions about the roots of human bias and the way it manifests in peoples’ behavior, and about how we judge the relative value of the lives of others. While an interesting idea, ultimately the story falls down on the fact that no anti-immigration country would invest this massive of a quantity of money and human and technological resources into administering such tests (never mind the futility of trying to keep them secret, as the story claims they have done) – especially when this has the ultimate self-defeating result of leaving those who “pass” the test emotionally-damaged and perhaps no longer able to be good citizens. Such countries would just disallow immigration entirely, or settle for a much less expensive triaging system. This is worth reading, but in my opinion the implausibility renders it not award-worthy.

Filer comments:
Contrarius: Ho – leeee – SHIT. I highly recommend listening to this rather than reading it. It’s a very disturbing read – not gory or anything, but very emotionally taxing. But I STRONGLY recommend it. It’s only 2 hours – well worth the time investment.
Contrarius: I agree that the necessary nuts and bolts (expense and so on) make such a program unrealistic in the Real World – but so are things like the setup for The Hunger Games and a bazillion other sff stories. That isn’t the point. With this story, it’s the emotional impact – the wallop of being hit over the head with “THIS is what you’re doing to people” – that really got to me. It’s not just about literally testing immigrants – it’s about everything we carelessly do in our comfy first-world lives that impacts on people whom we can thoughtlessly label as The Other, and the real cost of that carelessness. And it’s for sure on my longlist. I’ll have to see how the impact holds up on reread, closer to nomination.


Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A hot new band on the scene has been releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band’s fans. A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following the band on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band’s lead singer is hiding an incredible, impossible secret.

What I thought: This novella is a bit hard to classify, ranging from science fiction to fantasy to horror to the New Weird. It was interesting enough for me to read the whole thing, but I wasn’t really blown away by the story. There’s lots of atmosphere and fantastical description with a soupçon of futuristic technology, but it’s very light on the character development. Recommended for those who enjoy Lovecraftian or weird fiction; others may find it less to their taste.


Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system on a near-miss trajectory past Earth. A group of eco-minded young people are taking no chances: they board a mobile aquaculture rig, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. But as the object draws nearer, its updated trajectory shows it coming much closer than predicted, and it will change the conditions of life across the globe forever.

What I thought: I’m generally an avid fan of Egan’s stories, but I found this to be fairly basic post-apocalyptic YA which did not really get me emotionally-invested. The plot and characterization are unexceptional, but it’s nevertheless worth reading for his usual rigorous worldbuilding.

Filer comments:
Lorien Gray: This was my favorite thing I’ve read so far this year. It’s not your typical post-apocalypse story as it focuses more on the slow build-up of stress and reaction as our protagonists try to find ways to help before civilization gets overwhelmed. It captured, in an understated way, how difficult it is when you’re just a few people trying to do the most you can but it’s horribly inadequate in the face of a slow motion, but global threat.
Mark-kitteh: I also liked it. It’s about people preparing for, and surviving, extreme climate change, albeit not of the AGW kind. I thought the choice of finale a bit odd though.


In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children #5], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A misfit young woman accidentally finds her way into the Goblin Market, spends years living there and bonding with a good friend, and then returns to the real world. Unable to choose between the worlds, both of which hold great attractions for her, she ends up paying a terrible price.

What I thought: I never gained an appreciation for portal fantasies as a child, which probably colors my opinion here. I feel as though this story is just a variation on the same theme as the previous series entries, and does not really bring much that is new to the table. But this backstory for one of the Wayward Children will definitely appeal to fans of folktale retellings, portal fantasies, or the earlier entries in this series.

Filer comments:
Nina: I really enjoyed it – as usual, the world McGuire created for her protagonist to run away to was fascinating. Interestingly, both [it and In the Shadow of Spindrift House] share the theme of a protagonist feeling torn between her biological family and her found family.
Contrarius: We are back to doesn’t-quite-do-it-for-me on this one. McGuire can obviously write effective prose, and it’s a gracefully told story. There’s just… something… about the way she looks at things that I don’t quite get. I can’t describe it. Too preachy, too moralistic, too…something. I dunno. In audio this is read by Cynthia Hopkins, who did a good job.


The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the human side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman. A man with a troubled past comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

What I thought: This novella is a cross between a mystery and a quest fantasy, in a folktale setting. The prose and worldbuilding are vivid, but there’s not a lot that’s innovative here in terms of plot or characterization. Recommended for those who enjoy folk- and fairy-tale retellings.

Filer comments:
Kyra: Weird and wild. I liked it. If you’re fond of fantasy books that throw you in the deep end without explanation so you can enjoy the swim, this one is for you. I’m kind of surprised this one hasn’t attracted more attention, actually.


A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan [The Seven Swords #1], Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: It is two hundred years since a deity went mad and destroyed the Kingdom, transforming it into the Execration, a blasted wasteland filled with nameless terrors. For decades, desperate souls have made pilgrimage to the centre of this cursed land to seek the Mad God’s favor, their fate always unknown. Now a veteran warrior known only as Pilgrim, armed with a fabled blade inhabited by the soul of a taunting demon, must join with six others to make the last journey to the heart of the Execration.

What I thought: This is an enjoyable but unexceptional quest fantasy following role-playing tropes, with a group of adventurers possessed of varying skills. It’s apparently the first of 7 novellas, each featuring a sword of different powers.


Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world in Naples with Ferdinand and a throne. Instead she finds herself a captive in her father’s castle in Milan, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts. Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.

What I thought: A sequel of sorts to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this novella tells the story of Miranda after her return from the island, when she finds herself prisoner in her father’s castle and must devise a way to escape after being faced with a terrible truth. The prose is beautiful and evocative, but the story itself does not rise above the usual dark family secret fantasy level. Recommended for Shakespeare fans.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: I think it takes a certain level of self-assurance to take Shakespeare’s iconic characters and write your own continuation of their story, but this version works nicely… There’s a nice romance as Miranda finds someone other than her distance prince – I’m often a bit meh on romance but I rather liked this one, as it worked to create a realistic relationship and reveal the characters. This is really nicely written, an interesting concept that takes a different direction from some others I’ve seen but is justified by the source material, and the lead characters grabbed me.


The Gorilla in a Tutu Principle or, Pecan Pie at Minnie and Earl’s by Adam-Troy Castro, Analog Sep-Oct (full text) (full text of prequel Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl’s)

Synopsis: A young engineer working on the Moon repeatedly encounters a couple of strange astronauts doing bizarre things – but it never happens when one of his co-workers is around. Is he going crazy? Or is he being pranked? And who would have the ability to pull off pranks requiring this level of technological advancement?

What I thought: I really, really recommend reading the Nebula-nominated prequel story (linked above) before reading this one, because that context makes it even better. I think that the prequel is a better story than this one, which seems a bit heavy-handed and takes quite a while to really get to the payoff, but I enjoyed both of them.


A Time to Reap by Elizabeth Bear, Uncanny Magazine November-December (full text)

Synopsis: The cast in a play about a never-solved true-crime murder mystery visits the site of the murders. The actress who plays one of the victims finds herself thrown back in time, with the opportunity to find out what really happened.

What I thought: The premise of this story is really interesting, as is much of the story itself, and I enjoyed it. But I thought that the time-travel paradox of events which did and did not happen due to the main character’s intervention was inconsistent and doesn’t really make sense – which is a shame, because I liked the rest of the story enough to want it to make sense. Content warning for domestic violence and allusions to sexual abuse.


Hope Is Swift by Seanan McGuire [October Daye], in The Unkindest Tide, DAW Books

Synopsis: This novella fleshes out the backstory for Raj, the heir to the Kingdom of Cats, with an adventure involving his changeling girlfriend and his best friend, which may mean the end of him, nine lives notwithstanding.

What I thought: As with all the later October Daye entries, new readers are not advised to start here, but this will be enjoyable for fans of the series.


Instantiation by Greg Egan [3-adica #2], Asimov’s March-April (excerpt) (full text PDF of prequel 3-adica)

Synopsis: The sentient computer personalities who escaped from Sludgenet’s control in 3-Adica now face a different threat; Sludgenet is going out of business, and they’re utterly dependent on its hardware resources to survive.

What I thought: I thought 3-Adica was really good, but this story seems like a bit of a re-tread, and I didn’t think it brought much new to the table, but fans of the first installment may enjoy these further adventures.

The Lost Testament by Allen Steele [Arkwright], Asimov’s March-April

Synopsis: A descendent of long-ago human colonists is seeking artifacts which may unlock secrets of their past, but the planet’s indigenous race is doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.

What I thought: This is another case where I thought the first entry, Starship Mountain, was really good, but didn’t think this sequel brought much new to the table, and it’s more of an installment in the series than a complete story.

Escape from Sanctuary by Allen M. Steele [Arkwright], Asimov’s November-December

Synopsis: This new installment of the story begun in Starship Mountain” and The Lost Testament brings further revelations into the mystery of the ancient human explorers who colonized the planet.


All of Me by R. S. Benedict, Fantasy and Science Fiction March-April

Synopsis: This modern update of “The Little Mermaid” features a sea creature who rescues a man from drowning and ends up being mercilessly exploited for her trouble.

What I thought: I really, really did not care for this story. Theoretically, the main character should be a sympathetic one, but I kind of just wanted every single character in this story to die in a fire. Recommended for readers who enjoy fairytale subversions or dark mermaid stories.

Filer comments:
Standback: A very weird story, and typically of Benedict, sharp and haunting as well.


Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell, Jr. (expansion of Who Goes There?), Wildside Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: Recently discovered at Harvard by scholar Alec Nevala-Lee, long buried in John W. Campbell’s papers, here is the original version of Who Goes There? It adds 3 prequel chapters to the classic story.

What I thought: I can see why these chapters were cut: they put all of the worldbuilding revelations into the front of the story and leave nothing for the reader to gradually figure out. I also doubt that this is a substantial-enough addition to re-qualify this novella for the Hugo Awards; there’s certainly not enough new here to make it a nominee for me. Campbell fans and those who loved The Thing may want to pick this up.


A Wasteland Of My God’s Own Making by Bradley P. Beaulieu [The Song of Shattered Sands], Quillings Literary Agency (Overdrive excerpt)

Synopsis: A renowned warrior left the grasslands of her homeland long ago and rose to prominence in the fighting pits in the big city. What she revealed to no one, however, is the terrible secret that drove her to leave her home in the first place. That secret is brought back to the fore when her sister tribeswoman comes to the city unannounced and tells her that if she fights one final bout in the killing pits, both their demons will be excised. How can she start a new life with her beloved when the terrible acts she committed in her homeland still haunt her?

What I thought: As with the other novellas in the Shattered Sands universe, this one provides the back story for one of the ancillary characters. This one stands less on its own, I think, than the other novellas; without a basic knowledge of the universe, I do not think it can be truly appreciated. Recommended for completists, but not required reading for the series.


Escaping Amnthra by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Asimov’s September-October / WMG Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When the captain and senior crew abandon their ship which is stranded millions of light-years from home, the ship’s linguist assumes command. She needs to get the ship and remaining crew home despite her lack of leadership abilities and technical training. As the ship comes under attack from the planet below, she must figure out how to operate the ship’s weaponry while battling her own past to become captain in more than just name alone.

What I thought: This short novella is a backstory side-trip which did not fit into the novel The Renegat. It will likely be of interest to fans of the Diving Universe series, but is not likely to make much sense to anyone who has not read The Renegat. Recommended only for Diving Universe completists.


Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, Radicalized, Tor Books (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: A darkweb-enforced violent uprising against insurance companies is told from the perspective of a man desperate to secure funding for an experimental drug that could cure his wife’s terminal cancer.

What I thought: This is an all-too-plausible story of a good person whose devastating personal experiences send him down the slippery slope into radicalism and terrorism. It’s interesting, but I didn’t rate it as exceptional. Readers who study social media may especially find it of interest.


Masque of the Red Death by Cory Doctorow, Radicalized, Tor Books (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: This story hearkens back to Doctorow’s Walkaway, taking on issues of survivalism versus community.

What I thought: This is the story of a small group of selfish, self-absorbed survivalists and the way that their advance preparations fail to ensure their survival after the collapse of civilization. It’s good, but doesn’t quite rise to the level of great. Humanists will appreciate the ending.


Model Minority by Cory Doctorow, Radicalized, Tor Books (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: A Superman-like figure attempts to rectify the corruption of the police forces he long erroneously thought protected the defenseless… only to find his efforts adversely affecting their victims.

What I thought: This is a darker take on some recognizable superhero tropes and the downside of vigilantism. The obvious-but-not-named-franchise superhero characters didn’t do much for me, but fans of superhero stories will likely appreciate it.


The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald [Luna], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A young woman growing up on the Moon has a new sister who is everything she is not: tall, beautiful, confident. They’re unlikely allies and even unlikelier sisters, but they’re determined to go on an adventure to find the moon’s first footprint, even if the lunar frontier is doing its best to kill them before they get there.

What I thought: This is, unsurprisingly, a Heinlein homage set in the author’s Luna universe and written from a slightly different angle. Those who enjoyed the childish jealousy and competitive stupidity of the original will likely enjoy this as well. Those who are not into angsty teenage angst may have less appreciation for it. I found the first part rather annoying and tedious, but the story does get better as it goes along, and there is some nice imagery and adventure for those who stick it out.


Her Silhouette, Drawn In Water by Vylar Kaftan, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: All she has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet with only a fellow prisoner for company. The other prisoner says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. She has no reason to doubt her companion – until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.

What I thought: This novella is a take on the “virtual reality as a prison” story, with some interesting worldbuilding but a rather predictable plot. The story is far too much sex and personal relationship for my taste and not enough of the other story elements. It reads a bit as if it’s a transcript of a roleplaying game. Recommended for those who enjoy stories about relationships, such as Karen Memory.


Longer by Michael Blumlein, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: A married couple who are R&D scientists for a pharmaceutical giant on an orbiting station are wealthy enough to participate in rejuvenation: rebooting themselves from old age to jump their bodies back to their twenties. Rejuvenation will “take” two times, but never a third. After one of them has juved for the second and final time but the other refuses to do so, questions of life, death, and morality test their relationship.

What I thought: This novella uses life rejuvenation and extension as a mcguffin to explore the marriage of two scientists which is imploding due to growing apart and having different needs and goals. There’s a lot of bickering and internal monologuing, which I found tedious. Recommended for those who enjoy lengthy relationship autopsies.


The Undefeated by Una McCormack, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: This is a story of a retired journalist and her journey back to her home planet, and of persons who are artificially-created for slavery, and the accounting which eventually comes to the slave owners for their crimes.

What I thought: I thought that the backstory of this novella was really interesting, but the story itself mostly consists of narrative relating events which occurred in the past rather than taking the reader along for the ride as they occur, which has a disappointing distancing effect and makes it difficult to get emotionally invested in the main characters. [I think that the choice of “jenjer” as a designation for the slave race was unfortunate in that it kept making me think that the slaves were all redheads, and pulling me out of the story. Given the author’s apparent haircolor, this may have been an intentional dig at childhood tormentors.]


Macsen Against The Jugger by Simon Morden, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Two centuries after the Earth fell to enigmatic alien machines known as the Visitors, humanity survives in sparse nomadic tribes. An adventurer undertakes hazardous quests; quests that have made him a hero. He never fails, but this time he crosses the path of one of the deadliest of all the Visitors. Can he find a way to defeat the alien and survive?

What I thought: I’ve read several novellas and novels by this author now, and I feel that they’re pretty consistently strong in terms of worldbuilding but less so in terms of plot and character development. This one reads like a transcript of a role-playing game to me, but is worth reading for the worldbuilding.


Auberon by James S.A. Corey [The Expanse], Orbit Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: Auberon is one of the first and most important colony worlds in humanity’s reach, and the new conquering faction has come to claim it. A Governor has been sent to bring civilization and order to the far outpost and guarantee the wealth and power of the Empire. But Auberon already has its own history, a complex culture, and a criminal kingpin with very different plans.

What I thought: This is an interesting bit of backstory for one of the colony worlds of the Expanse novels. Fans of the series should enjoy it, but readers who are unfamiliar with the universe may find something to appreciate here as well.


The Man Who Would Be Kling by Adam Roberts, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When two strangers ask the manager at Kabul Station to take them into the Afghanizone he refuses. What sane person wouldn’t? Thought to be the result of an alien visitation, the zone is deadly. Nothing works there. Electrical items are your enemy; they malfunction or simply blow up. The pair go in anyway, and the biggest surprise is when one of them walks out again. Nobody survives the zone, so how has she?

What I thought: This homage to the Strugatskys’ Roadside Picnic is a rather caustic takedown of the naivety, colonialism, and privilege inherent in the worldbuilding of Star Trek. Trek fans may find it either annoying, or food for thought; I got a little of both. Ultimately, however, I think the story suffers from trying to be too clever (note the bad pun in the title, for example), and I don’t think it’s successful.


Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: When a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud finds a strange alien rock, an international team of scientists and astronauts is put together to go and look at it. When disaster hits and the team is split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, one astronaut somehow survives. But there is something terrible in the tunnels with him.

What I thought: This is a mythic retelling, translated to a science-fictional horror setting, with a subversion similar to that in Peter Watts’ The Things, but less compelling (I was rolling my eyes at the end). This story would possibly be enjoyable for fans of classic myth.


Angels of the Silences by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: Emily and Biff are seventeen and best friends. They have been dead for nine months…

What I thought: This is a rape-revenge horror fantasy, and it pretty much follows the usual tropes. Content warning for rape, mutilation, violence and death.

The School House by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: A man who works at a psychiatric home must confront his past, after a childhood friend is committed for burning down their old school, and dark memories start to resurface.

What I thought: This is a dark take on the long-excused “boys will be boys” bullying and abuse, and its aftermath. Content warning for bullying, sexual assault, suicide, violence and death.

And Cannot Come Again by Simon Bestwick, And Cannot Come Again, ChiZine Publications / Simon Bestwick

Synopsis: The events of a long-ago summer and first love return with lethal consequences for four childhood friends.

What I thought: I really didn’t need to read about any more cruelty or abuse; these 3 novellas are probably the last I’ll read of this author. Content warning for bullying, murder, mutilation, mental illness, and suicide.


Aeota by Paul Di Filippo, PS Publishing

Synopsis: On the trail of a missing con man, a private eye uncovers a vast conspiracy that stretches from the dawn of time to the Omega Point – and finds himself central to the whole enigmatic game.


Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield [Alice Payne #2], Tor.com Publishing (audio excerpt)

Synopsis: After abducting Arthur of Brittany from his own time in 1203, thereby creating the mystery that partly prompted the visit in the first place, Alice and her team discover that they have inadvertently brought the smallpox virus back to 1780 with them. Searching for a future vaccine, they find that the various factions in the future time war intend to use the crisis to their own advantage.


Ark by Veronica Roth, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: It’s only two weeks before an asteroid turns the Earth to dust. Though most of the planet has already been evacuated, it’s one woman’s job to catalog plant samples for the survivors’ unknowable journey beyond. Preparing to stay behind and watch the world end, she makes a final human connection. As certain doom hurtles nearer, the unexpected and beautiful potential for the future begins to flower.


The Ascent To Godhood by Jy Yang [Tensorate #4], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: For fifty years, the Protector ruled, reshaping her country in her image and driving her enemies to the corners of the map. For half a century the world turned around her as she built her armies, trained her Tensors, and grasped at the reins of fate itself. But now, the Protector is dead, and her greatest enemy can only mourn her loss, immersed in memories of how it all began.


The Bone Shaker by Edward Cox, NewCon Press

Synopsis: In the heart of the Great Forest, nothing is as it should be. Sir Vladisal and her Knights of Boska are lost and far from home. The son of their Duchess has been kidnapped, spirited away to a nameless place within these dark and endless woodlands.


Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise, Broken Eye Books (excerpt)

Synopsis: The Royce family has been a plague on their small Southern town for generations. Rumors about the family circulate in that small town, as do rumors about a monstrous creature known as Catfish John living in the swamp. When the Royce house burns down, the sheriff takes in the sole survivor, a young girl who becomes friends with his son. Years later, the sheriff’s son has now become the sheriff himself, and the monsters of his childhood return.


Chivalry by Gavin Smith, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When a knight follows his chivalric hero to war, he soon discovers that heroes are often better worshipped from afar. Betrayed, badly injured, left for dead, he is nursed back to half-life by a ghoul necromancer. Joining forces with a taciturn professional murderess, he returns to the war, determined to set the record straight.


The City of Lost Desire by Phyllis Eisenstein [Tales of Alaric the Minstrel], Fantasy and Science Fiction January-February

Synopsis: The caravan that Alaric joined as an entertainer has finally completed its desert crossing and arrived at the ancient city that was always its goal, bringing trade goods that include fine furniture, salt from the mines of the desert, and a potent, addictive drug that the rich and royal of the city crave. Alaric is drawn by the mystery of the tower that stands outside the city and by the secrets that seem to pervade the royal palace and its inhabitants.


Cruel Fate by Kelley Armstrong [Cainsville], Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: Three years after discovering that her biological parents are convicted serial killers, Olivia finally has her life back. She loves her new job, as investigator for her partner who is a notorious defense attorney, and her role as the legendary Mallt-y-Nos to Cainsville’s fae population. She’s finally seeing her father freed from jail, where he’s been wrongly imprisoned for over twenty years. But someone has arranged for a victim’s body to appear, with clues leading back to her father.


Dangerous People by Ursula K. Le Guin [Kesh / Always Coming Home], Library of America

Synopsis: The story of one missing woman and the people around her who may or may not be implicated in her death or disappearance, this novella explores larger questions about what – in relationships, in society – make a person “dangerous”; and in giving us the Kesh perspective, the author ultimately shines a light on our own society’s perceptions of truth, gender, and relationships.


The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Hodder & Stoughton (excerpt)

Synopsis: Yetu holds the memories for her people – water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners – who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one – the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu, but the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.


Desdemona And The Deep by C.S.E. Cooney, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: The spoiled daughter of a rich mining family must retrieve the tithe of men her father promised to the world below. On the surface, her world is rife with industrial pollution that ruins the health of poor factory workers, while the idle rich indulge themselves in unheard-of luxury. Below are goblins, mysterious kingdoms, and an entirely different hierarchy.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: [Features] a great character, very much flawed – impulsive, not considering others enough, but also determined and with a sense of morals. The fantastical elements are great – this isn’t a twee faerie, or an unremittingly evil one, but one that acknowledges that its inhabitants are just very very different. The conclusion that the real monsters are at home is perhaps a bit on the nose but I think it was well-earned. This is a lyrical, atmospheric story with a complex main character.


Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind – hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out ages ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved.


The Esteemed by Robert Reed [Veritas], Asimov’s January-February

Synopsis: It’s the mid-1970’s, Gerald Ford is President, and a time traveler arrives with dire warnings about the future – and the evidence to convince the masses that he’s telling the truth. The people of the world make changes to avoid the horrible future he predicts. But the time traveler keeps returning, each time with new warnings which must be heeded.


Gabriel’s Road by Laura Anne Gilman [The Devil’s West], Book View Cafe (excerpt)

Synopsis: Most folk in the Territory never think about the magic around them. They’ve never encountered a magician, fought a spell-beast, or bargained with the devil. But Gabriel is not most folk. A year spent mentoring the woman who is the Devil’s Left Hand has brought him closer to the Territory’s magic than he’d ever wanted. But now he is on his own again, free of all obligation. Except the Territory – and his own destiny – isn’t quite done with him yet…


A Hazardous Engagement by Gaie Sebold, NewCon Press

Synopsis: A young woman’s brother presents her with a challenge. If she wants to join his gang, she and her team have to steal a magical belt that’s locked to the waist of a bride, on her wedding night, in a fortified castle, on a rock in the middle of the sea. She takes him up on it. But when she discovers just how much her brother didn’t know, the job proves even more hazardous than she bargained for…


How Alike Are We by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Jihyun Park and Gord Sellar, Clarkesworld October (full text)

Synopsis: After being diverted from their original destination to assist with an emergency at a colony on Titan, a transport ship is subjected to demands by a mysterious AI.


In The Shadow Of Spindrift House by Mira Grant, Subterranean Press (excerpt)

Synopsis: A young woman who was raised by her grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her parents has become part of a tight-knit teen detective agency which agrees to investigate the mystery behind a decrepit house of uncertain ownership. But the house may have its own ideas…

Filer comments:
Nina: [It] was really good too, though that’s straight-up horror rather than fantasy or sci-fi. Interestingly, both [it and In An Absent Dream] share the theme of a protagonist feeling torn between her biological family and her found family.


Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold [Sharing Knife], Spectrum Literary Agency / Subterranean Press (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: After a two-year stint on patrol, a Lakewalker returns only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of his mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.


The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who you are, how you got there, or where you were before. All you have is the disconnected voice of an attentive caretaker. Dr. Kuhn is there to help you – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She’ll help you remember everything. She’ll make sure you reclaim your lost identity. Now answer one question: Are you sure you want to?


Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade [Conversation Pieces #70], Aqueduct Press

Synopsis: All our monsters are mirrors. And when Mary Shelley’s monster – built from her life rather than her pen, born out of biography instead of blood – outlives its mother, that monster goes looking for a substitute. But all the monster really knows of women is that women write, and so the search for a replacement takes it first to Katherine Mansfield, and then to other women who know what mutilated things can be made from ink and mirrors…


The Monster Of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, Tor.com Publishing (excerptaudio excerpt)

Synopsis: The city sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats – a monster who cannot die. The monster and its master will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.


Morpho by Philip Palmer, NewCon Press

Synopsis: When the corpse on the mortuary slab sits up and speaks to a woman, asking for her help, she thinks she’s losing her mind. If only it were that simple. She discovers a secret society through which the privileged govern from the shadows, that immortality is being bought at a horrific price, and that a rebellion threatens to undermine the social order of the entire world.


New Atlantis by Lavie Tidhar, Fantasy and Science Fiction May-June

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic utopia where the few survivors of the climate change collapse now live in harmony with their environment, an elderly woman tells the story of her adventure to a ruined city to see the remaining marvels left behind by the ancient ones.


Nomads by Dave Hutchinson, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Are there really refugees from ‘elsewhere’ living among us? If so, what cataclysmic event are they fleeing? When a high speed car chase leads a police sergeant to a farm, he finds himself the focus of unwanted attention from Internal Affairs, and is faced with the prospect of things being unearthed that he would far rather stayed buried.

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: Does a good job on maintaining a sense of mundanity before delivering a nice SFnal twist. Interesting but felt like it had more ideas than it could fit into the length, and the end was rather inconclusive.


Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness by Aliette de Bodard [Dominion of the Fallen], in Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Subterranean Press

Synopsis: This is a comedy of manners set in the Dominion of the Fallen universe, where a Fallen angel attempts to throw a relaxing birthday party for her lover, and everything goes wrong in all the worst possible ways.


The Rampant by Julie C. Day [Conversation Pieces #69], Aqueduct Press

Synopsis: Two 16-year-old young women have spent most of their lives enduring the nightmare of the never-ending rapture. It’s been a decade since the ancient Sumerian gods descended on Indiana, promising that the chosen people would ascend to Nibiru, but the terrifying entity called the Rampant – the last of the Evil Messengers heralding the destruction of civilization – seems to have missed the memo. Until he shows up, the rapture can’t happen.


Randomize by Andy Weir, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: An IT whiz at the casino is enlisted to upgrade security for the game of keno and its random-number generator. The new quantum computer system is foolproof. But someone on the inside is no fool. For once the odds may not favor the house – unless human ingenuity isn’t entirely a thing of the past.


Recrossing Brooklyn Ferry by John Richard Trtek, Asimov’s May-June

Synopsis: This homage to Walt Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is a near-future story of a time-travel agent and his lost love, in which they are part of a resistance group attempting to undermine the current totalitarian government.


Serpent Rose by Kari Sperring, NewCon Press

Synopsis: Camelot: there are four sons of Lot at court and Sir Gaheris knows himself to be the least of them. Yet the charismatic and headstrong young knight Sir Lamorak looks up to him in particular, despite more obvious choices. When Lamorak catches his mother’s eye, Gaheris knows there’s trouble brewing. Soon he finds himself at the centre of family tensions, deceit and tragedy. Can he prevent the bloodshed that seems inevitable?

Filer comments:
Mark-kitteh: A tale of family feuds and personality clashes in a nicely gritty-feeling version of Arthurian Britain, with no fantastical elements as such (except for being a non-existence history, of course). The plot rather depends on the main character being clueless, which was frustrating at times, and it didn’t quite stick the landing, but I enjoyed it all the same.


Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather, Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy aboard a living, breathing ship which seems determined to develop a will of its own. When the order receives a distress call from a newly-formed colony, the sisters discover that the bodies and souls in their care are in danger… and not from void beyond, but from the nascent Central Governance and the Church itself.


Summer Frost by Blake Crouch, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: The minor non-player character in the world Riley is building was made to do one thing: die. But when the NPC makes her own impossible decision – veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map, Riley gets curious and extracts her code for closer examination, and an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing her into the real world. But what if the NPC has real-world plans of her own?


Surfers at the End of Time by Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw, Asimov’s November December (full text)

Synopsis: These are the continuing mad antics of accidental mathematicians Zep and Del, who take to the waves after inventing a surfboard that can surf through time.


The Survival Of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson [Molly Southbourne #2], Tor.com Publishing (excerpt)

Synopsis: Who was Molly Southbourne? What did she leave behind? A burnt-out basement. A name stained in blood. Bodies that remember murder, one of them left alive. A set of rules that no longer apply. Molly Southbourne is alive. If she wants to survive, she’ll need to run, hide, and be ready to fight.


Winter Wheat by Gord Sellar, Asimov’s Sep-Oct (full text)

Synopsis: This story of gene-hackers and small-farmer resistance begins in the dead of winter and progresses through a twelve-year cycle in a near-future Saskatchewan.


You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles, Amazon Forward Collection

Synopsis: When his wife first tells him about a twenty-first-century fertility lab, a man sees this as the natural next step in trying to help their future child get a “leg up” in a competitive world. But the more he considers the lives that his child could lead, the more he begins to question his own relationships and the choices he has made in his life.


You Must Remember This by Jay O’Connell, Analog November-December (full text)

Synopsis: When she’s resurrected into a post-catastrophe world 13 years after dying, Maura finds herself in a changed society, and she must re-invent herself to survive while trying to find the person who brought her back.


Pixel Scroll 2/6/20 Yondah Lies The Pixel Of My Filer

(1) OVERLOOKED MARKETING WIZARD. The Hollywood Reporter wonders: “He Was ‘Star Wars’ ‘ Secret Weapon, So Why Was He Forgotten?”

Ashley Boone Jr., the first black president of a major Hollywood studio, helped make George Lucas’ quirky space opera a hit in the 1970’s — yet chances are you’ve never heard of him: “He was way ahead of his time.”

When thousands gathered Dec. 16 in Hollywood for the world premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — supposedly the last Skywalker film — they heard Bob Iger, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams thank everyone from creator George Lucas to the actor who played R2-D2. But one name was not so much as whispered, despite this person’s critical 1970s role in launching what would become the most successful movie franchise of all time: the all-but-forgotten Ashley Boone Jr….

(2) WHERE TO LOOK FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth by John Garth, “an illustrated look at the locales familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle-earth,” will be released by Princeton University Press on June 2.

Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.

(3) BRADBURY ON STAGE. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birth, Caltech Theater celebrates the prolific science fiction writer by producing a series of his one-acts and adapted stories: Bradbury 100. (Ticket prices at the link.)

The creative team of Bradbury 100 is drawn from Caltech undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, Caltech community and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), to celebrate the legacy of Bradbury and his connection with Caltech that began over fifty years ago.

FIRST WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 21 & 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 23 at 2:30 p.m.

All Summer in a Day. directed by Aditi Seetharaman
Marionettes, Inc., directed by Barbie Insua
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

SECOND WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 28 & 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 1 at 2:30 p.m.

The Flying Machine (in Mandarin w/English subtitles), directed by Miranda Stewart
A Sound of Thunder, directed by Doug Smith
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

On Friday night of the second weekend (2/28/20) H/SS Professor Chip Sebens will discuss Bradbury’s science fiction and the paradoxes of time travel and on Saturday night (2/29/20) one of Ray’s daughters Ramona Bradbury and her two daughters Claire and Julia Handleman will make appearances on stage to share personal stories of their father and grandfather.

(4) CALIFORNIA HERE YOU GO. Isaac Butler interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about science fiction, utopia, and the reissue of his Three Californias trilogy in “Three Californias, Infinite Futures” at Slate.

So it’s a few years later, you’re writing The Wild Shore, the first in the trilogydo you remember how you worked out the post–nuclear apocalypse world of it?

I went back into the history of science fiction and read other after-the-fall novels: Earth Abides by George Stewart, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, a couple of Philip K. Dick—especially Dr. Bloodmoney. I also got to study with the California poet Gary Snyder at UC–Davis. In terms of these Three California novels, Snyder is as important as anybody in terms of my teachers, because he was the one that established what a California writer ought to be doing: facing Eastern Asia, getting interested in Buddhism, kind of getting rid of the European influences. I began thinking of myself as a poet in the Snyder tradition before I discovered the science fiction. That was always underlying every sentence.

(5) BCS STAYS ABOVE EVENT HORIZON. Beneath Ceaseless Skies met its goal of attracting enough Patreon support to keep their pay rate for short stories at 8c/word, which is the new higher SFWA “pro” pay rate. BCS was able to institute the new rate when it went into effect last September, but there had since been some contraction in their Patreon support. BCS is now back on target.

(6) EVALUATING THE LOCUS LIST. Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Annotated 2019 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction” is now online.

The merge lets us analyze the Locus list to see which stories that were broadly recognized as outstanding were left out, which publications stood out, which authors did particularly well (or not), how many were eligible for the Astounding Award, and how RSR‘s own recommendations stack up with Locus reviewers in general.

Eric Wong adds, “As with all RSR lists, you can flag and rate stories on the page, see the recommendations earned by each story (reviewer, award, year’s best anthology), get links to the story, author, and other reviews (if online), and group stories by length (default), publication and author.”

(7) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Asimov’s and Analog have made the short fiction on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2019 available as free reads – in PDF files linked from the Locus list. That’s seven stories altogether. [Via Rocket Stack Rank.]

(8) ‘DIVERSE EDITIONS’ SUSPENDED. “Books pulled over ‘literary blackface’ accusations” – BBC has the story.

The largest bookseller in the US has pulled a new series of “culturally diverse” classic book covers after facing widespread criticism.

Barnes and Noble launched the new Diverse Editions on Tuesday, featuring new covers illustrating the main characters as people of colour.

But the initiative to mark Black History Month received a swift backlash with authors calling it superficial.

The bookseller said it had acknowledged the criticism and suspended the series.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby-Dick and Frankenstein were among the titles included.

On the back of the redesigned covers, the company said: “For the first time ever, all parents will be able to pick up a book and see themselves in a story.”

But the move faced a barrage of criticism.

“This is essentially literary blackface,” tweeted author Frederick Joseph.

(9) RUSS AND LE GUIN.  Joanna Russ and her relationship with feminism and science fiction is chronicled by author B.D. McClay in a New Yorker profile “Joanna Russ, the Science-Fiction Writer Who Said No”.

[The] rift between Russ and Le Guin was a different sort of disagreement. Even before the symposium, the two writers had begun to distinguish themselves from each other, though Russ seems to have been more invested in these differences than Le Guin was. In public, Russ had written a harsh review of Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed,” characterizing some of the book’s central conceits as “a fancy way of disguising what we already know” and its anarchist society as poorly realized. Privately, to mutual friends, Russ accused Le Guin of being accommodating to men, of refusing to write as a woman. In some ways, Le Guin conceded the argument—she claimed to write under the influence of her male “animus”—but in other ways she resisted. After all, wasn’t her freedom not to write “as a woman” precisely the point?

At stake in this disagreement was not simply the sorts of struggles that feminists have always had with one another. There was also a question of what science fiction was for and what it should ultimately do. For Russ and Le Guin both, science fiction represented the possibility of telling a genuinely new story. Science fiction, Russ once wrote, was poised to “provide myths for dealing with kinds of experiences we are actually having now, instead of the literary myths we have inherited, which only tell us about the kinds of experiences we think we ought to be having.” The form aspired not to fantasy but to reality.

The search for that reality led Russ and Le Guin in different directions, and, though the latter has become, in the years since, the face of women in speculative fiction, it would be a mistake to regard Russ as overshadowed.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 6, 1974  — Zardoz premiered. Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling and Sara Kestelman. It was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman. It was made on a shoestring budget of one point six million and made one point eight million at the Box Office. Critics praised its special effects but thought both the acting and story fell rather flat. It holds a 50% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.   His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1927 Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her first venture into SF was the Fifties very camp Queen of Outer Space which she followed up by being in Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie. She had a cameo in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. She’s Erika Tiffany Smith on Gilligan’s Island, and Minerva on Batman. One of her last appearances was as herself on The Munsters Today as she retired from acting in late Nineties. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Mamie Van Doren, 89. She made but two SF films, the first being The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (a.k.a. Monsters of the Night and The Night Crawlers), and the second being Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually, if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 6, 1943 Gayle Hunnicutt, 77. I’m giving her Birthday Honors as she was Irene Adler, opposite Jeremy Brett, in the first episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”. She also shows up in The Martian Chronicles, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Legend of Hell HouseFantômas (a French series) and Tales of The Unexpected
  • Born February 6, 1943 Fabian, 77. Bill Dexter in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (which the Italians got boring by naming it Le spie vengono dal semifreddo, literally “The spies who came in from the cool”.) He doesn’t have much of a genre resume appearing only once on Fantasy Island, plus being in Kiss Daddy Goodbye. The latter would be shown on Movie Macabre, Elvira’s early Eighties movie show.
  • Born February 6, 1947 Eric Flint, 73. Definitely a Good Guy for both being on Baen Books and fighting against the Sad Puppies who thought he’d be on their side because he was, well, on Baen Books. They really should’ve looked at his work history. Now fiction-wise, I really like his Assiti Shards series, and the Heirs of Alexandria as well.
  • Born February 6, 1958 Cecily Adams. She played Ishka (aka Moogie), mother of the Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark, in four of her five appearances on Deep Space Nine. (Andrea Martin played her the first time.) Most of her genre experience was in such concerns as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Flash Forward, Lost on Earth, Bone Chillers and 3rd Rock from The Sun. (Died 2004.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump tells us why we don’t know about Pinocchio’s brother.

(13) YOU SHALL NOT PASS (THE BAR). Food & Wine suggests everyone “Eat Gandalf-Themed Corn Dogs at This ‘Lord of the Rings’ Pop-Up Bar”.

After ending 2019 with a magical Harry Potter Christmas pop-up, Chicago’s Replay Lincoln Park bar is back with another franchise theme targeting a devout fanbase. Last weekend, the space transformed into a Lord of The Rings wonderland, …and it has everything from meals named after Frodo to photo opps with a Ring Wraith and the Balrog…

To fuel your quest, Replay has once again partnered with Zizi’s Cafe, a local restaurant, to create a LOTR-inspired menu. Think Gandalf’s Corn Staff (aka, two corndogs), Pippin’s Popcorn, Beef Lembas, Frodo’s Dolma, Fried Po-Tay-Toes, and Lord of the Wings—plus, the Onion Ring to Rule Them All, if you’re not prone to the ring’s temptations. 

(14) SPACEFLIGHT RECORD. “Christina Koch: Nasa astronaut sets new female space record”.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Koch parachuted down to the grasslands of Kazakhstan at around 09:12 GMT.

She spent 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS), surpassing the previous record held by fellow American Peggy Whitson.

Her stay is just 12 days short of the all-time US record set by Scott Kelly, who was on the ISS from 2015-2016.

“I’m so overwhelmed and happy right now,” she told reporters as she sat outside the capsule, shortly after it touched down in the snow.

Ms Koch surpassed the 289-day record set by fellow American Ms Whitson on 28 December last year. But her return to Earth sets the marker for future space travellers to beat.

Whitson still holds the record for most time spent in space by a woman, accrued over the course of three spaceflights from 2002-2017.

(15) FORTY-FIVE CALIBER STORIES. Cora Buhlert continues her look at Retro-Hugo eligible work in “Retro Review: ‘The Monster Maker’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Monster Maker” by Ray Bradbury is a science fiction short story, which appeared in the spring 1944 issue of Planet Stories and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found here….

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following!

(16) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP: BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Riverdale last night and thought Filers would like to get up to speed on what’s happening with Archie and the gang.

We learned that Archie’s uncle, Frank, was a mercenary who had other mercenaries chasing him.  One of the mercenaries fights Archie in a high school men’s room and throws Archie into a sink which is smashed.  The rogue mercenary is captured shortly thereafter.

Jughead is in a chess death match with the president of the Quill and Skulls fraternity.  In the middle of the match action is stopped because an alarm goes off at the fraternity.  The fraternity president finds that Betty and a friend have discovered a secret trove of VHS sex tapes which the fraternity compiled for use against the frat’s many enemies. The chess match resumes, but soon ends when Jughead deliberately causes a checkmate and I’m not sure why.

Veronica and her friend Katy Keene decide to go out, and Veronica asks her friend, ‘Do you like drag?’

(17) STORMQUAKES. NPR did a segment on “Discovering ‘Stormquakes'”:

Seismologist Wenyuan Fan explains the accidental discovery — buried deep in seismic and meteorological data — that certain storms over ocean water can cause measurable seismic activity, or ‘stormquakes.’ He says this phenomenon could help scientists better understand the earth below the sea.

The original paper Wenyuan co-authored on stormquakes is here.

Transcription of the NPR interview is here.

…As Wenyuan and his colleagues outlined in their paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, stormquakes all come down to waves.

FAN: Because when you have large storms, it will couple with the ocean and make high waves.

SOFIA: Gotcha.

FAN: And by doing the cross-examination of the ocean waves and the seismicity, we start to see a clear correlation between the occurrence of stormquakes and also the high-wave conditions.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dinosaurs In Love” on Vimeo is a song by Fenn Rosenthal about what happens to dinosaurs when they fall in love.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Castro, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Nina, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

Premio Ignotus 2019

The Premio Ignotus 2019 (2019 Ignotus Awards) were presented by Spain’s Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror at HispaCon (the Spanish National SF convention) on December 7.

Cristina Jurado’s Bionautas won the award for best novel originally written in Spanish. Becky Chambers, Nnedi Okorafor and Ursula K. Le Guin won awards for works translated into Spanish.

Novela / Best Novel

  • Bionautas, by Cristina Jurado (editada por Cerbero)

Novela Corta / Best Novella

  • UNO, by Nieves Delgado (editada por Cerbero)

Cuento / Best Short Story

  •  “Por una amiga”, by Rocío Vega (en la antología La compañía amable editada por Cerbero)

Antologia / Best Anthology

  • La compañía amable, by Rocío Vega (editada por Cerbero)

Libro de ensayo / Best related Book

  • Contar es escuchar, by Ursula K. Le Guin (editado por Círculo de tiza, with translation by Martín Schifino)

Articulo / Best related work

  •  “New Weird: siempre es posible otra realidad”, by Teresa P. Mira de Echeverria (en la web Origen cuántico)

Ilustración / Best Cover

  • Cover of SuperSonic 12, by Juan Alberto Hernández (editada por Cristina Jurado)

Producción audiovisual / Audiovisual production

  • Café librería, podcast by Carla Plumed, David Pierre and Miriam Beizana

Tebeo / Comics

  • Lo que más me gusta son los monstruos, by Emil Ferris (editado por Reservoir Books)

Revista / Magazine

  • SuperSonic, managed by Cristina Jurado

Novela extranjera / Foreign Novel

  • El largo viaje a un pequeño planeta iracundo [The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet], by Becky Chambers (editada por Insólita, with translation by Alexander Páez)

Cuento extranjera / Foreign story

  • Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (editado por Crononauta, with translation by Carla Bataller Estruch)

Sitio web / Web

Pixel Scroll 12/1/19 That Is How Pixels Scroll When They Are Excited

(1) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. Art Daily announces “Return of the auction: Sotheby’s announces second sale dedicated to Star Wars”. A ‘Return of the Jedi’, Promotional C-3PO helmet (1983) might bring £15,000-25,000.

Following a sell-out auction in 2015 from the collection of NIGO®, Sotheby’s will now host its second sale dedicated to ‘Star Wars’ collectibles, titled ‘Star Wars Online’. Encompassing around 100 lots from the acclaimed franchise, the online-only sale, open from 29 November to 13 December, offers the opportunity to acquire a piece of pop culture history just days ahead of the highly-anticipated release of the final film in the sequel trilogy, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’.

(2) CLARION CALLS. Applications for the 2020 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop are open now through March 1, 2020. The workshop will be held June 21, 2020 – August 1, 2020 on the UC San Diego campus.

(3) ANOTHER SATISFIED MURDERBOT CUSTOMER.  Ann Leckie reports on “Books I’ve Read Recently”.

First off, just to make you all jealous, I’ve read Martha Wells’ Network Effect–you know, the Murderbot novel that’s not out till next May? Yeah, that one.

“When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

“Drastic action it is, then.”

Yeah, it’s just as awesome as you’re hoping it is….

(4) STAR TREK CATS. Today, the Spock Cat. “Live long and prospurrr…”

  • Based on the artwork by Jenny Parks
  • Officially-licensed Star Trek collectible
  • Part of the Star Trek Cats Collection
  • Limited Edition
  • Doesn’t React to Any of Your Jokes
  • Transporter-Inspired Base with Star Trek Logo

(5) A BETTER MOUSE, ER, READER TRAP. Renay turned criticisms of a Barnes & Noble aisle-end book display into a great thought experiment and post for Lady Business“Let’s Get Literate! Building Better Book Endcaps”.

Book presentation is itself a complicated art, using data and knowledge of trends. It’s why I love browsing indie bookstores, when I get to go somewhere with one (ha ha rural life is so dire). You can look at their endcaps and displays and see patterns, and if you’re well read in a genre, you can also see those indie folks making jokes, critiquing, showing books in conversations with each other. This is the part that Unregulated Capitalism can never replicate. What I saw happening in this photo made my soul leak from my body to pool on the floor of B&N, defeated.

Then I thought: I could give this a shot and drag some friends along for the ride. I claim no expertise in building endcaps like the pros in indie bookstore culture. I just wanted to cheer myself up and create a dream endcap that would make me happy to see. So everyone gets a book tag!

(6) LE GUIN ON SALE. Grasshopper Films is selling “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” for $14.97, down from $29.95. Sale ends Monday night, NY time.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 1, 2012 Dragon Wasps premiered.  Starring Dominika Juillet, Nikolette Noel and Corin Nemec, this Little Dragon Productions currently rates 12% at Rotten Tomatoes and doesn’t appeared to have any published reviews. You can see the trailer here.
  • December 1, 2017 Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1 premiered. Directed and written by Christian Pasquariello,  it starred  Iwan Rheon as S.U.M.1, André Hennicke as MAC and Rainer Werner as V.A.X.7. Filmed in Germany, the English language version rates 18% as its audience score at Rotten Tomatoes.  You can see the trailer here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 Rex Stout. He did several genre or at least genre adjacent novels, to wit How Like A GodThe President Vanishes and his lost world tale, Under the Incas. Though I’ve read lots of Stout, I’ve not read these. ISFDB also lists Rue Morgue No. 1 as genre but this appears to be mysteries or possibly straightforward pulp tales that he co-edited with Louis Greenfield. (Died 1975.)
  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. It’s rare that I pick writers that have done one work one that has defined them but his one such work is, well, phenomenal in this regard. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, won one of the inaugural National Book Award for the Most Original Book of 1935, is most decidedly fantasy. Bradbury would so like the novel that he included it in The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories which is rather obviously named after it. It is said the Circus in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modelled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, Next Gen, Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice was altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 83. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series.
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 77. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his new crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know he wrote novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet?
  • Born December 1, 1954 Douglas Niles, 65. He was one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of the first three Forgotten Realms novels. I’ve not played it as I was into Travellers’ Aid Society when I was gaming. So how was it as a game system? 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 55. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other.   Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others she says is about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. 
  • Born December 1, 1956 Bill Willingham, 63. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not having been a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals,  and he later wrote the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC.
  • Born December 1, 1971 Emily Mortimer, 48. She was the voice of Sophie in the English language version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns. She was the voice of Lisette in the superb Hugo animated film, and was Nicole Durant in The Pink Panther

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dilbert does a nice take on the Robot Apocalypse.
  • Non Sequitur presents the writer’s version of the infamous tombstone.
  • Tom Gauld charts this year’s reading experiences.

(10) PROBES ON THE WAY. Mars is on the menu in 1964 as Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus serves up the news: “[December 1, 1964] Planet Four or Bust! (What we know about Mars)”.

…This week, humanity embarked on its most ambitious voyage to date.  Its destination: Mars.

I use the term “humanity” advisedly, for this effort is a global one.  On November 28, 1964, the United States launched Mariner 4 from Cape Kennedy.  And just yesterday, the Soviet Union’s Zond hurtled into space.  Both are bound for the Red Planet, due to arrive next summer. 

He gives a great overview of the Mars portrayed in sf and popular science – all of which is about to go by the boards.

….Such was our understanding of the planet perhaps a decade ago.  Recently, ground-based science has made some amazing discoveries, and it may well be that Mariner and Zond don’t so much revolutionize as simply enhance our understanding of the planet.

I just read a paper that says the Martian atmosphere is about a quarter as dense at the surface that thought.  This isn’t just bad for breathing — it means NASA scientists have to rethink all the gliders and parachutes they were planning for their Voyager missions scheduled for the next decade.  Observations by spectroscope have found no traces of oxygen and scarcely more water vapor.  The planet’s thin atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The ice in the polar caps may well be mostly “dry”.

(11) DEADLY CUTENESS. “Baby Yoda Duels Palpatine in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Fan-Edit”ScreenRant sets the scene:

Baby Yoda fights Emperor Palpatine in a brilliant new Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith fan edit. After months of anticipation, The Mandalorian finally hit Disney+ earlier this month, and fans everywhere immediately fell in love with the show’s breakout character, a tiny alien child unofficially christened “Baby Yoda” who made a surprise first appearance in the kickoff episode (a “twist” that was immediately spoiled by Twitter).

(12) THE MAGIC IS BACK. “In ‘Children Of Virtue And Vengeance,’ Magic Has Returned. Now What?” – NPR interviews Tomi Adeyemi.

Children of Blood and Bone was an instant success last year.

The young adult fantasy novel by then-24-year-old author Tomi Adeyemi has so far spent 89 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It made countless best books lists, and it was optioned for a movie by Disney. It spoke to people.

“I always pitched it as Black Panther with magic,” Adeyemi says. “It’s this epic young adult fantasy about a girl fighting to bring magic back to her people.”

And now there’s a sequel: Children of Virtue and Vengeance. The heroine, Zélie, has succeeded in her quest to bring magic back to her people, the maji, and the land of Orïsha. But the nobility and the military now have powerful magic, too. And civil war looms.

For Zélie and her ally Amari — a runaway princess who has joined the rebellion, so to speak — the question becomes: Now what? And how will their personal traumas play out?

(13) ANTICIPATORY MUG SHOTS. BBC reports “China due to introduce face scans for mobile users”

People in China are now required to have their faces scanned when registering new mobile phone services, as the authorities seek to verify the identities of the country’s hundreds of millions of internet users.

The regulation, announced in September, was due to come into effect on Sunday.

The government says it wants to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace”.

China already uses facial recognition technology to survey its population.

It is a world leader in such technologies, but their intensifying use across the country in recent years has sparked debate.

What are the new rules?

When signing up for new mobile or mobile data contracts, people are already required to show their national identification card (as required in many countries) and have their photos taken.

But now, they will also have their faces scanned in order to verify that they are a genuine match for the ID provided.

China has for years been trying to enforce rules to ensure that everyone using the internet does so under their “real-name” identities.

(14) DARWIN WINNER? “Booby traps: Man in Maine killed by own device”.

A 65-year-old American man who rigged his home with a booby trap to keep out intruders has been killed by the device.

Ronald Cyr called police in the town of Van Buren in the state of Maine to say he had been shot.

Police found a door had been designed to fire a handgun should anyone attempt to enter. Mr Cyr was taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

It is not uncommon for home-owners to install such traps – but it is illegal.

Police in Van Buren, which borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick, said they responded to a 911 call in the early evening of Thanksgiving, last Thursday, from a man who said he had been shot.

“Following an extensive investigation that lasted into the early morning… it was determined that Mr Cyr had been shot as the result of the unintentional discharge of one of his homemade devices,” the police department said in a Facebook post.

(15) E.T. BUY PHONE. CNN backgrounds a nostalgic commercial: “Phone home! E.T. reunites with Elliott and viewers in a Thanksgiving TV ad”.

If you suddenly burst into tears during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade commercial break, your younger family members might’ve been startled. But they probably never dreamed of taking flight on a bike with an alien in the basket.

E.T. — yes, THAT E.T.! — made a surprise appearance in commercial for telecommunications company Xfinity. Only this time, he landed on Earth on purpose, and he’s learning about tablets and playing in the snow.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/23/19 Any Sufficiently Interesting Typo Is Indistinguishable From A Commenting Prompt

(1) WHO’S ON FIRST. The Mirror (UK) reports “No Doctor Who special this Christmas – but new series will start New Year’s Day”.

Doctor Who fans face a Christmas without their favourite show, with no festive special planned – for the second year running.

But there is some good news – the long-awaited 12th series is due to start on New Year’s Day, with one of the biggest episodes in the show’s history.

…The second half of the story is then expected to air on January 4, as the series shifts back to its traditional Saturday evening teatime slot.

(2) OVERHEARD. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware called attention to “Issues at Audible’s ACX: Attempted Rights Fraud, Withdrawn Promotional Codes”.

Two issues involving Audible’s ACX have come across my desk recently….

Rights Fraud

I’ve heard from several self- and small press-pubbed authors who report that they’ve found their books listed on ACX as open to narrator auditions…except that they, or their publishers, didn’t put them there. This appears to be an attempt to steal authors’ audio rights….

Promotional Code Shenanigans

Multiple authors have contacted me to report that they’ve received an email from ACX withdrawing their promotional codes. The cited reason: “unusual activity,” with no explanation of what that means….

(3) AND WHAT DO THOSE KNIGHTS SAY? In “The Knights of Ren Gather in New Footage For Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Io9 breaks down a new TV ad.

In a newly released 30-second TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker, things are coming to a head. We see and hear some familiar things: Rey and Ben gearing up for a climactic confrontation, Luke imploring a listener (probably Rey) to face fear, as confronting fear is “the destiny of a Jedi.”

(4) WRITER ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Michael Chabon tells readers of The New Yorker about writing for Star Trek while his father was dying: “The Final Frontier”.

Ensign Spock, a young half-Vulcan science officer fresh out of Starfleet Academy and newly posted to the Enterprise, found himself alone in a turbolift with the ship’s formidable first officer, a human woman known as Number One. They were waiting for me to rescue them from the silence that reigns in all elevators, as universal as the vacuum of space.

I looked up from the screen of my iPad to my father, lying unconscious, amid tubes and wires, in his starship of a bed, in the irresolute darkness of an I.C.U. at 3 A.M. Ordinarily when my father lay on his back his abdomen rose up like the telescope dome of an observatory, but now there seemed to be nothing between the bed rails at all, just a blanket pulled as taut as a drum skin and then, on the pillow, my father’s big, silver-maned head. Scarecrow, after the flying monkeys had finished with him. His head was tilted upward and his jaw hung slack. All the darkness in the room seemed to pool in his open mouth….

(5) THE APPEAL OF SFF. Michael Chabon also shares his youthful discovery of “Le Guin’s Subversive Imagination” in The Paris Review.

…But my first experience with her work was about more than delight, admiration, or love. It was about transformation. The person I was on the way to becoming, in 1972—a particular coalescent configuration of synapses, apperceptions, and neural pathways—did not survive the encounter, at age nine, with A Wizard of Earthsea. The first volume of her Earthsea trilogy, the book was set in a richly realized and detailed imaginary topography of islands and ocean where the craft of language—the proper, precise configuring and utterance of words by a trained adept who knew their histories and understood their capabilities and thus could call things by their true names—had the power to alter reality, to remake the world.

But what really rearranged the contents of my skull was this: the book itself was a fractal demonstration of its own primary conceit. With nothing but language—lines on paper, properly configured—Ursula K. Le Guin conjured an entire planet into vivid existence, detailed and plausible from its flora to its weather to the dialects and ceremonies of its inhabitants. And while that world vanished the moment I closed the book’s covers, the memory of my visit, of young Ged’s searing struggle with his own malign shadow, remained. In Earthsea, the wielders of linguistic power were known as wizards, and they called their craft magic, but it was obvious to me, even at nine, that the true name of magic was writing, and that a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin was a mage.

(6) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Doctor Who has posted an updated compilation of “All The Doctor’s Regenerations.”

From The Tenth Planet, all the way to Twice Upon A Time – Re-live ALL of the Doctor’s regenerations.

(7) PRO TIP. “Toby Kebbell Has Advice for the Next Dr. Doom in Marvel’s Fantastic Four Reboot” and Movieweb passes it along:

Toby Kebbell, who played Doctor Doom the poorly received 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, was asked by Movie Web if he had any advice for the next actor to essay that role. He did.

“Make sure Marvel are in control.”

 (8) EARLY PROMISE FULFILLED. The New York Times obituary “Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89” includes a selection of cartoons.

… he settled into a spartan 1950s bohemian life in New York, trying to break in but mostly accumulating rejections.

“Editors would take my drawings, laugh like hell, then hand them back and say, ‘Sorry, our readers wouldn’t understand,’” he told The Boston Globe in 1973.

And there are many more great cartoons in Michael Maslin’s farewell at The New Yorker, “The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons of Gahan Wilson”.

 Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self.

(9) MCPHEE OBIT. Former bookstore owner and NESFAn Spike McPhee died November 13 in Cambridge, MA. Proprietor of the Science Fantasy bookstore in Harvard Square from 1977 to 1989, McPhee was also an art collector, and avid follower of science and space exploration news.  He was a GoH at the 1990 Arisia.

Chip Hitchcock notes, “[Spike told] me some 40 years ago that he was the only fan to gafiate to run a science-fiction bookstore; he’d been active in NESFA before then but the store ate his time; I’ve lost track of whether Boston’s current genre store, Pandemonium, is a literal descendant (from days in two other Harvard Square locations) or just a successor.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first premiered with the airing of “An Unearthly Child”. Written by Anthony Coburn and C E Webber, it starred Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and William Hartnell as The Doctor. Critics were mixed with their reaction but generally favorable.
  • November 23, 2015 The Expanse premiered on Syfy. Based on the novels by James S. A. Corey (collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), it has now run three seasons, the latest on Amazon Prime. With a cast of seemingly hundreds, it has met with near unanimous approval, so much so that at Rotten Tomatoes, the third season had a score of 100%.itwas nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Dublin for “Abaddon’s Gate” but lost To The Good Place for their “Janet(s)” episode.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 23, 1887 Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the small screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 23, 1914 Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared in Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 64. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. Ala are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, ‘A Rose For Ecclesiastes,’ which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • Born November 23, 1961 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 53. Best-known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 52. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Shes shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. 
  • Born November 23, 1992 Miley Cyrus, 27. She’s had three genre appearances, each ten years apart. She was in Big Fish as the eight-year-old Ruthie, she was the voice of Penny in Bolt and she voiced Mainframe on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And there’s the matter of A Very Murray Christmas which is at least genre adjacent…

(12) LEIBOWITZ REDUX? “In ‘The Second Sleep,’ The World May End, But Life Goes On” says NPR reviewer Ilana Masad.

…Robert Harris’s new book is concerned with questions of institutional power, hypocrisy and individual moral choices, but in a wholly different era of changed perceptions.

The Second Sleep is a pleasingly genre-bending novel that passes itself off as historical fiction in its early pages. Christopher Fairfax, a young priest, rides to Addicott St. George, a village in Wessex, with a rather simple mission: He is to carry out the funeral service for Addicott’s recently deceased Father Lacey. Quickly, however, reader expectations are wonderfully overturned as Fairfax examines, with some distaste, a display case full of ancient artifacts, including “pens, glassware, a plate commemorating a royal wedding …” (wait, what?) “… a bundle of plastic straws …” (huh?) and “what seemed to be the pride of the collection: one of the devices used by the ancients to communicate,” which has on its back “the ultimate symbol of the ancients’ hubris and blasphemy — an apple with a bite taken out of it.”

The year may be 1468, but it’s not the one in the past — Fairfax is, in fact, living in the future, one in which the Apocalypse is widely believed to have occurred just as it was prophesied in the New Testament, after which Christ rose anew and humankind was once again saved. The Church — a political as well as religious entity in this future England, closely tied to and seemingly far more important than the monarchy — started counting years anew after the Apocalypse, beginning with 666, the number of the beast.

As Fairfax learns more about Addicott’s dead priest, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. It appears that Father Lacey was a collector of artifacts that have become, in the past couple of decades, illegal to own. Worse even than the plastic doodads and useless electronics in his possession, which Father Lacey found in the vicinity of the village, the priest had a library full of illegal books hypothesizing about the ancients who worshipped science and forgot God, bringing about their own downfall.

(13) THE MASTER LIST. Rex Sorgatz is compiling “Best of 2010’s” lists.  It includes several Best SF/F Books, Best Comics/Graphic Novels, Best Horror Movies, etc. lists (and may pick up more as time goes by) — “LISTS: THE 2010s DECADE”.

We’ve covered some of the ones he’s collected, but I don’t think I’ve run this one yet — from Cultured Vultues: “Books of the Decade: 10 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Books of the 2010s”

(14) THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMASES PAST. Smithsonian issues “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories”.

For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Moses Goes Down” on Vimeo is Nina Paley’s take on Moses leaving Egypt, with music by Louis Armstrong.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) OUT OF THE BAG. Spies in Disguise just had a “super-secret” drop.

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

(2) BOOMER DOOM. John Scalzi speaks sooth in “Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations”.

…The special sauce of this particular moment of generational conflict is that it involves the Baby Boomers for the first time being the antagonists of the generational story, rather than either the protagonists or the somewhat neutral mainstream. The Boomers are now the older generation and are having a moment being seen as the ossified and inflexible group whose opinion is not worth considering, and they don’t appear to like it at all. There is the (some would say delicious) irony of the generation that famously professed it would never trust anyone over 30 having become the generation that those under 30 allegedly doesn’t trust. I’m pretty sure the Boomers don’t appreciate that irony at all.

(3) ON THE BLOCK. Time Out discusses auctions of collectibles from the Happiest Place on Earth in “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World”.

Since first being approached by one man and his collection of Disneyland materials about five years ago, gallery co-founder Mike Van Eaton has become a go-to figure for these auctions. He estimates that he sells about 98% of the stock each auction, so it’s no surprise that prolific collectors and former parks employees keep approaching him to offer relics on consignment. Those relationships are part of how he verifies the pieces’ provenance; he’ll consult with Disney Imagineers to separate the fan-made items from the park-used ones, and he’ll use the plausibility of their backstories to suss out how one It’s a Small World doll is from the Florida version of the ride, while another is clearly from a promotional storefront activation in New York (the use of electric parts instead of pneumatic was the tip-off). Others are more directly verifiable, like when a former county assessor dropped off official plans he’d overseen for the railroad that Walt Disney built in his Holmby Hills backyard.

(4) I’M BAAACK! Hollywood Collectibles will let you have this sweetheart for only $1,599. Easy payment plan available!

This stunning life-size wall display pays homage to the terrifying Alien Queen’s iconic battle with Ripley, in the climatic scenes of Aliens.

(5) ETCHISON MEMORIAL. Dennis Etchison’s memorial marker, “paid for by a long-term friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous,” is now in place at Pierce Brothers, Westwood Village. It’s marker #127 on the ‘Cenotaph’ wall, (quite near the graves of Ray and Maggie Bradbury).

(6) LE GUIN ON UK SCREENS. Another chance to see the BBC4 TV documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” which also has contributions from Margret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. The link only works in the UK – which will be fine for some of you.

(7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. ScienceAlert says “NASA Has Detected Weird Orbital Movement From Two of Neptune’s Moons”.

The two moons in question are Naiad and Thalassa, both around 100 kilometres or 62 miles wide, which race around their planet in what NASA researchers are calling a “dance of avoidance”.

Compared with Thalassa, Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about five degrees – it spends half of its time above Thalassa and half of it below, in a linked orbit that’s unlike anything else on record.

“We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance,” says physicist Marina Brozovic, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There are many different types of dances that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.”

The two small moons’ orbits are only around 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) apart, but they are perfectly timed and choreographed to keep avoiding each other. Naiad takes seven hours to circle Neptune, while Thalassa takes seven and a half on the outside track.

(8) INFLUENCER RULES. Pirated Thoughts provides a reader update: “Explaining the FTC’s New Social Media Influencer Sponsorship Disclosure Rules”.

When to Disclose

Influencers must disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.  If given free or discounted products, an Influencer is required to disclose this information even if they were not asked to mention that product.  The FTC reminds Influencers that even wearing tags or pins that show favorability towards a company can be considered endorsements of said company.  However, if you simply enjoy a product and want to talk about the product, you are not required to declare that you don’t have a relationship with that brand.  Lastly, even if these posts are made from abroad, U.S. law will still apply if it is reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers.

(9) BIG TROUBLE. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is tuned in for the latest (55 years ago) doctoral thesis: [November 17, 1964] A Continuing Adventure In Space And Time (Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants).

PLANET OF GIANTS

AWOOOGA, AWOOOGA. We’re barely a minute in and already things are going wrong aboard the good ship TARDIS. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely. Or do they? The Doctor is very agitated about the doors opening, but doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it is that’s bothering him. Something strange is afoot, that’s for sure.

(10) WHO CLUES. Mirror UK is in tune with the series’ more current events: “Doctor Who series 12 release date, cast, episodes, plot for Jodie Whittaker return”. Lots of hints, like this one:

Doctor Who series 12 release date

Doctor Who series 12 is due to air in very early 2020.

However, fans should keep an eye out for something on November 23 2019 , according to a recent BBC teaser.

There have been rumours of a surprise Christmas Special for December 25, 2019, but this will likely air in 2020 instead.

(11) DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT STAR WARS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Film blogger Darren Mooney has offered some pretty awesome analysis of Star Wars on Twitter. Thread starts here. Some highlights:

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 18, 1928 Steamboat Willie, was released featuring Mickey Mouse.
  • November 18, 1959  — The Incredible Petrified World enjoyed its very first theatrical screening for residents of Burlington, North Carolina.
  • November 18, 1992 Killer Tomatoes Eat France! premiered  in the U.S. home video marketplace.  Written and directed by John De Bello, it starredJohn Astin,  Marc Price and Angela Visser. It rates a surprisingly high 41% over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 18, 1994 Star Trek Generations premiered. Starring Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, the film did very well but had a decidedly mixed critical reception and the film holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 80. Well there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I recommend, and I’ve good things about The Penelopiad.
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 73. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work as I ever got into reading what amounted to authorized fanfic. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 69. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction superb and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 69. I’d say that he’s best-known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the  New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 66. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very close. Pity about the film. His worse work? The Lost Girls. Shudder. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 58. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield depends on a rare astronomy lesson for a joke.
  • Even one of the character’s is surprised by Garfield’s Asimov reference. 

(15) EFFECTED OR AFFECTED? [Item by Olav Rokne.] On his personal blog, former Guardian SF book reviewer Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) admits that he didn’t read a single novel in 2019 — “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.”

In an essay that gets a bit finger-pointy, he decries the state of novel writing, casts aspersions at NaNoRiMo books, and asks for something new that will “inspire” him. Warning: if you’re anything like me, you might find the piece a bit aggravating. 

If anything killed the magic of the novel, it’s seeing the novel utterly degraded and disrespected by the fevered egos who crank out junk and self publish it on the Kindle. I really wish this didn’t effect how I see the novel, but inevitably, it does.

And mainstream publishing isn’t all that much better. They don’t seem to invest anywhere near enough into developing talented new writers. New writers are published too early, then disappear before they have a chance to develop, which rarely happens before half a dozen lesser novels have been published.

Curious about what the Filers have to say about Walter’s opinion.  

(16) NO CAMERA TRICKS. BBC outlines “How Mary Poppins has changed for the stage”. The scene with the carpetbag is cited as an example of bad camera fakery; now they’re doing it live.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is not the kind of show where the actors can afford to let their concentration lapse.

There are several precise and tricky cues for the cast to hit across the three-hour West End production.

Props have to appear from (or disappear into) thin air. There are magic tricks. Characters dance upside down on the ceiling. There are scenes that involve complex choreography, kite flying and statues coming to life.

It’s a testament to how tightly rehearsed the show is that nothing went wrong at the show’s opening night on Wednesday.

“It does sometimes!” laughs Zizi Strallen, who plays the legendary leading role. “But there are contingency plans, that’s the beauty of live theatre, and it’s my job to cover it up as well if it does go wrong.”

The most complicated part of the show, she says, is a scene which will be familiar to fans of the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, where Poppins is seen somehow pulling huge items out of a relatively small handbag.

“Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her. “There’s a magic teapot, bringing a plant out of the bag, a hat stand, a mirror, putting them all on the wall so they don’t fall off.

“There’s a lot of pressure in that number, a lot of things to think about. So my brain is going 100 miles per hour. And then when that number’s done I think ‘right, now I can just have fun’.”

(17) LAWFUL NEUTRAL. FastCompany says local governments are finding ways to keep this from being a purely rhetorical question, despite the FCC: “Should the internet be a public utility? Hundreds of cities are saying yes”.

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block, or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality“—treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

(18) AVENUE 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Three words: Hugh Laurie. HBO. Space cruise. Comedy.

OK, that’s six words.

Gizmodo believes “The Space Cruise Comedy From the Creator of Veep May Become Our New Obsession”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch” on YouTube is a fim from Ars Technica based on a screenplay written by an AI who had digested hundreds of script for sf films and tv shows.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/12/19 You Don’t Bring Me Vacuum Flowers

(1) X FACTOR. LAist interviews comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz: “Abstract Expressionism Gave ’80s X-Men Comics Their Superpowers — And This LA Artist Was The Mastermind”

He evolved his style over several issues of Moon Knight, then started putting it into comic book covers. Marvel offered him the chance to be the artist on X-Men — but he turned it down.

“Because, I told them, I want to do some experimentation. I want to just push and see what’s possible. So I don’t want to take Marvel’s flagship characters and drive them into the ditch,” Sienkiewicz said.

But he found a way in sideways. X-Men writer Chris Claremont came to him and asked if he wanted to work on X-Men spinoff New Mutants, and with more free range, he took the assignment as part of his quest to help change the perception of what comics are.

He used abstract expressionism, doing art that was more about the feeling than about being exactly true to reality. He describes his own work as being drawn well enough to look like what it’s supposed to, but that he’s more interested in what the people and the story feel like.

(2) PLAGIARIZED STORY? Pro-paying short story outlet Daily Science Fiction has published a story apparently plagiarized from another online source. Today’s story “No Time For Guilt Now” [Internet Archive link] credited to Abdullahi Lawal, is a copy of Avra Margariti’s “Ephemera”  [Internet Archive link] which ran in The Arcanist earlier this year. (Wayback Machine links to the respective pages are provided in case either original gets taken down.)

Several readers took notice in comments on DSF’s Facebook page. DSF has yet to respond either there or on its own website.

The Arcanist tweeted this reaction:

Update: Daily Science Fiction’s Jonathan Laden subsequently took down the story and posted this statement: “Apologies”.

A reader (and contributor) let us know that today’s story was evidently plagiarized from another story published by another site on the internet.

Please visit the Arcanist to read Ephemera by Avra Margariti.

We are reaching out to both the Arcanist and to Avra Margariti to make amends for our error in accepting this story as original by another writer.

(3) BEST FOOT FORWARD. SYFY Wire assesses “The best shoes in genre movies”. This is the kind of investigative reporting we need more!

Aliens (1986)

Sometimes a movie taps up a brand to design a shoe for a specific outfit and scene, which is how Reebok came to birth the Alien Stomper. A basic model of a basketball shoe provided the foundation for the sneaker that was worn by those operating the yellow Power Loader. A close-up reveals the Reebok logo in a moment of product placement. The sneaker saves Ripley in the climatic airlock sequence; which informed how the shoe was constructed, as designer Tuan Le explains — it needed to slip off with ease. On the 40th anniversary of Aliens, Reebok released a limited run of this iconic model.

(4) ASF IS CENTERPIECE OF SYMPOSIUM. “The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium: An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact” takes place December 12 from 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at the New York City College of Technology, 285 Jay St., A105, Brooklyn, NY 11201. In addition to participants from academe are Analog veterans Stanley Schmidt, Trevor Quachri, Emily Hockaday and others from sff.

The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium celebrates “An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.” Bringing together SF writers, scholars, and fans, the conversations today will reflect on the past, comment on the present, and contemplate the future of Analog SF. Linked to these discussions is the role of SF in a college of technology that recognizes the importance of the genre through its Science Fiction class and support for the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. Together, we will explore these connections.

(5) UNEXPECTED CONNECTION. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Ursula K. Le Guin is the only science fiction author that is discussed in Harold Bloom’s last book,The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon, which is a collection of essays about significant authors in America. According to Max Rubin, president and publisher of the Library of America, Le Guin and Bloom knew each other. “He “lived and breathed literature”—Library of America remembers Harold Bloom, 1930–2019”.

“Poetry…was always more important to Bloom than prose. Later in life he came to a real appreciation for the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin and enjoyed a friendship with her via email.”

(6) THE FUTURE IS NOW. BBC’s David Barnett says it’s time to ask, “Are we living in  Blade Runner world?”.

…This may sound far-flung from our own reality, but as the opening credits tell us, the film is set in Los Angeles, November 2019. In that sense, Blade Runner is no longer science fiction. It’s a contemporary thriller. The question is: in the 37 years between Blade Runner’s release and its setting – our present – how close have we come to the future presented in the movie?

…However, beyond particular components, Blade Runner arguably gets something much more fundamental right, which is the world’s socio-political outlook in 2019 – and that isn’t particularly welcome, according to Michi Trota, who is a media critic and the non-fiction editor of the science-fiction periodical, Uncanny Magazine.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, that what Blade Runner ‘predicted’ accurately is a dystopian landscape shaped by corporate influence and interests, mass industrialisation’s detrimental effect on the environment, the police state, and the whims of the rich and powerful resulting in chaos and violence, suffered by the socially marginalised.”

In the movie the replicants have a fail-safe programmed into them – a lifespan of just four years – to prevent a further revolution. Trota believes there is “something prescient in the replicants’ frustration and rage at their shortened lifespans, resulting from corporate greed and indifference, that’s echoed in the current state of US healthcare and globalised exploitation of workers.” She adds: “I’d have vastly preferred the flying cars instead.”

(7) JOIN SLF. The Speculative Literature Foundation has launched a fundraiser for its operating needs, a reading series, and a major project —  

THE PORTOLAN PROJECT. We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal for 2020 — to develop the Portolan Project, an open-source creative writing resource — sort of a Khan Academy for fiction.

We’ve begun interviewing masters of the field (including so far George R.R. Martin, Nalo Hopkinson, Kate Elliott), on aspects of craft. We’re building out a free website to host those interviews, along with syllabi, lesson plans, individual lectures and assignments on aspects of craft (plot and structure, language and style, setting and world building, etc.), the writing business, and the writers’ life.

We’re also interviewing emerging writers from across the planet, developing a better understanding of the international speculative fiction landscape, and the challenges and opportunities for writers in both independent and traditional publishing. We have academics helping us build a searchable database of speculative literature, to make it much easier to find stories that are relevant to you and your own work.

SLF Director Mary Anne Mohanraj encourages people to become dues-paying members and to volunteer.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 12, 1995 — The rebooted Invaders premiered on Fox.  Directed by Paul Shapiro, it starred Scott Bakula, Elizabeth Peña, DeLane Matthews, Richard Thomas and Terence Knox. Invaders Roy Thinnes very briefly appeared as David Vincent. The two ninety minute episodes were intended as a pilot for a series that never happened. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee Zira in the Planet of the Apes films For the first three outings. Her first genre role was also her first film role, as Mary Gibson in the early Forties movie The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, which I’ve encountered, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Julie Ege. A Bond Girl On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Helen, the Scandinavian girl. She also appeared in Hammer ‘s Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. And in The Mutations which got released under the alternative title of The Freakmaker. She had a role in De Dwaze Lotgevallen Von Sherlock Jones which got dubbed into English as The Crazy Adventures of Sherlock Jones. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 76. Probably best remembered as the Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 74. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though slightly dated feeling now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing.
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodénchik, 67. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The Rocketeer, Here Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskin, Star Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted alas), Tales from The Crypt, SlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 37. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun none-the-less.

(10) EUPHEMISMS FOR DOLLARS. The Publishers Lunch news service shared an intriguing bit of intelligence with potential contributors.

The Key

A handy key to our Lunch deal categories. While all reports are always welcome, those that include a category will generally receive a higher listing when it comes time to put them all together.

“nice deal”: $1 – $49,000
“very nice deal”: $50,000 – $99,000
“good deal”: $100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal”: $251,000 – $499,000
“major deal”: $500,000 and up

(11) READY FOR TAKEOFF. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum gives you a video ride-along: “Douglas DC-3 Moved to Udvar-Hazy Center”.

One of our collections staff takes you through the process of lowering, disassembling, and transporting large artifacts like the Douglas DC-3. These artifact moves are part of the multi-year renovation project at the National Air and Space Museum in DC to transform the museum from the inside out.

(12) DEALING WITH MOLD. Cnet says the Discovery Season 2 Blu-Ray gives fans an earful: “Star Trek: Discovery exclusive clip shows Vulcan-ear options”.

The clip shows two different Vulcan-ear options for actor James Frain in his role as Spock’s father, Sarek. We also get a look at how Kelpien faces are made.   

The clip comes from Creature Comforts: Season Two, a behind-the-scenes feature that takes fans into the design process behind the characters, from make-up to making molds. It includes a one-on-one discussion with makeup artist James McKinnon and Mary Chieffo (L’Rell).

(13) HEDGEHOG MAKEOVER. The Hollywood Reporter introduces “New ‘Sonic’ Trailer Sees Redesigned Character With Bigger Eyes, Less Teeth”.

The film’s original trailer dropped in April, and led to a deluge of mockery and fan backlash on social media for the way Sonic looked. The reaction was so negative it led to the film’s director Jeff Fowler announcing that his team would rethink Sonic’s design, all of which led to a three-month delay to the release date. 

(14) TRAILER TIME. Pixar In Real Life is a hidden-camera show on Disney+ that watches what happens when people meet live versions of Pixar animated characters on the street.

(15) AGE, SOCIAL MEDIA, BROKEN FRIENDSHIPS. Laura Lippman confesses she “is bummed by the ways in which friendships end as one gets older” in “The Art of Losing Friends and Alienating People” at Longreads.

…As a friend, I frequently break the first rule of fiction: I’m all tell, no show. I’m not going to remember your kid’s birthday, or even yours, despite Facebook’s helpful nudges. When you’re in a crisis, I won’t know the right questions to ask. I blame my Southern parents for placing so many topics in the forbidden zone. I grew up being told it was rude to discuss age, income, health, feelings. I often think that’s why I became a reporter.

I have a list in my head of all the friends I let down. It’s not long, but it’s longer than I’d like, and it’s probably longer than I know. Most of those friends have forgiven me, but I never lose sight of my failures. It’s like a stain on a busily-patterned rug; once you know where to look, your eye goes there every time. I know where to look. I am aware of my misdeeds. Every friend who has ever called me out on being a bad friend had me dead to rights.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe” on Vimeo is a surreal film about a rationalist scientist who discovers religion in a surreal manner.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Edmund Schluessel, Rob Thornton, Andrew, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/27/19 We Keep Scrollin’ Most Of Our Lives, Filing In A Pixel’s Paradise

(1) A DRAGON POET. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings contemplates “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Playful and Profound Letter-Poem to Children About the Power of Books and Why We Read”.

…Most dragons don’t know how to read. They hiss and fume and guard their hoard. A tasty knight is what they need
For dinner (they spit out the sword),
Then go to sleep on heaps of treasure. They’ve no use for the written word….

(2) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF GENRE. Last night on Saturday Night Live there were three sketches with fantasy in them:

  • Spooky Song is about a ghost who really doesn’t want to explain the tasteless way in which he died.
  • Space Mistakes shows what happens when you make mistakes in space.
  • Dance Rehearsal asks, “What happens if you’re taking a dance class and your instructor is a werewolf?”

(3) ‘BOT AND SOULED. The LA Review of Books’ Patrick House considers the writing of robots in “I, Language Robot”.

I was hired to write short fiction at OpenAI, a San Francisco–based artificial intelligence research lab. I would be working alongside an internal version of the so-called ‘language bot’ that produces style-matched prose to any written prompt it’s fed. The loss that I feared was not that the robot would be good at writing — it is, it will be — nor that I would be comparatively less so, but rather that the metabolites of language, which give rise to the incomparable joys of fiction, story, and thought, could be reduced to something merely computable.

(4) PULLMAN’S RETORT. The author’s post appeared atLit Hub on October 8 and the link has made the rounds, but still may be news to some of us: “Philip Pullman on Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Disdain It”.

…The model of growth that seems to lie behind that attitude—the idea that such critics have of what it’s like to grow up—must be  a linear one; they must think that we grow up by moving along a sort of timeline, like a monkey climbing a stick. It makes more sense to me to think of the movement from childhood to adulthood not as a movement along but as a movement outwards, to include more things. C. S. Lewis, who when he wasn’t writing novels had some very sensible things to say about books and reading, made the same point when he said in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”: “I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two.”

But the guards on the border won’t have any of that. They are very fierce and stern. They strut up and down with a fine contempt, curling their lips and consulting their clipboards and snapping out orders. They’ve got a lot to do, because at the moment this is an area of great international tension. These days a lot of adults are talking about children’s books. Sometimes they do so in order to deplore the fact that so many other adults are reading them, and are obviously becoming infantilized, because of course children’s books—I quote from a recent article in The Independent—“cannot hope to come close to truths about moral, sexual, social or political” matters. Whereas in even the “flimsiest of science fiction or the nastiest of horror stories . . . there is an understanding of complex human psychologies,” “there is no such psychological understanding in children’s novels,” and furthermore “there are nice clean white lines painted between the good guys and the evil ones” (wrote Jonathan Myerson in The Independent, 14 November 2001).

(5) GOALS AND PURPOSES. Robert J. Sawyer draws the title of his article in the July edition of Galaxy’s Edge, “What SFWA Was Supposed to Be”, from the contrast he perceives between founder Damon Knight’s stated purpose for the organization and the SFWA mission statement of 2018.

…Of course, times change; of course, publishing is different now than it was then. But in the thirty-six years I’ve been a member of SFWA, I’ve seen—and, indeed, foreseen—all the changes that people are talking about now and more (I was writing in 1998 as SFWA president about “the post-publisher economy”).

For instance, it used to be that giant print runs were required to get economical per-copy pricing; that’s no longer true. It used to be there were many thousands of bookstore accounts for publishers to service in North America; sadly, that’s no longer true. It used to be that audiobooks were only made in eviscerated abridgments and only of the biggest print sellers; wonderfully, that’s no longer true. And it used to be that the only effective way to publish a book was on paper. That’s no longer true, either (and I’ve got a bunch of my own older titles out in self-published e-book editions).

Whatever you might think of these changes, every single one of them came with enormous cost savings for publishers, but no portion of that was ever passed on to the authors. I remember at one convention this decade hearing the late David G. Hartwell brag that Tor, the publisher he worked for, had just had its best year ever, while one of his authors—with Hugos galore—confided to me that he didn’t know how he was going to heat his house that coming winter.

Among the most egregious things that have happened during my career: literary agents going from ten-percent commissions to a fifteen percent; publishers locking in a 3:1 split of e-book royalties—three dollars for them to every one for the writer; and publishers using print-on-demand and the mere notional existence of an e-book edition to keep from reverting rights to authors for titles the publisher is no longer promoting or selling in any meaningful quantity. SFWA rolled over on every one of these.

But never let it be said that SFWA is without achievements. They recently—and I’m not making this up—produced an official SFWA secret decoder ring. I didn’t pony up to get one; I doubt Damon Knight would have wanted such a thing, either.

(6) CHAPMAN OBIT. Scholar and regular attendee of the International Conference on the Fantastic Arts Edgar Chapman (1936-2019), a Professor Emeritus in the English Department at Bradley University, died October 11 at the age of 83. He authored numerous articles and books including The Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer (1984) and The Road to Castle Mount: The Science Fiction of Robert Silverberg (1999). He also co-edited Classic and Iconoclastic Alternate History Science Fiction (2003).

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Don’t tell Harlan but Ray Bradbury gets credit for Terminator first.  Ray was on the Oscar nominating committee for documentaries, in 1977.  The next screening for the committee was listed as a muscle building movie, Pumping Iron.  Without even screening it the committee basically said NEXT.  Ray spoke up and said they had to screen it because his brother, Skip, was a body builder and worked out on Venice’s Muscle Beach.  After watching the documentary it was nominated.  Making the career for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Heck, we got Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, too. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 27, 1967 Star Trek’s “Catspaw” was first aired. Written by Robert Bloch who said it was based on his 1957 story, “Broomstick Ride” published in Super Science Fiction. It was their Halloween episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1922 Ruby Dee. Her first genre role is in Cat People. No name there but she has the wonderful name of Mother Abagail Freemantle in The Stand series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 27, 1937 Steve Sandor. He made his first genre appearance on Trek playing Lars in the second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. He also did one-offs on Knight Rider, Fantasy Island and The Six-Million Dollar Man. He did a choice bit of horror in The Ninth Configuration. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1938 Lara Parker, 80. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. 
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 80. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story.
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist with who with writer Len Wein, he’s known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comic. Ell me what you liked about his work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 66. He debuted in genre as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in The Howling. He’d be in Dante’s Explorers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers and Innerspace. And then of course he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) on Voyager. And even managed to show on on Stargate SG-1. Busy performer! 
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 56. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse.
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 49. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe finds out why a character is not a Tolkien fan.
  • How To Cat hears Zarathustra speaking, if you know what I mean.

(11) PREFERRED HORROR. At IndieWire, “Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, and 30 More Directors Pick Favorite Horror Movies”.

Quentin Tarantino, on “Audition”

Takashi Miike’s 1999 horror movie “Audition” is often cited as one of the most disturbing films ever made. Ryo Ishibashi stars as a widow named Shigeharu Aoyama who stages auditions for men in hopes of meeting a new husband or life partner. Aoyama falls for Asami (Eihi Shiina), but her dark past has unexpected and brutal consequences. Tarantino called the movie one of his favorites since he’s been a director, referring to it as a “true masterpiece” in a 2009 interview.

 (12) DIRECTOR TO VIDEO. “Fan Video Imagines Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in STAR TREK”Nerdist tell you where to find this micro-epic.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, a.k.a. “the 9th film from Quentin Tarantino,” made quite the splash upon release when it hit theaters this past summer. It had all of Tarantino’s signature trademarks — a couple of cranky male leads, excessive violence, and a rockin’ retro soundtrack. And it’s left QT fans salivating for whatever his 10th (and possibly final?) movie will be. Rumors abound that it could in fact be a Star Trek film. Leading many fans to ponder just what the heck a “Pulp Fiction-esque Star Trek” movie would even look like.

Well, one fan has combined the well known Quentin Tarantino sensibilities and aesthetics with some old school Star Trek footage, and the result is “Once Upon a Time in Star Trek.”

(13) A TREE GROWS IN ANAHEIM. The Orange County (CA) Register makes sure all the locals know: “History & Heritage: The Legend of the Halloween Tree “.

…Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” tells the story of a group of trick-or-treaters who learn about the origins of Halloween while on an adventure to find their missing friend. Bradbury dreamed of having a Halloween Tree at Disneyland park, and on the 35th anniversary of the novel, his dream was brought to life.

“I belong here in Disneyland, ever since I came here 50 years ago. I’m glad I’m going to be a permanent part of the spirit of Halloween at Disneyland,” the author said at the tree’s dedication. Bradbury would visit the tree before he passed away in 2012.

Today, the Halloween Tree delights guests of all ages and honors Bradbury’s many contributions to Disney. A plaque at the base of the tree commemorates the night of its dedication: “On the night of Halloween 2007, this stately oak officially became ‘The Halloween Tree,’ realizing famed author Ray Bradbury’s dream of having his symbol for the holiday become a part of Disneyland.”

(14) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. CNN finds the way to Sesame Street: “The entrance to this Pennsylvania house is monstrous. Cookie monstrous”.

In the words of Cookie Monster: “Home is where heart is. Heart where cookie is. Math clear: Home is cookie.”

For a Pennsylvania homeowner, Cookie Monster’s logic sounds just about right.

Lisa Boll from York County turned the entrance of her house into Cookie Monster. Literally.

(15) WATCHMEN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt profiles Regina King, who plays Sister Night in Watchmen.  Betancourt discusses King’s background with showrunner Damon Lindelof and how she signed on  to the part because of Watchmen’s anti-racist themes. “‘Watchmen’ gives Regina King her first superhero role — and takes a bold look at race relations in 2019”.

Showrunner Damon Lindelof was planning to give the “Watchmen” story quite a twist — so he told King to use her unfamiliarity to her advantage. It’s a different approach compared with many actors who land superhero roles and are immediately handed a stack of comics.

“He didn’t want me to confuse how he saw this world,” said King, who worked with Lindelof on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” “He was right.”

“Because I did watch the film after [filming the pilot], and I would have been confused,” she added. “They stand on their own. They don’t even feel related to me in any way. Which I think is a great thing. I think that’s the beauty of Damon making the choice of using the [comics] as canon instead of trying to duplicate, from my understanding, something that was already great.”

(16) HEAVY LIES THE HEAD. Io9’s James Whitbrook says afterwards he was ready for Jedi chiropractic — “I Wore Hasbro’s Ridiculous New Star Wars Replica Helmet for a Day, and All I Got Was Some Neck Ache”.

One of the more expensive offerings Hasbro had for this year’s Triple Force Friday extravaganza was the latest helmet in its Star Wars: The Black Series line of “roleplay” items. Joining a line that already had everything from Darth Vader’s helmet to more Stormtrooper variants than you can shake an Incinerator Trooper at, the Luke Skywalker X-Wing Battle Simulation Helmet is a 1:1 replica of the same helmet worn by everyone’s favorite Rebel-turned-Jedi-turned-Milk-Swigging-Curmudgeon in both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Packed with lights and sounds to replicate Luke’s experiences at the battles of Yavin and Hoth, the main draw is it’s…well, a Star Wars helmet you can put on your head.

(17) NO REMATCH! Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: Simon Pegg on the existential terror of zombies and whether Chris Martin really cameos in ‘Shaun of the Dead'”, has an interview with Simon Pegg on the 15th anniversary of Shaun of the Dead where he reveals that Coldplay’s Chris Martin is not in the film and there will never be a sequel to Shaun of the Dead because “it’s a complete story:  it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

1. There’s a reason slow-moving zombies are terrifying.

When Romero was making his pioneering zombie favorites, the walking dead only moved at a slow and steady pace. But by the time that Wright, Pegg and Frost were making Shaun, zombies had acquired frightening busts of speed in films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Previously a zombie originalist, Pegg now says that’s he’s come around on their lightning-quick descendants. “I’m not the purist I used to be — I’ve seen fast-zombie things that I’ve enjoyed,” the actor says, pointing to the 2016 South Korean cult favorite Train to Busan. But there was never a world in which Shaun would have made the switch, and not just because they were trying to remain true to Romero’s vision. Pegg argues that quicker creatures would have undermined the dramatic metaphor of a person — and entire society — caught in the grip of stagnation, which runs beneath the movie’s comedy. “There’s something incredibly creepy about the shambling dead. They’re more of an effective metaphor for death when they just sort of come slowly. That’s what death is — death doesn’t always just run at you.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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