The Snifferance Engine 6/23

aka Altered Slates

Today’s roundup comes courtesy of Adam-Troy Castro, Matt Forney, Vox Day, A. G. Carpenter, Nicholas Whyte, Brandon Kempner, Eric Flint, Melina D, Patrick May, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, and Lis Carey. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Will Reichard and  Glenn Hauman.)

Adam-Troy Castro on Facebook – June 23

Evidence, to me, that this is an aesthetic issue and not just a political one. (Though of course it’s that as well).

Brad Torgersen pronouncing what kinds of stories he sees as worthy.

“Downbeat endings suck. They are ‘literary’ and some critics and aesthetes love them. But they suck. If you’re going to roast your characters in hell, at least give them a little silver lining at the end? Some kind of hope for a more positive outcome? Your readers will thank you.”

I…can’t even begin.

I love a happy ending as much as the next guy. But not all stories need to be geared to the “rah-rah us.” And if I started naming great works in and out of science fiction where “readers thanked” the author for going black, I’d be here all day. I do this without being a critic or aesthete. I loved the despairing endings of Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands,” of Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God,” of John W. Campbell’s “Night,” of Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream,” of any number of TWILIGHT ZONEs and of George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, before I was ten — all before I discovered film noir or got into horror or watched Von Stroheim’s GREED or even knew that stories could be *about* the things in life that aren’t fair. Downbeat endings do *not* suck. Who would dare to say that the ending of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE sucked? Or that the ending of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME sucked? Or that the ending of DOUBLE INDEMNITY sucked? Or that the ending of MILDRED PIERCE — the novel, not the much-altered Joan Crawford movie — sucked?

Downbeat endings don’t suck. Pointless endings suck. There’s a difference.

Just speaking as a writer, alone: Gad, am I happy I am not shackled to that criterion. I go downbeat about half the time, because different stories go different places, and I have gone dark with some of my most popular work. HER HUSBAND’S HANDS AND OTHER STORIES is not exactly a collection of uppers.


IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: Brad has communicated with me about this post, and wants to make clear that in context he was speaking, specifically, of space opera, and no other genre or subgenre. I think he’s likely wrong even when talking about that limited context — I can think of a number of cases where intrepid space heroes came to grief, and have indeed written a book of them — but you know what? In the context of that clarification it is not exactly fair to paint him as being unaware of the depth and breadth of the use of the downbeat ending in literature. I want this known and recognized.


Matt Forney on Return of Kings

 “Backlash Against The Boycott Of Sci-Fi Publisher Tor Books Shows The Hypocrisy of SJWs” – June 23

In the past couple of decades, publishing in general—and sci-fi and fantasy publishing especially—has become increasingly dominated by leftists, who have jettisoned the genres’ focus on adventure and exploration in favor of heavy-handed social justice narratives blaming cishetwhitemales for all the world’s ills.

Any writer who dissented from the SJW line was effectively blacklisted from Tor and other major publishing houses, as well as denied nominations in the industry’s prestigious Hugo and Nebula Awards.

As you would expect, sales of newer sci-fi and fantasy books have flatlined as SJWs such as Nielsen Hayden and N.K. Jemisin have become dominant voices. As it turns out, nobody wants to read “socially aware” dreck like If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love and other works that cast straight white men as the devil incarnate.

Sales figures show this: of the top ten best-selling sci-fi books in 2012, all but two of them were either Star Wars/Halo tie-ins or published decades ago. The number one best-selling book was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, published in 1985.

Last April, SJWs threw conniption fits when the Sad and Rabid Puppies, two campaigns spearheaded by sci-fi authors Larry Correia and Vox Day, respectively, successfully nominated several non-SJW works for this year’s Hugo Awards. Beyond showing how petty SJWs are, the Sad and Rabid Puppies’ campaign showed that SJWs are a vocal-but-tiny minority, since it only took a handful of votes to swing the nomination results.


Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“Let reason be silent” – June 23

When experience gainsays its conclusions. Ed Trimnell argues against fighting fire with fire:….

How did Brandon Eich fail to out-argue his opponents? How did the Nobel Laureates Tim Hunt and James Watson fail to make their cases? The fact is that one cannot out-argue anyone in debates that do not take place, debates that Mr. Trimnell knows very well, from personal experience, will never take place. He can attempt to out-argue me because I am willing to engage with him, debate him, and discuss our differences in a civil manner rather than pointing, shrieking, and summoning an Internet mob to shout him down, disqualify, and disemploy him. He simply cannot do the same with the people at TOR Books, among others. He knows that.

Furthermore, Mr. Trimnell is ignoring the wise advice of Aristotle. He is appealing to dialectic in a rhetorical battle where the greater part of those on the other side are not even capable of understanding that dialectic. That is why following his advice is a surefire way to ensure defeat.

I am offering a proven way to win, one that is both historically and logically sound. Mr. Trimnell is offering nothing but certain defeat because feels. He doesn’t like not feeling morally superior to the other side, so much so that he would rather lose than give up that feeling of superiority in order to meet the enemy head-on. I dislike boycotts too, much as General Ferguson disliked poison gas. But I dislike being methodically mobbed, disqualified, and disemployed even more, I dislike being falsely accused and blatantly lied about even more, so I am utilizing certain SJW tactics even more efficiently and more effectively than the SJWs can. Everyone else of influence on the Right should be doing the same.


Adam-Troy Castro on Facebook – June 23

Vox Day’s contribution is to the daily File 770 roundup what FAMILY CIRCUS is to the Sunday comics section — a guaranteed bummer often marked by the requirement that you follow the most torturously convoluted of dotted lines.


A.G. Carpenter

“Silence is Support” – June 23

….But, Torgersen and Correia maintain that they themselves are not racist, sexist, or homophobic. They just, don’t say anything about Beale’s ongoing rants. Maybe they laugh at his jokes or hit like on the comment window. They can argue all they want that they are not be bigots themselves, but their actions say otherwise.

Correia reached out to Beale last year. This year he reached out to GamerGate (with admittedly uncertain results when it comes to the ballot stuffing) – a group known for its sexist attitudes towards women and a radical and violent fringe. And Torgersen got in deeper with Beale by coordinating their slates under the Sad and Rabid Puppies flags. This isn’t just silent support.

This isn’t just silence that is interpreted as support. This is a deliberate alliance with those who do not hide their racist, sexist, homophobic agendas.

But I will not be silent. And I will not support the ideologies that led a young man to murder nine men and women in a church in Charleston. i will not shrug and say “That Vox Day. He’s an asshat but what can you do? It’s just one man ranting on the internet.” I do not want the others like Dylan Roof looking at the world of SF/F and thinking “See? They agree with me.”

Because I don’t.

Because we don’t.

Because silence only leads to regression.


Nicholas Whyte on From The Heart of Europe

“E Pluribus Hugo, revisited” – June 23

I’ve spent more spare time than is healthy over the last few days musing on the proposed new system for counting Hugo nominations, designated E Pluribus Hugo (henceforth EPH) by its designers (to whom detailed observations should be directed here). I am in sympathy with its intent, which is to prevent any group – whoever that group may be – from absolutely excluding nominees from having the chance to be considered for the Hugo Award. I think that the proposal as it currently sits achieves that aim, but at a cost of making it too easy for a group which is otherwise utterly unconnected with Hugo voters to get a single work onto the ballot by “bullet votes” (ie votes for their candidate[s] and no other). I explore this problem below, using data from the 1984 Hugo nomination ballots, and propose a partial solution, which is to use square roots as divisors when weighting nomination votes.


I’m tremendously grateful to Paul Evans for providing me with the 1984 data he described here. Having spent a couple of evenings crunching figures, I now feel huge sympathy and admiration for the Hugo administrators trying to make sense of the variant titles and spelling submitted by voters. Administering what are essentially thousands of write-in ballots is not exactly straightforward, and I am not sure that I would have the patience to do so in an RL setting myself. Not surprisingly, my tallies vary a bit from Paul’s. He has taken more time over it, so his numbers are probably right.

I’ve picked three different ballot categories from 1984 to analyse mainly because they were relatively easy to process, with less name and category confusion than some of the other options would have presented.


Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Modelling a Best Saga Hugo Award, Part 1” – June 22

I find it difficult to imagine an award in the abstract, so in this post and the next I’m going to model what a hypothetical Best Saga Hugo would look like for the past 4 years (2011-2014), using two different techniques to generate my model. First up, I’ll use the Locus Awards to model what the Best Saga would look like if voted on by SFF-insiders. Then, I’ll use the Goodreads Choice Awards to model what the Best Saga would look like if the Best Saga became an internet popularity contest. Looking at those two possible models should give us a better idea of how a Best Saga Hugo would actually play out. I bet an actual award would play out somewhere in the middle of the two models.


Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Modelling a Best Saga Hugo Award, Part 2” – June 23

…. Methodology: The same as last time. Goodreads publishes Top 20 lists of the most popular SF and F novels; I combed through the list and chose the most popular that were part of a series. The Goodreads lists actually publishes vote totals, so I used those to determine overall popularity. Here’s the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards; note that these would be the books elgible for the 2014 Hugo. The Goodreads categories are a little wonky at times. Keep that in mind. They also separated out Paranormal Fantasy until 2014, so no Dresden Files or Sookie Sackhouse in the model…..

This model looks less encouraging than the Locus Awards model. I think this is what many Hugo voters are afraid of: legacy series like Ender’s Game, Sword of Truth, or even Wheel of Time, showing up long after their critical peak has worn off (if Goodkind ever had a critical peak). Series can maintain their popularity and sales long after their innovation has vanished; readers love those worlds so much that they’ll return no matter how tired and predictable the books are. A 10 or 15 year series also has 10 or 15 years to pick up fans, and it might be harder for newer series by less-established authors to compete.

Still, even the Goodreads awards were not swamped by dead-man walking series, and the Hugo audience would probably trim some of these inappropriate works in their voting. It would be interesting to see someone like King win a Hugo for The Dark Tower; that’s certainly a very different feel than the current Hugos have.


Eric Flint


….But my biggest difference with John’s approach has to do with something very general—about as general as it gets, in fact.

What are the goals of literary awards in the first place? And what’s the best way to achieve those goals?

There are two ways to look at this. The first is the way John is looking at it, which runs throughout his entire argument, not just in the two paragraphs I quoted above. For John, awards should not only be a recognition for excellence, they should be designed to encourage the development of new talent by being concentrated in those areas where new talent is most likely to emerge.

Hence, he champions short fiction awards. Please note that John is not disagreeing with a point I made in my first essay and have repeated many times since—to wit, that short fiction represents only a very small slice of F&SF whether you measure that either in terms of readers or (especially) the income of authors. He simply feels that’s not very relevant because what he sees as most important is the following:

It [a “Best Saga” award] privileges the established writer over the newer writer. Almost by definition, the authors who are eligible for the “Best Saga” award are very likely be writers who are already successful enough to have a long-running series and the ability to publish in those series on a recurring basis. It’s theoretically possible to have someone toiling away on a series in utter obscurity and suddenly emerge with a knockout installment that would pop that writer up into “Best Saga” consideration, but as a practical matter, it’s almost certainly more likely than not that the nominees in the category would be those authors with perennially popular series — people, to be blunt, like me and a relatively few other folks, who are already more likely to have won the “genre success” lottery than others.

I don’t disagree with the point John makes when he says that “the authors who are eligible for the ‘Best Saga’ award are very likely to be writers who are already successful enough to have a long-running series and the ability to publish in those series on a recurring basis.”

He’s absolutely right about that. But where he sees that as a problem, I see it as an essential feature of any award structure that’s designed to attract the attention of its (supposed) audience. In fact, it was exactly the way the Hugo awards looked in their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s…..

At the moment, and for some time now, the “pendulum” of the Hugo awards has swung too far away from the mass audience. Where I differ from John is that I don’t see any way to reverse the increasing irrelevance of the Hugo awards to most F&SF readers unless the Hugos adopt one or another version of an award for series (i.e., the “Saga” award that’s being proposed). When most popular authors are working exclusively or almost exclusively in series and most of the awards are given for short fiction you will inevitably have a situation where the major awards in F&SF become irrelevant to most of the reading audience. Which, in turn, means that winning an award becomes less and less valuable in any terms beyond personal satisfaction.

If the idea of modifying an award structure to better match the interests of the mass audience really bothers you, grit your teeth and call it Danegeld. But it works.


Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“Hugo Recommendations: Best Related Work” – June 23

This is how I am voting in the Best Related Work category. Of course, I merely offer this information regarding my individual ballot for no particular reason at all, and the fact that I have done so should not be confused in any way, shape, or form with a slate or a bloc vote, much less a direct order by the Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil to his 383 Vile Faceless Minions or anyone else.

  1. “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”
  2. Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth
  3. “Why Science is Never Settled”
  4. Letters from Gardner
  5. Wisdom from My Internet


Melina D on Subversive Reader

“Hugos 2015: Thoughts on Editing” – June 23

I’m not going to talk about individual nominees here, but I did want to talk about the editing awards, particularly short form editing. I’ve heard people talking about these award before and how you can’t really judge editing unless you are either the author or the editor (or someone who works with them) – usually implying that ‘regular fans’ shouldn’t be voting for these awards.

I have to disagree. When we look at the nominees for the short form editing, we’re essentially looking at editors who have put together anthologies or collections (or in one case a magazine, similar to the anthologies/collections, but with more of them over the course of a year). And I strongly believe that you can see good editing when it comes to these forms – as well as bad editing.


Melina D on Subversive Reader

“Hugos 2015 Reading: Best Fan Writer” – June 23

I’m not actually going to talk about the nominees individually. There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, I think some of the nominees thrive on notoriety and get a buzz from someone talking about them. It feeds into their over-inflated sense of self-importance and I don’t feel like adding to that. Secondly, I don’t think any of the provided submissions were at an award level – in content or writing, so there’s no benefit in discussing them individually. Finally, the tone of a few of the pieces left me concerned that I would become a target for abusive behaviour if I was publicly critical of the authors. There’s probably a very slim chance of it, but events of the last couple of years has shown me that it does happen, and I’d prefer not to deal with that at the moment. So, my discussion here is going to be a more general look at what was submitted and what made me so ranty about it.

One thing that really struck me while I was reading, was that many of the pieces had little to do with speculative fiction or media or the community as fans. When we’re celebrating fan writers, I’m looking for people who are passionately engaged as fans. I want to know about the books and stories and media they love and why they love it. I want to know about the spec fic they find find problematic and why. I want to know why media inspires them and why. I want to know what kind of fan community they aspire to belong to and why.


Patrick May

“2015 Hugo Awards Graphic Story Category” – June 23

[Reviews all nominees in category.]

The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate

This is the only nominee not included in the Hugo packet. I asked the author on his website and on Twitter if there is an excerpt available, but got no response. Since it’s a webcomic I read a few months worth online to get a feel for the work.

This is less a graphic story than a series of loosely connected gags. Some are amusing, most are not. The artwork is decent, but neither it nor the writing make it a Hugo contender.


Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant” – June 23

Lightspeed Magazine is a 2015 Best Semiprozine Hugo nominee.

Lightspeed publishes a wide range of science fiction and fantasy fiction, as well as interviews, Q&As with their authors, and fiction podcasts. What I did not find is an archive allowing me to look at their 2014 issues, the relevant issues for this year’s Hugos. The only thing I’ve been able to read that they published in 2014 is “The Day The World Turned Upside Down,” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt. I’ve already expressed my opinion on that one, and you can read it, if you wish, by clicking the link.

It’s very well presented visually, but with the Heuvelt story being the only thing from 2014 that’s available to read, I’m not prepared to rate it very high.


Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog

“Hugo Reading – Short Stories” – June 23

[Reviews all five nominees.]

The best story of the five by a few lengths was definitely “Totaled”, although it wasn’t perfect, nor even the best I’ve read from 2014. It was just very good. In descending order of quality I would rank “A Single Samurai”, “On A Spiritual Plain”, “Turncoat”… and then “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” a distant last. Four of the five have something to recommend them, but only one was good enough to even be considered for an award.




543 thoughts on “The Snifferance Engine 6/23

  1. “While I can’t join in the boycott of Tor Books (since I’ve never owned any of their books and wasn’t planning to buy any anyway)…”

    This is a point I’ve made again and again in connection with the Puppies: they don’t buy many – if any – Tor books to begin with, so their boycott is unlikely to be of much effect (especially with people like me counterbalancing it by buying five hardcover books published by Tor of the day the “boycott” began). Even the pictures they’re posting are generally of small collections (at least compared to my library, which holds more than 800 Tor books) and contain books from a broad span of years, most of them from past decades. I just don’t think there’s any there there for them.

    As to the death of traditional publishing: just today I had my hair cut by a woman young enough to be my granddaughter (she’s only 20!) — first time I’ve ever met her. She loves to read and she HATES e-books. She wants a physical book every time. My nieces and nephews, four of whom are even younger than that, say the same thing. And it’s not like traditional publishers aren’t messing around with all sorts of new ways to own and read books, staying nimble to keep up with the (welcome) plethora of small and specialty presses.

    I was worried for awhile there, but upon further reflection, I don’t think this boycott is anything but sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  2. Lesbian Romance SFF, Part the Fourth

    Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
    Comment: A recent read for me, and a very well-written fantasy novel of intrigue, manners, and magic. An unexpected inheritance leads a young women to fall afoul of a tangle of politics and strict social mores, which she must navigate with the aid of her fascinating new bodyguard …
    Rating: 4/5 Stars
    Note: She has another book out now, “The Alchemical Marriage”, which appears to focus on some of the minor characters of “Daughter of Mystery”. I have not yet read it, but am looking forward to it.

    My Real Children by Jo Walton
    Comment: Perhaps best classified as science fiction, this story of two alternate worlds is half lesbian romance. I … enjoyed most of this book immensely and probably would have rated it 4.5/5 stars except for the way it ended which I have to admit I didn’t like at all.
    Rating: 3.5/5 stars
    Note: Jo Walton is in general a favorite author of mine, but this is her only work I’ve read that properly be said to fall into the lesbian romance category.

    The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
    Comment: Cyberpunk science fiction, in which a heavily modified woman working as a “camera” for a news company finds herself on the edges of a conspiracy. Strong themes about the role of the media. Another book that turns out not to be exactly a romance because of where the plot goes. A note — I personally liked this book, but didn’t love it. Many, many people LOVE it LOVE it LOVE it. You may wish to consider adjusting my star rating up accordingly.
    Rating: 3.25/5 stars
    Comment: This appears to be this author’s only book.

  3. Camestros:

    I like King’s artistic ethic – he strives to be better and is constructively self-critical, despite sitting on what I imagine is piles of jewel encrusted golden goblets.

    Yeah, doing it for the money is obviously not something he’s had to worry about for a long long time. So it’s good he’s motivated by something that keeps him striving.

  4. Quick question: Does anyone know what tribe Beale ascribes his Native American heritage to? Because I’m local to Minnesota, his home state, and it occurs to me that if he gave any details, they probably wouldn’t be that hard to double-check.

  5. I got a post dunked in moderation. Was it because I quoted Camestros using the word J-E-W-E-L?

  6. Lesbian Romance SFF, Part the Fifth

    The Year Seven by Molly Zanger
    Comment: Post-apocalyptic SF with a psychological approach. A small community of survivors try to create a society following a catastrophe. Interesting.
    Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
    Note: I do not know what else this author has written.

    Machine by Jennifer Pelland
    Comment: A woman whose mind is placed in an artificial body gradually becomes disconnected from humanity. Not really a romance, and NOT for the faint of heart — strong disturbing images of self-harm. Nonetheless, I liked it.
    Rating: 4/5 Stars
    Note: I’ve also read short stories by this author which are likewise quite good and often disturbing.

    Twixt by Sarah Diemer
    Comment: A woman wakes in a city where no one remembers their past and monsters come for you at night. But something seems wrong with her, even more wrong than expected. Good dark YA fantasy.
    Rating: 3.75/5 Stars
    Notes: I also liked Diemer’s YA lesbian retelling of the Persphone myth, The Dark Wife (3.5/5 stars). She also writes adult lesbian fiction under the name Elora Bishop, and I’ve read her fantasy book “Cage the Darlings” under that name, which wasn’t bad (3/5 stars).

  7. Peace: “I have some beautiful handblown glass Burgess Shale critters on the mantelpiece.”


    I was so excited to buy a trilobite fossil in Canada last year that could have very well come from the Burgess Shale – at least, from that period.

    Have you seen David Attenborough’s First Life?

  8. @Terry: just to add some more anecdata: I’m 27 and have, just this year, grudgingly started using my tablet as an ereader. Even then, I managed to convince myself to buy 3 paper volumes of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu in Japanese while I was in Kuala Lumpur.

    I definitely prefer dead tree editions, but it gets costly carting around a physical tbr stack. (And I buy a lot of used novels when I’m in Thailand so I usually end up using my tablet mainly for short story collections anyway)

  9. @John Seavey- Unlikely you’ll be able to find much, VD says that the genetic test that discovered it showed that his brother was 1/32 Native American. They probably won’t be on any tribal rolls at that point.

  10. Beale has Mexican ancestors. No surprise that some Native genetic markers would show up in a test.

  11. Has anyone provided a defense for having three awards for fiction you can read in a single sitting that doesn’t seem to boil down to “quotas”? The reasons that Castro, Scalzi, and Jemisin have given for keeping the short story, novelette, and novella categories all do in my mind, and that isn’t something I’d call a good reason to continue the literary equivalent of distinguishing “black turtlenecks” from “slightly darker black turtlenecks”.

  12. Moby Dick is one of the very very few books I’ve never managed to get into despite trying several times. (And I have the patience for Proust.) Somehow, as soon as Captain Ahab turns up, I lose all interest and put it back on the shelf for another five years.

    I read Little, Big when I was a teenager and was blown away by it. Reread it when it was rereleased recently (that’s a lot of re-s) and although the style is still impressive, the story and characters left me cold. It felt dated in a way I didn’t expect.

  13. @Anna Feruglio Dal Dan: (Correia and rhymes)

    As I recall, he at least does not object when his name is pronounced to rhyme with “Maria.” At most, I think I’ve heard it as “kor-ay-uh” instead of “kor-ee-yuh” – but either way, it’s still close enough for filk.

    @John Seavey: (Stephen King’s short fiction)

    My favorite of his short fiction – discounting anything as long as “The Mist” or thereabouts – is probably “Survivor Type” or “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” simply by virtue of how long key images from them have stuck with me.

    I tend to like his fiction rather long or very short; the medium-length novels just don’t resonate as much. His short fiction highlights his ability to tell a powerful story with minimal detail, while his huge books show off his worldbuilding and deep characterization. I mean, you can tell the tale of It without the asides that mention the fire at the Black Spot or the explosion at the ironworks, but it would be a lesser book for it. Those episodes are like short stories embedded in the novel, the best of both worlds.

    @various: (Beale’s hypothetical membership)

    I figure it like this. After the fact, if it would be advantageous to claim he had a cloaked membership, he will do so. If it would suit him better to say everybody danced to the tune of someone who didn’t invest a dime, he will do that. Having a public membership means he has to choose an option in advance, and given that (a) he has stated that he does not care about the Hugos and (b) not buying a membership is cheaper than buying one, I would surmise that he took the cheaper approach and did not buy a membership. Why spend money for no reason, right? It’s not as if he has a sense of honor that compels him to be truthful in his claims.

  14. Lesbian Romance SFF, Part the Sixth

    (Just so everyone is clear, this is a curated list — there’s plenty of stuff I’ve read which is not going on it because, well. Everything that’s getting featured in italics is something I at least liked.)

    The Annunciate by Severna Park
    Comment: Far future SF. Drug dealers enmeshed in a caste war encounter a being that can break down the barriers between dreams and reality. A lot of interesting ideas.
    Rating: 3.5/5 stars
    Note: This author has some other SF in the lesbian romance genre, “Speaking Dreams” and “Hand of Prophecy”, but they were a bit clunky in construction (2.75/5 stars)

    Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack
    Comment: Two young women fall in love, and are helped in their struggles by Death. But does that help come with too high a price? Intriguing, character-driven fantasy.
    Rating: 3.75/5 stars
    Note: This author has some other fantasy novels, including “Temporary Agency”, a Nebula nominee which I also recall as having lesbian romance aspects and being kind of wild and pretty good (3.25/5 stars). (I think “Temporary Agency” is technically a sequel to “Unquenchable Fire”, which I don’t remember very well, but I seem to remember they’re both pretty stand-alone.)

    Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey
    Comment: A strange and complex fantasy novel following five generations of women, their loves and lives. Excellent, very lyrical, and sometimes brutal. Explores issues of gender, identity, and freedom.
    Rating: 4.25/5 stars
    Note: While I’ve read another book by her, if she has other lesbian romance SFF I haven’t read it.

  15. Kyra

    You are making a remarkable archive; I salute you!

    Of course, fans doing fanly things is what it’s all about; the fact that it profoundly pisses VD off is icing on the cake…

    Edited to add: Revbob: I agree re VD

  16. Book rec: if you like Bartley the Scrivener you will probably love Flex by Ferret Steinmetz (sp?). So good.

  17. I expected Moby Dick to be a slog, but I found it utterly enjoyable. There’s a lot of old-fashioned hard-SF quality about the lengthy technical digressions, and in the way the book luxuriates in details of what was then cutting-edge technology it reads in places almost like a techno-thriller. And then there’s the sheer literary cheek of the book’s shifting styles, the vivid characters of Ahab and Ishmael… if I’d known it was going to be that much fun I’d have read it ten years earlier.

  18. @ Rev Bob

    My favorite of his short fiction – discounting anything as long as “The Mist” or thereabouts – is probably “Survivor Type” or “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” simply by virtue of how long key images from them have stuck with me.

    Survivor Type! A group of us in my high school theatre troupe were King fans and that was one of our favorites. Even now the words “ladyfingers” and “cold roast beef” can move us to gales of disgusted laughter.

    “Graveyard Shift” is the King short story that sticks with me most. *shudder*

  19. Nick Mamatas –

    If she lasts a minute, it’ll be an achievement. If she lasts a round, it’ll be like she won!

    Or that Ronda just wanted to just beat her for longer for her suicide comments. Either way I wouldn’t take the bet on a whole round regardless of odds!

  20. Lesbian Romance SFF, part the Seventh

    Special Category I: It Happens In The Sequels
    (Series that don’t start out going there, but eventually go there)

    The Fever Crumb Series by Philip Reeve
    An excellent far-future YA SF series that takes a surprising and welcome turn towards lesbian romance in book 3 (Scrivener’s Moon)

    The Skyscraper Throne Series by Tom Pollack
    I’ll admit I’ve only read the first of these very well-regarded urban fantasy novels, but I have heard on good authority that in book 2 (The Glass Republic), it goes there.

    … And I can’t say too much about this next one without spoilers but just read everything by Rachel Hartman, OK?

  21. @Kyra

    Thank you for the recs! Not only will they be useful for personal use, the problem of what to get my sister for Birthdays and Christmas’ will be solved for quite some time. 😉

  22. Jane – thanks for the rec of “The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, v.2.1?. Great use of the robot’s POV.

  23. Ann Somerville on June 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm said:
    Peace: “I have some beautiful handblown glass Burgess Shale critters on the mantelpiece.”


    I was so excited to buy a trilobite fossil in Canada last year that could have very well come from the Burgess Shale – at least, from that period.

    Have you seen David Attenborough’s First Life?

    Not as yet, but it’s something I’m interested in.

  24. Lesbian Romance SFF, part the Eighth

    Special Category II: Well That Was Weird
    (Strange, interesting stuff that kind of defies easy classification)

    Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
    Magical realism and Chinese mythology. Good stuff.

    The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson
    Strange science fiction exploring the destructive nature of humanity. I liked it.

  25. Rev. Bob said: “I tend to like his fiction rather long or very short; the medium-length novels just don’t resonate as much. His short fiction highlights his ability to tell a powerful story with minimal detail, while his huge books show off his worldbuilding and deep characterization. I mean, you can tell the tale of It without the asides that mention the fire at the Black Spot or the explosion at the ironworks, but it would be a lesser book for it. Those episodes are like short stories embedded in the novel, the best of both worlds.”

    Actually, my wife mentioned this at lunch–she said that a lot of his best novels feel like sequences of interlinked short stories. It, in particular, starts with two incredibly strong vignettes that feel like paired short stories with a common antagonist, and has multiple points throughout the book where he digresses to a more or less self-contained narrative. They all build to a coherent whole, but he’s clearly working to make some strong sequences that could almost stand on their own.

  26. Kyra:

    I have copy-pasted your Lesbian Romance SFF roundup and am sending the list on to a whole bunch of friends. Truly you have done a public service.

  27. Lesbian Romance SFF, Part the Ninth

    Special Category III: I thought you said this was romance?
    Some books which have lesbian characters but not a whole lot of romance, although there’s a little of it in all of them

    The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
    Called “Daughter of the North” in some countries. Well regarded nearish-future dystopic SF with lesbian separatist themes. Liked it, didn’t love it.

    Solitaire by Kelly Eskridge
    SF with themes of reconnecting with society after enforced isolation. Liked it, but I don’t think it’s as strong as her short stories, which I love.

    The Maerlande Chronicles by Elisabeth Vonarburg
    Truly, truly excellent far future SF about changes occurring in a matriarchal society.

  28. @Kyra, I’m finishing up presentation slides tonight, but I’ve grabbed all your recs, and am very VERY grateful. Thank you!

  29. Kyra, you are truly going above and beyond the call of duty in squeezing every last drop of book money and wishlist space out of this forum. I salute you!

  30. It think it’s probably time to say goodnight; it’s long past 1am here and I have to sort things tomorrow so that the surveyor dealing with my right to light can do his inspection on Friday, before the manly men destroy the old building opposite.

    I’m knee deep in books which certainly imperil life and limb to those unaccustomed to our fanly habits, so clearing a path is the least I can do…

  31. Also, it’s not at all SFF, and it’s not explicitly lesbian, nor explicitly romance (though AO3 has filled in those gaps nicely), but I bet a lot of you following Kyra’s recs would appreciate Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which is YA WW2 adventure.

  32. Lesbian Romance SFF, part the Tenth and Final unless I Think of Some More

    Special Category IV: I thought you said this was lesbian?
    (Books which don’t really qualify as lesbian romance at all but may fit into an LBT kind of space, often in a backgrounded kind of way, and therefore be of interest to some)

    God’s War by Kameron Hurley (and sequels)
    Far future SF. Main bisexual character. Very good. Often quite violent.

    Vigilant by James Alan Gardner
    Far future SF. Main bisexual and poly character. Very good.

    Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
    Strange, excellent fantasy. Important to main bisexual characters.

    Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (third in a series)
    Very, very good fantasy. Important to main lesbian and … probably-best-defined-as-trans characters.

    The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum (second in a series)
    Decent fantasy. Important trans character.

    Pantomime by Laura Lam (and the sequel Shadowplay)
    Very good fantasy. Intersex and bisexual main character.

  33. Gabriel F:

    Am I the only person who really liked the ending of My Real Children?

    … possibly?

    My Real Children didn’t work for me. I love alternate timelines, but I wanted there to be a connection between her chioces and the way the two universes worked out.

    Actually, I liked the ending well enough, given that I didn’t really care for how the whole book turned out. I mean, the ending worked as well for me as anything else in the book.

  34. Kyra,

    Since you included a few that are only sort of romance, I’m going to bring Sarah McCarry to your attention, if you’re not already familiar with her. She has a trilogy (well, the third book is out in early July) of novels that are…I want to say magical realist retellings of Greek myths, all of which star girls who love each other. It’s hard to classify them as strictly lesbian romances, though, because in both of the books that are out so far at least one of the girls is bisexual, and there’s an open relationship (if you can even call it that. They don’t exactly define what they’ve got) that involves a man.

    Still, the focus of the books is very much the relationship between the girls. In comparison with Diemer’s take on Greek stuff, this is…more grim (there are some hints that the final book might change that). In terms of feel, the closest I can get is “What if Vandermeer’s Southern Reach were about pairs of teenage girls grappling with Greek mythology?

    Come for the prose, the characters, and the mood (and the Tiptree nomination 😉 )

  35. Ray :”Return of Kings? Really? I don’t think there are even emoticons capable of adequately conveying how awful RoK is.”

    Maybe the “poop” emoticon, if it causes your phone to actually spew poop? Like like green smelly newborn poop?

    It is an extraordinarily reprehensible website. I can think of few other indictments of the puppy position more compelling than a RoT endorsement. I can’t agree more with Lioness and other commenters who advocated NOT visiting the site. If your curiosity is piqued, and you want to know just how bad it is, We Hunted the Mamoth has frequent summaries accompanied by mockery. Jezebel also published a rundown of some of RoTs greatest hits, which involved such charmless articles as “Why you should date a girl with an eating disorder.” Ugh.

  36. that nevertheless wind up feeling something like, say, feudal Japan.

    Which is one thing I bounce of off. If I want to read about culture clash between Westerners and Japanese people, there are books about culture clash between Westerners and Japanese people. I don’t need them to dressed up as spacemen and aliens.

  37. Also, re Tom Pollock’s The Skyscraper Throne:

    I can vouch for this book as indeed being lesbian romance (in the middle of a whole bunch of other things, too.)

  38. Will McLean : “Btw, am I the only one who keeps misreading “MilSF” as “MILF-SF”?”

    Heinlein, yes?

    Nah – he’d be more like “MIDF – SF”.

  39. James Nicholl: “I don’t need them to dressed up as spacemen and aliens.”

    But what if you want to talk about two evolved societies, one which is a guilt culture, one a shame culture? Just because something is reminiscent of Japan v the West, doesn’t mean it’s *based* on it.

  40. ‘Furface Detail’ is the best one yet — but you have to say ‘furface’ with the accent on the first syllable.

  41. Thanks for everyone’s suggestions in turn, by the way! Busily adding them to my To-Be-Read list …

  42. The writer I put off a long time because I expected him to be dull was Dickens. (I blame it on a friend in college who was taking him in a Major Author class and hated him and let me know it on a daily basis). Years later my husband picked up a Tale of Two Cities and started reading passages aloud to me. Incredible writing and fabulous magical realist elements (the gargoyles!).

    He’s one of the writers I think of when people try to draw firm lines between literary fiction and genre fiction. He’s certainly considered literary — and yet enormously popular in his lifetime, of course, and elements of the fantastic in his work. If not straight up fantastic in something like “A Christmas Carol.”

  43. Kyra,
    Thank you for the list!

    Also, if you haven’t read it yet, you may want to try Karen Memory.

  44. @Peace is My Middle Name: Lately I have been jarred and jolted by people citing stupid or trite things entirely unlike and claiming that they are Tolkien, but they have all turned out to be from the movies.

    That always happen when there’s an adaptation: everyone I know who teaches anything that has a movie out (Shakespeare profs especially) have reading quizzes or test questions designed to show if students tried to watch the film instead of reading the play or book. I had another type of irritation: people who said they were fans of Tolkien’s work claiming that X in the films (everything about Arwen, or some of the events in Jackson’s HOB) was made up and how terrible it was when in fact there was a huge amount from the Appendices woven throughout LotR and HOB—with changes, yes, but film is a different medium. I spent a number of years snarling at people to read Appendix B and then we’d talk about Arwen—because it turns out that there are people who do not read the Appendices/poems/Prologue/etc. Shocking, I tell you, simply shocking ;>

    @Aaron: For me to read more J.R.R. Tolkien, he would have to publish more.

    I blush to admit I haven’t had a chance to read Children of Hurin or Sigurd and Gudrun but have spent a lot of time with “Fall of Arthur.”

    @McJulie: I don’t know what standard of “good writing” they’re applying that would prove Tolkien a failure, and usually, the people making such a claim don’t know either. It seems to be one of those bits of received literary wisdom (like the notion of Stephen King as a “great storyteller but poor writer” or Lovecraft as merely a hack) that SF fans parrot without having thought through how you would arrive at such a conclusion.

    Not just SF fans either, alas.

    On a weird but related note: some of our students (I team-taught Tolkien several times with a medieval historian) had family who freaked out because their ministers/churches thought all fantasy was satanic (Harry Potter was the worst, but *some* groups lump Tolkien in there as well—mostly the Church of Christ and some of the Southern Baptist congregations).

    @jcr: Interesting that everyone is conceiving of “saga” or “series” as an extension of the novel category. I find my thoughts are different if I think of it more as an extension of magazine–maybe more of an Emmy than an Oscar. One way of looking at it focuses on the ability of the author to create a giant story arc; the other is about the continual building and enriching a world and a set of characters. Neither viewpoint is in any sense right or wrong–they just suggest different criteria for what we want included and how we would judge it.

    This makes a great deal of sense—best points I’ve seen made about the proposal so far, and I thihnk it makes a great deal of sense (didn’t Kurt Busiek discuss similarities with comic books?).

    @mintwitch: Huh—I love Tolkien’s works, and was a huge Cabaret fan. And yet I cannot think of any similarities between them! Reader, or viewer, responses are so fascinating/varied – and we know so little about the processes by which people make meaning from texts.

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