[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last couple of years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 and 35 of the novellas published in 2016 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).
Last year, the result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I decided to do it again this year.
The success of Tor’s novella line seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, and Book Smugglers jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the Big 3 magazines and the online fiction venues – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. Toward the end, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis.
It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, the book doesn’t really do much for me.
Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.
I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?
Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 novellas which you’ve read, as well.
Raymond Chandler famously hated science fiction, saying “They pay brisk money for this crap?” However, it has recently come to light that Chandler secretly wrote a series of stories and novels starring a robot detective. He then burnt all the manuscripts and went on writing his noir masterpieces. Unknown to Chandler, his housekeeper had managed to save some of these discarded manuscripts from the grate in his study, preserving the tales for future generations.
The first of these stories was recently unearthed by author Adam Christopher. On the topic of how the manuscript made its way from Chandler’s study in California to Christopher’s home in England, Christopher is suspiciously quiet.
MADE TO KILL
It was just another Tuesday morning when she walked into the office–young, as I suspected they all might be, another dark brunette with some assistance and enough eye black to match up to Cleopatra. And who am I? I’m Ray, the world’s last robot, famed and feared in equal measure, which suits me just fine–after all, the last place you’d expect to find Hollywood’s best hit man is in the plain light of day.
In an alternate version of 1960s Los Angeles, the world’s only robot detective has been turned into a hit man by his corrupted master computer.
Raymond Electromatic is good at his job, as good as he ever was at being a true Private Investigator, the lone employee of the Electromatic Detective Agency–except for Ada, office gal and super-computer, the constant voice in Ray’s inner ear. Ray might have taken up a new line of work, but money is money, after all, and he was programmed to make a profit. Besides, with his twenty-four-hour memory-tape limits, he sure can keep a secret.
When a familiar-looking woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to find a missing movie star, he’s inclined to tell her to take a hike. But she had the cold hard cash, a demand for total anonymity, and tendency to vanish on her own.
Plunged into a glittering world of fame, fortune, and secrecy, Ray uncovers a sinister plot that goes much deeper than the silver screen–and this robot is at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
STANDARD HOLLYWOOD DEPRAVITY
The moment Raymond Electromatic set eyes on her, he knew she was the dame marked in his optics, the woman that his boss had warned him about.
As the band shook the hair out of their British faces, stomping and strumming, the go-go dancer’s cage swung, and the events of that otherwise average night were set in motion. A shot, under the cover of darkness, a body bleeding out in a corner, and most of Los Angeles’ population of hired guns hulking, sour-faced over un-drunk whiskey sours at the bar.
But as Ray tries to track down the package he was dispatched to the club to retrieve, his own programming might be working against him, sending him down a long hall and straight into a mobster’s paradise. Is Honey still the goal—or was she merely bait for a bigger catch?
Just your standard bit of Hollywood depravity, as tracked by the memory tapes of a less-than-standard robot hitman.
Next year’s Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1926 New York, where the wizarding community uses another term entirely for people without magical powers.
In shifting the franchise away from the U.K., author J.K. Rowling — who also wrote the movie’s screenplay — is poised to introduce several new words into the Potterverse lexicon, and the most significant might be what Stateside wizards say instead of Muggle: “No-Maj” (pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic”).
In Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, we go on the set and deep inside the chamber of secrets of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here’s your first look at Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, Alison Sudol and Queenie Goldstein, and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski.
(4) More alleged secrets are spilled by the host of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:
J.K. Rowling can’t stop revealing “Harry Potter” secrets, even though the last book came out over 8 years ago. It’s time for Stephen to take spoilers into his own hands.
That question has been asked many times before and has proven slightly controversial. The more obvious answer may be no: the books are set in the “real” world, with some of the action taking place in real locations such as London. Much of the story is set in and around a single location, Hogwarts, whilst epic fantasy is often based around a long journey or series of journeys across a fantastical landscape. Epic fantasy also usually features a large and diverse number of nonhuman races, whilst Harry Potter only has a small number of them, and all of the primary protagonists are human. Epic fantasy also relies on characters with diverse skillsets, whilst in Potter pretty much everyone of note is a wizard.
But there are strong arguments to the counter. The books may touch on the real world but most of the action takes place in original, fantastical locations such as Hogwarts. Also, the books make much of the idea of the world being similar to ours, but one where magic is real (if mostly secret) and the impact that has on government and society, making it arguably an alt-history.
Friday: Relationships with Other People and Society Stoics, Vulcans, Buddhists, and artificial intelligences alike are often accused of being emotionless and not caring about other people. In all four cases, this is a mistake (although in the case of AIs, it may depend on which AI you’re talking about). See my philosophical tribute to Leonard Nimoy for more on this point. As any sufficiently nerdy Star Trek fan knows, Vulcans actually have emotions, but, in many of the same ways as Stoics, they train themselves to move beyond being controlled by negative emotions and they cultivate positive emotions like compassion. Vulcans like Spock do care about their friends. The deep friendship that Spock feels for his crew mates, especially Kirk and McCoy, is unmistakable, as illustrated most poignantly near the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan(whether Spock is a utilitarian or virtue ethicist is hard to say.)
Marcus Aurelius realized that cultivating compassion for everyone is often hard, especially when other people are obnoxious (as they so often are, even more so now that we have internet trolls).
Do you ever wonder what goes on in the wondrous mind of director, producer, and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro? Yes? Same. Well, to chime with the recent release of his creepy, goth thriller Crimson Peak, Guillermo has curated a syllabus of the Gothic and Gothic romance novels, short stories, and engravings that influenced the making of the film. He sent us these recommendations with the following words: “I hope you enjoy some of these as fall or winter reads by the fireplace.” Before you post up beside an actual fire, here’s what Guillermo del Toro has to say about these Gothic essentials.
First on the list –
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le FanuThis book defines the link between fairy tales and gothic romance. Uncle Silas is a convoluted, highly perverse mystery-thriller about innocence in danger, written by the master of ghost stories, J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s a dense but rewarding read, and it was crucial to Crimson Peak.
(10) Superman will make a (blurry) appearance on the next episode of Supergirl.
While it makes some sense that Superman would come and save the inexperienced Supergirl, the series really needs to find a way to take him off the board so he’s not continuously used as a plot device in future. If that’s not going to happen, then he should make an actual appearance instead of all these endless teases.
It’s been a discouraging week, overall. First there was the article about SF writers coming into the genre without reading the classics of the genre. Then, when I started working on a list of classics available free (or very cheap) online to suggest to potential readers, I got a comment to the effect of ‘classics suck, they should die in a fire, and why should anyone read them?’
In the aftermath of that, which left me wondering why I was trying to make this list… I don’t make the lists to force anyone to read anything. I can’t – who am I? I’m not the teacher, or the… anything. I’m just someone who likes to create these lists of recommendations with input from others, and then they generate even more suggestions in the comments. I make lists to be beginnings, not endings. The hope is that someone will see a title they had never read, or had forgotten, and that strikes mental sparks in folks who have favorites they want to share, and so on. It’s about building up the genre, not tearing it down. I’d never say ‘you must read these books, and only these books, all others are anathema.’
As I was saying, I was still mentally mulling the whole ‘classics suck!’ thing over in my head, when a minor controversy erupted over writing book reviews. When, if ever, is it ok to be critical in a review? Should we put ourselves in a position where we say ‘well, that author is on my side, ergo I must never say a bad word about his work?’ Well, no, I don’t think so. Nor do I think that the occasional critical review is a bad thing – as long as the review is analyzing the work, not the author, and leavened with the good along with the bad. That’s how I do it. But it’s discouraging to be told that we can’t present a critical view of a work, simply because of who the author is.
(12) Fans are so smitten by the idea of an illuminated toy lightsaber that’s sturdy enough to bash around that they have fully funded Calimacil’s Kickstarter and then some – raising $46,889, well beyond the $38,259 goal.
The challenge was to build a lightsaber made of foam for safe play. To integrate light, we had to enhance the foam formula we normally use to build our products. Moreover, we had to develop a new technology into the handle to enable both light and sound. Thus our journey began, and we successfully achieved the creation of a fully immersive foam LEDsaber!….
The LEDsaber can communicate with a smartphone through Bluetooth. With that communication enabled, you will be able to customize the light effects of the blade. Multiple choices of colors are available: red, blue, green, orange and more. Even more, you can create various visual plasma effects on the blade….
Calimacil has no intention to commercialize the product using any kind of trademark associated to Disney. For the purpose of the kickstarter campaign we use the term LEDsaber.
(13) A lot of people post about their pets passing away, and I empathize with their sadness and loss.
It’s rare that someone can communicate what it was like to be in relationship with that animal, as John Scalzi has in “Lopsided Cat, 2000-2015”.