AudioFile Magazine’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks of 2022—So Far!

Audiofile Magazine calls these the nine best sff audiobooks to appear in the first half of 2022.

SIREN QUEEN

  • by Nghi Vo| Read by Natalie Naudus
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.75 hrs.]

Natalie Naudus’s skilled narration adds to the luminous and otherworldly qualities of Vo’s historical fantasy. Luli Wei is determined to be a star. But in her world, that means making dangerous pacts, trading away years of her life, and fending off literal monsters. Naudus moves from character to character with ease, enlivening the ambitious and bold Luli, the captivating women she falls for, and the roaring executives who are looking to own Luli’s soul. Naudus conveys all of Luli’s passion as she delivers her lines for her starring role as the monstrous Siren Queen. A surreal and spellbinding story of a Golden Age Hollywood that is steeped in ancient magic. 

THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer

  • by Janelle Monáe| Read by Janelle Monáe, Bahni Turpin
  • [Harper Audio | 12.25 hrs.]

Musician and actor Janelle Monáe adds author and narrator to her considerable list of accomplishments with this story collection based on themes from her 2018 album DIRTY COMPUTER. The totalitarian entity New Dawn seeks to strip away all perceived deviance from humanity. Monáe’s narration of the eponymous first story is softly menacing as she introduces listeners to Seshet, a bureaucratic memory thief who longs for love and connection. Bahni Turpin narrates the rest of the stories in her engaging voice, using crisp and flexible tones to portray characters at odds with Seshet’s mission. Together, they create a memorable experience for listeners seeking classic science-fiction themes with new horizons. 

FEVERED STAR

  • by Rebecca Roanhorse| Read by Christian Barillas, Darrell Dennis, Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett
  • [Simon & Schuster Audio | 12.75 hrs.]

Five talented narrators continue an epic fantasy story of political upheaval, magic, and destiny in the Meridian. Serapio, portrayed with intensity and vulnerability by Shaun Taylor-Corbett, is struggling to maintain his humanity after becoming the living avatar of the Crow God. Cara Gee voices priestess Naranpa with wonder as she discovers she has been reborn as the Sun God, the Crow God’s bitter enemy. Each narrator propels the story forward in turn, expertly conveying the tangled fears and ambitions of its many characters. Listeners will be eager for the third part of this tense series inspired by pre-Columbian societies. 

THE MEASURE

  • by Nikki Erlick| Read by Julia Whelan
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 11 hrs.]

Golden Voice narrator Julia Whelan gives a thoughtful performance of a novel focused on a fundamental question: Would you want to know how long you’re going to live? One night everyone 22 years and older receives a box containing a length of string that tells them how much longer they will live. Would you open the box? Whelan introduces listeners to characters who have a range of reactions to that question. She provides a sense of intimacy to their stories as she calmly explores the dramatic ways the world changes for each one. Whelan shares the intensity of their emotions and the camaraderie that develops, especially among the “short stringers” who are soon to die.

THE CANDY HOUSE

  • by Jennifer Egan| Read by Michael Boatman, Nicole Lewis, Thomas Sadoski, Colin Donnell, Griffin Newman, Rebecca Lowman, Jackie Sanders, Lucy Liu, Christian Barillas, Tara Lynne Barr, Alex Allwine, Emily Tremaine, Kyle Beltran, Dan Bittner, Chris Henry Coffey, and a Full Cast
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Simon & Schuster Audio | 11.25 hrs.]

The ensemble performance of this novel is exceptional. Michael Boatman narrates the opening chapter at the right pace with the right intonation. He captures the interior life of the enigmatic Bix Boughton, a social media genius who invents the world-altering technology “Own Your Unconscious.” Alex Allwine delivers a haunting automaton-like second-person narration of the chapter titled “Lulu the Spy, 2032”; Tyra Lynne Barr emulates the chirpy sound of 13-year-old Molly in “The Perimeter After-Molly”; and Dan Bittner supplies sharply insightful tone as Ames, whose life story ends this imaginative tour de force. While Egan reprises some of the characters from her award-winning A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, this novel has a wider timeframe, a greater trajectory, and a more complex plot. 

THE CARTOGRAPHERS

  • by Peng Shepherd| Read by Emily Woo Zeller, Nancy Wu, Karen Chilton, Ron Butler, Neil Hellegers, Jason Culp, Brittany Pressley
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 14.25 hrs.]

A superb ensemble of narrators animates this exciting tale of friendships and betrayals, a cartographers’ cabal, maps, murder, and missing towns. Among her father’s effects, cartographer Nell discovers what appears to be a worthless 1930s highway map. However, this map hides dark secrets as well as a “phantom settlement” known only to “the Cartographers.” Possessing it puts Nell in great danger. Nell’s third-person point of view comes alive with narrator Emily Woo Zeller’s artistry, while the other narrators’ perceptive interpretations create fascinating, believable secondary characters. Outstanding performances highlight Peng Shepherd’s thrilling magical literary mystery.

NETTLE & BONE

  • by T. Kingfisher| Read by Amara Jasper
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.5 hrs.]

Narrator Amara Jasper faithfully delivers Kingfisher’s audiobook filled with fairy-tale magic. Princess Marra’s oldest sister dies under mysterious circumstances only months after her marriage. Her second sister marries the same prince, but when his abuse comes to light, Princess Marra embarks on a perilous quest to save her with a gravewitch, her fairy godmother, an exiled knight, a dog made of bones, and a demon-possessed chicken. Jasper’s unhurried pace and impassive tone perfectly complement the story’s dry humor. Her skill and commitment to creating diverse voices offer listeners distinct and emotionally connected characters—and bird caws. Jasper easily immerses listeners in the story and keeps them hooked to the end. 

LAST EXIT

  • by Max Gladstone| Read by Natalie Naudus
  • [Recorded Books | 21 hrs.]

Natalie Naudus’s immersive delivery immediately draws listeners into Gladstone’s kaleidoscopic adventure. Estranged in the wake of their last failed mission, a group of friends with deep wounds and unusual powers must reunite to defeat forces that are threatening to tear apart all realities. Naudus readily dives into a sprawling, harrowing narrative of perilous battles, ominous voices in the dark, gut-wrenching flashbacks, and defiant feats of magic and science. Characterizations range from courageous and clever to horrifying and unhinged. Underpinning the friends’ expedition is a powerful, complex love story, deftly explored by Gladstone and beautifully rendered by Naudus. 

SEA OF TRANQUILITY

  • by Emily St. John Mandel| Read by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, Kirsten Potter
  • [Random House Audio | 5.75 hrs.]

The four narrators of Mandel’s newest novel create a mesmerizing listening experience full of time shifts. Kirsten Potter shines as an author on a book tour at the beginning of a 2200s pandemic; her increasingly worried observations hit close to home. Dylan Moore brings a perfect mix of malaise and inertia as a young woman living in 2020 New York. John Lee effortlessly transports listeners to British Columbia in 1918. Arthur Morey’s beautiful, throaty narration of a man from the moon colonies whose life is changed forever by a mysterious government job is haunting and familiar. These interlocking storylines offer a poignant and surprising exploration of love, art, and the beauty of everyday life.


“Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks of 2022—so far!” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Wil Wheaton Q&A

Wil Wheaton photo by Tyler Shields.

Wil Wheaton joined AudioFile Magazine’s  Michele Cobb to discuss the audiobook of his “annotated memoir,” Still Just A Geek. In addition to his acting and producing work, Wheaton has narrated audiobooks by John Scalzi, Andy Weir, and Ernest Cline. He tells AudioFile listeners about what it was like to revisit his 2004 memoir Just A Geek, asking author Neil Gaiman to write and record the introduction, and more. Watch the full conversation below. 


Here are AudioFile’s brief notes about Wheaton’s new audiobook.

STILL JUST A GEEK
by Wil Wheaton, read by Wil Wheaton, Neil Gaiman [Introduction]
Harper Audio

Actor Wil Wheaton—from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”—has managed something many of us have wished for at one time or another—a do-over. With humor and humility, he explains and mostly apologizes for his 2004 memoir JUST A GEEK. Using the acting skills he honed at an early age, he indulges in audiobook therapy. He invites us into his inner circle of friends and confesses misdeeds. As friends, listeners would tell Wil to relax and accept his humanity.

Find more audiobooks narrated by Wil Wheaton in his audiography.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks. They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2021 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks for 2021

Blast off with AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks by your side. Our Best Listening list includes Ray Porter’s lively narration of Andy Weir’s newest out-of-this-world adventure and a stunning sci-fi novella from Nnedi Okorafor brought to life by the talented Adjoa Andoh. Read on to discover all of our favorites and find some new listening to enjoy. For the full list of 2021 Best Audiobooks visit AudioFile’s website

BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho| Read by Catherine Ho | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Catherine Ho delivers a stellar performance of this layered urban fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia. Jess’s college degree and secret girlfriend are not enough to keep her in the U.S. when her parents return to their homeland. She soon discovers that the gods and spirits are very real there. Ho’s seamless transitions between characters and accents keep listeners rooted in the story’s Southeast Asian setting. 

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir| Read by Ray Porter | AudioFile Earphones Award

Through tone and pacing, narrator Ray Porter makes Andy Weir’s fantastical space opera seem plausible. Porter captures the panic and semi-hysterical self-deprecation of an amnesiac who is the sole survivor on a spacecraft cruising through space. As the protagonist’s memories return, Porter is called upon to deliver a United Nations of accents.

REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor| Read by Adjoa Andoh | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Adjoa Andoh captivates listeners with a stunning sci-fi novella set in a near-future Ghana. Andoh is perfectly in tune with Okorafor’s compelling story, smoothly switching between her British accent as the narrator and the intonations of the vibrant characters she brings to life. As a girl, Sankofa gains incredible power and then kills everyone she loves in a tragic accident. Exploring the country on foot, she learns to control her powers. 

RULE OF COOL by Matthew Siege| Read by Felicia Day | AudioFile Earphones Award

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG (role-playing game) told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Raze’s journey is hilarious, and Day’s performance boosts the story to the level of a must-listen for fans of the genre. 

THE SANDMAN: ACT II by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.]| Read by James McAvoy, Neil Gaiman, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, John Lithgow, and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Anchored by Neil Gaiman’s hypnotic storyteller’s voice, the second act of THE SANDMAN bewitches. As Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, James McAvoy sounds both imperious and weary, otherworldly and very human. The star-filled cast of actors and lush production guide listeners back and forth in time and in and out of fantastic worlds. Sound effects and original music make for a completely immersive experience.

VAGRANT QUEEN 1: The Bezoar of Kings by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith| Read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy. 

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Fall 2021

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this Fall.

AFTERMATH

  • by LeVar Burton | Read by LeVar Burton
  • [Hachette Audio | 10 hrs.]

Levar Burton’s sonorous and soothing narration makes his 1997 novel, with a recent update, engaging because many of his predictions have come true. Burton is best known for playing Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and for hosting the PBS program “Reading Rainbow.” His sincere and forthright voice has just a bit more bass now as he ages. The story predicts a technological breakthrough that gives users extraordinary healing power, along with telepathic abilities. Burton portrays his characters with earnestness, and uses his acting and hosting experience to relate directly to listeners. This audiobook is both entertaining and uplifting.

THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD

  • by Katherine Addison | Read by Liam Gerrard
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.25 hrs.]

Liam Gerrard narrates a fantasy-mystery set in the world of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. Thara Celehar, a former member of court, goes about his business as a Witness for the Dead in a far-flung province. A series of seemingly unconnected deaths causes Celehar to once again use his skills to uncover the truth. As the puzzle of the deaths slowly resolves, Gerrard tightens his narrative pace, heightening the sense of urgency as the solution is revealed. While this story is related to a previous volume, it also stands fully on its own.

VAGRANT QUEEN I: The Bezoar of Kings

  • by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith | Read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [GraphicAudio | 2 hrs.]

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy. The full cast and generous sound effects bring the Vagrant Queen saga to life.

THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN

  • by Becky Chambers | Read by Rachel Dulude
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 10 hrs.]

The fourth installment in the Wayfarers series brings listeners on a quiet space adventure. Narrator Rachel Dulude voices the mismatched entirely nonhuman crews of several spaceships who are stranded by a telecommunications accident on a remote planet. These widely varying species of sapients learn to relate to each other in bold new ways through their shared needs. Dulude moves between the robotic tones of a mechanical talk box, the bubbly excitement of a fluffy preteen quadruped, the clipped speech of an insectoid, and more.

THE CONJURING OF ZOTH-AVAREX

  • by K.R.R. Lockhaven | Read by Jay Spaulding
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [K.R.R. Lockhaven | 7.5 hrs.]

Narrator Jay Spaulding gives a hilarious performance of this fantasy in which a dragon attempts to reign over Seattle. The Site is a magic location hidden away and overseen by the U.S. Government. On Harris Reed’s first day at his new job there, his first project—the summoning of a dragon—goes awry. Spaulding nails the delivery of every joke and pun. Comical allusions, wisecracks, and well-crafted jokes abound in Spaulding’s masterful performance. 

SPACE: 1999

  • by Andrew Smith, Anthony Terpiloff, Elizabeth Barrows| Read by Mark Bonnar, Maria Teresa Creasey
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Big Finish | 3.75 hrs. Only Available here: https://www.bigfinish.com/hubs/v/space-1999]

A full cast narrates a trio of adventures featuring the Moon Base Alpha crew as they attempt to survive after being transported across space. First, the Alphans investigate a signal from a nearby planet, then a distant winter planet calls to the crew, and, finally, a perfect paradise offers a temporary respite. Dramatic scenes are filled with sound effects and music. Fans of the original Star Trek series will be pulled in by the engaging personalities and stellar writing.

SOULSTAR

  • by C.L. Polk | Read by Robin Miles
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Recorded Books | 12.25 hrs.]

Narrator Robin Miles delivers the profound conclusion to The Kingston Cycle. Miles portrays Robin Thorpe, who has always been aware of the injustice and inequality that surround her and the other citizens of Aeland. As Thorpe takes on a new role, Miles’s narration becomes more powerful and commanding, perfectly illustrating Thorpe’s path to leadership. Miles’s compelling narration will resonate long after the story ends, offering both hope and inspiration.

RULE OF COOL

  • by Matthew Siege| Read by Felicia Day
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Podium Audio | 12.5 hrs.]

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Day is perfection as the strong-willed, vivacious Raze. The story balances the game mechanics of the genre with a compelling narrative that is brimming with heart.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Fall 2021” was curated by AudioFile. AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks.

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this Spring.

KLARA AND THE SUN

  • by Kazuo Ishiguro | Read by Sura Siu
  • [Random House Audio | 10.25 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Sura Siu will be a fresh voice for many listeners, and her wonderfully subdued narration proves perfect for portraying Klara, the all-too-observant “AF” (artificial friend) purchased by a mother for her ailing child. Assigned to look after Josie, Klara slowly discovers she is being groomed to be the failing child’s replacement. Siu conveys a range of contrasting voices, and in this challenging assignment, she proves herself a performer of rare grace, subtlety, and virtuosity whose haunting portrayal of Ishiguro’s more than human main character will linger in listeners’ minds for days.

Hear from Sura Siu herself on the making of Klara And The Sun:

THE ECHO WIFE

  • by Sarah Gailey | Read by Xe Sands
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.5 hrs.]

Xe Sands narrates with a quiet tension that suits the slow creep of this sci-fi domestic thriller. Evelyn is an accomplished scientist in the field of cloning human adults, although her victories feel bittersweet. Her husband, Nathan, is having an affair, but not with just anyone—Nathan has used Evelyn’s own research techniques to create a domestic and illegal clone of Evelyn herself. Sands delivers all the slowly building suspense with her smooth first-person narration as the author executes plot twists that make for a satisfying, if disturbing, story.

COLONYSIDE

  • by Michael Mammay | Read by R.C. Bray
  • [Harper Audio | 10 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator R.C. Bray’s commanding voice perfectly suits this story of a disgraced colonel and a CEO’s missing daughter. Carl Butler hoped to live out his days on an ignored planet but agrees to take on what should be a simple case: finding a missing daughter. The story’s twists and turns build intrigue as Bray keeps the plot thundering forward. Both fans of the series and newcomers will fall under Bray’s spell as he delivers this relatively self-contained, well-plotted sci-fi adventure. 

D (A TALE OF TWO WORLDS)

  • by Michel Faber | Read by Isabel Adomakah Young
  • [Harper Audio | 6.75 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Isabel Adomakah Young shines as narrator in D, in which she portrays an orphan who journeys into a pocket universe (with a magical sphinx) to hunt down the fiend who’s absconded with the letter “d.” Young’s narration strikes a remarkable balance between a soothing lyricism and a playfulness that piques interest. She brings an earnestness that will have listeners rooting for the main character and a whimsy that brings to life a range of magical creatures. Listeners will appreciate the voice-acting chops it takes to effectively rea’ a manuscript that ‘osen’t inclu’e the letter __. 

GHOST SUMMER

  • by Tananarive Due | Read by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, Janina Edwards
  • [Blackstone Audio | 13 hrs.]

This collection of 15 short stories by award-winning author Tananarive Due, first published in 2015 and given a fresh recording, spans several genres, including the supernatural, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and futurism. The author herself narrates several and is joined for the rest by practiced narrators Robin Miles and Janina Edwards, reading alternating stories. Three of the stories are set in the haunted fictional town of Gracetown, Florida, while three others are part of an apocalyptic trilogy featuring a raging virus.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

  • by H.G. Parry | Read by Andrew Kingston
  • [Hachette Audio | 21 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

An alternate history of the eighteenth century weaves together the story of the slave rebellion in Haiti, the French Revolution, and the abolitionist movement in England—all wrapped in an undercurrent of magic. Andrew Kingston assumes subtle accents for each setting, and shows the rapport and friendships among many of the characters, enhancing the ways that events are intertwined. Parry makes the magic seem natural and an integral part of each political climate as he sets the stage for a sequel. 


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Pixel Scroll 1/13/21 The Scroll Is A Harsh Mistress

(1) OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LOTR SERIES. Amazon just unloaded Parler but now they’re bringing back Sauron? What are they thinking? io9 has the story: “Amazon Reveals Lord of the Rings TV Show Details—Sauron Returns”.

…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL NEWS. “Owner of DC’s Wardman Park Hotel files for bankruptcy” reports WTOP. The hotel is where DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, would be held if an in-person 2021 Worldcon is possible:

Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.

The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.

…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.

The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:

As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.

(3) BOOM BOOM BOOM. James Davis Nicoll names “Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs”. Strange that I’ve read four of these but only remembered the nukes from one of them.

Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….

(4) SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S SURGING. “Online D&D provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic” – the Los Angeles Times profiled D&D players.

… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.

Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.

“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”

(5) FORTIES SF’S POWER COUPLE SPEAKS. G.W. Thomas at Dark Worlds Quarterly put together a fine link compilation: “In Their Own Words: Interviews with Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton”, who married in 1946 and put Kinsman, Ohio on the map.

Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….

Included are Q&A’s conducted by one of fandom’s best interviewers, Paul Walker, such as his Leigh Brackett interview from Luna Monthly #61 [1976] [Internet archive link].

(6) STRAIN OBIT. Actress Julie Strain, whose genre resume is mostly erotic horror movies, has died reports Joblo.com: “R.I.P.: Julie Strain, B-movie legend and Penthouse Pet, has died at age 58”. This is the third time her death has been announced, however, news sources are satisfied this time the news is accurate.

Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game  as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well.  A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of  Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith.  Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture.  One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections.  Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft.  “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88.  Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories.  Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture.  Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel.  Inkpot Award.  Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx.  Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book ArtistsComic Book Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84.  Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amrahere is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon.  Also developed a career as a pro.  Here is The Dying Earth.  Here is the Sep 86 Amazing.  Here is Adventures in Unhistory.  Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon.  Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales.  Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson.  Five poems for us in Son and Foe.  Eight collections.  Poetry editor for Greensboro Review.  Pulitzer Prize.  Acad. Amer. Poets Prize.  Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Donald Justice Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1972 Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels  in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42.  Six novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens.  Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law.  Hit by a pickup truck.  Thought it out again.  First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in  Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40.  Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English.  Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.

Cover by Mahmud Asrar

The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.

A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.

Exclusive direct market variant cover by Paul Mendoza

(11) THE REAL SPACE COMMAND. “U.S. Space Command to be headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.” reports station WAFF.

The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

(12) AUDIOBOOK NARRATION. In AudioFile’s latest Behind the Mic, narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt shares her thoughts about recording Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, on AudioFile’s list of the 2020 Best Young Adult Audiobooks.

Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.

“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Read AudioFile Magazine’s review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.

(13) COOK BOOKS. Get stacks of Glen Cook novels via this new Bundle of Holding deal.

Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks

… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…

(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.

(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:

  • John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling

Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/20 For He To-Day That Scrolls His Pixel With Me, Shall Be My Sibling; Be He Ne’er So File

(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.

… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Twenty-­five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.

“What did she die from?” I asked.

Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”

“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.

“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”

“But I will have to die, won’t I?”

Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”

I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.

“You’re not gonna die,” she said.

“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”

She pooh-­poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….

(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.

(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.

Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…

(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:

Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?

Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay.  If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics.  How are they described as how they carry themselves? 

You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.

(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.

…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.

Here’s the full list:

#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.

(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.

David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.

From the transcript:

And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot

(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75”Variety profiled him.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.

… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

December 17 – Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert.  Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic.  Corresponded with Voltaire.  A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book.  (Died 1785) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford.  Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us.  Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt.  More than a hundred books.  For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam).  Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film.  Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70.  Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer.  Hosted Swampcon II at his house.  Letters, con reports in SF ChronicleSF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again.  Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47.  Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi.  “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet.  Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac.  Plays banjo.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
  • Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35.  With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection.  Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.  Cricket and rugby fan.  Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.

(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.

DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.

“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John RidleyNick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.

Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”

After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.

Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.

(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.

By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”

The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….

(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)

Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?

(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”

[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.

(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.

Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:

(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.

Category: First Words

Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?

Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?

(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden:  Heaven And Hell.”

The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself.  The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread.  A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream.  The female back-up singers were reimagined  as fluorescent twin monsters with massive  eyelashes called Snowths:  a combination of snout and mouth.  The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…

…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience.  In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.

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

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Autumn 2020

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this fall.

DON’T PANIC: Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • by Neil Gaiman | Read by Simon Jones, Neil Gaiman [Intro.]
  • [Harper Audio]

If you’re a superfan of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you’ve likely already encountered this book, first written in 1987 (and revised several times since) by young journalist Neil Gaiman. However, with the narration of Simon Jones—who starred in the original Hitchhiker’s radio drama—this audio version offers something new. The real joy comes when Jones gets the chance to perform script excerpts from various incarnations of Hitchhiker’s—and play all of the parts.

ALLIANCE: Devotion Duology

  • by E.B. Bridenstine | Read by Kirby Heyborne
  • [Bridenstine Books] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Kirby Heyborne narrates a captivating fantasy romance centered on an unlikely place: a magical circus in which creatures are forced to perform for humans. Elven Ranamayve, who stands out even among her kind, finds herself thrust into a world of brutality. But she finds solace in the warm heart of a half-orc named Bozek. Heyborne commands listeners’ attention with a careful tone that captures the ear before unleashing a bevy of strange and wondrous accents, including the thundering voice of Bozek.

THE DEVIL IN AMERICA

  • by Kai Ashante Wilson | Read by Janina Edwards
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrator Janina Edwards’s compelling tone draws listeners into Wilson’s searing narrative as a family reckons with a supernatural legacy. Chilling events and mythology are interspersed with descriptions of historical events. As Easter and her family wield old magic against sinister forces, these elements illustrate how the evils of this story persevere into today’s world. Immersive world-building heightens skilled characterizations of Easter’s loving, courageous family and friends, the fervently whispering Angels, and the slippery, unyielding Devil.

MALORIE

  • by Josh Malerman | Read by Cassandra Campbell
  • [Random House Audio]  Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Cassandra Campbell exquisitely evokes the existential dread that permeates Malerman’s well-wrought follow-up to his popular sci-fi suspense novel, BIRD BOX. America remains rife with creatures that drive viewers insane. Blindfolded and hooded, Malorie has kept her now-teenage children safe for 16 frightening years. Campbell’s vivid audio portraits of fierce Malorie, rebellious Tom, and conflicted Olympia heighten the drama and draw listeners into a story that takes place as much inside the protagonists’ heads as in the action.

THE SANDMAN

  • by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast
  • [Audible, Inc.]   Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

James McAvoy leads an all-star cast in narrating this magnificent audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series, The Sandman. McAvoy, who portrays Morpheus, the King of Dreams, leans hard on his polished English accent, the embodiment of the Brits’ determination to keep calm and carry on—no matter what. As listeners are swept up in a saga, special mention goes to the production staff. The sound effects are immersive, and there is a wonderful cinematic score. Listeners won’t be able to pause once they hit play.

TROUBLE THE SAINTS

  • by Alaya Dawn Johnson | Read by Shayna Small, Neil Shah
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrators Shayna Small and Neil Shah transport listeners to 1940s New York in this dark fantasy set against a backdrop of racial tension and brewing war. In a world in which people of color are sometimes born with magical powers that manifest through their hands, three characters struggle to survive in the city’s seedy underbelly. Small portrays Phyllis, a Black woman whose hands make her a master assassin. Shah is equally outstanding as her lover, Dev, an Indian man whose hands sense threats. His tone is lighter and often tinged with longing and humor. This audiobook is a fully immersive experience.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]