AudioFile’s 2022 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks are full of out-of-this world listening. Read on to discover a new take on a beloved classic, rich worldbuilding with outstanding full-cast narrations, or a captivating noir fantasy full of otherworldly beings.
BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY AUDIOBOOKSFOR 2022
THE ATLAS SIX: Atlas, Book 1 by Olivie Blake | Read by Steve West, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls, Munirih Grace, Siho Ellsmore, James Patrick Cronin | AudioFile Earphones Award. Macmillan Audio | 16 hrs.
Six exceptional individuals are recruited to join the mysterious Alexandrian Society. Listeners hear from prospective initiates from alternating points of view as the competition unfolds, all performed by a talented ensemble of narrators.
A COURT OF MIST AND FURY: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Book 2 by Sarah J. Maas | Read by Melody Muze, Anthony Palmini, Henry W. Kramer, Jon Vertullo, Amanda Forstrom, and a Full Cast |AudioFile Earphones Award. GraphicAudio | 8 hrs.
Melody Muze inhabits the role of this story’s narrator, along with Feyre, a mortal in an immortal body who lives in the land of Faerie. Sound effects, background music, and an imaginative cast enhance this magical battle between good and evil.
EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END by C.L. Polk | Read by January LaVoy | AudioFile Earphones Award. Recorded Books | 3.75 hrs.
January LaVoy’s captivating talents are on full display as she narrates a romantic, fantastical noir mystery. Helen Brandt has sold her soul to a demon, but now faces a chance to earn it back, save her city, and have a future with her girl.
MAXINE JUSTICE: Galactic Attorney by Daniel Schwabauer | Read by Aimee Lilly | AudioFile Earphones Award. Oasis Audio | 9 hrs.
There can be no doubt that narrator Aimee Lilly is having fun portraying Maxine Justice, who is feisty, resilient, and a bit down on her luck. Lilly captures all of Max’s dry wit, which makes this whimsical sci-fi story full of humans, robots, and aliens even more effective.
MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING: Dark Star Trilogy, Book 2 by Marlon James | Read by Bahni Turpin | AudioFile Earphones Award. Penguin Audio | 30.75 hrs.
Bahni Turpin shows extraordinary range in her expert narration of this sprawling fantasy, the second installment of the Dark Star Trilogy. Listeners are treated to the fascinating and tumultuous 177-year life story of the witch Sogolon—from her painful childhood to her rise to power.
WITCHES ABROAD: Discworld, Book 12 by Terry Pratchett | Read by Indira Varma, Peter Serafinowicz, Bill Nighy | AudioFile Earphones Award. Penguin Audio UK | 9.75 hrs.
This highly amusing new recording of a classic in Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series, primarily narrated by Indira Varma with distinct British voices, introduces listeners to a godmother-witch, Magrat. She must stop the servant Emberella from marrying the prince, which (surprisingly) would destroy the kingdom.
(1) DRACULA DAILY. AudioFile’s Audiobook Break podcast has been sharing Dracula with audiobook listeners over the last weeks.
Embrace spine-tingling chills and vampiric horrors with AudioFile’s Audiobook Break podcast! In October, narrator Gildart Jackson and Dracula Daily’s Matt Kirkland joined AudioFile’s Michele Cobb to chat about the lasting impact of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA in pop culture, why they both loved serializing the timeless vampire story for their audiences, and more. Watch their discussion below—and start listening to DRACULA today.
Gildart Jackson narrates hisFireside Reading of Dracula with undisguised delight, letting listeners enjoy a masterpiece of horror on audio. Gildart has narrated more than 300 audiobooks and won multiple awards, and since Covid lockdowns began, he has been offering free daily Fireside Readings of classic books on Instagram and YouTube. Gildart’s entire family works on Fireside Readings—Gildart reads, Melora directs, Rory draws the illustrations, and Piper writes and performs the songs. It’s a true family affair.
Matt Kirkland’s Dracula Daily email newsletter has become “the internet’s biggest book club.” Matt shares how during the early days of Covid, he and his daughter realized how Bram Stoker’s epistolary tale is told through letters and diary entries throughout a summer and fall, and Dracula Daily was born. Now fans check their email messages with bated breath hoping for missives from all of Dracula’s characters, reordered as they occur chronologically in the novel.
The audiobook will be ending on the podcast mid-month, but will stay up for people to listen to all the way through the end of the year. Listeners can follow along with DRACULA on our FREE Audiobook Break podcast now, with new chapters arriving every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Subscribe here.
(2) GUNN CENTER VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club will meet on November 18. For Native American Heritage Month, the Center has chosen Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun, the first of the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, a high fantasy epic inspired from histories and civilizations from pre-Columbian America.
To join their virtual meeting on November 18th at noon (Central Time), register here. This programming is running all year, click here to see what’s in the Book Club’s future.
(3) RECREATIONAL POETRY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Poetry Games, an exhibition at the National Poetry Library (nationalpoetrylibraryorg.uk) through January 15.
Writers have long experimented with games as part of their practice, notably the Francophone Oulipo group, whose member Georges Perec wrote his 300-page 1969 novel La Disparition without using the letter ‘e’. Now, however, everyone can participate in the playfulness of writing. There’s a poetic spin on Jenga by Astra Papachristodoulou, where you pull out blocks bearing words to construct a poem. And Jn Stone and Abigail Parry’s Adversary, which asks players to build poems out of word cards. Just try to avoid the Writer’s Block’ card which says, sympathetically, ‘It happens to all of us.’
There are also digital games such as Gemma Mahadeo and Ian McLarry’s If We Were Allowed To Visit, a navigable 3D space where every object is made of words, poetic fragments that shift as you move. Philippe Grenon’s Émile Et Moi is a simple platformer in which you jump between words to build a poem. After hopping around for a while, I had made, ‘another day swells air-bridged and downy/golden the night and glittering my works/dream rai sways alongside.’ Not bad, but perhaps not great poetry.
(4) MANCHESTER ENGLAND ENGLAND. Rob Hansen has added a section on “SUPERMANCON (1954)”, the British National SF Convention, to his fanhistory website THEN with a lot of old photos.
The 1954 British National SF Convention was held at the Grosvenor Hotel in Manchester, over the Whitsun weekend, Saturday 5th – Sunday 6th June (after this, the national convention would be held over Easter weekends).
(5) THE VERY “SPACIAL” FRIENDSHIP OF BUSTER CRABBE. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] When I was a little kid, prior to the Civil War, I had an imagination as fertile and as wide as my large brown eyes, dreamily filled with awe and wonder. My dad brought home our first television set in 1950.
Here is an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s Philadelphia television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” “Red Barry,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces, and on television screens, all over the world.
… He started working in the comics industry at age 16, first as an office assistant for children’s humor comic Buster. He eventually made his way to publisher 2000 AD, where he was both a writer and illustrator. Its stable of titles includes Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock, which O’Neill created with Mills.
The British artist worked as a Disney Comics colorist among other jobs before joining DC Comics. It was at DC that he began getting recognition with a stint on “The Omega Men.” He also worked on Alan Moore’s stories for the “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual” in 1986….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
2008 — [By Cat Eldridge.]Doctor Who’s “The Unicorn and The Wasp”
Ok, this is simply my look at a favorite episode of Doctor Who which aired in May of 2008.
If you haven’t seen this episode, go away now. Really. Truly. Everything that follows is spoilers in the extreme.
SPOILERS ALL THE WAY DOWN
One of my favorites of the newer episodes of this series is a country house mystery, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of meta-narrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day. Or it has depending on your viewpoint.
Needless to say, the Doctor and Donna Noble arrived in the TARDIS at the grounds of the country house just before afternoon cocktails. The Doctor (David Tennant, my favorite of the new Doctors) uses his psychic power to convince The Lady of The Manor that she has met them previously and invited them for the weekend.
A murder will soon happen when Professor Plum is killed in The Library with a lead pipe. Yes, a Clue board game reference which his plucky companion (Catherine Tate) gleefully notes. And so it goes for the entire episode in a rather delightful manner. It’s silly, it’s fast-paced, and it’s one of the most British episodes that the new Who does. And it’s one that shows how clearly this series is fantasy, not SF.
The Unicorn of the title is simply the code name of an infamous jewel thief, but The Wasp of the title is a wasp, a bloody big one on that. A wasp that’s the love child of a shape shifting alien who made Her Ladyship pregnant in India forty years ago. A wasp that’s so big that it couldn’t survive in Earth’s gravity, but this is fantasy after all. (I firmly believe that almost all science fiction is fantasy — some are just more blatant about it.) And do keep an ear out for the many, many references to the novels Christie wrote.
A delightful romp which fits very nicely into the genre of Manor House mysteries which of course the future Dame Agatha would write a few herself. Oh and Agatha Christie was played by Fanella Woolgar, who was cast at the urging of Tennant who may or may not have known that the actress had appeared in the Poirot series several years previously.
Unfortunately it is now streaming only on Disney +, isn’t it?
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 9, 1921 — Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Of course I have. Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the A.C. Marin name as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
Born November 9, 1924 — Larry Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. (Died 1985.)
Born November 9, 1938 — Carol Carr. Fan and writer of note. Her participation in the so-called secret APA Lilapa, and articles in the Innuendo, Lighthouse and Trap Door fanzines is notable. She wrote a handful of genre fiction, collected in Carol Carr: The Collected Writings. Mike has an obit here. (Died 2021.)
Born November 9, 1947 — Robert David Hall, 75. Best known as coroner Dr. Albert Robbins M.D. on CSI, but he has quite as few genre credits. He voiced Dinky Little in the animated Here Come the Littles, both the film and the series, the cyborg Recruiting Sargent in Starship Troopers, voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. He was the voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. Interesting note: in Starship Troopers he has no right arm, but in real life he lost both of his legs at age thirty-one when they had to be amputated as a result of an accident in which an 18-wheeler truck crushed his car.
Born November 9, 1954 — Rob Hansen, 68. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, last updated just a few years ago, are invaluable, as is his fanhistory website.
Born November 9, 1971 — Jamie Bishop. The son of Michael Bishop, he was among those killed in the Virginia Tech shooting. He did the cover illustrations for a number of genre undertakings including Subterranean Online, Winter 2008 and Aberrant Dreams, #9Autumn 2006. The annual “Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for an Essay Not in English” was established as a memorial by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. (Died 2007.)
Born November 9, 1988 — Tahereh Mafi, 34. Iranian-American whose Furthermore is a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither; I highly recommend it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series.
Born November 9, 1989 — Alix E Harrow, 33. May I note that her short story with one of the coolest titles ever, “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, won a Hugo at Dublin 2019. Well I will. And of course her latest novel, The Once and Future Witches, has an equally cool title. It won the BFA Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
(9) OH NOES! Oh no for the “oh no” comic. Twitter thread about the litigation starts here.
Lin-Manuel Miranda will have a key guest-starring role on Disney+’s upcoming series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, based on Rick Riordan’s bestselling book series. Deadline reported that Miranda, who, along with his son, is a fan of the Percy Jackson books, “will play Hermes, the messenger god who looks out for travelers and thieves, and is a bit of a trickster himself.”
The neighborhood is a wild card, and moving there is bound to be expensive. But one of the best options for shelter when humans finally make it to the red planet will be subterranean caves. These rocky hollows, which exist in droves on both Earth and the moon, are natural buffers against the harsh conditions of Mars.
In a presentation this month at the Geological Society of America Connects 2022 meeting in Denver, researchers pinpointed nine leading cave candidates worthy of future exploration. All of these grottos appear to extend at least some distance underground, and they’re close to landing sites accessible to a lightweight rover.
These structures would offer a respite from the challenging Martian environment, said Nicole Bardabelias, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona. “Everything at the surface is subject to harsh radiation, possible meteorite or micrometeorite bombardment and really large day-to-night temperature swings,” she said.
To home in on Mars’ most sought-after real estate, Ms. Bardabelias and her colleagues consulted the Mars Global Cave Candidate Catalog. This compendium, based on imagery collected by instruments aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, inventories over 1,000 candidate caves and other peculiar-looking features on Mars. (Think of it as the first Martian multiple listing service.)…
(12) YOU MAY THINK YOU KNOW THIS STORY. So the cricket says. Netflix dropped this trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio today.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Hampus Eckerman, Steve Vertlieb, Cat Eldridge, 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 Rob Thornton.]
Guest Post By Jennifer Dowell, Managing Editor, AudioFile: No one was more surprised than author and narrator Travis Baldree when his cozy fantasy novel Legends & Lattes became a runaway hit—even before it was published. “I feel like I accidentally held my bucket under the right storm cloud,” Baldree says. He wrote it during National Novel Writing Month—something he’d tried before, but this is the first book he’d finished that way. “I narrate lots of action-adventure stuff. It’s always big stakes and the world’s going to end. And I’m also usually reading stuff that’s from the perspective of a guy. So I just wanted to write something that wasn’t that at all.”
Then he decided to self-publish the book and audiobook, which he narrated himself. “Because I work with all these indie authors, I was like, you know what? I want to go through everything that they go through because I like to learn stuff and I’m just curious what their side of the equation is.” Baldree got the book edited and commissioned a cover illustration. When he shared the cover art on Twitter, fantasy author Seanan McGuire retweeted it to her 74,000 followers. “Later on, she also read the book and said nice things about it. She added a whole lot of fairy dust to the proceedings.” The book continued to go viral on TikTok and Instagram. “It’s really rewarding because it’s a book about people mostly being nice, so if people like it, that’s what they liked. It’s a really pleasant feedback loop.”
Legends & Lattes was such a success that agents came calling, and Baldree ended up with a book deal. “It was all very not planned and not expected, and I’m kind of humbled by the whole thing,” Baldree says. Tor/Macmillan will re-launch the book in November, and Baldree, who’s now working on a sequel, will embark on a book tour in the U.S. and the UK. Luckily, audiobook fans don’t have to wait—Baldree’s Earphones Award-winning performance is available now.
Baldree’s day job as a narrator keeps him busy. “I think I do about 70 hours of audio a month,” he says. He was a video game developer before he was a narrator. Then he started narrating audiobooks “on the side, for fun.” More and more narrating work came his way. “At some point, a couple of years ago, I said, I actually like this better. So I retired from game development and switched to doing it full time and kind of haven’t looked back.” Now he narrates fantasy and GameLit titles, many for authors who are independently publishing their audiobooks. One of his favorites is Will Wight’s Cradle series, which Baldree calls an indie phenomenon and “absolute fun.”
When he’s not narrating or writing, what does Baldree do with his time? “Weirdly, I still like to read for fun. I read a lot of novellas. I like short, concise stories that I can finish in between sessions or on a break day. Liking words and liking writing is probably a good prerequisite for being a narrator.”
AudioFile Magazine is the place to discover more about audiobooks. Every day, its reviews and recommendations tell you which audiobooks are worth your listening time. AudioFile reviews about 50 audiobooks a week, features narrator profiles, and awards exceptional performances with AudioFile’s Earphones Awards. AudioFile publishes in print, newsletters, and a blog, and podcasts daily recommendations on Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.
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
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.
by Rebecca Roanhorse| Read by Christian Barillas, Darrell Dennis, Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett
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.
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
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.
by Peng Shepherd| Read by Emily Woo Zeller, Nancy Wu, Karen Chilton, Ron Butler, Neil Hellegers, Jason Culp, Brittany Pressley
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You Can, Rogers 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….
…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?”
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….
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….
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.
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!”
…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 Life, A 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 Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many 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 Orca, House 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 Comics, Batwoman 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.)
An episode of The Simpsonsduring 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….
… 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.”
*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”
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.]
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
by Andrew Smith, Anthony Terpiloff, Elizabeth Barrows| Read by Mark Bonnar, Maria Teresa Creasey
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 __.
by Tananarive Due | Read by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, Janina Edwards
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.
…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.
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.
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….
… 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.”
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….
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 Artists, Comic Book Encyclopedia. [JH]
Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84. Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amra; here 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 Space, The MunstersToday, Sliders, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder 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 Mountain, The 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]
(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.
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.
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.
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
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.]