Pixel Scroll 7/31/22 “How Many Files To Scrollbylon? Can I Get There By Pixel-Light?”

(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”

The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.

I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.

Then, “Claire North Recommends Some Books”.

I hung around with Catherine Webb (Claire North), we talked about books.

(3) LIKE MOTHS TO A CANDLE. “Does Twitch Fame Have to Come With a Stalker?” The New York Times shows this is not a rhetorical question.

…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.

“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”

Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewers or dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.

In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….

(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.

…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.

During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.

The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…

(5) TONOPAH TALES. You can read “John Hertz’s Westercon Notebook” at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura.

… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….

(6) CLARION NEWS. The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended July 30. They raised $4,232.00, which is not as much as they hoped. However, they are still accepting donations.

As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them

The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once. 

Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler. 

Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale. 

Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts. 

Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently.  I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1939 France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode.  She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the ApesAutoman, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31, 1950 Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo. 
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. 
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a plan for a more powerful monster.
  • Off the Mark reveals the original French name of the movie Jaws.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is about Calvin’s science fiction story.

(10) SPLISH, SPLASH. Amazon is taking a bath. “Amazon reports $2B net loss in Q2” reports Becker’s Health IT.

Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.

“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.

(11) FOR YOUR MT. TBR. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes recommendations in “New And Notable Film Books July 2022 – Part One”. For example —

THE DISNEY REVOLT: THE GREAT LABOR WAR OF ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE by Jake S. Friedman (Chicago Review Press)

This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.

Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….

(12) BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. CNN’s reviewer Brian Lowry finds “‘DC League of Super-Pets’ goes to the dogs in more ways than one”.

Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….

(13) PREPARE TO DIE. Paul Weimer tells us what he heard while listening to The Killing Machine, second in the audio reissue of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series: “Microreview: The Killing Machine by Jack Vance” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen  The Prince must face his avenger…. 

(14) ARTIFICIAL INNUENDO. On The Tonight Show artificial intelligence doesn’t sound any smarter than the ordinary kind. So should I admit that I listened ’til the end? “Bruce the Robot Performs a Freestyle Rap About Hot Dogs and Taylor Swift”.

The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions.  The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”

The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/27/21 A Very Merry And Pippin Unbirthday To You

(1) WHERE THE BOOKS ARE. Claire North has written an open love letter to libraries in “Dear Library”.

…Hey Barbican Library, I know it’s a bit unusual, but I really love how you can stand on the edge of Crime and Thrillers and look down into the halls below, so often full of jazz and dancing; or pop downstairs to the music library that remains one of the best in the city and just lose yourself in history and sound. The Barbican was built as a social experiment – the result is a glorious maze of unhelpful painted yellow lines and mysterious corridors twisting back to unknown places. It divides travellers into two types: those who know every nook and cranny, and can find three different routes to the library’s door, and those who avoid the Barbican like the plague, knowing it to be a geographical trap from which no one can emerge unscathed. I love the Barbican, and for me the library has always been, and will always be its heart.…

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman asks listeners to bite into a Baltimore camel burger with Michael R. Underwood in episode 152 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael R. Underwood

This episode you’ll be traveling with me to the Baltimore neighborhood of Fells Point, where we’ll take a seat at a picnic table outside The Abbey Burger Bistro with writer Michael R. Underwood.

Michael’s the author of more than twelve books, including the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series (GeekomancyCelebromancyAttack the Geek, and Hexomancy), Born to the Blade (an epic fantasy serial with former guest of the show Malka Older, Cassandra Khaw, and Marie Brennan), as well as Shield and CrocusThe Younger Gods, and the Genrenauts novella series, which was a finalist for a r/Fantasy Stabby Award. He has also been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fancast with the Skiffy & Fanty Show. And his geek cred goes way back, for he tells me he was taken to see Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi in theaters at the age of one, though his memories are murky.

We discussed how his tango past impacts his writing of action scenes, his early love for Star Wars and Spider-Man, how reading Joseph Campbell ignited his desire to write fiction, what he learned about publishing as a kid and how that affected his career expectations, the lessons the late Graham Joyce taught him about the best way to revise novels, the balance you must keep in mind when inserting Easter eggs into your stories, how he constructed his Genrenauts universe and why he returned to it after a long absence, the importance of found family, his advice for successful collaborations, and much more.

(3) THRU THE HEAVY METAL GATEWAY. A fun article by Michael Gonzalez, packed with personal details, at CrimeReads: “A Personal Journey Through the World of Alternative Comics in 1970s New York City”.

…Certainly, Heavy Metal was an introduction for many comic book fans to a world beyond Marvel and DC, but it also served as a gateway to the many alternative publications I bought a few months later at the Creation Convention in my hometown of New York City. Held over Thanksgiving weekend, I bypassed Hulk and Batman, and instead bought various underground comixs (Air Pirates, Zap) fanzines (Infinity, RBCC) and art books (Ariel: the Book of Fantasy, The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta). It was also at that con that I discovered the self-proclaimed “ground level” comic Star*Reach. A California-based publication that began publishing in 1974….

(4) VALUE OF JEOPARDY! Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a column about the “Significance of ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Mike Richards Resignation” for The Hollywood Reporter, “argues that the media focus on Mike Richards’ insensitive comments misses a deeper issue with the host search that ‘suggests the problem may not be just a bad branch, but a rotten root.’”

…Though Alex Trebek may have started hosting the show with the background of just another placid game show host, he evolved with the show and became the kindly face of the part of America that venerates knowledge. That’s why choosing the right host to replace him is about more than simple entertainment values, it’s about respecting what the show represents to American culture. It’s about acknowledging Jeopardy!’s significance as an enriching leader in promoting the joys and benefits of education.

This is especially important considering the assault against intelligence and critical thinking the country has faced in recent years. The introduction of the scientific method in the 17th century lifted humanity out of the fetid and superstitious Dark Ages into the bright and vibrant Age of Enlightenment. The simple idea that we objectively gather verifiable evidence before reaching conclusions is the infrastructure of our civilization, both in our scientific achievements and social advancements. It’s the basis of our legal code and our moral code….

(5) A REALLY BIG PATCH. Secret Los Angeles trumpets that “Tickets To Haunt O’ Ween’s 150,000-Square-Foot Halloween Playground Are Now On Sale!”

“Haunt O’ Ween LA” is wasting no time in resurrecting pre-covid traditions with a dazzling 150,000-square-foot Halloween wonderland this October. This 31-day walk-thru adventure features large-scale multi-sensory scenes, new haunting characters, pumpkin-picking with carving stations, trick-or-treating and a glowing Jack-O-Lantern tunnel.

Your journey into this haunted (but family-friendly) haven begins on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, from October 1 and will run through October 31. Get your tickets here before they vanish and the FOMO haunts you forever!

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-eight years ago on this date, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. premiered on FOX. Created by Jeffrey Boam who wrote the screenplays for Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeInnerspace and The Lost Boys, and Carlton Cuse who’d later be best known for the Lost series, but at this point had only done Crime Story. It was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that got this series greenlit at Fox. Cuse served as show runner and head writer. Boam, who served as executive producer, also contributed scripts for the show. It was a weird Western unlike any other Western. It starred Bruce Campbell, Julius Carry, John Astin, Kelly Rutherford and Christian Clemenson.  Though the critics loved and it did very well initially in the ratings, it quickly dropped off, so FOX cancelled it after the one season run of twenty-seven episodes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from the early Fifties and through its change to the Analog name — amazing! There doesn’t appear to a decent updated portfolio of his work as the last one, Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction, was done in the Seventies. He won ten Hugos for Best Artist or Best Professional Artist. (Died 2005.)
  • Born August 27, 1929 Ira Levin. Author of Rosemary’s BabyThe Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. All of which became films with The Stepford Wives being made twice as well having three television sequels which is overkill I’d say. I’ve seen the first Stepford Wives film but not the latter version. Rosemary’s Baby would also be made into a two-part, four-hour miniseries. He got a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. The only short stories of his that I’m familiar with are the ones in the Wild Cards anthologies. He won two Nebulas, both for short stories, “Stone” and “giANTS”.  (The latter was nominated for a Hugo at Noreascon Two.) Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 74. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  (A Roger Moore Bond film.) One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also in. It’s where they first hooked up. She was in The Unseen, a horror film, with Stephen Furst. She retired from acting in 1986. 
  • Born August 27, 1952 Darrell Schweitzer, 69. Writer, editor, and critic.  For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange ExcursionsThe Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader. He did a Neil Gaiman reader as well.
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, 64. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and The Everything Box. I’ve got The Grand Dark on my interested in listening to list. He just concluded the Sandman Slim series with the King Bullet novel. 
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin, 59. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they co-wrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a web site. The team then produced Independence Day, the rather awful Godzilla reboot and Independence Day: Resurgence. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted just thirteen episodes, and The Triangle.
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 43. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa in “Mona Lisa”. Yes that Mona Lisa. More importantly, she’s in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She’s Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS. She’s Eve Caleighs in The Secret of Crickley Hall series, an adaption of the James Herbert novel.

(8) MYTHBUSTERS PROP AUCTION FUNDRAISER. Adam Savage talks about how he is honoring Grant Imahara’s memory. “’MythBusters’ alum Adam Savage talks death of Grant Imahara” at Yahoo!

…It’s been more than a year since former MythBusters host Grant Imahara died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, and Adam Savage, who worked with him on the phenomenally popular Discovery Channel show still misses him deeply. 

“Like everybody else, I was gut-punched by Grant’s passing last year,” Savage tells Yahoo Entertainment. “It felt like almost too much in the face of all the other existential crises that were going on. But those of us that were lucky enough to know Grant knew him as a lovely man of honor, who wanted to share his knowledge with everybody.”

To that end, the team behind the show about testing whether certain events could actually happen in real life is auctioning off the props used during its 15-year run, from 2003 to 2018, now through Sept. 1 in an online event hosted by Prop Store. Proceeds from the sale of all the items, including different versions of Buster, the test dummy who stood in for humans in dangerous stunts, and blueprints of many of the creations, will go directly to the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation, whose mission is to inspire emerging talent and empower underserved youth in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math education by offering mentorships, grants and scholarships….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR EINSTEIN. “Hubble Captures a Stunning ‘Einstein Ring’ Magnifying The Depths of The Universe” at Science Alert.

Gravity is the weird, mysterious glue that binds the Universe together, but that’s not the limit of its charms. We can also leverage the way it warps space-time to see distant objects that would be otherwise much more difficult to make out.

This is called gravitational lensing, an effect predicted by Einstein, and it’s beautifully illustrated in a new release from the Hubble Space Telescope….

(10) SPECIAL DELIVERY. E. E. Knight knows there’s a long way to go and a short time to get there.

(11) GUILALA LAND: Art by the artist Martha Womersley of the star monster from the 1967 classic The X from Outer Space.

(12) TRAILER PARK. Netflix is bringing Maya and the Three this fall.

In a mythical world, where magic is real and four kingdoms rule, there lives a brave and rebellious warrior princess named Maya. Maya embarks on a thrilling quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy but can she defeat the gods and save humankind?

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Dann, Mlex, Ben Bird Person, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 11/29/20 Tonstant Pixel Scrolled Up

(1) FREE READ FROM FUTURE TENSE. “The Suicide of Our Troubles” by Karl Schroeder, is part of Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

Nadine Bach noticed a package of ham waving at her from inside the grocery store. November was one of those months when the choice was between paying rent and buying food, and she hadn’t planned to stop by during her daily walk—but this ham was proclaiming that it was free.

Having prospective meals wave at her was hardly unexpected—Mixed Reality was finally maturing past the flying-whale stage of visual grab-assery, and was settling into the predictable role of being yet another advertising medium….

Journalist Anna V. Smith has written a response essay: “When Nature Speaks for Itself”.

In more than 100 countries, citizens have clear constitutional rights to a healthy environment. The United States is not one of them. Nevertheless, for the past few decades or more, people have argued through the courts that the U.S. has an obligation to provide a healthy environment, including addressing climate change, as the Juliana v. United States youth lawsuit has insisted. But simultaneously, an emerging movement is focusing on the rights of nature itself: to grant personhood status to lakes, rivers, and plant species so they might have legal standing in court to defend their rights to exist and persist. If laws are an assertion of a nation’s values, what does it say that the U.S. grants personhood to corporations, but not nature?…

(2) ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT UTAH. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 reports “Monolith removed from southern Utah desert by ‘unknown party’”. You see, this is how primates really operate. That’s why 2010 is in the rearview mirror and we’re nowhere near Europa.

The now-famous “monolith” structure that was discovered last week by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew during a count of bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah has been removed — but not by government officials.

Riccardo Marino posted on Instagram that he and Sierra Van Meter went to the spot, located south of Moab and just east of Canyonlands National Park, late Friday night to get some photos. But when they arrived, it was no longer there.

Marino said they saw a pickup truck with a large object in its bed driving in the opposite direction shortly before they got there.

Marino and Van Meter also saw that someone had written “Bye B****!” and appeared to have urinated at the spot where the piece, believed by most to be abstract art, formerly stood.

(3) NEW ZOOM INTO FAN HISTORY. Joe Siclari of FANAC.org invites you to “Get ready for a trip to fannish London!”

We are planning a series of  Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions, and for our first sessionRob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know,  he has written the history of English fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them at https://taff.org.uk/ebooks.phpReserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org, as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(4) ALMA AWARD. The nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2021 were released in October, 263 candidates from 69 countries.

Worth 5 million Swedish kronor, the world’s largest cash prize for children’s literature is given to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters for work “of the highest artistic quality” featuring the “humanistic values” of the late Pippi Longstocking author, for whom the award is named. Lindgren died in 2002 at the age of 94.

The 2021 ALMA laureate will be announced on April 13, 2021.

(5) PROWSE OBIT. Actor Dave Prowse, the original Darth Vader, has died aged 85 reports The Guardian. He was a 6’6″ weightlifter who’d made a name for himself in England as The Green Cross man, a traffic safety figure in PSAs before being invited by George Lucas to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca. He chose Vader and when asked why, replied: “Everyone remembers the villain.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1990 — Thirty years ago, the sort of horror novel Angel of Darkness by Samuel M. Key was first published by Jove Books. The author had a short career having just three novels credited to him, the others being From a Whisper to a Scream and I’ll Be Watching You. Now that would be the end of the story if it hadn’t turned out that this was the pen name for Charles de Lint who recently won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, a rare honor indeed. Amusingly enough, Samuel M. Key was the name of the small monkey puppet that graced the top of his computer at that time. All three novels are now available from the usual digital suspects under the name of de Lint. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 29, 1832 – Louisa May Alcott.  Besides Little WomenLittle Men, and more outside our field, she wrote A Modern Mephistopheles and five dozen shorter ghost stories, fairy tales, and other fantasies.  Active abolitionist and feminist.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate on him than I am. I read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.) (CE)
  • 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. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch.  Science teacher.  First Fandom.  Active fan, as were her husband and their children including Lesleigh Luttrell.  LC had letters in The Alien CriticJanusSF Commentary, and Analog.  Guest of Honor at Archon 1 – as LL was at Archon 3.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than seventy short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years, SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1952 – Doug Beekman, age 68.  A hundred covers, ninety interiors.  Also comics, collectible cards, agenting; outside our field, advertising.  Spectrum Gold Award for comics, Silver for advertising.  Here is Time Out of Joint.  Here is The Drawing of the Dark.  Here is Spinneret.  Here is The Stars at War.  Here is an ink drawing for Homecoming Earth (and see DB’s comments here).  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1956 – Mark Ferrari, age 64.  Having for years taken our breath away with colored-pencil images like these he was struck by a truck while riding his mountain bike, recovering but not enough to perpetuate his Prismacolor perfection.  He wrote The Book of Joby, by which time technology could take him to giving good graphics again.  Now he can make this and this.  Do see his Website.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 51. 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 miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central. (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 49. Torchwood is really the genre appearance she’s remembered for and  I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her Torchwood character of Doctor Sato in the Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London”.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm, and she had the role of Asako Nakayama in the second season of The Terror series which is based off the Dan Simmons novel. (CE) 
  • 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 asMark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1981 – Jon Klassen, age 39.  First person to win both the Caldecott (U.S.) and the Greenaway (U.K.) for illustration with the same book, which he wrote too.  Both This Is Not My Hat and predecessor I Want My Hat Back were NY Times Best-Sellers, jointly selling over a million copies.  Previously the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s illustration (Canada; Cats’ Night Out).  Among other things JK illustrated Mac Barnett’s Circle.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 2001 – Mckenzie Wagner, age 19.  Five books, the first published when she was 7.  Maybe anything can’t happen, but lots of things can.  You start whenever you start.  [JH]

(8) ICE PIRATES. Alec Nevala-Lee discusses Stillicide by Cynan Jones at the New York Times: “A Climate-Crisis Novel Offers True-to-Life Snapshots of Survival”.

…Cynan Jones’s climate-crisis novel “Stillicide,” which was originally written as a BBC Radio series, arrives just as the bar has been raised for world-building. We want speculative fiction to unfold against a complex background, without getting bogged down in incidental facts that an average person would take for granted. Yet noticing the uncanny details of our lives is all we seem to do lately, and few authors can compete with the strangeness of the real world.

Over the course of several excellent short novels, Jones, who lives in Wales, has figured out a formula that seems to rise to the challenge. His favorite strategy is to build a story around a single clearly defined thread — in his devastating debut, “The Long Dry,” it’s a lost cow — that provides a structure for a series of intensely observed vignettes. This frees him to move between time frames and perspectives, and he often focuses on people on the margins.

In “Stillicide,” the through-line is an iceberg headed for London. The novel opens many years after Britain has entered an extended drought, and enough time has passed for one phase of responses to yield to the next. After becoming a target for terrorists, a pipeline to the city has been replaced by a train that carries millions of gallons of water from a distant reservoir, equipped with automatic guns to mow down any moving object near the tracks. Another plan involves towing a giant iceberg to the dry Thames, which will displace entire neighborhoods….

(9) DUE NORTH. Sean D.’s “Microreview [Book]: Sweet Harmony by Claire North” at Nerds of a Feather covers a new novel by a celebrated author.

…Sweet Harmony follows Harmony, a young woman living in a world in which nanotechnology (nanos) can not only improve your health, but your libido, mentality, and physicality. Harmony’s surrounded by people obsessed with superficiality, and the more she is deemed unworthy by them, the more insecure she becomes. She becomes beholden to nanos, with almost all of her expenditures dedicated to keeping her esteemed beauty. But that obsession comes with a price.

This novella tackles domestic abuse, unattainable beauty standards, familial conflict, selfishness warring with selflessness, and vocational biases. Not one of those themes is undercooked or scattered. The secret is that Claire North uses the nanotechnology as an underpinning to all these themes. The story spotlights Harmony’s experience and growing dependency on the nanos and touches all the themes along the way, never losing focus because as it moves from idea to idea, it’s always grounded in a center.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Posten–Santa” on Vimeo, Santa’s feeling pretty grumpy because the icebergs at the North Pole are melting and the Norwegian Postal Service is improving its deliveries!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Joe Siclari, David Doering, Michael J. Walsh and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

2019 Philip K. Dick Award

The 2019 Philip K. Dick Award was presented April 19 at Norwescon 42 in SeaTac, Washington.

The winner is:

  • THEORY OF BASTARDS by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions)

A Special Citation also was awarded to:

  • 84K by Claire North (Orbit)

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year.

The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust. The award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

The award judges were Madeline Ashby, Brian Attebery, Christopher Brown, Rosemary Edghill, and Jason Hough (chair).

Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

(1) YULE LOVE IT. Camestros Felapton sends holiday greetings to the Filers in his video “The Christmas Tree.”

(2) SCHWARTZ YES. “Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’ sequel is a go – ‘The Schwartz Awakens’ posters spoof ‘The Force Awakens’” at Inquisitr.

The Spaceballs movie was notorious at spoofing the Star Wars franchise, and is at it again. With The Force Awakens having been released, it would make sense to spoof it. According to The Nerdist and to long time comedic genius Mel Brooks, it’s going to become a reality.

And there are posters:

(3) SCHWARTZ NO. Some doubt the Schwartz will really be with us, however — “Spaceballs 2 Hoping For 2016 Shoot” at Yahoo! News.

But there are also a few solid reasons why it’s still far from certain though. Mainly that ‘Spaceballs’ only grossed $38.1 million from its $22.7 million budget back in 1987, while as both John Candy and Joan Rivers have sadly died since its release and Moranis has retired, it would be a big ask to replicate the camaraderie of the original.

(4) GEOMETRIC LOGIC. John Scalzi has reasons — “How I Am Able to Forgive the Absolutely Appalling Science in the Most Recent (and Indeed Every) Star Wars Film” at Whatever.

As explained by me to my wife as we drove home last night from The Force Awakens:

Me: See, the reason the bad science in Star Wars films doesn’t really bother me is because the movies tell you right up front that they’re based on legends, right?…

(5) STICKS THE LANDING. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX Completes Historic Rocket Landing” at the Wall Street Journal. The story is behind a paywall. (Via Jerry Pournelle.)

Space Exploration Technology Corp. executed an impressive return to flight Monday by flawlessly launching an upgraded variant of its Falcon 9 rocket and then maneuvering a big part back to earth for a pinpoint, precedent-setting landing.

SpaceX, as the closely held Southern California company is known, achieved the dual goals in the wake of a high-profile launch explosion six months ago, which put all Falcon 9 flights on hold and prompted a broad reassessment of the booster’s design and inspection procedures.

After a trouble-free countdown and liftoff of the roughly 230-foot-tall booster from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX delivered 11 commercial satellites into low-earth orbit, completing Orbcomm Inc. ’s planned constellation.

But the most daunting—and closely watched—portion of the mission occurred more than eight minutes after blastoff, once the spent first stage plummeted toward earth, used its thrusters to steadily slow and then touched down vertically—surrounded by a huge plume of exhaust—on a landing area in the same iconic space complex.

The gentle landing, after several failed attempts to return an identical section of the booster to a barge, marked the first time any large rocket has managed a controlled recovery after delivering a payload into orbit.

(6) GINGERBREAD FAN. “Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek gingerbread to geek up your holidays” from CNET.

One of my favorite geeky gingerbread creations has to be the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It’s considered the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, but when you re-create it with gingerbread it quickly becomes the tastiest ship that can make the Kessel Run to my stomach in less than 12 parsecs.

 

gingerbread TARDIS

(7) TEA WRECKS. Ann Leckie is trying out Yak Butter Tea.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before.

(8) Today In History

  • December 23, 1823 — A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.

(9) THE COUNTESS. Stephen Wolfram tries “Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace” at Backchannel.

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago this month. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada.”

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

But after quite a bit of research?—?including going to see many original documents?—?I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it’s an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it’s frustrating and tragic.

(10) LIST OF BEST COULD BE BETTER. The Guardian has published “Best books of 2015 – part one”. Not very much sf&f in the opening stanza. Two notable mentions — Patrick Ness plugs The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and Sara Taylor lists The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

(11) NORTH SMUGGLES. Meanwhile, at The Book Smugglers, Claire North contributes “A Comic-Store Romance”.

You all know the place. The walls are lined with posters. Originals from 1980s B-movies, tentacled monsters from the deep. Signed pictures of space-wandering heroines and time-travelling adventurers. Shelves of action figures, some DVDs – the odd blockbuster, but more manga, obscure tales of zombie spacemen and daft vampire romps.

Then there’s the books, classic, revered titles, then the comics.

And then, there’s the people….

  • A man, black leather jacket, crucifix, star of David and Wiccan pentagram slung round his neck; owns all the works of Alan Moore, including unwrapped editions kept sacred, and the more crinkled editions which as a child he read, naughty, under the blankets of the bed, eyes wide and mind reeling as the world was changed forever….

(12) ON THE BALL. “Relive all the costumed shenanigans of 2015 with the 8 best mascot moments of the year” at Major League Basball’s Cut 4. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I sent you the post from Major League Baseball because of the Phillie Phanatic dancing with the Star Wars cast.” The other sf/f selections involve a dancing dino, and astronauts slipping on a banana peel.

(13) SET YOUR DVR. The Defiant Ones (1958) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday the  29th at 12:00 midnight Eastern, Lon Chaney as Big Sam, starring with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, his last role for director Stanley Kramer.

(14) MILD SPOILER ALERT. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Fact-Checked The New ‘Star Wars’ Movie – And fans were quick to accuse him of ruining the fun” reports Huffington Post.

(15) NO IDEA IF IT NEEDS A SPOILER ALERT. I’m not reading reviews yet because I still haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you whether Abigail Nussbaum’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens”  needs a warning label.

(16) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Tasmin Silver asks “What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?” at Magical Words.

WE ALL GET STUCK…even the authors you look up to. So don’t ever think less of yourself for hitting the ball into the sand trap. You’ll find your way out and the next story you do, you’ll be a better writer because of it. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Sure, you might have to put it aside for awhile to clear your head…but do go back, trust me, it makes a big difference in your confidence as a writer to go back.

(17) FORTY-NINER. The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place February 12-14, 2016 in Pasadena, CA.

Come to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair and take part in an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from over 200 booksellers from around the world.

“Even if you are not a collector, if you have ever read a book, it’s a place to go to find out what you haven’t read, or just what you haven’t seen or didn’t know exists.” – Tony Bill, Actor, Director, Producer, Book Collector

(18) GEEKY TRUTHS. Eric Christensen reviews Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt at Fantasy Faction.

I know that if I say Luke Skywalker Can’t Read has something for every species of sci-fi and fantasy nerd, that this implies a sort of lowest-common-denominator writing. But that is not the case here. I mean that he covers so many topics that a glance at the table of contents is enough to hook just about any reader. For example, Britt writes about why we shouldn’t get upset about rapid-fire reboots of superheroes, why Tolkien was just as big a revisionist as George Lucas (although maybe better at it), why the Back to the Future movies are built on fake nostalgia and paradoxes (why is Biff Tannen’s family tree missing every other generation?), or why Sherlock Holmes lives at the heart of pop culture. And of course there is the eponymous essay that argues that everyone in the Star Wars world is functionally illiterate (which does put lines about “hokey religions and ancient weapons” in a very new light).

(19) MATHEMATICAL PROOF. These are all YA but not all sf/f – “Top Ten of 2015: Book Boyfriends” at Dark Faerie Tales. Anyway, a Top 10 has two fifths, so it must belong in the Scroll.

  1. John from The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I was instantly drawn to John’s goodness and kind heart. He is an amazing healer but he is totally humble about it.  Then to top it, he is tall, dark, and handsome! What’s not to love???

(20) DOUBLE DOWN ON FIVE. Pornokitsch has its own way of scoring two fifths — “Five for 2015: 5 Great Games of the Year”.

Destiny: The Taken King

This odd hybrid of first-person sci-fi shooter and ‘massively multiplayer online’ game had a bumpy first year. People expected greatness from developer Bungie – the people behind the beloved Halo series of games – but Destiny’s initial release was met with a chorus of ‘meh’.  It wasn’t a bad game, but it was hampered by a damp squib of a main storyline and a shallowness of content. The latter was an especially big problem: Destiny was designed as a game to be lived in, a game to return to time and time again. If there wasn’t enough to do, enough material to keep people occupied, then it could hardly be considered a success on its own terms. Two small expansions helped patch things up, but it wasn’t until this year’s grand new phase of content, released effectively as its own game, that Destiny finally hit its stride.

(21) WIKI WAG. Mark Lawrence asks “Is Grimdark a thing?” but how can he say no when he is one of its leading exponents?

I was impressed to discover that there’s a definition (of sorts) of Grimdark on Wikipedia … and I’m on it!

Cited on the page with me as examples (presumably prime) of Grimdark authors are Joe Abercrombie and Richard K Morgan, neither of whom I’ve read, and George RR Martin, who I have read.

The key ingredients of Grimdark appear to be:

Nihilism, Violence, Darkness, Dystopian, Moral ambiguity / Lack of moral certainty

Now, I can’t claim an overview – I haven’t even read two thirds of my fellow examples! But if I constitute one of the four pillars of the alleged sub-genre (even as the least and last) then it might be instructive to see how these key ingredients apply to my work….

[Thanks to Will R., Amy Sterling Casil, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

2015 Campbell Award Winner

Claire North

Claire North

Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is the winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of 2014.

The award was presented at the Campbell Conference in Lawrence, KS on June 12.