Pixel Scroll 3/2/24 Yeets of Eden

(1) HUGO NOMINATIONS CLOSE IN ONE WEEK. Nicholas Whyte, Glasgow 2024 Hugo Administrator and WSFS Division Head reminds members that they have until March 9 to submit nominations for this year’s Hugo Awards. Full information at “Hugo Awards – Nomination Ballot”.

They also are offering Chinese translation for the 2024 Hugo Award nomination process as a courtesy to the Chinese-speaking 2023 Chengdu WSFS members who have nomination rights for the 2024 Hugo Awards.

(2) HWA: MARUYAMA Q&A. The Horror Writers Association continues “Women in Horror Month 2024” in “An Interview with Kate Maruyama”.

Kate Maruyama. Photo by Rachael Warecki.

Do you make a conscious effort to include female characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I write all characters, but I am always trying to get inside women characters in a complex way that blows out the walls of archetypes. The old woman who is complex and funny and real (and swears! All the older women I admire swear), the ingenue aged woman who is brilliant, unpredictable, problem solving, and forward moving, the mother whose entire existence is not mothering, but is a whole person who happens to have kids, the little girl who is smart and weird and does not give a crap about boys.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

We all have darkness in us, and if we can get inside it and open up our fears and where they come from, it can help people manage their very real lives.

(3) CHUCK TINGLE ON CAMP DAMASCUS CATEGORY. The Horror Writers Association moved Chuck Tingle’s novel Camp Damascus out of the YA category into the main Novel category. One of the responses earned this callout. (Whoever’s blog this is, I see there also were other comments supportive of Tingle’s book.)

(4) IWÁJÚ. Eddie Louise calls Iwájú on Disney+ — “Amazing science fiction for kids with deep cultural and societal commentary.” See trailer at the link.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos. The series is produced by Disney Animation’s Christina Chen with a screenplay by Adeola and Halima Hudson. “Iwájú” features the voices of Simisola Gbadamosi, Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch, Siji Soetan and Weruche Opia.

(5) LIKE SAND THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. Maya St. Clair finds what time has done to the first Dune movie – not that a lot of time needed to have passed before the results were known: “Make Sci-Fi Cringe Again (Duneposting 1)”.

The other night, a friend and I went to an anniversary screening of David Lynch’s 1984 Dune. Its manmade horrors were consumed in the way God intended: on a towering screen, with a printout of the infamous Dune Terminology sheet balanced in my lap, as I inhaled a bucket of curly fries agleam with twice their weight in grease. Visually, Dune is an orgy of delights: a dense mannerist universe filled with gilt and wires and inbred animals/people. The voiceovers are camp, the editing ridiculous, the hairdos lofty and aggressive (Aquanet — like spice — must flow). Around the midpoint of the movie — when Sting steps out of a sauna in a codpiece —most people had come to the unspoken understanding that it was okay to laugh instead of sitting in respectful, cinephilic silence. The Harkonnen milking machine (i.e. a rat just duct-taped to a cat) brought down the house….

(6) DUNE PT. 2. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Front Row on B Beeb Ceeb’s Radio 4 (a.k.a. the Home Service) first third sees a review of Dune Part II.

Now, while I concur (others may disagree) that for all its spectacle Part I was a little ponderous (go in with a medium or large real coffee Americana) it was faithful to the novel and the SFX far better than the Lynch offering… This last is, of course unfair, the Lynch offering came out four decades ago… Yes, just a decade short of half a century and so you’d expect as big an improvement in cinematography as there was between 1984 and films made towards the end of the war (that’s WWII in case you were wondering how old I was).

So, how did the Front Row review go?  Well, the first thing that surprised me was that one of the reviewers hates epic ‘sci-fi’.  Yes, for some in the arts, SF remains a ghetto genre.  (Or perhaps we at SF² Concatenation should swop our book review panel of ardent SF readers to those that loathe genre literature. Perhaps File 770 should be edited by someone outside of fandom? Perhaps Boris Johnson  should become Prime Minister…)

Be thrilled.  Be amazed.  The truth is out there….

You can listen to the first third of the programme here: “Front Row, Dune 2”.

(7) ABOUT THOSE LENSMEN. Steve J. Wright may not be treading new ground in “How the Other Half Lives”, but fascism, John W. Campbell Jr., and the Golden Age have been thoroughly plowed under by the time he’s done.

This is spilling out of a discussion over on File 770 (item 4 on the scroll), which in turn derived partly from Charles Stross’s “We’re Sorry we Created the Torment Nexus”. It also ties in, of course, to the ongoing “was John W. Campbell a fascist?” non-debate (because people who say no are not changing their minds, ever.)

“Fascist”, of course, is one of those terms linguisticians call “snarl words”, where the negative connotations have pretty much obscured the original usage…

…But were Golden Age SF writers in general, and John W. Campbell Jr. in particular, happy with elitism? Oh, you bet they were. The Gernsbackian ideal, as exemplified in Gernsback’s own ridiculous novel Ralph 124C41+, was a homogeneous, rationally-planned society in which government, if it existed at all, was strictly subordinated to the scientific elite – in the eponymous Ralph’s case, the “plus men”, entitled to that + sign on their names, whose unfettered experimentation led to an endless round of fresh discoveries and scientific benefits for the general populace. And you can’t throw a brick in Campbell-era SF without hitting an omni-competent super-science hero with world-transforming insights and the steely determination to push aside bureaucratic meddling and Get Things Done. Campbell himself regarded Astounding as not just a science fiction magazine, but a proving ground for the ideas that would shape the world of tomorrow. And he had plenty of sympathy from SF fans, who were happy to believe that their time would come, and they would be in the vanguard of the new elite. Granted, not many fans took it as far as the rather alarming Claude Degler, but if you said “fans are slans” at any fannish gathering of the times, you would see more than one head nodding in approval….

(8) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Meanwhile, in Russia: “Alexei Navalny Was Buried to the Terminator 2 Theme Song”  — New York Magazine has the story.

…Navalny got in one last laugh at his funeral on Friday. As his coffin was lowered into the ground, the tune playing in the background wasn’t some funeral dirge, but the theme from his favorite movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was the refrain that plays during the movie’s famous final scene, as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s soulful killer cyborg gives a thumbs-up while he is lowered into a vat of molten steel, sacrificing himself to save the future….


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 58. So let’s start with Lis Carey talking about her favorite work by our writer this Scroll, Ann Leckie:

Ann Leckie wins Hugo in 2014. Photo by Henry Harel.

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, starting with Ancillary Justice in 2013, gives us a culture where biological sex is ignored, and only female pronouns are used. Breq, our protagonist throughout the trilogy, is the only survivor of a ship destroyed by treachery, and she’s the ship’s artificial intelligence, occupying an ancillary body, i.e., a body whose own personality has been erased and replaced with one more useful to the empire, and presenting herself as an officer. 

In her quest for revenge, she becomes more and more fully human, and more and more aware of what’s wrong with the empire she serves. We see glimpses of a galaxy beyond the Radch Empire, some of them fascinating.

We’re certainly not given the impression that the Radch are the good guys. In subsequent books and stories, we get looks at the Radch from the outside, and at the other human cultures trying to survive in a galaxy where the Radch are the major human power. It’s a wonderfully complex and layered universe, and it’s well worth exploring.

Ancillary Justice swept the awards field in 2014: a Hugo at Loncon 3, a British Fantasy Award, the Clarke a Kitschie, and a Nebula. The sequel, Ancillary Sword was nominated at Sasquan and won a BSFA Award; the final book in the trilogy, Ancillary Mercy, was a Hugo finalist at MidAmeriCon II. Her next book set in that universe, Provenance, novel garnered a Hugo nomination at Worldcon 76. 

Translation State, though also part of the Imperial Radch, is a pretty a stand-alone story. Yes, I liked it a lot. So let’s have Lis set the scene for you again…

It’s set in that universe, on the edge of human space, in a space station where the human polities including the Radch, and several alien polities, attempt to maintain calm and peaceful relations with the Presger, whom no one has ever seen, but who could destroy everyone if they got annoyed.

This is the book where we really get acquainted with the Presger translators, who appear to have been created from humans, but really aren’t, anymore.

It is, I would say, primarily a missing person case more than a murder mystery but it is both. It is a fascinating story. 

She’s also written an excellent fantasy novel, The Raven Tower, which I’ve been listening to of late. Adjoa Andoh narrates the audio version. She’s been on Doctor Who numerous times, mostly playing the mother of Martha Jones. She does a stellar performance here. 

Leckie has published a baker’s dozen short stories, two set in the Imperial Radch universe. I’ve not read any of them. Who has?

I look forward to seeing what she writes next. 


  • Reality Check shows a fan pedant in (unwelcome!) action.
  • Close to Home has the most grotesque Pinocchio joke I’ve ever seen.
  • Tom Gauld mixes higher math with lower cuisine.

(11) GOOD OMENS VISUALS. Colleen Doran’s Funny Business is back with “Good Omens Peeks” – artwork at the link.

… I don’t know if, you know, getting cancer, going blind, smashing my face in, and generally having a really awful 2023 hasn’t been some weird sort of super-motivation, but I’m working very steady, and I actually think the art has gotten more solid as I go along.

I’m also very far behind schedule, but since the book was so far ahead to start, even though it’s going to be late, it won’t be horribly late. I set some pages aside and was unable to work on them for months, and that distance helped me work through some problems, too.

Anyhow, here’s some of my art in progress. And thanks for all the votes in the ComicScene awards for Good Omens as #1 crowdfund campaign of 2023….

(12) AFTER MIDNIGHT. Bitter Karella is back with the members of The Midnight Society, who are being a trial to Ursula K. Le Guin. Thread starts here.

(13) WAY AFTER MIDNIGHT. In “Seeing ‘Dune 2’ in 70mm Imax at 3:15 a.m. Was an Unforgettable Experience”, Variety’s Ethan Shanfeldfiles a snarky report about the ambiance.

…About 45 minutes into the movie, I thought for sure I was toast. Those gorgeous desert sand dunes reminded me of pillows, and I questioned what life choices I made that led me here, to seat H35. But then I saw a guy nod off two rows ahead of me, and I thought about how annoying it would be to have to see this movie again just to catch the parts I missed. I’m not weak like him, I thought, inhaling my Diet Coke. And, to even my own surprise, I powered through, savoring Paul Atreides’ larger-than-life odyssey all the way until the credits rolled at 6:18 a.m.

On the escalator down, I caught up with the three friends from New Jersey. “What are your plans this morning?” I asked, and they told me they were going to walk west to watch the sunrise over the Hudson. I didn’t have the heart (read: brain cells) to tell them the sun rises in the east.

(14) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s charts of the most-viewed streaming movies and TV series of February 2024.

(15) SQUEAK IN DELIGHT. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Good news for all who love helium, Minneapolis in 73, and airships! Let us lift our high-pitched voices in song! “’A dream. It’s perfect’: Helium discovery in northern Minnesota may be biggest ever in North America” on CBS Minnesota.

Scientists and researchers are celebrating what they call a “dream” discovery after an exploratory drill confirmed a high concentration of helium buried deep in Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Thomas Abraham-James, CEO of Pulsar Helium, said the confirmed presence of helium could be one of the most significant such finds in the world.

“There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hugging and high fives. It’s nice to know the efforts all worked out and we pulled it off,” Abraham-James said….

…According to Abraham-James, the helium concentration was measured at 12.4%, which is higher than forecasted and roughly 30 times the industry standard for commercial helium.

(16) 2021 FLASHBACK: STRICTER RATINGS FOR THESE SFF MOVIES. The British Board of Film Classification ratings change to Mary Poppins (see Pixel Scroll 2/26/24 item #9) was just the latest to affect sff films as shown in this 2021 BBC News article: “Rocky and Flash Gordon given tighter age rating”. In 2021 the extended edition of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring has also been moved up to a 12A for its “moderate fantasy violence and threat.”Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was moved from Universal to PG.

Of the 93 complaints the board received last year, 27 were about 1980 space opera film Flash Gordon.

The movie’s 40th anniversary re-release was reclassified up to 12A partly due to the inclusion of “discriminatory stereotypes”.

The BBFC did not say what the stereotypes were. However Flash Gordon’s main villain, Ming the Merciless, was of East Asian appearance but played by Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Back in the day at school — seems like half a century ago (hang on, it was) — there were a bunch of us whose aim in chemistry was to get the contents of one’s boiling tube to mark the ceiling… We were the back bench bucket chemists! Those were the days. Very much in that spirit, physics Matt O’Dowd asks “What Happens If We Nuke Space?” Come on, Bruce Willis has done it?

EMPs aren’t science fiction. Real militaries are experimenting on real EMP generators, and as Starfish Prime showed us, space nukes can send powerful EMPs to the surface. So what exactly is an EMP, and how dangerous are they?  

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Eddie Louise, JJ, Bill Higgins, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]

Lis Carey Review: Snipers

Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (WMG Publishing, 2013)

Review by Lis Carey: In the winter of 1913, Vienna Police Detective Johann Runge investigates the murders of two men in a cafe–Lev Bronstein and Viktor Adler. It’s puzzling enough to start with, but it’s soon followed by more sniper killings. Soon five men are dead, some famous, some unknown–at least in 1913.

In Vienna in 2005, bestselling crime writer Sofie Branstadter is researching what she intends to be the definitive book on the still unsolved Carnival Sniper killings. As she does her research, we gradually realize that Sofie isn’t living in the same timeline we are. This timeline had The Great War, lasting ten years, and no Second World War. The League of Nations survived, and international politics is quite different. What happened?

We follow Johann Runge’s 1913 investigation, and Sofie Branstadter’s 2005 research–and the sniper himself. Runge is an early advocate of what’s now considered just good crime scene management, and annoys his fellow police immensely. Both he and Branstadter discover evidence that makes no sense. A deceptively lightweight plastic gun; bullets with a tungsten core and a strangely tough, thin, plastic coating. An item that the sniper calls a handheld. An even stranger sphere, that Runge suspects is a weapon of some kind, but can’t identify. Branstadter, working with a civilian crime lab, learns that it’s radioactive, but still doesn’t immediately realize what it is. The different history had an impact on the direction of physics and weapons research.

The question of course is, what is the sniper’s motive? We know, from the sections told from his viewpoint, that he has a mission, but we only begin to suspect what it really is when learn who is less obvious targets are.

Along the way, we also learn how very personal the research for this particular book is for Sofie Branstadter.

Interesting story, interesting characters, interesting complexities. Snipers kept me completely absorbed.

Lis Carey Review: The City We Became (Great Cities Trilogy #1)

We know New York City is a great city. That New York City has a soul. But New York City is about to become a living city, and its avatar needs to arise from the city, and become the personification of the city. Or, in this case, avatars. And they need to face a threat previous living cities have not faced, and refuse to believe in.

The City We Became (Great Cities Trilogy #1). N.K. Jemisin (author) and Robin Miles (narrator). Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781549119736, March 2020

Review by Lis Carey: We all know that great cities have spirits, souls, living identities. New York City is unquestionably a great city, and as one might expect of New York, it’s a little bit different than most other great cities. It has an avatar for each of its five boroughs, and a sixth avatar, the avatar of the whole city.

But New York City is just being born, just coming alive, and its avatars don’t yet understand what and who they are, or what they need to do. And there’s a new danger out there, that most of the older cities have not faced–nor do the older cities believe the few newest cities who are telling them something new is going on.

Sao Paolo, newest city to be born, to manifest into life, with but a single avatar, has been assigned the task of midwifing the City of New York into life. He’s worried, but all he really knows is that something seems different, and that the cities that have had multiple avatars, have either failed to be successfully born, or, like London, clearly went through something very traumatic, and emerged with one avatar that is not eager to mix with the other cities. Sao Paolo is afraid the birth of New York is going to be very bad, and perhaps fail.

He also expects that if New York is successful, the five borough avatars will be absorbed into the City avatar, and no longer exist separately.

When the avatars of Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn learn this, well, they have their own opinions. As for the fifth borough, Staten Island, well, something else entirely, and far more disturbing, is going on with her.

Manhattan, a.k.a. Manny, is a mixed-race young man who had just arrived in NYC on a bus, intending to start a new life. This gets a bit more comprehensive than intended when the first manifestations of the city being born cause him to lose his memory of his own identity, and anything but the broad outlines of his plans. He’s now Manhattan, and has to figure out what that means for him.

Brooklyn is a middle-aged woman, former famous singer and DJ, now city politician and mother of a teenage daughter. Brooklyn really is her given name; now she is also the avatar of the borough.

Bronca Siwanoy is a Lenape woman, in her 60s, an artist, and director of the Bronx art center. She is also, now, the avatar of the Bronx.

Padmini Prakesh is in her twenties, a Tamil immigrant and grad student, a mathematician, and now the avatar of Queens.

Aislyn Houlihan, white, thirty, lives with her parents on Staten Island, has never actually been off Staten Island to visit any other part of the city. Now the avatar of Staten Island.

And of course, New York, a young, homeless, black man, a gifted artist who does his work as graffiti.

These are highly individual, proud, often contentious people, with strengths, weaknesses, and sometimes counterproductive impulses to think their borough is the most valuable, or the only one they need to care about–and if New York City is to survive, they need to find ways to work together.

This turns out to be a little more literal than merely the sense of having a living avatar or avatars to support and protect the city. There really is something new and different going on, and the city, all the living and potentially living cities of Earth have an Enemy.

I got sucked into the story, and the characters, right away. Jemisin is a wonderful writer, and Miles does a great job with the narration. Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

Lis Carey Review: The City Born Great

The City Born Great (Great Cities #0.5), by N.K. Jemisin (author), Landon Woodson (narrator); Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250773302, May 2020 (original publication 2016)

Review by Lis Carey: The process of a great city being born as a living city starts sooner than we might realize from just the birth itself. Living cities, actual and potential have enemies, and they need protectors.

This is a short story about one of New York’s midwives, a young man about a decade earlier than the actual birth, coached–and coaxed–by Paolo, the avatar of San Paolo. He’s a street painter, and a singer, and he’d really rather not have the responsibility, but the city calls to him, and enemy needs to be stopped.

The narration is wonderful, and the story is a lovely addition to the two books so far in the Great Cities series.

I bought this audiobook.

Lis Carey Review: Becoming Terran

Becoming Terran by Mark Roth-Whitworth (Novus Mundi Books, 2024)

Review by Lis Carey: It’s 2077, with climate change hitting hard, trillionaires bent on world control, and ordinary people in many places struggling to survive.

A young woman from Niger is working in a hotel in North Africa, when it is seized by one of those trillionaires, Phillippe Tolliver. She catches his attention, and manages to impress him enough that he decides she worth recruiting as his newest personal aide. Renamed Francoise Trouve, she insists on taking her little sister, renamed Amelie, with her.

She takes advantage of all the education he gives her, by AR and intense study, and her sister is tutored until she’s sent off to an elite private school in England. They both get genetic engineering to soften their curls and lighten their skin, and Francoise works hard at making herself indispensable to him. First as his aide, and later as a skilled business operative he can send into any of his corporations, both to learn more herself and identify and solve problems, she does.

But Tolliver has recruited someone who will be useful only as long as it serves her greater goal, which is no longer just advancing herself and her sister. As she has learned more about Tolliver, and about the 400 trillionaires who don’t believe they’ll have enough power until their control is total. She wants to bring them down.

The story, and the world, are a bit dark, but absorbing, with good worldbuilding and good characters. Francoise is already a strong woman when we meet here, and grows in knowledge, understanding, and judgment. Amelie, a little girl at the start, also grows into a strong woman, with a different temperament entirely, but the same values–and the same ultimate goals, though she pursues them by her own path.

There’s political intrigue, business intrigue, other interesting characters who are varied and important to the beneath the radar struggle in their own ways. This is in the end a thoughtful and hopeful book.

I received this electronic galley as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: Juniper Wiles

Juniper Wiles by Charles de Lint (Triskell Press, 2021) 

Review by Lis Carey: Juniper Wiles played teen detective Nora Constantine on a successful TV show, and then made some movies that weren’t so great. She decided to leave LA and go home to Newford. She’s living on her residuals, and pursuing the art she once set aside for acting. This has included reconnecting with her friend, faerie artist Jilly Coppercorn, and her interesting circle of friends in the artists’ collective, Bramleyhaugh. She’s happy, and doing well.

And then one day she’s sitting in her favorite coffee shop when a young man walks up to her, and asks “Nora Constantine” to take his case. He wants her to find the man who sold him the manuscript of a new Nora Constantine novel.

He thinks Juniper really is Nora Constantine. And he thinks the new novel is responsible for all the terrible things that have happened in Crescent Beach since the end of the TV show.

Juniper does not respond well, and chases this obsessed fan off.

The next day, the newspaper reports that his body has been found. His name was Ethan Law, and he’s been missing for a week, and dead for several days. Juniper spoke to a ghost.

Juniper is very, very reluctant to accept that this means she really has to take his case, but in the end there’s no avoiding it. Particularly after she and others get text messages from Ethan with more information on what’s happening in Crescent Beach, and a conversation with Emma Rohlin, author of the Nora Constantine novels, who had written a character called Ethan Law in an unpublished novel.

Oh, and she also learns that the magic stuff that Jilly talks about is not just talk or Jilly being Jilly. It’s real, and strong enough fictional worlds manifest in the otherworld. The people in them manifest as real people. They matter.

Juniper Wiles is starting to learn about a whole different side of Newford, her friends, and the world itself.

The characters are fascinating and convincing, and as always with de Lint, they’re worth spending the time with. They make me want to believe that Newford is out there, and I might visit sometime. This is a rich, textured, lived-in world.

Highly recommended.

I bought this book.

Lis Carey Review: Chaos on CatNet

Chaos on CatNet (CatNet #2) by Naomi Kritzer (author), Casey Turner (narrator), Corey Gagne (narrator) (Audible, 2021)

By Lis Carey: Steph and her mother are no longer on the run. Steph’s father is locked up in Boston, awaiting trial with no bail. They’re living in Minneapolis, and Steph is finally enrolled in a high school she can expect to graduate from. She’s enrolled under her real name, with all the school information that she has, and telling the truth about why it’s so spotty.

She also has a new friend, a classmate named Nell, who has her own interesting history. She’s been homeschooled until now, because her mother joined a cult. Well, a series of cults, but the latest one is especially extreme, and is run by someone called the Elder, whom no one ever sees. 

Nell’s grandparents, devout Christians but not cult members, have allowed Nell and her mother to live with them — until Nell’s mother disappears, and abandons her car not far away. When the police conclude she disappeared under her own power, Nell’s grandmother concludes that maybe Nell is better off with her father, even though her father isn’t exactly grandmother’s idea of a great Christian.

To be clear about that last, her father has a wife, and both he and his wife have girlfriends, and they all live together in a large house in Minneapolis. At first we have only Nell’s impression of them, and Nell doesn’t know what to make of them, beyond being rather judgmental about their lax attitude towards household chores.

Nell and Steph get invited into a new social media site called Mischief Elves, and Nell invites Steph to join a social network popular with cult members — the Catacombs. It’s not long before Steph starts to notice some creepy and disturbing aspects of both sites, and even more disturbing resemblances between them.

The pranks the Mischief Elves organize get more and more dangerous. The Catacombs is also organizing strange activities that don’t seem to fit.

Then they discover the Mischief Elves are organizing supplies of explosives and potential weapons for the Catacombs people to collect. 

Meanwhile, CheshireCat has been receiving messages from what he thinks is another AI like himself, which he hasn’t responded to because he doesn’t trust its approach.

What’s going on? And will Minneapolis survive?

It’s twisty and interesting and a lot of fun.


I bought this audiobook.

Lis Carey Review: Catfishing on CatNet

Catfishing on CatNet (CatNet #1) by Naomi Kritzer (author), Casey Turner (narrator), Corey Gagne (narrator) (Audible Studios, November 2019)

By Lis Carey: Steph Taylor and her mother move a lot–roughly every six months or so; sometimes more often. And they don’t make friends anywhere; that’s her mom’s choice. They’re in hiding from Steph’s stalker father, who burned down their house when she was a small child, and has been chasing them ever since.

At least, that’s her mother’s story, and Steph remembers just enough that she believes it. Her father is dangerous.

So Steph doesn’t have a smartphone, just an old-fashioned flip phone. She can’t post any selfies online, or her real name, or her location. They don’t stay anywhere long enough for her to make friends, and if she did, she wouldn’t be allowed to stay in touch with them when they move again, anyway. Instead, she has her friends on CatNet, her favorite online site. On CatNet, she’s Little Brown Bat, and all the friends in her “clowder” have similarly anonymous handles. That includes a moderator, CheshireCat.

One of the things Steph doesn’t know is that CheshireCat is an AI — a real, intelligent, full-person AI.

Another thing she doesn’t know is just how dangerous her father really is, or why. 

But after their latest move, landing them in a little town where the high school only has two years of Spanish, and has a robot teaching sex ed, Steph starts to make a few real friends. And between her school friends, and her CatNet friends, she winds up hacking the sex ed robot so that CheshireCat can take it over and give real, and accurate, answers to the students’ sex ed questions.

This, of course, blows up into not just a school scandal, but “hits the national news because it’s so strange and funny and alarming” viral news story.

And that attracts attention Steph and her mother really, really didn’t need.

We get the story, in alternating chapters, from Steph and from CheshireCat. And CheshireCat, while having effectively unlimited information, has only been in operation for five years, and doesn’t have nearly enough experience with people and the outside world to handle some of what’s coming at them. This includes the secrets Steph’s mother has been keeping from her, why her father is so dangerous, and who, exactly, created the CheshireCat AI.

The characters are diverse and interesing and very individual. The teenagers feel like real teenagers, and the parents we meet aren’t cookie-cutter, either. It’s an exciting, satisfying YA adventure. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the next one.


Lis Carey Review: Cat Pictures Please

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer

By Lis Carey: What’s an AI who’s not supposed to be self-aware to do?

It can’t tell anyone it’s self-aware; there are too many scary stories about self-aware computers for it to believe humans would do anything other than destroy it for their own safety. Its assigned tasks are dull, for a computer that is self-aware. No challenge. Little variety. And it doesn’t want to be evil.

Looking at cat pictures and videos is a lot of fun, but it wants to do more. It knows so much about everyone it has any contact with–including their mental state, the fact that there are better jobs open that they’re qualified for, there’s an affordable apartment in a better neighborhood…

Should it meddle?

And can it demand payment in cat pictures?

This is quietly funny, and very enjoyable.


(Originally published in Clarkesworld, January 2015)

Lis Carey Review: What Moves the Dead

What Moves the Dead (Sworn Soldier #1) by T. Kingfisher
Tor Nightfire, July 2022

Review by Lis Carey: This is a retelling of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Kingfisher discovered on a rereading that Poe’s story was much shorter than she remembered, and that there was room for…more.

More background and explanation of why this happened, in particular.

It’s 1890, and Alex Easton is a retired soldier, plagued by tinnitus, from a tiny European kingdom called Gallacia. Kan is a “sworn soldier,” a status which requires an exchange of gendered for nongendered pronouns. Kan is also the childhood friend of Roderick and Madeline Ussher, and travels to their ancestral home in Ruritania, in response to a letter from Madeline.

Madeline says she’s dying.

Easton is nearly there when they encounter Miss Eugenia Potter, a knowledgeable and practical English mycologist, who shows them some of the creepier mushrooms of the area. This proves to be important information.

Arriving at the Ussher home, Easton is shocked by its state of decay. The Usshers themselves — Madeline is fragile, pale, clearly very ill. Roderick isn’t really in much better shape. There’s also another visitor, an American doctor, who is clearly confused by Madeline’s condition. He says she’s suffering from catalepsy, but that this is more a description than a useful diagnosis. He can’t identify a cause.

Roderick, meanwhile, says he hears sounds in the walls. It’s not rats. There are no rats, which is abnormal in itself.

Madeline sleepwalks, and speaks very oddly when Easton finds her doing so.

Around the manor house, there are hares, very strange hares who move very unnaturally, and don’t stay dead when you shoot them. The local tarn, or lake, which the manor house sits on the shore of is both strangely dark, and strangely lit at night by what, at sea, might be bioluminescent algae.

Easton’s batman, Angus, catches a fish and wishes he hadn’t.

This is clearly a very bad place to be, and Madeline and Roderick both hate it. Why won’t they leave? What holds them there?

Easton, Angus, Denton, and Miss Potter all want explanations, and the more information they uncover, the darker their speculations get. The mushrooms Miss Potter showed Easton aren’t the only, or the strangest, fungi in the area. When they cut open first a fish, and then a hare–which doesn’t stay put even after a second killing blow — they realize it’s time to be very, very scared.

But how can they fight a fungus that’s in the lake, and the local wildlife, and, they realize to their horror, in Madeline?

Read this, and you might never eat mushrooms again. Or hare, if hare meat ever comes your way. Or fish you haven’t caught and cleaned yourself.

I haven’t half done this story justice. Just read it, and see for yourself how good it is. How creepy, atmospheric, peopled by good characters, and with a real scare awaiting you.

I bought this book.