Pixel Scroll 1/5/24 Scroll, Muse, of the Pixels of the Filers

(1) FREE ON EARTH. Brian Keene has posted the program schedule for “Christopher Golden’s House of Last Resort Weekend (hosted by Brian Keene)” a FREE horror convention, taking place January 18 – 21, 2024 at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, 250 Market St., in Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Admission is FREE with weekend hotel room reservation.  Click here to register for this FREE one-time event. Click here to reserve your hotel room.

The “House of Last Resort Weekend Schedule” is at Brian Keene’s blog. Apparently, if you’re going, you really really should not miss Opening Ceremonies.

7:00pm (Prescott) – Opening Ceremonies: Christopher Golden and host Brian Keene welcome you to this one of a kind, once in a lifetime special event. We’ll go over the rules, the purpose of the weekend, the schedule, and much more. Attendance is strongly encouraged, and to show you that we mean this, we’ll give away free door prizes to random individuals.

(2) APPLY FOR THE BOSE GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking applications for the A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature through January 31.

The A.C. Bose Grant annually provides $1,000 to South Asian or Desi diaspora writers developing speculative fiction. Work that is accessible to older children and teens will be given preference in the jury process. 

This grant, as with all SLF grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. Speculative literature spans the breadth of fantastic writing, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy, including ghost stories, horror, folk and fairy tales, slipstream, magical realism, and more. Any piece of literature containing a fabulist or speculative element would fall under our aegis.

This grant is awarded on the basis of merit. If awarded the grant, the recipient agrees to provide a brief excerpt from their work and an autobiographical statement describing themselves and their writing (500-1,000 words) for our files and for public dissemination on our website and mailing list.

The application form is at the SLF website.

(3) MATCH GAME. Nick Johnson thought of a great way to spice up his annual recommendation list: “Reading (and Publication!) Round-Up for 2023” at Medium.

I’m choosing to do my year-end wrap-up a little differently this time. Whereas before I separated out novels and short stories to highlight the best of both, for 2023 I present instead a curated, tandem list — a prix fixe menu, if you will. I’ve listed each book in the order I read it, complete with brief description and a rating (out of 5 ★s).

Each novel is paired with a short story. Why? Because short stories don’t get enough love! Think of them as palate cleansers, digestifs to follow the main course. Some of these pairings are based on similarities between concepts or characters. Sometimes they approach similar themes from divergent angles. Whatever the reason may be, if you choose to read them, I hope they take you on rewarding journeys to emotional places you don’t expect.

Here’s one example.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher (★★★★)

T. Kingfisher’s solid young-adult fantasy novel follows Mona, a baker’s apprentice skilled in crafting magical golems out of baked goods, whose life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the floor of her bakery. Hijinks, both harrowing and heartwarming, ensue.

Pairing“There’s Magic in Bread” | Effie Seiberg | Fantasy MagazineSeiberg’s story about magical bread is more grounded to this plane, though sneaks in some grain-based golems for good measure.

(4) WHAT SHE’S READING. Maud Woolf features in the “Books & Authors” section of Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 5, 2024”.

Reading with… Maud Woolf

Maud Woolf is a speculative-fiction writer with a particular focus on horror and science fiction who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has appeared in a variety of online magazines. She’s worked a number of jobs, including waitressing, comic book selling, sign-holding, and as a tour guide at a German dollhouse museum. She is the author of Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock (Angry Robot, January 9, 2024), a feminist satire on celebrity and the multiple roles into which women are forced to squeeze their lives.

On your nightstand now: 

I have a bad habit of dipping in and out of multiple books at the same time. At the moment, I’m obsessed with solarpunk, so I’m reading A Psalm for the Wild-Builtby Becky Chambers and Glass and Gardens, an anthology of solarpunk stories edited by Sarena Ulibarri. Those have both just been abandoned in favour of The Forever Warby Joe Haldeman, a science-fiction classic influenced by the author’s own experiences in the Vietnam War. I usually avoid military sci-fi, but it’s completely consumed me.

(5) FRED CHAPPELL (1936-2024.) North Carolina writer and teacher Fred Chappell died January 4 at the age of 87. The Greensboro News and Record has a tribute here: “Fred Chappell, acclaimed author and poet, has died”.

His first novel, Dagon (1968) was honored as the Best Foreign Book of the Year by the Académie Française. He won two World Fantasy Awards for short fiction, “The Somewhere Doors” (1992) and “The Lodger” (1994). His short story “The Silent Woman” was also shortlisted for the Otherwise Award in 1997.

He was a past Poet Laureate of the state of North Carolina, and PBS North Carolina aired a documentary about him in 2022, “Fred Chappell: I Am One of You Forever”.

(6) JOHN F. O’CONNELL (1969–2024.) [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Author John O’Connell died January 1. His “Legerdemain” got him nominations for the Shirley Jackson and World Fantasy Awards. Two of his stories, “Legerdemain” and “The Swag from Doc Hawthorne’s” were published in F&SF. His only Award was an Imaginaire for his Dans les limbes, the French translation of The Resurrectionist novel. All three of his noirish linked novels, Box Nine, Skin Palace and Word Made Flesh are set in the fictional New England city of Quinsigamond, loosely based on his own resident city of Worcester, Massachusetts.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 57. This Scroll I’m very pleased to be looking at Tananarive Due, an author whose work is definitely more focused towards the noir side of our genre. 

She’s a native Floridian, born of civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due and civil rights lawyer John D. Due, her mother named her after the French name for Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.  She’s married to Steve Barnes, and they live now in LA where their two children also live. 

Tananarive Due

Her first work was The Between, published twenty-eight years ago. It was nominated for a Bram Stroker Award. Like much of her work, it straddles the thin line between the mundane and horror quite chillingly. 

Shortly after that, she started the dark fantasy and a bit soap operish African Immortals series which ran over almost fifteen years and four novels. An Ethiopian family traded something away well over four centuries ago in a ritual that granted them true immortality. And one of them wants to invoke that ritual now… 

Eight years later, she’d write The Good House, one of the scariest haunted house stories I have ever encountered. Trigger warning: it deals with a suicide and the horror of it is very real here. 

Joplin’s Ghost followed shortly thereafter. Yes this is centered around the ragtime musican Scott Joplin and his haunting of a young female hip hop artist. It’s less of a horror novel than her works and more of a dark fantasy. Very well done.

Ghost Summer: Stories a decade on collected eighteen of her over thirty excellent short stories including the title story. Most of the rest, though not all, are in The Wishing Pool and Other Stories. The “Ghost Summer” story won a Carl Brandon Kindred Award and I love the story about who Carl Brandon is! The collection garnered a BFA. 

Her latest novel just out, The Reformatory: A Novel, is set in a Jim Crow Florida reformatory where the full horrors of the injustices of racism known no bounds of death. Really, really scary. 

Her quite well-crafted website can be found over here. She offers online courses including ones on Afrofuturism.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Crankshaft surprises a friend by dropping an sff reference.

(9) KNOW YOUR VERBIAGE. Janet Rudolph has posted a chart of “Commonly Misused Words” at Mystery Fanfare. And in a comment Hal Glatzer has added this example:

Gauntlet = a heavy glove Gantlet = a double row of men with swords or pikes

You challenge someone to a duel by “throwing down the gauntlet.”
You put someone in danger by making them “walk (or run) the gantlet.”

(10) YEOH SHOW CANCELLED. American Born Chinese had a lot going for it – based on a Gene Luen Yang book, a cast including Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan – but it won’t be back for a second season says Variety: “’American Born Chinese’ Canceled After One Season at Disney+”.

American Born Chinese” has been canceled after one season at Disney+Variety has learned.

According to an individual with knowledge of the decision, Disney was high on the creative of the series, but its viewership did not justify greenlighting a second season. The producers plan to shop the series to other outlets.

“American Born Chinese” debuted on Disney+ on May. The Disney Branded Television series was based on the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang. The official logline states that the show “chronicles the trials and tribulations of a regular American teenager whose life is forever changed when he befriends the son of a mythological god.”

(11) WHO’S WATCHING WHAT? JustWatch sent along its 2023 Market Shares data and graphics.

SVOD market shares in Q4 2023
In the final quarter of the year, Disney’s streaming services, Disney+ and Hulu, combined gathered more shares than current market leader Prime Video. Meanwhile, Netflix is approaching Prime Video with just a 1% difference between the two players.

Market share development in 2023
Over the year, the streaming battle in the US displayed interesting changes with Paramount+ leading with the highest increase since January, adding a total of +2%. Global streamer: Apple TV+ also displays strong improvement with a +1% increase.

(12) I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science journal we have “Magellanic cloud may be two galaxies, not one”.

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a hazy blob in the night sky easily visible to people in the Southern Hemisphere, has long been considered a lone dwarf galaxy close to the Milky Way. But a study posted online this month, and accepted by The Astrophysical Journal, suggests the familiar site is not a single body, but two, with one behind the other as viewed from Earth.

By tracking the movements of clouds of gas within the SMC and the young stars recently formed within them, astronomer Claire Murray of the Space Telescope Science Institute and her colleagues have found evidence of two stellar nurseries thousands of light-years apart. If confirmed, the reassessment will likely amplify calls from an increasing number of astronomers to change the SMC’s name and that of its neighbour, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

Sixteenth century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, after whom the galaxies are named, was not an astronomer, did not discover them, and is recorded as having murdered and enslaved Indigenous people during his first-ever circumnavigation of the globe. As a result, astronomer Mia de los Reyes of Amherst College called for renaming the SMC and LMC in an opinion piece for Physics magazine in September. The idea has since “gotten a lot of informal support,” she says.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In “Three Sci-Fi Books Nobody Reads Anymore”,  Book Pilled looks at three lost SF treasures.  Gerard Klein The Overlords of War (English translation by the transmazing John Brunner), James Blish’s Vor, and Avram Davidson’s What Strange Stars and Skies.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Joel Zakem, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Michaele Jordan Review: Five of the 2023 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel

By Michaele Jordan.

  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

In The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Ms. Moreno-Garcia re-examines a story that has been intriguing us for well over a century. The original novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G Wells, was published in 1896. It was followed by three movies. The first, made in 1932, was titled The Island of Lost Souls, and starred Charles Laughton and Richard Arlen. In 1977 it was remade under the original title, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and starred Burt Lancaster and Michael York. It was remade again in 1996, with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

The story deteriorated over the years. H.G. Wells was an ardent social activist, particularly appalled by the then common practice of vivisection. His book was intended to highlight its horrors. It was a serious novel, and was not well received at first, specifically because it was so horrifying. The 1932 movie was excellent. I saw it years ago, and the memory still gives me shivers. It’s a little hard to find these days. It’s on YouTube, but mixed in with numerous adulterated versions. You have to hunt for it. Then the 1977 movie was very bad, and the 1996 version went beyond bad to utterly dreadful. Fortunately, Ms. Moreno-Garcia’s novel restores the tale to its former stature.

The basic story remains the same. A stranger comes to the island. Usually he’s marooned, although in the new book [INB], he’s a new hire. (Because, yes, Dr. Moreau needs staff.) He finds a deserted jungle island (or INB, a nearly deserted jungle island) with only two visible residents: Dr. Moreau, and a beautiful young woman identified as his daughter. They are surrounded by a group of misshapen, inarticulate persons, either his servants or his patients. We soon learn that Moreau is engaged in what modern SF calls ‘uplift’, transforming animals into humans.

His technique varies – depending on which version you’re looking at – from vivisection to DNA injections. But he’s having trouble making his process work. The resulting creatures do not look fully human, and have trouble with human speech (many cannot talk at all.) Even apparent successes tend to revert to their original forms and behaviors. The introduction of a stranger into this mélange greatly disturbs the social balance, and the whole project erupts into violent conflagration from which the stranger and the beautiful woman narrowly escape. Just in case one of you has somehow evaded this story until now, I will not reveal the surprise ending.

So what does Ms. Moreno-Garcia have to add to this outline? As her title suggests, she makes the beautiful woman, Carlotta, the viewpoint character. Carlotta is entirely concerned with the people around her. Of course she knows where her friends came from. But they are her friends, her day-in-day-out companions, her family.

She never gives a second thought to the morality of a practice she’s grown up with. She assists her father in his work, as his nurse, administering medications and tending injuries. She accepts her father’s creations as her fellows, and takes pleasure in providing them with the special care they need.

Ms. Moreno-Garcia has also expanded the environment.  Dr. Moreau is not working on an uninhabited island, just a thinly populated one. A good ways down the road,  there’s a city where supplies can be purchased and travel arrangements made. There are neighbors within a day’s travel. He has a very large tract of uninhabited land, but he doesn’t own it – he rents it.  His landlord is extremely interested in his work, and is providing the financing

This leads to a major shift in focus. In previous versions, the thematic emphasis was on the cruelty of the procedure. Even the later variants, where vivisection is replaced with DNA injections, the process is depicted as hideously painful, producing creatures who could not possibly have lived independently. But in this more modern work, the procedure is accomplished by subjecting the embryo to genetic changes.

Doctor Moreau may not be inflicting his creations with physical torture, but he is instead subjecting them to a subtler, crueler torture. He is breeding slaves. His landlord expects to acquire workers in exchange for the financing.

I don’t doubt you can plainly see that these changes must make a major difference in how matters play out, and I strongly encourage you to read the book and find out where the story now goes. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a fine book.

  • The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (Tor Books) (Beware spoilers)

Do you remember when John Scalzi’s first novel, Old Man’s War came out? (Okay, it wasn’t actually the very first – it was his first traditionally published book.) It was back in 2005, and at the time there was a lot of joking about how he was channeling Robert Heinlein. But it was happy joking. Robert Heinlein, who had been with us since we were children, had been gone for seventeen years, and we missed him sorely. We were happy to have his voice back.

That was pushing twenty years ago, and Mr. Scalzi has published a lot of novels since then. And you know what? He’s still channeling Heinlein.

I thought that The Kaiju Preservation Society read just like a Heinlein juvenile. The parameters for a juvenile are not the same as those for an adult work. Characterization tends to be simplistic. So-and-So’s a prankster. Who’s-it is obsessed with dinosaurs. Goody-two-shoes has to be talked into everything, but always bring snacks. Kids are still learning their social skills, so you give them plain markers. Action – even in an ‘action’ book – tends to be a little minimal. (You don’t want to scare the kids.) And there’s lots and lots of explanations.

The Kaiju Preservation Society runs 258 pages, in 28 chapters. The first four chapters are the basic set up. We meet Jamie (the protagonist) and Rob (the bad guy). We see the circumstances that pull Jamie into the story. And at the end of chapter four (page 35) we get the exciting reveal of where he’s going and why – earth in an alternate dimension! With real kaiju! Of course, we already know those things from the liner notes, but we assume that’s just the beginning.

So in chapters five, six, and seven the staff is introduced. They explain the basics of the place – how they got there, and what they’re doing, and how it’s possible for the kaiju to exist. (That’s an issue for all the newbies.)There’s lots of odd but interesting information about the creatures. They seem to be organic nuclear reactors.

There’s a transportation system which is, naturally, unique to the environment, and constructed entirely on site with local materials). En route to the local base, there’s a close visual sighting. Yes, these critters are enormous and yes, they are insanely dangerous. The beastie snarls, and its teeth are the size  of cars. It throws a tree at them. But the staff aren’t really in danger. Their pilot is a genius (like everyone else on the staff), and quickly flies them away. The biting insects prove to be the bigger nuisance. The reader learns who’s the boss and who knows how to play a ukulele.

In chapter eight, our protagonists are provided with special kaiju-jungle clothing and operations manuals. Chapter nine opens with the discovery that the coffee is terrible. “Wait a minute!” I hear you cry. “Are you going to go over this book chapter by chapter?”

What? You’re bored already? Have you murdered your inner child? I ask, because if you were ten years old, you would find all this convincing detail fascinating. I’m not being snarky, honest. Young readers – or rather young persons, whether they are reading, or not  – absorb huge amounts of random data. They are still determining for themselves the parameters of their interests and what details may prove relevant. When I was thirteen, I was thrilled to discover Paul McCartney’s shoe size. A kid I knew had been to Paris over the summer. He told everyone he saw how many steps there were in the Eiffel tower.

But none of us are kids anymore. So I’ll try to speed this up. Chapter nine continues with pheromones.  That’s important. It provides the staff with a means to direct kaiju behavior to a limited extent. The scientists are hoping to observe nesting and birthing procedures, so they attempt to provoke a mating interaction. In the meanwhile, we learn about their parasites. (Kaiju have lots and lots of parasites.) And when they’re dying they head to water.  And when they die, they explode. (The staff learned that the hard way. Their original base was located on a lake shore.) The nuclear explosions are taken in stride by the local fauna, but strangely, they seem to thin the barrier between the worlds.

There’s an interlude in which tourists (very important tourists) visit the base. Among them is the bad guy we last saw back on earth. (He’s rich. Very, very rich.) He’s still a pig. He is surprisingly interested in the kaiju, and tries (with becoming incompetence) to steal some souvenirs. We had not previously suspected he was interested in anything but money. Jamie takes him aside and tells him he’s no longer welcome, and if he ever tries to come back, a recording of the attempted theft will reach a lot of authorities.

The pheromones worked! Bella (a female kaiju) is pregnant! The base already uses aerial cameras to keep a bird’s eye view on the local kaiju. But now the scientists are not as thrilled to settle for aerial cameras anymore. A mission is launched to set up close range cameras, so they can observe Bella’s nesting behaviors, and her eggs.

You see nothing wrong with any of this. And you are right. If you were a scientist – in any of a number of fields – you would probably kill for the opportunity to go on a mission like this, and see such things first hand. You would be fascinated by every procedure, either for capturing data, or protecting the staff. You would revel in each tiny little discovery.

But the reader is mostly watching other people make notes. For all that their surroundings are thrilling, not much actually happens. It’s like watching a movie about some guys on a roller coaster, and all the silly jokes and gossip and lifelike workplace grumbling just don’t make it more interesting. (At least not to me. I don’t doubt that Mr. Scalzi found it interesting, because he was doing the inventing.) The description of other people studying interesting stuff in an interesting place continues for one hundred fifty pages.

On page 220 (the end of chapter 24) planning of the next move is complete, and action is initiated. Things are very exciting for three chapters (32 pages) and on page 252, the heroism is completed and the six-page wrap up commences.

  • Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Tor Books)

There is not a lot to say about Legends & Lattes. It describes itself as “A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes,” which is fair enough.  It is a simple, gentle book about a seasoned warrior retiring from the fight to set up a coffee shop. It qualifies as high fantasy because none of the main characters are human.  

They’re all mythical creatures. The protagonist, Viv, is an orc. Her former colleagues are an elf, a gnome and a dwarf. Her new friends, who assist in her endeavor, are a succubus, a hob, and a ratkin. They are joined later by Pendry, who may be human. (He’s described in one review as a bard). One character (almost certainly a fan favorite) is not even humanoid, but a dire-cat. Dire or no, this cat is a classic house kitty – except she’s the size of a Saint Bernard (or maybe even a pony). But other than the cast list, there’s not a lot of magic in the story.

Viv acquires a magic artifact at the beginning of the book. We see her claim it after a battle, as her share of the spoils. It is her possession of this artifact that inspires her to sheathe her sword and set up shop in the city.

They say any story needs some conflict. The action in this story derives from one of Viv’s former comrades deciding that she was not entitled to scoop up that artifact and take off with it. I had a little trouble with that. As I said, we see Viv claim the artifact. She did not sneak – she claimed it in plain sight. None of her companions objected at the time. And none of them supported their team-mate’s later objection.

You are probably getting annoyed with me for going on about the “artifact” without telling you what it is. But to say more would be a spoiler, as much of the book debates that very question. The rest of the story is a hymn to the pleasure of a really great cup of coffee. I was surprised to see such a light-weight book on the list of Hugo nominees. It doesn’t really deserve any awards. But I didn’t hate it. Like a P.G. Wodehouse novel, it made me chuckle often.

  • Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)

I blush to admit that I had never read anything by T. Kingfisher before this Hugo season. Now I’ve read two. And as soon as I finish my Hugo reading, I am going to go hunt up her previous work, Ms. Kingfisher has accomplished that rare task: she writes stories that are deeply grounded in the fantasy traditions, and yet are completely original.

In Nettle & Bone we find royal palaces and the Goblin Market, villains armed with ancient swords and princesses in danger, magical godmothers and witches raising the undead. And yet none of these things are remotely like the tropes as you’ve seen them a thousand times. And yet they all conform to the basic concepts, and do (or don’t do) all the things that their position in fairy-lore calls for.

The protagonist is Marra – she’s the third daughter of the king and queen of Harbor Kingdom. It’s a small place, sandwiched in between two larger, stronger and richer kingdoms. It only exists because it has a really good harbor, and each of the neighboring kings would dearly love to march in and grab that harbor, but can’t, for fear that the other neighboring kingdom would quickly intervene. So – since the Harbor Kingdom has no sons – the Northern Kingdom decides to acquire it by marrying into it.

Right away we have a selection of glamorous royal courts, which somehow fail to sound romantic, because none of that glamor can penetrate the stench of ugly, grasping politics. Marra is sent off to a convent after the two elder sisters are married. When was the last time since Malory’s Morte D’Arthur that you saw a convent mentioned (or even presumed to exist) in a high fantasy?  In Nettle & Bone, convents, despite their religious associations, are maintained by the rich and powerful who use them to dispose politely of excess women.

Ms. Kingfisher does this again and again: introduces an element to her fantasy that is startlingly practical and realistic. Marra loves the convent, because she can close her bedroom door there, and she doesn’t have to spend an hour being dressed by servants every morning. She doesn’t have to watch her tongue or keep an eye out for a backstab every minute of the day. She gets very good at embroidery, and picks up some nursing skills

Very few fantasy novels note that quests are generally composed of trudging through bad weather carrying a heavy load. When Marra and her companions cross the Blistered Land, they have to sleep on the ground in the snow, and share one egg amongst the three of them for breakfast. Here, magical godmothers are not routinely happy in their work. Royalty are almost always vicious and paranoid. Ghosts carry pointless grudges, and are often difficult to identify. Demons occasionally possess chickens. No single victory, however great, sets the world to rights. It just pushes the world in a slightly different direction.

Marra’s interior monologue is wonderful – the reader feels like they are talking to an old friend. She is so normal, so relatable, she makes everything around her feel real. She worries about everything. She constantly second-guesses her past actions, and barely notices her successes. She wonders what her friends think of her, and worries they will desert her. The only thing she doesn’t agonize about is her quest.  She already knows it’s hopeless. She does it anyway.

And most of all, despite Nettle & Bone being about a magical quest to rescue a princess, it is completely original. (I wouldn’t have thought that was possible!) Even the ending is not what you expected. Read this book!

  • The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books) Beware spoilers.

The Spare Man is officially a cozy mystery, a book in which there is no explicit or grisly violence, permitting the reader to focus on solving the mystery, without having to gag on the blood and guts. (These mysteries are not usually very complex or difficult, so that the reader doesn’t get frustrated with the puzzle, and skip to the end to find out who did it.)

You could even say that The Spare Man is a ‘country house mystery’ since it takes place in a closed environment. Of course, the usual purpose of setting the mystery in a closed environment is to limit the number of suspects and associated locations. Ms. Kowal did not take advantage of that option, as The Spare Man  is set on an intra-solar luxury cruise ship, as large as an entire city, only far more difficult to navigate.

Despite that, The Spare Man is definitely a cozy mystery. Really. Ms. Kowal doesn’t miss a trope. She starts out with  Nick and Nora Charles (here, named Shal and Tesla), and their adorable little dog. Of course, Shal, a detective, is first on the scene after the murder. And of course, he is immediately charged with the crime. The surly and bigoted Chief of Security beats him brutally, presumably in hope of extracting a confession. Or maybe just for fun.

So Tesla has to run all over the ship, trying to solve the mystery, although she’s not a detective, and although she and Shal have agreed not to infuriate the authorities by interfering. Tesla is an insanely wealthy interplanetary celebrity, who is so plagued by fans that she has to travel under an assumed name. Her fans swarm her as if she were Beyoncé,  because – wait for it – she was a brilliant roboticist seven years before.

I had a problem with this. Even on this tiny little island earth, I do not see a lot of scientist/engineers becoming major celebrities. Carl Sagan is the only scientist that I can think of who was so famous that I would recognize his picture when I saw it. And fame in the US doesn’t have to penetrate all the way to the moons of Saturn.  (By the way, natives of Titan are called Titians, and they have their own music forms. For a while I thought they’d named their flute after a 16th century painter)

But Tesla has another claim on fame. She’s a tragic victim. She has steel bolts all up and down her spine, and still often needs the help of a cane to walk. She’s in pretty much constant pain, although she doesn’t let that interfere with her love life. Seven years earlier she was involved in an Accident. For over half the book the event is always referred to with an ominous capital A.

Eventually we are told that a PAMU (some kind of personal mobility unit for the handicapped) malfunctioned during testing. It was apparently in, or attached to, some kind of off-earth vehicle which had, in turn, been launched from an orbital laboratory. The attempt to disengage resulted in a ricochet, causing the vehicle to crash into the laboratory, killing six and crippling Tesla.

Aside from the steel bolts in her spine, Tesla was also assigned a service animal, with electronic implants which improve its ability to communicate with and assist its owner; hence the dog. I give Ms. Kowal full credit for having a really good idea: a cyborged service animal. Somebody should look into that.

Unfortunately, Ms. Kowal didn’t waste a lot of words on explaining the dog’s enhancements or abilities. To the reader’s eye, the dog was simply a hugely loyal companion. And terminally cute. EVERYBODY fell in love with that Westie on first sight. Strangers crossed the room to come pet Gimlet – and had to be warned off.  (It really is very inappropriate to stroke a service animal.) Business associates made appointments to stop by for a play date. It was actually stated in so many words that if you don’t care for dogs, you’re a bad person. Personally, I have cats.

I don’t hate dogs. I used to work in a kennel. I’ve stopped now and then to pet a neighbor’s dog, while saying hello to the neighbor. But playdates?

As you can see, I am not being the target audience for this novel. I don’t care for mysteries and I detest romances. So, I started yawning as the familiar mystery tropes floated by, and squirming at all the love scenes. I got very, very bored with people talking baby talk to the Westie. But if you do like mysteries and/or romances you should be fine.


Friends, I sat down here intending to write up all six of the novel nominees. But, when I picked up Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom), I discovered that it was the third volume of The Locked Tomb Series. I do not like to read series out of order. And even if was I okay with that, I saw the note in Wikipeda warning me not to attempt to read the books out of order. “You’ll never catch up,” the note read. “You’ll just get confused and give up reading it,” I was warned.  So I heaved a sigh, and went to the library. It turned out that Gideon the Ninth (Volume 1) is extremely popular. There are 27 holds on it. I didn’t even look for Harrow the Ninth (Volume 2). So these are just my notes on the five that I’ve actually read.  Perhaps I’ll get back to you with my thoughts about The Locked Tomb Series. Catchy title.

Pixel Scroll 11/22/23 All Right, Mr. Pixelle, I’m Ready For My Scroll-Up

(1) LOSCON THIS WEEKEND. Loscon 49, a gathering of writers and fans of all ages, with common interests in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Cosplay, Film, Art and Music takes place this Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-26, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott on Century Blvd.

Author and screenwriter Peter S. Beagle is the Writer Guest of Honor. Generations of readers have enjoyed his magic of unicorns, haunted cemeteries, lascivious trees and disgruntled gods. His best-known work is “The Last Unicorn”

Echo Chernik, the Artist Guest of Honor, is commercial artist and instructor of digital media, specializing in art nouveau-influenced design art and illustration.

Fan Guest of Honor is Elayne Pelz. She has worked at Worldcons, Loscon, Gallifrey One, Anime cons, SFWA Nebula Conference, and many more, as an essential staff member for decades.

Loscon will partner with Nerd Mafia Group for a cosplay contest on Saturday evening.

Submissions will be accepted for the Losconzine49 onsite, at a fan table stocked with paper and various writing implements. They will also take emailed submissions until Dec 3rd via [email protected] These will be compiled and shared electronically with all those who submit and an online post will be shared with the public.

Weekend passes are $75, day rate is $40. Parking with validation is $20 per day.

For more information, check out Loscon 49.

Peter S. Beagle. Photo by Krystal Rains.

(2) FOR YOUR EARS. Audible.com has posted 20 books on its list of The Best Audiobooks of 2023, two of them of genre interest. And there are additional lists of —

(3) YOUR FAVORITE BOOK MAY ALREADY HAVE WON – IT’S UP TO YOU. Christopher Ruz has a solution to the surfeit of literary awards – make it bigger! “Announcing the 2023 Rando Awards”.

The Randos are a highly prestigious* genre fiction award, judged by a team with over a century of combined experience** in fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, and more. Founded by me, because I felt like it, the Randos is a way of sharing our love of genre fiction and recognising the authors who made our year great. Our judging panel of Randos will come together at the end of the year to decide on their favourite reads of 2023. Each winning author—one per judge—will be awarded a coveted Rando trophy***.

*this is a lie

**if you add up the time we’ve all spent reading then it’s probably a hundred years? Maybe?

***I mean, I’d covet them pretty hard

Can I Be a Judge?

Here’s the thing about the Randos: anyone can be a Rando, and find some way to recognise and appreciate their favourite authors. You can shoot me a message and join our team in time for the 2023 awards! All you need is to cover the costs of the trophy and international postage for your chosen winner. Or, you can find your own way to let your fave author know that you appreciated their work and that they enriched your life with their stories.

There are no downsides to sharing that love….

(4) TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Author Max Florschutz says his mother survived the mudslide in his hometown of Wrangell, Alaska but his father is still missing: “It’s All Gone”. Sad and alarming news.

Guys, I … I barely know how to write this. The last thirty-six hours have been a nightmare that is still ongoing.

If you’ve seen the news and heard a story about Wrangell Alaska, then you’ve heard part of what I’m about to tell you.

Monday night at 9 PM, a landslide hit my hometown. It was 450 feet across by the time it hit the highway, after it completely demolished my parent’s property and home (here’s a picture of the size of the slide).

It continued down across the highway and into the bay, destroying another home along the way before ending up in the bay.

My mother pulled herself from the wreckage of her home and walked to the search and rescue teams across a still-shifting mudslide.

My father is still missing, and just typing this hurts. Search and rescue teams are trying to get to what’s left of their home to locate him. We have no idea if he’s alive or dead. Everything that can be done is being done….

(5) INDOPANTHEOLOGY OPENS TO SUBMISSIONS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has put out a call for “Indopantheology: Stories from the Spiritual Margins” at OD Ekpeki Presents. Deadline to submit is March 31, 2024. Full details at the link.

Do you have stories that go beyond the realms of the physical world? We, the editors, are asking for your spirit-fiction.

This volume will explore the theme of Indopantheology, analogous to the Afropantheology of Oghenechovwe Ekpeki’s Between Dystopias: The Road to Afropantheology, published October 2023 by OD Ekpeki Presents, as an installment of the Pantheology projects

For us, Indopantheology maps the realm of the spiritual imagination, comprising all soul-matters from the most worldly of dreams to the most numinous of visions. If that is what you wish to explore, then this call is for you. We want stories from the wilder thickets of the spiritual world, the old places, the cultures and peoples that have been looted, disrespected and forgotten.

We want tales of the vast borderlands between life and death, where dreamers walk and ghosts and gods converse. Too often it seems that, in our current age of bigotry, exploitation and violence, the ‘spiritual’ is wielded as a weapon, designed to shame and exclude anyone of whom the wielder does not approve. We want to showcase stories that stand against this trend, and that go beyond the traditional binaries into the slippery truths of the shadow realms.

While the focus of this volume will be on South Asia and its many spiritual streams that defy the categories of organised religion, we are willing to accept spirit-stories from anyone in the wider Indoasian world. Please note that there are volumes currently in progress for other geographical regions with relations to South Asia, such as Africa, the Caribbean, etc.

We see this as a decolonising project, since the spirit world has historically been hijacked and weaponised by oppressors of various hue. We believe that new storytelling can cure this wound. And we especially want stories from, and about, people who are on the various spectrums: gender, neurological, mental and physical….

(6) RED WOMBAT DEAL. Orbit Books has acquired T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series and Swordheart. Four of these were self-published, and now will get tradpub reprints.

Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary Agency sold UK and Commonwealth rights in five of T. Kingfisher’s books to Nadia Saward, Commissioning Editor at Orbit. The ebooks of Paladin’s GracePaladin’s StrengthPaladin’s Hope and Swordheart are on sale now from Orbit, with Paladin’s Faith publishing in early December. Orbit will be redesigning the covers and will be releasing paperbacks of all five books in Spring 2025.

(7) VARIABLE GOALS. We’ve heard a thousand times about AUTHORS GETTING PAID, but publisher Steven Radecki tells readers of the SFWA Blog that’s not the only way to keep score: “The INDIE FILES: Measuring Your Success As an Author”.

During the more than a decade that I have been involved in indie publishing, I have worked with more than three hundred authors. One thing I have discovered is that, just as publishing is not a one-size-fits-all process, neither is how individual writers conceive of their success. Managing your own goals and expectations and why you have them can go a long way toward understanding your feelings of success as an indie author.

Just getting your work published is probably your primary goal—whether it be a short story, novella, or epic trilogy. Few writers, particularly newly published ones, give much advance thought to what happens after they achieve that goal: what it will mean to feel successful as an author once their work has been published.

Having clear goals helps you in the effective promotion of your work. Discussing your goals early in your relationship with your agent or publisher can help you determine whether you are the right fit for each other in helping you achieve your goals. Defining goals will also help you in your decision on whether to go the traditional publishing, small publishing, or self-publishing route.

Some of the ways you might measure your success as an author include:

  • income earned
  • number of books or stories sold
  • number of engaged readers
  • public displays of your work

(8) PLAINTIFF HITS STUMBLING BLOCK IN AI LAWSUIT. [Item by Nina Shepardson.] The Hollywood Reporter has a new article out on Sarah Silverman’s lawsuit against Meta alleging that its generative AI program infringes her copyright as an author. “Sarah Silverman Hits Stumbling Block in AI Lawsuit Against Meta”.

A judge has dismissed most of the claims in Silverman’s lawsuit. He called the claim that the AI model itself is an infringing derivative work “nonsensical.” He also found that Silverman didn’t provide sufficient evidence that the outputs of the model are “recasting, transforming, or adapting” her books. He said that, “To prevail on a theory that LLaMA’s outputs constitute derivative infringement, the plaintiffs would indeed need to allege and ultimately prove that the outputs ‘incorporate in some form a portion of’ the plaintiffs’ books.” Apparently, there’s a “test of substantial similarity” that’s used in copyright cases to determine whether a work is similar enough to the original to likely be infringing. It sounds like the judge doesn’t think Silverman has provided evidence that the outputs of Meta’s AI program are substantially similar to her original work.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks is a lovely novel. So we take our Beginning from it this time.

Since some of you might because of your extreme poor fortune not have read it yet so I’ll talk not about it and spoil it for you. Well I’ll at least put SPOILER ALERT up if I do. 

War for The Oaks was first published by Ace in softcover in 1987 with the first cover art below by Pamela Patrick. The novel’s setting is based upon Minneapolis where she and her husband Will Shetterly were living at the time. 

The novel was, by Ace, printed once and declared out of print. It took Emma almost a decade-and-a-half to get back rights to the novel from Ace. Tor then printed a hardcover edition which never officially got released. It got released in a trade paper edition that had exactly the same cover. I like the Tor art by Jane Adele Regina as shown in the second cover image better than the Ace illustration as I think it captures the darker aspect of the novel. 

SPOILER ALERT FOR A MINUTE.

Eddi also plays songs written by herself – in actuality of course, written by the author, Emma Bull. Some of these (including “Wear My Face” and “For It All”) were performed by the band Cats Laughing (of which Emma Bull is a member), and are on their second album Another Way To Travel whose cover art is by Terri Windling of a hearse and the band in front of it.

When the trailer for War for The Oaks was filmed with funding meant first Will’s run for the Governorship of Minnesota, this music was supplemented by some by Boiled in Lead as well. In the trailer, Emma plays the Fairy Queen and a fine one she does make! 

That trailer is here. Don’t watch it if you’ve not read the novel. Really don’t or the Unseelie Queen will curse you. If you do and you were in Minneapolis in the large Eighties, let be note that a lot of the actors are from fandom. 

END OF SPOILER ALERTS

And now our Beginning…

Prologue

By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal. People flow between its banks, eddying at the doors of office towers and department stores. The big red-and-white city buses roar at every corner. On the many-globed lampposts, banners advertising a museum exhibit flap in the wind that the tallest buildings snatch out of the sky. The skyway system vaults the mall with its covered bridges of steel and glass, and they, too, are full of people, color, motion.

But late at night, there’s a change in the Nicollet Mall.

The street lamp globes hang like myriad moons, and light glows in the empty bus shelters like nebulae. Down through the silent business district the mall twists, the silver zipper in a patchwork coat of many dark colors. The sound of traffic from Hennepin Avenue, one block over, might be the grating of the World-Worm’s scales over stone.

Near the south end of the mall, in front of Orchestra Hall, Peavey Plaza beckons: a reflecting pool, and a cascade that descends from towering chrome cylinders to a sunken walk-in maze of stone blocks and pillars for which “fountain” is an inadequate name. In the moonlight, it is black and silver, gray and white, full of an elusive play of shape and contrast.

On that night, there were voices in Peavey Plaza. One was like the susurrus of the fountain itself, sometimes hissing, sometimes with the little-bell sound of a water drop striking. The other was deep and rough; if the concrete were an animal, it would have this voice.

“Tell me,” said the water voice, “what you have found.”

The deep voice replied. “There is a woman who will do, I think.”

When water hits a hot griddle, it sizzles; the water-voice sounded like that. “You are our eyes and legs in this, Dog. That should not interfere with your tongue. Tell me!”

A low, growling laugh, then: “She makes music, the kind that moves heart and body. In another time, we would have found her long before, for that alone. We grow fat and slow in this easy life,” the rough voice said, as if it meant to say something very different.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1918 Walter Kubilius. Quoting John Clute in SFE, “US editor and author involved in American Fandom from as early as 1932, when he was a founder member of the Edison Science Club; by the end of the 1930s, after serving on the committee that created the first Worldcon in 1939, he helped form the Futurians.”  He wrote a fair amount of short fiction but it’s never been collected as near as I can tell. (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 22, 1925 Arthur Richard Mather.  Australian cartoonist, illustrator, and novelist. He was the artist who and later wrote of one of Australia’s most successful comics series, Captain Atom. It was published from 1948 to 1954, with 64 issues. No relation to the by Charlton Comics character of that name who became the DC Comics character. After the Australian comics business declined in the Fifties, we become a writer and churned out seven works, all  thrillers and crime novels with elements of science fiction.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 22, 1938 William Kotzwinkle, 85. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? And his short stories are quite excellent too.  The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books now, a change from five years ago.
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 83. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. She was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the superb Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of Grimjack with her husband. (Died 1997.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows someone big and green bringing a veggie to the Thanksgiving feast. No, not the jolly one.
  • Tom Gauld thinks about silencing the feedback.
  • Elsewhere, Tom Gauld teases scientists.

(12) DOCTOR WHO MEMORIES. “’John Hurt and I swapped wine tips’: stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part three” in the Guardian.

Ben Aaronovitch (writer of episodes featuring the Seventh Doctor, 1988-1989)

My first real memory of a complete story is The Green Death, and my favourite memory is of this large slug sneaking up on Jo Grant. I was literally watching it from behind the sofa. From working on the show, I remember that the anti-terrorist squad in Remembrance of the Daleks was scrambled to Waterloo station because we’d blown a great big hole in it. I used to have a photo of a group of Daleks with fire engines coming down and stopping and looking at the road blocked by a group of Daleks. God knows what they thought!

(13) COSMIC INSIGHT. Adam Roberts after reading the science news….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George is “Talking About The Apocalypse In 2023”. What, him worry?

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Nina Shepardson, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Michaele Jordan Reviews the 2023 Best Novella Hugo Finalists

By Michaele Jordan: Friends, as I’ve mentioned in previous years, I always read all the Hugo nominees. Usually I do this as soon as the nominees are announced. But this year, maybe because I was so focused on the Fan Writer Hugo (You rock, Chris!), I didn’t get to it in time. So I’m reading them now.

But I didn’t cheat. I pulled a list of the nominees in plain text, without the underlining that marked the winners. I’ve always read the candidates without knowing who would win. Why should this year be different?

I’ll start with the novellas, because they were mostly available in book form at the library, and since they’re short, I can finish them quickly. So here we go.


Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk (Tordotcom)

This book presents itself as a detective story. But for me, the biggest mystery in this book was the mystery of what the title was supposed to mean. There is, I admit, a scene in which the protagonist, Helen, sits down on the sofa and watches an old movie, “even though,” she remarks, “I knew the end.”

The scene itself does not appear to be important, just there for mood or characterization. We don’t learn what the movie was, or whether Helen liked it or not. She appears to be just killing time. It’s never referred to again. In fact, less attention is paid to that movie than to the numerous cups of coffee she consumes. Helen is particular about coffee.

I believe Mx. Polk focused on that coffee specifically to establish Helen as a typical noir detective –  smart,  world-weary and unflappable. Helen just happens to be an auspex, or a magical detective. She receives a commission from a mysterious beautiful woman, and goes to work investigating a particularly horrific serial killer.

At the crime scene, Helen is confronted by a team of magical authorities. The  unflappable world-weary pose drops like a rock. She becomes a heart-broken woman, desperate to reconcile with one of the magic-cops, who hates her for some as-yet-unrevealed offense. (Mx. Polk does like to juggle tropes; their characters change like a cage full of chameleons.) What with the yearning looks, and the frigid resistance, we are led to suspect a tragic romance, torn apart by some misunderstanding which will eventually be resolved by a little honesty.

But no. That’s not it. Soon we will meet Edith, and Helen will turn into a deeply caring, romantic lover, who wants nothing in the world so much as to escape all this darkness, and run away with her true love, only. . .  she can’t. She has a dreadful secret.

She has only a few days to live. Now that, we probably didn’t see coming. It turns out that our warm-hearted, honorable, caring protagonist sold her soul to the devil ten years earlier, and her contract is nearly up. I admit that I would not normally expect someone with no soul to be warm-hearted, honorable and caring, but this is a different world.

Apparently here, your soul has nothing to do with your character – it’s just a thing. Sort of a ticket stub to get you into heaven (which is real, and so sublime that anybody brought back from there to life will hold a permanent grudge.) A world so different from ours that angels can be serial killers, and the most reliable, trustworthy character in the book is a demon. There is nothing in this ‘mystery’ that a reader can hope to solve, since no human rules apply, and all the clues are magical artifacts never heard of in our mundane reality. Just gotta hope you love the miasma.


Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

This story is strangely reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales. In the Chaucer, a large group of pilgrims are travelling together to the shrine of Thomas Becket (who got sainted for pissing off his drinking buddy (the king) when he turned into a Jesus freak). They pass the time with a storytelling contest. Into the Riverlands follows a good natured (gender-free) cleric named Chih who picks up some travelling companions on their way to Betony Dock, and they, too, tell each other stories along the way.

The resemblance ends there. The Riverside party is much smaller. And Chaucer didn’t include bandits or martial artists, as does Ms. Vo.

This book is the third in the Singing Hills cycle – all featuring Cleric Chih of the Singing Hills Abbey –  following The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain. The liner notes assure me that the books can be read independently, in no particular order. This is true. I skipped the liner notes, and never noticed that I had landed in a series.

Chih is a gentle, easygoing person.  They are a peacemaker, with no fighting skills. Their abbey is more concerned with the preservation of history than the observance of ritual, and Chih takes that calling very seriously, travelling extensively in search of more historical tales. They are assisted in their work by their companion, Almost Brilliant, who looks like a beautiful bird, except it talks, and is a brilliant scholar with total recall.   As you might guess, the book is a bit episodic, but not unpleasantly so. Just the opposite. It is charming, and I recommend it.


Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom)

This book is a sequel to A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, which took the best novella Hugo in 2022. I remarked then that it had a truly splendid, heartrending opening, but the very act of launching into the story resolved Sleeping Beauty’s initial peril, leaving the story with nowhere to go. The ending was ineffectual. Some magic gets thrown around, everybody’s problems are fixed, except for the protagonist, and she decides that maybe she’ll become a magical superhero rescuing timid princesses. I confess, I was extremely surprised that it took the Hugo.

But that was then. Over a year ago. Picking up A Mirror Mended, I again skipped the liner notes, and dove in. And it’s Sleeping Beauty again.  Already I’m rolling my eyes. Is this the new thing? Are we going to get story after story after story about Sleeping Beauty, until she’s as tired as vampires? Very slowly it dawns on me that this is a sequel.

NOT a good idea. Ms. Harrow had already run out of things to say about Sleeping Beauty half way through the first book. You remember (from two paragraphs back) that the protagonist had decided at the end to make a career of rescuing Sleeping Beauty? When A Mirror Mended opens she tells us that she’s done just that. And now she’s bored with it. Excellent! So am I.

So she jumps over to the Snow White story, and decides to rescue the Evil Queen instead, (largely, I suspect, because this particular Snow White is doing a very good job of taking care of herself.) There’s a little shell game with the identity of the Evil Queen, and surprise! one of the Snow Whites IS the Evil Queen.

You may have noticed that my tone has grown a bit snarky. I picked that up from the protagonist. I am sorry to report that I found this to be one of the most heavily padded books I’ve ever slogged through. Virtually nothing really happens, although there is a good deal of running around and being scared. So the author fills in with the protagonist’s voice. She’s very snarky. Except when she’s being sententious. I could go through this whole book, knocking out several whole paragraphs on every page, reducing it to a short story, and nothing of the actual content would be lost.

You are probably getting annoyed with me right now. A lot of people liked this book, or it wouldn’t have made it to the ballot.  But I promise I do not intend to insult them. I don’t really understand where they’re coming from but I fully acknowledge that I might well be missing something and I respect their right to their opinion. That said, I didn’t like this book, and wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t been a Hugo nominee.


Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris)

I had a very difficult time getting into this book. Right off the bat, it’s second person, present tense. I am told that many writers feel that a second person narrative draws the reader into the story by making them feel that the author is addressing them personally. Doesn’t work for me, but maybe it does for most other people. I also don’t like present tense. Some writers think that makes the narrative more immediate. But in my experience, most people don’t talk in present tense. (Except maybe a cop calling in, “I am in the alley behind the suspect’s presumed location. Back-up requested.”)

A couple of pages further in, the narrator refers to Roben, the bandit in the woods (who sometimes wears a hood against the rain) and my shoulders hunch. Another Robin Hood mash-up? I haven’t had much luck with those.

But then, the narrator points out that a half-dozen or so half-starved outcasts living in the woods, no matter the weather, is a singularly unattractive life-style, and they’re not getting rich on the proceeds of banditry, either. At best, they earn the silence of the locals by sharing their meager take. I am charmed. Utterly and completely.

The story opens with a small, agricultural village preparing for a visit from their Landlord. The villagers are human. They are small and fragile, timid and poor. The Landlord – like all nobility – is an ogre. Large and cruel and rich off the labor of others.

This, we are assured, is the natural order of things. It’s preached in the churches. There’s even a  psalm about it, ” The Master in his castle, the poor man at the gate.”

Sir Peter stands maybe nine feet tall, and is correspondingly broad. Other than that, he looks like a human. He’s brought his son Gerald along, to learn the business of managing an estate. He is greeted – so very politely – by the Headman of the village, who has also brought along his son, Torquell.

Torquell is only six feet tall, but that’s big for a human. And although he’s good natured, he thinks pretty highly of himself. The kowtowing to ogres has always grated on his nerves. Gerald soon decides this uppity villager needs to be taught his place. The situation escalates drastically leaving Gerald dead and Torquell on the run.

He’s captured by a bounty hunter, but just when Sir Peter comes to claim him – rubbing his hands together as he plots a gruesome execution – the ogress Isadora appears on the scene. She is rich and important and very curious about this peculiar human. She buys Torquell right out from under Sir Peter. She also turns out to be an astonishingly lenient master. Torquell spends years in her household, being educated and studied.

All of the above is contained in the first seven chapters. It’s told with style and wit, and keeps you turning the pages as fast as you can consume them, even though it’s mostly set-up. But then . . . It’s as if Mr. Tchaikovsky unexpectedly found himself up against a deadline. I can’t help wondering if he had originally intended to make Torquell’s saga another series, but then changed his mind.

The remaining two chapters contain twice the action of the previous seven. They read like a summary of a history book. No more wit. No more personality. Just a list of events spinning by like machine gun fire, only slowing down as the ending – which you DON’T see coming – approaches.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. Not Mr. Tchaikovsky’s best work, but good enough for the beach or the airport.


What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (Nightfire)

I happened to pick up this book on the same day I watched the last episode of the TV series The Fall of the House of Usher. So it gave me a chuckle to discover that this book was also drawn from the Edgar Allen Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher.

Mind you, the two are nothing alike. The TV series is a total remix. The twins Roderick and Madeleine Usher are not heirs to an ancient (but penniless) name, living in an historic ruin on a lakeshore in the middle of nowhere. They are self-made billionaires, and the cracks in their company’s foundation are moral, not literal. Even so, they are still living on shaky ground.

Neither are they childless (Roderick has six kids – all by different mothers) or solitary. They are celebrities, with their pictures on magazine covers and their names in newspaper headlines. This actually makes their story far more tragic than the original. They have so much more to lose. Their downfall is mythic.

What Moves the Dead is much closer to the original Poe.  It places the Usher twins back in their ancient family home – much of which is no longer habitable – located on the shore a lake so dank and murky, it must be called a tarn. The rest of the landscape is equally dismal. Clearly nobody would choose to live there – except  Madeleine Usher.

This is where the story veers from the original Poe. We know that Madeleine insists on continuing to live there. She has a viewpoint. She has a voice. Poe’s House of Usher was NOT a character driven piece. It’s entirely about the mood invoked by the setting, about the desolate and ruined house, and all it symbolized in the way of human futility. There are only two characters.

There’s the narrator. You should know that in the early 19th century, the anonymous third person narration was not much used in fiction. It was seen as being for primarily for use in factual content – journalism and educational text, materials where it was unimportant who was speaking. Fiction was written in first person, told by someone associated closely enough with the events to relate them. So Poe’s story had a narrator: Roderick Usher’s old friend, invited to come for a visit. He has no real voice, and certainly has no opinions. He’s just there to describe what happens, and that’s all he does.

The other character is Roderick Usher, who is described in detail. Sickly and solitary, neurotically high -strung, and subject to a number of nervous complaints. It’s a wonder he has even one friend he can invite to bring some cheer into the house. Or perhaps to bear witness. If he didn’t, who would tell the tale?

You will note that I did not include Madeleine as a character. She’s rarely mentioned, beyond Roderick mentioning she’s unwell. She has no lines. We see her pass by once in a corridor. And then Roderick says she had died, and the narrator helps lay her to rest in the family tomb.

But there are characters in What Moves the Dead. Madeleine and Roderick are a long way from normal, but they are real to us. Even the narrator has a voice. Alex Easton – who was invited by Madeleine, not Roderick – is, in fact, a very interesting character. They are Gallacian, and are extremely entertaining on the subject of their homeland. They’re genderless military personnel, (read the book if you want clarification of that ) and carry arms at all times. They worry about their bad tempered horse. They’re an active participant in the story. And from the moment they arrive at the house (which is still pretty horrible even if it’s no longer be the focus of the story,) they are worried sick about both their old friends. For more than one good reason.

And there IS a story in this version of the story. I won’t risk hinting about that story. It’s deliciously complex and unexpected, Yet affectionately faithful to Poe. I recommend this book to everyone.


Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)

This book started with a VERY interesting premise about schools for children touched by magic. Of course, we’ve all heard about magic schools.  But the schools in this book (there are two) are nothing like Hogwarts. In Hogwarts, the students are viewed as gifted, and are being trained to make the most of those gifts. They are acknowledged – and applauded – as special. None of them are less than happy to be there.

But in this book, the schools are reform schools for children who have strayed from reality. Each of these children was already unhappy before they were touched; each felt desperately out of place in their world. And each stumbled on a door, an impossible door, in a place where no door belonged. And because they were unhappy, and felt out of place, they opened that door.

In most books, that is where the story starts. This beginning is followed by a tale of magical adventure, in which wrongs are righted and lessons learned. At the end, some children return to their original homes, better equipped to face that reality. Or some children, who have no place to go back to, remain in the magical lands and build new lives.

But not this time. The children who stepped through the doors find many different magical lands: water worlds, fairy lands, candy lands. They had adventures. Maybe some children stayed on when their adventures were completed, but a lot of them – the ones this story is about – ended up stumbling through magic doors that led them back to that original home where they had already been unhappy and maladjusted. Their travels have NOT prepared them to deal with those old issues. Instead, these children are even further severed from their native reality.

It’s a fairly common occurrence in the world where this story occurs. Often enough that there are schools for these special children. There’s Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, and there’s the Whitethorn Institute. And that’s where this story begins.

I confess, I did not find this book unflawed. Ms. McGuire has an extensive cast of characters, and since each has a different story, each occasionally takes the lead as the viewpoint character. There’s nothing wrong with that – the characters are all well drawn. But the shifting of viewpoint is irregular, even erratic. I frequently had to stop, and figure out who was talking now. It could have been better handled.

Also, I believe the ending was intended to be open-ended, to leave the characters in place for their new lives. But the set-up didn’t work for me. It seemed to me that the story just drifted vaguely away from its climax to a stop, like a car that’s run out of gas.

Please note: I am NOT saying that I didn’t like this book. As I said, the characters are good. The pictures of boarding school life are scary-accurate. The magic is wonderful – subtle yet pervasive, intriguing and original. I do recommend you read it. If I say it’s not quite perfect, I only mean that very few books are genuinely perfect. This one is definitely very good.

Pixel Scroll 10/21/23 Seven Pixels You Can’t Scroll On Television

(1) URSULA VERNON’S HUGO ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon’s pen name) won the Best Novel Hugo today. Arley Sorg delivered her acceptance remarks and by popular demand she has published them in a free Patreon post titled “The Light At The End Of The Frog”.

… There are a lot of serious and heavy things I could say right now, and probably I should. But other people have said them better and more movingly than I ever will. So instead I want to share something wonderful and disgusting and maybe a little inspiring with you.

There is a species of water beetle that regularly gets swallowed whole by frogs. And while there’s a lot of things you can do to keep from being eaten, once you’re inside a frog, your options are severely limited….

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. RiverFlow, co-editor of this year’s Hugo-winning fanzine Zero Gravity Newspaper, was hospitalized today reports Zimozi Natsuco in a File 770 comment here. More details at the link.  

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON PHOTO GALLERIES ACCESS. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Adaoli/SF Light Year sent me a clean version of the QR codes for the official photo galleries.

(4) GET SEATTLE 2025 PR 0. Seattle 2025 is now officially seated after yesterday’s site selection vote. Their Guests of Honor will be Martha Wells, Donato Giancola, Bridget Landry, and Alexander James Adams with Hosts K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl. Download Seattle Worldcon 2025 Progress Report 0 at the link. The chair told followers in a message:

My name is Kathy Bond, Chair of this Worldcon, and I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Seattle will have the honor of hosting you all for the 83rd World Science Fiction Convention. I love Seattle, especially when it rains, and I cannot wait to share with you all of the rich, vibrant, creative life in the people and places of this city. I hope that you will be able to join us in person or virtually if a trip to Seattle is not in the cards.

Worldcon cannot take place without every member of this community. All of the plans and dreams that have led us here to this moment would not have been possible without the volunteers who helped sit at tables, who talked to each other and you about Seattle, and without the financial support of buying pre-support memberships. Every tiny act of volunteerism built this bid and helped us win. And, we still need those acts of volunteerism. Come join our community of makers, doers, and shapers for a few hours during the convention or throughout this planning process.

My vision for this Worldcon is to bring our Pacific Northwest community and our Worldcon community together to learn from each other, to create with each other, and to build with each other the type of inclusive community that our best genre fiction inspires us to build. Building Yesterday’s Future For Everyone is an acknowledgement that we have not successfully built the future we have aspired to but that we can still be inspired by the optimism of the past to keep building. We remember our yesterdays; we work for our better futures….

The convention’s website is here: Seattle Worldcon 2025 – Building Yesterday’s Future–For Everyone.

(5) BULGACON 2023. [Item by Valentin D. Ivanov.] Bulgacon is the annual national Bulgarian SFF convention. The 2023 edition took place in Plovdiv from September 22-24 with help from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. The event gathered some international participation including Alex Schvartsman, Andreas Eschbach, Francesco Verso, Nina Horvath, Peter Watts and Wole Talabi, among others.

A bilingual Bulgarian/English booklet with the program and the list of panelists can be seen in PDF format here at the convention website.

(6) SUSAN C. PETREY FUND CLOSING. The Clarion Foundation has issued its own farewell on the heels of the October 18 announcement by Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross.

The Clarion Foundation wishes to honor the impact of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund as it winds down after 43 years of support. Thanks to Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross, and their tireless fundraising efforts through the Oregon Science Fiction Conventions Inc, the Petrey scholarship stands as the oldest ongoing scholarship supporting Clarion students, and has demonstrated the critical importance of scholarship support in making the Workshop possible. Over the years it has awarded 71 scholarships to Clarion and Clarion West students. 

The fund was created in honor of Susan C. Petrey, an American fantasy writer of short fiction who was early in her career when she passed. Her work would later go on to be posthumously nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo Award. Thanks to Paul and Debbie, her legacy and community spirit have endured.

The Petrey Scholarship is particularly appreciated for its demonstration of the ways that communities built around a special person or a targeted cause — in this case, both — can have philanthropic impact beyond what the original donors might have imagined. Along with Paul and Debbie, we sincerely thank all of the fund supporters, and look forward to building more such communities in the coming years and decades. 

“On behalf of the Clarion Foundation board and all the many recipients of this important scholarship over the years, we want to express our deepest appreciation to Debbie, Paul, and the OFSCI,” said Clarion Foundation President Karen J. Fowler. “Your generosity over so many years has been simply extraordinary.  I don’t know how we can begin to thank you.  I feel all the end-of-an-era sadness, but a sadness overwhelmed with gratitude.” 

Former recipients of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund are welcome to share the importance of their scholarship to their Clarion experience and we will pass them along.

(7) BEST OMENS. “Neil Gaiman: ‘In your 60s, any sex is good sex. It’s like: Oh my gosh, I can still do this thing’” – so he told an interviewer from the Guardian. Here are some other things he had to say.

Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
I’ve never read Proust.

What was the last lie you told?
I don’t tell lies any more, because my memory is going.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Really fancy sushi.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he worked for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin. Writer, Artist, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second woman to be named SFWA Grand Master; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work. Her last Hugo was at Dublin 2019 for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which was illustrated by Charles Vess. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1971 Hal Duncan, 52. Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1974 Chris Garcia, 49. He’s editor of The Drink Tank and several other fanzines. He won a Hugo Award at Renovation with co-editor James Bacon for The Drink Tank after being nominated from 2010 to 2013. He was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo three years straight starting in 2010. His acceptance speech for the Hugo at Renovation was itself nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Chicon 7. I can’t begin to list all his feats and honors here. 

(9) FLASH GORDON COMING BACK. Michael Cavna reveals that the “’Flash Gordon’ comic strip is returning after a 20-year break’ in the Washington Post.

He might be nearing 90, but one relentlessly athletic adventurer is poised for a pop-culture reappreciation.

Flash Gordon, the intergalactic space warrior who predates Superman and Batman as an iconic American action-comic hero sprung from Depression-era pages — as well as a Hollywood screen star who inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars — is returning to newspapers.

King Features Syndicate, whichintroduced the character in 1934, will relaunch the comic strip “Flash Gordon” beginning Sunday after a two-decade absence — featuring a new look and a new artist. (The Sunday and daily strips will be available online and in print.)…

…Guiding the new enterprise will be Dan Schkade, an Eisner-nominated cartoonist in his early 30s best known for his work on such comics as “Will Eisner’s The Spirit Returns,” “Lavender Jack” and “Saint John.”

Schkade won a competitivetryout earlier this year to script and draw the strip, shortly before King announced a licensing deal with Mad Cave Studios, which will begin publishing other original “Flash Gordon” narratives, graphic novels and comic reprints beginning next year.

(10) TED CHIANG ON AI. “Writers respond to techno-optimism about AI: ‘It’s mostly nonsense’” at GeekWire.

How will “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s paean to economic growth and artificial intelligence, play to a wider audience? The reviews are in from two award-winning writers who are familiar with the impact of generative AI on creative professions.

“I think it’s mostly nonsense,” science-fiction writer Ted Chiang said Thursday at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle.

Chiang, a longtime Seattle-area resident, is best-known as the author of “Story of Your Life,” the novella that was adapted for the Oscar-nominated 2016 movie “Arrival.” But he’s also won acclaim as a commentator on AI’s effects for The New Yorker and other publications. Last month, Time magazine included Chiang among the 100 most influential people in AI.

The other writer on the SIFF Cinema stage was Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter who turned Chiang’s story into the script for “Arrival.” Heisserer witnessed the debate over generative AI and the future of work up close as a member of the negotiating committee for the Writers Guild of America during its recent strike against Hollywood studios.

Both Chiang and Heisserer say AI is too often unjustly portrayed as a high-tech panacea. That claim came through loud and clear in Andreessen’s manifesto, which called AI a “universal problem solver.”

“Technology can solve certain problems, but I think the biggest problems that we face are not problems that have technological solutions,” Chiang said in response. “Climate change probably does not have a technological solution. Wealth inequality does not have a technological solution. Most of these are problems of political will. … And so Marc Andreessen’s manifesto is a prime example of ignoring all of these other realities.”

Chiang took issue with Andreessen’s view that growth is always good. “Growth is untenable on a finite planet, so at some point, we are going to have to think about some alternative to a growth economy, some kind of stable state, because the laws of physics are going to put a stop to growth at some point,” he said.

He also called attention to Andreessen’s track record as a tech commentator. “He was all in on crypto,” Chiang said. “He is all in on the metaverse. Anyone who was so enthusiastic about those things … I think we need to keep that in mind when gauging their credibility about anything they recommend now.”…

(11) RED PILL REVIEW. [Item by Steven French.] For those who happen to be in or near Manchester, U.K.: “Free Your Mind review – Danny Boyle’s Matrix reboot is a thrilling shock to the system” in the Guardian.

…The show is a 2023 take on the 1999 film The Matrix, which fits with the current 90s nostalgia (those skintight PVC trousers will take you right back) but is also alarmingly prescient in its story of humans being usurped by intelligent machines as we enable the march of AI, ever more in thrall to the algorithm….

… Are the Matrix’s hero, Neo (Corey Owens), and his journey a bit lost among all this? Well, yes. With 50 dancers on stage, Free Your Mind is built from large-scale set pieces. Choreographer Kenrick “H2O” Sandy is a master at orchestrating tightly drilled ranks of battle-ready glitching bodies and short, sharp shocks of metrical movement. Although when Sandy himself appears as Morpheus, he reminds us one dancer is sometimes enough. A magisterial performer, he is molten and he is rock….

(12) BLAST FROM THE PAST. “Mysterious fast radio burst traveled 8 billion years to reach Earth” reports CNN.

Astronomers have detected a mysterious blast of radio waves that have taken 8 billion years to reach Earth. The fast radio burst is one of the most distant and energetic ever observed.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are intense, millisecond-long bursts of radio waves with unknown origins. The first FRB was discovered in 2007, and since then, hundreds of these quick, cosmic flashes have been detected coming from distant points across the universe.

The burst, named FRB 20220610A, lasted less than a millisecond, but in that fraction of a moment, it released the equivalent of our sun’s energetic emissions over the course of 30 years, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Valentin D. Ivanov, Nathan Hillstrom, Frank Catalano, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

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.

T. Kingfisher Wins 2023 Manly Wade Wellman Award

The 2023 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy winner was announced at ConGregate 9 on July 15 in Winston-Salem, NC. The award is presented by the North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation.

2023 Manly Wade Wellman Award Winner

  • Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Kingfisher’s novel, also a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula awards, is a fantasy adventure where Marra, the third daughter of a small and imperiled kingdom, must rescue her older sister from the clutches of a powerful and abusive prince, after the untimely and mysterious death of their oldest sister after being wed to him in a political alliance. To do so, she must complete three impossible quests, starting (as the novel does) by building a dog of bones and sewing a cloak of nettles; but it’s only after her quests are completed that the real mission can begin.

Ursula Vernon, who writes under the name T. Kingfisher, sent these acceptance remarks:

It’s a great honor, as a North Carolina writer, to receive the Manly Wade Wellman award for my book, and I’m sorry I can’t be there in person to accept. As it happens, I was reading one of the Silver John books the other day and fell down an Internet rabbit hole, which I’m now going to inflict on you.

Silver John frequently references a book that he learned many of his various spells and incantations from, called The Long-Lost Friend. I had assumed this was as fictional as The Necronomicon, but as it turns out, it really existed. It was a Pennsylvania Dutch grimoire published in the early 19th century by a folk healer named John George Hohman.

I could frankly write pages about this, but [the award presenter] has to stand up here and read them and probably doesn’t want to spend his whole day reading about obscure magical folk remedies, so I’ll just mention one particular tidbit from the book, which was that if you sew the right eye of a wolf inside your right sleeve, you will be immune from all injury.

I admit, I’m still wondering about the … err … practical details there … the squishiness … well, you know. Also, obviously the best time to be immune from injury would be when you’re trying to get the eye off the wolf in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. Clearly, they just don’t write ’em like that any more. Possibly that’s for the best. Anyway, The Long-Lost Friend, you can find it online, and I hope it makes your day just slightly weirder, like it did mine.

Thank you again, and I hope you all have a lovely evening.

The Manly Wade Wellman Award was founded in 2013 to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors. The award is named for long-time North Carolina author Manly Wade Wellman with the permission of his estate.

Pixel Scroll 7/7/23 The Universal Pixelscroll

(1) BE UPSTANDING. The space shuttle Endeavour will be rehoused in a new building that will allow it to be displayed upright in its original launch position, mated to the orange external tank and two booster rockets: “Space shuttle Endeavour preps for move to new museum” reports the LA Times.

After more than a decade on display at the California Science Center, the space shuttle Endeavour will begin the final trek to its permanent home at a new Los Angeles building in the coming months.

To get ready for the grand move, the state-run museum announced Thursday that crews will begin the installation of the base of the shuttle’s full stack on July 20. Workers will use a 300-ton crane to lower the bottom sections of the twin solid rocket boosters, which are 10,000 pounds apiece and roughly 9 feet tall, to the freshly built lowest section of the partly constructed $400-million Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

It’ll be the first of many delicate maneuvers conducted over roughly six months (if the weather cooperates). Eventually, all half-million pounds of the full stack — including the shuttle Endeavour and a giant orange external tank — will rest on the base of the solid rocket boosters, bolted to the ground by eight supersized, superalloy fasteners that are 9 feet long and weigh 500 to 600 pounds….

(2) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty have uttered Episode 87 of the Octothorpe podcast, “We Didn’t Imagine the Third Option”.

Wheeeeeee we’re Hugo finalists again! Huge congratulations to Alison Scott and España Sheriff who are finalists in Best Fan Artist, huge congratulations to John Coxon who’s a finalist with Journey Planet in Best Fanzine, and of course congratulations to transatlantic besties and cocky cake-makers Hugo, Girl! We also discuss the Locus and the BSFA Awards, plus (of course) picks.

(3) MEET RIVERFLOW. Chinese fan RiverFlow, a two-time 2023 Hugo finalist, tweeted this self-introduction:

(4) IT’S AN HONOR JUST TO BE NOMINATED. Wil Wheaton also shared his happy news: “Still Just A Geek is a Hugo award finalist” at WilWheaton.net.

I have been nominated for a few things in my life. I’ve even won a few. But I have not won way more often than I have. Based on my experience, the “I won!” thing is awesome for a short time, but where that euphoria fades quickly, the genuine honor of “I was nominated!” lasts forever. With that in mind, I looked at the other nominees this morning, and … I think it’s very unlikely I’ll be making space for a Hugo statue in my house. But that’s okay! I got to reach out to my TNG family today and tell them about it, and everyone who replied made me feel the love and pride that I imagine kids feel from parents who love them unconditionally.

If Still Just A Geek wins in its category, it’s going to be awesome. I’m not going to lie: I think it would be pretty great if I got to have a Hugo in my house, next to my Tabletop trophies. But if it doesn’t, the excitement, joy, and gratitude I feel that my story even made the finalists this year will never go away, and I get to have that whether I get the statue or not.

(5) COMPLETE LISTS OF HUGO FINALISTS. The Chengdu Worldcon Hugo Administrator limited the number of names they would place on the ballot announcement. As a result, several finalists have tweeted links to the complete lists of people they believe should be included.

(6) HUGO FINALIST ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO. The Chengdu Worldcon has added the 81st Worldcon Hugo Awards Finalists Announcement to YouTube.

(7) CLARION CROWDFUNDING. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop at UC San Diego is in the midst of a 2023 crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support the next generation of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. They have raised over $5,500 of their $20,000 with over three weeks remaining.

Would you be interested in these perks on offer to donors?

Want to have your name in a new Cory Doctorow novel?

Talk worldbuilding with Sue Burke?

Get a signed proof of Kim Stanley Robinson’s story “UCSD and Permaculture”?

Or name a scholarship to support making attending Clarion possible for a student next year? (Donation = $1,000)

All these — and t-shirts! — are on offer through the Clarion Workshop IndieGogo campaign. 

(8) ROGERS: THE MUSICAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’d lost track that info about this was already scrolled — Item 7 in the June 30 Scroll — but it doesn’t look like there were any links to the actual show.

Here’s the five-and-a-half-minute trailer, from Marvel’s D23 Ex (watching the full thing once was enough for me, and it’s not the same without seeing Clint “Hawkeye” Barton in the audience shaking his head…

And here’s two  of many links to the full 37-minute show. (The first one seems to have more close-ups, but “features” some MST3K back of somebody’s head mid-left…):

  • Rogers: The Musical | Full Show, Disney California Adventure Park
  • Full Show: Rogers: The Musical | Disney California Adventure

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1963 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

This Scroll, Mike picked a work by Clifford Simak who I knew thot y’all know, so I see no need to introduce him to you. I will say that he was one of the first genre writers that I read deeply of. 

I’m fairly sure the first work by him that I read was City, a work that remains my favorite by him. But tonight we’re here to talk about Way Station, the source of the Beginning the Mike choose, another favorite of mine.

It was published by Doubleday in 1963 with the cover at by Ronald Fratell. It would win a Hugo at Pacificon II for the original publication as Here Gather the Stars in Galaxy’s June and August 1963 issues. 

And now let us turn to the Beginning…

The noise was ended now. The smoke drifted like thin, gray wisps of fog above the tortured earth and the shattered fences and the peach trees that had been whittled into toothpicks by the cannon fire. For a moment silence, if not peace, fell upon those few square miles of ground where just a while before men had screamed and torn at one another in the frenzy of old hate and had contended in an ancient striving and then had fallen apart, exhausted. 

For endless time, it seemed, there had been belching thunder rolling from horizon to horizon and the gouted earth that had spouted in the sky and the screams of horses and the hoarse bellowing of men; the whistling of metal and the thud when the whistle ended; the flash of searing fire and the brightness of the steel; the bravery of the colors snapping in the battle wind. 

Then it all had ended and there was a silence. 

But silence was an alien note that held no right upon this field or day, and it was broken by the whimper and the pain, the cry for water, and the prayer for death—the crying and the calling and the whimpering that would go on for hours beneath the summer sun. Later the huddled shapes would grow quiet and still and there would be an odor that would sicken all who passed, and the graves would be shallow graves. 

There was wheat that never would be harvested, trees that would not bloom when spring came round again, and on the slope of land that ran up to the ridge the words unspoken and the deeds undone and the sodden bundles that cried aloud the emptiness and the waste of death. 

There were proud names that were the prouder now, but now no more than names to echo down the ages—the Iron Brigade, the 5th New Hampshire, the 1st Minnesota, the 2nd Massachusetts, the 16th Maine. 

And there was Enoch Wallace

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert Heinlein. Let’s have Paul Weimer tell about his favorite Heinlein works: “If I had to pick one favorite Heinlein novel, and that’s a tough road to hoe, I am going to go with the novel I’ve re-read the most and it’s probably not going to be the one you think.  It’s Glory Road. Yes, Glory Road. The back matter once the quest is done can be overcooked, but Heinlein had a keen eye for epic fantasy quests, the good and the bad, long before the rise of Tolkien clones. It was an early Heinlein for me, and the novel has stuck with me since, with a number of audio re-reads. I survived a boring drive across the flatness of the Great Plains by listening to the adventures of Oscar Gordon.” // If I had to pick one Heinlein story, I have a strong fondness for All You Zombies, which encapsulates all the potential paradoxes of time travel in a way that has been done at greater length, but not, I’d argue, with better effect. (The movie Predestination with Ethan Hawke is pretty darned good by the way). Oh, and my favorite book ABOUT Heinlein is Farah Mendelsohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 — Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year-run here, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1946 Lisa Seagram. I’m noting her here because she was in the Batman episode “Louie, the Lilac” as Lila in which Milton Berle played the title character. She also had one-offs in both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., plus My Favorite Martian and Bewitched. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 David Eddings. Prolific and great, with his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy novel series, including The BelgariadThe Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. He’s written but one non-series novel, The Redemption of Althalus. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 64. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. (IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures which Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! And the ePub is available from the usual suspects for a mere five dollars and ninety nine cents.) Yes, he did other work of genre interest including the main role of Jordan Collier on The 4400, Quincey Morris on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Captain Thadiun Okona in “The Outrageous Okona” episode of Next Gen, the Maine Dr. Alan Farragut on Helix and he’s currently voicing Okona once again on Prodigy.
  • Born July 7, 1968 Jeff VanderMeer, 55. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not though it is I’ll say quite disturbing. (Haven’t seen the film and have no desire to so.) I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading.  Now let’s see what the Hugos would hold for him. At Noreascon 4 for The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases which I truly, madly love, he got a Hugo. He along with his Ann picked up at Anticipation up one for Best Semiprozine: for Weird Tales. It would be nominated the next year at Aussiecon 4 but Clarkesworld would win as it would the Renovation losing out again to ClarkesworldThe Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature which he co-edited with  S. J. Chambers was nominated at Chicon 7. Another Best Related Work was nominated at Loncon 3, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. Finally the film Annihilation based off the Southern Reach trilogy was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Dublin 2019. 
  • Born July 7, 1987 V.E. Schwab, 36. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan because she makes a lot of references to that series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Arlo and Janis know there’s always someone ready to jump in and correct the details. Just like in the comments here!

(12) THE VOID CAPTAINS. Mark and Evelyn Leeper today reminded people of the history of their prolific fanzine in today’s issue, the 2278th MT VOID:

The MT VOID started as a zine for the newly formed Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in Holmdel in August 1978, but we have always been the editors (and primary writers).  It has been weekly for decades, and has continued even after we retired and the Science Fiction Club dissolved.  The current issue is #2278, making it (I’m pretty sure) the perzine with the most issues ever, and at 45 years, one of the longest running.

In July 1981, our area was split off and moved to Lincroft.  At that point we thought we needed to spin off a new club, so we started re-numbering the MT VOID (not yet called that) at that point.  Hence the volume roll-over in July.  Eventually we ended up remerging the clubs and newsletters, but kept the new numbering.

At some point in the 1980s we also renamed the club as the “Mt.  Holz Science Fiction Club”.  “Mt. Holz” came from the inter-company mail designations for the three New Jersey locations of AT&T et al where we once had meetings:
MT Middletown
HO Holmdel
LZ Lincroft

As the work environment changed, meetings eventually ended, but the MT VOID kept rolling along.  We retained the “Mt. Holz” name in the heading until last year, when we decided it was misleading to pretend there was an actual club behind this.  [-mrl/ecl]

(13) GOING DOWN TO THE SECOND. “After ‘Barbie,’ Mattel Is Raiding Its Entire Toybox” says The New Yorker.

In 2019, Greta Gerwig became the latest in a line of writers, directors, and producers to make a pilgrimage to a toy workshop in El Segundo, California. Touring the facility, the Mattel Design Center, has become a rite of passage for Hollywood types who are considering transforming one of the company’s products into a movie—a list that now includes such names as J. J. Abrams (Hot Wheels) and Vin Diesel (Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots). The building has hundreds of workspaces for artists, model-makers, and project managers, and it houses elaborate museum-style exhibitions that document the company’s history and core products. These displays can help a toy designer find inspiration; they can also offer a “brand immersion”—a crash course in a Mattel property slated for adaptation. When a V.I.P. visits, Richard Dickson, a tall, bespectacled man who is the company’s chief operating officer, plays the role of Willy Wonka. He’ll show off the sixty-five-year-old machines that are still used to affix fake hair to Barbies; he’ll invite you to inspect life-size, road-ready replicas of Hot Wheels cars. The center even boasts a giant rendering of Castle Grayskull, the fearsome ancestral home of He-Man. “The brand immersion is the everything moment,” Dickson told me. “I have met with some of the greatest artists, truly, in the world. . . . And, if you don’t walk out drinking the Kool-Aid, then it was a great playdate, but maybe we don’t continue playing.”

The actress Margot Robbie, who had toured the center in 2018, wanted to continue playing. She’d signed up for a Barbie movie, and had approached Gerwig about writing the script. She saw in Gerwig’s filmography the right combination of intelligence and heart: “You watch something like ‘Little Women,’ and the dialogue is very, very clever—it’s talking about some big things—but it’s also extremely emotional.” The project wasn’t an obvious fit for someone whose screenplays included the subtle dramas “Lady Bird” and “Frances Ha,” and Gerwig wavered for more than a year. At one point, Dickson called her when she was mixing “Little Women” in New York. “I don’t have a ton of friends in corporate America,” she told me, over Zoom. “But he was very excited. It was sweet.” She finally agreed to come to El Segundo…

(14) ASCENDING MT. TBR. Camestros Felapton is catching up on his reading: “Review: The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher”.

…The book makes no apologies and shows no respect for genre boundaries. With a chatty, out-going narrator, multiple sections about the trials of clearing out the home of a hoarder, friendly neighbours and a welcoming coffee shop, the story has many elements associated with, dare I say, “cosy” fiction. The latter sections head more into the realm of portal-fantasy. However, these elements are simply flesh hung upon the bones of the horror of thoughts that overwhelm you….

(15) BERLITZKRIEG. Everyone laughs as “Harrison Ford Roasts Conan O’Brien Mid-Interview for Having a Han Solo Note Reminder: ‘You Can’t F—ing Remember That?’”Variety has the story.

Harrison Ford roasted Conan O’Brien on a recent episode of the “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” podcast after the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” icon discovered O’Brien had “Han Solo” written down in his notes for the interview. The two men were playfully arguing about Ford’s ancestry, which led O’Brien to consult some info he had jotted down prior to the interview.

“I refer you to this piece of paper right here,” O’Brien said. “That says, ‘Born and raised in Chicago to an Irish German father—’”

Ford leaned over to take a look at O’Brien’s notes and then interrupted the host when he realized they included a reminder that Ford played Han Solo in the “Star Wars” franchise. Along with Indiana Jones, Han Solo is Ford’s most iconic character.

“Well if that’s a quality of your research, and I imagine it is because right there it says ‘Harrison Ford’ and then you had to write ‘Han Solo,’” Ford said. “You can’t fucking remember that?”

“No I can’t. I can’t remember Han Solo,” O’Brien hilariously fired back. “I wrote it down because I heard that you were in some of the ‘Star Wars’ films, and this was news to me because I’ve seen those films and I don’t exactly think that you ‘pop.’”

O’Brien continued, “I’m sorry. But I mean, I remember Chewbacca, I remember the bad guy with the black helmet and then… there’s some people.”

Ford took matters into his own hands, asking O’Brien, “How come you’re not still on television?”…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Lis Carey Review: A House with Good Bones

Archaeoentomologist Sam (Samantha) Montgomery, during an interruption in work at a dig site, heads home for the first extended visit to her mother in a while. She’s not taking too seriously her brother’s warning that “Mom seems off,” and isn’t expecting anything other than an enjoyable visit with her mother. The first hint that her brother could be right might be that her mother has redecorated in Gran Mae’s style, including the Confederate wedding painting. Or, it might be the vulture perched outside.

A House with Good Bones, by T. Kingfisher (author), Mary Robinette Kowal  (narrator)
Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250886361, March 2023

Review by Lis Carey: Samantha (Sam) Montgomery is an archaeoentomologist, returned for a rare extended visit to her mother’s home in North Carolina. She’s been looking forward to it, is excited as she approaches the house, and initially not that worried by her brother’s warning that “Mom seems off.”

Then she walks inside, and the cozy clutter and lively colors of her mother’s house are gone. Most of the walls are various shades of white (Sam is especially horrified by the ecru), while her own old room is rose. Her mother seems oddly timid, and has reimposed her own mother’s, Gran Mae’s, rules, of no swearing, grace before meals, and suggesting more modest clothing. What is she afraid of?

Other oddities soon become apparent. Although Mrs. Montgomery does no gardening, and has no gardener — just a neighbor she pays for mowing and handyman-type tasks — her mother, Sam’s grandmother’s, roses are thriving. Stranger than that, there are no insects in the garden, or anywhere on the property. Gardens need insects to thrive.

Sam starts reconnecting with other neighbors, including the woman her grandmother called “an evil old witch.” The one with the “witch’s garden,” or perhaps, just a garden of native plants in a more natural layout.

There’s something definitely strange about those roses. Some very disturbing features of Gran Mae’s decorating, such as the picture of a Confederate wedding, have reappeared. And Sam is starting to hear voices, in her dreams and in a state called “sleep paralysis,” which is all too familiar to me. You wake up, but not entirely. Not enough to turn off the protective immobilization of the voluntary muscles that keeps us from sleepwalking. There’s often a sense of a threatening presence. Sam is experiencing this, or thinks she is.

Sometimes she hears the voices while awake, elsewhere in the house. They’re telling her to leave. Her brother reminds her of the “underground children” Gran Mae told them stories of.

Sam starts digging for an explanation, behind what’s going on, though everyone is telling her not to. That not all questions need answers. That some questions are better not answered.

Sam is a smart, funny, sarcastic woman, easy to like and care about. Other characters grow in depth and complexity as Sam gets to know them.

I haven’t even mentioned either the ladybugs or the vultures.

The story told in Sam’s funny, sarcastic voice builds toward a genuine horror ending.

Altogether enjoyable, and well-narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.

I bought this audiobook.

Pixel Scroll 7/13/22 Read The Scrolls That They May Teach You, Take The Pixels That They May Reach You

(1) KEEP WATCHING THE SKY WATCHER. At Heritage Auctions bidding is currently up to $62,500 (excluding Buyer’s Premium) on “Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope”.

Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope [circa 1927]. Presented here is the most notable telescope ever built by legendary astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Constructed by hand entirely of materials salvaged from the family farm in Burdett, Kansas. Presents signs of weather and wear; however, fully operational and intact.

Tombaugh’s fascination with astronomy led him to begin building telescopes in 1926 to explore the night sky. Using handmade lenses and mirrors, he began construction on his most prominent telescope in 1927. Fabricated from the hardware he was able to collect, including a grain elevator tube, a cream separator base, a 1910 Buick axle, tractor flywheels, and other farm machinery parts, Tombaugh produced one of the most outstanding achievements of American ingenuity of the twentieth century.

Tombaugh used this exact piece of equipment to illustrate his interpretation of the planets Jupiter and Mars. He, in turn, sent these drawings to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona for critique. His only wished to know if his home-made telescope was an accurate interpretation of the Cosmos. Instantly recognizing Tombaugh’s gift for astronomy, the Observatory wasted no time in offering him employment. Shortly after he began his work at Lowell, Tombaugh started his long list of new astronomical discoveries. The most famous of these is unquestionably his discovery of what was, at the time, the ninth planet in our solar system, Pluto. Clyde continued to work throughout his life as both an astronomer and professor at New Mexico State University.

The telescope itself is approximately 93 inches tall (depending on configuration) and sits on a custom metal base measuring 40 x 40 inches square. As previously stated, it is constructed from farm equipment remains and has some interesting aspects that only add to its character. One is the can of Coca-Cola attached to a chain that protects the eyepiece. According to his son, Alden, the telescope is in the same working condition it was when his father last used it. In fact, in the 1990’s the Smithsonian Institution inquired if the telescope could be loaned to them for display. Clyde politely declined stating, he was still actively using it to search the skies.

(2) PILOT REACHES PORT. Marc Scott Zicree’s Space Command: Redemption premieres at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on July 21.

Space Command Red-Carpet Premiere at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood July 21st! It’s finally here! The WORLD PREMIERE of Space Command Redemption at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood! This is the full TWO-HOUR PILOT of Space Command, starring Doug Jones, Mira Furlan, Robert Picardo, Bill Mumy, Ethan McDowell, Bryan McClure, Sara Maraffino, Nathaniel Freeman and Bruce Boxleitner!

(3) PLAYING SATURNALIA. Mark Lawrence rediscovered the text of a play-by-mail game he helped write 40 years ago: “Off Topic – big time!”

Back in 1987 I helped run a Play-By-Mail game called Saturnalia. I ran it full time for a year with a bunch of other folk in an office. And I ran my area for another 12 years after that in my spare time.

There was an extensive Wikipedia page about it – but they decided in their wisdom to reduce it to a very brief summary.

I found the original text online today (I wrote a fair bit of it), and have copied it here for posterity in case that last site vanishes….

(4) VANISHING POINTS. Amanda S. Green has experienced some more Kindle Direct Publishing accounting adventures: “Check Your KDP Emails” at Mad Genius Club.

Welp, it finally happened. My KDP/KU sales report for the month has been changed from one day to the next. No, I’m not talking about the move to the new format Amazon decided to go to. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes it even more difficult to get a snapshot view of what is going on with your sales and promotions. What I’m talking about is the disappearance of page reads under Kindle Unlimited….

(5) KSR’S DAYS AT BU. “Kim Stanley Robinson on the Importance of Imagination” in Bostonia.

…I’m happy to say that my career as a science fiction writer had its tentative beginnings at BU. Between my classes I would go to the library, find an empty carrel, sit down, and immediately plunk my head on the table and fall asleep. Faced with the overwhelming task of writing fiction, my mind would shut down for a while, perhaps reorganizing itself to face the strange task I was imposing on it. We’ll learn more about the mysteries of sleep in one of the articles in this issue.

For me, my naps would last around 20 minutes, after which I would wake up and work on a story I later titled “Coming Back to Dixieland.” It concerned asteroid belt miners who played jazz on the side—not a great idea for a story, but it got published a few years later in the anthology Orbit 18, edited by my great teacher and mentor Damon Knight. …

(6) IS IT YOU? Do Filers have what it takes to be America’s Next Great Author? “Kwame Alexander to present new reality show America’s Next Great Author” – the Guardian has details.

… The six finalists, locked together for a month, will face “live-wire” challenges as they attempt to write an entire novel in 30 days. The winning novelist will be crowned America’s Next Great Author.

Bestselling author and Newberry Medal winner Kwame Alexander is presenting the show, and is listed as executive producer. In a promotional video posted on the show’s Twitter feed, Alexander said it will be “the first reality show for writers produced by writers. This is your chance, if you’re writing the Great American Novel or the great memoir masterpiece or something, this is your chance to get published.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

2018 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just four years ago, a film called 7 Splinters in Time premiered in limited release in the States. With a great title, it had the premise of a down at the heels detective who investigates a murder, only to find that the victim is himself. Over and over and over again. Soon, he discovers multiple versions of himself, not all of them who want him to investigate what’s happening. 

It was written by Gabriel Judet-Weinshel who has no other genre creds unnless you think a writing the weekly series with comedy icons Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara talking about whatever is on their minds is somehow genre adjacent…

Darius Lefaux Is played by Al Sapienza, best known as Mickey Palmice on The Sopranos. It had a large cast of French performers. 

This film is writer-director Judet-Weinshel’s debut full-length feature, and most critics weren’t thrilled by it though the Austin Chronicle said of it that it was “free jazz, and Judet-Weinshel finds echoes and frequencies in the form and the content.” not at all sure what that means. 

The Variety review was much more understandable in that they said it was “edited to ribbons in a schizoid manner that likely only makes complete sense to its maker.” (I wonder if they ever read any Heinlein time travel stories.) 

And the Los Angeles Times thought that “the neo-noir sci-fi indie is a fractured narrative that can’t achieve what its lofty ideas intend.”

It however did pick up the New Vision Award from Cinequest San Jose Film Festival the year that it was released. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes aren’t terribly impressed by it giving it just a forty-three percent rating. Oh well. 

I think it sounds fascinating and have added it to my To Be Watched list if I can find it somewhere. One second… Ahhh. I can watch it on Amazon Prime which I have. Good.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor who claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart 82. Jean-Luc Picard starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up through the current Star Trek: Picard. (They’re filming two seasons of Picard back-to-back.) Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though only slightly genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in the second version of The Lion in Winter
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 80. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. His work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost RiderKull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of HorrorsThe Dark CrystalLabyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 80. Three great roles of course, the first being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second of course being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh, and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 67. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1960 Gary A. Braunbeck, 62. Horror writer primarily who has won a very impressive six Stoker Awards. Interestingly his first was SF, Time Was: Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots which was co-written with Steve Perry.
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 41. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back seven years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay in The Atlantic, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something that makes a bird flip.

(10) JOE QUESADA’S AMAZING FANTASY #1000 COVER REVEALED. Here is Joe Quesada’s wraparound variant cover for Marvel’s giant-sized Spider-Man 60th anniversary one-shot hitting the stands on August 31.

(11) SOME FACTS ARE TRUTHIER THAN OTHERS. YardBarker says there are “20 facts you might not know about ‘Men in Black’”:

For a couple years in the ‘90s, Will Smith was apparently all about interacting with aliens. Independence Day was the big, crowd-pleasing action film, but personally, we’ll go with Men in Black any day of the week. It’s a weird, more cynical film, but with plenty of fun in the mix. Here’s 20 facts about the movie….

But is #15 – “The movie was a box-office success” – a fact? According to Sony, the movie has yet to turn a profit, or so they tell Ed Solomon: “1997 hit ‘Men In Black’ is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter”.

(12) ALL EARS. Paul Weimer recommends you listen to “The voice of Eru Ilúvatar: The Silmarillion in Audio” at Nerds of a Feather.

Back when, after I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to read The Silmarillion. I was still in my early teens and frankly, reader, I didn’t know what I was in for, and I bounced off of it and did not try it again for a decade. It took the second effort for me to understand the power and beauty that was to be found within, but even then, it was not the easiest of reads. Portions of it are like the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings, other parts myth and legend, other parts resembling the outline of a tale that could be told in many more pages (and in some cases, subsequently has)

But, friends, I am here to rescue you from those fears and difficulties and to get you into this Silmarillion, today. I am here to provide you a way to experience and absorb the book and get a feel for Tolkien’s earliest parts of his Legendarium, and that would be the audio edition, narrated by Martin Shaw….

(13) TODAY’S HISTORY & MORAL PHILOSOPHY HOMEWORK. It’s in Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Malnazidos (aka Valley of the Dead)”.

Is it OK to ally with fascists during a (localised) zombie apocalypse? That is today’s moral conundrum brought to you by the Spanish film Valley of the Dead (the Spanish title Malnazidos sounds cooler though).

I’ve seen Korean train zombies, Korean school zombies, British remake of Day of the Triffids zombies, Korean historical zombies, Las Vegas Casino zombies and WW2 zombies. Today’s spin on the genre is Spanish Civil War zombies….

(14) WIRE PALADINS. Also at Nerds of a Feather, “Review: The Saint of Steel Series by T. Kingfisher” is Roseanna Pendlebury’s overview of a three-book arc.

What happens when a god dies, but His berserker paladins are left behind without a hand on the holy reins? If T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series is anything to go by, the answers are: angst, romance, lawyers, angst, tutting, solving murders, angst, exasperated bishops, angst, magical morticians and a lot of pragmatic, down to earth do-gooding. Each book (three currently published but more promised) follows one of the seven remaining paladins of the Saint of Steel as they rebuild their lives with each other, find love, and… yes, angst a bit….

(15) GOING SOLAR. Matt reviews “She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan”, a 2022 Hugo finalist, at Runalong the Shelves.

I often think exploration of power is a big part of fantasy. The rise of one; the search for power to defeat another and how power can work are all themes you can explore in tales from Tolkien, Abercrombie to Pratchett. One less explored theme is why do people do it? What makes someone decide out of all the things in the world they could do this is what I’ll choose to do with my life and the inevitable huge consequences this will have on their country, close relationships, and themselves? In Shelley Parker- Chan’s stunning She Who Became The Sun we get an examination of how the need to be great or to have revenge can send people down quite unexpected paths delivering a fascinating historical fantasy….

(16) FIRST EYES ON THE JWST PRIZE. The New York Times introduces readers to those who performed “The Lonely Work of Picking the Universe’s Best Astronomy Pictures”.

After the image flashes up on the projector, a few quiet beats tick by, punctuated only by a soft “wow.” Everyone is processing.

Then more “wows” bubble out, and people are talking over one another, laughing. Suddenly two astronomers, Amaya Moro-Martin and Karl Gordon, are out of their chairs, sticking their noses closer to the space fantasia onscreen, agog — “It’s a jet! This is full of jets!” — at the crisp, hallucinatory grandeur of new stars sprouting from a nebula like seeds from a flower bed.

The screen zooms in, in, in toward a jutting promontory many light-years long that stands out in sharp relief.

“Oh my god,” someone says — only that someone was me, accidentally.

“Welcome to the team,” someone else responds.

On Tuesday morning, this view of the Carina Nebula was made public alongside other new observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. But it made an earlier debut on another Tuesday morning — this one in June, when a small team clutching coffee cups gathered around a conference table at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for one of many morning meetings to receive, process and repackage for public consumption what humanity’s latest and greatest set of eyes could see — after the team members had first signed nondisclosure agreements to ensure no early leaks….

(17) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. NBC News lets viewers “Compare photos from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope”.

The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope are just a preview of the impressive capabilities of NASA’s $10 billion, next-generation observatory. Billed as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which launched into orbit in 1990, Webb was designed to peer deeper into space than ever before, with powerful instruments that can capture previously undetectable details in the cosmos. 

Here’s how the Webb telescope stacks up to its famous predecessor….

(18) WHO ARE YOU? (DOC WHO, THAT’S WHO!) According to the Huffington Post, “This NASA Picture Is Giving Brits 1980s Nostalgia”. They’re referring to the first JWST image released the other day.

The image is a photo composite made from images at different wavelengths, adding up to 12.5 hours, and it shows the galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

Despite the significance of the new release though, there were plenty of people who couldn’t help noticing it reminded them of something: Doctor Who.

More specifically, the opening credits to the long-running fantasy/science-fiction show during earlier seasons.

Several people referenced Peter Davison, the fifth doctor who was in the role between 1982 and 1984, and pointed out that the image reminded them of this particular era….

Others joked about it clearly being a nod to the fourth doctor, Tom Baker, who starred in the series between 1974 and 1981.

(19) INSIDE JOB. A special trailer from Disney celebrates that Tron and Tron: Legacy are now available on Disney+.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]