Tim Powers Makes
Stolen Skies Sweet

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 1506): We’re big on defiance these days in the speculative-fiction community.

Indeed my saying that may provoke a response “What! We are not! I’ll show you —”

Tim Powers in person may not seem particularly defiant. He sports no tattoos, long hair, piercings, sloganized clothing. His manner is mild.

Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.

His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive.

His latest, Stolen Skies (January 2022), contains fantasy and science fiction both. This may be defiant. At least when we begin with one we do not expect to find the other. Stories like The Flying Sorcerers (Gerrold & Niven, 1971) where characters think they’re in fantasy but are in science fiction, or Rainbow Mars (Niven, 1999) where characters think they’re in science fiction but are in fantasy, are few.

Any SF authors have to invent their science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction has things not yet made or done but seemingly possible — at the time of writing. From the Earth to the Moon (Verne, 1865) did not retroactively become fantasy when we found the gun barrel would be too short and the acceleration too high. Fantasy has things seemingly impossible — at the time of writing. “Waldo” (Heinlein, 1942) will not retroactively become science fiction if we ever find we too can draw power from an Other World.

How may authors tell us of what we have never known? One way is by tying to what we do know — or at least consider we know. The fantasy in Stolen Skies congrues — there must be a verb for congruent — with recognizable notions in the universe of discourse. The science congrues with astronomy and physics. Astronomy? Physics? I told you there was science fiction.

What about aliens? Outside SF we’re so far not sure we’ve met any. Dolphins, maybe. Ghosts. Or the remark attributed to Leo Szilard (1898-1964), We ARE among you. We call ourselves Hungarians. In SF we’ve met some strange aliens. I’ve mentioned Niven’s stories. What if we met really strange aliens? Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “Your face is the same as everybody has — the two eyes, so’ (marking their places in the air with his thumb) `nose in the middle, mouth under”‘ (Through the Looking-Glass ch. 6; Carroll, 1865). Never mind the text and the Tenniel illustrations’ showing that’s his face. Or maybe we should mind. Maybe this illustrates how even superb imaginers feel they’d better set limits. Or how Powers is defiant.

I’m not here to compare Powers with Carroll, Tenniel, Verne, or Niven. But in Stolen Skies there just might be —well, no spoilers.

I’ve called Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances the One-Strange Rule. It’s been attributed to C S. Lewis. I’ve said Powers does both. See Stolen Skies.

Its two main characters we’ve met before: a man and a woman, Sebastian Vickery — not his real name — and Ingrid Castine. This is our third adventure with them, after Alternate Routes (2018) and Forced Perspectives (2020); neither he nor she is particularly happy about that. There’s no sign they’ve ever been, or will be, romantically involved. Powers is defiant again.

George Orwell said of C.S. Lewis “When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side will win” (Manchester Evening News 16 Aug 45; P. Davison ed., Compl. Wks. of GO v. 17 p. 250, 1998). Optimism from Orwell! Though some say there are sneaky signs of it in his Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). Perhaps he should have noted Grantland Rice’s saying “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game” (“Alumnus Football”, 1908).

I’m not here to say Stolen Skies tells us God and the Devil are in conflict. It doesn’t — like the Book of Esther. There are people hard to sympathize with. Among Powers’ masterly touches, he shows of them too how they think they’re right. And then there are — well, I said no spoilers.

Pixel Scroll 1/16/22 I Hereby Dub The Current Dominant Genre (Whatever It May Be) Punky McPunkcore

(1) WOLVERTON FAMILY GOFUNDME. Following the death of Dave Wolverton, Dave’s family and friends are raising money on GoFundMe for his funeral and the family’s expenses. Here’s the link: “Please Help the Family of Dave Wolverton-Farland”.

David Doering also reports, “Spencer [Wolverton] called me to say his dad’s service will be this coming Friday, January 21, at 11 a.m. MST in St. George, Utah. There will be a link posted broadcasting the event for those who cannot attend.” 

(2) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open and will continue until February 12.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)

(3) REH AWARDS. Nominations for the 2022 Robert E. Howard Awards are open and will continue through January 31. You do not have to currently be a member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation to send in nominees at this stage of the process. However, the Final ballot will only be sent out to current Robert E. Howard Foundation members (members who have paid dues for the year 2022). That ballot will be released on February 15. See the link for the complete guidelines.

(4) HOWARD’S HOME ON THE RANGE. For more Robert E. Howard related content, The Cromcast has put a whole bunch of videos of the 2021 Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, on their YouTube channel here.

(5) CAUCUS RACE. On the third day, they squeed again: Simon McNeil picks up the baton with “Notes on Squeecore”.

…Now here I want to pause on one of the points the Rite Gud podcast were clear on here that, within their Squeecore definition it was not sufficient that a work be discursive so much as that a work must insist that its discursive element be seen and I think this is where Redshirts becomes a valuable point of discussion. Absolutely nobody is suggesting that the idea of disposable, red-shirted, extras on Star Trek was somehow unexplored prior to 2012. However Redshirts did a lot to foreground this through its fourth-wall-breaking conclusion. Now me? I like a fourth-wall break when it’s well executed and I think it was well executed in Redshirts. This essay should not be seen as an attempt to bury John Scalzi. But regardless of where we stand on matters of taste regarding the literary device or where we stand on the quality of execution of the device in this case, it still holds that this execution, in this story, served to underline the discursive elements of Redshirts such that it insisted the audience engage with them. It wasn’t sufficient to construct a funhouse mirror reflection of the Gothic as Peake did in his Gormenghast books, nor to interrogate the cultural assumptions of a genre as Pratchett did with classic British fantasy in his early Discworld novels – both of these were deconstructive works but neither, especially not Peake, felt much need to insist that the audience acknowledge that a deconstruction was in progress. But Scalzi had his characters literally escape from their work of fiction to plead for consideration from their own fictive creators. This is not a subtle work of deconstruction….

(6) SPSFC INSIDER. Alex Hormann of Boundary’s Edge shares what it’s like to be a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition judge so far: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Personal Thoughts”.

Thought #2: The 20% Rule

Generally speaking, I don’t DNF books. Even if I’m not enjoying a book, I push through to the end in the hopes of salvaging something from my investment. With the SPSFC, we had to read the opening 20% and decide if we should continue. This was a very different experience for me, and I’m still not sure if it was helpful. On the one hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what a book will be like from that sample. But on the other, you’re essentially reading an introduction with none of the payoff. There were some books that I knew within the first couple of pages that I wasn’t going to enjoy, almost always for stylistic or formatting reasons. Others proved to be strong enough in the opening chapters that they progressed further, only to lose my interest further on. I can’t help but wonder if those books I voted not to continue became something wonderful later on. And there was a book that made it through with a very strong start that completely lost me with its final chapters. This was also the stage of the competition where a book needed a majority vote to progress further. With only three judges, only two Yes votes were required, meaning we ended up with eleven books meeting the criteria. I don’t think letting an extra book slip through the cuts phase did any real harm to our allocation, but it did mean a little extra work in the next phase. Of the eleven that made it through, I had voted to continue with seven of them, and had voted for two more that ultimately failed to make the cut.

(7) ANSWER KEY. Here are Rich Horton’s “Answers to BIPOC SF/Fantasy Quiz” from Strange at Ecbatan.

1. Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed director of Selma, became the first Black woman to direct a live action feature with over a $100,000,000 budget with which 2018 film, an adaptation of a beloved Newbery Award winner?

Answer: A Wrinkle in Time

(8) SEE GERMANY’S BIGGEST SFF LIBRARY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer Maja Ilisch reports about a visit to the Phantastische Bibliothek in Wetzlar, Germany’s biggest SFF specialty library. The post is in German, but there are photos: “Allein unter Büchern”.

(9) BILL WRIGHT (1937-2022). Australian fan Bill Wright died January 16. Bill was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob. He served as awards administrator for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He was secretary for the first Aussiecon in 1975 and helped organize the Bring Bruce Bayside Fan Fund in 2004. Bill was a Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. One of his fanzines with an international following was Interstellar Ramjet Scoop.

In 2013 at the age of 76 he was voted the Down Under Fan Fund delegate. Bill was honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award in 2017.

(And I was always in Bill’s debt for introducing me to Foster’s Lager when he and Robin Johnson were at L.A.Con I to promote the first Australian Worldcon bid.)

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  “Coffee – the finest organic suspension ever devised. It’s got me through the worst of the last three years. I beat the Borg with it.” — Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Hunters”. 

On this evening twenty-seven years ago on UPN, Star Trek: Voyager premiered. The fourth spinoff from the original series after the animated series, the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, it featured the first female commander in the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. 

It was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor. Berman served as head executive producer, assisted by a series of executive proucers — Piller, Taylor, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller. Of those, Braga is still the most active with work on The Orville.

It ran for seven seasons  and one seventy-two episodes. Four episodes, “Caretaker”, “Dark Frontier”, “Flesh and Blood” and “Endgame” originally aired as ninety minute episodes. 

Of the series, and not at all surprisingly, Voyager gets the highest Bechdel test rating. Oh, and that quote I start this piece with in 2015, was tweeted by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti International Space Station when they were having a coffee delivery. She was wearing a Trek uniform when she did so.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death.  (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly only in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 74. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 52. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 48. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 36. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. “Video game preservation is complicated, both legally and technically” – the Washington Post tells about the challenges.

…A 2018 report by the Association of Research Libraries found that archivists are “frustrated and deeply concerned” regarding copyright policies related to software, and they charge the current legal environment of “imperiling the future of digital memory.” The obstacles archivists face range from legal restrictions around intellectual property to the technological challenges of obtaining or re-creating versions of the various consoles, computers and servers required to play various titles published over the years. Not only must the games be preserved, they also need to be playable, a quandary akin to needing a record player to listen to a rare vinyl album.

However, the legal hurdle to their research — chiefly, risking infringing on the copyrights of multibillion-dollar companies — remains the biggest for preservationists seeking access to games for academic research….

(15) SUPERNATURAL SUPERHIGHWAY. Paul Weimer shares his take about “Tim Powers’ Alternate Routes at A Green Man Review.

…Writing abouit supernatural doings in Southern California is nothing new for Powers, but this novel felt and reads distinctly different than his previous novels set in Southern California and wrapping around supernatural doings, but not always to its benefit. A Tim Powers novel for me is one with magic beneath the surface of our ordinary world that a few people can access. This often ties into a Secret History of events that we think we know, but we really don’t know the full story until Powers comes along. Characters with hidden motivations that make sense only in the denouement.. Lush use of setting and place. Tricks with time, character and perspective. Tim Powers work isn’t as byzantine as, say, Gene Wolfe, but paying attention and reading closely are absolute musts to figure out what is going on.

Alternate Routes has some of these but not as many as one might expect from a Tim Powers novel. For lack of a better phrase, Alternate Routes reads in a much more straightforward fashion, plot wise, than the typical Powers novel….

(16) WHAM! Meanwhile, back at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer brings us up to speed about the second book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Chaos Vector by Megan O’Keefe”.

…Velocity Weapon tells a twisty story where Sanda is lied to and tricked by an AI on an enemy warship, and Biran desperately seeks political power for, primarily, finding out what has happened to his sister. The novel was particularly potent for a “Wham! moment” where Sanda’s understanding of what was happening to her, and why, turned out to be far far different than she knew.

Now, with a solar system seething with potential conflict, Sanda free of her captivity, and Biran in a position of power within the Keepers, Chaos Vector continues the story of these two siblings as revelations and conflicts from the first novel start to manifest…as well as new mysteries, and yes, new wham moments!

(17) VOX PLONKS HIS MAGIC TWANGER. Brian Z. asks, “Is it official puppy news when Scott Adams calls VD his mascot?” Oh, no – he’s going to sing!

(18) OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE. I’m not a big game-player, so I’m glad to have Joe DelFranco tell me what made It Takes Two a prize-winning game: “Microreview [Video Game]: It Takes Two by Hazelight Studios”.  

The Game Awards Game of the Year winner, It Takes Two, asks two players to come together to repair an ailing marriage. In many relationships, poor communication causes the initial bond between partners to break down. Therein lies the crux of the conflict with It Takes Two. Cody and May, fed-up with their relationship, cause their daughter Rose much distress. Rose consults Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love to help bring them back together. With her tears, she binds her parent’s souls into two wooden dolls. Now it’s up to the players to help the protagonists get out of this mess and back to their bodies….

(19) PREDICTING PARENTHOOD. “Futurist Amy Webb has predictions on 5G, the metaverse, creating babies and a host of other bold topics” in the Washington Post.

S.Z.: Reading your book it feels like you have an almost philosophical belief that people should overhaul what they think about how humans are created. If synthetic biology can deliver on some of these promises — if it removes any age restriction on egg fertilization, say, or if embryos can be gestated outside a human body — what do these changes do to us as a society? Do they alter it fundamentally?

A.W.: The thing is we never stopped and asked how we got to this point. Until now a baby was a man and a woman and having the structures to be in place for that to happen. And now synthetic biology is giving us other options. Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby. Why would we close ourselves off to those possibilities?

(20) THERPEUTIC CREDENTIALS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Be sure to check out the link on the fur color of your cat and the supernatural! “Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You” reports MSN.com. Hope that all in your household, including the unmasked four-pawed mammals, are staying Safe and Well.

1. Owning a cat can actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

According to an impressive 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death by heart attack than those who didn’t have a feline companion.

Participants had a lower heart rate, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Dr Adnan Qureshi, senior author of the study, said, “For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.”

(21) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. “Oldest remains of modern humans are much older than thought, researchers say”Yahoo! outlines the discovery.

Some of the oldest remains of modern humans in the world are much older than scientists thought.

The remains, known as Omo I, were found in southwest Ethiopia in the late 1960s. The bone and skull fragments researchers discovered were some of the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens.

Initial research suggested they were nearly 200,000 years old, but new research shows the remains are at least 230,000 years old.  The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday

(22) PROLIFERATING PRESIDENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Last night Saturday Night Live began with a cold open in which President Biden blamed the Omicron outbreak on people buying tickets to Spider-Man and we found out that we actually don’t live in the real universe but rather one started as a joke by having the Cubs win the World Series. You know, that last bit makes some sense.

[Thanks to JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., Jeffrey Smith, Bill, David Doering, John A. Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

[Thanks to Dan B., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, PJ Evans, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

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

By JJ:

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

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

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

The result of these reading sprees were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Height of His –

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1433)  Tim Powers is at his best in Forced Perspectives.  He managed to bring us this book last March, four years after Alternate Routes, a short time for him.  He writes well – that’s one of my understatements, folks – but not, as he’s told us, fast.

I didn’t re-read Alternate Routes first.  I don’t think you’ll have to.

He is, as we expect, imaginative, poetic, rooted in the world we know and branching away, realistic and strange.

C.S. Lewis advised what I call the One-Strange Rule: either an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, or an extraordinary person in ordinary circumstances.  Rules get exceptions – does that have exceptions? never mind for now – but, or and, Powers does both.

I’ve advised The greater the reality, the better the fantasy.  I didn’t have to advise Powers, he’s masterly at it.

As I said of another Powers book, and Samuel Johnson said of Shakespeare (it may take a genius to write about a genius; I’m doing my best), we’ve never met these people, and if as Powers says himself he is writing fantasy, we can’t meet them; but we believe that if we did, they’d be as he portrays.  Such is the art of fiction.

Some years ago Bob Dylan sang “Nothing is revealed.” That was his art; not Powers’.  If we see a man walking on stilts, with springs under his shoes – another Powers book – or a car painted all over with clown faces, we’ll learn why.

When one of Shakespeare’s characters says “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” he’s answered “Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?”  Of course that’s iambic pentameter.  Powers has different fish to fry.  His recipe isn’t particularly to sow doubt about the claim (nor is it always Shakespeare’s).  In a Powers story they may well arrive.  His recipe is Then what?

Another part of realism is Where did that come from?  In a Powers story if a man has to swim a long distance under water, or shoot a handgun suddenly and well under great stress, we know how he can do that, and what it cost. 

I’m reminded of a different careful fantasy author who made a modern man wield a centuries-earlier sword.  The man was strong enough; nor did the foes he happened to be against call on him for much skill.  He beat them.  But he blistered his hand.

Not for nothing does SF have visitor stories, growing-up stories, investigation stories.  Readers must somehow learn things the imagined world takes for granted.  Forced Perspectives is an investigation story.  The two protagonists, Sebastian Vickery – not his real name, as the old joke relishes – and Ingrid Castine, try to learn what’s going on. They’ve seen some of this before. They thought they were out of it. They weren’t.

Powers often writes what some call secret histories. Who, really, was Kim Philby (1912-1988; another Powers book)?  How, really, did the sets for Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments (1923) get buried afterward in the sand and sea (this book)?  Powers imagines the answer and tells us the true – according to his fantasy – story.

Another part of his realism – or, more technically, verisimilitude, the appearance of truth – is that he doesn’t invent everything.  For this book he didn’t invent the notion of an egregore.  He didn’t invent the Egyptian gods (or forces of nature? or demons?) Ba and Nu. You can look them up and see they’re what his characters say.  Of course those sources you found might not have known – or told you – the real truth, aha.

There’s comedy in a Powers story.  That’s hard to do, maybe harder in fantasy than in science fiction, which is already hard.

I’m not going to fall into the pit of trying to tell you what comedy is.  I’ll suggest it has something to do with our recognizing That couldn’t be true.  If I said to you What do you think, I can work magic?? you’d smile.  But in fantasy the character who said that might be able to.

Anyway, two of my favorite moments in this book are “Isn’t either” (ch. 7) and “You have behaved in a regrettably high-handed manner all along” (ch. 17).  Also you might recognize “Tension apprehension and dissension have begun” (ch. 15).  I liked them.  Maybe you will.

Once when Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

Pixel Scroll 7/19/20 A Few Of My Cavorite Things

(1) AMAZING KICKSTARTER. There are only a few days left to contribute to the Amazing Stories Kickstarter campaign and they could use the help: Amazing Stories Year Two – Once More Dear Friends”. The appeal has raised $6,571 of its $12,000 goal with four days to go.

…Think about what we would have missed now if Experimenter Publishing hadn’t decided to revive Amazing Stories as a fiction magazine in 2018. Since then, we have published new fiction from some of the best known authors working in the field today, including Allen Steele, Julie Czerneda, Paul Levinson, Adam-Troy Castro, David Gerrold, Kameron Hurley, Lawrence Watt Evans and S. P. Somtow. We have also featured stories written by exciting new voices, writers who just might become your new favorites, including: Marie Bilodeau, Noah Chinn, Marc Criley, Kathy Critts, Rosie Smith, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm and Neal Holtschulte.

Where would we be for the imagery of the future had it not been for two and a half solid years of cover illustrations by the great Frank R. Paul? We have continued that tradition with some of the best cover artists, Tony Sart, M.D. Jackson, Al Sirois, Tom Barber, Yoko Matsuoka, Vincent di Fate and interior graphic artists like Amanda Makepeace, Matt Taggart, Melisa Des Rosiers, Renan Boe, Ron Miller, Tom Miller, Olivia Beelby, Chukwudi Nwaefulu, Steve Stiles, Phil Foglio and many others working today.

(2) LITERARY DISCOVERY OF THE DAY. Mary Trump apparently was a reader of Omni and of Isaac Asimov notes Michael A. Burstein. From Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, pages 109-110:

“Is that yours?”

At first I thought she [Ivana] was talking about the gift basket, but she was referring to the copy of Omni magazine that was sitting on top of the stacks of gifts I’d already opened. Omni, a magazine of science and science fiction that had launched in October of that year, was my new obsession. I had just picked up the December issue and brought it with me to the House in the hope that between shrimp cocktail and dinner I’d have a chance to finish reading it.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Bob, the publisher, is a friend of mine.”

“No way! I love this magazine.”

“I’ll introduce you. You’ll come into the city and meet him.”

It wasn’t quite as seismic as being told I was going to meet Isaac Asimov, but it was pretty close. “Wow. Thanks.”

(3) HALFWAY HOME. In the Washington Post, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar list the best science fiction and fantasy of the year so far — plus what we’re looking forward to next. “The City We Became” and “Vagabonds” made waves. Next up: Susanna Clarke’s “Piranesi.” “The best science fiction and fantasy of the year so far — plus what we’re looking forward to next”. Lavie Tidhar commented –

One book I’ve been hugely excited about is Tim Powers’s latest, “Forced Perspectives,” set in the magical underbelly of modern-day Los Angeles. Powers may be the master of the secret history novel (and one of the originators of steampunk), but his recent work has really explored the history and magic of Tinseltown in a way no one else can.

As you can see, I’ve been steering clear of any post-apocalyptic dystopias for some reason — I can’t imagine why!

(4) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1985 — The first Liavek anthology was released by Ace Books. Liavek was edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, it’s similar to Thieve’s World though not I think as rough and tumble. It attracted a lot of writers, to wit including Bull, Shetterly, Gene Wolfe, Jane Yolen, John M. Ford, Kara Dalkey, Barry B. Longyear, Megan Lindholm, Nancy Kress, Patricia C. Wrede, Steven Brust, Nate Bucklin, Pamela Dean, Gregory Frost, Charles de Lint, Charles R. Saunders, Walter Jon Williams, Alan Moore and Bradley Denton. Ace would publish a total of five Liavek anthologies over the next five years, and Tor would collect John M. Ford‘s Liavek stories into one volume as well. If you’ve not read them, Will and Emma have re-released them in epub format recently though they’ve reconfigured the stories into new books. They’re all available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”.  (Died 1972.) (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1921 – Rosalyn Yalow.  Interviewed in Omni.  Middleton, Lasker, Morrison awards.  Fellow of the American Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Medal of Science.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  A few years ago when a gang of us were playing Excuses, Ben Yalow on his turn said “Excuse me, I have to go watch my mother being given a Nobel Prize.”  He won.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I’m reasonably sure I met at least once when I was living out there. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. His The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once in a tie with Algol), and once in sole first place. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his soft core porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1934 – Darko Suvin, Ph.D., 86.  Ten nonfiction studies of SF, two anthologies, two volumes of poetry.  Sixty essays in ExtrapolationFoundationPolarisSF CommentarySF Research Ass’n ReviewStrange Horizons.  Editor of Science Fiction Studies (now emeritus).  Pilgrim Award.  SFera Award.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.  [JH]
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory. which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He also wrote two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1950 – Christina Skye.  Three dozen novels, ten for us; half a dozen shorter stories.  Knitter.  Romantic Times Career Achievement Award.  Under another name, Ph.D. and five books about Chinese classical puppet theater and Chinese folk arts.  Fond of Harris tweed and Shanghai street dumplings.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 19, 1953 – Jack Massa, 67.  Eight novels, a half-dozen shorter stories.  New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia, now Florida again with his magical wife and a pet orange tree named Grover.  “I am an outliner, not a pantser.”  Still likes Zorro.  [JH]
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 57. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1966 – Hilary Bell, 54.  Born in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Three novels for us; ten plays, picture books, audio scripts, musical theater.  Aurealis Award for Mirror, Mirror adapting the television show (which she was a writer for).  Parsons, Blewitt, Kocher playwrights’ awards.  Two AWGIE awards (Australian Writers’ Guild).  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 51. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant. (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 44. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock series, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug inThe Hobbit and his Grinch voicing in that film was also superb. I understand he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens… (CE)
  • Born July 19, 1987 – Shane Porteous, 33.  Four novels, ten shorter stories.  Master of the legendary seventy-seven doughnut devouring technique.  Immense passion for the fantastical, especially when it is different, alternative and, if possible, original.  [JH]

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy has a UFO joke for geezers.

(7) SHIRE UNKNOWNS. “Lord Of The Rings: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Shire”. I was going to say, “ScreenRant, you’ve got to be kidding!” Then I read the tagline: “For the sake of time, a lot of worldbuilding had to be left out of LotR. Here’s what movies fans don’t know about The Shire.” Well, if you never read the books…

9. The Shire Has Its Own Calendar

The Shire was officially founded in the year 1601 of the Third Age. However, this year is also referred to as Year 1 within the Shire calendar, which is called Shire Reckoning.

Much like our own, the Shire calendar contains twelve months, each with thirty days. The Shire Reckoning officially began when hobbit brothers Marcho and Blanco crossed the Brandywine River and settled in the area. The fertile land of what became the Shire was gifted to the hobbits by King Argeleb II.

Oh hell, even if I did read the books, I don’t remember all of this….

(8) JEMISIN IS INDIE BOOKSTORE ICON. Libro.fm announced N.K. Jemisin as their July Bookstore Champion. (Jemisin also is this year’s Indies First Spokesperson.)

We’re excited to feature N.K. Jemisin as a Libro.fm Bookstore Champion! As the 2019 Indies First Spokesperson, she is an outspoken supporter of independent bookstores. She recently appeared at four independent bookstores (and one library) in a single day to launch The City We Became. Thanks to Jemisin—the first author in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel for her Broken Earth trilogy—more people are aware of the value and impact of bookstores in their communities. Champions receive a year of audiobooks, Libro.fm gear, and are celebrated for their advocacy across Libro.fm channels.

(9) FANTAGRAPHICS FOUNDER Q&A. Gary Groth, Publisher, Comics Critic, Historian is interviewed by Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Four hours!

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson video interview Fantagraphics publisher, The Comics Journal co-founder, and Genius in Literature Award recipient Gary Groth, covering his full publishing career starting at age 13, his greatest accomplishments and failures, feuds and friends, journalistic influences and ideals, lawsuits and controversies. Learn which category best describes ventures like Fantastic Fanzine, Metro Con ‘71, The Rock n Roll Expo ’75, Amazing Heroes, Honk!, Eros Comics, Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, Love and Rockets, Jacques Tardi, Neat Stuff and the famous Jack Kirby interview; and personalities like Jim Steranko, Pauline Kael,Harlan Ellison, Hunter S. Thompson, Kim Thompson, CC Beck, Jim Shooter, Alan Light and Jules Feiffer. Plus, Groth expresses his opinions … on everything!

[Thanks to Lloyd Penney, Michael A. Burstein, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, Chip Hitchcock, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/20 Sufficiently Advanced Scrolls Are Indistinguishable From Pixels

(1) MURDERBOT READING TOMORROW. The New York Review of Books will host online a “Martha Wells Book Launch Party” on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. EDT

On the eagerly awaited occasion of the publication of “Network Effect,” Martha Wells’ fifth “Murderbot” story and the first full-length novel in the series, Ms. Wells will read from her work and then be interviewed by guest host/curator Amy Goldschlager.

(2) SHUFFLE AND REDEAL. At the Wild Cards blog, Bradley Denton thinks it’s time for Howard Waldrop to tell the current generation all about how “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (which I think of as “Jetboy’s Last Adventure”) became the series’ origin story — “Fifty Minutes Over Manchaca (now Menchaca) Road!”

…HW:  Of course!  And another is – You’ll recall in “The Annotated Jetboy,” where I talk about Danny Deck writing the biography of Jetboy?  Danny Deck is the hero of Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.  And of course he writes Godot Is My Co-Pilot: A Life of Jetboy.

…Anyway, I was gonna do the Jetboy story about the A-bomb for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and either Lew or Bud (sf authors Lewis Shiner and Walton “Bud” Simons, both Austin-based at the time, like Howard), I can’t remember which, said, “You should talk to George.  George and that bunch in New Mexico have been playing a superhero role-playing game, and they’ve spent so much time and money on it that they’re trying to find a way to turn it into a book.  You oughta tell him about this Jetboy thing, because it sounds like something that would fit in there.”  If it was Lew I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Bud, and if it was Bud I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Lew.  One or the other of ‘em knew more about it than the other one did, right?

See, I didn’t even know about this.  George hadn’t mentioned it to me in a letter or anything.  So I wrote to George, and I said, “I’ve got a story that might fit with whatever goddamn thing you’re doing.  You should tell me about it.”

So he sent me the prototype Cut and Shuffle, which was all about what was going on in the Wild Cards world before anyone else even knew what it was.  And I said, “Yeah, that sounds about right, I can work with that.  But your timeline is all wrong.”  See, they were gonna start it in the 1980s, with the world having gone on for thirty years.

BD:  Oh, so they weren’t initially going to do an origin story?  They were going to jump into the world of Wild Cards three decades on?

HW:  Right, exactly.  I said, “That’s all wrong!  You gotta tell how all this came about!”  So I got them to tell me all the stuff about Dr. Tachyon, and the virus, and the whole thing, y’know.  And I stuck it sideways into the Jetboy/A-bomb story, and sent it to George.

And of course George says, “When we send you stuff, you should read it!  You got all this stuff wrong!”  I said, “Ah, that’s your job!  You can fix that!”

(3) ANIMAL CROSSING BANK FRAUD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a front-page article by Leo Lewis and Robin Wigglesworth in the April 29 Financial Times.

“Savers at Nintendo’s the Bank of Nook are being driven to speculate on turnips and tarantulas, as the most popular video game of the coronavirus era mimics central bankers by making steep cuts in interest rates…

The estimate 12m players of the Japanese gaming group’s cartoon fantasy ANIMAL CROSSING were informed last week about the move, in which the Bank of Nook slashed the interest on savings from 0.5 percent to just 0.05 percent: 1,9m bells, the in-game currency, can be bought online for about $1…

…It did not take long, however, for players to spot that they could defraud the game’s bank by depositing large sums in savings accounts and then ‘time travelling’ by tweaking the console’s internal clock.  The bank duly paid decades of interest, making rapid bell millionaires.  People familiar with the practice said the Bank of Nook rate cut was an effort to curb the practice.  Nintendo has made no official comment on the matter.”

(4) LATER THAN TWILIGHT. It’s official. When the countdown ended, this was the news, says the New York Times — “Stephenie Meyer to Publish a New ‘Twilight’ Book, ‘Midnight Sun’”.

Fans of Edward Cullen, the brooding vampire hero from Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “Twilight” series, will have something fresh to bite into this summer.

Ms. Meyer announced on Monday that “Midnight Sun,” the new novel in her vampire romance series, will be published on Aug. 4, more than a decade after the original story concluded.

“I thought seriously about delaying this announcement until things were back to normal,” Ms. Meyer said in a statement. “However, that felt wrong, considering how long those who are eager for this book have already waited.”…

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There is a new free online workshop with instructors Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and David Farland: “The Writers Of The Future Online Workshop”

This free intermediate level writing course includes essays, practicals, and 13 video presentations featuring Writers of the Future judges: David Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card.

By the end of the workshop, you should have a short story completed. If you are qualified (see the rules here), you can enter your story in the Writers of the Future Contest. The twelve annual winners will be flown out to Hollywood for the week-long live workshop with a full roster of Contest judges and publishing professionals teaching as well as giving you their advice on how to make it as professional writers.

Enter your email address to start the course. You will also receive Writers of the Future newsletters with writing tips and special offers. You can unsubscribe at any time.

(6) 2020 PULITZER PRIZES. Columbia University today announced the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

There was no genre work among the winners, although 2020 Fiction winner Colson Whitehead has won before for the sff novel Underground Railraod (2017). Indeed, Whitehead now is just the fourth author to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice. The others are Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike. (The winners in journalism are at the link.)

LETTERS AND DRAMA

Fiction
“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Drama
“A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson

History
“Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

Biography
“Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Poetry
“The Tradition” by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction
“The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care” by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

and

“The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

Music
“The Central Park Five” by Anthony Davis, premiered by Long Beach Opera on June 15, 2019

Special Citation
Ida B. Wells

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

“Star Trek Fan Says ‘Happy Holidays’ Instead of ‘May the Fourth Be With You’”. Grumpy Vulcan tells Hard Drive why.

While many people are observing May 4 as Star Wars Day by saying “may the fourth be with you,” local Star Trek fan Lisa Donnelly has opted to instead just say “happy holidays.”

“Star Wars doesn’t have a monopoly on holidays that take place on May 4, you know,” said Donnelly. “There’s National Bird Day, Latvian Independence Day, and one of the non-canonical dates for Star Trek’s Federation Day is right around the corner on May 8. Those days deserve just as much recognition as some manufactured holiday celebrating a science fantasy movie series for kids.”….

And how did it all begin? According to TimeAndDate.com

The origin of the phrase is thought to date back to May 4, 1979. On this day, Conservatives in the United Kingdom published a newspaper advertisement to congratulate their candidate, Margaret Thatcher, for taking the Prime Minister’s office. The advertisement said “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations”.

(8) NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. Naturally, this is also the logical day for announcing the franchise’s new project. Lisa Richwine, in the Yahoo! News story “Taika Waititi to direct and co-write a new ‘Star Wars’ movie with ‘1917’ screenwriter” says that Disney announced a bunch of Star Wars-related projects on StarWars Day, most notably that Taika Waititi will direct a new Star Wars and co-write it with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, nominated for an Oscar for her work on 1917.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 4, 1962 — The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with their own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove, 78. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England.
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 77. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 63. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1914 James Bacon. He was in all five films in the Planet of the Apes franchise, the only actor to do so. He portrayed an ape in each of the films with the exception of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which he played a human, General Faulkner. This was the only film of the ‘Ape’ series in which he was credited. He also showed in Roddenberry’s Planet Earth as Partha. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a terrific gag for May the Fourth.
  • Heathcliff isn’t really that funny, however, it does use a gagline drawn from the same source as one of our File 770 mottos.
  • Pearls Before Swine considers the possibility that the lockdown results in people reading more, and better, books.

(12) RIVERS COMING TO A CHANNEL NEAR YOU. For the many Filers who are fans of the series — “Stolen Picture Options Television Rights To Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London”.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s UK-based production company, Stolen Picture, has optioned the rights to Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling novel series Rivers of London.

Aaronovitch is currently working on the adaption of the first novel, also named Rivers of London. He will also serve as an Executive Producer on the series alongside Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Stolen Picture CEO, Miles Ketley. 

A Sunday Times best-seller, Rivers of London was first published in 2011, earning Aaronovitch a nomination in the New Writer of The Year category at the National Book Awards in 2011 and has spawned a popular graphic novel series. Each subsequent novel has also charted in the Sunday Times Top Ten Best-Seller list.

The crime/supernatural crossover follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a young mixed race police officer who, following an encounter with a ghost finds himself working for The Folly, a secret Scotland Yard department that deals with supernatural crime. The Times described Rivers of London as “an incredibly fast-moving magical joyride for grown-ups”.The Rivers of London franchise has been published in more than 15 languages and, to date, has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

“Nick Frost and Simon Pegg asked me if I wanted to make Rivers of London with them – you think I was going to say no? Stolen Picture have a reputation for making creator led TV with the minimum of corporate bollocks and the maximum of fun. It’s an opportunity I would be bonkers to say no to” says Ben Aaronovitch.

(13) BITING THE SCENERY. Entertainment Weekly invites fans to “See first look at Mark Hamill embracing the dark side as vampire in What We Do in the Shadows”. Photo at the link.

[Mark] Hamill will portray an ancient vampire in Jemaine Clement‘s FX series What We Do in the Shadows and EW has your first look at the character — fangs and all. The episode titled “On the Run,” set to air May 13, will introduce a vengeful enemy from Laszlo’s (Matt Berry) past who appears without warning to settle a personal debt. This causes Laszlo to flee his home and go into hiding.

(14) A HEEP OF TROUBLE. Did Paul Weimer have great expectations for this novel? “Microreview [Book]: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry” at Nerds of a Feather.

…I should be clear and up front about something: I may be a somewhat biased reviewer in a regard, but not in the way that you might think. You see, good reader, I am a relation but not a direct descendant of Charles Dickens, so that a novel where his literary creation escapes into the real world was and is always one I would be extremely interested in. I’ve read and been interested in Dickens’ work from a young age. His work has always been part of my life.

I can happily report that this novel is extremely literate and considerate with the work of Dickens, what it means and where it comes from. The novel feels like the author’s own coming to terms with Dickens’ work in a real and palpable way, as well as Victoriana and Edwardiana in a real and palpable way.

(15) GEEKS IN ACADEME. “Top 10 Fictional Schools– Geek Culture Countdown Podcast!” – a list from 2019. These are all drawn from sff works, even though “Pop Culture” covers more territory than that.

Susan and Kitty are schooling you on the Top 10 Fictional Schools in pop culture. From prestigious prep academies to borderline lethal boarding schools, which esteemed educational institutions will make the grade?

For example —

2. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

Located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Westchester County, New York, this school for mutants has gone by many names- Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, X-Haven, and most currently the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach.

This school provides a safe place for young mutants to receive education both in traditional schooling and also the control and understanding of their powers. Kitty Pryde is currently the headmistress. The school motto is “Mutatis Mutandis” meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”.

(16) WHY PROTECTING MOSQUITOS IS A GOOD IDEA. BBC has the answer — “Malaria ‘completely stopped’ by microbe”.

Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.

The team in Kenya and the UK say the finding has “enormous potential” to control the disease.

Malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them could in turn protect people.

The researchers are now investigating whether they can release infected mosquitoes into the wild, or use spores to suppress the disease.

…”The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage, it’s a very severe blockage of malaria,” Dr Jeremy Herren, from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Kenya told the BBC.

He added: “It will come as a quite a surprise. I think people will find that a real big breakthrough.”

(17) USE THE FORK, LUKE. Or the blowtorch. Do something to save us.  “General Mills Is Releasing A ‘Star Wars’ Cereal With Baby Yoda-Shaped Marshmallows” – the Best Products blog has the story.

…General Mills took to Instagram to reveal its newest creation. As described on the packaging, the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with marshmallows. All of the green marshmallows are in the shape of The Child’s head, which is reason enough to give this bite a shot, if you ask us.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

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

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

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

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

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

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

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

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

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

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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

Continue reading

2019 Dragon Award Winners

The 2019 Dragon Awards ceremony was held September 1 – here are the winners.

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • House of Assassins by Larry Correia

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • Uncompromising Honor by David Weber

Best Alternate History Novel

  • Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling

Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

Best Horror Novel

  • Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

Best Comic Book

  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Best Graphic Novel

  • X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Good Omens, Amazon Prime

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Avengers: Endgame by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

  • Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

  • Harry Potter: Wizards Unite by Niantic, WB Games San Francisco

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

  • Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

  • Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set by Chaosium Inc.

OTHER AWARDS

These other awards were also announced during the ceremony.

EUGIE FOSTER AWARD

THE HANK REINHARDT FANDOM AWARD

  • Edward deGruy

(Spelling of name may not be correct – it was not shown on screen.) The Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award is presented for outstanding contributions to the genre by a Georgia writer, artist, or fan.

THE JULIE AWARD

  • George Perez

In 1998, Dragon Con established the Julie Award presented annually in tribute to the legendary Julie Schwartz. The Julie Award is bestowed for universal achievement spanning multiple genres, selected each year by our esteemed panel of industry professionals.

Thanks to Red Panda Fraction and Ray Radlein for livetweeting the results.

Photos of 2019 LA Vintage Paperback Show

Lots of well-known writers and artists came and signed at last Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show. Robert Kerr shot these photos (below) of some of the participants.