Holy neutron stars, it’s the end of March, and you know what that means…. it’s time to announce the finalists for the 2018 Hugo Awards! Doubtless most of you paid close attention to Rich Horton’s suggestions for the best science fiction and fantasy of last year, did a lot of heavy reading over the last four weeks, and thoughtfully cast your nominating ballots. Or maybe not.
But either way, it’s time to see who all your fellow voters nominated. Ready? Here we go.
The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor) New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit) Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit) Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris) Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit) The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Talk long enough with people about the British comic publisher 2000AD and you’ll eventually get into a conversation about where The Ballad of Halo Jonesfits in the ranking of Alan Moore’s work. A few people have said that Halo Jones is Alan Moore’s greatest work, and it is frequently called Moore’s unknown classic.
The big magazine news in March is the arrival of the first issue of the most exciting new adventure fantasy periodical in years — Tales From the Magician’s Skull, edited by our very own Howard Andrew Jones and packed with writers and characters familiar to readers of Black Gate, including a brand new Morlock tale by James Enge, a Gaunt and Bone story from Chris Willrich, a graveyard fable from John C. Hocking, “There Was an Old Fat Spider” by C. L. Werner, the start of a brand new fantasy series from Howard Andrew Jones, a tale of wharf pirates and deep-sea creatures from Bill Ward, and the story of a sorcerous tyrant by Aeryn Rudel — all under a beautiful cover by Jim Pavelec.
TFtSK isn’t the only magazine worth reading in March. Far from it. Locus has an excellent tribute to the great Ursula K. Le Guin, and the regular crop of fiction mags include brand new stories from Kij Johnson, Juliette Wade, Xiu Xinyu, E. Lily Yu, Rachel Harrison, Cassandra Khaw (twice!), Adrian Cole, Bryan Camp, Ken Liu, and lots more.
Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in late March (links will bring you to magazine websites).
Do you remember the time Godzilla dropped the brown acid while watching Mothra’s colored wings, and then Raymond Burr joined him and they tipped back a few cases of wine from Burr’s personal vineyards, while Burr told the plot of Perry Mason episodes backwards, where Mason would undo a court decision, Paul Drake would put evidence back in place, and at the climax a dead body would return to life?
None of this actually happened — but something close to it did. It involves the Italian film industry (doesn’t it always?) and the director of Starcrash and the Lou Ferrigno Hercules movies. It’s called Godzilla il re dei mostri (“Godzilla the King of Monsters”), a.k.a. Cozzilla after its creator, Luigi Cozzi — and it’s one of the strangest and least known chapters in Godzilla history. Not as much an acid trip as Godzilla vs. Hedorah, but in that ballpark.
It starts with the 1976 King Kong. The Dino De Laurentiis remake of the ‘33 giant monster classic may not be much good (I’ll give composer John Barry a hand for his score, and I like Jeff Bridges’s beard), but it took in such a big overseas haul that it triggered a mini-monster boom in Europe and Asia. We can thank its success in Japan for getting the momentum going to restart the Godzilla series, resulting in The Return of Godzilla in 1984 and the better Heisei movies that followed.
But King Kong ‘76 also shocked into life an Italian take on Godzilla that most people are unaware exists. Godzilla il re dei mostri isn’t exactly a “new” film. It’s an Italian colorization and re-edit of the 1956 U.S. reshoot and re-edit of the 1954 Japanese Godzilla, only now with tie-dye colors, a mishmash of stock footage, and Tangerine Dream-esque electronic music. Because that’s what those two earlier versions of Godzilla were missing.
Alaya Dawn Johnson was born on March 31, 1982. She began publishing in 2005 with her story “Shard of Glass.” Her first novel, Racing the Dark, appeared in 2007. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon in 2015 and the convention published the guest of honor book, Metamorphosis, containing works and interviews with Johnson and her co-guest of honor Kim Stanley Robinson.
In 2015 Johnson won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” and the same evening won the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Novel for Love Is the Drug. The year before, she also had nominated work in each of those categories. Johnson’s fiction has been nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Carl Brandon Award.
“Far & Deep” was published in the March-April 2009 issue of Interzone, edited by Andy Cox, Andy Hedgecock, and David Mathew. It has not been reprinted.
The story is set on an unnamed Polynesian island and opens with Leilani discovering that her mother, Pineki, has been murdered. In her mourning, Leilani approaches the Council of Elders, of which her mother was a member, and is told that she will be denied a traditional funeral because of unspecified crimes she had committed.
It is clear that Pineki was not well liked on the island, although she didn’t care. Leilani must not only come to terms with her mother’s death, but also the way the other islanders perceived Pineki. In the few thousand words Johnson uses to tell the story, she manages to briefly tackle the questions of people who commit taboo behavior in a small community, the sense of filial love and duty, and the need for individuality in a society which demands at least of modicum of conformity. Despite Pineki’s position on the Council, she was seen as an outsider by the Council, who viewed her murder as the opportunity to get rid of a problem, rather than a crime that should be explored and punished. Leilani, who lost her parent, challenges the Council, an act worthy of her mother.
Two days ago I said Raymond Z. Gallun’s The Planet Strappers was an example of a long-dead sub-genre, the adventures of “space hobbyists,” in which enthusiastic amateurs, usually teens, were the ones to conquer space through pluck, courage and sheer inventiveness. While I still think that’s true, I don’t think the teen SF novel is dead at all. In fact, here’s a fine example, Alexandra Monir’s The Final Six, the tale of six teens sent on a desperate mission to Jupiter’s moon.
When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa — Jupiter’s moon — and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.
For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.
In this cutthroat atmosphere, surrounded by strangers from around the world, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo. As the training tests their limits, Naomi and Leo’s relationship deepens with each life-altering experience they encounter.
But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.
Alexandra Monir is the author of Suspicion (which I covered back in 2014) and the Timeless series. It was published by HarperTeen on March 6, 2018. It is 338 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition. The beautiful cover was designed by Erin Fitzsimmons, with art by Getty Images. Read an excerpt at HappyEverAfter.com.
There are a lot of animals in Fantasy. Plenty of horses, for example, and similar four-legged transportation. Then there are magical and mythological animals of all kinds – and some that are just plain madeupical.
What there isn’t much of in either SF or Fantasy fiction is pets. I find this significant – not the least because, next to their families, there’s probably nothing – or no one – more important to people than their pets. So are pets just too “real life” for SF and Fantasy fiction?
Now I’m not talking about works where one of the main characters is an animal, so, not Temeraire in Naomi Kovik’s novels. Not Ratty or Mole, or even Mr. Toad in Wind in the Willows. I’m particularly not talking about cats who solve crimes – though it’s not at all unusual for protagonists of a cozy mystery to have either a dog or a cat as a pet. In fact, for a cozy, the presence of one or both is practically a requirement – check the cover art. One of the interesting things about dogs in mystery novels is that somewhere, in between all the sleuthing, the dog still has to be walked. You can’t get more real life than that.
Chad Oliver was born on March 30, 1928 and died on August 10, 1993. He briefly became famous in 2000 when, trying to explain the concept of hanging chads in the aftermath of that year’s Presidential election, some newspapers discovered the existence of a science fiction author named Chad.
Oliver’s writing career began with the publication of the short story “The Land of Lost Content” in the November 1950 issue of Super Science Stories. He published short fiction through his career, with his final story published in 1991. During that time, he also published six novels and collaborated occasionally with Charles Beaumont and Garvin Berry. His 1984 story “Ghost Town” was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.
Oliver published “Transformer” in the November 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher. Oliver included it in his collection Another Kind the next year and it was also translated into French to be run in Fiction that year. William F. Nolan included it in the anthology Man Against Tomorrow and Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles Waugh chose it for The Great SF Stories #16 (1954). It appears in the second NESFA Press collection of Oliver’s works, Far from This Earth and Other Stories and was a featured reprint in the June 1, 2005 issue of Sci Fiction. The story has also been translated into German twice and into Hungarian.
“Transformer” is a forerunner to Toy Story, published forty years before the Pixar film was released. Oliver tells the story from the point of view of a woman who lives in the small village of ELM POINT, a town on the table of a model railroad owned by Willy Roberts. Unfortunately for her, Willy is more Sid Phillips than Andy Davis. Willy isn’t particularly abusive, he’s just a young boy who sometimes gets a little wild with his toys and is beginning to lose interest in his toy railroad, none of which is good from the point of view of those toys.
Unfortunately for Willy, his toys are more proactive that Sid’s toys were in Toy Story and they plan to murder him, using the electric train as their weapon of choice. The story is told in a matter of fact way, the contemplation of murder not a horrific crime, but merely a way of ending the unpleasant life they live, perhaps due to the casualness with which Willy kills the toys figures on the table without any regard for the lives he knows nothing about. Willy doesn’t exist when he’s not in the room, just as the townspeople’s lives wind down when the current is off.
Normally, our annual road trip to cover the first trade show of the year is not only something we look forward to (for the obvious reasons), but also a chance to get our first whiff of spring.
The TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show has been the premier, international event for the haunt industry for the last 30 years, boasting over 300 vendors catering to the industry’s professionals. We discovered it 16 years ago when it used to make its home here in Chicago until it relocated to St. Louis. And though the location makes for a long day, we can usually count on St. Louis to be in the 50’s as opposed to Chicago which is usually getting its final blast of winter right around the March showtime.
Except for this year.
Last weekend the weather forecast was calling for an all-day winter storm to cut a 100-mile swath straight across central Illinois and pushing freezing temperatures (and freezing rain) all the way south to our destination – meaning we were facing a thoroughly crappy commute both ways. With Black Gate photog Chris Z at the wheel of his ridiculously huge, military-grade Jeep, my primary worries included a 5-hour one-way trip turning into 7-plus hours or sliding into a ditch in the middle of nowhere and having to wait hours to be rescued (most of central Illinois IS technically the middle of nowhere).
Last month I wrote a brief article about Flotsam by RJ Theodore, an intriguing steampunk/first contact novel. It was the first book I’d ever seen from Parvus Press and, as I commented at the time, it seemed like I should be paying them more attention.
That paid off this month after I ordered a copy of their very first book, Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren. It was released in trade paperback in 2016, and has been gradually winning an audience. It has an intriguing premise: mankind is one of many space-faring species in a crowded galaxy, and has used captured alien technology to establish a tentative foothold on a handful of colony worlds. Here’s H. Paul Honsinger, author of the Man of War series.
I was on board with Captain Victoria Marin and her multinational, multi-ethnic, multi personality type, mismatched crew from the first moment. Scott Warren gives us an uncommon premise, humans as technological inferiors to most of the galaxy, and follows the plausible consequences of that premise: from our race’s particularly human adaptation to that situation – becoming pirates and scavengers of technology while flying under the radar of the major civilizations – to the cultural and character traits that come to the surface in that event. It all comes together with a richly-imagined universe, three-dimensional characters, and a fast-moving plot… [a] swashbucklingly exciting tale from a talented emerging author.
The next volume in what’s now being called the Union Earth Privateers series, To Fall Among Vultures, arrived in August. Here’s a look at the back covers for both books.