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Hugo & Nebula Winners This is a list of the works that have won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, awarded annually to works of science fiction literature.

Amazon aims to promote digital reading around the world and has established a new program called Kindle Reading Fund to achieve that goal. The Fund will be in charge of donating Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets and ebooks to various recipients, such as reading programs in developing nations. To make sure its devices reach the people who need them, the tech titan has joined forces with Worldreader, a non-profit that provides e-books to children and families in the developing world to promote literacy. The two already worked together in previous projects, according to TechCrunch, including bringing digital reading materials to 61 Kenyan libraries.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Amazon

Not So Much, Said the Cat, by Michael Swanwick (Tachyon Publications 978-1-61696-228-9, $15.95, 285pp, trade paperback) August 2016

Mostly unremarked, this year signifies the thirty-sixth anniversary of Michael Swanwick’s first story sale, in Robert Silverberg’s anthology New Dimensions 11. The astonishing array of high-quality tales he has graced the world with since then would constitute a sufficiency for most writers. But the damn thing is, nearly forty years into his career he is still working at the top of his game. Not many authors can say that.

With a new novel in the works—The Iron Dragon’s Mother—and an ongoing series of stories at Tor.com—the “Mongolian Wizard” saga—Swanwick has still found time to compile a new collection for us, consisting of some seventeen stories that first saw the light of day between 2008 and 2014.

His entertaining and touching autobiographical introduction fittingly looks backwards at this embryonic stage of his existence, and reflects on the start of his professional writing life and a few intermediate quantum leaps of skill. Then he mentions an attitude he had toward the genre, when he was first getting acquainted with all its stellar practitioners: “I read science fiction as if it had all been written by a single genius possessed of an impossible variety of styles and interests.” This is the key to the stories that follow (and to the fact that Swanwick, debuting during the fabled cyberpunk-humanist rivalry, could never be categorized definitively as one or the other). Swanwick is still striving to embody every good thing SF does, all its modes and styles, themes and tropes, in his one lifetime. This makes for a highly pleasing variety in his tales.

Here are the briefest of thoughts and observations on the outstanding table of contents.

“The Man in Grey” is a riff on the famous solipsistic notion of existence as found in previous outings by Heinlein, Leiber and Dick. But Swanwick uses the trope to examine issues of free will as well.

The notion that the future might in some ways come to resemble older periods of myth has been around at least since the New Wave (calling Delany, Moorcock and Zelazny!) and probably in some earlier post-apocalypse tales as well. Swanwick utilizes this fairy-tale future ambiance to good effect in “The Dala Horse,” which finds our heroine on a dangerous pilgrimage beset by trolls.

A trace of Brian Aldiss’s A.I. informs “The Scarecrow’s Boy,” wherein a robot and a young refugee interact. Say the words “alien autopsy” and I’m hooked. So “Passage of Earth” entertained me well. Perhaps the slightest tale here, though not without merit, is “3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar,” about the last night of civilization.

Every writer at one time or another has to follow in Dante’s footsteps and venture into literal Hell. Tim Powers did so recently, and Swanwick’s voyage to the netherworld, “Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown,” ranks up with that entry, as we watch loyal daughter Su-yin attempt to rescue her unworthy father. A tragic love affair interlinked with a scientific paradigm shift fills the compact pages of “The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree” nearly to bursting.

A historical setting and Swanwick’s love of James Branch Cabell informs the amusing “Goblin Lake.” The opening sentence of “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled . . .” is quite memorable: “Imagine a cross between Byzantium and a termite mound.” From there, we encounter a sentient spacesuit and other wonders.

“For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again” takes all the fraught terrors and beauty of Irish history and ports them 200 years into the future. In all likelihood, “Libertarian Russia” is my favorite tale here, rivalling Bruce Sterling at his own realpolitik, hip, culture-jamming best. And I need only mention the names Surplus and Darger as stars of “Tawny Petticoats” to alert you to the manifold joys of a fresh entry in that series.

Employing a nicely innovative format of all-dialogue, “Steadfast Castle” gambols about freshly with the trope of the sentient house, seen everywhere from Ray Bradbury to The Simpsons. Borgesian counterfactuality is the mode of “Pushkin the American,” while slippage across dimensions is the MacGuffin of one man’s melancholia in “An Empty House with Many Doors.” Swanwick pulls off a particularly good homage to Gene Wolfe in “The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin.” And finally, an early German work of prose gets conflated with a modern existential drama in “The House of Dreams.”

All in all, as variegated and smart and ecstatic a ride as you can get from SF these days.

Ultimately, I think what strikes me most forcefully about Swanwick’s fiction, aside from his fresh yet historically resonant conceits, is its elegance and economy. Per the definition of the perfect short story, not a word is extraneous or wasted, not one element of plot inessential. The maximum effects are achieved with the minimum of prose.

And that is an esthetic bullseye which can accommodate an infinite number of subjects and themes, and which an artist can aim for over and over again, during all of his or her career, upping his lifetime score even with a few misses here and there.

Paul Di Filippo has been writing professionally for over thirty years, and has published almost that number of books. He lives in Providence, RI, with his mate of an even greater number of years, Deborah Newton.

A way to keep time from hapening all at once.

Ever since he began publishing scifi stories to his website, The Martian author Andy Weir has been using unorthodox approaches to deliver his stories to audiences. His latest collection is not found online or on a bookshelf, but in a new app named Tapas, and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from one of its stories.

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As Doctor Science Suggested.

The weeks between September and mid-November are a bountiful time for book releases, with new works from Alan Moore, Connie Willis, Christopher Priest, Ken Liu, Margaret Atwood, and Fran Wilde, to name just a few. Clear some space in your schedule, and on your shelves—you’re going to need it.

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A clean slate for commenting on today’s session.

The Big Book of Science Fiction, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Vintage 978-1-101-91009-2, $25.00, 1,176pp, tp) July 2016.

In their Introduction to The Big Book of Science Fiction, editors Ann & Jeff VanderMeer note that they’re dealing with 20th-century fiction that ‘‘depicts the future, whether in a stylized or realistic manner’’ – emphasis theirs – and the breadth of the definition proves to be crucial. They link SF to the conte philosophique (thought experiment as fictional adventure), reevaluate pulp (‘‘never as hackneyed or traditional or gee-whiz as it liked to think it was’’), and trace a great flower­ing to the ’50s, where the lack of a ‘‘unifying mode or theme’’ allowed writers to ‘‘climb even farther up the walls of the world.’’ The arena continues to expand in the next decades: ‘‘While the New Wave and feminist science fiction were playing out largely in the Anglo world, the international scene was creating its own narrative.’’

Narratives also run through this anthology (just under the surface). Though presented in order of publication, these stories were cho­sen for continuing relevance and arranged to interplay like voices in a great conversation: shifting and offering new insights.

The key role of perspective appears immedi­ately, as ‘‘The Star’’ by H.G. Wells moves from a major tragedy on Earth (cometary near-miss whose dire effect resembles the worst predic­tions for a warming climate in this century) to a Martian coda where ‘‘very different beings from men’’ see less change than expected – showing ‘‘how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.’’

Long after the scientist in Alfred Jarry’s ‘‘El­ements of Pataphysics’’ shrinks down to the size of a mite to explore a water drop, there’s an odd flicker of déjà vu in the water world of ‘‘Surface Tension’’ when James Blish uses ‘‘pantropy’’ to bioengineer miniature colonists from human cells, then follows generations to the cultural apex of something resembling space flight (writ small in this tale from the early ’50s, its true purpose almost forgotten).

Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘‘The Man Who Lost the Sea’’ (1959) splits a doomed explorer into the trapped body of ‘‘the sick man,’’ and a mind in turmoil: ‘‘Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running…’’ back toward Earthly oceans. When the parts reunite (scrabbled together a few million miles from home), the joy is bittersweet. In ‘‘The Astro­naut’’, a Soviet-era work retranslated here by Jack Womack, Valentina Zhuravlyova calls the science behind such episodes Astropsychiatry, as a ship doctor does research in an Archive of Space Travel and learns about the captain of an ancient expedition to Barnard’s Star.

Once again the VanderMeers take us (‘‘on­ward, ever onward!’’, as that captain cries): from his choice on an alien planet to events on another strange world in Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘‘Vaster Than Empires and More Slow’’. Where Zhuravlyova notes that the long tedium of space­flight calls for candidates with ‘‘hobbies’’ to keep them sane, Le Guin starts by forthrightly declaring all starship explorers mad, but each probes deep enough into a crew member to show obsession that saves an imperiled mission.

I’ll end these ‘‘dialogs,’’ sampled from the abundance in The Big Book of Science Fiction, with Michael Bishop’s ‘‘The House of Com­passionate Sharers’’ and Greg Bear’s ‘‘Blood Music’’. Both explore the madness when body meets machine: Bishop with a droid counterpart to a picture conceived by Oscar Wilde, Bear in a devious feat of bioengineering where every cell develops a mind (and music) of its own.

Read more! This is one of many reviews from recent issues of Locus Magazine. To read more, go here to subscribe.

And a tab for Saturday in Kansas City…

Adding a modest island for comments using my Kindle.

For comments on the Friday Business Meeting.

Fans of ‘Harry Potter’ have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Aside from the premiere of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them‘ (screenplay by JK Rowling), they also have the ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ play they can go see or read the new book based on the play […]

Read original article at: Hogwarts And All: JK Rowling Announces 3 New ‘Pottermore Presents’ eBooks Coming In September!

Science Fiction

The Fireman, Joe Hill (William Morrow 9780062200631, $28.99, 768pp, hc) May 2016.

The Fireman, Joe Hill’s big new novel, is a freight train of a book. Long, composed of many sections, it’s already in motion on the first page, and it does not let up until the very end. Its premise is straightforward: a plague is spreading around the world. The infection’s scientific name is Draco incendia trychophyton, but its popular name, Dragonscale, hints at its nature. After it manifests on the skin as a pattern of black and gold scales, the infection causes its victim to burst into flame an indeterminate – but not terribly long – time after. Its origin is uncertain, as is its means of transmission. There is no effective treatment for it, and it is spreading relentlessly. In the face of its advance, nations strain to cope, and the fear Dragonscale evokes leading governments – and increasingly, groups of frightened citizens – to more and more extreme measures.

This is apocalyptic stuff, a scenario for a wide-ranging narrative with a generous cast of characters (think The Stand, Lucifer’s Hammer, Swan Song). Joe Hill, however, chooses to eschew this approach, opting to focus on a single character coping with this end-of-the-world situation within a localized setting. His protagonist, Harper Grayson, née Willowes, is an elementary school nurse in Portsmouth NH, with a fondness for Mary Poppins. She’s married to a somewhat self-centered man, Jakob, a failed writer and something of a snob with whom she nonetheless manages to maintain a successful relationship. As the Dragonscale epidemic ex­pands to Portsmouth, Harper leaves her position at the school to work at the local hospital, which she must do from inside a bulky hazmat suit. It is while on duty at the hospital that Harper first encounters the eponymous Fireman, when he’s standing in line holding a young boy he insists requires urgent attention. The nurse in charge of the line demands the increasingly irate man wait his turn, but Harper realizes the boy in his arms is using sign language, and through her rudimentary grasp of it is able to diagnose him as likely in need of an appendectomy. This earns her the Fireman’s gratitude.

The next time Harper sees him for any length of time, she is desperately in need of the Fireman’s assistance. She has manifested the Dragonscale tattoo, and around the same time has discovered that she is pregnant. Bolstered by reports of infected women who have delivered uninfected children, Harper’s inclination is to continue forward with the pregnancy. For her husband, though, the only course of action left is for the two of them to commit suicide, opt out of the catastrophe in which they’ve found themselves. When Harper refuses, Jakob resorts to violence, breaking into their house and threat­ening her with a pistol. Her escape from him is aided by the timely intervention of the Fireman, who reveals himself to be possessed of a fantastic power, the ability to produce and control flame, which seems as if it must be connected to his case of Dragonscale, though in what exact way, Harper cannot guess.

Temporarily safe from the homicidal Jakob, Harper is brought by the Fireman to Camp Wyndham, a local summer camp on the Atlantic, not currently in use. Here, a group of infected women, men, and children have gathered to es­cape a world grown hostile and deadly to them. Within this sanctuary, the community has dis­covered something incredible: they can control their Dragonscale, prevent it from erupting into killing fire. By gathering together and singing, they can enter into a state they call the Bright, in which their markings shine but do not burn, and in which they seem to enter a low-level psychic rapport with one another. None of them displays the same powers as the Fireman, who lives apart from them on a small island just offshore from the camp. But for the moment, Harper – who has started to refer to herself by her maiden name, Willowes – feels safe. She is put to work by the camp as their nurse, a position she happily ac­cepts, and she participates in the group singing, quenching the Dragonscale’s immediate threat, and keeping her unborn child safe.

However, the novel still has a way to go. The name of the camp, Wyndham, is an early sign that it will not be the idyllic retreat for which Harper hopes. The allusion calls to mind the late English writer’s The Midwich Cuckoos, with its community of psychically powered children; it also evokes The Chrysalids, in which the obsession with genetic purity, and the horror of mutation, underpin the novel’s post-nuclear-war society. Even as the outside world turns to death squads to deal with the infected, the members of Camp Wyndham are drawn into a group mentality that is only partially explained through their communion in the Bright. Indeed, with alarming speed, the situation within the camp starts to mirror that outside it, as fear for personal safety leads those in positions of power to adopt ever more draconian policies, and those they are governing to embrace those policies with disturbing enthusiasm. Much of Joe Hill’s fiction, especially his longer works, has as its guiding principle the famous quotation from Walt Kelly’s Pogo: ‘‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’’ The novel makes early reference to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and its imagery of swirling ash recalls that awful day and others like it. It would be incorrect to read the novel as a simple allegory for the so-called War On Terror, but it would be equally remiss to deny any connection to it.

John Wyndham, though, is not the only writer to whom The Fireman alludes. Hill includes J.K. Rowling in a list of ‘‘Inspirations’’ he places at the beginning of the novel, and Harper and her friends make references to the characters and events in the Harry Potter series. Indeed, the novel might be seen as playing a kind of dark riff on Rowling’s novels, with Dragonscale filling the role of magical ability, and Camp Wyndham of Hogwarts – there is even a literal phoenix that appears at crucial moments. (And for those who want to continue with such parallels, the initials of Harper’s married name, H.G., match those of Hermione Granger.) But where Rowling’s work expresses a faith in the ability of communities to come together to resist and overcome evil, The Fireman is more pessimistic about such matters. In addition to Rowling, Hill nods in the direction of The Stand and the Dark Tower series, gives a cheeky shout-out to Margaret Atwood, debates the merits of the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, and celebrates the virtues of former MTV VJ Martha Quinn.

In the end, The Fireman demonstrates abundantly the strengths of the long novel. It immerses readers in a vividly imagined environ­ment, allowing them to develop relationships with compelling characters caught up in extreme situations, forced to make impossible decisions. Increasingly, Joe Hill has exhibited a facility with extended narrative, from the Locke & Key comics to his previous novel, NOS4A2. His new book joins what is already an impressive body of work, one whose characters continue to live in the mind long after the last page has been turned.

Harper, however, is wrong about the Rolling Stones.

Read more! This is one of many reviews from recent issues of Locus Magazine. To read more, go here to subscribe.

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood Press 978-1933846637, $16.99, 280pp, trade paperback) August 2016

Early Days: More Tales from the Pulp Era, by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean 978-1596067998, $20.00, 344pp, hardcover) August 2016

Pick one of your favorite deceased writers. The only criteria for the selection is that the person should be somewhat underserved by the historical record. In other words, no chatterboxes like Mark Twain or George Bernard Shaw or John Updike or Virginia Woolf, who left scads of personal information behind. Now imagine you could get a big new volume from your fave writer, a book that held the transcriptions of long conversations he or she had conducted with an intelligent and witty interlocutor. Conversations revelatory of both personal and literary history, evocative of a vanished era. Wouldn’t you be thrilled at this fresh insight into their character and career?

Well, future fans and critics and historians are going to be very glad that Alvaro Zinos-Amaro has compiled just such a volume with Grand Master Robert Silverberg. In the fine oral tradition exemplified by previous interviewers such as Charles Platt (Dream Makers) and Darrell Schweitzer (Speaking of the Fantastic), Zinos-Amaro probes his subject with well-educated, perceptive questions about everything under the sun, eliciting a telling verbal portrait of both men in the process.

The conversation flows like a natural convention-barroom gabfest, contoured more artfully by the intelligent direction of Zinos-Amaros’s questions. The easygoing readability of the dialogue derives in large part from the fifteen-plus years of friendship between the men. In any case, some segregation of topics has been achieved by division into seven chapters on various themes, such as “The Vividness of Landscape” and “After the Myths Went Home.”

We veer from the charmingly quotidian—at what hour the newspapers arrive on the Silverberg doorstep—to the loftily metaphysical: what are the meanings of age and time, where is the culture heading? Along the way, Silverberg offers commentary on his peers and literary ancestors—who was the greater writer, Balzac or Zola; who was more clumsy, HPL or ERB?—the state of world affairs, and the pleasures of carnality. Because these talks are all of quite recent vintage, we are getting the views of a Lion in Winter, the eighty-year-old who contains the fifty-, forty- and eighteen-year-old man within his current avatar. It’s a multiplex performance, touching in in its evocation of the Seven Ages of Man.

Zinos-Amaro generously throws open the floor to questions from “the audience.” He never insists on forcing the conversation down predetermined paths if more alluring detours arise. And he is utterly simpatico with his older peer. In short, this book is the next best thing to hanging out with Silverberg himself, and a vital addition to the historical record of our genre. We see a portrait of a fellow blessed with talent, morals, ironic humor and grand passion for this genre of ours.

Many kudos also to Patrick Swenson at Fairwood Press for making this happen.

* * *

The perfect companion to Traveler of Worlds is Early Days, a sequel of sorts to 2004’s In the Beginning, which brought us a healthy heaping of Silverberg’s earliest, never-before-reprinted sales. Now we get nearly a score more of these pulpish outings, along with copious story notes that vividly conjure up that brightly colored vanished era, retroactively perceived as a second Golden Age. The fascinating thing about these tales is how they look both backwards, towards the SF of the 1930s and 1940s, and proleptically forward, towards the more variegated and sophisticated stuff of the 1960s and 1970s. Trembling at the interface of change, they prove that the 1950s was indeed the pivotal decade which Gary Wolfe’s Library of America volumes adduce it to be.

As Silverberg himself notes, various themes and motifs recur among these selections, mainly thanks to their being deliberately tailored for various markets. The ones he was writing for Super-Science, for instance, all involve human missions to weird alien worlds, where unpredictable matters of biology and culture lead to disaster. “Slaves of the Tree” might be the standout in this category. As I mentioned, it looks backwards just a bit, to then-recent revolutionary work by Philip Jose Farmer (“Mother” and The Lovers) and, with its focus on exogamy, anticipates James Tiptree.

But young Silverberg ranged widely. “Puppets Without Strings” is an exercise in surreal solipsism worthy of Leiber or Heinlein or Dick. “Housemaid No. 103” might have come from the pen of Sheckley. A. E. van Vogt seems to have had a hand in “Six Frightened Men.” In short, the apprentice Silverberg can be seen channeling his influences while still putting a unique stamp of vision and personality on his narratives. And as he proudly affirms in his notes, his dedication to the nuts-and-bolts craftsmanship of storytelling is exemplary.

Silverberg also cites the fact that these beginner pieces show his mature themes in utero. A tale like “Waters of Forgetfulness,” wherein humans capitulate to the seduction of an alien environment, looks forward to a novel like Downward to the Earth.

Like his coeval Algis Budrys, Silverberg brought a more-educated, “Ivy League” background to a field formerly dominated by talented amateurs and technologically minded professionals. With role models like Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham, Silverberg lifted the bar for what SF could do. His role in elevating and transforming the art form is incontestable and mighty. They don’t hand out those Grand Master Awards for nothing, you know.

But perhaps even more important, these stories remain utterly entertaining. I only wish some of the crime tales which Silverberg alludes to had been included. But that might very well be another volume for the excellent Bill Schafer at Subterranean to produce!

Paul Di Filippo has been writing professionally for over thirty years, and has published almost that number of books. He lives in Providence, RI, with his mate of an even greater number of years, Deborah Newton.

Whether you read before bed, in the bathtub, during your commute or at the beach, Kobo wants to be there for you. The e-reader maker just released the $229 Aura One, a 7.8-inch waterproof slate that features a colored backlight for better nighttime reading. I’ve been trying to find time to read with an Aura One for the past week, and I have to admit the tub and bedtime friendliness of the device are huge benefits.

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