Friday, August 30, 2019

New Books Spotlight

Welcome to another edition of the New Books Spotlight, where each month or so we curate a selection of 6 new and forthcoming books we find notable, interesting, and intriguing. It gives us the opportunity to shine a brief spotlight on some stuff we're itching to get our hands on.

What are you looking forward to? Anything you want to argue with us about? Is there something we should consider spotlighting in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Abercrombie, Joe. A Little Hatred [Orbit]
Publisher's Description
From New York Times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie comes the first book in a new blockbuster fantasy trilogy where the age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. 

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another… 
Why We Want It: I've been reading Joe Abercrombie since The Blade Itself was published by Pyr in 2006 and A Little Hatred may be an understatement. I expect a lot of hatred and a lot of violence and told in a way that only Abercrombie can.

Atwood, Margaret. The Testaments [Random House]
Publisher's Description
In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. 

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her—freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” —Margaret Atwood 
Why We Want It: It's the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale that we never knew to expect or that we wanted, though of course we wanted it.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. The Water Dancer [Random House]
Publisher's Description
From the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom. 

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen. 
Why We Want It: Coates is a noted writer and thinker and essayist and I have no idea if that will translate into a novel worth the pre-publication attention it has received - but it is a notable novel for all those reasons.

McGuire, Seanan. The Unkindest Tide [DAW]
Publisher's Description
Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg–October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally–tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim? 
Why We Want It: By the time this article goes live I will have finished The Winter Long, the 8th novel in the October Daye series. I absolutely love the October Daye novels and each one has been better than the last. I have some catching up to do.

Muir, Tamsyn. Gideon the Ninth [ Publishing]
Publisher's Description
The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead. 
Why We Want It: Gideon the Ninth is THE buzzed about novel in a year filled with incredible novels.

Pinsker, Sarah. A Song for a New Day [Random House]
Publisher's Description
In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection. 

In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough. 
Why We Want It: Pinsker is my favorite short story writer working today and A Song for a New Day is her debut novel. I can't wait to see what she does with the longer form.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday Morning Superhero

With the new Star Wars footage coming out of D23, I was excited to start prepping for the Rise of Skywalker by reading some good old Star Wars comics. While the buzz surrounding Rey and the lightsaber and the Mandalorian trailer was terribly exciting, the news that She-Hulk is getting her own Disney Plus series is what I am most excited about. 

Pick of the Week:
Star Wars Age of Resistance: General Hux #1 - I was extremely pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book.  I find Hux to be a highly entertaining character and wanted to learn more about this sniveling punchline.  Turns out his mom was a cook and he was conceived by an Imperial general and had a rough childhood. We learn this through a very quick flashback and then are treated to a delightful story that demonstrates how intelligent and utterly deplorable Hux is.  The tension between Hux and Kylo Ren is truly entertaining and I loved learning that one of the reasons Snoke keeps someone like Hux around is due to his blind ambition, even if those ambitions are for Snoke's title.

The Rest:
Captain America #13 - Sharon Carter, the Dryad, and the Daughters of Liberty are beginning the process of attempting to clear Steve's name through a series of good deeds. Nothing like a good PR campaign to clear the name of Captain America. When you are arrested for murder and then break out of jail, it will take a lot of good deeds in order to gain the public's trust. I am personally a fan of when comics get political and this issue took on issues surrounding the border and migrant workers. It was refreshing to see this handled with respect and is a PR campaign that would be effective for me. This seems like a bold move considering the actions that Mavel's CEO took surrounding the current political climate. I am excited to watch the PR campaign and curious to see if the Dryad and crew will be able to hold Nick Fury off long enough to clear Steve's name.

G.I. Joe #266 - I noticed that a new arc of G.I. Joe was starting so I thought it might be a good job to see what is happening in one of my favorite cartoons from my childhood. Overall the comic had some flaws and was hampered by some painful dialogue, the overall story has captured my attention and I am curious to see what is going to happen during this arc. Cobra has a grand plan of capturing and brainwashing the original Snake Eyes, in an attempt to turn him against Joe from a tactical and emotional standpoint. It was a wonderful nostalgic trip reading this book and the closing series of pages showing Cobra having set up shop in nice looking houses right outside of the military base.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Adri and Joe Talk About the 2019 Hugo Awards

The winners of the 2019 Hugo Awards were announced and we would like to offer a hearty congratulations to all of the winners. We've listed them at the bottom of this page and for those who don't quite remember who all was nominated (we were!), the previous link also includes the full list of nominees.

Joe: I know the idea is to actually talk about the Hugo Awards, and we will, but you went to Worldcon this year and (along with Phoebe Wagner) represented Nerds of a Feather at the Hugo Awards ceremony. Talk to me. How was it? Was it awesome?

Adri and Phoebe go to the Hugo Awards!
Adri: honestly I am still on a cloud about how awesome it was! I met so many cool folk, from our Phoebe to other fab reviewers and critics, to the crew of booksellers and publicists who make the whole literature thing happen to the actual names on my bookshelf! Apart from a few hiccups (many of which have been extensively documented on Twitter; I won't repeat them here) it was a brilliant experience for me from start to finish. I definitely feel lucky that I was in the right headspace to be able to take advantage as I know not everyone has the same reactions to crowds and strangers and packed schedules with high FOMO probabilities, but my overall feeling is overwhelmingly good.

Of course, the Hugo Ceremony itself was one of the big planned highlights of the weekend. Phoebe and I took representing duties very seriously though my mermaid glitter turned out to be pretty low key by Hugo fashion standards. Plus, getting to watch it all unfold right there was a huge change from usually not even being in the right timezone for the livestream. Of course, I was not too busy soaking in the atmosphere to form some Capital-O opinions!

Joe: That sounds absolutely delightful. I was able to attend last year in San Jose as part of a 3-4 day weekend vacation with my wife (and no kids!), but because of that I only did half of Sunday at Worldcon because the rest of my time was vacationing and touristing in San Francisco and in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park south of San Jose (which I highly recommend as being one of the most sublime experiences I’ve had).

Adri: I've been there too! Those were some good trees.

Joe: But let’s get to some of those opinions!

I know you and I disagreed on The Calculating Stars, but I was delighted to see it win. I think it’s a novel that will have legs in the genre, though perhaps it will never have quite the acclaim as something like The Fifth Season, which I feel confident in saying is an all time great novel. I do think the win was slightly telegraphed by Dr. Jeannette Epps presenting the award. An actual astronaut!

Also, did you get to meet an astronaut? That’s basically my life goal (and to get a picture with an astronaut). They’re the coolest!

Adri: I did not get to "meet" Jeanette Epps but I did sometimes stand very close to her. I did get to meet Geoffrey Landis, who was in front of me in the kaffeeklatsch queue getting super excited for another scientist's work (forgive me, I forget who!) I have no doubt your astronaut moment will come if more Worldcons happen in future, they seem to be becoming quite a fixture...

Joe: My biggest surprise is probably in Novelette. I did not see The Only Harmless Great Thing losing. It wasn’t my favorite, but I thought Bolander had it in a walk. I’d have actually put money on it (not a lot, I don’t gamble, but a little bit of money).

And as lovely as the novellas are, I’m a little tired of Murderbot already in regards to awards. All Systems Red won the Hugo and Nebula last year, Artificial Condition won the Hugo this year (and was a finalist for the Nebula) and, if you looked at the longlist stats, all three of the eligible Murderbot novellas had enough nominations to make the ballot - though an author can only have two stories in the same category, so Wells would have had to decline one. It was extremely gracious (and possibly somewhat strategic) for her to have declined both because that allowed both Nnedi Okorafor and P Djeli Clark on the ballot.

On the other hand, I kind of feel shitty complaining about Murderbot burnout because, until last year, Martha Wells has been functionally ignored by every major award for her entire career. She has more than earned her time in the spotlight and this opportunity to shine.

Adri: Murderbot was part of an interesting category in novella in that three of the finalists were direct sequels, to Hugo winning predecessors no less, and I think that made the category feel less fresh than it might have. I'm not disappointed to see Artificial Condition win, though, and while I might have preferred fewer sequels on the ballot there was nothing on the longlist specifically that I backed. I guess the rest of my favourites were way off...

Joe: I’m torn, because I love Beneath the Sugar Sky so much, but having the same series entries nominated every year leads to that same stagnation we see elsewhere on the ballot. To that point, I’m somewhat surprised to see Lois McMaster Bujold not make the ballot for The Flowers of Vashnoi, but the self published nature of those stories have a smaller reach despite her name and love within genre.

Adri: I was surprised in novelette too - I thought The Only Harmless Great Thing was easily going to take it, but Bolander seems to be Marmite to a lot of Hugo voters. I was also taken completely by surprise in short story, where I felt the two Fireside fiction published finalists - "STET" and "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" - had enough strength and momentum to take the category. That said, I've seen a lot of love for Harrow (and Cho!) since the announcement so there's that.

One thing which does strike me across all of these categories is that, compared to the sweeping wins for Jemisin, this feels like a safer set of fiction choices as a whole, and while I loved Zen Cho's unapologetically Asian imugi story and the wins for east and southeast Asian creators across other categories, I was otherwise a bit disappointed by the lack of diverse finalists taking home the very top award. I don't think it's an accident that Black narratives only won in Lodestar, where the environment around publishing is very different and the brilliant, boundary pushing but fundamentally mainstream Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse. The Calculating Stars is a strong book in many ways but it is part of a narrative that centres white responses to the struggles of people of colour, and seeing it win after 3 years of The Broken Earth trilogy does give me some mixed feelings.

Then again, it's so hard to have this conversation without implying that those who did win weren't Hugo worthy creators, which they definitely are! There are more things that could win than things that do, and it's impossible to extrapolate trends from one year alone (as we all keep explaining to the men rolling around on the floor in despair about women getting Hugos these days.) I just hope the recognition of Okorafor and Roanhorse and Jemisin and co wasn't a short-lived thing.

Joe: I did think “The Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” was a favorite for Short Story, but you can’t read too much into nomination stats for most categories. I don’t want to do that thing where you say “it’s just one year” because I do think there is something symptomatic about what sort of story tends to win.

It is part of what you’re seeing with The Calculating Stars. I unabashedly love the novel, and while I don’t agree with your criticisms, I do see how it can be viewed as a safe choice for Best Novel. It’s nostalgic while being modern. Or the other way around. I can’t decide.

The bigger disappointment, I think, is Dirty Computer’s poor showing. It had a small, but dedicated following - but it really wasn’t anybody’s second or third choice. It was first or nothing.

I do wonder if that’s some of what you’re seeing. Enough to nominate, but not enough broad enthusiasm.

Adri: I completely agree with Dirty Computer, which follows two years of Clipping’s entry into the category also being easily on the ballot, but then pushed to the bottom in final voting.

Joe: Speaking of broad support, Archive of Our Own won Related Work fairly handily.

Adri: Yes! That was a moment I wasn’t expecting (though for full disclosure, I personally put it a close second to Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding - yet another thing I voted for which ended up at the bottom of the rankings) but was incredibly well received and well-earned. AO3’s recognition has come through years of dedicated outreach and campaigning from fans (particular shoutout to Renay of Lady Business and Fangirl Happy Hour, without whom I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened!) and the fact that so many voters took it to heart and rewarded a project which has done so much for transformative fandom was wonderful to see. That said, I am ready to start seeing some cool academic-type works win in the category now.

I’ve hinted that a lot of my favourites ended up quite far down in the final rankings, which might not come as a surprise to those following my terrible nominations-to-ballot record this year. I did the maths and found that while I voted for more winners this year than I did in 2018 (3 vs 2, with Monstress involved both times), almost 50% of the stuff that I picked first came either 5th or 6th in the final tally. I’m not sure what that says about my tastes or the finalists, other than that there are nearly always six Hugo worthy things in every category and coming last among the top six of the year isn’t actually a bad position (though, like winning silver at the Olympics, I respect that it’s a placement that comes with mixed emotions for most people). But there is a small piece of me that just wants to gesticulate wildly like that Will Smith meme at these people and institutions doing amazing work who I want to see celebrated with the wild flurries of glitter and trophies instead of being “almost but not quite”.

On the subject of things that kind of were expected, we saw a 4th win in a row for Uncanny Magazine, and a 16th Hugo for Gardner Dozois which felt more like a “career topper” than an award for outstanding editing in 2018 (in a category with some amazing new voices, no less).

Joe: If we’re talking about things I’m shocked came in last, Alec Nevala-Lee’s is exactly the thing the Hugo voters traditionally love and despite the ranging support of AO3, I can’t imagine an awards year where Astounding isn’t ranked 1 or 2 on almost every ballot. I suspect you’ll have some thoughts on Jeannette Ng’s Campbell speech, but in that light, maybe the same people angry about Ng’s statement on John W. Campbell are the same ones who could not see past Nevala-Lee’s honest and unblinking look at who Campbell was to recognize how foundational a biography Astounding is for our genre.

One thing I wonder about is the idea of recusal as a matter of Hugo tradition. I’m not going to dig them out, but there have been instances of finalists recusing themselves from consideration in a category in a particular year going back to the early days of the Hugo Awards. I appreciate that recusal is a tradition down the ballot in the fan categories where we live. I appreciate that in recent years we’ve seen recusal from Lady Business immediately following their first win and File 770’s permanent recusal following Mike Glyer’s win in 2018. That with Glyer’s 12th Hugo Award on 57 nominations.

The other end of that forked trail is David Langford’s 29 Hugo Awards across 55 nominations. There was a time when Best Fan Writer might as well have been named Best David Langford, and that’s not good for the health of a category regardless of the quality of Langford’s writing. There is a sense of institutional stagnation in some of the down ballot categories where you’ll see the same names nominated over and over again. Obviously, Nerds of a Feather has been a beneficiary of this over the last three years. Another beneficiary of this is Uncanny Magazine, which has now won Best Semiprozine four years running.

I’m not here to say that Uncanny should recuse themselves permanently, but at some point a question should be asked about what dominance means to the health of the category and Semiprozine moves on from one time being the Hugo Award for Best Locus and now becomes the Hugo Award for Best Uncanny.

Adri: While I’ve vacillated on this a bit, I now feel quite strongly that there shouldn’t be pressure on Uncanny to recuse, temporarily or permanently. While their back-to-back wins do make the category feel a bit stale, Uncanny isn’t just the Thomases and Michi Trota, but a magazine that’s made up of staff who change year on year, some of whom (for example the Disabled People Destroy SF team) were up for the first time in 2018. Likewise, next year, I assume the Disabled People Destroy Fantasy team will be on their list if nominated (as I expect them to be!) I completely respect that those editors are considering the recognition of their team over a more nebulous “health of the category” argument - not that I’m not very sympathetic to that, but I think it’s on voters to decide whether to take it into account, not the finalists themselves (and the fact that voters, as a collective, aren’t doing that means that maybe the staleness isn’t a problem to many people?)

Joe: I think it’s obvious that staleness isn’t a problem to most voters - and to a point it makes sense because people read what they read and in the case of magazines, may not continue to seek out new stuff. Hey, Uncanny is probably the best damn magazine in the field right now, it has more than earned its reputation, and if you’ve got limited time to read all the books AND all the stories, maybe you’re not picking up FIYAH (which you should) - but if we’re in the practice of giving out legacy awards, maybe this would have been a nice year for Shimmer (which I’ve read in the past, but not recently).

But if the voters *were* taking the health of the category into account, we wouldn’t have these side conversations and it wouldn’t be necessary to recuse or even discuss it. What we get, though, is the Best Locus and the Best Dave Langford and the Best Tor over at the Locus Awards, which has won Best Publisher for I don’t know how many years in a row now.

Adri: I didn’t even know who Dave Langford was until I looked him up about ten minutes ago, so there’s that…

I do agree with you on a personal level that it’s nice to see variety in winners, even in categories like Semiprozine where there’s a relatively small pool and/or little year-on-year change in the finalists. I will point out that “could this amazing magazine be… a little too good?” is a fantastic problem for the Hugos to have gone back to after recent events, though!

Joe: No argument. There are worse problems to have than excellence.

The only photo I took in the ceremony
Adri: Going back to Jeannette Ng’s speech - and to the reactions to the awards in general (can I just point out again that it was so amazing to be there) - I fully expect that that moment is what these awards are going to be remembered for, and that it’s going to spark off a full conversation about what exactly the new writer award should look like going forward. I was in a section of the audience where the excitement over her words and their delivery was totally universal - most of my row started crying at that point and didn’t stop until we were out of the auditorium - and it’s been interesting, though unfortunately not surprising, to see the backlash and the attempts to reseat the “authority” in the conversation among largely white male commentators who get to argue over the exact definition of “fucking fascist”. From where I was sitting (which was very very close) every word of that speech - up to and including the hat thing - was perfect and while I’m sorry that Ng is now going to have to deal with an unfortunate subset of the community, I’m very pleased that the conversation has been sparked by someone who I think represents the best of the genre now.

Joe: I am ready for that conversation, though probably as an outsider who doesn’t write fiction. I think Campbell is ripe to have his legacy wrestled with, and as in Alec Nevala-Lee’s excellent biography, it’s not going to end well. Campbell was a massive figure in the history of the genre, an important one, but he was a really shitty person and in celebrating new writers, we’re also celebrating his name. There are two friggin awards named after Campbell. We can maybe make it one. (Note: we had this conversation before THEY DID!)

Adri: My personal policy is that no awards should be named after people unless they’re Tamora Pierce, but I’m happy to take that under advisement.

Joe: The Octavia E. Butler Award has a nice ring to it.

Adri: With “So be it, see to it” inscribed on the trophy. That would be AMAZING.

Any final thoughts on this year’s winners, or near-misses? I’m happy to see not one but two Booktubers coming up through the longlist ranks in fancast - and of course our very own Paul Weimer broke into the longlist for fan writer (congrats again, Paul!)

Joe: I was so happy to see Paul’s name on the longlist!

Let’s start with the obvious, Nerds of a Feather took a tightly contested second place in Fanzine - our best showing yet! I was thrilled to see how well we did.

The Poppy War was the next runner up on Best Novel. That book is so good that my wife, who doesn’t read much secondary world fantasy read it and LOVED it. Oh, and a little bit out of the running but right behind The Poppy War was Blackfish City! I remember we decided earlier this year that Blackfish City was absolutely a Nebula novel but not a Hugo novel. It was closer to the ballot than I expected (and good on Sam J. Miller!)

I’ve been banging the drum for Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour series since I read Envy of Angels (People! Read those books!) and I was excited on Matt’s behalf that Sin du Jour made the long list for Best Series. I don’t think the books have received the sales or acclaim they deserve, so this was a small victory.

My one small bit of disappointment was that Feminist Futures didn’t crack the long list for Related Work. I remain so proud of the work the team did on that project. I think it is one of the best things we’ve done on Nerds of a Feather. I tried so hard to get the word out for Feminist Futures, but we didn’t even get on 20 ballots for the long list. Alas.

Adri: Luckily for everyone who missed out on reading us in time for a Hugo nomination, that series is still all available to appreciate. And chances are there will be more projects from us in future… (rubs hands together in slightly manic glee)

As you note, though, there’s just so much excellence out there at all stages. If that’s how good the longlist is, imagine the quality of the long long list! And, once again, getting those juicy juicy statistics was almost as exciting as watching the winners be announced (though less so this year because, as I might have mentioned, I got to go to the ceremony. Did you know that?)

Joe: It is a really cool thing to go to the ceremony. Getting to go last year was amazing and a delight and I was there for N.K. Jemisin’s speech - which was *also* amazing.

Adri: So exciting! Thanks as always for the conversation. Next stop, the 2020 nominations...

Joe: The Hugo Awards are eternal. I have always been thinking about the Hugo Awards.


The Winners in Full:

Best Novel: The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

Best Novella: Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells ( Publishing)

Best Novelette: "If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again", by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)

Best Short Story: "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies". by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series: Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work: Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization of Transformative Works

Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)

Best Editor, Short Form: Gardner Dozois

Best Editor, Long Form: Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist: Charles Vess

Best SemiprozineUncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine: Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, & Susan

Best FancastOur Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders

Best Fan Writer: Foz Meadows

Best Fan Artist: Likhain (Mia Sereno)

Best Art Book
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng

Posted by:

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Nanoreviews: Song of Blood and Stone, Song of the Abyss, Nocturna

Penelope, L. Song of Blood and Stone [St Martin's Griffin]

I think this is a reading first for me: the version of the first book in the Earthsinger Chronicles I read is billed as an "expanded edition", adding substantially more text (around 50,000 words) and a secondary storyline to a novel which has previously had both self-published and traditionally published incarnations. Having not read the previous editions, I was slightly apprehensive about what these additions would do to the story structure and how to handle them as a reviewer, but I was rewarded with a book whose dual stories work well together in terms of pacing and complementary worldbuilding, and despite the fairly limited interactions between them, I wouldn't have known this was an "expansion" without the note in the title.

At the heart of the novel is the story of Jasminda, a mixed race woman living near the border between the lands of Elsira and Lagrimar, countries which have been in a magically-induced standoff for decades following open war. Looking Lagrimari and able to use "Earthsong", a kind of magic particular to that land, Jasminda is treated as an outside within her Elsiran community and following the death of her parents she's now struggling to maintain control of her family's land in the face of greedy distant relatives. When a group of Lagrimari soldiers show up, assuming by Jasminda's presence that they're in their own country and bringing a rather handsome and valuable prisoner with them, Jasminda is thrown into unfolding events between the two kingdoms, with epic results.

Song of Blood and Stone took a while to get going for me, and it wasn't until the second half, when Jasminda and Jack arrive at the capital of Elsira and some fairly significant plot shifts (and romance progressions) take place, that I started to wholeheartedly enjoy the reading experience. Once I got there, though, I found this to be a satisfying fantasy romance which leans into its tropes effectively, while still providing a novel worldbuilding backdrop for its protagonists to grapple with. Particularly neat were the opening sections to each chapter, which build an animal-based mythological pantheon for Elsira through snippets of different fables. Best of all, there's already a sequel available for those who enjoy this entry into the world of Elsira and Lagrimar.
Score: 7/10

Lucier, Makiia. Song of the Abyss [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

I picked up a copy of this under the impression that it was a standalone, but it quickly turned out that it's a sequel to 2018's Isle of Blood and Stone (yes, it's that similar to the title above - we may be reaching "noun of noun and noun" title saturation point, but I'm confident that they're quite different books!) Reading sequels before their predecessors usually sets off all the brain itches for me, but I'd got far enough into Song of the Abyss, and satisfied myself that the plot, with its significant time skip, didn't require knowledge of the previous book. Plus, I was really into it. So I kept going.

And I'm glad I did! Song of the Abyss follows Reyna, a young woman apprenticed as an explorer on the island kingdom of St. John Del Mar: a seafaring society where this is both a highly prestigious and also highly masculine career. Reyna returning from a mission which she hopes will allow her to become a Master Explorer at an almost unprecedentedly young age, when her ship is attacked by a mysterious force which kills a few of the crew but leads to the complete disappearance of the rest. Barely escaping and harnessing a couple of sea creatures to take her to a nearby island (a slightly left-field development which doesn't really get explored any further, but OK!), she's rescued by a (handsome, yes, why do you ask) prince and, after a few shenanigans, ends up on a collaborative mission to a secretive faraway land.

What follows is a fun adventure which really allows its characters to shine. Reyna in particular is a great protagonist, whose supportive found family on her island and on the ship make for a great contrast to some of the wider social forces she's struggling against. The one awkward note here is in its treatment of the aforementioned faraway land, whose culture is never given the nuance to rise above "glorious but brutal empire", with a lot of real-world references to imperial China thrown in. There's enough variation in the characters from this place, and their feelings about the more problematic traditions of their country, that it doesn't come across as wholesale stereotyping, but it's still a frustratingly problematic note in a book that's otherwise full of benevolent monarchs of western-inspired cultures. Despite that, Song of the Abyss ticked a lot of my boxes and I'll definitely be going back to the first book in the series at some point.
Score: 7/10

Motayne, Maya. Nocturna [Hodder & Staughton]

Motayne's book isn't actually YA, but with its young protagonists and the tropes behind its dissatisfied-prince-meets-wily-thief narrative, it's definitely in that "crossover" space. It's a story whose worldbuilding draws on Latinx culture, with a colonial history for Castallan, the land where the action is set, and regular use of Spanish vocabulary within the story's dialogue and concepts. Nocturna also builds a magic system which gives each character a unique, inherent propio or magical talent, alongside a learnable system of elemental manipulation and other skills, with interesting results. The story focuses on Alfie, or Prince Alfehr, a learned prince who is grappling with the recent disappearance of his older brother in an attempted coup; and Finn, a thief whose propio is face changing and who is attempting to escape an abusive past. Together, they fight dark magic - and occasionally each other.

Nocturna takes a while to get its pieces in place, setting up its "unlikely" (though not to anyone who reads this sort of fantasy) pair to meet while pursuing their unrelated problems first, before bringing them together again and kicking off the main plot in a way that had me reaching for the "that escalated quickly" gif more than once. Despite a sticky couple of chapters where that main plot gets pulled into place, and an antagonist who plays the "I have you beaten but I'm going to let you go in order to toy with you again next time" card a little too liberally, Nocturna offers a great adventure and satisfying arcs for both Alfie and Finn, offering some great set pieces (the prison break is a particular highlight) and building their relationship in a really sweet way. Although it wraps up quite well, there's plenty of stuff left hanging for a sequel, and I'd love to see this refreshing fantasy build into a full series of adventures that flesh out the world of Castallan further.
Score: 7/10

POSTED BY: Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far

Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.

Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…

Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?

Joe: There have been some big books with a lot of pre-publication buzz, but This Is How You Lose the Time War really snuck up on me. I haven’t read it yet, but there’s no doubt that I need to.

Adri: I think we’re just on a countdown until that wins all of the novella prizes next year, to be honest. (Team Blue for the win!)

Joe: Wait, that’s a novella? I had no idea.

Paul: Is it just a novella in length? It did go quickly. This reminds me of when Brooke Bolander kept saying “What you think is a novella is really a novelette” with respect to The Only Harmless Great Thing.

Adri: In non time war news, though, it’s been an extraordinarily good year so far. My year in 2019
started off with an absolute bang with The Raven Tower and A Memory Called Empire, which I thought would set an unreachable bar for a lot of subsequent fiction - which a lot of stuff then met in style! Most recently they've been matched by Silvia M-Gs gods of Jade + shadow which ticked so many of my personal boxes for great characters and quest narratives and mythology and really stayed with me after I finished.

What have been the highlights of your year so far?

Joe: My top, absolute favorite so far is Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. It’s sooooo good and I have a difficult time imagining anything surpassing it. This isn’t an original thought (rather, the most common comparison), but there is a direct line from Starship Troopers to The Forever War to Old Man’s War right through to The Light Brigade and I think it has a real chance to hold up as part of that legacy of top notch military science fiction. It’s also probably as commercial as anything Hurley has written, not that that has anything to do with how good it is.

Adri: I was impressed by The Light Brigade too! As you say it's a book that's in conversation with a lot of previous mil-sf and it's also accessible - no small feat for a book with such a complex time travel element.

Paul: For me this year, there has been a strong mix of second books in series that have really worked for me. I thought Children of Ruin was a really strong sequel to Children of Time. A Choir of Lies is an amazing deconstruction of A Conspiracy of Truths. The Hound of Justice really followed up well on A Study in Honor. Queen of Crows is a deep, strong continuation of the world and central character of The Armored Saint. Priest of Lies is a deep and interesting followup to Priest of Bones. The Dragon Republic is a fantastic and unflinching sequel to The Poppy War. There are plenty of first in a series or first author books, too, but it’s the avoidances of the Sophomore Slump that strikes me this year.

Joe: Another novel I found exceptionally strong was The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders. My expectations were already high after All the Birds in the Sky, but Anders exceeded them anyway. The City in the Middle of the Night reminds me of a novel Ursula K. Le Guin might have written, in the best possible way.

Also of note is Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. McGuire is a consistently excellent writer, but Middlegame is a notably ambitious novel and she absolutely nails it.

Paul: I need to read that, too.

Adri: in sequels, I was really impressed by "The True Queen" by Zen Cho, and "Winter of the Witch" by Katherine Arden was a really powerful close to the Winternight trilogy. I also really enjoyed “Glass Cannon”, the follow-up novella to the Machineries of Empire trilogy in Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate Stories, which brought back the best of the Cheris - Jedao dynamic with a rather different power dynamic to the original book.

Adri: Is there anything in particular that’s been on the “I should really read that next” TBR for a ridiculously long time for you? This year I have been in all the charity shops and book sales, stocking my physical TBR after a long time without easy access to english language books and… it might be becoming a problem…

Please also note that this picture was taken before Worldcon, and I’m not letting you see what happened next

Joe: I’m doing fairly well with my Most Anticipated list, though A Memory of Empire is probably the one novel that didn’t make the list that could have / should have and hits that mark. But really it’s Elizabeth Bear. I have Ancestral Night and The Red-Stained Wings on my night stand and I really, really need and want to read those. Bear has been one of my favorite authors for a long time now.

Paul: No worries, Joe, I have The Red-Stained Wings still sitting as yet unread on my pile, too, and
as above, again, that’s a second novel in a sequence. Also Storm of Locusts is mocking me from Mount TBR as is The Jade War. Books keep slipping and slipping as (no complaint) more and more interesting books keep showing up at my door, one way or another. The Gutter Prayer, the later novellas of JY Yang, Sherwood Smith’s The Sword of Truth, Gareth Powell’s Fleet of Knives, and a whole bunch of others. And given that the next book I am going to pick up is another ARC for a book coming out in a few weeks...I am not helping my cause.

Joe: You should absolutely read Jade War and Storm of Locusts. They’re as good as you want them to be.

Adri: I'm up to date with my Elizabeth Bear reading, and both are super strong - Ancestral Night in particular is a book that I hope is going to make a huge splash.

Not featured in my book pile of shame is my ebook of Air Logic, the long-awaited close to Laurie J. Mark's elemental logic series. I haven't been waiting as long as some as I only picked up this series a couple of years ago, but I'm looking forward to finally seeing this very unconventional series about the aftermath of invasion and political upheaval, with all its big non traditional family caring structures, come to a conclusion.

Paul: So let me ask the next question: What has been the most surprising and unanticipated books this year? Books that went a hard left when you expected a right, or defied expectations one way or another? I myself was really moved by The Curious Case of Robert Heinlein. I learned a lot more than I thought and it made me reassess my thoughts about the man and his work. I didn’t expect that.

Joe: I absolutely did not see Caitlin Starling’s debut novel The Luminous Dead coming. It’s a novel of a caving expedition on an alien world and it’s tense and occasionally terrifying and it’s on my long list of the best novels of the year.

It is well established at this point that Publishing puts out excellent novellas. Look at the
Hugo Awards and marvel at their dominance. Up until this year I’ve read almost everything they’ve published with very few exceptions, but for reasons I’m off of my Publishing reading game this year. One that I read with absolutely no expectations was Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You, by Scotto Moore. Friends, it was delightful.

Paul: Publishing does have a hammerlock on the novella market for the most part. I do hope more publishers will challenge them, and they can challenge each other and elevate the form. I am in a place where I assume a novella is from Tor until I learn otherwise, but I think I see cracks in their wall (the aforementioned This is How You Lose the Time War, for example, is from Saga)

Adri: I don’t think it’s unprecedented for a single publisher to take up most of the space in a category
for a while, especially short fiction, and I do think that while has led a resurgence in the novella genre - especially for audiences who otherwise skew towards longer fiction - there’s plenty of both standalone and magazine-length novellas being published that I expect people will increasingly discover. As well as Time War, there's also Becky Chamber's To Be Taught, if Fortunate; I also think Glass Cannon has a decent shot at being one of next year’s contenders, and that’s a novella within a collection.

I’m not sure I’ve had any really big individual surprises this year so far - everything I’ve been looking forward to, I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve been looking forward to a lot. My most exciting discoveries have probably been in short fiction, where the likes of The Dark Magazine, FIYAH and Anathema have really expanded my definition of what good speculative stories look like. All are publications well worth your time and, like many short fiction venues, I don’t think they get the attention they deserve from the wider community.

On a genre-wide level, I’ve also been reading more YA this year than in the previous two, and while I definitely still consider myself an adult SFF reader first and foremost there’s some fantastic stuff being published especially in that space between YA and adult fiction that I’ve really enjoyed. Particular kudos goes to Hanna Alkaf’s The Weight of Our Sky, a historical fiction about Malaysia, and Makiia Lucier’s Song of the Abyss, which snuck onto my reading list despite being a sequel and promptly won my heart with its seafaring adventures and kickass ladies.

Of course, I’ve no doubt that many of my favourite books of 2019 are those I haven’t even got around to yet. And with that, I better go make a dent in this devastatingly handsome TBR pile. Thanks for the chat, as always!

Paul: Thank you both

Joe: Thanks and happy reading!

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke.

Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.

Friday, August 23, 2019

6 Books with Rhett J. Evans

Rhett Evans is a proud millennial, former journalist and U.S. Army infantry officer. He now works in the tech industry but divides his time shoveling dirt and taking care of animals at a half acre homestead in northern California where he lives with his wife and three kids.

He started writing stories on long commutes into work about two years and hasn't stopped since. Follow him at or

Today he shares his Six Books with us.

1. What book are you currently reading?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Maybe it’s all the promotion around the new Good Omens tv series, but as one of the only Gaiman novels I haven’t read yet, I now find myself with Neverwhere. Neil Gaiman’s customary mix of fantasy, horror and folklore propelled me into writing several years ago. My first manuscript, a story about a soldier deployed in Iraq and a murderous djinni (currently on the backburner), was heavily influenced by his style, and returning to Gaiman now is like settling into coffee with an old friend.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
This is a tough call because I’m also aching to read the next installment in [S.A. Chakraborty's] City of Brass trilogy, which is also a fantasy set in a non-European-style setting. I think it’s awesome to be a reader in a time when we’re finally getting a wave of diverse new fantasy worlds. And the first book set in Adeyemi’s African-inspired continent, steeped in magic and mired in racism, was deeply compelling.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch is really the modern master of using high science concepts to tell very human stories. And I envy him and hope to accomplish something similar with The Echo Chamber by marrying a plot about a broken relationship with virtual social media gone wrong. Basically, Dark Matter is almost a love story—“It’s a Wonderful Life” played out using quantum mechanics. I won’t spoil it, but the ending of this book is so maddening that I occasionally think about it and it makes my skin itch.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

There will be people who will hate me for saying it, but I didn’t love this book when I first read it. It’s eerie and calculating, and I found myself sitting there wondering why the author was telling us so much about the life of a washed up actor and an old comic book. But the entire time the author is painting a mood using an evocative landscape and characters wrestling with complicated emotions. It’s a dystopia, but the point of the story is not really about survival. And I know she did a good job because I still reflect on this haunting tale of Shakespearean actors trying to find hope and humanity in the remains of a ravaged Great Lakes region.

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

This is my favorite question because I get to talk about a lesser known book by C.S. Lewis that deserves way more appreciation than it gets! Perelandra is space opera folktale about the Garden of Eden. It asks the reader to imagine a universe populated by all forms of life, but only the Earth is uniquely “fallen.” It’s beautiful, heroic and surprisingly gritty at times, and it pushes spiritual thought into space where I think most religious people feel inherently squeamish. But at the end of the day, if your religion only makes sense when it’s bound singularly to planet earth, how can it be true?

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

The Echo Chamber by Rhett J Evans

I work in Silicon Valley, and I often find dystopian scifi to be wrongly preoccupied by fears of 1984-style surveillance or killer robots. I wanted to write something authentic to the actual culture here: what if companies like Facebook, not by any evil desire, brought about the end of the world simply by building products that people love too much? Virtual social media could give humanity the perfect echo chamber, a way for us all to un-diversify ourselves by showing us only content that we love, that never challenges us. There’s a love story in there too, and some light Groundhog Day time travel because I’ve always been obsessed with imagining what a person might do if they were faced with the prospect of repeating their life over and over.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thursday Morning Superhero

The big nerd controversy this week is the tangled web that still exists between Sony and Disney and Spider-Man. It appears that Disney has pulled Kevin Feige from the next film as Disney doesn't technically own the IP.  As nerds often do, they overreacted and will hopefully realize that there are concerns with the growth of Disney and the negative impact that can have on the television and film industry.  Don't get me wrong, I hope Spider-Man remains in the MCU as much as the next person and think he will, but I do have concerns with Disney seizing control of everything.

Pick of the Week:
Criminal #7 - Chapter three is off to a dark beginning that feels all too realistic given the current climate. This issue follows Teeg's son, Ricky, after he returns home after a stint in juvenile hall.  He is surprised to learn that his dad appears to have cleaned up his act, is with a younger woman, and moved the family to the suburbs. Juvie changed Ricky and he is currently an outcast amongst his group of friends and he no longer feels like a part of his family. I won't spoil the ending, but this series from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips has always felt incredibly real and poignant and it appears Chapter three will be no different.

The Rest:
Daredevil #10 - It has been interesting watching Matt Murdock struggle with his own identity. He can sense Hell's Kitchen falling apart all around him, but he isn't ready to return as Daredevil until he comes to terms with the fact that he killed someone. Toss in the crooked cop story and the pot starts to boil over in this issue, but in helping Detective North, he only made things worse for himself. Chip Zdarsky brings back a familiar face at the end of the issue that will definitely have a big impact moving forward.

Doctor Aphra #35 - After taking some time off from this series I decided to revisit it and there is a lot to take in.  Aphra is currently wanted by both the Rebels and The Empire because of a powerful Jedi artifact she stole. She does not want to turn it over to the Rebels as they plan on building a Death Star Jr. that would kill the Emperor, along with thousands of innocent bystanders. In turning herself over to the Empire in an effort to at least make it out alive, she is taken under the tutelage of Minister Pitina Voor, part of the propaganda and misinformation wing of the Empire. Turns out she wants to overthrow the Emperor and with Aphra being in known possession of the Empire Vader has his eyes sought on his former partner.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.