Oct 10th Crit Mass: Surprise & delight

The meeting in October is on  the second night of the new moon, a good time for discovery.  6:45 for a 7pm start to our discussion of sf& fantasy works.

For the October meeting, we invite you to tell us about a work of SF/Fantasy which surprised and delighted you.

It doesn’t have to be recent, nor need it be well known; we’re just curious about what excited you, and why. Come along prepared to talk for 5-10 minutes on this work.


An Interplanetary Romance, 1910

The restored 1910 Italian silent film Matrimonio interplanetario (“Marriage on the Moon”) is now online. Its antique delights include a very strange space launch facility that looks suspiciously like a samovar or maybe an espresso machine.
—  from File770 (item 19)


Domestic Space Opera?

Foz Meadows: I honestly think you can’t have good SF without a degree of domesticity. There’s something sterile to the environments so often preferred by hard and military SF, where everyone is in uniform without a hint of how they live outside of it, that forgets that, even in the far and dazzling future, people are still people. One of the clearest visual examples that springs to mind was the ship Serenity, in Firefly—that show had a lot of problems, but the decision to lovingly render the spaceship as a domestic environment wasn’t one of them. There were hand-painted signs on the metal that Kaylee had done, scenes of the crew cooking real food together as a novelty, or making Simon a cake out of flavoured protein for his birthday because they didn’t have anything else; the difference between Inara’s quarters, with its lush decorations, and Jayne’s wall of guns. The Radchaii love of tea in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is another example of this.

But again, I find myself at odds with the assumption that domesticity is frowned upon in space opera, given that its presence is, to me, one of the defining qualities that separates it from traditional, “masculine” hard and military SF….

— from “In The Far and Dazzling Future, People Are Still *People*”: A Round-Table on Domestic Space Opera featuring  Ann Leckie,  Jennifer Foehner Wells, Judith Tarr, Joyce Chng & Foz Meadows at Strange Horizons 27 Aug 2018

Atwood on writing The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood explains that she put off writing The Handmaid’s Tale for a year or two because writing speculative fiction seemed like a “risky venture.” Atwood describes the risks:

I’d read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I’d never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonize, a veering into allegory and a lack of plausibility.

She then goes on to explain the rules she put in place prior to writing The Handmaid’s Tale—rules designed to help her avoid the pitfalls that concerned her most.

If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.

from “What Writers Can Learn from Margaret Atwood’s New Introduction to The Handmaid’s Tale” by Jay Schiffman at tor.com

Dealing with problematic classics

[…] many other authors have used their fiction to interrogate and offer a corrective to the aspects of their chosen genre that should be questioned and addressed, and this has been a tradition of fantastic literature from early on. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels pushed back against the conception of the fantasy novel as violent quest, and also featured a dark-skinned protagonist in the first book, and a middle-aged woman as the central character of the fourth novel. Saladin Ahmed and N.K. Jemisin (among others) have pushed back against the idea that fantasy settings have to be Eurocentric just because that’s the traditional default. I’m currently reading The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn, which critiques and subverts the familiar post-apocalyptic narrative of humans collapsing into chaos, replacing it with an entertaining story about family, feminism, and the importance of community. There are also so many great feminist reimaginings or reinterpretations of fairy tales and folklore (by writers like Robin McKinley and Angela Carter, to name just two).

— from “Problematic Classics: Four Questions to Ask When Beloved Books Haven’t Aged Well” by Matt Mikalatos at tor.com

The Joy of the SF Novella

For most of their existence, SFF novellas have been trapped in monthly magazines and anthologies, where only a fringe readership could visit them (along with short stories, but those babies can also live free in dedicated collections). At least, until Tor.com Publishing came along and liberated the novella, putting slender volumes in the hands of readers everywhere. In four years, they’ve published on the order of 100 and seem to announce new ones weekly, from a catholic stable of worthy practitioners. In 2016, capitalizing on the surge, Saga Press published the collected novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin. Last year, my local indie bookstore started populating a whole shelf with “Sci-Fi Novellas We Love.” All of a sudden, it was hip to be spare.

The form, after all, honors the genre: The novella traces its origins to fairytales and morality plays. Proto-fantasies, basically. In that sense, Tolkien’s world-building was never native to the genre. He simply blew up the balloon.

A balloon which is now about to burst. More than ever, successful world-building seems to require of creators a transmedia commitment to spin-offs and prequels and various other increasingly extraneous tie-ins like comic books and card games. Consumers are rightly overwhelmed. The joy of the sci-fi novella, by contrast, is in its one-off-ness, its collapsed space, its enforced incapaciousness. Authors can’t indulge family trees or maps; they must purify their storytelling. One or two main characters. A single three-act quest. Stark, sensible rules.

Jason Kehe, “The Rise of the Sci-Fi Novella: All the Imagination, None of the Burden”, wired.com



Crit Mass Aug 1st: Online novellas

Following on from our earlier discussions over the growth of the novella, we thought we’d explore the growth of online magazines, and the kinds of novellas being published recently. (Novella is a story between 17,500 and 40,000 words [Hugo Award definition]).

Accordingly, we invite you to read a couple of novellas from one or more recent issues (2018) of one or two of these online magazines, make notes on anything interesting, and be ready to discuss the state of the novella in SF today.
Online magazines:

As usual, 6:45 for a 7pm start at kappys, 22 Compton St, Adelaide. All welcome.

2018 Mythopoeic Award Winners

 The Mythopoeic Society announced the 2018 Mythopoeic Awards winners at Mythcon 49, held July 20-23, 2018 at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta GA.

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • WINNER: Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, John Crowley (Saga)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • WINNER: Frogkisser!, Garth Nix (Scholastic)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

  • WINNER: The Inklings and King Arthur: J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, & Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain, Sørina Higgins (Apocryphile)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

  • WINNER: Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction, Michael Levy & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)

For the full list of nominees and winners, go to Locus Online

World Fantasy nominations

The World Fantasy Award Administration has announced the World Fantasy Award nominations for 2018. Nominations came from two sources. Members of the current convention as well as the previous two were able to vote two nominations onto the final ballot. The remaining nominations came from the panel of judges, David Anthony Durham, Christopher Golden, Juliet E. McKenna, Charles Vess and Kaaron Warren.
The awards will be presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland.


For 2018, the Life Achievement Award will be presented to:

  • Charles de Lint
  • Elizabeth Wollheim


  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley (Saga Press)
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (Saga Press)
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (Bond Street Books CA/Knopf US/riverrun UK)
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau/Canongate Press UK)
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee (Orbit)

— visit file770.com to see the the rest of the full list of nominees


A Freebie from Tor.com

On Friday, July 20, 2018, Tor.com turned 10 years old.

rocket-fuel-cover_cropIn that time they published, along with over 700 pieces of original fiction, more than 30,000 articles. To commemorate this exceptional, intense, unicorn-dappled run of non-fiction, Tor have released Rocket Fuel, a freebie collecting of some of the best feature articles from Tor.com’s 10-year span online. Get it from amazon, barnes & noble, or ibooks.