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July 2020 in Review

2 Aug, 2020

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July 2020

21 books read. 11.5 by women (55%), 8.5 by men (40%), 1 by a non-binary author (5%), and 9 works by POC (43%)

Year to Date

147 books read. 78.5 by women (53%), 59 by men (40%), 6 by non-binary authors (4%), 3.5 by unknown (2%), 57 works by POC (39%)

Charts below cut

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Books Received, July 25 — July 31

1 Aug, 2020

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MAN OR MACHINE?

Tell new intriguing science fiction stories with M‑SPACE Companion. 

Create sidekick droids and AI villains with rules for robots and artificial intelligence. Or play as a robot. 

Make powerful characters with the latest cybernetic implants. And try the cutting-edge Q Tech implants, bordering on magic. 

Learn about your characters’ former lives in the Origins chapter, or breach security with the new rules for hacking. 

A failed cybernetic experiment hides behind the blast doors at the bottom of a mineshaft. Find out more in the scenario Escape on Mosek Uhn.

Escape from Mosek Uhn

This is what you get:

  • Rules for modular robots, both humanoid and simple droids. 

  • Cybernetics, with implants and body part replacements. 

  • The almost magical Q Tech implants. 

  • Rules for detailed character backgrounds. 

  • Computers and hacking. 

  • Scenario: Escape From Mosek-Uhn. 

  • Updated character sheet.

And, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to download the seven additional Origins tables in the free Companion Addendum. Available from FrostByte Books’ webpage.

Along with the Companion, Circles of Steel contains 13 organisations for robots and cyborgs. Tailored for the Companion, Alex Greene has crafted a versatile set of Circles, easy to use in any campaign. The PDF is a Pay What You Want title.

M‑SPACE is needed to make full use of the Companion, but it is compatible with most d100 games.

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Books Received, July 18 — July 24

25 Jul, 2020

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Forty years ago, Champions: the Super Roleplaying Game was inspired by off-the-leash newsstand comics full of weird and headstrong creators. No one knew where a story was going, and what heroic” meant changed constantly. That’s why it was the first role-playing game to hand you and a few friends a creative studio, rather than a constructed genre package.

This book presents an exploration of those first-generation texts as envisioned and redesigned by Ron Edwards, long-time Champions player, co-founder of the Forge, publisher at Adept Press, and author of diverse role-playing games. It contains all of the rules you need to create and play any hero and villain you can think of, procedures for the Now so your play-experience is a cutting edge rather than a railroad; and a nonstandard, in-depth examination of superhero comics informed by professionals and insiders.

Like the original game, this one isn’t a setting or a quantitative breakdown of a genre. It’s for your own superhero comics experience. However you want it! Silly or not silly, cool or not cool, retro or contemporary, appropriate or inappropriate, safe or edgy, relevant or not relevant. Never mind what some franchise pays for, what a fanbase demands, or what the experts pontificate about.

This is your studio. Let’s see what you make with it! 

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Books Received, July 11 — July 17

18 Jul, 2020

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In a single day and night of fierce fighting, the Archduchy of Mongaul has overrun its elegant neighbor, Parros. The lost priest kindgom’s surviving royalty, the young twins Rinda and Remus, hide in a forest in the forbidding wil marches. There they are saved by a mysterious creature with a man’s body and a leopard’s head, who has emerged from a deep sleep and remembers only his name. Guin.

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Books Received, July 4 — July 10

11 Jul, 2020

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There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. 

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison. 

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster. 

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Mist of Time: Lost Voices

6 Jul, 2020

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Lost Voices was a series of reviews I did on rec.arts.sf.written in 2000, reviewing works by authors not now (well, then) producing new books. I have run the pieces through a spell-checker but for the most part otherwise left the reviews as they were, spotty research, mid-sentence parentheticals, insufficient grasp of paragraph structure and all.

The series taught me that focusing on people whose careers have hit roadbumps is kind of a downer.

Lost Voices can be found here.

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Books Received, June 27 — July 3

4 Jul, 2020

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An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets.… From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico — fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

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Husbands of Science Fiction

3 Jul, 2020

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[Another piece tor dot com passed on]

Writers frequently marry other writers, but it is a lamentable fact that often fame descends more on one than the other. To address this injustice, I have put together a list of some notable husbands of science fiction.

The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

C. L. Moore needs no introduction, but her charming husband Henry Kuttner might. Impressed by Moore’s writing, Moore’s fan sought her out via an intermediary, an effort rewarded with marriage and even better, the chance for Kuttner to partake in his spouse’s talent. Thanks to the couple’s habit of poorly documented collaboration, it’s often difficult to untangle who wrote which pieces published under their entangled bylines. Nevertheless, it’s widely agreed some of the stories that appeared under the Kuttner byline were solo efforts by Moore’s husband. If you can track down a copy of the collection Two-Handed Engine, I recommend it; if Kuttner’s work fails to entertain, the book includes lots of Moore’s pieces so your time will not be wasted.

Similarly, Leigh Brackett was in her day a household name for her SF and film work, but modern readers may be interested to know her hunky husband Edmond was also a writer. Although contemporary readers may find space operas” (a term inspired by the then-popular soap opera” radio shows) like Crashing Suns and The Star Kings unsubtle and dated, no Empire Strikes Back, but A for Effort.

When one says Vinge”, of course one thinks of Joan D. Vinge, the author of such works as The Snow Queen, Catspaw, and Eyes of Amber. Interesting, the former Mr. Joan D. Vinge also dabbles in science fiction, in works like The Witling, and The Peace War. Readers may see parallels between Vinge’s Heaven Belt and her ex-husband’s later Zones of Thought books, which just goes to show that men can write acceptable books, provided a woman is there to show them the way.

Judith Merril had many paramours1 and husbands; men often age badly, so replacing them frequently is simple common sense. A few of Merril’s boys were drawn into science fiction. Arm-candy Walter M. Miller, for example, penned the post-apocalyptic fix-up A Canticle for Leibowitz, widely regarded as a book. Former husband Fred Pohl found work in the field as editor and author; not bad for a fellow who was only married to Merril for about four years2. He even won a Best Fan Writer Hugo; below the fold but still a Hugo!

Perhaps the oddest example of male writers is Walt Richmond. Almost all of Leigh Richmond’s works were presented as collaborations with her husband Walt. Wife-spouse collaborations are nothing new; what catches the eye with the Richmonds was the means by which he contributed to the creative process. According to writer/critic Thomas Disch, Walt would would sit with a quiet smile on his lips and telepathically project his inputs to Leigh, who would translate them into their prose at the typewriter.” I have seen, but cannot now place my hands on, a further elaboration that Walt’s faith in his wife’s receptivity was such that he didn’t double-check the printed page that resulted. Well, presumably the arrangement pleased Leigh in some way.

1: The social customs of fandom at the time did not frown on serial assignations, provided the men had no legally designated guardians such as a mother or wife whose interests might placed at risk by male promiscuity. Indeed, it was not unheard of for a few soiled doves become long-term companions. 

2: Pohl collaborated on occasion with Science Fiction Showcase editor Mary Beyer’s fellow, Cyril. There are probably other examples of collaborating husband pairs in SF, although none come to mind just now. 

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June 2020 in Review

1 Jul, 2020

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June 2020

20 books read. 10.5 by women (53%), 8.5 by men (43%), 1 by a non-binary author (5%), and 7 works by POC (35%)

Year to Date

126 books read. 67 by women (53%), 50.5 by men (40%), 5 by non-binary authors (4%), 3.5 by unknown (3%), 48 works by POC (38%)

Charts below cut

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