Unexpected Heart-Pounding Action-Adventure in Under 7,500 Words

I seem to have left the best for last in my Retro Hugo short fiction reading.  This morning, I started reading and could not stop reading “The Sunken Land” by Fritz Leiber.  His writing took me back to the days when I immersed myself in the writings of Robert E. Howard. And once I reviewed his mini-biography at Wikipedia, I understood why I felt that affinity: “With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber can be regarded as one of the fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, having coined the term.”

The Sunken Land” pulled me along for a ride with Fafhrd, leaving the Grey Mouser as a bookend to the story.  Leiber used a very active voice that left you no time to catch your breath from the first inhalation to the last gasp.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma in deciding which 1942 short story gets my top vote for the Retro Hugo Award.  I haven’t yet reread Asimov’s “Runaround” but I remember it being very good.  I will listen to it next week as an audiobook.  Before I read “The Sunken Land” by Leiber, I had planned on ranking “Runaround” as my first choice.  Then there’s also Clement’s hard science-fiction story “Proof,” which I read yesterday and ranked second after Asimov’s entry.  Both Asimov and Clement are the traditional science fiction types that are most often associated with a Hugo Award.  But my first love is fantasy and Leiber knows how to write a gripping tale.  I will have to ponder my vote and you will have to wait and find out until after I re-read the classic robot logic problem that is “Runaround.”


My Mini-Quest for a Retro Hugo Holy Grail

Earlier this month, I began the process of finding all the Retro Hugo Finalists short fiction selections in various anthologies through my wonderful local libraries and the miracle of the modern world commonly known as inter-library loan (ILL for short).  I requested the majority of the anthologies through my local home library in Lansing but the one I thought would have the least chance of fulfillment I requested through my other favorite library, the Kansas City Public Library.  Two of the short stories finalists for the 1943 Retro Hugo were only available in an anthology which was last printed in 1980.  I searched various websites that sell used books but as I suspected, any copies of Asimov’s The Great SF Stories 4: 1942 were hard to find and priced accordingly.  I should not have been surprised when I received an email from KCPL letting me know my ILL was ready for pickup at the Plaza Branch.  I took a quick break yesterday afternoon to retrieve it as well as another anthology that contains one of the best novel finalists for the 1943 Retro Hugo.

20180426_145654 Continue reading “My Mini-Quest for a Retro Hugo Holy Grail”

Reading the Best Novelette Finalists (2018 & 1943)

I predict it will take me longer to get through the Best Novelette category than any of the other short fiction categories.  Most modern novellas and some of the short stories are available in audio format.  Thanks to Heinlein’s continued popularity, most of his fiction is still in print and some of it, including “Goldfish Bowl,” has been re-released in an anthology that is also available as an audiobook.  The same can be said for Asimov’s Foundation fiction, which I own in ebook format but have requested the audio CD from my local library.

Another of my interlibrary loan requests arrived last week so I have everything I need to finish reading the finalists for Best Novelette.  I’m especially looking forward to reading the lone female author from 1942, C.L. Moore and do plan on reading the entire anthology žMiracle in Three Dimensions, which contains the nominated “There Shall Be Darkness” novelette (see original cover from Astounding Science Fiction below).

  • Update 4/17/2018:  Finished reading ‘Extracurricular Activities’ over breakfast this morning.
  • Update 4/27/2018:  This week I finished “The Secret Life of Bots” and “The Weapon Shop” and I’m reading “Star-Mouse” sporadically.
  • Update 4/28/2018:  Finished “Star-Mouse” which leaves one modern and one retro novelette to read.
  • Update 5/6/2018: Finished “There Shall Be Darkness” and on of the two Asimov Foundation novelettes.
  • Update 5/25/2018:  Finished the last 2018 novelette last week.

Continue reading “Reading the Best Novelette Finalists (2018 & 1943)”

Reading the Best Novella Finalists (2018 & 1943)

I desperately desire to reread All Systems Red, but I’m saving it for last.  And I don’t just want to re-read it, I want to experience it differently. I also plan to do the same thing with Binti: Home, which is available via Hoopla.  None of my local libraries have purchased the audiobook edition of All Systems Red, so I found it available at a very reasonable cost through the Downpour site.  I like their philosophy (see quote below), so I immediately signed up, not with a monthly membership, but just an account that will allow me to purchase DRM-free audiobooks.

We love books, and we believe that you should be able to enjoy your favorite book whenever, wherever, or whatever you are doing. Audiobooks allow that freedom.


Only two of the finalists for the 2018 Best Novella category are not available in audio format – And Then There Were (N-One) and The Black Tides of Haven – so I’ll be reading those via my tablet.  The other four I will listen to via Hoopla or Overdrive.

For the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists, I’ve now obtained all the necessary print edition anthologies and will work my way through them as carefully as I can (some of these books are quite old, held together with what looks like a book friendly duct tape but the bindings are nearly shot).  As of the writing of this post, I’ve already returned one of the two interlibrary loans I requested.

  • Update 4/19/2018:  Finished Lester del Rey’s “Nerves” no thanks to a torn/missing/damaged page (p. 90 to be specific) in the anthology Adventures in Time and Space, published in 1946 and being held together with library binding tap.
  • Update 4/27/2018:  Listened to All Systems Red and started reading The Black Tides of Heaven.  Also read The Compleat Werewolf which was much better than I anticipated.
  • Update 5/6/2018:  Read “Asylm” the week of 4/30/2018 which just leaves the two Heinlein novellas to read for the Retros.  I’m still slowly and sporadically reading “The Black Tides of Heaven.”
  • Update 5/11/2018: Finished reading “Black Tides of Heaven” this morning.  Last one is the 2018 finalists is “Down Among the Sticks and Bones” which I will listen to while travelling next week.
  • Update 5/25/2018:  Finished reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones earlier this week.   Also finished both Heinlein novellas – Waldo is forgettable but he made up for it with The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.

Continue reading “Reading the Best Novella Finalists (2018 & 1943)”

Reading the Hugo Best Short Story Finalists (2018 & 1943)

While I’m waiting on my interlibrary loan requests to be fulfilled for the 1943 Retro Hugo short fiction finalists, I’ve begun reading the current Hugo short fiction finalists, starting with the short stories.  These are easily completed during my lunch break or during half of my daily commute, if an audio edition is available.  As of Sunday morning, April 9th, I’ve only got one short story left to read.  I didn’t want to wait to post though so you’ll need to come back to this post to see how I rated it and what my preliminary voting order will be for my final ballot later this summer.  When I update this post, and the others like it that are forthcoming, I will make a brief update post linking back to the updated original post.

  • Update 4/9/2018: Read two of the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists and added comments below.
  • Update 4/14/2018:  Added links to my GoodReads mini-reviews.
  • Update 4/19/2018: Read the last of the 2018 Hugo Finalists (see list below)
  • Update 4/28/2018:  The final ILL arrived and I was able to read Clement’s “Proof,” which was surprisingly good (for early hard SF) and reminded me of one of my essay‘s from last semester’s Intro to Astronomy class.  DAW’s “Mimic” was to entomological for my tastes.  That leaves just one 1942 short story left to read.
  • Update 5/3/2018:  Finished off the short story finalists today by listening to Asimov’s “Runaround” through the audiobook edition of I, Robot.

Note on formatting of this post and those that will follow:  You’ll see a nested list with the first level being the title/author/publication/date published of the finalist entry.  The second level will be my comments, reviews and ratings.  The third level will be my preliminary ranked vote.  Here’s an explanation of the Hugo Voting System:

Many people find the Hugo voting system (called “Instant Runoff Voting“) very complicated. While the process is indeed involved, the basic idea is simple and the intention is laudable. Basically the idea is to make sure that the winner has majority support. In ordinary governmental elections it is possible for the winner to be someone that 40% of the people like and 60% of the people hate, because that 60% could not agree among themselves on a candidate. The Hugo voting system is designed to avoid results like that.

The Voting System, The Hugo Awards

Continue reading “Reading the Hugo Best Short Story Finalists (2018 & 1943)”

Annual Hugo Reading Bonanza Times Two

Last Saturday, the finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards were announced, along with the companion Retro Hugo Award finalists. So I get double the fun again this year, like I had two years ago. I already have read, borrowed or will son buy or borrow the finalists for the current awards. Finding the reading material for the Retro Hugos can often be challenging. To that end, I’ve requested five anthologies via interlibrary loans and have already placed on hold and borrowed two anthologies and two novels containing works originally published in 1942. My thanks to Auxiliary Memory‘s fantastic research in his post just one day after the announcement “Where to Read the 1943 Retro Hugo Short Fiction Nominees?

The biggest shock came when I retrieved my holds from the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch earlier this week. Two of the 1942 novels had arrived and I wished I brought a tote or backpack to help carry them. I really don’t mind reading tomes – epic fantasy is my bread and butter – but I’ve switched to ebooks which are infinitely less heavy physically speaking. When I went to the Holds shelf I groaned to see that Islandia by Wright was at least two inches thick and over a thousand pages long. Good thing I decided to start early on my Hugo finalist reading! Continue reading “Annual Hugo Reading Bonanza Times Two”

Daughter Featured at Contralto Corner

This post at Contralto Corner featuring my daughter became the high point of my evening.

I really need a Spring/Summer home in the Pacific Northwest so I can enjoy her live performances in person this season, or any season for that matter.  I miss hearing her unique, powerful and beautiful voice.

For a full list of her upcoming engagements, visit her web site here:


Visit her Patreon page and become a supporter for exclusive content, such as behind the scenes view of the creative process of preparing and performing classical music, discussions on the history and origin stories of operas she’ll be performing, videos featuring the music from those works, discussing opera history, and the current life of an opera singer.