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The Snorkel: Mandy, as candy, is dandy

The Snorkel directed by Guy Green

A little-known picture sporting an amusing title, The Snorkel yet reveals itself to be an excellent suspenser; a genuine sleeper that may be finding some latter-day acclaim thanks to the great-looking print in the Hammer “Icons of Suspense” DVD box set. Released in 1958 by Hammer Studios, shortly after the famed British filmmaking independent began its reign of the Gothic horror niche with that year’s The Curse of Frankenstein, the picture is a tale of murder and suspense without being an actual mystery.


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Blue Book: The story of a famous alien abduction

Blue Book (Volume One) by James Tynion IV (script), Michael Avon Oeming (art), Aditya Bidikar (letters)

Blue Book is the true-life story of Betty and Barney Hill, a couple who claimed to have had an UFO encounter in the summer of 1961. While driving late at night, the young couple encounters a space ship, and then aliens abduct them, do experiments, and return them to their car within about two hours. All of this is narrated by Tynion in his script and shown through excellent black, white, and blue art by Oeming.


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MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, Gavin Edwards

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, Gavin Edwards is an even-handed, highly readable, always interesting, sometimes fascinating history of Marvel movie-making, starting from their early days of licensing characters to formation of their own studio, to reclaiming some of their most popular characters, to merging their TV and films under one roof to their purchase by Disney up to their most recently released films and TV shows in 2022. If you have a casual (versus academic) interest in the Marvel world,


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WWWednesday: September 27, 2023

For no reason at all I got curious about Soay sheep, a small breed the originated in the British Isles (Scotland?). This is a commercial site that sells them, but it still has nice information about these tiny, “thrifty” grazers.

Continuing the sheep theme, here is an article about the Welsh shearing cake, and a recipe.

WorldCon 2024 is accepting registrations.

Tor.com shares five SF stories that work “better” as audio books. Kat, take note!

Mabon or the autumnal equinox happened on September 23,


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I Am Your Brother: Half frustrating, half dazzling

I Am Your Brother by G.S. Marlowe

In the 1971 British horror film The Beast in the Cellar, two aged sisters, well played by Beryl Reid and Flora Robson, hide their homicidal maniac brother in the basement of their Lancashire home, and eventually give way to panic when said brother escapes from his confinement and goes on a murderous rampage. But, it would seem, this was not the first time that an English sibling had suffered a rough time with a monstrous brother kept hidden under domestic wraps. Thus,


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Normal Rules Don’t Apply: Stories about alternate possibilities

Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson

In a number of her novels, Kate Atkinson explores the idea of alternate possibilities, playing with “what if” scenarios for various characters. Showing she doesn’t need a full novel to explore the heady concept, Atkinson returns to that theme in Normal Rules Don’t Apply, a collection of eleven loosely linked short stories.

The first, “The Void”, is a masterclass in chilling mundanity as out in the countryside an old man and his equally old dog find their daily walk shockingly interrupted by a horrific sight.


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An Inheritance of Magic: A fun opening to a new series

An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka

An Inheritance of Magic is a solid fantasy with an entirely engaging Everyman of a character who comes with an equally engaging cat. I could have done with a bit more clarity on the world the story is set in, and at times things seemed to come a little easily to the main character, but this was a generally enjoyable and interesting story, enough so that I’ll pick up the necessary sequel.

Stephen Oakwood is twenty years old and adrift in the world of London.


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Light Chaser: Can two humans put the universe right?

Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton & Gareth L. Powell

2021’s Light Chaser novella is a collaboration between Gareth Powell and Peter F. Hamilton. This fast-paced story actually spans centuries, featuring a functionally-immortal woman, Amahle. The sole occupant of her AI controlled lightship, Amahle, the titular Light Chaser, is one of many of her kind, who travel a “circuit” of human-occupied planets, collecting the memory collars selected families wear for generations. In return, Amahle provides carefully chosen wealth and trinkets, careful never to provide something that might allow the stable (or stagnant) societies on these worlds to make any kind of leap forward in technology or political thinking.


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WWWednesday: September 20, 2023

We all agree that the single biggest threat facing our beautiful planet is that of space aliens. Ever alert to security risks, our government has responded with a “UFO Czar,” (which is weird because I thought we were retiring the UFO acronym).

The life in our biosphere alone is constantly amazing! This beetle evolved a “fake termite” appendage which keeps it safe from termites and may even encourage them to feed it!

The British Fantasy Award winners were announced last Saturday.

Bill Willingham, creator of Fables, has now put the entire franchise into the public domain.


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He Arrived at Dusk: Roman holiday

He Arrived at Dusk by R.C. Ashby

Not for the first time, a novel resurrected by the fine folks at Valancourt Books has turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the year. Back in 2020, J. B. Priestley’s Benighted (1927), reissued by Valancourt in 2013, was one of my favorites, and just last month, Ernest G. Henham’s Tenebrae (1898), brought back to life by Valancourt in 2012, became one of my top picks for 2023.


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Uncommon Charm: Magic hijinks in 1920s Britain

Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien & Kat Weaver

Neon Hemlock has carved out a niche for itself in the novella/novelette market, and continues to deliver quirky, engaging stories across the subgenres. This magical, alternate history romp, Uncommon Charm (2022), is one more example.

Julia Selwyn-Stirling is the daughter of Lady Aloysia, the premiere magician in 1925 Britain. Depending on who you talk to, Lady Aloysia, who Julia calls “Muv,” is either the powerful secret weapon of the British government, or the blackmailer of that same government.


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Grass: Powerful true story of Korean “comfort women” during WWII

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (writer and artist) and Janet Hong (translator)

Trigger Warning: This review discusses harsh content, including descriptions of murder, rape, and suicidal thoughts, that are a part of Okseon Lee’s true biography.

Grass, by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and translated by Janet Hong, is a powerful story about World War Two, and the Korean women who were taken from their homes, often as little girls, and sold into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers. This biographical work is about Okseon Lee, who was interviewed extensively as an older woman by the author.


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North Woods: Wonderfully and precisely crafted

North Woods by Daniel Mason

Daniel Mason’s North Woods (2023) is a wonderfully and precisely crafted collection of related short stories that greatly impresses with its varied styles, vividly detailed descriptions, sharp sentence constructions, connecting echoes, and a few unexpected twists and turns. I would have preferred a bit more emotional depth at times, though several of the stories, particularly toward the end, offer up some more than a few moving scenes. Between those moments and Mason’s consummate craftsmanship, North Woods is an easy book to enthusiastically recommend.


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WWWednesday: September 13, 2023

The official WorldCon Hugo packet left out Best Fanzine and Best Fan Author, so fans (of course) took up the cause, and have provided that information informally.

The idea of envy, of creative people and between creative people, had quite a lively discussion on Bluesky, and I think this article may have been one of the citations.

Google will require that pollical ads on their platforms must disclose the use of AI. (That’s a nice start… what about deceitful editing and photoshopping, though?)

Atlas Obscura wants to share the tradition of Costa Rican oxcarts.


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The Secrets of Insects: A retrospective of Kadrey short fiction

The Secrets of Insects by Richard Kadrey

Before he published the SANDMAN SLIM series, Richard Kadrey published short fiction in various markets. Several of those stories have been collected in his latest book, 2023’s The Secret of Insects. The earliest story in here, “Horse Latitudes,” appeared in Omni in 1992. The most recent story, “Candy Among the Jades,” is original to this collection. The Secrets of Insects is a retrospective of Kadrey’s short fiction.

I’ll provide the Table of Contents,


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The City Inside: An exquisite, complicated puzzle

The City Inside by Samit Basu

For the first 22 pages of Samit Basu’s The City Inside (2022), I didn’t have a freakin’ clue what was going on. I followed Joey (Bijoyini) Roy around her parents’ house, as she interacted with her intrusive “wellness system”—think very needy FitBit on steroids—as she talked to her parents about the Years that Can’t Be Discussed, as she dodged her performative adolescent brother, who was constantly auditioning for a place in the Flow. I understood vaguely that social media was a big thing,


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Tenebrae: “It’s so nice and glooooomy”

Tenebrae by Ernest G. Henham

A number of literary works from some of my favorite authors are celebrating their quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, this year. Released in 1898 were H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds, Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” Jules Verne’s The Mighty Orinoco, and H. Rider Haggard’s Doctor Therne. Those first two titles,


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Where Peace is Lost: Enjoyable, with missed opportunities

Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes

Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes moves along smoothly and quickly, is peopled by engaging characters, and nods toward some serious themes of ethics, violence, and colonialism. I mostly enjoyed this fast read, though found myself wishing its themes were delved into more deeply.

The novel is set in a universe where the Pale Empire has been conquering/colonizing other planets or planetary systems/alliances. Some years back, one of their stiffest foes, whose military and altruistic institutions were known as “Orders”,


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Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read last month?

It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What’s the best book you read in August 2023 and why did you love it? 

It doesn’t have to be a newly published book, or even SFF, or even fiction. We just want to share some great reading material.

Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

And don’t forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our 5-Star SFF page.


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WWWednesday: September 6, 2023

This week in 1947, a children’s book called Goodnight, Moon was published. You may have heard of it.

100% of the profits from To Ukraine, With Love will be donated to Ukrainian charities to help people recovering from the Russian invasion. Thanks to File770 for this link.

This newly discovered comet may become visible to the unaided human eye in mid-September.

Nerds of a Feather reviews the fourth of the TALES FROM THE RIVERLANDS novellas by Nghi Vo, Mammoths at the Gates.


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