Seanan McGuire, making Hugo history with FIVE nominations in one year, for Novel, Novella, Novelette (also making Hugo history for the first self-published story), Novelette, and Fancast.
Mark Oshiro, for Fan Writer.
Julia Rios, for Semiprozine.
Expect a lot of Hugo talk from me in the future, and let me know if you're coming to Worldcon!
With The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams has put together a (mostly) excellent set of 22 stories about the world of mad science and the people who practice it without fear of consequences, frequently in the name of, well, world domination. Mad scientists pop up fairly frequently in comic books, movies, and television shows, but they don't seem to be explored as much in fiction. We have the classics, like Doctors Jekyll, Frankenstein, and Moreau, among others, but I was interested to see these sorts of characters tackled in prose.
While several stories do succeed in taking a tongue-in-cheek look at mad scientist supervillains, I appreciated more the stories that took the subject seriously and really dug into the psychology of these people. What drives a person to create monstrosities, to break the laws of God and man? Are they evil? Or simply curious?
The most popular type of story is the superhero/supervillain setting, but the collection is fairly diverse, especially since it doesn't confine itself to focusing on the mad scientists themselves, telling stories from the perspectives of assistants, family members, reporters, and, in one case, a robot. I must also mention that one story is about a mad scientist gorilla. A mad scientist gorilla.
Some of my favorite stories include Austin Grossman's "Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List," which is even more hilarious than it sounds, and David D. Levine's "Letter to the Editor," structured as a letter to the editor from a Lex Luthor-esque figure claiming that his evil deeds were done in the name of saving the world from a Superman-esque figure. Seanan McGuire's "Laughter at the Academy: A Field Study in the Genesis of Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD)" tells you what's going on right in the title, yet the slow reveal is wickedly sinister. Alan Dean Foster's "Rural Singularity" is a winning tale of a country girl who has created two-headed chickens...among other things. And Marjorie M. Liu's "The Last Dignity of Man" is goddamn fantastic, the story of a man named Alexander Luthor who struggles with living up—or down—to the fictional character whose name he shares and obsesses over Superman.
I could praise nearly every story in the book. Some are a bit unfulfilling or confusing, but most are quite strong and present an interesting take on the topic. The one black mark is Diana Gabaldon's "The Space Between," a novella that has almost nothing at all do with mad science and whose inclusion is mystifying and irritating, given that those 80 pages could have gone to four interesting stories.
For any of you interested in taking over the world with SCIENCE!!, this book is required reading. Mwahahahaha.
Discount Armageddon was a fluffy adventure with interesting beasties, a promising start to a fun new series. With Midnight Blue-Light Special, however, Hugo winner and New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire proves that she means business: this is a more serious, meaty novel that indicates the series is not afraid to go to darker places.
It's been almost a year since the events of Discount Armageddon—and, fair warning, although it is not necessary to read the previous book to follow the events of this one, it will spoil you on some major plot twists in the first book—and Verity Price, ballroom dancer/cryptozoologist, and Dominic De Luca, Covenant operative/boyfriend (?) are still feeling things out. I must admit that I don't quite see what Verity sees in Dominic besides the fact that he's hot, but I don't look too hard at romance in fiction as long as both people like each other. And those slashes are what make this book very interesting, as both characters face internal conflicts and must make a fateful, irrevocable choice. Will Verity choose dancing or cryptozoology? Will Dominic choose the Covenant or cryptozoology? Even though the choice seemed fairly obvious, because I knew that the POV would be switching to Alex in the next book, I was not 100% sure of which way either character would go, and that was fun.
What I love about this book is that it doesn't waste any time: only a few pages in, Dominic informs Verity that the Covenant is coming to New York to check up on him and potentially begin a purge of all cryptids. There's no big mystery to solve here: basically everyone is fucked, and Verity needs to stop it. Somehow. Because evacuating all the cryptids in such a short time isn't really a conceivable option.
Whereas the first book spent a lot of time on introductory worldbuilding, this book can focus on the characters who have been established, and I felt much more invested in them, especially knowing that every single one of them was in mortal danger. The family aspect came out much more strongly in this book, as Verity has her own family but also, of course, her family of cryptid friends and coworkers, and they all really have to work together to oppose the Covenant. Especially her telepathic cuckoo cousin Sarah, who rightly snags a spot on the cover for her importance in this book.
Discount Armageddon/Midnight Blue-Light Special functions as a nice duology of the story of Verity Price. She has some truly badass moments in this book—which is saying something, given some of the amazing fight scenes in the first book—and she comes out knowing who she is and what she wants to do with her life. And there are still so many more members of the family to write about! I think Seanan has another hit series on her hands. HAIL THE PRIESTESS OF GIVE ME MORE INCRYPTID ALREADY!