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It’s that time of year again, the time of year that the various big name genre awards start generating their list of nominees.  As a fairly prolific reader, I’m often left bewildered and genuinely annoyed at some of the titles that make – and, often, do NOT make – these lists.  So much so that, two years ago, I decided to start my very own genre awards (The Rogue Star Awards right here on this blog) to recognize the overlooked gems and standout novels, novelettes, short stories, and comic books that I, personally, enjoyed over the course of the previous year.  It’s just one guy’s opinion but, when all is said and done, the  opinion of a guy who reads significantly more than 95% of the people voting in those other awards.

Anyway, today I’d like to offer up a list of My Favorite Genre Novelettes of 2016.

Of the roughly 50 novelettes I read last year, these were, in my humble opinion, the Top 7.

I’ve included a short synopsis and links to an online reading copy.  You may also want to consider purchasing the issue outright (or, better yet, subscribing!).  And, if you’re interested in further reading, I would heartily recommend RockStackRank, a site that offers up monthly aggregate ratings for works in the categories of short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

2016’s Top 7 Novelettes

In the Midst of Life by Nick Wolven (Clarkesworld #113) – SF

“In a rude, career-ending memo to his boss, Doug recounts a disaster that occurred on a company property in Indonesia when they tried to evict a group of squatters and their charismatic leader.” – RocketStackRank

Chains by A. J. Hartley (Tor.com) – Steampunk

“Anglet is an indentured laborer working on a suspension bridge. Sir William sees something in her, and wants to pay off her indenture and give her better work.” – RocketStackRank

Teenagers From Outerspace by Dale Bailey (Clarkesworld #119) – Historical SF

“In 1955, Nancy’s best friend Ellen dates a bad boy who introduces her to Bug Town, where aliens live. Nothing is the same after that.” – RocketStackRank

Once More into the Abyss by Dennis Danvers (Tor.com) – Contemporary SF

“Stan is sure he’s an alien, or at least that his parents were, and he’s happy to accompany his wife to the abyss, an archaeological site out west associated with aliens.” RocketStackRank

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan (Tor.com) – SF/Mainstream

“The crew of the new Mars mission are coming to the hotel where Emily works, and her mom is starting to say strange things about her involvement with the last Mars mission.” RocketStackRank

A Deeper Green by Samantha Murray (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #205) – Fantasy

“The colony can’t tolerate assault, and it depends on Juvianna’s gift of making people forget crime and motivation alike. But what if she used it preventively?” RocketStackRank

Extraction Request by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #112)  – Military SF Horror

“Elliot’s squad of convict-soldiers crash-lands in the middle of a swamp far away from help. Extracting them doesn’t seem to be a priority, but something seems to be wrong with the swamp.” RocketStackRank

My phone started buzzing at approximately 7:30 a.m.  I was, of course, still sleeping off last night’s Dark Matter season 3 wrap party and in no mood to get up, much less answer – but something told me it, maybe, wasn’t a wrong number. I reached up, grabbed my cell, and checked the number on the call display.  Jodelle Ferland.

Jodelle?  Wasn’t she supposed to be on a flight to Denver?  What the heck was going on?

Well, it turned out she had gone to the airport to catch her flight, ended up in the wrong line, discovered she was in the wrong line, tried to find someone to help her but either a) couldn’t find anyone or b) was roundly ignored (coincidentally, by the very same Air Canada employee who was rude to her the last time she flew out of Toronto).  By the time she figured things out, she’d missed the cut off for boarding and so, was forced to reschedule to the next available flight – tomorrow morning!

Stranded at the airport, the production offices closed, unsure of what to do, she decided to throw a Hail Mary – and gave me a call.

“You’re like a homestay dad,”Akemi observed as  I jumped out of bed, got dressed and headed out the, while she got started on cleaning up the apartment, spurred at the prospect of having Jodelle crash in our guest room tonight.

On the way to the airport, I was able to book Jodelle the last available room at the hotel next door.

Toronto’s Pearson Airport is a maze and, unlike other airports, offers no real directions to an ARRIVALS section.  No signage or instructions on their website.  I attempted to call for information but was put on hold.  And so, instead, I pulled into Terminal 1, section A, called Jodelle, and waited for her to find her way.

When she finally found me, she was clearly exhausted.  “Welcome back to Toronto!”I said, greeting her with a big hug.  We popped her luggage in the back of the SUV and we were on our way!

Poor Jodelle.  I checked her into her room, then headed back up to my place where I watched Bruce McDonald’s director’s cut of Episode 312 (the recently titled “My Final Gift To You”).  A slew of secrets revealed in this one – and plenty of surprises to boot!

On the one hand, Jodelle had a miserable morning, missed her flight, and was operating on about an hour’s sleep.  On the bright side, she got to join Akemi, Ivon Bartok, Jason Priestley and I for dim sum!

If there’s one thing Jason loves, it’s dim sum.  And we made sure to cover all the bases: pork buns, spring rolls, daikon mocha, shrimp dumplings and even a vegetarian noodle dish for Jodelle that arrived after we’d all eaten way too much.

From there, it was a short walk over to a Daits, a little shop on the basement level of a nearby mall.  The specialty – dates!  Surprised?  They’re imported from Saudi Arabia and come in a variety of flavors – almond butter stuffed, pistachio-crusted, covered in dark chocolate and adorned with gold leaf.  There’s also Akemi’s favorite, the crispy florentine, she calls “Pachi Pachi” because, well, that’s what it feels like when you chew it.  We got a dozen to share and a mix – despite the woman’s attempts to hard-sell the pistachio and the ones with the candied ginger inside.

We parted ways with Jason and Ivon, then headed back to our place where Jodelle got to say hi to the dogs.  Lulu, for one, was glad she’d missed her morning flight and immediately staked claim to her lap.

We headed downstairs where we met up with my longtime friend and writer/story editor Anne-Marie Perrotta and her husband Jerome before heading over to SOMA Chocolates for ice cream and –

For Jodelle, an affogato (coconut sorbet and espresso).

By that time it was a little past 3 p.m. and those dinners plans we’d made seemed most unlikely.  We were all stuffed. We couldn’t eat another bite.  Until we walked by Starbucks and saw a sign for their limited Unicorn Frappuccino.

“Do you want one?”I asked Jodelle.

“No,”she said.  “But I WOULD try one.”

Close enough!

Jodelle samples the Unicorn.  And likes what she tastes.

In fact, both Akemi and Jodelle gave it the thumbs up.  I, on the other hand, didn’t like the frappuccino’s underlying sourness – no doubt a result of its unicorn milk component.

Tonight, we cap things off with tea and a screening of some Dark Matter production cuts!  And, tomorrow, Jodelle should be on her way.

Hopefully.

Today, I turn this blog over to Dark Matter Costume Designer Noreen Landry who not only happens to be an incredible talent but, really, one of my very favorite people to work with.  Her costume meetings are always the highlight of any given prep week and I honestly can’t imagine doing the show without her and her amazing team.

On to her fan Q&A…

Ponytail writes: “For the lovely Noreen Landry, I’d like to know: Where do you get your ideas for the costumes?”

NL: Hi Ponytail, Thanks for your question.

My ideas for the costumes come from the wonderful scripts. I have made a point not to see any other Sci Fi movies or TV shows while I am on Dark Matter. I want the first images to be created from the script, not outside influences. Next step is research and more research, images, fabrics, more photos, and then usually the ideas come when I am driving or walking. I sketch my ideas with pastels and markers.

“How old were you when you learned to sew?”

NL: I learned to pattern draft and sew when I studied fashion design in the mid 80’s. On Dark Matter, I have a talented sewing room headed by the very gifted cutter, Anita, and my lead sewer, Jane, so I do not sew myself.

“What is your favorite color to work with? (I’m guessing black)”

NL: My favorite color….oh my I love all colors. Every color creates a feeling, sets a tone. Dark Matter’s palette does revolve around a lot of black grey and very muted tones.

“Would you rather design for a male or female character? “

NL: It really doesn’t matter if it’s male or female characters. I enjoy it all.

Rascilion writes: “”I had a question about Five’s normal ship-side costumes. Why does she wear clothing that looks contemporary to 2016, as opposed to the rest of the cast that has a generally more futuristic aesthetic? What inspired this somewhat anachronistic look?””

NL: Hi Rascilon. When I read the 1st script, the image of 5 came to me as color, lots of color. S he was the heart of our world, a character easy to connect to in a world of mistrust and confusion. The contemporary colorful costumes just added to this sense of the familiar and trust.

MaggieL80 writes: “”For Noreen:First show you ever worked on?”

NL: Hi Maggie. The first show I work on was Counterstrike starring Christopher Plummer.

“Favorite costume that you have designed for Dark Matter?”

NL: My favorite costume yikes that’s hard. I can’t answer it.

“What does your closet look like?”

NL: My closet is a mess…I love clothes way too much.

“Favorite shoes?”

NL: I love by boots.

gildermcc writes: “Hi, Noreen! Volunteer creator, former wannabe designer, here. Give me a shout if you need a quick crocheted cap or scarf…”

NL: Hi gildermcc. Right now, I do not need anything crocheted, but you never know what the future holds.

DARK MATTER — “Sometimes In Life You Don’t Get to Choose” Episode 212 — Pictured: Ellen Wong as Misaki Han-Shireikan — (Photo by: Russ Martin/Prodigy Pictures/Syfy)

MaggieMayDay writes: “For Noreen: how do your source your fabrics? Online, or do you go on shopping trips where you can get a literal feel for the textures and weight? Do you have a huge fabric stash, just in case? How many original pieces a week do you come up with, and how much “repurposing” of stock/standard clothing items do you do?”

NL: Hi Maggiemay. We do source fabrics on line but I like to feel the fabrics before we purchase them. I have a lot of fabrics and leather in the studio. Great fabrics are not easy to find so when we see something great, we pick it up.

How many costumes new costumes we make in a week really depends on the script for that episode. Usually around three but it could be as high as six. We really do not reuse a lot because our characters have been known to return, even from the dead.

ceresis64 writes: “Is there a certain style that you like to use to influence a design?”

NL: Hi Ceresis. The wonderful thing about designing costumes is that you can use lots of different styles depending on the character, from broken down miners to sleek ferrous corp guard and strong, sexy androids. I love the work of Iris Van Herpen and Jean Paul Gauthier.

Debra writes: “Debra writes: “No question for Noreen Landry, just a note of appreciation for women who look strong, or strong and sexy, but not sleazy. Love the costumes!”

NL: Hi Debra. Thank you very much for your lovely compliment. It is very important to me to create strong beautiful sexy costumes for woman.

How much does the gang at Syfy International love Dark Matter and Dark Matter fandom?  So much that they were at the studio all this week, prepping and shooting an aftershow, After Dark, that will premiere following our season 3 premiere on all Syfy International channels.

As a participant in the After Dark segments for our first two episodes, I was required to be in hair & make-up for 8:00 a.m. sharp.  After Renee Chan (Key Hair) transformed my run-of-the-mill hairstyle into a true t.v. do, Dorota Mitoraj (Asst. Make-Up) made me t.v.-ready.  Pictured above, Dorota shows off her work.

Fellow Episode 301 After Dark guest Anthony Lemke (THREE) shows off his fresh new look – and drops off three boxes of donuts for the crew.  What a guy!

Each episode of After Dark will be hosted by Zoie Palmer (Android) and include varied guests – like Anthony Lemke and Rich Edwards, editor of SFX magazine.

A is for Android.

Overseeing today’s action was Kristin Mente (Production Manager, NBC Universal) and the rest of the Syfy International team.

Lots of coverage.

After the first After Show segment, I was asked to record a promo for our fans watching on SyfyDE.  This time, it was ME who was receiving direction.  “Can you say Hi Germany so it doesn’t sound like a question?”was my favorite. Hello?  Germany???

An impromptu meeting of the Dark Matter Whiskey Club.

For the second After Dark instalment, Jodelle Ferland (FIVE) took Anthony’s spot on the couch.  And were also joined by Syfy Wire’s Tricia Ennis.

The Episode 302 aftershow also included a segment guest-starring Suji that may or may not make the cut on account of her unpredictability.  On the bright side, at least she didn’t poop on set.

The little diva patiently awaits her big scene.

Spoiler alert!  Preview pics of The Raza’s newest crew member.

Finally, a huge thank you to the team from Syfy International.

Catch After Dark immediately following all new episodes of Dark Matter this June!

Well, that’s it!  That’s a wrap on Dark Matter season 3.  Finally, a well-earned rest for our tireless cast and crew.

But there’ll be no respite for yours truly.  I have still two more edits, a handful of mixes, a season’s worth of music notes to get through and, starting immediately, a brand new season to plan, arc out, and break.   I have three weeks in Toronto and then another three weeks in Vancouver in which to put together my game plan and then the writers’ room reconvenes on June 12th (three days after our double-episode season premiere June 9th at 8:00 p.m.!).

Before that, however, there’s this Friday’s wrap party.

And before Friday’s wrap party, there’s a little Dark Matter special feature I’ll be helping the gang at Syfy International put together for you tomorrow.

Oh, and before I forget – we have a new episode title!

“Episode 38: My Final Gift To You”

Ooooh.  Sounds ominous.  And maybe a little sad?

Season 3 finale director Ron Murphy in action.

The green screen set-up for the big reveal.  Tracking marks for the SLOW PUSH.

Snackington leads the charge on the empanada front.

Setting up the last shot.

The final shot of Dark Matter’s third season.

The last official meeting of the Dark Matter Whiskey Club (Elliot, Norman, Alison, Paul, and Robbie).

We proudly maintain our 17 bottles/season pace.

Thumbs up from Anthony Lemke (THREE).  We’re good to go!  Home.

I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished this season and can’t wait for you to see it!

A HUGE thank you to our incredible cast and crew.  Hope to see you all again later this year for season 4!

Plotting my next move aboard The Raza.  Why, yes, those ARE ninja cat socks.  (Photo by Roger Cross)

Okay, gang.  Pull up your socks and get ready to vote.  We have two more episode titles to choose before season’s end.  Today, we pick a title of Episode 312, our penultimate shocker.  Your choices are…

Polls will remain open for 24 hours.  Vote away!

Another Raza triptych tease courtesy of Playback Operator Greg Whiteside.   Can you identify this classic movie?

Tomorrow, it all comes to a close as we wrap production on Dark Matter’s third season!

Finally, today’s blog is dedicated to Birthday Girl Akemi!

I received a few comments after yesterday’s blog entry in which I considered early retirement to Tokyo once Dark Matter ends.  Ideally, in such a scenario, that would be two years from now after the show’s fifth and final season (although certain cast members have already started lobbying for an SG-1-like 10 year run). There is, of course, the possibility of another series (or two) in my future.  My military SF pilot is in play and I am actively pursuing the opportunity to revive two classic scifi shows I used to watch as a kid.  It’s all very preliminary, but any of the aforementioned would be fantastic projects.  Still, in the end, if none of them pan out and Dark Matter is my swan song, I’m satisfied with the mark I’ll have left on SF television – with over 350 hours  of produced scifi television to my credit and 100+ hours as a credited writer.  All in all, not bad for a comic/anime/SF geek whose Halloween ensembles included Han Solo, Wolverine, and Captain James T. Kirk.

Today, we were shooting in the Ferrous Corp lab.  Another amazing set by Production Designer Ian Brock and his team.

I need these screens for my office.

Alexandra Ordolis as Dr. Silas (photo by Renee Chan).

Nyx stunt double Brianna Goldie moonlights on the Ferrous Corp shipyard.

More early goodbyes! Last day for AD and fellow book enthusiast Natalie.

And also for Sound department’s Drew Williams who is, understandably, saddened at the prospect of turning in his boom and doing a slow Charlie Brown shuffle into the sunset.

And a first and final sitdown in post with my old pal David Thompson, a fantastic editor.

Uh, guys!  She’s right behind me, isn’t she?

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