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Moon Roses

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I think these were on display to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Seollal) last week.

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10 Hopes and Predictions for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2

I enjoyed the hell out of Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 even though it felt like four seasons squashed into one and had plenty of TV style whiplash plotting. My big hope for the next season is that there’s less of that whiplash and it’s more relaxed and introspective, which maybe about a quarter of season one was.

I’ll assume if you’re still reading you’ve either seen the season or don’t mind spoilers. Here goes:

  • Michele Yeoh makes a better recurring villain than Q ever did. But hopefully she’ll be kept to a rarity as will the Mirror Universe in general.
  • Please no holodeck episodes! Unless it’s all the main deck crew Ditmars, Burns, and the Android hanging out at the beach where they have a good time and nothing bad happens to them.
  • In fact, a stand-alone episode that’s all about the background faces would be welcome.
  • Captain Saru always.
  • We’ll see Saru’s living quarters. You know he plays the harp like Spock.
  • Speaking of Spock, he’ll show up, and his relationship with Burnham will be comically and needlessly melodramatic. He’ll probably be linked to those Vulcan logic terrorists and will be a man-splaing sea-lion with pointy ears.
  • Ash will come back for an episode or two because a group of Klingons needs help and he only trusts Discovery. Tears and heartbreak will ensue.
  • Harry Mudd will show up and do a bad thing.
  • Doctor Culper will return as a hologram or god in the mycelial web and Stamets will need to deal. Tilly will help him.
  • The spore-drive will get taken out of service and won’t be the magical device it was in season one.

We’ll see how wrong I am in a year or so. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments.

Things Published in 2017

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Here are things I had published in 2017. Give them a read or listen if you have the inclination. I’m quite proud of them.

A Late Quintessence: a story about censorship, alchemy, and the regenerative power of ideas from the perspective of a villain coming to realize too late that he was on the wrong side of history. May it come to pass. (Link / Audio)

Behind the Sun: this is a faux travelogue about a weird civilization that exists in the center of our hollow earth. Witness the strange past-times of the inhabitants! Realize that struggle and communal effort have the power to rehabilitate us all! (Link)

This coming year should see a few more things published. Stay tuned!

Favorite Reads January 2018, and more

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Before I get into a rundown of the books I wanted to acknowledge the passing of one of the greats, Ursula K. Le Guin. I fell in love with The Wizard of Earthsea as a kid, and later when I was in my 20s and doing a lot of thrift and second hand book store prowling I knew anything I found by her would be a treat. At some point I had the chance to see her speak and it was great. She was fierce and funny and kind in all the best ways.

Now, about the books… you see I went back to the USA in December and that meant a lot of time on planes and in airports and jet-lag making me to keep all sorts of odd hours. In other words I read a ton over the past two months, but as not to bore you all (my two readers) I’ll keep my reviews to a sentence or two.

So sit back and relax as I blather.

toyshop

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter: A Gothic novel set in 1960s London about a teenage girl sent to live with her creepy toy-maker uncle after the death of her parents. The first of the books I read that featured incest as not an awful thing.

executioner

The Faithful Executioner, Life and Death, Honor and Shame, in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century by Joel F. Harrington: A fascinating read about the life and times of one Franz Schmidt, an executioner in 16th century Nuremberg, using Schmidt’s own journal as its source. A must read for history and true crime fans.

unkindness

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: A woman seeks to solve the mystery of her mother’s death on board an intergalactic generation ship that’s managed to replicate an approximation of the slave society of the American South. A rough read at times, but worth it.

safety

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel: All the movers and shakers in the French Revolution knew each other from middle school and carried the hurts and rivalries from those days into the revolution, except for Danton. The sadness of this book is not simply the tragedy of the Terror but that it’s not hard to see your high school self in the various characters.

head lopper

Head Lopper, The Island or A Plague of Beasts by Andrew Maclean with Mike Spicer: Head Lopper’s a barbarian swordsman who carries around a cackling hag’s head for reasons. Fun and weird.

giant

The Giant, O’Brien by Hilary Mantel: Set in London during the 1780s, this is a tragedy about the conflict between the folk wisdom of the Irish giant O’Brien and the cold scientific materialism of Scottish Surgeon John Hunter. It’s a short, savage book, and a quicker read than A Place of Greater Safety.

autonomous

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz: Pirates and robots in the later half of the 22nd century. This was a great book to be stuck with on a trans-Pacific flight.

folk

Collected Folk Tales by Alan Garner: Garner’s goal with this was to write a collection of folk tales that read less like anthropology and more as oral accounts you would hear spoken by family or friends. In that he largely succeeds.

pendulum

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng: The truth about Fairy land is that there is no truth, and the search for answers is less about the answers and more about the search. A great read, despite the inevitable incest.

solution

Solution Three by Naomi Mitchison: A utopian novel set in a future where all the best gay pot smoking college professors have taken over and a poor heterosexual couple hopes to find a bigger apartment. Fortunately everyone learns the real enemy is greed.

Man on Pipe

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2018 is the year I go back to posting quotidian pictures. Sorry, not sorry.

Favorite Reads of 2017

A dozen of my favorite reads from the past year in no particular order. Not all books were published in 2017. In fact, most weren’t.

Day of the Arrow By Philip Loraine: Folk horror among the 1950s jet set. If you like William Sloane and Shirley Jackson this might be for you.

The Internet of Garbage by Sarah Jeong: A brief history of the internet’s development, online harassment, and how we got from there to here. The internet is garbage.

Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell: If Huck Finn meets A Clockwork Orange sounds like a thing you’d like, then read this.

Laura by Vera Caspary: 1950s murder mystery that’s near to perfect if you overlook the single page near the end where the heroine goes on a racist tirade.

Gilded Needles by Michael McDowell: A criminal dynasty squares off against a moralistic judge’s family in 1880s New York City, but the fun comes from McDowell skewering Victorian morality.

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip: The book you bounce off the head of those people who go on about “realism” in fantasy novels.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells: A pitch-perfect SF adventure novella. Smart and fun with a character exchange that still makes me laugh to this day.

The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria: Italian journalist investigates mysterious library and learns that supernatural forces beyond time will use terrible magic for ultimately petty purposes.

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley: Grotty biogunk SF at its best.

The Fortress at the End of Time by JM McDermott: An introspective SF novella in the vein of CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ with an enjoyably frustrating main character.

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng: Stanislaw Lem meets George MacDonald meets VC Andrews meets Sylvia Townsend Warner. If having your expectations swung back and forth sounds like fun give this a go.

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell: Post-apocalyptic but optimistic novel that shows that the dad in The Road had it easy because he never had to worry about getting his kid into a good school.

Favorite Reads: November 2017

Good books, but do they stick the landings?

First, the books that do.

news world

News of the World by Paulette Jiles: Captain Jefferson Kidd is an old widower and war veteran making his living by traveling through Texas from town to town and reading the news to paying audiences. On his latest trip he gets hired to return a ten-year old girl taking captive by Kiowa tribes people four years before to her relatives in San Antonio. What follows is a very sweet and beautiful western novel that’s part adventure and part elegy to landscape and the interplay between the wilderness and civilization. A great read.

reynard

Reynard the Fox: A New Translation by Unknown, translated by James Simpson: If you’re reading this blog I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the Reynard character. If not, he’s the protagonist/antagonist  in a series of medieval tales where he outwits his many enemies in the Lion’s court, by his quick-wit and murderous cunning. I wasn’t quite ready for how horrible and violent these stories were, but I guess they reflect an era where casual violence was a staple norm. Imagine Sam Peckinpah’s version of Disney’s Robin Hood.

arrow

Day of the Arrow by Philip Loraine: James Lindsay’s a young painter living in Paris. His former lover Francoise is now married to his one-time friend, the aristocratic Philippe de Faucon, Marquis de Bellac. When Francoise turns up seeking Lindsay’s help she brings a strange story in regarding Philippe’s sudden personality shift. He’s become cold towards her and fixated on his impending death. Francoise wants Lindsay to come to Bellac and investigate. What Lindsay uncovers is a Folk Horror plot that reads like a mix of William Sloane and Shirley Jackson. Definitely track this down.

Now the books that are good but wobble for various reasons at the end.

cyborgs

Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim: This is a fragmentary novel that starts with two Asian-American kids growing up in the Mid-West bond over reading comics. From there it spins sharply into an assortment of superheroes discussing resistance and political action in the modern world, and goes on to careen between the two. I was rooting for this book and had no problem with the jarring leaps, but I fear at the end the threads spun too far and needed a miracle to bring them back. A fun trip even if it makes me wonder how do smart people do anything without analyzing it endlessly?

enclave

The Enclave by Anne Charnock: This is very slice of life in some post-collapse but not complete collapse future about Caleb, a young refugee, and the life he leads in England working for a recycling gang. and the people he meets as he travels across Europe to England. While it doesn’t just end, it doesn’t also conclude so I wonder if there’s a sequel to it in the works. From further reading it looks to take place in a larger world, and maybe the other novels set there would fill in the gaps here. Also with a name like Caleb though I have to wonder where he came from originally. He says Spain, but Caleb?

molly

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson:  Molly grows up on an isolated farm with her parents and quickly learns the rules she needs to survive. Whenever Molly bleeds a new Molly is born and intent upon killing her. Needless to say this makes Molly a rather odd person to be around. What I loved in this is that there’s something of Victor Frankenstein to Molly Southbourne as she grows and studies her situation. A cold intelligence involved in a gory investigation. While the ride was great, it may well have ended with a To Be Continued. But I’ll definitely read the next installment.