April 2016

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April went by pretty quickly, huh?

I spent about a week of it in Atlanta, visiting the campuses of Emory, Georgia State, and Georgia Tech for work. I didn’t see a whole lot of the city, unfortunately, though I did get to sit in a lot of local traffic and visit the downtown aquarium while I was in town. (The former is formidable, ridiculous even, while the latter was a little disappointing, considering how much it cost just to get into the place.) I think I’ve been to Georgia before, this was the first time in a long while that it wasn’t just a short layover between two flights.

Meanwhile in April, I only managed to finish reading one book, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was a fun first novel, and I think it successfully merged the sci-fi and fantasy elements in an interesting and unique way.

I also only managed to read twenty-nine short stories, down from my one-a-day average, but that’s only because I accidentally skipped three separate days in the month. My favorites included:

I also went to the launch party for Clockwork Phoenix 5, which was a lot of fun, and to the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading, which was very crowded but also a lot of fun.

In April, I watched eleven movies:

  • Little Big Man

  • Batman V Superman

  • The Hateful Eight

  • Midnight Special

  • Now You See Me

  • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

  • Maggie

  • Trainwreck

  • Rope

  • The Big Short

And finally, in April, I listened to some music:

March 2016

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March wasn’t really a bad month at all.

It was a busy month, one with a lot of things that I needed to get finished at work. But I seem to have finished those things, for the most part. I’ve exchanged them all for new things, new deadlines, but they’re not quite as deadliney as the old ones, if that makes any sense.

I read two books, like I had in February, which may not seem like much but which is double my recent monthly average. In March it was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy and Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And both were…okay.

Whereas Leckie’s first novel, Ancillary Justice felt unique and refreshing and vital, the two follow-ups…just didn’t. They’re as well written, and have some very nice touches, but they’re a lot less compelling, particularly when taken on their own. And while Chambers’ book is very readable, with fun aliens and likable characters, it’s also so amazingly devoid of tension. There’s rarely a problem in the book that can’t be introduced and resolved in just a couple of pages, and so the whole thing can’t help feeling very low-stakes and episodic, to a fault.

In March, I also read thirty-one short stories, one every day. Favorites included:

  • “Palingenesis” by Megan Arkenberg (Shimmer)
  • “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval (Uncanny)
  • “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0″ by Caroline Yoachim (Lightspeed)
  • “Seven Cups of Coffee” by A.C. Wise (Clarkesworld)
  • “Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed)
  • “Salvage Opportunity” by Jack Skillingstead (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar (Uncanny)
  • “Meltwater” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Meltwater)
  • “Indigo Blue” by Rachael K. Jones (Shimmer)
  • “The Name of the Forest” by Margaret Killjoy (Strange Horizons)
  • “Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare)
  • “Tumbleweeds And Little Girls” by Jeff Bowles (Podcastle)
  • “Woman in the Reeds” by Esther M. Friesner (Asimov’s)
  • “Ordinary Souls” by K. M. Szpara (Glittership, reprint)
  • “The Box Wife” by Emma Osborne (Pseudopod, reprint)
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado (Podcastle, reprint)

Everything but the last three reprints were from 2016.

I watched six movies in March:

  • Creed
  • Spy
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Grand Hotel
  • Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
  • Jurassic World

They were all pretty good, with the exception of Jurassic World, which was pretty bad. No, strike that: very bad. I don’t quite know what else to say about any of the movies beyond what I said at the time on Twitter. (You do follow me on Twitter, right?)

And finally, in March, I turned another year older. I only feel a little bad about that when I realize this is the last year of my thirties. It’s also those little mental math problems that make me feel older, more than anything else.

Anyway, let’s close out March with some music, as I’m wont to do:

February 2016

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Was February a better month than January? Oh man, it would almost have to be, right?

I did only spend one day home sick from work last month, so I suppose it’s a definite step in the right direction. This time it was courtesy of a cold I think I caught from my boss — my second cold in as many months, as it happens. I’d like it to be my last one, at least for a little while.

Otherwise, it was kind of an uneventful month.

I watched four movies:

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  • Deadpool
  • Mortdecai
  • Less Than Zero

I mostly liked the first two, and mostly didn’t like the second two. Mockingjay suffers, I think, by being split in two, though I’ll certainly watch the second half when it’s available to stream.

Deadpool is violent and rude, and sometimes less clever than it thinks, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Mortdecai…well, isn’t. It suffers from being late into late-period Johnny Depp, this stage of his career where it’s all affectation and no acting. If it had come earlier, I don’t think it would be any less not-funny, but it wouldn’t suffer as much by comparison. It would just be a dull movie, not a symptom of the disease.

And Less Than Zero? Well, it probably seemed more impressive in 1987. There are some good performances in it, from Robert Downey, Jr., and James Spader, but too little of anything else. I mean, seeing ridiculous yuppies ruin their previously pampered lives through cocaine might have been compelling in the mid-’80s, but thirty years later it’s a little dull and trite.

I managed to read two books in February: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Updraft by Fran Wilde. Both books are very imaginative, creating rich and unique worlds, but Jemisin’s novel was definitely my favorite. It’s just a stunningly original fantasy.

I also read thirty short stories, continuing to read one every day. My favorites included:

  • “Charlotte Incorporated” by Rachael K. Jones (Lightspeed)
  • “Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • “Starfish” by Karen Tidbeck (Lightspeed)
  • “Between Dragons and Their Wrath” by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky (Clarkesworld)
  • “Vulcanization” by Nisi Shawl (Nightmare)
  • “A Partial List of Lists I Have Lost Over Time” by Sunil Patel (Asimov’s)
  • “And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead” by Brooke Bollander (Lightspeed)
  • “Coming of the Light” by Chen Qiufan (translated by Ken Liu) (Clarkesworld)
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)
  • “Midnight Hour” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s)
  • “The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball” by Genevieve Valentine (Lightspeed
  • “Alchemy and Ice” by Charlotte Nash (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine)

As with last month, the first five six stories are from 2016, while the rest are from earlier, in this case mostly 2015.

And finally, like always, I listened to some music. Here’s my monthly mix:

You’ll notice there’s a song from Hamilton in there. I finally listened to the internet and listened to Hamilton. It really is quite good. Good on you, internet.

January 2016

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I don’t want to suggest that January was a terrible month, but boy howdy have I had better.

It started well enough, I suppose, the surprising celebrity deaths that started stacking up notwithstanding. But somewhere along the way, I caught a cold, which developed into two or three days of this weird lingering exhaustion I was half-convinced was pneumonia. I’d have stayed home from work if I hadn’t already been home for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

That’s right, I spent the first three-day weekend of the new year feeling sick and too tired to really do much of anything.

And then a week later my back went out.

I did spend several days home from work because of that. I managed, somehow, to get through Thursday at the office but then needed to stay home until the following Wednesday. That was the weekend of our first real blizzard, Winter 2016 arriving late to the party and desperately trying to get all the snow done at once. So at least I didn’t have to shovel, I suppose. But that was only because I could barely walk.

I’m mostly better now — I can walk again, for one thing — and while I still have aches and twinges, I’m trying to work through those with ample stretching and relaxation. I’m not lying in bed all day with the heating pad any longer, but I also haven’t put the heating pad away altogether.

A week after I went back to work, I was off from it again, however, this time for a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida. (That’s where the picture above was taken.) My father has family down there, and we were there to visit and celebrate my sister’s birthday. I stayed for a long weekend, while she and my parents stayed on for another week in the sun and sand.

Which pretty much takes us to February.

So, anyway, books and movies and stories and such I enjoyed in the first month of the year…

In January, I watched five movies, none of which I would characterize as great. They were:

  • TRON
  • In the Realm of the Senses
  • Mystic Pizza
  • The Gambler
  • Permanent Midnight

I’m just young enough to have missed out on TRON when it was in theaters. It was definitely part of the background noise as a child of the 1980s, but I’d never actually seen more than a few minutes of the movie. It’s okay, but I’m not entirely sure I was ever missing out.

In the Realm of the Senses is…well, very graphic. Mystic Pizza was very thin but has some great performances in it. The Gambler doesn’t necessarily have that, but it does have a very good soundtrack. And Permanent Midnight…well, Ben Stiller’s pretty good in it, I dunno. Nothing I’d call remarkable.

I read just one book — The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters — but I liked it a lot.

I read a bunch more short stories, though, continuing a habit I picked up last year of reading one a day. In total, that’s thirty-one short stories for January. My favorites were:

  • “That Lucky Old Sun” by Carrie Cuinn (Apex)
  • “In the Woods Behind My House” by by Nicolette Barischoff (Podcastle)
  • “The Godbeard” by Lavie Tidhar (Strange Horizons)
  • “Cat Play” by Mari Ness (Metaphorosis)
  • “Girl in Blue Dress (1881)” by Sunil Patel (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “The Cassandra Project” by Jack McDevitt (Lightspeed)
  • “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed)
  • “The Return of the Thin White Duke” by Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning)
  • “Ghost Champagne” by Charlie Jane Anders (Uncanny)
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone (Tor.com)
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio)
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear (Tor.com)
  • “Windows” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s)
  • “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever” by Daniel H. Wilson (Carbide Tipped Pens)
  • “A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck (Uncanny)
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal” by Chaz Bentley (Lightspeed)
  • “Who Binds And Looses The World With Her Hands” by Rachael K. Jones (Podcastle)

The first five are from 2016, the rest from earlier.

And finally, in January, I listed to some music:

Twenty-fifteen in review

2015 was kind of a mixed bag, all around.

A lot of the issues I had with 2014 haven’t exactly gone away. I’m still feeling more than a little rudderless, looking for direction (or at least an apartment I can actually afford). I was in a minor car accident in February. And, of course, we took a big hit this year when Tucker, our family’s dog, passed away at the start of May.

But, despite all of that, and maybe even somewhat to my surprise, overall I feel like 2015 was a good year.

I took an online writing course with author Cat Rambo, which, if nothing else, got me to the point where I actually sat down and finished a few of my short stories. I sold one of them, “The Northern Recess,” to Stupefying Stories in October.

I had four other stories published this year:

Considering that it’s been about five years since I really actively worked on my writing, to the point where I was sending stuff out, I think that’s pretty good. I just need to bring more focus to it in 2016.

Meanwhile, I read a lot of short stories in 2015, at least one almost every day, for a total of 440. I already listed my favorites, with links when available, here.


At the same time, I only read 21 books.

True, that included one short story collection, and a novel I actually started sometime in early December of 2014. And I listened to Amy Poehler’s memoir on audio book. But still, it doesn’t include Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic, which I re-read earlier in the year.

When Pratchett sadly died in March, I decided I should finally tackle his Discworld series. I’d only ever read the first book, and here now was the opportunity to read them all. There are lots of different suggested reading orders, but I decided to go with publication date. I haven’t exactly made good on my plan to read them all this year — that last I finished was Sourcery, the fifth of forty-one books — but that’s what new years are for, right?

I don’t think there were any books I read that I didn’t like, though Andy Weir’s The Martian probably came closest. (It’s fun for what it is, which is largely almost immediately forgettable.)

M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games, and Poehler’s aforementioned Yes Please were probably my favorite longer reads in 2015.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in 2016, not least of all those 36 other Discworld novels.


I saw just under 100 movies in 2015, although only ten of those were actually in theaters.

I guess if I had to put together a top ten, in no particular order they would be:

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Crimson Peak
  • It Follows
  • John Wick
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Furious 7
  • Blue Ruin
  • Big Hero 6
  • Inside Out
  • Ex Machina
  • Not Anywhere as Good as I’d Been Led to Believe: Whiplash. It’s an intense but unpleasant movie, in service of compelling (but bullshit) ideology. (Runners-up: Silver Streak, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, and The Sunshine Boys, though I’d willing to chalk that up to their all now being rather dated. I was amused by how much George Burns reminded me of my grandfather, though.)

    Not Anywhere as Bad as I’d Been Led to Believe: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. It really suffered in comparison to the (admittedly much better) latest Mission Impossible movie. And it has basically no reason to exist. But it’s actually a lot of fun, with good performances and some very good action set-pieces. (Runners-up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which wasn’t exactly good but was genuinely entertaining at 99 cents, and Terminator Genisys, which is a confused mess but a lot of fun and well-acted.)

    Exactly as Bad as I’d Been Led to Believe: Fantastic Four. The movie is many things, but fantastic is not ever one of them. So disappointing. Sometimes, when everybody says a movie is terrible, they’re right. (Runners-up: Next, which is just painfully dumb, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which looks great but has no story to tell.)

    Biggest Disappointment: Hands down, Spectre. I’d loved Skyfall when I saw it in theaters, and I had high hopes, but this follow-up was mostly just tedious. (Runner-up: Interstellar. Soooo long. It’s a very well made, sometimes well acted, bad movie.)

    Biggest Surprise: Barbarella. I had no expectations going into it, expecting a ridiculously dated sci-fi mess. And the movie is that, but it’s also rather delightful, good silly fun. (Runner-up: Maybe Crimson Peak, only because I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite so much.)

    Movie I Feel Like I’m Still Watching: Zardoz. Seriously, this is such a deeply, fundamentally weird movie that will fuck with your head. Though one good thing: after seeing it, I feel like no other bad movies can hurt me.


    In 2015, I started more actively going to readings, and some local meetups, though I still only do those irregularly and should probably do so more in 2016. I also attended my first two conventions — Readercon in July and World Fantasy in November. I enjoyed both, not least of all because it gave me the opportunity to meet some people I knew mostly from their writing and Twitter, but also just for the experience of attending a con. It’s an experience I was rather surprised to discover I quite enjoy.

    I’ll be attending Readercon again this year, though I don’t know about anything else. World Fantasy is in Ohio this year, while the other contender, Worldcon, is in Missouri, and both of those are two far to drive. I figure, if I’m going to spend up to a thousand bucks (airfare, hotel, registration, etc.), maybe I should wait and go all-out next year, when Worldcon is in Finland. I’m still deciding, and I’m not un-tempted by Kansas City. (I watched last year’s Hugo Awards huddled under a blanket on the couch and running a fever, so this would be a step up.)


    And finally, as is my wont, I put together a year-end musical playlist, which is basically just me narrowing down the month-by-month playlists of new (and new-to-me) songs I like to make and occasionally foist on people. Here’s 2015’s best-of:


    Overall, I do think it was a halfway decent year. Not my best, but by no estimation my worst. I’m hopeful for 2016, and I hope you are too!

    So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with. That;s about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what. Now try How and Why. – Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”