January 2016

photo 4 (1)

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”

    Favorite short fiction of 2015

    I decided this year to read at least one short story a day. I don’t recall how that New Year’s resolution came about, exactly, but it’s maybe the only one that I’ve really stuck to. I’ve only missed two three days since January 1, and I’ve read more than 400 440 short stories. (That’s on top of anything I read for Kaleidotrope or writing workshop.) Not all of these stories were brand new, but a sizable chunk were, and I’d say they’re all well worth your time.

    January

    February

    March

    • “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
    • “We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed)
    • “Sickly Sweet” by Evan Dorman (Lakeside Circus)
    • “Sing Me Your Scars” by Damien Angelica Walters (Apex)
    • “Where Monsters Dance” by Merc Rustad (Inscription)
    • “The House in Winter” by Jessica Sirkin (Apex)
    • “Wild Things Got to Go Free” by Heather Clitheroe (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
    • “The Good Son” by Naomi Kritzer (Lightspeed)

    April

    • “All That We Carry, All That We Hold” by Damien Angelica Walters (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
    • “I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything” by Laura Pearlman (Flash Fiction Online)
    • “Stay” by Daniel José Older (Fireside Fiction)
    • “When the Circus Lights Down” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny)
    • “Ishq” by Usman Malik (Nightmare)
    • Among the Thorns” by Veronica Schanoes (Tor.com)
    • “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale” by Sunny Moraine (Shimmer)
    • “Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos” by Daniel Ausema (Strange Horizons)
    • “The Sorcerer’s Unattainable Gardens” by A. Merc Rustad (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine” by Emily Devenport (Uncanny)

    May

    • “Time Bomb Time” by C.C. Finlay (Lightspeed) [though maybe less for the story itself than the skill with which Finlay pulls it off]
    • “Remembery Day” by Sarah Pinsker (Apex)
    • “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning)
    • “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
    • “Elephants and Corpses” by Kameron Hurley (Tor.com)
    • “Sun’s East, Moon’s West” by Merrie Haskell (Lightspeed)
    • “Planet Lion” by Catherynne M. Valente (Uncanny)
    • “Ossuary” by Ian Muneshwar (Clarkesworld
    • “A Song for You” by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Terraform
    • “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land” by Ruthanna Emrys (Tor.com)
    • “Two to Leave” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
    • “Hunting Monsters” by S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

    June

    July

    • “Pirate Songs” by Nicolette Barischoff (Accessing the Future)
    • “Courting the Silent Sun” by Rachael K. Jones (Accessing the Future)
    • “Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow” by John Langan (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “The Magical Negro” by Nnedi Okorafor (Kabu-Kabu)
    • “Hell Is the Absence of God” by Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others)
    • “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “Catching Flies” by Carole Johnstone (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “The Button Bin” by Mike Allen (Unseaming)
    • “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Shoggoths in Bloom)
    • “The Other Forty-Two” by Sean Williams (Daily Science Fiction)

    August

    • “Life on the Sun” by C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans)
    • “Her Pound of Flesh” by Cassandra Khaw (Mythic Delirium)
    • “And We Were Left Darkling” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
    • “A Wish from a Bone” by Gemma Files (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “It is Healing, It is Never Whole” by Sunny Morraine (Apex)
    • “Given the Advantage of the Blade” by Genevieve Valentine (Lightspeed)
    • “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud (Fearful Symmetries)
    • “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman (Fearful Symmetries)

    September

    October

    • “Solder and Seam” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)
    • “Follow Me Down” by Nicolette Barischoff (Fireside Fiction)
    • “Silencer, Head Like a Hole Remix” by E. Catherine Tobler (Interzone)
    • “The Fresh Prince of Gamma World” by Austin Grossman (Press Start to Play)
    • “The Shapes of Us, Translucent to Your Eye” by Rose Lemberg (Unlikely Story)
    • “Soteriology And Stephen Greenwood: The Role of Salus in the Codex Lucis” by Julia August (Unlikely Story)
    • “Crystal” by Ken Liu (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link (Strange Horizons)
    • “8 Steps to Winning Your Partner Back (From the Server)” by A. T. Greenblatt (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Law of the Conservation of Hair” by Rachael K. Jones (Shimmer)
    • “The Devil Is Beating His Wife Today” by Sandra McDonald (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth (American Supernatural Tales)

    November

    • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (Uncanny)
    • “Werewolf Loves Mermaid” by Heather Lindsley (Lightspeed)
    • “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap (Tor.com)
    • “Last Drink Bird Head” by Daniel Abraham (Last Drink Bird Head)
    • “Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres)
    • “In Autumn” by Theodora Goss (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy” by Rich Larson (Strange Horizons)
    • “What Wags the World” by Sarah Pinsker (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Ape’s Wife” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” by Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars” by Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her)
    • “Madeline” by Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed)
    • “Let’s Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children” by Margaret Ronald (Strange Horizons)
    • “Damage” by David D. Levine (Tor.com)

    December

    • “Tomorrow When We See the Sun” by A. Merc Rustad (Lightspeed)
    • “When Your Child Strays From God” by Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Judas Child” by Damien Angelica Walters (Nightmare)
    • “At Whatever Are Their Moons” by Sunny Moraine (Strange Horizons)
    • “Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado (Granta)
    • “Request for an Extension on the Clarity” by Sofia Samatar (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet)
    • “In the Late December” by Greg van Eekhout (Strange Horizons)
    • “To Fall, and Pause, and Fall” by Lisa Nohealani Morton (Fireside Fiction)
    • “The Earth and Everything Under” by K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)
    • “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” by Sunny Moraine (Lightspeed)
    • “I Seen the Devil” by Alex Bledsoe (Uncanny)
    • “Flying On Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog” by Shaenon Garrity (Drabblecast)
    • “Chasing Satellites” by Anthony Cardno (StarShipSofa)

    November 2015

    I don’t know who these monthly updates are for, really, beyond myself. Posterity? Crickets? Bueller?

    Anyway.

    In November, I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. It was a lot of fun, even if I’m not entirely sure I would go back. (I’m debating Worldcon in Kansas City instead, though the cost has still debating. I might just go back to Readercon in July. That I’ve registered for.)

    But Saratoga was very pretty, and if you’re going to see fall in New York, upstate’s where you want to do it. The theme of this year’s WFC was “epic fantasy,” which isn’t typically my thing, but I attended a bunch of interesting panels and readings. I even met several people, despite being my usual only semi-social self. (I mean, I’d like to hang out chatting in the bar, but these Star Trek: TNG episodes on the hotel cable won’t just watch themselves, you know.) I met some writers I follow on Twitter, some I’ve even published in Kaleidotrope, and one of my classmates from the online writing course I took earlier this year.

    It was a good time. I didn’t stick around for the banquet or awards ceremony, but I walked away with a bunch of books and a had fun.

    A lot’s been written about the accessibility issues at the con — including by Mari Ness, who bumped right up against those issues all weekend (which was unfortunate), but who I bumped into on my way to check out (which was lucky happenstance). And yeah, those issues were bullshit, particularly the lack of a ramp to the stage, so I’m really glad to see con organizers for WFC and others talk about how they’re going to fix these problems going forward. It’s also heartening to see so many people co-signing Mary Robinette Kowal’s SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge. Because these are fixable problems.

    Anyway, when I wasn’t busy attending conventions — which I guess is something I do now, huh? — I was mostly at home. Construction at the office robbed us of our cubicles for a little over a week, and with the Thanksgiving holiday shortly thereafter, I think all told I spent 8 days in the office this November.

    Thanksgiving itself was really nice. Way too much food.

    Also in November, I saw nine movies:

    • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
    • Terminator Genisys
    • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
    • Let Us Prey
    • Spectre
    • From Here to Eternity
    • The Signal
    • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    • Q: The Winged Serpent

    I’m not counting William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge, the hour-long talking-heads documentary about the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not because it wasn’t interesting and entertaining, but because c’mon, it was only an hour long. It’s pretty slight, and calling it a documentary might be stretching things a bit.

    I didn’t actually love any of the movies I saw last month, although both the Terminator and Hunger Games sequels were a lot better than I expected them to be, and From Here to Eternity was quite good. For a film that’s largely remembered for a single scene upon a beach, it has a lot more to offer — especially since that scene (and the part of the story that drives it) is barely any of the movie.

    The Signal and Let Us Prey both have style but are light on substance. Q has an interestingly unhinged Michael Moriarty at its center (and a couple of other game actors) but is an otherwise a pretty lousy B-movie. Conquest of the Planet Apes isn’t bad, and also boasts some decent performances, while The Seven-Per-Cent Solution takes a fascinating idea but doesn’t actually make an interesting movie out of it. (And I dunno…Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson? Really?)

    But Spectre was probably the biggest disappointment. I’ve generally liked the Daniel Craig Bond movies, and I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall, I think in part because it looked so beautiful in IMAX. But despite some good casting and strong initial set-up — the scenes in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebrations are very well staged — the film is boring more than anything. It makes the mistake of trying to impose continuity after the fact on Craig’s previous three Bond films, and it does so in the least interesting way possible. It’s not without its merits, and heaven knows there are probably worse Bond movies. (There’s nary a “Christmas Jones or pigeon doing a double-take here.) But too often, in its two and a half hours, it’s simply tedious.

    Of the three big spy movies I’ve seen this year, I’d rate it well below Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but also considerably below The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which, while unnecessary, was also a little underrated).

    I only read one book in November, despite picking up several at World Fantasy. That book was Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace, which I’d picked up at Readercon, and which I liked but didn’t love. The book presents an interesting post-apocalyptic world, which I guess is almost a prerequisite for young adult novels nowadays — it’s marketed as YA, though I wonder at that — but I’m not entirely sure it fleshes that world out as much as I’d like, despite a genuinely satisfying conclusion. A solid B+, I’d say, if I were the sort of person assigning letter grades to the books I read in lieu of really critiquing them.

    I did read thirty-three short stories, though, so there’s at least that. Favorites included:

    • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (Uncanny
    • “Werewolf Loves Mermaid” by Heather Lindsley (Lightspeed)
    • “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap (Tor.com)
    • “Last Drink Bird Head” by Daniel Abraham (Last Drink Bird Head)
    • “Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres)
    • “In Autumn” by Theodora Goss (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy” by Rich Larson (Strange Horizons)
    • “What Wags the World” by Sarah Pinsker (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Ape’s Wife” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” by Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars” by Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her)
    • “Madeline” by Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed)
    • “Let’s Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children” by Margaret Ronald (Strange Horizons)
    • “Damage” by David D. Levine (Tor.com)

    Lots of really good stories this month, though maybe that’s in part because I was cribbing from the SFWA’s Recommended Nebula Reading List. (Did I mention a story from Kaleidotrope also made that list? Because it did.)

    And finally, what would another month be without another mix of songs:

    That was my November. I hope all you crickets enjoyed yours as well.