A brand new year

Welcome, everyone, to the year two-thousand-seventeen. I hope you’re seated comfortably. Let us begin.

I’m hopeful for this new year, because…well, because you sort of have to be, don’t you? The alternative really doesn’t do anybody the least bit of good.

Twenty-sixteen was a difficult year, for a lot of reasons — not least of all because of the US presidential election, following (for so many months) on the heels of the disastrous UK Brexit decision. Sometimes I worry about this sorry little world we live in. But hope, and working to make my little corner of it better, is really all I can do in the new year.

I hope you find ways to improve your little corners, too, and I wish you all the very best in 2017.

And now, some music.

I don’t really do “best albums of the year” or anything like that, but I do put together a mix every month of songs that I like. If you’re one of the imaginary people I’m writing this to now, you may have even seen some of those playlists earlier in the year. Then I try to pull together a combined mix, something like two songs from every month.

So that’s what this is. Some of the songs are from 2017, some are just tunes I heard somewhere along the way. Either way, these are songs I really enjoyed and wanted to share as we stumble forward into the new day. Enjoy!

December 2016

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And there it is, the end of the month, and the end of a year. Just a quick write-up of the month. It was mostly uneventful, a couple of weeks at the office (plus the yearly holiday party), and a couple of weeks on vacation. And there was Christmas, which was very nice. I hope yours was too!

As usual, though, there were some stories, some movies, and some music.

The stories

I managed to not finish any of the books — three at last count — that I’m currently reading. I did, however, read thirty-two short stories. Favorites included:

The movies

I watched ten movies in December. (I had some time off.)

  • A Streetcar Named Desire:

  • Don’t Breathe:

  • Don’t Think Twice:

  • The Jungle Book:

  • For the Love of Spock:

  • And the Band Played On:

  • The Lobster:

  • Eyes Without a Face:

  • The Philadelphia Story:

  • Double Wedding:

  • The Thin Man:

  • The Big Sleep:

  • After the Thin Man:

  • Ben-Hur:

  • The Tomb of Ligeia:

  • Postcards from the Edge:

  • Arsenic and Old Lace:

  • The Revenant:

  • Swiss Army Man:

  • The Masque of the Red Death:

The music

November 2016

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So November. I think it’s safe to say that the first week of it did not play out as expected. The many long weeks since then have pretty felt just like shell-shocked aftermath. It’s anybody’s guess how exactly things will play out over the next four years, but it’s almost guaranteed to be difficult and ugly on a lot of levels.

But Thanksgiving was nice, so there is that.

Anyway, beyond the holidays — which was just me, my sister, our parents, and my sister’s cat — and politics, November was a pretty uneventful month. I read one book and thirty-two short stories, watched sixteen movies, and listened to a little music. It was that kind of month.

The book

I read Company Town by Madeline Ashby for my monthly book group. And I didn’t much like it.

It wasn’t terrible, but I think the group largely agreed with my own assessment: there’s way too much going on in the novel, with too few of its threads connecting or being resolved. And the ending…ooh boy. It’s rare to find a book where you want many, many longer stretches of exposition just so you can better know what’s going on and who everybody is. The book’s pacing is really weird, and it really does feel like working on a mystery without any clues.

It seems to set itself up for a sequel — despite rumors it’s a one-and-done — but I don’t think I’d read more. Maybe another book by Ashby, or even a completely rewritten and expanded version of this book, but no, not a sequel.

The stories

I read thirty-two short stories in November, upping my one-a-day habit all the way up to two-a-day on a couple of occasions. (I took all of Thanksgiving week off from work.) These were my favorites:

  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny)
  • “Kamanti’s Child” by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Uncanny)
  • “The Place of Bones” by Gardner Dozois (F&SF)
  • “Where I’m From, We Eat Our Parents” by John Wiswell (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Project Earth Is Leaving Beta” by J.W. Alden (Flash Fiction Online/Nature)
  • “Spirit Tasting List for Ridley House, April 2016” by Rachel Acks (Shimmer)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (Uncanny/he Starlit Wood)
  • “Migration” by Tananarive Due (Nightmare)
  • “Natural Skin” by Alyssa Wong (Lightspeed)
  • “A Shot of Salt Water” by Lisa L. Hannett (The Dark)
  • “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others)

All but the last two were from 2016. I don’t set out to read current short fiction and nothing but, but it does often turn out that way. After last month, when I read a whole bunch of much older reprints, I was probably due.

The movies

  • All the President’s Men:

  • I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House:

  • The Hitcher:

  • 13th:

  • Arrival:

  • The Neon Demon:

  • Sunset Boulevard:

  • Duel:

  • Sing Street:

  • Martin:

  • Seven Men from Now:

  • Hell or High Water:

  • Chunking Express:

  • Carnival of Souls:

  • My Left Foot:

  • Big Fan:

The music

October 2016

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And then October was behind us.

I spent the better part of a week traveling, campus calling for work in Indianapolis. I visited Purdue (an hour’s drive away in West Lafayette), IUPUI, and the University of Indianapolis, talking with instructors on campus as I do. All I feel confident in saying about Indianapolis is that it’s a place. It seems like a nice enough place to return to and visit for the first time. But I saw practically none of it. I stayed a fifteen-minute drive from the airport and didn’t get a real sense of the city, or even of the schools I visited. It just was a place.

But now it’s November, and all I have to do is write up my notes from that trip, which, if luck is with me, I’ll manage sometime before the end of the year.

Other than that short trip, my October was relatively uneventful. As usual, I read some stories, read some books, watched some movies, and listened to some music.

The stories

I read thirty-three stories in October. A lot of those were horror, perhaps appropriately enough, and several were from Penguin’s American Supernatural Tales collection. I might have more to say about that collection when I actually finish it — I’m very close — but overall it’s kind of meh. Some good stories, some arguably classic, but a pretty mixed bag overall.

Still, I read few others elsewhere that I liked:

The books

In October, I read two books: Slade House by David Mitchell and I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas.

They’re both a little slight, but I much preferred the Mitchell book, which manages to invest you in some pretty unlikable characters…which may be one of the problems I had with Mamatas’ book. Maybe if I recognized the Lovecraftian crowd he’s directly parodying in the book, or was more widely read in Lovecraft himself, I would have enjoyed the book more. It has some nice touches, but I found it overall kind of disappointing.

The movies

I watched eight movies in October:

  • The Legend of Hell House:

  • The Darjeeling Limited:

  • Ghosts of Mars:

  • Shadow of a Doubt:

  • Sleeping With Other People:

  • Futureworld:

  • Out of Africa:

  • Lights Out:

The music

And I listened to some music. So there.

September 2016

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And then one day, it’s October.

I don’t know how this has happened, but September is over. It wasn’t a super-eventful month, but it also wasn’t too terrible as far as these things go. I read some stories, read some books, watched some movies, and listened to some (not much, actually almost none) music.

The stories

I read 39 short stories in September. And I liked a bunch of them:

  • “Scent” by Maria Haskins (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Prophet to the Dogs” by Bethany Edwards (Escape Pod)
  • “See the Unseeable, Know the Unknowable” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)
  • “Talking to Dead People” by Sarah Pinsker (F&SF)
  • “The Voice in the Cornfield, the Word Made Flesh” by Desirina Boskovich (F&SF)
  • “Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Uncanny)
  • “The Old Man and the Phoenix” by Alexandria Baisden (Apex)
  • “The Warrior Boy Who Would Not Suffer” by Abhinav Bhat (Apex)
  • “Houston, Houston, Do You Read James Tiptree” by Rachael K. Jones (Nature)
  • “Delta Child” by Malon Edwards (Fireside Fiction)
  • “Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left” by Fran Wilde (Shimmer)
  • “The Flight of a Village in the Midst of War” by Daniel Ausema (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” by E. Lily Yu (Uncanny)
  • “Your Body by Default” by Alexis A. Hunter (Fireside Fiction)
  • “Lucite” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s)
  • “The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles” by Rachael K. Jones (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “The Invisible Stars” by Ryan Row (Shimmer)
  • “La Héron” by Charlotte Ashley (reprinted at Podcastle)
  • “My Mother’s Death — A Sonnet” by John Guzlowski (reprinted at Fantastic Fiction Online)
  • “Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu (reprinted in Sorry Please Thank You)

The books

In September, I read two books: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. I thought the former was an impressive debut novel and the latter, while not the best thing I’ve read by Valente, is full of a lot of playful and poetic writing.

The movies

I watched ten movies in September:

  • Dope

  • Straight Outta Compton

  • Catwoman

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth

  • Star Trek Beyond

  • San Andreas

  • Anomalisa

  • F for Fake

  • Arq

The music