May 2016

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So what happened in May? Not a whole lot, but you know what? There’s not a whole lot that’s wrong with that.

I read thirty-five short stories, saw eight movies, and I somehow managed to read four books — five, actually, if you count a four-issue graphic novel. (And ignore the fact that the others were very short novels.) I even listened to a little music.

It wasn’t too bad. Even our team’s move into the lonely, dark downstairs office at work couldn’t put a damper on a pretty decent month.

The stories:

I read thirty-five short stories in May, beyond those I was still reading for Kaleidotrope. I figured I needed to make up for the three days I accidentally skipped in April. My personal favorites — and there were actually quite a lot of them — were as follows:

  • “The Men from Narrow Houses” by A.C. Wise (Liminal Stories)
  • “All the Colors You Thought Were Kings” by Arkady Martine (Shimmer)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny)
  • “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” by Seanan McGuire (Uncanny)
  • “Three Points Masculine” by An Owomoyela (Lightspeed)
  • “.subroutine:all///end” by Rachael Acks (Shimmer)
  • “The Behemoth Beaches” by Maggie Slater (Apex)
  • “Deathlight” by Mari Ness (Lightspeed)
  • “The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch” by Seanan McGuire (Lightspeed)
  • “The Sound of Salt and Sea” by Kat Howard (Uncanny)
  • “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons)
  • “You Can’t See It ‘Til It’s Finished” by Joseph Allen Hill (Liminal Stories)
  • “The Right Sort of Monsters” by Kelly Sandoval (Strange Horizons)
  • “When She Was Five” by Fraser Ronald (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
  • “Team Invasion” by David Tallerma (Liminal Stories)
  • “The Signal Birds” by Octavia Cade (Liminal Stories)
  • “Suicide Bots” by Bentley A. Reese (Shimmer)
  • “Once I, Rose” by A. Merc Rustad (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn (Weird Fiction Review — reprinted)
  • “Through Earth and Sky” by Gwendolyn Kiste (Bracken)
  • “Wednesday’s Story” by Wole Talabi (Lightspeed)
  • “The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One” by JY Yang (Uncanny)

Liminal Stories is definitely a new publication to watch, and I really like what they’re doing so far. But lots of my regular haunts had extremely good issues, Uncanny especially. Honestly, of the thirteen other short stories I read last month, only a couple of them are what I’d call duds. And we don’t talk about those.

The books:

I read five books, but with the possible exception of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, which has a lot of lovely things to say about a lot of things, I can’t claim to have really loved any of them.

Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child has its moments, as does Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men, but both are too slight and under-developed to really be satisfying. Hustvedt’s book maybe has more interesting things to say, ultimately —

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— but that’s in part because it reads more like a patchwork of essays than a novel.

Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples’ graphic novel — and that’s generous, given how sloppily it hangs together, but also given how incomplete it is — also has its moments. And Staples’ art, which I’ve enjoyed so much in Saga, is often stunning. But yeah, it’s kind of a malformed story that was obviously cut short after four issues by the publisher.

But even that was better than Benjamin Black’s The Lemur, which was such a disappointing non-starter of a non-story. It’s less a whodunit than a whocaresit.

The movies:

  • The Invitation

  • Captain America: Civil War

  • Hush:

  • The Five Deadly Venoms:

  • The Witch:

  • 1408:

  • X-Men: Apocalypse:

  • Marnie:

The music:

My monthly playlist was actually quite short in May, for whatever reason. Still, you’re free to listen to some of the songs I enjoyed listening to last month:

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: