September 2015

September. September. What the heck did I do in September?

Well, I went to Washington, DC, for work for a few days. Unfortunately, my visit coincided with the Pope’s, which kept a lot of the faculty members I had planned to meet with on campus away. I didn’t have any problem at Georgetown, the Tuesday the Pontiff was still in transit, but Wednesday at GWU in Foggy Bottom was pretty quiet. I met with only one professor all day, which is an all-time low. I had plenty of cancellations the next day at American University, too, but there I easily met with three times as many people.

I’ve spent a lot of this past week making phone calls with instructors to reschedule our chats. It’s now finally done, for better or worse, and I have notes from about seventeen instructors I’ll likely spend most of this coming Monday typing up.

Beyond that, I’m hard-pressed to think what I actually did with the month.

I watched five movies:

  • Next
  • The Rules of the Game
  • Kwaidan
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Byzantium

I think Byzantium was the best of them, and Next easily the worst. The former’s a genuinely interesting and unique take on the vampire myth, with really great performances by Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, while the latter’s a painfully dumb Nicolas Cage movie. (And to think, it’s the movie I decided on after I quit watching Crank midway though because I thought it was unenjoyable and stupid.)

Kwaidan is gorgeous, if very slow, but at least it does something with its beautiful visuals. Walter Mitty, on the other hand, looks great, but in the service of such an uninteresting story.

I liked The Rules of the Game a lot, but I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, I guess.

In September, I managed to read three books, which is at least one better than what I’ve been averaging each month this year. (Seriously, as of today, I’ve only read sixteen books since January. It’s a little sad.) This month, I was helped by my long drive to and from DC, listening to Amy Poehler read from her memoir Yes Please along the way. (It’s really great.) I also read A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, which is kind of deliriously beautiful, and The Martian, which is…well, it’s enjoyable for what it is.

I finally caught up with Andy Weir’s book in anticipation of the movie, opening this weekend I think, and I’m a little surprised it became such a sensation. Mark Watney, Weir’s stranded astronaut, can be entertaining, but I hesitate to call him, much less anyone else in the book, a character. There’s nothing elegant to Weir’s prose, nor any real depth to the people he’s writing about. I didn’t dislike the book, and heaven knows it reads quickly and does exactly what it says on the tin, but at times I felt like I was trapped inside a math problem.

I feel like Weir would write a really interesting intro science textbook, but I’m not losing sleep waiting on his next novel.

I read fifty-two stories in September. (I may have been helped considerably by the purchase of this flash fiction collection. The stories are very short.) Favorites, listed in the order I read them, include:

I do note most of those Flash Fiction International stories, much as I may like them in the moment — and as much as they may help me make my story-a-day quota — don’t really stick with me, nor make the favorites list. Oh well.

I don’t include any of my own stories, of course — though I do have one in Mythic Delirium that just went live — or the stories I bought and edited for Kaleidotrope — whose newest issue also just went live, by the way. Let’s take it as read that I love all of those and you will too.

Finally, in September, I listed to some music. If you’re so inclined, you could listen to it too:

August 2015

So. August. A mostly uneventful month.

My parents spent a week or two of it vacationing in Scotland, leaving me on my lonesome, and I decided to live it up by catching a cold. I’m feeling a lot better, even if I still haven’t completely shaken the cough, but I spent the Saturday night before their return huddled under a blanket watching the live-stream of the Hugo Awards.

You can read more about that — the Awards, not the blanket — well, pretty much anywhere. This year got a mite contentious, so it was really nice to see fandom step up for diversity, good writing, and for generally not behaving like an asshole.

Anyway, when I haven’t been sick, I’ve still be writing. The issue of Andromeda Spaceways with my story “When Jane Was Nine” ame in the mail in August, and I’ve just this week seen the cover art for the issue of Mythic Delirium that will include my story “Directions.” I’ll post more about those when the issues are available online for sale, both of which will hopefully be before the year’s out. I have a number of other flash pieces I’m in the process of either writing or submitting, and a longer story I need to go back to at some point and revise, but the short-lived streak I had at the beginning of the year of selling stories (three of them!) seems to have slowed into a steady pattern of rejection. But we’ll see.

In August, I read two books, which sadly doubled my recent average. They were Counting Heads by David Marusek, which had long been on my to-read list but moved up after Kelly Link recommended it on Twitter, and Fearful Symmetries, a horror anthology I picked up at Readercon in July. I enjoyed them both.

In August, I saw eight movies:

  • Silver Streak
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • Tig
  • The Guest
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Grabbers

Mission Impossible was probably the best of these, though I’m not sure there was a true stinker in the mix. Silver Streak is kind of dated, weirdly paced, and actually less funny than I expected for the iconic first pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. But it’s okay. The Guest is violent and stylized — it feels like a pastiche of ’80s movies without actually being one — but also a lot of fun. I didn’t love A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, but I’ve never really seen anything like it — it bills itself as “the first Iranian vampire Western” — and I can see why so many people have loved it. U.N.C.L.E. was a surprising amount of fun. There’s no reason for it to exist, but its leads are good, it’s funny, and there are some really decent action set-pieces. Seeking a Friend is a weird mix of comedy and drama that doesn’t always work — it gets very dark, then very broad — but it’s remarkably sweet and touching thanks to its own two leads. And Grabbers…well, that was suggested by Heather, who watched it with me over Twitter, and it was also good fun. A smartly goofy horror comedy.

In July, I read thirty-five short stories, a whole bunch from the aforementioned Fearful Symmetries. Favorites included:

  • “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)

And in August I listened to some music:

That, and work, was basically my month. How about you?

July 2015

July was pretty good.

I attended Readercon near the start of the month, and that was a lot of fun. I met a few people, briefly, some I’d only chatted with on Twitter, some I’d never met before. (I chatted for a few minutes with Ted Chiang, and am deeply embarrassed to admit I didn’t know that’s who I was talking to. I made sure to buy a copy of his short story collection, on sale in the dealer’s room.) I attended a lot of great panels and readings, and had to miss out on a lot of others. It was a good time, and I’m seriously considering going back next year.

I read what I guess is one book last month: Wool by Hugh Howey. I say “guess” because it wasn’t written as a single book originally. It’s an “omnibus” edition of stories he released online. I liked it, and some of it a lot, but it definitely felt too long and pieced together. I mean, I’ve been reading fewer full books this year, and tend to read slowly as is, but it really shouldn’t have taken me quite so long. It was an interesting enough world that I’d consider looking into the follow-up books/collections, Shift and Dust, but for right now I’m just kind of glad it’s done.

I saw five movies once again in July:

  • Interstellar
  • It Follows
  • The Warriors
  • Ant-Man
  • Ex Machina

With the exception of Interstellar, I liked them all, even the dated and fairly silly The Warriors. Interstellar, meanwhile, is sometimes great to look at and has its moments, but it’s not very good as a movie.

Seriously, it’s three hours long and feels every one of them. It’s a very well made, sometimes well acted, bad movie. It made me happy that the Bad Astronomy blog agreed.

In July, I read thirty-two short stories. Favorites included:

  • “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)

Most of those were from collections I bought at Readercon. (I came back with a lot of books and could have come back with a lot more.) The Ted Chiang book and Fearful Symmetries, which won the Shirley Jackson Award for best edited anthology while I was at the con, have so far been every penny I spent on them and then some.

Of course, July was also the first time that I managed to miss reading a story one day, the first time that’s happened since January 1. I know it shouldn’t, but it still really bugs me.

I wrote some, never as much as I should have, but I’m plugging away at some things. A few stories out for submission, a few more that will (hopefully) publish before the end of the year. And I’m still meeting with my weekly free-writing group.

And in July I listened to a little, though not a whole lot of actually, music:

I think that’s mostly been the month. How’s been yours?

June 2015

June was better than May, I guess, even if I’m still not 100% convinced by this 2015 thing.

I read two books, which seems to be what I’m averaging lately each month. The first was Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, the latest book in the Expanse series, which did not disappoint. And the second was Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, continuing my slowly ongoing read of the entire Discworld series.

Pratchett has his weaknesses — he’s maybe not phenomenal at describing big action set-pieces, of which there are occasionally a few — but the warmth and humor in the books just keeps getting stronger with each volume. (And here it was just nice to see Rincewind and the Luggage again.) I’m led to understand the some of the very late books, like Raising Steam, might not be as good, but right now I’m really enjoying the series and discovering it all for the first time.

Right now, though, I’m taking a short break before moving on to Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters and reading Wool by Hugh Howey.

I saw only five movies in June:

  • The Curse of Frankenstein
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • The Falcon and the Snowman
  • Dumbo

None were what I’d call remarkable, though they all had some great moments.

Well, maybe not Jupiter Ascending, but that sure isn’t for lack of trying. I don’t think there’s anything that movie doesn’t try. I give the Wachowskis a whole lot of credit this kind of ballsy, heart-on-their-sleeve kind of film-making, even when it when really doesn’t pay off.

The biggest problem with Jupiter Ascending — beyond whatever it is that Eddie Redmayne’s doing with his voice, which is also the best thing about the movie — is that instead of being one big space opera epic it tries to be about twenty. It’s better once you figure out the basic plot underlying all the other exposition and window-dressing, but oh man is there a lot of that to get through.

I was a much bigger fan of the Wachowskis’ recent Netflix series Sense8, which also really shouldn’t work on paper. (It’s not the place to go, for instance, if you’re looking for propulsive narrative. Or maybe narrative at all.) But it’s so risky and courageous, and strange and diverse, and made with such warmth and love, that I completely and totally fell for it.

Frankenstein was good solid Hammer horror, the first pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. (Lee’s recent passing was why I sought the movie out.) The Falcon and the Snowman has good performances, particularly from Sean Penn. Kingsman has an uber-British Colin Firth and a couple of genuinely incredible set-pieces, though it’s considerably weaker in other respects. And Dumbo is…well, it’s short, only about an hour in total, and some of it’s quite lovely. But maybe it’s the short length, maybe it’s that Dumbo as a character never speaks, or maybe it’s just a product of when it was made — the movie’s not overtly racist, but those crows aren’t the best characters. I’d just say it’s not essential Disney, I guess.

In June, I read 34 short stories. My favorites were:

I didn’t write as much, and it’s been many weeks since my online writing group last met, but I’m hoping to change that. The former part — the writing — that I need to change.

I also listened to some music in June, though not as much new stuff:

There are months like that. Some months, it’s like I can’t stop stumbling over new songs I want to keep listening to, and then some months…there are only seven.

Anyway, that was June for me. Beyond that, it was mostly work and getting the tires on my car replaced. Exciting times, I know. I did put together a new issue of Kaleidotrope that I’m really happy with. So there’s that.

How have you been?

May 2015

I think it’s safe to say that May, whatever its pluses or minuses, got off to an unbelievably terrible start.

I don’t really want to talk about that, though. The wound’s not as raw, but we still miss Tucker an awful lot. My parents went away for two weeks in the middle of May, on a previously planned trip to Budapest. And while I’m glad for a lot of reasons that Tucker didn’t pass while they were gone, being on my lonesome without even the dog for company wasn’t always what I’d call terrific.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still kill for an apartment of my own again — which, the more I search in New York, the more I think I’ll have to — but not a house. Not multiple stories with multiple noises and an overactive imagination. I made it a point to avoid horror movies while they were gone.

Anyway, in May, I read two books. Both of these were Terry Pratchett Discworld books, the third and fourth in the series: Equal Rites and Mort. You can definitely see him, and the series, evolving as they go. The first two books are indeed a little scattershot, funny but not always great novels. Equal Rites probably sacrifices some of the humor in favor of story and character development — it’s less jokey than the first two books, and not always successful at jokes when it tries — but Mort does a very good job of integrating them both.

Some passages I highlighted — first from Equal Rites:

A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history.

And the rest from Mort:

Tragic heroes always moan when the gods take an interest in them, but it’s the people the gods ignore who get the really tough deals.

History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time.

When you step off a cliff, your life takes a very definite direction.

I’ll be moving on to Book 5 in the series, Sourcery, though I’m taking a short break to read the newest book in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, Nemesis Games. The timing of its release is something like a sign from the universe.

In May, I saw 13 movies. That seems like a lot in retrospect. They were, in the order I saw them:

  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • The Orphanage
  • Village of the Damned
  • X: The Unknown
  • Babe: Pig in the City
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • The Puppet Masters
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • John Wick
  • Whiplash
  • Legendary Weapons of China
  • The Last Waltz

In the order I liked them? Well, I’m not sure I’d even rank Village or X, which are passable enough late ’50s sci-fi horror movies of a particular type. (TCM was airing a whole bunch of movies of that type that day.) And Puppet Masters isn’t great, and certainly wasn’t done any favors by my having seen the ’70s Body Snatchers just the month before. It’s not terrible, especially in its early going, but it’s a very forgettable ’90s movie. And The Orphanage is occasionally very scary — I watched it while the parents were still here — but also strangely sad and touching by the end.

I think the only movie on the list I didn’t like was…you’re expecting me to say TMNT, aren’t you? But that was surprisingly entertaining. Not good, per se, but ninety-nine cents surprisingly well spent. No, the movie I didn’t like was Whiplash…which kind of gave me whiplash. It’s a lot of watching J.K. Simmons be an asshole for two hours. And while there are few people better at that than Simmons, it’s not really a pleasant experience. It’s intense, certainly, but in service of what’s kind of a bullshit (if compelling) ideology.

It doesn’t help that I watched it right after watching John Wick, which was surprisingly awesome. In fact, most of the other movies on that list fall somewhere along the awesomeness spectrum. The second Avengers movie is not without its problems, certainly, but it’s a whole lot more fun than it has any right being, considering how much Marvel is just using it to set up the next movie, and the next movie, and the next…

I don’t know, it was a lot of movies. I’ve talked about some of them more than others over on Twitter.

In May, I read thirty-three short stories, which is down from my high but about average for the year. I haven’t skipped a day since January. And I’m barely scratching the surface of what’s out there. Favorites from the month include:

  • “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 (
  • “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 (
  • “Two to Leave” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “Hunting Monsters” by S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

So yeah, a lot of really good stories in May.

Plus, a lot more music:

I’ve also started putting together weekly “Now Playing” playlists, which are the songs I quote from on Twitter, boring and annoying people with my frequent #nowplaying hashtag. I don’t know why I do it, but it’s produced two mixes so far.

Anyway, that in a roundabout way, was May 2015. Beyond that, I wrote some, had stories rejected — one in a record two hours! — and watched more than a healthy dose of Arrow. Hard to believe it’s already June!