April 2017

April was a less eventful month than March, which is maybe for the best. Mostly just some stories, books, movies, and music.

The stories

I read twenty-nine short stories in April. Or thirty-one. But I only wrote down twenty-nine of them, and if I can’t remember the other two, they can’t have been that great, right? It’s altogether possible I missed a couple of days altogether.

Anyway, the ones I liked most were:

  • “Seven Permutations of My Daughter” by Lina Rather (Lightspeed)
  • “Maybe Look Up” by Jess Barber (Lightspeed)
  • “How the 576th Annual Pollen Festival Blossomed My Budding Career” by S. L. Saboviec (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips” by Beth Cato (Uncanny)
  • “Infinite Love Engine” by Joseph Allen Hill (Lightspeed)
  • “Remote Presence” by Susan Palwick (Lightspeed)
  • “Jonathan’s Heaven Has Many Cats” by Rachael K. Jones (Lackington’s)
  • “Sex After Fascism” by Audie Shushan (Luna Station Quarterly)
  • “An Abundance of Fish” by S. Qiouyi Lu (Uncanny)
  • “Auspicium Melioris Aevi” by JY Yang (Uncanny)
  • “Marta Ranunculus Wolf Calf” by Gillian Barlow Graham (Lackington’s)
  • “On Grief and the Language of Flowers: Selected Arrangements” by Damien Angelica Walters (Mythic Delirium)
  • “Phase Day: A Log of the Journalistic Career of Amaltua Obon” by Kara Dennison (Devilfish Review)
  • “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus” by Bogi Takács (Clarkesorld)
  • “Never Truly Yours” by Marion Deeds (Podcastle)

The books

I finished two books in April: Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Pratchett’s book was fun enough, a welcome respite from the bleakness that had been my last read in March, Stephen King’s The Long Walk. But it hardly felt like Pratchett’s best. I did really like this line, though:

They thought they wanted to be taken out of themselves, and every art humans dreamt up took them further in.

Tartt’s book, meanwhile, is one I’d been reading off and on since at least September. I’m not wholly convinced it wasn’t too long, and not just because it’s taken me several months to finish it, but I really liked the book, and I loved its last few pages, which contain some of its best and most beautiful writing:

Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair….And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my non-existent reader, and I feel I should say it as urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life–whatever else it is–is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.

There’s a little part of me that’s going to miss that book.

The movies

I watched twelve movies in April.

  • The Blackcoat’s Daughter:

  • Independence Day: Resurgence:

  • Ghost in the Shell:

  • Bone Tomahawk:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:

  • The Discovery:

  • Hidden Figures:

  • The Girl With All the Gifts:

  • To Live and Die in L.A.:

  • The Fate of the Furious:

  • Underworld: Blood Wars:

  • Only Lovers Left Alive:

The music

I listened to some of it in April:

March 2017

So March. That sure was some kind of a month, huh?

If you want, you can skip ahead to the stories and books and movies and music I read, watched, and listened to this month. Otherwise…

I turned forty at the end of last month, which I’m not entirely sure is a move I can heartily recommend. My birthday itself passed without particular incident, for good or bad, but this whole “being middle-aged” thing…I just don’t know about it. I also don’t know if anybody at forty is where they expected to be, but I sure as heck am not.


Weirding me out even more, perhaps, is that I spent several days right before my birthday revisiting Penn State, after an absence of almost thirteen years.

It was very strange being back, in some ways exactly as I remembered, and in many others not anything like what I remembered. When you find yourself asking someone, “Is this building new?” and they tell you, “Well, it was built about a decade ago,” you know you’ve been gone for a while. And in some ways, it was the things that hadn’t changed that weren’t strangest of all. (Like, seriously, the downtown movie theater I used to go to is now a Chipotle, but that hole-in-the-wall Chinese takeout place is still there? Well, it is a college town.)

I also don’t know anybody in town anymore. My old boss, I found out recently, passed away this summer, and he had retired a few years before that at any rate. My friends when I left in 2004 were exclusively students, now graduated, which might have factored into my decision to leave. (I think I’m friends with one or two of them on Facebook still, but the same way I’m friends with most people on Facebook, in that we never talk there and I barely use Facebook.)

I did have a very nice dinner my last night with a Twitter acquaintance, but I didn’t see anyone else I knew, and I didn’t have many old haunts to revisit. (The couple I did were either just weird or actively disappointing.)

It was like wandering around in a place built on the bones of what was one time your home. Like revisiting a place that isn’t there anymore. I didn’t expect it to have stayed like a bug trapped in amber, unchanging…except maybe I did?

It was a reasonably good trip, but an odd experience, and I recognized that I’m not nostalgic for there, but for then. And then isn’t there anymore.


Another thing that happened in March is that my parents got a new dog.

His name is Finn, and he’s a mix — we’re reasonably sure of Labrador retriever and Pharaoh hound. He’s also still very much a puppy, which is an adjustment, to say the least. He’s lovable, but also ridiculous a lot of the time and not terribly well trained yet. I’ve lost at least one pair of socks and a T-shirt to him, for instance, and the carpet has been christened too many times by his bladder.)


And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. The books, stories, movies, and music I read, watched, and listened to last month.

(I don’t know where Miss Saigon on Broadway fits into that, but I also went to see that with my parents. It wasn’t bad.)


The stories

I think I read thirty-one short stories in March, but I simply can’t remember one of them, so I’m going to keep the list at thirty. That’s very close to my regular one-every-day habit.

Here are the ones I particularly liked:

  • “Daisy” by Eleanor Arnason (F&SF)
  • “The Lion” by Mari Ness (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Two Ways of Living” by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Toymaker’s Daughter” by Arundhati Hazra (F&SF)
  • “Crow Girl” by Lynette Mejia (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “The Ones Who Know Where They Are Going” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s)
  • “Drift Right” by Wendy Wagner (Pseudopod)
  • “Attending Your Own Funeral: An Etiquette Guide” by Erika L. Satifka (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Crown of Thorns” by Octavia Cade (Clarkesworld)
  • “Terra Nullius” by Hanuš Seiner (translated by Julie Nováková) (Strange Horizons)
  • “When First He Laid Eyes” by Rachael K. Jones (reprinted at Pseudopod)

The books

I read an unprecedented — well, in recent memory — four books in March. Three of them were rather short, and the fourth I listened to as an audio book on my long drive to and from Pennsylvania. But still, four books in a month isn’t half bad for my recent track record.

They were The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Long Walk by Stephen King (read for my book club), and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

That last is the one I listened to on my drive, and it was a good accompaniment to the road. I’m not overly familiar with Norse myths in general, but I enjoyed Gaiman’s amusing retellings.

The King book, meanwhile, is exceptionally bleak, but it’s surprisingly effective for how very much it’s a first novel. (The version he published as Richard Bachmann is a little polished-up, but he started writing the book as an 18-year-old college freshman, which is kind of amazing.) It is not a fun book by any stretch, but it speaks to some very real fears. They’re maybe more a young man’s fears — did I mention I just turned forty? — but I really enjoyed the book club discussion we had about it. (I did not, however, love reading it on my library’s ebook app.)

The other two books were…well, books. Classics, even, though I’m not sure I got a whole lot out of either one.


The movies

I watched 7 movies in March:

  • Girlfriend’s Day:

  • Sicario:

  • Logan:

  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three:

  • Fences:

  • Society:

  • Solace:


The music:

February 2017

As I said in my last post, I spent the first couple of days of February down in Florida. I was there with my family for a week, visiting relatives, biking, walking along the beach, basically just hanging out. It was fun. And if the weather back in New York wasn’t the rudest of rude awakenings, it was still a lot colder when my plane home landed than when it took off.

Anyway, otherwise it was a pretty uneventful month for me personally. A holiday, a snow day, and the usual assortment of stories, books, movies, and music.


The stories

I read some I liked, some not so much. I’m also busy reading submissions for Kaleidotrope. Anyway, the 2017 originals I particularly liked:

  • “Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum” by A. Merc Rustad (Lightspeed)
  • “Probably Still the Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed)
  • “Run” by C.R. Hodges (Escape Pod)
  • “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Uncanny)
  • “To Budapest With Love” by Theodora Goss (Uncanny)
  • “Milla” by Lorenzo Crescentini and Emanuela Valentini (trans. Rich Larson) (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Dark Birds” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
  • “The Lily Rose” by Emily B. Cataneo (The Dark)

And the reprints:

  • “We Are Not These Bodies, Strung Between The Stars” by A.C. Wise (Pseudopod)
  • “Nilda” by Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her)

The books

I’m including three books here, even though one of them I read most of in January, and another I finished reading on March 1.

I think my favorite was easily Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, which I read for my monthly book club meetup. The easy tagline for the book is “a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones,” but I think it does a lot of other really interesting things with its characters and the way it develops them. It’s also full of a lot of really nice moments–including, but not limited to:

“Read a lot of books and try a lot of recipes,” Jia said. “When you learn enough about the world, even a blade of grass can be a weapon.”

“I refuse to believe in the futility of change, because I have seen how the lowly dandelion, with time and patience, can crack the strongest paving stone.”

The second of the three was Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll, which was interesting but not exactly my favorite Carroll novel. It includes this nice line, however:

The keys that unlock the heart are made of funny materials: a disarming phrase that comes out of the blue, nowhere, a certain sexy walk that sends you reeling, the way someone hums when she is alone.

I like Carroll’s work, and one of the things I like is that I don’t always know what to make of it. But one problem there is that I don’t always know what to make of it.

The third and final book I read (mostly) in February was Uprooted Naomi Novik, which I also read for my monthly book group. Like most of the group, I found a lot to really like about the book, and a lot that was worthy of discussion, but I didn’t necessarily love the book, or expect to find myself re-visiting it ever again.

There weren’t any particular quotes that spring to mind here, but I did like this little exchange:

“He lived for forty years in a monastery illuminating manuscripts before anyone noticed he wasn’t growing older. He was always a little surprised to find himself a wizard, I think.”


The movies

I watched 11 of ’em. Too many of them were Resident Evil movies. Moonlight and The Edge of Seventeen were my favorites, and the ones my thoughts keep returning to, but John Wick 2 was also a lot of fun.

  • Interview With the Vampire:

  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:

  • Resident Evil: Afterlife:

  • Resident Evil: Retribution:

  • Underworld: Awakening:

  • Finding Dory:

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

  • The Edge of Seventeen:

  • Moonlight:

  • Self/less:

  • John Wick: Chapter 2:


The music

I listened to some of it.

November 2016

cyiivtaweaeutq0-1

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

cvo-7w_viaadzer

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.