Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

I didn’t sleep terrifically well on Christmas Eve, more from indigestion than anticipation, more pizza dinner repeating than visions of sugar plums dancing. I got woken up early to take the dog for a walk, and I honestly thought the cold outside might actually kill me. I think I was just unprepared for it, given how unseasonably warm it had been leading up to the holiday, but I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering until I came back inside.

All that said, however, I had a really very nice Christmas day. I had a chance to go back to sleep for a bit after I walked the dog, which was good, and then we all got up and opened presents. The rest of the day was spent in eating too much good food, playing with the dogs, and talking. Yesterday was actually the first day in the past week and a half that I didn’t watch any movies. I made up for it tonight by watching two Boris Karloff films, Targets and The Mummy. And last night, I did watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. (For good and bad, this about matches up to what I thought.)

It was a pleasantly unexciting Christmas, full of laughter and good cheer, and today was a just a much quieter version of the same.

I go back to work a week from now, but that’s still a week away. It’s been a good vacation so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and/or Wednesday as well!


The weekend went by pretty quick, but it was pretty decent, the rain notwithstanding.

Last night, for reasons that seemed perfectly sensible at the time, I watched the first Tomb Raider movie for the first time. (It was on Netflix.) The movie was…I hesitate to say bad, because there were things to enjoy about it. I like Angelina Jolie, and she at least seems to be having fun throughout most of it. And I’ve also grown to like Iain Glen’s work on Game of Thrones (which I’m close-ish to being caught up on). But the film is maybe one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen. I thought I knew from silly movies, but this is something else. Let’s just say that Daniel Craig’s American accent is one of the least ridiculous things about the movie and leave it at that.

After that, I watched the…I guess we’ll call it “season finale” of Doctor Who. I liked a lot of it in the moment, not least of all because I think it explained a lot about what I guess we’ll also call “the Clara era.” But out of the moment, actually taking a look at what I’d just watched…well, I think Alasdair Wilkins of the AV Club gets at a lot of what I think does and doesn’t work, about the episode, the season, Steven Moffat’s writing in general. I’m a lot more forgiving of the episode that Wilkins is, because I did genuinely like it, and it played to classic Who in some fun ways, though I do agree with him on its weaknesses and missed opportunities. (Seriously, casting Paul McGann in a cameo would have been inspired, if only because it would have meant a weird Withnail & I reunion on screen.)

So while I liked the episode, more or less, I kind of hope that next season, Moffat goes smaller.

Oh, and in between those two, I watched Hannibal. So it’s altogether possible my brain was in a really weird place by the end of the evening’s entertainment.

Today, I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. (Maybe you’ve heard of it?) I think the movie is a lot of things, like shiny and fast-paced and entertaining. But like its predecessor, there are a lot of things that it’s probably not, like smart and consistent and, ultimately, Star Trek.

Wading into spoiler territory here, I think the movie does some interesting things in the way that it quotes from the original series, Wrath of Khan in particular, but in the end that’s all those feel like: quotes. As I watched a pivotal, climactic scene, I kept thinking, “well, yeah, but Wrath of Khan did this first, and better. There’s no great accomplishment in proving that you’ve seen that movie, too.” The movie’s fun, I won’t deny that. It’s well acted, looks great, and Benedict Cumberbatch owns basically every scene he’s in just through voice and glower alone.

But there are things about it… For one, Felicia Day’s not wrong in asking “Where are the women?” But even beyond that, looking deeper into the movie, the philosophy of Star Trek — those tenets and deeper questions that made it something special, if sometimes a little hokey — that really does seem to be missing. I realize, as I did after the first movie, that while this is the future of the franchise, it doesn’t really feel like the future of Star Trek. There are more interesting places for it to go, I think, than a shiny, lens-flare-filled re-imagining of its past.

Oh, and before the movie, I wrote this with my writing group:


So it was a pretty decent weekend.


Last night, I made the mistake of watching The Chronicles of Riddick, which takes the perfectly fine Aliens knock-off Pitch Black and decides its sequel should be a ponderous bore of CGI and bad set design.

I posted some about it here, on Twitter, and I posted what I think is the film’s one genuinely good scene here on my Tumblr (my other blog). Actually, that scene comes in a stretch of the film that looks like it could have been decent, and one that at least feels like it’s in any way connected to Pitch Black. But overall, the movie’s pretty lousy. I don’t think Vin Diesel is necessarily to blame for this — which is why, lord help me, I’m still holding out some small hope for the upcoming Riddick — but it’s a very bad movie. People who try to tell you it’s underrated, and there are a few, are quite wrong.

This week’s Doctor Who wasn’t terrible, though. It was surprisingly not brilliant, either, given the meaty “journey to the heart of the TARDIS” plotline, but it was decent enough. This season — or this second half of the seventh season; and therein may be part of the problem — has been kind of hit or miss, I think. I genuinely like Jenna-Louise Coleman, so I don’t think it’s quite her fault. But I feel like the show lost something, maybe just a bit of its momentum, with the loss of Amy and Rory, and it hasn’t quite regained whatever it is, whatever it needs, to regain its footing. (Had Amy and Rory’s departure not felt a little rushed, or come at the end of the season instead of the middle, I might not feel quite the same.) Still, a decent enough episode.

And then today I wrote this:

“You think darkness is your ally,” the zombie said with a shiver.

“The building is on fire,” the professor said, rubbing her forehead.

“Would you two shut up out there?” said a third voice from within. “Some of us are trying to sleep.”

The zombie and the professor eyed each other, then the professor sighed, speaking softly. “I think my metaphor still holds.”

“The building, as you call it, is always on fire,” said the zombie. He was less concerned about waking their guest, but he too had begun to whisper. “That is the nature of buildings. They are built up only to be burnt. Your problem is you think the darkness within will save the edifice without.”

“You’re mighty philosophical for a man who hungers for human flesh,” said the professor. She had had this argument with the zombie many times, and it was late, she was tired, not thinking straight. She knew the human flesh crack was low, that if he was sensitive about anything it was that. But, rubbing her forehead again, the professor wasn’t so sure that she cared.

“Sorry,” she said anyway, knowing that if she didn’t they would never get any sleep. And then in the morning, when their guest awoke…

No, she had promised herself she wouldn’t even think about that now. It had been a stupid gesture to even invite him here, stupid of him to come, no doubt, to stroll right into the lair of his two sworn enemies, but even more stupid for either of them to have let him in, for any of them to think that some good would come of this foolish exercise. She would be lucky if she survived past the morning, and there was no way that would happen if she exhausted herself debating metaphors with a dead man long into the night.

“I think we just have to agree to disagree,” she said. She could tell he was hurt. The turning had left him undead, but not unfeeling, as he was all too fond of reminding her. He felt every death, and he had not killed in several months. Yet the hunger still remained. To remind him of that need — that had been truly stupid. She needed him on her side, now more than ever, and so she did not make a habit of rubbing salt in those old wounds. “We’re both tired,” she told him.

“I don’t sleep,” was all he said.

“You know what I mean,” she offered. She sighed, then added, “I didn’t mean anything by that, by what I said.”

“This is what happens,” the zombie said, slowly, softly, keeping his voice low but making sure she heard each word, “when you consort with the darkness.”

“Without the darkness,” she said, still arguing despite herself, “you and I would have nowhere to stand. That thing in there — “ and here she pointed to the tent “ — that man, he is of the light. His is the fire that burns down our buildings. His is the blinding and blistering flame that must, must be snuffed out.”

“I can still hear you both, you know,” said the third voice.

“I need to sleep,” the professor said to the zombie. “We can debate tactics in the morning. You have my word, darkness or no darkness, that I won’t try to kill him before then.”

It started with a kind of weird prompt: two quotes — I provided the second one up top — with the dialogue tags and characters added by someone else. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in this story, but I think there’s something.


A pretty average day. The New York Times crossword and the writing group. I wrote this:

The man in black couldn’t sing a note, which is how Julie says you know he couldn’t be the devil. Lucifer, she tells Jack, was the angel of all music. He was also the father of all lies, Jack wants to say, but doesn’t. He has his own reasons for not believing what the townspeople have said about the man, the rumors that have started to spread, and he doesn’t need to argue the point with his sister. The devil can go get his own damn advocate.

Jack’s locked the man up, of course. As sheriff, and after what happened last night at Grady’s, how could he not? But running the man’s prints and sending his photo up to county is one thing; putting stock in what some of the survivors have claimed is another. He opened fire, that much is clear. Jack took the guns off the man himself, emptied the antique things into evidence, and saw first-hand the bloody handiwork they’d done. Eight dead, at last count, and Bill Grady himself still touch and go, a bullet busting ribcage, piercing lung, and then lodging itself in the empty wall above the bar.

That’s where Jack found it this morning, digging it out of the plaster and wood with a penknife. Not that there’ll be much call for matching ballistics, or that they’ll even be able to do it here, on site. The bullet and guns will be shipped, along with the man himself if Jack has anything to say about it, downstate. And the bullets will be a match, there’s little doubt of that in Jack’s mind. Homemade, from the look of the slug sitting bagged on his desk, and the guns themselves at least a century old. Amazing they didn’t just explode in the man’s face.

No, they’ll send the man down to county to be arraigned. If Judge Keach tries to give Jack any grief over that, he’ll just tell her some of the stories he’s been starting to hear, the crazy talk that’s sprung up in the wake of last night’s bloodbath. Blood on his hands or not, the man deserves a fair trial, and that’s not going to happen in a town that’s half-convinced he’s the devil himself.

“Have you even listened to him sing?” Julie asks. Like Jack needs this now, like he needs even more crazy, this time from his sister. “Can’t sing a note, worst I’ve ever heard. And that’s not the voice of the Morningstar.”

He really doesn’t need this. Of course Jack’s heard the man sing. It’s loud and off-key and hasn’t stopped for more than hour since last night. Nothing Jack can recognize, but that’s for the county psychiatrists to puzzle out.

The whole thing pretty clearly was influenced by this week’s Western-themed Doctor Who. (“Anachronistic electricity, keep-out signs, aggressive stares — has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?”)

Red Dawn of the Dead (or Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

I find it amazing, quite frankly, that it was a whole year ago that I was in Canada.

I have to say, just based on the short week I was there, Banff is definitely a place I would like to revisit. But, alas, not this year.

Nor did I try my hand again this year at the 3-Day Novel, despite the occasional e-mails that came in reminding me about it recently. I actually didn’t do any writing today, despite meeting with my weekly writing group. We spent more time talking about comics and books and the terrible, terrible abuses of adverbs. (Seriously, “He frowned moodily”?)

I have been, sort of, revisiting for the first time the novel I wrote that week. Not so much to wonder if there’s anything I can do with it, and certainly not to admire the writing craft on display in its pages, but simply because it’s been a year and I haven’t looked at it all since then. Maybe I’m just feeling vaguely nostalgic for that time, that freedom to just write, and the environment so conducive to doing so.

Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, here’s how that story I spent three days on starts off:

On the morning of April 37th, an unexpected chill in the air and the artificial sun just starting to rise, the last man from Mars fell to his death.

There would be no investigation, or at least nothing of any substance, even though suicides of this sort were exceedingly rare and almost impossibly difficult to pull off. The corporate owners of the Astraeus Building assured the local authority that they would give their full cooperation, even offering them unprecedented access to the rooftop gardens from which the Martian man had jumped. Only a select number of employees (and of course the AI responsible for tending these gardens) had this kind of access, and both the Astraeus Corporation and its parent company back on Earth were naturally eager to learn how the dead man had fallen from their site.

There was nothing to indicate corporate espionage; Astraeus had no direct competitors in the drug trade aboard the world-station, and anyone admitted to the hub was screened and tagged well before they would reach even the Building’s lobby. Beyond the novelty of the dead man’s origin, a fact that could only be proved conclusively after the initial DNA tests had been unsuccessful, there was nothing to suggest that he was anything other than a random malcontent. Astraeus was well within its legal quota of on-board addiction and overdose; statistically, there had in fact been fewer fatalities from their prodct this month than in any April on record. All the necessary paperwork was already on file with station central and at corporate headquarters. But of course there were always the occasional protests, the odd individual whose physiology — usually because of some undocumented, ill-advised, or illegal body modification — reacted poorly with whatever growth he or she had been sold and ingested. Astraeus was not immune to these difficulties. They were simply the cost of doing business in the orbital free-market.

Perhaps, then, that was all this was: the cost of doing business. Did it really matter, in the end, if the man was the last refugee of a dead red planet? Who even remembered Mars nowadays?

In the end, station authority agreed that it did not matter. A minor glitch in the AI system, which Astraeus promised to duly investigate and, if necessary, debug, was blamed for the Martian being on the rooftop in the first place. The drugs in the man’s own system — of which there were many varied growths and strains, all of which were easily cataloged against the company’s inventory — were a convenient excuse for the suicide. If anyone thought to ask why the gravitational containment field atop the Building had failed, allowing the Martian to fall thirty stories instead of just a few safe and customary inches, or how the last man from Mars had been admitted to the station hub in the first place — no fanfare, no warning flags — neither of these questions were noted in the final report. Brief mention was made to the slight chill in the morning air, with a note to the climate techs to look into it if they had an opportunity. No one suspected the station’s own safeguards had been tampered with.

And no one suspected that the last man from Mars had been pushed.

So that was today, more thinking about writing than writing itself. Plus the Sunday crossword, a pretty decent new episode of Doctor Who, an okay but still kind of disappointing Dawn of the Dead remake, and of course a brief run up and down the street in just my socks when my sister’s dog got off the leash and decided she didn’t want to come back inside after all.

Yep, just your average Sunday.