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:

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

July 2016

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I don’t know what happened to July, but I have it on reasonably good authority that it’s over.

I went to Readercon (for the second time) last month, and while I had a really nice time and attended some great panels and readings — and bumped into some really nice people — I think I was a little out-of-sorts for a lot of the time, maybe a little under the weather, and I was definitely a less active participant than I would have liked to have been. This month, in just a couple of weeks actually, I head out to Worldcon (for the first time), and I’m committed to being friendly and more actively involved.

I don’t always do well with that, but that’s the plan. There should be lots to see there, if nothing else.

Speaking of nothing else, that’s pretty much the rest of what happened last month. There was good and there was bad, but mostly it just went by ridiculously quick.

But I read thirty-six short stories (and one two books) and saw ten movies, so there was that at least. Also just a tiny little bit of music.

The stories

  • “The Last Sailing of the Henry Charles Morgan in Six Pieces of Scrimshaw (1841)” by A.C. Wise (The Dark)
  • “Magnifica Angelica Superable” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Lightspeed)
  • “The Blameless” by Jeffrey Ford (A Natural History of Hell)
  • “The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery” by Cat Valente (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “Jonas and the Fox” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Mountains His Crown” by Sarah Pinsker (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “Sabbath Wine” by Barbara Krasnoff (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
  • “Two Bright Venuses” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
  • “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
  • “Pathways” by Nancy Kress (Clarkesworld)
  • “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” by Gwendolyn Kiste (Three-Lobe Burning Eye)

The books

ETA: I actually read two books, and I really liked the second of them…but for some reason forgot to mention it. That book was A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. My review over at Goodreads:

A Head Full of GhostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this. One of Tremblay’s smartest moves is his choice of narrator, the (mostly) (unintentionally) unreliable Merry. I don’t think the book would have been half as effective if not seen through her not-always-comprehending eyes. The book is maybe a little too long, and there are some small parts of the plot that seem questionable, but it’s a serious look at the horror genre, and specifically exorcism, and where evil actually comes into play. In some ways, it’s a horror novel that made me feel a little guilty about enjoying horror novels.
View all my reviews

I finished one book, which The first book I read for a monthly meetup group. And…well, I didn’t much like it. As I wrote in my Goodreads review:

HexHex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m being generous here. It’s an interesting set-up, and one that almost works for a while, but I was actively not enjoying the book by the end. This never felt like a real place, with real people, and maybe some of that’s an artifact of the translation and moving the story to America, but it kept me at a real distance. There are plenty of disturbing ideas here, but there’s a big difference between that and haunting images, much less ones that are tied to genuine human emotion. The book creeped me out plenty, but it never scared me, despite near-constantly telling me how unbelievably scared the townspeople supposedly were. (The town might feel a mounting dread, but I rarely did as a reader.) The book has lots of upsetting images, but that’s all they are: upsetting. They don’t go any further than that. A witch with stitched-shut eyes is genuinely creepy, absolutely, but in the end she’s not used in service of an interesting story. I stumbled over a lot of the writing, thought it took way too long to tell what story it had, and by the last few chapters just didn’t care.
View all my reviews

The movies

  • Real Life:

  • House:

  • Spotlight:

  • Lost in America:

  • Alfie:

  • Harmontown:

  • Midnight Cowboy:

  • Everybody Wants Some:

  • Room:

  • The Hidden Fortress:

The music

There wasn’t much, but for the sake of completeness: