A brand new year

Welcome, everyone, to the year two-thousand-seventeen. I hope you’re seated comfortably. Let us begin.

I’m hopeful for this new year, because…well, because you sort of have to be, don’t you? The alternative really doesn’t do anybody the least bit of good.

Twenty-sixteen was a difficult year, for a lot of reasons — not least of all because of the US presidential election, following (for so many months) on the heels of the disastrous UK Brexit decision. Sometimes I worry about this sorry little world we live in. But hope, and working to make my little corner of it better, is really all I can do in the new year.

I hope you find ways to improve your little corners, too, and I wish you all the very best in 2017.

And now, some music.

I don’t really do “best albums of the year” or anything like that, but I do put together a mix every month of songs that I like. If you’re one of the imaginary people I’m writing this to now, you may have even seen some of those playlists earlier in the year. Then I try to pull together a combined mix, something like two songs from every month.

So that’s what this is. Some of the songs are from 2017, some are just tunes I heard somewhere along the way. Either way, these are songs I really enjoyed and wanted to share as we stumble forward into the new day. Enjoy!

December 2016

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And there it is, the end of the month, and the end of a year. Just a quick write-up of the month. It was mostly uneventful, a couple of weeks at the office (plus the yearly holiday party), and a couple of weeks on vacation. And there was Christmas, which was very nice. I hope yours was too!

As usual, though, there were some stories, some movies, and some music.

The stories

I managed to not finish any of the books — three at last count — that I’m currently reading. I did, however, read thirty-two short stories. Favorites included:

The movies

I watched ten movies in December. (I had some time off.)

  • A Streetcar Named Desire:

  • Don’t Breathe:

  • Don’t Think Twice:

  • The Jungle Book:

  • For the Love of Spock:

  • And the Band Played On:

  • The Lobster:

  • Eyes Without a Face:

  • The Philadelphia Story:

  • Double Wedding:

  • The Thin Man:

  • The Big Sleep:

  • After the Thin Man:

  • Ben-Hur:

  • The Tomb of Ligeia:

  • Postcards from the Edge:

  • Arsenic and Old Lace:

  • The Revenant:

  • Swiss Army Man:

  • The Masque of the Red Death:

The music

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

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

August 2016

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How is it the end of the first week of September already? August went by very quickly.

I spent several days of it in Kansas City, MO, attending the 74th annual Worldcon (or MidAmeriCon II). After last month’s Readercon, where I wasn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders, I was maybe a little nervous about this one. It’s also the first really big con I’ve ever seriously been to.

(I mean, there was that comic book/sf/Star Trek convention I attended in…oh, I want to say 1988 or ’89? I was there only for a couple of hours, with my very bemused father, and I don’t remember much of it, beyond a lot of Trek costumes and my youthful enthusiasm at obtaining what in retrospect isn’t a particularly worthwhile comic. Oh, and a panel where, as near as I recall, Forrest J. Ackerman and Isaac Asimov amused themselves by being slightly dirty old men and celebrating one of their birthdays.)

Anyway, I had a lot of fun at Worldcon. It was not without its nervousness — I think I lasted all of five minutes at the late-night Tor party — but everyone I met was really great, and I attended some terrific readings and panels. I’m almost certainly going to next year’s in Helsinki.

(And yes, I was at that panel. It was exactly the trainwreck that’s been described. Which is a shame, really, because it could have been a very interesting discussion, worthy of much debate. That it seems to have been the only major controversy at the con, and that it was handled so quickly, is, I think, a real testament to the MidAmeriCon II organizers.)

So what else happened in August?

I read some stories, read some books, watched some movies, and listened to some (not much) music.

The stories

I read thirty-four short stories, and I think I only counted one that I heard read at Worldcon, rather than read myself. (I mean, if I’m going to count podcasts in my one-a-day habit, readings have got to count too.) Anyway, my favorites included:

  • “You Are Not a Metaphor” by Marina J. Lostetter (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “The Time Cookie Wars” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Those Brighter Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera (Lightspeed)
  • “The Finest, Fullest Flowering” by Marc Laidlaw Nightmare)
  • “Red House” by Gavin Pate Nightmare)
  • “First Light at Mistaken Point” by Kali Wallace (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Assassin’s Secret” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)
  • “An Ocean the Color of Bruises” by Isabel Yap (Uncanny)
  • “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad (Apex)
  • “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” by Betsy Phillips (F&SF)
  • “My Grandmother’s Bones” by S.L. Huang (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Exquisite Corpse” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Thundergod in Therapy” by Effie Seiberg (Podcastle)
  • “Between Dry Ribs” by Gregory Norman Bossert (The Dark)

I also really enjoyed the two stories I read in Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell collection: “The Word Doll” and “The Angel Seems.” Both of them appear to be doing very simple things at first — the former is actually more short meta-fiction than short story — but both are doing much more interesting things under the surface. I said this on Twitter, but it bears repeating: I mean this in the best possible way, but Ford’s stories are kind of fucking with my head.

The books

I finished three books in August:

  • Experimental Film by Gemma Files
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen

I’d read most of the Clockwork Phoenix collection earlier in the year, and I’ve mentioned some of the stories previously. Even when I didn’t love every story in the book, I loved the weird mix that Mike was going for, similar but different to the sometimes disquieting, sometimes dreamlike tales he publishes in Mythic Delirium. (Full disclosure: I had a story in that magazine last year.) The collection really is a uniquely impressive mix of stories.

I read Experimental Film for a book club…that actually met while I was at Worldcon. I probably would have gotten around to it anyway, though. There’s demonstrable proof that I’ve enjoyed Files’ writing in the past, for one thing, and I picked up a copy last year at Readercon. (Or maybe World Fantasy? I’m pretty sure I picked it up last year, along with her short story collection, last year at a con.) And I liked the book a lot — maybe less for what it has to say about film than about human interaction and storytelling. For instance, this:

…you’d be infinitely surprised what people will accept as a miracle, so long as it gives them something they really want: forgiveness of sin, unconditional love, the idea that your wounds make you special. That doing you art — your work — can help you save your own life.

I’m still not sure what my book club thought about it.

And finally I read The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, which is the sequel to a book I read earlier in the year, also for my book club. Like that book (The Fifth Season), this one is genuinely remarkable. If I was less gobsmacked by it, that was only because the rich world that Jemisin has created was slightly more familiar this time around, and there was maybe less for me to puzzle out as a reader. But her writing is just staggering, and there were lots of passages that left me breathless. Like, for instance, this:

Yes. It’s all so understandable, really, when she thinks about it. The way of the world isn’t the strong devouring the weak, but the weak deceiving and poisoning and whispering in the ears of the strong until they become weak, too. Then it’s all broken hands and silver threads woven like ropes, and mothers who move the earth to destroy their enemies but cannot save one little boy.

Seriously, it’s hard to imagine not nominating this for a Hugo next year. I’m just disappointed I’ll likely have to wait another year for book #3.

The movies

I watched six movies in August.

  • Green Room:

  • Keanu:

  • Suicide Squad:

  • Om Shanti Om:

  • Trick ‘r Treat:

  • The Nice Guys:

The music

I didn’t listen to a lot of new music in August, or at least not enough that made enough of an impression to make me want to include it on my monthly mix. But here, for completeness’ sake, are the three songs I did include on that mix: