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.

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.

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:

January 2016

photo 4 (1)

I don’t want to suggest that January was a terrible month, but boy howdy have I had better.

It started well enough, I suppose, the surprising celebrity deaths that started stacking up notwithstanding. But somewhere along the way, I caught a cold, which developed into two or three days of this weird lingering exhaustion I was half-convinced was pneumonia. I’d have stayed home from work if I hadn’t already been home for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

That’s right, I spent the first three-day weekend of the new year feeling sick and too tired to really do much of anything.

And then a week later my back went out.

I did spend several days home from work because of that. I managed, somehow, to get through Thursday at the office but then needed to stay home until the following Wednesday. That was the weekend of our first real blizzard, Winter 2016 arriving late to the party and desperately trying to get all the snow done at once. So at least I didn’t have to shovel, I suppose. But that was only because I could barely walk.

I’m mostly better now — I can walk again, for one thing — and while I still have aches and twinges, I’m trying to work through those with ample stretching and relaxation. I’m not lying in bed all day with the heating pad any longer, but I also haven’t put the heating pad away altogether.

A week after I went back to work, I was off from it again, however, this time for a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida. (That’s where the picture above was taken.) My father has family down there, and we were there to visit and celebrate my sister’s birthday. I stayed for a long weekend, while she and my parents stayed on for another week in the sun and sand.

Which pretty much takes us to February.

So, anyway, books and movies and stories and such I enjoyed in the first month of the year…

In January, I watched five movies, none of which I would characterize as great. They were:

  • TRON
  • In the Realm of the Senses
  • Mystic Pizza
  • The Gambler
  • Permanent Midnight

I’m just young enough to have missed out on TRON when it was in theaters. It was definitely part of the background noise as a child of the 1980s, but I’d never actually seen more than a few minutes of the movie. It’s okay, but I’m not entirely sure I was ever missing out.

In the Realm of the Senses is…well, very graphic. Mystic Pizza was very thin but has some great performances in it. The Gambler doesn’t necessarily have that, but it does have a very good soundtrack. And Permanent Midnight…well, Ben Stiller’s pretty good in it, I dunno. Nothing I’d call remarkable.

I read just one book — The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters — but I liked it a lot.

I read a bunch more short stories, though, continuing a habit I picked up last year of reading one a day. In total, that’s thirty-one short stories for January. My favorites were:

  • “That Lucky Old Sun” by Carrie Cuinn (Apex)
  • “In the Woods Behind My House” by by Nicolette Barischoff (Podcastle)
  • “The Godbeard” by Lavie Tidhar (Strange Horizons)
  • “Cat Play” by Mari Ness (Metaphorosis)
  • “Girl in Blue Dress (1881)” by Sunil Patel (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “The Cassandra Project” by Jack McDevitt (Lightspeed)
  • “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed)
  • “The Return of the Thin White Duke” by Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning)
  • “Ghost Champagne” by Charlie Jane Anders (Uncanny)
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone (Tor.com)
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio)
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear (Tor.com)
  • “Windows” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s)
  • “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever” by Daniel H. Wilson (Carbide Tipped Pens)
  • “A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck (Uncanny)
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal” by Chaz Bentley (Lightspeed)
  • “Who Binds And Looses The World With Her Hands” by Rachael K. Jones (Podcastle)

The first five are from 2016, the rest from earlier.

And finally, in January, I listed to some music: