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:

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.

May 2016

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So what happened in May? Not a whole lot, but you know what? There’s not a whole lot that’s wrong with that.

I read thirty-five short stories, saw eight movies, and I somehow managed to read four books — five, actually, if you count a four-issue graphic novel. (And ignore the fact that the others were very short novels.) I even listened to a little music.

It wasn’t too bad. Even our team’s move into the lonely, dark downstairs office at work couldn’t put a damper on a pretty decent month.

The stories:

I read thirty-five short stories in May, beyond those I was still reading for Kaleidotrope. I figured I needed to make up for the three days I accidentally skipped in April. My personal favorites — and there were actually quite a lot of them — were as follows:

  • “The Men from Narrow Houses” by A.C. Wise (Liminal Stories)
  • “All the Colors You Thought Were Kings” by Arkady Martine (Shimmer)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny)
  • “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” by Seanan McGuire (Uncanny)
  • “Three Points Masculine” by An Owomoyela (Lightspeed)
  • “.subroutine:all///end” by Rachael Acks (Shimmer)
  • “The Behemoth Beaches” by Maggie Slater (Apex)
  • “Deathlight” by Mari Ness (Lightspeed)
  • “The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch” by Seanan McGuire (Lightspeed)
  • “The Sound of Salt and Sea” by Kat Howard (Uncanny)
  • “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons)
  • “You Can’t See It ‘Til It’s Finished” by Joseph Allen Hill (Liminal Stories)
  • “The Right Sort of Monsters” by Kelly Sandoval (Strange Horizons)
  • “When She Was Five” by Fraser Ronald (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
  • “Team Invasion” by David Tallerma (Liminal Stories)
  • “The Signal Birds” by Octavia Cade (Liminal Stories)
  • “Suicide Bots” by Bentley A. Reese (Shimmer)
  • “Once I, Rose” by A. Merc Rustad (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn (Weird Fiction Review — reprinted)
  • “Through Earth and Sky” by Gwendolyn Kiste (Bracken)
  • “Wednesday’s Story” by Wole Talabi (Lightspeed)
  • “The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One” by JY Yang (Uncanny)

Liminal Stories is definitely a new publication to watch, and I really like what they’re doing so far. But lots of my regular haunts had extremely good issues, Uncanny especially. Honestly, of the thirteen other short stories I read last month, only a couple of them are what I’d call duds. And we don’t talk about those.

The books:

I read five books, but with the possible exception of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, which has a lot of lovely things to say about a lot of things, I can’t claim to have really loved any of them.

Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child has its moments, as does Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men, but both are too slight and under-developed to really be satisfying. Hustvedt’s book maybe has more interesting things to say, ultimately —

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— but that’s in part because it reads more like a patchwork of essays than a novel.

Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples’ graphic novel — and that’s generous, given how sloppily it hangs together, but also given how incomplete it is — also has its moments. And Staples’ art, which I’ve enjoyed so much in Saga, is often stunning. But yeah, it’s kind of a malformed story that was obviously cut short after four issues by the publisher.

But even that was better than Benjamin Black’s The Lemur, which was such a disappointing non-starter of a non-story. It’s less a whodunit than a whocaresit.

The movies:

  • The Invitation

  • Captain America: Civil War

  • Hush:

  • The Five Deadly Venoms:

  • The Witch:

  • 1408:

  • X-Men: Apocalypse:

  • Marnie:

The music:

My monthly playlist was actually quite short in May, for whatever reason. Still, you’re free to listen to some of the songs I enjoyed listening to last month:

April 2016

jellyfish

April went by pretty quickly, huh?

I spent about a week of it in Atlanta, visiting the campuses of Emory, Georgia State, and Georgia Tech for work. I didn’t see a whole lot of the city, unfortunately, though I did get to sit in a lot of local traffic and visit the downtown aquarium while I was in town. (The former is formidable, ridiculous even, while the latter was a little disappointing, considering how much it cost just to get into the place.) I think I’ve been to Georgia before, this was the first time in a long while that it wasn’t just a short layover between two flights.

Meanwhile in April, I only managed to finish reading one book, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was a fun first novel, and I think it successfully merged the sci-fi and fantasy elements in an interesting and unique way.

I also only managed to read twenty-nine short stories, down from my one-a-day average, but that’s only because I accidentally skipped three separate days in the month. My favorites included:

I also went to the launch party for Clockwork Phoenix 5, which was a lot of fun, and to the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading, which was very crowded but also a lot of fun.

In April, I watched eleven movies:

  • Little Big Man

  • Batman V Superman

  • The Hateful Eight

  • Midnight Special

  • Now You See Me

  • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

  • Maggie

  • Trainwreck

  • Rope

  • The Big Short

And finally, in April, I listened to some music:

March 2016

photo 2 (2)

March wasn’t really a bad month at all.

It was a busy month, one with a lot of things that I needed to get finished at work. But I seem to have finished those things, for the most part. I’ve exchanged them all for new things, new deadlines, but they’re not quite as deadliney as the old ones, if that makes any sense.

I read two books, like I had in February, which may not seem like much but which is double my recent monthly average. In March it was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy and Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And both were…okay.

Whereas Leckie’s first novel, Ancillary Justice felt unique and refreshing and vital, the two follow-ups…just didn’t. They’re as well written, and have some very nice touches, but they’re a lot less compelling, particularly when taken on their own. And while Chambers’ book is very readable, with fun aliens and likable characters, it’s also so amazingly devoid of tension. There’s rarely a problem in the book that can’t be introduced and resolved in just a couple of pages, and so the whole thing can’t help feeling very low-stakes and episodic, to a fault.

In March, I also read thirty-one short stories, one every day. Favorites included:

  • “Palingenesis” by Megan Arkenberg (Shimmer)
  • “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval (Uncanny)
  • “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline Yoachim (Lightspeed)
  • “Seven Cups of Coffee” by A.C. Wise (Clarkesworld)
  • “Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed)
  • “Salvage Opportunity” by Jack Skillingstead (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar (Uncanny)
  • “Meltwater” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Meltwater)
  • “Indigo Blue” by Rachael K. Jones (Shimmer)
  • “The Name of the Forest” by Margaret Killjoy (Strange Horizons)
  • “Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare)
  • “Tumbleweeds And Little Girls” by Jeff Bowles (Podcastle)
  • “Woman in the Reeds” by Esther M. Friesner (Asimov’s)
  • “Ordinary Souls” by K. M. Szpara (Glittership, reprint)
  • “The Box Wife” by Emma Osborne (Pseudopod, reprint)
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado (Podcastle, reprint)

Everything but the last three reprints were from 2016.

I watched six movies in March:

  • Creed
  • Spy
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Grand Hotel
  • Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
  • Jurassic World

They were all pretty good, with the exception of Jurassic World, which was pretty bad. No, strike that: very bad. I don’t quite know what else to say about any of the movies beyond what I said at the time on Twitter. (You do follow me on Twitter, right?)

And finally, in March, I turned another year older. I only feel a little bad about that when I realize this is the last year of my thirties. It’s also those little mental math problems that make me feel older, more than anything else.

Anyway, let’s close out March with some music, as I’m wont to do: