It’s award nomination season time again (I’m eligible to nominate for both the Nebula and the Hugo, and I try really hard to do both). I’ve already posted my own work, and now in the interest of completion I want to post about other people’s work that I really liked.

As usual, I haven’t read nearly as much as I should, especially in the area of short fiction. One of my goals this week is to try to cram in some reading to find some gems. I have, however, managed to get in a few novels — mostly new entries by old favorites.

Tool of War, by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is set in the same world as his Shipbreaker and The Drowned Cities, and nicely wraps up the stories of characters from all those books.  These are some of the best action/thriller novels you’ll read, and all grounded in really solid and thought-provoking science fiction, mostly in the areas of climate change and bio-engineering. Good stuff.

Persepolis Rising, by James S.A. Corey. The latest in the Expanse, and this book does something I don’t think I’ve ever seen space opera of this kind do. Plenty of space opera deals with galactic empires and the fall of galactic empires. This one covers the start of one.  It’s great.

Best series:  The Hugos have a Best Series category with some pretty specific requirements, and I’m happy that once again Wild Cards qualifies. I know I’m totally biased on this one, but this is a series that’s been running for 30 years, with 20+ volumes, and has remained cohesive and consistent and is also some of the best superhero storytelling in the genre. It really deserves a nod.

Movies:  Always a fun category. I’m definitely going to nominate Colossal, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Downsizing (I gave it an A for effort if not execution).  I’ll probably also nominate Wonder Woman.

But TV is where things are really going to get tough this years. We’re at some kind of peak TV. It’s amazing how much good TV there is out there. Enough that so-so shows I would have put up with 10 years ago are just right out now. Who has time for so-so when there’s so much great?

I’ve got three shows I really want to push this year. The Expanse, of course. Probably episode 2.13, “Caliban’s War.” You know, the one where everything goes to hell. Again. Love it.

Legion. I can’t stop thinking about this show. My favorite episode is “Chapter 7,” the one that operates on three different levels of reality, where David talks to himself and figures out some of his past, and then becomes a true and honest-to-goodness superhero, much to everyone’s consternation.

And finally Star Wars: Rebels hasn’t just grown on me, it’s become one of my favorite things on TV, and I’m kind of dreading the show ending this year. It’s because of the prequel thing:  with the exception of a couple of cameos in Rogue One, most of these guys don’t show up later. I’m very worried. But never mind that for now. Last year included what may be my favorite episode of the show:  3.15, “Trials of the Darksaber,” in which Kanan Jarrus finally comes into his own as a mentor, and Sabine finally comes to terms with her past. And they do it at the same time, together, in a great piece of storytelling. (In looking up this episode #, I discovered the Kanan is voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., which I somehow had not figured out before. The man who starred in Wing Commander, all grown up.)

 

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monday update

January 29, 2018

It was my birthday yesterday! It was a laid-back birthday weekend, and sometimes that’s okay. Officially tired of winter, even though we need more snow. If it’s going to be cold I at least want there to be snow to go with it. Except that means it’s harder to get out and ride horses. Argh.

The latest secret WiP hit 50,000 words yesterday. So that was nice.

Waiting on a bunch of other stuff. I hate waiting.

I’ve been watching Runaways, and I like it quite a lot. It’s interesting — it’s rather slow paced, because there are five families we’re following, who each have their own foibles and storylines. It’s a lot to pack in, and it takes its time.But it does a pretty good job. (Contrast this with Inhumans, where every single line of dialog was ham-handed exposition. I only made it through two episodes.)

I think the slow pace actually helps ramp up the tension an incredible amount. We know right away something is horribly wrong — and we know the kids are in terrible, terrible danger right from the start. It’s all just waiting to see it hit the fan.  I messaged a friend, “I am so worried about these kids! So worried!”

I think it also helps that I’m not attached to the comic, because the show changes a lot.  I went back to the few issues I have to check. And I have to say, I really like the changes the show makes. It’s more streamlined, the backstories are all firmly established in our world and don’t need the larger context of the Marvel comics universe to explain them the way the comics do.

But the most important thing, the dinosaur Old Lace, is there. And she’s adorable.

 

news of the week

January 8, 2018

This week sees the paperback release of Martians Abroad (link goes to NPR review).

Also this week, I’ll be Author Guest of Honor at MarsCon in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Note — an East Coast visit!)

COINCIDENCE?!? I think not.

So I’ve gotten through a few more episodes of both The Orville and Star Trek Discovery (still not caught up on either one, though) and I’ve decided something. I think I would like The Orville better if it really was branded Star Trek, and I would like Discovery better if it wasn’t. Strange, but there it is. A Star Trek entirely about the goofy barely competent but totally Starfleet-earnest D team? I’m so there.  An SF space opera about a war-torn future in which a bunch of really unpleasant scientists are trying to develop status-quo changing technology? Again, I’m so there.  But as it is…with both of them it’s like I keep expecting to be drinking apple juice but getting grapefruit juice instead. Not necessarily bad, just… not quite right.

I also think everyone on Discovery should get honorary Emmys for be able to say “spore drive” with a straight face.

 

Couple of recent TV shows:

The Punisher:  Once again, I’m the one person on the internet who seems to not like this thing everyone else is raving about. I found it incredibly long, slowly paced, heavy handed, and downright repetitive. Every episode had a scene of Madani in her office going on about Kabul, plus a group session, plus a flashback, plus Micro creepily spying on his family. . . you get the idea. Another Marvel Netflix show that’s 13 episodes that should have been 8. Ironically, The Defenders was 8 episodes and should have been 5. Speaking of Defenders, I’m trying to get a friend of mine to do a video of all the fight scenes along with “Kung-fu Fighting.”

Another Netflix show, Marco Polo:  So I got home from L.A. last week, incredibly exhausted and sleep-deprived, but it was only like 7 pm so I didn’t want to go to bed yet, so I decided to watch something kinda pretty but mindless but probably not all that good ’cause I hadn’t heard much about it and I didn’t want to get attached ’cause I’ve got nine million other things to watch . . . .  So of course I love it. Binged the whole first season in under a week. My only complaint is it does the Game of Thrones thing where if there’s a woman in Act 1 she’ll be naked by Act 3, but that actually eases off by the end of the season.  In favor of trebuchets. TREBUCHETS, PEOPLE.  This show is so freaking gorgeous visually, great cinematography, and the costumes, and the acting, and the music. . .  But most of all it reminds me of reading Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s kind of historical but also kind of not, with lots of political intrigue, culture clashes, lots of good earnest characters and a few wicked ones. Seriously, if you liked Marco Polo, go read Guy Gavriel Kay. And if you like Kay, I bet you’ll enjoy Marco Polo.

I’m waaaaaay behind on the Star Treks and CW Superfriends shows because the group of people I watch those with has been scattered here and anon over the last six weeks and we’re going to try to get together to binge them all soon, I hope. I miss Supergirl.

 

Friday roundup

November 17, 2017

At long last, my in-depth review of Blade Runner 2049 is live at Lightspeed. I could have said a lot more, there’s really a lot here to pick apart, and I wonder if it’s only worth the effort because the expectations were so very high. I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about this if the words “Blade Runner” weren’t attached to it. Then again, maybe I would, thinking back on how much time I spent talking about that wretched Total Recall remake.

A bit of trivia:  the title “Blade Runner” actually comes from an entirely different science fiction novel, The Bladerunner, by Alan E. Nourse, which I have actually read, and which I think would make a fantastic movie or TV series. Particularly relevant now, in how it deals with the health care system.

I’m way behind on pretty much all TV watching. My usual gang of superfriends have all been busy and traveling this fall, so we haven’t had a chance to sit down at our usual shindigs. I’m hoping to get through it soon, because ep. 4 of this season’s Flash was amazing.  Hilarious and serious and over the top and cohesive and Danny Trejo and the worst pun in TV episode title history. (“The Elongated Journey into Night.” I KNOW RIGHT?!) It’s great.

And I will go see Justice League at some point, for purely academic reasons of course. I just have to see for myself what they’ve done with it.

 

Wednesday post & Voltron

October 25, 2017

Reminder:  This weekend is MileHi Con!  I’ll be there with elf ears on. No joke.

I’m writing a review of Geostorm for Lightspeed. Also no joke.  It was like a really bad episode of G.I. Joe. Which still makes it better than Prometheus.

And I’m all caught up on Netflix’s Voltron. Now isn’t that a trip?  The thing I think I like best:  what they’ve done with Pidge. Specifically, that Pidge is a girl. We don’t know that until partway through the first season — she’s in hiding while she searches for her lost family members. But once she’s outed, she doesn’t change. Usually the way this trope works is we find out that unassuming guy is really a girl in hiding, and then she suddenly grows her hair out and puts a dress on and everyone is so amazed that she’s actually so pretty, surprise!  Not here. Pidge doesn’t change at all. She looks, sounds, acts, exactly the same. She’s still the nerdy tech genius. Definitely not a token girl character because that was always Allura. And now we have two girls, which I think is great.

 

I’ve managed to get in three episodes each of Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville and I’m ready to talk about them. It’s taken some effort to sort out what I want to say, and to untangle the weight of expectation from what I’m actually seeing.

Discovery:  This one’s frustrating. I like the characters, I like the look. The writing is just about terrible. First off, it should have started with the third episode. The first two are pure, unmitigated prologue. That last scene of the second episode, Burnham’s tribunal, I actually had a sinking feeling, because it was so clear that this is where the story starts, and if the previous hours felt stilted and wheel-spinny, well, that’s why.

Here’s an example of just how frustrating the writing is:  we’re on the bridge during a standoff with the Klingons, the situation is very tense, things could start blowing up any minute — and Burnham has to go leave to make a phone call. Like for real. And the call is to Sarek to ask him how the Vulcans successfully made contact with the Klingons. And I’m immediately like, “Wait, aren’t the Vulcans part of the Federation? Why would this be secret information that she has to pry out of him? Wouldn’t the Vulcans, who are all about peace and knowledge, just tell everyone how to make contact with the Klingons?”  Well, no, because this is a show that has to keep secrets in order to make the plot work.  So Burnham runs back to the bridge to start acting like a crazy person, at which point the captain calls her off the bridge for another meeting. During this supposedly tense standoff. This makes no sense.

And let’s talk about the Klingons. Or as I call them, McGuffin Klingons.  I’m not even going to touch on the re-design or how they look or talk or anything. Because they’re really just there to make the plot go. They make no sense otherwise. In fact, they spend most of these two episodes standing around explaining their motivation to each other because it makes no sense as anything other than “Well, Federation’s gotta fight somebody, I guess there’s a prophecy about it or something?”

The whole thing should have started with the third episode. Actual mystery, actual interesting things happening, and a redemption arc right out of the gate. And it could have just flown right past all that stuff that makes no sense.

The Orville:  Or Star Trek with dick jokes.  And I’m not really a fan of dick jokes, so there’s that, but mad props to Seth MacFarlane for getting Fox to fund his Star Trek LARP.  I like the secondary characters a whole lot. The two leads drive me bananas, and I’m really over the thing where the goofy male main character gets the beautiful woman to defer to him and apologize to him etc.

Seriously though, that third episode straight-up could have been a Star Trek episode, which was always incredibly heavy handed when it tackled gender issues. Turnabout Intruder anyone?

Mostly, I just find it really odd.  It’s a throwback. It’s nostalgia. And it’s goofy. It’s not terrible but it’s also not lighting any fires for me.

I will probably continue watching these for at least a couple more episodes. But I probably won’t enjoy them terribly much.

Here’s the thing, in conclusion:  in the age of peak television, “tolerable” doesn’t cut it anymore. When I have shows like Legion and Mr. Robot and The Expanse to watch, I don’t have to put up with “Well, it’s okay.”  I have a lot of brand loyalty to Star Trek. But these shows try my patience.

 

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