Over at Spec Chic! I had my doubts about this one. Usually book 2 in a trilogy is acknowledged to be the weakest, and I wasn’t 100% sold on book 1. But I really enjoyed this.
Strange Horizons published my short story “Lacuna” today. It’s a different kind of story for me. I’m usually extremely plot-driven, and this one is definitely a horse of another color. Check it out!
So I finally got around to watching Orphan Black. Or at least season 1 of it. And all of you praising it to the skies are right. It is an awesome show. I don’t particularly like any of the characters, but it’s sure fascinating to watch them make the decisions they do.
I’ve also realized again how face blind I really am. I tend to recognize people by hairstyles, so I keep stumbling over the moments where the show gives us yet another Tatiana Maslany, because as far as I can tell, new hairstyle, new actress…. This also explains a lot about why I can never find Matt Damon on the screen. He has an everyman hair cut in a basic color. I kind of knew this already because I have a friend who patiently had to reintroduce herself to me every year because she kept changing her hair style and color!
Anyway, all my nonsense aside, Orphan Black is an excellent excellent example of character actions driving the plot in an organic way, and in complicating the character lives in ways that also feel organic. I may have to rewatch it and take notes.
Beyond that, I was surprised at how domestic this clone thriller conspiracy story really is. I kind of love that. It’s definitely a different style than the genre usually gives us. I’m pretty convinced that if they’d started with male clones, it would have been a lot less oh crap I need a babysitter, and why is my Sig Other such a jerk, and more shoot-outs and high-level conspiracy talk right away. Instead this is definitely a boil-the-frog kind of story. The clones are presented so matter-of-factly that it’s easy to forget that this is SF. I am assuming there are superpowers involved at some point–accelerated healing at least–because I can’t see any other way that Helena survives.
I’m looking forward to season 2.
One of the things I’ve rediscovered at the library is the love of trying new music. It’s free; it’s painless; and it lets me just grab CDs on a whim and wander away. The most recent album I picked up is ZZ Ward’s When the Casket Drops, and it’s been really interesting listening to her.
So, you should know this about me. I rarely watch movies. Somehow I got out of the habit of my teenage years, where like most teens, I spent every weekend binge-watching movies (before binge-watching was a term, I believe). Part of it is ADD–isn’t that supposed to get better as you get older? Part of it is just that movies are getting SO MUCH LONGER. It’s a chore to stay in a seat for that long. I’m up, I’m out, I’m roaming the theater.
But, I kind of miss movies. I love the world-building that goes into them. Shot for shot, it seems that most movies pack in more immersive detail than a television show. Budget, I presume.
The point of this confessional being that I’ve taken a vow to watch at least 1 new-to-me movie a month. Can’t hack the theater that much! Too loud, too long, too slow, too cold, too much freaking 3D. But there’s a whole slew of movies I’ve missed and I’m daunted by the selection. Mostly what I’ve seen in the past few years have been the Marvel blockbusters–all spectacle and well-choreographed violence. Though I did watch Resident Evil: the Final Chapter, and enjoyed it. Which tells you a lot about my tastes, I bet.
Help me out! Tell me what SF/F movies you’d recommend.
I’m not a huge fan of “gritty”, especially when it feels shoehorned in for the sake of it. Do not get me started on my opinion of Seven. (shorthand–I loathed it. LOATHED.) I don’t like characters making multiple dumb choices. Despite Res Evil up there, I’m not a fan of zombies. I will not watch anything that could be labeled “torture porn”. Just not my cuppa. My brain is enough of a horror show; I don’t need to give it more material. I don’t like movies that take place almost entirely in the dark; that’s a technical thing. I watch movies on my computer and I just can’t SEE the dark movies very well. I made the mistake of watching Immortals (so many mistakes there), but the most irksome one was that I physically could not see what was happening in a whole bunch of scenes.
I like competence in characters. Leverage was my TV jam. I will watch movies that are badly flawed if they’re interesting anyway (Jupiter Ascending, I’m looking at you.). I especially like movies that have significant roles for women. I love witty banter. I get very tired of the one-liners that pass for witty banter. Anyway, if you feel inclined, throw some titles at me. Please, pretty please?
Every year, I read a lot of books, with two goals in mind. 1) To find entertaining books (naturally) , and 2) to find a new (to me or otherwise) author. 2016 gave me three new authors to follow.
Gaie Sebold, who wrote the charming Babylon Steel (one of my favorite books of the year) as well as Dangerous Gifts, Shanghai Sparrow, & Sparrow Falling. Her writing is energetic; her characters are awesome and appealing; and her worlds feel flush with life.
JL Bryan, whose Jenny Pox claimed my weirdest book of the year title. But I started with JL Bryan for the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series, which started off slowly and has become one of my most “oooh, a new one, grab it!” series.
And this year, I made a concerted effort to read more short stories, aided by the sheer number of good, online spec fic magazines. One of the first stories I read this year was Sam J Miller’s “Angel, Monster, Man” published in Nightmare Magazine I wasn’t sold 100% on this story, but I loved so much of it, that it left a big impression. One that only grew more favorable after I read “When Your Child Strays from God” (Clarkesworld), and “Things with Beards” (also Clarkesworld). Sam J Miller’s gone from completely new to me, to a writer that I’m excited to see.
Anyone else have new, or new to them writers they fell in love with this year?
My favorite books read in 2016. Not in any particular order.
Radiance by Catherynne Valente
Reading Valente is always more experience than story. This is a silver-screen look at a past that never was—if the early Hollywood years encompassed an SF landscape of planetary travel. There’s an enormous amount of stuff going on here spread over multiple layers of story-telling and it takes some work to pick out which threads actually lead to a cohesive solution to the central mystery (though arguably not the central point of the book): what became of Severin, a Hollywood darling? How did she vanish and where did she vanish to? And will it change anything?
Valente’s writing style rewards rereading, not least because she sets up mysteries, then writes a lot of scenes that basically suggest that the answers are unimportant even as she gives you a handful of options, none of which feel super conclusive. This book, especially, flirts with made-up stories, in the thread of a movie being written about Severin that wanders through different genres and tweaks events to suit each need. In other hands, this might be a godawful mess, but here, it ends up being a book that lingers with you. And whether or not each segment of the book ends up part of a cohesive whole, they’re beautifully written vignettes on their own. I was a little dubious about this book when I first finished it, but it’s grown on me.
Experimental Film by Gemma Files
People talk about art being an “unflinching” look at the world around us, and holy god, this book refuses to flinch. The main character—a film analyst and writer, mother to an autistic child, daughter to a difficult mother—embarks on a brutal self-dissection of herself while hunting down a piece of film that may or may not have something horrific lurking in it. It’s part a mystery about what happened to a long-lost film-maker; it’s part dissection of the film scene in Canada; and its part homage to horror movies as a whole. The main character is rarely likable, but she is fascinating. The ending’s not quite as strong as the rest of the book—a sad irony of so many fantasy books; the better you ground it in reality, the less powerful the magic can feel—but it’s still way up on my list of books for 2016. Plus, Gemma Files’ writing on a micro level—line by line—is often glorious. Where Valente makes elaborations and fancy little flirts with words, Files’ writing tends toward deceptively sparse but it builds inexorably.