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Alive in 2014

The only thing more crazy futuristic sounding then 2014 is 2015. That’s a big year for sci fi fans, the year Marty McFly went to the 80’s version of the future, hover boards, holographic Jaws, and all. Periodically I’ll wander around a place and just wonder what my eight year old self would make of it. Would anything stick out as ‘futuristic?’ I’m not usually left with much. What is arguably futuristic is hidden, or buried in the hands of pedestrian web-surfers. Sometimes I see a slick Tesla or a sign that would require thirty years of back story to explain, but for the most part our present feels like the present of my youth. Not terribly strange in the aggregate, only remarkable in the details, the little hints of what might be on the way. If you’re concerned about such details you could find plenty of evidence that we’re heading to a catastrophe or that we’re beginning to pull out of a tailspin. It’s all in how you look at things.


Publishing news: 2014 will be memorable to me for tw…

What I Read in 2014

I was finally able to catch up enough with my reading list in 2014 to read books and stories published in 2014. There’s more I hope to read within the next few weeks to prepare for the Speculative Fiction: Year in Review panel for Arisia, but I’ve already found more than a few reasons to celebrate literature this year.

I’m splitting this post in two, the first half dealing with novels and the second half talking up a few of my favorite shorter works.

Novels:


5) The Peripheral: William Gibson achieves two tricks in this novel. One is stylistic. Gibson writes cool just about better than any living science fiction author. Even though he’s describing a very discouraging brand of dystopia, one can’t help but want to live there, to experience what Gibson is describing. The other trick Gibson manages is showing the cost of such pondering. In this book, characters from two separate time period confront a murder with consequences for both realities. The future isn’t simply a direction in The Peri…

What I Saw in 2014

With one or two exceptions I saw just about every speculative fiction film I wanted to see this year. I didn’t get a lot of the ‘would-be-nice-to-see’ items on my list, but that’s what January’s for. I thought this was a fantastic year for movies, one of my favorite in several years. It was honestly somewhat difficult to choose just five movies that made this year special, but here is my rough attempt.

#5) Snowpiercer: Directed/defended from malicious editing by Boon Joon-ho. Ah yes. I was told repeatedly to watch this film and being mildly allergic to hype stayed away for a few months through sheer perversity. Once I actually saw it, I was, needless to say, very impressed. This is the kind of dystopia I can really get behind - self-aware and loopy, just flashy enough to shoulder aside all of the refrigerator moment plot holes and to lay on the social criticism. If you can watch this film and not feel slightly uncomfortable then you weren’t paying attention.


#4) Blue Ruin: A film of s…

What I Heard in 2014

Today’s post begins my series of year-end posts about the music, movies, and books I enjoyed this year. This isn’t meant to be my objective list of the Best of 2014. I certainly listen to a lot of music in a year, but not enough to say with honesty that I’ve heard everything worth praise. I tracked down what seemed interesting, bought my usual dozen or so albums and offer the following selection as a record of what sounds spoke to me and what I suspect I will still be listening to years after 2014.

As usual, I’ll work my way up to my favorite album this year starting at:

 #5: Perfume Genius Too Bright. Mike Hadreas, the singer song-writer responsible for Perfume Genius apparently sings in more of a torch-singer mode than you’ll find him here. Slow, dirgy piano confessions rub shoulders with scorched-earth cyberpunk anthems. Gay, straight, or other, Perfume Genius captures the homesickness of restless souls, and it is impossible to react to these songs in any other way than as simply P…

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: Review of Novel

This was not the book I intended to read first after finishing Peripheral. But I knew within the first five pages that I would be reading this from cover to cover before I read anything else. That’s the power of a good book, of an arresting story. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (the now uncovered pseudonym of YA author Catherine Web) is that. 

The simple idea behind the novel, a tweak of the Groundhog Day, is that certain individuals, called Kalachakra, are reincarnated into their own lives existence after existence, living the same span of time from infancy to death again and again. Harry August, for example is always born in 1919, spends his routinely traumatic childhood in Northern England, before winding up dying some time around the fall of the Berlin Wall. In different hands I think this novel could have easily been basically  contemporary fiction. Recall the Time Traveller’s Wife as an example of modern literature’s increasing appropriation of the trop…

Serial Uncertainty

For the past two months, Sarah Koenig, a journalist who works on the NPR program, “This American Life,” has produced a weekly radio non-fiction exploration of a single murder case called Serial.  The case centers on the murder of a young woman named Have Li occurred in 1999, and the eventual conviction for murder of one Adnan Syed. The format, an ongoing podcast, collects information from the original case, details the ways the Adnan’s defense was bungled or made more difficult by the stubborn refusal of the facts of the murder to cohere into one definitive shape. As new information came to the attention of Koenig she would plug that back into the unraveling story. Serial has created a mini universe of its own, people listening, straining to figure out the whos and whats of the case, spinning off their own theories. Really the closest another work came to the sheer complexity and involvement of Serial this year was True Detective, another sprawling murder mystery that seemed to adore…

An Update to Arisia Panels

A couple of weeks ago, I announced my panels for Arisia 2015 and I thought I’d add a bit more information to that post.

First off, here’s my schedule during the weekend:

I have the Speculative Literature: Year in Review panel first, 10:00 pm Friday night in the Marina 2 room. The other panelists are Gillian Daniels, who writes a column for the Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine on new and notable short fiction as well as being a talented writer in her own right. The other panelist is Teegan Mannino, who reviews more than books on her blog than I get to in a year. 

On Saturday, 4:00 pm, at the Marina 2 I’ll be in the True Detective Panel with a whole bunch of knowledgeable folks about my favorite television show last year. Shira Lipkin, the moderator, I’ve seen at a number of Arisia panels. Also there will be John Murphy, Steve Sawicki, and Megan Markland. Everyone seems to be coming at this show from a variety of directions. Personally I got into this show from the weird fiction angle …

What a Show Will Become: Agents of SHIELD

The winter finale episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a nifty screen capture of that moment when a show passes beyond something merely watchable, and actually becomes necessary to watch. I started watching Agents last year because I really liked Agent Coulson and I thought it would be a sort of the Google Labs of MCU, a place where the weird, unmarketable characters could appear and future movies could be teased. Oh yeah, and Joss Whedon, I’d be lying if I didn’t ‘fess up to that basic misconception of the show.


SPOILERS aplenty to follow.
As we now know, what Agents  provided last year was a surprisingly safe and predictable procedural crime drama. Like NCIS with super-powers. Although the connection with the rest of MCU firmed up towards the end of the season, I left more than a few episodes baffled why I was sticking around. The characters were flat, the dialogue ranged from obvious to grating, and I couldn’t quite shake the sense the show was spinning its wheels. After the Capt…

New Stories Are Up!

As announced recently, I had two accepted by publication: "Belongings" a flash sci fi story on the Themes of Absence website and "War-Zones" in the second The New Accelerator anthology. I'm enormously pleased to have both appearing this weekend, available for reading. I'd love to hear what you think of them. Please comment on the websites they appear on, or here at Ancient Logic.

I'm planning a few more updates in coming days, including my write-up of the winter finale for Agents of SHIELD, as well as some thoughts after reading the History and Horror, Oh My! Anthology my story "What the Pridigy Learns"
Links: "Belongings": http://www.themeofabsence.com/2014/12/belongings-by-morgan-crooks.html Note: Theme of Absence also posted an interview of me talking about writing and speculative fiction. I want to give Jason Bougger my thanks for accepting the story and for running a great website. 
"War-zones" available on iTunes and …

Arisia 2015 Panel Assignments

I got my panel assignments this morning for ‪#‎Arisia‬ and I'm very pleased to announce I'll be on the True Detective panel. This was my top pick for the convention and I can't wait to have a good conversation on the weird fiction influences on this show. I also got on the Speculative Fiction: Year in Review panel which I intend to use to talk up a banner year in electronic publication of short fiction. I also got on a panel on running great (RPG) games, which is timely because I'm currently in one of my absolute favorite campaigns. I'm also hoping that I get a chance to read some of my work so hopefully in the next few days I can report  good news on that front.

A few announcements

This has been an eventful weekend. "History and Horror, Oh My!" the anthology where my story Roman horror story appears, became available last week. I've also received word that two more of my stories were accepted for publication!

The first is "Belongings," which is a flash sci-fi piece about the difficulty of finding your home, even when it's physically attached to you. It will be appearing on the "Theme of Absence" website on Dec. 12th. Once it's live, I'll post a link here and on my blog. In the meantime, I'd pay the site a visit, it's got plenty of cool stories and interviews. http://www.themeofabsence.com

The second story is "War-Zones" which I wrote last year after watching too many drone gun-cam videos on the news. It will be appearing in the second New Accelerator anthology. I'll be posting the link once I receive word it's available, but for the time being you should definitely check out their page: http:…

Living on an Alien Earth

In finishing this review of William Gibson’s new novel “The Peripheral,” I tried to find a quote about how science fiction is sometimes more about the present than the future. I found this quote on William Gibson’s Wikipedia page:
"I felt that I was trying to describe an unthinkable present and I actually feel that science fiction's best use today is the exploration of contemporary reality rather than any attempt to predict where we are going... The best thing you can do with science today is use it to explore the present. Earth is the alien planet now." — William Gibson in an interview on CNN, August 26, 1997.

That’s what reading Gibson often boils down to: the best way to describe his work has often already been said by Gibson himself. That aside, the point is interesting to me when considering this novel. To keep things non-spoilerly for a moment, “The Peripheral” charts the connections and relationships between two very different visions of the future. In one, a yo…

Further Thoughts on Interstellar

Now to the SPOILERS:

I suppose I could approach Interstellar from a number of directions but the thing that stuck with me checking in on the reactions to the story is how incomprehensible the negative reviews of this movie are. The one that +Ludovic CELLE  shared with me from over at i09 really crystallizes the problem for me. Interstellar is not just being held to a different standard, it’s being held to a ridiculously unfair standard. 


Basically, the article by Annalee Newitz boils down the criticism of Interstellar to one of using "new-age platitudes" like the universality of love to muck up hard science fiction. I think this reaction stems from one of the weaker conversations depicted in the movie, the one where Brandt (Ann Hathaway at her most à les miserables) emotes all over the screen about the power of love to inform decision making. I do think this is a troubling moment in the movie, not so much for the sentiment it shares, as who does the sharing. Of course the fema…

Interstellar

You should watch Interstellar. Because I’m going to write a follow-up article that will be full of spoilers I thought I’d get a quick non-spoiler review out there. 



Christopher Nolan has created one of the biggest and most encouraging movies of the past decade and this work, flawed though it might be, should absolutely be watched and appreciated on its own terms.
For starters, this is a beautiful film. That in itself should be all the recommendation the average person needs. Why should you listen to Beethoven, or see Michelangelo’s David ? Because they bring a certain amount of aesthetic enjoyment. For three solid hours, this movie creates arresting, mind-blowing imagery. 
Interstellar also represents a serious exploration of realistic science. While I’m not totally convinced that all of the science checks out, enough of it does to have kept Kip Thorne on as a scientific consultant. The parts that aren’t realistic are defensible in terms of extrapolation from existing science. In ot…

New Story Acceptance

My story “What The Prodigy Learns” was accepted for publication by Mystery and Horror, LLC for an upcoming anthology called “History and Horror, Oh My!”



I have been kicking around this idea for a horror story set in Pax Romana since last year and I’m glad that it’s found such a perfect home.

Thank you to Gwen Mayo and Sarah E. Glen for selecting this piece for publication.

http://www.mysteryandhorrorllc.com

Visit to Europe - part 4: Gaudi's Barcelona

So after a swift reboot of our trip to Barcelona, things improved. After basking in the AC for an hour or two, we set off for Montjuïc, the site of the National palace, the Joan Miro museum and the Olympic venues from the 1992 games. The walk up to the palace from the Espanola Metro stop is pure photo-bait. The cascading terraces matched with fountains creates the spectacle, the unexpected escalators leading almost all the way to the top was an unexpected treat. In addition to housing examples of Gothic and Medieval art from Spain, the National Palace also provided one of the better views of downtown Barcelona.



The Joan Miro museum is nicely structured as an overview of his work but at that point in the day we starting to lose steam. After we left it was a short walk to a funicular leading down to Paral-lel and then a short tour of the famous shopping district La Rambla.





The next day we found another funicular (this one closer to what I think people mentally picture with that word) th…