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Showing posts from February, 2015

What I Read in February

February was a good month for short stories or at least I managed to luck into a great patch of excellent stories. Sketch by Morgan Crooks (2015) Under a Blood Red Sky by Edward Ashton, published in Fiction Vortex: I have a couple of reasons to like this story: appealing characters, effective sense of time scale and far-future existence, and the interesting (if familiar) look at the uses of virtual reality. Close to the end of Earth, as the sun swells into its red giant phase, a survivor of Earth’s civilization spends eons enjoying one single afternoon  in-between  marshaling the dwindling resources of Earth to fend off vultures in the closing eons of the solar system. This is big scale science fiction, all the more impressive to me appearing in a short story. It reminded me a little bit of why I love Asimov, Stapleton, Bear, and a little short story from last year called “ The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye ” by Matthew Kressel. Meshed by Rich Larson, published in Clarkeswo

Jupiter Ascending: Quick Review

I think it is difficult sometimes to talk about the lower mid-range of movies. When I try to picture the person who would fawn over the Wachowski siblings Jupiter Ascending, consider it the best movie of all time, I draw a blank. However, for a movie in the basement in terms of critic ratings, sitting at 40% and 23% at the Meteoritic and Rotten Tomatoes respectively, I think it might not be too late to ask for a quick adjustment to the common wisdom. I want to be clear, Jupiter Ascending is not a GOOD movie. It doesn’t have particularly good acting, or script, or score. The world building is best described as needlessly ornate, and honestly a clear succinct explanation for the people, events, and creatures thrown up on the screen would have been appreciated. Alas, long gone are the days where the ideas embedded within Morpheus’ monologue could be almost as awesome as the fight scenes. Allowing for all that, though, I’m left with a distinct impression of that movie, which is I had

Lock In by John Scalzi: A Review

First of all, there’s the title of this story. Lock In is John Scalzi’s term for people suffering from the lingering aftereffects of an encephalitic flu that will strike the world in the near future. Most people who get this flu recover with no ill-effect. However, a certain percentage are left in a persistent fully paralyzed, conscious state, termed lock-in. They can’t move or speak, and exist completely dependent on society for care. However, Hadens, another term used to describe the survivors of the disease, possess a brain structure altered to a sufficient degree that they are are able to easily download their perceptions into mechanical bodies, called Personal Transports, and into the minds of even rarer subset of people who experienced the flu, Integrators. A strength of this book is that a reader gradually comes to understand the full scope of the Lock-In future.  This fast-moving book provides details of the disease and how Hadens cope with it along the way,  rarely throu

Why I'm Watching Agent Carter

Agent Carter is one of the best shows on television right now and certainly one of the best arguments for a feminist critiques of culture. Whenever I get really interested in a show, to the point I start structuring my schedule around it, I have to wonder why. Why this show? What is it that appeals to me? Agent Carter Promo Picture The actress playing the title role, Hayley Atwell is a big part of that. She was a highlight of the surprisingly entertaining if flawed first Captain America movie and, in preparation for the Agent Carter mini-series, appeared in a couple of cool vignettes during the first half of this year’s Agents of Shield. In all of these, Atwell portrayed Agent Carter as an extremely capable and stylish agent, unafraid to use her keen wit or powerful right hook to get the job done. In a one-shot filmed by Marvel and tucked into the extras of the Iron Man 3 DVD, Agent Carter is coping as best she can with the aftermath of losing Steve Rodgers, and the contempt of h

Boskone 2015

Boskone is the one local convention I’ve never had a chance to visit. It usually occurs at an awkward time for me in the calendar (seriously, Valentine’s Day?) but on the other hand it offers a chance to see all of my favorite authors gathered together in one convention - Laird Barron, Elizabeth Bear, John Langan, Ken Liu, Scott Lynch, Charles Stross, etc. If you want a quick list of authors to track down to find out what’s happening in speculative fiction right now, you’d be well-served just looking through the participant list of Boskone. What to do, what to do. The snowy wasteland surrounding the Westin Hotel. Morgan Crooks (2015) This year I decided to give it a try before the impending blizzard closed down Boston again. In a nutshell I am going to have to go back. Although Boskone is a smaller convention than Arisia (which I’ve gone to for several years) I had a blast. First off I’d just like to point out that the smaller size for Boskone probably works to its advantage. T

Speculative Lexicons

Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice” gives me a chance to talk shop. In a science fiction novel, like the Radch series, a writer is confronted with the need to express novel concepts through the English language. Whether introducing an alien species or a new technology or simply a specific style of dancing, a author must choose from three basic options. Wind Sculpture near Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe. Taken by Morgan Crooks (2013) One: use common English analogues to express concepts similar to ones more familiar to readers. So instead of calling an alien fork a Quedebblian food-trident, call it a fork assuming it has the same basic function. Secondly, a writer could resurrect a less frequently used word and apply it to the situation - think the Wachowski sibling's use of the word 'Matrix.' Finally, a writer might created a neologism. This last category is in someways the most broad as it includes portmanteaus, figurative transliterations, and out-an-out inventions. Howeve

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: Book Review

A book can wallow in my “must-read” pile for a while before I feel compelled to start it. With Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, it took the Speculative Literature: Year in Review panel before I kicked it to the top of the list. What both of my co-panelists, Gillian Daniels and Tegan Maninno , said about the book was that it was the best kind of space opera, epic in scope, full of rich characterization, with interesting takes on gender and identity. Sold. Basically Ancillary Justice introduces a universe several millennia in the future where an expansionist empire called the Radch is beginning to descend into a very unusual kind of civil war. The protagonist, Breq, is actually the final remaining instance of a ship-borne intelligence called Justice of Toren, nearly obliterated due to the machinations of the empire’s ruler. Now, left with one very capable but limited physical body, Breq/Justice of Toren, seeks to exact revenge upon the Radch ruler Anaander Mianaai for her many mis

New Story Acceptance

I’ve learned that my story “This Beautiful Creature,” will appear in an upcoming science fiction anthology “Second Contacts,” published by Bundoran Press. Second Contacts explores what happens after humans make contact with aliens, each story set a couple of generations after the initial encounter. I’m including the table of contents below: Roof of Casa Batllo (taken by Morgan Crooks 2014) Introduction by Hayden Trenholm The Susans Come Home by Barry King Connoisseurs of the Eccentric by Jetse De Vries Soil of Truth by Nicole Lavigne Wash Away on Fiant Lux by Robin Wyatt Dunn Free Radical by David Tallerman Between the Worlds by Jordon Moore A Girl and Her Tentacle Monster by Naomi Libicki As Below, So Above by Matt Moore This Beautiful Creature by Morgan Crooks Translator by Albert Nothlit Grief by Karen Anderson Strong Arms Be Our Conscience by Andrew Barton Windigo by David Yeh The Peace of the Worlds by Jaime Babb Get the Message by Peter Wendt Scar Tissue b

Short Fiction in January

One of the more pleasant consequences of being on the Speculative Fiction: Year in Review panel at Arisia (aside from a great conversation) was being motivated to read as many short fiction pieces as possible before the panel. That turned out to be so much fun (who would have thunk it) that I’ve tried to keep up with it. Part of this is self-serving. I’m going to try out for the panel again next year and I’d like to have notes ahead of time instead of scrambling two months in advance. But part of it stems merely from my desire to be entertained by the great speculative fiction out there right now. So to that end I thought I’d keep a running public journal of what’s caught my eye on a month-to-month basis. For January I’ve got four stories I’d like to talk up. Compound Sketch by Morgan Crooks (2015) The Sound of Useless wings by Cecil Castellucci appeared in last month and man, I do enjoy a writer able to bring a completely alien perspective into fiction. This is one of t