Okay, so the last time I posted about what I’d been reading was in February, at which time I noted that I’d fallen out of the habit of book-blogging and wanted to get back into it. Welp, clearly I fell right back out again.
My log for 2017 is not complete, I know — I failed to log things in my file as well as write about them here. And it will be even less complete as I exclude various things like my own work (re-read for editing purposes), things I’ve read for review or critique, things I’ve blogged about already, and the pile of folkloric epics I’ve been reading for research (the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Mahabharata, the Popol Vuh, the Kalevala, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, and a very abbreviated rendition of Journey to the West). But it’s still a decent pile, so let’s get started.
I’m delighted to have another short story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this week, and honored that Scott Andrews chose mine to be the 500th story published in the magazine. Go forth and read “The Şiret Mask,” aka Ten Pounds of Caper in a Five-Pound Sack! Or listen instead, if that’s your preference. And I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it!
The past: Ars Historica is on sale now!
The past is prologue . . .
Kit Marlowe. Guy Fawkes. Ada Lovelace. Kings and sailors and sainted nuns populate these seven stories of historical fantasy by award-winning author Marie Brennan. They span the ages from the second century B.C.E. to the nineteenth century C.E., from ancient Persia to the London of the Onyx Court. Discover the secret histories, hear the stories that have never been told — until now.
The future: if you are able to vote today, please do.
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Since a number of people seemed to like my previous post about TV shows I’ve been watching, I thought I might as well do a second one. This isn’t all stuff I’ve watched in the interim; quite a lot of it is stuff I watched before, and didn’t remember when I made that first post.
Powerless — another exhibit for the display case of “things I like get canceled,” this was a short-lived show about ordinary people in the DC world, set at a division of Wayne Enterprises responsible for making products to protect people against the fallout of the superheroic battles all around them. I’m a sucker for that kind of premise, and the characters were reasonably engaging; I enjoyed this even though the half-hour comedy format is one I often bounce off. But they didn’t even get to air all of their filmed episodes before the network pulled the plug.
Emerald City — speaking of things that got cancelled . . . man, this one was weird. I’m not even sure what I think of it. Is it good? Is it bad? All I know is, it had me intrigued. I initially dismissed it as “let’s grimdark up Oz,” but that sells the show short. There’s some fascinating worldbuilding around how witches fit into the setting, with the Wizard trying to suppress and control magic in favor of science, and I think I’d have to watch the show again to say for sure whether I think it did an interesting job delving into the complexity of a conflict where both sides have their points, or was just so muddled it couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say. Lots of great visuals, though, and I really liked the actress playing Mistress West.
The OA — speaking of weird-ass things . . . I really liked this one until very near to the end. Then it fell into one of my least favorite pits, which is the trick of going “is this stuff real or is the character just crazy?” And then it tried to waffle back from that edge, and bah, it kind of fell apart. But they’re apparently doing a second season? So I may give it a try. The premise is that a blind girl reappeared after going missing for years, and now she has her sight; she will barely talk to her family about what happened, but she gathers a group of random people together and tells them her story over a period of many nights, saying that she needs their help to rescue someone. I found all the flashback stuff about her absence surprisingly compelling, which is part of why I was annoyed when the show tried to pull that rug out from under me. It also didn’t help that the climactic bit of the final episode wound up looking a bit too much like a flash mob performance — I just couldn’t take it seriously, even though I’d liked that element before.
Travelers — like The OA, this is a Netflix show. People are sent back in time to try and prevent the calamity that created their future; it’s a common premise, but this one has several twists. To begin with, only their spirits are sent back, and they can only occupy the bodies of people who are about to die. Also, there are quite a lot of them, being inserted into the timeline in different positions where they might be able to influence events, receiving orders sent from the future . . . which sometimes conflict or change without warning, because the future has its own politics going on, complicating the lives of the “travelers.” I liked the dynamics that created, and I liked that the historical records used to decide where to send the travelers are not always accurate; one of the main characters finds himself in the body of a heroin addict, with all the associated complications, and another discovers that the entire known persona of her host body was pure invention, made up as part of a social therapy exercise. This also will have a second season.
People of Earth — haven’t seen the second season of this one yet. Another half-hour comedy show, this one about a support group for people who believe they’ve been kidnapped by aliens. It’s frequently surreal, but does a great job with the social dynamics of the group — and with the social dynamics of the aliens, who are in fact 100% real, and have their own workplace woes. It got surprisingly dramatic in a few places, which is part of why I liked it.
Riverdale — ALL THE DRAMA. Initially this looked like they grimdarked the Archie comics, and they sort of did, but the better comparison might be Veronica Mars. It starts with a murder and revolves around the characters trying to figure out whodunnit, with several heaping shovelfuls of over-the-top family twistedness — seriously, the Blossoms read like something straight out of V.C. Andrews. Competition for the title of Worst Parent in Riverdale is fierce, yo. But kudos for the writers apparently deciding that they really aren’t interested in the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, and especially aren’t interested in making Betty and Veronica catfight over Archie. In fact, the younger generation are overall much better people than their parents are.
The Gifted — just started this one. Dystopian end of the X-Men universe, with the actual X-Men gone and mutants subject to horrific laws. It feels more than just a wee bit topical these days, especially since a number of the leading mutants in the story are people of color, and then you’ve got the white family whose father used to be on the enforcement side of that divide until his own kids turned out to be mutants, so now they’re finding out how the other half lives, so to speak. Not a cheery show, but I like the characters so far (three eps in).
Stitchers — watched more than a season of this, but drifted away when I realized I wasn’t all that invested. Core premise is silly SFnal cheese: a secret government agency has figured out how to hack into the brains of recently-deceased people and read their memories (in fragments) to solve their murders. But other than that it’s basically a police procedural with a layer of metaplot on top. It was fine to put on in the background while I did other things, but eventually I decided that if I wasn’t going to pay attention to it, I might as well stop.
Continuum — ditto this one, though I didn’t get in as far (I think only four or five eps), and might give it another shot, especially if anybody here recommends it. More time travel, but the characters didn’t engage me as much as the ones on Travelers did.
Once Upon a Time — this was my background show for a good long while. It’s . . . not actually good? And continually frustrated me by its common failure to actually get full value out of even its good ideas? I was basically there just for Hook, and that mostly because Alyc used him as the casting for an NPC in the game she’s running. But even with him, there was so much narrative potential left on the table — in part because this is the show that made me realize I’m getting very tired of the “dual timeline” format, flashing back and forth between Then and Now. Not only does it produce weird constraints on account of the writers trying to cram more and more into the backstory, but it means that any given episode can only devote half of its attention to either Then or Now, with the result that they’re both underdeveloped.
Quantico — speaking of the current ubiquity of the dual-timeline format. This show can be summed up to L5R fans as “what if the Kitsuki Investigator school was actually run by the Scorpion?” Toward the end of season one it got too over the top for my taste, and of course I doubt this bears any resemblance to actual FBI training. On the other hand, I loved how many women of color were in it, so if that’s a selling point to you and you don’t mind recrackulously over-the-top drama, check it out.
My apologies to those of you who read this blog on Dreamwidth; I didn’t realize for some time that the plugin which crossposts from my site to DW had broken, so last month’s tikkun olam post didn’t appear there. But I haven’t given up on these: far from it, in fact.
Every month I invite you all to share news of what you’ve been doing to repair the world, to help other people and make yourself a better part of it. That’s true this month, too, but to the usual call I’ll add a specific recommendation:
If you live in the United States and you’re registered to vote, please do so. Don’t dismiss it as an “off year,” as if the presidential election is the only one that matters. There are local offices to fill, local measures to approve or reject. Maybe you live in a state that always goes blue or red, so you feel like your vote doesn’t matter — well, the more local you get, the more effect you can have. Take just a few minutes to research what’s going on in your state, your city, your school district. Download the EveryElection app. Make your voice heard. The presidency is important, but it’s the keystone of an arch built from many different stones, and right now we can go to work on the foundations.
Of course, also keep working at the things that aren’t overtly political. Volunteer your time, donate money or goods, be there for a friend in need. No effort too small to be worth mentioning here. Share what you’ve been doing and what you hope to do, so we can all take heart from one another.
And if you can: vote.
Since we’re just a few days away from Halloween, it seemed like the ideal time for the New Worlds Patreon to discuss the afterlife: ghosts, reincarnation, Heaven and Hell, all that good stuff. Comment over there! And consider supporting the Patreon — you get photos, access to bonus essays, and more!