Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: 2019

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year/2020 Reading List

Happy-Almost-End-of-the-Decade! The twenties are roaring back to life as of tomorrow, and even though I'm having a hard time coping with the fact that it's going to be 2020, I'm still here for it. I'm mostly here for it because of all the books, however. I've been really getting back into reading, in part thanks to my book club, and I'm just dying to crack into some of these new 2020 releases. While this isn't an exhaustive list by any stretch, these are, as of right now, the three books I'm most excited to read.

First is The Burning God by R.F. Kuang. The Poppy War was easily my book of the year, and is honestly vying for book of the decade spot. So of course I'm going to pick up the third of the trilogy when it comes out. I haven't been so completely engrossed in a story in a long, long time, and the bittersweet ending of the series is just around the corner.

Next is Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore. I've said for a while now that Moore's historicals are his best work (Noir being an exception for me. It just fell a little bit flat.). The Pocket books are no exception, but the third of them promises to be the best of them all. Moore's takes on Shakespearean classics are perfection, and I can't wait to see him tackle A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2020.

Now, The Fifth Season is the other book that's vying for my Book of the Decade spot right now, so of course I'm rounding out the list with N.K. Jemisin's newest addition to her catalog, The City We Became. I've been following this book since its needlessly controversial announcement (For those that missed it, a bunch of white H.P. Lovecraft fanboys got in a tizzy because Jemisin expressed a thought.), and I've been in love with the concept the entire time. Now that it's finally here, it feels simultaneously too soon and somehow too far away. I've been obsessed with the ideas of Eldritch locations for a long time, so to see one of the modern masters of fantasy take it on is practically custom-made for me.

And that's a short and very incomplete sampling of my 2020 reading list. I'll also be finishing up The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, and I know I'll be reading James Michener's Sayonara for my book club in January. But beyond that, the world is sort of open right now. Who knows what I'll pile in before the end of 2020?

If you're wanting a look at what I'm working on, stay tuned for that post sometime after the New Year.

Happy Revolution Day,

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What Comes After Netflix?

Today, I'm getting weird. Hopefully you'll come along with me.

So in the 1800s, the big entertainment was theater and serialized fiction released in newspapers. There's a reason Charles Dickens's work was so damn long: he got paid by the word to release serialized stories.

Around the 1920s and 1930s, we were moving into the age of film, and 1927 was the first "talkie" released in the cinema.

By the 40s and 50s, serialized fiction was already on the way out, and instead we had the rise of fiction magazines and pulp novels.

The 50s and 60s saw the rise of home television and the death of road shows and the grand Hollywood musical. The 70s and 80s brought us home movies and the first ability to record from our televisions. 90s and 00s? The rise of the internet and the final death throes of the magazine industry.

Now our entertainment is, surprising no one, in flux. Theatre exists, but is now purely for the elite. Magazines basically have to give their issues away for free in an attempt to make money...somehow. Big publishing is in a constant struggle with indie publishing for books. Ebooks...are a thing.

And our TV and movie watching is steadily being replaced more and more by streaming services. Most of my generation (Millennials) are fine having no "actual TV," and instead just have whatever combination of streaming services works for them.

(If you're curious, my "perfect mix" would be Netflix, Crunchyroll, Disney+, and DC Universe.)

With all that in mind, I find myself wondering...what comes after Netflix? Right now, not only are we solidly in the "Netflix Era" of visual media, but we're also at the point where every new subscription/feed/streaming/borrowing service is compared to Netflix. Kindle Unlimited is the "Netflix of books." Music streaming largely came before ubiquitous video streaming, but I've still heard folks describe things like Spotify as "Netflix for music."

So when everything is Netflix...what do we think comes next? What happens after streaming falls by the wayside?

I have some thoughts, and most of them are half-baked at best. I'm imagining a YouTube-style platform for books. You can read X-amount of pages, then you have to watch an ad. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but I can certainly see it happening that way.

I can easily imagine a future where magazines have no choice but to condense themselves down or find new ways to bring in ad revenue.

I also think (This is my least half-baked idea.) that media is going to have to condense as a whole. A magazine will include music and video, that sort of thing. We're no longer going to have such stark delineations between different types of media.

But those are just my thoughts, however. Where do you see our media consumption going? Let me know in the I can shamelessly steal them and try to get ahead of the curve.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Toxic Influence: New Release

Hello hello! I know it's been a hot minute, but I have a new book out at long last.

Dashiel Rourke: sarcastic, questions authority - that's what my higher-ups say, anyway - and the newest member of the Office of Preternatural Affairs. Yeah, like I saw that one coming. I was a counterterrorism grunt and my own department head barely knew my name before things went to hell.

Now my partner's a troll, I've got a hag fixing up my wounds, and the bad guys can light me on fire with their brains. Or worse. The poison gas attacks I was checking out before I got into this mess? Turns out they were a little less terrorist attack and a little more magic spell.

So even if it's just for that reason, I'm going to see this one through. I got into that poison. I've seen what it does to people. Like hell am I going to lie down and let it run its course…even if that does put me up close and personal with one sorcerer too many.

It's 3.99, or free in Kindle Unlimited. Click the link below to check it out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How YouTube Terrified Me into Reading More Books

I recently found a YouTube video that I want to share. It's right below, or if that's not working, here's the link to watch it on YouTube. It's about half an hour, but to me, the most important bits will be covered by the time you're five minutes in, so you don't absolutely need to watch the whole thing.

If you're anything like me, you're now completely distraught. I know I fucking was after I watched this. Seeing that bookshelf and hearing "These are all the books you're going to read for the rest of your life" was not okay with me. I've always been a reader. That's just...scary to me. I read way more books than he does in a year (On the low end, I read probably eight. An average year for me is twelve to fifteen, but in my prime, I read about fifty per year.), but it still got to me.

I really hope it gets to you, too. Not because I want you to be miserable, but because I think everyone could do with a little more reading time in their schedule. I did the math from the video to figure out what I could get through, on average, in a year, and it was thirty books. Thirty books is plenty, with only half an hour a day. Lord knows I have a TBR pile that could use to get lower.

Now I haven't been perfect at this. The last couple of days have been rough on me finding time to read. Well, I guess they've more been full of me not making the time to read. I had the time, but I didn't spend it reading. I spent it watching video essays on YouTube and eating cold pizza.

So I'm posting this not just to convince everyone to read more (And I mean, honestly, that's pretty baldly self-serving. Read more books...also, if you look at my website, you'll see I have books you can read.), but to make myself a little more accountable. I want to read books. I love reading books. It's just sometimes hard to remember how much I love it.

The answer is a lot. A whole lot.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

2019 Hugo Awards Finalists Announced

Hello everyone!

2019/1944 Hugo Award Finalists have been announced today, and I have some thoughts I wanted to share. And you're contractually obligated to listen to me because I have a blog, and everyone who has a blog gets read all the time, all the way through.

So as tends to happen, I don't know most of the finalists, so I'm obviously only going to be speaking to the things I have some experience with.

You can read the whole list here.

So, the names that stuck out to me most were in Best Novel (I'm not going to touch on the 1944 Retro Hugos in this post.). Rebecca Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning is here as a first novel, and I've been excited about that book since before it came out. Catherynne M. Valente is one of my favorite authors, so seeing Space Opera make the cut was also exciting. And I always enjoy seeing our old guard pumping out books, so Mary Robinette Kowal's appearance there is good by me.

Aliette de Bodard and Nnedi Okorafor are also favorites of mine, so I'm thrilled to see them both up for Novella (Also, let's give a big shout out to the sheer domination of female candidates this year. We're talking about a genre that was born from Frankenstein, after all.). Best Short Story is full of new names for me, thus further confirming that shorts are still a solid launching point in the genre, and a place to watch or the novelists of tomorrow. I mean, de Bodard herself was someone I marked as really, really skilled off her short work, and now she's all over big books.

Short Form Editors are a strong showing as well. Neil Clarke, the late Gardner Dozois, and Lynne and Michael Thomas from Uncanny Magazine. Although personally, things being what they are, I think Dozois is going to be a hard one to beat. The SF/F community lost him in 2018, and he was so instrumental in the genre...I just think there's not much chance of anyone topping him out this year.

Semiprozine is strong across the board, although I love seeing both FIYAH and Fireside on there, and the now defunct Shimmer as well. And of special note in Related Work are Archive of Our Own, and Lindsay Ellis's Hobbit Duology. Metatextually, those are fascinating. Lindsay is, I believe, the second YouTuber to get a Hugo Final? And Archive of Our Own is...basically just a collection of fan fiction. Those are very different than what we would normally see in Related Work, so those excite me.

Anything from the finalists that really excites you? Let me know in the comments below.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Text Message Story: War of Witches

Hello hello! I'm writing you from frigid, snow-covered Eastern Washington, with--this might be hard to believe--a new book!

I know, I know, pick your jaw up off the floor. It's been a minute and a half since I've had a book out, but I have one today: War of Witches.

Fair warning, this book isn't in a traditional format: it's delivered one text message at a time. Highly recommend reading it on the phone rather than on the computer, but both options will get the job done!

I'm quite excited about this, since I love playing with format in my writing, and I hope you'll all be excited about this foray into urban fantasy as well.

Anyway, that's all I had to say. I hope your day is wonderful and considerably warmer than mine is looking to be.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Diablero and Cultural Differences in Media

If you've been here for a while—remember when the blog was that weird ugly brown color I picked to start out with?—then you know I have a love affair with non-US speculative fiction. There's just a quality to it that is so refreshing, I just can't get enough of it. The Neverending Story is one of my all time favorite books (German). I grew up reading Eva Ibbotson and JK Rowling and, a little later on than those, Phillip Pullman (British). I also watched a ton of anime and read a ton of manga (Japanese). And I still watch and read British, German, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese…I mean, translations or subtitled, obviously, but you can't file off those cultural serial numbers.

Well it happened again. This time, it's a Mexican paranormal drama I stumbled across recently on Netflix (If you're watching it, you probably know what I'm talking about.). It's…it's like Preacher meets Hellboy. Dynamic characters in a shitty situation with strangely intertwining personal lives.

It's called Diablero, and it really has me thinking, once again, about spec fic from other cultures. Because I don't think any native born US citizen could have made Diablero. At all. Nothing even close. The same way an American couldn't have written The Book of Souls, or Bleach, or Dark, or The Golden Compass.

I think—especially if you're in a creative career or just running a creative side-hustle—that these foreign produced media are some of the best things we can take in as people. Seeing another perspective is a powerful thing, both for personal growth and, in my case, a creative sense.

Let's bring this around to Diablero, since it's the crux for me writing this particular article right now. If I sold it as it was—a Mexican demon hunting show—you might be tempted to think, "Oh, like Supernatural." That's what my roommate thought when I explained it that way, at least.

But it's so not. Spoilers, to a certain extent, but I want to go into things a little deeper than the trailer (I still haven't finished the show. I'm about halfway through it right now.). So, to start with, a US show would have at least blinked at making a priest who got a woman pregnant their main character. They also might have blinked twice at making the church have a shadowy underbelly. Not that a US show or book has never done that, but it might make somebody along the way stop and take a closer look.

But more divergent is the use of old culture, and namely old culture in a respectful way. America A: doesn't like to dive into its past because it's ugly and B: doesn't tend to do it well or respectfully. Also C: we really don't have much past to draw on. But then you have Diablero, which establishes a history from the first moment. It brings in aspects of Mexican culture, from as far back as the Aztecs with Diablero magic being cast in Nahuatl and invoking the names of Aztec deities like Quetzalcoatl, to old school brujeria, to more modern Mexican lore, legend, and religion like Santa Muerte. A full spectrum of evolving, historically based magic is shown off in Diablero.

I think, actually, having history is a huge part of the feeling that media from outside of the US evokes. Other than a sparse handful of Native American spec fic, like Rebecca Roanhorse's books, the oldest US history that gets brought in is…when the white people showed up. There's just not a ton of history we have to draw on, which can make our fantasy…a little more sparse, honestly. I mean, when we talk about worldbuilding, fantasy writers are supposed to know the history of the world so they can see how things have come about. 250 years just doesn't quite cut it.

And, on a broader note about culture differences, Diablero has made me—and will probably make others—challenge my notions about Mexico. Even the most socially and culturally aware of us still has prejudices, good and bad, that we haven't yet confronted. Diablero helped me confront it some of that. It showed urban Mexico, which I shamefully admit wasn't a thought in my head. It should have been, obviously, but…well, just goes to show you how much work we all still have to do. And I think shows and books like this help, especially if you're not one of those folks who can pack up and fly around the world to expose yourself to other cultures…like I'm not.

Seeing what people create, in a way, condenses culture into a single, simple package. It's not a full course, it's not dropping yourself off in a foreign country for a month. But it's a start, and I think it's a worthy start.

And from a quality standpoint, I can't recommend Diablero enough. It's short, and the English subtitles do not match the English dub track, but it's still wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

Do you have a soft spot for media from other countries? Are you from outside the US and have things to say about US media? Chime in and let me know.