What I’m Loving This Month: March 2017

As we roll into March, I’m going to try to keep this space updated a little more frequently. As part of that effort, I’m going to try a once-a-month or so wrap up of things I’ve run into and enjoyed.
What I’m listening to:
Audiobooks: I’m enjoying the hell out of Becky Chambers’ “A Closed and Common Orbit”, the follow-up to her terrific “A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet”. Chambers’ sharp writing is well-portrayed by Rachel Dulude, the gifted narrator of both works. While events of tremendous personal significance for the characters occur in both books, these lean more towards slice-of-life tales, with strong character development. This isn’t the sort of thing I normally read, but that’s part of what makes it great as far as I’m concerned! Not every story needs to see the world being saved.
Chambers has constructed a lovely space-opera universe here that feels real without taking itself too seriously. Her characters are a delight, even the occasional asshole. These are also stories about a generally hopeful future, featuring a wide degree of freedom for most of the residents, both human and alien. That is certainly something many of us can use these days.
Music: “Splendor & Misery” comes from Clipping, an experimental hip-hop/rap group featuring, among others, Daveed Diggs of “Hamilton” fame. It also happens to be a science fiction story told through the music, rap, and spoken word of the album. There is a movement growing to nominate the work for a Hugo Award in the “Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form” category. Having listened to it twice now, I’ll be doing that.
Earworm special: Canadian folk singer James Keelaghan’s “Cold Missouri Waters”, a song about the smoke jumpers who perished in the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire in Montana. I discovered this via the Cry Cry Cry cover on Radio Paradise a few months ago, but for some reason it wormed it’s way into my brain last week and wouldn’t let go for days.
What I’m watching:
My television time has been scaled way, way back, but I make time each week to watch “The Expanse” on SyFy as it airs. I’m a big fan of the books and the series does a great job of capturing them. (No doubt the involvement of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the two writers who pen the books collaboratively as James S. A. Corey, helps.) The casting is pitch perfect in nearly every role, from the series leads to the secondary characters to the bit parts. Top-notch production values, too. I’ve watched season 1 three times and parts of season 2 twice. This is not just great science fiction on television, it’s great television.
I’m also watching “The Magicians”, SyFy’s adaptation of Lev Grossman’s best-selling novels. Unlike the Expanse, this show has departed in some significant ways from its source material, but I believe it’s remained faithful to the spirit of the books. I’ll admit part of my being OK with this is that we get to see a lot more of some characters who don’t last long in the books.
What I’m reading:
Reading time lately has most often been “beta reading” works by some of my fellow up-and-coming writers, but I recently managed to finish Chuck Wendig’s “Invasive”. This is a near-future SF book about genetically modified ants and, well, some dastardly shenanigans. Wendig writes in thriller mode, with tight pacing and occasionally brutal events in his narrative. I didn’t have as much fun with this one as with his hacker story “Zeroes”, which is set in the same continuity, but it’s still a spiffy read.
Having finished that book and wanting something a bit lighter to read, I picked up Matt Wallace’s “Sin du Jour: The First Course.” This is an omnibus of the first three novellas in Wallace’s “Sin du Jour” series about a catering company that services events for demons. Really. It’s quite funny so far, and just the kind of mental palate-cleanser I was looking for.
What I’m playing:
Well, not much. My tabletop gaming is pretty much on hiatus until I get this next revision on “The Frozen Past” done and off to it’s next readers. Ditto for my computer gaming. I have dabbled a little with Fractured Space, a space-based MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) game. I’m not normally a MOBA guy, World of Tanks excepted, but have found Fractured Space quite fun. The problem is the relatively small player base; there’s a fair bit of waiting time between matches. I tend to use these games as mental cool-downs in the time between breaking off writing for the evening and bedtime, and the downtime while waiting for the game to find players to begin a match has stretched beyond my patience point for the last few days.
I’ll try to do this again on in the second week of April.