Friday, May 25, 2018

Preview: Second Chance

Oh hey, I have a science fiction serial running and you can read the first six episodes for free. There's a seventh coming on Friday 1st June. What happens in it?

Lieutenant Commander Tommy "Ray" Gunn makes first contact on a planet, only to discover it’s not actually a first contact. Another cutter has got there ahead of them, from a Deep Patrol that is not quite the same as the one they belong to. What is the mystery behind these doppelgangers? Find out in next month’s story, Second Chance.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I Read Stories: A Storm Kissed by Blackbirds

A Storm Kissed by Black Birds by Eva Papasoulioti in Syntax and Salt Magazine

This is a short story about sculpture and memory and family. It is about transformation and time. It flirts with Greek myth. I liked it.

Read This: For a quick hit of sunny wonder
Don’t Read This: If you want clear explanations or intense drama.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I Watch TV; The X-Files (Season 11)

X-Files (Season 11)

The X-Files cannot end. Because it cannot end it will not give us answers. And because it will not give us answers, then it will never be ended. It will never be ended because it has no answers.

The X-Files has given us the answers. The world is full of dangerous weirdness and weird danger, and there are aliens who have been manipulating governments and technology, in order to make us slaves, and make us aliens and make us dead. And after controlling everything for the best part of a century they’re not coming because we have doomed the world ourselves.

Anyway, the monster of the week episodes were pretty good and we got an actual season ending, one that they don’t have to stupidly write their way out of if they make more, even if it wasn’t an ending. I liked the robot sushi joint, even if it was a bit heavy handed.

Watch This: More X-Files, with an occasional attempt to meditate on ageing and no longer being state of the art
Don’t Watch This: If you actually want an answer to anything

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I Read Books: Children of the Lens

Children of the Lens is the sixth Lensman novel. We skip twenty something years from Second Stage Lensman. Clarissa and Kimball Kinnison have five children – one male, two sets of female twins – and their son Chris graduates as a lensman just in time for both galaxies to be overrun by madness, political strife crime and general wackiness.

The children are the end product of the Arisian breeding program, with minds and powers beyond comprehension etc. Each of them goes through stressful situations and final training, often in conjunction with one of the five second stage lensmen – Kim, Clarissa, Worzel, Tregonsee and Nadreck. It becomes more of an ensemble piece than the previous novels, with each character looking for clues to the enemy in their own way. Kim’s story is sort of a greatest hits – he fights, goes undercover, creates a super weapon. The others are a little more interesting as we see their differing methods in more detail.

Despite the best efforts of Smith he doesn’t have another notch to go with mindbending strangeness and scale. His previous novels have hit maximum and used up most of his best tricks and this final instalment seems to move through the ordained path to the final conclusion.

Having said that there’s a frame story making the last page a pretty good twist.

Read This: For a conclusion to the series if you’ve read and enjoyed the previous 5 books. Maybe if you haven’t enjoyed but feel the need to finish anyway?
Don’t Read This: If bombastic space opera is not your thing.
Just One More Thing: There is one more Smith Lensman novel, a spin-off and I will get to it.

My previous reviews in this series:
Triplanetary
First Lensman
Galactic Patrol
Grey Lensman
Second Stage Lensman

Monday, May 21, 2018

I Watch Movies: Despicable Me 3

Gru, former villain, is fired from the anti villain league after an 80s themed villain tries to steal the world’s largest diamond and escapes (and Gru ends up swinging through the centre of the city dressed only in bubble gum). Most of his minions quit. At his lowest he is contacted by his previously unknown brother Dru. Together they pull off a heist, but then things go wrong...

This was amusing in a sweet way. The villain was very deeply into his own nonsense, enough so that I could accept the super-80s thing he had going on. The film has two dance fights which is very good. More dance fights please.

Watch This: For an all ages comedy adventure.
Don’t Watch This: If you want the Minions sub-plot to be well integrated with the rest of the film.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Liner Notes 6

Some notes on my space opera serial instalment Space Stories/Tall Tales and on the pendant short piece Wavefront Spirituality.


Liner Notes 6

Reading this now and comparing it to my unused ideas list, I’m surprised at the stories I rejected or missed. No plasma pistol shootouts. No wedding. No riddle world. No crazy feast! Still, I really like the idea of the fungus sector. Going to planet after planet, hoping for first contact, puzzles, abandoned technology, something, anything and it’s always fungus.

The current sector they’re in is probably going to be nicknamed the weird dream sector, just so you know.

Jack is the narrator here, bringing to an end the cycle through the crew. They have perhaps the most distinctive voice, and the weirdest mind. I’ve tried to reflect that in the way I wrote.

I didn’t intend to go there with the having sex, and didn’t intend to make the gender thing quite so in your face. But this is Jack, who is kind of an arsehole about things, so what else could I do?

So what stories do we have? Well, there’s the return of Rocket Interceptor and the even-more-dickish-than-Gunn Lord Richards. He’s Zapp Brannigan to Gunn’s Kirk, I guess is what I’m saying. But don’t worry, he and his crew will be back.

We get an outtake from the end of the first story, Partial City Diplomacy, explaining exactly how and why Ella joined the Patrol. Probably unnecessary, but it fills in some gaps.

And of course some old tales of Tommy Gunn. First the adventure of the Dimensional Gate (aka the Hellportal). Then an explanation for how he is only a lieutenant commander despite his immense seniority.

It’s all wrapped up in a science fictional concern which is, what is the nature of the Deep Patrol; how human is it? And then gets a bit meta with stories as the solution! Sorry about that.


Liner Notes 6a

Of course people are going to worship the Unknown Powers. That’s what people do when something big, inexplicable and dangerous comes from out of nowhere.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I Read Books: The Hinge Factor

The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History by Erik Durschmied

Durschmied, a war correspondent, examines a variety of historical events, mostly battles, and looks for the incidents that could have swung them the other way. Probably the most interesting ones are those that he personally reported on; the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf in 1991. Otherwise he competently dramatises and cleverly analyses the kind of events that military history buffs are interested in.

Read This: For some entertaining and slightly skewed looks at historical incidents
Don’t Read This: If you don’t want to know about random nonsense having big consequences.