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Charlie X

January 21, 2018 Leave a comment

I think I’ll do this in two parts–steam of consciousness as the show is going, and then a summary, if I feel inspired.  You shouldn’t look for great literature in either part, however.  Also, as this episode is over fifty years old, and you had to look pretty hard to find this, there will not be any spoiler warnings on material more than twenty years old.

I loved the scene where Spock is playing the Vulcan lyre and Uhura is singing the supposedly off-off-the-top-of-her-head song.  I don’t remember that level of fun in TOS.

It seems to take them a long time to realize they have an omnipotent toddler among them.  Am I the only one who considers that when meting pretty much every new person?

Spends a lot of time looking at Yeoman Rand with soft filters.

The young yeoman was. . . was wearing pants!  A woman with covered legs!  I was unaware.

They stand really close to each other in some of these scenes.

There’s a scene in the gym that starts off with three women in neck-to-toe red leotards and leggings doing rolls, and I can only imagine that this was pornography for the 1960s.

. . . and there’s the first murder on screen.

It’s so funny that at this point, seventeen was considered adolescent.  Most of the time, I hear that term used for thirteen to fifteen years olds, now. . . .

(NETFLIX IS DOWN?  When does Netflix go down?)

Yeoman Rand in space lingerie!

I just caught Leonard Nimoy putting his elbow through a set wall.  It’s only there for a fraction of a second, but Yeoman Rand’s room will need patching.

Every time they mention Thasians, I think they’re talking about Asians.

Charlie’s understanding of human emotions varies quite wildly throughout this episode.

Summary: Assume that everyone is an omnipotent toddler; also, bend over and Kidd your ass goodbye.

 

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“‘Run,’ Bakri Says”, by Ferrett Steinmetz

January 21, 2018 Leave a comment

NOT FOR CHILDREN

“‘Run,’ Bakri Says” is a story in the vein of Replay or Groundhog Day, about a person in a time loop, living the same events thousands of time.  The only thing is, she’s in a war zone.

Non-Spoiler Summary

The main difference between “‘Run,’ Bakri Says” and the other time loop stories is that Irena isn’t reliving twenty-five years of life, or one day she controls: she’s got fifty minutes to rescue her brother from an American jail in the unnamed country.  She’s got to get past a sniper, two guards outside, and find her brother Sammi in the jail.  It takes thousands of tries.

Why should you read it?

“‘Run,’ Bakri Says” is about what war does to people who can’t get out.  Irena starts out not wanting to kill the soldiers, and a few hundred iterations later, she’s measuring statistics on how often she can make head-shots.  For such a short story, it traces the dissolution of her personality quite vividly.  I’d almost call it science fiction-horror.

Where to find “‘Run,’ Bakri Says”

This story is available freely on Escape Pod’s site, in audio and text.

“Triceratops Summer”, by Michael Swanwick

January 14, 2018 Leave a comment

“Triceratops Summer” is a story about some dinosaurs blocking the road, some vacations that weren’t taken, some time that doesn’t matter, and some physics in the background.  Largely a piece about how time feels in a given situation, rather than deeply plot driven.

Non-Spoiler Summary

A herd of triceratops show up on an early summer day, and our viewpoint characters are stuck in the traffic they generate.  Shortly, a man from the Applied Physics lab nearby show up, and tell them where the “trikes” come from.  The rest of the story is how everyone lives with the dinosaurs for the rest of the summer.

Why should you read it?

“Triceratops Summer” is a meditation on what one does with one’s days, and whether it’s more fulfilling to leave one’s home or just enjoy the events of a normal life.  After re-reading it to write this post, I’m reminded of how little actually happens in this story–it’s almost more about not doing things than doing them–and how good the images of sitting on the back porch feeding cabbage to dinosaurs just feels.

Where to find “Triceratops Summer”

This story is available freely on Baen’s site, in text.

“Rocket Surgery”, by Effie Seiberg

January 7, 2018 Leave a comment

“Rocket Surgery” is a story about smart bombs, when they get really smart, and start asking philosophical questions.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Teeny is a bomb with AI.  Something like a neural net.  He has to be trained to do his missions… but what happens when he starts generalizing from what’s assigned to what’s really good?  And what happens when he asks about what happens after his missions–remember, he’s a bomb.  For him, there is no after.

Why should you read it?

“Rocket Surgery” is a sad and funny piece about a bomb’s college education.  It’s the story of what happens when you make the bomb smart enough that it starts asking questions, what happens when a weapon becomes a warrior. . . becomes a philosopher.  The story has a refrain of “Did I do good?”  Teeny resolves all of these issues, all at once, and pretty well. . . for a bomb.

Where to find “Rocket Surgery”

This story is available freely on Escape Pod’s site, both in text and audio.

“We Clever Jacks”, by Greg van Eekhout

October 4, 2016 Leave a comment

“We Clever Jacks” is a story about a Halloween rebellion, of a kind, from one class of unspoken victim of the holiday.

Non-Spoiler Summary

We pick them, we bring them home, we hollow them out, we give them faces… but nothing more.  They want more.  So much more.

Why should you read it?

“We Clever Jacks” is a sad and funny piece, about a page long, about the fate of jack-o’-lanterns, who don’t want to just be sitting on porches.  They want to rise up.

This is another story that’s so short, you may as well read it instead of reading me convincing you to read it.

Where to find “We Clever Jacks”

This story is available freely on van Eekhout’s website, Writing and Snacks. It is also available in audio form from Podcastle.

(I have been meaning to post this in October for at least two years, now.)

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“Mutant”, by Michael Montoure

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

“Mutant” is a story about a familiar figure from song and story, told very differently.

[Updates, two:  I forgot to mention that I know Michael Montoure personally, although this story was a complete surprise to me when I found it, and that the web page I link to below has broken headers, as of 12/21/15.  The story is present on the page and perfectly readable.]

Non-Spoiler Summary

Ever wonder if Rudolph actually liked saving the day, that Christmas?  He didn’t.  Oh, how he didn’t.

Why should you read it?

Because in about a page, Montoure can make you look at a story you’ve known your whole life a new way, teach you some things about inclusion and exclusion, and make you fear for next Christmas.

Where to find “Mutant”

This story is available freely on Montoure’s website, Bloodletters.  Find it here.

Read _The Martian_.

August 25, 2015 Leave a comment

That the imperative form, not the past tense–I just said “reed” The Martian, not “red” The Martian. Which I have also done, twice, but I’m telling you that if you haven’t, you should.

(People ranging from Adam Savage of Mythbusters to Barack Obama of the White House are also recommending this book, so I’m not alone. Not hardly.)

_The Martian_ is the story of the third manned trip to Mars. The first one to experience any real difficulty. A sandstorm. It forces the month-long trip to be aborted after less than a week. It causes them to leave for Earth, and kills one of the crew members.

Except, y’know, it _doesn’t_. It leaves Mark Watney supposedly dead and abandoned on Mars. Alone. For the first time in human history, there is only one person on a planet. And nobody knows he’s there.

He tries to survive one day. Then another. Then another. And things happen. I have now spoiled the first, oh, five pages of the book. Maybe a bit more.

This book is very much for anyone who thought that the best part of Apollo 13 was when the flight director dumped a pile of parts the Apollo astronauts would have out on the table and said “We need to connect this [one port] to that [another port] using only this [pile of junk].” This phrasing is not original to me, but it is both apt and funny, so I’m stealing it.

It is also for anyone who recognizes and values human ingenuity, dignity, heroism, sacrifice, and several other high-minded emotions I can’t even name without getting sucked back into a complete re-read of the book.

Yes, it gets math-ey, in some places. If the numbers bug you or bore you, skip them. Some of them aren’t exactly right anyway, and very few of them are important to the story of a man who will. Not. Give. Up.

There’s a movie coming. Let me tell you, I avoided the trailer as long as I could, because I didn’t need to be sold. I was going first weekend, likely first night. But when I saw it, a _trailer_ made me weep. Weep. My son Joshua asked me if I was okay, the tears came so hard and fast.

I have recommended many works of fiction over my years as a bookseller and after. _The Martian_ gets my very highest recommendation.

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