So Now It’s 2022

That’s weird to me. I’m from the 1950s and can measure my life in scores of years (three-and-mumble). I was an avid science fiction reader by the 1960s, so recall an era where we wondered if the year 1984, let alone 2001, would be anything like the famous book.

As it turned out, in both cases: No. Respectively fortunate and unfortunate. The future turned out less extreme (but no less “interesting”). Both demonstrate the difficulty of prediction, a problem science fiction illustrates more often than not.

That said, the other face of Janus looks forward…

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Blog Stats 2021

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful Chillaxmas. Yesterday was the last of the Twelve Days, so now it’s time to wash the dishes, take down the lights, and toss out the tree (or disassemble it, box it, and return it to the attic or basement, whichever applies).

Now it’s time to put on our two-way Janus hats to look backwards at Old Man 2021 as well as forwards at Infant 2022.

It’s also time to indulge (if not wallow) in my lust for data and charts.

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Friday Notes (Dec 31, 2021)

Welcome to a special edition of Friday Notes. This isn’t just the end of the week or even just of the month (although both are true). It’s also the end of the year!

So this edition of Notes is a reflection on a kind of weird year.

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“King”: FKA USA

Yesterday I finished FKA USA (2019), by “Reed King” — a pseudonym of a “New York Times bestselling author and TV writer.” It was a new book at my library, and the blurb about it concluded, “FKA USA is the epic novel we’ve all be waiting for about the American end of times, […] It is a masterwork of ambition, humor, and satire with the power to make us cry, despair, and laugh out loud all at once. It is a tour de force unlike anything else you will read this year.”

Sounded good. It had a long wait list, so I put it on hold back in mid-October. It became available in mid-December. It weighs in at over 1000 e-pages, so it’s taken me a few days to finish. The length is one reason though. I didn’t find the book to be much of a page-turner, and I’m afraid I skimmed bits of the last chapters.

Victoria wasn’t amused; I wasn’t engaged. Or amused.

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Whither Doctor Who?

Almost three years ago I asked Whither Science Fiction? That post pondered the state and future of what I see as a platform more than a genre and found both were probably doing okay. Authors still find new territory in a populated landscape (although much of it is well-explored by now).

Today’s question isn’t as deep or important, and my answer is much less positive. It regards a TV series I largely ignored in classic form but came to love as a modern reboot. For a while it was my favorite TV science fiction series. Even when it declined a bit in latter seasons, it still was some of the best SF on TV.

But I think Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who is an unmitigated disaster.

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Gate, Samurai Champloo, Outlaw Star

For me, Japanese anime seems a gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps a better way to put it is that it’s a well that hasn’t yet come close to running dry for me. For one, there is a ton of Japanese anime and even Sturgeon’s Law gives good results on such a big catalog.

There is also that it seems, on average, more nuanced and perceptive than modern Western storytelling. Or it could be a combination of over-familiarity with our dregs and the same cherry-picking selectiveness that sometimes makes the BBC seem superior in contrast (it’s so not).

In any event, here are four I enjoyed recently and can recommend.

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Laptop, Take 3

Friends and regular readers (all three of you) know about my struggles with the Dell XPS 15 laptop I bought in 2019 to replace my Sony Vaio laptop. After access to work machines since the 1980s, that Sony was the first laptop I had to buy in retirement.

It had its issues, but was great compared to the Dell, which, in retrospect, was a lemon from the start. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how broken its wireless system was until after the warranty period. Twice I found a way to improve things to usable, but recently it returned to unusable. And then wouldn’t boot at all.

So I went and bought an HP Envy laptop.

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VanderMeer: Annihilation

I originally planned this Sci-Fi Saturday post as a positive review of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, but Burns really nailed it about plans “gang aft agley.” I’ll tell you right now I bailed about halfway through the second book because I wasn’t enjoying the read, was utterly bored by the story, and had found VanderMeer’s writing style annoying from the beginning.

So this isn’t a positive review, but I’m willing to credit much of the lack of connection on my taste, both with regard to content and to writing style. The author and the trilogy are held in high regard, and I don’t at all dispute the quality of the storytelling. It’s just not for me.

His Wiki page says he’s compared to Borges and Kafka (which seems apt), and I’ve never cared that much for their writing, either.

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Winter Has Arrived

I get a kick from the patterns of life. They don’t always mean anything, but they can be fun to notice. For example, nine years ago I posted Instant Winter, which, among other things celebrates the tiny (meaningless) pattern of the date that day: 12-12-12 (You can arrange the year-month-day any which way you like!) Nine years later, it’s December 12th again, but the year is backwards: 12-12-21

12-12-21 after much shoveling. It was up to 3 feet in places!

That post also celebrated, as its name says, the sudden arrival of winter (late as usual these days). And per that, it arrived late again this year, but when it finally did show up it, came in with a bang (I don’t know about lions in March, but December seems to roar).

11-25-21 and not a drop of snow in sight!

It didn’t come anywhere close to snowing for Halloween, and there wasn’t a flake in sight for Thanksgiving, but it seems certain we’ll have a ton of the stuff for Christmas! Winter and snow cause all sorts of small issues, but many years of conditioning have linked snow and Christmas for me.

12-7-21 It always starts so softly and innocently…

Time to break out the shovels!

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In other news, I’ve been reading books and watching TV shows, and I’d love to tell you about them, but I’ve already gone on long enough for one post.

Stay warm, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.


Zer0s and Burning Roses

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, and as much as my college career pointed towards one in movies or TV, I’ve always ranked books as vastly superior. Put it this way: Although I once presumed (and still do) to be worthy of making TV shows or movies, I’ve never felt skilled enough — or driven enough — to write fiction.

Which no doubt contributes to my admiration and appreciation of those who can pull me into their fictional world and entertain, educate, or enlighten me with only their words (no score, no images, no editing).

Last week I read Zer0s (2015), by Chuck Wendig, and Burning Roses (2020), by S.L. Huang, and thoroughly enjoyed both. In fact, I gulped down both of these fast-paced (and very different) adventures in single sittings. Both would make pretty good movies, too.

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