Rewatching DS9 – Season 1

We all have our favourite Star Trek series, and for me that series was Deep Space 9. I noticed a few months back that all the Star Trek series were available on Netflix. Of course, I have them on DVD, but DVD is so last decade. My laziness has hit a new 21st century high when I feel like the act of changing discs and the effort involved in remembering which disc you are up to has apparently become too much for me.

Oh please. You’ve hit that level of peak laziness too.

There is a lot of good TV around at the moment, and I’m relatively time poor, so seeing them on Netflix wasn’t enough to trigger any kind of rewatch. I’d tried to watch Star Trek the Next Generation again, to introduce my 9 year old daughter to the Star Trek universe. I didn’t last more than an episode or two. It has not dated well.

So I’d given up on old Star Trek rewatches, but then I was listening to a podcast (Galactic Suburbia), and one of the hosts (Alisa if I remember correctly) started talking about rewatching DS9 and I got all nostalgic. It was crunchy! It was a bit darker!! It had great story arcs!!!

Back in the day, I remember being a bit sceptical about the premise – how good could a space station be? Nowhere near as cool as a space ship. They’d be stuck in one place. There would be no spectacular space battles. Hell, the guy in charge wasn’t even a captain.

In my memory, the first couple of seasons were a bit episodic, then as the “ongoing” story took over I liked it more and more. So, I approached it assuming I’d have to grit my teeth and “get through” season 1 (especially remembering my STTNG experience). My daughter had a medium interest level (at best). I finally convinced her to sit down with me and watch the first episode.

It was excellent.

I mean, really excellent. Even though the actors were clearly still going through the “getting to know you” stage of a new series, the episode was fantastic. The story line was interesting. I loved it!

My daughter was less impressed. She wandered off at one point, complaining she didn’t really understand what was going on. Explaining wormhole aliens that don’t have a sense of linear time was a bit challenging for a 9 year old. I waved her away, slightly impatiently.

Over the next couple of weeks I kept watching, and the quality of each individual episode was excellent. Significantly better than I remember. The characters were introduced intelligently and developed over the course of the season with an admirable efficiency. Relationships were created and used to good effect. The world building was tight and to the point. The acting was, for the most part, excellent. Some haminess, but in the best possible way.

Commenting on all the episodes would be tedious for you, but a couple of highlights:

  • In “Emissary” (the pilot episode), as well as everything above I loved the idea of a run down station, with everything broken. Perhaps its the engineer in me, but the lack of clean lines, the general grubbiness of the world really appealed to me.
  • “Captive Pursuit”, where O’Brien befriends an alien from the Gamma Quadrant who is being hunted, really endeared O’Brien to me. I loved his willingness to put everything on the line, and watching him mastermind a gaol-break was fantastic. I love it when engineers go rogue!
  • The episode “Dax” where Jadzia is accused of murder and refuses to defend herself, I found quite moving. She was quiet, she was determined and she was willing to defend the secrets of her previous host to the end. That episode really stuck with me.
  • “In the Hands of the Prophets” (the season finale) introduces then Vedek Winn – one of my favourite baddies in the whole Star Trek universe. She is just so loathsomely evil. Also in this episode was the first time in Star Trek that I noticed them introduce a minor character for a few episodes beforehand, so that when she suddenly played a major role it wasn’t as jarring as it could have been. This “seeding” was the fore-runner of the longer story arcs that came to characterise the show.

Somewhere in the middle of the season, my daughter wandered back in and started paying attention again. She likes Quark. A lot. I’m now not allowed to watch DS9 without her, although she is often doing other things while it is on. That’s OK. I think she’s slowly getting hooked.

Just in time for Star Trek Discovery.

Finishing Discworld

I’ve been a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s work for more years than I care to remember. I still remember coming across The Colour of Magic when I was at high school. It was a revelation – screwball comedy in fantasy done in a way I’d never encountered before. I laughed harder than I felt that a nerd with a taste for the fantastica had any right to. At that point only a few of Pratchett’s Discworld novels had come out, but I was hooked.

Ever since that first encounter, I have hung out for every new release, and each book has taken me back to that feeling I had in high school. When I heard about Pratchett’s alzheimers diagnosis I was sad. To be honest, sadder than I really had a right to be given I never met the man. And his death in 2015 struck me as it did his many, many fans around the world.

I read most of everything that Pratchett wrote, including the excellent Good Omens and more recently his co-authored Long Earth series. But there was one section of his bibliography that I had never ventured into, and that was his young adult novels (both in and out of the Discworld setting).

I’m not 100% sure why. By the time I became aware of them, I’d left the “young” part of young adult far behind. As I’ve got older, I’ve found less and less to empathise with in young adult books generally. These days, when I hear that a book is young adult it tends to drop down my “to be read” pile (so many books to read, it doesn’t take much to have one drop away). But still, this is Terry Pratchett. One of my favourite authors. And in the case of the Tiffany Aching series, they were even set one of my favourite worlds, the Discworld. Yet I put it off and put it off.

Recently, my 8 year old daughter was looking for something to read and I thought of the Tiffany Aching books. I didn’t know much about them, just that they were set in Discworld, involved witches and were for younger readers. So I bought the books on Kindle, and told my daughter I’d read the first one at the same time she did.

Now as it turns out, even the first book is a bit advanced for your average 8 year old and my daughter put it aside after a couple of chapters. I’m sure she’ll come back to them some day. But me, I kept reading. And reading. And reading. And soon I’d read all five books.

This isn’t a review of the series. They are good. If you like Pratchett, they are very good. And I will gentle nudge my daughter back towards them when she is a bit older, because there are some excellent themes for young women. If my daughter grows up wanting to emulate Tiffany Aching, well let’s just say there are much worse role models out there.

But reading them made me a bit sad, because reading them marked the end of a chapter of my reading life. There are no more Discworld novels to look forward to. I will never again feel the anticipation of an impending new release, never more have the satisfaction of settling in to read the opening chapters, never finish reading and feel the sting of having to wait so long until the next release. There are no more new words to be consumed.

Yes, I’ll reread at some point and yes it will be marvellous. But it will never again be new. And that makes me sad.

And so, I’ve written this post in an utterly self indulgent desire to share that sadness, and perhaps through writing come a little more to terms with it. No artist lives forever. But with Pratchett, I wish we’d had a little longer.

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett (with links to each book’s Wikipedia page) includes:

Monthly roundup culture consumed – July 2016

How was July?

Books

This month I read (and reviewed) Vigil by Australian author Angela Slatter. I reviewed the book for the Australian Women Writers Reading challenge here, so you can read my opinion in great detail.

I also read the final “Long Earth” book by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, called The Long Cosmos. I’ve enjoyed the series without loving it, and I must admit that my primary motivation around this book was to be a completist. The writing was good, but I must admit that the plot didn’t really seem to build to anything. If you like the series, you’ll probably already have read the book. If not, you can quite safely give this one a miss.

I’ve started on The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I’m only a little way through the book, but enjoying it so far. It’s been a long introduction, but the characters are enjoyable and the world building interesting enough to carry me through. More next month!

Never having read any Lois McMaster Bujold, I’ve decided to give the Vorkosigan Saga a go. I’m starting with Falling Free. Hopefully I’ll have finished that next month too.

TV

As reported last month, the second series’ of Dark Matter (a science fiction show that actually features a spaceship) and Killjoys (intergalactic bounty hunters) started back up. I’ve quite enjoyed both through the course of the month. Dark Matter is probably my favourite of the two, but only just. It is jumping around a bit cast wise, with one of the main cast from last season killed off and an array of new characters popping in and out. But the overall plot is interesting, and the acting good enough to keep me coming back.

Killjoys is getting better this season, with more of an overarching storyline to keep me interested. I think the show is a bit tighter this season.

I just today realised that the second series of Marvel’s Agent Carter is playing on one of the free to air channels (7flix). Fortunately their catch up TV still has the first six episodes so I’ll make a concerted effort to catch up.

Movies

A lot of movies this month. Last month I mentioned that my 8-year old daughter and I were going to see Ghostbusters. My daughter really enjoyed the movie, and loved the cast (and the “icky ghosts”). The movie was everything I was hoping it would be in terms of strong female cast, good story, good special effects etc. I’ve read some commentary about some people being disappointed, but it did everything I wanted it to. Well worth going, especially if you’ve got a young person in your life who’d like to see strong representations of women on the big screen.

I also went to the IMAX in Sydney to see the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. I think this might be my favourite of the three new reboot movies, with a strong storyline and some great set pieces. The characters were strongly played (although seriously, how many times can they go back to the Mr-Spock-doesn’t-have-feelings-except-yes-he-actually-does-oh-he-is-human-afterall well?) and there was a good balance of action and humour. Clearly you’re probably not going to see the movie unless you’re a Star Trek fan, but I would say that if you like science fiction generally, this is the Star Trek movie I’d probably recommend for you.

Speaking of Star Trek, has anyone else seen the news that there is going to be a new Star Trek TV series starting early next year? And that Australian Netflix is going to show the episodes the day after they air in the US? I can’t seem to find any further details than that, but the news has made me unreasonably excited.

This weekend I also saw Suicide Squad. Look, I don’t don’t really want to get on the Suicide Squad bashing bandwagon. It’s not the greatest film in the world. You can probably wait until it comes out on DVD. Introducing such a lot of relatively unknown characters in one movie means that a LOT of time is dedicated to backstory. And the team bond together remarkably quickly considering they are all bad guys. But if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief it is a harmless enough way to kill a couple of hours. It gets a “meh” from me.

Other

Not much else this month. I’m not going to be at my computer next Sunday, so next week’s post might be a little delayed (I’ll try the automatic publish thing but quite frankly it has not served me well in the past). If it doesn’t work, I’ll publish on Tuesday. Promise!

Continued general ramblings

So, what’s up this week?

David McDonald has been kicking a lot of goals recently, including a Captain America novel, becoming a SFWA member,  and writing some really interesting series of posts, on things like “Paying for our passion” (writers talking about how they support themselves in their writing). If you haven’t had the pleasure, I’d recommend jumping over to his website and having a look. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

One of my favourite podcasts, The Writer and the Critic, is back onto a monthly publishing schedule, which I quite like. They’ve moved to a more “curated” format, where they pick books according to some theme. Admittedly usually a somewhat obscure theme particular to them, but a theme nonetheless. This is one of only two endeavours that I sponsor through Patreon, well worth checking out if you haven’t had a chance to.

I took my 8 year old daughter to see the new Ghostbusters movie. It was a lot of fun, and I got a real kick from seeing how inspired my daughter was by such a strongly female led cast. The friendship showed between the characters was great, and if this movie doesn’t pass the bechdel test, no movie does! If you’ve got any young women in your life, I definitely recommend taking them along to see Ghostbusters.

Monthly roundup culture consumed – June 2016

How was June for everyone?

Books

I mentioned last month that I’ve started watching The Magicians TV show, which reminded me to read the last two books of the original trilogy by Lev Grossman (The Magician King and Magician’s Land). I really liked these books, in fact I’m surprised I haven’t read them before now. Modern fantasy for adults definitely, but also the popular culture references that abound in the book seem particularly suited for people around my age. It does make me wonder whether the books will age particularly well. Still, for the time being I really enjoyed these two books and reading them did enhance my enjoyment of the TV series.

TV

Nothing hugely different for the month of June. At the very end of the month, the second series of Dark Matter (a science fiction show that actually features a spaceship) and Killjoys (intergalactic bounty hunters) started back up. Looking forward to those shows.

Movies

No movies for me this month, but I did suddenly realise that another Star Trek movie is due out in the very near future. This wasn’t on my radar at all! As a result, I did make it my business to re-watch the two recent Star Trek movies, both of which I quite enjoyed. Looking forward to seeing Star Trek: Beyond in the next couple of weeks.

I am filled with joy that my 8-year old daughter is super excited about the release of Ghostbusters next week. I was relieved that the movie has been rated PG, so next weekend we’ll be off together to see the film. I can’t tell you how happy I am that there are more and more examples of strong, female led films and franchises for my daughter to consume. I know things aren’t perfect and still have a long way to go, but if I think back even 5 years ago I worried a lot about what would exist for my daughter in the future. Now, I can at least find a fairly steady stream of material.

Other

My daughter and I enjoy a show called Teen Titans, Go! There are quite a few nods to adults watching along, including an episode where one of the main characters listens to a song called Night Begins to Shine, a very 80s sounding song that you would almost swear you remember from your teenage years. It isn’t – the song was written for the show. However it is way too catchy, and I was forced to go onto iTunes and buy the song. It has made its way onto my exercise playlist. I’m currently a lot in love with this song!

General ramblings – Part 4

One of my favourite authors, Jason Nahrung, recently posted a free short story set in his “outback vampire” universe. I’m a big fan of Jason’s writing, and so it was a great thrill to read some more work set in an imagined world that I’ve really enjoyed. Details can be found on Jason’s website. If you enjoy the short story, you might want to try the two novels (Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke).

Are you still watching Game of Thrones? I recognise that there are many problematic elements of the story, depiction of women etc but I must admit that I still find it compelling viewing. The storylines do feel like they are starting to come together, I’ll be interested to see how many seasons there are left.

I don’t really have much else to contribute this week – I’m feeling a little out of interesting news. I might leave this entry as a very short one, and try to come back stronger next week!

General ramblings – Part 3

Some more general ramblings, brought to you by me – your friendly neighbourhood writer-nerd.

I’ve recently discovered a game on the Xbox One called “Elite Dangerous”, based on a very old game that I used to play back in the ’80s called Elite. It’s a spaceship/trading/bounty hunting type of game, where you make your way across the galaxy, building up your ship and making as many credits as you can. I think it is only very recently out, and its as buggy as all hell, but I’m getting a huge nostalgia kick out of playing it.

The Victorian speculative fiction convention, Continuum, is running this long weekend. I’ve been to Continuum a couple of times, but couldn’t get away this year. I’ve been vaguely following through Twitter, and it seems like a good time is being had by all. I’ve always found conventions to be a lot of fun, and over time they’ve got better. I’m not exactly “well connected”, but over the years you do get to know a few people and conventions are an excellent way to catch up and get to compare notes with fellow travellers. Hope everyone is having fun – maybe I’ll be able to come along next year!

Many years ago I supported a crowd funding campaign for a book called Glitter and Mayhem. Despite the book itself being released in 2013, I never received a copy. To be honest, I started thinking that perhaps I’d only thought I’d supported it, or maybe supported it at a lower level. Imagine my surprise when a copy of the book showed up through the week, along with an apologetic note saying they’d found a box of books that were supposed to go out back in 2013, but had been misplaced. That is some serious delay, but also a timely reminder that I don’t always check to see that I’ve actually received stuff that I supported through crowd funding.

But, in more timely crowd funding news, I also received my copy of In Your Face, an Australian anthology of speculative fiction stories that tackle confronting themes. I think, given the relative timeliness, I’ll read this one first! The book was put together by Fablecroft Publishing, a really innovative small press here in Australia that is well worth checking out.

And to keep the crowd funding theme, my radio in the car was finally replaced (it only took the insurance company 9 months to process the claim after my car was broken into). Why is that important? Because I’ve finally been able to start listening to the Night Terrace radio series with my daughter. So far, we’ve listened through the bonus “My Name is Eddie” short series, and are now listening to “Horatio’s Travels” before getting to the main event. I sponsored this season at a higher level, and as a result my daughter should be called by name in one of the main episodes. She has no idea, so I’m really looking forward to that particular surprise.

If you haven’t listened to Night Terrace, it is really worth checking out.

I’ve started trying to do a bit more exercise (sorely needed exercise), and I’ve been using an app – Zombies! Run. It overlays your music with a story about the zombie apocalypse, and it is awesome. The production values are fantastic, with great voice acting and an interesting plot. If you’re a spec fic fan and trying to get some motivation to exercise (especially if you’re a runner), I’d certainly recommend it.

OK, that’s about it for this week. Feel free to drop in a comment if you’ve experienced any of the above!

 

General ramblings – Part 2

I know, I know. I’m going to have to come up with a better line of blog posts than this. You’re all busy people, and you can’t afford to have your time wasted by some stream of consciousness malarky by a blog writer obviously running out of things to say. I mean, come on. This first paragraph alone has taken seconds off your life. And seconds can be the difference between success and failure, life and death, pancakes and burnt, inedible frisbees.

I read a good review of an advanced copy of Vigil by Angela Slatter over on Alex Pierce’s blog. I remember the short story that the novel is based around, from the anthology Sprawl. It was excellent, so I’ve pre-ordered the novel. Go and read Alex’s blog post then think about doing the same, unless you’re visiting this blog from the future, in which case just buy the damn book already.

Speaking of Alex, she also runs a great series of posts over on tor.com focusing on Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction called Aurora Australis. It’s a great way to keep up with author and publishing news from the antipodes, well worth adding to your monthly reading list.

David McDonald, who I did some parallel podcasting with a couple of years back, is going from strength to strength in the tie in novel space. He recently posted a teaser cover with Captain America on it, so that has to be a good sign. Great guy and all round good egg – well worth checking out his work.

My daughter’s love of the Teen Titan Go! series has morphed into a desire to own some of the comic books of the same name. We ventured into the city today, and my little girl got her first proper comic books. I could never really afford comic books growing up – pre-internet it was a bit difficult to know where to start, and south-west Sydney wasn’t exactly nerd heaven. Besides, the unrelenting cost! I never could have afforded to follow a series, even if I could have found a reliable source. I’m hoping my daughter might have better luck falling in love with this branch of the speculative fiction tree than I did. And Teen Titans seems like a good place to start.

Well, I hope you’re all doing better than me on the interesting culture news front. If you’re engaged with something fascinating, make sure you drop me a line and let me know.

General ramblings – Part 1

I find myself a little devoid of topics to wax lyrical about this week. My reading is at a low ebb, as the time pressures of a new job and other activities take my focus away from more word-based pursuits. I am without sensible comment to make about any other pieces of popular culture that I have consumed. No topic raging across the internet is grabbing my attention.

I like my new writing group, but there isn’t really a lot to say about it. I got a chance to beta-read for one of the authors this week, which was a good experience (the writing was good – thank goodness! – and I made a few suggestions, but there is always that slight nervousness when you provide feedback to someone for the first time. Will they find it valuable? Will I be dead to them from now on because of a poorly worded critique? Who knows, or dares to dream).

With less commuting time, I find myself listening to less podcasts these days. It is interesting to see which ones survive the war of attrition. The Coode St Podcast remains on the list, as does Galactic Suburbia, The Writer and the Critic and Tea and Jeopardy. New comer Sheep Might Fly has managed to worm its way in there. I’ve also got quite a back catalogue of Writing Excuses to catch up on, which I find a useful way of getting me into a writing mood. Because I create the eBooks for the Antipodean SF web-magazine, I tend to read the fiction that way, so haven’t kept up with the Anti-SF podcast.

I haven’t updated my Podcast page on the website for a while – perhaps I should add that to my to do list.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that the fantastic Rivqa Rafael won the Best New Talent Ditmar this year. I met Rivqa at GenreCon last year, and she was the one who was kind enough to invite me to pop along to her writing group, which I’ve enjoyed. It was an enormously well deserved award.

Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there is something else interesting to say, but I cannot bludgeon it out of the slightly headache-y brain. That will have to do for this week, Internet. Rest assured, I feel that I owe you a significantly improved post for next week. I shall begin work on it at once (*).

(*) that is, technically, a lie. OK, it may actually move the dial from “technical lie” to “outright fabrication”. But there is at least a 34% chance that I will start work on next week’s post earlier than late Sunday night.

How to Market Your Book Online by Nicola Hardy – a promotion

Now, disclaimers out of the way first up. I’ve known Nicola Hardy (the author of How to Market Your Book Online) for many years, and she is one of my longest standing and closest friends. As such, I’m not going to be able to give an unbiased discussion of her book. Hence the “a promotion” tagline, instead of my normal “a review”.

How to Market Your Book Online is a practical guide to setting up aspects of an author platform online. The book focuses primarily on Facebook and Twitter, but also briefly covers Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and blogging in general.

There is a heavy emphasis on the practical – Nicola draws on her experience helping authors to get into the nitty gritty. There are screen shots, and hints and tips that go beyond the mechanics of the various platforms, to include issues of etiquette and protocol.

There are two editions – a global one, and an Australian/New Zealand version that has some customised content for the local region.

If you’re an experienced author who has been promoting yourself through social media for years, this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you’re just getting started, and considering how to establish your “author platform”, the book is a great way to get going with the basics.

 

Editors note: apologies to regular readers for missing last week, I’m afraid family time over Easter got in the way. Back to regularly scheduled programming now.