Another Parallel Prairies review

The cover of Parallel Prairies

Update: I’m feel­ing a lit­tle slow, eh, because I only just now noticed that it’s Amaz­ing Sto­ries that reviewed Par­al­lel Prairies. Amaz­ing Sto­ries just reviewed my writ­ing.

Dar­ren Rid­g­ley, one of the edi­tor of Par­al­lel Prairies, just tweet­ed a link to a new review of the anthol­o­gy. It appears the review­er enjoyed my lit­tle tale of demen­tia and alien vis­i­ta­tion:

What makes this sto­ry fun to read is Vincent’s deter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect Char­lie from the agents. […] Amus­ing. With a tinge of sad­ness.

R. Graeme Cameron

He also liked the anthol­o­gy as a whole:

This anthol­o­gy fea­tures a col­lec­tion of sto­ries rang­ing far wider than I antic­i­pat­ed. There is, per­haps, a Cana­da-wide ten­den­cy to under­es­ti­mate Man­i­to­ba. […] Amaz­ing what sto­ries the con­trib­u­tors wrest­ed from its soil. I con­fess this book exceed­ed my expec­ta­tions. Well worth read­ing.

R. Graeme Cameron

If you’d like a copy of Par­al­lel Prairies, you can get it from McNal­ly Robin­son.

The Twilight Zone

I real­ly want to like the new The Twi­light Zone. But I think the prob­lem with an anthol­o­gy series is that you’re always start­ing from square one. Every episode requires an all-new round of expo­si­tion, and expo­si­tion is hard to do well.

I real­ly don’t like the “as you know, Sal­ly” style of expos­i­to­ry dia­logue, where char­ac­ters say things to each oth­er that they both already know, for the ben­e­fit of the audi­ence. It sticks out like the cliché sore thumb for me.

And there’s a lot of it in this first sea­son of The Twi­light Zone.

Maybe it’ll get bet­ter, but so far I’m on the sixth episode, and it’s not been liv­ing up to my hopes.

(On the plus side, the act­ing has been top-notch, across all the episodes. Even the child actors have most­ly impressed me.)

Update

Well, episode 6“Six Degrees of Free­dom” — was def­i­nite­ly a brighter spot, at least for me. It had some issues, sure — tech­ni­cal quib­bles on the lev­el of CBC’s SF attempt Ascen­sion, q.v., but at least they tried hard­er. (For instance, they gave a rea­son, how­ev­er ludi­crous, that the Mars ship would have arti­fi­cial grav­i­ty.) The sto­ry, though, man­age to cap­ture me and hold me till its end, even with a bit of clunky “as you know, Kather­ine” bits of info­dump.

Seems I can for­give a bit of clunky writ­ing if the over­all sto­ry is good enough.

Review: Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster

I read Eden Robin­son’s Son of a Trick­ster this week­end.

It’s the sto­ry of six­teen-year-old Jared, who’s doing his best, try­ing to bal­ance bak­ing weed cook­ies, car­ing for his elder­ly neigh­bours, keep­ing his dad from los­ing his home, keep­ing his aggres­sive mom off his case, and gen­er­al­ly just try­ing to not fail grade ten.

It’s not real help­ful that he’s start­ed hear­ing crows talk­ing to him.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Review: Son of a Trick­ster”

Bad Times at the El Royale

Still from Bad Times at the El Royale

Final­ly, last night, I watched Bad Times at the El Royale. Back when I first saw the trail­er, I thought it was an Evans movie for sure, but it end­ed up play­ing at the mul­ti­plex down the street instead, for all of two weeks. I man­aged to miss it. Now I regret not see­ing it on the big screen.

El Royale takes place at a hotel in Lake Tahoe, on the bor­der between Neva­da and Cal­i­for­nia. The bor­der lit­er­al­ly bisects the hotel. Rooms on the Cal­i­for­nia side are $1 more per night.

The movie opens with a priest, a singer, and a vac­u­um-clean­er sales­man try­ing to check in, one love­ly after­noon in 1969, but the clerk is nowhere to be found. Once they do track him down, a fourth guest appears, and she’s got some bag­gage. Well, they all have bag­gage, but the fourth woman appears to have kid­napped some­one.

Of course, this is a noir-ish thriller, and no one—not even the venue—is who they seem to be.

I quite enjoyed El Royale. It felt a lot like a Quentin Taran­ti­no movie, but it was writ­ten and direct­ed by Drew God­dard. God­dard man­aged to take all the good things about a QT movie—colours, music, sud­den vio­lent twists—and dis­card the end­less solil­o­quies. It real­ly makes for a tight, nasty thriller, and it’s just the thing I was look­ing for.

If you like vio­lence, secrets, thun­der­storms, ’60s music, and vio­lence, it might be just what you’re look­ing for too.

Head­er image from The Movie DB.

The Old Man and the Gun

Still from The Old Man and the Gun

Last week­end I watched The Old Man and the Gun at the Evans The­atre. I loved it.



For­rest Tuck­er (played by Robert Red­ford) robs banks. We meet him as he’s rob­bing the lat­est one. He’s polite, he’s charm­ing, he’s got a gun that he shows the man­ag­er (but that we don’t actu­al­ly see till much lat­er). He makes his get­away, and after he’s switched cars he spies a truck bro­ken down on the side of the road. It’s dri­ven by Jew­el (Sis­sy Spacek), whom he offers a ride home (after the cop cars go scream­ing by, hunt­ing a get­away car he’s no longer dri­ving).

For­rest is in a gang with Ted­dy (Dan­ny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). The media dubs them the Over-the-Hill Gang. They don’t seem to need to rob banks, not for the mon­ey, at least; they seem to enjoy it.

(Aside: Ted­dy’s tragi­com­ic Christ­mas sto­ry was my favourite scene in the movie. It’s got noth­ing to do with the sto­ry, but it says some­thing about his char­ac­ter.)

Round­ing out the sto­ry is the police offi­cer John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is deter­mined he’s going to be the one to nail the Over-the-Hill Gang. Will he suc­ceed? Will our plucky anti-heroes get away with their next heist? Will For­rest and Jew­el’s meet-cute turn into some­thing deep­er? Watch the movie to find out. It’s worth it.

Few things in this movie are stat­ed out­right. What appears at first glance to be an old-timey hear­ing aid is more like­ly a police-radio scan­ner, and this rev­e­la­tion makes it eas­i­er to under­stand how Tuck­er man­ages his get­away in the open­ing scenes. As men­tioned, we don’t actu­al­ly see his gun for quite some time, and it’s unclear by the end of the film if he’s ever even loaded it, much less fired it. One of the cen­tre­piece heists isn’t even shown on-screen; we see a bit of the plan­ning, a lot of hand-wring­ing by the Over-the-Hillers (“Can we even do it? Is it worth try­ing? I can’t run near as fast as I used to”, etc), and then a news report about the crime as Tuck­er puts the loot into its hid­ing place.

It’s a fun movie, a fun­ny movie, and a sneaky, sly movie. I loved it.

I read recent­ly that Robert Red­ford decid­ed to retire after mak­ing The Old Man and the Gun because he want­ed to go out on a fun movie. I think he did a fine job.

Parallel Prairies review

Parallel Prairies cover

This is the first review I’ve come across for the new made-in-Man­i­to­ba anthol­o­gy Par­al­lel Prairies, and I’m glad to say the review­er appears to have enjoyed my short sto­ry “Vin­cent and Char­lie”.

Anoth­er rur­al close encounter of note in the col­lec­tion is Bran­don-based Patrick Johanneson’s Vin­cent and Char­lie. The sto­ry explores the con­cept of alien telepa­thy and mem­o­ry manip­u­la­tion from inside a mind descend­ing into demen­tia. Johan­neson finds an art­ful bal­ance between sus­pense and sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty and adds a soupçon of Men in Black for good mea­sure.

Sarah Jo Kirsch, The Uniter

Read the full review here.

Par­al­lel Prairies launch­es Oct. 11, 2018, at McNal­ly Robin­son Book­sellers in Win­nipeg, and Oct. 13, 2018, at Bran­don Uni­ver­si­ty’s John E. Rob­bins Library.

You can order the book from McNal­ly Robin­son, too, if you’d like (there will be copies avail­able at the launch­es, of course).

Eventually, there might be a Swanwick/Link interview

Wood type

…and it’s sort of my fault.

It start­ed with a request for book sug­ges­tions: Nik­ki was look­ing for books that “cap­tured [my] soul”.

https://twitter.com/AngelycDevil/status/1024443328497156096

I made a sug­ges­tion, nam­ing a cou­ple of my favourite short-sto­ry authors. (FYI, Kel­ly Link goes by @haszombiesinit on The Twit­ters.)

Michael Swan­wick, as is his wont, replied.

I offered up my 2‑year-old review of Get in Trou­ble.

Mr. Swan­wick agreed with me.

Kel­ly Link chimed in.

And then it all kind of snow­balled.

So I’ve got that to look for­ward to. I hope it comes to pass; I think it’d be a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view.

The Themis Files review

Only Human image (from thethemisfiles.com)

Thanks to my local library, I read Syl­vain Neu­v­el’s The Themis Files tril­o­gy:

  • Sleep­ing Giants
  • Wak­ing Gods
  • Only Human

As a young girl, Rose Franklin falls into a hole and dis­cov­ers a giant mechan­i­cal hand. As an adult, she goes to work on what has now been named Themis: a giant robot of alien ori­gin, which, for unknown rea­sons, trav­eled to Earth some­time in the dis­tant past, only to be dis­as­sem­bled and scat­tered around the globe.

Along the way she teams up with a cou­ple of mil­i­tary pilots, a man who claims he’s descend­ed more or less direct­ly from aliens, a rogue geneti­cist, and a mys­te­ri­ous stranger who wields more pow­er than lit­er­al­ly any­one else on Earth.

But no one’s ready for what hap­pens when the robot builders show up. Or what hap­pens when a hand­ful of peo­ple are trans­port­ed to the builders’ home­world.

Turns out an invul­ner­a­ble giant robot can have a pro­found effect on the geopo­lit­i­cal land­scape.


The nov­els are epis­to­lary, told in the form of tran­script­ed inter­views, news broad­casts, per­son­al jour­nals, let­ters, and the like. Syl­vain Neu­v­el is a mas­ter of propul­sive storytelling—I read books 2 and 3 in a cou­ple of days apiece (nor­mal­ly it takes me between a week and a month to read a book), and the sto­ry itself had me laugh­ing more than once. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed the tone of the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger’s dia­logue, even though he was some­times not a very nice per­son. (There are no short­age of not very nice peo­ple here, and every­one’s flawed, just like the real world.)

The sto­ry exam­ines the con­se­quences of dis­cov­er­ing that, not only are we not alone in the uni­verse, but there exist aliens quite capa­ble of wip­ing out the entire human race with­out break­ing a sweat. How do you fight against a threat like that? And what hap­pens when flawed human beings get access to that tech­nol­o­gy?

Well, you’ll have to read the tril­o­gy to find out. Trust me, it’s worth it.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed, espe­cial­ly if you’re into first-con­tact yarns, sar­don­ic humour, giant robots, or geopol­i­tics. Oh, and lin­guis­tics.

Tomorrowland

Still from Tomorrowland

On the week­end I final­ly watched Dis­ney’s Tomor­row­land. I sort-of remem­bered its the­atre run, which was under­whelm­ing (appar­ent­ly it lost over $100 mil­lion dol­lars, based on its pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing costs vs. its box-office take).

The sto­ry in a nut­shell: As a boy, Frank Walk­er goes to live in a retro-future par­adise, till he’s boot­ed out for some crime that remains unspec­i­fied until near­ly the end of the movie. He grows up into a bit­ter, bit­ter man (played by George Clooney). Mean­while, Casey (Britt Robert­son) might be the key to Frank’s return to Tomor­row­land, and also the key to, you know, staving off the seem­ing­ly inevitable end of the world. Fac­ing off against them is Nix (Hugh Lau­rie) and his army of skin­jobs Audio-Ani­ma­tron­ic robots.

I thought it was a decent movie, worth a watch, even if it was unsub­tle. The scene in the Texas col­lectibles store (Blast From the Past), where Casey squares off against evil AA ’bots Hugo* and Ursu­la, was chock­ablock with reminders that Dis­ney bought Star Wars. Some of the AAs were pret­ty creepy, espe­cial­ly the man­i­cal­ly-grin­ning leader of the Men-in-Black–styled “Secret Ser­vice” squad.

In a world that seems to pre­fer its enter­tain­ment on the grim & grit­ty side, opti­mistic SF is a hard sell. It has a ten­den­cy to come off preachy or heavy-hand­ed, and this movie did­n’t man­age to evade those pit­falls. I’m still glad I watched it, though.

It’s an inter­est­ing com­pan­ion to Elan Mas­tai’s All Our Wrong Todays, which I read a few months ago, in that both explore the idea of alter­nate futures, espe­cial­ly the sorts of futures we seemed to expect in the 1950s (fly­ing cars! shin­ing tow­ers! per­son­al jet­packs!).


* Hugo Gerns­back, because of course.