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31May2017 1900: Hu

I am going out of my goddamn mind trying to read books this year. I've been running through what my library has of the Hugo lists and sprinkling in new releases from guys I like, but I have now run into three consecutive half-books and I want to burn down the concept of literature itself.

I would save myself some grief by actually clicking through the list to the wiki pages, but I don't want to accidentally spoil something vital. The page for Blackout/All Clear makes it all clear that there are two books involved -- only one of which the library actually possessed. And Blackout isn't the first book in a series, no, it's one half of one book and resolves nothing on its own. I was confused because I didn't think the Hugos gave out an award for Best Half-of-a-Novel.

I might have read something after that, probably a Squirrel Girl trade, but I don't remember because The Collapsing Empire came along shortly and did the same damn thing. Nothing as brazen as "concluded in All Clear, coming this fall", but it spends three hundred pages setting up a great scifi world with mostly great characters and then just...ends? Without resolving anything? It's all rising action and place-setting and introductions and then a character gets an idea and that's the last sentence. It isn't advertised as "Book One of The Flow Chronicles" or "the beginning of Scalzi's new series" or anything. It's an excellent (half of a) book, he just needed to keep writing it.

And then! I decided to work ahead a little bit and read some more of the 2017 nominees, so I dove into Too Like the Lightning. It's great! It's dense! There's a lot to chew on here, lots of philosophy and a world physically reshaped by cheap flying cars the way it was mentally reshaped by the Internet. Some characters are living computers that have probably never seen the Sun! Some characters are smellomancers! It's well-written, calm and contemplative, and waist-deep in interlocking secret agendas. Mysteries are heaped upon mysteries upon histories and they only just begin to be resolved before it ends with a literal "Here ends part one of the history of Mycroft Canner -- To Be Concluded in Seven Surrenders". Except I've looked at the end of Seven Surrenders (mercifully also at the library) and it has "Here ends the second half of Mycroft Canner's history -- Here begins the Crisis still unfolding, [the next book] The Will to Battle [coming next fall]". So I have hope that maybe I'll finally finish a narrative, beginning middle end.

But I also anticipate this new normal, book series that are not made up of individual books. There is no denouement; there is no satisfaction; there is only the upward trajectory of Series, propelled by chapters arbitrarily bound between covers when the publisher decrees enough. Too Like the Lightning is not advertised as part of series anywhere on the book itself. There is the author, Ada Palmer. There is the title. And there, at the bottom, mocking: "A Novel". But saying it is a novel does not make it so.

Oh shit the Bobiverse pulled this stunt too! How does the Expanse series get it so right?

24May2017 1900: Mostly Eat Death

No, neither I nor this blog is dead. I just didn't feel like typing for the past two weeks. Coincidentally a bunch of death-themed topics piled up in the interim, so this post will be mostly (eat) death.

Universal announced their intent to squander some of the lucre they make on Fast and Furious movies on a reimagining of their classic monsters in a connected multi-movie universe. Because those are so hot right now, yeah? Everybody wants movies to be more like serialized TV... if Fast and Furious has taught us anything. Apparently they've already planned Invisible Man and Frankenstein movies before The Mummy even flops. And yes, they've already tried to reboot their Dracula, but you don't lock Tom Cruise into a multi-flick contract to have him play John Q. Gunman. Sorry, "Nick Morton". I'll lay $100 that by the end of the third movie he's revealed as Secret Dracula All Along.

George R R Martin, famously famous and aging author, executed the penultimate power play against his fans by adopting a famously long-lived pet tortoise. GRRM is tweaking the noses of everyone who anticipates his demise by getting in on the ground floor of a tortoise that will outlive his nonexistent children. It won't live quite long enough to see his books fall into the public domain, though. The ultimate power play would be a contract that prevents any other author or entity from finishing A Song of Ice & Fire posthumously, while willing the tortoise to Brandon Sanderson.

99 Percent Invisible dropped some fascinating knowledge about yet another vector in which San Francisco is irrevocably fucked: they export all of their dead? The capitalism that purged the dead a century ago is now busy purging the poorest of the living. But those are only the dead we know about. Through all the millennia of human habitation on this continent -- more millennia every day -- the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of somebody having died within ten feet of where you are right now. Especially along the coasts and waterways that we've always crowded around. So nice try, San Fran, but you've got ghosts like the rest of us.

Aw, I'm just kidding. If we can agree on anything about ghosts, it's that (a) they haunt the spot where they died and (b) they're not affected by gravity or physics in general. Being a ghost is probably more like:

Sweet dreams!

03May2017 1900: Alignment

The new Sylvan Esso album hit last week and it took me three listens to warm up to it. The first album was dark and slow and mysterious; you'd catch a glimpse of it loitering down a grimy alley before it sprang its bass trap. The new album is Sylan Esso embracing dancing. They upped the tempo and no longer hang around in dive bars. I was distressed to not hear anything as lyrically/musically ominous as Hey Mami. The first album occupied the same vulgar urban hellhole as Bree Sharp; the new album occupies a glittery pop throne. It's hard to be grimy while sitting on a glittery pop throne. Though some people always try to ice-skate uphill.

It's been almost three days so you've probably seen this on your Internet already, but Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans is something you should experience. 2017 has been a pretty good year for mashup albums, guys. In this case Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tells the narrative of Star Wars. It's a perfect intersection between the movies my parents liked and the music my parents liked. Both of these pop culture concepts are embedded deep in my Toddler Brain; I couldn't name every track on Sgt. Pepper, but every song sounded familiar. And I will always respect an art project that was (almost certainly) born of a stupid pun. The meter of the album title is perfect and I'm guessing it snowballed from there.