Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a gala fundraiser for its Costume Institute with the fashion party of the year. Industry elite are invited to attend; in recent years, celebrity guests have increasingly joined them. It’s made the carpet a little more populist, for versions of “populist” that let the public gather behind barriers across the avenue to guess who’s in the giant silver ballgown. The evening is a crowning glory of the fashion world, the jewel of the Met crown—and an achievement for the Hollywood set who get invited. Being on the red carpet at the Met Gala is a power move. And Anna Wintour personally decides who goes, and when they’re allowed to arrive.
That seems vaguely ludicrous. But this party is a high-stakes event, and there’s a palpable hierarchy that’s understood—and being constantly negotiated—by everyone on the inside. Anna Wintour is just a visible figurehead of a process that’s usually refracted across dozens of event runners and publicists. The Best Actress ringers don’t show up in the opening hour of the Oscars carpet; the Hollywood inner circle shows up at the Met Gala after the models are gone. We’ve seen the patterns play out to the point we understand the rhythms. Show up too early and everyone knows you’re the opening act: your photos get buried in real-time slideshows. Show up later, and the burden’s on you to interpret the theme better than everyone around you—while hitting a red carpet grace note that has that Met edge. (The year the Met did its China Through the Looking Glass exhibit, Rihanna showed up in an embroidered Guo Pei coat it took three people to carry.)
Much is made of the frivolity of red carpet culture, not without reason; no matter the event, there’s a Late Roman Empire vibe to a parade of dresses that cost as much as a house. But it’s not quite a party, either. It’s a business, and every well-dressed starlet is a product. (In some photos you can even watch handlers—the first and last line of image-management defense—hovering in sensible black suits and flat shoes, eyes on the press or their phones as they hustle their celebrities away from any awkward questions.) It’s why there’s a sense of helplessness to some of the actresses who stand awkwardly in their dresses, turning the same unmoving face to camera after camera. If they’re bad at it, we’re reminded what hard work it is. If they’re good at it … well, then we’re suckers, aren’t we?
But that level of image fascinates me. One of the reasons I wrote Persona and Icon was to make the subtext of celebrity politics literal, and then use it to surround a character who recognizes exactly what the image machine asks of her. Everyone in the International Assembly is a product. It’s technically a diplomatic coalition, but there’s a reason so much of it overtly hinges on the internalized language of celebrity. Public image is a living thing. Hollywood current operates as a celebrity free market, largely without the control of the golden-age studio system (though actors in franchise movies might beg to differ). If every actress is her own studio, she has to plan accordingly. Technically the red carpet is a small part of the job, but it’s also an open audition—the right dress and a perfect sound byte will nudge her public image a crucial degree toward whatever part she’s aiming for next.
Plus, it lays groundwork for other momentum. In a moment so in line with Icon that it beggars comparison, Tom Hiddleson and Taylor Swift were recently “caught” in a “candid” beach date more staged than a Broadway production. Speculating about it is deeply satisfying—and they know it. Taken at its most cynical, this is a power move: he’s up for Bond and she’d like to decimate her ex. But even taking this date at face value, someone arranged this because news was going to leak eventually, and they gave the job to a photographer they liked and got shots like a Madewell catalog, cheating their shoulders to the camera to get their best light. Either way, they and their handlers win; now they’re out ahead of the story. And whatever PR goal has brought them together for this back-door announcement, public interest in a possible relationship started with a convenient danceoff at the Met Gala. Posing for the cameras sounds silly and calculated, but there’s a career at stake.
The flashbulb gauntlet is an uneven blend of the obvious and the invisible: an actress is always asked who she’s wearing, which both fulfills the contract that got them a loaner dress, and suggests they’re carrying some aspect of the brand with them—no pressure. The industry is an ecosystem of its own, with interwoven and sometimes conflicting loyalties, until it skips past ridiculous into surreal. Every photographer wants a candid so good it becomes the official shot of the whole event; every publicist wants their client to sail through the red carpet but will make a meme out of a fall if they have to; for every diamond bracelet casually pointed toward the cameras, there’s a security guard just out of frame whose job is to watch the jewelry, and who doesn’t give a damn who it’s attached to.
It will likely not surprise you that a decided influence on the political-celebrity system of Persona and Icon was the Miss Universe pageant—the ultimate pseudo-political red carpet. Contestants are sent to be “ambassadors” for their countries, though obviously powerless and generally under orders not to say anything potentially controversial; they’re paraded in national costume (or some David Lynch-ian interpretation thereof) and lined up in increasingly red-carpet-chic evening gowns while a country’s hopes hang on them. The governing rules are exhaustive; the budget differential between countries can be ludicrous; the beauty standards are punishing. And a year of preparation can hinge on the judges’ dressage critique of the bathing suit walks. (This year, Venezuela sometimes “skipped the details,” and Indonesia was “known to walk a bit too fast.”)
In Icon, which has a less compressed timeline than Persona, I had the chance to use that sense of performative acceptance to explore some of the creepy undertones of the International Assembly and the Faces beholden to it. (I might have taken more note of the clothes in Icon than the book in which twelve sisters constantly dressed up to party, but what Suyana’s wearing makes the difference between a romantic gesture and a battle cry.) Politics is as much an image game as acting, and uses so many of the same PR tricks—a woman endures scrutiny for what she wears, whether behind a podium or in front of a pap camera—that the two spheres map over one another maybe more easily than they should.
Everyone’s public image is on the line in Icon—besides the sanctioned national press that get the sort of candids Hiddleston and Swift would recognize, the unauthorized snaps that follow Faces around in hopes of catching something untoward find themselves halfway between paparazzi and the free press. The latter has potential; invading what little privacy Faces have is a slightly thornier topic, but such a common practice that the market is established, and magazines just balance their black-market photos with the official ones. But the worst betrayal a Face goes through isn’t a snap who gets them in a compromising position—they’re usually too handled to have any. It’s what they face within the IA: the stereotypes they’re asked to play into, the class system of the member nations, the intense symbiosis of Faces and their handlers, and a woman at the top whose influence seems almost supernatural.
If this sounds cynical, it is. If it sounds like a problem, it is. But on the other hand, if the cameras are always going to be on, you might as well make them witnesses. Smile, pose, capture. Icon opens with a movie premiere for a reason. The red carpet is a chess board; why not admit it?
Genevieve Valentine is the author of Persona, Icon, and the critically acclaimed novel Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, which won the Crawford Award for Best novel, as well as a nomination for the Nebula Award and the Romantic Times Best Fantasy of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. She lives in New York City.
The Nightmare Stacks, seventh in Charles Stross’s ongoing Laundry Files series, once again takes us to the urban-science-fantasy-Lovecraftian-poten
Stross has been tackling a set of tropes for each of the books in this series, to great effect, and this time we’re up against elves. Pointy-eared, feral, terrifying, psychotic elves with a violently hierarchical society given to the enforcement of social rank through brutal magic. In short: they aren’t very nice and they do not play well with others. Turns out the overload of math-driven space-time horrors isn’t the sole threat facing humanity in the dawning days of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
The thing I appreciated most about The Nightmare Stacks is that it recenters the narrative around a lower level employee-slash-agent of the Laundry. While we’ve grown accustomed as an audience to Bob Howard’s rise through the ranks, and also Mo’s, it’s been some time since we’ve had the point of view of a character who is not privy to high level national secrets. Alex, in fact, doesn’t even have the clearance for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN when the novel begins—and as a reader, I’ve grown used to the sense that everyone knows about that.
It’s a pleasant shock and a reminder that Mahogany Row and the heads of the enterprise aren’t the folks on the ground, for the most part, though the strings are often being pulled from behind the scenes by their hands. In the earlier novels, while Bob is sinking deeper and deeper into the org chart, we definitely had that sense. We still maintain a strong attachment to the bureaucratic functions of the Laundry, as he and (in the last novel) Mo climb the ladder, of course, but it’s not the same as coming at it from a fresh young agent’s perspective.
Particularly one like Alex, who has been suborned into fieldwork without his knowledge of the consequences or possible pitfalls. We also spend quite a bit of time with Pete the vicar from the fourth book, as well as Pinky and Brains, the deeply qualified and scary programming dude-couple who Alex ends up moving in with as roommates. I’ve been fans of those two since the first in this series, so seeing them get more screen time was a pleasure. It truly gives us a fresh perspective on a world we’re otherwise getting comfortable with seeing from only one angle.
There’s also Cassie, a sharp take on the “manic pixie dream girl” and “elven princess” tropes—who is in reality a social and magical nightmare, teaching Alex rather delightfully the errors of his approaches and feelings about women as a whole. Stross is clever in representing Alex’s helpless, under-socialized terror of women without giving the audience the sense that Alex is in the right about his weirdness; it’s a pleasure to watch him learn to properly court someone who is ultimately also a direct challenge to all of his romantic fantasies once she stops pretending.
There’s also something hilarious about the fact that she, as Agent First of Spies and Liars, is convinced she’s honey-trapping Alex while Alex’s bosses are setting him up as the unwitting, hapless honey-trap vampire himself. Stross’s awareness of gender in these novels, often represented through the lens of his male protagonists who have things to learn on that score, is always a delight. The sense of the author making clever social commentary is never lost in the “Laundry Files” books, alongside the compelling plots, eerie horrors from beyond time, and space-Nazi half-track motorcycles.
And speaking of those things, The Nightmare Stacks is also a ridiculously good time. Stross maintains a sense of serious threat—the civilian death toll in this book is massive, sobering; he doesn’t shy away from that—while also making the reality of an incursion of space elves, being fought by both the British army and the young hapless Alex Schwartz with his rag-tag team of assistants, as fantastic as it should be. There is, after all, a scene of Pete and Pinky wearing classical armor, driving a half-track WWII motorcycle with a machine gun mounted to the back, and rescuing their vampire/elf asshole couple from the clutches of the invading army.
With a drone-strike to wrap things up.
The plot is gripping and the characters are, as always, rendered with utmost care, humor, and attention. There has yet to be an instance in which I felt unsatisfied in this entire series—and Alex as our new point of view protagonist doesn’t disappoint, either. I’m also immensely interested in the fallout for certain parts of the government discovering the existence of the Laundry and demanding answers. I’m wondering how the politics of that will flesh out, given our contemporary bureaucratic snafus and difficulties running basic government.
The fact that Stross is able to balance the absurd with the terrifying with the mundane in these novels is what makes them some of the best out there. The Nightmare Stacks is no exception: it’s fast-paced, bizarre, and expands the world and range of the Laundry Files in a fascinating way. Particularly, at the end, given Cassie’s ascendancy and demand for refugee status for her people. To be honest, I cannot wait for the next installment, and that’s a rare feeling for me as a reader. To be able to maintain it, and a fresh outlook, for seven novels—that’s quite a feat, and Stross manages it through technically skilled prose, excellent ideas, and compelling execution. Thumbs up, as always.
The Nightmare Stacks is available now from Ace Books.
Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. They have two books out, Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction and We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-telling, and in the past have edited for publications like Strange Horizons Magazine. Other work has been featured in magazines such as Stone Telling, Clarkesworld, Apex, and Ideomancer.
A ton of new information on the North American magic school, Ilvermorny, was just dropped onto Pottermore. But that’s not all! You can now get Sorted into the various Houses (if you have a Pottermore account, so sign on up).
As a reminder, the four Ilvermorny Houses are Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird! Here is where you go for the Sorting, provided you have a Pottermore account. (I got Horned Serpent, which seems to be the brainy house? Not what I expected.) These Houses don’t break down quite the same way the Hogwarts ones do; instead, they are associated as follows:
- Horned Serpent–the Mind, a house favoring scholars
- Thunderbird–the Soul, a house favoring adventurers
- Pukwudgie–the Heart, a house favoring healers
- Wampus–the Body, a house favoring warriors
So, sort of similar, but not quite? There’s not a direct correlation, which makes sense. The most notable difference is that not one of these houses seems Slytherin-y. Instead we have Wampus, which sounds kind of like “the sporty house.” Go jock wizards!
Now, check out this introductory video for the school, which has some gorgeous animation. We’ll have more on the background Rowling offered on the school in due course.
Wheel of Time Reread Redux! Yeah! Whoo!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 52: In Search of a Remedy
“You remind me of my husband, Mat Cauthon. He was a headstrong fool who would sail into the teeth of a gale and laugh, too. I could almost think you’ll manage it.” Suddenly [Mother Guenna] saw his muddy boots, apparently for the first time. “It took me six months to teach him not to track mud into my house. If you do get those girls out, whichever of them you have your eye on will have a hard time training you to make you fit to be let inside.”
“You are the only woman who could do that,” he said with a grin that broadened at her glare.
LOL. Oh, Mat, you cad.
I get the feeling that some people find it puzzling that a dyed-in-the-wool feminist like me can like a character like Mat Cauthon so much – i.e. the prototypical roguish ladies’ man, who delights in teasing, provoking, and shamelessly flirting with women, whether or not he has any romantic interest in them. I guess, to some people, this would seem like the exact opposite of the kind of man I would “approve” of, or some such.
This basically only proves that, as usual, some people still have no idea what “being a feminist” actually means. I get the feeling that, to some people, “feminist” still equates in their mind with “man-hating”. And “humorless” is probably in there somewhere too. And sure, if I were actually a person devoid of all humor who can’t stand anyone with a Y chromosome, then yeah, I guess I wouldn’t like Mat at all.
But I am not either of those things, and, in my experience, few or no feminists are those things either. Because the thing is, there’s nothing inherently wrong with flirting or teasing or, or romancing in general. There’s nothing automatically bad in overtly acknowledging that other people (in Mat’s case, female people) are attractive to you and that you might be attractive to them, and having fun with that knowledge. I mean, that’s how we get on with this whole perpetuating the human race thing, if nothing else.
To me, what it really comes down to is two things: intent, and respect. Even if it’s sometimes hard to delineate, we mostly can tell perfectly well the difference between being teased and being mocked. So, too, is there a sometimes hard to define but unquestionable difference between flirting, even aggressive flirting, and harassment. And the line between both things, in my opinion, is defined by, again, intent, and respect.
Mat’s teasing and flirting with Mother Guenna in this chapter is entirely inoffensive to me because the intent behind it is inoffensive, and because no disrespect to her is even remotely implied. Sure, Mat’s being manipulative to some degree, using his charm to get what he wants, but it’s not like Mother Guenna doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing, and she freely chooses to go along with it. The important thing is not that he pressed her for what he wanted, but the absolute knowledge that had she truly resisted Mat’s attempts to get what he wanted, or alternately been made truly uncomfortable by his demeanor, Mat would have instantly backed off.
That’s where the difference comes in. Mat himself later sums it up pretty succinctly, when he reflects that he likes to chase women, but only women who want to be chased. Which is basically the Third Age equivalent of understanding that Consent is Sexy.
Which makes the whole Tylin thing just that much more infuriating, of course, but we’ve already covered that rant.
In other news, Sick Thom is hilarious. Bye, Thom! See you in TSR!
Chapter 53: A Flow of the Spirit
I said in the original commentary that I didn’t quite buy that Perrin and Faile’s interaction thus far had been sufficient cause for him to be this frenzied over saving her. And I still sort of agree with that, but also acknowledge that, as I actually also said in the original commentary, the vagaries of who and how people love other people are frequently a lot more bizarre and inexplicable than Hollywood and other sources of pop culture romance have led us to believe.
So, even setting aside my repeated assertion that Faile is “annoying” (with a persistence that I now find in itself rather annoying), there’s no real reason to disbelieve that Perrin could have fallen for Faile that quickly. Does it make sense to me? Well, no, not really. But I’m not either of the people in this relationship, am I.
That said, there is the caveat that to a certain degree I found nearly all of Jordan’s romantic entanglements in WOT to be at least a little baffling. So it’s sort of a feature, rather than a (sort-of) bug, I guess?
Also, I suspect that the “damsel in distress” factor was larger than I’d prefer it to be, especially given Perrin’s later semi-psychotic behavior during the PLOD through Malden and the Shaido. Ugh.
Re: the hedgehog trap: I was unsure at first why Bel’al didn’t have his pet Black Ajah sisters just confront Moiraine directly and take her down if he knows she’s there, but then I remembered that barring Supergirls, Moiraine is one of the strongest Aes Sedai out there, and it’s perfectly possible that the Black sisters were worried that even linked, they might not be a match for her. And besides, they have trap-baiting duties at the moment (i.e. hauling the Supergirls off to the Stone), so Moiraine was probably a lower priority for them.
Much easier to leave a booby trap and hope they get lucky. Which they did not, but I guess that’s how the evil cookie crumbles, sometimes.
And it’s a little short to stop here, but the last three chapters are really the Big Ass Ending, and I feel like I should tackle them all together. So tune in next Tuesday for the end of TDR! Cheers!
We want to send you a galley copy of Melissa F. Olson’s Nightshades, available July 19th from Tor.com Publishing!
Alex McKenna is the new Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations—the division tasked with investigating crimes involving shades.
Or vampires, as they’re more widely known.
Children have been going missing, and agents are routinely being slaughtered. It’s up to McKenna, and some unlikely allies, to get to the bottom of the problem, and find the kids before it’s too late.
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- Fri Jul 1 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm in Ross Island: GOH Fan Guest David D Levine Reading.
- Fri Jul 1 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm in Mult/Holl: Opening Ceremony. With Bobak Ferdowsi, Charlie Stross, David D. Levine, Lea Rush
- Fri Jul 1 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm in Hawthorne: Going to Mars: What s the Point?. With the release of the hit movie The Martian and the release of the latest NASA plan for the journey to Mars, a fundamental question needs to be asked, and answered concerning the Why. The panel will discuss the pros and cons of a Mars mission and how it can be presented in the non-science world in order to justify the endeavor. With Bobak Ferdowsi, David D. Levine, Gerald D. Nordley, Kristin Landon
- Fri Jul 1 9:00 pm - 12:00 am in Jeff/Adams: Match Game SF. Get ready to match the fannish stars! In this re-creation of the classic 1970s game show, contestants are selected randomly from the audience to attempt to match the panelists' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions like "Captain Kirk has the biggest ___ in Starfleet!" All contestants will receive prizes. With Andrew Fuller, David D. Levine, Debra Stansbury, Jim Doty, Kevin Standlee (m), Lisa Hayes, Lynn Gold, Manny Frishberg
- Sat Jul 2 10:00 am - 11:00 am in Multnomah: Saturday 10am Kaffeeklatsch. Small group discussions with authors, artists, and other interesting personalities (referred to as "hosts"). Sessions are limited to the host and a small group of attendees.
- Sat Jul 2 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm in Lincoln: Contract Pitfalls to Avoid. Join the Chair of SFWA's Contracts Committee and other panelists in discussing contract clauses writers need to avoid or modify. With David D. Levine, James Fiscus (m), John Lovett
- Sat Jul 2 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm in Mult/Holl: The Scientist vs The Authors: Intellectual Brawl of the Century. 3 of our GoH's having a free form discussion. With Bobak Ferdowsi, Charlie Stross, David D. Levine (m), John Scalzi
- Sat Jul 2 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm in Mult/Holl: Masquerade. The Masquerade is an event where members of the convention have the opportunity to present their costumes on stage for the entertainment of the other members. With David D. Levine (MC)
- Sun Jul 3 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm in Autographs: Guest of Honor Autograph: David Levine.
- Sun Jul 3 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm in Ross Island: Toxic Masculinity as Villain. Fighting demons is clearly easier than fighting the cultural narrative of men as arrogant, emotionally repressed aggressors who refuse to accept advice or reconsider poor decisions. What would it look like if a male character became aware of that narrative and decided to take a stand against it? Instead of toxic masculinity traits being used to generate repetitive conflict, how can authors build the tension between what the culture wants a man to be and who he wants himself to be? With David D. Levine, Sara Stamey, Sienna Saint-Cyr
- Sun Jul 3 9:00 pm - 12:00 am in Jeff/Adams: Match Game SF. Get ready to match the fannish stars! In this re-creation of the classic 1970s game show, contestants are selected randomly from the audience to attempt to match the panelists' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions like "Captain Kirk has the biggest ___ in Starfleet!" All contestants will receive prizes. With Andy Trembley, David D. Levine, Jonnalyhn Wolfcat Prill, Kevin Roche, Kevin Standlee (m), Lee Moyer, Lisa Hayes, Lynn Gold
- Mon Jul 4 11:00 am - 12:00 pm in Jeff/Adams: GoH presentation: Science Tourism Experiences. A slide show presentation by GoH David Levine showing a zeppelin ride, a NASA satellite launch, a short trip on a sailing ship, and a stay at a simulated Mars base.
- Mon Jul 4 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm in Broadway: How the Hugo Awards Work. There have been millions of words tossed around for the past few years about the Hugo Awards, much of it uninformed, inaccurate, or simply wrong. Come listen to people who have actually administered the Awards and know the rules to hear some facts about the process. With Ben Yalow, David D. Levine, Kevin Standlee (m)
Now that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) is over, save for the encores, and now that the writeups are done, it’s time to start clearing the links. Here are some accumulated links from the last two weeks related to food:
- Gluten Free Bread: “Chemists say they finally know how to make soft, delicious gluten-free bread“. Two food scientists have reportedly figured out how to isolate a corn protein that has the ability to make gluten-free bread and pasta as soft and doughy as their wheat-filled counterparts. Cool.
- Cheddar Cheese and Apple Pie: “It’s Time To Put Cheddar Cheese Back On Apple Pie“. You might not have realized it, but cheddar cheese goes great on apple pie. Here are some restaurants in LA where you can try it.
- Onions: “The Science Of Why Onions Make Us Cry“. Onions may taste great, but chopping them can be a tearful experience. If you understand why, you can chop with fewer tears.
- Sausage: “The Mysterious Origins of a Food That’s Always Been Funny: The Sausage“. Every culture has their noodle. Every culture has their chicken soup. Every culture has their sausage. Here’s why. (heh heh heh he said sausage)
- Disposable Spoons: “This Startup Wants You To Have Your Disposable Spoon And Eat It, Too“. We may be ecological and all that, but we still throw away plastic utensils. But what if you could eat the utensils after you were done with your meal….
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A determined spammer keeps asking me 'interested in safe floors?'
And since one of my current occupations is channelling a renowned author of Gothick novels and horrid tales, the image this evokes is of floors that suddenly open up beneath one's feet leading to an Oubliette of Doom, or possibly Hell.
In fact, it seems to be about becoming a distributor for some product that promises 'slip-resistant floor treatment' for the kind of public premises that have slippery floors.
Also, requires a set-up fee of $5000 to get into this promising business opportunity.
One is so tempted to put them in touch with relicts of dictators...
In other news, and trying to look on the bright side (wot bright side there is no bright side):
The keynote talk thing that I have been sighing over has done that thing where it gives a little wiggle and suddenly looks a lot more close to DONE than I thought it was.
Also in being Some Kinda Academic, sent off the paper I gave in Montreal to the organising body's essay comp, as they had solicited attendees to do this.
In nature notes, today I saw a wee robin and some kind of tit (?) in my perambulations through local green spaces.
Also, have had the royalty statement for a particularly niche work of mine and it's still selling - the royalties are still pretty much tuppence-ha'penny once the non-sterling cheque has gone through the bank, but I never expected wealth beyond the dreams of avarice from it.
Getting ready for a conversation with my editor about the SF trilogy I’m working on. (Apparently they want this first book to have a title. Sheesh. So demanding…)
So, um … anyone have any brilliant title ideas they’re not using?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I reached a major professional milestone that I have been working towards for seven years in college and while working. (Not an unusual amount of time.) My colleagues and I received our results simultaneously. Less than half of us were successful (also not unusual). We’re around the same age, but I am not close to them. I sat quietly within view of them congregating near my desk to discuss, but felt it was not my place to interject much disappointment with my good news. I am sure they did not want to put me on the spot (often we wait to be told rather than ask unless you’re close).
I emailed a few colleagues and texted my family/friends. My family wanted to know what I was doing to celebrate, and I had nothing to report. My three local friends were not available. My colleagues were also unavailable to grab a drink or fancy dessert. My boss encouraged me to leave early, which I was reluctant to do, so I took a break to have dessert at a café. By myself.
As the news spread this week, folks urged me to make extravagant purchases, plan trips, and eat and drink copiously to celebrate. No one offered to join me. Usually there is a happy hour to mark the results, but if there was one I wasn’t informed/didn’t overhear.
I made plans with a friend for today, but she canceled shortly beforehand due to an unavoidable problem with her apartment. All local friends are now unavailable for two weeks. My family lives out of state.
Tangentially, when I first saw my results, I didn’t really feel anything. When I completed the previous step, my success was a huge surprise, and I clearly recall my astonishment and delight. This time, I felt more confident when finished, but I didn’t feel the relief that I remember from before. After the long wait for results, I was expecting/hoping for relief and joy, but neither manifested.
I told colleagues who asked that I felt excited but a little anxious because “I’m already behind with studying!”
There is another optional step that will take at least two more years, possibly much more. Due to company policy, short of a medical exception, I am not allowed to take a break (though I may stop permanently) and must continue these assessments twice a year. This accounts for 400-600 hours of commitment annually outside of work. Most colleagues have made or are making this commitment, and it’s standard for my industry. I am told the previous step was the most challenging. I had a rough couple of months preparing, being very focused but also easily upset.
This process requires lots of my non-work energy. I find group studying to be less productive. I am also a lifelong introvert. (I would even say I’m aggressively introverted.) I engage socially with colleagues/friends once-ish per week outside work in “off” study times, less when I am studying. I often initiate. I try not to turn down invitations because I receive few, and I usually have a good time. I also have lunch with a few people and socialize at work. The folks I started with aren’t in my office anymore, and the group I tested with all started together later. My closest friends live in different states, so I see them rarely. I would rather have a pelvic exam than have to meet/befriend strangers.
tl;dr I didn’t react appropriately to amazing news. Instead I felt sad, empty, and isolated. I am not sure if the root of this is the milestone itself—what have I really achieved? My daily role has not changed, and I am not truly finished, so I must again begin the grueling cycle of preparing for the next assessment. Or were my feelings influenced because I didn’t have an outlet to celebrate and that was disappointing?
So my questions are: 1) How can I better nurture my friendships when I have these responsibilities and this introverted temperament? I feel like my emails go largely unanswered and engagements cancelled as often as not. What can I do differently? I have been told I am a good, supportive friend, and people ask for email updates (without reciprocating), but I feel like Team Me is largely second string, and it’s not my right to demand anything of anybody, while gentle requests for support are not taken seriously. And 2) How can I be more excited and positive about this accomplishment? I am afraid I am focusing too much on the friend-related disappointment or the difficult steps ahead. I want to savor this, but I seem not to know how.
She/her is fine.
Finally a Professional
Dear Finally A Professional:
Congratulations on achieving (whatever it is). It makes total sense that the achievement would feel anticlimactic since so much work on this particular goal remains ahead of you. You’re in the middle, and it still feels like the middle.
You sound to me like a person who needs a break, a short trip to visit someone close to you, and an ongoing local pleasant, low-pressure outlet for companionship.
Could you get a massage? It sounds like you can afford a nice treat, and the catharsis of being rubbed and kneaded until some of the tension leaves your body might help right now. It sounds like your shoulders are up around your ears. See if someone can help you (physically, at least) drop them down a peg.
Could you spend a little time thinking about your career & life goals? Maybe jump on a journaling habit? Are you happy and excited about where all this testing and studying is leading you? Can you think of some people in your field who you admire, who do the most interesting and relevant and useful aspects of your profession? Is there a way to add something that really interests you to your current job duties? Does your company have an opportunity for you to job-swap with another department, cross-train in another role, or transfer to an office (maybe one that is closer to your favorite people)?
Could you take a day off from work to take a long weekend to visit one of your far-flung friends or family? Why not throw some clothes and a book you’ve been meaning to read in a bag and hop a train to see a friendly face? You need a change of scene and to be in a room with someone who loves you. Combine the “celebration of milestone” with “short break” and “refilling your friendship well.” And don’t gently hint at it – ask/tell. “Old Friend, I would love to see your face this weekend. If I make it into town for a day or two can we meet up for brunch or dinner?” “Friend, I want someone to celebrate this big work deal with. If I hop the train this Friday, can we meet up for a drink?” It’s okay to flash the “Hey, I need you!” symbol in the sky. If travel doesn’t work, institute a Skype date or a long gossipy phone call. Email isn’t working, social media isn’t working, gently holding back isn’t working, and you’ve been trying so hard not to impose on anyone that you’ve started to disappear. It’s okay to say, “Friend, I’m a little lonely right now and I need you.” Vulnerability connects us as much if not more than celebrating achievements. You’re allowed to want that and ask for it.
These are three pieces about nurturing friendships among adults that I really like:
My Mother Showed Me How To Hit The Jackpot, by Kate Harding. (You might cry when you read this). I have a group of far-flung friends who make the effort to get together in one place at least once a year, and it is the best. If you can’t visit a friend now, can you try to plan a trip with a few people?
Friday Night Meatballs (about hosting a regular get together, which seems like a weird thing for an introvert to do, until you realize that you control every aspect of it and then kick people out of your house at a set time). To implement: Pick a day, gather your three local friends together at your place, and feed them. “I’m celebrating finishing [MILESTONE], please come join me.“If you enjoy it, try doing it once a month. Every now and then invite someone new and get to know them better.
How Do I Make Friends In My Late 20s, Ask Polly. An excerpt:
“This is the downside of living in a gigantic country like the U.S.: You move away for college, you move away for work, you move away because you meet a great guy or girl, and one day you wake up and you’re 2,000 miles away from anyone who knows you really well. For someone who’s faintly allergic to small talk, who can never quite hit that lowest common denominator of casual chattiness, who can never quite manage to burble happily about the weather and the news and those cute shoes and the new restaurant down the block, making brand-new friends sounds about as appealing as a trip to the podiatrist.”
Sound like you?❤ She’s got some wisdom in there about connecting with people different from you and looking for things to like about people. I know, you said the thought of befriending strangers is literally The Worst. But your distant-yet-beloved network isn’t really doing it for you right now, nor are your work colleagues, nor is the thought of pouring yourself into hundreds more hours of studying. What could you do that is fun (maybe a physical activity of some sort, something that gets you into your body or your hands or your senses in some way) AND gets you out of your office AND out of your house AND into proximity with other people once a week? Join a choir. Try something new, something you don’t have to be good at, or reconnect with an old hobby. Meet a couple of new folks where you live. You don’t have to befriend them, you just have to show up and give it a chance. You need an outlet and a change of pace. I know you hate this advice, but making friends at multiple stages in life is a skill and sometimes there is no substitute for pleasant proximity to other people (even people who don’t necessarily have anything in common with you on the surface) when you’re trying to find your way back to having community.
- Treat yourself.
- Take a small break.
- See or at least call a friend (be vulnerable).
- Do something new that connects you to others, even if it’s just the shared work of petting puppies in the animal shelter.
- Give it time and be nice to yourself.
You’re not weird for feeling this way, and you’re not alone. I hope your friends come through and that you find a place that reminds you that you belong.
Winter is Here! The winds of winter are blowing! Season 6 of Game of Thrones is over and now the long wait for Season 7 has begun. FireandLunch has had a blast discussing this season via the lens of book-readers with you all at Tor and we’re here again to help you endure the wait for Season 7.
We’re scrying into our fires and scouring the books to present our predictions for HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 7. As always, tons of book spoilers will be found below. Tell us your own predictions in the comments!
House Stark and the North
- The Wall is coming down in Season 7. Benjen’s comments about the Wall and its magic in the finale confirm that the White Walkers cannot pass so long as the Wall remains. In the novels it is stated that the Wall will stand as long as the Night’s Watch stay true to their vows. Far-fetched theory, but Jon Snow taking the crown as King of the North is in direct violation of the oath to “wear no crowns.” We just hope Dolorous Edd will be OK.
- The Night’s King and his army of Undead are coming now that Winter is officially here. The biggest impending conflict began with the launch of Dany’s fleet and the declaration of the North for Jon Snow. Will there be a Dragon vs Dragon face-off? Jon, meet your aunt. She’s coming to kill you and anyone else who stands in her way. We don’t think Ghost has much of a chance against Drogon. With Jon accepting the mantle of King in the North in order to organize a larger defense against the Wights, Jon should be very interested in the fire-power that Dany’s dragons provide. Look for Jon to parlay with Dany. If he’s smart he’ll avoid any prolonged conflict with the Dragon Queen in favor of alliance against the Others. And if Jon ever finds out about his true parentage, things could get a lot more complicated.
- Littlefinger will try to remove Jon Snow from power. The look between Sansa and Littlefinger was very telling. He is not happy about the current situation in the North and will attempt to muck up Jon’s plans for the North and the War against the Others. He wants to be King of Westeros and we don’t see Jon allowing that. Sansa’s worried look of concern after they made eye-contact means she will have to be extra alert to any of Baelish’s machinations that could undermine Jon’s claims to Winterfell. She will be playing the part of Tyrion to Jon’s Daenerys. Much like Daenerys, Jon does not know how to play the game of thrones, but Sansa does, and in order to survive it he is going to need her by his side as an advisor and ally. After Jon telling her that they have to trust each other, we hope she tells him about Creepyfinger. It’s never going to work if the ‘siblings’ don’t work together.
Who Will Die?
- We hate to say it but budget constraints and the likelihood of The Dragon Has Three Heads prophecy coming true point to Ghost dying. Nothing could replace Ghost in Jon’s (or our) hearts but three dragons are better than one direwolf. Jon can trade in his loyal, invisible, direwolf pal for huge firebreathing dragon that could come in really handy in the coming war.
- Jon will need to battle his Stark ancestors when the Night’s King raises the dead from the Winterfell crypts. Ok Ok, this one is just a joke but wouldn’t it be hilarious if Jon experienced a Game of Thrones spin of this “Mulan moment”?
Reunions and Team-Ups
- Bran and Meera are most likely going to have interactions with Edd and all the other members of the Night’s Watch. Right before they all flee towards Winterfell. Someone will need to come and pick up Bran and the Weirwood grove is very near Castle Black. This could even lead to communication between Sam in Oldtown and Bran at the wall about Bran’s visions, if anyone bothers to use ravens to communicate. They seem to be bad at remembering to do that if Sam’s interactions with the clerk in Oldtown is any indication. We just hope that Sam tells the Night’s Watch everything he is learning down there!
- We’re also looking forward to the inevitable reunion of Bran with his siblings. He may not make it all the way to Winterfell but Bran has a lot of critical information gleaned from his Weirwood visions and there’s no point in revealing the truth of the Tower of Joy to the viewers if Jon never finds out. Bran is going to tell Jon about his parents and how Jon deals with that information could be the most compelling character development on the show.
- The Brotherhood Without Banners will head North. Perhaps they will head up on their own, or perhaps Melisandre will meet them in her exile and convince Thoros of Myr that Jon needs a Priest of R’hllor to advise him. Either way, we’re pretty confident the Brotherhood will end up serving the King in the North. At the very least, we’d love to see a conversation between Jon and Beric Dondarrion on the finer points of life after Resurrection.
- Hold it, your long awaited Arya reunion is a long ways off. Arya will go to King’s Landing. Arya is already halfway home when she stops at the Twins to Manderly (We’re just using this as a verb because we can, read the books) some Freys and murder Lord Walder. Fittingly, in the same manner in which her mother was killed in that very hall. Nice one Arya. But don’t anticipate a homecoming in Winterfell any time soon. Arya may be able to teleport across the narrow sea and halfway across Westeros but she’s got a list and she’s not going to get through it by running to Winterfell to check on her surviving family. On her journey South we’re hoping she runs into the Brotherhood Without Banners (who should be making their way North) and maybe she’ll reunite with an old friend. No, not that one. This one.
House Lannister and King’s Landing
- Euron Greyjoy will ally with Cersei Lannister. Cersei is in a bit of a pickle. Once Jaime leaves her, and he will leave her for blowing up half of King’s Landing and driving their last child to suicide (he killed Aerys II for less) he will most likely leave with the Lannister army. Cersei will be left with the city guards, the Gold Cloaks, to keep order in a city that doesn’t trust her and with no way to pay them. We know the Crown owes money to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Collection is long past due. Cersei is going to need every ally she can make in a dwindling field of options. Yara and Theon beat Euron to Dany and the only available Queen for Euron to woo will be Cersei. She will be interested in Euron’s Iron Fleet in her ongoing conflict with everyone and her upcoming conflict with Dany. This should be interesting.
- We’ve predicted that a greyscale epidemic will come to Westeros soon and we think it’s going to come via King’s Landing. As a port city with an extensive slum and a disinterested monarch, King’s Landing is going to become a petri dish. We’re calling Jorah patient zero and the capital city is a perfect place for Jorah to make landfall. Cersei may even turn to biological warfare in her fight against her enemies. Additionally, Jorah could make his way to Oldtown for research but the Maesters know a lot about disease and should be able to contain any outbreaks.
- House Baratheon is still alive! With the death of both Stannis and Shireen in season five there really has been no discussion on the state of House Baratheon and the Stormlands. Who is currently in control of that House? Where will their loyalties lie in this new war for the Iron Throne? House Baratheon in the past went to war against the Targaryens and in more recent history the Lannisters. Where does that leave them? Are they going to choose a side or sit out the war, similar to how the Vale sat out the War of the Five Kings? Our prediction is that Gendry will finally stop rowing his boat (haha actually we think he’s with the Brotherhood) and will be proclaimed the leader of House Baratheon in much the same way Jon was in the North. (In the books, Edric Storm is the only acknowledged Bastard of Robert Baratheon, but Melisandre knows about Gendry in the show and as we’ve said, we think she’s heading South.) With Brienne being from the Stormlands and the historic connection between House Stark and House Baratheon we could see them devoting their resources and men towards Winterfell and the War against the Others.
Who Will Die?
- Cersei, probably. We just can’t exactly see her surviving what is coming for her, whether it be Jaime or Arya or Dany and her rather large army. The addled Queen will most likely die at the hands of her twin but not before she causes as much mayhem and chaos as possible. She has a rogue maester capable of creating sentient zombies, a complete willingness to blow up her own subjects and absolutely nothing left to lose.
Reunions and Team-Ups
- Arya and Sandor, both possibly heading to the capital to kill Cersei and Gregor respectively. Can we really look forward to a continuation of everyone’s favorite road show? We’ve already predicted Arya will meet up with the Brotherhood and while we’re mostly looking forward to the possibility of Gendry making an appearance, Arya should be really surprised to see the Hound still alive. The question is, is Sandor friend or foe? Arya did leave him to die, but Sandor has always had a soft spot for the girl-assassin.
Dany and her Entourage
- Varys will defect from Dany’s forces. You are probably giving us your best Varys-face but hear us out! On the show, Varys is Team Dany because she’s the heir of the Targaryen line. And judging from his advice and moves throughout the last 6 seasons, he’s also interested in improving Targaryen rule. He wants a Targ to sit the Iron Throne, but he also wants that Targ to be just, kind, and not prone to murder rages. Which is great. And so far, Dany is fulfilling that dream. However, as we’ve learned with Bran’s visions of the Tower of Joy, Jon Snow’s parentage is a potential issue for Dany. In the books Varys supports the claim of a young man that Varys believes to be Aegon Targaryen, Rhaegar’s thought-to-be-murdered-by-the-Mountain son. For various reasons, most readers refer to this character as fAegon (as in Fake). While still other readers have conspiracy theoried themselves into a place where fAegon was switched with Jon at birth and everyone is someone else but still a Targ or a Stark. Sigh. For show-watchers the only part of this information that matters is that when faced with an heir of Rhaegar, Varys chooses that heir over any claim from Rhaegar’s siblings. It’s safe to assume that the truth of Jon’s parentage will be revealed to Jon and company in Season 7. If Varys finds out about Jon, he could very well drop everything and run to Rhaegar’s son. At the very least, to arrange a marriage. Dany believes she has to marry someone, after all, and there aren’t many eligible men left in Westeros. Get ready for a very confused Jon Snow. Your aunt is actually your mother, and your real aunt is your bride. Anything for the fight against the Others.
- Conflict in Meereen. Dany left The Bay of Dragons under the rule of Daario and his mercenary band, The Second Sons. This is not a good decision. Daario’s only motivation was being with Dany and she just dumped him. He’ll be back to his Sellsword ways in no time. Either setting himself up for his own profit or, potentially, even abandoning the cities just when they need someone to make sure the Masters don’t go back to their old ways. Hopefully once word that things in Essos aren’t going as planned reaches Dany, she will not send the Sand Snakes to clean up the mess. Don’t do it, Dany!
Who Will Die?
- One or more of the dragons. Everything seems to be falling into place for Daenerys. She has an alliance with three of the great houses, an army of unsullied, an army of Dothraki warriors, Varys’ intelligence network, and Tyrion Lannister as her hand. It seems too perfect for everything to go her way, so something has to go wrong. Dany has not suffered a serious loss of someone she loves since Season 1. To have her lose one or more of her children will be a huge blow to her. It will also add an interesting parallel to Cersei who has lost all of her children. Our money is on Viserion or Rhaegal being one of the doomed dragons.
- If Theon ever encounters Arya she may kill him for his part in Robb’s death. Theon has been through enough and we’re happy to see him beginning to heal and grow as a character but at this point he’s Yara’s side-kick and we can see the writers penning a sad but inevitable death for the former ward of Ned Stark.
Reunions and Team-Ups
- Depending on where Team Dany ends up next season we could see a lot of reunions on Tyrion’s side. If Dany sticks to King’s Landing the obvious reunion is Tyrion with Cersei, possibly even Jaime. We have to admit, the thought of Tyrion getting to confront Cersei again with Dany’s armies, fleets and dragons at his back sounds incredibly satisfying. Plus, we’re looking forward to some meatier scenes for Peter Dinklage next season. If Dany and company end up North (a smaller possibility) a reunion between Tyrion and Sansa could be imminent. Sansa may use the reappearance of her husband as an escape from the machinations of Littlefinger. Admit it, this kind of declaration is exactly the kind of sudden plot twist that Game of Thrones thrives on.
And most importantly, Who Will Rule Westeros?
- Trick question! Jon Snow has been crowned King in the North but his track record in positions of power isn’t stellar. Jon isn’t charismatic. He isn’t good at motivating or manipulating people. He’s honorable and trustworthy but he lacks political finesse. We think Jon will make a fine General for Dany. Whether he abdicates his claim, marries Dany or simply never attempts to spread his claim further than the Northern Territories—Jon is not destined for the Iron Throne. But we don’t think Dany will sit the famous chair either, even if she has what Jon lacks. Dany may have a forceful personality, an enormous fleet, several armies and three dragons but we’re very sure we haven’t seen everything the Night’s King has in his arsenal. The real question is, can they defeat him, even if they ally? Of course, they could always just send Arya to take care of him!
Hello, we are Fire and Lunch! Five years ago, a bunch of superfans came together to celebrate their favorite book series over food, and the rest is history. You can find our in-depth analysis (complete with POP-toy gifs) of Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, and other fantasy series on tumblr and twitter. If you’re into fast talking, intelligent discourse, and some pretty deep geek humor, check out our podcast, The Piecast.
In 1967 when Gene Roddenberry was accused of personally organizing scores of protesting fans who physically demonstrated in front of NBC Studios to keep Star Trek on the air he said “That’s very flattering, because if I could start demonstrations around the country from this desk, I’d get the hell out of science fiction and into politics.” This quote is one of thousands found in the new book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. It’s the first volume of two, and like that Roddenberry quip; the entire text shines a bright light on the chasm between what you think you know about the history of Star Trek and what the history of Star Trek really was.
I was 13 years old when Star Trek Generations came out in 1994. And in the months and weeks leading up to its release, I recorded every snap of information I could find on a VHS tape that my parents let me use specifically for “Star Trek Junk.” One particular collection of press interviews conducted on the E! Channel stands-out in my memory: Malcolm McDowell (the evil Dr. Soran) talking mad shit about Star Trek fans. Here’s what I remember him saying: “They [fans] don’t care if it’s good or bad or what. They just get on their Trekkie-treadmill and keep going…” 13 year-old me was crushed! Not only that, but I was also confused as to how I was supposed to feel. The comment felt flippantly cruel: like that scene in Superman III where Supes gets embarrassingly drunk at a bar. Because Trek was sacred to me, smack-talk about it was difficult to reconcile. And yet, Malcolm McDowell was obviously right: a lot of Star Trek fans—both then and now—see Trek itself as being somewhat unassailable. If you attack one aspect of Star Trek, you’re disloyal, even if you’re just being honest.
In The Fifty-Year Mission, David Gerrold—most famous for writing the classic Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”—states clearly his low opinions about the original Star Trek’s controversial third season producer, Fred Freiberger, saying:
“With the third season, the reason that it was the way it was, is that the guy at the center…he wasn’t doing Star Trek. You try and explain that to the fans, and they think you’re disloyal to the show. Where that comes from is a loyalty to what the show represents.”
Whether you agree with Gerrold or not about the third season of Star Trek sucking isn’t really the point. (I’ve even been known to defend “Spock’s Brain” from time to time.) Instead, what’s illuminating here—and throughout this whole book—is that the way we think about Star Trek’s identity is linked to assumptions we have about its origin. If you have ever believed that Star Trek was simply a beautiful vision from the mind of Gene Roddenberry and was misunderstood by idiots and studios, then The Fifty-Year Mission, Volume One might read as a total rude awakening. Through oral and written recollections, the book depicts not only the chaos behind the scenes of the original Star Trek, the animated series, and the first six films, but also the cacophony and obscuring that results from opposing recollections of the same event. The Fifty-Year Mission, Volume One is to Star Trek history what Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is to a whitewashed version of American history. The word “uncensored” is in the subtitle of Fifty-Year Mission and it’s not screwing around.
George Lucas has often been accused of not knowing how to communicate with actors, but in reading this book, you’ll discover that Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry may have been even worse. Gene L. Coon’s manager, Dorris Halsey mentions Roddenberry had a “very low respect for actors,” and Coon’s widow echoes that sentiment by explaining that “Gene wasn’t crazy about actors.”
Fifty-Year Mission also highlights showrunner Gene L. Coon—the other Gene of Star Trek—as probably the person most responsible for Trek’s consistent tone in its first two seasons, being among the five or six biggest unsung heroes of the entire franchise. (D.C Fontana, Nicholas Meyer, and Harve Bennett being a few others.) Nearly everything fans love about the original series, from humor to Hortas, comes from Coon’s direct writing or influence. Surprisingly, when Coon leaves the show before the third season, Roddenberry quit as a producer, too, causing the entire tone of Star Trek to change. This isn’t exactly a secret, but the wonderful thing about The Fifty-Year Mission is how it gives fans the context of how difficult Star Trek was as a business proposition before it became the bankable brand we think of today.
But what was Star Trek? Was it “Wagon Train to the Stars?” Was it serious science fiction? Was it even supposed to be funny? These were questions that Roddenberry, the actors, and crew struggled with even after the completion of the original series. During the writing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, humor and fun seemed to be completely outlawed. As Leonard Nimoy says in the book:
“One of the things that Star Trek fans always enjoyed a lot about the series was the humor…There was always some wry look, a line, an eyebrow raised, something that let them in on the joke. On Star Trek 1 it was forbidden. I mean it was forbidden! It was decided that we were doing a very serious motion picture here, we would not do funny stuff…”
Star Trek: The Motion Picture may have said “The human adventure is just beginning,” but in many ways it was just as maddening as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, as Manny Coto (Enterprise producer) says in the book:
“I sympathize with the guys who went to see The Phantom Menace and convinced themselves that it wasn’t as bad as it was. Phantom Menace is worse, I would argue, than Star Trek ever was, but we were kind of in denial.”
In reading all of the insight and recollections in Fifty-Year Mission, you get the sense that Star Trek as a thing is an artistic entity perpetually at war with itself. It’s like Star Trek is both the “good Kirk” and the “evil Kirk” from “The Enemy Within,” only here those warring sides are split into myriad pieces comprising producers, writers, actors, fans, and critics. Fifty-Year Mission editors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman have curated it all into a tome that can only be described as—wait for it—fascinating.
Revealing some of the better bits from Nicholas Meyer, or Walter Koenig, D.C Fontana or even Gene Roddenberry himself, would be ruining too much of the beauty of this book. If you are the type of Star Trek fan who only likes speculating about the temperature of a phaser pistol after it fires, this might not be for you. But, if, like me, you loved Nick Meyer’s The View from the Bridge, David Gerrold’s The World of Star Trek or even William Shatner’s recent book Leonard, then you’ll love this.
At risk of pretending like I know nothing about Star Trek when I, in fact, know probably way too much; The Fifty-Year Mission, Volume One is the one totally essential, endlessly researched, and complete behind-the-scenes Trek book to rule them all.
The Fifty-Year Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman is out this week from St. Martin’s Press. The second part, Volume Two: From The Next Generation to J.J. publishes in August.
Ryan will be in conversation live with co-author Edward Gross about The Fifty-Year Mission in Brooklyn, NY on July 7th. Details from Word Bookstore here.
There are days when I wish I didn’t need sleep. If I didn’t need sleep, my to-be-read pile might grow at a slower rate. And I might finally come within striking distance of catching up.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few books I’d like to tell you about today. One urban fantasy set in the north of England, one historical murder mystery set in 1839 Mississippi, and one debut space opera, set in a matriarchal empire beset by enemies foreign and domestic…
E.E. Richardson’s Spirit Animals, sequel to last year’s Disturbed Earth, continues the adventures of hard-boiled DCI Claire Pierce. Pierce is head of the Ritual Crimes Unit of the Yorkshire police, and this time out, she has several problems on her plate. Not only does she suspect a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice at the highest levels—related to a previous case—she’s got two sets of dangerous criminals to apprehend, and never enough resources. Her troubles begin with a booby-trapped barn, where someone has been making illegal charms. But they escalate when she’s called to a murder site. It’s been fourteen years since the last corpse attributed to the serial killer that the press dubbed the “Valentine Vampire,” but now it looks like the killer’s back… and Pierce’s problem.
Richardson’s fifty-something-year-old DCI Pierce, hard as nails and twice as stubborn, remains a refreshing contribution to the urban fantasy landscape. Most protagonists of contemporary fantasy novels are all of half that age. It’s nice to see a woman of mature years kicking arse and taking no shit.
Pierce is a proper copper, who believes in doing her job. Spirit Animals is a tidily put-together fantasy crime potboiler. And I say that in the highest sense of praise: I’d read a dozen more like it.
Barbara Hambly’s Drinking Gourd is the latest entry in her Benjamin January historical mystery series. This tight, atmospheric novel is set in 1839 Mississippi, from the perspective of a free man of colour—musician, trained surgeon, resident of New Orleans—intimately connected with the Underground Railroad. It’s a gem of a book, a return to Hambly’s usual strong form after the somewhat disjointed narrative of Crimson Angel. Understated horror and the determination of the human spirit mingle to produce an impressive book: Hambly has always applied a clear eye to the injustices of history, and to the inhumanity that the dominant culture of her chosen time period rendered normal, quotidian, expected. And to the strength of spirit it takes to survive horror. Though Drinking Gourd‘s central mystery is slight, it is, nonetheless, a quietly wrenching book.
K.B. Wagers is a new author, whose debut Behind the Throne is being published by Orbit this August. And it’s a debut I really enjoyed, despite some slight issues of pacing and structure: Set in a space opera universe, it spends the vast majority of its time planet-bound and dealing with politics, betrayal, and estranged families.
For twenty years, Haili Bristol has been a very successful gunrunner, a criminal and a smuggler, living under an assumed name. Her mother forbade her entry to the military academy, and her father died, and Haili left home to find his murderer—and just kept going. But her family are royalty, the ruling family of an interstellar empire, and now her sisters are dead, her mother is ill, and her nation is on the brink of serious civil discord.
Forced against her will to return home, Haili discovers that the life of a princess and heir to a throne is even more perilous than that of a gunrunner. Able to trust only her bodyguard and his partner, she has a serious challenge on her hands if she’s going to stay alive, much less protect her people.
Told in the first person, this is a fast, explosive, fun read. And it has an emotional intimacy, a sense of isolation in the halls of power, family lost and family found, that recalls Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Wagers offers up in the sequel…
What are you all reading lately?
Netflix’s latest foray into the feature film game is an intriguing one: Tracking Board announces that the streaming service will adapt Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City, about a travel writer who must write a guide to the Big Apple… for monsters and the undead. Sarah Bowen, Netflix’s Director of Content Acquisition, will oversee the project; she was a producer on two of Netflix’s recent features, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
Lafferty shared her excitement on Twitter:
Too many people to thank for the wonderful response to the Netflix deal. Thanks to all of you. 🦄<3
— Mur Lafferty (@mightymur) June 28, 2016
The Shambling Guide, published by Orbit Books in 2013 and featuring cover art by Jamie McKelvie, will give Netflix the one-two punch of young adult and urban fantasy. Here’s the book summary:
A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city—for the undead!
Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume—human.
Not to be put off by anything—especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker—Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble—with Zoe right in the middle.
A sequel, Ghost Train to New Orleans, was published in 2014. No word yet on if Netflix will also adapt it, but if the first film is successful, it seems likely.
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