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Cold soup

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I don’t like it when restaurants serve cold soup (i.e. Korean restaurants)

But.

I love cereal.

And if you think about it, cereal is just cold soup.  It’s sweet, though.  Have my tastebuds decided that cold soup is only ok if its sweet?

The Salon

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So in the past, before the radio and all the modern forms of communication, coffeehouses and literary salons were places where ideas could be developed and spread like fire.  You’d think in the modern world, there’d be so many websites doing the same thing – exploring new ideas about our culture, our philosophies, our society, our new and developing great works of literature or art.  Probably that stuff is out there, but I certainly have trouble finding it.

Looking for the best blogs always leads me to blogs that post interesting things that will grab your interest for 30 seconds at a time, personal health and fitness blogs – so much about reducing your carbon footprint, eating healthy, living a healthy lifestyle.  When did that become the end of our moral obligation?  Is doing a little less harm to our world and our bodies really the ultimate goal?  Why aren’t we this devoted to stronger moral causes – there are SO MANY to choose from?  Why aren’t smart people today spending their time reflecting on improving society in a bigger picture way and the world as a whole – why are we so limited to our own spheres?  Sure, I know the point of reducing one’s carbon footprint is to improve the health of the world on a global scale – but my choice to compost or to use a garbage  disposal is such a small personal choice – how to dispose of the waste that I make on a day to day basis.  Shouldn’t I be concerned with much bigger picture concerns?

I do think we’re ahead, in some senses, in the creation of arts – it’s amazing the things people create and put on the internet – and it’s lovely to see so many niche creators finding a way to share and have their work appreciated.  I’m sure much could be said about flaws with the art world, however – but what about philosophizing?  What about reflecting on our society and ourselves in a bigger picture way?  Where has all of that gone to?

Why did Welcome to Nightvale explode?

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My take on why WTN exploded.

 

1) The World: It’s a full-fledged radio drama.  It’s not one-off stories – it’s an immersive world so when it shows up every two weeks, I know exactly what I’m getting – another half an hour in a strange little town with characters I know and care about.  It’s like being glued into a TV show.  You’re logging back in because the story is being created in front of your eyes and you can’t wait to see where it’s going, esp. since you know lots of other people are having this same shared experience with you. 

 

2) The town: Taps into the narrative of a small American town that’s normal on the surface and subsumed by horror, paranormal, and “the weird” when you scratch the surface.  It’s a classic in the American Horror genre.

 

3) The characters: The show began exploding in mid-July of 2013, which was right around the time (spoilers!) a major love story reaches an apex, so to speak (Episode titled: First Date).  Reminds me of the way Friends exploded in the early 90s when Rachel and Ross first got together.  People were rapt.  I’ve read an interview with Joseph Fink where he states that in the show’s first year, they had 150,000 total downloads over the course of the year, then doubled that number in July of 2013 with that one episode.

 

The characters are interesting, and the main character, Cecil, is compelling.  He’s emotional.  He defends his bizarre little town at times even when he’s defending clearly horrible traditions.  He’s unaware of his own brainwashing (often) but is still able to make value judgments and to care about the creepy weird little things that make his town his home. 

 

4)  The themes: Cthulu is popular right now, and ripe for satire.  Weird, controlling big government = popular villain target. 

 

5) Production: The creators connected through participating in an experimental theater troupe in NYC, and many of the talent used on the show (voice talent and other types) comes from connections they made there.  So basically, a bunch of unknown but gifted actors and writers came together to contribute to this.  This wasn’t one person’s brain child, and it’s hard to imagine that it could have been so successful without the ability of the creators to tap into friends/colleagues who had strong contributions to make (most noticeably, the amazing voice of the main character, Cecil). 

 

6) Promotion: The music cross-promotion must help.  The fact that every episode features a song from an up and coming new indie musician gives them a whole level of crossover exposure that very few fiction podcasts get. 

 

Being in NYC in the theater community probably helped them get amazing indie musicians on the show, and I’m assuming that every time they featured one of those musicians, all of that person’s followers, twitters and otherwise, listened to Nightvale and were Exposed.

 

It’s a two-directional thing – I’ve personally bought at least one album from a musician I found on Nightvale (Dannie Schmidt) and looked up some of the other musicians, too.

 

7)  The BIG ONE: 

 

WTN tapped into people who had no interest in science fiction podcasts.

 

This is pretty important.   There aren’t a lot of people who identify with the sci fi community anymore (even while the amount of spec-fic in media explodes!)  But WTN didn’t grow its roots in the sci-fi community, which may have helped it spread —  Because the number of people who’d enjoy WTN is clearly much larger than the number of people who would identify themselves as sci-fi fans or go looking for science fiction on a podcast.

 

 

 

Anyway, that’s my take.  Hope I catch the next live show they do in DC!

Science Fiction Podcasts

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This is almost more for my own record than for anyone else, but I thought I’d list the podcasts I’m listening to lately (and maybe when I’m feeling less lazy, I’ll link to them, as well.

 

1) Welcome to Nightvale

2) Tales of the Left Hand

3) The Drabblecast

4)  The Drabblecast : B Sides

5) Tales to Terrify

6)  Nightmare

7) Pseudopod

8) Escapepod

9) Podcastle

10) Beneath Ceaseless Skies

11) Cast of Wonders

12) Lightspeed

13) Clarkesworld

14) Strange Horizons

15) Toasted Cake

16) I should be Writing … Sometimes

17)  Starshipsofa

18)  No Sleep

19) Oh and of course Synthetic Voices – a metacast?  discusses where to find good sci fi podcasted stories –

Once I have loaded up and may listen to someday

18) Tales from the Archives

19)  Journey Into…

20)  sffaudio

21) The leviathan

22)  metamor city

23)  Protecting Project Pulp

Best of the Drabblecast

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The drabblecast devoured my soul and my life for the last couple months. I’ve listened to nearly the entire catalog of 281 episodes now, and of course, I want to share my favorites with friends. Unfortunately, it’s kind of like watching Battlestar Galactica years later… You’re SO DAMN excited about it all but it’s old news to the other fans and you don’t want to chat with them anyway because they just might be full of spoilers.

I did very quietly put on Jelly Park (ep. 43) the other day when driving a very GRUMPY friend around and by the end of it, he was in a great mood and singing along to the amazing song. I plan on sneaking more of my favorites at my friends in the weeks to come, but in the meantime…

I’m creating a “highlights” list of all of my favorite drabblecast episodes. These are not the best or the worst and I didn’t start out with a number in mind (i.e. top 10 or 20). These are simply the ones that stuck out to me, that were fun to listen to, that I’d like to listen to again and again.

Drumroll, please … Best of the drabblecast :

Top of the top – these are my top 5 – not that I picked five deliberately, I just pulled out the stories that I WILL force my friends to listen to because they’re just so damned good. Stories are in this category because I just can’t stop thinking about them, usually because they did something so differently that I felt like I was hearing something new – an exciting and unusual feeling when you’ve consumed as much spec fic as I have.

43) Jelly Park by Aliya Whitely This is one of my all time favorite drabblecast episodes; to give Norm his due, at least 50% of that is due to the great song he wrote to go with the story. This story fits the weird category… I’m not sure what the hell it was all about. But it puts me in a great mood every time I listen to it. Kudos!

76) Apologies all Around by Jeff Soesbe – Funny science fiction – You could easily pick this story apart, as listeners in the forums did, or just relax, imagine you’re in a sci fi world with all the complexity of, say, the Jetsons, and just enjoy the absurd humor in this story. I certainly did!

84) Doubleheader I by Michael Swanwick – Thanks to the Drabblecast, Michael Swanwick is one of my favorite short story authors – some really great stuff by him has appeared on the Drabblecast, including these two pieces. Some people hated the second bit, but the meta nature of it was right up my alley.

129) Annabelle’s Alphabet by Tim Pratt – I believe this was the first Tim Pratt story to appear on the Drabblecast, and it blew me away. Easily one of my top 3 all time favorite Drabblecasts. Listen to it! (Can’t believe this didn’t win the People’s Choice Award, by the way… Such good stuff!)

146) Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor – I made the colossal mistake of listening to this right before I went to sleep the other night. Scary as hell! This is one of the scariest stories I’ve listened to in the podcast world. I’m generally not a fan of horror, but when it mixes in the perfect amount of weirdness, as this one does, it works for me. Definitely a top pick for me.

And here’s the extended list of my top 18 drabblecasts out of the first 150 –

18) The One That Got Away by J. Alan Peirce – The drabblecast started out with zero connection to the spec fic industry and I’m assuming, zero financing, as well. In the beginning, it seems that the stories and listeners were mostly people Norm knew. This was the first episode where the story was strong enough to feel professional level to me, and it’s one of my favorites. In fact, this author is one of my favorites, and I still wonder what happened to him and his writing career. This story is told entirely as dialogue between two people, which caused some print publications to reject it, but that format works perfectly for an audio broadcast. Highly recommend this and the other two stories this author contributed to the Drabblecast.

36) Pumpkinseeds by Kevin Anderson – Kevin Anderson, like J. Alan Peirce, shone in some of the best episodes of the first 100 drabblecasts. This was the first Halloween special, and it’s great. Very eerie, very atmospheric, highly approved.

39) The Beekeepers by J. Alan Peirce – A much more serious tale than his episode 18 contribution – complex and fascinating.

43) Jelly Park by Aliya Whitely This is one of my all time favorite drabblecast episodes; to give Norm his due, at least 50% of that is due to the great song he wrote to go with the story. This story fits the weird category… I’m not sure what the hell it was all about. But it puts me in a great mood every time I listen to it. Kudos!

53) Sing by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch – A great story by a very well known author. Her writing is hit or miss for me – sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it – this was the first I listened to by her that I loved. Solid story about music and the soul.

59) The Interview by Kevin Anderson – Freaky fun story. Horror! Again, Kevin Anderson’s stories were always a highlight for me in this period of the Drabblecast.

76) Apologies all Around by Jeff Soesbe – Funny science fiction – You could easily pick this story apart, as listeners in the forums did, or just relax, imagine you’re in a sci fi world with all the complexity of, say, the Jetsons, and just enjoy the absurd humor in this story. I certainly did!

77) Permanent Detention by Weldon Burge – To be honest, the plot wasn’t too original in this one, but I simply cannot get the great theme music out of my head and recommend it for that alone.

79) Low-Carb Cheesecake by Nicky Drayden – Not the most in-depth story you’ll ever hear – it’s short and too the point, but very memorable for all that. Funny and strange.

84) Doubleheader I by Michael Swanwick – Thanks to the Drabblecast, Michael Swanwick is one of my favorite short story authors – some really great stuff by him has appeared on the Drabblecast, including these two pieces. Some people hated the second bit, but the meta nature of it was right up my alley.

91) Gifting Bliss by Josh Roundtree – I wouldn’t say there’s much story to this – it’s a mockumentary following the story of a Nirvana-esque band whose lead singer used magic to heal people through his music – the story is interesting enough but the music takes this to a whole new level. I WANT the CD! All the song samples Norm creates for this are hilarious and just wish they were real songs somewhere that I could listen to.

99) Sarah’s Window by Janni Lee Simner – This story creeped me out in a good way. Fun horror twist on a fantasy trope.

125) Little Brother by Bruce Holland Rogers – Listening to this DC is sort of like hearing a radio version of a classic Twilight Zone episode. Good stuff.

129) Annabelle’s Alphabet by Tim Pratt – I believe this was the first Tim Pratt story to appear on the Drabblecast, and it blew me away. Easily one of my top 3 all time favorite Drabblecasts. Listen to it! (Can’t believe this didn’t win the People’s Choice Award, by the way… Such good stuff!)

141) On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War Machines of the Merfolk by Peter M. Ball – Some listeners didn’t like this story, and I can see why. The protagonist hears about this random terrorist act on the news but isn’t really involved with it, even though his sister is missing and possibly dead. Instead, he focuses on a brief, dead-end love affair with someone whose name he’s never sure of. This description doesn’t sound great, but the narrative style won me over. It’s a personal story; it’s the story of what it was like to be a human being in the U.S. watching acts of terrorism from a distance and caring but not being touched by it on a deeper level. Norm used the word malaise to describe it, and that seems fair. BUt it also felt very real, and I, at least, found it compelling.

142, 143) The Golden Age of Fire Escapes by John Aegard – Norm went all out with this story, creating a complete radio drama that felt like something from the 1920’s. The story is solid without being too exciting; the production values carried this one into the top list.

146) Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor – I made the colossal mistake of listening to this right before I went to sleep the other night. Scary as hell! This is one of the scariest stories I’ve listened to in the podcast world. I’m generally not a fan of horror, but when it mixes in the perfect amount of weirdness, as this one does, it works for me. Definitely a top pick for me.

149) So You’re Going to Die by Robert Reed – Reed seems to write and think a lot about death. This is a solid story where someone is trying to sell you on a way to near immortality – but he’s a fairly scary former hit man. The narration took this story to a much higher level for me, though the story was great to start with.

And I’m stopping here, even though I’m nowhere near through the archives. There’s some amazing stuff ahead, to be posted at a future date.

Pseudonyms

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Should people write under pseudonyms?  If you’re a woman, do you need a pseudonym to be taken seriously in this field?  What do you think?  

 

I have three short stories and three ….. Novellas?  (in various stages of completion) that I should work on.

 

I’m much better at starting than finishing.  Right now, I need to only finish things and not start anything new.  

 

Book Review : Frail by Joan Francis Turner

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My review of Joan Francis Turner’s second novel, Frail, can be found here.

I had difficulty getting through this book, to be honest, which was a sequel to the widely-praised Dust (a book told from the perspective of the Zombie).  In Frail, the MC spends a lot of time with two (or three?) different types of ex-humans, and quite frankly, it becomes very tedious and difficult trying to tell them apart from one another.  I have to wonder why the author required as many distinctions as she made (and if she required those distinctions, did she have to apply the same label – Ex – to all the different types of non-human creatures in the world?  Because that made it very hard for the reader to keep these creatures separate.) But in any case, the writing style is somewhat interesting and I’m sure that the author will build from her initial premise.  If we must have zombies (and it seems we must), we need some good writers out there who can tell the stories in new and unusual ways.

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