My pandemic journal continues with Part 24. Best wishes for Pandemic Year Three! May the memes help you get through another pandemic year.
My pandemic journal continues with Part 24. Best wishes for Pandemic Year Three! May the memes help you get through another pandemic year.
While Sandworms of Dune is definitely a McDune book, I can say I enjoyed most of it and found some things to like. And you do get the second and final part of a conclusion to the Dune saga. I like to think of it as one possible way the Dune saga could end rather than the definitive end we would have gotten from Frank Herbert. (If you are going to read this, be sure to read Hunters of Dune first; Hunters and Sandworms are a two-part series finale.)
|The cool old edition I got from a used bookstore sometime in the Before Guild era|
Having read Frank Herbert's Dune books several times, I've always said the second volume, Dune Messiah, was my least favorite. But on this latest re-read, I feel like I've been too harsh on the second book. It's still not my favorite, but there's more to appreciate here than I previously thought.
Last year I watched a bunch of Christmas horror movies (read about it here and here). I didn't watch nearly as many this year, but I thought I'd concentrate on the continuation of the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, which does continue... for better or for worse. You better watch out.
I just finished watching The Matrix Resurrections, one my most anticipated movies of the year (after Dune, of course). The best spoiler-free review is the shortest: Whoa.
|Me, watching The Matrix Resurrections|
The Hugo awards ceremony took place last night at DisCon III in Washington, DC. You can see a list of the winners and finalists here. Congrats to all the winners and finalists!
(If you really want to dig into the weeds, here are the full stats on nominations and the stats on voting.)
Good job, Uncle Stevie!
I've loved King's previous novella collections, especially Different Seasons, although Full Dark, No Stars is really good, too (Four Past Midnight, which I somehow missed, is next on my list). If It Bleeds is the only one of these to have a title story, but you have to admit it's a pretty good title for a Stephen King book.
My series of Random Thoughts started randomly one day almost two years ago. I would wait until the exact two year anniversary of that first post, but that wouldn't be random, now would it? Add in a pandemic and some random memes, and here we are: Random Thoughts, Part 16: Dune the Random Things!
My increasingly exhausting pandemic journal continues with Part 23 (see the most recent entry here). We had a really bad surge in the late summer and early fall with record hospitalizations and I've had yet another exhausting pandemic semester, all while many people seem to be pretending the pandemic is over. And now things are getting better, but we have the omicron variant and the winter holidays... so it's not looking great.
But on the other hand, Villeneuve's Dune was finally released in October, ushering in a new era of Dune memes for your enjoyment. Thus, this entry will consist, not quite entirely, but mostly of Dune memes. Thanks to the dedicated members of the Dune Sietchposting Facebook group for most of these, and to various friends and other online denizens for the rest.
I enjoyed Mary Robinette Kowal's third entry in the Lady Astronaut series (The Relentless Moon) more than the second volume (The Fated Sky), but not as much as the first one (The Calculating Stars). The biggest problem is that it's probably a lot longer than it needs to be, although maybe for what Kowal is going for, it's just as long as it needs to be.
American political discourse is drowning in freedom. After 9/11, many politicians assured us that the terrorists hated our freedoms. The Tea Party modeled itself on the American Revolution (a bit awkwardly since the government they wanted freedom from was the same government established by that revolution). Advocates for gun rights talk about freedom more than anyone else, such that one might easily believe they think the fundamental Ur-freedom of all humanity for all time has always been to keep and bear deadly firearms.
Last year I decided to watch some Thanksgiving horror movies (read about it here!). This year I decided to make it a tradition. I re-watched one of last year's films (Blood Rage), watched a sequel to one of last year's films (Thankskilling 3), revisited an old favorite (Addams Family Values), and found a new film partially filmed in the city where I live (The Last Thanksgiving).
Apologies to those outside the US, this is going to be focused on US Thanksgiving. But I hope everyone reading this is staying safe and doing their part to avoid spreading COVID whether they observed US Thanksgiving this week or not.
My 2021 Hugo ballot continues (see short stories and novelettes here) with novellas and the most high-profile category: novels. You can see the full list of finalists here.
As I've mentioned before, I've been voting for the Hugos for several years, and I rely on my Three Principles of Hugo Voting (but maybe not exclusively: I've been consistently inconsistent in the past and it would be inconsistent to change that now).
You'd think extending the deadline to November instead of the usual late summer time would help, but then you'd be underestimating my powers of procrastination and how busy a time November is in my academic calendar. I think I did pretty well this year considering how many categories there are. I was even more down-to-the-wire than usual this year, but it would be a full job in itself just reading all that stuff, so I'm not going too hard on myself.
So without further ado, here's how I voted!
I've been voting for the Hugos for several years now, and I always put it off until it's too late to finish everything. In my defense, there's a lot of stuff on those ballots. Ballots are usually due around July, but since Worldcon was postponed until December this year, ballots aren't due until November 19. You would think that giving me another few months than usual would help , but since November is a busy time in my academic calendar, this didn't help as much as you'd think. In fact, it probably hurt. I'll be rushing to finish the main fiction categories, and may not get to as many categories as usual. Oh, well.
But I did have the foresight to sit down and read all the short stories and novelettes over a few weekends in September and October. And here's how I'm voting, based on the Three Principles of Hugo Voting that I came up with several years ago. And see here to see the full list of finalists.
|Rebecca Ferguson as Jessica in Dune (2021)|
I've already written about my initial impressions the new Dune movie, and before that about why the Dune series is one of my favorites. Just to round out this little series of Dune content, at last I'm writing a full spoilery review of Dune (2021).
I've been excited for this movie for years, so it may be no surprise that I've seen it five times already: twice in the theater and three times on HBO. Obviously I loved it. I've noticed new things every time, and my love for the film has only grown.
On Wednesday morning this week, I had a thought that mildly amused me based on another tweet I saw, so I turned it into a tweet. See above. Or see here.
I somehow have a bunch of followers on Twitter (about 1,900), but most of my tweets are lucky to get a handful of likes. I'm actually okay with that. To be honest, I got on Twitter in 2016 unsure of why I was doing so, and I have yet to figure out what I'm doing on Twitter five years later. I don't think at the speed of Twitter, nor have I cracked the code of going viral.
I've been excited for the new Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune ever since I first heard about it a few years ago. If anyone could do right by one of my favorite novels, I figured it was the director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. I knew I would be seeing it. What my prescient vision didn't see, however, is what sort of world I would be seeing it in.
But the promise of Dune drew me to a local IMAX theater to behold it on the big screen with big sound, pandemic or not. I wore a mask (of course), silently lamenting the lack of mask discipline of many of my fellow movie-goers while sitting as far from them as possible. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer...
So ... what did I think? As my prophecy could have foretold, I need to think about it some more to give a full review. But here are some initial non-spoiler-y thoughts.
I recently re-read Frank Herbert's Dune to get ready for the new Denis Villeneuve film adaptation. I was thinking of a way to review a book I've read several times over 30 years, but I'm not sure that makes much sense.
I did notice this time that, contrary to my previous review, Paul does question his own actions in the middle of the book, even if Jessica questions them more. But... what do you say about a classic that hasn't already been said?
So instead I thought I might say a bit about why I love Dune so much, why I've returned to this series over the years as one of my all-time favorites (and maybe as a bonus why I'm excited about the new Villeneuve film adaptation).
Today William Shatner took a trip on a Blue Origin rocket, and I had some thoughts about it and wrote some of them down in my pandemic journal as I was procrastinating doing the stuff I was supposed to be doing this morning. To be more honest than you're supposed to be at the beginning of a post like this, I have to admit I'm not sure what Gene Roddenberry would think about today's events. I never met him while he was alive, and I'm not as familiar with his biography as I'd like to be, but he did create Star Trek as an unabashed post-scarcity socialist utopia, so that's in the background of my thoughts. This question seemed to me like a catchy way to think about space travel, Star Trek, the Overview Effect, where we are as a global society, and where we're going. So here you have it...
I've read the original Foundation trilogy twice (once in my teens and once about 8 years ago), and I thought about reading it again with the new adaption of Foundation coming out on Apple TV. Or maybe I would read the later sequels (at least one of which I read awhile back). But then I found this latter day prequel on my shelf (that I had forgotten I bought!) and figured I'd check it out.
I can say I enjoyed Prelude to Foundation overall, although parts of it dragged on a bit. You probably have to have a soft spot or at least appreciation for Asimov to really like this. I read the original trilogy as a teenager, which maybe accounts for my soft spot for Asimov. Some people these days complain about Asimov's writing, but I think it's perfectly fine for what he's doing. Asimov was always mainly about the ideas, so if you're looking for in-depth characters or snappy dialogue or whatever... well, you're not going to get that here.
|One of my low-key birthday activities today|
Today is my birthday, and as has become tradition on this blog, it's time for a birthday post.
At 45, it occurs to me that I'm halfway to 90, an age I am statistically speaking unlikely to see. But that's okay. It's not like I can stop time or alter the fabric of basic arithmetic. Besides, I discovered several years ago that I had already reached middle age based on statistical life expectancy. So it's downhill from here. But again, that's okay. Downhill is the easier part.
Life isn't easier in terms of medical issues (as I have already begun to experience), but perhaps easier in terms of wisdom, at least if you count as wisdom the Socratic quip that true wisdom consists in knowing what you don't know.
My ever-expanding pandemic journal continues, now with Part 22. I guess a lot of people have decided the pandemic is over, but alas, it is not. And now we're having a new school year with a worse pandemic and fewer protections, so that's... great. But at least the memes continue. In fact, this post is overstuffed with memes, so ... enjoy!
|Made at: https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/|
My Random Thoughts series continues with Part 15! My last post, Part 14, was on May 31 when I hoped that we were reaching the late stages of the pandemic ... well, that turned out not to be the case. I'm not sure if this is random as the title of this post supposes (see random thought 352 for more), but I thought it was a good title. Also, I have continued to include some random memes for your amusement.
I'm a big fan of Mary Shelley and H. P. Lovecraft as well as (obviously) Stephen King, so Revival is right up my alley. Somehow this mash up works for me, although I understand why some elements, like a plot that seems meandering until you see where it's going, may not work for others. I particularly love the dread that builds up and those last few dozen pages are filled with delightfully eldritch creepiness.
|A representation of Indra's Net|
Continued from Part 1...
Dualism and Responsibility
How did the US come to possess such a set of flaws that uniquely predisposed us to react to the pandemic as we have? There are large cultural and political forces that no one of us is uniquely responsible for, but each of us bears some responsibility for. I don’t deign to know your life, dear reader, so let me think through my own example.
|Photo Credit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Thailand/comments/gg7eu4/a_statue_of_buddha_wears_a_face_mask_at_a/|
A text written by a Buddhist monk 1,000 years ago probably seems like a remote concern in comparison to the pandemic we’ve been living through since March 2020. And of course, that’s true. I’m not going to claim that medical professionals should all stop what they’re doing and pick up ancient Sanskrit texts.
A Personal Connection?
But there is a connection for me personally. When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, I was in the early stages of a new research project on the 11th century Indian Buddhist philosopher Ratnakīrti. I was looking at one of his texts that modern scholars often read as a defense of solipsism—the view that there is only one mind, of which we are all part.
Solipsism is heady stuff (even if there is only one head!), but I wondered if Ratnakīrti’s point might run in a different direction. As a Buddhist philosopher heavily influenced by the Yogācāra tradition and its emphasis on nondualism, I thought that maybe Ratnakīrti’s point isn’t that there is one mind (my mind?) but rather that the very concept of discrete minds totally walled off from one another is an illusion in the context of nondualism, which in turn is a philosophical development of the idea of non-self. If there is no self, separate from the rest of the world, then the very concept of an individual, discrete mind is nonsensical.
I'm a sucker for stories about benevolent aliens (Clarke's Childhood's End is one of my favorites, and I also enjoyed one of Brown's other novels, The Serene Invasion). Kéthani also includes some interesting thoughts on death and the possibility of immortality. There are a few things that didn't work for me, but overall I really enjoyed this one.
But the good news? More memes!
Stephen King's latest book, Later, is a fun, short novel with more spooky stuff than you might expect from a "Hard Case Crime" novel. There are also a few interesting connections to other Stephen King books (which I won't spoil).
It took me awhile to get into Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, or really, to figure out what was going on. But once I did get into this novella, it was a look at life for African Americans in recent decades through the experiences of a single family, united by a sort of magic/psychic power that allows them to see scenes from the past.
It's hard to really summarize, though, because reading it is a big part of the experience. For instance, the bits of narrative alternate between times and places in a way that feels jarring at first, but I think Onyebuchi's deeper point is that the past is never just the past.
I've been delving into King's shorter works lately, and this collection of novellas (and maybe one novelette or short story) is great stuff. Full Dark, No Stars is maybe not quite up there with Four Seasons, but it's definitely in that direction.
I loved pretty much everything about Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun: the world building, the characters, the plot, etc. I have more Hugo nominees to read, but I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being my #1 pick.
The setting and the world building of Fonda Lee's Jade City are really, really cool. I'd love to learn more about the world, which is something like an Earth-adjacent version of Taiwan/Hong Kong with gangsters who use jade-based magic. The magic system is cool, although we don't learn a whole lot about it. I really feel like I visited the city of Janloon, and thankfully observed the gangster fights from the sidelines!
I recently started calling Stephen King short stories "little Kings." 1993's Nightmares and Dreamscapes is another great collection of little Kings. It's an interesting (and long: almost 900 pages!) collection with shades of both King's earlier and later career. I can't do justice to every story in this humble review (did I mention it's long?), but I will say there were some nice gems here and the one I was most looking forward to, "Crouch End," did not disappoint.
Lisey's Story is a strange Stephen King book in many ways, but I found it as engrossing as most of his other work.
I had read somewhere that King says this is his favorite of his books, and somewhere along the way toward my King fandom in recent years I vaguely decided to try to read all of King's books at some point (a major undertaking given how prolific he is!). Then with the TV adaptation coming to Apple TV, I figured it was time to read Lisey's Story.
|Made at: https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/|
My random thoughts series continues with Part 14! (You can see Part 13 here.) With this entry, I've broken 300 random thoughts and made it all the way to 332!
The pandemic has upended many things here on Earth, but my thoughts keep coming and they keep coming randomly. And now that we are (hopefully!) toward the later stages of the pandemic, I have occasional thoughts about that. But don't worry, there's still stuff about philosophy, the Culture Wars, cleaning the litter box, and the Snyder cut. And a few random memes just for a little something extra. Enjoy!
|The cover is beautiful!|
I enjoyed this fantasy in a world of djinn and other elements inspired by Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures. I figured it would be a good book to read during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While writing this review I discovered that the author is white, and Chakraborty is her married name, so I can't say it has an AAPI author.
Yet this work still delves deeply into the cultures and histories of the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia, so it makes sense from that angle for AAPI Heritage Month as a nice break from the typical boring and problematic Eurocentrism of the contemporary fantasy genre and its endless paeans to Tolkien. (I also picked up Fonda Lee's Jade City, but I haven't finished it yet. Look for that review coming soon.)
Black House is a 2001 sequel to King and Straub's 1984 novel The Talisman. It has enough fun Dark Tower connections for me and my fellow Tower-junkies, but it's also an interesting read in its own right.
There's too much going on in Black House to discuss in this humble review, so let me focus on two main things: the narrative style and the connections between other works and worlds, with a bit about the plot sandwiched between.
It has been a while since I posted Part 19 of my pandemic journal (March 23 to be precise). The last couple months have brought a lot of changes. Instead of a "new normal," I think we've reached "a different kind of weird." I'm fully vaccinated, my arm is healing (still not back to full range of motion), and I finished the semester. A lot of people are vaccinated here in the US (but rates are slowing down), there was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, India has had a massive COVID surge, there are people (mostly Palestians) being killed in Israel/Palestine, and the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks even inside.
In addition to all that, I've been collecting a lot of memes for your enjoyment. So let's get to it.