I read six SF short stories last month and they were mostly okay

Well, three of them were good, the others were okay. All of them were from Amazon's The Far Reaches series of original shorts.

How It Unfolds by James S.A. Corey: This was meh and honestly pretty forgettable. In fact, I'm trying to recall enough detail to even talk about the plot and I'm struggling. Basically, Earth starts colonizing other planets using some MacGuffin transporter technology. Like, the whole thing makes no sense and it felt like Corey phoned this one in. I don't know if both Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck both worked on this or just one of them, but they probably should have just not. 1 out of 5.

Void by Veronica Roth: Murder mystery...in spaaaaaaace! I dug this one and it definitely cleansed the palate after the first story. A passenger on a starship is found murdered and it's up to the main character, a maintenance worker, to solve the crime before the ship arrives at port. 4 out of 5.

Falling Bodies by Rebecca Roanhorse: The best of the bunch, in my opinion. It's funny, but the meaning of the story didn't hit me until several days later. The main character is a human who was adopted and raised by a member of the alien empire that invaded and defeated Earth decades prior, but is now back among his own kind after an unspecified event (eventually revealed) that's caused me untold troubles. 5 out of 5.

The Long Game by Ann Leckie: One of the okay stories. In this one, the main character is an alien slug that goes on a journey to try and find a way to lengthen his species's lifespan. Not bad, but not a standout either.

Just Out of Jupiter's Reach by Nnedi Okorafor: The other okay story. Honestly, this thing was threadbare for plot, but I like Okorafor's afrofuturism enough that I will generally give her works a try. In this one, the main character and others are bonded to organic starships and sent out into space to explore and gather data. They're allowed to gather halfway through their mission for seven days and the story follows what happens during that week. 3.5 out of 5.

Slow Time Between the Stars by John Scalzi: My favorite of the six. This story has to be the most "unScalzi-like" thing I have ever read. It made me think of the Bobiverse. The only character in this one is the AI of an unmanned probe/ship that's launched on a mission to find suitable planets and colonize them for humanity by setting up the colonies, then growing new humans. Basically, it's like a seed ship, but instead of carrying fertilized embryos, it has the genome or whatever stored in it's memory banks.

We follow the probe as it travels the galaxy over eons and dwells on its mission and the nature thereof. It's pretty good. 5 out of 5.

All in all, the series was worth reading, even if one story sucked and two others were only okay. The others more than made up for it.


Incoming transmission

Ah yes, it is I, the dude who...hasn't posted here in over a year. Yikes. Sorry about that. You know how it is: one second, you're traveling the space lanes, the next, you're trying to put a hyperdrive back together using Bazooka bubblegum and a bootleg Red Dwarf box set.

But in all seriousness, life just got in the way and my interest in blogging waned. On the plus side, my reading has never been better. This year alone, I've read 12 SF novels and novellas. I plan on doing summaries of all the books I've read this year and last, so look for those soon.

Currently I'm reading Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky and while I've enjoyed what I've read of it so far, I think I might backburner it for a while because I don't think I'm quite in the mood or mindset at present to read it properly. Having said that, holy shit, it is good so far. I can easily and clearly understand the hype surrounding it and it is well deserved. I'm also re-reading Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold as part of a renewed effort to read the Vorkosigan series. I loved the first several books I had read, but couldn't tell you why I just up and stopped reading them a couple of years ago.

Other than the above, my plans for the rest of the year involves reading more military SF and tryout some new authors I've discovered on Goodreads.

Oh yeah, I'm on Goodreads now.


All good things must come to an end: Jodie Whittaker leaving Doctor Who next year

It was great while it lasted. I hope Whittaker is leaving on her own terms and not because of the toxic elements of the Whovian fandom who abhorred anyone but a white dude playing a fictional time traveling alien. I, on the other hand, was one of the many fans who were enthusiastic that a woman had finally been cast to play the Doctor. With luck, she won't be the last to step into the role.

I also hope that we'll be seeing her more. Several of her predecessors and other Whovian alumni have found success post-DW, and hopefully Jodie Whittaker will join them.

Chris Chibnall is also departing, meaning the show will need a new head honcho.

Let the speculation on their successors commence!


Currently reading: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov


Never expected to read this, but I am and I regret not doing it sooner. The stories are a lot more enjoyable than I thought they would be. It must be - I started reading this on like Monday and I'll be finished with it tomorrow or Friday. I've been reading like crazy for some reason, having already put away ten books so far this year. Of those ten, seven have been SF. Eight if you count Jurassic Park. I honestly have no idea how long this fervor will last, but I'm going to take full advantage of it. Who knows, maybe I'll finally read Dune.


RIP Ben Bova

2020 continues to be a little bitch of a year by robbing the SF world of one of its luminaries. Bova died of a stroke and complications related to COVID-19, so let's be a sad reminder to wear your damn mask, social distance, and wash those grubby hands.


Scout ships: An appreciation

A scout ship from Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares.

No idea why, but my organic computer has been stuck on the idea of scout ships in SF recently. I think it might have come from thinking about the scout and outpost ships from one of my favorite computer games, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares. In the game, the scout is the cheapest and quickest of your combat vessels that you can build early on. I would use the word "combat" loosely because while they are armed, they aren't at all suitable for combat. In fact, last night I was watching a video on YouTube of someone playing MoO2 and they went ahead and removed the weapons from the first scout they built because it was pointless equipping the ship with them. The main job of the scout is to well, scout. In the game, these are the ships you build first and send out ASAP to explore nearby star systems. Outpost ships, meanwhile, can serve a similar function, but with the additional ability to establish an outpost (just like the name says, wow!) in whatever system they're sent to (provided there's something there to build it on).

But it did get me thinking, though. First, it was what I want to call the quiet nobility of scouting vessels not just in Master of Orion 2, but in science fiction in general. If we think about them in a "in-universe" context, the nobility lies in the willingness of the crews to plunge into the unknowns of space, of the uncertainty of what they'll find when they drop out of FTL flight into an unexplored star system. Not knowing if that system is occupied or not and if it is, whether the inhabitants are friendly or hostile. The challenges that the crew of a fictional scout face would be myriad and immense. They're not unlike the scouts, pioneers, and frontiersmen in our real life history who would trek into the depths of unexplored land in order to make maps a little less blank.

The 'quiet' part of the nobility is that they're simply unsung compared to others. What I mean is which ships typically get the most attention in space operas, military SF, and other genres? The big ones like battleships, cruisers, and dreadnoughts. There's probably not many books, movies, TV shows, etc. where the small, "lowly" scout ship is the center of attention. And that's a shame because I have to imagine that the crews of these ships are among the bravest, hardiest, people to serve. You would have to be when you honestly have no idea if the next time your ship drops out of FTL, it'll be into clear space or right into an errant asteroid.

It's really a shame that they don't get more attention and "love" in SF media. I'd rather read about their adventures than those set on a warship or other big ship.


2020 is terrible, but at least I'm reading SF!

It's been a while since I've done a rundown on my recent reading adventures so I thought I'd share, because sharing is caring.

Trading in Danger By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #1): As you can see from this list, I have very obviously committed myself to reading the entirety of Elizabeth Moon's series this year. Vatta's War is a fun military SF series centered around the scion of a major trading family who, after being unceremoniously kicked out of her planet's space navy academy, becomes a captain of a cargo ship. Needless to say, things quickly unfold and Kylara Vatta finds herself neck deep in an interplanetary crisis and having to deal with a mutiny and more. TiD is very much what I would call an "establishing" novel in that sets the stage for everything that comes after in the sequels. That's not to say that it's a bad book, but things really don't kick off until the second novel.

Marque and Reprisal By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #2): Speaking of which, here is the second novel. As I said just above, the overall plot of Vatta's War starts with MR. Ky's family and their interstellar trading empire are both devastated in massive coordinated attacks, leaving her to try and pick up the pieces and figure out who is behind the attacks, all while trying to survive of course. MR introduces several important characters that the story shifts between throughout the series.

Engaging the Enemy By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #3): Yup, I read the first three books in a row. Kinda. There was a fantasy novel between the second and third books, but I think it still counts. Engaging the Enemy picks up not long after Marque and Reprisal ends. Ky now has a second ship, one much more combat capable than the one she started out with. This also means that Ky now has the capability to both find out who was behind the attacks on her family and to mete out vengeance. We also see a division form between Ky and her cousin Stella over how to rebuild the family business. While all this is going on, we get to see their Aunt, Grace Lane Vatta, begin her own investigation and revenge against those who were complicit in the attacks on the Vatta family's home planet.

The Last Emperox By John Scalzi (The Interdependency Series #3): Finally, a book that isn't Vatta's War! I finally got the chance to read the last book in John Scalzi's excellent Interdependency Series after the local public library reopened. It was worth the months of waiting too. TLE wraps up the series nicely. My only complaint is that the last part of the book felt rushed.

Network Effect By Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #5): Another long awaited read. I love The Murderbot Diaries and if you haven't read the series, then you should. Network Effect is the first novel in the series, the previous four books being novellas and I can say that while the series works well in both categories, I much prefer novel length. In NE, Murderbot and some of its supporting cast get shanghaied on a familiar (to the reader) ship in a long lost colony. Adventure ensues, much to Murderbot's annoyance.

Command Decision By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #4): Yet another Vatta book! I breezed through this one within days of checking it out. Command Decisions reads as it should: the second to last novel and as such, it's all about setting the stage for the finale. In this one, Ky has the beginnings of a fleet, she just needs to find more ships and support for that fleet in order to take on the pirates directly. Meanwhile, Rafe, one of the characters introduced in Marque and Reprisal, returns home to find out what's happening to ICS, the interstellar megacorp that owns the monopoly on interstellar communication. Rafe's characterization during this part of the book is odd. In the previous books he's acted charismatic, intelligence, a bit cavalier. In CD, however, he doesn't act like that. Instead, he acts more emotional, panic-y even. It's hard to explain, but if you read the series, you'll see what I mean.

Regardless, I really liked Command Decision. We get more action, the plot advances suitably, and I can't wait to finish the series.


"Henry Cavill plays Warhammer 40k" is a sentence I never thought I'd write

It sounds like the fakest thing to ever be written in the English language, but shockingly, it's true! A couple of weeks ago, actor Henry Cavill  got the Internet all hot and bothered by posting a video on Instagram of his assembling a gaming PC. While the web swooned, I did some digging and came across something that raised my eyebrows about ten feet in the air:

View this post on Instagram

Considering we are, both, going through the Easter period, and going through The Lockdown, I figured it a good time to put a silver lining onto the cloud that is some of the darker moments during this time. So I've decided to polish some old skills and try my hand at some new ones! It is a time of rebirth after all. So, as you can see here, the obvious might look a little bit like a tiny helmet...which it is. One of my almost life long hobbies, that I've been following but not actively doing, is this. A company called Games Workshop...or plastic crack as "we" call it. Genuinely can't get enough of the lore they have built over the decades. They have been some of my most enthused reads! If you were in denial about me being a geek before, you can't hide from it now. Also, in the background of this photo, there may just be some completely new skills I'm working on.....or there may not be, so all of your eye squinting and attempts at digital unfocusing will be in vain....orrrr maybe they won't. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of the NHS (National Health Service, here in the UK) and healthcare workers worldwide, for your unceasing efforts to protect us. I imagine it might be feeling a little rough right now, but you Ladies and Gents are absolutely smashing it! Keep it up! You got this. "Hold on a second", I hear you utter....."if he has both hands in the photo...how is he taking the photo??" New skills, my friends....new skills. #Easter #Passover #GamesWorkshop #ProperGeek #Custodes #NewSkills #NHS #ThankYou #Raggy?

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

He of Superman and Witcher fame not only plays WH40k (aka the sport of kings), but paints his own models. The fact that he plays Custodes and not Ultramarines probably won him some hearts all on its own.

But man, to find out that someone who looks like this plays Warhammer (including the Total War game six times through), nearly didn't get cast as Superman because he lost track of time playing World of Warcraft, and builds his own gaming PCs (or livestreams on Twitch!) is like finding out that the high school quarterback who drove a Mustang and dated the head cheerleader also played Magic: The Gathering in his free time.

This man has no right being this handsome. This is why I'm ugly AF.

But seriously, imagine Henry Cavill walking into your FLGS and asking if anybody was up for a game?


Looking at some recent books read

Hello, hello! Blog's not dead, just haven't quite felt the motivation to write anything because I'm in a SFF funk since last year. With that in mind, I thought I'd write a bit about the two most recent sci-fi novels I've read.

 As you might remember (or if you just scroll down a couple of inches), I bought this book last year at a new bookstore I had discovered in town. Having re-read the first book in the series, Mutineer, I decided to dive straight into Deserter and finished in short order. It was enjoyable, but didn't knock my socks off. I would still recommend it.

A re-read that I literally just finished last week.Vatta's War is one of my favorite military SF series and Kylara Vatta one of my favorite protagonists. She's flawed, but quick thinking and daring. That's the only way that I can describe a character that is thrown out of a naval academy, given command of a merchant vessel on a milk run to the scrapyard, decides to go off book and try to strike out on her own, and finally gets trapped in a war zone and prevails despite all adversity including near-death. An easy recommendation.


Of course I bought more books

Because there's a new bookstore in town and they had some SF novels that I had to have.

I've been trying to find a copy of Kris Longknife: Deserter for years, so I'm more than pleased to finally have found one. Agent to the Stars is another I've been wanting, while Embers of War is a book that looked interesting enough to take a chance on.

I'm already deep into Deserter and it's living up to expectations.
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