Showing posts with label authors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label authors. Show all posts

Monday, February 20, 2017

Short Story #407: Valley of Dreams by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: Valley of Dreams

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
This story follows on the heels of Weinbaum's other story, A Martian Odyssey.  Jarvis, the protagonist along with another crew member, Leroy, a Frenchman, return from being away for a few days and look particularly haggard.  They proceed to share their tale about what has transpired.  They had traveled out to collect the films that Jarvis had left behind.  They encounter a large and mostly abandoned city, where they encounter the alien race that Jarvis met before and even stumble upon Tweel.  Tweel gives them a tour of the space, where they encounter large paintings of the aliens and what look like humans but with elongated noses.  Jarvis and Leroy realized that at some point, Tweel's race had made it to Earth and proved the inspiration for Thoth, an Egyptian god.  Later, they discover the reciprocal relationship between Tweel's people, the Thoth, and the barrelmen from the previous story.  Later, as they leave the city, Jarvis and Leroy are drawn to a valley where they are seeing things that aren't there and Tweel fiercely interferes long enough for both of them to realize that the valley is filled with dream beasts.  After the struggle to get free, they return home and speculate as to how the Martian world became what they had become through an absence of coal and oil, the use of the sun for energy and the slow loss of water over many many years.  Jarvis also reveals that he turned over atomic weaponry as gratitude for all that he did.  When the others object, he justifies the good gesture by saying Mars is inhabitable at best and that it would create a good future relationship for trading. 

Reflection

What's fascinating about this story is that while Weinbaum's first posed an interesting questions around neutral first encounters and life-forms that are non-carbon, this story delves into the questions about symbiotic alien relationships, environmental destruction, and the future of human kind.  Additionally, Weinbaum predicts solar-power and offers some considerations of what alien relations will look like in the future.  It's a fun story but also a positive forward-looking one that is surprising to see emerge from the 1930s.  Definitely worth a read!    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Short Story #406: The Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Martian Odyssey

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Jarvis is one among four who are the first to travel to Mars in this classic science-fiction tale from 1934.  He is recounting his tale to his companions after surviving a strange and wild adventure.  While exploring Mars, his transportation fails and he's left trying to get back to his companions across a wide expanse of Mars.  Early in his travails across this unexplored world, he encounters Tweel, a birdlike bipedal who is intelligent and from an advance civilization.  Their ability to communicate is limited but the two work together to make their way across the strange landscape and creatures.  Along the way, they encounter pyramid-creating silicon beasts, semi-sentient grass, dream-beasts, and creatures ceaselessly filling their carts to feed some machine.  Together, Jarvis and Tweel mostly avoid calamity until they disturb the unnatural cavern where the machine sits that the creatures feed.  As the creatures pursue Jarvis and Tweel, they find themselves in a stand-off they are unlikely to win but are saved at the last minute by a crew member.

Reflection

On face value, the story can appear to be just a typical space adventure--the eponymous "odyssey".  But, albeit briefly, Weinbaum makes this tale more align with the epic Odyssey by Homer in that it is not only about a man trying to come home and the strange and alien beings he encounters, but it is also about befriending and working together with a complete and utter stranger.  Tweel and Jarvis are different creatures but their collaboration and willingness to trust one another results in the richer lives and endured safety.   As an alien-first-contact story, it provides an interesting alternative to confrontation and offers connection despite differences.    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Current Bookshelf - January 2017

Given that January was a month in which I was not in class, it will surprise few that I read a decent amount this month and many of them were phenomenal reads; a great way to start the year!  There were a lot of great books to discuss but I will restrict my posting to just a handful and I'll be curious if anyone can see a theme.   Feel free to ask me about any of them if you're looking for recommendations.

White Like Me by Tim Wise

Wise's memoir of his own awakening to systematic racism in the United States is a powerful and useful tale for white people to read and reflect on their own experience.  From his early upbringing in the south to his education in New Orleans and early days of activism against the David Duke campaigns in the 1990s, Wise explores the ways in which he has succeeded and failed in being an ally to non-white people.  But what Wise does best throughout the book is to mark with clarity the ways in which the privilege afforded him by being white created opportunities or nullifed threats that would have existed for him, were he not white.  Additionally, he is great at unpackaging the ways in which investment in whiteness doesn't harm just non-whites but does damage to white people as well.  For anyone looking to better understand how one can strive to address and engage with the racial strife in this country, Wise's book is a great start.  

March Volumes 1-3 by John Robert Lewis

These three graphic novels capture John Lewis's first-hand account as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. From his upbringing in Troy, Alabama to his entrance into college and earliest political experiences, the story provides his bird's eye view and experience in striving for a nonviolent revolution in the face of overwhelming white supremacy, oppression, and violence. His experience in the 1960s is paralleled with the inauguration in 2009 of President Barak Obama, providing a beacon to the harsh and vitriolic culture to which both Lewis and Obama (and for that matter all African Americans) were (and continue to be) subjected to. Through the three volumes, Lewis touches upon the leadership of the Civil Rights Movements, the different factions, and the challenges of trying to find the best courses of action to take. The book is both a history and a primer on attempting to change a racist culture that is worth reading for those interested in autobiographies, history, African-American studies, and organizational and cultural change. It would be fascinating to see a volume 4 that parallel's Lewis's experiences with the cultural backlash of the 1970s & 1980s that goes hand-in-hand with the inauguration of Trump.

Book covers for March by John Robert Lewis Volumes 1-3


Focus by Arthur Miller

Book cover to Arthur Miller's Focus.
I came across this novel in a used bookstore and thought the premise sounded fascinating, especially since I've been a fan of Miller's dramatic works.  The story follows Lawrence Newman after he awakes in the middle of the night to hearing a screaming woman being assaulted.  But since the woman is a minority, he largely seems to pay it no mind.  The bachelor enjoys a home in a white Christian neighborhood and works in New York City and is largely successful until his eyesight gets the best of him and he's forced to get glasses.  His glasses, as he feared, make him appear more Jewish in the race-obsessed world of the World War II 1940s.  What follows is Lawrence's demise as those around him increasingly suspect him to be a Jew and he becomes subjected to the same cruel realities that he perpetuated just months before.

Miller's tale is a classic tale of what it's like to live in another man's shoes but also well layered with reflection by Lawrence as he comes to weigh the meaning behind the white supremacist view and how easily it insinuates itself into the minds of the privileged.  Originally published in 1945, there is so much about this book that resonates with the world today that it could have easily been written as today with only slight adjustments.

Check out last year's reads if you are interested (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)

BOOKS

  • Focus by Arthur Miller
  • Eservice-Learning: Creating Experiential Learning and Civic Engagement Through Online and Hybrid Courses by Jean Strait


AUDIOBOOKS

  • White Like Me by Tim Wise
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull
  • Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi
  • Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence by Dacher Keltner
  • Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine 
  • Boy by Anna Ziegler
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • March: Book 1-3 by John Robert Lewis
  • Han Solo by Majorie Li
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Birthright, Vol. 4: Family History by Joshua Williamson
  • Descender, Volume Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire

What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My Most Recent Reads - December 2016

I end the year with another month with a good amount of reads that I was full enthralled with but many of which I cannot really speak about since they are ones that I am reviewing elsewhere.  I will probably come back and write reviews for a good deal of them since some of them will likely be some of my most recommended reads for the year.  I can at least talk a bit about two of the books of the past month:


Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin

Word cloud for this blog postMartin explores the history of dramatic television in the last two decades, defining it as the third golden age of television.  The title refers to the defining feature of this third golden age in that both onscreen in the form of lead characters and off-stage in the form of the rise of the "show-runner" writer is universally male.  In tracing the history of many of the most famous and genre-defining shows, Martin shows how the leading characters (Tony Soprano, Vick Mackey, Don Draper, Walter White and others) are men in constant desire of power in a variety of forms and willing to do harm to achieve it.  They are contrasted with often more-complicated but still flawed creators and writers who are also trying to leave their own mark on the world.  Taken together, the book holds up a fascinating mirror to the American culture and in particular, males.  It's a nice slice of Americana, gender studies (though not necessarily too overt), and cultural history.


TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson

Word cloud of TED Talks review in the form of a brain.
Anderson, the head of TED, the central repository for engaging ideas in small 7-18 minute speeches by many key industry leaders (of almost every industry) presents a concise and clear guide to organizing and preparing to give the best speech of one's life.  Focused largely on giving a "TED Talk," which is not necessarily every talk one is likely to give, Anderson walks readers through everything from different approaches on preparing, to technical considerations to delivery styles and wardrobe questions.  He draws upon many of the most famous TED talks to illustrate the best examples of what he is discussing and while he does refer to bad examples, he usually is vague on the details, sparing the targets (and probably himself from lawsuits).  I appreciate Anderson's ability to pull together different aspects of a speech and clarify with each, what is the essential consideration one must keep in mind. Anderson's guide provides a lot of great information and ideas about how to improve one's speaking technique and is likely to be useful to anyone trying to hone their presentation skills.

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)


AUDIOBOOKS

  • Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
  • Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin
  • The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by William J. Barber III
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
  • Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith
  • The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
  • The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross
  • Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman
  • The Untold Story of the Talking Book by Matthew Rubery
  • TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Darth Vader, Vol 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen
  • Poe Dameron, Vol. 1: Black Squadron by Charles Soule
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests by Warren Ellis
  • Huck by Mark Millar


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - November 2016

Despite it being a busy month with classes and work, I impressed myself with reading two physical books this month, on top of the usual audiobooks and graphic novels.  I won't ramble too much about my reading since my time is short and I'd rather talk about some of the great books this month.    

Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland

Advice from a Wild Deuce Book Coveropenly admit that I am biased in reviewing this book because I am close with the actual author (spoiler alert—Tiggy Upland is a pseudonym!).  Regardless, I found this book to be a fantastic dialogue on the subject of understanding bisexuality (my own, and others).  Upland pulls together the best questions from her advice column to provide a panoramic view of what it means to be a bisexual in the United States in the 21st century.  She’s great at taking on personal questions and drawing out the nuance issues present and parsing out specific advice to the person while also connecting the question to the larger tapestry of navigating bisexuality in a culture that still doesn’t appreciate or provide much room for it.  What’s more is that Upland’s tone is bemusing, sagely, and engaging.  She’s capable of calling out self-deceit in a way that doesn’t turn the reader away but rather endears them to her and to the letter-writer. Beyond the question and answer format that permeates much of the book, Upland includes various asides, resources, and even photo-comics that add more nuggets of wisdom.  For those looking to understand the complexity of bisexuality for personal or professional reasons, this book is a great resource. 



American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard

Woodard provides a fascinating framework for understanding the differences in the United States between those who lean towards more collectivist approaches to society and those that believe in more individualistic approaches.  Building off his previous work, rather than provide a simple divide of socialist vs. libertarians, he articulates the presence of eleven "nations" within the United States that represent different historical-cultural origins and occupy different geographical spaces in the country.  From there, he delves into the history of the country and illustrates how different alignments of the nations resulted in the swaying of the country between its more collectivist and individualistic modes of governmental involvement.  It's a fascinating book that highlights the often-complex ways in which different people align and dissent from the different political groups in the country (and why so many people identify as "independent").  It will be interesting to see how much this work is used to better understand and address current politics.   

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)



BOOKS

  • Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland
  • Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock


AUDIOBOOKS

  • The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Prose Novel by Paul Crilley
  • A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
  • Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene
  • American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard
  • Filthy Rich by James Patterson
  • The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
  • The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel Siegel  


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood
  • Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola
  • Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause
  • Rackham's Color Illustrations for Wagner's "Ring" by Arthur Rackham
  • The Arthur Rackham Treasury: 86 Full-Color Illustrations by Arthur Rackham


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - October 2016

No physical books read this month and that's no surprise.  We're in month two of the semester and that I'm writing coherent sentences is considered a win, right?  However, this month was an amazing month for some powerful and impressive books.   I talk about a couple here, but I would encourage you to check out my full Goodreads list to see the others as many of them were powerful and worth the read! 


Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow


Word cloud of this blog post's words in the shape of a person reading a book.
Cory Doctorow continues to impress me and many others with his thoughts on what it means to be a creator in the 21st century.  This collection of essays (which you can download for free on his website) brings together a lot of his different works that he's written for his blog and elsewhere about the nature of copyright, open source living, and censorship.  At its center are questions about how do we as a culture decide to empower creators new and old and what does it mean to create in a technological world wherein replication can happen without significant costs.  Doctorow makes a strong case to move in the direction of openness for all creators, believing that this will be more empowering than limiting.  What's also interesting about this book is the ways in which Doctorow illustrates how he is often collaborative with not just other writers but with fans and people who appreciate his work.  In total, the book provides a great look at how one can think about being a creator in a very mindful and engaging way. 



Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson


Thompson dives into the ongoing debate about how technology is impacting humankind with a fascinating look at how the relationship between humans and technologies tends to improve and enhance outcomes in many different ways.  He doesn't negate that technologies has limitations and can make things more complicated (e.g. we can now record everything but find nothing), but there are many more areas that he argues well that technology enhances life and meaning for people from the way we play games to how we understand and approach education to how it improves our ways of communicating.  It's not necessarily a particularly better book than many of the other ones out there that make similar arguments but it does introduce some different research and materials than what's been said.  


Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth


Duckworth's book has gotten to be pretty popular by now and it's no wonder given the topic and her means of exploring it.  The first challenge of this book is that the reader is likely to be constantly comparing their experience to those in the book and wondering about their level of grit.  That's ok--just let it happy.  But more importantly, Duckworth's book provides a range of ways of understanding what grit is and how it can be developed in everyone.  It's a powerful book to help us think differently about what it is that we look for in developing youth as well as how we foster better outcomes for everyone.  If you are looking for a way to understand some of the ways in which we as humans can do great things or want a better sense of how one can improve their approaches for self development or development of others, this would be an ideal book to start with.  

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin


Edmin's book shows the depths and methods needed to go in order to institute transformative teaching and learning in a classroom that engages all students.  He names his approach reality-based pedagogy and its core idea is that it is impossible to teach students if you do not embed their realities into the classroom; altering how one may teach, how power is negotiated, and what it means to demonstrate learning.  Clearly from the title, there is a specific context to which he is speaking, but the application of his approach can potentially open up any classroom (e.g. it's easy to imagine how this could play out in a rural environment).  He explores his pedagogy through his own triumphs and setbacks as he aims to help his students channel their enthusiasm and interest into productive learning experiences that reflect what he hopes they will learn with how it fits within their worlds.  It's a powerful book that in many ways takes the ideas of Paulo Freire and Lisa Delpit and demonstrates particular ways one can execute them in the classroom.


Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Passing by Nella Parsen
  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson
  • Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
  • Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
  • Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
  • Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life by Joyce Carol Oates

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms by Robert Kirkman
  • Southern Bastards, Vol. 3: Homecoming by Jason Aaron


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - September 2016

There is lots to talk about this month.  If August had me reporting little in terms of books to talk about, September had them in abundance.  Even though I only read thirteen books this month, many of them hit high marks for consideration.  I'll limit myself to three but know that I'm happy to chat about any of them!

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Book cover to Pedagogy of the Opressed by Paulo Freire
For those not in the realms of education or social justice, you may not have stumbled upon this book.  But for those interested in such subjects (as well as politics, cultural studies, criminal justice, etc), then this is one of those essential classics.  Freire's theoretical and complex book may come in well under 200 pages, but it's still an intellectual journey.  Reading and processing it reminds me of reading Foucault's History of Sexuality Volume 1; I might have had better luck learning the native language it was published in and then trying to read the book.  It's dense but particularly chapter's two and three (there are only four chapters), I found to be the most useful.  Basically, Freire explains a way to reconsider how teaching and learning is done at a time and in a place where teaching was entirely one-directional and more part of a system of regulating minds than encouraging actual growth.  His writing is sometimes a bit to etherial and he could do better with more grounded examples or clarifications throughout, but as a work that makes an educator think about how he or she will look to those seeking education, this book will change one's philosophy of education.


Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding

In many ways this is a brutal book for many people.  For victims of rape and sexual assault, it confirms and explains what many of them have gone through in a culture that pays mere lipservice to victims of such violence.  For those who have never been directly involved, it's an eye-opening exploration into how many of us are likely to be complicit in sexual violence in our culture.  But equally important, it's an eloquent and strong critique that gives victims and allies the means of which to see the pernicious assumptions about sexual violence in our culture and to call it out when we see it.  Harding's accessible prose, wit, and drawing out of the different aspects of American society that create a rape culture blend together so well that the reader is left speechless.  It's one of those reads that I feel that everyone should read and even if it people disagree with it, we'd be a better society for having read.


Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David Ewalt

I was always fascinated with but never got the chance to explore playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.  I did fall in love with role-playing games on video game systems and the fantasy genre for books, films, and comics so there was always a hope and interest in getting the chance to play, but the possibility never availed itself.  So reading Ewalt's book on the topic was informative and inspiring for the most part.  His history of the game from its birth to the current state of role-playing games coupled with his own personal journey towards, away, and back again to role-playing game made for a great story.  He does slip, a bit problematically I think, into representing that game as borderline addicting, a cliche that is long overdue and annoying when it comes to games and gaming in general.  But if you can disregard that element, the book has some great explanations and considerations about the power and engagement that role playing games.

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)


BOOKS


  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  • DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz

AUDIOBOOKS


  • Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding
  • What Lurks Beneath by Ryan Lockwood
  • The Bull and the Spear(Corum, #4) by Michael Moorcock
  • Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David Ewalt
  • Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
  • Women in the Material World by Faith D'Aluisio
  • Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger
  • The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein
  • Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century by Katherine Newman

GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • Caveboy Dave: More Scrawny Than Brawny by Aaron Reynolds
  • The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement by Stephanie McMilan


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Short Story #405: The Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jim Shephard

Title: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Author:  Jim Shephard

Summary:

Book cover to Creatures - 30 Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay

The story tells the story from the vantage point of the "creature" from the film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The creature has been around for millions of years and presents himself with a sense of disillusion and boredom.  He shares his experiences living in the lagoon, left to his own devices and observing life around him.  However, several people arrive and begin taking measurements and documenting the area.  Some of them leave, but others stay behind and the creature continues to learn about them.  Eventually, the creature approaches those left behind and the interaction leaves the men dead.  New people arrive including a female that the creature grows increasingly curious and fascinated by.  His repeated attempts to grab her attention or capture her result in a confrontation that leaves him mortally wounded and in his last thoughts, essentially accepting that he was indeed deserving of the death he found.  

Reflection

I wasn't enthralled with this story as it felt like a poor attempt at Grendel by John Gardner.  It had its moments and I did appreciate the creature's internal revelation at the end as it descended to its death.  But a story based upon a film that wasn't that great (in my opinion) to begin with meant the story didn't really shine for me. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay.  Prime Books.  ISBN 978-1-60701-284-9

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Short Story #404: Godzilla’s Twelve-Step Program by Joe R. Lansdale

Title: Godzilla's Twelve Step Program

Author:  Joe R. Lansdale

Summary:

Creatures - 30 Years of Monsters Book Cover
After years of fighting other monsters, Godzilla is on the path to recovery, trying to use his might and fire-breathing abilities to do right by the world.  But he struggles a lot.  He doesn’t necessarily have it as bad as other monsters such as King Kong who seems so absence of wit, he only wants to play with Barbie dolls all day, but he does find it a daily struggle not to go on a rampage.  He does have entertainment and an opportunity to let steam out but it doesn’t really match the chance to wreck cities.  His sponsor, Reptilicus, tries to help him through the rough times, but Godzilla falls off the bandwagon after Gamera shows up and starts taunting Godzilla.  The stress builds and Godzilla eventually gives in, obliterating a dog.  But that sip isn’t enough and eventually, he goes on to ravage a city. Before it gets too far the government steps in and offers a devil’s deal.  He can destroy cities, but it must only be cities or parts of cities that they insist on.  When he’s sent to wreak havoc on the part of the city where African Americans live, he rebels and destroys the part of the city where the government is positioned. So fierce is his attack that other monsters join in, while Reptilicus attempts to calm and capture Godzilla with the help of the army.  Though Godzilla is dead and Reptilicus basks in the fame of helping to bring him down, he too begins to hear the call of his inner monster.

Reflection


Such a fun yet morose tale to start of this anthology.  On the one hand, humanizing Godzilla to the point where he’s watching TV and doing human work plays out to some interesting moments, and yet, the monotony and dreariness of Godzilla in a life of repetitive work that seems far from his life’s desires makes a pretty shallow metaphor for human existence and people who find their lives meaningless and ultimately lash out.  Framed in the world of the twelve-step program, it also helps to humanize the struggle substance abuse in the sense that it becomes a self-destructing calling that doesn’t just impact the user but also impacts and even influences the abuser’s friends down similar paths.

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  
Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay.  Prime Books.  ISBN 978-1-60701-284-9


For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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