- Start playing guitar. Acoustic, electric, it doesn’t matter.
- Keep playing for (checks calendar) thirty years (Jeebus, really?). Get comfortable at whatever level of skill you manage to achieve.
- Acquire a 12-string.
As always, click to embiggen. If you’re thinking, “That looks familiar,” that’s because like the last rendered image I posted, this one is taken from “I See The Earth!” This one’s embellished little more than the last one, in that I added a road and a couple vehicles. Taking each element in turn:
- The ground is taken from NASA’s CGI moon kit, so is in theory accurate, but the scale I’m sure is all wrong. It acts weird when the camera pans, which I assume has something to do with the displacement.
- I was too lazy to properly texture the road, but decided this was retro-futuristic so could get away with it just being made of Space Metal™. Never mind the lack of off-ramps.
- The stars aren’t right, but unless your name is Neil I doubt you care.
- Roads need cars, so I created the green one. I didn’t like how it came out, so I went looking for other inspiration and found an old Tonka Toys Mini Futuristic Turbo Rocket Space Car. It’s being driven by a Red Sox fan at much higher than the speed limit.
- I got frustrated with texturing the front-most structure, so decided to try an experiment, printing out the UV map and using a lightbox to do hand coloring on a separate sheet of paper, which I then scanned back in. That’s what the more organic texture is made from. The boxes are vector, because fountain pen lines weren’t cutting it.
- There’s an animated version of this I’m not posting. The still below is from a frame or two after the image above, except closer and with the camera following the red car. The lunar landscape looks much better all blurred out.
So that’s how I spent a good number of my January off hours.
Chuck Wendig is forever exhorting people to talk up the books they read to help get the word out. I’m not convinced anything I do here will move the needle for anyone, but I guess it can’t hurt. So, in addition to the recaps I’ve been doing the last few years, I’m going to try and surface books every once in a while as I go. So, let’s talk about The Spare Man (Mary Robinette Kowal) and Station Eternity (Mur Lafferty).
If you know your classic Hollywood, one look at The Spare Man’s cover will tell you what to expect — it screams “The Thin Man in Space,” and that’s very much what it is, with a handful of twists to the formula. I think my favorite of these was Gimlet being a service dog instead of just a pet, which adds an interesting layer. It’s a small thing, but I also appreciated the extra bits at the end touching on the science behind some bits in the story. This was the first novel by Mary Robinette I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be checkout out more of her work.
Mur Lafferty, on the other hand, I’ve been following since I first got wind of The Shambling Guide to New York City. Like The Spare Man, Station Eternity is also a murder mystery set in space, though the inspirations there are “Murder She Wrote” and “Babylon 5.” Pretty sure you’re not going to hear a character in either of those shows declare, “FUCKING METAL PRINCESS!” though… They’re calling the book “The Midsolar Murders #1,” so hopefully there will be more coming. Anyway, there are no dogs in it, but there are symbiotes, a sentient space station, rock aliens, a hive mind, and aliens who think humans and their leaky fluids are utterly disgusting. What’s not to like?
If we don’t see indictments of Trump or someone in his orbit in 2023, another coup attempt is inevitable. The next one may succeed, and will be cheered on by people you may have holiday meals with.
I’ve mostly stopped using Twitter, though I do wish Hive activity would pick up. I’ve begun subscribing to newsletters various authors I follow are putting out, but frankly wish they would just set up old-fashioned blogs instead.
“Kraken?” Really? That’s what they’re going with?
I thought my 30 year old MIDI controller had started flaking out on me, but it turns out to be okay. <whew> Now if I could just play with a little more precision…
Never forget, Republicans and the people who vote for them are assholes.
Trying to start a new habit where I have at least one novel I’m reading on my iOS devices, to have something other than mindless scrolling or casual games to look at. So far the effort is going…okay. Turns out the interest level in the book has to be higher than the bar for a physical copy, because it’s so easy to just pop over to some other activity. Story Genius worked because I needed the nudge, and Sin du Jour worked because holy shit. Slow Horses isn’t quite doing it, though. Turns out I might like the streaming series better in that case. YMMV, as they say, and Brits/Anglophiles may feel differently.
My reading slips holder is stuffed, so it’s time for this year’s recap of stuff I read. The grand total is, let’s say around 80 books & comics. I counted the slips of paper, but there was one duplicate, and at least one book I forgot to write down, because I read it on my iPad while away from home. Plus, I expect I’ll squeeze in at least one or two more books before the year is out.
In no particular order, here are some highlights:
- I re-read both the original Ms. Marvel run by G. Willow Wilson and Paper Girls, thanks to new series coming out on Disney+ and Amazon, respectively. It’s always interesting to see how the stories change when they jump from one medium to another. The Paper Girls comic is definitely better than the streaming series.
- There was only one DC comic in the whole pile — Wonder Woman: Dead Earth. The note I scribbled for that one is “BATMAN ALWAYS WINS.” She uses Superman’s spine as a weapon, if that tells you anything.
- No surprise to anyone who follows comics, but Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands was a standout.
- The vast majority of my comics reading is somewhere on the indie spectrum, or at least not Marvel/DC. Some worth checking out: Weegee: Serial Photographer, Kabul Disco, Rat Queens (always), Impossible Jones, Ron Randall’s Trekker, the Reckless series, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Dragon, Second Coming, vol 2.
- I re-read two novels, Foundation and Earth and The Secret History. Revisiting Asimov is a trip. Tartt’s book probably holds up better, though Asimov will always have a special place for me, since he was my introduction to adult sci-fi back in the day.
- Razzmatazz (sequel to Noir) was a hoot, and may be my favorite novel of the year. Reading Noir first isn’t required, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to.
- Holy shit, Sin du Jour. Seven novellas, reads like a Netflix limited series, highly recommended if you like twisted urban fantasy.
- In YA/MG, I would recommend The Clackity, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, and The Bridge Home. The first two of those are more fantastical, while the last one is most definitely not. In fact, The Bridge Home is probably the biggest gut punch I’ve read in a while. Horrible things always happen to kids in YA/MG, but there’s a difference when the element of fantasy is entirely removed.
…and just for completeness, I’m currently reading The Spare Man and Slow Horses. The jury’s still out on both, though I am enjoying them so far (and I super dig the Slow Horses series on AppleTV). I do have questions about Mary Robinette Kowal’s use of “nethers,” though…
UPDATE: I almost forgot non-fiction! These get their own bulleted list:
- Managing Expectations: A Memoir in Essays — Minnie Driver sounds like a handful, albeit a highly entertaining one.
- The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music — I’ve never been much of a Foo Fighters or Nirvana fan, but have always enjoyed hearing Dave Grohl’s stories. This book doesn’t disappoint.
- All the Living and the Dead — Fascinating look at various jobs that deal with death.
- All of the Marvels — While the Marvel section of our comics collection is larger than any other single publisher, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s interesting to get a more comprehensive overview of the world and how it evolved.
- Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars — If you’re not messed up in the head before becoming a pop star, odds are good you will be coming out the other side.
- Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs — The writing has the feel of an academic treatise at times, but the litany of horrible ways humans find to kill each other is still shocking and horrific.
- Disasterology — We are so screwed.
- what if? 2 — The science is almost beside the point. What I particularly enjoy about these books is how Randall thinks through the ramifications of each question, taking them places you might not have expected.
- How to Take Over the World — MWA HA HAA!
- Arriving Today — How things get from point A to point B. Amazon is horrible.
Yes, I know that’s not exactly what he said.
Second, for those who don’t know. I first posted this image back in January 2016…
…and it’s with that in mind that I just want to say to President Biden:
Seriously, it’s nice to have you aboard. Hopefully it’s not too late.
PS — Biden makes a distinction between “MAGA Republicans” and I guess “Regular Republicans.” There is no difference. A Regular Republican is just a MAGA Republican who has enough shame to keep their ignorant mouth shut at family get-togethers.
PPS — God bless the Dropkick Murphys
Inspired by a re-read of G. Willow Wilson’s (art by Adrian Alphona) Ms. Marvel run. I had completely forgotten about Loki showing up and leaving behind the Lightning Golems, let alone the random kids showing up in full hazmat gear for no apparent reason.
A process note, if anyone cares — I modeled and rendered the characters in Maya, but couldn’t come up with an environment I liked. So, I pulled a render into Procreate, redid the line work and then used RetroSupply Co’s ColorLab to create the distressed halftone look. Click the image for a larger version that shows the halftone better.