STAR TREK IV: THE ONE WITH THE WHALES

Last weekend I had the opportunity to see STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME — aka, THE ONE WITH THE WHALES — on the big screen as part of a limited release for its 35th anniversary.

Although I am a TNG man through and through, I prefer the Original Series movies over the TNG movies. They have more of a timeless quality to them, even though they’re older than the TNG movies, and feel less dated. I used to rent them on VHS from the library, back when that was a thing. I’ve probably seen each at least five or six times. THE VOYAGE HOME was always the fun one, especially after the seriousness of WRATH OF KHAN and SEARCH FOR SPOCK.

It was also a chance to meet up with my old comrade Nate for the first time since last autumn. We grabbed dinner at Arby’s, where they were out of both Arby’s sauce and ice. It was fine. We were too busy catching up to really care.

I tried to take a picture of the title during the opening credits but was too slow on the draw. So instead, here’s a shot of the star field that immediately followed the title.

Happy Gotcha Day, Fozzie!

Yesterday was Fozzie’s Gotcha Day. Jess acquired him 14 years ago. To celebrate, we took him to water treadmill therapy! And I made a tiktok of it, like the yutes do. Fozzie was less than enthused.

@thejoshbales

Fozzie on the water treadmill again, and not happy about it

♬ original sound – josh bales

In other Fozzie news, he is doing much better, and is mostly back to his old happy, flouncing-around-the-yard self. The water treadmill should hopefully help him with his slight hobble. Pretty impressive for an elder dog of 17 to 19 years.

10 Years ON since Braddock and I AM IMMORTAL

This month marks ten years since I spent a week in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a small industrial burg just outside of Pittsburgh, with the members of the Broken Dayton Machine, a collective of Dayton-based artists. My job was to chronicle the installation of their show I AM IMMORTAL at UnSmoke Systems Artspace. We stayed in a hostel that, in ancient times, had been a convent. It was July and absolutely sweltering. Neither the hostel nor UnSmoke had AC, so during the day we drank PBR to stay hydrated. It was a hot, fun week spent with comrades making art.

The essay I wrote was called “Time is a Predator.”  It was supposed to be published by Broken Dayton in some kind of thing, but that thing fell by the wayside, as things sometimes do.  I’m still pleased with how it turned out.

Here’s the link to the piece if you’re interested in reading it.

“In the Land of Broken Things” is now Live

My short story “In the Land of Broken Things” is now live over on Slate. To entice you, here’s the first paragraph:

Derelict cars began to appear with greater frequency as Mallory crossed over the river and into downtown Dayton. Rusted-out artifacts shoved to one side of the road decades ago, after the Ejection had fried their electronics. Over time they seemed to be gradually fusing with the cracked, washed-out blacktop.

You can read the whole thing here. Hope you enjoy.

Soon to be in Print

Last night, I turned in the final edits for “In the Land of Broken Things”, my short story that will be published on May 29 by SLATE, as part of their Future Tense Fiction series. Here’s the fun description they came up with for it:

In a world where electricity is scarce, so are the technologies that can keep people alive.

This marks my first professional fiction sale after 58 rejections accumulated over 16 years (I keep a tracking spreadsheet). It’s been six months since I found out it was happening, but I am still kind of in disbelief that anyone wants to actually pay me for something I wrote, let alone a publication like SLATE. I always figured I would eventually get published, some day, but one never knows. So it’s really nice to cross this one off my bucket list.

I will of course be sure to share the link when “Broken Things” goes live.

Contentment Is

A Friday night spent with your best girl — ok, fiancée — having dinner from a local Mexican joint — La Taqueria Mixteca, newly on 937 Delivers! — that is very spicy to my delicate whiteboy tastebuds, but extremely delicious, pleasantly drunk on “margarita wine” — thank you, Trader’s Joe’s — watching BABYLON BERLIN, a weird but wonderful 1920’s period German noir.

Sometimes it’s the quiet, low-key moments that are my favorite.

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY, by Alix E. Harrow

It’s not often that I feel compelled to review a book, but then it’s not often I read a book like THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY.

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY, by Alix E. Harrow, came out in 2019, but I only stumbled upon it recently. It will most likely be my favorite book this year. It falls into one of my favorite genres of sf: portal fantasy. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, you’re almost definitely familiar with the type of story. In a portal fantasy an ordinary person is transported from one world to another via magic, perhaps through a secret door, a piece of furniture (like a wardrobe), or some other magical mechanism. Think the Narnia books, THE WIZARD OF OZ, PETER PAN …

As TEN THOUSAND DOORS opens, young January Scaller lives in a sprawling mansion with her guardian, a wealthy gentleman archaeologist.  January is sort of an orphan, and spends her days largely by herself, exploring the mansion’s collection of mysterious artifacts.  All that changes when January discovers a strange book that tells a story filled with secret doors, adventure, other worlds, long-lost lovers … and as she reads on, she begins to her connection to the story is very personal.  Adventure ensues.

I am a sucker for a book that features a book-in-a-book as a narrative device, and it’s expertly done here.  I won’t talk about that aspect any further, so as to not spoil it, but it’s a lot of fun.  Harrow’s writing is vivid and full of wit, and the story just completely reeled me in.  January goes on a Hero’s Journey, as one would expect from this type of book, but it’s done in a way that’s organic to the story.  She doesn’t just level up at the end of each chapter.  It’s earned, and certainly not easy.

Most of the main characters are BIPOC, and as the story is set in the early 20th century, Harrow doesn’t shy away from dealing with how, uh, challenging not being white in that era would be.  It never feels heavy-handed or clunky, though.  The characters’ non-whiteness doesn’t define who they are; it just makes them more richly drawn.

If I were to describe how reading TEN THOUSAND WORLDS made me feel, I would compare it to MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE and THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE. That’s not to say that the plot bears any resemblance to those books; they don’t, other than – and this is just now occurring to me – they too feature stories as a plot device. No, what I’m saying is that when I finished each of them, I sat back, happy, knowing I’d just read a hell of a book.

What if: COVID, But 20 Years Ago

I know everyone is tired of talking about the COVID life — god knows I am — but I thought this bit from Ian Leslie’s excellent newsletter, The Ruffian, offered a really interesting perspective. As bad as COVID has been, if it had struck twenty years ago, things would have been much, much worse.

Imagine if this virus had emerged two decades ago – perfectly plausible, and nothing in historical terms. Scientists would have not have had the wherewithal to crack the code of the virus or to share it globally and instantaneously. Office workers, in firms and in governments, would not have been able to meet over video, businesses would have not been able to reinvent themselves. Friends and family would have even less connection with the outside world than before. Food and other essential goods and indeed non-essential goods would have not have remained accessible to nearly so many people. Neighbours wouldn’t have been able to look after each other as easily. Governments, health services and businesses wouldn’t have been able to gather data or share information nearly so efficiently. A huge part of the reason we were able to adapt as we have is down to technologies that didn’t exist or were not in widespread use twenty or even ten years ago. It’s enough to make you believe in progress.

Double Poked

I am presently down, but not out, with a migraine that I’ve had most of the day, and that vicodin seems incapable of killing. It’s also made me super nauseated, though that’s largely abated. Right now I’m sprawled on the couch upstairs, in the dark, staring at my almost fully dimmed phone, which is about the limit of what my brain is able to handle. It sucks, but I take some solace in the fact that I rarely get these types of headaches anymore.

Anyhoo. Really just chiming in to say that, as of yesterday, it’s been two weeks since I got the second poke, and that means I am officially fully vaccinated. I know at this point that many people have similarly leveled-up, but I am so incredibly excited to begin the new new normal of post-COVID life, that I just couldn’t help but be a vaxhole about it.

Fun fact: Did you know that historically the correct technical word for feeling queasy wasn’t nauseous, but nauseated? Up until the middle of the 19th century, nauseous meant “to cause nausea” and nauseated meant “to feel nausea.” For example:

The nauseous smell of the rancid garbage made me feel nauseated, and thus I barfed.

Then, in the late 1800s/early 1900s, usage of nauseous to mean “experiencing nausea” became increasingly common (which caused somewhat of a fierce debate within etymological circles as some wordsmiths felt this conflation rendered the meaning of nauseous ambiguous). Now such usage has been largely accepted, except for some pedants, because, well, pedants gonna pedant. Merriam-Webster has an interesting page talking all of this in more detail, if that’s your thing.

Okay, staring at my screen to write this is making me nauseated again, so time to sign off.

Molly

I’ve tried to write this a couple of times now, but couldn’t get the words out right. So here goes.

This past weekend we said goodbye to Molly.

Molly — AKA Miss Molly, Mo, One Bow Mo, Mo Money Mo Problems — was many things: adorable, demanding, curious, occasionally aggravating, and, above all, darling. She was the sweetest, most loving and loveable pup a person could hope for. We miss her dearly, but take some comfort in knowing she’s no longer in pain.

Love you forever, Mo.