I Gotta Get Outta Here: The Reads of 2017

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I used to have a blog where I wrote thousand-word book reviews (you might have known that had you ever looked just to the right of these posts, but I bet you never have), but I hung up that hat after four-and-a-half years once it became a slog to keep finding a thousand words or more to say about absolutely everything I read, especially since after the first year or so I stopped coming up with any unique ways to write about them. You know what becomes more fun when you know you won’t have to write about it later? Reading. I thought graduation was supposed to free my brain from endlessly thinking about how I’ll respond to that stuff.

But you know, sometimes it’s fun to write about things you read. So here I am, back again, but in order to make it interesting, I decided to limit myself to one hundred words per book, so it won’t take you all day to read. If you find some that are not exactly one hundred words, please spare my reputation and do not reveal it to me or to the world. Also, if some of these sound vaguer than others, it’s because I read the book months ago and didn’t have it on hand to refresh my own thoughts. Now that no one can possibly criticize my criticism…

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Here Comes Your ‘Mon, Reprise: We’re being invaded by gangsters from another dimension!

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What’s this? The seventh generation was inevitably going to get a second game (they skipped out on it last generation for Ruby/Sapphire remakes), but while Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon generally seem to stick to the structure of the previous games, they added some new monsters along with it, a first in the series. They’ve added new forms and new Mega Evolutions, but never have they added all-new Pokémon outside the “core” games of each cycle, thus forcing me out of my commentary vacation to write them up again. Thankfully, there aren’t that many, and they’re all Ultra Beasts, which means they intentionally flaunt the traditional design elements of Pokémon, so it makes it slightly more interesting. The freak flags are flying high tonight!

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Starlog Log #11

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I don’t know if I should be surprised how many times you see an interview subject in Starlog spout about how their latest sci-fi project is “about characters”, not just technology/alien monsters/special effects/etc.—it ends up the common method in which people working in genre can convince their potential audience that they aren’t just doing another brainless thrill-a-second, even if that’s exactly what they are doing. I mean, it gets said so many times about so many different things that it’s just basic mathematics to assume a percentage of it is just hype with nothing to back it up. The part that would be surprising is that these directors, writers, actors, or producers would feel the need to address that point at all, why they need to make it seem like their project is more than what it is—who are they trying to impress, exactly? And why do the reporters at Starlog just let it sort of lie there, unquestioned?

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“Hooray I scucceeded at winning the mission”: The Ten Essential Fan Fictions of Peter Chimaera

One could argue that we are currently mired in the age of fan fiction: that the cultural merchants working out of the big media conglomerates have given up all pretense of supplying us with fresh new visions and have instead become reliant entirely on taking other peoples’ ideas and rearranging them in such a way that they can pretend that they’re anything other than lukewarm leftovers. This comes after decades of fan fiction that was and is truly by and for fans, people who wrote about their favourite pre-existing characters and settings without any pretense of eventually changing all the names and selling it to a book publisher or being hired into some Hollywood brain trust, but entirely out of love and maybe some other more complex emotional reasons. Those sorts were exploring this charted territory for us, and the Internet age allowed them the kinds of exposure they never would have had in the zine and local convention era, taking fan fiction from the realm of the few to a mass audience.

Among the fan fiction authors in the last two or so decades of the Internet, there stands one out among the masses, one who took the form in thrilling, provocative, and strange new places: Peter Chimaera. First appearing in the heady days of 2003, Chimaera worked on a sporadic schedule, but in almost every instance gave us gold, the kinds of flash fiction reinterpretations of well-known franchises and stories (and even some less well-known ones)—video games, animation, comics, and even live action—that could be reread over and over again and provide new enjoyment and new insight every time. These are stories that defy the standard rules of writing, and especially of writing fan fiction, in order to deliver something with a unique, personal vision. There are recurring motifs throughout Chimaera’s oeuvre, where characters often face tragedy and loss; some are consumed by the abyss of violence and despair, while others overcome adversity and demonstrate the true tenacity of the human spirit. By putting these themes into the contexts of well-known series and characters, he makes it clear that these struggles are universal across all times and in all peoples, if you’re a superhero, a space marine, a warrior battling ancient evil, or even a bus driver.

Peter Chimaera, although still writing some fan fiction in more recent times, has seemingly moved on to selling more of his own original fiction, the obvious next step in a literary career. For us, though, his fan fiction tales will remain foremost in our hearts, and so today I have decided to rank what I think are the ten essential Peter Chimaera stories. Many of these have, in their times, become well-known among the denizens of the Internet, who have paid tribute to his works with live readings and even in song, so I’m sure everyone has their own personal favourites; I hope that my selections showcase the variety and the evolution of Chimaera as a writer, and the myriad of ways he has delighted readers for almost fifteen years.

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11. Futures Calendar

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I graduated—for real this time, no going back—the year following my stint as EIC; by then, I had already passed the duty off to my assistant EIC (she was trained and confident, likely due to her own hard work and studiousness and not because I had figured out how to teach people to do my job since my last botched torch-passing), and with my other former newspaper buddies off doing other things, the last of the old guard had shuffled off the stage, letting mostly new voices take over. That’s only somewhat true, at least for a while, as I wrote a small number of things for the paper, nothing that mattered and in at least one instance, under a pseudonym (was it because I was a graduate by then, and thought writing random articles wouldn’t be seen in a great light? I doubt anyone cared), and for the first year when I was gone, I even still participated in the staff meetings, if only just to see how the new staff was doing. I remained a lingering spectre of the past for a little while longer, but eventually my curiosity would be sated and I would leave them to their own devices.

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10. Morgue

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The year my friend and I took over the paper was a special one, and not just because we somehow survived a money crisis in the organization caused by improper handling of finances and records over multiple years (which meant a whole lot of belt tightening and grovelling and getting help from more powerful institutions, things that could only be pulled off by our indefatigable business manager), but because it was the one-hundredth year of the student paper, a major anniversary for any institution I would reckon. Despite the aforementioned money problems, we weren’t going to let this important time pass us by—no, we had plans for our centennial, at least for a little while. For example, we had a presentation at the alumni homecoming that fall, one where we gave out an award to a former editor who had become a major contributor to the community (this was something that had been done in previous years, but like many big ideas the editorial team has had, it’s the kind of thing that happens once, and then every subsequent new team just sort of forgets about), and used it as an opportunity to show all the old, often extremely wealthy folks who make up the alumni organization that we not only still existed, but were worth supporting in whatever way possible (if by “whatever way possible” you mean “financially”.) That didn’t lead to anything, either, but hey, anything’s worth a shot.

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09. Guild

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As is the case for almost every organization (student or faculty) in a university, being part of a student press also invariably meant being part of a nation-wide university press collective, with the seemingly sensible (but not entirely achievable considering it’s mostly being run by twenty-somethings) goal of providing structure and support to like-minded institutions. What this meant for us is that we paid some money and some people in one of the actual big cities whose concerns seemed like those a distant holy leader sent us notifications to us about things that we may or may not care about, in exchange for the newswire service (giving us interesting articles that can fill space we can’t fill ourselves, and may even be slightly relevant to our campus in some obscure way—especially essential in the decadent days when our paper could run for sixteen or more pages), various support services (like legal aid), and national ads. Considering that trying to get local ads for the paper could be like pulling teeth sometimes, ads from the biggest of corporations worth the best money would completely inaccessible to us if not for the national collective; theoretically, that alone would make paying into the co-operative a useful thing for a newspaper not based in one of the country’s major cities.

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