Peeking out of the burrow

I recently was looking for news on someone and I went to their blog. There was nothing on there but occasional podcasts. Then I realized that, uh, my own blog is just like that. I haven’t posted anything new in a very long time. I also have been very quiet on Twitter.

Part of the reason why I haven’t posted is depression over the election. I haven’t posted anything regarding that because I have nothing new to say about it that 2.6+ million people haven’t already said. I’m despondent and afraid.

But life goes on. I have to get out of my burrow and keep going and keep creating. So first, a rather lengthy update on me:

Books and other Fictiony things!
Six Wakes and Bookburners (affiliate links) come out next month! Six Wakes received a STARRED REVIEW OMG from Publishers Weekly.

This space-based locked-room murder mystery explores complex technological and moral issues in a way that’s certain to earn it a spot on award ballots.

Bookburners also got some Publishers Weekly love.

The action jumps around the globe, with side trips to other dimensions, while the writing briskly slides between vividly horrific and flippantly camp.

(You can probably guess who wrote the “flippantly camp” episodes.)

And my short story will appear in Star Wars Insider on December 27! “Voices of the Empire” was teased on Del Rey’s facebook page today!

art by Jason Chan!

art by Jason Chan!

Travel and other travely things!
We recently got back from a big time weekend in New York City for Jim’s birthday where we were hardcore tourists: Empire State Building, ice skating, shopping, restaurants, and the crowning event, seeing Hamilton! I can safely say that if anyone was worried the actors replacing the original cast would be sub-par, there is nothing to worry about. It’s still an amazing show that had us both laughing and crying. It was a thrill to see a handful of original cast members like Okieriete Onaodowan and Jasmine Cephas Jones (not to mention Thayne Jasperson from the ensemble).

Fiona and I decided not to do the traditional Advent Calendar video podcast, what with travel for us and homework for her. She’s doing great in high school, though, we are typical crazy proud parents.

We are staying home for Christmas, and I continue to watch made for TV holiday movies so that you don’t have to. I’ll be reviewing them on the site, so long as I can continue to stay above ground close to my burrow.

What else?
Fiona got her braces off. She was pissed off that she needed to re-learn how to play the trumpet again.

Mothership Zeta has decided to go on hiatus and our last magazine before the break will be next month.

In November I remembered how tiring audiobook recording was when I narrated Six Wakes. But it’s done!

I participated in NaNoWriMo last month, and even though I didn’t win, I got farther than I ever had before. I ended at 45000 words, and although some might say “oh, so close!” I still feel pretty damn good about it. With two days left and more narration to do (see above) I knew I wouldn’t make the 7000 words I needed to win. So I ended up at 45K and satisfied.

I quit drinking soda. I’m pretty pissed that I haven’t seen any benefit from it. I hate it when they say “this is so bad for you” and then when you cut it out, nothing happens. Probably something good is going on inside but I can’t tell any difference.

And that’s the news with me. I think I hit most of the important points.

The Hot Doctor subgenre of movie love triangles

(Spoilers for Bridget Jones’s Baby below.)

I wrote about the Hot Doctor a few years ago before my blog shat itself and died, so I’m going to update this theory.

Take a single woman. Usually over 35, mature, having made some mistakes, but now she’s independent. A career woman. Then she encounters two men. One man is any combination of this list: older, unpleasant, ugly, bad with money, downright verbally abusive, withdrawn, unemployed, no sense of humor, initially uninterested in her. The other man (the Hot Doctor) is any combination of this list: gorgeous, younger, wealthy, funny, devoted, with an amazing job, friendly, charming.

Now before someone gets mad at me, I don’t judge someone based on looks or wealth status, I’m just saying that when writers build these guys, they sometimes slap an unattractive face or low economic status on a very unpleasant person. And I’m not talking about the awesome plain looking guy that women ignore until they see “what was in right front of me the whole time.”

The Hot Doctor shows himself to be utterly wonderful and dotes entirely on the heroine. And she ALWAYS chooses the first guy at the end.

Something’s Gotta Give: Diane Keaton falls for Jack Nicholson for reasons I wasn’t really clear on. She chose him over Keanu Reeves. KEANU.


Hot Doctor.

In Sex and the City, Miranda dates cute bartender Steve on and off but he can’t handle her economic status being so different from (read: higher) his. So she finds a Hot Doctor. Enough like her that neither are intimidated, but different enough to make their relationship interesting.

Hot Doctor.

Hot Doctor.

Aside #1- in looking for images for this post, I ran across an article on Cosmo that agreed wholeheartedly with me regarding the Hot Doctor and Miranda. VALIDATION.

Aside #2- Jack Nicholson comes back again in As Good As It Gets which doesn’t have a hot doctor, but does have a woman falling for unpleasant, misogynistic Jack for no fucking apparent reason. If it had a Hot Doctor, he would have been dumped.

Recently I saw Bridget Jones’s Baby, which was a solid, fine romcom. I enjoyed it. But it pulled a Hot Doctor: Patrick Dempsey is a wealthy, charismatic American who is a relationship expert and, according to his successful pairing website, a 96% ideal partner for Bridget. (Mr. Darcy is 8% compatible.) Bridget sleeps with them one week apart and becomes pregnant, unable to figure out who the father is. The movie is about her trying to deal with both of them as the pregnancy progresses.

Hot Doctor-type. He is comfortable and having fun in birthing class, while Firth looks like he is nauseated.

Hot Doctor-type. He is comfortable and having fun in birthing class, while Darcy looks like he is nauseated.

This could have been solved early on with an amniocentesis but she freaks out at the size of the needle and refuses. Now I’ve never had one, and I don’t have a needle phobia, so it’s easy for me to say this, but if there was a social disaster happening with two men waiting to hear about how their impending fatherhood, I’d do the needle thing.

Throughout all this Darcy is uncomfortable and standoffish, and Bridget does list all the things that had been wrong in their relationship when they tried to be together. Patrick Dempsey is funny, charming, and supportive, and hot as hell.* But at the end, she chooses Darcy, and they marry. (He also ends up being the father to the kid, but Bridget does choose him before they know for sure.)

The movie tries to make Dempsey unfitting for her only twice: he lies to Darcy that he has a better chance of being the father (he says they didn’t use a condom, while Bridget’s super-old vegan condom broke with Darcy), and then he gets all American New Agey when she’s in labor, telling her to “breathe through the pain.” She punches him in the nose, and Darcy dryly tells him to breathe through the pain. (Admittedly, that was an awesome line.)

This kind of storytelling is common as hell, and I wonder if it’s Hollywood sending women frequent messages that we should settle. These stories don’t do enough to make the hot doctor-types look bad, and they don’t do enough to make the Other Guy look good (Steve in Sex and the City is the possible exception to this but the Hot Doctor was still better suited to be with Miranda.) I just get confused because these kinds of stories are supposed to be our wish fulfillments, but they dangle the Hot Doctor in front of us and then whip him away and replace him with Jack Nicholson because of Movie Reasons. It’s ridiculous.


Just Announced: Netflix acquires rights to THE SHAMBLING GUIDES

Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie

I’ve talked a lot in podcasts about the frustration of having to sit on news, and boy howdy, I’ve been sitting on this one a long time. But it was announced yesterday: Netflix has purchased the option for The Shambling Guide to NYC and Ghost Train to New Orleans!

The Tracking Board had the exclusive and did a great post about it this morning. [EDIT- it appeared on BoingBoing this afternoon! Thanks, Cory Doctorow!]

A few FAQs:

  • Does this mean the series will continue?
    Orbit did not wish to continue the series, but I may write some follow-up novellas and self publish them.
  • When will we get to see it?
    This is a movie option, which means Netflix has the rights to make a movie of the story if they so choose. It’s no guarantee that a movie will be made. That said, we had to hold onto the information for a very long time so it’s possible that this announcement means they’re moving forward now. I’ve heard nothing either way, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up; that way lies madness and obsession.
  • Will it be a movie or a TV show like OITNB?
    They indicate they want to make it a movie, but they have the rights to change their minds and make it a TV show if they decide to go that way.
  • daveed 1Are you involved with the writing/casting/key gripping/best boying?
    Alas, no. But if they want to put Daveed Diggs in the movie as Arthur, I wouldn’t say no.

Regardless, I’m so grateful I can finally talk about this! Be ready for the next podcast!

Review: Christmas Cupid

cupidAnother movie review:

This one is… weird. A career-driven Hollywood PR consultant is managing a wild and uncaring young pop star. She’s designing a big Xmas day TV event that has everyone grumbling that they want to be home then. Unfortunately, the party-hard star chokes on an olive and dies. Realizing she has to turn the Xmas day event into a memorial, our PR person is haunted by the star who sticks around to show her three spirits to illustrate her shallow life.

Only… it’s called Christmas Cupid…

But it’s clearly A Christmas Carol…


This movie, not good. And yet I watched it all the way through, the way I wouldn’t have other movies, because for one reason: the Marley/Cupid character, Caitlyn. While Jacob Marley was repentant and remorseful in death, Caitlyn appears to be just like she was when she was alive. She watches with interest as the PR firm plans the spectacle of her funeral, and acts bored when something poignant happens to Sloane, our Scrooge. She is there to help Sloan see the error of her ways, but she does it with the zeal of a teenager mowing the lawn while thinking about the party she’s going to later. It’s actually pretty funny.

Flaws: Lord, everything else. Sloane falls under our cookie cutter bitch label. The whole “the coffee you fetched for me is just the wrong temperature, minion” bitch executive move is officially cliche’ now. It’s like a villain kicking a puppy, and only it’s used for identifying evil corporate women.

Stars: Christina Millan, Jackee
Storytelling: 1/5
Characters: 3/5 (bumped up from 1 because of Marley/Caitlyn and Jackee, who is always funny)
Closeness to Christmas Carol: 11/10 (Come on. Own it, already.)
Feminism: 3/5
Romance: 2/5
Is Christmas Saved?: I don’t even remember. I guess. Do I have to watch it again?
Deadly olives: 1

Review: 12 Dates of Christmas

12datesHere we go with another movie review:

One of my favorite romcoms. It edges out A Christmas Kiss, even.

This is our first “magic of Christmas” story. Kate is a woman hung up on her ex-boyfriend. She has a blind date for Christmas Eve, though: her step-mother’s (“-‘lady friend.’ They’re only married in the eyes of the law.”) godson, Miles. Before the date, she shops for the ex-boyfriend (nothing says love like cashmere) and is knocked out by a perfume sample spray.

She gets up, manages to be a distracted, rude ass on the (short) date with Miles, meets up with the ex (who is bringing her the dog they apparently share custody of), and discovers he’s heading to The Cabin with a new woman. Devastated she goes back home and at midnight, the clocks turn back and suddenly it’s Christmas Eve again and she’s getting up from being sprayed with perfume.

So, you think, this is a Groundhog Day-like story about how she lives each day over and over again to get over the ex and hook up with the blind date, right? You are only a tiny bit right. This story is very clever the way it interweaves small plots: everyone has a story, from the next door neighbor giving Kate a cherry-chip-loaf to the schlubby guy who looks up hopefully and says, “Phyllis?” every time she goes to the bar for her blind date. (“No, I’m not Phyllis. Phyllis is never coming!” she cries at him several days in.) There’s a guy building a tacky sculpture of Christmas lights. There’s a lonely older gentleman who helps her up after she falls in the mall. She has to mend things with her step-mom. Her best friend is also lonely. There’s EVEN A LOST ORPHAN BOY. AND TWO DOGS. Kate is responsible for tweaking everyone’s situation to make things work out.

When the woman successfully gets the guy in the first third of the movie (I think it’s Day 4 or 5?), you can wonder what’s left to tell. But this movie is incredibly clever at showing that there is more to your life than love, and you touch many lives with small actions. (also in future days she messes things up with him, proving she hasn’t found the “right” way to win him.)

With her actions helping out so many others, it’s almost as if she’s Santa, but no movie would be so subtle as to let you assume that without slamming you over the head with it over and over and over again.

There is also the requisite “This isn’t real, so I can do anything I want to” scene, with a tattoo, doughnuts, fancy car, and shopping for fur – and then giving the fur to a homeless woman. Also we have the “help me, doc, I’ve gone crazy” scene.

I think I have less to say about this movie than the others, because it’s rich with sub-plots and I don’t want to ruin them. I can’t ruin the HEA- you know it’s coming. But there’s a lot of surprising depth to this made-for-TV-movie and it’s highly worth watching. Also she isn’t locked into doing the same things every day. Some days she doesn’t even go to meet Miles. One day she shows up early, sees him arrive early too, and they “meet” as strangers (no names) and she finds out she likes him when they don’t have the “BLIND DATE” weight hanging over them.

My favorite use of the repeated days has nothing to do with the love story. She finds a runaway, recognizes him, and he runs from her. She can’t catch him in her current clothes so she stops, frowns, and says, “let’s try that again.” Then we cut to the next repeat where she hasn’t fretted about the date or the ex at all, but she’s in a track suit and appropriately dressed to run after the kid.

Flaws: A few people (mostly people of color) in the movie deserved bigger roles. I would have loved to see side plots featuring the woman who sprays Kate with the cologne, and the guy who hits on her friend at the office party in the first scene.

I think this is a rare “(wo)man vs (wo)man” Christmas plot. No one is working against Kate, except she has to learn to change. She’s not even Scrooge-level selfish and needs to think of others. I think she’s more of an Everywoman because we all struggle against change and often just need to open our eyes a little wider.

Stars: None that I recognized
Storytelling: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Closeness to Christmas Carol: 0
Feminism: 5/5
Romance: 5/5
Is Christmas Saved?: Yes!
Tattoos received: 1
Donuts eaten: 6
Makeovers: 2

Review: Marry Me For Christmas

Another review, another spoiler or two:

marrymeMarci is a high powered ad exec whose cousin begs her to come home for Christmas before she (cousin) goes off on a 5 year mission. It is… unclear why Marci won’t come home aside from being Very Busy. Apparently she loves her family. She relents and asks her employee, hunky Adam (what is it with this name?) to come with her to continue their Very Busy work, paying his airfare and doubling his Xmas bonus.

When they get home, the family (at least the female side, known as the “Chandler Women” – a title I seriously lost count of how many times they used it) barrages them with so many questions, demanding so much information about their relationship, that Adam blurts out that they are getting married. Everyone is delighted and Adam and Marci agree to pretend to be married in order to keep the holidays pleasant. After a casual suggestion from an aunt (ONE OF THE CHANDLER WOMEN) Adam realizes that if he marries Marci, he could become a partner in her growing business. So we see him call an unidentified person and talk about how he’s going to set this up to become her partner.

Enter Blair, also hunky, next door neighbor, childhood nemesis, and good friend of the family (not Marci tho). He is very clearly still in the hair-pulling stage of being in love with Marci, and is dating another woman who has one side: queen bitch. Seriously, writers. We know they’re the rivals, but at least show us a reason why romance target dude is with her in the first place! I mean, this woman arrives as Blair’s date to a big dinner at Marci’s family’s house, looks at Marci, and calls her “Mousy.” Who does that? With the target’s whole family watching? And what family would allow her woman to break bread at their table after that? Remember, writers. Successful evil characters are subtle. They don’t call names.

Regardless, the CHANDLER WOMEN and the men have their teasing and their adventures and they’re clearly one big happy family, except for Mom, who’s showing signs of a blood draw and limping a little. But don’t worry about her, she’s just glad her baby is home.

Marci discovers that the big client she’s trying to land is actually scum, and Blair is representing the whistleblowers in court. Adam presses to keep the client, Marci has to Make The Right Decision. Adam leaves in a huff.

As for tension, there’s not much. Even when Adam leaves (stealing a peach cobbler in the process, again, what is the logic here? Do you think you can eat that whole thing on the way to the airport? Do you think you can take that with you on the plane? Your spite is stupid, Adam.) it doesn’t feel that tense. When Blair and Marci declare their love, it’s not that tense. But it’s a tolerable movie. I could watch it, and there are some that can’t pass that test.

Flaws: HOLY SHIT WALMART PAID A BUCKETFUL OF MONEY TO SPONSOR THIS MOVIE. They had Wal-Mart shopping bags, they talked about Christmas shopping there, when the family went to get a tree, Adam asked why they just didn’t go get one at Wal-Mart. Stop hitting us over the head with it. Character-wise, while Blair’s girlfriend (I can’t even remember her name, and her character isn’t worth the effort to look it up) was another cardboard bitch, antagonist Adam was interesting with different facets ultimately showing a rotten mercenary underside.

This movie did do two things I didn’t expect: While the career-woman lost her big client because she had to do the right thing, and she got together with the boy next door, she didn’t necessarily give up her job as an ad exec. It was very clear that she had found what she was good at and loved doing it. Also, and I’ll leave this one thing unspoiled, the sub-sub plot about the Mom’s health was an honest surprise.

Stars: No one I recognized, although one woman did look like Jackee, but was too young.
Storytelling: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Closeness to Christmas Carol: 0
Feminism: 4/5
Romance: 3/5
Is Christmas Saved?: I guess. Was it ever threatened?
Wal-Mart References: 5
“The Chandler Women” References: Let’s just say in drinking game terms, you’d be dead.

Review: A Christmas Kiss

Here is the first review, there may be swear words, there may be spoilers:

Made for TV, featuring a girl who is super focused on career, this seems like it might be a nightmare. However it’s become one of my favorite Christmas romcoms.

This poster is kind of a big fat spoiler. I mean, yeah, it’s a romcom, but Wendy never wears a wedding dress in the movie. Note: if you’re viewing on Netflix this isn’t the same poster you’ll see.

Wendy is a young woman who has landed the dream job for a hot Boston designer. Her boss is the best designer in town, but is a hardass who asks her to do everything from clean her apartment to turn on the heat at her apartment on a Saturday night before she (boss) gets home.

Wendy’s friends work in the theater where she used to build sets, and one night they dress her up in glitter and fancy dress to go to a party. She stops by her boss’s apartment to turn the heat on, and on the way down from the apartment, a chiseled man gets on the elevator with her. There’s a hiccup with the mechanism and the elevator begins to fall. They stumble into each others’ arms and, in a heat of the moment, a we-might-die-in-a-second passion, they kiss. The elevator slows and gets to the first floor (obv. or else it would be a real short movie) and when the doors open, a big group of carolers are outside. Instead of politely letting them off, the carolers (while singing) barge onto the elevator (breaching all kinds of etiquette: rude!), and Wendy rushes off.

The next day, her boss introduces her to her boyfriend, and Wendy, who is unglittered and in sensible clothing, is shocked to realize it’s her stranger from last night, and further shocked into dismay that he doesn’t recognize her at all. (It’s the glasses. Always the fucking glasses.)

Evil boss Priscilla says they must decorate Adam (chiseled boyfriend)’s house for a Christmas party (that — pst — will become engagement party if Priscilla has her way) After one conversation with him, Wendy comes up with a perfect design to fit his house and personality, and Priscilla says it’s crap. Adam hates Priscilla’s design and then she shows Wendy’s taking credit for it. He loves it.

Adam has a scene with someone in the theater, saying he was questioning the relationship with Priscilla, and feeling very guilty for the kiss with the mysterious stranger, but when he saw the designs he realizes she knows him well and is the woman for him.

Then Wendy’s friend breaks Priscilla’s nose and she flees to New York where apparently they have magic plastic surgeons to make bruising go away. Wendy now has to decorate Adam’s house all by herself, spending time with him and bonding in the process. They even eat figgy pudding together (apparently it’s believably foul) and go Christmas tree shopping.

Then Priscilla comes back, there is drama, there is a Christmas Eve showing of the Nutcracker, and true love conquers.

Flaws: Priscilla is a flat, cardboard bitch. She has no depth, nothing redeeming: she treats Wendy like shit and her one goal is to trick Adam into marriage because they are both high society and attractive. We see nothing else to her, nothing sympathetic or redeeming.  Adam is strange: a poor little rich boy whose grandmother was apparently poor (she spent all her money to buy him an early edition of A Christmas Carol) even though his family was crazy rich, and he apparently loves Christmas but has never seen a Christmas movie. And he says the words “true meaning of Christmas” unironically, which only Linus Van Pelt is allowed to do.

But what I love about this movie is Wendy. While it’s called Christmas Kiss, and the movie does focus on her falling in love with Adam, the movie is really about her getting the strength to stand up to her boss and learn that she doesn’t need a powerful designer to aid her career because she’s already damn talented. The romance payoff (Come on, it’s a romcom, you know you’re going to get a HEA) comes after the climax, after she has made her decision to wash her hands of the whole world of high society designers and the stupid men who can’t tell the difference between a woman covered in glitter without glasses and one dressed for work. Also how could he not figure out Priscilla stole the designs for his party?

This features a woman who starts out focused on her career and the Christmas lesson she learns is that she doesn’t need anyone else to succeed. The love is a nice side bit, but it has nothing to do with her leaving her career to focus on family. Rawk.

Stars: That cop from Angel and a model who was in Roswell and CSI Miami.
Storytelling: 4/5
Characters: 2/5
Closeness to Christmas Carol: 0
Feminism: 5/5
Romance: 4/5
Is Christmas Saved? Yes
Broken Noses Magically Fixed: 1


Christmas Reviews

It is not a secret that I’m a big Christmas softie. I’m not fond of romances* but I devour Christmas romances. Christmas romcoms? Even better. I’ll tear up at any movie above 2.5 stars. It’s just who I am.

One of the few things I regret about losing cable is missing out on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas programming. All the other stuff I can get eventually via Netflix, Hulu, DVD, or Amazon Prime. But it’s hard to keep up with 25 days of programming on a channel you don’t get.

So anyway, a few years ago I reviewed Christmas songs, and this year I’ve watched several movies and read several books and I will be bringing them here so you don’t have to wonder which you shouldn’t waste your time with.

I will rate on several levels:
Closeness to Christmas Carol
Feminism **
Is Christmas Saved?
Any other misc categories I come up with

Hope you enjoy them. This should be fun.

Some future reviews (And I will take requests):


Christmas Kiss
Marry Me For Christmas
12 Dates of Christmas


Trading Christmas
Miracle (And Other Christmas Stories)
Call Me Mrs. Miracle
The Christmas List
Bah! Humbug
Dashing Through the Snow

* I’m not putting down romances, not at all. I love a good romance subplot in a book, but I rarely pick up a straight romance that doesn’t have other genres woven in.
** If a Christmas movie stars a woman, it almost inevitably has to do with her career, an old love left behind, or giving up on her childhood home. Movies that encourage women to quit the high profile job to come home to high school crush and her small town family really piss me off. And there are some that are surprising in their pro-woman storytelling.

The latest bushel of news

Apple Harvest photo by Mike McKay via Creative Commons

Do you measure news by the bushel? I do, now. Here is the news from the harvest. Or something.

I took a good chunk of September off to finish my book, tentatively titled Six Wakes. I left social media, blogging, and did minimal podcasting. And I kinda forgot to announce this. Sorry about that.

But the book, at least draft 1, is done. I’m happy with it. It went some places I didn’t expect, which is always exciting. I know there are some things I need to fix on rewrite, and only hope that my editor and I agree on which areas need fixing. It was a hard slog. I was behind, and had really built up a lot of angst about how to write this book. But when the deadline began to loom, I got to work.

I may do NaNoWriMo this year, but on the other hand, September was my NaNoWriMo. I won’t tell you how many words I wrote, but it was a lot.

I’ve taken some days to recover. There was the mental strain, but also on the last day of writing I did so much that my right shoulder and neck muscles locked up big time. After five days of menthol patches, painkillers, massages, heat, and a massage pillow, I am finally feeling no pain when I sit at a desk. Now that I’m back, I have major work to do for the launch of Mothership Zeta this month, and some other work on some outstanding Bookburners work, and I have to think about the next thing I’m writing.

Well I’ve already thought about that last thing. I want to do a Christmas story, as I haven’t done one in a while. It will be set in the Shambling Guides universe, and have Zoe taking an unexpected trip to London during the holidays. I started it last night.

Other things upcoming for me: this month at Ditch Diggers, Matt and I are interviewing the amazing comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. For ISBW I will be doing the debriefing on my novel. And for the Patreon supporters, I will be doing yet another NaNoWriMo note for every day of November. May be audio. May be video. Who knows? And to get these little nuggets of support, all you have to do is pledge a dollar. Yup. EVERYONE who supports via Patreon will get this special series of audio and video. *

For the rest of the year, I will also be showing the Softer Side of Mur when the holidays come around, as I’ll be reviewing Christmas movies and books. Many of them will be romcoms.** Unsubscribe as you like, haters. I like what I like. There is a place for SF and romantic comedy in my little heart. But I won’t be holding back. I will warn you off the bad ones. And lordy, there are some bad ones.

SPEAKING of Bookburners, episode 5 comes out this week, which starts the second chunk of stories. If you’re not aware of how we divvied it up, four of us split the season into four episodes each, and we’re more or less evenly spaced, having one story in each set of four. (meaning I could have written episodes 4, 8, 10, and 13 instead of, say, 5 6, 7, and 8. I think I wrote those four. Numbers are hard, I just remember plots.) Regardless, my first story, Episode 4: A Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is out now! Here is a peek:

Browsing Asanti’s library by herself was Sal’s new favorite hobby. She had never seen a place like this, though it reminded her most of a moldy old library relatives had shown her in Savannah, Georgia, with humidity-damaged first editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Gone With the Wind and A Christmas Carol.

Her team kept suggesting she should relax between missions. She really didn’t need to be at headquarters sitting around, they said, why didn’t she enjoy Rome when she had the chance? But in a city where she didn’t speak the language and had few—all right, the number was closer to zero—friends, Sal had nothing to do. There was only so long she could read, listen to music, and lie over Skype to friends in America about her life in Rome. At least here in the library she could learn something, or maybe run into a team member and have a real conversation.

That’s it for me. How are you? ***

* No I’m not calling it a podcast. I am an old school angry podcast veteran who knows that podcasts are something (ANY file – video, audio, even PDF) you subscribe to via RSS. There is no RSS feed for this content. It is emailed directly to you, and you will LIKE IT. *shakes cane at clouds*
** I’ve already started reading. Because to review a lot of content, you have to start early. This is brilliant. I have finally found a way to enjoy Xmas stuff early and no one can fault me for it.
*** Yeah, I know I don’t allow comments here. Tell me on Twitter. Or email. Just know I’m thinking fond thoughts about you, OK?

Call Furiosa. I need help.

I love city building games. Resource management, man, I can play all day making sure that there’s enough power, food, gold, mana, whatever. Make my people happy, that’s my jam.

I also love Fallout. Mix the Stepford 1950’s optimism with a futuristic dystopia, throw in some giant moles and roaches, and you have got yourself a game.

So I got all excited when I saw that Bethesda has done an iOS game called Fallout Shelter where you are an overseer in charge of one of the vaults, and your job is to keep your people working and happy. Fallout and city building. Peanut butter and chocolate, man. We are THERE.

I’ve already brought down two vaults. One fell to a radroach infestation when I wasn’t looking, bodies EVERYWHERE, and the other one is struggling along, trying to make enough food but everyone is dying of radiation poisoning anyway. I’m trying to bring it back but wondering if abandonment isn’t the way to go.

Then I started a new vault. Vault 777. Vault 777 was going to be me learning from my past mistakes. I was set. I had a plan.

A bit of gameplay: the way you unlock new rooms to put in your vault is to increase the population. Sometimes new dwellers show up outside, and later in the game you can build a radio room to encourage other outsiders to come and move in, but until then you have to increase your population the old fashioned way. Not wanting to have my people die at the mandibles of roaches (do roaches have mandibles? I can’t remember…) while their skin is melting off from radiation, I decided to increase my population as fast as possible. I put the women in the living quarters with various men, and the bad pickup lines started flying. Sometimes they danced. (When they’re unhappy, they may still start a courtship dance, and it’s fascinating and terrible to watch. Very emo.) Sometimes magic happened, other times I had to try a new dude in the room.

Then I started feeling uncomfortable. The women come out of the rooms in yellow maternity sweaters and go back to their jobs, and and no one seemed to object to being a brood mare (at least they weren’t painting WE ARE NOT THINGS on the walls), and you can’t accidentally have children sleep with parents (the dialogue is, “it’s so nice to spend some time with my family,” and there is no dancing) but I realized…

I’m Immortan Joe.

pipboyThis? joe

Or this?

All right, I’m not REALLY Joe. I’m not keeping these woman as MY wives. And it was clear that if the romance magic wasn’t happening, the dwellers were content to just dance sluggishly until I gave up and put them back to work – and the women do have important jobs in medicine, water, food, and power to keep the vault running. They’re more important than their lady bits.

Not to mention I’m not a hideous dude with boils.

But still. It’s the future, the world has gone to radioactive shit, and I’m fixing it by making women pregnant. Paint me white and bring me my WarBoys. Valhalla is calling. WITNESS ME.

  • I really hope they fix the crash bugs.
  • Women can’t wear the mayor suit or the tunnel snakes jacket. Are you KIDDING me, Bethesda?