Good things to read.
The Predator Cities series by Philip Reeve. From the opening pages of the first book, Mortal Engines, this young adult quartet blew me away with its intricate world building, thrilling plots, and most of all its interesting characterization. It’s a cool idea: cities that move around on land, chasing and absorbing smaller cities and towns for their resources. The characters are interesting, flawed, and sympathetic — often making the wrong choices for the very best reasons. And that kind of complexity is what I love best in fiction.
The Best of Connie Willis by Connie Willis. Connie Willis is one of my favorite short story writers ever, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering her work yet, you should start with this collection of all her award-winning fantasy and science fiction short stories. She’s won a lot of awards, and when you read some of my favorites, like “Fire Watch”, “A Letter from the Clearys”, and “Even the Queen”, you’ll see why. If you want more when you’re done, pick up her collection Fire Watch and her novel Doomsday Book.
Singularity by William Sleator. The first SF book I remember reading was Sleator’s Interstellar Pig, which made me a lifelong science fiction fan. Sleator hugely influenced the stories I like to read and write, especially Singularity, which starts with an intriguing hook: identical twin brothers discover a mysterious shed in which time moves more quickly than it does outside, perhaps a sideways twist on the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Their experiments to understand the shed, and what one brother eventually does with it, made me realize just how fascinating and disturbing YA fiction can get.
Good things to watch.
Fringe. Hands down, one of my favorite shows ever. At first it seemed like a bit of a clone of The X-Files, which isn’t a bad thing, but it soon became much more than a monster-of-the-week procedural. Much more. This is heady, mind-bending science fiction at its best, but it wouldn’t have worked if the writing and acting hadn’t grounded the drama firmly in rich and sympathetic characters. Catch it all streaming on Netflix.
The Iron Giant. Maybe you’ve missed this animated film about a boy and his giant, metal-eating robot. It is beautifully animated, smart, funny, and surprisingly touching. Not to spoil anything, but the end of this film makes me teary every time I see it.
Haibane Renmei. I love anime, and one that I often think about years after I first saw it is this show about a mysterious town surrounded by a wall, where kids resembling angels appear after they die. The “Haibane” rely on the town for everything they wear, use, and eat, and they all must perform jobs while they work out the meaning of the lives they led before. This existential exploration of redemption isn’t the cheeriest thing ever, but it’s gorgeous and thought-provoking, and the way it conveys complex world building and characterization into a tight 13-episode story arc is a marvel. Watch it all with subtitles or English dubs for free at Funimation.
Good things to use.
Google Nexus 7. I named my tablet “Arthur Dent” because it’s like having the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at your disposal, everything I ever wanted in a portable device ever since I saw Penny’s computer book on Inspector Gadget as a kid. I rely on it mostly as an eReader for manuscripts and occasionally eBooks and stories, but it’s also great for watching videos, playing games, surfing the web, checking e-mail, etc.
Pocket. This application lets you save articles directly from your web browser and Twitter or your phone for offline reading later on. You can read them in your browser or on your phone or tablet — the perfect solution for someone like me who doesn’t have time to read the entire internet every day but is terrified of missing something interesting.
Fitbit Flex. I’m still new to this wearable fitness tracker, but I’m starting to see how useful it is. It monitors your physical activity, counting the steps you take, the calories you burn and eat, the hours you sleep. What you do with that data is up to you, but it’s fascinating to review, and it kind of “gamifies” your life, with achievements for walking a certain distance and a feeling of accomplishment for meeting your goals. Will it change my life or benefit my health? I don’t know. Fitbit tells me last week I averaged 4.7 hours of sleep, so I should probably do something about that.
Connect with E.C. on Twitter, @ECMyers.