Three Good Things by A.C. Wise
Good things to read.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is a good thing to read for multiple reasons. First of all, it’s a well-told story, beautifully written, with interesting characters who have real human relationships. Which means things get messy sometimes; there are rough edges and people spark of each other, and because the characters are well-written, you can see where everyone is coming from and there isn’t always a clear right and wrong. Secondly, Ascension features diverse characters, an almost all female cast, and offers positive portrayals of queer and polyamorous relationships. If we want to see more fiction like this (and I do!) then we have to vote with our wallets, show publishers and editors and booksellers that there is indeed a market for diverse speculative fiction.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a good thing to read for its intriguing world, which causes readers to re-think the notion of self and identity in multiple ways. Several characters in the book have multiple bodies, bringing into question where the ‘self’ truly lies. Furthermore, the author flips the default gender pronoun to female, so even the male characters are referred to as she and her, which effectively erases gender as a factor in the story. Each character can be seen as equally male and female, negating the concept of gendered behavior as necessary – i.e. realistically written males must behave this way, realistically-written females must behave this way. On top of all that, the story itself is an intricate puzzle box, unfolding a piece at a time to build a satisfying whole.
Dead North edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a good thing to read if you’re a sucker for zombie stories, which I am. It’s an even better thing to read if you’re both a sucker for zombies and Canadian. Check and check. The stories go beyond the typical zombie tropes, many digging deep into mythology, particularly First Nations stories, to put a fresh spin on the zombie tale. All the stories being set in Canada allowed the authors to play in new territory and challenged them to think beyond the stereotypical zombie-infested shopping mall scenario. (Not that Canada doesn’t have shopping malls, but you know what I mean.) There were some truly gorgeous and poetic stories here too, making for one of the strongest anthologies I’ve read this year.
Good things to watch.
Orange is the New Black is a good thing to watch because there are very few female-centric casts on television, so kudos to Netflix for going where most network shows won’t. The characters in the show are wonderful, and the actors do a stellar job portraying them. The plot regularly twists away from easy and expected routes, creating subtler, more nuanced relationships and connections between the characters. As with Ascension, the world is grey, frequently with no easy right and wrong, and the carefully told back stories let you know where every character is coming from, making them at least understandable, if not sympathetic in any given situation.
Robot & Frank was easily one of my favorite movies of the year, and one that deserved far more attention than it got, making it a good thing to watch. Frank Langella turns in a marvelous performance as an aging cat burglar who can’t (or won’t) break his old habits even as he increasingly loses his ability to remain independent due to suffering from the early stages of dementia. His son purchases a robot caretaker for him, and the two forge a relationship that is by turns funny, contentious, sweet, and sad. The other actors are brilliant as well, playing characters faced with hard choices, and sometimes heart-breaking ones. The movie also presents a very plausible vision of the near-future, based on the way technology and the world in general seems to be going.
Gravity is a good thing to watch, particularly in 3D. The movie is flat out gorgeous, and far from being gimmicky, the way so many 3D movies can be, here it gives a sense of scope and vastness and lets you share the characters’ tension in a very visceral way. It’s also a good thing to watch, because we need more action movies with female leads, so back to voting with our wallets. The story is relatively simple and the science iffy, but Sandra Bullock’s performance and the visuals of the movie more than make up for it.
Good things to use.
The Neato Pet and Allergy Robotic vacuum is very similar to a Roomba, but this model is specifically designed for homes with pets. It does as great job on fur, which makes it a particularly good thing to use for pet owners. As an extra bonus, it’s generally fun to watch the producer of said pet hair square off against the robot.
The Mukka Express cappuccino maker is a good thing to use if you don’t have the space or budget for a full-on espresso machine. It’s about the size of a small tea kettle, it’s easy to use, and it makes a damned good cappuccino.
The Guidebook app is a good thing to use for conventions, and I would urge any and all con organizers to look into it. It’s a handy way to get program and participant information, and create a custom schedule with reminders. It’s more user friendly than some of the other options I’ve seen, and depending on the level of information provided by the organizers and venue, it even lets attendees look up nearby restaurants, stores, and transportation options, making it overall a very handy resource.
Connect with A.C. on Twitter, @AC_Wise.