nexus 7

E.C. Myers – YA Writer

E.C. Myers is YA writer and 2012 Andre Norton Award Winner. His current books include Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, these are his good things.

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.

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Troy Blackford – Author

Troy Blackford is an author of short stories – Strange Way Out, medium stories – Critical Incident, long stories – Through the Woods, and blogs regularly at TroyBlackford.com, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King.  If we’re choosing three things, then this is a good place to start. My favorite of Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ novels, this story combines all the madcap culture clash of “Star Trek IV’ with all the dark, twisted insanity of… well, Stephen King. The second book in a series of seven, people who enjoy awesomeness should surely read this book.

The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker.  The Ste(ph/v)ens keep the brilliance coming with my second book pick. This is a non-fiction work by a master linguist and cognitive psychologist, delving into the mental aspects of language: how we use it, how we are able to use it, and what the way we use it tells us about our minds and ourselves. More than a little of this information can be useful to writers, but all of it is interesting and relevant to anybody who has the power to speak.

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie. So hard to choose just three books to recommend, but that is the name of this particular game. If you haven’t given Ms. Christie’s books a try, you’re really missing out. I strongly recommend this tale, of a murder spree and a killer taunting a world-class detective as the bodies pile up. It’s incredibly well-crafted, surprising, and above all – awesome.

Good things to watch.

The YouTube Channel of ‘The Lonely Island’ – These three ‘Dudes’ are famous for putting something into a box and doing something else in their pants, but they have so much more on offer. Videos the trio made back in 2001, years before they got hired at SNL and when they were just youngsters living together, doing what they love are still to be found online. Classics like ‘Stork Patrol’ and ‘Ka-Blammo!’ never fail to disappoint, and you can’t go wrong with their newer stuff either. Fun extras like Jorma’s ‘Spin the Globe’ song (done for a travel magazine article) and others lurk inside the nougaty wad of digital shorts and music videos you can find there.

Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Why should I have to explain this? I was three when it came out, but unlike many other series of its time, this show gets played regularly on television on a daily basis still. Like ‘M*A*S*H,’ there is a timelessness to this show that transcends many of its televised peers as it was depicting a time period other than the one that produced it. Unlike M*A*S*H, this show is set well in the future from its production, and the optimistic outlook on the future of human nature is a great, uplifting thing, right when you need it. Also, some of the episodes have premises that are downright creepy. Always a good thing.

Rejected Pitches on Above Average Productions YouTube Channel.  Who the hell would ever agree to make ‘Look Who’s Talking,’ ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ or ‘Jurassic Park?’ That’s the premise of this witty, original web series, created by Dan Klein. ‘Home Alone’ is ‘house torture porn.’ ‘Look Who’s Talking’ is assumed to be a horror movie. Three smarmy film executives sit across from people like Steven Spielberg, wrinkle up their smarmy noses, and question the intelligence of award winning director after award winning director. Not to be missed.

Good things to use.

Asus/Google Nexus 7. This fancy little seven-inch tablet runs the latest version of Android, and lets you do everything you need to do and more. In fact, for the last few months I’ve been writing my books on the little bugger, using a $25 bluetooth keyboard the size of a DVD case. Maybe that’s not the best use for the thing, but if you want to invest in an eReader, this would be great for that purpose alone, let alone all the other things you can do with it.

Audible.com. Audiobooks are great for times when you can’t be physically holding a book, but your mind is free and clear to be filled with stories or ideas. Audible lets you run an app on your smartphone that allows you to speed up the narrator, as well. I pump books directly into my brain at triple speed with this whenever I’m working on a dull task, doing dishes, or cooking – and it makes me a better person.

Coffee.  Use a crapton of coffee at all times. I would be asleep right now if it weren’t for this socially-acceptable stimulant.

Connect with Troy on Twitter, @TBlackford3.