Hopeful Science Fiction: Monsters Come Howling in Their Season

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Recently, I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the fourth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

There are mild spoilers in this post. 

Monsters Come Howling in Their Season

Like many of the other stories in my Hopeful Science Fiction series, this might not sound like a particularly hopeful place to begin. Keep reading.

The characters in this tale were ordinary, mostly working class people who pooled their resources together for the greater good. I love seeing this perspective in the science fiction genre. There’s something heartwarming about finding out how characters who aren’t wealthy or powerful protect their community from climate change.

Some of the most compelling scenes were the ones that described how the AI was designed to function, especially once it became too complex even for programmers to fully understand. It truly had everyone’s best intentions in mind.

Technology might have caused climate change, but it was also a force for a lot of good in this world. That is such a refreshing change for this genre.

I also appreciated the way the characters’ emotional reactions to hurricane season were portrayed. Violent storms like that are dangerous as Dr. Stevens and her community were far too aware of already. The act of finding hope for people whose lives had been turned upside down by hurricanes that happened before the AI was developed only made these changes in their lives more poignant.

As complete as it story felt in and of itself, I wished it could have been expanded into a full-length novel. There was so much more I wanted to know about the characters and the artificial intelligence they’d created to protect and provide for them during hurricane season.

Maybe someday we’ll get that sequel. In the meantime, this was such a soothing thing to read.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Book Series and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Hominids book cover by Robert J. Sawyer. Image on cover shows a picture of a neanderthal and a homo sapien.It was tough to narrow this down to only one answer, but I’m going to have to go with Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.

This series showed what happened when a link was established between our Earth and an Earth in a parallel universe where Homo sapiens went extinct and Neanderthals survived until present day.

Readers who have followed my site for a while may remember how much I enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction about the different human and human-like species that have lived on Earth.

What made this series even more interesting were the many cultural differences between us and Neanderthals.

If you picked out two humans on our Earth who had the least in common as far as language, culture, and life experience goes, they’d still be miles ahead when compared to introducing a Neanderthal to a Homo sapiens in this series.

To give a few of the least surprising examples, Neanderthals in this series have remained hunter-gatherers, have no farms or other formal agricultural systems, do not have a monetary economy, have no concept of religion or a belief in any supernatural being, and have a rate of serious crime that is all but non-existent.

Honestly, the world building is the most unique one I’ve ever seen. I can’t recommend it highly enough for that reason alone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1. If you visit a new city, you immediately look for the nearest bookstore or library.

2. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, packing enough reading material is more important than remembering that extra outfit or having room for a souvenir.

3.You quote your favourite books without necessarily mentioning where those quotes came from.

4.You get excited when you meet someone who enjoys the same genre(s) you do.

5. If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you ask for new reading material when loved ones ask you what they can do to make your stay more comfortable.

photo of woman lying down on a stone wall while holding the pages of a book open.

6. You give baby-friendly board books as presents to families with new babies.

7. You’ve dreamt about your favourite characters or worlds.

8.Your local librarian recognizes you when they see you somewhere other than the library.

9. If you use online dating sites, your love of books is mentioned somewhere in your profile and you screen new potential partners at least in part based by whether or not they’re a reader.

10. Your pets get to have a story time, too.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen. I will do my best to visit it again if I’m still healthy and we’re allowed to walk through the park at that point. 

This is the second instalment of a monthly photography series I started back in February. Each month I will share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year.

As I mentioned last month, this is a slushy, muddy, and unpredictable season that has only grown sloppier and more unpredictable as climate change has disrupted our traditional weather patterns.

The  interesting thing about this part of the year is that we never know in advance what to expect. Will there be a blizzard? Will we have sunny, spring-like weather? Everything can change in a day or even over the course of a few hours while winter is slowly giving way to proper spring weather.

It turns out that the temperature on March’s visit was 10 C, exactly the same as it was on the day I visited in February. That wasn’t so much as coincidence as me not wanting to do this photoshoot when it was 0 C and raining outside. Ha!

Photo of a World War I monument at a Toronto park. There are bare tree branches in the background and dry steps leading up to the monument in the foreground.

The monument I blogged about last month had a reprieve from the snow and ice of February.

A dirt running trail at a park. Part of the trail is filled with mud and a little water.

The running trail I shared earlier has changed as well. It was less muddy when I visited it this time, although this is something that will continue to fluctuate quite a bit for at least the next month.

If you look at the background, you’ll see two people using that trail! Other than the reduction of snow piles, the biggest difference between last month and this one is that there were about a dozen other people and a few friendly dogs using this park during my visit.

Bare tree branches against a blue sky.

You’ll notice no changes in the foliage this time. Everything is brown and dead or dormant now. April is the absolute soonest I’d expect to see any greenery in Toronto, and it generally remains somewhat rare for most species until closer to the end of that month. Dead leaves on the ground.

You can still see leaves on the ground from last autumn.

A tree that is still covered in brown, dead leaves.

And some trees still haven’t released their leaves from last autumn. I hope this little one survived the winter.

A bird's nest in a dormant, leafless, tree.

One of the really cool things about March is that you can see last year’s bird nests in the trees. I’ve read that some species here return to the same nest every spring to raise another brood of chicks.

Sights like this aren’t possible once the trees have leaves again. You can hear the chicks peeping sometimes if you walk right underneath their home tree, but it’s hard to spot their nests in May or June. A dirty patch of snow on a sidewalk. There is a blue glove and many leaves stuck in the snow.

Yes, we still have snow here and there. If anyone is missing a blue glove, I know where you lost it!

Toronto can get snow in April, too, although it generally melts fairly quickly.

A photo of a park in March. The trees are bare and the ground is brown. But there is no snow on it.

We definitely have less snow than my previous visit, though. Look how clear the ground is. In month or two, I’ll be able to walk on it without getting mud all over my shoes. For now, I’m sticking to the mostly-dry sidewalk.

A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

My final photo is a sad one.

One of the trees in this park didn’t survive our winter storms. I saw a couple of other trees that had sustained minor damage, but this one is unfortunately gone for good. The last time this happened, the city cleared away the stump and debris before planting a new sapling in its place several months later.

I hope to share photos of that new sapling whenever it arrives. If this happens after the conclusion of this series, I’ll write an addendum to it.

My Final Update on My Walk to Mordor

Photo of red, mountainous region that looks like Mordor
Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

Last spring I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor. I updated my progress at the end of August when I was a third of the way through with it and again in November when I was about two-thirds finished.

For anyone who needs a refresher or wasn’t following me when this series began, Walk to Mordor is a free app that lets you chart your miles walked every day and gives you updates on where Frodo and Sam were when they’d travelled the same distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As I mentioned in previous updates, my kilometres logged varied quite a bit once again for the last third of the journey. I came down with influenza for the first time in many years at the end of December. It was an unpleasant experience that slowed down my progress in this journey. Some days I only logged a kilometre or two of walking, and the recovery period took a while as well.

It’s probably a good thing that none of the good guys in the Lord of the Rings saga caught the flu while they were travelling. They would have been in for a pretty miserable time if they had. Although maybe the elves would have had a secret remedy for that illness?

Pandemic Distraction

Finishing up this trek was a nice distraction, especially during the last part of it when Coronavirus began shutting down so many places to go in Toronto. I’m quite lucky to be able to work from home, but the days do feel long now that I only leave home for walks and occasional visits to the grocery store or drug store.

Reading updates on where Frodo and Sam were and what they were doing in the last third of their adventure has been a wonderful distraction. The challenges we face are obviously quite different from theirs, but I’m seeing interesting parallels between their journey and what we’re all facing this spring.

Like Sam and Frodo, we live in dangerous times where the future is uncertain. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other and do our best to keep pressing forward.

I Recommend This App

Screenshot of progress on Lord of the Rings walking app. It shows that all destinations have been reached. I’d definitely recommend checking out this app to anyone who is interested in the fantasy genre, keeping track of their fitness goals, and/or getting distracted by something useful.

As I mentioned earlier in this series, this is something that can be used for competitive or  non-competitive purposes. There are no time limits on how long you can use it. People who want to push themselves to walk or run more often can do so, but it’s also accessible to folks who move at a slower pace or who don’t like the idea of turning exercise into a competition.

Reading the plot updates is reward enough. There was no need to add any extra layers of pressure to this game, so I’m glad the developer kept it so simple.

The image in this section of the post shows what the screen looks like after you complete all of the challenges. It was nice to see that long, green list of completed challenges.

One of the things I did have trouble with while participating in this challenge was remembering to log my kilometres walked every day. The app doesn’t have any sort of notification system to remind you to do that. Sometimes I’d have to log several days to a week’s worth of activity. Once I got very behind and logged about a month’s worth of data at once!

With that being said, this is a free game, so I wouldn’t expect it to have all of the bells and whistles that a paid app would have.

If anyone knows of similar games out there, I’d sure like to hear about them. It’s never too early to start planning for amusing things to use next winter.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Things to Do in the Spring

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. I’ve been looking forward to this prompt for weeks. Spring is my favourite season, and it’s the nicest time of year in Ontario in my opinion!… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Short Ghost Stories Everyone Should Read

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl These freebie posts are so much fun! Today I’m going to be sharing ten short ghost stories from around the world that everyone should read. Click on their titles to read them for free. 1. “Hover” by Samantha Mabry  Sometimes ghosts are more annoying than they are frightening. 2.… Read More

Wholesome Adventures: A Review of Frozen II

Frozen II is the 2019 animated fantasy sequel to Frozen. It is about Elsa and Anna’s attempts to figure out the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and save their kingdom from being destroyed by the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Frozen before checking out Frozen II,… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: A Model Dog

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter. Recently, I discovered the Better… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Weirdest Thing I Learned Reading Fiction

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. Quick! Imagine a carrot. What colour is it? I’m going to guess you all picked the colour orange. One of the weirdest and most interesting things… Read More