Category Archives: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Hopeful Science Fiction: Skin City

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.

Earlier this year 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 eighth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

Skin City

Kelly Robson’s Skin City was about a street performer named Kass who got into trouble after falling for a radical privacy devotee.

The futuristic world Kass lives in is set about 80 years in the future in a time when climate change has become strong enough to seriously damage cities. Toronto and any other city that wished to survive had long since erected domes over themselves to keep violent, seasonal storms from flattening their historic buildings.

woman wearing virtual reality goggles
They might have looked something like this but larger.

This naturally meant that humans were crammed into much smaller spaces than many folks know in 2020.

To compensate for constantly being surrounded by strangers, some wealthy people in this universe have decided to wear a sort of electronic helmet over their head when they leave home that digitally erase other people in their line of sight and hide the owner’s facial expressions from strangers, too.

The reason why people who wore visors would want to hide their facial expressions is something best discovered by new readers for themselves. It was explained thoroughly and satisfactorily.

I enjoyed reading about these sociological and technological changes. They seemed like things that could easily happen to future generations given what life is like in 2020. I’ve known some people who gave up on social media for privacy reasons and many others who are painstakingly careful about what they post there.

Given the right technology, I can see a lot of people opting out of being seen by others, especially if they’re living in a cramped city that no longer has the resources to give people much personal space at all.

As for Kass? She wasn’t one of those folks who were wealthy enough to afford a status symbol like that by any means. Her income barely covered the necessities, and she definitely wasn’t someone who was thought of highly by the authorities. In fact, when the audience first met her she was in jail and looking at the possibility of spending the rest of her life there.  That’s the sort of detail that will keep me reading for sure!

The ending was well done, too. I would have liked to see more foreshadowing done for it so that readers would have a hint of what was to come when the earlier scenes continued to grow bleaker, but I enjoyed the twist when it was finally revealed. Honestly, it was the only logical outcome of everything that had been established about Kass and her society earlier on.

Now I know you’re all wondering how a story about a character who was incarcerated and deeply in love with someone who ordinarily would never interact with her could possibly be hopeful.

There was a time right before the final scene when I was tempted to stop reading. It didn’t seem possible for there to be a cheerful ending when Kass had so many things stacked against her pursuit of happiness.

The beautiful thing about the Better Worlds series is that it doesn’t require perfection from its characters, settings, or plot twists. In fact, some of the best stories in this online anthology so far have come from the most unlikely places in my opinion.

While this wasn’t my favourite story in this collection, it was a solid one.

Hopeful Science Fiction: A Sun Will Always Sing

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.

Earlier this year I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge in 2018. This is the seventh story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

A Sun Will Always Sing

You might be able to guess what the cargo is already. It wasn’t something that was intended to be a twist ending, although I’ll still refrain from saying specifically what it was in this review.

I liked the fact that nobody dwelled on the environmental damage done to Earth. It was something only briefly hinted at, but everyone had already had ample time to accept the fact that climate change was real and that humans were responsible for it. The two major reactions people had to it were things I think all of you should discover for yourselves. Yes, they were both hopeful, so no worries there.

With that being said, I found the terminology in this tale to be confusing at times. Some words were references to real things in our world, while others were created entirely for this universe to explain how society had evolved. It wasn’t always easy to tell those two apart which made figuring out what was going on tricky when the narrator didn’t explain themselves fully.

Keep a search engine handy when you read this and look up any word you can’t figure out from context clues. The spoilers for future plot twists are minimal to non-existent in most cases, and they’ll make it all easier to understand if you get stuck.

I still enjoyed the storytelling quite a bit, however. The narrator wasn’t human, so their understanding of our species could be humorous at times. I would have loved to hear what else they had to say about us and our idiosyncrasies in a longer version of this tale, although we really did get everything we needed from what the author wrote.

The ending was immensely satisfying. It reminded me of how hopefully Star Trek episodes would end during The Original Series or The Next Generation to give a fair comparison that won’t share any hints about what actually happened in the final scene.

This is feel-good science fiction at its best. I had no idea a pandemic was coming when I first began the Hopeful Science Fiction series, but it’s such a positive thing to focus on at the moment. May you all find as much peace in this and every instalment of it as I do.

Oh, and this story was also made into a short film. It contains spoilers, but it’s a good option for anyone who found the terminology a bit confusing like I did or who prefers visual storytelling. 

Happily Ever After: A Review of A Tale of Two Princes

Book cover for A Tale of Two Princes. Image on the cover is of a young woman lying in a bed with a frog sitting on her chest and shoulder.Title: A Tale of Two Princes

Author: Victoria Pearson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 1, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary

Length: 36 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Sleeping Beauty meets The Frog Prince in this short but perfectly formed modern fairytale re-telling.
Doctor Prinze is happy in his secretive job at a very unusual hospital. He takes pride in asking unfussed questions however strange the patient seems when they get wheeled through his door, and he is content going home to his gadgets and uncomplicated quiet.
His simple life is turned upside down when Dr Prinze is asked to make room on his ward for some potentially contagious visitors, and everything changes forever.

Review:

Now is the perfect time for a fairy tale romance.

Both of the narrators had clear, well-defined voices. I could always tell who was speaking which is crucial when you have two narrators sharing limited space in a short story. This is definitely a good example of how to pull that sort of writing off successfully!

One thing I did want to note about this tale had to do with how the adult male characters reacted to a fifteen-year-old girl they found attractive. To be fair, traditional fairy tales are often filled with material like this, there were discussions about the inappropriateness of their interest in her, and she was never harmed. But this is still something I thought I should note in my review in a non-critical manner so that readers who are sensitive to this topic can decide for themselves whether it’s the right choice for their reading lists.

The plot twists were well done. There were references to several different fairy tales in the storyline, and they were all honoured while still giving a modern approach to how their adventures would play out in our era. I especially liked the way the Doctor Prinze and the rest of the hospital staff tried to find scientific explanations for the magical events that changed their patients’ lives. If only I could say more about that without giving away spoilers.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to how this hospital acquired new patients. Yes, Doctor Prinze was under strict confidentiality orders, so I could understand why that would prevent him from sharing certain world building details with the readers. With that being said, it did feel a little odd to me to suddenly hear about new patients coming to his facility without having any idea  how they were discovered or who sent them there. Even a couple of paragraphs explaining how this worked would have been enough for me to bump it up by a star.

The ending was as logical as it was satisfying. I was the sort of kid who always had a million questions about why certain fairy tales ended the way that they did, especially when it came to Sleeping Beauty. The fact that the author seemed to have similar questions about the original only made her version of it better.

A Tale of Two Princes could be a good place to start if you’re looking for something that is simultaneously light and fluffy while also remaining surprisingly true to traditional forms of storytelling for this genre.

Hopeful Science Fiction: The Burn

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.

Earlier this year, 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 sixth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

There are mild spoilers in this post. There were also a few tags I had to leave off of this review due to major spoiler reasons. Rest assured that this wasn’t part of the horror genre or anything like that.

The Burn

Blue flames against a black backgroundPeter Tieryas’ The Burn told the tale of a mass hallucination called “The Burn” that affected 95 people simultaneously from every corner of the globe.

No matter what language they spoke, everyone who experienced it talked about a blue flame that was burning up the entire world.

The protagonist was a digital artist whose brother, Tommy, was one of the people affected by it. This lead the main character to take a job developing an augmented reality device that would  replicate what these folks were seeing so that psychiatrists could hopefully find a treatment or cure for this illness.

All of this happened in the first couple of scenes. There are plenty of plot twists I’m leaving out, but I had to reveal the beginning in order for my review to make sense to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Yes, there was an excellent reason why this random group of people were seeing the same thing at the same thing. This was the sort of science fiction story that starts with an attention-grabbing hook and then actually explains things in a satisfactory manner. (I enjoy open-ended stuff, too, but wanted to make it clear that this isn’t something that will leave anyone scratching their head and wondering what in the world just happened by the final scene).

The relationship between the protagonist and Tommy was mostly revealed in the lengths they went to protect him. They really loved each other, and that’s something I always appreciate reading about. It’s nice to read science fiction about people who have happy, healthy relationships with their relatives.

What I liked the most about this story was the way it played with the audience’s expectations. I genuinely thought it might be part of the horror genre when I first started reading it based on how seriously people were mentally affected by The Burn. The fact that I was completely wrong about this was delightful. There is definitely something to be said for leaving things so ambiguous in the beginning, especially when the payoff at the end was so strong.

This felt incredibly modern to me in a good way. As in, all of the technological references made it crystal clear that this was set in the present day. It will be interesting to see how this tale ages, but I suspect it will be just as hard to put down in five, ten, or twenty years.

In short, go read this story if you need a pick-me-up! It was filled with the very best sort of surprises that I wish I could list in this post without ruining the ending for all of you.

Creative Star Trek Parodies to Watch for Expanded SFF Month

A star trek ship flying above a frozen moon. A planet that looks like saturn is in the distance. Earlier this year I learned that May is Expanded Science Fiction and Fantasy Month. This challenge is a simple one. Pick any science fiction or fantasy universe and read or watch stories that were set in it but that were not part of the original canon.

To give one example, you could read Star Trek novels that were written as continuations of that universe after The Original Series first aired.

My brain hasn’t been amenable to reading serious, full-length novels recently due to some concerns I’ve had about a friend who has Covid-19, so my first post in response to this challenge will be lighthearted and a little off the beaten path. My hope is to revisit this challenge later on this month with a response that follows the rules more closely.

There are are no spoilers in these videos unless you’re 30+ years behind on Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and determined not to know anything about what was written about that universe in the 1980s and 1990s.

For everyone else, they’re simply good, clean fun for anyone who is looking for a pick-me-up during these trying times.

Klingon Style 

If you’ve never seen Gangham Style, I recommend watching it first. This Trekkie parody of it never fails to make me smile in large part because actual Klingons would be horrified by the frivolity and silliness of it all.

Make It So

If you enjoy Frozen and Star Trek: The Next Generation, this might be right up your alley. I can oddly see Captain Picard enjoying this tune so long as no one was paying too much attention to his reaction to it. It was a short, cheerful tune that used his favourite catch phrase, after all. What’s not to like about that?

All About That Borg

Fans of Megan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” keep reading.

The Borg would have no use for this song, but I find it amusing. They’re by far the scariest villains in the Star Trek universe to me, so it’s nice to see them on screen without any chance of them assimilating anyone.

(Why do I keep figuring out if Star Trek characters would enjoy the songs about them? I have no idea!)

"The Orville" written in a stylized sans-serif blue font, similar to Star Trek- The Next Generation

The Orville

I saved my best recommendation for last.

Everything else on this list was a short music video. The Orville is a TV show that lovingly parodies Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Mike Henry and J. Lee in The OrvilleNo, it isn’t set in the Star Trek universe, but it’s easy to forget that since it was written by folks who were clearly well-versed in what the storytelling was like at this point in Star Trek history and who were fans of it.

Just like the shows it gently pokes fun at, The Orville follows an ensemble cast of characters who live and work on an exploratory vessel several hundred years in the future. The diverse crew includes officers from a wide array of planets and cultures who work in close quarters a long ways from home.

While I understand the need for recent Star Trek series and films to take darker turns in order to attract new audiences and keep up with the times, one of the things I enjoy the most about The Orville is how optimistic it is.

Life isn’t perfect there by any means, but you can generally count on things to work out well for the characters no matter what problems they face. There is a sense of hope and joy in this universe that permeates almost everything.

Sometimes these near-mandatory happy endings are included in the parody aspects of the plot, but it’s always done with good intentions. There is something comforting about this that makes me look forward to the third season even more earnestly now.

If you’re participating in the challenge, I look forward to reading about which stories or videos you’ve selected for it!

Military Science: A Review of 1NG4

Title: 1NG4: A Long Short Story Author: Berthold Gambrel Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 11, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult Length: 51 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Gunnar is part of a team studying a powerful new energy source aboard the seaborne platform Ryojin.… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: St. Juju

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. A few months ago, I… Read More

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… Read More