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Interview with Tammy Schoch

My mother has decided she wants to be interviewed, so say hello to Tammy Schoch! This is so cool. If you’d like to join in on the fun as well, go check out all of the details on my speculative fiction interview post. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

Back in the 70s when I was in elementary school, I read “A Wrinkle in Time.”  I was mesmerized and smitten from that day forward. I was a little fearful of being discovered to have read it. I felt like I broke a rule or something – and I don’t know why. It was so enticing that it felt like it was too tempting to be good for me.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

It’s a tie between Neal Stephenson and Isaac Asimov. Both are brilliant, verbose, original in their ideas, obsessed with detail, broad in their approach, and can cover thousands of years in one novel.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I like the hope that I find in utopian science fiction. I enjoy the surprises that I find in fantasy, like in “Wool,” by Hugh Howey. I like the psychological and sociological aspects that I find in dystopian writings, such as “Earth Abides,” by George R. Stewart. I enjoy the sense of being grounded in millions of years of humanity from reading fictional pre-history, like what I find in “The Clan of the Cave Bear,”  by Jean M. Auel.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I don’t think much about genres when I’m enjoying media. My favorite movie ever is “Avatar,”  my favorite TV series ever is “Star Trek,” and my favorite books include “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart and “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. Are those mixed genres?

[Lydia’s response: Yes, I could see how those books count as mixed genres!]

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I would need to name a pet “Data.” He is the first non-human character that really caught my interest as I consumed science fiction.

Gif description: The character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is sitting in a chair and petting his cat, Spot.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

I would not want to visit the planet in “Red Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Way too much confinement in claustrophobic spaces when the planet was first colonized.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

I would want to visit the planet in “Blue Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Much more hospitable to humans. I’d also enjoy the Mars depicted in “Out of the Silent Planet,” by C. S. Lewis. I’ve always liked the two very different worlds between the civilizations who inhabited the valleys and the mountains. Going any farther from Earth than Mars is just too much for me to consider.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I’ve never been sensitive to spoilers. But I’ve certainly learned, in this age of social media to not be that dreaded person who shares the spoiler.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

I would love to see Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Series” made into a movie. “Mara and Dann” by Doris Lessing would also be a great movie.

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

The Netflix series “Glitch” would be interesting as a book. I’m waiting for more storylines from that one.

About: Tammy Schoch is a psychiatric nurse who lives in the United States with her husband. She taught her children to love science fiction, and they taught her the importance of avoiding spoilers on social media.

Other than science fiction, her interests include cycling, astronomy, and the occasionally retweet of interesting archeology articles. Her Twitter username is TammySchoch

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favorite Books Covers & Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Interestingly enough, I have not read any of these books. I chose them for this week’s prompt based on their beautiful covers alone.

My Blood Approves (My Blood Approves #1) by Amanda Hocking

What I like about it:

  • Blue is such an eye-catching colour.
  • The gravestone and bird are making my imagination flutter at the thought of what they might mean.
  • As you’re about to discover, I love seeing plants, animals, and other nature-related stuff on book covers.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

What I like about it:

  • Wow, this model is beautifully dressed.
  • Not seeing her face means we all get to imagine it for ourselves. I appreciate that.
  • Purple is my favourite colour, and her dress looks like it has lovely purple hues.

Vex (Celestra #5) by Addison Moore

What I like about it:

  • Butterflies are gorgeous creatures.
  • The metallic hue to these wings give this book a nice sci-fi flair.

Half-Blood (Covenant #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

What I like about it:

  • Purple!
  • Not only is it purple, it’s a whimsical purple flower!!
  • I am a creature of habit.

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

What I like about it:

  • This shade of blue is so beautiful. It reminds me of  how refreshing that first day of cool autumn weather is after a long, hot summer.
  • I have many relatives who were or are hunters. The deer on the cover reminds me of their hunting trips during what could be chilly, foggy weather as well as the delicious taste of fresh venison when they were successful.

Fate (My Blood Approves #2) by Amanda Hocking

What I like about it:

  • There’s something otherworldly about a sky that doesn’t have a usual colour.
  • At the risk of repeating myself, purple covers always grab my attention.
  • Now I want to know what happened to the bird and gravestone in the first book in this series.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

What I like about it:

  • I’m fascinated by the fact that the image on the front is both a set of human lungs and tree branches.
  • It leaves a lot to the imagination. In general, I prefer covers that hint at what they’re about and let the audience discover for ourselves what those hints mean.
  • Apparently, I am only capable of adoring covers that are some shade of purple or blue.

I never would have guessed my cover preferences were so specific. This was such an interesting post to put together.

Have any of you read any of these stories? Do our cover preferences match in any way?

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

It’s going to be interesting to see how everyone responds to this week’s prompt. I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough responses to justify participating this week, but luckily I did.

1. Sometimes the movie is better than the book.

For example, The Hobbit was a fantastic book. Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on it was not something I’d ever watch again.

2. While I regularly seek out #OwnVoices stories, every author who is willing to do the appropriate research should feel free to create characters from any background or identity they wish.

Speaking as someone who is bisexual, it makes me so happy when mono-sexual authors write bi characters so long as they talk to people from my community about our experiences and listen to our feedback on how to create non-stereotypical characters if they have any questions about the appropriateness of their ideas.

The more representation we get, the better! I’d also love it if we could create a literary culture that expects inclusivity in every story and applauds authors who put the work in that is necessary to create fresh characters from a wide range of backgrounds.

3.Stalking and jealousy aren’t romantic.

I see this a lot in young adult novels especially, but it bothers me when a young girl is harassed by a guy who knows she’s completely uninterested in him. It’s even more concerning when he continues to pursue her no matter how often she turns him down or tries to avoid him. Sometimes these “love interests” will also start telling her to stop talking to certain people, insist she dress a certain way, or make other big changes to who she is as a human being without her consent.

The thing is, this isn’t romance. It’s abuse. This is a totally unacceptable way for anyone to behave and should never be part of any romantic storyline…especially when it’s written for teenagers who might not have enough life experience yet to catch these red flags if or when they pop up in real life.

4.  Characters who die must stay dead.

I’m looking at you, super heroes and other inhabitants of graphic novels.

Exceptions to this rule include ghosts, zombies, and vampires, but  character can only be one of them. If they take this path, they should be exactly as dangerous as all of the other ghosts, zombies, or vampires out there.

I have no interest in the “true love makes it safe to kiss a creature that wants to eat me” trope. If a character is a monster, let them be a proper monster.

5. Short books are better than long ones.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but in general I believe it’s better to leave the audience wanting more than to turn what could have been a tightly-written 200 page novel into a 400+ page monstrosity.

I do not need dozens of pages of descriptions of the flora and fauna of a universe in the vast majority of cases. Give me the basic rundown of how that world is different from the one I live in and let my imagination fill in the gaps. It’s so much nicer to get straight to the plot than it is to wade through what I think of as unnecessary descriptions.

6. Proselytizing books are unhelpful.

No, this isn’t about any particular religion, ethical stance, or philosophical belief. I don’t care what point the author is trying to make or even if I happen to agree with them. Books should never be used as an excuse to sermonize.

They should be used to, you know, tell a story and entertain their audience. By all means introduce a sympathetic character who happens to be on your side of issue X if it happens to genuinely fit the storyline, but always stay focused on developing the plot and characters instead of pressuring the audience to join you in your love of big, purple hats or personal vendetta against cilantro.

7. Hype is like a drug

I tend to be cautious about books that are heavily hyped up. If they’re still receiving glowing reviews six months or a year after they are published, I will start to take the overwhelmingly positive response to them more seriously.

This isn’t to say that I avoid reading books that have overwhelmingly positive reviews, only that I try to temper my expectations if the response to them feels too good to be true.

8. Excessive slang makes novels feel dated before their time.

In no way do I expect characters to speak formal English all the time, but will we remember what TBF or honey wagon means 20 years from now? If every single scene in a book is filled with slang terms that are only a few months or years old, it makes me wonder if people will still find it readable in the future.

9. Some love triangles should have unconventional endings.

Love triangles would be rare if I had my way. In my opinion, they’re overused and often take up space that would be better allotted to resolving the main conflict. If they’re going to keep existing, why not wrap them up by:

  • Everyone turning out to be polyamorous
  • The main character choosing to keep dating around instead of picking from their first two options
  • The two love interests deciding to date while the main character ends up happily alone
  • All three characters finding partners who are better matches for themselves elsewhere
  • Everyone ending up happily single for now (or forever)
  • The main character picking one person for a romantic, committed, asexual happily ever after

I believe we need much more diversity in what is counted as a happy ending in tales that decide to make love a conflict.

10. Most stories should not have romantic subplots at all.

This might be my most unpopular bookish opinion of all, but I’ve grown weary of how often characters in non-romance genres suddenly end up in relationships when they have more pressing concerns in their lives like running from a hoard of zombies or figuring out who the killer really is before they become his next victim.

Look, I’ve been happily married for years. Romance and love are incredible experiences…but there are many other equally thrilling things to explore in fiction and in real life.

I dislike the cultural pressure that is placed on folks to be married or in a longterm romantic relationship regardless of whether that’s something they actually desire in the short term or long term.  I feel like making every character have a love interest only makes this pressure more intense.

Despite the occasionally critical things I’ve had to say about romantic plots today, I am in no way opposed to them in general. I simply wish it were as common for characters to be asexual, demisexual, polyamorous, or even simply too focused on building a career, dating around, or fighting the undead to settle down right now as it is for everyone to pair off by the final scene in so many of the books out there.

Second Chances: A Review of A Dog’s Purpose

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain speculative fiction films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

Content Warning: animal mistreatment and animal deaths. I will only briefly mention those aspects of the plot, and this will otherwise be a spoiler-free review. 

A Dog’s Purpose is a 2017 modern fantasy film about a dog named Bailey who was reincarnated mutiple times during his quest to find his original owner. It is based on a book by the same name.

The fantasy elements of this tale are light and contemporary. Think something closer to the magical realism genre than Lord of the Rings.

The Characters

There are quite a few characters in this film I can’t discuss without giving away spoilers because of the episodic nature of Bailey’s lifetimes. Every time he was reborn, he met a new cast of characters who taught him important lessons about what it means to be a good dog and to live a worthwhile life.

For the record, I discuss characters in the past tense in all of my film reviews in order to avoid giving my audience any spoilers for films that don’t involve reincarnation. Don’t read anything into it other than that if you happen to check out previous reviews at the top of this post.

Josh Gad as the voice of Bailey

Bailey was the main character of this story. He was an optimistic and friendly dog who looked for the good in everyone he met. With that being said, his personality changed a little bit from one lifetime to the next. There was always something likeable about him, but to my surprise he didn’t have the same quirks, habits, or preferences in every lifetime.

Dennis Quaid (right) as Ethan

Ethan was Bailey’s first owner and the first person to treat this dog with all of the love and the kindness he deserved. They originally met when Ethan was a child, and they spent many happy years together at the beginning of their friendship. The emotional bond between them was something that even death itself couldn’t break.

My Review

Let’s talk about the content warning I added for this review before discussing anything else about it. As I mentioned earlier, this tale follows one dog through several different lifetimes. Some of the lives he experienced were not happy ones, and there were scenes that showed him being mistreated by the humans around him. Since this was a children’s movie, none of those scenes were long or particularly graphic.

The difficult chapters of this dog’s existence were sugar-coated at times for the sake of the audience. I’d be happy to go into more detail about this part of the plot privately with anyone with needs more information before deciding to watch it, but I didn’t have trouble with it even though I’m generally sensitive to this sort of content. It was handled gracefully.

Bailey (right) in one of his earlier lifetimes.

One of the most interesting things about A Dog’s Purpose for me was seeing all of the changes to Bailey’s personality from one life to the next. Despite having the same soul, he evolved every time he was reincarnated.

To give one example, he was an active, energetic dog in some lifetimes and perfectly content to sit on the couch with his owners and watch television in others. I’ll leave it up to all of you to discover the reasons why he didn’t behave exactly the same way in every incarnation he experienced, but I did enjoy what the screenwriters were doing with these shifts in his temperament. They were all explained well.

There were times when I found this film a little too sentimental. This may have been due to the age group it was written for, but I would have preferred to see a more pragmatic approach to his journey in certain scenes. Bailey’s goal was a lofty one for a dog, and there were instances when it would have been nice to for him to run up against some more obstacles while he tried to find Ethan again.

With that being said, I was intrigued by the thought of a dog trying to figure out the meaning of life for his species. It wasn’t something I’d expect a canine narrator to think about, so it was interesting to see how he came up with his theories about why he kept being reborn and what he was expected to do with all of his lives.

This was a mostly lighthearted and uplifting movie that I’d recommend to kids and adults alike. Despite the occasionally sappy moments, I did enjoy seeing what Bailey’s various lives were like and how he made the best of each one of them.

 

A Dog’s Purpose is available on Netflix and iTunes.