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 wonder if any of you will choose the same answer?
I’ve already talked about a few books I’m looking forward to this summer, so this week I’ll mention a TV show slated to come out in September that fans have been anticipating for years.
If you can’t see the image attached to this post, I’m talking about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
The official Twitter account for it has been sharing amazing gifs, short videos, photos and other promotional material that hint at what it will be about while also leaving plenty of room for the imagination.
I first read The Lord of the Rings during a period of my life when I was struggling with my mental health. It was like walking around the world with a thick, grey cloud enveloping me that amplified all of the difficult portions of life and did its best to smother the faintest flicker of anything positive.
This is something I’m sharing because I only revisited that series years later when the film version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy were released.
While this TV show isn’t set during the same time period in this universe, I’m very curious to see how my mind reacts to the similar themes of it now that I’m doing better.
Seeing an epic saga unfold on the small screen should also be worthwhile. I have high hopes that this show will be a magical experience.
When a photographic retoucher is commissioned to fix the abnormalities on a Great War portrait, he finds his own past and that of the subject beginning to connect. Are his personal nightmares returning, or is it something more? A short ghost story in the M.R. James tradition, The Last Photograph of John Buckley is a dark tale of past crimes and unfinished business.
Content Warning: Trauma, mental illness (including mentions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), murder, and vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. I will be briefly mentioning trauma and mental illness in my review.
Is pushing through the pain a smart idea?
Mr. Brown had a poetic writing style that rapidly pulled me into the storyline. Sometimes I felt as though I were standing beside the main character and discovering new clues with him instead of reading about his experiences. The author included so many small details that made his characters and the eras they lived in come alive in my imagination. This was my first experience with his work. It made me yearn to explore the rest of his oeuvre in good time.
The character development was strong and believable. Even though the protagonist’s name wasn’t revealed until much later on in the storyline, I quickly got to know him for who he truly was as well as who he had been before the traumatic events of World War II reshaped his mind and personality for the worse. It was exciting to learn so much about someone without having access to such an ordinary piece of information about him. I totally understood why the author wrote it this way and thought it fit the protagonist’s exceedingly cautious and frightened nature perfectly.
Speaking of trauma, this tale had a lot to say on that topic. It was also filled with strong opinions about how the limited understanding of mental health concerns during the first and second World Wars affected not only the soldiers who fought in them but also everyone from their closest loved ones to members of their communities who experienced the echoes of those old wounds without necessarily knowing why they existed. While I cannot go into detail about this without sharing spoilers, it was especially poignant for me as someone who comes from an extended family that included people whose mental health was permanently damaged by these wars. As much attention has already been paid to the war is hell trope, this tale managed to find a fresh way to explore it that never once backed down from all of the terrible ways in which traumatic memories of the battlefield can harm a community for multiple generations.
Don’t be scared off by the horror tag if you’re not generally into that genre. There were a couple of short scary scenes in this book, but it was never gory or gross. Instead, the narrator quietly crafted a thoughtful work about grief, trauma, and the after-effects of war that was as poignant as it was honest. Anyone who is closely acquainted with this sort of tale may be able to spot the plot twists coming in advance, but it always came across to me as something that was intended to mindfully explore each moment in the protagonist’s life rather than shock the audience with a twist we weren’t supposed to see coming. It was something that I liked as a veteran reader in this genre but that also seemed like it could easily appeal to audiences who don’t have a lot of experience with the horror genre in general.
The Last Photograph of John Buckley was one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enthusiastically enough!
Content warning: this post includes references to seasonal depression, people who died from Covid-19, and people who are permanently disabled from Covid-19.
I’ve been blogging for many years now. It’s been my experience that blogging can be a cyclical hobby or profession.
Sometimes bloggers have plenty of time to write and so many topics we can’t imagine how we’ll find room in our editorial calendars for everything we want to say. In other seasons of life, things change.
I Need to Rest
In some ways, it has felt like March of 2020 never ended. All of the events and trips I looked forward to when the long, dark days of winter feel never-ending were cancelled last year and they are beginning to be rapidly cancelled again this year.
To be perfectly clear, I completely understand why this is necessary for public health and safety and in no way sympathize with the anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and anti-science protestors.
Honestly, I have had a much easier experience during this pandemic than many people out there. I have safe housing, a loving marriage, plenty of food, and money to pay the bills.
Out of all of my relatives who have caught Covid-19 so far, only one distant relation has passed away from it and only one or maybe two closer relatives have what are probably permanent health effects from it.
I’m very grateful for my and our good fortune in these troubled times. So many people are dealing with much harder situations.
With that being said, I’m also bone-tired. For anyone taking notes out there, the winter blues do not mix well with pandemics at all. This combination should be avoided at all costs in both real life and fiction. I’d give it zero stars out of ten even if you have somehow personally have managed not to know anyone who caught Covid-19. It’s exhausting.
I Need to Write Fiction
My other reason for trimming back on new blog posts here is a cheerful one.I need to preserve more energy and creative juice for writing my speculative fiction stories!
It’s been several years since my last tale was published. That must change. I have pages of notes and rough drafts for future stories. All I need is the time and creative juice to bring them to life.
It is my hope that this new blogging schedule will facilitate that once my mood perks up in the spring.
Longterm readers might remember that I’ve gone through similar periods of cutting back on blogging here before. It’s something I really don’t like doing, but sometimes it’s necessary even if it makes me want to go sit in the Naughty Blogger corner for daring to change my posting schedule. LOL!
I’ll revisit this decision later on this year to see how I’m feeling and how sustainable the new blogging schedule is.
The New Blogging Schedule
My hope is to eventually return to my usual Monday – Thursday schedule, but I’m cutting out all Monday posts for now. They generally tend to take up as much writing time as two to three of my other weekly posts combined.
If you follow me on Twitter, I will continue to share several posts from my archives each Monday for #MondayBlogs. Thank goodness that past me wrote plenty of them to cycle through while current me rests.
(Some? Most?) Tuesdays – Top Ten Tuesday posts. I love the TTT community, so I’ll do my best to stay connected to it when my energy levels and other commitments allow for that.
Thursdays -speculative fiction book reviews, but probably only for short stories.
This is the hardest part of the year for me even during non-pandemic times. April is always better for my mental health, especially once I’ve had multiple long walks in the warm sunshine and my brain realizes spring truly has arrived.
If only I had a crystal ball that could tell us all exactly when this pandemic will end and life will feel more predictable again.
How has Covid-19 impacted your blogging and writing habits? How are you all feeling now that we’re over one year into this pandemic? Do you also feel guilty about changing your blogging routines?
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.
Peter 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.