I’m going to be talking about my book in a virtual session for National Taiwan University! Tune in at 9:30 BST on 19 October to join.
I’ve got a new FitzJames and Moyo mystery story out at Abyss&Apex this month: “Things Can Only Get Better“, where Detective Wilhelmine FitzJames of the London Met’s Automotive Division, and Noah Moyo, freelance car psychologist, come to the aid of a surgical bot turned smart taxi, and crack an artificial-intelligence gambling ring! Click the link to read for free; if you like FitzJames and Moyo, you can read the award-nominated “Jolene” on this blog, and/or check out other stories about AI in trouble in “Automotive Dreams“.
The crew of the LEXX realise that the Mantrid clones are eating up all the matter in the universe, so they head for its centre in an attempt to escape to the Dark Zone, and before you can say “this is another of those stories where they mash up multiple episodes of Blake’s 7, isn’t it?” the ship has encountered a giant space web, and a sort of fungus/spider hybrid has taken control of the minds of the LEXX and Stan (though apparently its attempt to do the same to Kai broke it). The story is nicely creepy, particularly the bits where the crew gradually come to realise how serious their situation is, and the Mantrid clone plot line is an obvious but not too in-your-face climate change metaphor. I did spend most of the episode wondering what’s happened to Lyekka, though, since no one as much as mentions her and you’d think she’d get involved.
790 reveals that Xev has an expiration date, being technically a product, and before you can say “is this going to be a satire on free-market capitalism?” it winds up being a parody of The Wizard of Oz instead, as the titular Wozzard sends Stan (the Cowardly Lion) and Kai (the Scarecrow, I guess) off to defeat the Evil Green Lady as the price of his help restoring Xev (spoiler alert: he’s lying, he can’t do it).
There’s some unfortunate fat-shaming as well as implications that feminists are either insincere or deluded, but the parody’s entertainingly on point and the designer of the digital sets is having a field day.
As well as being an anthropologist, a writer and a teacher, I also like to make miniatures. In that capacity, I’m a guest blogger on the Glasgow In 2024 Worldcon Bid page today, teaching you how to make a tiny armadilo! Click the link to create your own.
Also, Alan Stevens and I have a new fun listicle up on the Kaldor City Doctor Who reviews page, taking apart the 1970s story “The Mind of Evil”… if you like the snarky TV reviews on here, you might want to check them out.
Stanley is having nightmares about Gigguratha, so seeks out the Narcolounger, a device which can allow the user to control their dreams, and before you can say “does that sound even remotely like a good idea, given the people involved?” he’s trapped in a nightmare about Gigguratha from which he can’t wake up, and it’s up to Xev and Kai to get him out of it. A pretty good exploration of Stan’s repressed guilt over the things he’s done to survive, and it’s great to see Gigguratha getting to act as a sort of fearsome conscience, though the dream landscapes are actually less surreal than the cyberpunk junkyard-planet on which they find the Narcolounger. The titular “patches”, though, are an indication that the Mantrid drones are literally eating the universe, and a reminder that we’re going to have to get back to that plot within the next five or six episodes.
I’m off to British FantasyCon! I’m on two panels, Representing Sexuality (Saturday 1:30 PM) and “No, Seriously, We Have Always Fought: Developing Historical Awareness in SFF” (Saturday 6 PM).
To explain the latter, it’s to discuss strategies for making people aware of older SFF works that deal with what people think of as “modern” themes, without dismissing the experiences of newer SFF readers or falling into the trap of prescribing a “canon” of literature.
Otherwise, I’ll be helping out with the Eastercon 2024/Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid table intermittently throughout the event, so if you want to say hi, come round!
Somehow the scheduling got taken off my LEXX posts! Apologies for the hiatus. Resuming:
Stanley collapses from a mystery illness, the rest of the crew send out an SOS, and before you can say “Isn’t that Louis del Grande, well known from such cult favourites as Scanners and Seeing Things?” the SOS has been answered by a dysfunctional family who turn out to be custodians of the planet where all the undead husks of His Divine Shadow hang out. Before long Kai’s gone crazy, the dysfunctional family are trying to take over the LEXX, and Lyekka’s got loose and is eating anything with a brain. As you can probably already tell, this episode reads like it’s been cobbled together from previous episodes (crew member illness, dysfunctional family with designs on the LEXX, revenants of His Divine Shadow, Kai going crazy, Lyekka as a deus ex machina, or ex plant or something), and is kind of unsatisfying as a result. There’s sex again, but this time it’s lesbian for a change (Lyekka just wants to satisfy your desires, and, well, turns out there’s a reason Louis del Grande’s wife doesn’t like him).ETA: The set for the episode also looks suspiciously like the monastery exteriors from “Nook”.
The LEXX pick up Norb, the child who escaped the hillbilly clans in episode 2.8, drifting in space, and before you can say “it’s been a while since they touched base with the Mantrid storyline,” he turns out to be an undead Trojan horse for Mantrid’s self-replicating autonomous zombie arms.
This story has some great moments of genuine horror, with the sense of strangeness reinforced by the fact that, 790’s usual protestations of love for Xev aside, this is a completely sex-free episode. On the downside, they again have more episode than plot, and while the effects are again on the upward curve there’s some rather obvious repetition of footage.
The LEXX discovers an all-male monastic society who reproduce by cloning and have never seen a woman in real life, and before you can say “party’s at Xev’s place!” it is. A generally cheerful, life-affirming, sex-positive and even queer-positive story (Stan initially rebuffs the advances of one of the monks, but eventually decides, Chuck Tingle fashion, that love is love), with an interesting philosophical twist (the monks are the guardians of all the knowledge in the universe, but only one of them’s allowed to actually know what it is– and he’s the one who disapproves of all this sexual hedonism). I also liked the implication that Stan is getting over the trauma of his previous same-sex encounters and is at least theoretically capable of forming a positive relationship with a man. The CGI backgrounds are outstanding, but Kai seems to be bizarrely in angry mode, and also strangely insistent that only heterosexual sex can lead to reproduction, which is surprising since at least three of the people he shares a ship with weren’t created through it.