Tag Archives: science fiction

New Substack: Time Zone Weird

I am starting a Substack newsletter devoted exclusively to my short fiction. (I will continue to post nonfiction on this blog.)

Time Zone Weird is a place for fiction located on the frontiers of sci-fi, philosophy, futurism, and horror. If you’ve read my short fiction, you can expect more of the same.

To begin, the majority of TZW content will be an ongoing science-fiction satire series titled “Future Fake News.”

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Best of the Rest of 2021

I already went over my favorite movies, TV shows, fiction books, nonfiction books, and comic books I consumed this past year, so now it’s time for one last look back at 2021 for the best of the rest: video games, audio dramas, and music.

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Best Comic Books I Read in 2021

1. The Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End of the World (2021) & Vol 2: The City Upon a Hill (2021) by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds

The Department of Truth is an inventive spin on conspiracy theories. In this world, every conspiracy is true, but at the same time, no conspiracy theory is true. It’s a slight spoiler to explain that, basically, if enough people believe in a conspiracy then it manifests in reality. The “Department of Truth” is a government agency that works to prevent dangerous conspiracies from spreading and becoming real. The books are well-researched in conspiracy lore, featuring popular theories like JFK, flat earth, the Satanic panic, Bigfoot, and more. My only gripe is that it’s a bit too anti-conspiracy theory, the subtext being all conspiracy theories are false and conspiracy theorists are dangerous. In reality, many (but not all) conspiracy theories are false, and some (but not most) conspiracy theorists are dangerous. Overall, this was really well-written with great artwork and I can’t wait for the next volume.

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Best Streams of 2021

Television:

The Mandalorian (seasons 1&2 on Disney+)

I heard great things about The Mandalorian when it premiered a couple years ago and had been wanting to see it, but I did not have Disney+ (until this past year). So I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the show and really enjoyed it. I normally prefer movies over TV series, but The Mandalorian was better than the recent Star Wars film trilogy. That’s probably because the showrunner (John Favreau) had more creative freedom since he wasn’t working with the core franchise characters. There were likely too many cooks in the kitchen for the movies, with producers, studio execs, marketing experts, toy manufacturers, and Disney brand advisors all having a say in the plot and characters. Plus there were different writers and directors for the three movies and they apparently didn’t plan together. Beyond that, so much was on the line for the Disney mega-corporation with those movies because of the production and marketing budgets. The Mandalorian had a relatively high budget (~$120 million per season), but the budgets of each Star Wars movie were 2-3x that. They surely saved a lot on marketing by just dropping the show on Disney+ (while people were stuck at home during a pandemic with nothing else to do but watch TV).

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Ten Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books on this list, with links to purchase, are available at my Bookshop.org page.

1) Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986) and Grimscribe (1991) by Thomas Ligotti (2015)

I was looking forward to reading this double collection of horror short stories after hearing Ligotti be recommended by so many other writers I admire. And I can see why there was so much hype. I was immensely impressed, and Ligotti has become my favorite living horror writer and probably the best writer of weird fiction since Lovecraft. Ligotti is like the Ted Chiang of horror—not in terms of theme or content, but in the fact that they only write short stories and their stories are all fantastic and deep philosophically. Ligotti’s brand of horror is highly cerebral. He is a master of prose style, which is similar to Lovecraft’s in its verbosity and poetic beauty. Ligotti is also similar to Lovecraft in his content and themes—primarily extreme nihilism. His nonfiction book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I read last year, lays out his antinatalist worldview—a worldview I do not share—though I enjoy reading about those dark themes in fiction. After all, what could be more horrific than the idea that human life doesn’t matter and it would be better if we did not exist?

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Cyber Monday Ebook Sale

For Cyber Monday and the rest of the week, some of my ebooks are available at discounted prices on Amazon.

My sci-fi mystery novella Work for Idle Hands is on sale for $0.99

My trio of stories about the future of autonomous vehicles, Death by Self-Driving Car, is $0.99

And my larger collection of 27 short stories of various genres, Story Addict, is also $0.99 for a limited time.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to All

Dune (1965) vs. Dune (1984) vs. Dune (2021)

Dune (1965)

In anticipation of the new Dune movie, directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve, I decided to read the classic novel by Frank Herbert before seeing the film adaptation. Dune is one of those books that appears on every all-time best of list for science fiction. Sometimes you read a book like that and it feels dated or over-hyped (such as Ringworld by Larry Niven, which I also read this past year), but not in this case. Dune not only met but exceeded my expectations.

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Visceral vs. Cerebral Horror

As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.

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Tenet & Movies That Make You Think

Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film conceptually to date, which is saying something considering he made Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar. Without spoilers, Tenet involves time travel, but it is a unique version of time travel—perhaps the most inventive form of time travel I’ve ever seen in a movie—and the most complex.

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Work for Idle Hands: A Novella

Smith has been working on the assembly line at Ovivo for seventeen years, building the same steel triangles 720 times per day. He never knew what the parts were for—that was classified information—but he assumed the triangles were one small cog of a larger machine, something important and meaningful to the world in some way.

At least Smith thought so, until mistakenly entering the wrong production room one day. Inside, he would discover the workers next door disassembling the same parts he and his team put together. All his hard work, immediately undone. Why?

The revelation sets Smith on an investigative journey throughout the Ovivo factory, up the chain of corporate hierarchy, in search of what he and his co-workers are supposed to be building there and why.

The truth about Smith’s job may turn his entire world upside down—that is if he can uncover the company’s secrets without being fired… or worse.

Work for Idle Hands — a Kafkaesque science fiction mystery novella by T.Z. Barry