Tag Archives: science fiction

Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2022

1. Time Loops: Precognition, Retrocausation, and the Unconscious (2018) by Eric Wargo

This is a fascinating book about the type of precognition often experienced in dreams, built off the work of J.W. Dunne. Author Eric Wargo provides numerous famous examples of precognitive dreams, often about traumatic events such as plane crashes or the sinking of the Titanic. Wargo claims such cases of precognition are actually “prememory”: your unconscious mind remembering a future memory, not of the event itself, but of your emotional reaction to learning news of the event. Both the author and I are aware of how crazy and “woo” this all sounds, but Wargo’s research is scientifically rigorous, and he walks a fine line of being both skeptical about paranormal claims but also open-minded to their possibilities (something I wish more on both sides of the paranormal/skeptical debate were willing to do).

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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2022

1. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

This is the second Arthur C. Clarke novel I’ve read (the first being Rendezvous With Rama), and I’ve been blown away by both. For some reason I expected Clarke’s books to be a bit drier and more dated, but his is some of the most exciting and mind-expanding science fiction I’ve ever read. I should have expected no less from the mind behind 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps I had that prejudice because in some older sci-fi books, the science and ideas become outdated or the writing style does (or it was never any good to begin with). Especially with hard science fiction, which Clarke is often categorized as, the science is prioritized over the story, craft, and characters, so once the science itself becomes dated, the book does as well. But this is NOT the case with Arthur C. Clarke. Though there is some “hard science” in Childhood’s End, it was also quite weird, speculative, and philosophical (like 2001). Clarke’s ideas remain highly relevant and he is an exquisite composer of prose. This novel particularly features so many brilliant lines of philosophical insight, such as: “There were some things that only time could cure. Evil men could be destroyed, but nothing could be done with good men who were deluded.”

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Best TV I Streamed in 2022

With the advent of streaming services, the world has been flooded with television series—much too many for any one person to watch. These shows are mostly good but rarely great. I’ve come to realize why television tends toward mediocrity. Most people only half-watch tv in the background while doing other things like browsing social media on a second screen. They don’t have the self-discipline to not look at their phone while watching tv, so tv shows cannot be too intellectually challenging. TV shows are purposely dumbed-down so they can be half-watched while viewers are multitasking. Most people don’t have the attention span to watch artistic films—or movies that make you think. That’s why most tv shows drag on and are repetitive—so people can still understand what’s going on while scrolling Instagram. But if I’m going to watch something, I devote my full attention, which is the way cinema is meant to be seen. The other issue with television is series being canceled prematurely and never getting closure. It is for these reasons, among others, that I prefer movies to tv series. Though there were a few series worth watching this year.

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Philip K. Dick’s Advice for Worldbuilding Science Fiction

The book The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings features several interviews and essays by author Philip K. Dick. In the following excerpt, PKD gives some helpful advice on worldbuilding for science fiction writers.

“This world must differ from the given in at least one way, and this one way must be sufficient to give rise to events that could not occur in our society — or in any known society present or past. There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation; that is, the dislocation must be a conceptual one, not merely a trivial or a bizarre one — this is the essence of science fiction, the conceptual dislocation within the society so that as a result a new society is generated in the author’s mind, transferred to paper, and from paper it occurs as a convulsive shock in the reader’s mind, the shock of dysrecognition. He knows that it is not his actual world that he is reading about.”

Philip K. Dick on worldbuilding a science fiction story
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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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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

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