Last.fm 2016 Listening Trends

For now, my music listening continues to be in decline relative to earlier in my life. Because the babies are often napping, I don’t have music playing throughout the day. And if I’m playing video games I’m usually not listening to music so I can stream. That said, when I do listen to Spotify at work, it usually Scrobbles and that has increased the number a bit higher than it would have otherwise been.

Artists

1. Weezer (185 listens) – After hearing the writer on Song Exploder I started listening to some of the older albums. I’d only ever heard the singles, so it was interesting to hear the albums.
2. 4minute (149 listens) – KPop day at work plus a bug on Spotify and last.fm on Android that makes a song keep getting counted over and over.
3. American Pinup (102 listens) – it’s on my phone, so their songs come up a LOT when I’m driving
4. Chance the Rapper (102 listens) – Chance finally released his third album. I liked some songs, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as Acid Rap.
5. Barenaked Ladies (87 listens) – just jumped back in to a band I was into in High School
6. The Beatles (84 listens) – as usual, they’re always here because I have SO many Beatles songs.
7. Rihanna (82 listens) – Nerdwriter’s look at Work had me listening to some more Rihanna on Spotify.
8. Five Iron Frenzy (75 listens) – I wanted to listen again because it’s been a while.
9. Drake (71 listens) – From listening to Rihanna, I ended up listening to Drake a little at work
10. Ramin Djawadi (66 listens) – After I got into Westworld and its great piano covers of songs, I went to listen to the soundtrack (and eventually bought it) and discovered he was also the composer for the Game of Thrones soundtrack. Spent a while listening to great songs.
11. Paul and Storm (64 listens) – Continued to listen to the closest thing we have to Tom Lehrer nowadays.
12. Thousand Foot Krutch (63 listens) – I went back to see if I still liked it. I don’t like the group as much as I did before, but there are still some fun songs.
13. Relient K (58 listens) – Again revisiting an old favorite band.
14. Billie Holiday (55 listens) – She is awesome. No reason not to listen to her.
15. G.NA (55 listens) – More K-POP!

Songs

1. 4minute — Cut it Out (92 listens) – this is the song that ended up being Scrobbled so much because of the bug on Android
2. Weezer — I Swear It’s True – Pre-Production Recording (46 listens) – it’s funny, I hadn’t realized this was a Weezer song until I went through their albums this year.
3. Drake — With You (33 listens)
4. SG Lewis — Yours (24 listens)
5. Prince — Stare (22 listens)
6. Chance the Rapper — All We Got (feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children’s Choir) (16 listens) – Of all the songs in Chance’s third album, this is the one I like the most
7. American Pinup — The Upper Hand (14 listens)
8. Beautiful Bodies — Invincible (13 listens)
9. American Pinup — Joy Ride (13 listens) – My favorite song from this album, it really has a great feel and I love playing it while I drive around.
10. [unknown] — Star Wars (13 listens)
11. Freezepop — Starlight (13 listens)
12. American Pinup — Storm Chaser (13 listens)
13. Chance the Rapper — Summer Friends (feat. Jeremih & Francis & The Lights) (12 listens)
14. American Pinup — Shelter (11 listens)
15. Rihanna — Work (11 listens)

Albums

1. American Pinup — Change Machine (100 listens)
2. Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard — Schumann – Rise of the Masters: 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces (99 listens)
3. Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book (94 listens)
4. 4minute — Crazy (93 listens)
5. Billie Holiday — The Complete Billie Holiday (52 listens)
6. Drake — Views (51 listens)
7. Weezer — Weezer (Deluxe Edition) (51 listens)
8. The Beatles — The Beatles (50 listens)
9. Lana Del Rey — Honeymoon (49 listens)
10. Acerina Y Su Danzonera — Danzones de Siempre (42 listens)
11. Thelonious Monk — Plays Duke Ellington (42 listens)
12. Ramin Djawadi — Westworld: Season 1 (40 listens)
13. Paul and Storm — Ball Pit (38 listens)
14. Beautiful Bodies — Battles (38 listens)
15. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment — Surf (35 listens)

Top All-Time Artists

They all remained in the same rank as last year.

1. Fantastic Plastic Machine Fantastic Plastic Machine (3,595 listens)
2. Anberlin Anberlin (2,768 listens)
3. Five Iron Frenzy Five Iron Frenzy (2,701 listens)
4. The Beatles The Beatles (2,425 listens)
5. Relient K Relient K (1,905 listens)
6. “Weird Al” Yankovic “Weird Al” Yankovic (1,693 listens)
7. Fall Out Boy Fall Out Boy (1,300 listens)
8. Gnarls Barkley Gnarls Barkley (1,121 listens)
9. I Fight Dragons I Fight Dragons (1,011 listens)
10. Gwen Stefani Gwen Stefani (904 listens)
11. Andrea Echeverri Andrea Echeverri (894 listens)
12. DC Talk DC Talk (891 listens)
13. Tom Lehrer Tom Lehrer (875 listens)
14. Lostprophets Lostprophets (827 listens)
15. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (805 listens)

Top All-Time Songs

1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Over and Over Again (Lost and Found) (116 listens)
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood (116 listens)
3. Jonathan Coulton — The Princess Who Saved Herself (109 listens)
4. Fantastic Plastic Machine — Take Me To The Disco [Malibu Mix] (104 listens)
5. Fantastic Plastic Machine — Steppin’ Out (102 listens)
6. Gnarls Barkley — Who Cares (99 listens)
7. Gnarls Barkley — Just a Thought (93 listens)
8. 4minute — Cut it Out (92 listens)

All of these got dropped a rank by 4Minute JUMPING up the charts thanks to the Spotify/last.fm bug.
9. Gnarls Barkley — The Last Time (87 listens)
10. Anberlin — Audrey, Start The Revolution! (85 listens)
11. Andrea Echeverri — Quédate (85 listens)
12. Gnarls Barkley — St. Elsewhere (85 listens)
13. Gnarls Barkley — Crazy (82 listens)
14. Fantastic Plastic Machine — Love Is Psychedelic (82 listens)
15. Gnarls Barkley — Smiley Faces (82 listens)

Scrobbles at end of 2016: 99,546

Scrobbles in 2016: 6,243 – about 3000 less than last year. Scrobbled music has been on a steady decline for me. Because last year had also fallen by 3000.

Various stats from Last.fm’s year in music page:

  • Avg Scrobbles/Day: 17
  • Total Listening Time: 14 Days 11 hours
  • I mostly listen from 6 AM to 6 PM
  • I listen most on Wednesdays
  • 39% This year was listening to new artists
  • 53% New Albums
  • 48% new songs
  • I beat Dan in scrobbles this year – he doesn’t show up in my Top 5
  • But Dan beat me in artist discovery – 55% vs 39%
  • Longest streak was 39 days from 23 Oct to 30 Nov
  • 13 April I listened to the most music – 394 songs
  • 15 June listened to Weezer 63 times; 13 April listened to 44 tracks from Schumann.

Video Games of 2016

What a year for gaming. I tried to take advantage whenever I could to get a chance to game and I was able to do a nice mix of newer and older games. I also made a bit of a dent in the list of games I got as part of a Humble Bundle. Well, let’s get into it.

Civilization VI (27 hours)

Another five years passed and so and so another entry in the civilization franchise was released. This time they made what is probably the biggest change in the series thus far, they exploded the cities out onto multiple tiles. That really revamped the planning and for once I couldn’t just make every city make all the same improvements. I’ve enjoyed it and hope to get more time with it in 2017.

 

XCOM: Enemy Within (25 hours)

A fairly robust to a great series. It was fun to go through the XCOM experience understanding how it works and, therefore, making less mistakes that compound out over time.

Torchlight (23 hours)

I set out to try and see what the whole Diablo craze was about. I found it a bit repetitive and I’m not sure if I’ll get back to it. It also had only the barest bit of story so there’s not even that to drag me back in.

 

Civilization V (17 hours 30 min)

Knowing that Civ VI was coming out in 2016 meant I limited my Civ V play so that I could spend more time playing other games.

 

Spelunky! (5 Hours 47 min)

It’s happened so many times – Dan talks something up and I just don’t get it. Sometimes it’s just hard to convey something with words. Ali G sounded horrible, but was great stupid-funny. And the same was the case with Spelunky. It just sounded like something I’d hate. But then I played it and it was a blast! And I got further addicted to rogue-alikes.

 

Contraption Maker (5 hour 30 min)

If I’d discovered this game before the kids, I probably would have beat the whole thing. It combines silliness and dad-jokes with puzzle solving. It’s right up my alley. But I’m also glad I didn’t get to it until having the kids because it’s a ton of fun playing with Scarlett. I’m sure it’ll be even more fun when she’s able to contribute solutions.

 

Vertical Drop Heroes HD (5 hour 25 min)

After Spelunky! I was perfectly primed to enjoy this game. And I did. I originally intended to rotate playing it with other games and I wound up just making excuses for why I should be playing this game instead.

 

Civilization: Beyond Earth (3 hours 45 min)

I think a lot of what was special about Civ VI got its start in what the team did for their spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri. That said, I got the game in a Firaxis Humble Bundle a little too late – as the father of 3 kids – and I just don’t enjoy the game mechanics as much as I do in the main series.

 

Civilization III (2 hours 15 min)

Not only was 2016 the year of Civ VI, but it was also a milestone anniversary year for the franchise. So I had an overly ambitious plan to play from III (the first game I legally own) onwards. I do intend to continue in 2017. We’ll see what happens to that.

 

Team Fortress 2 (2 hours)

If I were forced to choose one game to play forever, it’d be Civ. But if I could choose 2, the second choice would be TF2. But I don’t have to choose and there are so many games I own that I haven’t even played yet (thanks to Humble Bundles), so TF2 gets neglect. They changed this up this year for the first time in a LONG time. Now there are tiered matches and leveling up and all kinds of stuff. 2 hours isn’t enough to tell if I prefer the old method, but what I don’t like is that it dumps you out each time so it takes forever to play (vs staying on the same server with map changes) and time is important to me since game time is limited.

 

Dear Esther (2 hours)

I’d heard about this game for a long time. When I finally played it – it more or less lived up to the hype.

 

New Super Mario Bros Wii (2 hours)

Unlike the Mario games I cut my teeth on as a kid, this one lets everyone play together. So I thought it’d be a better experience for playing with Scarlett. Unfortunately she’s not quite there yet. Then again, I got my NES when I was 5 or 6 and each year makes a huge difference in what kids are capable of.

 

FTL (1 hour 15 min)

Just wanted something to play while I was visitng the in-laws (plus played it while reviewing the Steam controller).

 

Always Sometimes Monsters (1 hour)

This game probably leads to something profound. But I just didn’t have the patience for it.

 

Unholy Heights (1 hour)

I thought I was going to love this game, but with an inability to understand what I was doing wrong leading to an inability to progress, I gave up on it after an hour.

 

Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (1 hour)

Danielle and I were obsessed with this game during our undergrad years. Danielle ended up min-maxing it even though I don’t think she finished it. I got caught up in trying not to fail out of college and ended up not playing that much. But now I can enjoy it with Scarlett.

 

FF Tactics (52 min)

I’ve had this game for about 15 years when I bought it as part of a PS1 sale at Best Buy when I got all the FF games I never played when they first came out. I am enjoying the game but haven’t been able to give it the time it needs.

 

Pixel Piracy (45 min)

I just did not find this fun. People into the mincraft look might enjoy it.

 

Chromagun (38 min)

The premise was fun. I might give it a chance if I feel like playing some physics puzzles.

 

Atom Zombie Smasher (33 min)

As someone who’s pretty sick of zombie-everything, this ended up being a lot of fun. It’s definitely a game I’ll revisit at some point.

 

Eurotruck Simulator 2 (30 min)

After the Giant Bomb guys kept talking about the (Insert Geographic Region)-Truck Simulator games, I thought I’d give it a chance. I don’t think it’s my cup of tea, but I could definitely see how it would be a pretty relaxing time for some people.

 

Cook Serve Delicious (30 min)

Not much new to say here, just playing a quick round.

 

LA Noire (30 min)

Dan got me this in 2015 or earlier (I can’t remember) and I finally put it in to play. The driving drives me batty, but I could potentially grow to enjoy the game. I’d like to get back to it. Time will tell if I can.

 

Paragon (30 min)

I wanted to check out a MOBA and this one came with the nVidia 1000-series cards. (Or at least some credits for fake in-game money) It was fun, but the time requirement for a match means I’ll not get back to it until my kids are much older, if ever.

 

Botanicula (30 min)

It’s a beautiful game and the puzzles are fun to solve, but it just didn’t grab me.

 

Cthulhu Saves the World (26 minutes)

I think my nostalgia for the 16-bit era RPGs just isn’t strong enough to get me to put the time into these games. I thought differently after To the Moon, but it’s just not really there for me. I *might* get back to it, but don’t get your hopes up.

 

BloodRayne: Betrayal (23 Minutes)

A return to beat-em-up platformers that has lovely animation, but I just don’t care to spend time on it.

 

Gwent (21 minutes)

Reminds me of when I played Magic: The Gathering in middle school. I could potentially play a lot if I had the time.

 

Back to Bed (20 minutes)

This game has an aesthetic seemingly inspired by Salvador Dali, but has gameplay akin to a game of Lemmings if it were 3D and only had one lemming. It was fun, but I think I’ve had my fill.

 

Awesomenauts (16 min)

My actual first MOBA, but so unmemorable, I completely forgot I’d played it.

 

Rhythm Heaven Fever (15 min)

Unfortunately no video footage here. I was just trying to show Scarlett the depth of games here, but the fact that I suck at the golf game kept us from going any further.

 

Game of the Year

I think this is the first year I didn’t have a strong, standout contender for game of the year. If you take a look at the games I enjoyed most you can drop the list to a top 3 of Dear Esther, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, and Civilization VI. Interestingly, I think Civ VI is the only game on the list that actually came out in 2016. However, If I discount Civ VI due to the incredible amount of work yet to be done (while the core mechanics are great, the AI has much work to be done), I end up with two wildly different games. I think VDHHD gave me more joy while DE was more of a game that blew my mind. I’ll give it to Vertical Drop Heroes HD merely because it’s not only the most fun I had, but the game I want to return to most in 2017.

Carousel

Sam's First Carousel Ride
Sam’s First Carousel Ride

Why do kids enjoy carousel rides so much? Shoot, why do we have so much nostalgia for them as adults? I have no idea. I could probably put together some BS about a cultural memory of horseback riding, but frankly I think it’s just the first amusement park ride a kid is able to go on. This is Disney before your tiny brain can even comprehend the existence of such a place. And, unlike a car, I think it’s pretty evident even to the kids that there is no utilitarian function here – you end up roughly where you started.

Stella's first carousel ride
Stella’s first carousel ride

First Bike Ride

One day in October I wanted to get some exercise and it was just perfect timing with the kids up from their naps. So I took them for their first ride on the bike carriage. I wasn’t sure how they’d take it, given how randomly they seemed to take stroller rides. But they both actually enjoyed it and didn’t cry one tear. We’ll see what happens in the spring when they’re 1.5ish.

Sam's Bike Ride
Sam’s Bike Ride

Review: CBLDF Presents: She Changed Comics

CBLDF Presents: She Changed ComicsCBLDF Presents: She Changed Comics by Betsy Gomez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter on this book

I’d like to start off with my one big criticism of this book – not enough images! I understand why they had to do it. When you’re printing a book, each page is expensive, especially when you’re printing in color. But when you’re covering an industry based on images and we only have 1-2 images per creator, it’s hard to get a good feel for the creator’s body of work. I think it would have been nice to have a supplementary PDF with a few more examples per artist. (Yeah, I know I could Google them, but for a curated product, it’d be nice to do a little less work)

So, this book is a survey of the history of women in the comics industry starting out with newspaper comics at the turn of the century. Additionally, as the subtitle says, it focuses on women who made an impact somehow. I learned a lot, especially on the earlier creators about whom I was completely ignorant. It was interesting to see the early fights woman focused on – like women’s suffrage or even just the right to be taken seriously as a cartoonist. It was also interesting to see how women’s place in the industry evolved. At first there were only a few. Then women formed collectives. But then someone women bristled at having to segregate themselves that way and broke out on their own or eventually joined the major publishers. Given the large influence of manga in the US, it was also nice to see women in Japan starting around the time of the post-war period (more or less the birth of modern manga) covered.

Probably the best thing about the way the book is organized is the “further reading” section after each woman’s article. It helps you find more work by that person as well as helping support them by buying more of their stuff. Perhaps the most annoying thing about the way the book is organized is that it is organized is that it’s alphabetical by time period. So, for example, within the Golden Age all the entries are alphabetical. I would have preferred a more Chronological arrangement to help me better understand the flow of progress.

I was happily surprised that at one point the book shifts to cover publishers and editors. In this day when we are finally paying attention to all the artists on a book, it’s easy to forget the impact publishers and editors have. It was also fun that the book ended on an interview section in which we were able to go a bit deeper with some of the creators.

Overall, a great intro to women creators and a good jumping off point if you’re looking to find some new comics created by women.

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Review: Working for Bigfoot

Both weirder and not as weird as you’d think

Working for Bigfoot (The Dresden Files, #15.5)Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Maybe,” he said in a slow, rural drawl, “you could explain to me why I found you in the middle of an orgy.”
“Well,” I said, “if you’re going to be in an orgy, the middle is the best spot, isn’t it.”

I’ve heard of the Dresden Files before, but I’d never checked it out. I thought it was about World War 2 and I constantly confused it with Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five for some reason. But in a great example of the value of book bundles (like Humble Bundle or Story Bundle), I ended up with this book via a book bundle and when I looking for a new book to read recently, the description stood out. I also recognized Butcher’s name, having spent the last few years listening to Sword and Laser and getting a feel for a bunch of SFF authors I hadn’t been familiar with.

Butcher does not slouch on this collection of 3 short stories, trading on his name or readers’ presumed familiarity with the character. Each contains just enough information for a newbie like me to get caught up and where I feel that vets to the series would be OK. Having spent the better part of the last decade listening to short story poddcasts, I know there’s a very different form when writing a short story vs a novel, but if these stories are an indication of the tone of the books, I think I’m in for a treat. (I’ve already added book 1 to my To Read list) Butcher also plays with PI tropes in each of the stories. The first and third one are the typical first person narrative of the investigation. The second story takes the familiar noir trope of being found in an interrogation room and recounting to the cops what happened to lead to one’s arrest.

The stories revolve around a “bigfoot” hiring Harry Dresden to deal help out his son. I’ll make a minor spoiler here and say that his son is half-bigfoot and that’s the simple reason for needing to hire Harry. The first story involves a young bigfoot Jr who’s being bullied in school. The second story jumps to college, where bigfoot Jr has a run-in with another fantastical species. The last story takes place between the two when he’s in high school. In all 3 stories Butcher presents a pretty diverse cast of mythical creatures and has a lot of fun with the noir tropes. On the lewdness scale, the humor reminded me quite a bit of Terry Pratchett. In his Disworld books there were definitely adults there with adult feelings and desires, but he usually found a pretty entertaining way to communicate that stuff. Yes, there is indeed an orgy and a sex scene in the second story. But overall, it’s more about playing around with words and double-entendres than it is about being explicit.

I really enjoyed this story as you can tell from the rating. If you like noir and/or fantasy, give this short story collection a shot. It shouldn’t take you more than a bit of an afternoon to finish it. If you don’t like it, no big deal. And if you do, it’s a great sampler for what’s yet to come.

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Review: The Razor’s Edge

Steampunk in a modern world

The Razor's Edge (Zelda Pryce, #1)The Razor’s Edge by Joss Llewelyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book that passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. All the important characters are women and the guy who would be a love interest in any other telling of this story only appears sporadically and only gets a couple kisses near the end. Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but it seems if you want good genre fiction led by women characters, look no further than steampunk. Although, this book is like steampunk’s weird cousin.

The Razor’s Edge posits a strange world that took me a little bit of time to get used to. It’s our world – there are mentions of Mythbusters and computers and cell phones, but there are also Arcana. In Mr Llewelyn’s world, Arcana are essentially Thursday Next-level puns that describe items in the world. For example, Occam’s Razor is the strongest razor in the world – there’s nothing it can’t cut. Lorenz’s Butterfly is an actual butterfly that can shape events across the world (you know that saying – a Butterfly flaps its wings and there’s a hurricane on the other side of the world). Our main character is Ms Zelda Pryce, a woman who’s an arcana prodigy and has built herself a number of arcana and a business as a security consultant breaking into various museums to help them improve their security. During one such job she meets an actual thief. In another novel they’d be a slap slap kiss couple, but instead they tussle and leave on amiable terms. Meanwhile, the plot thickens in semi-predictable ways.

Other characters – Zelda’s sister who places a somewhat Oracle role (as in what Barbara Gordon did until the 2011 reboot gave her use of her legs again). They have what seems like a pretty realistic sisterly relationship – looking out for each other and also sometimes annoying each other. Inspector Yasmin Demir who ends up being a primary character along with Zelda for most of the novel. A badass woman who rose up the ranks of the DCRI (or something like that) in France despite being a woman and (based on a couple throwaway lines) I’m pretty sure also a lesbian. The main villain Ophelia Martel who is impressive in her own right – an activist who has been jailed many times for her principled stance. Although, true to antagonist form, she chooses an anti-social way of dealing with her disappointment.

This book is part of a series, so it’s no surprise or spoiler that Ms Pryce does not die at the end of this book. In fact, the book ends with her having Chinese food in her apartment with her sister.

If you’re a reader you’ll be able to guess most of the plot or at least not be terribly surprised by what’s going on. Ms Pryce is also a little less introspective than I’d prefer, but not too bad. I was waffling between a 3 and 4 star rating, but given all the great stuff I’ve mentioned above, I went with the higher rating.

Who would I recommend this to? It has a bit of a YA vibe or, at least, it’s not as surprising or introspective as it could be. That said, I’m a guy in my mid-30s and I found it pretty entertaining. I would say if you have a kid or teen who’s really geeky they’d really enjoy it because a lot of the fun was associating the puns with the real-life people or terminology (like Laplace’s Demons) that I know from philosophy class and rhetoric. (That said there’s a glossary in the back) Again, the guy and girl don’t sleep together and the “dirtiest” thing is an obscure reference to a dick joke that if you understand it, are probably old enough to get it. So definitely good for any girls in your life who need or want a female protagonist who doesn’t need a man to save her (although it doesn’t hurt to team up with one on your own terms) or any boys for whom you want to model that it’s great for women to be independent and awesome.

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Review: Piranha Frenzy

A look into the world of video games journalism that isn’t quite as fictional as you’d think

Piranha FrenzyPiranha Frenzy by Colin F. Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that either anticipates or was written in reaction to gamer-gate. I think wherever you fall on that is probably the biggest predictor of whether you are capable of liking this book. I’m not saying if you were on the side of the journalist that you will automatically think this was a good book, but if you weren’t I find it hard to believe you’d like this book at all. A quick primer if you pay no attention to video games journalism or think pieces about the harassment of women online. A woman, Zoe Quinn was (still is?) working on a video game. Her ex wrote a blog post saying she slept with some guys for positive coverage for her game. Then, out of proportion to the fact that whether or not she did this, it’s just video games (for CTHULHU’S SAKE) people started harassing her and sending her death threats and all kinds of stuff. Google it if you care.

This book switches things around from reality and has the main character be a women in games journalism who is dating a man working for the publisher of the year’s biggest game – Satanic Realms 5. This rather short book (almost novella-sized) explores what she has to deal with in that world. I think it gets its point across without being preachy and while still telling an entertaining story rather than a morality tale. Via the characters (who are given short bios at the beginning of the book like a Victorian novel) the author also explores the different generations of gamers. I think the main character is supposed to be an older millenial or younger Gen X given her gaming touchtones. The guy in charge of the whole operation (A video games Website called Piranha Frenzy) is someone who was in college when the original Playstation came out and the other characters fall in between there and one or two are younger than our main character.

Touching on podcasts, Youtube celebs, and even referencing the founding of Giant Bomb – whether this book ends up being a classic or a relic of its time will probably depend on how much things change and how much things stay the same. I do appreciate the novel as there aren’t many fiction books that occupy this aspect of my life/personality. There are plenty of books with gamers at the center (I’ve bought quite a few via StoryBundle bundles), but not as many about the dev side. Although I have appreciated it in Cory Doctorow’s For the Win and the gamedev sections in Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s Mogworld.

As I said up top, your mileage may vary based on whether you consider SJW to be a dirty word, but I enjoyed my brief time in that world.

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Review: Lovecraft’s Monsters

Start off 2017 with some of your worst nightmares

Lovecraft's MonstersLovecraft’s Monsters by Ellen Datlow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual for an anthology I will post my status updates per story. Before I get to that, I wanted to note that this is the first time I’ve read anything Lovecraftian. (There were Eldritch horrors in the first couple Discworld books, but I had no idea what that was at the time) I think these authors did a great job creating stories based on or inspired by his creatures. If, like me, you’re a Lovecraft neophyte, be sure to read the introduction as it helps explain some of the concepts. And now the stories:

“Only the End of the World Again” : A werewolf vs people who want to bring back the Old Gods. Not too hard to pick up on the plot even though I’ve never read Lovecraft. Well-paced and delivers just the right information. Luckily, the forward explained the significance of Innsmouth.

“Bulldozer: “I cared about securing a whiskey, a bath, and a lay. Not in any particular order.”

This Wild West story involves a Pinkerton investigation that starts in media res with the first chapter in stream of consciousness. I enjoyed the story more than the first one, but apparently it’s a theme of these stories that there are some parts where the reader doesn’t really understand what’s going on.

“Red Goat Black Goat: A terrifying story involving a Lovecraftian goat that has terrorized generations of a family. Could have been an episode of Masters of Horror.

“The Same Deep Waters as You – Lovecraft as a metaphor for the war on terror, gitmo, considering others as less than human, etc. Also, what a horrific ending. HOLY MOLY!

“A Quarter to Three : Fun, more unpredictable on its own. But at this point in the anthology I have a good feel for what Innsamouth means.

“The Dappled Thing – I think this is my favorite story so far. A steampunk journey into the jungle to find the daughter of some important Lord. Mostly written in a great Victorian manner as they trek through the jungle. The Lovecraftian element is almost absent until the end when it makes for a chilling ending.

“Inelastic Collisions – A neat story about some fallen “angels” who hate being in human bodies. I saw the twist coming, but it was still well done.

“Remnants – Still working my way through this story, but has interesting elements. Old Ones have created dystopia on Earth. Then perspective shift to a civ that’s against the old ones and is trying to save some Earthlings before they’re all exterminated. The story was great and a really good setup. Some Lovecraft monsters are trying to destroy the universe. Another group is trying to keep the universe safe and is rescuing beings under attack. To raise the stakes, they can only communicate with autistic people. So it’s hard and a tension-filled story as you don’t know if they’ll be able to get the austic to communicate w/ the other survivors.”

“Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl – I thought this was going to be longer. It is like the beginning of a novella I would enjoy reading.

“The Sect of the Idiot – The opening image definitely has both vaginal and arachnid overtones. The story is a clever horror story. I didn’t like the style at first, but it grew on me. Quite horrific.”

“Jar of Salts – a quick poem.

“Black as the Pit” – Frankenstein x The Lost World fan-fiction? I’m partway through the story. Frankenstein finds ever more exotic lost worlds before finding the Lovecraftian horror world. Great ending. Probably best Frakenstein fan fiction I’ve ever read.

“Waiting at the Crossroads Motel” – Not my favorite. A sociopath awaits an enlightenment of sorts….

“I’ve Come to Talk with You Again” – A guy who made a deal with the Cthulhu-Devil

“The Bleeding Shadow” – “gave the hotel the gander. It was nice looking if you were blind in one eye and couldn’t see out the other.” – I love phrasing like that.

A noir Private Eye with Lovecraftian elements. Also, dunno if I’ve just been living under a rock, but never read a noir private eye story with an African American as the PI in the 50s. It was a neat change from the usual while still keeping lots of the tropes.”

“That of Which we Speak when We Speak of the Unspeakable” – Well, I did not expect that at all. A couple kids sitting around talking about the end of the world in vagueries.

“Haruspicy” – a poem

“Children of the Fang” – A little confused at the ending, but my favorite story in the anthology. Kids deal with the possibility that their grandfather discovered something out in the dessert. Also a history of their family. Very neat the way it jumps back and forth through time.

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