Dark Eden pre-read episode on Spectology: Linguistic drift, creating myths, and rogue planets

Dark Eden, by Chris BeckettLate last year I had a blast talking with Matt and Adrian about eBooks and Audiobooks and the different ways in which a reader’s experience can be impacted by the medium through which they read. We had such a great time talking that we thought it would be fun to have me come back on for one of the regular monthly book club episodes.

So this month, I’m guesting again on Spectology: The Science Fiction Book Club podcast. Adrian, Matt and I will be reading and discussing Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

This is the no spoiler pre-read episode, so you can listen and get a feel for the themes and ideas addressed in Dark Eden without having any of the book spoiled for you. We’ll be back near the end of the month for the post-read episode, which is sure to be a fun time.

You can listen to the podcast episode below:

2018 in Review: Reading Stats, Music, and Miscellanea

2018 is drawing to a close, and in a lot of ways it feels like the longest year I have ever lived. It was a good year though, lots of change and new things coming on the horizon. Can I just mention how satisfying it has been to watch Trump’s presidency begin to crumble all around him these past few weeks? Every day is like a beautiful gift.

Kevin Kelsey at Petit Jean State ParkThings I did this year: slept through a third of it, turned 34, read a bunch of books, kicked Facebook and Instagram to the curb, closed the computer repair business I have been running for the last eleven years, raised three and a half chickens in my backyard, ate their eggs (tasty), helped save The Expanse, paid off my house (yeeees), wrote a few terrible short stories that I’m going to fix in 2019, voted, subscribed to a newspaper, volunteered at the Blair library, went on a podcast, camped/hiked at Petit Jean State Park, published a few dozen reviews and essays, went on a lot of bike rides, started writing a thing with my brother, had a few panic attacks, distanced myself from the panic inducing news cycle, and finally finished a bunch of house projects.

The Gigantic Beard that was EvilI read fewer books in 2018 than any other recent year. I bailed on a lot of books halfway through as well, something I usually don’t do. When I hit a point where the only thing keeping me engaged is the resolution of the plot—a thirst that could easily be quenched with a quick Google search or wiki article—there’s not much point continuing until the end. Where I’m at right now, if something doesn’t grab me with its prose, entrance me with its characters, or wow me with its world building in addition to telling a great story, I’m just not interested. If there is no subtext to be found in a story, a ragtag spaceship crew is only a ragtag spaceship crew, and sure, that’s fun, but that’s been done a million times.

As a result, I’ve read about half as many books this year compared to 2017, but they have mostly been a higher caliber experience, and I’ve found many new favorites—Several of which I still haven’t written about, mostly because I’m trying to get my take on them just right.

Mr. GwynNew favorites I discovered in 2018:
Mr. Gwyn, by Alessandro Baricco
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
The Wilds, by Julia Elliott
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (review)
Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway (review)
Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid (review)
The Gigantic Beard that was Evil, by Stephen Collins
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi

2018 Reading Stats
Because I’ve been obsessively tracking my reading habits via a Google Docs spreadsheet over the last four years, I have some fun stats to share. Click any of the charts to see the full document with lots of charts and graphs.

This year:

  • I read 18,537 pages spread across 65 books published from 1932 to 2018, written by 58 writers from 8 different countries.
  • I averaged 50.79 pages per day, and 5.48 days per book.
  • The author I read the most was John Scalzi. Mostly because I was sick for a week in October and I did nothing but read Scalzi books, one right after another. I highly recommend it.

Detailed Reading Stats

Of the books I read in 2018:

  • 6.2% were audiobooks
  • 46.2% were trade paperbacks
  • 21.5% were non-fiction
  • 11.1% were short story collections
  • 29.3% won awards
  • 32.3% were part of a series
  • 26.2% were written by women
  • 4.7% were translated from a foreign language
  • 39.2% were science fiction
  • 4.6% were written by people of color (this is abysmal, it’s something I’m improving in 2019)

Detailed Reading Stats

2018 Music

I found so much incredible music in 2018. Janelle Monáe’s terrific Dirty Computer, The Presets’ nineties electronica throwback HI VIZ, and Metric’s Art of Doubt were all on high circulation in my headphones this year.

One of my favorite musical discoveries of 2018 is Cigarettes After Sex. They’re incredible. Calm like Mazzy Star, but with highly sexualized lyrics. Their vocalist’s voice is just transcendently soothing and beautiful.

Here are the 100 songs I listened to the most in 2018. There are some incredible tracks in here, but then again, I’m extremely biased.

Things I’m excited for in 2019

Be excellent to each other. See everyone in 2019!

Help Save The Expanse

If you’re like me, you recently found out that SyFy has opted not to renew The Expanse for a fourth season, and you’re wondering what you can do to help save the show. Fortunately, The Expanse is not owned or produced by SyFy, and it turns out there is a lot you can do to help it find a new home on a streaming service that is a much better fit for its predominantly cord-cutting audience.

First off, I’m going to assume you don’t have Cable TV, because this is 2018. So…

  1. Watch the show live (Weds, 9/8c) on a service like YouTube Live or Hulu Live TV. Nielsen count views from live TV streaming services like YouTube Live, Hulu Live TV, Playstation Vue, Sling TV, etc. All of these services have free 7 day trials. Use one every week.
  2. TV Streaming services usually have DVR options. Set these DVRs to record the show, and watch it again within 3 days to help with the “Live +3” Nielsen ratings.
  3. Stream the Show on SyFy.com if you know someone with a cable provider login. You’ll need to disable your ad blocker for their streaming site to function. I know, I know.
  4. Live Tweet with the hashtags #SaveTheExpanse and #TheExpanse
  5. Sign the petition:


Spectology: My New Favorite Book Club Podcast

I’ve been listening to Science Fiction book podcasts for several years, and have been relatively disappointed with them for equally as many. The hosts are always a little too into whatever they’re into, making them unwilling to examine their darlings critically or in any sort of depth. Worse than this, I’ve listened to many podcasts where the hosts seem to suffer from a severe reading comprehension deficit, and place that blame squarely on the text they didn’t pay attention to. I’ve heard podcast hosts brag about listening to audiobooks at 3x speed and then mention — without a shred of self-awareness — that the book was confusing, they didn’t understand the story, as if this was some sort of educated, or valid criticism instead of a revealing look at their own attentional issues. I feel like this is the literary equivalent of playing on your phone while watching a movie, and it’s not only disrespectful of the text, but of oneself.

I don’t want a book club podcast that is effectively just a mirror, held up to the worst of our inclinations as readers. I want something better than this. I’ve longed for a science fiction/speculative fiction podcast where the subject matter was respected, taken seriously, and used as a jumping off point to engage in a more socratic dialogue on theme, philosophy, characters, prose, politics, storytelling, etc. I want hosts that are thoughtful and engage with books in a way that shows their respect for the process of reading and writing. I want opinions that are backed up by evidence, presented in a clear way. I want hosts that understand that reading a book is having a dialogue with it; if you don’t meet the book halfway, bring something to the experience, you’re not really meeting it at all. I want podcasts that feel like a conversation with readers who have something to say. Of course, it should still remain relatively unstructured to allow for some meandering, and get into interesting areas or topics to be examined. I want to learn something from the experience.

For years I’ve been unable to find anything like this, but apparently there are more out there who have been looking for it, because the new Spectology podcast is nailing it. This is precisely what I’ve been looking for. There’s a dialogue here about interesting things, with hosts that have actually paid attention to the book they’re discussing. Their discussions don’t break down into polemic, or black-and-white blanket statements. They’re capable of thinking about and discussing ideas, without wholeheartedly agreeing or disagreeing with them. It’s so refreshing. This is a podcast that I would love to be involved with in some way if they are ever interested in having an occasional contributor.

If you find yourself frustrated with science fiction and literature podcasts, I highly suggest you check out Spectology. The first book they discuss is Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks.

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