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[No comments] The Crummy.com Review of Things 2022: Here we go, another year gone and I'm no wiser than before. But I do have some quality recommendations for you!

Books

2022 was a year where I read a few really long books rather than a lot of shorter ones. Here are my top three of 2022:

Live Events

The big live event for me in 2022 was seeing Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the Music Man revival. It's my favorite musical, as I've surely mentioned here before, and seeing a live professional production live of it a real bucket-list event. We're not going to end up like that sap in The Apartment!

I also did more museum outings and whatnot than I did in 2021, and even took a trip to California to see my family, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The Music Man Playbill Ancient D20s seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Film

As usual, Film Roundup Roundup is up to date with 21 new recommended motion pictures among the ones I saw in 2022. My top ten for the year:

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
  2. Local Hero (1983)
  3. L.A. Story (1991)
  4. Glass Onion (2022)
  5. Roxanne (1987)
  6. The Lost City (2022)
  7. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  8. The Afterlight (2021)
  9. Stalag 17 (1953)
  10. WarGames (1983)

Games

The Crummy.com Game Of the Year is I Was A Teenage Exocolonist. Other games I enjoyed in 2022 include ZERO Sievert, The Barnacle Goose Experiment, and Vampire Survivors. Of our daily games, the ones I most look forward to playing every day are Framed and Artle.

My accomplishments

Ugh, don't ask me about The Constellation Speedrun right now. It will be done eventually. I am working on it today, and this blog post is but a procrastination measure. 2022 saw publication of four of my short stories (see previous post) and I finished three more: "Or Current Resident", "A Place for Monsters", and "Expert Witness". I also wrote two Yuletide fics. Not what I'd hoped, but not too bad.

[No comments] The Procedure Sign: My bad-dystopia-SF parody "The Procedure Sign" is out in Issue #16 of Etherea Magazine, a steal at USD $2.

Tommy stared at a blank concrete wall painted hospital green. He heard the hot-air hum of a projector starting up behind him. He squished his eyes closed, but the headband gave him an electric shock that jolted them open.

I did not expect to ever sell this story, because its satire skates so close to the edge of being simply bad. "The Procedure Sign" was directly inspired by an item in the ancient Strange Horizons "Stories We've Seen Too Often" list:

A mysteriously-named Event is about to happen ("Today was the day Jimmy would have to report for The Procedure"), but the nature of the Event isn't revealed until the end of the story, when it turns out to involve death or other unpleasantness. [Several classic sf stories use this approach, which is one reason we're tired of seeing it. Another reason is that we can usually guess the twist well ahead of time, which makes the mysteriousness annoying.]

More seriously, the story was also inspired by the experience of my own mysterious Event: being baptized into the LDS church when I was eight. Assuming the story has any real emotional edge, that's where it comes from.

[No comments] Our Morning Games: In the year or so since Wordle became very popular, bringing along with it the more general online game model of "everyone gets the same quick game every day". Since then, Sumana and I have curated a set of games that we play together most mornings over breakfast. Many games have gone in and out of our list, and I figured the start of a new year was a good time to make some recommendations. I hope you find some fun with any or all of these:

There are also two slower-paced games that we don't necessarily play every day:

[No comments] December Film Roundup:

[No comments] Yuletide Reveal!: Now it can be told! I wrote two stories for Yuletide 2022. The one for which I anticipate more interest is The Practical Boyfriend: A Post-Scarcity Rom-Com. This is a brand new Constellation Games bonus story, the first one in ten years, depicting the meet-cute between Tetsuo Milk and Ashley Somn at the beginning of the contact mission. Guest starring Curic and You'll Only See Kis Echo!, a character you've forgotten about. It's got laughs, romance, and Tetsuo designs a game!

As a fan of high-quality 2012 releases, I'm sure you also enjoy Subset Games' FTL, a death-in-space simulator that inspired certain bits of Situation Normal. Now I'm closing the circle with an fanfic called Try, Try Again, where I used the gallows-humor style of Situation Normal to tell a story in the FTL universe.

Wherever you find yourself today, I wish you a happy new year, and happy reading and writing!

[No comments] For Your Consideration: If you're looking to catch up on stories published in 2022 so you can fill out your Nebula or Hugo nominating ballots, you've come to the right blog post. Here's are the stories I had published this year, conveniently sorted in descending order of "plausibly might win an award":

There's a chance a fifth story will be published this year, and I'll mention it in an update here, but it's going at the very bottom of this list, since I wrote it as a parody of bad SF. Makes me laugh every time, though.

[Comments] (1) When There is Sugar: Diabolical Plots has my latest story, "When There is Sugar". A touching fantasy story about baking and teaching with a decommissioned military robot.

The oven hissed as it turned rain to steam, moving less than a living thing would, but more than an oven ought to move.

“I suppose you should come in,” said Berl. It was a royal gift, and well-meaning, if a little patronizing.

This is my pandemic baking story, written in the depths of despair, a time now known only as October 2020. It came from Sumana's request to write a sweet story about a robot oven, as opposed to the grimdark-lite atmosphere of Situation Normal, which was about to be published. I think I did a good job, but Sumana still holds out hope for a gentler, more Bob Ross type of robot-oven story.

My RSS!: Since listening to KUSC in college I've been a fan of the old BBC radio program(me) My Word!, an ur-quiz show with a focus on chin-stroking erudition, shameless bluffing when erudition fails, and cornball shaggy dog stories. About ten years ago my fandom took a big hit when the BBC stopped pouring decades-old My Word! reruns down whatever transcontinental pipe eventually got it broadcast on American radio stations' streaming websites. But recently I discovered a large cache of episodes uploaded to the Internet Archive in 2020, including a bunch of episodes I'd never heard. Jackpot!

I really wanted to get this cache turned into an RSS feed so I can listen to episodes alongside my podcasts. Kevan's Fourble service can do this pretty easily, and in fact it already has, but what I'd really really like is an RSS feed that incorporates the information about broadcast dates and shaggy dog stories found in this particular item's carefully written description. That will dramatically improve the usability of the "podcast" and allow me to listen to the episodes in rough chronological order, rather than alphabetically according to the first vocabulary word lobbed at the panelists.

This is, in fact, a job for The Syndication Automat, a project I created in 2004, the semi-early days of RSS. Back then it was sometimes necessary to employ vigilante justice to make RSS feeds for websites that didn't have them. This was actually the original use case for Beautiful Soup!

Of course, hard times soon struck the Automat as every website got its own RSS feed, RSS feeds themselves were ditched in favor of Twitter and Facebook, and then Twitter and Facebook melted down, leaving us with nothing. (I'm extrapolating a little here.) 2009 was the last time any of the Automat's old feeds were updated. But podcasts still stand, the cockroaches of syndication, so it makes perfect sense to bring back the Automat one more time to host The Doubly-Unofficial, Partially Chronological "My Word!" Podcast Feed. Painstakingly hand-crafted by a script I painstakingly hand-crafted to deal with tons of edge cases like "two shows that use the same vocabulary word" and "shows where the filename doesn't precisely match the vocabulary word" and "shows where the general era of the show is known but not the exact broadcast date". I took care of all that stuff; all you have to do is listen.

If you just want to make a podcast out of the MP3 files in an Internet Archive item, and not do any other processing, you can use my very tidy, edge-case-free Python script, which depends on the modules internetarchive, feedgen, and pytz


from datetime import datetime
from feedgen.feed import FeedGenerator
from internetarchive import get_item
import pytz
import sys
import time

def utc(dt):
    return dt.replace(tzinfo=pytz.utc)

class IACollectionFeed(object):
    def __init__(self, ia_item, destination_url):
        self.item = self.fetch_item(ia_item)
        self.feed = FeedGenerator()
        self.feed.link(href=destination_url)
        self.feed.description(self.item.metadata['description'])
        self.feed.title(self.item.metadata['title'])
        for file in self.item.get_files():
            if file.format != 'VBR MP3':
                continue
            self.add_entry(file)

    def fetch_item(self, ia_item):
        return get_item(ia_item)
                 
    def add_entry(self, file):
        entry = self.feed.add_entry(order='append')
        entry.id(file.url)
        entry.title(file.metadata['name'])
        mtime = utc(datetime.fromtimestamp(int(file.metadata['mtime'])))
        entry.updated(mtime)
        entry.enclosure(file.url, str(file.size), "audio/mpeg")
        return entry
        
    def __str__(self):
        return self.feed.rss_str(pretty=True).decode("utf8")

           
if __name__ == '__main__':
    print(IACollectionFeed(sys.argv[1], sys.argv[2]))

To generate a fast and cheap version of my DUPCMW!PF, I'd invoke the script with this command line:

$ python roughdraft.py bbcmyword https://www.crummy.com/automat/feeds/myword.xml

While producing this post I discovered that not only is there another, smaller, differently organized collection on the Internet Archive, but there's a significantly larger (but less well described) archive on RadioEchoes, which also has an even bigger archive of My Word!'s inevitable but lesser companion, My Music!.

November Film Roundup: One of the biggest months for Film Roundup yet! I'm including a movie from early December, but that only makes it slightly larger!

████: Like today's algorithmic creativity tools, many NaNoGenMo projects take as their grist the results of other peoples' creativity and hard work: years, even centuries of work. My own In Dialogue and Amazon Prime are manipulations of public domain texts, and for Alphabetical Order and Brutus and Cassius, at the close of the scene I took the entire English literary canon as my input. Linked By Love mined thousands of books for their back cover copy—by far the most difficult part of the book to write. For 2022, I've created a NaNoGenMo work that reuses no one's text but my own.

████ is a blackout piece made from the text of my unpublished novel, Mine. I've redacted every word that shows up in one of my two published novels, Constellation Games and Situation Normal. You'll see lots of names, places, technical terms, odd digressions on Cleopatra and zucchini, punctuation, and (I assume) typoes. That's it.

This is an appropriate source text since Mine is a story about people preserved as the things around them are erased, and then juxtaposed without context. But really, I could tell you it was about anything and you'd have to believe me... for now.

Stress Response: As promised, the November/December issue of Analog includes "Stress Response", a Ravy Uvana story in which Judicant Uvana helps a young human who went into space believing it would be a big, fun adventure... and who still believes that at the end of the story! Have fun!

The big change I made after my writing group critiqued "Stress Response" was explicitly explaining why the stress response happened; no one got it and without that crucial piece of information the story feels like watching someone else's vacation slides. Many, many times my writing group has told me "Leonard, you need to explicitly explain the thing instead of expecting us to figure it out."

Two more stories of mine are coming up in Analog: "Meat", the first Ravy Uvana story I ever wrote; and "Race to the Bottom", a flash piece that explains why everything is so terrible. Both coming out next year, I guess? I've deposited the checks!

October Film Roundup:

[Comments] (1) September Film Roundup: It's an rom-com Roundup this month, with lovers being reunited and old public domain British source material galore!

A quick Television Spotlight: we watched Only Murders in the Building, which I think gets much better in season 2 as they stop trying so hard to ape the form they're parodying (which resulted in lots of boring subplots) and lean in to wacky, nonsensical comedy (which resulted in me enjoying a Martin Short performance for the first time ever). I will say that season 1 was more effective at the Hitchcockian finger-wagging where they try to shame you for enjoying the thing they're showing you, but no one actually enjoys that—you're being shamed!

We also watched all of The Goes Wrong Show in the space of a coupel days, and see Sumana's review for that. Just really, really funny. I appreciate that the fictional actors all have consistent characters that lead to different styles of comedy as things Go Wrong.

August Film Roundup: By chance I ended up watching all of August's films without Sumana, so this is a bunch of films from my huge cinematic pile of "Sumana probably won't like these." And I think I was right!

The Scene of the Crime: My new story "The Scene of the Crime" is published in the August 2022 issue of Clarkesworld! This is my second published Ravy Uvana story, after "Mandatory Arbitration", and I just did copyedits for "Stress Response", which will become the third one near the end of the year.

The first draft of this story was much more complicated, with a time loop and a parallel universe, plus with Dr. Miew denying to the end that there was any time loop at all. Way too complicated! A lot of writing the first draft is throwing ideas at the wall, and a lot of the second draft is seeing which ideas stuck to the wall and picking up the others.

[Comments] (1) July Film Roundup:

June Film Roundup: In June, the theme was "wacky comedies." I am pushing for the theme for July to also be "wacky comedies," but running into some resistance. We may end up splitting the month, Solomon-style.

May Film Roundup: After nearly ten years, it finally happened: we watched a movie on the last day of the month solely so I'd have something to put in Film Roundup. A busy month, I guess, with our viewing time spent on Better Call Saul (chilling!) and Strange New Worlds (excellent!).

April Film Roundup:

March Film Roundup: A real big month for movies that each parody a lot of other movies. But a real small Roundup of such movies, only two:

Two Spacesuits: My story "Two Spacesuits" is published in the April 2022 issue of Clarkesworld! I wrote "Two Spacesuits" in 2017, and over time the subject matter—your normcore parents join a self-medicating Internet cult—has only become more and more relevant. I made a few minor edits in late 2021 to set the story during the pandemic, instead of the sprawling 21st-century untime you see in a lot of these stories, but everything apart from the obvious "curbside pickup" type stuff was there originally. Thanks to Neil Clarke for picking up the story.

"Two Spacesuits" has a heavy focus on one of my big writer themes: cognitive dissonance and the defense mechanisms we deploy to deal with it.

“You’re still doing it! Oh my God! You make up these stories to explain your behavior to yourselves. When one story falls apart you just switch to another one.”

As a writer I hope I don't come off solely as an observer of human frailty, but this is one of my favorite kinds of human frailty to observe. There's a bit of this in Constellation Games when Ariel and Dana are talking about Curic's ambivalence:

“We'd pick an option at random and create post hoc rationalizations,” said Dana. “Humans do it, too.”

In Situation Normal, Evidence causes this behavior as a side effect (this is why Evidence is called that!), and this is most clear in "We, the Unwilling," the SN bonus story, where Evidence pushes the POV character into ever more extreme states of cognitive dissonance:

“You ask the Internet about Captain Jim Kirk,” said Nor firmly, “and then we can do business based on a shared understanding of the facts.”

“I don’t want to,” said Kenta. There was nothing else to say. The only possible next step towards completing the mission was to avoid certain pieces of information.

Can readers expect a respite from further explorations of this concept in The Constellation Speedrun? My sources say no.

February Film Roundup:

[Comments] (1) January Film Roundup:

[Comments] (2) The Crummy.com Review of Things 2021: Still alive and healthy, though that seems less of an accomplishment than last year. Looking through photos from 2021 shows some outings, some visits with friends and family, but thinking back on it it just seems like an annoying haze. At least we have Things, and the Review thereof, to keep us company:

Books

The crummy.com Books of the Year are: Endless Frontier by G. Pascal Zachary, Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, and Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coulombe and Patty Civalleri. All good stuff.

Film

As is traditional, Film Roundup Roundup has been updated. I had no problem coming up with a top ten for you, thanks in large part to '80s Month, which brought in a lot of classics I'd never seen:

Games

The Crummy.com Game of the Year is the fairly obscure Uurnog Uurnlimited, which sets up a traditional platforming challenge and lets you break it however you want. Runners-up: Slipways and Dicey Dungeons, as well as good old Spelling Bee and Wordle, which Sumana and I like to play collaboratively.

I spent less time in 2021 than in 2020 playing games, and more of that time on the best games of other years, especially Noita. My Noita fun ended with a bang, when I ended up in an incredible seed (470656790 -- try it out!) which basically let me legitimately see everything in the game I wanted to see.

My Accomplishments

My story "Mandatory Arbitration" came out in Analog, and I sold both of my non-bad 2020 stories: "Stress Response" and "When there is Sugar", to appear this year. (I actually just sold another story, but that happened in 2022, so more on that later.)

The Constellation Speedrun is still proceeding forward in a very un-speedrun-like manner. I wrote three stories in 2021: "The Coffeeshop AU" plus two Ravy Uvana stories, "The Letter of the Law" and "The Scent of the Governed."

December Film Roundup:


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Tuesday, December 08 2020, 19:23:12 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Wednesday, February 01 2023, 22:35:02 Nowhere Standard Time.

Crummy is © 1996-2023 Leonard Richardson. Unless otherwise noted, all text licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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