December 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:


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.


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:


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."

[Comments] (1) January Film Roundup:

February Film Roundup:

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.

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:

April Film Roundup:

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!).

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.

[Comments] (1) July Film Roundup:

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.

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!

[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.

October Film Roundup:

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!

████: 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.

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!

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()
        for file in self.item.get_files():
            if file.format != 'VBR MP3':

    def fetch_item(self, ia_item):
        return get_item(ia_item)
    def add_entry(self, file):
        entry = self.feed.add_entry(order='append')
        mtime = utc(datetime.fromtimestamp(int(file.metadata['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!.

[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.

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.



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