Review: Ahsoka

Ahsoka (Star Wars)Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahsoka is a satisfying bridge tale that connects the dots in Ahsoka’s life between where we left her at the end of the Clone Wars and where we found her in Rebels. It’s also a pretty decent character study of Ahsoka, and I felt like the spirit of the character was really captured. For that matter, what time we have with Bail Organa is a real treat, as Johnston has portrayed him as charming, calculating, maybe a little exhausted, and compassionate yet wary. He felt pitch-perfect to me.

The story itself is a fine adventure that introduces us to elements from Rebels like the Inquisitors and the nascent Rebel Alliance. We also get a fair amount of completely new characters, planets, and ideas that continue to make that galaxy far, far away feel like a very real and very big place. I rather liked most of the new characters as well, from the farmers of Raada to the Fardis smuggling family. By the novel’s conclusion, I shipped Ahsoka and her new farmer friend Kaeden, for what that’s worth.

By the way, on finishing, I did go back and re-read Johnston and Ashley Eckstein’s “By Whatever Sun” in From A Certain Point Of View, and I found that I enjoyed the story much more this time around. It’s a rather satisfying epilogue to the story of Kaeden and Miara.

I obviously didn’t race through this book, but I enjoyed reading it, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Ahsoka or the Filoni animated shows.

View all my reviews

Lost in Continuity

There is a fairly well-known contradiction between Rogue One and Lost Stars, resulting from a time gap in events in the earlier-published novel that are not easily reconciled with the A New Hope prequel film.

Ciena is on the Devastator for three weeks before they capture the Tantive IV over Tatooine. Lost Stars, p. 149. This action was on “the first day she was finally thrown into action against the rebels,” and from the description, it certainly sounds like participating in the seizure of the Tantive IV was her first combat duty. Id. This would contrast with the Devastator‘s presence over Scarif and its involvement in the final moments of the fight there. And that battle seems to take place hours or (at most) days before the opening of A New Hope, not weeks. So either Ciena was aboard the ship but completely unaware of the Scarif engagement, or there was a longer gap between films than implied.

There’s also some confusion about characters involved in the Tantive IV operation. From Lost Stars:

The captain seemed bored. “Hold your fire. There’s no life-forms. They must’ve short-circuited.

This is apparently taking place on the auxiliary bridge. Id. at 151. In From a Certain Point of View, however, we have a whole story involving that specific officer–“The Sith of Datawork,” by Ken Liu. Here he is identified as Gunnery Captain Bolvan. FACPOV, p. 27. And his reasoning seems anything but bored–instead, he’s caught up in bureaucratic decision-making. This isn’t a direct contradiction, and FACPOV is more loosely canon than other sources, but it doesn’t quite jive with me. I think it’s just the imprecision of language, the use of only “captain” in the Lost Stars description, the apparent contrast in the officer’s motivations, and even the suggestion of where Bolvan would have been stationed (would a gunnery captain be controlling the entirety of an auxiliary bridge?).

In contrast, the anonymity on the Death Star and Thane’s lack of awareness about events on Jedha or Scarif make sense together. Again from Lost Stars:

The Death Star was meant to function as a world of its own, which meant it had creature comforts most other military postings didn’t: decent food, rec areas, cantinas with latest-model bartender droids, commissaries with selections of treats and luxuries, albeit at a stiff price.

LS, p. 156.

Furthermore, Thane is not of a rank to be kept apprised of even the heading of the Death Star. When they arrive at Alderaan, Thane does not immediately know. In fact, “He’d felt the main engines at work, so obviously the station had traveled somewhere important,” but Thane guessed Coruscant. Id. at 159-160. We know from Rogue One that the Jedha bombardment was a single-reactor test; it makes sense that now that the Imperial leadership knows that the technology works, and it won’t be an embarrassing dud, they want the common soldier to observe this sign of Imperial dominance with the destruction of Alderaan.

Ever-brilliant Jude remarks:

Naturally, I understood the cannon’s full potential . . . . The superlaser is fueled by an array of giant kyber crystals, which gives it nearly unlimited power. But I had thought it would be used to break up asteroids for mining purposes. Or uninhabited worlds. Not this.

LS, p. 165.

This is fitting. Even the destruction of Jedha is supposed to be reported as a “mining disaster” in Rogue One. And the secrecy surrounding the events, even among station personnel, makes sense. Darth Vader bluntly declares to Krennic in Rogue One, “There is no Death Star.”

There are some other, extremely minor, apparent canon contradictions. Much later in time, in preparation for the battle of Jakku, Thane remarks:

Sir, with all due respect, nobody has ever captured a Star Destroyer. And don’t tell me it’s because no one has ever tried. Yeah, way back in the day, we managed to take out a governor’s destroyer over Mustafar, but since then, the Imperials have shored up their defenses against infiltrators. These days Star Destroyers are nearly invulnerable.

General Rieekan does not deny this; instead, he insists, “Those crews aren’t as die-hard as they used to be . . . . We’ve had ships as large as attack cruisers switch allegiance in other battles, haven’t we?” Thane retorts, “Those have thousands of crew members. Not tens of thousands.” LS, pp. 501-502. That reference to a destroyer over Mustafar is actually a neat reference to the destruction of Tarkin’s flagship Star Destroyer at the end of Rebels season one. But the implications of the dialogue are that infiltrators have only destroyed one Star Destroyer (Rogue One shows others destroyed, but not by infiltrators, so I don’t think it’s a contradiction), infiltrators have never captured a Star Destroyer, and a Star Destroyer has never surrendered or switched allegiance, in contrast to the smaller attack cruisers. This seems to be contradicted by yet another source–Aftermath.

In Aftermath, Leia has released a message following the destruction of the second Death Star, in which she says, “Already we’ve captured dozens of Imperial capital ships and Destroyers . . .” Aftermath, p. 34. While I haven’t read the full Aftermath trilogy, I know that it concludes with the battle of Jakku, and so this first book is definitely taking place before Thane’s conversation with his superior officer. This is a contradiction that can easily be resolved in a number of ways: the implication doesn’t equal the facts; Rieekan or Thane are misspeaking; Leia’s message is inaccurate or untruthful (which seems out of character for Leia, so this explanation is unlikely); or perhaps Rieekan and Thane simply don’t know about the captured Destroyers (given that Leia’s message is highly publicized propaganda, and General Rieekan is a high-ranking Alliance officer, this is also unlikely).

It’s funny; I know that I’ve called out obsessive attention to continuity before, and Lost Stars is not thematically or narratively flawed because of this, and there’s no reason to always take characters literally when in real life and other fiction characters lie or lack key facts or simply misspeak. But it’s still something that nags at me just a little bit, that draws me out even if for a moment.

Of course, to the extent that Lost Stars is contradicted by the continuity of events developed by Rogue One or any other later release, I don’t fault Claudia Gray or view this as a problem with the book’s narrative. It’s part of working in a shared universe (though I do wonder why no one could have hinted to Gray about the gap, given that they must have been at least working on ideas for Rogue One before the publication of Lost Stars–maybe there wasn’t as much of an overlap in the development cycles for these two titles as I am assuming). And it’s mostly explained by the enormity of the ships involved, the sheer thousands (and, in the case of the Death Star, millions) who served, and the likelihood that only on-duty officers would be engaged in or perhaps even aware of rather highly classified military maneuvers.

It’s just an interesting case study in how even the more carefully plotted new, unified canon already has some worn seams and need for a bit of hand-waving or retcon. It’s not a bad thing. But any organically developed, ever-expanding universe will eventually encounter this problem. And the other approach–relying on a preset road map for all events–would likely be stifling for creative personalities brought on and might even feel lifeless and stale to its intended audience.

 

New Star Wars Favorites

One of the best parts about reading the ever-expanding new-canon Star Wars literature is encountering so many cool new characters. And there are so many cool new characters!

Many of my new favorites are from Lost Stars. Thane and Ciena are such an interesting couple, so compatible and yet torn apart by fundamentally opposed worldviews. It’s not just that they happen to choose different loyalties. It’s that loyalty is a fundamental virtue in Ciena’s valley kindred culture, while Thane comes from a wealthy and abusive family, causing him to look skeptically on authority and leaving him without that same sacred devotion to loyalty. Their conflicting worldviews often result in misunderstanding each other’s intentions, not always because of a silly breakdown in communication but because they look at the same facts and can have the same attitudes but intuitively arrive at different reactions.

But both characters are cool on their own. Watching Ciena’s rise through the ranks of the Imperial Navy, even as she grows increasingly disgusted with it, was intriguing. And Thane is a brash hotshot pilot, a redheaded former smuggler who joins the Rebel Alliance just before Hoth and helps take down an AT-AT in that battle. What I’m saying, in other words, is that he’s basically Dash Rendar, if he was better written, not video-game-overpowered, and without the ’90s comic book pad-and-strap fashion.

But I also loved the awkward, empathetic genius Jude Edivon (gone too soon!). And Alderaanian Nash Windrider’s descent into Imperial fanaticism to cope with the loss of his home planet was an interesting (and surprisingly believable) twist. And I love basically every Wookiee ever, so I have a definite fondness for Lohgarra, the maternal elderly Wookiee free-trader who hires Thane on after he defects from the Empire and who eventually joins him in the Rebellion.

But it’s not just Lost Stars. I didn’t particularly love Battlefront, but the distant, cold bounty hunter Brand was fascinating. Okay, yes, distant, cold bounty hunter is a cliche. So is ice-blood sniper. But Brand had this weird loyalty to Twilight Company. After years slowly becoming disillusioned with the bounty hunter trade under the solidifying Galactic Empire, she found something in Twilight and its leader, Captain Howl. While she seems remote and uncaring, seldom chiming in and often slipping off without a farewell, she looks out for the soldiers in her squad. She becomes something awfully close to the heart of Twilight Company as Namir tries to figure out what to do when thrust into the leadership role. She doesn’t really have an arc in Battlefront because we see she’s already completed her own journey to arrive at the point she’s in. I’d love to see more of Brand (and some of the other badass new-canon bounty hunters like Cad Bane, Sabine Wren, and Ketsu Onyo). Gadren the warrior-poet Besalisk was a fun Twilight Company character, too, if even more of an archetype (I mean, his easiest description is warrior-poet).

I even really liked the quirky Givin mathematician Drusil Bephorin from Heir to the Jedi. She had a weird sense of humor, she often seemed to have such a cold detachment because of her math-and-logic-focused perspective, and yet she was committed to her family above all else. I was also partial to the Kupohan noodle chef and spy Sakhet; the Rodian weapons seller and Jedi fan Taneetch Soonta; and the wealthy biotech heir, expert sharpshooter and scout, and Rebel sympathizer Nakari Kelen, who would become an ill-fated romantic interest of Luke Skywalker (unfortunately introducing Luke’s romantic curse into the new canon, it would seem).

And I can’t forget that A New Dawn made me really interested in Kanan and Hera (and a shipper of their relationship before I’d seen an episode of Rebels), plus introduced me to the coolest bad guy in the form of Rae Sloane (whose characterization is also excellent in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, which I recently finished reading).

Finally, while not new characters, technically, I couldn’t be happier with the lovable losers Kabe and Muftak as portrayed in “The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” story in From a Certain Point of View.

That’s all to say that more than just having fun new adventures, the new books have given me a variety of new characters that I care about, and I hope that many of them will have more stories moving forward. Rather than just applying the same old Star Wars archetypes, or only following the heroes from the films, the new canon’s already done a lot of cool new things.

I’m several books behind at this point, but I’m not tired of them yet, and I continue to look forward to future installments.

 

Dark Siders

I’m reading Lords of the Sith now, and I’m not a huge fan of it so far. It’s a pulpy action-adventure novel, but that shouldn’t necessarily dissuade me; I rather enjoyed the one-off adventures of Heir to the Jedi. I’ve still got a ways to go, so it’s probably unfair of me to form so harsh an impression so early, but this might be my least favorite book of the new canon that I’ve read so far (that tier would go From a Certain Point of View, then A New Dawn, then Heir to the Jedi, then Tarkin, and finally Lords of the Sith at the bottom). I think it’s the subject matter, and I think subject matter might explain why I was not especially fond of Tarkin as well (in part).

You see, while I like to see Star Wars stories that explore the Dark Side, and while I like powerful villains and complicated antiheroes, I still ultimately like to read stories about fundamentally good people. Sure, all people are flawed in some way. No one is perfect. But good people generally want to do the right thing, and generally try to make decisions that they believe are justified, and generally want to improve. I like to be able to cheer for the characters of a sci-fi adventure story especially; optimistic and escapist action is part of the draw for me. But Tarkin and Lords of the Sith focus on very bad people, and their opponents are morally compromised rebels. No one is any good. And you know that the bad people will win, and that even if their opponents could seize the day (they can’t, you know, because canon dictates otherwise), they still aren’t all that much better at the end of the day. In attempting to give a reason to root for the bad guys, the authors have let their opponents seem just as awful in many ways.

My favorite stories of bad guys in Star Wars typically at least have a strong heroic foil (e.g., the Thrawn books with Luke and company, Revenge of the Sith with Obi-Wan and Yoda, or Fatal Alliance with its eccentric band of heroes working against and at times with the Sith). So maybe I’d otherwise enjoy a one-off pulp adventure, but not when the “heroes” are evil Sith Lords bent on oppression and death; maybe I’d enjoy a lengthy pseudo-biography of a character if not a fascist thug like Tarkin.

Okay, so all that said, how do I explain my admiration for James Luceno’s Darth Plageuis? My suspicion is that Plageuis offered such a fascinating glimpse into the lives of otherwise mysterious characters, and the story was so well-told. It’s reasonable to assume that even my biases can be overcome with good enough storytelling. If nothing else, it had something interesting to say, and it offered a new and darkly disturbing perspective on familiar events. Tarkin, even though also by Luceno, just didn’t tell a significant story. Its scattering of backstory amid the pursuit of pirates did not particularly provide depth to Tarkin’s character so much as it did breadth. The Grand Moff seems just as much a fascist and just as much a psychopath to me as he did before I read the novel.

I don’t read just for escapism, but I admit that it is a primary motivator behind Star Wars reading. That said, I think I can accept a dark and challenging story even in that galaxy far, far away…so long as the story justifies the tone with something special.

From a Certain Point of View

Star Wars - From a Certain Point of ViewStar Wars – From a Certain Point of View by Various

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I told myself that I wouldn’t buy any more Star Wars books until I read through the bundle of new-canon releases I still had sitting on my shelves. I’ve been pretty good about that. But FACPOV was just too tempting: a collection of short stories about peripheral characters in the vein of the Tales story anthologies from Legends (which I mostly loved), a celebration of Star Wars in its fortieth year, and a collection in which all the authors had agreed to donate their proceeds to a literacy/education nonprofit. Sold!

I’m glad I broke my rule. I devoured this book as quickly as I could manage. And I loved it. There was not a single bad story in the bunch. It would be tough to narrow down my favorites, as there were so many that I loved. Many of these short stories were simply good stories, not just good Star Wars stories. The entire anthology communicates a great love of and attention to Star Wars, and yet I’d recommend it even to a non-fan; it’s a good entry point to Star Wars outside of the movies, and it does not demand deep knowledge to enjoy.

An interesting element about the stories is that they all have careful attention to detail, and are obviously drawing from the same basic facts, but many have presentations of events that have slight opposition. The tension is subtle, but it can be jarring at first, to have a single anthology that was willing to…maybe never outright contradict, but present incongruous elements. It works–these stories are From a Certain Point of View, after all. This was a masterful use of canon, informing the stories but allowing the storytellers to do their own things. In the real world, even in our nonfiction, there is not a single version of events, after all. It can be difficult to determine objective fact where one must rely on witness accounts. It’s fun to see that sort of unreliability in these stories; the Star Wars galaxy feels incredibly organic and vital as a result. And the tensions between stories practically require the reader to take a step back and stop sweating the details so much. Nitpicking takes a back seat to narrative, and that’s how it should be. I think major props are due to the editorial team and probably to Lucasfilm’s Story Group, as well.

And once you stop sweating the details, you can more readily enjoy variety in theme and voice and genre. These stories get all over the place. Some are deathly serious and quite tragic. Some fill in background details. Some reflect on personalities. Some are comedic, and a couple are even absurd. One of the “stories” is a one-panel comic strip gag–a clear example of how the length and style of the stories vary considerably, as well. There’s something here for everyone.

I’d stress again that there were no bad stories, and I appreciated some element of every one. At times, though, I thought there was already a pretty good story out there about a particular character or event. There were a lot–a lot–of good takes on Greedo as a background character in this anthology, and he was frequently depicted as a hilariously inept but overconfident loser of a bounty hunter and loan shark. But the Greedo POV, “The Luckless Rodian” by Renee Ahdieh, doesn’t quite rank above the old (and now quite anti-canonical) “A Hunter’s Fate: Greedo’s Tale” by Tom and Martha Veitch (though if you want to see the best attempt I’ve encountered of taking Greedo as a serious and maybe even tragic figure, someone maybe competent but with horrible luck and a chip on his shoulder, “The Luckless Rodian” is that story). “Not for Nothing” by Mur Lafferty is good, with funny coincidences guiding the narrative along, but it echoes loosely some of the plot points of the original Modal Nodes backstory, “We Don’t Do Weddings: The Band’s Tale” by Kathy Tyers, and that original gets far more raucous and giddily dramatic (the trope of band member’s memoir recounting work for a crime lord exists already in the story of The Twisted Rancor Trio from Knights of the Old Republic). And there are perhaps a couple other examples I could cite. But don’t take this for harsh criticism–the slate’s wiped clean with the canon reboot, and I’m happy to have new versions of old stories and reinterpretations of background characters.

I’m happy in particular because so many of the stories are really, really good. I tried to mark which stories I especially loved, but by the end of it, I’d marked just over half of all the stories. So I didn’t weed it down too much. I then tried to limit my choices to the cream of the crop, and I still had too many. I imagine that you will have a similar problem, regardless of how much you care for Star Wars (well, unless you somehow hate the franchise as a whole and with considerable passion, I guess).

I can say that if you only were to read one story, I’d recommend “The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. This made great use of background cantina characters; it’s ostensibly about out-of-luck hustlers Kabe and “the Muftak” (there’s a quite humorous explanation for why he’s “the Muftak,” which I will not spoil), but it broadens to draw more and more characters in, until it surprisingly becomes a story about a community (even if the community of regulars at a bar). The writers have a hilarious voice, with witty turns of phrase, too. I often found myself reading whole passages aloud to my wife, they were just too good. And the story had emotional heart, with a subtle climax that didn’t quite register with me until the consequences of that climax played out pages onward; there was no surprise twist, but the conclusion of the story made me reflect on the story as a whole in a different light. (By the way, I couldn’t really remember Kabe and Muftak’s old story, so I skimmed through “Play It Again, Figrin D’an: The Tale of Muftak and Kabe” by A.C. Crispin in the digital version of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, and it is a good adventure/heist story, and there is a clear dramatic arc, and there are faint echoes of the characters in the newer story, but I will simply say that there are reasons that I forgot most of “Play It Again” and yet was so excited by “Cantina Caper.”)

There are many, many other good stories. My review would get way too long discussing my favorites and why I liked them in detail, while being way too unfair to the stories I loved that nonetheless ended up off that list of items to discuss. That said, I would like to point out my top ten (very agonizingly chosen, and presented only in the order they appear in the book):

1. “Raymus,” by Gary Whitta, about the last voyage of the captain of the Tantive IV.

2. “The Sith of Datawork,” by Ken Liu, which simultaneously provides a canonical explanation as to why the Empire didn’t blast all escape pods just to be safe while also introducing a crafty and cocky Imperial bureaucrat, who is a new favorite character (truly, what an example of the “banality of evil”).

3. “Master and Apprentice,” by Claudia Gray, a last encounter between Obi-Wan and the Force Ghost of Qui-Gon, particularly worthwhile for its mystic handling of the Force afterlife.

4. “The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper,” by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, which I praised above.

5. “The Secrets of Long Snoot,” by Delilah S. Dawson, which provides a shocking degree of moral ambiguity and complexity to a character who initially appears to be an evil spy caricature.

6. “An Incident Report,” by Mallory Ortberg, in which Admiral Motti files a workplace complaint against Darth Vader.

7. “Eclipse,” by Madeleine Roux, showing the heartbreaking final moments of Alderaan from the perspective of Queen Breha Organa.

8. “End of Watch,” by Adam Christopher, following an Imperial commander who has to deal with remote oversight of Luke and Han’s prison assault as she prepares to change shifts.

9. “The Baptist,” by Nnedi Okorafor, which gives the dianoga a personality (and Force sensitivity. And spirituality. And a grand destiny/purpose).

10. “Duty Roster,” by Jason Fry, which makes Fake Wedge canon and does a fantastic job of emphasizing the stakes of the final battle, the desperation of those involved, and, frankly, the awesomeness that is Wedge Antilles.

That’s definitely not an objective or definitive list. Those are some of the stories I’d personally recommend. But there’s a lot of great material in this anthology. Whereas before I might have pointed to Heir to the Empire or perhaps A New Dawn for those who were interested in getting into Star Wars literature, I would now say that this is the perfect introduction.

View all my reviews

 

P.S. In reading other reviews on Goodreads, I’m finding that a lot of people suggested that an intimate knowledge of Star Wars is vital to appreciate this anthology. Okay, yes, if you haven’t seen the original film, some of these stories won’t make a lot of sense, and others will lose emotional weight. But you hardly have to be a super-fan. I assure you, you don’t need to know who the cantina denizens of “Cantina Caper” are to enjoy that story; knowing who they are in the context of the film or the old Expanded Universe is really irrelevant. I only vaguely remembered Kabe and Muftak myself, and many of the other characters were unknowns to me (I think there’s one secondary character in the story who is described as an alien but not given a physical description; I didn’t know what the alien species looked like, and while I looked it up later, it didn’t mar my understanding of the story). Many of the best stories did their own thing without requiring some greater knowledge of Star Wars to appreciate.

The Zoo, Reductions, & Current Readings

My wife and I went to the Indianapolis Zoo today. We got a membership. We both like to go and just watch the animals. Her favorites are the walruses. My favorites are the giraffes. And we’re both fond of the cheetahs, especially when they’re up and around. The larger animals in particular have such grace, a relaxed confidence of movement. They’re beautiful and soothing to watch. Also, the zoo has lots of cool birds, so that’s nice for me.

The zoo’s in walking distance, so I expect (and hope) that we’ll be getting quite a few more visits in with this membership than the average. Then again, what is the average? Maybe 3 or 4 times a year, if you have kids? I suspect that the people who most frequent the zoo also tend to live further away from it, out in the suburbs. Disposable income and younglings who want to go, but maybe not the time or desire to make more than a few trips in a year.

I have some pictures I want to share, but this post will have some other announcements; check out my following post (if you haven’t already) to see the pictures. To begin with, I enjoy posting new entries roughly twice a week, and I think Sunday and Thursday work as well as any other days. But I’ve spent a lot of time playing and writing about Arena, and it’s fun until it isn’t, and it sometimes feels like a chore. I end up skipping Thursdays, the usual Arena days, out of avoidance or because I haven’t had enough time to play (or both), and then sometimes I write a silly sort-of-apologetic post (but why? I’m basically writing for myself and grateful for anyone who gets any sort of enjoyment out of these posts), and sometimes I don’t post at all. It’s not a great model of balance and sustainability. At the same time, I do enjoy playing Arena in small amounts, and I do enjoy writing about my experiences with the game. I think I’ll just cut back to intermittent Arena posts–maybe roughly monthly, more flexible and less frequent to reflect my schedule. This will give me more time to pursue my other projects (work, life, writing, etc.), and I won’t feel so guilty or pressured to write or play a game more than I really want. This is basically just a formal adoption of an informal policy, but I still felt the need to say it, so there. Now, I should still have posts every Sunday and Thursday, but the number of posts about Arena will be far fewer.

In other news, I’m currently reading three books. They are Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana, by James H. Madison; Star Wars: Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller; and Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, the new short story anthology. I’m enjoying each of the three rather a lot, but I picked up From a Certain Point of View yesterday and have been spending most of my free time since then reading it (okay, I guess it depends on how I define “free time”–most of my day today was free time, and the zoo was great fun, but it was still a “commitment” of sorts in which reading wouldn’t really have been appropriate). It is really great. There are a couple of weaker stories, but most of them are at least good, and there’s something worthwhile or entertaining about all of them to recommend the anthology as a whole (at least so far, and as I’m more than halfway through I doubt I’ll change my mind). There are a few that I’ve absolutely loved, and the best part is that most of those now-beloved stories aren’t the ones that I went in most eager to read. So I look forward to talking more about this book when I get done.

I’ve been listening to some things, too. Three I’d like to point out. First, have you heard of First Person Scholar? It’s a student-run initiative, a sort of free online journal/academic space, that focuses on video game studies. If you have an interest in video game studies–or just video games–you should check them out. In addition to the new writing they publish, they also maintain a podcast, with new content coming up there about monthly (hence the listening component I referred to at the start). I especially like that they often discuss diverse perspectives and focus more on narratology over ludology, so it’s often more reflective of my personal interests.

Next up, I just started listening to Revisionist History on recommendation. Only one episode in, but it was fascinating. I suspect this is probably a pretty decently well-known podcast? And one episode in isn’t enough to judge much. But I like it, and I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re looking for something to listen to.

Lastly, I really like to learn about local and regional history, so discovering the Indiana Historical Bureau’s Talking Hoosier History podcast has been a real treat. It’s well-researched and has covered a variety of topics at just eight episodes in. It also sounds kind of…amateur, and the host sounds a little dorky and a little awkward, but those things can be endearing if you’ll let them, and the team does a really good job of picking interesting stories. If you were to listen to just one, I’d recommend Episode 3, about abolitionist George Washington Julian, or Episode 6, about the Indiana State Fair; the former highlights how they can drill down on an interesting local historical figure, and the latter does a good job of presenting quirky historical elements about an event or tradition. Just…don’t start with the most recent episode, about ghost stories, because it’s sooooo cheesy.

I also have a couple longer-term projects of my own that have been on the back-burner, but I am going to try to reduce the amount of time I burn on gaming (not that it’s normally a huge amount of time right now) to focus on them. One is maybe a little more appropriate to share here than the other, but I’m going to remain vague about them both for now until I’m a little further along. I’ll share what I want when I want, if at all!

Okay, that’s all. Next post: zoo pictures.