Stuff I Like: Tekdiff

I never did finish my month of positivity, so as I use this blog more, I'll keep talking about Stuff I Like. Today, the subject is Tekdiff

Short for "Teknikal Diffikulties,"  Tekdiff is a podcast written, produced and performed by Cayenne Chris Conroy. (You may recognize his name from his sound effects work on The Thrilling Adventure Hour.) For eleven years now, he's been creating audio comedy that moves at lightning speed, like a one-man Firesign Theatre.

This would be impressive enough, but a few years into the show's run, Conroy began a show within Tekdiff called The Account: A Tale of the Waking World.  This ambitious story, which has stretched across several arcs now, follows a human, Hanover Phillips, an accountant in a world that's a mix of high fantasy and hard sci-fi. After discovering a mystical error in the figures, he's drafted to become a corporate knight and sent to solve the problem. With him is his goblin "squire," Nyro Guillaume, who's taking a sabbatical from her career as an assassin for hire. The Account is by turns hilarious, exciting, and terrifying, but what really makes it work is the chemistry between Nyro and Hanover. It's very easy to forget that they're being voiced by the same person.

Eleven years is a long time to do anything, and Tekdiff is even more impressive because it's a solo act.  It's really good stuff. CCC just posted his 11th Anniversary Special, and you should click those words and check it out.

 

Stuff I Like - Redshirts

For reasons too stupid to go into here, a lot of people are either boycotting or buying Tor books today. I come down on the "buying" side of this debate, and since I've already told you about The Incrementalists, published by Tor, I shall tee off on another of their fine books.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi, has a premise so good it's surprising it hasn't been done before.  On the starship Intrepid, nothing permanent ever happens to the bridge crew. No matter how many times they travel to a hostile planet or take on a warlike alien race, they come out fine. But at least one member of the ground crew, one of the seemingly endless ensigns, always dies. Andrew Dahl is a new arrival on Intrepid and learns this fact of life, then organizes the others to find out why.

Scalzi takes a jokey premise ("Hey, what's with all those guys getting killed whenever Kirk goes to a planet? And what's the deal with airline food?") and spins it into something truly wonderful. Redshirts would be excellent if it were simply a meta action-comedy, and this section of the book reminds me of Terry Pratchett in its escalating stakes and logical leaps. But it's the codas where I feel Redshirts truly shines.

The original full title was Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas, and the final third is made up of three short stories about minor characters from the main narrative. By the time the codas are done, what was an amusing sci-fi story has become something much different, something deeper and more meaningful. I can't really describe why without spoiling the story's surprises; all I can say is it hit me pretty hard, much harder than I was expecting. There's a reason it won all those awards is what I'm saying.

I also recommend getting this in audio; it's read by Wil Wheaton, who, in addition to just being really good at audiobooks in general, lends the story an extra level of metatext just by showing up. 

Stuff I Like - The Newsflesh Series

I've been running behind on this, obviously. Suffice to say, I have not been in the mood to be positive about much of anything. But we push on, yes we do. 

I thought I hated zombie stories. Zombies are the big thing nowadays, and I am not a fan, because they all seem to be the same... A small group of survivors has survived the zombie apocalypse and must defend themselves against an ever increasing horde of the ravenous undead. Oh, and most of the survivors will be just raaaaging assholes because apparently that's who we believe will survive the zombs. It's just not my jam. 

The Newsflesh trilogy--Feed, Deadline and Blackout by Mira Grant--are another animal entirely. It's set twenty years after The Rising, the point at which two airborne viruses combined into one zombie-creating pathogen. And the world has kept turning; civilization hasn't collapsed, but adjusted to this new reality, in which a failed blood test can mean instant death and journalists are the new rock stars. Georgia and Shaun Mason are two such; she's the Newsie, an investigative reporter, and he's the Irwin, a sort of extreme nature documentarian who picks fights with zombs. When they're chosen to accompany Senator Peter Ryman on his Presidential campaign, it quickly becomes apparent that someone doesn't want them there, and is willing to shed blood to be rid of them.

Feed and the rest of the trilogy are much more about journalism and the human need to know than they are about zombies. The living dead are simply a fact of life, but they aren't the driving force, people are. There are no straight out villains, no screaming sociopaths, just people who believe themselves to be right, and often those we look at as our heroes are the ones in the wrong. The author excels at both characterization and worldbuilding, and she is so, so good at both ratcheting up the suspense and breaking the reader's heart. You want these books. Go get 'em.

(When you're done, AND ONLY WHEN YOU'RE DONE, check out Mark Oshiro's chapter by chapter reviews and watch a man nearly lose his sanity. Heavy, HEAVY spoilers, read the books first.)

Stuff I Like - Saints Row

Here's the thing about the Saints Row games; they're insane. At least parts 3 and 4, which are not so much parodies of sandbox games as they are far superior versions of those games, the way Hot Fuzz is now only an amazing comedy but a better cop movie than most of Michael Bay's output. I could blather for a few paragraphs about the characterization and how much fun it is to run around at super speed and all that, but really, all I need to show you is this.

That is the player character on an alien ship, finding power armor, and smashing his way through the warlord's forces while The Touch by Stan Bush plays.

My work here is done.

Stuff I Like - The Meg Langslow Mysteries

When it comes to mystery novels, I am much more likely to drift towards the hard-boiled section of the bookstore. Give me a good private investigator, Spenser, Kinsey Milhone, Atticus Kodiak before he got all weird. Or a talented amateur in formal wear, Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, et cetera. The only subgenre of mystery that never really did anything for me is the cozy. A cozy is one of a series of mysteries that are usually pretty light in nature; the victim is dispatched quickly, without much fuss, and generally had it coming in one way or another. The protagonists are women more often than not, and the book is pretty evenly divided between the actual mystery to be solved and the lead character's interactions with the colorful supporting characters.

...you know, going by that description, the Spenser novels kind of ended up as cozies.

Anyway. Not really my scene is what I'm saying. But a few years ago, I was desperate for something to listen to on a road trip and stumbled into the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.

Meg is a blacksmith in the college town of Caerphilly, Virginia, where she serves as the only source of common sense to her large, daffy extended family. The first novel, Murder with Peacocks, sets the tone of screwball mystery; Meg has been suckered into planning three consecutive weddings, including one for her own mother. Someone turns up dead, and someone else did it, but the reason to read these books is for Andrews' excellent characterization. You'd happily read a novel of Meg dealing with the residents of Caerphilly without any bodies turning up.

A new Meg Langslow book has become a summer ritual for me, something to read in the sun.  The next in the series, Lord of the Wings, comes out August 4. ...yeah, I should have mentioned, after a while, the series took on bird-related puns as its titling theme. The birds generally have very little to do with what's going on inside. Check out Meg, I think you'll like her.