Oh , The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-goSo David Gerrold, who will have “Creator of Tribbles” on his gravestone, has a Kickstarter project for a Star Trek version of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!  That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. There’s not much in the description or the video, but the concept alone caught me, as two of the best things ever mashed together become something even greater. You know, like how peanut butter and chocolate make Reese’s Cups. As of this time, it is fully funded so it will be made, but there’s still 9 more days for people to get their orders in before the campaign is over. Ty Templeton has mocked up covers for two of Gerrold’s other books, The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles, and to be honest I would probably buy all three if they really were all picture books. A Seussical picture book telling the story of The Trouble with Tribbles? Perfection! Unfortunately, I think they are just covers for existing books, but maybe a series? Huh guys? Seriously, there are alien species in Star Trek just begging to be Seussized. Seussised? Seussinated? Suessed? Not sure about the grammar here, but I’d be willing to work on it if it means more of these adorable books.

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Today I Read…Up and Down

Up and DownToday I read Up and Down by Terry Fallis. In 2013 this book was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and won the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award and the CBC Bookie Award for Most Hilarious Canadian Book.

David Stewart has quite a challenge ahead of him. He’s just taken a job at the Turner King PR agency, and they’re going after a new out of this world client–NASA. They recently surveyed people and found that more people would rather go out for lunch than watch a space shuttle launch. They want to return to the good old days, when the Space Race was exciting and the entire country would shut down to watch astronauts leave the earth, not to mention when their funding was plentiful to match the intense public interest.

Trying to impress his new boss, David throws out an idea during a brainstorming session–the Citizen Astronaut contest. Every astronaut from the start of the space program has been a highly trained, brilliant, athletic, highly skilled specialist of some sort–they are extraordinary people. So how are ordinary people supposed to relate to and be interested in their work? The Citizen Astronaut would be an Average Joe or Jane, a regular person who would go into space and contribute to the mission, someone to rekindle popular interest by being the embodiment of the dream that anyone can go into space. It’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s attention-getting.

Well, his boss hates it. Unfortunately, it’s all they have to run with after NASA shoots down their more conventional ideas. David’s boss orders him to make sure that the randomly selected Canadian winner of the contest is young, photogenic, and your basic flannel-clad hockey-loving lumberjack stereotype. Unfortunately, the real winner is a 71-year-old lesbian bush doctor pilot with a father who disappeared 40 years ago and who is so obsessed with space that she built her own centrifuge outside her remote cabin to train herself to handle extreme G-forces. David is so compelled by her story that he pushes (and prods, and shoves, and maybe does a few other things he can’t admit to) for Dr. Landon Percival to be announced as Canada’s Citizen Astronaut. But can a senior citizen really go into space? Can David spin her story so that not only TK and NASA, but the Canadian public will embrace her as their representative on the space shuttle? And can he do this without getting fired really, really hard?

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This is the book that I got at the inaugural Wines and Lines event last year. I did attend this year as well, but it was basically a repeat of the first year with different authors so I didn’t see the need to write a review of the event.

I picked this one of the three choices because it was supposed to be funny, and it is, but it’s not really a comedy book, even though it is. It’s very funny is a realistic way–as though the events could happen (except NASA’s lawyers would probably have a collective apoplexy if someone proposed something like the Citizen Astronaut contest in real life). The title is very apt in several ways. David and the rest of the characters go through many ups and downs in their lives over the course of the book, as well as the characters who literally go up and down from Earth to the Space Station and back again.

This was something of a departure for me, since I tend to read a lot of genre fiction or children’s and YA books since I just spent a year as a school librarian. Still, I enjoyed this book very much. Like any science fiction fan, I feel a little bit ripped off that we don’t have moon colony yet, and Star Trek assures me that first contact with an alien species is due to happen in less than 50 years. The Citizen Astronaut contest, if it was real, is definitely something that would grab my attention.

David is a great character. He’s very well-rounded and realistic, and he careens from one challenge to another feeling like he’s barely treading water but rising to every problem. He’s still very young–only in his mid-twenties, and this is his second job after university. He’s inexperienced, and young enough to be little crazy, and he’s a great contrast to Landon Percival who is old enough to be comfortable being polite to everyone while getting her own way.

This is more of a quiet chuckle book than a laugh out loud one, but it’s very well-written and entertaining, while being a quintessentially Canadian humour (which is definitely spelled with a ‘u’).

Today I Read…The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

Fangirl's Guide to the GalaxyToday I read The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: a Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs.

Are you a newcomer to the wide world of fandom? Are you not quite sure what an OTP is, even though you know that Dean and Cas belong together? Do you plan your Halloween costume months in advance and hand make each piece? Do you know why the cake is a lie, and the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything? And are you looking for someone just as passionately nerdy as you to talk to about your favourite nerdy things? Then, young fangirl padawan, you might need The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Chock full of interviews with prominent professional fangirls, invaluable tips for attending your first convention, a field guide to the more common geek groups, and much much more, this is a fantastic resource for those new to fandom, and a terrific refresher for the old hands.

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This was the book I wanted most for myself from the OLA Super conference this year, and I was so happy I got a copy. Sam Maggs is a fellow member of the Toronto fandom community, a former associate editor for fabulous nerd news site The Mary Sue, one of the outgoing Cineplex pre-show hosts, and generally, pretty cool. Plus, that title–how could I possibly resist?

Way back in the dim mists of history before the internet was a thing (okay, it was the 80s), I started my fangirl life, and I entered the world of fandom just at the start of web 2.0 and when interactivity was becoming the watchword. I would have LOVED to have a guide like this way back when I was convinced that I was the only person in my city who liked Star Trek, let alone the only person at my elementary school. It wasn’t until university that I met my first real fangirl, who became my best friend. One of the best parts of fandom is sharing what you love.

In a way, I suppose I’m lucky. I don’t think I’ve ever been personally challenged on my level of geek knowledge, just because I’m a girl. My experience of the Toronto fandom community has always had a strong mixture of boy, girl, and other nerds, with women making strong contributions to our community and with fan-run events. Girl geeks are pretty common, at least in the spaces I hang out in. But like all geek girls I’ve desperately searched for myself in the media I love–a heroine who doesn’t get fridged and isn’t there to be the token female, or worse, the one-dimensional love interest (or worst of all, all three). I’ve put up with the absurdly impractical and oversexualised superhero costumes, having to look in the boys’ rows of the toy store for action figures, and every bloody nerd girl shirt being pink. I ask you, when did Supergirl or Batgirl EVER wear a hot pink costume or a hot pink glittery shield? EVER? AND WHERE IS MY BLACK WIDOW MOVIE ALREADY??? Seriously, Marvel, *ten years* from the release of Iron Man it takes you to release a female-led movie, and it’s Captain Marvel instead of Black Widow, a character you’ve already used 4 times? /rant

Back on track, chapter 4 is about Geek Girl Feminism, looking for the best representations in media and pointing out that unlike the stereotyped antisocial teen nerd boy who lives in his parents’ basement and can’t talk to girls (and his awful, AWFUL counterpart the mythical Fake Geek Girl), women make up a large part of fandom and we have the right to love what we love and to know that we are the heroes every bit as much as the guys are. (See Sam’s awesome Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism below.)

It can be intimidating to insert yourself into a tightly-knit yet wildly diverse community like fandom can be, especially when you get nonsense like GamerGate giving nerdiness and gamers a bad name in the media. (Yes, it was nonsense, if you feel the need to dox and threaten to injure, rape or kill ANYONE in the name of your argument you are an asshole and you lose any modicum of respect for your argument and for you personally). That said, fandom can be an amazing place and you can meet amazing people who not only love what you love, but can share with you other amazing things that you will love. Fandom can enrich your life, give you friends and interests and sometimes even a career. Fandom is filled with smart, creative, hardworking people, and they can be very welcoming to newbies. If you want to jump into the deep end and sally forth to your first convention all on your own, go ahead– it’s how we used to do it (it’s what I did). If you want some great tips, this book is a great guide for how to venture in, both in person at cons and good online spaces to introduce yourself.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Sam made some great recommendations and I think I need to go hunt them down (and rewatch/reread any old favourites she listed). Hey Sam, any time you want to trade kickass-chick book lists, let me know. I have a feeling you would LOVE Esther Friesner’s Chicks in Chainmail anthology series. Two words: Amazon Comedy.

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The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism
I am a geek girl and I am a feminist. I embrace the word “fangirl” with open arms. I don’t have to prove my nerd cred to anyone, ever. Whether I’m a comics noob, Or a fic writer typing up her next chapter, Or a hard-core gamer who sometimes forgets to sleep (Not that I ever do that), No one else gets to decide whether I do or do not belong. From SuperWhoLock to Shakarian I accept all fandom and ships As equally meaningful and important In our geek girl lives. Even if your OTP is my NOTP, I will still like you (Even if I have to unfollow your blog). I can wear makeup and R2D2 mini dresses, Or a Chewie T-shirt and ripped jeans, And the world has to deal with it; Because a geek feminist looks however she wants And doesn’t apologize. I will support empowering, lady-created media, And amazing female characters That make me feel like I could be Batgirl, If I just had some yellow Doc Martens And a vigilante complex. I’m the Doctor, not a companion; Buffy, not Bella; Nobody’s sidekick, love interest, or token female. I’m driving this ship. I’M A FANGIRL, A FEMINIST, AND A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.

Fangirl's Litany

Today I Read…Ensign Sue

Ensign Sue Must DieToday I read the Ensign Sue trilogy, Ensign Sue Must Die, Ensign Two: The Wrath of Sue, and Ensign Cubed: Crisis of Infinite Sue, written by Clare Moseley and illustrated by Kevin Bolk.

The multiverse is about to face the greatest danger it has ever seen–Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue! Torn between Kirk’s love and Spock’s (say what?), the seventeen-year-old medical officer, half-Russian, half-Vulcan, half-Japanese, half-Klingon, proud owner of Le Cutest of Beagle anda spunicorn (it’s like a unicorn, but it’s in space!), she is the most annoying creature the Enterprise has ever encountered. Unfortunately, in their desperation to get rid of this galactic pest, they accidentally ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and spread the Sues across the multiverse! It’s up to the crew of the Enterprise, the Doctor, and Wolverine (if there’s a team, he has to be on it), to travel the multiverse and trap the Sues in Pokeballs, and they gotta catch ’em all! But they have to be careful, because Sues lurk where you least expect…

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Wrath of SueI found this comic at the Interrobang Studios booth at Fan Expo last August, and the premise was hilarious so I bought the trilogy and read it on the train home that night. And I was right–it’s terrific! Both wonderfully funny and an excellent examination of the dreaded Mary Sue trope, the third book takes a turn for the serious by making Mary Sue into a character with a deeper motivation than her pretty hair. All she really wanted was for the people she loves so much to love her back–something many fans would like. She just has to learn that she can’t force people to love her–again, a lesson a lot of people in real life could stand to learn.

Crisis of Infinite SuesThe illustrations are adorable, and I really love the Sues’ cheek cutie marks, that help differentiate their different universes. And Sulu’s frustration at Anna Mae Sue’s terrible pidgin-Japanese, and how Mirror-Sue is evil because of her outfit, and how Khan-Prime defeats Reboot-Khan, and Kirk’s despair over his own sue-ish tendencies, and how Bella Swan is too useless and boring to even be a Sue. Basically, I love everything about this series.

It will probably appeal most to fangirls, and ones who can see the funny side of fandom and fangirls. And remember–may the Sue be with you (’cause she’s driven everybody else crazy).

Today I Read…Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

FicToday I read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison, with a foreword by Lev Grossman.

Fanfiction…the final frontier. These are the voyages of academics, actors, lawyers, editors, authors, online archivists, activists, students, and of course, fanficcers. Coming from all walks of life and all fandoms, professor Anne Jamison has put together a stunning collection of essays about a hobby millions of people have had for decades, but were too often afraid to admit, out of embarrassment or fear of the copyright holders’ reaction. But fanfic has a history since long before the days of ‘zines and has expanded far beyond stories about Kirk and Spock, or Kirk/Spock. From Sherlock Holmes’ pastiches to the influence of Star Trek to RPF, bronies, the success of the Twilight-inspired Fifty Shades of Grey, and the growing understanding of the legality of fic, Fic is the perfect resource for the fan studying fandom, and for anyone else who ever wondered “what if the story happened this way instead?”

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I won this book from a Goodreads‘ First Reads contest, and I was thrilled since it was already on my personal to-read list. I was even more thrilled when I actually read it, because it’s terrific. I’ve mentioned before (a few times) my interest in academic fandom, both in studying properties that inspire fandom and in studying fandom itself. I’ve been a fan since grade 3, reading fanfic since I was about 15, and I attended my first convention at 18. In some ways, this book is part of the story of my life. It also introduced me to parts of fandom that I didn’t know about–I’ve said before that I hate Twilight, but Jamison does make some interesting points about the fandom writing fanfic to correct Meyer’s (many) mistakes and problems. To be fair, that’s the entire point of fixit fics, to correct what you thought was wrong with a given episode. Sometimes rage leads to ficwriting as much as love for the original property–I still have an old half-written X-Files fic on my harddrive that managed to combine fixit, RPF, meta, and Mary Sue, and another fic that combined Smallville and House M.D. solely for the purpose of Greg House insulting Lana Lang. I can respect that motivation, even though I maintain that there was nothing redeemable about Twishite. But, whatever floats your boat.

I’ve read a lot of fanfic over the years (a lot) (no, I’m not kidding, a lot) (a lot a lot a lot), and I didn’t like everything, but most of the writers were able to make an interesting point. Some fanfic writers I’ve loved better than ‘traditional’ writers. Some fanfic writers ARE published, traditional writers playing in a sandbox they love just like the rest of us. Some writers that I know started writing in fanfic, polishing their skills, before they became published writers, and still love fanfic. All of which are points that Jamison makes so I guess it’s not just me. That’s the thing about fandom–it’s very personal, if you’re a fan, it’s your culture and your identity and your hobby and your friends. Jamison started as an academic studying fandom, but eventually she became a fan–fandom has a way of sucking you in and inviting you to play too.

And…this has devolved into a discussion of me, not the book hasn’t it? I saw a lot of myself in this book–in a nonfiction cultural study, I guess that means she got it right. The essays she collected are equally well-done, offering different perspectives from different fandoms and fans who have experienced fandom in different times and places.They look at slash, het, g, omegaverse, au, and RPF. They discuss both copyright and the different understandings of the laws regarding copyright. They look at how the internet has vastly changed the face of fandom, and truly helped it turn into a global community. They look at attitudes towards monetizing fanfic and the arguments against it, and how it affects the community that supported its creation. They look at the problems with fanfic, and the areas that it rarely touches. And they look at fanfic as art, and where it belongs in the artistic and literary worlds.

This book is a must for academic fans, for fans who want a wider perspective on fandom than their own experiences, and for fic writers who want to know the history of their hobby.

I met the MakerBot

Last night was the Meet the MakerBot Event at Oakville Public Library, to demonstrate their new 3D printer to the public. Maker culture is becoming increasingly popular, and a lot of libraries are purchasing 3D printers and making them available to their patrons for use. There were some 3D printer demonstrations at the OLA Super Conference this year, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend any of them (too many interesting things!), so I was excited to find out that my local library was offering this demo.

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3D printing is a way of making a 3 dimensional object from a digital file. You design something using a 3D modeling program, like Tinkercad or AutoDesk 123D, which then turns the design into hundreds and thousands of layers. The printer is basically a hot glue gun that puts down layers of a  special plastic wire into the pattern, and creates the object. You can check out this link for more information about how 3D printing works. Here’s an elephant that they stopped printing in the middle that shows what it looks like inside.

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We weren’t able to make anything ourselves, though there are workshops for kids and teens to sign up and make things themselves–it just takes too long to print things to do at a demonstration. There were 2 slide shows running that you could sit and watch, one about 3D printers in general and about OPL’s programs and plans for it, and one that looped some YouTube videos about Maker Culture and what people are doing with 3D printers–I was fascinated by the one about using a 3D printer to make moving prosthetic hands for people. Imagine that, making yourself a hand. Some parents of children with birth defects in their hands reached out to the man who was experimenting with printing himself a hand, and he was able to make the children a hand that could curl the fingers and grasp an object, something they had never been able to do before. The hands are even recyclable–when you outgrow one, you can rescale the design and make a new one, and give the old hand to someone else who needs it. Talk about people giving each other a hand…

(sorry, I couldn’t resist)

They started off trying to make a castle during the demo, but there seems to be something wrong with the design they were using, because it wouldn’t work. Oh well–experimentation is half the fun! They restarted the printer making another dinosaur like the one above, which takes about 3 hours so we didn’t see it completed during the event. Here’s a closer picture of the completed dinosaur and the work in progress:

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Since it’s printed in layers, it has to be built with supports that can be cut away when completed to make parts like the arms, tail and head. The picture of the wolf shows some of the supports left on, which would normally be cut away.

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And here’s a figure with chicken legs that were too thin and broke because the supports weren’t enough. The broken figure is on the left and the base with the feet is on the right. Anything that is made with the 3D printer must be able to exist according to normal physics, so something that is too top-heavy will break. You can get some free designs from Thingiverse, which is a great resource for people to share their designs.

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Here’s a little TARDIS charm, that shows how fine the detail work can be, and a picture to show you the scale.

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This is a pair of train tracks that they made. They made the two pieces separated, but at the same time. You can make multiple objects at the same time as long as you start them at the same time–you can’t start an object and then start another one while the first is still in progress. The train tracks fit together really nicely.

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Their teen workshop made a bunch of little superhero action figures.

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Here’s Superman and Batman, though the chest symbols can be a little hard to make out in the pictures.

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Fortunately the plastic takes paint very nicely, if you want your creation to be multiple colours (this model printer can only work with one colour of plastic at a time, though there are many different colours that you can buy).

Oakville-20140624-00778The whole event was hugely fascinating. They had a few laptops set up so you could look at Thingiverse designs and some of the CAD programs, which was a ton of fun once I was able to get some time on one (the kids loved playing with them). The volunteers and library staff were very knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions–I had a lot! Though I think the most knowledgeable one of all was a mid-teens boy who was attending the event–he seemed to know more about how the printers work than everyone else there! I particularly want to compliment Stephanie from the Children’s Department–she was standing right beside the printer and was incredibly patient with all of the kids (and me) asking her incessant questions.

It was a really fun event, and the 3D printer and it’s possibilities are fascinating. We really are living in a Star Trek world–we have communicators and PADDs (cell phones and tablets) and now we’re on our way to having replicators. I hope they have some workshops for adults soon–I want to play with one some more!

Today I Read…Redshirts

RedshirtsToday I read Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Away missions for the Universal Union are dangerous, everybody knows that. Especially when you serve on the flagship of the Union, the Intrepid, under Captain Lucius Abernathy. But newly transferred Ensign Andrew Dahl and his friends are starting to notice that they’re only dangerous for certain people. Some people– the captain and his favourite officers–never seem to die, no matter how often or how badly they get hurt. But the lowest ranked crewmen, the ones that nobody ever seems to know the same of, they can die. They die a lot. The only ones who seem safe are the ones who stay as far away from the main five’s notice as they possibly can.

But then Dahl and his friends start to behave in strange ways. They know things that they never learn, they do stupid things that they shouldn’t survive. And there’s a furry monster living in the walls of the ship with the most outlandish conspiracy theory, which just might be crazy enough to be true. Is there any way to survive wearing the red shirt of death? Or are they doomed to die solely to advance the plot…I mean, to save their superior officers and the mission?

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I’ve seen Redshirts around the bookstore, and I thought it was about something Star Trek-ish, and I love his blog. I decided to read it on a whim, though I hadn’t read the description and I didn’t really know what it was about.

Holy hilarious satire, Batman!

This is one of the funniest books that I’ve read in a long time. It reminded me of Galaxy Quest or Night of the Living Trekkies–clearly written by someone with a genuine love and respect for Star Trek while understanding that it does have some rather prominent flaws that make it easy to make fun of. It’s that love that makes all the difference. Redshirts works quite well just as a funny book to anyone who’s caught the odd episode and knows basic pop culture, but its true magic is saved for those who get all the in-jokes and references. Fans, particularly science fiction fans, can be the most devoted people in the world, but they can also be the most critical of the thing they love. But for some, there’s a level of fandom you can reach where acknowledging the problems in your fandom doesn’t take away from your love or enjoyment.

I’ve loved Star Trek since I first watched it in grade three, as research for the school play my class was putting on. Mr. Coverdale wrote the play every year–that year it was Star Trek: The Generation After the Next Generation. I played Dr. Beverly Flusher on the starship Enterforaprize under the command of Captain Pickacardanycard (what, it was grade three, we thought it was funny). There was something magical about Star Trek–the idea that humanity would survive, would prosper, would reach out and visit the stars. To seek out strange new worlds, and new civilizations…to boldly go where no one has gone before. I loved it. I always loved reading, and I had a strong fantasy bent even then, but this introduced me to science fiction. Eventually it led me to the fandom life, to conventions, and to fans. It led me to my tribe. Even when I grew up, and started noticing all the problems (reverse the polarity? That’s what passes for science? and why the hell were military officers wearing mini skirts on a space ship?), the love stayed. It always will.

Scalzi is a part of that tribe. His love shines through, even while he picks apart the lazy writing and the terrible science and the deliberately generic characters and the demands of making a television show and he makes them all real. He takes the redshirts and he gives them names, and stories, and he makes them more than just their shirt. And he makes them want to be more than just the colour of their shirt. Redshirts is what happens when the extra breaks out of the chorus line, stands center stage, and takes aim at the director and the producer and the star and especially the writer and lets them have it.

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From the top of the large boulder he sat on, Ensign Tom Davis looked across the expanse of the cave toward Captain Lucius Abernathy, Science Officer Q’eeng and Chief Engineer Paul West perched on a second, larger boulder, and thought, Well, this sucks.

“Borgovian Land Worms!” Captain Abernathy said, and smacked his boulder with an open palm. “I should have known.”

You should have known? How the hell could you not have known? thought Ensign Davis, and looked at the vast dirt floor of the cave, its powdery surface moving here and there with the shadowy humps that marked the movement of the massive, carnivorous worms.

“I don’t think we should just be waltzing in there,” Davis had said to Chen, the other crew member on the away team, upon encountering the cave. Abernathy, Q’eeng and West had already entered, despite the fact that Davis and Chen were technically their security detail.

Chen, who was new, snorted. “Oh, come on,” he said. “It’s just a cave. What could possibly be in there?”

“Bears?” Davis had suggested. “Wolves? Any number of large predators who see a cave as shelter from the elements? Have you never been camping?”

“There are no bears on this planet,” Chen had said, willfully missing Davis’ point. “And anyway we have pulse guns. Now come on. This is my first away mission. I don’t want the captain wondering where I am.” He ran in after the officers.

From his boulder, Davis looked down at the dusty smear on the cave floor that was all that remained of Chen. The land worms, called by the sound of the humans walking in the cave, had tunneled up under him and dragged him down, leaving nothing but echoing screams and the smear.

Well, that’s not quite true, Davis thought, peering farther into the cave and seeing the hand that lay there, still clutching the pulse gun Chen had carried, and which as it turned out had done him absolutely no good whatsoever.

The ground stirred and the hand suddenly disappeared.

Okay, now it’s true, Davis thought.

“Davis!” Captain Abernathy called. “Stay where you are! Any movement across that ground will call to the worms! You’ll be eaten instantly!”

Thanks for the useless and obvious update, you jackass, Davis thought, but did not say, because he was an ensign, and Abernathy was the captain. Instead, what he said was, “Aye, Captain.”

“Good,” Abernathy said. “I don’t want you trying to make a break for it and getting caught by those worms. Your father would never forgive me.”

What? Davis thought, and suddenly he remembered that Captain Abernathy had served under his father on the Benjamin Franklin. The ill-fated Benjamin Franklin. And in fact, Davis’ father had saved the then-Ensign Abernathy by tossing his unconscious body into the escape pod before diving in himself and launching the pod just as the Franklin blew up spectacularly around them. They had drifted in space for three days and had almost run out of breathable air in that pod before they were rescued.

Davis shook his head. It was very odd that all that detail about Abernathy popped into his head, especially considering the circumstances.

As if on cue, Abernathy said, “Your father once saved my life, you know.”

“I know—” Davis began, and then nearly toppled off the top of his boulder as the land worms suddenly launched themselves into it, making it wobble.

“Davis!” Abernathy said.

Davis hunched down, flattening himself toward the boulder to keep his center of gravity low. He glanced over to Abernathy, who was now conferring with Q’eeng and West. Without being able to hear them, Davis knew that they were reviewing what they knew about Borgovian Land Worms and trying to devise a plan to neutralize the creatures, so they could cross the cave in safety and reach the chamber that housed the ancient Central Computer of the Borgovians, which could give them a clue about the disappearance of that wise and mysterious race.

You really need to start focusing on your current situation, some part of Davis’ brain said to him, and he shook his head again. Davis couldn’t disagree with this assessment; his brain had picked a funny time to start spouting a whole bunch of extraneous information that served him no purpose at this time.

The worms rocked his boulder again. Davis gripped it as hard as he could and saw Abernathy, Q’eeng and West become more animated in their attempted problem solving.

A thought suddenly came to Davis. You’re part of the security detail, it said. You have a pulse gun. You could just vaporize these things.

Davis would have smacked his head if the worms weren’t already doing that by driving it into the boulder. Of course! The pulse gun! He reached down to his belt to unclasp the gun from its holster. As he did so another part of his brain wondered why, if in fact the solution was as simple as just vaporizing the worms, Captain Abernathy or one of the other officers hadn’t just ordered him to do it already.

I seem to have a lot of voices in my brain today, said a third part of Davis’ brain. He ignored that particular voice in his brain and aimed at a moving hump of dirt coming toward his boulder.

Abernathy’s cry of “Davis! No!” arrived at the exact instant Davis fired, sending a pulsed beam of coherent, disruptive particles into the dirt mound. A screech emanated from the mound, followed by violent thrashing, followed by a sinister rumbling, followed by the ground of the cave erupting as dozens of worms suddenly burst from the dirt.

“The pulse gun is ineffective against Borgovian Land Worms!” Davis heard Science Officer Q’eeng say over the unspeakable noise of the thrashing worms. “The frequency of the pulse sends them into a frenzy. Ensign Davis has just called every worm in the area!”

You couldn’t have told me this before I fired? Davis wanted to scream. You couldn’t have said, Oh, by the way, don’t fire a pulse gun at a Borgovian Land Worm at our mission briefing? On the ship? At which we discussed landing on Borgovia? Which has fucking land worms?

Davis didn’t scream this at Q’eeng because he knew there was no way Q’eeng would hear him, and besides it was already too late. He’d fired. The worms were in a frenzy. Somebody now was likely to die.

It was likely to be Ensign Davis.

Through the rumble and dust, Davis looked over at Abernathy, who was gazing back at him, concern furrowed into his brow. And then Davis was wondering when, if ever, Abernathy had ever spoken to him before this mission.

Oh, Abernathy must have—he and Davis’ father had been tight ever since the destruction of the Franklin. They were friends. Good friends. It was even likely that Abernathy had known Davis himself as a boy, and may have even pulled a few strings to get his friend’s son a choice berth on the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union. The captain wouldn’t have been able to spend any real time with Davis—it wouldn’t have done for the captain to show favoritism in the ranks—but surely they would have spoken. A few words here and there. Abernathy asking after Davis’ father, perhaps. Or on other away missions.

Davis was coming up with a blank.

Suddenly, the rumbling stopped. The worms, as quickly as they had gone into a frenzy, appeared to sidle back under the dirt. The dust settled.

“They’re gone!” Davis heard himself say.

“No,” Abernathy said. “They’re smarter than that.”

“I can make it to the mouth of the cave!” Davis heard himself say.

“Stay where you are, Ensign!” Abernathy said. “That’s an order!”

But Davis was already off his boulder and running toward the mouth of the cave. Some part of Davis’ brain howled at the irrationality of the action, but the rest of Davis didn’t care. He knew he had to move. It was almost a compulsion. As if he had no choice.

Abernathy screamed “No!” very nearly in slow motion, and Davis covered half of the distance he needed to go. Then the ground erupted as land worms, arrayed in a semicircle, launched themselves up and toward Davis.

And it was then, as he skidded backward, and while his face showed surprise, in fact, that Ensign Davis had an epiphany.

This was the defining moment of his life. The reason he existed. Everything he’d ever done before, everything he’d ever been, said or wanted, had led him to this exact moment, to be skidding backward while Borgovian Land Worms bored through dirt and air to get him. This was his fate. His destiny.

In a flash, and as he gazed upon the needle-sharp teeth spasming in the rather evolutionarily suspect rotating jaw of the land worm, Ensign Tom Davis saw the future. None of this was really about the mysterious disappearance of the Borgovians. After this moment, no one would ever speak of the Borgovians again.

It was about him—or rather, what his impending death would do to his father, now an admiral. Or even more to the point, what his death would do to the relationship between Admiral Davis and Captain Abernathy. Davis saw the scene in which Abernathy told Admiral Davis of his son’s death. Saw the shock turn to anger, saw the friendship between the two men dissolve. He saw the scene where the Universal Union MPs placed the captain under arrest for trumped-up charges of murder by negligence, planted by the admiral.

He saw the court-martial and Science Officer Q’eeng, acting as Abernathy’s counsel, dramatically breaking down the admiral on the witness stand, getting him to admit this was all about him losing his son. Davis saw his father dramatically reach out and ask forgiveness from the man he had falsely accused and had arrested, and saw Captain Abernathy give it in a heartrending reconciliation right there in the courtroom.

It was a great story. It was great drama.

And it all rested upon him. And this moment. And this fate. This destiny of Ensign Davis.

Ensign Davis thought, Screw this, I want to live, and swerved to avoid the land worms.

But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.

Today I read…Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t)

Miss Brooks Loves BooksToday I read Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley.

Miss Brooks the librarian likes books. I don’t. I don’t like books about Hallowe’en, or dragons, or Pilgrims, or presidents, or love, or leprechauns, or groundhogs, or fairies, or cowboys, or dogs, or trains, or…But I do like warts. Is there a book about warts?

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Sometimes it’s hard for book lovers to remember that not everyone shares their passion. I’ve loved to read ever since I learned how, and I was reading adult novels by grade 3 at the latest–I think I skipped fairly quickly from easy reader books to novels. The reason was pretty simple–grade 3 I got into Star Trek, thanks to my teacher Mr. Coverdale, and back then there were no kids or YA Star Trek books, but there were a lot of adult Star Trek books. If I wanted to know the stories, I had to be able to read the books. That my Star Trek books were more interesting than my math textbook is another story…

This book promotes a story that librarians like to tell, that there is a book for everyone out there and our job is to match the right book to the right person. In this case, the little girl loves warts and snorting, so she loves Shrek by William Steig. I have to agree, Shrek is great, both the book and the movies. All of the kids like different books, and it’s okay not to like all of them, or to like the books that your friends like–it’s okay to like whatever you like.

The little girl in the book is in grade 1, which is a good reading level for this book–the paragraphs are very short, and some of the vocabulary is better for a middle reader, but it mentions several books for a lower reading level that the child reader of this book might have read and be able to recognize.