These are the Episodes: My 6 episode guide to decades of Star Trek in a Day

These are the Episodes: My 6 episode guide to decades of Star Trek in a Day

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All the captains! All the Ships!

Dear pond readers, today we are going to boldly view what many people have viewed before: a lot of fantastic Star Trek episodes. Now, all of you readers know, I am an avid trekkie. It’s a pretty big deal to me. I grew up on Star Trek and my Barbies were captains of the Enterprise saving the universe through diplomacy and clever plans while other little girls were playing My Little Pony. Okay, I played My Little Pony too, but my ponies were as likely to be aliens on an away mission as they were to be doing horse things. I went to my first convention when I was in elementary school, I have crafted some Star Trek themed things on this blog, and I’ve written about Star Trek a couple times on the Internet before here and here. As I said, it’s a pretty big deal.

A burgeoning geek in my life doesn’t know Star Trek. She knows Game of Thrones, she knows Buffy and Angel, and her primary thing is Doctor Who but Star Trek is a big, gaping hole in her pop-culture/geek knowledge. We had a conversation one night, which consisted of her basically expressing a desire to be a better geek, and me replying, “Well then, you need a little knowledge of Star Trek,” to which she agreed but said, “How?” Challenge accepted! I offered to be her Boothby on a voyage through decades of Star Trek and I have been agonizing for weeks over a viewing list to plan our Star Trek day. Now, life happens and I don’t know if we’re actually ever going to do this amazing Star Trek marathon, but, why let all my pondering go to waste? You, dear readers, might know people or be people who want to be introduced to Star Trek and I, as your friendly neighborhood trekkie-in-the-pond, will help you make it so.

I have chosen one episode from each of the Star Trek series to appear on television and I propose watching them in order. Thanks to streaming platforms, you can stream all of the series very easily and access should hopefully be straightforward for most people. Choosing an episode, one single episode from each show, was pretty hard. I decided that what was most important wasn’t necessarily to select my favorite episode or a fan favorite but rather to showcase an episode that met the following criteria:

  • It has to be stand-alone.
    • No two-parters or something that is part of an ongoing story arc because a completely uninitiated neophyte needs to be able to get what is happening.
  • It has to be main storyline continuity in the primary universe.
    • As awesome as the Mirror-Universe is, as entertaining as parallel dimension/timey-wimey stuff can be, and as popular as the J.J. Abrams movies are, they are the exceptions, the outliers that are only possible because there is a main-universe continuity. Also, I don’t think an episode like “Mirror, Mirror,” has any resonance or impact if you are a newbie who is totally unfamiliar with the characters. A novice would only be able to appreciate the goatees and, fantastic as they are, that’s just not enough.
  • The episode must represent the soul and ethic of Star Trek as well as the unique strengths of that series.
    • Now I freely admit that this is extremely subjective. If you get a roomful of Trekkies together, you will not only be with a lot of nifty people, but you will also get a roomful of subtly different, unique points of view on what the soul of Star Trek is and that is just fine. Also, not all of the series are equally loved. Each series has its fans and good points but there are strong, divergent opinions about them all.

      To me, and I think to a lot of people, the soul of Star Trek lies in exploring the universe and the human condition through dynamic storytelling, strong characterization, and a native positivity about humanity. Star Trek is about big, knotty ideas that can only be grappled with in a science fiction setting. The ethics of Star Trek also always seem to come back to respect, compassion, and the scientific ideal of an open-mind alive to wonder but full of questions. The Vulcan mantra of IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations really underlies the principles of the United Federation of Planets and its Starfleet’s Prime Directive of non-interference. What would humanity do with replicators and faster than light travel? Some people would say, something absolutely dreadful but, lucky for everyone, Gene Roddenberry thought humans were better than that and decided to tell that story.

      Does the show always manage to pull off all this high-minded idealism? No, of course not. There are all sorts of episodes across all of the series that fall short with the only silver lining being somebody takes their shirt off or there is some kick ass special effects sequence. That’s okay. The fact that over diverse series across many decades with different writers, show runners, actors, and directors whatever Star Trek is on TV at the time actually did pull off idealism repeatedly is extraordinary.

      Star Trek changed television forever and it started cult fandom. More than that though, Star Trek, with its positive vision of a better tomorrow achieved by the work and hope of ordinary people, inspired, and continues to inspire, a lot of people to be the best version of themselves and to create an extraordinary future that is already happening right now. The fact that a fictional show achieved that is pretty blooming amazing but then, a good story can and clearly does, change the world. So, for me, picking the episodes that best live up to what Star Trek represents, while challenging, is a privilege.

       

Below I have written the series, the episode title, the season, episode number, and a short blurb of why I picked that episode. For the bonus viewing, I am including an episode from Star Trek: the Animated Series as well as the fabulous documentary, Trekkies with Denise Crosby. I have written blurbs for both as well. All told, this amounts to about eight hours of viewing. If we ever manage to do this marathon, I plan to question my friend about her reaction and post a sequel to this blog entry with an edited version of the discussion. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, these are the episodes:

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Romulan warbird from “Balance of Terror”

  • Star Trek: the Original Series: “Balance of Terror” Season 1, Episode 14This episode has everything: fabulous writing that grapples with contemporary socio-political issues, intense character moments, and some thrilling action. The performances, especially guest star Mark Leonard and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, are really something special. And that final scene? Be still my nerdly heart! It’s a good episode, especially when you think about the world of the 1960s with all that Cold War tension. ST:TOS really excels at confronting issues of race, prejudice, and the difficulties of maintaining peace with warring neighbors throughout its three season run; this episode is a great example.

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    The computer has a sense of humor.

  • Star Trek the Animated Series: “The Practical Joker” Season 2, Episode 3
    The Animated Series is awkwardly placed in Star Trek.  It is officially licensed, it includes the same voice talent, many of the same writers from the live show write episodes, and some things from the animated series went on to influence the rest of the shows but…it is not canon. Technically, by my own rules, this series shouldn’t be in this viewing day because it is not main storyline. But, given all of the above positives added to the creative renderings of aliens impossible to show on live TV, and the bigger parts given to supporting characters, particularly women, I just can’t help but really love this series. Also, the cheesy animation is entertaining in its own right. Therefore I declare this to be Bonus Viewing! “The Practical Joker” features the “Rec Room,” an early use of holographic technology without which we wouldn’t have all sorts of awesome adventures in other series. I also think showing the pitfalls of the technology that makes this future possible in a comedic way is fun sci-fi.

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    Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!

  • Star Trek: the Next Generation: “Darmok” Season 5, Episode 2
    A fan favorite and a personal favorite, “Darmok,” is about the overwhelming importance of communication and the lengths a committed diplomat will go to make sure that connection is made. “Darmok” also showcases the universal importance of Stories in a very compelling way. It inspired me to read Gilgamesh, actually (you’ll understand why if you watch the episode). This episode has great action, characterization, and more than a few stellar lines by Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. Diplomacy over violence is one of the big points of Star Trek, and Picard’s Enterprise does it so well. Even though this episode is primarily a Picard vehicle, you get to see his crew working as a team to help him through a pretty unique first contact and considering how amazing his crew is, that’s important.

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    Major Kira and an interesting Cardassian visitor from “Duet”

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Duet” Season 1, Episode 18
    Deep Space Nine grappled with the messy complications of war in all its stages: before, during, and after. Through the clean-up of Bajor post-Cardassian occupation and with the Dominion invasion it does this messy job very well with a stellar cast of characters who undergo tremendous growth over the course of the show. I think “Duet” encapsulates all of these themes while showcasing the powerful Major Kira Nerys at the beginning of her journey. Major Kira has some understandable issues with Cardassians and this episode forces her to confront them but it is still a stand-alone, you get all the exposition you need within the first few minutes. Fans generally hate on the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine. While I agree that the show didn’t find its stride until season four, I think there were still a lot of good episodes with compelling stories in the first three seasons and that a show needs time to build momentum, especially a show with a big ensemble cast.

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    Voyager in orbit from “Blink of an Eye”

  • Star Trek: Voyager: “Blink of an Eye” Season 6, Episode 12
    The Prime Directive states that Starfleet personnel are prohibited from interfering in the development of other civilizations. It is their highest principle and it can be pretty hard to hold up sometimes, but what do you do when you’re influencing a civilization and you didn’t know it? This is the main question of this episode and is an excellent showcase for the strengths of Voyager. Within Star Trek the series frequently explores difficult ethical questions, especially when the Prime Directive is in play, and I think that tends to be when the franchise is at its best. The premise of Voyager, a ship lost and alone literally hundreds of years of travel away from allies, particularly lends itself to questions of morality versus pragmatics, pushing the boundaries a little on all those high-ideals Star Trek is known for. But, Voyager has a lot of haters, I used to be a doubter, but I liked the show overall when I got to re-watch it on streaming. I loved the ensemble cast, especially B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, and I liked Captain Janeway a lot. Voyager is definitely worth a second look.

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    Trip and the Cogenitor from “The Cogenitor”

  • Star Trek: Enterprise: “The Cogenitor” Season 2,  Episode 22
    Speaking of the Prime Directive, this is an episode that explores why a powerful, wanna-be-technologically-sophisticated race of explorers might need a rule like that if they are going to go star-hopping. Again, more big questions with good storytelling and the plucky ensemble cast of Enterprise exploring the universe. The premise of Enterprise is that it chronicles the beginning of humanity’s voyage to the stars before the United Federation of Planets was founded. Like Voyager, Enterprise also has a lot of haters, and I also used to be one. But, after re-watching the show, I realized that I let prequel prejudice color my judgment. “Why do we need a prequel? Who needs prequels, anyway?” <–younger, more nerd-rage-y, Ellen. Well, this episode actually gives a good answer to that rather petulant question. Enterprise has its ups and downs, I think it was really hitting its stride in its last season, but this episode is definitely one of the ups.

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    The box cover of “Trekkies”

  • Bonus Viewing: Trekkies (1997)
    The fan culture of Star Trek has a life and significance unto itself, which Denise Crosby sets out to document with love and humor in Trekkies. I think this documentary is splendid. Crosby catches everything from the ridiculous to the affecting as she travels the U.S.A. talking to trekkies of all walks of life. Who knows? Maybe if my geek friend winds up interested in watching more Star Trek, she might even watch the sequel with me another day.

That concludes this briefing. I devised an entire Star Trek themed menu to sustain hungry nerds for almost eight hours of viewing. Hopefully, I will get the chance to cook that menu and post pictures of the out-of-this-world tastiness in a future log entry…er…blog post. Please, leave a comment below with your thoughts on my episode choices in specific, Star Trek in general, or even just your ideas on how you would eat Klingon gagh. Maybe with chocolate? Or Romulan Ale? Hailing frequencies are open! Anyway, thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers; live long and prosper.

 

All images were found using a Google image search, when I remembered to I linked to the Google Image.

 

Info You Never Knew You Wanted to Know

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Muppets? Or Chickens? by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear pond readers and happy New Year. I’m recovering from a three week ordeal of upper respiratory infection, tis the season, and I hope you are enjoying excellent health as you read this. Being sick gives you time to think about things and, with the year beginning and all, it gives one time to reflect on things undone. Well, it is time to finish something I’ve put off. Today, I’m writing to accept a pile of awards that are all courtesy of the fabulous Jubilare, an amazing and talented blogger of whom I am a really big fan.  Apparently, she is a big fan of mine too, which I find incredibly flattering and humbling. I am rather unworthy to accept these awards, I’m afraid, because I really epically fail at reading blogs on a regular basis. I frequently feel like a hamster on a wheel or the living embodiment of the Red Queen Hypothesis: constantly running to stay in place. I realize I’m not special in this regard, everybody probably feels like this every day, but it is my primary explanation for why I can’t pass these awards forward as I ought to; I have put off accepting these awards and properly, formally thanking Jubilare for sending me more readers because I have felt very sheepish about this failure. But, I know when I’m procrastinating and the awards do sound like fun. So, here is my plan: I will go through the awards in order of oldest to most recent in turn and, at the end of this post, include links to the couple of blogs I read regularly as well as other nifty Internet things I check out to procrastinate and get inspired.

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Dragon’s Loyalty Award Rules

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Jubilare: “Here’s the list of “requirements,” that are optional, and will break the 1000 word limit, alas!”

  • Display Award on your Blog.
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  • Present 15 deserving Bloggers with Award<–Um…yeah, I fail this.
  • Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded. Write seven interesting things about you.
    • Here goes! This is the one thing that I can properly do: Seven things of potential interest that involve me and my fondness for dragons.
  1. I won fourth place in a regional forensics competition in high school by performing Search for the Ten Winged Dragon by Jean E. Karl.
  2. My current reader’s journal is emblazoned with a dragon.
  3. Dragons are a recurring motif in my home creative lair.
  4. Despite my love of dragons, I’ve never used them in my fiction except in one really horrible story in college. I think I might be a tad intimidated.
  5. I watch Game of Thrones for the dragons. I’m kind of rooting for them reestablishing a successful population more than I’m rooting for any of the humans.
  6. While you probably know that my favorite writing utensil is a fountain pen filled with electric blue ink, you might not know that I have a dragon shaped fountain pen. It is gorgeous and magical.
  7. I have been privileged to see the Northern Lights twice. They undulate like green dragons dancing in the sky.

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The Liebster Award Intro and Rules:

 

Intro courtesy of Jubilare’s nomination post: “I’ve been given the prestigiously obscure Liebster Award, in which one blogger with fewer than 200 followers writes trivia and answers to random questions about themselves, and then tags a bunch of other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to write more trivia and more random questions. My eternal thanks to…”

The Rules:

1) Expose my readers to the randomness of my soul.

2) Supply my nominator with answers to her queries.

3) Impose this honor and task upon others deemed worthy. <–Feeling sheepish here.

4) Notify said worthies.

5) Demand said worthies to expose the randomness of their souls.

6) Give thanks.

5 Questions for the worthies courtesy of Jubilare! My answers are in blue.

  1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like. Gut instinct, my first answer is Narnia. I would want to live between Cair Paravel and the wood so that I could hang out with dryads and fauns but not be too far from the sea. I would probably live by the library or the school because one must have books, no matter what world one is in.
  2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest? I don’t know if I would particularly like them but I have long been curious about pumpkin pasties and what they involve. Everybody in the Harry Potter world just seems to really like eating them the way people in the US like sandwiches and I’m just kind of curious about that. A friend of mine made some that were delicious but I wish I could libriomancer my way into a book and pull one out for authenticity.
  1. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much? Yes. My favorite plant is a specific hemlock tree that has been growing with me ever since I can remember. When I was a little kid it was just a little tiny whisp of a tree growing from an old stump and it was almost as tall, or as small, as me. As I’ve grown, it too has grown and it looks like a respectable young tree today but now it is definitely taller than me. I have included a picture of it below. I confess that I have measured my own growth next to that little hemlock and I find it tremendously comforting to think that it will, God-willing, still be growing tall after I’m gone someday. If a tree can be your friend, that tree is my friend.
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My Hemlock buddy by E.A. Schneider

  1.  What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why? Agggh! This is a super tough question. I’m terrible at picking favorites. I waffle all the time. Fictional character is a super broad category, too, which doesn’t help. Hmmm…well, without over-thinking this, the first character that came to mind is Rosie from Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End. So, we’ll stick with that. Rosie is tough, human, undaunted, and clever. Also, the book is very re-readable; I just enjoy its company very much.In terms of villains, the first thing that came to mind is The Goliath Corporation from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. Mind you, Thursday Next is another top favorite hero of mine, but the Goliath Corporation is absolutely terrifying. Like the Borg, they are impersonal, huge, and growing all the time. You can’t escape their omnipresence and because they aren’t one person you can’t really do more than beat them back, they won’t be completely defeated. It’s terrifying but I think that that makes them a better metaphor for insidious, implacable evil than anything else.
  1. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why. All the directions sound appealing and I think that my answer would vary most every day. I would probably pick the uphill climb into the ferns and forest if I’m holding a camera, a walking stick, and/or writing accouterments. I’m not particularly fit and I’m kind of sensitive about heights but I never can seem to resist the view even if I have to crawl to the top to see it, and, yes, I have crawled. Besides, I like the woods; it would be fun to see what creatures I could find. Last time I went on a walk in the woods on some hills with a friend I found the treasure pictured below.
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Garter Snake by E.A. Schneider

Creative Blogger Award Rules

  1. I am rather addicted to blank writing journals. I keep them stashed in a treasure chest tucked into a corner of my lair and, whenever I need a new one, I sort through my stockpile and see which one calls loudest: “Write in me! Fill me with ink!”
  2. My favorite animal at the local zoo is a venerable South American River Turtle named Onassis. 
  3. I cannot do impressions for beans. I am terrible at them in a way that is funny only because it is so incredibly sad that I keep trying to do impressions.
  4. My sense of direction is not great. I generally get where I need to go but sometimes it is dicey and I have to phone for help. “Um…I’m by a Citgo and I passed an ugly strip mall with a health store? Do you know where I am?” 
  5. Civilization by Sid Meiers is my favorite computer game and favorite console game. I have devoted countless hours to conquering the world with those games.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers and add their links. <–Um…yeah, I still suck at this. 
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do!

There you have it, dear pond readers. More random factoids about yours truly than you ever realized you wanted to know. As promised, I will link to my current internet distractions here starting with the blogs I read:

  • Jubilare 
    • Her blog is fabulous with an eclectic mix of fiction, thoughts on fiction, art,  and photography all suffused with Jubilare’s beautiful prose and attitude. Also, with all of these awards, Jubilare nominated a bunch of bloggers that I plan to check out  because I trust her taste and I want to stop sucking at reading blogs.
  • Surly Muse
    • While he has not updated this blog in over a year, there are a whole lot of fabulous posts on it about writing that I have found to be highly useful and entertaining. I’m a fan and I hope that he will start updating it again soon, after he finishes his next book.
  • Rainyleaf
    • I am personally a rather mediocre gardner but reading Rainyleaf’s thoughts on plants and enjoying her beautiful photography always make me want to pull on the gardening gloves and try harder. I’m a fan.
  • Robin McKinley 
    • I adore Robin McKinley. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have mentioned her books many times, including in this very post. She writes the most splendid fiction and whenever I read it I’m both transported and inspired. Reading her makes me want to seize a fountain pen and write fiction. Her blog is fabulous. I’m a fan but I’m rather too shy (ironic, I know) to participate in her forum but I eagerly read her blog whenever I have the chance.
  • Goodreads
    • I love tracking my reading progress and comparing notes with friends, I sink a lot of time into this site.
  • Geek and Sundry
    • I am a fan of their programs, especially Tabletop and Critical Role, as well as their articles. This is a big procrastination sink.
  • Craftster
    • This site is a great source of creative inspiration, I love seeing what other crafters come up with.
  • io9
    • My source for nerdy news, I check this every day.
  • Zooborns
    • I am a sucker for cute baby animals and this site cheers me up.
  • xkcd
    • While the jokes are occasionally over my head, I always find something interesting and entertaining with these comics.
  • Piled Higher and Deeper
    • This comic saved my soul in grad school and I still check it for old times sake.
  • The Oatmeal
    • A recent discovery, this site is rapidly becoming a frequent stop on my inter webs surfing.
  • Radiolab
    • I’m a regular listener to NPR and Radiolab is one of my favorite shows. While I like to listen to the podcasts, I also like reading the articles they post on their webpage.

That’s all, dear pond readers! You now know all sorts of esoteric things AND you have new procrastination fodder to explore when you need to waste time on the Internet. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by and happy 2016.

The view from my lair by E.A. Schneider

The view from my lair by E.A. Schneider

 

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books I Love

Recently, someone close to me asked me to recommend them some good sci-fi/fantasy books, preferably ones that were skewed towards adventure. This is definitely one of those requests that falls under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” dear pond readers. When I looked over the list, I realized that given the amount of work I’d poured into it that I might as well turn it into a blog post. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Some series I love like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings, were left off because the person I was recommending books to had already read them. I didn’t put them back on because I think that they are probably the only three series a lot of people have read and I want to bring some other titles forward. The list is skewed toward adventure and a “If you like Tolkien, you might like:” approach, and it leaves out some of my favorites as a result. But, I hope that it gives you some fun reading ideas as you approach the winter and hopefully some well-earned days off. If nothing else, my one to three sentence reviews/summaries might be amusing in their understatement.

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

  • Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    • This is written in the style of Regency literature and it is about wizards contributing to the Napoleonic wars. It is a slow starter but absolutely fantastic, extremely well-written
  • The Ladies of Grace-Adieu by Susanna Clarke
    • A charming short-story collection set in the same world as Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you like the one, you will probably like the other and it is very short.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • A splendid collection of short stories with an anthropologic/ethnographer bent kind of sci-fi. This is one of my very favorite books.
  • The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • I love these books. A very cool fantasy adventure with a hero’s journey and wizards.
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    • This series just gets better and better with every book. Think urban fantasy meets film noir and magic just happens with compelling characters.
  • The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher
    • I have devoured the first five books this winter. It is a high fantasy series with enough sophistication and political maneuvering combined with great combat to make this an addictive page-turner. When I found the final book,  book six, in the library today I let out an involuntary shriek of joy.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • An epic space opera with great adventure, spice, and sandworms.
  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    • This is a short book with a poignant fantasy arc and a fascinating female lead.
  • The Well at the World’s End by William Morris
    • An epic tale of romantic fantasy, Morris inspired Tolkien a lot and I found this story to be incredibly beautiful. Also, the character named Ursula is amazing.
  • Brave Story  by Miyuki Miyabe
    • I love this story. It is an incredible adventure, a real page-turner. It was very comforting/inspiring when I really needed it.
  • The Never-ending Story by Michael Ende
    • The book is so splendid, way better than the movie. This is a favorite and I think it really touches a nerve for anyone who just genuinely loves Story.
  • Od Magic by Patricia Mckillop
    • This is my favorite of her books, a really fun fantasy about an incredible school for magic.
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    • A wonderful interpretation of the Arthurian legend with some real poignant moments as wells as action.
  • The Worm Ouroboros by Eric Rücker Eddison
    • Eddison was a contemporary of Tolkien and this book is splendid though the ending was a tad irritating but in a mostly good way.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
    • This is a great novel/short story collection that is filled with wonder.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    • A sweet, beautiful story of growing up that is absolutely charming and enchanting.
  • Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    • A rip-roaring space adventure that is just lots of fun.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    • A space adventure with a nifty emphasis on tactics with great characters.
  • The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde
    • I LOVE this series. It is an alternate timeline with librarians of action, a book world, dodos, neanderthals, and one of the most captivating heroines I have ever read. Also, it is an action packed page turner for the bibliophile who has a Monty Python-loving sensibility.
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
    • The start of his nursery crime series, this book is a fun combo of fantasy, comedy, and mystery. Even though nursery rhymes feature heavily, it is not a kids bookTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. SchneiderTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. Schneider
  •  The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
    • This is the start of his series for young people, the Chronicles of Kazam. It is a world not unlike our own with magic as part of everyday life and the protagonist is an orphan named Jennifer Strange. I have read all three books and they are fabulous.
  •  Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    • This is set in our world, in Michigan to be exact, but with magic based on books. I have read the entire trilogy and they are splendid. Hines does some bold things with his protagonist and it is action-packed without being shallow.
  • The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
    • I have only read the first book in his Princess series but it is wonderful and set in a medieval style world. He turns convention around with some no-nonsense fairy tale heroines and uses the original fairy tales to good effect. I am super excited to read the sequels.
  • Shadows by Robin McKinley
    • I am a big fan of Robin McKinley. She writes fantasy books about female characters who do things and this makes me happy. Shadows is set in a world very like our own but there is magic and just a hint of physics.
  •   Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    • This is also set in a world very like our own, but with magic. The heroine is a baker and she meets vampires. A lot of critics call this book the anti-Twilight because it is smart, funny, well-written, and has pretty emotionally healthy characters. I like this a little better than Shadows but they are both good.
  •  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    • The first book McKinley wrote set in her magical fantasy land called Damar. I think this is a good McKinley gateway book and it is considered a classic.
  •     The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    • While McKinley writes a lot of books in Damar in no particular chronological order, the Blue Sword is a direct sequel to the Hero and the Crown.
  •     Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
    • This is my favorite of her novels. It is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, which I generally dislike, but she makes it so interesting and thrilling. I also really like her characters and the fact that she lets them make difficult choices.
  •  Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
    • This is set in our world, more or less, but with dragons. It is written in such a way that I kept wanting to google to see if the Makepeace Dragon Institute were real. I found the protagonist irritating in and of himself but it is a compliment to her writing that that did not put me off reading the book, indeed I couldn’t put it down.
  • The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
    • A classic of children’s literature with a lot of imagination, some adventure, and a charming ending.
  •  The Mrs. Quent trilogy by Galen Beckett.
    • This is a splendid Regency-England style fantasy trilogy that has witches and wonderful prose. It is also pretty short if you are looking for a fast to read series.
My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

Happy reading, dear pond readers. Thank you for stopping by today and please, leave a comment with what you are reading.

Sundry cool things

A few weeks ago I read an inspiring article about progress being made in the fight against white nose syndrome afflicting bats. You can read the article here and I highly encourage you to do so because it is pretty darn cool. Nothing comes from nothing. If you want scientific research to figure things out, you need to encourage researchers who do research and then reward their creativity. To me, that article exemplifies the principle that the more science is done, the more questions are asked, the more answers are uncovered, the more opportunities there are for applications to be found for seemingly disparate things that can make all the difference in critical issues. You never know where the answer you’re looking for might come from. A rich culture of diverse research helps ensure that there will be answers when we need them. Clearly, that article isn’t saying that the fight against white nose syndrome is over, it continues, but it is sure going to be a lot better for a lot of bats now thanks to some good science.

Last week, somebody sent me this beautiful link to the Oatmeal and it brought me to tears, in a good way. I kind of want to send it on to everyone in the world, so I am starting with my pond and all you wonderful readers. Sometimes it is really hard to remember the helpers in the world. Weeks like last week filled with terrible things make it especially difficult, but those are the times when we most need  to not only look for the helpers but stand up and help too rather than give in to fear. We’re all just falling in the sky, we need to help hold each other up while we can. And watch Star Trek. That’s helpful, too.

This week, I read this inspiring article about MS research into Myelin repair. Reading it gave me goosebumps. Right now, my MS isn’t troubling me too too much. I get by pretty darn well most of the time. But, the day will likely come when that stops being true. That day is not this day, though, and, thanks to the National MS Society supporting researchers like Dr. Salzer, for all I know when my body stops keeping pace with repairing my MS, I’ll be able to get some kind of myelin repair therapy that will help keep me mobile. That is really flipping cool. Thanks, dear pond readers, for supporting me and my fundraising earlier this year for team Nerds for A Cure for Walk MS. I was one of the top 100 individual fundraisers in my state, number 68 specifically, thanks to the support of everyone, near and far. Next year, we’ll see if I can crack the top 50 and together we will feed the researchers doing the research that gets the world closer to a cure. Who knows? Maybe the cure or the dream treatment will come as a result of research into bats or frogs or some plant or fungus or parasite I have never heard of before it turns out to be a life-safer. That’s the thing about science and the thing about this beautiful world, it is all connected.

Finally, on this Friday night I leave you with this incredibly cute GIF because everyone needs more cute in their lives. Thanks for stopping by, dear pond readers.

Ducks on the water by E.A. Schneider

Ducks on the water by E.A. Schneider

And the Winner Is…

So, in keeping my promise from my Raffle for a Cure post, I have posted a video of me drawing names from the bowl of destiny for the categories that had multiple entries. Making this video proved to be more time consuming and complicated than I would have suspected so props to all those who do these sorts of things on a regular basis. I doubt that I will make a regular thing of making movies but you never know. Thank you all again for your support with my fundraising and thanks for stopping by the pond!

My Spirit Animal

I frequently joke about spirit animals. The animal in question varies with the needs of the moment and I often find it helpful to visualize the persistence of a snail crawling over a rock, the stoic grace of a tortoise, the I-do-not-even-care attitude of a skunk moseying along its way, depending on my mood. When it comes to writing, I have decided to claim the Brown Capuchin monkey as my spirit animal. This remarkable monkey has the foresight and tool use acumen to keep harvesting palm nuts, prepping them, toasting them in the sun, and cracking them open over days of work. When I saw this documentary talking about this incredible monkey I thought, “Eureka! This must be my writing spirit animal!” I also thought it was rather cute. But still, cuteness notwithstanding, I am dang impressed with how this monkey literally always has another nut toasting in the sun while it is prepping the nut after that one. I wish I could say the same about my writing. Writing is an incredibly time consuming process for me. I also tend to fixate on a story and just keep polishing it and polishing it to the exclusion of all else. That is not a winning strategy if one is to make a go of being a writer any more than obsessively preparing only one nut would be a successful strategy for a monkey. I have notes and notes and outlines for my main WIP based on my flash fiction, Cinderella’s Ghost, that I have been plugging away at pretty steadily. This is is great but, that WIP is a long term project and if I want to be a good monkey…er…writer, I need to get another nut toasting pronto. So, in the spirit of the brown capuchin monkey, I set myself the challenge that I would finish a brand new piece of short fiction this fall. Not a re-polish of something else, no writing prompt involved, just me, my journal, and my fountain pen. By gum I did it. I finished a first draft at the end of August. The 22 pages of fountain pen scrawl turned into 28 pages of double-spaced 12 point manuscript at ~7100 words. I call that a pretty respectable first draft. Now, I’m chipping away at the second draft, trying to stick that ending. Pesky endings, always slippery things. But, I don’t want to lose my momentum. I believe that I will attempt one or both of the following challenges: Almost an Inkling Creative Writing Contest courtesy of the splendid Jubilare and/or The First Line Literary Journal’s Winter prompt. Anybody with me, dear pond readers? After all, it doesn’t have to be November to get some social writing spirit going. Thanks for stopping by the pond today. May your ink and your ideas flow freely!

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider