Birthday Business, Shout-Outs, and Other Matters

Today is my 33rd birthday, and I’m celebrating by taking a mini-cation from work to write and see close friends – two of my favorite activities. I was thinking of having a big party for myself but that sounded an awful lot like the event-organizing I’ve been doing for work lately, so I decided to postpone the party to a less busy time. I’m thinking I may have a party some time in the summer to celebrate hitting a third of a century.

There are many other illustrious figures born on March 18, including at least two others born in 1977, the year that Star Wars was released and Harvey Milk was elected. A very special happy birthday to Peter Ball, my birthday-brother from Australia, a fellow writer who defies categorization, writing in every genre from magic realism to pulp noir, and possibly inventing some new sub-genres along the way. For a free online taste, I recommend this short story at Strange Horizons about merfolk, Copenhagen, love, and loss.

And happy birthday to all the other fabulous March 18ers, including Jordan, a new friend who was born only a half-hour apart from me, and Fernando, an old friend who was born a bit further apart from me than that. :)

In other news, SF Signal recently asked this year’s Nebula award nominees for recommendations of other worthy stories. I was honored and flattered to see that “Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts“ was mentioned by several of the nominees. Many thanks to Chris Barzak, Richard Bowes, Will McIntosh, and Rachel Swirsky for the shout-outs. It’s especially nice to get kudos from those four writers, all of whom much deserved their nominations and routinely write some of the best stuff out there these days.

All right, time to get some real writing done…

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Recommended Fantasy & SciFi On the Screen from 2009

Part 3 of my recommendations of great SF from 2009 – fantasy & scifi on the screen, including film, television, and other miscellaneous forms of dramatized entertainment. (Just wait until you see the miscellaneous.)  These are the works that I’ve nominated for the Bradbury Award (basically, the Nebula Award for Dramatic Presentation – technically not a Nebula, but it’s pretty Nebula-like since it’s nominated on voted on by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Some of my recommendations pretty much follow the mainstream, others less so:

  • Up: One of my favorite Pixar movies to date, write up there with Wall-E and The Incredibles. So many things I loved about this.  The fact that a cranky old guy is the hero (not just a colorful supporting character).  The fact that many laws of physics are defied but no one cares because it’s awesome.  (E.g., I’m no expert, but you probably can’t walk around pulling along a house held aloft by hundreds of balloons as if it were a giant balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.)  And the fact that the metaphorical, character, and plot arcs all come together so beautifully.
  • Doctor Who – ”The Waters of Mars”:  I’m a recent convert to Doctor Who and this special was one of the strongest from the show.  I love that they’re pushing David Tennant’s Doctor to such challenging new places before he takes his final bow. And, as they’ve done in many Doctor Who episodes, they’ve taken something ordinary – water – and made it disturbingly horrific.
  • Pontypool: This independent film is sort of a sophisticated zombie apocalypse story.  The premise is that you are infected with insanity not by a blood or saliva, but by the English language itself – certain words carry the virus.  Wonderfully original surreal science fiction horror.  If you can find a way to see it, then do so.
  • District 9:  Despite some drawbacks, this was one of the most sophisticated and thought-provoking pure science fiction movies to come out in a while.  Broke a lot of new ground for SF on screen.
  • Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” Music Video:  Yes, Lady Gaga.  This is a ground-breaking pop music video akin to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and like “Thriller” it is firmly rooted in the SF genre, drawing on traditions of horror, science fiction, and surrealism.  In five minutes Lady Gaga makes a stonger artistic statement than James Cameron does in 162 minutes of Avatar. I know I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, so I may need to write an entire post on this one…

So those are my personal top five dramatic presentations in SF from 2009.  The new Star Trek movie was also entertaining, but not much more than that – and I do hope for more than just entertaining when it comes to Trek.  Despite my swipe at Avatar, I found that entertaining too, and I was very happy any time I was watching luminescent alien landscapes in 3D.  But the story and characters were just not interesting enough to put it in my personal top five. This year’s Harry Potter movie was my favorite to date and probably would have made my top five if there weren’t such other good contenders this year.

I also am waiting to catch up on Season 4 of Doctor Who before watching David Tennant’s final appearance, otherwise that one might have made it too.  Similar note for Torchwood: Children of Earth and Moon – heard they’re both excellent but haven’t seen them yet.   And, lastly, oh how I wish the last episode of Battlestar Galactica had been even worth considering for a nomination, because it was a really awesome show up until that disappointment…

Still to come: recommended books, and possibly a note on why we should enthusiastically embrace Lady Gaga as a member of the science fiction community.

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Ben Francisco. About me.

Ben Francisco is a writer of fictions. His stories range from magic realism to space opera, and have been known to feature oversexed ghosts, epidemics of phosphorescence, zombie musicals, and pantheistic vampire aliens who reproduce like moss. Common themes include cultural misunderstandings, family dysfunctions, LGBT experiences, and spiritual searches. Also, lasers.

Ben’s stories have been published in Realms of Fantasy and the anthology Dreaming Again. Other stories are forthcoming in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer. He has also written nonfiction columns and articles for Fantasy Magazine.

Ben is a graduate of the Clarion South 2007 writers workshop in Brisbane, Australia, a science fiction boot camp where he spent six weeks writing non-stop, playing Mafia, and staying up till the wee hours of the morning talking about the physics of cannonballs, unicorns, and zombie watermelons. He is also a graduate of Taos Toolbox 2008, another intensive workshop, taking place at very high altitudes in New Mexico. His friends and family may soon have to perform an intervention to help him break his workshop habit.

He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Hassan. Their diet consists mainly of chicken.

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