Movie Night: Picard

So recently we watched the new series Picard, a long-after sequel series to Star Trek: The Next Generation. ST:TNG was my favorite of the Star Treks, and it was probably the only one of those series I watched in its entirety. My college roommates, who thought me kind of an odd duck in the best of circumstances, didn’t mind watching the show with me on television every week, but they were perhaps less sure how to explain to their non-sci-fi-loving friends about the poster I had of Jean-Luc Picard on our dorm room wall.

It was pretty similar to this one, except without the text at the bottom.

Picard was a decent sort of man, and a much better captain for a modern woman to look up to and feel safe around than that James T. Kirk ever could be, that was for sure. But mostly I just really liked the show and really appreciate Patrick Stewart as an actor. (His version of A Christmas Carol remains to this day the only movie version of that novel I enjoy watching and have made an annual tradition.)

So when Picard was announced, I was understandably enthusiastic.

In preparation, I did not go back and rewatch old episodes of ST:TNG, nor did I rewatch any of the movies from that series, although I liked some of those as well. (For what it’s worth, the newer movies, with Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana and Chris Pine and a host of other excellent casting choices, are hands-down my favorites. Even the middle one with Benedict Cumberbatch was pretty good, though the weakest, I think, of the so-far trilogy.) My point is, I came to Picard with my memories of the original character of Jean-Luc, and I was satisfied with that.

This made, perhaps, the elder statesman of Picard a little more interesting to watch. I’ll try not to get too spoilery, but here’s the gist of it, for me: Picard is a character who, in his retirement, must grapple with the same thing that a lot of men in the 21st Century must grapple with. He no longer has carte blanche to act any damn way he damn well pleases. He faces pushback for his actions, for his attitude, and for his way of thinking.

This is not to say that there was anything particularly wrong or untoward about the way he was. But he is a person whose ego has been reduced. One could argue, I suppose, whether it really needed to be reduced in the first place, but the new series definitely makes the point that something had to give.

Now, is Picard someone whose past actions have caught up to him in a way that makes people feel gross about liking him before? No, not at all. This show is not reflective of the #MeToo or #TimesUp movements, nor does it make explicit commentary on the more disgusting and disheartening aspects of the sci-fi (and other) literary community today. In short, I’m not trying to imply that allegations of Picard being an asshole to women have suddenly come to light and he now must fight through disgrace for his past actions.

No, this new storyline maintains the character of Jean-Luc Picard as someone worth looking up to and admiring, but someone who still has room for growth. I respect and appreciate that. (And from a narrative craft standpoint, what other point would there have been in making a new series, if he didn’t have an arc to ascend?)

So, Picard gets to be taken down a peg and then allowed to climb his way back up, at least in a sense. He does so in a thoughtful way. Great!

The other elements of a good sci-fi series one might eagerly expect are there, too: compelling characters, both new and familiar; exciting technology; cinematography that at least borders on lush; worthwhile commentary on the human condition; just a good storyline.

While I won’t say that Picard was something I was desperate to watch and is a show I would have utterly lamented not seeing, I’m quite glad we gave it a chance. It became more engaging and more compelling with each episode, and if another season comes up, I’m pretty sure we’ll watch that one, too.

By all means, wear a mask and wash your hands if you really have to go out, but––

If you can, please just stay home and watch some good content. Picard fits the bill.

Three New Treasures For Your Reading Self

I’m neck-deep in coordinating author events (maybe even a mini-tour!) and working on a new novel right now, and honestly, all I’m listening to these days is the Hamilton soundtrack, so the Monday Earworms are a little thin on the ground. Sorry about that — we’ll get back to them soon, I promise. In the meantime, what are you listening to? Tell us in the comments!

I want to take a moment to highlight three exceptionally worthy projects just made available. Give them some love, won’t you? I think they’re great.

(And stay tuned to the end of this post for a few more exciting newsy bits.)

***

TWO BLOCKS FROM EMANCIPATION by Casey Fleming

This new blog project by essayist Casey Fleming bravely addresses emancipation in many forms, including on the subject of race. Casey is one of the most compelling essay writers I’ve ever read; she even did an outstanding guest post here years ago for the Fashion Friday series. Here is a brief excerpt from her site about the nature of this new project itself:

To live two blocks from something as wonderful as emancipation–as an ideal, a psychological space, a lived reality–is to live in the border between what’s possible and what’s yet to manifest, between what America aspires to be and what it is. Living on the border is always disquieting and dangerous. Some of us take up permanent residence there, and we must risk speaking from that painful proximity to liberation.

I encourage you to check out Casey’s essays and follow this new project.

***

UNDER THE FLICKERING LIGHT by Russ Linton

Russ Linton hit the scene a number of years ago with his sci-fi debut Crimson Son, a book which defied typical conventions of the sci-fi/super-hero genre and gave us not just an endearing snarkster extraordinaire in its young adult protagonist Spencer, but also a series set in a compelling literary universe.  This new book stands alone but jumps far forward in time to the year 2300 in Spencer’s world, when AI overlords have made some…modifications to our human landscape. Russ has also written some really original fantasy as well. Check out his website for more about his books and his current entertaining and meaningful nomadic adventures in the real world.

I’m a big fan of Russ’ work and hope you’ll give it some attention, too.

***

THE SOUL SNATCHERS by Richard Sanford

Richard Sanford is one of the fiction authors over at Odeon Press, which is how I know of him, and his new book sounds really exciting! Here’s the blurb about it:

The Soul Snatchers is a sci-fi thriller about social media addiction and cyber derangement. There’s also a love story, a secret code hidden in a mesmerizing mandala, and Svetla, the Bulgarian rideshare driver.

Tzaro Janssen, a seismologist in a next-gen lab in the San Juan Islands, sees his girlfriend Therica become … not herself. Stories like hers are lighting up media around the globe—psychotic breaks, social isolation, explosive violence. And no known cause. At the center is Therica’s obsession, the mega networking platform Wundrus.

From early reviews:

“The Soul Snatchers is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia … a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches.”

“I thought that The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford was a fascinating and fast-paced read. There was no good reason to put the book down … I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries, but was blown away by this one.”

And here’s a statement about the book from Richard himself:

I wrote The Soul Snatchers to be entertaining, but it also has a point to make about something we’re seeing everywhere—isolation, among ourselves and our kids. Everybody’s hyperconnected, but nobody’s talking.

That sounds both topical and timely, doesn’t it?

***

Now for the promised newsy bits:

I may be adding another reading to my slate for Houston in early March. Stay tuned for details.

I’ve just settled another event in Austin for next month. I’ll be reading at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th. Come join us! Bring friends! Bring acquaintances and other people you want to impress! Or, you know, just bring yourself, and I’ll be thrilled with that.

I’m also looking at doing an event or two in the area of Blacksburg, Virginia. Drop me a line if you’re out that way and want to come do some booksy, writingsy things with me!

More exciting details about these events will be posted on my website as they become available.