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Random Thoughts and Opinions

Thoughts and Musings: Star Trek In All Its Glory

The Captains of Star Trek

I love Star Trek. I've loved it ever since I was a small child and happened to come across a showing of Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home while channel surfing. I think we have Trek to thank for the entire "geek culture" we're enjoying today. There would be no San Diego Comic Con without Star Trek making that sort of gathering a thing.


We're about to have the third, and final, season of Star Trek: Picard, and while I've liked it far less than I'd hoped, I am still thrilled about what we've so far of this coming season. Since it will be a real bookend of the Next Generation series, I thought it would be good to touch on the entire franchise and what it's meant to me.


Star Trek as a franchise really jolted my love of writing to life. A lot of writers start out writing fan fiction, even if it's just their own private thing. Kind of like how every band does covers. For me, I spent many a night scribbling down wild tales of crossovers and adventures I never thought we'd see on screen. The sandbox for Trek allowed for just about anything to happen, which really drew me in. Like Gene Roddenberry said once, when asked about running out of story ideas: "My God, our premise is the universe! How can you ever run out of stories?"


We're in the midst of a Star Trek renaissance, started (with a few hiccups) by the J.J. Abrams films, and continuing now as the flagship franchise for Paramount's streaming service. When I grew up, the most concurrent series you ever got was two. Now there's five, all covering different time periods and focal points of that universe, with more on the way. It's hard to wrap your head around, especially if you were a fan in 2005 when Star Trek: Nemesis bombed at the box office and Star Trek: Enterprise was unceremoniously cancelled. It looked like the franchise was well and truly dead. So, while I'm not in love with every choice they've made for each of these series, I am still thrilled to have them and to see them thriving. 


Once Picard airs, I'll be reviewing the new episodes each week, so for those of you who've found me, stay tuned. I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

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Thoughts and Musings: Tietam Brown by Mick Foley

Tietam Brown by Mick Foley

Today I wanted to tackle a book that is not hugely known but is still very near and dear to my heart. Tietam Brown, by Mick Foley, is not a NYT bestseller, but it is a hidden gem that anyone with even a passing interest in pro wrestling should take it upon themselves to read some time. I've always been a huge wrestling fan, and my upcoming novel Blood In The Holler is something of a twisted love letter to that industry, so I was all too eager to snatch up Foley's first novel. He'd written two memoirs beforehand, both of which were NYT bestsellers, but I guess the stigma of a "wrassler" writing books had begun to catch up with him by then.


Foley was always a fantastic wrestler, but I was legitimately shocked to discover he's also a very talented writer. When most memoirs from stars are actually written by ghost writers working off notes from the celebrity, Foley always stubbornly insisted on writing them himself. And they were great! But a novel, like Tietam Brown, is a very different beast to wrangle. And I know from bitter experience that even today people in the industry have a very dim view on wrestling (I had one agent tell me my novel wouldn't find an audience because the people who watch wrestling aren't the same people who like to read. I look forward to proving him wrong). It was only worse in the early 2000's. And even though it had a very muted response upon release, I was still eager to use it as one of my comps when I was querying publishers about my own novel. That broke the rule about only using novels from the past 3-5 years, but frankly there are not many novels that deal with pro wrestlers anyway. Really I just know of one. This one.


My immediate thought upon reading this was "Here's a crossover between Wrestlemania and The Catcher In The Rye." It's got all the hallmark turns of the best long-term wrestling storylines comfortably ensconced in a very different type of coming-of-age tale. Sprinkle in a bit of The Graduate for good measure, and you have Tietam Brown. I think, if the book were released today, it would have found a much wider audience. But when it was published, no one really knew what to do with it. People were too distracted by the fact that Foley is a wrestler to realize that he's also a damned good writer. So do yourselves a favor and find a copy where you can. You'll be glad you did.   

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Thoughts and Musings: Read Me, a novel by Leo Benedictus

Read Me by Leo Benedictus

Recently I was lucky enough to come across Leo Benedictus's Read Me in, of all places, a Dollar General. The lesson here? You never know when you'll come across something that adds a little joy to your life. I absolutely could not resist picking up a book that was ordering me to read it, and I'm glad I followed directions.


The novel follows an unnamed protagonist who decides, upon coming into a generous inheritance, to pursue his dream of stalking women pretty much non-stop. His narration, which pulls the reader in by addressing it specifically to us ("You're being very patient. You want the nitty-gritty, and you're right…well, I am a rich man, as you have heard, and…you know my name.") keeps us engaged as he takes us through his increasing risks regarding how much he intercedes in his subject's lives. This culminates with Frances, with whom he finally crosses the line from passive observer to active participant. Things spin out of hand from there.


While the style of narration immediately reminded me of Caroline Kepnes's You, I found myself thinking more of John Fowles's The Collector, another first-person account of a stalking and a kidnapping. While all three or those novels do revolve around a first-person account of the stalking and kidnapping of a woman, I felt like Read Me was more of a spiritual successor to The Collector than You. If nothing else, the three novels reveal that a story can follow the same general outline and have vastly different outcomes.


What makes Read Me worth reading in addition to both You and The Collector is the way in which Read Me asks us to consider our own observational habits, usually unobtrusive of course but still present. It invites us to consider the way we judge people when we're outside their bubble, and also to think of what motivates the critiques we have. It's a meditation on how toxic tendencies can take root and grow in our psyche without us even realizing how far out of hand it's gotten. It clocks in at a lean 252 pages, long enough to leave a hollow space in your gut when you finish reading it. 

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