BLUF Review: The Last Ship, Season 2 Premiere, “Unreal City; Fight the Ship”

Bottom Line Up Front:  Your favorite televised naval porn is BACK, baby!  (Note, if you’re looking for navel porn, sickie, you need to google better.)  The Season 2 premiere of TNT’s The Last Ship kicks off with a bang, wraps up dangling plot lines, and allows us to start the season off fresh.  I liked it a lot.

Short synopsis (with spoilers):  Starting off immediately following last season, CDR Tom Chandler / Cap’n Crunches (Eric Dane) rescues his dad and his kids from the Olympia cure center / charnel house where the evil politico Amy Granderson (a delightfully scenery-chewing Alfre Woodard) is killing off the infected do-nothing, regular folk to make room for her Nazi-esque meritocracy.  Dr. Va-va-va-voom-of-virology, Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) and Granderson’s Navy daughter try to talk Lady Hitler out of her utopian megalomania while negotiating for lab access to manufacture more of the cure.  Meanwhile, aboard the USS NATHAN JAMES, the Maryland state police under Granderson’s control have taken control of the ship, shot last season’s idiot Quincy, and have the AWESOME XO SLATTERY (WE LOVE YOU, JAYNE!  FIREFLY FOREVER!!!) (Adam Baldwin) under guard.  The crew is rounded up and immediately use their greater knowledge of the destroyer to start retaking control.  The bad guys tear the ship apart to find the primordial strain of the world-ending virus so they will have sole access to the cure, but the ship’s doc hides it within the emergency kit he’s using to save Quincy’s life.

Pops and the CMC watch the kids and deal with a go-nowhere subplot about the young son developing a fever (He has Red Herring-itis, I believe).  Chandler, GUNNO, and Sexy SEAL LT (who actually started to grow on me last year, hackneyed relationship aside) take the power plant where they’ve been burning bodies in order to generate electricity (Soylent Power is PEOPLE!!!) and meet up with the anti-Granderson rebellion.  Quincy kills himself to keep his wife from being used as a pawn and to protect the location of the primordial strain, and the XO is locked in the chart room, which he immediately escapes from using the world’s most obvious escape scuttle.  The XO sets up shop in the . . . ummmmm, Room of Plot Convenience and utilizes a God-like level of system control to help the few free sailors aboard ship slowly take out the police.

Battle ensues aboard ship and ashore.  In the end, minor characters are dead, the cure is safe, Sexy LT Nr. 2’s baby is un-sacrificed, Evil Alfre Woodard commits suicide, Tex is back kickin’ ass and makin’ quips, and the NATHAN JAMES is again under Chandler’s and Slattery’s control.

The Goods:  All the characters you loved from last year are back and the show is not much changed.  If you loved it then, you’ll love it now.  Annoying characters are dead (Bye bye, Quincy!  Farewell to your plot thread and family!)  Everything is reset so we don’t need to worry overmuch about Baltimore tying us down to one location or the action moving entirely ashore.  The action kicks ass and there are some great pyrotechnics.  The US Navy is again granting unfettered access to real destroyers and filming on board well.  Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, and Adam Baldwin all do great work here.  Sexy Seal LT Nr 1 has a fantastic line when Granderson calls for a status update on the power plant — best line of the episode.  Tex is again my favorite.

The Less Goods:  The villains and hench-persons are entirely too lawful evil.  I get it.  Things were bad before the ship got there.  Were they “no longer care about my humanity” bad?  These cops go Full Nazi awfully damn fast.  Chandler and his kids hardly give a thought to his/their wife/mother, who just up and died a few hours before.  Quincy pulling his own life-plug and squirting copious amounts of blood as he dies looks like a deleted Baron Harkonnen scene from David Lynch’s Dune (I kept giggling throughout, which is probably not what they were going for).  I again shout “Shenanigans!” to the whole concept of burning freshly dead bodies to use as power.  We are bags of wet meat.  If you want to turn me into a Power-log, you’re gonna have to let me dry to a husk first, or else most of your power and efficiency will be lost boiling off my fluids.  In regards to the baby-scare, I’m not sure that’s how vaccines work.  Mom getting vaccinated does not make her baby’s stem cells automatically immune.  The show’s fidelity to the internal layout of the NATHAN JAMES takes a huge dip here, where the movement and sense of place aboard the destroyer becomes completely confusing and arbitrary.  Engineering techno-babble is — AGAIN — complete shit.  I dread any upcoming ep in which our red-headed CHENG is the central character or conflict.  The worst USN-sin, however, is XO Slattery’s internal ship monitoring and control room.  The closest you could get to what he’s doing is in the Engineering Central Control Station or one of the Damage Control Repair Stations (DCRS / Repair Locker), but there ain’t no such space aboard a destroyer where you can monitor all these remote cameras, turn lights on and off, and basically Deus ex Machina his sailors to victory.  But he does get to axe the fat statey in the chest, so I’ll allow it.

In the end, the episodes kick butt, they made me smile a lot, and only cringe a little.  The goods outweigh the less goods, so this gets two thumbs up from me.  Judging from the previews of the season, it looks like more of the same regarding exclusionary/racist/Nazi societies taking hold ashore, but we also get to play with a rogue British nuclear ballistic missile submarine Captain determined to reverse the American Revolution.  Finally!  We can fight the true enemy:  people who add milk to their tea.  Until next time, ta-ta for now!

New Fiction! (And My RavenCon Report)

Ready for something NEW to read from moi, The Improbable Author, as well as his Amazing Friends?  (use of the phrase “Amazing Friends” does not necessarily imply I’m Spider-Man, but, yeah . . . I am)

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“THE COMMUTER”:  A new, absurd short fantasy by the author of A Sword Into Darkness and REMO! Jack is a regular sort of fellow — a father, a husband, an office drone, and a daily commuter — living in a fantastical, changed world. Jack lives in the Fractured Lands, our Earth intermixed with the realm of Faerie after the Great Stumbling of 1888. But Jack lives his life as non-fantastically as he can, sticking to the human areas and Never Getting Off The Damned Train. However, when Faerie intrudes upon his life and endangers his daughter, everyone is going to find out that he stayed away from the Fae for THEIR benefit, not his own. Because Jack is not just a dad and an office drone. Jack is a former Marine, trained to fight the Fae, and fight them he will . . . .

It’s already garnered three awesome 5-star reviews and ranks #45 on Amazon’s short story SF&F list, but it needs more and it needs to go higher!  If you are a reviewer and would like a complimentary review copy, just message me at any of my links.  If you’d like to patron me and check it out for yourself (THANK YOU), it’s only 99¢ for your Kindle or Kindle app.  If you are a Prime member with a Kindle device or a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can even read it for free!!!  And, please, if you can, post a review on Amazon or the site of your choice.

Also from the Stealth Books authors this weekend:

Postcards From The Moon

“POSTCARDS FROM THE MOON”:  An offbeat short story by award-winning author Jeff Edwards

Once upon a time, mankind dreamed of the stars. Somewhere along the way, that glorious vision got lost…

Hank Rollins is old, tired, and thoroughly regretting the missed opportunities of his youth. More than a half century ago, he passed up the chance to do something wonderfully foolish, and utterly impossible. A chance to reach for a different kind of future.

But the door may not be completely closed, because Hank is getting postcards from a boy who no longer exists, and a world that never came to pass.

I’ve read Jeff’s short (and will be posting my review later today on Amazon — I’ve already rated it a VERY deserved five stars), and it is AMAZING.  It is a literal love letter to a lost future, full of finely wrought nostalgia and such a sense of wonder that it may well buoy your spirit for the rest of the day.  The images and possibilities within are going to populate many a delightful dream.  I can’t wait for the movie Tomorrowland, but I hardly need to — this short story offers all that I could expect out of that film and more.  The ONLY thing wrong with the story is that it did not come with a forwarding address to where I could write Papa Hank back.  Because I would send that letter and go TODAY if I could!  Like mine, it is for sale on Amazon for a mere 99¢, and that is a steal for what I got back from it.

Also this weekend, I got to go to RavenCon up in Richmond, VA.  This was a GREAT con, as it was last year.  Hopefully, I can guest at it next year when they move to Williamsburg.  I was worried about Pro/Anti-Sad Puppy divisiveness, but while it was mentioned and referred to, there was no controversy that I saw.  The folks there who were nominated for Hugos — whether on a slate or not — were all treated like the honored elites of the industry they were.  That gives me hope that fandom will find a happy middle-ground and move on from this teapot tempest.

Allen Steele was guest of honor, along with Frank Wu as artist/scientist, and a whole passel of people that I met last year.  Allen Steele told a number of great stories about coming up in the industry and breaking rules you REALLY should not break.  I also sat in and participated in a number of Indie Publishing panels with the prolifically awesome Chris Kennedy.  I hung out in Baen’s Barfly Central and chatted with Jim Minz, Steve White, Jim Beall, Warren Lapine, and Lou Antonelli (forgive me if I left out your name, honored luminary, there were just so many fantastic folks).  I also ran into John C. Wright, Lawrence M. Schoen, Michael Z. Williamson, David Walton, Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer R. Povey, Christopher FREAKIN’ Nuttall, Karen McCullough, Gail Z. Martin, Stuart Jaffe, Chris A. Jackson, and Danielle Ackley-Mcphail.

My favorite Con moment was participating in Allen Wold’s Short Story Writer’s Workshop.  In it you had to write the 100 word “hook” that should open every selling short story.  It had to include character, action, setting, set up questions, and indeed HOOK the editor/reader.  I made a couple of new buddies in Isaac and Gene, and got to here some great openings and even more valuable advice.  Here’s the second-draft of my 100 words:

Bill Garner leaned forward in the darkness as the safe’s door popped open at last.  Electronic dance music thumped up at him from the floor below, but not loudly enough to drown out the unexpected squelch of something within.

Bill jumped back.  He felt certain that cash and jewels were fairly silent in most circumstances.  Something else lay concealed in the safe’s shadowed interior.

He looked around him.  He was still alone, still undiscovered.  Deciding to risk it, Bill flipped on his flashlight and shone it inside.

A glistening, mottled tentacle curled tighter about a golden urn within the safe.

The panel agreed that I’d appropriately barbed my hook.  :)  I’m intrigued enough that I may extend it into a full story.  The best advice from the panel was from the GREAT Jack McDevitt:  “Don’t try to tell a story . . . instead, craft an experience for the reader.”  It’s one of those seemingly simplistic bits of advice that looks not-very-noteworthy in the first analysis, but once you think about it more, it is pretty damn important.  It really does change the way I look at stories.

Anyway, a great time and a great Con.  Here’s the obligatory picture gallery.  Let me know if I captured any of your souls inadvertently:

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The Duel

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Ready to read?  Ready to come down from your legal (I’m sure) celebration of 4-20 with a pair of intriguing, enrapturing, fascinating, chilling, and/or compelling short stories?  Ready to weigh their merits and choose the better of two rapidly-created masterpieces?

Ready to participate in The Duel?

Then get your butts over to The Writer’s Arena battle thread and ENSURE YOUR CHOICE IS HEARD!  Are you a Sad Puppy?  Are you an Anti Puppy?  Do you not care or have no idea what I’m talking about?  Either way:  GO – READ – ENJOY – ASSESS – COMMENT – and VOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!!!!!!!

Put Up Yer Dukes!

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Sometimes, you just gotta fight for what you believe in. Like if you believe you’re a good writer. Or if you believe you’re good enough to go toe to toe in a writer’s arena against a clever, quippy pop-culture savant who eats “authors” like you for breakfast week in and week out, against a writer who seemingly has no idea just how good he really is (I mean, c’mon Brophy where’s your book?).

If you believe as I do, then you’re going to want to check out some literal literary gladiatorial warfare on The Writer’s Arena this next week. If you’re not sure what that is, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s an online short story contest in which two writers get the same general prompt and have one week to write a 4000 word short story, which then go head to head before two judges and the public. This will be my second time in the Arena after winning last year with “The Gaslight Consultant.”

This time’s been a bit different because I challenged Arena vet Daniel Brophy, and our lead-up to the fight has been . . . entertainingly contentious. We’ve been publicly trash talking one another via Twitter for weeks now, to the delight of many. We also put up a side challenge in which each could give the other one thing they had to include in their story, no matter the final prompt. His for me was a dead body which may or may not be me.

I told him he had to include a humpback whale in a tutu.

;)

I know that’s not entirely fair, so I upped my own difficulty level by including both my own dead body and a dancing cetacean. And the fun doesn’t stop there! We also did a pro-boxer style press conference which is pretty much guaranteed to make you bust a gut laughing:

http://thewritersarena.com/twa-press-conference-brophy-vs-mays  And “No”, that’s not my real voice.

The challenge thread goes live Monday, and the two stories vying for the win go live on Tuesday for comments and votes, with the judges’ decision coming down on Friday.

What can you do? Between Tuesday and Friday, read both stories and VOTE/COMMENT for your favorite!!!

So, You Want to Fix the Hugos…

Tom Mays:

Yet more Hugo nomination alteration suggestions (because it will and perhaps should change in order to address the Sad Pups complaints as well as their opponents on the side of the WorldCon status quo). Perhaps we could mix this with the category changes I recommended for the “Erics”?

Originally posted on Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas:

But you don’t want to “fix” the Hugos.

J. Greely over at .Clue Snagged a comment off of “Making Light” that caught my attention.

“My view is that when we specifically try to change the rules to exclude the Sad Puppies, and we judge how well the changes work by how well they would have excluded the Sad Puppies given historical data, we will have some difficulty explaining to journalists that we are not doing it to exclude the Sad Puppies.”
– J. Thomas, commenting on changing the Hugo rules at Making Light

Those folks have been spinning themselves in circles trying to figure out how to change the rules for Hugo voting to try to prevent Slate voting. They are, of course, ignoring the causes and looking at the effects, and the causes have been known to the WorldCon TruFen for ages, but they never wanted to do anything…

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Scratch the Hugos — Let’s Get Behind the Erics!

I highly recommend the following blog post from master SF author and editor Eric Flint (he’s bought two of my five pro-stories, so you KNOW he’s a sharp fella), who takes a COMPLETELY different approach to this pro and anti Sad/Rabid Puppy debacle.  Essentially, it’s not politics separating the Hugo voting crowd from what is really selling, it’s a vast, vast field which no one can know the entirety of, so a self-selected crowd focuses on works that challenge them, works which by their novelty are not what popular authors are selling in droves.  In addition, the categories are completely wrong for today’s markets and what is actually being produced.  (He tells it much better and explains it all at length HERE.)

Mr. Flint’s updated categories would be as such:  Short Novel (40K-80K words or what used to be a novel when the Hugos started), Stand-Alone Full-Length Novel (80-120K words, or what publishers are actually seeking and buying), Mega-Novel or Trilogy (works like LOTR told as one story, but broken up into volumes, think ASOIAF/GOT), Ongoing Series (uses the same characters, but with a new central conflict each book, like the Dresden Files, Honor Harrington, Monster Hunter Int’l, Old Man’s War, etc).

Now, me, I’d add/continue Short Fiction categories as well, but update them to the modern era:  Flash Fiction (1K words and under), Short Story (1K-20K), and Novella (20K-40K), with those definitions to be defined by committee.

To be clear, Eric Flint is not advocating these awards.  Those are just categories which would be more representative of the field than the awards currently recognize.  His main thrust is that the awards are too constrictive as a whole.  Rather than being handed out annually, they should be given out on a periodic basis to authors based upon a body of work.  That would be more valuable in terms of recognition and as a selling point.

When (okay, if) I’m made High Potentate of All Sci-Fi-Fant-Fandom and decree the Erics to be awarded, I’d probably take a mix of the old and new:

Best Flash Fiction of the Year

Best Short Story of the Year

Best Novella of the Year

Best Short Novel of the Year

Best Stand-Alone Novel of the Year

Best Mega-Novel (can include multiple years)

Best Series (can include multiple years)

Best New Writer (based upon at least 5 works over 3 years)

Best Writer

I imagine Mr. Flint would be horrified at being attached to such a thing, but I’d be generally excited about it.  And just to prevent tribalism or bloc voting by a clique, open the ballot to ALL fans, attach it to a mega-con like DragonCon, and use proportional voting or Single Transferable Vote, etc.

Hmmmm, awards that honor the best work and the best author, without bias or insularity, and reflective of the current market.  Eric Flint is not a genius.  He’s a SUPER-GENIUS.

;)

PONY EXPRESS CONTEST (THE WEIRD WILD WEST)

Tom Mays:

Giddy-up!

Originally posted on eSpec Books:

Today is the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, a venture that ultimately left the owners in bankruptcy, but is also a cherished part of American history. Here are some interesting facts courtesy of Kate Kelly’s America Comes Alive site:

  • The Pony Express began in 1860 and only existed for eleven month.
  • The official name of the Pony Express was The Central Overland, California and Pikes Peak Express Company.
  • Young boys were generally hired because of the company rule that no rider should weigh more than 125 pounds.
  • “Bronco Charlie” Miller was said to be the youngest rider; he was 11 years old when he rode for the Pony Express.
  • The owner of the company was very religious so he gave each rider a small Bible to carry with him at all times.  Each rider also had to take an oath not to quarrel, drink, or swear.

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