Every once in a while, I write about the things I am enjoying, and good things that have happened to me. So, here is another installment of Things that are Making Me Happy Right Now
Last Exit by Max Gladstone
Last Exit is an urban fantasy with serious Dark Tower vibes. Ten years ago, a band of young companions explored a series of parallel worlds. But things went wrong, and one of them fell to the darkness, and the rest of them scattered back into our world and, save for one, took shelter in the new lives they created for themselves. Now, the companion they lost has returned, and is bringing the rot that took her to our world. To save the world, the group must reunite to stop her. But what, exactly, are they standing against? Are they actually destined to destroy all the worlds?
The characters are compelling, the plot both straightforward and intricate. It is a quest narrative with numerous twists and turns along the way, with a twist that made sense, but one that I genuinely did not see coming. Also, several of the characters are queer, and although I’m pretty sure Max Gladstone is a cis straight guy, they feel as authentic and well-rendered as the straight characters. Also, they do not exist solely to suffer.
I really enjoyed this book and am still thinking about it weeks later, which is one of the highest recommendations I can give it.
All the Star Wars!
My boyfriend is not immune to the appeal of Grogu/Baby Yoda, but had never seen the Mandalorian. So, while we were watching the first episode, I was explaining that it took place after return of the Jedi but before the sequels, and then he dropped another bombshell: Of the Star Wars movies, he’d only ever seen The Phantom Menace all the way through. I swear there was a record scratch in my brain. So, it was immediately obvious what needed to happen.
Since he’d seen The Phantom Menace, we started with Attack of the Clones, and have since watched all of the main saga Star Wars movies. A couple of days ago, we finished The Rise of Skywalker. And I have thoughts. They might surprise you.
I had remembered the Prequel series as being horribly written, something that had been reinforced by the discourse and numerous memes. But really, the only part that was really horrible was the dialogue, especially in Attack of the Clones. Like, it was truly terrible, almost as if it had been written by an ai. But the overall structure of the series, like the main plot, was actually solid. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy, and plays out that way. It’s the story of the corruption of an idealistic hero, who is failed by everyone around him and manipulated by dark forces. It also stresses how even well-meaning institutions can become moribund and inward-looking, to the point that they can be co-opted by bad actors, which is something that seems very apropos these days. Overall, I really enjoyed them on this rewatch.
The original trilogy was just as much fun as I remembered them being. Like, at no point should you think too hard about anything that is happening, but that is a feature not a bug. I really don’t have a lot to say about them.
Which brings me to the sequel trilogy. I remembered liking each of these movies well enough when I first saw them, even though I was aware that they had problems. And I enjoyed them again. I had let my memories be corrupted by the discourse to the point that I’d regarded them as uniformly awful. But they were not awful. They were actually enjoyable.
Was there a ton of wasted potential? Yep. Were there intriguing plotlines introduced and then never followed up on? Sure! Were the movies comprehensible to anyone who did not also have wookiepedia open on their phone? Barely! But they did tell a solid story, in their own way, even if it was not as good as the story that we all had in our heads. They’re full of great moments: Poe and Finn’s escape, Rey and Kylo Ren killing Snoke and the Guards on the star destroyer, every moment with Rose Tico. The movies mostly hang together. Would it have been better if there was a coherent plan from the beginning? Probably! They were not what everyone wanted, but they were solid enough for what they were. Watching them again, I was reminded of what I’d liked about them. And the ending, which I had remembered as a series of random events, I realized was about the entire galaxy coming to stand together against fascism, believing in hope again, and that was actually a powerful message that landed on me. (The Empire/First Order consistently developing doomsday weapons systems with a single point of catastrophic failure seemed more like a worldbuilding motif rather than something that took me out of the story, YMMV)
I mean, The Rise of Skywalker does contain perhaps the worst line of dialogue ever committed to film (“Somehow, Palpatine Returned…”) and I’m not certain it should be forgiven for that, but I’m willing to live and let live at this point.
As I wrote about in my last newsletter, my Granddaughter Ginny was born on March 16th. And lately, I’ve spent a lot of time helping watch her and her two brothers, Axel, 4, and Oliver, 1. And, like, that is very tiring, but it is also a lot of fun. There is no better feeling than having an infant settle against you and go to sleep. Except maybe when your grandson lights up when you show up to pick him up from pre-school, or a one-year-old who’s just learned to walk races up to you and holds his arms up to be picked up. All of those feel incredible.
I wasn’t ready to call myself grandpa when Axel and Iris (5) showed up in our lives three years ago, but now I can’t imagine my life without them. And I don’t mind the label.
My daughter is definitely like, “You’re so much cooler a grandparent than you were a parent what happened” and there’s a lot of reasons for that. I am at a much more secure place in my life these days. I’m no longer living a lie. I know who I am, and I am much more in control of the energy I am putting out. I think it’s that way for most people, my own circumstances notwithstanding. Plus, being a grandparent is not the full-time job, most of the time, parenting is. Also, you can be more chill about things because you are not being judged as harshly for everything that is going on.
Plus, I don’t know what it is, but there is something about your grandchildren that makes them way cuter and more charming than your own kids were. It’s just science!