Summer with da Sickos
Here's some stuff I wrote
Hello Sicko fans.
I have been insinuating and intimating here and there that I am in the process of producing the next Anime Sickos Secret Project. Well, I am.
You will recall the last Anime Sickos Secret Project was The Tragical History of Modesty City,” our 5-act audio drama. It took a long time to get rolling on our next Secret Project because I wanted to 1) not just do Modesty City again, and 2) TOP it!
Well, turns out when you impose those two limitations on yourself, it makes the process very hard. However after a lot of cogitating and a lot of helpful input from some Sicko geniuses I have begun to write our next Secret Project in earnest. It is so much fucking fun. I started the Google doc for the script five and a half weeks ago and the amount of writing I’ve produced since then is more than like 5x what I did in the preceding year.
Unlike the previous Secret Project I cannot hide the entirety of what it is—namely, it’s going to be an audio drama. All I can hide is the setting and structure…but man! I really have outdone myself here! I seriously do think this has the potential to totally outdo Modesty City. It certainly does in terms of scope and ambition—I’ll leave it to you to decide if it does in quality.
Perhaps it is wrong to go on and on about this now because it will be “fucking forever” until you can actually hear it. You’ll recall it took an entire year to produce the Modesty City play. It will probably take at least that long for this one, if not more. However, I couldn’t help myself. I’m having an incredible time with this and I’m bubblin’ over with glee whenever I think about it. It helps that the world is going “Hell Factor Mode” these days, making the writing process a fun escape I can’t afford not to take!
Anyway, here’s some other bullshit:
TOM’S PICKO: The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu
I just finished Cixin Liu’s sci-fi book trilogy The Remembrance of Earth’s Past. I use that name despite the fact that it is almost never printed on English translations of the novels. You will mostly find it called The Three-Body Problem trilogy, so named after the first book in the series. Also technically his name is Liu Cixin but the English publishers decided to put his given name first in the Western style even though all the Chinese characters have their given name second as they normally would. Why am I wasting space on this? Who cares?
Anyway, after finishing the final book in the series, Death’s End, I can safely say: Wow!!!!! These books good baby!!!!!!
The short plot summary is “humanity becomes aware of an impending alien invasion and attempts to prepare for and defend against it.”
The long version is that these books fucking whip ass. No other way to say it. I have heard a criticism levied at this series that it does not much concern itself with its characters or their emotional arcs. I have further heard it said that the books’ focus on the sort of collective action of the world as a whole and not on main characters reflects its Chinese origins. Who da hell can know—I simply do not care! There are tons of novels with emotional arcs and VERY FEW that are this imaginative and believable and terrifying and hopeful.
Part of what is so fun about this series is that no matter what happens, what incredible scientific advancements people make, humanity is always ludicrously unprepared for the trials coming to it, in ways that would be absolutely comical if not for the billions of deaths. So, so many times the series will be like “humanity has discovered that in X years, a horrible event will occur that will wipe us out. We must gather the greatest minds and devise a plan” and then we get like 200 years of great minds coming up with ingenious ideas and all of human industry is focused on achieving these goals, and then when the fateful day arises it’s like “ah. We were fundamentally incapable of understanding the nature of the threat and we have misunderstood it so wildly that everything we’ve done has been absolutely worthless.” This seriously happens like ten times and each time the “big reveal” came I did a soyface as though I thought this time would be different!
Like there’s a scene where the human fleet of stellar warships gets in formation around Neptune to intercept the advance scout of the invading alien fleet. There are like 200 warships and we’ve been following their construction for like 400 pages. There are so many named characters on them. You can guess what happens. But the way it happens makes it one of the sickest fuckin scenes I’ve ever read in a book. Just wow.
Another fun thing: in the entire series no human being ever sees another alien. The whole trilogy covers something like 600 years (technically more but that’ll take too long to explain) and those years are almost entirely defined by the omnipresent threat of total annihilation by extraterrestrial intelligence, and yet truly never once does any character (or us!) learn what any of these aliens look like. We never even get to see one of their ships really! There’s a fan theory that the main antagonistic alien race is like, little flea creatures! Who knows! Maybe! Some may call this a cop out but I love it. You are never allowed to become complacent or familiar with “the threat”—none of the characters do so why should you?
I mention also that the books are hopeful. This is kind of an oxymoron since throughout the course of the series, billions of humans are killed and also every new discovery about the universe reveals it is a much crueler and scarier place than was imagined. And yet! One very good example is early on when the alien invaders transmit a message to humans to indicate their inferiority: “You are bugs.” Everyone is very sad obviously, but then someone is like, yeah, but despite the efforts of thousands of years of pest control, bugs are still around. No matter how dismal things get, there are always people who are able to find a way, to hold on, to move forward.
The books are like 60% technobabble—I don’t know what kind of scientific background Liu has or how much of what’s in this book is based on fact, but I have to hand it to him (and his translators): this mfer knows how to write technobabble!!!!! I’m a dunce and the entire time I totally grasped the concepts at play and what they meant for the story, to the point where near the end I was like, you know, this is probably all true. This is probably how extraterrestrial life in the universe really works. We probably should have lightspeed engines already actually because this book explains how they work and it totally makes sense.
Damn! I feel like I’ve done a very poor job explaining these books, and I think that’s just a side effect of how special and unique they are. It really is one of the best sci-fi experiences I’ve ever had. Wow.
If I had one criticism it’s that it’s pretty sexist—you very much get the impression that in this world there are Masculine Traits (being bold, daring, willing to sacrifice) are things all real men must have, there are Feminine Traits (being kind, caring, merciful) all real women must have. It’s lame but whatever—like I said, the characters are not really the focal point, and this stuff doesn’t come up too often. Besides, every creative person gets to take a few free L’s with every project and even with this Liu still has a huge net positive amount of W’s.
In conclusion: book good! Read da books
TOM’S OTHER PICKO: Watching sitcoms you missed when they first were on air
Turns out they put a lot of good comedy on TV back then and there wasn’t enough time in the day to watch it all. I remember as a teen having to make tactical choices about which shows I would simply never watch—not because of any antipathy towards them, but more in the sense of “I am already full up on shows.” I’ve spoken how I did this to King of the Hill and was delighted to discover that it owns later in life.
Well, now I’m doing it again with Malcolm in the Middle. This shit’s funny! Bryan Cranston should pivot back to doing this imo. That Breaking Bad stuff is cute but doesn’t have legs like this does. Plus, this Muniz kid’s got chops! He’s going places!
Anyway, not much to say other than that this is a show I firmly slotted into the “shit I don’t watch” category when it was on the air, and I wish I hadn’t because it’s very dumb and good. I am especially charmed how it is basically two parallel shows—Malcolm and his wacky family are the main show, and then there’s another show where Malcolm’s older brother Francis is off doing some other dumb thing very far away from everyone. It’s like if in The Office, they spent half the time cutting away to some guy who never worked in the office and doesn’t hang out with any of them.