Extant- episode 1

I’m a little wary of this show. Mostly because the overall premise is that a woman gets impregnated without consenting.

But there are things I immediately like. Halle Berry on primetime network, interracial marriage on prime time network, a mother with a high profile job, a black mother with a high profile STEM job on prime time network. 

Halle Berry’s character, Molly has just returned from space. 13 months alone. When she returns home she’s feeling ill while getting ready for her son’s party. She assumes that she’s just readjusting to earth. Her son’s party goes well, but the child pushes another and his father scolds him (no “boys will be boys” attitude? nice!). Molly’s female friends ask her how her family manages so well, her being away for so long, missing her family, her family doing family things without a matriarch and she is nonplussed. As the father tucks in the child in we see that he is an android.

The son was created, designed and programmed by the father.

Molly wakes up and looks through old news articles, photos of her and Marcus. A former romantic partner who passed away. 

Her friend and doctor, Sam calls her in. Molly’s tests have returned. She’s pregnant. Not only was she alone in space, but she wasn’t able to conceive with her husband. This is what lead her husband to “create”/program Ethan. 

Molly flashes back to an issue on the spaceship when they passed by a solar flare. She lost power and saw Marcus on the ship.13 hours missing from the log, when she meets with the panel she says she accidentally deleted the security footage instead of copying it. They don’t believe her, because she doesn’t make mistakes like that.

Ethan’s father presents his research to Yasimoto Corp, but Humantix is denied funding after he wiles out on a woman for saying his son is not equal to her daughter because Ethan doesn’t have a “soul.” He replies that Ethan has what all children have, synapses, shared experiences. Life.

Molly’s bosses contact Yasimoto and tell him that funding was denied, so Yasimoto reaches out and backs Humantix as a private citizen to get closer to the family.

Molly takes Ethan to the park for icecream, after getting a balloon with a note, Molly tells Ethan that it is time to go. He drops his icecream and lashes out and runs off, Molly chases him and finds him with a dead bird. Ethan says it was like that when he got there.

Molly is creeped out. She relays such to her husband so says Ethan is just adjusting to her return and ends with a hostile “that kid is the closest we will come to having a child!” Which, since Molly is hiding a pregnancy is not true at all.

They make up the next day. Tensions are high and no one said anything that wasn’t true. Molly is scheduled to see a psychiatrist, a previous astronaut committed suicide and now the psych evals are required. She has more flashbacks. She hallucinated Marcus coming to her on the spacecraft, she freaked out and deleted the tapes, on the footage Marcus wasn’t visible, but you could see her reaching out to him.

Then, back at home, the astronaut wo supposedly had killed himself shows up in her yard, he tells her that he is not a hallucination (so he knows about the hallucinations) and tells her not to trust anyone as her husband calls her in for dinner.

So there is a lot going on. How would a hallucination cause her to become pregnant? How would her employers have impregnate her? If that was the goal, why would they send a man first? Is her son really a creep, or did he just find a dead bird? 

Great first episode for something that seemed convoluted.

I enjoyed the next level future science: the synthetic soul (to steal the term from “Almost Human”), private sector space travel. And the it was coupled with societal standards that may never match society’s progress with science no matter how much we know: gender roles (Molly’s friends asking her how she manages to have her career) and the concept of intangible humanity that keeps us separate from other creature (and in this case:robots).

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And that’s just a fabulous haircut that Halle has.

Book Review #12- Down These Strange Streets edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

I enjoy these types of collections for the variety, for leading me towards interesting authors that I might not commit to a whole book by without getting a taste first. And, in this compilation, I re-discovered an author that I enjoy tons, and should have been reading more of his works.

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I didn’t finish all the stories, but the book went back to the library. Some of them didn’t catch my attention. It happens.

“Death by Dahlia” by Charlaine Harris Dahlia, who is a vampire and her friends (mostly vampires) live in a mansion. They are getting a new leader and there’s a party/.ceremony and werewolves, human blood donors and demons are invited. Then there is a murder! And Dahlia is somewhat of an amateur detective and is selected by the new leader to investigate! Honestly, I’m under the impression this fits in somewhere with some other Dahlia lore that I haven’t read. As a stand alone story, it’s useless. Why do I care about all these werewolves? Why do I need to know about a half-demon Dahlia used to date? I don’t! It should have been a regular murder mystery without all these weird side characters.

“The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R Lansdale Even more unfortunate for Charlaine… She was followed up by this tale. A coworker/horror enthusiaist gave me a copy of The Bottoms by Joe R Lansdale 7ish years ago and I frigging loved it, then I bought myself Mad Dog Summer (a collection of his short stories) and I loved that too.

From the first paragraph of “The Bleeding Shadow”, I knew I was going to like it: “I was down at the Blue Light Joint that night, finishing off some ribs and listening to the blues, when in walked Alma May. She was looking good too. Had a dress on that fit her the way a dress ought to fit every woman in the world.” Alma May, makes her living as a prostitute, Richard (main protagonist and narrator) is sweet on her and wishes she had a wealthy man to take care of her. He’s not that man. But he does some detective work, some private eye type stuff on the side, and Alma May asks for his help. It seems her brother, a blues musician, has sent her this record, starts out; it’s the best music she’d ever heard him play… and it makes the shadows come creep out of walls, the hair on your neck stand up and the air getting inside your chest feel like mice wearing barbed wire coats.

Now the alarms in my head from the moment Alma May said “blues musician” I was already screaming, “Robert Johnson! Deal with the devil! Cross roads!” And I wasn’t wrong. Lansdale’s gritty writing style, like Dashiell Hammet telling you a campfire story, makes it gross and wonderful. Got my attention and kept it right away.

“Hungry Heart” by Simon R Green This was a good story, another Private I., hired by a witch to find her heart and the man who stole it, literally. Takes place in a bright colorful world where even side characters have rad powers, ie; Gunboy who can shoot with a conceptual gun (his fingers), awesome.

“Styx and Stones” by Steven Saylor

“Pain and Suffering” by SM Sterling

“It’s Still the Same Old Story” by Carrie Vaughn Carrie Vaughn’s most popular works are the Kitty Norville series (she’s a werewolf) I’ve only read the first in that series, on a 3 day long stint on a greyhound bus bound for SoCal. I also read a couple Harlequin romance novels, really silly shit with farm hands and billionaires.

This story is nothing like that. It’s about a vampire named Rick (and/or Ricardo) who made a friend named Helen in 1947. Helen made deliveries for the Mafia and ended up witnessing something she shouldn’t have. When Helen turns up dead suddenly, shot at over 90 years old, Rick looks into it ahead of a detective who knows good and well what he is. It’s told through flashbacks to the 1940s and present day. Good read.

“The Lady is a Screamer” by Conn Iggulden A story about a conman who was never going to be a good man but didn’t want to be a complete fake. He made money hustling widows out of money with phony psychic readings. It sounds worse than it is, he always left them with a smile on their face, gave them some piece of mind about their dead lovers. One day he gets a call, someone wants him to remove a spirit from her house. He charges her an outrageous fee, makes his plan to burn some feathers and chant some Mickey Mouse. But the he gets there and meets the Lady, a spirit who won’t stop blowing in his ear, and sets out to be a ghostbuster. Very funny, a little sad, a clever tale.

“Hellbender” by Laurie R King Excellent story. A Grad student whips up some modified embryos containing a mixture of human and salamander DNA. A right wing Christian group declares that these are “people” “babies” “God’s creations” and enlist female church members to carry the embryos to term. The resulting children are SalaMen. Some of them look more like salamanders than others, some regenerate better than others, most undergo a surgery to make them look human. One of these creatures uncovers a plot by rogue geneticists to capture and run tests on the SalaMen to benefit humans at large. This one was well told, another private eye story, not as much swagger as Lansdale, but all in all; a really well told Sci-Fi story that combines elements of both religious fanaticism and bioethics gone awry.

“Shadow Thieves” by Glen Cook

“No Mystery, No Miracle” by Melinda M Snodgrass

“The Difference Between a Puzzle and A Mystery” by MLN Hanover

“The Curious Affair of the Deodand” by Lisa Tuttle

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” by Diana Gabaldon This is the first story a turned to, It was one of the stories advertised on the back cover. It’s 3x longer than most of the other stories. Set in Jamaica in olden times when people came over on ships with sails. It doesn’t fit my definition of Urban Fiction, and it moved very slowly.

“Beware the Snake” by John Maddox Roberts

“In Red, With Pearls” by Patricia Briggs A werewolf Private Investigator! A zombie assassin! These are all my favorite things! The werewolf PI teams up with an interesting couple of witches to find out who is trying to assassinate his lawyer boyfriend (that’s right. They are in a healthy same-sex relationship. They face discrimination. Because the real world has fucked up shit, not any of this, ‘they discriminate against me because I’m a werewolf’ hoo-ha). This one was fun, some other stories had a more serious tone, this one was funny, but very smart and interesting. Definitely one of my favorites in the collection. In fact, *ding ding ding* Patricia Briggs wins! What does she win? Me, starting the Mercy Thompson series.

“The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Denton