My Portals to Escapism

Our topic here at the SFF Seven this week is: books vs movies vs games vs comics.
In ordinary times and in these pandemic times, my first escape when not writing my own books is to read books by other people.
Currently I do all my reading on my kindle and I’m very eclectic in my choices, although science fiction, SF romance, paranormal romance and fantasy do predominate. I always have a large To Be Read list, both on the kindle already one-clicked and waiting for me to be in the right mood and also in a wish list of books I might try at some point. If I discover a new-to-me author that I
love, I might end up reading their entire backlist in a big binge before moving on to anything else.

I also re-read books like Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh, which is one of my all-time favorites. Sometimes I go all the way back to my favorite Andre Norton books, or Anne McCaffrey’s, although I do tend to skim a bit when reading a book I’ve practically got memorized. I found myself re-reading Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon earlier this year when the apocalyptic nature of our current situation became clear to me.  Randy Bragg’s trip to the grocery store on the eve of nuclear war, although different than what we’re dealing with, resonated, shall we say! I always remember the ladies watching him shop and commenting on his fifteen cans of coffee…

I also worked my way through the Flashpoint series by Mike Kraus and Tara Ellis, who were a new writing duo for me. Additionally I really enjoy Kate Morris’s Apokalypsis series, which led to me reading her McClane Apocalypse series.  Yes, I was definitely in an apocalyptic mood.

I guess I still am but as the pandemic deepens, I find I’m going more for scifi romance.
But having said that, my last two reads were This Is Chance! By Jon Mooallem, a nonfiction book about a woman reporter on the front lines at the 1964 Alaska quake, and other Anchorage citizens, and how they all coped. I actually knew two people who survived that quake, one of whom was inside the JC Penney’s store at the time. The other was standing outdoors and watched the ground
running in waves and going up or down, with crevasses opening up around her. The book was an interesting read, definitely the 1960’s were another time, especially as regards women working outside the home. It was a bit jarring to be back in that era while reading the book, frankly. Then right before that I read In Five Years: A Novel by Rebecca Serle, which is a romance with one ‘time travel’ element. And before that was Paladin, a Galactic Gladiators novel by Anna Hackett, who is a must-buy author for me.
In the middle of all that reading, I also re-read the first few books in my own Badari Warriors science fiction romance series. I’m about to start on the next book, Ivokk, which will feature characters who have been mentioned off and on, so I wanted to refresh my memory.
The only thing I watch on live television any longer (which gets us to my second form of escapism – movies or TV shows) is cable news. For everything else, I go to the kindle and stream or binge watch. I enjoy the “skills-based” reality shows – all  manifestations/imitations/spinoffs of Project Runway for example. I never get enough of those, maybe because I used to sew a lot of my own clothes and my daughters’ Halloween costumes and doll clothes, so I feel I can relate a little. Some of the shows are better than others but I enjoy them all.
Also Top Chef is a favorite of mine, although right now I’m struggling because the current season is in Los Angeles, filmed last year, and it’s jarring to see the contestants bopping around SoCal, going in and out of a Whole Foods grocery store with fully stocked shelves, eating at small niche restaurants that probably went out of business in March 2020…yeah, a bit hard to take.  Oddly enough, I haven’t fallen in love with any other cooking shows I’ve sampled. I did watch a few seasons of the one with Food Trucks but that got depressing to me. I watched the Great British Bakeoff with my daughter and her husband and am sad to say it didn’t grab me either. There must be some ‘magic’ to Top Chef that keeps my attention. I loved Face Off, the long running SyFy show where special effects artists competed to create the most amazing things. I have a years’ long, mild crush on Tate, the Season One finalist and always wanted him to WIN, not come in second. Which he finally did triumph in the spin off Face Off: Game Face show and I was so happy for him. (Oh yeah, I’m a devotee of that program all right.)
I have all the seasons of Making the Team – Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (or DCC as they’re commonly known), although right now it’s hard to fully immerse myself in the pro football world, since in my opinion the NFL will have to postpone the coming season, hence no need for cheerleaders either.
During the season, I do watch NFL games, although it’s hard for me to fully enjoy the game anymore, knowing what we know about concussions and CTE brain. I think I’m drifting toward abandoning the NFL if they don’t do better at safeguarding the players’ brains. But wow, when a play goes just right and the pass is caught and the runner gets into the end zone, it can be a thing of beauty…I especially love it when some burly defensive player catches an interception and lumbers (they always lumber) into the end zone…I personally hate all the reviews by the officials. It’s a game, let them play, you know?
Most of the time I forget who won the contest in any specific episode of an old season of a reality program like those, so I do
re-watch seasons sometimes. I never remember jokes, who did it in mystery novels or the winners in these shows! So it’s all mostly new to me when I do re-watch.
I used to be a Dancing With the Stars devotee but gave it up about a year ago when the choices of who got eliminated became pretty obviously messed up in MY mind anyway, with good dancers who deserved to be there passed over in favor of some people who could barely put one foot in front of the other but who made ‘good TV’ I guess. Yeah, I was done caring. Although I did always love their Disney Theme nights. My all time favorite clip from DWTS is Riker Lynch’s paso doble to “He’s a Pirate.”
I have Lego Masters queueing also but have yet to sample it.
I’m watching ‘War of the Worlds’ on Apple+ TV…grim but engrossing limited series. I SO want the French military commander and the
astronomer to have a romance. I’ve convinced myself there’s definite attraction going on, but it’s not clear to me they’ll ever act on it in the midst of their End Of The World As We Know It situation. The series keeps me on edge inagoodway because they don’t hesitate to kill off people you thought would live and also to insert some pretty shocking plot twists. I also appreciate the European setting.
I’m not watching any other series right now although I have ‘Manifest’ episodes accumulating. Season one of that was intriguing.
I was a huge fan of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ partly because I was a Caltech employee for years  and the series did nail what some Brainiac scientists can be like…they’d also refer to JPL sometimes, which is where I actually worked. (Caltech runs JPL for NASA.)
It was absurd, it was amusing, it was frustrating…sometimes it was just so spot on…
I find right now I’m watching a lot of reality series on the kindle that center around zoos and what goes on behind the scenes. There are a TON of those, some with multiple seasons. The variations between the zoos are fascinating to me. New York versus Tampa versus Columbus… I think the zoo shows are feelgood TV to me right now. Usually the animals get through whatever the crisis is or give birth to the darling babies, although every once in a while a much loved creature does pass away, which is always sad. The keepers are so attached to their charges, which is heartwarming. There are some dizzying time jumps – the babies are finally born, (blink) oh here we are six weeks later when they’re bigger, (blink) now it’s a year later….wow, the miracles of editing.
When it comes to movies, I have a lot of favorites that I re-watch, like “Aliens” and the 1950’s version of “The Thing From Another
World.” I still have a cabinet full of hundreds of dvd’s but tend to buy the movie on the kindle if it’s available now so I can sit and watch it up close. I like musicals, action/adventure and obviously science fiction! I’m not much on the newer movies, although I’m going to watch the sequel to the Rock’s “Jumanji” this weekend. I loved the first one and of course I adored the Robin Williams version. Each film has its own charms. The last movie I actually went to the theater for was “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”, with my teenage grandson.
I browse Netflix for movies and offbeat series to try…
I think with movies and scripted TV shows my basic problem is that as a writer myself, I want the plot points to stay settled. Don’t spend season two undoing every single thing I loved that happened in season one! Don’t have your sequel start as if the first movie never happened. Don’t give me movies with no romance…so I kind of gave up on scripted, open ended series and sequels. Also, while SyFy’s ‘Killjoys’ managed to have its full five years of shows to tell the entire story, ‘Dark Matter’ and other shows I was addicted to got cancelled and I hate to feel cheated as far as “what happened to the characters???”
I’m not a gamer at all, although I find computer games fascinating to read about and to see discussed on social media. I’m not good at them either, which probably has something to do with my lack of interest! I’d rather read. Or write.
I read comics voraciously as a kid but I stopped when DC Comics started writing too many alternate universes and “Hero X actually dies in this issue!” plots. See my comments above about scripted TV shows undoing what had been done LOL. Just not for me! I have vintage Brothers of the Spear and Magnus, Robot Hunter in the Dark Horse compilations and I do browse through them on occasion and sigh for the old days a little…
I’ll add that many authors I know are doing jigsaw puzzles these days to pass the time. I thought it sounded like a great idea so I got a couple to try. In the old days when I didn’t have an empty nest we used to keep one going nearly all the time on the dining room table and people would work on it as they passed by. What I discovered to my surprise now is that (a) it’s not as much fun when no one else is working on it too and (b) OMG am I compulsive about wanting to finish the darn thing! Which is ridiculous but I just felt
compelled to slog away at it – the one I was doing had beautiful tea cups in many pretty patterns and I found I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. It had become  a chore, almost enough to fit on the weekly To Do List – “finish the darn puzzle!”. So I gave that up. Not for me apparently.
So there you have it as far as my chosen forms of escapism.

Speaking of which, I just put my boxed set of the first 3 books in the Badari Warriors on sale for $.99 so if you’ve been wanting to try the series for your escapism reading, here’s your chance! Featuring genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens.

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This article was originally posted on SFF Seven

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