order of oddfish cover order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


A Doctorow Rave, a Philosophical Chat, and I’m in 20×2!

July 25, 2022

Cory Doctorow has come through again! I woke up today to find he had posted a very positive review of Dare to Know. Anyone who knows modern sci-fi knows Doctorow is a powerhouse, and yet for all his success he still finds time to read and promote lesser-known authors. It was a real pleasure to be reviewed by someone as informed as Cory, because not only did he clock my obscure references (the video games Aztec and Prince of Persia!) and adroitly situate Dare to Know in the history of SF (Heinlein’s “Life-Line”! Machine of Death!) but he also charted how it relates to The Order of Odd-Fish, which he had positively reviewed many years ago. I’m really grateful.

But wait, what’s that video above? I was interviewed by Greg Sadler for his philosophy YouTube channel. I had met Greg in real life when I did an author appearance at Boswell’s Book Company in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. Since Greg is a bona fide professor of philosophy, we were able to go deeper than usual discussing Dare to Know. And since I have a few interviews under my belt at this point, I’m more coherent than usual. So please check it out, he’s a great interviewer!

One last thing! I was invited by literary fellow-about-town Andrew Huff to speak at 20×2 in Chicago back in June. The premise, per their website: “What happens when you take 20 handpicked creatives and luminaries, give them each two minutes before a live audience and the same (fuzzy) question to unravel?”

I had a great time! The question was “Who Cares?” and I tried as best I could to answer it in two minutes below. Readers of Dare to Know will recognize a riff about the Beatles at the beginning of the video—this is because I had googled the phrase “Who Cares” and found that the first result to show up was a 2018 song by Paul McCartney with the name “Who Cares.” After that, I was off to the races:

But the real fun for me that night was meeting all the other “creatives and luminaries” and seeing how they answered the question “Who Cares.”

Some, like the hilarious Alisa Rosenthal, I had met long ago in improv classes, and it was great to reconnect with her (here’s her entry, a song about junior high school awkwardness).

I had also previously met Felix Jung (here’s his unexpectedly emotionally affecting short video) when he and I both made videos for the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Month at the Museum” contest (my entry here features a very young me, Heather, and Lucy).

Other luminaries I met just that night, and I was blown away by everyone’s talent and guts, especially when Lily Be did a stage-dive and when Brenda Scott Wlazlo did a show-stopping number in a Care Bears costume.

I hope to be invited back to 20×2 someday! You can find all their videos here.

My 16-year-old niece Sophia published a book: STUCK BETWEEN THE STARS!

July 13, 2022

I certainly wasn’t capable of anything like this when I was sixteen years old! My niece Sophia Brown has just published her first novel, Stuck Between The Stars. It’s available in paperback on Amazon here and this is what it’s about:

Stuck Between the Stars is a science fiction novel about two planets (Tenemon and Novana) that have been at war for many years. The Novanian Council sends Callahan Kennedy to battle the evil leader of Tenemon, Empress Vanessa Mills. After a series of events, the two end up falling in love, and Callahan realizes that maybe Vanessa is not the bad one in this story, and the real villain has been hiding in her shadows for all of these years…

Full disclosure: since 2020, I have read several drafts of this manuscript and given Sophia notes when she’s asked for them. And she’s been a real pro about taking what’s useful from my notes while still remaining true to her vision! So I’m extra proud that her book is finally seeing the light of day. And people, it’s a legitimate good read! You should buy it! It’s got forbidden romance, interplanetary battles, political intrigue, tests of loyalty and courage, and a chicken wearing a cowboy hat named “Country Jim”!

There was a release party at Sophia’s house last night, and it was a lot of fun. She signed books for fans (this is her cousin Dylan):

My Aunt Sandee cosplayed as the character “Marticus” from the book. (This is expected behavior; she dressed up as Lily Larouche when The Order of Odd-Fish came out):

Of course, there was a reading, which Sophia nailed:

One of the most beloved characters in the book is the aforementioned cowboy hat-wearing chicken “Country Jim,” a sidekick for Callahan Kennedy:

And here is Sophia with her proud parents, Lloyd and Krystin. Lloyd is holding up some other fantastic fan art she’s received, and Sophia is holding up a picture of the character “Vanessa” done by my own daughter Lucy:

Fun fact: while she was editing Stuck Between the Stars, Sophia attended a weeklong creative writing camp at Interlochen, where her teacher was none other than the wonderful author Mackenzi Lee (coincidentally, I once met Mackenzi briefly, but I doubt she remembers me). So anyway, thanks to Mackenzi for helping Sophia out with the manuscript too. This picture is cropped from a larger photo of Mackenzi’s whole class at Interlochen—I didn’t want to put Sophia’s classmates’ images online without permission:

I’m looking forward to settling in and reading Sophia’s book yet again, in all its final edited and printed glory! Country Jim for President!

90-Second Newbery Moviemaking Class at the Treehouse Children’s Museum!

July 6, 2022

A big part of why I’ve enjoyed putting on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for the past twelve years is it’s given me an excuse to travel around the country and meet fantastic people. The Treehouse Children’s Museum in Ogden, Utah has hosted screenings of the film festival for years, and I’ve really loved becoming friends with Lynne Goodwin, Rob Goodwin, Wes Whitby, and the rest of the folks who run the place. Back in 2019 I taught a 90-Second Newbery filmmaking class at the Treehouse, and it went so well that we decided to do it again this year!

Being a kid’s museum, the Treehouse has tons of resources for moviemaking: sets, costumes, puppets, and more. And the ten young filmmakers were so creative and ingenious! Special thanks to Caden and Will for helping out too. I couldn’t have led this camp without their help.

So let’s watch the movies that those kids produced! This first one is an adaptation of “The Garden,” a short story from Arnold Lobel’s 1973 Honor Book Frog and Toad Together. It’s by Parker, Beatrice, Crew, Max, and James, and I posted it on the 90-Second Newbery website here.

In the original story, Toad plants some seeds and is very impatient waiting for them to grow. It’s a gentle story about learning how to wait for good things. This movie implies that the original story is perhaps a bit too gentle, and what the story really needs are three ruthless assassins who are out to destroy Frog and Toad! Luckily, the three bumbling hunters never accomplish their goal. The performances are what make this movie so fun to watch: Toad’s earnest eagerness for his seeds to grow and Frog’s gentle and calm nature ground the movie, which makes the over-the-top performances of the three manic assassins even funnier. The infectious enthusiasm and ace comic timing of the actors make this movie super fun to watch. Stick around for the post-credits sequence!

The next movie is by Georgia and James, and it’s an adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web. Ingeniously, they retell the story in the style of The Hunger Games! From the very beginning, with the title screen “Mockingpig” done in a Hunger Games manner, we feel we’re in good hands. The charismatic performances for Fern, and the Effie-Trinket-like character, and the county fair announcer were full of energy and great details (I particularly liked the way Fern looked back sadly at Wilbur as she walked away, and how Wilbur was thrust up into the air, Lion King style), and I was impressed with Wilbur’s performance too, playing his role with innocent sincerity. Charlotte’s voiceover performance was sensitive and comforting too, and gave the movie an emotional heft. The movie made resourceful use of the sets, costumes, and puppets at the Treehouse. I especially liked the black-and-white nightmare vision of pork, and how Wilbur bests the other pigs in an explosion-heavy insult battle at the fair! Good use of emotion-setting music and the occasional stock footage too. This movie was a delight! Here’s the post about it at the 90-Second Newbery website, and here’s the movie itself:

The next movie is by Wren, Lyla, Evie, Faith, and Parker, and it retells Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora and Ulysses in the style of a movie trailer! The performances of all the characters were engaging and funny—I loved Flora’s put-upon exasperation, the mom’s snarling pushiness, the dad’s hapless manner, the evil cat, and of course Ulysses’s energetic heroic nature. The scene with the vacuum cleaner and Ulysses was ingeniously shot (and I loved the delivery of the line “Oh no! I think I killed a squirrel!”) and the final around-the-world fight between Ulysses and the mom was ludicrous fun. Outstanding performances, snappy camera work, and ace editing really made this movie come together amazingly well! You can also find this movie here at the 90-Second Newbery website.

As it happens, the young filmmakers had some time left over on the last day to shoot even more video, so they also put together this bizarre movie of short sketches and non sequiturs:

Thanks so much to the folks at the Treehouse for making this happen, and thanks especially to the young filmmakers behind these amazing movies! I hope I can come back next summer to do it again!

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