A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine follows A Memory Called Empire, in which Mahit Dzmare travels from her home space station to the center of the mighty Teixcalaanli Empire. In this installment, Mahit is back on Lsel Station and facing danger from her own government. Meanwhile, a threat from the last book reunites Mahit with Three Seagrass, in a plot running parallel with imperial heir Eight Antidote’s lessons in government and the decisions facing a newly-promoted military commander, Nine Hibiscus. There’s more exploration of colonialism from the perspectives of both colonizers and colonized, and delightfully complex and interesting characters. I liked it! Strange Horizons review by Gautam Bhatia.
Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells is brand new, sixth in this series, so my comments contain minimal spoilers. It’s a murder mystery from the first page, and Murderbot, along with Preservation Station Security, is the detective. It’s delightful, and opens up the worldbuilding for potential new stories about Murderbot’s career options. As usual, I was sorry when it was over. I highly recommend this series.
Of Muppets and Men: The Making of the Muppet Show by Christopher Finch was published in 1981. Because of the publication date, it could not focus on Jim Henson’s death in 1990, which I still regard as a tragedy. I have not read a lot about production aspects of one of my all-time favorite television shows, which I watched as a child when it initially aired. This book included a section on the process of making a single episode, from initial music run-throughs and recording to thirty-second advertising spots. It made me appreciate the incredible amount of creativity and labor that went into even seemingly minor aspects of the production, and profiled some of the backstage crew, including the puppet workshop and the writers. I would have liked to read more about building the puppets and sets.
I have read profiles of some of the puppeteers before; I really appreciated that this book had some additional quotidian detail, for instance that Richard Hunt (Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums) was the best at operating other people’s characters, and frequently did so in impromptu shows for visitors to the set. I still regard Hunt’s early death in 1992 as a huge tragedy, as well. Hunt gets his own chapter. Frank Oz (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle as well as Bert, Cookie Monster, and Grover), Jerry Nelson (Count von Count, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Uncle Deadly, Dr. Julius Strangepork) and Dave Goelz (Gonzo the Great, Zoot, Bunsen Honeydew) are also profiled in their own chapters. It was fun seeing the time capsule aspect of biographies that stopped at this one time period.
However, I did not appreciate the unexpected casual sexism scattered throughout. Puppeteer Louise Gold is described as “A volatile redhead with the offstage manner of a latter-day Tallulah Bankhead.” What? Why? Kathy Mullen, another puppeteer, gets a more neutral description, but I noted that while Jane Henson was quoted a few times in passing, she was not profiled. Her pivotal role in the Henson company, or even as a puppeteer, was not mentioned at all. In 1981, this would not have been surprising at all, unfortunately. Luckily, it’s a small portion of the book.
The most interesting thing about this book is that it’s oversized, with plenty of photographs, including of the puppeteers at work, crowded together beneath platforms with their arms above their heads. Despite seeing these pictures, though, what struck me personally is that even when I can see, for instance, Jim Henson’s arm coming out of Kermit’s body, I still see Kermit’s face as that of a sentient being, even in a still photograph. Make of that what you will. It’s magic.
getting used to letting go by jennycaakes is Check Please! fanfiction, a laidback romance between Dex and Nursey including friends, pizza, house renovation, and sunrises on a Maine beach. Dex has just inherited the house from a beloved uncle who died unexpectedly. Nursey, Chowder, and Caitlin Farmer help him clean it out and renovate over the summer after college graduation. Nursey is falling in love with Dex and afraid that it will all go wrong, plus Dex is grieving. Spoiler: it works out.