Recent Movie: The Marvels

The Marvels is the first movie that makes me think the MCU might actually be over. Not because it's bad—it is, in fact, quite charming and enjoyable, solidly mid-tier Marvel, and near the top of the pack for a post- Endgame movie. And not even because it has been a box office disappointment—though in the conversation surrounding this underperformance, not enough has been said about how it represents less a reaction to the movie itself, and more the accumulated fatigue of an audience burned out by Eternals , Ant-Man 3 , and a slew of underwhelming Disney+ shows. No, the reason I think The Marvels might be the beginning of the end is that, beyond litigating its dismal box office performance, no one is talking about it. And there is, to be clear, a lot to talk about here. As little as five years ago I think this movie would have unleashed the kind of discourse tsunami that we saw in the wake of Winter Soldier , Age of Ultron , Civil War , or the first Captain Marvel . But now, cric

Recent Reading Roundup 59

As the year approaches its end, I've ensconced myself in my reading nook to avoid thinking too hard about everything happening outside of it. This batch of reviews—once again, comprising mostly 2023 publications, including some of the most intriguing and anticipated books of the year—covers books read over the last few months.  Girlfriend on Mars by Deborah Willis - Kevin, a sad-sack aspiring screenwriter turned professional film extra, is dismayed when his girlfriend of fourteen years, Amber, announces that she's joined a reality show competition for one of two spots on a mission to colonize Mars. A former gymnast and evangelical who is at loose ends in life—she has a master's degree in environmental science but her only employment options are with companies she considers unethical, and she and Kevin make a living growing quasi-legal marijuana, of which they partake liberally—Amber sees the show, and Mars, as a chance to not only find meaning, but to make a new world with

Recent Reading: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

Kyr is humanity's vengeance. A genetically engineered super-soldier with superior strength, speed, and reflexes, raised in Spartan austerity on the isolated, militaristic Gaea station, trained in weapons and combat since childhood, Kyr and her cohort were born after the alien majoda, seeking a decisive conclusion to their war with humanity, destroyed the Earth. Established by a splinter group who would not accept humanity's surrender in the wake of this calamity, Gaea station has raised generations of young people to dream of revenge and retribution. On the verge of completing her training, Kyr, who has not only excelled in her own right but has pushed other cadets to better embody Gaea's ethos of military might and battle readiness, is certain of receiving a plum combat assignment. It will not take spotting the literary reference in the title of Emily Tesh's excellent first novel for most readers to guess that some or all of what Kyr understands about her world is wro

Review: Foundation, Season 2 at Strange Horizons

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is one of my big science fiction lacunae. I've read and enjoyed other Asimov books--his robot stories were my introduction to the genre--but for whatever reason, what's often considered his magnum opus passed me by (and it is, I suspect, a bit late to catch up; my tolerance for wooden prose and cardboard women is a lot lower than it was when I was ten). Which means my perspective on Apple TV+'s adaptation of the books is rather different from that of most of my friends. They've been furiously tracking where the show diverges and converges from the original story (more the former than the latter, by the sound of it) and gnashing their teeth over its failure to convey the books' ideas. I've been more able to take the show on its own terms, which has not always been a good thing--the first season was a tedious slog, full of its own importance but rarely managing to bring it across. The just-concluded second season of Foundation

Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins

[This post previously appeared, in slightly altered form, in Lawyers, Guns & Money .] Terry Pratchett died of complications of Alzheimer's in 2015. His death sent shockwaves through a broad community that had long admired Pratchett for his humor, his inventiveness, his indelible characters, and the deeply-felt humanist philosophy that ran through all his writing. Rob Wilkins, author of A Life With Footnotes , was Pratchett's personal assistant from 2000 to his death, and continues to manage his literary estate, and his production company Narrativia, with Pratchett's daughter Rhianna. The book can therefore only be taken as an "authorized" biography, part of a project—which also includes new adaptations of Pratchett's work and a star-studded array of audiobook productions—to keep Pratchett's name and his work in the public consciousness. In this, it seems to have been successful. Earlier this year, the book won the BSFA award for best nonfiction, and—ba

A Political History of the Future: The Tech Billionaire at Lawyers, Guns & Money

It's been a long hiatus for A Political History of the Future, my LGM series about how science fiction depicts shifts in political, social, and economic systems. But the post that I finally got around to publishing today has been in the works for more than a year, and part of the reason that I took so long to put it together is that there kept being new material to incorporate and discuss. My topic is the figure of the tech billionaire, the internet-based successor to inventor-entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and how he's been depicted in fiction--and especially science fiction--in the last few decades. By the 2000s, as personal computing and the internet became the new frontier of technological development, the entrepreneur-inventor had completed his transformation, from the more materially-grounded industrialist of Edison and Ford's type, to a prophet of cyberspace. Even when he was selling us physical gadgets—as Jobs did with the iPod and iPhone—what he

Recent Reading: The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter

Stories that deal with our evolving and often dysfunctional relationship with food have been a running thread through science fiction for decades. Isaac Asimov's "Good Taste" imagines a society in which eating natural-grown food is considered grotesque and disgusting. Adam Roberts's By Light Alone invents a technology that allows people to photosynthesize nutrients from the sun, which immediately turns the consumption of food into an elite status marker. In contrast, the elites in Sarah Tolmie's NoFood have undergone a surgical procedure to remove their GI tracts, which makes visiting a restaurant an experience not unlike immersive theater. More recently, Meg Elison's Hugo-nominated story "The Pill" imagines a society which invents a no-fuss cure for fatness, and then insists that everyone should take it. With her second novel, Chana Porter adds to this tradition, but complicates it with a core SFnal setting. The Thick and the Lean is set on an al