Posts

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

Podcast: On a Road Called Oppenheimer at Lawyers, Guns & Money

One of the nice things about Oppenheimer is that it's spurred so much conversation on so many different topics. It's been a while since we had a movie that, while being a popular entertainment with a very large audience, encouraged people to talk about history, accountability, art, and the limits of biography. On top of my review of the film at Lawyers, Guns & Money , I also posted there about the issue of political criticism , in the context of the conversation that has sprung up around its choice to center the story of the atomic bomb and its first wartime deployment on the (white) man who made it rather than the people it killed and sickened. Fellow LGM blogger Cheryl Rofer, a scientist with roots in the nuclear community who worked with Manhattan Project alumni and is a self-described member of the "cult of Oppenheimer" has also contributed several discussions of the film's historical accuracy (or lack of same) and is, to my knowledge, planning more. A

The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera

"The moment Fetter is born, Mother-of-Glory pins his shadow to the earth with a large brass nail and tears it from him. This is his first memory, the seed of many hours of therapy to come." So begins Vajra Chandrasekera's remarkable debut novel The Saint of Bright Doors . It's a good beginning, full of promise. The shock of that sudden violence. The strangeness of the fantastical act. The lurch towards modernity right at the end. It is also, however, an opening whose promises—including one that we are not even aware is being made—the novel will spend most of its length breaking. Fetter is raised in the northern hinterlands of the continent of Jambu, the son of a witch known as Mother-of-Glory who has dedicated his entire existence to a great and terrible task. In addition to (or perhaps because of) his shadowlessness, he has other powers. He is gripped only lightly by gravity, and can float away if he doesn't concentrate on staying on the ground. He is impervious

Elsewhere

Without really planning it, all of my recent film and TV writing has ended up at Lawyers, Guns & Money , while the book-related writing has ended up here. I'm not entirely sure why that happened—I tend to divide posts between the two blogs based mostly on vibes, so I guess things just broke that way. But because I know that some of these posts will be of interest to AtWQ readers, and out of a general desire to maintain a proper record, here are some of the media posts I made over at that blog in the last few weeks: First up, a review of the National Geographic/Disney+ series A Small Light , a biopic of Miep Gies, one of the people who concealed eight Jews, including the family of Anne Frank, in a secret annex in an Amsterdam warehouse, and who discovered and preserved Anne's diary after the annex was betrayed and its inhabitants taken to the death camps. I found a lot to admire about the show, while also wondering whether it was capable of facing up to the true, awful real

Recent Reading: Half-Life of a Stolen Sister by Rachel Cantor

The lives of the Brontës—that brilliant, doomed family whose members struggled with genteel poverty, unrequited love, frustrated ambitions, and (in the case of son Branwell) addiction before succumbing, one by one, to disease—have for some time exerted a pull on artists and audiences. It's a story that has, in some ways, begun to eclipse the novels and poetry they left behind—see, for example, Frances O'Connor's recent film Emily , in which the most mysterious of the Brontë sisters leaves herself only a bit of time to write Wuthering Heights in between tempestuous affairs and drug trips. Other artists, too, have been drawn to dramatizations of the Brontës' lives and deaths—Catherynne Valente's novel The Glass Town Game , Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans's comic DIE , Sally Wainwright's TV movie To Walk Invisible .  Rachel Cantor is therefore wading into a very crowded field with her third novel, but she almost immediately sets it apart by refusing to narrow

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky's City of Last Chances begins with a game of chaq. In the back room of the Anchorage inn, overlooking the Anchorwood in the city of Ilmar, now in its third year of occupation by the fascistic, autocratic Palleseen, sit a motley crew representing many of the city's dominant forces. Blackmane, a leader among the despised Allorwen minority, themselves refugees from a previous Palleseen conquest. Ivarn, an illustrious professor at the Gownhall, self-proclaimed keeper of the Ilmari cultural flame. Representatives of the city's three resistance factions: Vidsya for the Crows, the group representing the Armiger, the Ilmari aristocracy; Ruslav for the Vultures, the group run by the city's crime families; and Fleance for the Herons, the watermen who smuggle illegal items under the Pals' noses. At the same moment, a Palleseen officer, Ochelby, enters the wood—protected, as he thinks, from its beastly denizens by a powerful ward. It's around the time th