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One More Adventure: Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard

I watched the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard this spring, and then stopped. I could blame a lack of time, too many shows on my schedule and not enough hours to keep up with all of them (this was the reason that I similarly ended up dropping the most recent season of Legends of Tomorrow , which I wrote up on my tumblr last week). But really, the reason was that Picard made me anxious. All new Star Trek does. I find it impossible to watch these shows without the constant awareness that the people who are the franchise's current stewards have, at best, a teaspoon's-depth understanding of what it is and why it works, and I end up feeling constantly on guard against the next travesty they're sure to commit. Which also makes me kind of sick of myself, for watching like that, being unable to let go, unable to trust the story to take me where it wants to go—even if that distrust is well earned. It's for this reason, I think, that I found this summer's new anima

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I am determined to explore as much of the World as I can in my lifetime. To this end I have travelled as far as the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West, the Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North and the Seven-Hundred-and-Sixty-Eighth Hall to the South. I have climbed up to the Upper Halls where Clouds move in slow procession and Statues appear suddenly out of the Mists. I have explored the Drowned Halls where the Dark Waters are carpeted with white water lilies. I have seen the Derelict Halls of the East where Ceilings, Floors — sometimes even Walls! — have collapsed and the dimness is split by shafts of grey Light. In all these places I have stood in Doorways and looked ahead. I have never seen any indication that the World was coming to an End, but only the regular progression of Halls and Passageways into the Far Distance. I can't be alone in having assumed that this book would never happen. Susanna Clarke burst onto the scene in 2004, seemingly out of nowhere, wi

The Haunting of Bly Manor

By a funny coincidence, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw —the novels on which Mike Flanagan has (loosely) based the two seasons of his Netflix anthology series, The Haunting —are both books I read as a teenager and didn’t get on with. Hill House offended my expectations of how a haunted house story was "supposed" to work, by refusing to solve the mystery of the titular house or deliver up a standard heroic plot in response to its horrors. It was only years later, having fallen in love with Jackson's other novels and short stories, that I returned to Hill House and realized that this refusal to solve itself was, in fact, the point, and the source of the novel's chilling horror. In honor of The Haunting of Bly Manor , I decided on a similar return to The Turn of the Screw , hoping to once again discover greater depths as an adult reader. Instead, and to my surprise, I found myself having almost exactly the s

Review: Greensmith by Aliya Whiteley at Strange Horizons

I've been a fan of Aliya Whiteley since reading her bizarre, disturbing novella The Beauty in 2015. Since then, I've approached all of Whiteley's books and stories knowing that I'll find weirdness and thought-provoking ideas in equal measure, and have never been disappointed. I have a review of Whiteley's latest up at Strange Horizons . It's a sly piece of writing that starts out pulpy and strange and then gets deeper (but no less strange) as it goes on. the horror in Whiteley’s stories runs deeper than mere disgust. It is the horror of the loss of self, of loneliness, and of realizing that the world is more dangerous and cruel than you had been raised to believe. In her most recent novella, Greensmith , Whiteley once again delivers a compelling and plausible future world alongside disquieting horror, but she also adds a new weapon to her arsenal: humor. Greensmith is a tale about the end of the world, about looking back on your life and evaluating your mista

Three Emmas

2020 seems to be the year of Emma . Early in the spring, we saw the release of a new film adaptation of the novel, the first since the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring one from 1996 (though there have been a few TV versions in the interim). Not long after, the world of pop culture conversation joined in a celebration of Amy Heckerling's Clueless , arguably the definitive screen adaptation of the novel, on the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary. And now in the fall, I've finally gotten around to reading Mahesh Rao's Polite Society , which like Clueless , retells the story of Emma in a modern setting, this time the enclaves of the super-rich, old money families of New Delhi.  OK, so I'm cheating a bit with that last one. Rao's novel was actually published last year (and a year earlier than that in India). But the confluence of the three adaptations in my own personal cultural landscape has been an opportunity to revisit my feelings towards the original novel, which sta