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Showing posts from October, 2017

Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2017 Edition

I've been doing these fall TV reviews for more than a decade, and every year they feel less relevant, as either a guide to shows that people might like to watch or a commentary on the state of TV.  It's not that I believe that network TV is no longer capable of producing worthwhile, exciting fare--after all, my favorite show currently airing, whose second season is somehow managing to top even its stellar first one, is a network sitcom.  But pretty much everything the networks have trotted out this fall, good and bad, has felt inessential, like retreads of old ideas and trends that aren't really worth taking the time to talk about.  My focus in this post, then, is on the one thing that makes this fall unusual--the fact that in the space of a month, we've seen the premieres of four different SF shows.  Not all of them are good, but their subject matter means that all of them are sufficiently far from the standard network template that I can find something to say about t…

New Scientist Column: Maggie Shen King, M.T. Anderson, and Dave Hutchinson

My latest column at The New Scientist has a relationship focus: in Maggie Shen King's debut novel An Excess Male, China's one child policy leads to a population of unmarriageable men who are encouraged to enter into polyandrous arrangements.  There's a definite whiff of The Handmaid's Tale wafting over this novel (which, along with last year's The Power, leads me to wonder if we're seeing a mini-trend of SF that recalls that classic, thirty years on), but what's most interesting about An Excess Male is that it isn't a dystopia, and remains intriguingly open-minded about the possibility of creating a good family in such an awkward situation.

Somewhat less hopeful about the possibility for romance in a futuristically altered world is M.T. Anderson's Landscape With Invisible Hand, his first foray back into YA fiction since the transcendent Octavian Nothing duology.  I describe the story as The Hunger Games meets Black Mirror's "Fifteen Million…

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

It might seem a bit strange to say that The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of the Broken Earth trilogy, had a lot riding on it.  For the past two years, the SF field and its fandom have been falling over themselves to crown this trilogy as not just good, but important.  Both of the previous volumes in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo.  When The Fifth Season won the Hugo in 2016, it made Jemisin the first African-American (and the first American POC) to win the best novel category.  When The Obelisk Gate won the same award earlier this year, it was the first time that consecutive volumes in a series had won the Hugo back-to-back since, I believe, Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead thirty years ago.  That's probably not considered the best company nowadays, but it speaks to the kind of zeitgeist-capturing work that Jemisin is doing with this series.  In that context, the third volume might almost be looked at as a…