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Showing posts from February, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Black Panther at Lawyers, Guns & Money

In my latest Political History of the Future column at Lawyers, Guns & Money, I discussBlack Panther, a genuinely remarkable movie that sets a bar that other MCU films are going to struggle to clear.  There's been a lot of fascinating conversation about this movie, not least its importance to African-Americans as both the first MCU movie to star a black man, and a representation of a fictional African nation that is powerful, self-sufficient, and never colonized.  In this essay, I discuss how that act of worldbuilding puts Black Panther squarely in the tradition of utopian SF, and how its utopia is enriched by the film's deep interest in blackness and African heritage.  As I write in the essay, it's interesting to compare Black Panther to Star Trek: Discovery, and find that the movie delivers exactly what I was looking for in that show.
Beyond its importance as a work of worldbuilding, however, what excites me about Black Panther—and sets it head and shoulders above an…

Through a Mirror, Darkly: Thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery's First Season

Well, folks, what is there to be done about Star Trek: Discovery?  Four months ago, writing about the season's first few episodes, I said that there were things about the show I really liked, and things I really disliked, but that it would probably take me until the end of the season to decide where I stood on the matter of the whole.  But here we are, nearly a week after the finale, and I'm no closer to a conclusion.  Neither, it seems, is the rest of fandom, which often feels like it's watching and reacting to several different shows.  And no one, no matter their opinion, seems very clear on what Discoveryis.  Is it a bold reinvention of the franchise for the Peak TV era, or a shallow action-adventure whose ambitions often outstrip its capacity to execute them?  Is it the spiritual successor of the reboot movies, reveling in Star Trek tropes and fanservice without understanding the franchise's meaning, or is it a genuine attempt to grapple with the core ideas of Star…

Recent Movie Roundup 28

Here we are again at that special time of year where every single one of the previous year's prestige movies and Oscar hopefuls gets dumped in Israeli movie theaters at the same time.  I've found myself scrambling from one screening to another, just trying to catch up to movies that reviewers abroad have been talking about for months--I suspect I will have seen more than half the total movies I'll watch in 2018 before the end of March.  So far, my reports are mixed.  There are a lot of interesting movies among this year's Oscar nominees, but few of them have lived up to their reputation.  Of the five movies I discuss here, one is remarkable, two others are intriguing but frustrating, and two are genuinely bad.  Let's hope I fare better with the next bunch.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer - Yorgos Lanthimos follows up the bizarre but oddly lovable The Lobster with a stranger, colder work that challenges viewers (like myself) who were willing to follow him into the woods…

Winter Crop, 2018 Edition

I don't always do reviews of the new TV series of the winter, which seems like a shame when you think about it.  As I've noted for several years in my fall reviews of new network shows, there's hardly anything worth looking for in that arena (always excepting The Good Place), and winter seems to be when the stranger, more interesting material gets released.  This year has been no exception, offering up a new superhero series with an intriguing twist on the concept, a strange science fictional spy story, and a well-made social drama.  I don't know if I'm going to stay in love with all of these shows (three episodes in, I'm starting to lose patience with Counterpart, for example), but they have a hook that the fall's carefully samey procedurals don't even try for.
Black Lightning - There's a scene about halfway through the premiere episode of the CW's latest DC superhero show that really made me sit up, and think that maybe we were about to get a g…

The 2018 Hugo Awards: A Few Comments As Nominations Open

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo awards opened a few days ago, and will conclude at 23:59 on March 16th.  Anyone who became a member of either the 2018 or 2019 Worldcons before December 31st, 2017 is eligible to nominate (if you think you're eligible and haven't received an email with your PIN, there are details on how to get it here).  As has become my practice, I have a few comments as we go into this period.

First, if you are eligible to nominate this year, I'd like to urge you to exercise your right.  The Hugo belongs to all of us, and it is at its best when as many people as possible, from as many walks of life as possible, participate in it.  You don't have to nominate in every category (I won't be), and you don't have to fill your ballot in the categories you nominate in (ditto).  But if you've come across eligible work in this last year that you think deserves recognition, please take a moment to push it forward.  As usual, there are a ton of …

A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, at Lawyers, Guns & Money

The first proper installment of my Political History of the Future series is up at Lawyers, Guns & Money.  The topic this time is Annalee Newitz's first novel Autonomous, about a corporatist future in which humans and sentient machines alike are subject to a system of indenture in which freedom is a thing to be purchased.
The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed…