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Showing posts from March, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Iain M. Banks at Lawyers, Guns & Money

In my latest Political History of the Future column, I discuss Iain M. Banks, in the context of Paul Kincaid's excellent biography/critical study of him, and Amazon having announced a planned adaptation of Consider Phlebas.  Readers of this blog know that I spent the better part of the decade making my way through Banks's SF, and in this essay I try to synthesize those individual reviews into an overview of the sequence, which naturally ends up revolving around that ever-baffling question: are we meant to be on the Culture's side?
The Culture wants for nothing, and yet it is defined by a profound need for meaning. The Culture is the most radically, anarchically free society imaginable, and yet it is governed by AIs (known as "Minds") who make decisions at a speed and complexity that human citizens could never hope to match. The Culture is constitutionally peaceful, and yet it constructs ships and weapons platforms capable of dealing out death and destruction on a…

Strong Female Characters: Thoughts on Jessica Jones's Second Season

It's a bit strange, coming back to Jessica Jones two and a half years after its first season.  When that remarkable, groundbreaking story dropped, it--and the Netflix MCU project of which it was only the second chapter--felt like a breath of fresh air, a genuine breakthrough in how superhero stories could function on TV.  If Daredevil's first season suggested how a long-form superhero story could combine psychological realism, an adult handling of politics and economics, and one of the MCU's first successful villains, but still struggled to wrap all those up in a compelling story, Jessica Jones's first season seemed to perfect the formula.  It delivered all those traits, and a story that was nearly impeccable, and a wrenching examination of rape culture, trauma, and the way that our system is designed to let abusers thrive and find new victims.[1]  With Luke Cage, the MCU's first black headliner, making a guest appearance on the show in preparation for his own seri…

The 2018 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Fiction Categories

With a little under 24 hours left in the Hugo nominating period, it's time for the big fiction categories.  As I wrote earlier this spring, I'm giving the short fiction categories a pass this year, but I have read enough interesting novellas to have a few nominations in that category.  In the novel categories, however, we've seen a bit of an explosion in the last few years, with the Best Series, and Best YA Novel (tentatively called the Lodestar) joining Best Novel.  I haven't read much that's eligible in either category (I'm tempted to nominate Dave Hutchinson's Fractured Europe sequence for Best Series, but I was a little underwhelmed by Europe in Winter so I might not), but nevertheless, there's more to talk about in this post than in previous years.

Previous posts in this series:

The Media Categories

The Publishing and Fan Categories
Best Novel:

The Rift by Nina Allan (review at The New Scientist) - Allan's second novel sneaks up on you.  For most of…

The 2018 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Publishing and Fan Categories

A lot of my nominations in these categories this year are going to be repeats of stuff I nominated in previous years.  These are the categories that got hit hardest by puppy interference, and a lot of people and institutions that should have had a chance to win Hugos in the last five years were pushed out of nomination entirely.  There's a backlog, in other words.  On the other hand, this is also the grouping where I tend to nominate the least (I'm not alone in this--that's why these categories were so vulnerable to the puppies).  Joining the editor categories and Best Fancast in ballots I'm probably going to leave blank this year is Best Fanzine--I'm sorry, but I just don't read enough eligible sites (much less paper zines) to nominate in this category.

Previous posts in this series:

The Media Categories
Best Semiprozine:

GigaNotoSaurus (editor: Rashida J. Smith) - This continue to be the little magazine that could, publishing a single story each month on a simple…

A Political History of the Future: Altered Carbon at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discussesAltered Carbon, which recently received an appropriately neon-lit, grimy-yet-expensive-looking adaptation from Netflix.  My emphasis in this column, however, is more on the original, 2002 novel by Richard Morgan.  I reread the book before watching the show, for the first time in close to 15 years, and wasn't terribly surprised to discover that some of its hardboiled-cyberpunk tropes hadn't aged terribly well.  Nevertheless, Altered Carbon remains a terrific thriller with a great central idea, one that Morgan explores with insight and verve.
Peeking in between these crime story elements, however, are glimpses of a world in which your body has become just another one of your possessions, like a car or a phone. Something you can insure. Something you can trade up. Something the state can, under certain circumstances, lay claim to. Something the rich get better versions of. The show, in comparison, only glosses the surface …

The 2018 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Media Categories

The Hugo nominating deadline will soon be upon us, and as ever there are a million things I wanted to watch, read, play, or ponder before the nominating period closes.  Just in these categories--in which I feel reasonably well-versed this year--the list of things I really wanted to get to include the Japanese anime film Your Name, the fourth season of Black Mirror, Fullbright's recent game Tacoma, and Strange Horizons's 100 African Writers of SFF project.  As ever, be sure to check out the 2018 Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet, and the 2018 Hugo Wiki, for other suggestions (and, of course, you can also add your own to both).


Best Related Work:
"Freshly Remember'd: Kirk Drift" by Erin Horáková (Strange Horizons) - It's been nearly a year since Erin's masterful essay--about James Kirk, how pop culture processes masculinity, and how the forces that have changed how we view our male heroes are also reflected in politics.  Aside from being a brilliant--and brilli…