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Showing posts from September, 2018

Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2018 Edition

Usually when I write these roundups, it's to review the new network shows that premiere in the fall.  But as we all know, there hasn't been a season for TV for some time now, as evidenced by the fact that the various streaming services delivered several new, high-profile projects in September, just when you'd expect everyone's focus to be on the networks.  I might still write about the network shows, though right now none of them have grabbed me enough to seem worthy of discussion.  But in the meantime, here are a few of the shows I've watched as the fall has started.  None of them are amazing, but a few hold promise, and together they form an interesting snapshot of what TV is becoming, for better and worse.
Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray's 1848 social novel, about the travails and adventures of hard-hearted social climber Becky Sharpe, has gotten fewer bites at the adaptation apple than other 19th century favorites like the novels of Jane Austen or …

A Political History of the Future: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discussesRevenant Gun, the final volume in Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire trilogy.  More broadly, it talks about the way the entire trilogy constructs its world, and how the central metaphor of a space empire that powers its technologies, its weapons, and its internal policing apparatus by enforcing a particular calendar gives Lee a rich and versatile tool for exploring the way that oppression and totalitarianism perpetuate themselves.
It's a slippery concept at first, but once you wrap your mind around it, it becomes clear just what a brilliant metaphor this is. Imposing a timekeeping method, a common tool of cultural imperialism, becomes a weapon of plain old ordinary imperialism. The Hexarchate propagates itself by literally winning over hearts and minds, forcing people to live according to its calendar (or risk being suppressed by one of the many arms of its doctrine-enforcing police force), which gives it the power to …

Recent Reading Roundup 48

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The theme of this recent reading roundup is awards lists.  Specifically, mainstream literary award shortlists like the Booker and the Women's Prize.  That's not an area of literature I tend to frequent, since the books nominated for those awards often strike me as flat and narrowly-focused.  But there are certainly enough exceptions to make these awards worth the occasional look--this year's Booker longlist, for example, is full of enough off-the-wall choices to almost make me reevaluate the entire award (I wrote elsewhere about Richard Powers's The Overstory, which challenges commonly held notions of what a novel is and what its focus should be; nor is it the only book on the longlist of which this could be said).  I didn't love all the books I write about here--and some sadly conformed to my prejudices about award-nominated litfic--but there are definitely reads here that were more than worth the effort.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James - I was a

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

My latest Political History of the Future column is up at Lawyers, Guns & Money.  This time, the topic is Humans, the Channel 4/AMC series which recently concluded its third season, about a world in which human-seeming robots have taken over most jobs in the service economy, and begin to develop consciousness.
One core difference between Humans and a lot of other science fiction shows about robots or despised minorities with special powers is that it doesn’t center violence—and, when violence does occur, it is used exclusively to horrifying, demoralizing effect. Synths are strong, quick, and agile, but there are hardly any badass robot fights in this show. On the contrary, it often seems as if synths are a great deal more fragile than humans, succumbing to beatings and abuses that a human might recover from (which makes sense if you consider that these are basically talking household appliances, the sort of thing you’d be expected to replace after a few years). Images of damaged …