Showing posts from November, 2018

A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older, at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column is up at Lawyers, Guns & Money, discussing State Tectonics, the concluding volume of Malka Older's Centennal Cycle.  As I wrote in my review of the first volume in the sequences, Infomocracy, these are not terribly exciting books in terms of plot, but they make up for that with the breadth and richness of their worldbuilding, and more than that, by their willingness to imagine a geopolitical future that is not simply post-democratic.  Older tries to envision how a future democracy that is different, but still suffers from many of the same problems, as ours might look like, and the result is fascinating and thought-provoking.
The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous …

Review: The Breath of the Sun by Isaac R. Fellman, at Strange Horizons

Today at Strange Horizons I review Isaac R. Fellman's The Breath of the Sun, a remarkably assured debut that challenged me to fully capture it.  As I write in my opening paragraph, it's a novel that invites comparisons, but is also very much its own thing:
There are any number of neat, one-sentence ways to sum up Isaac R. Fellman's The Breath of the Sun. You could describe it as a cross between Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria (2013), Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (1997). You could sum it up as a fantasy-world fictionalization of the first summit of Everest, in which Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are both women, and one of them is a wizard. And you could even make an argument for the book as a Nabokovian meta-narrative, in which both the narrator and her first and only reader try to puzzle out what actually happened, juxtaposing the story with later observations and documentary evidence.  These …

Recent Movie Roundup 31

In one of this year's previous movie roundups, I noted what a terrible year 2018 has turned out to be for blockbuster, action-adventure entertainment.  That situation hasn't improved (and seems unlikely to by the end of the year) but as the seasons change and the more sophisticated segment of the year's movie slate starts showing up in theaters, I've found myself pleasantly surprised.  2018's grown-up movies and Oscar hopefuls are an intriguingly diverse bunch, with some genuinely out there entries.  Even the films I haven't been wowed by have felt enough like their own thing to be worth watching.  This roundup covers films from late summer and early fall--it also helps that Israeli film distributors seem to have abandoned their habit of only screening Oscar hopefuls in the weeks right before the ceremony, which means that this year, for once, I can feel like part of the conversation around the award as it develops.
BlacKkKlansman - Based on true events, Spike L…

Streaming in the Fall

A few weeks ago I noted that this year's fall network TV crop has been singularly unimpressive, so much so that I didn't even bother to review any of them.  At this point, there aren't any new shows that I'm following (I briefly hate-watched A Million Little Things, a This Is Us clone about suicide and depression that is just as risible as that description suggests; but life is too short to subject yourself to that kind of tripe for too long). And for whatever reason, the cable networks haven't kicked off any of their prestige shows yet (we'll be getting The Little Drummer Girl and My Brilliant Friend in a few weeks, though).  Never fear: the streaming networks are here to fill the gap.  I didn't love any of these shows, but at least they offer more to talk about than their network counterparts, as well as suggesting some new directions that TV in general could move in.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Netflix's stylish, spooky remake of the cheesy 90s s…

Sorry to Bother You

If you're anything like me, you've probably been hearing great things about Sorry to Bother You since it premiered to rapturous reception in this year's Sundance Festival.  If you're a lot like me, you probably follow many film industry people and reviewers on twitter, and have spent several months watching them go nuts over this film, while also advising you to learn as little as possible about it so as not to be spoiled for its mind-bending plot twists.  If you're really like me, you probably live in one of the many non-US countries where Sorry to Bother You, despite its tremendous reception, hasn't been able to find a distributor, and had reconciled yourself to not being able to see it legally.  And if you actually are me, you were probably overjoyed to learn that a local film festival had purchased the film for a special, one-night-only showing, and hurried as fast as you could to buy tickets.

You see where I'm going with this, right?  It's pretty m…