Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Worldcon Schedule

Worldcon is nearly upon us, and I will be attending this year's convention in Dublin.  With the final program now published, here are the events I'll be participating in.  If you're planning to attend, I hope to see you at some of these, or just around.

(UPDATE: There has been a change to my schedule. I am off the national identity panel on Sunday, and on a panel on the work of Jordan Peele around the same time.)

  • Narrative and the Dollar: Understanding Contemporary TV
    17 Aug 2019, Saturday 12:00 - 12:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)

    TV has always been at the mercy of commercial imperatives. On network TV, the "best" episodes air during "sweeps" weeks, and plot structured around ad breaks. On streaming services, shows experiment with new structures, but with mixed results. How should viewers adjust their expectations? What is "good TV" today? Will "TV novels" come to dominate? Is there still a role for the anthology show?

    Mr Adam Whitehead, Abigail Nussbaum, Dr Douglas Van Belle (Victoria University of Wellington), Mr Greg Chivers (HarperVoyager / Discovery Channel) (M), Michael Cassutt

  • Protest and resistance in fiction and reality
    17 Aug 2019, Saturday 17:30 - 18:20, Stratocaster BC (Point Square Dublin)

    The last decade has repeatedly demonstrated the central role of protest in politics. From the Women's March in DC to the Arab Spring, protests have played a vital role in shaping the political conversation. How does SF reflect this reality? Is there room for protest in heroic fiction, or do these types of stories only leave space for violent resistance?

    Abigail Nussbaum, Mary Anne Mohanraj (Speculative Literature Foundation / University of Illinois at Chicago), Ranylt Richildis (Lackington's Magazine) (M), Paolo Bacigalupi, Veronica Roth

  • How national identity is portrayed in SFF
    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 14:00 - 14:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)

    Speculative fiction can offer authors a space, removed from reality, to consider questions of national identity. How do nations respond to disasters? Does the author use cultural stereotypes as a shorthand for national identity and where have these come from? The panel will discuss the ways SFF provides a window into how nations view themselves and others and what that means in a broader context.

    Abigail Nussbaum (M), T. R. Napper, Anna Gryaznova LL.M. (National University of Science and Technology MISiS (Moscow, Russia)), Dr Bradford Lyau (Globosocks LLC)

  • Get us out of the Twilight Zone: the work of Jordan Peele
    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 13:30 - 14:20, Point Square - Stratocaster BC

    With two extraordinary films and a reimagined Twilight Zone under his belt, Jordan Peele has made a huge impact as a weird/horror visionary over the last few years. This panel will discuss Peele’s work: what it says, how it works, and why it matters.

    Chris M. Barkley (M), Dr. Andrew M. Butler (Canterbury Christ Church University), Dr Wanda Kurtçu (California State University, Hayward), Abigail Nussbaum

  • Holy forking shirtballs: The Good Place panel
    19 Aug 2019, Monday 13:00 - 13:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

    Over three constantly inventive seasons, The Good Place has established itself as one of the best – if not the best – telefantasy shows airing right now. In this panel, fans will discuss what it does so well, the implications of the revelations at the end of season three, and hopes for the future – both narratively and philosophically.

    Alex Acks, Mr Ash Charlton (ACE TRAINING), Abigail Nussbaum (M), Jeffery Reynolds, Ginjer Buchanan (Penguin Random House)

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Review: Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson, at Strange Horizons

My review of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Moon appears today at Strange Horizons.  I was excited to finally get a chance to write at length about Robinson, whose recent writing has plugged into ideas about economics, government, and our response to climate change in a way that almost no other writer in the genre is doing.  New York 2140, for example, felt to me like an utterly vital novel, combining fury and optimism in its depiction of a damaged, post-climate-catastrophe future in which humans nevertheless manage to build a new, perhaps better way of life in the ruins of the old world.

It was a disappointment, then, to find Red Moon so comparatively muddled and unconvincing.  The novel, which starts on the moon but then slingshots back to Earth to discuss a future China and its role in creating a more equitable role for all people, juggles too many ideas and isn't terribly persuasive about any of them (at one point it's suggested that the problems with unrepresentative democracy might be solved using, I kid you not, blockchain).  Add to that the obvious hurdle of a white American like Robinson writing a novel that purports to give readers an in-depth look at China's history, culture, and national character, and you've got a work that leaves a reader feeling more dubious than invigorated.

This is also an opportunity for me to mention that Strange Horizons is running its annual fund drive, which is now about halfway to its goal.  Strange Horizons continues to be one of the top venues for in-depth, multifaceted reviews and criticism of SFF both new and old.  Some highlights of the magazine's non-fiction publishing in the last year include: Gautam Bhatia's thoughtful examination of Marlon James's Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Mazin Saleem's funny and smart evisceration of Netflix's anthology show Love, Death & Robots; the fantastic roundtable I participated in, along with Zen Cho and Charlotte Geater, discussing Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin.  And, of course, Erin Horakova's gargantuan, wide-ranging "Erin Groans: A Gormenvast Review of Every Adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Titus Books".  That last one is a reminder of the unique service Strange Horizons provides to the genre community, and why it's important to continue supporting it.  And, of course, the magazine also publishes fiction, poetry, articles, and its ongoing project 100 African Writers of SFF.  If you can, please consider supporting it.

Finally, we are now just three weeks from the deadline to vote for this year's Hugo awards, in which Strange Horizons has been nominated for the semiprozine award.  This is the magazine's ninth or tenth nomination, but amazingly, it has never once won the award.  I'd like 2019 to be the year that changes, so if you're voting for the Hugos, please consider placing Strange Horizons first in this category.