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Black Widow

Black Widow is overdue. It's overdue since 2020, which is when the film was slated to be released before COVID shuffled movie schedules along with everything else. It's overdue since 2019, which is when its main character died a heroic death that turned her first solo foray into a prequel. It's overdue since 2016, which is when its story is set (specifically, between the next-to-last and last scenes of Captain America: Civil War ). It's overdue since 2012, which is when MCU fandom began clamoring for a movie starring Natasha Romanoff, after she became the breakout character of Avengers . And it is, arguably, overdue since 2008, which is when the architects of the MCU decided on a roadmap that did not include even a single movie headlined by a woman. This lateness contributes to the feeling one gets while watching Black Widow , that it is fundamentally inessential, more important for what it represents—the return of the MCU to movie theaters after a two-year absence; th

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

"Obviously we have to do better," she said. "The Paris Agreement was created to avoid tragedies like this one. We are all in a single global village now. We share the same air and water, and so this disaster has happened to all of us. Since we can't undo it, we have to turn it to the good somehow, or two things will happen; the crimes in it will go unatoned, and more such disasters will happen. So we have to act. At long last, we have to take the climate situation seriously, as the reality that overrides everything else. We have to act on what we know." It's a bit strange to talk about a breakout novel for Kim Stanley Robinson, an author in his late sixties who has been publishing prolifically for nearly forty years, and who has won some of science fiction's most prestigious awards and accolades. Nevertheless, the conversation surrounding The Ministry for the Future has the air of crowning a new it guy, from interviews in Rolling Stone to a spot on for

Review: We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, at Strange Horizons

My review of Quan Barry's novel We Ride Upon Sticks is up today at Strange Horizons . As I write in the opening paragraph, this is a novel whose premise will either instantly capture you or put you off completely. In 1989, the girls' field hockey team in a suburban high school sell their soul to the devil—here embodied as a composition notebook with Emilio Estevez's face on the front—for a chance at winning the championship. It's a familiar trope—and Barry revels in it, placing her story in the historical setting of the Salem witch trials—but with a fairly unusual twist. After all, very few witch stories imagine witches whose goal is dominance in sports. One by one, the Falcons sign their name in the notebook, which they come to perceive as a sentient force, known as The Darkness or, more commonly, Emilio. They tie a strip of athletic sock on their bicep and swear to "[follow] any urges you might get all the way to the end no matter what" (p. 15). And just l

Five Comments on The Underground Railroad

Barry Jenkins's ten-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead's 2016 novel The Underground Railroad was released in full on Amazon last month, and seems to have promptly sunk like a stone. Beyond a spate of initial ( and mostly effusive ) reviews , discussion of it seems to be nonexistent. My twitter feed spent more time obsessing over Mare of Easttown —a well-made but pedestrian cop thriller (not to mention, heavily derivative of Happy Valley )—than it did over what was supposedly one of the major TV events of the year, the first foray in the medium of an Oscar-winning director, adapting a book that had won a Pulitzer and National Book Award (not to mention, a Clarke Award). There are reasons for this muted response, and we'll get into them in a minute. But for now what's significant about it is that it leaves me feeling bereft, of the conversations I'd like to get into after finishing the show. The Underground Railroad is a stone cold masterpiece, one that not only

Post-Pandemic Viewing

OK, so it's too soon to start talking about the post-pandemic world, but in one respect it feels as if we're starting to awaken to that reality. The first few months of 2021 were a TV wasteland, with hardly any new shows or even new seasons of returning ones. I spent much of the period trawling the depths of my Netflix queue, catching up on shows that have been there for years (check out some thoughts on twitter about SyFy's 12 Monkeys , and Damon Lindelof's much-lauded The Leftovers ). With the spring, however, things seem to be changing, with a raft of new series. Many of these shows are science fiction or fantasy, and as I wrote last year , that feels like just the thing when we're all (still) stuck at home, dealing with an overdose of reality.  Invincible - Amazon's new superhero series, based on a comic by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, is interesting, first, because of what it implies about how entertainment is going to look in the post-pandemic r