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Showing posts from September, 2013

Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2013 Edition

Well, here we are again.  With almost no time to grow accustomed to the glut, the new fall shows are here, and even omitting a huge number of them simply because there's really nothing to say, I've had to split the discussion of already-aired shows into two parts, with more to come.  I wish I could say that in the midst of all that quantity there are also signs of quality, but most of these shows run the gamut from promising to not-so-promising, with almost none genuinely good out of the gate.  Still, at least there's a lot to talk about. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - I often skip new comedies in these write-ups, because far more than dramas, comedies take time to find their voice.  It can be hard, judging from one or two episodes, to say whether a new sit-com will be appointment viewing, or amusing but not worth getting attached to, or just terrible (for a frame of reference, in past pilot season reviews I've been underwhelmed by the Community pilot, and thought 2 Broke Gi

Review: Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox + Strange Horizons Fund Drive

My review of Elizabeth Knox's YA novel Mortal Fire appears today at Strange Horizons .  As I write in the opening of the review, I was introduced to Knox by Nina Allan's Short Fiction Snapshot about Knox's short story "A Visit to the House on Terminal Hill."   Mortal Fire turns out to be less focused and not nearly as weird as the story, but it is nevertheless an intriguing, richly detailed, sharp novel that marks Knox out as a writer to become better acquainted with. This is also a good opportunity to mention that Strange Horizons is running its annual fund drive this month--see the arrow below tracking the drive's progress.  The money raised during this period will be used to pay our contributors and to help Strange Horizons remain (she said, with some admitted partiality) one of the best sources online for speculative fiction and non-fiction.  The main fund drive with details about how to donate and publicize the drive can be found here .  Anyone wh

Where the Cool Kids Are: The New Breed of TV Anti-Heroes

"We had a name for people like you in prison.  We called you the mean clique." Community , "Competitive Ecology" The era of the anti-hero is over, so says everyone.  In TV reviews and discussion boards, there is a growing consensus that shows about white middle class men behaving badly (and often illegally) and taunting the audience with how outrageous, destructive, and toxic their behavior is have become passé, and that when Breaking Bad wraps up its story in less than a week, it'll be time for TV to come up with a new shtick (never mind that Mad Men , to my mind the most innovative twist on the anti-hero concept, still has two seasons left to run).  You could see this most clearly this summer, in the genuine contempt that seemed to waft off reviews of latter-day anti-hero wannabes like Ray Donovan or Low Winter Sun .  These shows, reviewers agreed, desperately wanted to snag the coolness points of departing series like Breaking Bad (or, hell, even De

Four Comments on Upstream Color

It's been a week since I watched Shane Carruth's second film Upstream Color , and since then I've been trying to work out not what I want to say about it, but whether I wanted to say anything at all.  Which is not to say that I didn't like the film--I found it rich and moving, and incredibly exciting for the growth it shows in Carruth's abilities and interests as a filmmaker, and an SF filmmaker in particular.  But Upstream Color is also a film that seems to demand not a review, but a dissection.  To write about it, I would have to explain what the film means.  There have been some great reviews along these lines--in particular, I found much to think about in Caleb Crain's review in the New Yorker , and Nicholas Rombe's review in the Los Angeles Review of Books --but I don't really want to try to add to them (and I'm not sure that I could if I wanted to).  The meaning of Upstream Color feels bound up in the lovely and sometimes disquieting experi

A Shattered Visage: Thoughts on a Phone Call

"I'm impressed that with 2 eps to go, #BreakingBad has produced a moment inspiring as much debate as the Sopranos finale," tweets Dave Crewe yesterday.  And indeed, Breaking Bad 's antepenultimate episode, "Ozymandias," has caused a flurry of online discussion, analysis, and argument.  Or, to be more precise, one scene, late in the episode, has spurred all this discussion.  In this scene, Walter White, cancer-ridden chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, calls home and speaks to his wife Skyler.  The police are at the house and listening in; Walt has been exposed as a meth cook and a murderer and has lost most of his ill-gotten gains; his attempts to persuade his family to go on the run with him ended with his own son calling 911 on him, to which Walt responded by kidnapping his baby daughter Holly.  As Skyler begs for her daughter, Walt rants and raves, calling her stupid and a bitch, bragging about his criminal empire, complaining about her attempts to cu

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

"As I was a stranger in Olondria," the narrator of Sofia Samatar's debut novel tells us in its opening sentences, I knew nothing of the splendor of its coasts, nor of Bain, the Harbor City, whose lights and colors spill into the ocean like a cataract of roses.  I did not know the vastness of the spice markets of Bain, where the merchants are delirious with scents.  I had never seen the morning mists adrift above the surface of the green Illoun, of which the poets sing; I had never seen a woman with gems in her hair, nor observed the copper glinting of the domes, nor stood upon the melancholy beaches of the south while the wind brought in the sadness from the sea.  Deep within the Fayaleith, the Country of the Wines, the clarity of light can stop the heart; it is the light the local people call "the breath of angels" and is said to cure heartsickness and bad lungs.  Beyond this is the Balinfeil, where, in the winter months, the people wear caps of white squirre