About a week ago, critic Todd VanDerWerff published an interesting article about spoiler culture and how it has changed, and been changed by corporate interests. His argument—which I find indisputable—is that companies have started using spoiler-mania as a way of drumming up enthusiasm for their products, creating the impression that you must watch a movie or a TV episode immediately, or risk losing all enjoyment from it through spoilers. What's particularly odd about this phenomenon, as VanDerWerff observes, is that it's often deployed to talk up works that aren't particularly spoilable—no major plot twists, no sudden betrayals or revelations, just the normal progression of story—to the point where even anodyne reactions like "there's a great fight scene!" or "I liked it" are perceived as something that can ruin your viewing experience. And that, ultimately, is what these works become. Not a story, not a chapter in a narrative, but an experience.
Showing posts from April, 2019
A Political History of the Future: A People's Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams, at Lawyers, Guns & Money
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After a few months off, my series A Political History of the Future is back at Lawyers, Guns & Money . My first column of 2019 discusses Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams's anthology A People's Future of the United States , in which some of the top names in genre writing are invited to imagine the future of America. In his introduction to A People's Future (excerpted in The Paris Review ) [LaValle] writes about his feeling that America is being poisoned by the stories it tells itself about itself, and of the need for different kinds of stories if it’s to imagine and bring forth a different kind of future. As its title suggests, LaValle offers up A People's Future as an homage to Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (1980 and subsequent editions), which was itself an attempt to change the American narrative. LaValle and Adams have assembled a roster of some the hottest names in genre, people like N.K. Jemisin and Charlie Jane Anders
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My first Strange Horizons review of 2019 looks at Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman, a near-future-set novel of science and research in the vein of Gwyneth Jones's Life . As I write in the review, Schulman covers a wide range of subjects, but while each is fascinating in its own right, she struggles to tie them all together into a single theme. In the appendix to her fourth novel, Theory of Bastards , Audrey Schulman lists the many scholarly works she consulted in the course of her writing. These cover a wide range of subjects, from the lives and communities of great apes, to the study of flint-knapping, to research into pain and the medical community's attitude towards it. It's an eclectic bunch of topics that epitomizes both the novel's charms and its frustrations. Theory of Bastards is about so many fascinating things that one can't help being carried along by them (and by Schulman's gift for dramatizing these subjects and fitting them into her sto