Showing posts from June, 2022

Recent Reading: Civilizations by Laurent Binet

The author of HHhH returns with another book that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Technically, Civilizations —which imagines a world where the social and economic collapse that had devastated the Inca empire around the time of Columbus's arrival in the Americas doesn't occur, and instead it's the Inca who colonize Europe—is an alternate history, maybe even science fiction. But the narrative's tone is removed, relating its events like a historical lecture—albeit one with a wry, slightly mocking tone—interspersed with journal excerpts, letters, official documents, and even bits of poetry. There are no real characters, just historical figures, more important for their influence on events than for their psychology, and although the narrator occasionally makes personal asides, their identity and reasons for laying out this history remain opaque. I'm much more comfortable describing Civilizations as a work of creative nonfiction than science fiction, but

Review: Russian Doll, Season 2 at Strange Horizons

My review of the second season of Russian Doll appears today at Strange Horizons . As I write in the review, Russian Doll is almost more interesting for how it reflects the vicissitudes of the streaming era, and Netflix's wavering fortunes over the last few years, than for the story it tells. Its second season joins several other shows that should by all rights have been one-and-done, but which were brought back due to enthusiastic audience response and platforms desperate for content, only to be met by a resounding shrug from audiences who had already moved on. The season itself, meanwhile, lacks the tight plotting and evocative central McGuffin of the first season, but it still has significant charms, even if these often come down getting to spend more time with the characters, and in the situations, that were so delightful last season. Russian Doll 's first season felt almost like a precision instrument (a precision that contrasted nicely with Nadia's chaotic nature),

Recent Movie: Fire Island

[This post first appeared, in slightly different form, at Lawyers, Guns & Money .] The conversation about the parlous state of the romantic comedy has been going on for so long that it has consumed not only buckets of virtual ink, but the real-world variety too. At this stage, it might be time to admit that the genre's heyday in the 80s and 90s was more of a blip than the long fallow period we've been in ever since. And yet, every few years someone comes up with a new killer app to save the romcom. Remember when (500) Days of Summer was going to revitalize the genre? Remember how, in the wake of the success of How I Met Your Mother , someone coined the term rom-sitcom and declared that from now on, all romcoms would be TV shows? Remember when Hulu crowed about screening the world's first Christmas romcom to focus on a lesbian couple, and then we watched with horrified fascination as Mackenzie Davis treated Kristen Stewart worse than any male romcom lead has ever treat


A gaggle of shorter pieces of writing published elsewhere on the internet over the last couple of days. First, at the magazine ArtReview , I have a short piece about multiverses and how they're used by franchises like the MCU as well as smaller films like Everything Everywhere All at Once : This kind of appeal to recognition can serve as a pleasant garnish. One of the earliest on-screen multiverse stories, the Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019-2020), took a great deal of pleasure in bringing together previous inhabitants of DC characters from projects old (Burt Ward from the original Batman TV series, 1966-1968), failed (Ashley Scott from the short-lived Birds of Prey , 2002-2003) and wildly successful (Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman from the beloved animated series, 1992-1995). At its worst, however, it feels like a kind of anti-story. As Tony Soprano once put it, "remember when" is the lowest form of conversation. When John Krasinski appears in the latest Doctor Str