* Climate work and despair. It’s a tough problem in the classroom, too. Climate change conflicts somehow with an assumed, mandatory pedagogical optimism; the lack of a solution or even a “hope spot” often leaves the class feeling somehow incomplete.
* Ted Chiang in the New Yorker. Great piece.
Beyond this narrow Wikipedian territory, Chiang is reluctant to venture. Although he is amiable and warm, he is also reticent and does not riff. Over several conversations, I learned, in addition, that he owns four cats, goes to the gym three times a week, and regards a small cylindrical seal made of hematite sometime around 1200 B.C. as one of his most treasured possessions—it was a gift from his sister, a reference to “Tower of Babylon.” He told me that, when he was a child, his family celebrated Christmas but wasn’t religious. When I asked Chiang if he had hobbies, he said no, and then, after a long pause, admitted that he plays video games. He refused to say what he eats for breakfast. Eventually, I sent him an e-mail with twenty-four questions that, I hoped, might elicit more personal details:
Do you have a favorite novel?
There isn’t one that I would want to single out as a favorite. I’m wary of the idea of a favorite anything.
You’ve spent many years living near the water. Do you like the sea?
Not particularly. I don’t actually spend much time on the coast; it’s just chance that I happened to move here.
What was the last work of art that made you cry?
Do you consider yourself a sensitive person?
* Conspiracy theories we can believe in: the 19A0s, the suppressed decade between the 1970s and 1980s whose memory has been repressed.
* Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not. This article certainly supports my implicit bias against these sorts of studies.
* Trumpism: The Devil We Know.
* Today in the hopeless search for some Trump upside: the end of the campus sex bureaucracy.
* How could it possibly get worse? Oh.
* Some CFPs I posted yesterday: Buffy at 20! SFFTV Call for Reviewers! And Paradoxa 28: “Global Weirding” has officially appeared in the world as well; see a table of contents and our introduction, and then get one of your very own…
* I’m still gathering the loooooing list for the Pioneer Award — so let me know if you know of a peer-reviewed edited collection in SF studies broadly conceived, published in 2016, or a peer-reviewed article on SF published in a non-SF-studies journal, also in 2016!
* Visiting MLA 2017? Can I interest you in #s444?
444. Infinite Jest at Twenty
Saturday, 7 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., 112A, Pennsylvania Convention Center
A special session
Presiding: Gerry Canavan, Marquette Univ.
1. “Infinite Jest‘s Near Future,” Lee Konstantinou, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
2. “Aesthetics of Trauma in Infinite Jest,” Carrie Shanafelt, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ., Teaneck
3. “No Year of Glad: Infinite Jest after 9/13/2008,” Gerry Canavan
Responding: N. Katherine Hayles, Duke Univ.
* I shared that one, so here’s the debunking: The Bad Research Behind the Bogus Claim That North Carolina Is No Longer a Democracy. I guess I relied on the journalistic summaries (classic blunder) didn’t realize how bad the base research was. North Carolina is still not a legitimate democracy, though.
* And while we’re on the subject: The Constitution has strangled American democracy for long enough. We need a constituent assembly.
* Why saving the congressional ethics office isn’t as big a victory as it seems. At least it was a win!
* Counterpoint: Why Star Trek: Discovery Belongs on CBS All Access.
* Darkest timeline watch: Wisconsin Senate leader says he’s open to toll roads.
* And with 2016 over, a toddler has now shot a person every week in the US for two years straight. We did it, everyone. We did it.
Paradoxa 28 is here! I got my copy in the mail yesterday. A table of contents, submitted for your approval:
* “Introduction” by Gerry Canavan and Andrew Hageman
* Mark Bould, “Not Just Some Viggo Mortensen of Desolated Left Politics: An Interview with China Miéville”
* Andrew Hageman, “The Sick One-Sentence Joke Version of the Last 12,000 Years: A Conversation between Timothy Morton and Jeff VanderMeer” (excerpted at LARB)
* Mindi McMann, “‘There were endings, but none of them were happy’: Exploitation and Authority in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees”
* Gerry Canavan, “After Humanity: Science Fiction after Extinction in Vonnegut and Simak”
* Matt Schneider, “Translating the Unthinkable: Global Weirding in A Dark Room,
* Andrew Brown, “Reading Lovecraft at the End of World”
* Salma Monani, “Feeling and Healing Eco-social Catastrophe: The “Horrific” Slipstream of Danis Goulet’s Wakening”
* Alison Sperling’s “Second Skins: A Body-Ecology of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy”
* Stephen Shapiro, “The Weird’s World-System: The Long Spiral and Literary-Cultural Studies”
…as well as reviews of Chris Pak’s Terraforming, The Age of Lovecraft edited collection, Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Evolution, and Fredric Jameson’s An American Utopia. Check it out! I’m biased but I think it’s great.
Also, just a reminder that the “Buffy at 20” deadline was extended to this Friday! Get your proposals in; this is shaping up to be an awesome event.
Science Fiction Film and Television invites reviewers of science fiction films and television series that premiered in 2016. Please note that these are academic reviews for an academic journal; regrettably, the journal does not pay its contributors.
If you are interested, please send an interest email to email@example.com, including the film or films you’d like to review as well as a CV.
Our DVD and streaming television reviews run 1000-2000 words; when the situation warrants we expand these reviews to 2000-4000 word “review essay” length. Reviews should be written so as not to require a bibliography.
We are especially interested in reviews of global SF cinema, as well as reviews of independent SF film.
* A nice endorsement of Octavia E. Butler from Steve Shaviro. Some bonus Shaviro content: his favorite SF of 2016. I think Death’s End was the best SF I read this year too, though I really liked New York 2140 a lot too (technically that’s 2017, I suppose). I’d also single out Invisible Planets and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, both of which had some really good short stories. In comics, I think The Vision was the best new thing I’ve seen in years. There’s a lot I bought this year and didn’t have time to look at yet, though, so maybe check back with me in 2019 and I can tell you what was the best thing from 2016.
* Duke warns professors about emails from someone claiming to be a student, seeking information about their courses — many in fields criticized by some on the right. Some Michigan and Denver faculty members have received similar emails but from different source.
* I don’t think Children of Men was ever actually “overlooked” — and I’m shocked it was considered a flop at a time — but it certainly looks prescient now.
* From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck. Remembering Caravan of Courage, the Ewok Adventure Star Wars Would Rather You’d Forget. Anti-fascism vs. nostalgia: Rogue One. How to See Star Wars For What It Really Is. And a new headcanon regarding the Empire and its chronic design problems.
* The seduction of technocratic government—that a best answer will overcome division, whether sown in the nature of man or ineluctable in capitalist society—slides into the seduction in the campaign that algorithms will render rote the task of human persuasion, that canvassers are just cogs for a plan built by machine. And so the error to treat data as holy writ, when it’s both easier and harder than that. Data are fragile; algorithms, especially when they aggregate preferences, fall apart. Always, always, power lurks. The technocrats have to believe in mass politics, believe for real that ordinary people, when they organize, can change their own destinies. Whether that happens depends on the party that gets built, and the forces behind it.
* Four Cabinet nominations that could blow up in Donald Trump’s face. Fighting Mass Incarceration Under Trump: New Strategies, New Alliances. Why Donald Trump Might Not Be All That Good for Art. How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler. This all certainly seems on the up-and-up. And today in teaching the controversy: Nuclear diplomacy via Twitter is a bad idea.
* The arc of history is long, but Google Search will not longer return Holocaust-denying websites at the top of page one.
* It wasn’t just your imagination: more famous people did die in 2016.