Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Kunkel’
* Call for applications: 2014—15 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship.
* And this is the pattern with austerity. The measures introduced under the rubric of an emergency, the supposed need to consolidate debt and appease “the market,” ultimately do little for the debt, and only consolidate the market’s tyrannical reach.
But the emotional trauma that Disney tries its damnedest to induce in young children is only the spadework for the ugly principles it feels it must implant in each new generation. Although the film takes place in an imaginary jungle, THE LION KING really expounds the Law of the Schoolyard: only the strong and the beautiful triumph, and the powerless survive only by serving the strong. As Disney sees it, children must not only acknowledge the supremacy of those born privileged and violent, the children must love them. The young must gaze in hushed veneration at the princely predators who stand ready to harvest the labor and flesh of their subjects. They must learn to giggle at the hopeless scampering of weak and stubby creatures as they dodge the jaws of their overlords. They must accept that true friendship means flattering those who would otherwise feast on their entrails.
* Kunkel reviews Piketty. The circle is complete.
* Title Now Everybody Sue Everybody: expulsion and sexual assault at IHE.
* If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here and lay their hands on me to enslave me. Did you think to terrify me by presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to Slavery? Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt.
* “You express amazement at my statement that ‘civilized’ men try to justify their looting, butchering and plundering by claiming that these things are done in the interests of art, progress and culture. That this simple statement of fact should cause surprise, amazes me in return.”
* What could go wrong? Missouri School Districts Start Training Teachers To Carry Concealed Weapons In Classroom.
* Free at last: Oakland to decriminalize pinball.
* Meanwhile, my new best friend Levar Burton says Octavia Butler is the writer he most wishes he’d met.
* An itinerary is by no means the only thing required for setting out on a trip. And the itinerary will change along the way. But for a deliberate departure from capitalism, rather than a blind flight, a preliminary itinerary will be necessary. Whatever we think of the term communism, the crossroads Marx and Engels glimpsed in the Manifesto is coming more clearly into view: either a left alternative to capitalism or “the common ruin of the contending classes”.
* As horrific as recent mass killings have been, the idea of a slide into ongoing domestic terrorism is just nightmarish.
* Meanwhile: War Gear Flows to Police Departments.
* Temple University is investigating an ethics complaint that two of its professors did not properly disclose funding from the private prison industry for their research on the cost of incarceration.
* Grad Students Could Win Big as Obama Slashes Debt Payments. Understanding the CBO’s bullshitting about how the government doesn’t make money on student loans. Lawsuits and the end of the NCAA. College’s inequality disgrace: Millionaire university presidents and indebted students. In the Near Future, Only Very Wealthy Colleges Will Have English Departments. Yes, the Humanities Are Struggling, but They Will Endure. And Now We Know I’ll Never Be MLA President.
* Emily Bazelon covers the Title IX crisis in American colleges. Taekwondo Is Great but Not the Solution to Campus Rape. U. of Oregon Student Who Alleged Rape by Athletes Writes Open Letter. And then there’s George.
* Jezebel covers Wikipedia’s internal fighting over #YesAllWomen.
* I thought this was genuinely stunning even by Fox’s already low standards: Fox News Guest Launches Race-Based Attack On Neil deGrasse Tyson.
* The media warns readers about violent pimps stealing girls from malls, but most victims’ stories are very different. I know this because I was a teen trafficking victim, and my experience reflects much of the research that’s been done with trafficking victims.
* The Department of Education’s scoring system for ranking the financial health of universities makes no sense.
* Graduate Students at Cornell Push for Workers’ Compensation. The only question is: why don’t they already have this?
* Jacob Remes introduces the CLASSE Manifesto.
* Patrick Iber on life as a long-term adjunct.
* There’s ideology at its purest, and then there’s Barack Obama being interviewed by Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns.
* During the first month of recreational marijuana sales, Colorado’s licensed dispensaries generated a total of more than $14 million, putting about $2 million of tax revenue into state coffers in the process.
* Vulture profiles Benjamin Kunkel.
* What’s making you so fat today: antibiotics.
* Next year on SyFy: Man Calls 911 After “Hostile” 22-Pound Cat Traps Family in Bedroom.
* Study: Nuclear Reactors Are Toxic to Surrounding Areas, Especially With Age. No one could have predicted!
* Now human activity makes it rain on the weekends. God, we’re the worst.
* The Supreme Court: as always, why we can’t have nice things.
* And they say there’s never any good news, but Sbarro’s has filed for bankruptcy.
…genre fiction doesn’t exist in contradistinction to literature merely because of stale language, secondhand insights, or hackneyed plots. The larger difference is a failure or—less judgmentally—a simple setting-aside of the moral imagination. The literary novel illuminates moral problems (including sometimes those that are also political problems) at the expense of sentimental consolation, while genre fiction typically offers consolation at the expense of illumination. It doesn’t alter this proposition that science fiction and especially crime novels sometimes traffic in the idea that all people are at bottom equally evil and all history in the end equally nightmarish, since this sort of nihilism moots moral judgment altogether and is therefore its own kind of consolation.
Other people quicker on the trigger have already covered much of the necessary ground on Benjamin Kunkel’s provocative but incredibly frustrating Dissent piece on “Dystopia and the End of Politics.” What’s good about this article is largely masked by Kunkel’s strange decision to rehearse for the millionth time the high/low culture divide in the context of works (Children of Men, Oryx & Crake) that plainly obliterate it. (Just for starters: In what sense is the father of The Road best described as a primarily instrumental character? The Road is not a perfect book, but that is not among its flaws. And so it goes through the entire essay; in nearly all cases Kunkel’s classification of a work as science fiction inevitably determines the discovery of its asserted essential generic flaws.) Kunkel briefly pretends to take SF seriously so that his later refusal to take it seriously will carry more rhetorical weight—but he never means it, and his contempt for SF is palpable, and annoying, throughout.
I’m also not fond of arguments of the form “All X are essentially Y. Here are my three examples.” Kunkel, in contrast, appears very fond of such arguments.
All that said, when Kunkel does get down to business and takes dystopian and apocalyptic fiction seriously, he does rather good work, worth quoting at length:
In short, the contemporary apocalypse pits family values against the cannibal universe—the good guys versus the bad guys, in McCarthy’s unironic terms. And so, with the end of civilization, the age-old conflict between sexual love (eros) and love of one’s neighbor (caritas) also disappears; and the grown-up Jesus’ exhortation to his followers that they leave their families if they wish to pursue righteousness is as little remembered as among Christian fundamentalists today. No one pauses to reflect that in our civilization, pre-collapse, it was invariably the defense of the individual household that justified a nation’s warlike international posture or its profligate use of energy. Nuclear war might be averted, went the insipid Sting hit of the late cold war, if the Russians love their children too. But if global warming is not arrested, it will be because we (and the Russians) want for our children everything we have and more.
To be as schematic as possible: in the neoliberal dystopia a totally commodified world transforms would-be lovers into commodities themselves and in this way destroys the possibility of love. In the neoliberal apocalypse, on the other hand, the wreck of civilization reveals the inherent depravity of mankind (excepting one’s loved ones) and ratifies the truth that the family is a haven in a heartless world. Both the neoliberal dystopia and the neoliberal apocalypse defend love and individuality against the forces threatening to crush them; the difference is that the clone novel sticks up for humanity from the standpoint of an implied or explicit critique of neoliberalism, while the apocalypse narrative (whether in prose or on film) tends to reflect the default creed of neoliberalism, according to which kindness may flourish in private life but the outside world remains now and forever a scene of vicious but inevitable competition.
That’s a good and interesting binary absolutely worth thinking about. It’s just too bad he felt like he had to take a shower afterwards. And worse that he had to let us know he was going to take the shower after, that he was about to take the shower, really, just as soon as he stopped writing, because obviously he felt as dirty writing about SF as we must have felt reading about it.