Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘ICFA

Monday Afternoon Links!

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* Call for Applications at the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts: Division Heads of Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYA) and International Fantastic Literatures (IF).

In very broad strokes, colleges and universities have four main revenue streams: state appropriations, research funding, gifts and endowments, and student tuition. The first three come with serious restrictions regarding their use. Generally speaking, state appropriations can only be used for educational expenses, research funding is largely spent on specific research projects, and endowments go toward the pet projects of wealthy donors. Only student tuition can be used for anything university administrators want—construction projects, real estate, interest payments, administrative salaries, football coaches. In recent decades, university administrators have sought, like all entrepreneurial institutions, to maximize their revenues, but they have sought above all to maximize their unrestricted revenues—and have even been willing to sacrifice state funding in order to bring in more tuition. The Tuition Limit and the Coming Crisis of Higher Education.

The University and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Play is organized to prevent children from sorting themselves by gender. A gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” was introduced in 2012 and was swiftly absorbed into mainstream Swedish culture, something that, linguists say, has never happened in another country.

* Hobbes, the Science Fiction Writer: Part I, Part II. Part II wades into Star Trek: Discovery and Black Panther…

* A Political History of the Future: Iain M. Banks.

* How White American Terrorists Are Radicalized.

“The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares.”

* Neoliberalism and the family.

* If Tim Kaine can keep John Bolton off the National Security Council, all is forgiven.

* Surely one of the most depraved things any politician has ever said.

* The United States is doomed.

* The Stormy Daniels scandal is not gossip. Why the Stormy Daniels story matters, in one paragraph. And everyone needs to face it: Stormy Daniels’ Legal Strategy Strongly Suggests She Has Photos of Donald Trump.

‘Rick and Morty’ and The Rise of The ‘I’m a Piece of Shit’ Defense.

* From the archives! Superpowers and the ADA.

Loneliness is deadlier than obesity and should be considered a public health risk, experts have warned.

* Presenting Effectively.

* Facebook: definitely bad.

* Borneo Lost More Than 100,000 Orangutans From 1999 to 2015.

* And here’s the robot future I’m worried about.

#ICFA39 Talk: “STAR TREK after DISCOVERY”

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(One of the nice things about my recent promotion is that I can perhaps start to think a little differently about the way I publish. With that in mind here’s my ICFA 2018 talk, delivered earlier this morning on the Star Wars and Star Trek panel, which builds on some recent writing I’ve been doing on franchise SF but which doesn’t really have a natural home in any of my current writing projects. As you can see it winds up in a similar place to my “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” post but takes a somewhat different path to get there.)

Hello, and thanks for coming out to this early morning panel. I did indeed just find out that I’ve been promoted — this is actually the first official thing I’m doing since I found out, which is nice because I really think of ICFA as my “home” conference. I’ve been coming here since the very start of my career and many of my earliest and best opportunities (my first publication, my first book contract, in various ways most of the editing projects I’ve done) have come out of my association with ICFA. It’s a very good place.

That said, I also like SFRA, where I am the outgoing vice-president, and one of the organizers of the upcoming SFRA18 conference to be held on the campus of Marquette University July 1-4, 2018. I have a few flyers, which I’ve also been secreting to various locations on the conference tables when no one is looking—I hope to see some of you there! Please email me with any questions or for any additional details.

I’ll be talking today about Star Trek (and Star Wars just a little bit), which is coming out of some pieces on franchise SF I’ve been doing over the last couple years, including a piece I was proud of that was shortlisted for the Pioneer Award this year (“Hokey Religions: Star Wars and Star Trek in the Age of Reboots”), popular criticism at The Los Angeles Review of Books and Sight and Sound, Dan Hassler-Forest and Sean Guynes’s Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling book, and even a blog post for the recent An und für such blog event on Discovery that went up this Tuesday night. So if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook some of this might be familiar to you, though I think most of it will be new.

Since this is a Star Wars and Star Trek panel I wanted to start off my remarks with an observation of the intriguing convergence that has been happening between these two in recent years. People who’ve been attending ICFA for awhile may find this convergence somewhat unexpected, as Star Wars and Star Trek have long been understood here as doing significantly different things, and perhaps as not even properly belonging to the same genre at all. This critical distinction was matched by or, more likely, produced by a parallel divide in SF fandom of the 1980s and 1990s; people who are old enough to have been active on the early Internet will recall that Star Wars vs. Star Trek was a banned topic on many forums, especially in its more fannish varieties (like the infamous question “Who would win in a fight, a Star Destroyer or the Enterprise D?”).

Now, this all may seem a little strange—of course the Enterprise D would win that fight, as the military applications of transporter technology alone far surpass any of the known tactical capabilities of the Empire, much less their sad devotion to the ancient Jedi religion.

But it’s also a bit strange to see fandom elevate the at-times rather slim distinctions between these two mass cultural corporate megabrands to the level of political or even moral principle, especially as those distinctions are largely originating on the level of affective response (what kind of person does watching Star Trek make me feel like I am, what kind of person does their watching Star Wars make me feel like they are, and so on), rather than any particularly rigorous distinction on the level of either form or content.

The thin line dividing the two properties has only grown thinner in recent years,as the J.J. Abrams reboot timeline expressly bringing a Star Wars action-comedy sensibility to Trek (with J.J. openly trumpeting that he wasn’t a Star Trek fan in his promotion of the first reboot film)

and the J.J. Abrams “sequel trilogy” bringing a dyspeptic, 80s-Trek-movies sensibility to Star Wars (where the once-carefree franchise becomes, in its 2010s formulation, an extended and grim meditation on the unfulfilled promises of youth, the roads not taken, the disappointments of parenting, and the sadness of growing old).

In 2016-2017 we saw each property embark full-throatedly on a project of metanarrative revision, directing their attention not only to telling new stories about categories of people they had previously ignored but also interrogating the assumptions that had previously undergirded appreciation of each franchise. I’ll talk most about Star Trek: Discovery in what follows but I hope this produces an immediate glimmer of recognition as a description of both Rogue One and The Last Jedi, which both not only center on women as central protagonists, and which both proliferate new points of audience identification beyond just “Bad Empire” and “Good Rebellion,” but which also give us new ways of understanding the mythic logic that structures the Holy Trilogy of episodes IV, V, and VI. Rogue One shows us “Star War is hell” after all, recentering our attention on the nameless extras in the background who need to die, anonymous and unmourned, so Luke Skywalker can be the Chosen One — while The Last Jedi shows us that being the Chosen One isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be either, and that the fantasy we thought we wanted (“You think what? I’m gonna walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order?”) is infantile and embarrassing, and in any event when it does come produces not “new hope” but a new world of death that has the same no-future in the end (Kylo doesn’t turn Good; to a rounding error the Resistance doesn’t escape; Luke doesn’t save the day, and in fact, Luke dies).

For the rest of my talk I’ll be elaborating on what Discovery does to Star Trek, in the opposite direction, but my central claim can be summarized in a variation on a recent tweet of mine: Today Star Wars wants to be Star Trek and Star Trek wants to be Star Wars, and everyone is sad.

Have people been watching Star Trek: Discovery? Who’s seen all the way to the end?

I really hope I’ve pitched the paper at a level where everyone can enjoy what I’m about to say whether you’ve seen the series or not.

Because this is an academic talk I will have to break the spoiler seal, so I apologize if you were planning on going back to the room to watch some CBS All Access tonight. (That goes for you, too, Internet.) And it’s strange in a way to even have to worry about, as Star Trek has historically been a primarily episodic concern, with season and series arcs existing only at the margins of the franchise, especially in its paradigmatic formulations of TOS/TNG. It hasn’t previously hinged on “spoilers.” But Discovery is nearly all arc, nearly all mythology episodes: there is only one properly standalone episode in the series after the pilot, episode 7, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” and even that one is nominally a sequel. (I’ll return to the subject of that episode a little bit in a moment). The other fourteen episodes are almost nothing but series arc, each episode feeding directly into the next, and sadly comprised of mostly “shocking” plot twists.

I feel as though I should also apologize the way Steve did yesterday, too, for this being all a little bit fannish. But this is ICFA, after all.

The initial arc of Discovery, which is set approximately a decade before the adventures depicted in the original season of Star Trek (1966), concerns Cmdr. Michael Burnham, who in the pilot has served on the Shenzhou under Captain Phillippa Georgiou (most recently as the first officer) for seven years. (That’s no arbitrary number; seven years is the typical run of a modern Star Trek series, so we are essentially being introduced to these characters in the context of the series finale of the TNG-style series Star Trek: Shenzhou, which of course never actually aired.) Burnham is a human orphan, her parents having been murdered in a raid by Klingon marauders; afterwards she was raised on Vulcan as a Vulcan by her adopted parent, long-running Star Trek secondary character Sarek (Spock’s father). She is therefore the adopted human sister of Spock, whom he just never happened to have mentioned on camera in any context before now.

Encountering a massive Klingon installation at the edge of space, Burnham becomes convinced that the Shenzhou needs to fire on the Klingons or the Shenzhou will be destroyed. Georgiou refuses on the basis that Starfleet does not fire first — so Burnham disables her with a Vulcan neck pinch in her ready room and gives the order as if it came from Georgiou, becoming Starfleet’s first-ever mutineer. Georgiou recovers quickly and belays the order, and in the ensuing battle the Shenzhou is lost, Georgiou is killed, and the Federation plunges into a cataclysmic war with a newly reunited and newly dangerous Klingon Empire that soon threatens its very survival.

(I should say here the series never exactly commits to whether Burnham’s impulse was correct, whether it could have stopped the war or saved the Shenzhou if she’d been allowed to see it through. That’s deliberate: in Discovery we aren’t in a place where we can simply trust our heroes implicitly anymore, and nobody knows what’s actually right or what’s best.)

This is just the pilot and we are already quite far afield of our expectations of a Star Trek series: mutiny, war, death, blowing up the ship and killing the captain and then not undoing it by the end of the episode. But things only get worse from here.

Burnham is found guilty of mutiny and sentenced to life imprisonment on a Federation work colony; however, sometime later, while being transferred with some other prisoners, there is an accident with her shuttle and she is brought aboard the science vessel U.S.S. Discovery, captained by Gabriel Lorca.

The Discovery has been retrofitted for the war, and in fact soon becomes the key tactical asset of the Federation, as it possesses a unique “spore drive” that taps into a fungal substratum of the universe, allowing the Discovery to appear and reappear anywhere it likes instantaneously. Lorca—a disabled, traumatized veteran of the war who has already lost one ship to Klingon attack, its only survivor—runs the ship not in the loose, avuncular style of previous captains but as a warship, an actual military vessel, with strict military discipline, unquestioning obedience, and a shoot-first-and-take-no-prisoners attitude towards the prosecution of the war. Indeed, our early episodes on the Discovery indicate that a decidedly un-Starfleet cult of personality has developed around Lorca on the Discovery, with some officers utterly worshipful of his leadership and others (especially the Discovery’s initial science complement, who have now found themselves conscripted as soldiers) deeply skeptical of his attitudes and decisions. One of Burnham’s compatriots from the Shenzhou, Lt. Saru, from an evolved prey species called the Kelpians, has been promoted and is now Lorca’s first officer, though he seems weirdly out of the loop compared to earlier first officers we’ve known.

And if you were at the Trek/Star Wars/Mass Effect worldbuilding panel yesterday, and heard Steve Rabitsch say he doesn’t like any of the DIS characters yet: I defy anyone not to like Saru.

Lorca doesn’t stand on ceremony with Burnham; he knows her past but also her ingenuity and incredible usefulness, and offers to allow her to resume service in Starfleet despite her crime as a non-commissioned enlistee, under his broad wartime legal authority.

The first arc thus details Burnham’s reintegration into Starfleet under the unusual Discovery command structure, as the Discovery first perfects the spore drive and then uses it to singlehandedly turn the tide of the war.

Until, that is, the last episode of the first arc, when Lorca uses the now-perfected spore drive to teleport the Discovery not home to Earth, where it can win the war, but to the Mirror Universe, first seen in the classic TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror,” home of the infamous Evil Goateed Crew.

In an extremely Star Wars twist, it turns out Lorca is not our father; he is not the affable, dad-joke Kirk, nor the dignified and distant but he-really-loves-you-on-the-inside Picard, nor the bombastic, affectionate Sisko. He’s actually the Mirror Universe Lorca, who was marooned in our universe after a transportation accident years before and who has successfully impersonated a proper Starfleet captain ever since (actually rising to extreme prominence in the fleet as an incredibly effective, brilliant war hero, due to his merging of Starfleet’s collectivist organizational ethos with brutal Mirror-Universe tactics). Lorca has done all this in a convoluted plan to return to the Mirror Universe and overthrow the Mirror Universe’s “Terran empire” and put himself at its head, with the Prime Burnham ruling by his side (the consequence of a creepy obsession he has with her, due to his having groomed the Mirror Burnham for a likely sexual relationship while acting as a literal father figure towards her in her childhood).

Luckily, in a Star-Wars-style, Throne-Room-fight high-speed resolution, Lorca is dispatched almost immediately after revealing himself as a bad guy, falling through a hole in the floor into the spore drive, presumably never to be heard from again.

Problem solved, the Discovery then goes back to the Prime Universe, where it arrives nine months late to find a Federation at the brink of defeat. But, through another extremely convoluted plan and a very high-speed resolution, they solve that problem too, and give a quick speech affirming the superiority of the Federation’s values that has not been borne at all out by any the events we have witnessed over the course of the season, while they all give each other medals—the end.

I write in last month’s LARB piece about Discovery about the way the series is unwilling to fully commit to its revisionist narrative (much moreso than either Rogue One and The Last Jedi, in fact), and instead characteristically uses its moments of “shocking revelation” as an opportunity to eject the suspect element from the series and start the narrative over.

And I write in this week’s AUFS piece about the way these attempt to eject these non-Trekian elements of the series—many of them the undead remnants of the original Bryan Fuller conception of Discovery that proved problematic during actual production, especially after he left the series—has itself proved failed. I don’t have time to talk about the whole post here or, indeed, to explain the entire time-travel conceit of “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”—I advise you to carefully study my blog post on your own time—so in the time remaining to me today allow me to simply summarize the essential problem I found there: like most of the early episodes of Discovery, “Magic,” ostensibly a standalone episode with a happy, we-beat-the-bad-guy ending, is no longer standalone at all, and in fact now almost impossible to watch without constantly thinking about the Mirror Universe twist. To make a long story short:

…having exposed and then immediately ejected Lorca from the series has not “solved the problem” of Lorca but retroactively turned rewatching the series into an exercise of trying to read Jason Isaacs’s exquisitely opaque facial expressions for some slight dropping of Lorca’s mask. On rewatch the whole series is now even more about Lorca than it was before.

Discovery has thus produced a perverse situation where it is primarily—indeed, nearly entirely—about something it has since decided it doesn’t want to be about—and that thing is unfortunately not “Star Trek,” at least not as we have ever understood the concept before. I’ll quote again from that piece:

As of yet we know very little about Star Trek: Discovery season two. But I think it’s fair for us, in this off season, to ask what elements of season one will extend to season two that will reward repeated rewatching by obsessive fans. Lorca is gone; Culber is gone; Tyler is gone; the war is over; Burnham is reinstated; Stamets is a plot device; Sarek is boring; Tilly is extremely inconsistently written, and by the end almost exclusively for laughs. What from the perspective of season two and beyond—from the perspective of the whole series as we will come to recognize it retrospectively years from now—will look like the must-see episodes of season one?

At the moment I think this is still very hard to say.

The last shot of the season, a cliffhanger, has the Discovery literally face-to-face with the Enterprise (still Pike’s, not Kirk’s), a place where Burnham’s adopted sibling Spock is currently serving as science officer. The series, that is, true to form, ends precisely on yet another image of imperfect, failed, mirroring: Discovery and the original Enterprise are clearly two versions of one another, in some sense or another, but the image is oddly composed, tilted and asymmetrical, and the twinned questions of (1) continuity and difference and (2) priority and subordination between the two ships remain very open-ended. Discovery seems unable to either replicate the past or to break free of it; even armed with the incredible power of the spore drive, it lacks direction or destination.

Star Trek after Discovery is thus facing a deep crisis of narrative coherence, condemned to be neither “Star Trek” nor “after”; indeed, having tossed out nearly everything that constituted the first season, there is very little sense of what if anything can extend from this initial season into a future, seven-or-more-year Trek arc like the ones we have been habituated to expect post-TNG. To coin a phrase: What are the spores here? What sort of life can grow on Discovery now, post-season-one? And will the thing this show grows into truly be “Trek,” whatever that means?

I am of course speculating here, but if any such through-line exists I suspect the key figure will actually be Saru, a key character I have spoken very little about here who is sidelined for much of the first season due to the breakdown of his prior relationship with Burnham and his effective nonpresence in Lorca’s inner circle. With the possible, arguable exception of Deep Space Nine, no Trek series has ever managed to be a true ensemble show: a pair or trio of characters always rises to the top to provide the primary locus of narrative interest. Picard and Data; Kirk and Spock (and McCoy); Janeway and Seven (and maybe the Doctor); Archer and T’Pol (and Trip). While Lorca dominates season one—so thoroughly that it is hard for me to imagine what the series will look like without him, and episodes 1.14 and 1.15 don’t exactly fill me with confidence—it seems hard to imagine that Discovery as a multi-season, unified totality can be anything but Burnham and Saru. Their fraught, delicate, but genuine friendship is the last remaining source of compelling interpersonal drama that hasn’t been jettisoned from the series by the end of season one; if seasons two (and beyond) are to feel like an extension of season one, rather than a complete reboot, Burnham and Saru will have to be their foundation.

In short, I argue, to survive as a coherent narrative project rather than an exercise in rebranding, Star Trek after Discovery will first and foremost need to find its way back to being Star Trek—and the fertile ground of the Burnham-Saru friendship is only path I see from where we are now towards that goal. If there’s hope for the series, it starts there. Thanks for listening!

First Week of School Links!

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* Harvey. Hell and High Water. Houston has been hit with a 100-year flood — a rainstorm that, going by previous records, has a 1 percent chance of happening in one year — in 2015 and in 2016. Now in 2017 it’s enduring what will probably be the worst flood in the city’s history. Hurricane Harvey Probably Isn’t a 500-Year Event Anymore. The trouble with living in a swamp: Houston floods explained. 9 Trillion Tons. ProPublica’s report on how zoning made this even worse. “No one could have predicted.” Why Houston wasn’t ready for Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey Could Also Be a Major Pollution Disaster. FIRST-UG 102: Critical Disaster Studies. Here’s how to help.

* CFP: “200 Years of the Fantastic: Celebrating Frankenstein and Mary Shelley,” ICFA 39, March 14-18, 2018.

* “Teaching first-years today? Here are some things my son, starting college today, was never taught.” And from the archives: Shadow Syllabus.

Mothering While Brown in White Spaces, Or, When I Took My Son to Octavia Butler’s Exhibit.

Announcing the Brittle Paper Literary Awards: The Shortlists.

* I hope someone is optioning “That 70s Suitcase” for a film trilogy. Here’s the creator’s answer. Via MeFi.

* The university in ruins.

* William Gibson on living in the retrofuture.

* Gene Roddenberry, megalomaniac.

Alexander: Are there any subjects that you haven’t tackled on The Next Generation that you would like to?

Roddenberry: There are subjects, yes, but I will keep them secret, because you have to wait until a certain level of thinking permits these things to be thought about openly and in writing. I have many thoughts which, if I were to voice them now, would turn many people against me. People would think, “My God, behind this is such inequity!” [Laughter.]

Alexander: People would be surprised at how big a revolutionary you really are? [Laughter.]

* Fan fiction in the New Yorker.

* When you come at the young-adult-literature community, you best not miss.

* Because you demanded it: a Tolkien biopic.

Try to imagine a society with no need for confinement, with no one being locked up after a brutal act, and it is difficult not to feel one has lapsed into utopianism. Yet, try to determine what socially useful purpose prisons have fulfilled, sift through the wreckage looking for a residual ‘good’ prison system, and it is hard not to feel you’re wasting your time on a pointless abstraction. For and against abolitionism.

* Well, this barely lasted a week: Why I’m glad the generals are in control in the Trump administration.

It’s Time: Congress Needs to Open a Formal Impeachment Inquiry.

We’ve been covering Joe Arpaio for more than 20 years. Here’s a couple of things you should know about him… Another Arpaio thread. The Joe Arpaio I knew. The year I spent in Joe Arpaio’s tent jail was hell. He should never walk free. Trump has realized that he can use his pardon power to bypass the lawyers and judges and investigators he so despises. Arpaio was a test run. Now he will know it works. Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is an Impeachable Offense. President Trump Should Be Impeached for Pardoning Joe Arpaio.

Leaked Chats Show Charlottesville Marchers Were Planning for Violence. University officials say white supremacists are recruiting their students. Brandeis U. Is Closed After Receiving Email Threats. We’re Tracking Confederate Monuments. Tell Us What’s on Your Campus.

Fearing Trump Administration Crackdown, Immigrants May Stay in Hurricane Harvey Zone. ICE Left 50 Immigrant Women And Kids Stranded At A Bus Station Before Hurricane Harvey Struck. ICE detains DACA-protected immigrant trying to post bail for someone else. ABQ woman jailed after ATF informant lured her into drug deals. Salvadoran asylum seeker with brain tumor seized from Texas hospital. After ICE arrests in Saratoga Springs, some migrant workers fear showing up for racing season. I’m a DACA Student and I’m Praying ICE Doesn’t Pick Up My Parents.

* After all this mere tax gimmicks seems almost innocent.

* Yes, Icahn.

* Trump Tower Moscow.

* The End of the Goldwater Rule.

White House Sets Rules for Military Transgender Ban. All but promising to end DACA.

* Stories that already seem a thousand years ago and a million miles away: Special Counsel Examines Possible Role Flynn Played in Seeking Clinton Emails From Hackers. How are we ever going to find time to be angry about Mnuchin misusing public funds to get a better view of the eclipse? I’d forgotten this one even happened and it was last week.

* They’re not even pretending they think he’s competent.

* A whole lot of people with absolutely nothing to hide.

Law and protest in Durham.

Trump order could give immigration agents a foothold in US schools.

* An intimate history of antifa.

Can Anyone Stop Trump From Launching Nuclear Weapons?

* In the richest country that has ever existed in human history: “She eats out of dumpsters so she can afford long-term care for her husband.”

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

* Fired for unexpected periods.

* The Upper Midwest is terrible for racial inequality, and Wisconsin tops the list.

* A solid B-. Not bad.

Boomers are news-illiterate couch vegetables stuck in front of their yelling, ad-saturated TVs.

There’s a reason you won’t find many monuments in the South to one of Robert E. Lee’s most able deputies.

3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths – and shows the Greeks did not develop trigonometry.

There is no such thing as western civilisation.

* Understanding abiogenesis.

* The Monsanto of marijuana.

* WHAT YEAR IS IT

* Instagram Africa.

Given the enormous amount of data to support these findings, and given the field in question, one might think male scientists would use these outcomes to create a more level playing field. But a recent paper showed that in fact, male STEM faculty assessed the quality of real research that demonstrated bias against women in STEM as being low; instead the male faculty favored fake research, designed for the purposes of the study in question, which purported to demonstrate that no such bias exists.

* Stories like this one were why I thought supporters of Title IX (like myself) needed to get ahead of the problem and reform it while we still could. Almost certainly too late now.

* The water you just drank was filled with self-replicating nanobots. Understanding Noah’s Ark. Be careful what you wish for.

We talk about broad-strokes when assessing the slogan “Make America Great Again,” but what if — alongside the racism and toxic nostalgia — there is a more intimate way people are hearing it: make my children love and respect me again, make my community a place where people don’t automatically want to leave and never come back again, make America a place where getting ahead in life isn’t synonymous with dissociating yourself from me. Right-wing media — and here I am thinking of Trump fundamentally as a media phenomenon, which is how our parents experience him — has exploited this situation in a despicable and probably unfixable way, but they didn’t create the underlying dynamic. In other words, ultimately Fox News isn’t what’s tearing families apart, but it’s profiting from the fact that they’re already being torn apart by the geographic concentration of wealth and opportunity.

* Why no one can say Trump lost the election. Democrats’ 2018 gerrymandering problem is really bad.

Nuclear missiles were once ready to launch from Milwaukee’s suburbs.

* Profiles in courage getting out ahead of the story.

* Your mandatory Game of Thrones wrap-ups: Why Game of Thrones has become so incoherent. Every city in the world is built on wildfire. 27 questions (about last week’s episode). Game of Thrones’ Drive to the Finish Line Is Crippling Its Ability to Tell a Story. Game of Rewrites. Maps and fantasy. I’d watch at least a few episodes of a George R.R. Martin-helmed Star Trek series. And sure to be squashed fan theories we can believe in: Is Bran Stark the Night King?

In the wake of the Game of Thrones finale, indulge in the nostalgia of Dragonlance. Are you listening, TruTV?

* And this is the only prestige TV I need.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 29, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Supersized ICFA Weekend Links!

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* Hey, ICFAites! I’m posting this too late to hype yesterday’s talk on Black Panther and Wakanda as Nation, but there’s still time to hype my Rogue One roundtable at 8:30 and the Modern Masters of Science Fiction book signing at 12:30…

* One week from today! Buffy at 20!

* I really appreciated The New Inquiry‘s most recent issue on prison abolition, including this piece on home monitoring, this one on deaf inmates, and this one on bureaucratic malice.

* Awesome IndieGoGo success story: Nimuno LEGO tape.

Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse.

* Teach the controversy: Did the CIA really astrally project to Mars in 1984?

* Neat project I’m coming late to: Young People Read Old SFF.

“Mr. Thursday.” By Emily St. John Mandel.

* Starfleet or bust.

* The Gig Economy and Working Yourself to Death.

What Happens If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off in Manhattan? How to survive a nuclear blast.

Other genres merely represent everyday life. Science fiction hopes to change it.

* Humans, on brand.

New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being.

The Existential Hokiness of Rick & Morty.

Purplish Haze: The Science Fiction Vision of Jimi Hendrix.

“Comrade, Can You Paint My Horse?” Soviet Kids’ Books Today.

* Being Kim Stanley Robinson. After the Great Dithering.

Julia muppet
Credit: Sesame Workshop

* Sesame Street’s newest puppet is a four-year-old with autism.

Disabled Americans: Stop Murdering Us.

* “Let’s talk about the weird psychosexual energy in Beauty and the Beast.”

* “The monsters of Kong: Skull Island are as brilliantly rendered as its politics are muddled and queasy.”

* “Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why.”

Animal rights lawyer says zoos are solitary confinement for animals. No animals have all the attributes of human minds; but almost all the attributes of human minds are found in some animal or other. The beginning of the end of meat. Scientists are messing around with 3-D printed cheese.

* Great news: Authorities believe they’ve captured the individual responsible for most of the JCC bomb threats. The Slip-Up That Caught the Jewish Center Bomb Caller.

With a 10-day supply of opioids, 1 in 5 become long-term users. Drugs are killing so many people in Ohio that cold-storage trailers are being used as morgues.

With Trump Poised to Change the Legal Landscape, the Clock May Be Ticking on Graduate Unions. The shamelessness with which college administrations have courted this outcome is amazing, even by college administration standards.

How One Family Is Beating the NCAA at Its Own Game.

Here’s the Important Stuff That Happens in Iron Fist So You Don’t Have to Watch It. Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist is an ill-conceived, poorly written disaster. The Iron Fist TV Series Is Marvel and Netflix’s First Big Failure. Five Comments on Iron Fist.

* Paranoia in the Trump White House. Trumpism and academia. Trump’s Cuts. A day in the life of a poor American under Trump’s proposed budget. North Korea. The Incredible Cruelty of Trumpcare. Trumpcare goes down. Democrats Will Filibuster Neil Grouch’s Nomination. What to ask about Russian hacking. New York Attorney General Steps Up Scrutiny of White House. Why they voted Trump. r/Donald. It’s a better time to be doing any kind of leftist politics than it was a decade ago. Well, we’ll see…

* It’s hard in all this mess to pay attention to the little things, but man.

* My fascism will be big, beautiful, and sustainable, or it will be bullshit.

Overall, Obama’s performance in office looks like most American presidencies since Reagan, not altering all that much at home while pressing ahead with imperial tasks abroad—in effect, a largely conventional stewardship of neo-liberal capitalism and military-diplomatic expansionism. No new direction for either society or empire emerged under him. Obama’s rule was in this sense essentially stand-pat: business as usual. On another plane, however, his tenure was innovative. For he is the first celebrity President—that is, a politician whose very appearance was a sensation, from the earliest days of his quest for the Democratic nomination onwards: to be other than purely white, as well as good-looking and mellifluous, sufficed for that. Catapulted into the White House on colour charisma and economic crisis, and commanding the first congressional supermajority since Carter, Obama in office continued to be an accomplished vote-winner and champion money-raiser. But celebrity is not leadership, and is not transferrable. The personality it projects allows no diffusion. Of its nature, it requires a certain isolation. Obama, relishing his aura and aware of the risks of diluting it, made little attempt to mobilize the populace who cast their ballots for him, and reserved the largesse showered on him by big money for further acclamation at the polls. What mattered was his personal popularity. His party hardly counted, and his policies had little political carry-through.

What If Students Only Went to School Four Days a Week?

Austerity measures don’t actually save money. But they do disempower workers. Which is why governments pursue them in the first place.

* Body cameras and the nightmare state.

* When corporations colonize academia.

White, Irish, and undocumented in America.

Children as young as 3 detained 500 days — and counting — in disgraceful immigrant prisons. Rape Victims Aren’t Seeking Help For Fear Of Deportation, Police Say. Banking on Deportation. There was an Africa trade meeting with no Africans because all their visas got denied.

Sheriff David Clarke’s jail forced a woman to give birth while in shackles. The newborn died.

* The long now: A Computer-Generated Coliseum that Will Disintegrate for 1,000 Years.

Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research.

* A special issue of Orbit devoted to David Foster Wallace.

* Functional illiteracy in Detroit.

* Why Does Mt. Rushmore Exist?

Everybody in the NBA is obsessed with PB&J sandwiches.

* Missing Richard Simmons turned out super gross. Don’t listen.

Congress Moves to Strike Internet Privacy Rules From Obama Era.

* I’ve been really interested in this: A major study finding that voter ID laws hurt minorities isn’t standing up well under scrutiny. A follow-up study suggests voter ID laws may not have a big effect on elections.

* Are we raising racists? Pay attention to what your kids watch on their screens.

* Tomb of Santa uncovered in Siberia.

* Educational attainment in America.

The Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson Marriage Will Never Ever Return “Up To Infinity” Says Dan Slott.

* Or a tweet. Probably a tweet.

A Tale Which Must Never Be Told: A New Biography of George Herriman.

Trans, Disabled, And Tired Of Fighting To Get Into Bathrooms.

* Appliances used to last decades.

A year in Eden: Remaining cast of TV show finally leave their remote Highland home.

Now the remaining cast of a TV show have finally left their remote home – to virtual anonymity.

Instead of being crowned reality TV celebrities and fought over by agents, the 10 who made it through the 12 months have learned that only four episodes have been shown – the last seven months ago.

* Mr. Rogers vs. the Ku Klux Klan.

* Andy Daly reviews Review.

* CFP: Chuck Berry in the Anthropocene.

* The Rise of Bowie Studies.

* SNL quick change, Jeff Sessions to mermaid.

* I still believe in a place called Duckburg.

* No.

* Respectfully disagree.

* Action Lad and the Living Sword!

* And the arc of history is long, but there’s an Attack from Mars pinball machine remake coming later this year.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 25, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Tuesday Links! Just for You

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* My review won’t appear in The New Inquiry for a couple weeks, but Liu Cixin’s Death’s End is finally out today. I read it this summer and it’s great. Go get it!

* A local talk I’ll be giving this Saturday afternoon at the Milwaukee Public Library: 150 Years of H.G. Wells in Milwaukee.

* Elsewhere on the Milwaukee Public Library beat! Milwaukee Public Library to forgive fines for patrons who visit the library.

* CFP: Flannery O’Connor and Popular Culture. CFP: Modern Fiction Studies: The Anthropocene: Fiction and the End(s) of Human Ecologies. CFP: Essays on the Evil Dead Anthology. CFP: ICFA 2017.

Star Trek: Discovery Has Been Delayed Until May 2017. I never saw how they’d make January, even before it was nearly October and they didn’t have a cast yet.

‘It’s like hitting a painting with a fish’: can computer analysis tell us anything new about literature?

Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever.

* Professor Cottom’s Graduate School Guidance.docx

How to Do a Better Job of Searching for Diversity.

Too Much and Too Little: A History of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King.

With outcomes so uneven, it is no wonder that MFAs are the bastard children of English departments.

* Victory at LIU.

* Saint Louis University must pay $367,000 in damages to a former professor who alleged she was denied tenure because of her gender. That’s what a Missouri court decided late last week following a trial by jury. The university says it’s “disappointed” in the verdict and is reviewing its options.

Dozens of higher education institutions in New York state will stop asking applicants whether they have past criminal convictions.

What does it cost to run a department at UCLA for a year? or, who will pay the salary of the English department?

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This book is dedicated to the Soviet Space Dogs, who played a crucial part in the Soviet Space program. These homeless dogs, plucked from the streets of Moscow, were selected because they fitted the program’s criteria: weighing no more than 15 pounds, measuring no more than 14 inches in length, robust, photogenic and with a calm temperament.

New York’s Attorney General Has Opened An Inquiry into Donald Trump’s Charity.

Haitian-American Roxane Gay Becomes First Black Woman Writer for Marvel Comics.

* From 2014: The Future According to Stanisław Lem.

* Parenting and moral panic, 2016.

If You Change a Baby’s Diaper in Arizona, You Can Now Be Convicted of Child Molestation.

* “Very pessimistic.” The idea that they could actually somehow manage to blow the lead they’d built up over the summer is horrifying.

* It Sure Seems Like Hillary Clinton’s Tech Guy Asked Reddit for Email Advice.

* The law, in its majestic equality: Defendants who can’t afford bail more likely to plead guilty as a way out, studies show.

Police Accidentally Record Themselves Conspiring to Fabricate Criminal Charges Against Protester. After court threat, state of Michigan removed Flint’s power to sue. WashPost Makes History: First Paper to Call for Prosecution of Its Own Source (After Accepting Pulitzer). 37 Years in Solitary Confinement and Even the State Can’t Explain Why. Nation’s largest police union endorses Trump. And right here in Milwaukee: An Inmate Died Of Thirst In A Jail Run By A Loudly Pro-Trump Sheriff.

* A Prison Literature Syllabus.

* The total U.S. budgetary cost of war since 2001 is $4.79 trillion, according to a report released this week from Brown University’s Watson Institute. That’s the highest estimate yet.

How the failed politics of “humanitarian intervention” were born in 1980s Afghanistan.

Neither Zuckerberg nor the Pope, but international digital socialism.

* Twilight for C.M. Punk.

* The Fall of Chyna.

* Romeo and Juliet in Wisconsin.

The strange story of how internet superfans reclaimed the insult ‘trash.’

“I await an apology from Chancellor Dirks, and Dean Hesse,” explained Hadweh. “The university threw me under the bus, and publicly blamed me, without ever even contacting me. It seems that because I’m Palestinian studying Palestine, I’m guilty until proven innocent. To defend the course, we had to mobilize an international outcry of scholars and students to stand up for academic freedom. This never should have happened.”

I Published My Debut Novel to Critical Acclaim—and Then I Promptly Went Broke.

* The Woman Who Is Allergic to Water.

* Feral Cats and Ecological Disaster.

* Never talk to journalists.

The name of the character in the excerpt, GBW Ponce, comes actually from the Ponzi scheme, among other things. There’s a Thomas Frank piece that I once read somewhere (I think it was Harper’s), where he said that civilization is basically a gigantic ponzi scheme. With our obsession with data and with predicting the future, it’s as if we were trying to cancel the future and its uncertainties, in order to make the present feel safer. The IMF has projections for the growth of EVERY economy on the planet which stretch to two-three-four and even more years: why let reality run its course when we can model it and predict it, right? So, the idea behind that character was that by “scientifically” predicting every inch of life, it’s as if we borrowed against our unknown future to live the present with fewer uncertainties and anxieties. But that’s precisely what causes more anxiety, this idea of a life that could fit entirely in an Excel spreadsheet.

Moderator Announces Topics for First Presidential Debate.

* Definitely, definitely, definitely aliens.

All 314 Bruce Springsteen Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best. Shame to get all the way through 312 and then swap #1 and #2…

* Elsewhere in the numerical sublime: Every He-Man and the Masters of the Universe action figure, ranked.

* Teach the controversy! “Peter Thiel Would Make A Great Supreme Court Justice.”

* Booze against pot.

The Bonkers Real-Life Plan to Drain the Mediterranean and Merge Africa and Europe.

Someone Removed The Music From ‘Dancing In The Street’ And I Can’t Stop Laughing.

* Run it like a sandwich: After Texas high school builds $60-million stadium, rival district plans one for nearly $70 million.

The luxury suites in modern stadiums are reminders that capitalist society values elite consumption over public enjoyment.

Class size matters a lot, research shows.

Is Artificial Intelligence Permanently Inscrutable?

* Page B13: Arctic death spiral: Icebreakers reach North Pole as sea ice disintegrates.

* Don’t tweet your heroes.

* And never forget that the Monkees are DCU canon.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 20, 2016 at 8:32 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Saturday Morning Links!

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* Really exciting new anthology I just heard about: Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation.

* CFP: Station Eleven and Twenty-First-Century Writing.

* CFP: The Literature of the Anthropcene.

* CFP: The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts 2017.

* After Columbia: Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. An n+1 roundtable on the recent NLRB decision.

Monsters and Mythical Creatures of Higher Education.

* Just can’t win: Diversity training and mandates seem to have a backlash effect.

* Black in Naperville.

* Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb.

* The New York Times interviews N.K. Jemisin, the first black writer to win a Hugo.

* A history of little people in Hollywood.

Still, if he ends up with 7 percent of the vote — as we’d expect based upon history and the current polls — the Libertarian Party will qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020, and Johnson will claim the highest share of the vote of any non-major party nominee in 20 years.

* Who works for the workers? Unions and bureaucracy in America.

* If you ever hope to imagine hell, come to a prison, and I’ll show you what hell is like.

* The Strange Reason Nearly Every Film Ends by Saying It’s Fiction (You Guessed It: Rasputin!).

* But as Coulter let slip, the rightwing pundit class is on the verge of losing its long-term hold on the actual conduct of politics on the ground. In other words, the conservative media elite is in precisely the same structural position that the nascent forces of the new right sketched out for the great liberal media conspiracy circa 1972: assiduously manufacturing consent to an audience that was rapidly moving on to other grand political narratives. That, comrades Hannity and Coulter, is what we cranky leftwing culture critics call the cunning of history.

* Meanwhile: Republicans Are Already Planning How to Ruin a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

* Protesting too much: HAARP’s new owner holds open house to prove facility ‘is not capable of mind control.’

* Secret origins of the Choco Taco.

* And an intriguing BET science fiction web series about slavery and time travel very few people seem to have known about (I didn’t!): Send Me. Thanks to Ayana Jamieson for the tip!

Spring Break Forever Links

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* Hey look! LARoB reviewed Green Planets.

* Another science fiction studies research opportunity: The 2016-2017 Le Guin Fellowship.

Notes from ICFA roundtable on The Force Awakens, on cast, nostalgia, and franchise. This was a great panel; I’m so glad we did it.

* Will we ever learn George Lucas’s original Plan for Star Wars Episode 7?

What a Funding Fracas Could Mean for the Future of CUNY.

* They’ve finally diagnosed my unusual condition.

* Snubbed again! Here Are 15 Indispensable Academic Twitter Accounts.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Batman and Superman. Meanwhile:

* In other words, bad food becomes linked to good memories, and to our sense of who we are and where we come from. To give up that food would be to give up not only a piece of our childhood, but of ourselves. “When we hear someone suggesting that we stop eating our favorite brand of ice cream or potato chips or sliced white bread, we feel a knee-jerk hostility,” Wilson writes. “It’s hard to let go of these foods and find a better way of eating without a sense of loss.”

In this formula, the president implies that with hard work everyone can get a good job. This is the premise for a lot of public education rhetoric, and it is 100 percent false. It may be technically true that in the American system anyone can get a good job, but that doesn’t mean most people aren’t out of luck. Anyone can win the lottery, but everyone certainly can’t. America is still a class system, and by design, most people—no matter the average level of education or job skill—will have to sell their labor to property owners in order to feed and house themselves. Those property owners are the same people that have spent the past hundred years shaping the education system and scientifically reducing labor costs.

* What a weird coincidence, ten straight record warm months in a row.

* Appalachia in the Anthropocene: When mining a century’s worth of energy means ruining a landscape for millions of years. Ice in the Anthropocene. Oil in the Anthropocene. Boulder-Hurling Megawaves in the Anthropocene. Cli-Fi in the Anthropocene.

* “There are no plausible scenarios in which climate stabilization is compatible with a pace of capital accumulation required for economic and political stability under a capitalist system.” Capitalism, Climate Change and the Transition to Sustainability: Alternative Scenarios for the US, China and the World.

How are the political effects of “terrorism” produced?

Cdwgg6MWEAA65gz* #altac

A Video Game About Changing What Happens In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Using Time Travel. Sold!

* Zootopia and ideology.

Up Against the Centerfold: What It Was Like to Report on Feminism for Playboy in 1969.

* Today in the charter school scam.

The Christians, the Soviets, and the Bible.

It’s Over Gandalf. We Need to Unite Behind Saruman to Save Middle Earth from Sauron!

* Game theory and the GOP nomination. Can’t #StopTrump? Third parties: a beginner’s guide. Of course, there’s always Plan B. Or Plan C.

I, Cthulhu, endorse Donald Trump.

* BART Social Media Intern ’16.

* Legalize everything.

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

* A Brief History of Sabotage.

* Twilight of Gawker: Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million in Privacy Suit.

* Sea World Promises to Acquire No New Orcas. Why SeaWorld is ending its killer whale program, in one brutal chart.

Why We’re Opting Out of Testing.

* Junot Díaz on time travel and colonialism.

* Daredevil and Catholicism.

* A book length history of abolition.

* More from the death of psychology.

* Well, he tried: the Obama legacy.

The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana.

* The stock market is a sucker’s bet.

* What we talk about when we talk about jobs.

These measures seem harsh, but if Trump really is a sui generis evil, then unprecedented and difficult measures are called for. If we’re not willing to make and carry through with such threats, does that mean that we don’t really view him as a sui generis evil? That this is just the latest thing we’re willing to humor for the sake of family peace and avoiding social awkwardness?

Emory Students Express Discontent With Administrative Response to Trump Chalkings. I’m currently in the process of filing a request with the chalk administration office so I can respond to this with the detail and attention it deserves.

What if physical activity doesn’t help people lose weight?

* Duke’s non-tenure-track faculty have unionized.

* They found Himmler’s occult book stash.

* “Kansas Bill Would Pay Students A $2,500 Bounty To Hunt For Trans People In Bathrooms.”

Inside the Crazy Back-Channel Negotiations That Revolutionized Our Relationship With Cuba.

* Somehow, Telltale is going to continue its Walking Dead series after radically fracturing the outcomes at the end of Season Two.

Hackers ‘could take over your dildo and make it go berserk’, expert warns.

* Reading Calvin and Hobbes in Korea.

* I’ll be 100% honest, you had me at hello.

* And the best fantasy series you’ve never heard of is getting a second chance at a film franchise. This time it will work for sure!

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Written by gerrycanavan

March 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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