* So, look: I’m not saying the Democrats are definitely going to blow it. But they’re more than capable of blowing it.
Posts Tagged ‘Kim Stanley Robinson’
I’m teaching three classes this semester, ENGLISH 4615/5615 (“Infinite Jest”), ENGLISH 2010 (“Alternate History”), and HOPR 1953 (“Video Game Culture”) (one-credit, pass/fail, now with Pokémon Go!). I’m very excited about all three. The Infinite Jest course is one I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — I came up with the whole idea of adding the new 4615/5615 course number to the Marquette English just so I could do this course — and the alternate-history course has been puttering around in my brain as a pedagogical opportunity for just about as long.
I got a lot of help from folks on Twitter and Facebook with the alternate history novel course, both at the level of generating texts but also at the level of conceptualizing the course a little different so it could be more inclusive, and I’m really grateful for that. I was finally sold by Alexis Lothian on the idea that I was being silly by being resistant to stories like The Lathe of Heaven and “The Book of Martha,” for instance, and that the practical effect of that resistance was to make the class much whiter and much maler than it really needed to be. Now, the course is still pretty white and very male, but the genre itself is, and somehow or another that’s something I want to start to talk about as the semester progresses. The excellent suggestion of Karen Joy Fowler’s story “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” will really help me make that pivot, I think, as will In the United States of Africa (a great novel I couldn’t believe I forgot to include until it was pointed out to me I’d forgotten to include it, I think by Aaron Bady).
A few other things I was very sad to lose:
- I was originally going to do “an alternate history of an alternate history” thing to end the semester, Superman: Red Son, but it just didn’t make sense the way the course took shape. I held on to the idea way too long, and only cut the book two days ago. Sorry, bookstore!
- The whole original point of all this was to use the course as an excuse to teach The Years of Rice and Salt, a book I love which seems just too long too teach in any other context. And it still seems too long to teach (at least at the sophomore level). I had to give it up, and wasn’t able to include even any excerpts because I crammed in too much other stuff. Someday!
- Another thing that fell out of the course was a group presentation structure in which individual groups researched the actual history of the hinge point of each divergence and reported on it. I realized that with the newer, more expansive idea of the course this wasn’t going to work very well for at least half the books, and probably would have been reductive and overdetermined our conversations in practice, so it had to be abandoned as well.
- I really, really wanted to include a Ted Chiang what-if-religion-were-empirically-verifiable story like “Hell Is The Absence of God,” but, again, it seemed just a bit far too off the mark this time.
- I am, indeed, doing literally just one page from The Plot Against America, fulfilling my perverse desire to do so.
- There were many other great suggestions for books that I wasn’t able to use. A few that I really struggled over:
- Life After Life: a Replay-style reincarnation novel about World War I;
- Replay itself, which is just too time-travel-ish for this (though I’ve always really liked it);
- I likewise ruled out some other really good alternate-timeline stories because they were really time travel stories, from my puritanical perspective;
- Something longer from Butler, perhaps Wild Seed (again, just too far afield generically for what I’m hoping to do);
- Something truly (“merely”) generic, like Turtledove or Bring the Jubilee;
- Lion’s Blood, Atomik Aztex, The Indians Won, The Bird Is Gone, The Heirs of Columbus, etc. I was so hung up on the idea of doing The Years of Rice and Salt that it crowded out this space for me (and then I added In the United States of Africa instead, to take on this question from a different direction). Next time.
- Swastika Night, 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, Battle Royale: all good suggestions but didn’t hit the sense of “pastness” required by my conception of alternate history as a genre, as they were all future histories in their original moment of production;
- District 9: only (re-)occurred to me at the last second because I was talking about it to somebody in another context, and didn’t have time to do it because the syllabus was (again) too crammed with too much other stuff. Someone had suggested Born in Flames to me as well, which also would have been great.
- I also really wanted to play some board games like Twilight Struggle, Risk, Axis and Allies, and Chrononauts, but it seemed like it would be unwieldy and pointless with 35 students in the room. I think Civilization could scratch the same itch, though…
All right, with all those caveats, apologies, and thanks, here’s the week by week schedule (and full syllabus with all course procedures)! Three papers, the first two “traditionally scholarly,” the third one with a creative option, as well as a few creative micro-assignments here and there. If there’s anything more I should explain or you have any questions about the decisions I made, feel free to ask in the comments!
|M||Aug. 29||FIRST DAY OF CLASS
in-class writing exercise: “What If…”
|W||Aug. 31||class discussion: “What If…”|
|UNIT ONE: ALTERNATE WORLD WAR IIs|
|F||Sep. 2||Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”|
|M||Sep. 5||LABOR DAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep. 7||Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions”|
|F||Sep. 9||FIRST PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Star Trek: “The City on the Edge of Forever” (discussion only; watch it on your own!)
criticism: H. Bruce Franklin, “Star Trek in the Vietnam Era” [D2L]
|M||Sep. 12||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 1-3|
|W||Sep. 14||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 4-6|
|F||Sep. 16||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 7-9|
|M||Sep. 19||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 10-13|
|W||Sep. 21||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (whole book)|
|F||Sep. 23||The Man in the High Castle (2015 Amazon pilot) (discussion only; watch it on your own!)|
|M||Sep. 26||Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion only; optional screening date and time TBA)|
|W||Sep. 28||Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion continues)
· review: Ben Waters, “Debating Inglourious Basterds” [Web]
· review: Michael Atkinson, “The Anti-Blockbuster” [Web]
· review: Lee Siegel, “Tarantino’s Hollow Violence” [Web]
· review: Jeffrey Goldberg, “Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger” [Web]
|F||Sep. 30||Lauren Davis, “Quentin Tarantino’s Spin Through Alternate History” [io9.com]
creative writing: Draft a short flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the 2016 of the world of Inglourious Basterds
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (excerpt) [D2L]
|UNIT TWO: OTHER HISTORIES|
|M||Oct. 3||FIRST PAPER WORKSHOP
Bring in at least your introductory paragraphs, main claim, and an outline of your paper.
|W||Oct. 5||Sid Meier’s Civilization
videos: Civilization V timelapse gameplay videos [YouTube]
post: Trevor Owens, “Sid Meier’s Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?” [Web]
thread: Lycerius, “I’ve Been Playing the Same Game of Civilization for Almost Ten Years. This Is the Result” [Reddit]
|F||Oct. 7||Sid Meier’s Civilization
criticism: Kacper Pobłocki, “Becoming-State: The Bio-Cultural Imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization”
|M||Oct. 10||FIRST PAPER DUE
SECOND PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” [D2L]
|W||Oct. 12||Karen Joy Fowler, “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” [D2L]|
|F||Oct. 14||criticism: L. Timmel Duchamp, “Playing with the Big Boys: (Alternate) History in Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘Game Night at the Fox and Goose’” [Web]|
|M||Oct. 17||Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton|
|W||Oct. 19||Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
thinkpiece: Jennifer Schuessler, “Hamilton and History: Are They in Sync?” [Web]
interview: Rebecca Onion and Lyra D. Monteiro, “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems” [Web]
|F||Oct. 21||FALL BREAK—NO CLASS|
|M||Oct. 24||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 1-66|
|W||Oct. 26||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 67-119|
|F||Oct. 28||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain (whole book)|
|M||Oct. 31||Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (part one)|
|W||Nov. 2||Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (whole book)
criticism: Justin Izzo, “Historical Reversibility as Ethnographic Afrofuturism: Abdourahman Waberi’s Alternative Africa”
|F||Nov. 4||CONFERENCES—CLASS CANCELLED|
|UNIT THREE: DREAMING OF DIFFERENCE|
|M||Nov. 7||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 1-4)|
|W||Nov. 9||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 5-6)|
|F||Nov. 11||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 7-9)|
|M||Nov. 14||SECOND PAPER DUE
FINAL PROJECT GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 10-13)
|W||Nov. 16||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 14-16)|
|F||Nov. 18||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 17-19)|
|M||Nov. 21||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (whole book)
Martin Puchner, “When We Were Clones” [D2L]
|W||Nov. 23||THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS|
|F||Nov. 25||THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS|
|M||Nov. 28||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 1-4)|
|W||Nov. 30||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 5-8)|
|F||Dec. 2||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (whole book)|
|M||Dec. 5||Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha”
creative writing: Imagine God comes to you with the same offer he/she/it brings to Martha. What one change would you make to the world, and why?
|W||Dec. 7||Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha” (discussion continues)
creative writing: Draft a flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the world that exists sometime after the end of “The Book of Martha.”
Octavia E. Butler, “Afterword to ‘The Book of Martha’”
Gerry Canavan, Octavia E. Butler (excerpt) [D2L]
|F||Dec. 9||FINAL PROJECT WORKSHOP
LAST DAY OF CLASS
|F||Dec. 16||FINAL ASSIGNMENT DUE BY 12:30 PM|
* So what do I mean by claiming that there is no future to the study of culture in the 21st Century? My thesis is that we are (or should be) nearing the end of the study of culture, and that to continue to study it as we have will run the risk of irrelevance, or worse. In this talk I maintain that there is no future for the study of culture if it does not include the study of key concerns of the 21st century, including especially those ecological, geopolitical, and economic issues which threaten the existence of culture as we know it.
* I thought the first episode of Harmonquest was pretty promising. I’ve also been enjoying The Union of “The State” for the full 90s flashback experience. And why not wash it down with Dana Carvey’s Nano-Impressions?
* The parental misery index. Whenever I see this studies I really think that “happiness” is the wrong value to be trying to measure; being a parent is unquestionably the best thing I’ve ever done, whether it makes me quantifiably “happier” moment-to-moment or not.
* No more half measures: only the total elimination of the university can protect students and teachers from each other.
* Some nice conference acceptance news: My semester of David Foster Wallace will end with a panel on “Infinite Jest at Twenty” with Lee Konstantinou, Carrie Shanafelt, and Kate Hayles at MLA 2017. I’ve put the full panel description in the comments for anyone interested…
* David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech Almost Didn’t Happen. Guest appearance from my friend from grad school, Meredith Farmer!
* Call For Papers: The Precariat & The Professor.
* For World’s Newest Scrabble Stars, SHORT Tops SHORTER: Nigerian players dominate tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible.
* Want to See Hamilton in a City Near You? Buy a Subscription and Wait Two Years. Okay, maybe I will!
* google d&d player’s handbook truth: The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist.
* More data on learning and laptops — but you’ll never convince me that students benefit more from pen-and-paper notes than from a searchable, permanent archive of their entire academic career Spotlight can access and retrieve instantly.
* A new documentary, Agents of Change, describes the five-month SF State protest and a similar strike at Cornell University through the voices of former students like Tascoe who were involved. The film is a gripping case study of the meticulous organizing, community engagement, and careful planning that went into two of the most effective student strikes in American history. Black Studies Matter.
* I was seriously thisclose to writing a #TeamCap blog post to comicsplain Civil War to the confused, but Mightygodking got there first.
* Milwaukee in the ne — oh for fuck’s sake.
* Probably the most honest thing ever said about this election: 87-Year-Old Billionaire Endorses Trump, Says He Doesn’t Care If It’s A Mistake Since He’ll Be Dead. Meanwhile, this is just totally bananas: Donald Trump masqueraded as publicist to brag about himself.
* From what I can tell, the current Sanders campaign is riven between people who are increasingly upset or bewildered by what we might call the resurgent “burn it down” turn of Sanders outlook and others who are fully immersed in the feedback loop of grievance and paranoia that sees all the political events of the last year as a series of large and small scale conspiracies to deny the rectitude and destiny of Bernie Sanders. I’ve seen many, many campaigns. People put everything into it and losing is brutal and punishing. Folks on the losing side frequently go a little nuts, sometimes a lot nuts. The 2008 denouement really was pretty crazy. But it’s not clear that this time we have any countervailing force – adulthood, institutional buy-in, future careers, over-riding pragmatism to rein things in.
* Almost starting to see a pattern here, Disney: Shane Black reveals Iron Man 3 scrapped a female villain because of toy sales. Why Disney needs a gay princess.
* “When you have a child with a life-threatening illness, you have an irrevocably altered existence,” Barbara Sourkes had told the Levys, and Esther feels that is true. She had always felt in control of her fate, but now she believes this to be a fiction. She finds it difficult to reconcile bitterness over the blight of Andrew’s illness with gratitude for the reprieve. “We are the luckiest of the unluckiest people in the world,” she says. “I truly believe that.”
* I too like to live dangerously: Uber Says Riders Will Pay the Most When Their Phone Battery Is Dying.
* Nate Moore, 37, is the lone African-American producer in the film division at Marvel Studios. And elsewhere in Marvel news: Agents of SHIELD Star Says Marvel Doesn’t Care Enough About Its Own TV Show.
* What terrible luck! The CIA has “mistakenly” destroyed the sole copy of a massive Senate torture report in the custody of the agency’s internal watchdog group, Yahoo News reported Monday.
* Attempt no landings etc: Europa Is Even More Earth-Like Than We Suspected.
* Outrageous slander: The Warriors Still Aren’t the Best Team Ever.
* In other words, Zootopia advances a sublimated theory of power that is strangely conservative, and — perhaps not so strangely — fundamentally allied with the project of economic neoliberalization. After a humiliating stint as a traffic cop, Judy Hopps is assigned to the case of a group of predators who have suddenly gone “savage,” which in this anthropomorphized universe means ripping off their clothes, dropping to all fours, and attacking other animals. It turns out that this crisis of respectability was engineered by the unassuming Bellwether, a champion of rabbits and mice who has dosed the predators with a weaponized narcotic that returns them to a “primitive” state of bestial violence. In order to bolster her own political prospects, Bellwether has engineered an interspecies crisis of what 1990s Clintonites called “super-predators” run amok. This is very close — if we pursue the allegory to its political ends — to alleging that the state has manufactured crises of, say, black masculinity in order to whip up the white public-safety vote and secure its own legitimacy. Now that would be an interesting intervention, if the film took us all the way there. And it really almost does.
* CBS All-Access gets a second show. And that’s why The Good Wife had a terrible ending!
* I’m feeling pretty on board with Luke Cage, I have to say.
* As with the comic before it, the film version of The Dark Tower will likely detail a different, later iteration of the series’s defining time loop.
* The only Twitter account you need: @LegoSpaceBot.
* No human alive has seen 7 months this hot before. Get with the program, Great Lakes!
* But it’s not all bad news: Our Solar System Could Remain Habitable Long After Earth Is Destroyed.
Happy graduation day, Marquette!
* Donald Trump Isn’t Going to Be President. Trump Has Won and the Republican Party Is Broken. Clinton Releases a Brutal Anti-Trump Ad. 5 not-totally-crazy electoral maps that show Donald Trump winning. Could Trump Put Georgia in Play for Democrats? Only a Democrat can stop Trump now. Misperceiving Bullshit as Profound Is Associated with Favorable Views of Cruz, Rubio, Trump and Conservatism. The six days of Carly Fiorina’s vice presidential campaign, ranked.
* Why graduate students should be allowed to see the letters we write on their behalf. I was in strong disagreement with the headline but was won over by the text.
* Recommendation for a quick, great read: Nnedi Okorafor’s novella Binti, an Afrofuturist space-age riff on Harry Potter with more than a little bit of Octavia Butler in there…
* Another thing I’ve been enjoying, which you might too: “Hardcore Game of Thrones” on howl.fm. (First three episodes available for free here.) It’s completely sold me on the viability of a prequel spinoff, and I may actually like it more than the actual series.
* Two Great Tastes: On Civil War and Hamilton. Meanwhile, a great review from Abigail Nussbaum asks whether Civil War (which I liked a lot) has ruined the MCU.
* The Norton Writer’s Prize will be awarded annually for an outstanding essay written by an undergraduate. Literacy narratives, literary and other textual analyses, reports, profiles, evaluations, arguments, memoirs, proposals, mixed-genre pieces, and more: any excellent writing done for an undergraduate writing class will be considered. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,500. Two runners-up will each receive a cash award of $1,000.
* “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
* Unable to analyze meaning, narrative, or argument, computer scoring instead relies on length, grammar, and arcane vocabulary to do assess prose. Should you trust a computer to grade your child’s writing on Common Core tests?
* Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents). In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.
* Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight. This situation is absolutely untenable and I cannot believe the airlines are willingly participating.
* Maps of the end of the world. The post keeps going after the image!
* U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.
* Happy Mother’s Day: Kids’ Screen Time Is A Feminist Issue. Keep scrolling!
* University of Oxford acquires rare map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien. There’s still more after the image!
* Before Hamilton, there was… An Oral History of Rent.
* Grimdark realism isn’t realistic: where is kindness on Game of Thrones?
Ultimately, there’s not much you can say about Daredevil because its not-goodness derives from the fact that it doesn’t have anything to say. This makes it hard to say anything about the way it’s not saying anything. Based on the first season, I would have argued that the show uses the superhero genre tode-familiarize gentrification and the way crime plays into struggles over urban land use. Similarly, I would contend that Jessica Jones uses the superhero-detective genre to de-familiarize trauma and addiction. Coming out — dare I say, being flushed out — of Daredevil season two, I would say that it uses the Batman-genre to re-familiarize the Ninja-genre. And for all the violence it does to its characters and setting, the real problem is this reinvestment in the fetish of ninja violence. The show uses the spectacle ofliteral violence to render unnecessary the organic narrative flow of people just being people in the world. Instead of the hidden injuries and traumas of class, as they play themselves out across our lives, we get a story of a ninja fighting ninjas because, well, ninjas.
* CEI et al. argue that TSA’s final rule fails to consider one important factor related to the deployment body scanners: a potential increase in highway injuries and deaths. If that sounds crazy, let me explain. Past research suggests that post-9/11 airport security policies were so invasive that a number of would-be air travelers decided to drive instead. Given the fact that auto travel is far more dangerous than air travel,three Cornell University economists found that TSA’s invasive, time-consuming airport screening policies resulted in about 500 additional highway fatalities annually in the years following 9/11—more than a fully loaded 747 per year.
* Educated people are usually critical of absolute truths, no matter if they come from statistics or religious revelation. Facts need to be understood within a larger cultural context in order to be deemed plausible or implausible. Today, however, we see an increasing tendency to describe the world not in terms of cultural values, but in terms of fundamental truths. In the cases of fundamentalism and neoliberal education of excellence, as I’ve shown here, this “deculturation” takes the form of a dangerous combination of religion and pseudoscientific thought peddled as excellence.
* Sure, let’s clone Leonardo da Vinci. Things could hardly get worse.
* And some scenes from the Anthropocene: Zone Rouge: An Area of France So Badly Damaged By WW1 That People Are Still Forbidden To Live There. Fort McMurray Wildfire: 80,000 Evacuated Over Out-of-Control Blaze. Fleeing Fire in Oil Country. Alberta Wildfires Expected to Double In Size and Burn for Months. The First Coral Reefs Are Starting to Permanently Dissolve. Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard. Have a great week, everybody!