Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘my scholarly empire

Tuesday Links!

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* CFP: Fourth Wave Feminism in Science Fiction & Fantasy.

* CFP: Sexual Violence, Social Movements, and Social Media.

* Tonight! I’m talking at this event about Black Panther, oppression, and liberation for the MU Amnesty International chapter.

* The Revealer has an excerpt from Sexism Ed: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia.

Kim Stanley Robinson Makes the Socialist Case for Space Exploration.

Revisiting my nerd-fiction collection, I realize how much I needed pure lore when I was a kid, and how little I need it as an adult.

* How neoliberalism shapes the global economy and limits the power of democracies.

* America as glitching AI.

The Professor Who’s Warning the World About Facebook and Google.

How Dual Enrollment Contributes to Inequality.

Reading on the Chaos in the UW system.

* “Wisconsin Won’t Remove Names of KKK Affiliates From Buildings. It Will Build an Exhibit Instead.” Could do both, you know!

Which Animal Kills the Most Humans?

* Woman condemned to live in hell forever.

* “James Cameron Compares His Avatar Sequels to The Godfather, But Admits That Could Be a Huge Mistake.” Oh, you think that could be a mistake, do you?

* Obviously.

The myth of an ending: why even removing Trump from office won’t save American democracy.

* The good news for Trump is that this is the last bit of embarrassing tape footage out there [pauses, touches finger to ear] I’m being told the pee tape is real.

Woman fined $500 for taking her in-flight apple off the plane.

* Shock report: Man whose only qualification was physical proximity to Trump may not be qualified to run the VA.

* Unbelievable desecration on the Cinderella Blu-ray. Who signed off on this?

* Walking Dead and Fringe Director Seith Mann Will Bring BLACK to the Big Screen.

* The Science of Making CS Gas “Safe.”

She created a document to warn women of sexual harassers. It’s haunted her ever since.

* This App Can Tell You the Indigenous History of the Land You Live On.

* Your Next Job Interview Could Be with a Racist Bot.

* Here come the climate gentrifiers.

* It’s OK to Say if You Went Back in Time and Killed Baby Hitler.

* Husband-wife Gaffigan comedy team will be Marquette’s spring commencement speakers.

* I say teach the controversy.

* And holy moly.

Massive Monday Super Mega-Links!

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* Well they can’t take it back now.

* SFRA 18 attendees! Apply for a travel grant, if you have a need!

* Extrapolation 59.1 is here! With articles on climate fiction, Fahrenheit 451, Ballard’s Crash, and fantasy maps.

* CFP: The Future is Unwritten: Representations of Political Resistance and Emancipation in Science Fiction.

* Think of yourself as a planet.

* One year later, Marquette Magazine remembers “Buffy at 20,” with an unforgivably bloated and sweaty picture of me.

* I have a piece coming out in LARB this weekend that talks about the epilogue to The Handmaid’s Tale and why there shouldn’t have been a second season to the Hulu series. The early reviews seem to bear that intuition out.

* Diary of a Settler of Catan.

Janelle Monáe’s About to Drop the Afrofuturist Art Film We’ve All Been Waiting for. How Janelle Monáe Found Her Voice.

* How to write great SF about disability law.

Louis Cha, who is ninety-four years old and lives in luxurious seclusion atop the jungled peak of Hong Kong Island, is one of the best-selling authors alive. Widely known by his pen name, Jin Yong, his work, in the Chinese-speaking world, has a cultural currency roughly equal to that of “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” combined.

AI researchers call that observation Moravec’s paradox, and have known about it for decades. It does not seem to be the sort of problem that could be cured with a bit more research. Instead, it seems to be a fundamental truth: physical dexterity is computationally harder than playing Go.

Why Is the Human Brain So Efficient?

Players Have Crowned A New Best Board Game — And It May Be Tough To Topple.

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, we’ve been warned against normalizing Trump. That fear of normalization misstates the problem, though. It’s never the immediate present, no matter how bad, that gets normalized — it’s the not-so-distant past. Because judgments of the American experiment obey a strict economy, in which every critique demands an outlay of creed and every censure of the present is paid for with a rehabilitation of the past, any rejection of the now requires a normalization of the then.

* Premediating the end of the professorate without even so much as a token consideration of how we might fight back. At the Chronicle, of course!

* A real free speech infraction on campus. This is such a cut and dry case of administrative malfeasance that of course it’s being treated as a major controversy. Lawsplainer.

* Here’s another “actually existing free speech” issue for you.

* Contingent work and free speech.

Three months’ severance after negotiating yearlong contracts in bad faith.

* How to Hold Predators in Academia Accountable.

Inside a university’s controversial plan for Baltimore.

* How Liberty University Build a Billion-Dollar Empire Online.

* Abolish the MLA interview.

* #SaveOurMajors.

* Who will send me checks for $60 now? University Press of New England Will Shut Down.

* The right-wing plot to take over student governments.

Students, employees scour college finances for waste, proof of unfair pay.

Palantir Knows Everything About You.

* A cure worse than the disease: The “fake news” hysteria is unleashing a wave of free-speech crackdowns worldwide.

Neil Gorsuch voted with the liberal justices, but his opinion should chill you to the bone.

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Labor of Professional Sport.

* Seven Days of Heroin in Cincinnati.

* War is over (if you want it).

The lie pictures tell: an ex-model on the truth behind her perfect photos.

Sarah Nicole Prickett on the Myth of the Wonder Woman.

Is Your Body Appropriate to Wear to School?

How Games Can Better Accommodate Disabled Players.

Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes.

* Maria Bamford files restraining order against Trump over nuclear war threats. Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing. Gee, weird, what could explain it. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. There’s going to be nothing left.

How the FBI Helped Sink Clinton’s Campaign. ‘What Can I Say, I’m Just A Catty Bitch From New Jersey And I Live For Drama.’ The DNC sues.

* ICE vs children. ICE vs. marriage. ICE vs. journalism. ICE vs. farmers. ICE deports its first Dreamer. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Utah Man Shot and Killed While Complying with Police Commands to Show His Hands.

The US Army is developing AI that can recognize faces in the dark and through walls. Keep scrolling, human…

Top Republican Official Says Trump Won Wisconsin Because of Voter ID Law.

* Democracy! Catch the fever.

* I honestly don’t see how any of our existing press norms can accommodate this technology.

* Sean Hannity, forecloser and slumlord.

* Han Solo, parent.

* Greetings from Cape Town at the end of the world.

3635 Pitch Pine Cres.

‘Wolverine: The Long Night’: Marvel’s First Scripted Podcast is Doing What Their Films and TV Shows Never Could.

The average American utters their first curse word of the day at 10:54 am, according to new data. Fucking lightweights.

It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis—too good.

Rare Mutation Among Bajau People Lets Them Stay Underwater Longer.

Hans Asperger, hailed for autism research, may have sent child patients to be killed by Nazis.

* Philly’s prison population has dropped 9 percent since our new DA took office earlier this year.

Florida Police Allegedly Crash Funeral Home to Unlock Phone With Slain Man’s Fingerprints.

* Darwinist literary criticism. Parenting. Life is a journey. Dance like no one’s watching. The Death Spot. Eu-antisociality. Do we own the cats, or do they own us? Moneybattle. Oops.

* Radicalizing teachers.

* Liberalism and cruelty.

The wealth gap between blacks and whites would take 225 years to disappear, according to one recent, rather optimistic, estimate. As to how this could happen, theories abound.

Cynthia Nixon Has Already Won.

* The first person on Mars should be a woman.

National Geographic’s Photography Erased People. It’s Too Late For An Apology.

4 baboons at Texas research center back after brief escape.

Slow-Motion Ocean Apocalypse: Atlantic’s Circulation Is Weakest in 1,600 Years.

Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected.

* Meanwhile the dinosaur puppet is already on its second tour in Afghanistan.

* We are discovered; flee at once.

* Places people! We open in two days!

* If I ever do get around to writing about Chloe Sullivan, this will be a very odd footnote.

* And see? All that schooling is good for something.

 

Written by gerrycanavan

April 23, 2018 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Holy Thursday Links!

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* Our brains don’t work.

* William Strampel, Nassar’s former boss at MSU, charged with criminal sexual conduct. MSU Spent Half A Million Dollars Monitoring Nassar Victims’ And Journalists’ Social Media Accounts. Every single member of the upper administration at MSU must resign.

According to MLive, investigators in February found dozens of photos of nude women as well as pornographic videos and a video of Nassar with a young patient on a computer in Strampel’s office.

* Sexuality, childhood, and spanking as sexual assault.

* UW-Stevens Point may reconsider proposed humanities cuts after student protests.

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice suggests that congressional races are so heavily rigged in favor of Republicans that the United States can barely be described as a democratic republic. The upshot of their analysis is that, to win a bare majority of the seats in the U.S. House, Democrats “would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points.”

Who Foots Most of the Bill for Public Colleges? In 28 States, It’s Students.

* “Student Loans Are Too Expensive To Forgive.”

This is a strike to save higher education.

* Oklahoma teachers say they’re going on strike next week.

* Fred Walker’s Career May Not Be Over. But His Presidency Is.

* I heard you like obstruction so I got you some obstruction in your obstruction.

* ‘Deeply weird and enjoyable’: Ursula K Le Guin’s electronica album.

Here’s how Popular Science covered ‘Star Trek’ in 1967.

Civilization Player Gets Space Race Victory In 90 AD.

* A Scheme to End the World’s Worst Acid Trip.

* Race, Gender, and Disability in Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time.

* Stormy Daniels Directed a Cyberpunk Porn Thriller That Predicted Our Current Dystopia.

* The Vikings got a billion dollar stadium, and tax payers paid half of that cost. And now…

Something Happened on Television.

A California sheriff is posting inmate release dates to help ICE capture undocumented immigrants. ICE gained access to Santa Clara County inmates, breaching sanctuary policies.

* Whatever the potential merits of the arguments might be, it’s tortuous, to say the least, to read anguished warnings about “fake news” from someone who was in the West Wing during the heyday of Saddam Hussein’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction, fictitious attempts to buy refined uranium from Niger, and completely nonexistent alliance with Al-Qaeda; to hear about the threats posed by presidential incompetence from a former staffer of the same White House that so brazenly let New Orleans drown; to be lectured on the perils of executive belligerence and polarizing rhetoric from the man credited with coining the phrase “Axis of Evil”; or to be subjected to sermons about kleptocracy and calls to decency, honor, and the rule of law from someone whose former political boss spent eight years oozing nationalist machismo to champion torture, extrajudicial detention, and aggressive war and who possibly became president in 2000 because his brother just so happened to be the governor of Florida.

* The Newest Frontier in American Jurisprudence Is Trump’s Twitter Feed.

* Hey, Wired — leave those kids alone.

* It shows just how far a man of means will go to get something he can’t buy: the right to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in America.

* A Detective Is Torn Between Two Worlds in the New Trailer for the BBC’s The City and The City Adaptation.

* Seems pricy, but I’ll allow it.

* Advertising will destroy the auto industry next.

* Scientists say they’ve discovered a new human organ. Behold the interstitium!

* Well, when you put it that way.

* Bulgaria Alleges Julia Kristeva was State Security Agent.

* Who Are The Other 00s?

* Deep Sports Nine.

* I feel personally attacked.

* And sure, I’m into this.

#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!

Weekend Links!

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* Clear your calendars for the An und für sich Star Trek: Discovery blog event, beginning Monday!

* A student project from my Tolkien class gets a great writeup at Marquette’s Digital Scholarship Lab.

* KSR’s next book has a cover.

* The MCU vs. America. What Black Panther can teach us about international relations. Weapons of Black Panther. And Žižek shows up two weeks late with a Killmonger-was-right take.

* The science of late sleepers.

* Why I’m Writing Captain America (And Why It Scares the Hell Out of Me).

* Mueller news you can use: almost all the Mueller leaks are from witnesses and tell us little or nothing about the true scope of the investigation or its likely outcomes.

* Hardware Wars: A People’s History.

* Wildcat teachers’ strike in West Virginia (but not on MSNBC). Onward to Oklahoma!

* Phew! Lucky coincidence.

Too Big to Tax?

* Buying a gun around the world. How Defective Guns Became the Only Product That Can’t Be Recalled. The Florida legislature’s push to arm teachers, explained.

* “The vast majority of healthcare wonkery is brainstorming new ways to rescue private insurers from collapsing every time they’re asked to do the one thing they exist to do.”

Public schools have been re-segregating for decades.

Florida Public School Teacher Has A White Nationalist Podcast.

NASA releases time-lapse of the disappearing Arctic polar ice cap. The age of climate migration.

* LEGO in the Anthropocene.

* Homelessness in the Magic Kingdom.

* Hitchhiker’s, back again.

Consumers Are Revolting Against Animal Cruelty — So the Poultry Industry Is Lobbying for Laws to Force Stores to Sell Their Eggs.

* This is you.

* Great story about retirees who cracked the lottery.

Brooklyn man wins nearly $1M lawsuit after NYPD cop tried to frame him on DWI charge.

* I’m Gen X again, maybe for good.

* I predicted this would happen: There is no psychohistory, and there never will be.

* I’ve used this as a hypothetical in class for years; let’s say I’m skeptical.

* The last word in Firefly fan physics: The Ultimate Solar System.

A right-wing online “university” is on track for a billion views in 2018, its professors are some of the best-known conservatives in media, and its founder wants to put it in real schools. So how come you’ve never heard of it?

* Memory is a virus.

* And your micro-game of the week: Post/Capitalism.

Thursday Links!

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* Marquette English’s course descriptions are up for Summer and Fall 2018! I’m teaching in both, including a new graduate course devoted to twenty-first-century literature…

* Palantir Has Been Secretly Using New Orleans to Test Its Predictive Policing Technology.

* A trip to the hospital that leads to a prison suicide is just the tip of the iceberg of this sickening story about the richest country in human history.

* Your work is cut out for you, Ta-Nehisi.

Wife of 7th Special Forces Group vet faces deportation under tighter immigration rules.

After handing them their suicide capsules, Norwegian Royal Army Colonel Leif Tronstad informed his soldiers, “I cannot tell you why this mission is so important, but if you succeed, it will live in Norway’s memory for a hundred years.” Operation Gunnerside: The Norwegian attack on heavy water that deprived the Nazis of the atomic bomb.

* The Strange and Twisted Life of Frankenstein.

The Grim Box Office Fate Of ‘Annihilation’ Was An Inevitable Tragedy.

* “After watching my mother die, I read her notebooks.” Aaron Bady remembers his mom.

Supreme Court Ruling Means Immigrants Could Continue To Be Detained Indefinitely. Don’t forget to thank Obama for appealing this decision in the first place.

* The sheer level of clownishness from this White House is impossible to keep track of. I mean honestly.

* Bias and algorithmic culture, search engines edition.

* “They aren’t really going to arm teachers. It’s just a distraction.” Inserting guns into classrooms with the stipulation that they be used for only one purpose and against only one (very rare) target — active school shooters — is delusional.

* Doesn’t this seem like an exemplary topic for a course? I’d love a smart, extended look at the history of impeachment and its application to the current situation. What’s outrageous to me is that SDSU openly sells credits in this absurd format.

* My next course is on a topic nearly as controversial: Are Groot and Baby Groot the same person?

* Bad news for Zefram Cochrane: Proxima Centauri probably a no-go.

* We thought George Lucas created Star Wars. The truth was more complicated.

* Profile of Ryan Coogler at 21. Unreal that this was just ten years ago.

* A hundred years ago, the United States adopted daylight savings time in order to extract more profit from labor. How would we organize time differently if we were free from the demands of capitalism? The latest from Mika Tokumitsu at Jacobin.

* I was bashing Ross Douthat on Twitter just yesterday, but I like this one: The Rise of Woke Capital.

But of course so long as this same Republican Party remains itself pro-corporate in its economic ideology — as the Trumpified G.O.P., despite his populist forays, has determinedly remained — the corporate interests themselves stand to lose little from these polarizing trends. Their wokeness buys them cover when liberalism is in power, and any backlash only helps prop up a G.O.P. that has their back when it comes time to write our tax laws.

* The Silence of Sherman Alexie.

An alarming heatwave in the sunless winter Arctic is causing blizzards in Europe and forcing scientists to reconsider even their most pessimistic forecasts of climate change.

* And what happens if you give an AI control over a corporation? Exactly what happens when you put a person in charge, it looks like…

A Few Quick Thoughts on BLACK PANTHER I Haven’t Already Seen Elsewhere

with 2 comments

(1) I haven’t seen anyone point out that this was the MCU’s take on a Bond movie, right down to M, Q, a Bond girl, an extraneous mission in Korea, and even a Felix Leiter.

(Updated.)

(2) I loved pretty much everything about the Wakandan world-building; pretty much my only minor quibble there was a slight over-reliance on American idioms (like Shuri giving the finger, or the General saying someone “did not get the memo”). It’s a small thing but it fits into point (4) below about the inability of Marvel to imagine a Wakanda that was genuinely independent from Western hegemony, much less the hegemon of the world that it would actually be.

(2a) I do feel a bit like I want to rewatch the T’Challa scenes from Civil War though because I think there was quite a bit of retconning and reimagining happening here; the later scenes with Cap seem not to have happened, and the earlier position of Wakanda in the United Nations seems a bit hard to square with the treatment here.

(2b) Shuri was awesome, incidentally. I demand a Shuri spinoff.

(3) I’ll leave it to others to say “Killmonger was right” but you really do feel your heart sink in the third act as the Wakandans begin to fight each other. For me the real “heart sink” moment was when the planes started exploding over the Wakandan capital; perhaps it was the presence and participation of Everett Ross but you really feel the gut-wrenching rupture of the Wakandan Afrofuturist utopia in that moment.

(3a) Killmonger was right though.

(4) I also had an unhappy moment of clarity about the prominence of Wakanda in the Infinity War trailer. As some of you know I’ve written a chapter on “Wakanda as Nation” for an upcoming collection called Afrofuturism in Time and Space.

Not to belabor the point, but a few more quick quotes from the chapter:

With regard to Wakanda specifically, this problem of interpretation has only compounded over decades of Marvel comics, which frequently upend Wakanda’s historic inviolability in the name of giving individual Black Panther stories sufficient emotional stakes. Thus an African nation that was never colonized historically becomes, over the long run of Marvel stories, the site of repeated meta-imperial11 incursion, from the U.S., from alien invaders, from supervillains like Dr. Doom, from the Atlantean king Namor the Sub-Mariner… As Ta-Nehisi Coates notes in an interview with the science fiction news website io9, part of his task when he took over Black Panther in 2016 was precisely to reestablish Wakanda as the undefeatable global superpower it was always intended as, but never quite was allowed to be.

[…]

We see a similar contradiction in the depiction of Wakandan trade, which has the effect of eroding and destroying Wakandan traditions through Western influence even as Wakanda is ostensibly the more powerful trading partner in this equation—replicating the colonial narrative but with an ahistorical logic that takes the superiority of Western values as axiomatic (and totally untied to the West’s brutal practices of invasion and domination). Already by the 1970s, Black Panther is unsure whether he has done the right thing in entering foreign markets at all, wondering if the reforms he and his father have instituted in opening Wakanda to the world have actually doomed the country—as are many of his countrymen. It is relatively late in the game that Marvel writers even begin to interrogate the techno-progressivist, secular assumptions behind the foundation of the Wakanda story: that a monarch would actually strip-mine a “sacred” site, the Mound, instrumentalizing its special properties for technological gadgetry and even selling parts of it to the West in the name of economic development, all without any cultural struggle or resistance from the population—much less the nearly magical faith that doing so would make things in Wakanda better rather than worse.

Indeed, by the “Doomwar” storyline of the 2010s, the presence of the vibranium within Wakanda has proved to be such a “resource curse” that the heroic resolution of the story sees T’Challa activate a process he has invented that renders all the vibranium in the world (both inside and outside Wakanda) inert, in order to protect it both from foreign invaders like Dr. Doom but also to break the country’s cruel-optimistic dependence on the resource.

[…]

Here, as always, we see the fundamental tension in Wakanda as both/and/neither/nor, as it has been reproduced again and again across its fictional history: an Afrofuturist vision of African superiority that nonetheless must always be disciplined by final subordination to the West…

So, look back at that Infinity War trailer. Based on my study of fifty years of Black Panther stories for my chapter, I’m feeling very confident that white supremacy will reassert itself here again precisely as it always does in Wakanda stories; we’ll never get to see Wakanda become the global hegemon it by all rights ought to be because it’s going to get catastrophically smashed up beyond all recognition before it gets the chance. Count on it.