Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘reviews

Tuesday Morning Links!

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Dragons Are for White Kids with Money: On the Friction of Geekdom and Race. Posted in a Facebook thread about this snippet of a review I finished today (which references this immortal Pictures for Sad Children comic).

* Hemingway, or My Mother’s Email?

If We Live Another Billion Years, a Lot of Crazy Shit Is Going to Happen.

* Like this! Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador. “It’s far worse than what has already been reported.” White House Staff ‘Hiding’ as Russia Chaos Engulfs West Wing.

* Trump to fire everyone? A special prosecutor or an independent commission? Enter the ACLU. 29%. Trump’s Premium on Loyalty Poses Hurdle in Search for FBI Chief. How Trump Gets His Fake News. Republicans who are complicit in Trump’s abuse of power will soon have a big problem. Oh, honey, no. You know, economic anxiety. An all-time great “experts say.” And here’s a bananas story that doesn’t even make the list this week.

* Suddenly relevant: Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies.

* If Trump can stop this, though, he deserves a second term.

* Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-My Hometown) ratted a woman out to her boss after she spoke out against him.

* Profiles in courage: Richard Burr.

On at least one occasion, he climbed out of an office window to avoid reporters, while carrying his dry cleaning, according to a senior Republican aide who has spoken to him about the episode.

Racist North Carolina Voting Law Now Permanently Dead.

* There is a fear, among some at MSNBC, that Lack is making programming decisions in an effort to appease the Trump administration (an accusation that has been made of CNN and Fox News), which may lead to more access to the White House and in turn, conservative viewers. O’Donnell was #1 in his timeslot just a few days ago.

* You didn’t think free speech was free, did you?

How Noncompete Clauses Keep Workers Locked In.

Doxing the hero who stopped WannaCry was irresponsible and dumb.

* Twilight of Windows XP.

* Stolen bees recovered in California sting operation.

A Remote Paradise Island Is Now a Plastic Junkyard. Farmers Scramble to Adapt to Volatile Weather. Monumental Hands Rise from the Water in Venice to Highlight Climate Change.

Hearing on UW protest bill shows conflicting views on state of campus speech.

* Klan cosplay in Charlottesville. Disgusting.

* Even as the Trump administration prepares to loosen oversight over immigrant detention facilities, medical care already can be so substandard that cancer is treated with ibuprofen, schizophrenia with Benadryl and serious mental illness with solitary confinement, two new reports found. And if you’re not mad yet: Federal Immigration Agent Allegedly Inquired About 4th Grader At Queens Public School.

* Inside the big wood-paneled downtown library here, a sign spells out the future in four words. Come June 1, “All services will cease.”

* The pension thieves.

* The end of department stores.

Where is North Korea? Here are guesses from 1,746 adults.

The project, called Your Brain Manufacturing, was an extension of Bekking’s Brain Manufacturing project, which explored whether designers can use brain analysis to determine what people really like, rather than what their social conditioning leads them to believe they like. The answer may surprise you!

* Really, DC’s coming desecration of Watchmen just looks so unbelievably terrible. I can hardly stand it.

* What is dead may never die. What is dead may never die.

* Star Trek: Mirror Broken looks good though.

‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ live tour coming to Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater.

* If it isn’t set on Purge Day, it’s just a documentary.

An A.I. Dreamed Up a Bunch of Dungeons & Dragons Spells. They’re Surprisingly Perfect.

* The arc of history is long, but Nintendo might be making a Legend Of Zelda mobile game. This has my attention, too: Paradox Publishing A “Hardcore” Strategy Game About Mars.

* Science has proved you’re not drunk, you’re just an asshole.

* Also.

* And in a time without heroes, there was @WeRateDogs.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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SFFTV Invites DVD Reviewers

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Science Fiction Film and Television would like to invite reviews of current DVDs in SF/F, with possible selections including but not limited to such titles as:

The Rover
Rick & Morty
Orphan Black
Zero Theorem
Under the Skin
The Signal
Edge of Tomorrow

We are reasonably successful at obtaining review copies from smaller arthouse and independent distributors. Although we are keen to expand our review coverage of mainstream sf film and television, obtaining review copies from major distributors is a lot harder – so if you have your own copy, and would like to review it, we would love to hear from you.

Our film and TV reviews (1000-2000 words) are intended to fill the gap that exists between popular/journalistic reviews and the fuller critical treatment only some films and tv shows will receive, often much later, in academic venues. Ideally, a review will situate the film/show within a broader critical and/or historical framework and sketch out a critical analysis which will prove useful to students and researchers. We are interested in reviews of films/shows (of whatever vintage) that are new to DVD/Blu-ray. If you would like to claim one of these options or propose a different film/show to review, please contact the editors (, or If you have not written for us before, please send your cv when you get in touch.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

Gender Imbalance in Science Fiction Reviewing

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Via Mark Bould, another study of gender imbalances in SF reviews from Strange Horizons. Asimov’s comes in with particularly unacceptable results:

Written by gerrycanavan

April 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

‘Science Fiction without the Future’

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I was recently asked to write a review of Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America for a special “Petrofictions” issue of American Book Review. Imre has put the full text up on Facebook; hopefully you can read it there. Here’s a bit from the end:

…Here then is what science fiction looks like without (or after) the future: the twentieth century is envisioned not as the launching pad for a glorious technofuture but as an anomalous moment of prosperity and historical possibility which quickly burns itself out, leaving in its place the worst combination of Manifest-Destiny America, feudal Europe, and decadent Rome. The novel’s odd, melancholy temporality—a retrospectively narrative bildungsroman set in a future that is simultaneously a parody of the past—completely upends our sense that the last hundred years represent the apex of progress, and indeed the idea that history can be thought of as any story of progress at all. By its end Julian Comstockhas taken its reader well beyond the postmodern mood Fredric Jameson famously called “nostalgia for the present,” and comes to feel something like officiating at our own collective funeral.

But for all its anticipatory retrospection of the coming post-oil disaster, the novel is not hopeless. In the epilogue we are told that Adam has in essence gone on to reinvent the lost art of science fiction itself; in 2192 his most recent novel is American Boys on the Moon, a Jules-Verne-style adventure yarn about a group of youngsters who discover an old NASA rocket buried in Florida and use it to reach the moon. (In a footnote, Adam concedes the story is completely implausible, but admits he likes it anyway.) There are similar hints throughout the novel that a second age of enlightenment and invention could be in the offing, and indeed that the reign of the despotic and theocratic Dominion may soon be at its end. The theocrats are themselves huge believers in progress, insisting “the history of the world is written in Scripture, and it ends in a Kingdom”—but Julian’s revolutionary retort, seemingly borne out, is that history is actually chaos, written in sand and shaped by the wind (674). For Wilson, it seems, there’s an exciting, even necessary freedom in this permanent historical flux, which when juxtaposed against the violent schemes of the rich and powerful becomes in its own unstable and impermanent way a kind of unexpected utopia. The cyclicality of history turns out to be as cruel to kings and tyrants as it is to everything else; in time all their dreams of power and control turn to ash as well. Even in a history that can’t stop repeating itself, we find, the bad times eventually end, and good days someday come again.

Wednesday Wednesday

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* In case you missed it, I have pieces in Reviews in Cultural Theory and American Literature online now.

* Mission accomplished: Obama has lost everyone. Well, almost everyone.

* “Something of a waterloo for publishing”: Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications are suing four librarians at Georgia State University for making portions of electronic copies of articles available to students when the text is places on reserve in the library, which is likely protected under fair use.

* Closing arguments in California today in the determining the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

* Celebrating Bloomsday all over: 1, 2. Thanks Tim!

* How to keep someone forever: create a sick system. Via MeFi.

* The 2010s will bring you edgy Fraggles.

* A secret history of beloved Northern New Jersey field trip site the Cloisters.

* And Flickr has hidden posters of the long-sealed-off Notting Hill Gate Tube station.

Marxism as Science Fiction

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My review of Mark Bould and China Miéville’s Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction is up now at Reviews in Cultural Theory. Another recent review, of John Rieder’s Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, Elizabeth Young’s Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor, and Matthew Costello’s Secret Identity Crisis: Comic Books and the Unmasking of Cold War America, is in the current issue of American Literature, but this one requires a subscription. (A Duke IP will get you in; don’t know about UNC or other places.)

Atwood, Lethem, Robinson

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I’m part of the year-end Independent Weekly “What Our Writers Are Reading” feature this week, with capsule reviews of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream. Here’s the takeaway ‘graph from the Robinson review:

In both genre and mainstream literary fiction, America’s vision of its future has been dominated for decades by dystopia and apocalypse. Robinson is perhaps the last, best utopian in American letters, unapologetically crafting in his novels visions of the better world that he believes can still emerge, through struggle, out of this one. Individual lives, he writes in The Years of Rice and Salt, always end with the tragedy of death; it’s only in the long history of collective struggle, over lifetimes, that we can hope to find the possibility of comedy, of happy endings. (As Martin Luther King put the same idea: “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”) The first principle for Robinson, King and any other citizen of Utopia is not just the belief that a better future is possible but the conviction that the dream of the future can help us save the present; in the two-millennial span and twisting grandfather paradoxes of Galileo’s Dream, that political and philosophical commitment is made, for the first time in Robinson’s long career, spellbindingly literal.


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Gary Westfahl hates The Day the Earth Stood Still. So does everyone.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 15, 2008 at 10:16 pm

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The Earth abides. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. Next on my reading list this summer was Earth Abides (Amazon), a classic 1949 sci-fi apocalypse from George R. Stewart. The premise is not unfamiliar; a plague rapidly eliminates 99%+ of the world’s population, leaving behind as straggled survivors the happy/unhappy few who happen to have natural immunity. The novel spans an incredible 45 years, imagining in its first third the breakdown of society in the face of the Great Disaster, in its second one surviving group scavenging in the ruins of civilization after 22 years, and in the final third the same group 22 years after that. In this respect it’s far more ambitious than most entries in its genre, which usually content themselves with depicting the total breakdown of society before allowing a token glimpse of some return to normalcy (sometimes a technological marvel, or the peaceful discovery of another group of survivors, but usually the birth or coming into reason of a child).

The narrative throughline of all this is Ish—short for Isherwood Williams, but really short for Ishmael. Here is yet another book that points my erstwhile dissertation on apocalypse (expected publication date: 2030) back out of the twentieth century and towards Melville’s Moby Dick, if not further. In the introduction Connie Willis calls this book one of the saddest she’s ever read, and to whatever extent that’s true it’s because of Ish, and the long extinguishment of his dreams of rekindling technological society.

In the end, though, I disagree with this reading. Whatever else we think about the novel’s close, in the end we must imagine Isherwood happy.

It’s a good book. I’m reminded a bit of what Kurt Vonnegut had to say about Kilgore Trout in Slaughterhouse-Five—”Kilgore Trout had some incredible ideas, if only he could write!” Stewart can write, but not always well, and he has an unfortunate tendency towards internal epic monologue that grows tired about a quarter of the way through the book. But the ideas are quite nice, and it’s as good as any novel I’ve read at imaginging the return to nature after the breakdown of Western civilization. And there’s a passage near the end of the book that struck me very powerfully, though I think one probably has to have read through the whole thing to get the full effect:

Again, in that day each little tribe will live by itself and to itself and go in its own way, and their diffferences will soon be more than they were even in the first days of Man, according to what accidents of survival and of place….

Here they live always in awe of the Other World, and scarcely dare make water without a prayer. They have skill with boats among tidal channels. To eat, they catch fish and dig clams, and gather seeds of wild grasses….

Here they are darker-skinned and talk another language, and worship a dark-skinned mother and child. They keep horses and turkeys, and grow corn in the flat by the river. They catch rabbits in snares, but have no bows….

Here they are still darker. They speak English, but say no r’s, and their speech is thick. They keep pigs and chickens, and raise corn. Also they raise cotton, but make no use of it, except to offer a little to their god, knowing it from old to be a thing of power. Their god has the form of an alligator, and they call him Olsaytn….

Here they shoot with the bow, skillfully, and their hunting dogs are trained to give tongue. They love assembly and debate. Their womenfolk walk proudly. The symbol of their god is a hammer, but they pay him no great reverence….

Many others there are, too, each differing. In the distant years after these first years, the tribes will grow more numerous and come together, and cross-fertilize in body and in mind. Then, doubtless, blindly and of no one’s planning, will come new civilizations and new wars.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 15, 2007 at 2:59 pm

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