Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Rogue One

The Terrible Serenity of a Browser with Every Tab Closed

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What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum? The barbarians are due here today.

We Reversed Our Declining English Enrollments. Here’s How.

* CFP: Exhaustion: Tired Bodies, Tired Worlds. Graduate conference at the Department of English, University of Chicago, this November.

* When machine learning is astonishing – I collected some highlights from a paper on algorithmic creativity. Great Twitter thread.

* Butler Mons honours Octavia E. Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur fellowship, and whose Xenogenesis trilogy describes humankind’s departure from Earth and subsequent return. And on the second season finale of Levar Burton reads: “Childfinder.”

‘Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages.

* The Prequel Boom.

Climate Change, Revolution And ‘New York 2140.’

* Dic Lit.

* Dictators are always afraid of poets. This seems kind of weird to a lot of Americans to whom poets are not political beings, but it doesn’t seem a bit weird in South America or in any dictatorship, really.

* Post-Soviet science fiction and the war in Ukraine.

* Eighty Years of the Futurians’ Vision.

* A Radical Idea about Adjuncting.

* I didn’t really understand how unjust the academic system was for career advancement for women until I had children. What It’s Like to Be a Woman in the Academy.

* The 2018 Hugo Finalists.

* Teach the controversy, Hell edition.

What It’s Like to Watch Isle of Dogs As a Japanese Speaker. Orientalism Is Alive And Well In American Cinema.

* Junot Díaz on the legacy of childhood trauma.

* The Breakfast Club in the age of #MeToo.

* Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is not a video-game-centered dystopian teen adventure but a horror film, a movie of spiritual zombies whose souls have been consumed by the makers of generations of official cultural product and regurgitated in the form of pop nostalgia. The movie, framed as a story of resistance to corporate tyranny, is actually a tale of tyranny perpetuated by a cheerfully totalitarian predator who indoctrinates his victims by amusing them to death—and the movie’s stifled horror is doubled by Spielberg’s obliviousness to it.

Milwaukee students of color say it’s time to talk about the school-to-prison pipeline.

* A Syrian man has been trapped in a Malaysian airport for 37 days.

The Fog of War and the Case for Knee-jerk Anti-Interventionism.

15 Years. More Than 1 Million Dead. No One Held Responsible.

* America should just stop all bombing.

* ‘Star Wars’ and the Fantasy of American Violence.

* Justice Dept. to halt legal-advice program for immigrants in detention. Amid deportations, those in U.S. without authorization shy away from medical care. ICE Won’t Deport the Last Nazi War Criminal in America.

* This proposal, requiring worker seats on corporate boards, is commonly referred to as “codetermination.” A number of European countries require worker representatives to be included in corporate boards, or for councils of workers to be consulted in appointing board members. The emerging plan to save the American labor movement.

* Liberals and the strike.

* Eviction in America.

* There is no humane border regime, just as there is no humane abortion ban. The border will always tear parents from children, carers from charges, longtime residents from the only communities they’ve ever known. It may do it faster or slower, with ostentatious brutality or bureaucratic drag, but it will always do it. Trump is gambling that Americans will embrace the brutal version, as they’ve done so many times in the past. If they do, will we be enough to stop them? Liberals constantly rediscover the violence at the heart of their politics, but can never learn a thing from it.

* Zombie liberalism.

* When an algorithm cuts your health care.

How the American economy conspires to keep wages down.

* Nice work if you can get it.

* Uncle Sam’s largest asset.

Universities Use the Specter of ICE to Try to Scare Foreign Grad Students Away From Unionizing.

Why Your Advice for Ph.D.s Leaving Academe Might Be Making Things Worse.

* King Of Kong’s Billy Mitchell has been stripped of all his high scores, banned from competitive gaming.

* The definitive explanation of why Bitcoin is stupid.

* The new debt colonies.

* Faces of Auschwitz.

* Wisconsin in the news: Suspected White Supremacist Died Building ISIS-Style Bombs.

* I predicted this: Apple orders its most ambitious TV series yet: An adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation.

* More than half your body is not human.

* Learning styles as a myth.

* Stan Lee needs a hero. Sounds like the sooner the better.

* Neanderthals cared for each other and survived into old age.

* Star Wars is RUINED.

* The oceans’ circulation hasn’t been this sluggish in 1,000 years. That’s bad news. Dangerous climate tipping point is ‘about a century ahead of schedule’ warns scientist. Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting at its Fastest Rate in 400 years.

The greatest environmentalist of postwar America wasn’t a scientist or a wonk. He didn’t even finish high school.

* Atheism and the alt-right.

* Amazon and/against Tolkien.

Tony Gilroy on ‘Rogue One’ Reshoots: They Were in “Terrible Trouble.”

* Catholic Colleges and Basketball.

* A people’s history of the Undertaker.

* John Carpenter: The First Fifteen Years.

* Only young people do revolutionary mathematics.

* Political correctness strikes again! MIT cuts ties with company promising to provide digital immortality after killing you.

The Working Person’s Guide to the Industry That Might Kill Your Company.

* I was going to watch it anyway, but: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2 Casts Tig Notaro.

* A Jar, a Blouse, a Letter: The story of Julia Kristeva.

Facebook is unfixable. We need a nonprofit, public-spirited replacement. Mark Zuckerberg’s 15-year apology tour.

Why several trainloads of New Yorkers’ poop has been stranded for months in Alabama.

Unusual forms of ‘nightmare’ antibiotic-resistant bacteria detected in 27 states.

* The best news I’ve heard in years: Fireball Island is coming back.

* That’s a relief! Don’t worry, the US would win a nuclear war with Russia.

* And no one’s hands are clean.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 14, 2018 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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#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!

Fall Break Links! Every Tab I Had Open Is Closed!

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* New open-access scholarship: Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling. My contribution is on Rogue One and the crisis of authority that seems to have plagued all the post-Lucas Star Wars productions. Check it out!

* Science Fiction Film and Television 10.3 is also available, a special issue all about Mad Max and guest-edited by Dan Hassler-Forest, including a great piece by one of my former graduate students, Dr. Bonnie McLean!

* My book was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement! That’s wild. There’s a really nice review coming in the next issue of Science Fiction Studies, too, though I don’t think its online yet…

* By far the absolute best thing I’ve found on the Internet in years: Decision Problem: Paperclips.

* Call for Papers: Critical Disaster Studies.

* It’s been so long since I’ve posted that it’s still news Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize. With all due apologies to Margaret Atwood.

* Tom Petty was still alive then. Puerto Rico wasn’t in ruins, then. The worst mass shooting in American history perpetrated by a single individual hadn’t happened then. California wasn’t on fire quite to the apocalyptic extent that it is now then. I still had hope for The Last Jedi. And the GOP wasn’t all-in for Roy Moore.

* There are no natural disasters. The Left Needs Its Own Shock Doctrine for Puerto Rico. Disaster socialism. Many Trump voters who got hurricane relief in Texas aren’t sure Puerto Ricans should. After the Hurricane. Someday we’ll look back on the storms from this year’s horrific hurricane season with nostalgia.

* Page of a Calvin and Hobbes comic found in the wreckage of Santa Rosa, California.

This is the horror of mass shootings. Not just death that comes from nowhere, intruding upon the status quo—but a death that doesn’t change that status quo, that continues to sail on unchanged by it. You may be a toddler in a preschool in one of the richest zip codes in the country; a congressman playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia; a white-collar office worker in a business park; a college student or professor on some leafy campus; a doctor making your rounds in a ward in the Bronx; a country music fan enjoying a concert in a city built as a mecca for relaxation and pleasure: the bullet that comes for you will not discriminate. It knows no racial bias, imposes no political litmus test, checks no credit score, heeds no common wisdom of whose life should or shouldn’t matter. It will pierce your skin, perforate your organs, shatter your bones, and blow apart the gray matter inside your skull faster than your brain tissue can tear. And then, after the token thoughts and prayers, nothing. No revolutionary legislation or sudden sea change in cultural attitudes will mark your passing. The bloody cruelty of your murder will be matched only by the sanguine absence of any substantive national response. Our democracy is riven by inequality in so many ways, but in this domain, and perhaps in this domain alone, all American lives are treated as equally disposable.

Having achieved so many conservative goals — a labor movement in terminal decline, curtailed abortion rights, the deregulation of multiple industries, economic inequality reminiscent of the Gilded Age, and racial resegregation — the right can now afford the luxury of irresponsibility. Or so it believes. As we have seen in the opening months of the Trump presidency, the conservative regime, despite its command of all three elected branches of the national government and a majority of state governments, is extraordinarily unstable and even weak, thanks to a number of self-inflicted wounds. That weakness, however, is a symptom not of its failures, but of its success.

* Freedom of speech means professors get fired for their tweets while universities rent their facilities to open Nazis for $600,000 below cost. Meanwhile, college administrations continue to look to Trump to save them from their graduate students.

The science of spying: how the CIA secretly recruits academics.

Death at a Penn State Fraternity.

* UPenn humiliates itself.

* Octavia Butler: The Brutalities of the Past Are All Around Us.

* African Science Fiction, at LARB.

* The new issue of Slayage has a “Twenty Years of Buffy” roundtable.

Image Journal Exclusively Publishes Flannery O’Connor’s College Journal.

* Honestly, I prefer it when the NCAA doesn’t even bother to pretend.

* One of the classic signs of a failing state is the manipulation of data, including its suppression.

* Internal emails show ICE agents struggling to substantiate Trump’s lies about immigrants.

* ICE Detainee Sent to Solitary Confinement for Encouraging Protest of “Voluntary” Low Wage Labor.

This Is What It Looks Like When the President Asks People to Snitch on Their Neighbors.

A 2-year-old’s kidney transplant was put on hold — after his donor father’s probation violation.

* The arc of history is long, but Federal Judge Rules Handcuffing Little Kids Above Their Elbows Is Unconstitutional.

Body cameras and more training aren’t enough. We need to divert funding for police into funding for human needs.

“Childhood trauma is a huge factor within the criminal justice system,” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Cornell University and co-director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. “It is among the most important things that shapes addictive and criminal behavior in adulthood.”

They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants.

When Colleges Use Their Own Students to Catch Drug Dealers.

* The Democratic district attorney of Manhattan openly takes bribes, and he’s running unopposed.

Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream.

How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets.

What DNA Testing Companies’ Terrifying Privacy Policies Actually Mean.

Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump. Counterpoint: The case that voter ID laws won Wisconsin for Trump is weaker than it looks.

* Conflict in literature.

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia. Close that barn door, boys!

Mass Shootings Are A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence. The stats are clear: the gun debate should be one mostly about how to prevent gun suicides. 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days.

* The secretive family making billions from the opioid crisis.

* University of Hawaii’s creepy email subject line to students: “In the event of a nuclear attack.”

* Marvel’s movie timeline is incoherent nonsense, too.

We have a pretty good idea of when humans will go extinct. No spoilers!

* Tokyo Is Preparing for Floods ‘Beyond Anything We’ve Seen.’

* Cape Coral, Florida, was built on total lies. One big storm could wipe it off the map. Oh, and it’s also the fastest-growing city in the United States.

An Oral History of Batman: The Animated Series.

* Why is Blade Runner called Blade Runner?

* How free porn enriched the tech industry — and ruined the lives of actors.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Is the Bleakest Lord of the Rings Fan Fic I’ve Ever Seen.The best way to beat Shadow Of War’s final act is not to play it. Are Orcs People Too? And a trip down memory lane: How ‘Hobbit Camps’ Rebirthed Italian Fascism.

* The Digital Humanities Bust.

We can’t eliminate the profit motive in health care without eliminating copays.

* Twitter as hate machine.

* They’re good dogs, Brent.

* Burn the Constitution.

* Violence. Threats. Begging. Harvey Weinstein’s 30-year pattern of abuse in Hollywood. Study finds 75 percent of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up. Collective action is the best avenue to fight sexual harassers like Harvey Weinstein. Will Fury Over Harvey Weinstein Allegations Change Academe’s Handling of Harassment?

* A tough thread on ethical compromise under conditions of precarity and hyperexploitation. I think many academics will relate.

* Major study confirms the clinical definition of death is wildly inadequate.

Death just became even more scary: scientists say people are aware they’re dead because their consciousness continues to work after the body has stopped showing signs of life.

That means that, theoretically, someone may even hear their own death being announced by medics.

Dolphins recorded having a conversation ‘just like two people’ for first time.

Here Are the Best Wildlife Photos of 2017.

Meat eaters are destroying the planet, says report.

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.

In A Post-Weinstein World, Louis CK’s Movie Is a Total Disaster.

Let this battle herald a return to our roots: tax the rich so much that they aren’t rich anymore — only then can the rest of us live in a decent world.

* Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular.

Every Rick and Morty Universe So Far.

* Ready for #Vexit.

The world’s first “negative emissions” plant has begun operation—turning carbon dioxide into stone.

I Have Been Raped by Far Nicer Men Than You.

* They’re bound and determined to ruin Go.

I think I’m on my way. I’ve deposited my first check in a savings account and, as and if I sell more, will continue to do so until I have the equivalent of one year’s pay at GE. Four more stories will do it nicely, with cash to spare (something we never had before). I will then quit this goddamn nightmare job, and never take another one so long as I live, so help me God. On Vonnegut’s “Complete Stories.”

An Anatomy of the Worst Game in ‘Jeopardy!’ History.

* Is your D&D character rare?

* Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth.

The Worst Loss In The History Of U.S. Men’s Soccer.

The Rise And Rise Of America’s Best-Kept Secret: Milwaukee!

* Galaxy brain.

* And RIP, John Couture. A tremendous loss for Marquette English.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Wednesday Morning Links!

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* Coming soon! Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling. I have a short piece in this one ruminating on Rogue One and the problems of multiple authorship in contemporary franchise production.

The computer simulation hypothesis reveals how the American liberal elite questions everything except the insufficiency of liberalism itself.

Seriously, what I find far more ominous is how seldom, today, we see the phrase “the 22nd century.” Almost never.

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

Not half-light, not dimness, not relative dark: total, pitch darkness. Darkness so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face, or even be sure whether your eyes are open or closed. Lost within an ancient cave, the man and woman started off separate and alone, confronting mind-bending isolation that played tricks on their senses and produced ever-more-disorienting hallucinations. Fumbling and crawling, never sure which next step might break their necks or worse, they navigated through an alien environment marked by vermin, severe cold, tight confines, sudden drops, yawning pits, and sharp rocks. Eventually, they found each other deep below the earth, then painstakingly made their way to the surface. And the entire time, circling silently about them in the darkness, intimately near yet incredibly far away, has been a crew of producers and camera operators documenting their every move.

By the time Noura Jackson’s conviction was overturned, she had spent nine years in prison. This type of prosecutorial error is almost never punished.

After the trial, Weirich spoke to the local news media. ‘‘It’s a great verdict,’’ she said. Noura was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years and nine months. Weirich’s victory helped start her political career. In January 2011, she was appointed district attorney in Shelby County, after the elected district attorney left to join the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam. Weirich, a Republican, became the first woman to hold that post. She then won election in 2012 and 2014 with 65 percent of the vote, running on a law-­and-­order message against weak opponents. A friend said her husband, who is also a lawyer, began talking about moving the family into the Governor’s Mansion one day.

Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment.

* A soccer star from Gaithersburg won a college scholarship. But ICE plans to deport him.

* 18 Texas sheriffs sign up to join forces with federal immigration officers.

All U.S. Catholics are called to oppose mass deportations under Trump. Here’s why.

‘The moment when it really started to feel insane’: An oral history of the Scaramucci era.

The Rise and Fall of the “Freest Little City in Texas”: How a libertarian experiment in city government fell apart over taxes, debt and some very angry people.

Coast Guard ‘will not break faith’ with transgender members, leader says.

* The fire next time.

* The president of golf.

* The chaos, legislative fumbling, and legal jeopardy should not obscure the ways that the administration is remaking federal policy in consequential ways. Evergreen headlines: The Past Week Proves That Trump Is Destroying Our Democracy.

Trump helping his son draft a misleading statement could be witness tampering.

* Always, always: unreal that it’s still this high.

* Cory Booker gets one right.

America’s former envoy to Afghanistan says the war can’t be won. Is there even a strategic goal at this point?

* The plate tectonics of Middle-Earth.

* White Capital, Black Labor. We don’t need a TV show about the Confederacy winning. In many ways, it did.

* This has got to be illegal.

* Squishy sentience.

With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals.

* And happy birthday, Brittle Paper!

Return of the Son of Occasional Linkblogging

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With new and unexpected obligations in the last few months it’s become very hard for me to keep up with the link-blogging. Sorry! It’s bad enough that I’m considering putting this function on the blog on (likely permanent) hiatus. But, for now at least, some links…

* Wordless, but one of the best things about parenting I’ve ever read: Dan Berry’s “Carry Me.” Made me cry each time I read it.

For the night, which becomes more immense /and depressing and utter / and the voices in it which argue and argue. / For this conflict with the stars. / For ashes.  For the wind. / For this emergency we call life. All-Purpose Elegy.

* This is really good too: “the best Spider-Man story of the last five years.”

* CFP: Utopia, now!

Class, Academia, and Anxious Times. From Duke’s Own Sara Appel.

* Hugo nominations 2017! How well did the new rules do against the Sad Puppies? Meet the Hugo-Nominated Author of Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By the T-Rex.

* The African Speculative Fiction Society holds the Nommo Awards to celebrate the year’s greatest speculative fiction written by African authors.

* A list of contributors has been announced for Letters to Octavia, which has been renamed Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler (which I’m in, by the way — I’m the rascal writing about “whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works”). I’m also a small part of the Huntington’s current exhibit of the Butler archives, presenting at the associated research conference in June.

* I wrote a small encyclopedia article on “Science Fiction” for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, which is live now…

* And some lovely, kind words for my Butler book on the latest episode of “The Three Hoarsemen”, around an hour thirty in!

Desperation Time: Visions of the future from the left.

‘Doomsday Library’ Opens In Norway To Protect The World’s Books From Armageddon.

The 43 senators who plan to filibuster Gorsuch represent 53 percent of the country.

* The history of all heretofore existing society is the history of archery dorks. Evidence that the human hand evolved so we could punch each there.

* Check out my friend David Higgins on NPR’s On Point, talking dystopias.

* War, forever and ever amen. What We Do Best. Trump’s bombing of Syria likely won’t be met with a wall of “resistance,” certainly not within the halls of power. That’s because for nearly all liberal and conservative pundits and politicians, foreign wars — particularly those launched in the name of “humanitarianism” — are an issue where no leader, even one as disliked as Trump, can ever go wrong. The Syrian Catastrophe. A Solution from Hell. Profiles in courage. There are no humanitarian wars. 7 Charities Helping Syrians That Need Your Support. The only answer is no.

* Incredible story: Hired Goon Drags Man Off United Flight After He Refuses to Give Up Seat. More details here. It’s only going to get worse.

Trump Conspiracy Tweetstorms Are The Infowars Of The Left. It is shocking how these things erupt through my timeline day after day, then evaporate utterly as if they’d never happened.

* This week in the richest country that has ever existed in human history.

Being Wealthy in America Earns You 15 Extra Years of Life Span Over the Poor.

New York will no longer prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adult criminals.

* I loved this story about the connections that expose us: This Is Almost Certainly James Comey’s Twitter Account.

* We did it guys, we did it. But let’s not lose our heads yet.

* On Becoming a Stepmother.

* When Women Negotiate.

What Happens When Your Internet Provider Knows Your Porn Habits?

* Activism we can all believe in: Protesters raise more than $200,000 to buy Congress’s browsing histories.

* Democrats Against Single Payer.

How to Survive the Next Catastrophic Pandemic.

* An epidemic of childhood trauma haunts Milwaukee. An intractable problem: For the last half-century, Milwaukee has been caught in a relentless social and economic spiral. Milwaukee celebrates groundbreaking of new Black Holocaust Museum site.

Dolphins beat up octopuses before eating them, and the reason is kind of horrifying.

* Wild situation in X-Men Gold #1. The artist’s statement.

* If nothing else, Operation Blue Milk had me at “Nnedi Okorafor.” Everything Cut from Rogue One. The Final Star Wars Movie Will Include The Late Carrie Fisher.

* The Minnesota Eight Don’t Want to Be Deported to a Country They’ve Never Lived In. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE Yesterday.

* 7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel.

* Can the Great Lakes Be Saved?

Does This Band Name Start With The? A Quiz.

America’s first female mayor was elected 130 years ago. Men nominated her as a cruel joke.

Diabetes is even deadlier than we thought, study suggests.

The Biggest Employer in Each US State. Look at all those universities we don’t need!

* Already old news, but worth noting: whether out of general interest or revenge Joss will be doing Batgirl. If I had Joss’s ear I’d pitch about 20-30 minutes of kung-fu action girl Batgirl and then have her paralyzed and do the Oracle plot instead. It’d be something different in this genre and something different for Whedon too, as opposed to something we’ve frankly seen from him a few too many times by now.

* Pedagogy watch: Why won’t students ask for help?

* More on the history of sleep: Why Do We Make Children Sleep Alone?

* When Every Day Is Groundhog Day: The Danny Rubin Story.

* No thanks: Disney Could Go Westworld With New Patent Filing for Soft ‘Humanoid’ Robots.

* There are dozens of us! Dozens! The Life Aquatic might not be Wes Anderson’s best film. But it is his greatest: The director’s misunderstood classic knows that sadness can’t be defeated, only lived with.

* Star Trek: Discovery ZZzzzzzzZZzzzzzZzzzz.

* Joe Hill (son of Stephen King): In the late 1990s I asked my Dad how to write a cover letter for my short fiction submissions. He was glad to help out.

* I always call Chuck Schumer the worst possible Democrat at the worst possible time, but Rahm Emanuel really gives him a run for his money.

Margaret Atwood is dropping hints about a Handmaid’s Tale sequel. She even wrote a little bit extra, just in time for me to teach it this summer!

* KSR talks NY2140. KSR talks world building. KSR in conversation with Adam Roberts and Francis Spufford.

* Geoengineering watch. Sadly, this is probably our civilization’s only hope.

These Are the Wildly Advanced Space Exploration Concepts Being Considered by NASA.

* If you want a vision of the future.

Tyrannosaurus rex was a sensitive lover, new dinosaur discovery suggests.

* PS: Conservatives and liberals united only by interest in dinosaurs, study shows.

The proliferation of charter schools, particularly in areas of declining enrollment and in proximity to schools that have closed, is adding financial stress to Chicago’s financially strapped public school system, a new report co-authored by a Roosevelt University professor shows.

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons.

* Where the Water Goes.

Great Barrier Reef at ‘terminal stage’: scientists despair at latest coral bleaching data.

The Original Ending of Alien Was Both Terrifying and a Huge Bummer.

* Fuck You and Die: An Oral History of Something Awful.

* The arc of history is long, but New York now has more Mets fans than Yankees fans.

* Congratulations to North Carolina.

* OK. OK. But I’m watching both of you.

Teach-Ins Helped Galvanize Student Activism in the 1960s. They Can Do So Again Today.

* The kids are all right.

* The Uses of Bureaucracy. Browser Plug-In Idea. A Brief History of Theology. To thine own self be true. Stop me if you’ve heard it.

* Politics. Democracy. Art. #2017. Submitted for Your Approval. We lived happily during the war. Five years later. Pretty grim. Any sufficiently advanced neglect is indistinguishable from malice. How to tell if you are sexually normal. Juxtaposition of wish fulfilment violence and infantile imagery, desire to regress to be free of responsibility… Join the movement. Know your sins.

* And even in the darkest times, there is still hope: Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Friday Links!

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* Speaking of which! This Saturday morning! Infinite Jest at 20! Join us!

* In my mailbox: Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and the Environment. I’m a contributor; my word was “addiction.”

Four Futures: using science fiction to challenge late stage capitalism and Thatcher’s “no alternative.”

* CfP: The 14th Annual Tolkien Conference at University of Vermont.

* Rebekah Sheldon: Save Us.

* How did the Soviet Union imagine 2017?

When Colleges Rely on Adjuncts, Where Does the Money Go?

Another Big Drop in History Majors.

* Make College Football LD Again.

A mystery player causing a stir in the world of the complex strategy game Go has been revealed as an updated version of AlphaGo, the artificial-intelligence (AI) program created by Google’s London-based AI firm, DeepMind.

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* GOP legislators in Wisconsin basically want line-item approval over syllabi at this point.

Obama Leaves the Constitution Weaker Than He Found It.

Registered Voters Who Stayed Home Probably Cost Clinton The Election.

* James Joyce and the Jesuits.

* Republicans want to kill the mortgage interest deduction. So I’m bankrupt now, I think.

House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1.

But while cinephiles have long become used to shelling out their hard-earned wonga to watch the same movie several times over, a new interview with the editors of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hints that Hollywood’s habit of regurgitation goes further than we imagined. It reveals the film’s initial “cut”, designed to map out the movie before any shooting took place, was cobbled together by editor Colin Goudie using footage from hundreds of other existing films.

George Lucas Can’t Give His $1.5 Billion Museum Away.

Princess Leia Was Going to Play a Large Role in Star Wars: Episode IX.

* Some details on the supposed twelve-movie plan for Star Wars I’d never seen before.

* On chicken intelligence.

* Today in “virtually”: The storage chamber would be much deeper than Lake Huron and the company says there is virtually no chance of radioactive pollution reaching the lake, which is less than a mile away. This is a nice variant on the theme: Democrats to Fight Almost Any Trump Supreme Court Nominee: Schumer.

* Teaching the controversy: MIT Researchers Say 2016 Didn’t Have More Famous Deaths Than Usual. Give 2017 some exciting room to expand.

We don’t, in fact, know what works in teaching composition. This one was more polemical, but good too I thought: The costs of social capture.

Among other things, whiteness is a kind of solipsism. From right to left, whites consistently and successfully reroute every political discussion to their identity. The content of this identity, unsurprisingly, is left unexamined and undefined. It is the false foundation of the prototypically American model of pseudo-politics.

The Troublesome Women of Sherlock.

* Modularity and the Seinfeld theme.

* A horrific hate crime in Chicago.

* Drugs and the spirit of the times.

* Trump vs. the CIA: whoever wins, we lose. Donald Trump’s Twitter Account Is A Security Disaster Waiting To Happen. And then there’s this.

* How in Milwaukee’s cold hell did we only get #7?

* And the Monty Hall Problem, explained.

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 6, 2017 at 9:00 am

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Wednesday Links!

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* Some CFPs I posted yesterday: Buffy at 20! SFFTV Call for Reviewers! And Paradoxa 28: “Global Weirding” has officially appeared in the world as well; see a table of contents and our introduction, and then get one of your very own…

* I’m still gathering the loooooing list for the Pioneer Award — so let me know if you know of a peer-reviewed edited collection in SF studies broadly conceived, published in 2016, or a peer-reviewed article on SF published in a non-SF-studies journal, also in 2016!

* Visiting MLA 2017? Can I interest you in #s444?

444. Infinite Jest at Twenty

Saturday, 7 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., 112A, Pennsylvania Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Gerry Canavan, Marquette Univ.

1. “Infinite Jest‘s Near Future,” Lee Konstantinou, Univ. of Maryland, College Park

2. “Aesthetics of Trauma in Infinite Jest,” Carrie Shanafelt, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ., Teaneck

3. “No Year of Glad: Infinite Jest after 9/13/2008,” Gerry Canavan

Responding: N. Katherine Hayles, Duke Univ.

* I shared that one, so here’s the debunking: The Bad Research Behind the Bogus Claim That North Carolina Is No Longer a Democracy. I guess I relied on the journalistic summaries (classic blunder) didn’t realize how bad the base research was. North Carolina is still not a legitimate democracy, though.

* And while we’re on the subject: The Constitution has strangled American democracy for long enough. We need a constituent assembly.

Drexel, Twitter and Academic Freedom.

* Oh boy: A Turning Point in the Campus Culture Wars? For Some, Trump Raises Hopes.

* Rethinking the legacy of writers who worked with the CIA.

Why saving the congressional ethics office isn’t as big a victory as it seems. At least it was a win!

* Here’s How We Prepare to be Ungovernable in 2017. Six policy ideas that can lay the groundwork for a more progressive America.

Why liberals need to get a grip on Russia.

The coming restaurant crash.

The End of Progressive Neoliberalism.

Rogue One editors reveal which scenes were part of reshoots. Women’s Health and the Fall of the Galactic Republic.

An Interactive Visualization of Every Line in Hamilton.

The 16 Black Panthers Still Behind Bars.

* Twilight of the curly quote.

47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years, According to Oxford University.

* Counterpoint: Why Star Trek: Discovery Belongs on CBS All Access.

* An oral history of the Sokal hoax.

* Towards an abolition ecology.

* Darkest timeline watch: Wisconsin Senate leader says he’s open to toll roads.

* And with 2016 over, a toddler has now shot a person every week in the US for two years straight. We did it, everyone. We did it.