Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Delany

Delany Returns

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Via a longish interview at io9, I find that Samuel Delany is returning to science fiction (sort of) after a twenty-year break with his next book, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders:

In a way, it’s a very simple story, just about two working-class gay men, who meet when they’re seventeen and nineteen, living on the coast of Georgia. They meet in 2007, and they stay together for the next 80 years, until one of them dies. Now you tell me whether that’s science fiction or not. It definitely goes into the future, but on the other hand, they’re absolutely out of the center of life, and things progress where they live, very very slowly. And they hear about things that are going on outside. They live on coastal part of Georgia in a little town that does go through cycles of being a semi-popular tourist spot in the summers, and then some years, nobody bothers to come at all. Eventually they move to a little island off the coast, and a little lesbian art colony starts up on the island. And they wonder if they’re not being crowded out of their new home. But they’re very fond of some of the people who live there, and some of the people who live there are very fond of them.

He also disappoints anyone still hoping for the sequel to Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, saying it will probably never happen.

Written by gerrycanavan

June 22, 2009 at 4:36 am

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Monday Night Bloggity Blogs

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Monday night bloggity blogs.

* Samuel Delany’s “The Star Pit” as a radio show. Really good.

* More on the surprise Dollhouse renewal, including word that “Epitaph One” will likely be aired after all and an interview with Joss. Too bad about Terminator; Bill Simmon links to a Fox executive explaining the one had nothing to do with the other, except insofar as it did.

“[Sarah Connor] has completed its run,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly confirmed at a press conference this morning. “I think it had a nice little run. It was a good show. It was not an either or [with Dollhouse]. We did see it tailing off a bit [in the ratings]. It had a nice creative core, but, ultimately, we made the bet on Dollhouse, so that’s it for [Sarah Connor]… We make no apologies. We gave it a lot of support and some consistent scheduling. We tried and thought it was time to move on.”

* Benen and Yglesias explain how the right’s schoolyard strategy on Pelosi and torture may be making a truth commission much more likely.

* Rick Perry has abandoned neosecessionism. Score one for the Northern aggressors.

* I was so outraged by the very idea of this I completely forgot to blog it: someone’s written a Catcher in the Rye sequel and their name isn’t J.D.

“Just like the first novel, he leaves, but this time he’s not at a prep school, he’s at a retirement home in upstate New York,” said California. “It’s pretty much like the first book in that he roams around the city, inside himself and his past. He’s still Holden Caulfield, and has a particular view on things. He can be tired, and he’s disappointed in the goddamn world. He’s older and wiser in a sense, but in another sense he doesn’t have all the answers.”

Bunch of phonies.

* Maureen Dowd plagiarizes Josh Marshall and everyone has a really good time with it.

* The New Yorker covers the sixth mass extinction event. Print edition only, because analysis of an ongoing mass extinction event isn’t something you just give away for free. A few more links at Kottke.

* Kos and Yglesias on epically bad ideas to save newspapers.

Just a Few More

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Just a few more.

* An end to post-Fordist consumption madness?

* Not Gaia, but Medea: how nature kills her young.

While Lovelock uses “Gaia” to refer to Earth’s biosphere as a kindly mother goddess, Ward uses “Medea” as a reference to the mother in Greek myth who killed her own children. Ward says life, like Medea, eventually sows the seeds of its own near-destruction – over and over again. “Life boils up and bubbles up, and through its own waste products and activities makes the planet no longer inhabitable,” he said.

Via MeFi.

* Inside credit-card agency snooping.

* Racism and science fiction, by the great Samuel Delany.

* And some bad news for atheists.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 15, 2009 at 2:51 am

Star Trek

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Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations or heretofore unexpected reserves of good will for the franchise—or maybe J.J. just nailed it—but I found Star Trek surprisingly good. And “good” is an amazing accomplishment given the self-contradictions inherent to the project:

1) innovate and revitalize a franchise that, let’s face it, is built almost entirely on the bedrock of nostalgic repetition;
2) do so while further hamstrung by the excruciating prequel format.

But Abrams strikes a more or less successful balance, aside from a few hamhanded “R2-D2, meet C-3PO” moments and a little too much handholding and lampshade-hanging.

As is probably to be expected, the prequelization provides both the worst parts of the movie and its primary source of narrative pleasure. As a certified member of the Nitpicker’s Guild I confess I was a bit annoyed to see how little effort was made to stick with the original continuity, even granting the timeline shift. Many of the gadgets had different behaviors and limitations than in the original show; no one knew Romulans were related to Vulcans until part of the way through the original series; Chekhov didn’t join the ship until later; Pike wasn’t the first captain of the Enterprise; etc, etc, etc. (You can fanwank most or all of these away with “The USS Kelvin Changed Everything,” but that’s not very satisfying. Clear lines of cause-and-effect matter, especially in time travel stories.)

That this cherished original continuity is essentially bulldozed permanently by the film is pretty unfortunate and will, I think, permanently damage the franchise in the eyes of its loyal and notoriously defensive fanbase, especially as fifty years of strict adherence to Roddenberry’s particular Utopian vision has not prepared them well for our heroes to lose a planet, much less the entire timeline.

But at the same time it is quite fun to see these characters meet each other, and Abrams does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the original series (all the way from aesthetics right down to the level of contrivance and occasionally nonsensical plot points). That the actors playing McCoy and (especially) Spock are very good mimics of the original actors helps things along a lot as well.

It’s also astounding how apolitical the film tries to be; I went in with the idea of writing a post about neoliberalism and Star Trek and it just didn’t give me much to work with. Now, this is a neoliberal, United Nations fantasy of the future, to be sure, in which difference only exists to be flattened out—but that’s really true of almost all Trek, DS9 and some other choice episodes excepted. (There’s also a making explicit of the longstanding metaphorical connection between Vulcans and Jews, with a Vulcan Holocaust followed by a choice between diaspora, assimilation, and resettlement in a “new colony,” but I don’t know what to do with that yet.)

Star Trek (2009) is no better or worse, politically speaking, than what Star Trek‘s always been: a fantasy of what the world would be like if consumer capitalism had no labor or environmental costs and American military-cultural hegemony was pure, stable, and uncomplicatedly good. It remains our defining ideological fantasy, in other words, the thing that blinds us still to the sort of world we’re really living in and the sort of future we’re actually creating.

So it’s no surprise that at this point my thoughts turn to the mediocre, to the unchosen, to the radicals and the subaltern and the dissidents. What becomes of difference in this future? We see these people only sometimes, in the background: Sisko’s dad, Picard’s brother. Usually they exist only to be made Star Fleet officers or good Federation citizens by the end of the episode, and we see no one like this in this movie at all. The lack of flexibility in this narrative template has grown, I think, exhausting, and it’s for this reason that over the years I find myself much more drawn to presentist and mundane SF, or apocalyptic futurity, or to anti-Trek futures like Firefly, the first few seasons of BSG, or Samuel Delany’s Triton.

But all the same every so often it’s nice to come home again.

Just one request: no more product placement, please; there’s no money in the future, much less corporations…

The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman

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“‘Dhalgren’ is like the ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ or the ‘Ulysses’ of science fiction,” says fantasy and sci-fi novelist Gregory Frost (“Shadowbridge”).

And it is no less controversial than Thomas Pynchon and James Joyce’s respective masterpieces: Legendary scribe Philip K. Dick called “Dhalgren” “a terrible book (that) should have been marketed as trash.”

Presenting a profile of the great Samuel Delany.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read

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Fifty fantasy & science fiction works that socialists should read. Cool list—if a bit questionable sometimes. (Beloved? Really?) Perhaps not surprisingly, this is all very contiguous with my exam lists. A few notable omissions, off the top of my head: John Brunner’s ecopocalyptic The Sheep Look Up (1972), which I’ve been meaning to blog about for months now; the incomparable Samuel Delany’s Triton (1976), likewise; Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975); and, most unforgivably, Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937), which I’ve blogged about once or twice and which I must insist again is very, very good.

See also: Portable Learner’s reading list for time travel and alternate history, in which I must say I am also surprisingly well-read.

That pun is fully intended.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm