Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek

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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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.

Monday Afternoon Links!

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* Call for Applications at the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts: Division Heads of Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYA) and International Fantastic Literatures (IF).

In very broad strokes, colleges and universities have four main revenue streams: state appropriations, research funding, gifts and endowments, and student tuition. The first three come with serious restrictions regarding their use. Generally speaking, state appropriations can only be used for educational expenses, research funding is largely spent on specific research projects, and endowments go toward the pet projects of wealthy donors. Only student tuition can be used for anything university administrators want—construction projects, real estate, interest payments, administrative salaries, football coaches. In recent decades, university administrators have sought, like all entrepreneurial institutions, to maximize their revenues, but they have sought above all to maximize their unrestricted revenues—and have even been willing to sacrifice state funding in order to bring in more tuition. The Tuition Limit and the Coming Crisis of Higher Education.

The University and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Play is organized to prevent children from sorting themselves by gender. A gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” was introduced in 2012 and was swiftly absorbed into mainstream Swedish culture, something that, linguists say, has never happened in another country.

* Hobbes, the Science Fiction Writer: Part I, Part II. Part II wades into Star Trek: Discovery and Black Panther…

* A Political History of the Future: Iain M. Banks.

* How White American Terrorists Are Radicalized.

“The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares.”

* Neoliberalism and the family.

* If Tim Kaine can keep John Bolton off the National Security Council, all is forgiven.

* Surely one of the most depraved things any politician has ever said.

* The United States is doomed.

* The Stormy Daniels scandal is not gossip. Why the Stormy Daniels story matters, in one paragraph. And everyone needs to face it: Stormy Daniels’ Legal Strategy Strongly Suggests She Has Photos of Donald Trump.

‘Rick and Morty’ and The Rise of The ‘I’m a Piece of Shit’ Defense.

* From the archives! Superpowers and the ADA.

Loneliness is deadlier than obesity and should be considered a public health risk, experts have warned.

* Presenting Effectively.

* Facebook: definitely bad.

* Borneo Lost More Than 100,000 Orangutans From 1999 to 2015.

* And here’s the robot future I’m worried about.

Sunday Morning Links!

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* 6 minutes 30 seconds. The Parkland Manifesto. Photos.

* Kim Stanley Robinson: Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet.

Toward an Ecologically Based Post-Capitalism: Interview With Novelist Kim Stanley Robinson.

* Green Manhattan.

* Star Trek: Discovery‘s tour through poorly thought-out Trek arcana looks ready to tackle Section 31 next. The biggest shock here is that they may actually be able to get Michelle Yeoh back.

CFP: Context is for Kings – An Edited Collection on Star Trek: Discovery.

* CFP: Utopian Acts.

Britain: Universities on Strike.

Student Evaluations Can’t Be Used to Assess Professors. Our research shows they’re biased against women. That means using them is illegal.

* Amazing how a CHE piece specifically focused on a college president’s flamboyant anti-faculty rhetoric is still totally agnostic as to whether anything he says is true or whether anything he proposes will work.

How Charles Koch Is Helping Neo-Confederates Teach College Students.

In a Historic Vote, Renowned Art School Cooper Union Commits to Bringing Back Free Tuition For All.

Why Relentless Administrative Turnover Makes It Hard for Us to Do Our Jobs.

These Are the 100 Most Militarized Universities in America.

* The reviews for Isle of Dogs are coming in and they’re pretty mixed, with a lot of attention to the film’s aggressive cultural appropriation. Who could have predicted!

* None dare call it genocide: It’s been almost six months since Hurricane Maria, and Puerto Ricans are still dying.

Bad Games, Broken-World Playing, and the Scholarship of Repair.

* 1977: Semiocapitalism and the Real Subsumption of Fantasy.

Kurt Vonnegut Festival to Feature Father John Misty, Waxahatchee, and More.

As reported by the Kansas City Star, the indictment—which you can, and should, look through for yourself right here—reads like a slowly mounting horror story, as owner Jeff Henry, park manager Tyler Miles, and ride designer John Schooley (described as lacking “any kind of technical or engineering credential relevant to amusement ride design or safety”) apparently did everything in their power to make Verrückt a tragedy waiting to happen. Los Angeles Times correspondent Matt Pearce highlighted a number of the most chilling moments from the indictment on Twitter, including excerpts showing the ride’s rushed design and construction, secret failed bouts of testing, willful destruction of safety reports, and even an incident in which Miles allegedly sent lawyers in an effort to intimidate teenage employees from blowing the whistle on the park. Nationalize water parks.

* “If you are seeking a sentence of 3 years incarceration, state on the record that the cost to the taxpayer will be $126,000.00 (3 x $42,000.00) if not more and explain why you believe the cost is justified.” Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He’s Exceeding Expectations.

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash. I was completely willing to give the automated cars the benefit of the doubt before I saw the video, but it’s clear this technology is not ready and these trials should be suspended until it is.

A Driver’s Suicide Reveals the Dark Side of the Gig Economy.

Facebook is enmeshed in another controversy, this time over accusations that the firm Cambridge Analytica abused Facebook data to help Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election. But this is a big deal fundamentally because of a larger and more fundamental problem: Facebook is bad.

* White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys.

* Five-year relative survival is lower for blacks than whites for most cancers at each stage of diagnosis.

Unarmed black man shot to death in own backyard after police mistake cell phone for weapon.

The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever. The immediate criticism of this article I saw on Twitter: the outfit requires women to get almost entirely naked to go to the bathroom, change a tampon, or nurse.

An Arbitrary Number of Theses on Donald’s Trump.

* The United States of Amnesia, again and again. 15 Years. More Than 1 Million Dead. No One Held Responsible.

*  For the first time, we are living in a truly post-cold-war political environment in the United States.

Underground network readies homes to hide undocumented immigrants.

Immigrant mom arrested in front of kids and accused of human smuggling is released without charges.

‘Where’s Mommy?’: A family fled death threats, only to face separation at the border.

Five Manhattan doctors were paid more than $800,000 by a pharmaceutical company to prescribe a spray version of the highly potent and addictive opioid fentanyl to more and more patients whether they needed it or not, according to an indictment handed up Friday in federal court.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches across 617,000 square miles of the northern Pacific Ocean, based on their survey, and plastics make up 99.9 percent of the trash in the patch.

* U.S. Military Is World’s Biggest Polluter.

Humanity’s Meat and Dairy Intake Must Be Cut in Half by 2050 to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change. Why It’s Time for America to Tax Meat.

Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn.

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino has died after months of poor health, his carers say.

* Utah just legalized what parenting was like in the 1980s.

* Behold, the famous efficiency of capitalism.

* Stephen Hawking, socialist.

Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism.

Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite.

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data.

Jack Kirby’s 1979 concept sketches for “Science Fiction World”, a proposed theme park.

Analyzing the Crazy, Complicated Credits of Avengers: Infinity War.

My estimates regarding the average revenue generated by major-conference football and basketball players are based on varying assumptions, ranging from very conservative to relatively liberal, regarding the effects of big-time college sports on fund raising. Yet even the low-end estimate suggests that, if players were compensated on the model employed by professional sports leagues when they divide revenue, major college football and basketball players should receive an average of $750,000 annually. Note that this figure would still result in these nonprofit — and therefore largely untaxed — universities retaining revenues generated by football and basketball that would equal their entire athletic operating budgets just a decade ago.

* Punishing Women for Being Smart.

So in 2014, the Tampa Bay Times set out to count every officer-involved shooting in Florida during a six-year period. We learned that at least 827 people were shot by police — one every 2½ days.

Police lying persists, even amid an explosion of video evidence that has allowed the public to test officers’ credibility.

When Police Officers Use Sexual Assault to Terrorize Vulnerable Communities.

A proposal to stop 3D printers from making guns is a perfect parable of everything wrong with information security.

* If it’s anything like the comics, this could be really good: ‘Astro City’ TV Series Based On Comics In Works At FremantleMedia North America.

* Mars, bitches!

* Our nukes, ourselves.

* Not great, Bob.

What in God’s Name Happened to Ricky Gervais?

* I’ll certainly hear the asteroid out.

* The Fermi Paradox and the miracle of life.

* If you want a vision of the future.

* And of course you had me at Dungeons and Dragons creatures, generated by neural network.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 25, 2018 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Sunday Morning After ICFA Links!

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* Two poems from the great Jaimee Hills: “Frosted Palm” and “The Books in the Bushes.”

* ICYMI: My #ICFA39 talk, “Star Trek after Discovery.” Building on my AUFS post from last week, and it’s already inspired an expansion at r/DaystromInstitute.

* Have you played this new gritty realistic fantasy game?

* How does Neil Gaiman work?

* How vulture capitalists ate Toys R Us.

* The constitutional crisis is always arriving and never arrived. It’s been here at least twenty years.

* The market can’t solve a massacre.

And so in schools across the country, Americans make their children participate in Active Shooter drills. These drills, which can involve children as young as kindergartners hiding in closets and toilet stalls, and can even include simulated shootings, are not just traumatic and of dubious value. They are also an educational enterprise in their own right, a sort of pedagogical initiation into what is normal and to be expected. Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake. This seems designed to foster in children a consciousness that is at once hypervigilant and desperate, but also morbid and resigned—in other words, to mold them into perfectly docile citizen-consumers. And if children reject this position and try to take action, some educational authorities will attempt to discipline their resistance out of them, as in Texas, where one school district has threatened to penalize students who walk out in anti-gun violence actions, weaponizing the language of “choices” and “consequences” to literally quash “any type of protest or awareness.”

All rise and no fall: how Civilization reinforces a dangerous myth.

* Rethinking dehumanization.

There Are No Guardrails on Our Privacy Dystopia.

On misogynoir: citation, erasure, and plagiarism.

ICE Spokesman Resigns, Saying He Could No Longer Spread Falsehoods for Trump Administration.

* The U.S. separates a mother and daughter fleeing violence in Congo.

James Mattis is linked to a massive corporate fraud and nobody wants to talk about it.

* Amazing that Trump’s personal aide was fired by the White House while being investigated and then immediately rehired by the campaign and it’s like a C story at best.

* The A story.

How America’s prisons are fueling the opioid epidemic.

* The rise of the prison state.

Trump administration studies seeking the death penalty for drug dealers.

Former Black Panther Herman Wallace dies days after judge overturns murder conviction that saw him serve 41 years in solitary confinement.

* Oconomowoc schools impose limits on ‘privilege’ discussions after parents complain.

* With a tightening labor market, CEOs are chasing after the same workers they once derided as unemployable.

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning.

* The YouTube Kids app has been suggesting a load of conspiracy videos to children.

* The missing Obama millions.

* What America looked like before the EPA.

Supreme Court Can’t Wait to Kill Youth Climate Lawsuit.

Rapid Arctic warming and melting ice are increasing the frequency of blizzards in the Northeast, study finds.

* YouTube mini-lecture from Adam Kotsko: Trump as mutation, or parody, of neoliberalism. And some more Kotsko content: Superheroes, Science Fiction, and Social Transformation.

The Rise of Dismal Science Fiction.

* The Science Fiction of Roe v. Wade.

* Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures. A response.

* Against popular culture.

David Foster Wallace and the Horror of Neuroscience.

* Neither utopia nor apocalypse? Somedays I feel like both is the most likely outcome of all, a heaven for them and a hell for the rest of us.

Who Owns the Robots? Automation and Class Struggle in the 21st Century.

* Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. His last goodbye.

* Facing Disaster: The Great Challenges Framework.

‘Picked Apart by Vultures’: The Last Days of Stan Lee.

For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.

Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther.

PSA: Marvel’s Black Panther Animated Series is Streaming for Free on YouTube.

* Hate spree killings in Austin.

* Wakanda Forever.

* Thus Spake Black Bolt.

* To Catch a Predator. You know it’s a bleak story when the NYPD are the good guys.

The radical vision of Wages for Housework.

* Happy International Women’s Day.

* Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old brides may have married their rapists.

If NYT printed the *actual, real-life* sentiments of today’s conservative masses, it would print a bunch of paranoid, Fox-generated fairy tales and belligerent expressions of xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and proud, anti-intellectual ignorance. 

* Surveillance in everything: A US university is tracking students’ locations to predict future dropouts.

* Dialectics of the superhero: 1, 2.

* #MAaEEoOGFwNCBA.

* Pew pew.

* Huge, if true: Studying for a humanities PhD can make you feel cut off from humanity.

* From the archives: The Racial Injustice of Big-Time College Sports.

* Podcast minute: Screw It, We’re Just Gonna Talk about Spider-Man and The Beatles. The first is new and the second is old but both are worth checking out.

* Goodbye, cruel world.

* And I’m not a lazy home owner. I’m a goddamn hero.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 18, 2018 at 9:00 am

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!

All Your Friday Links!

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* The itself.blog Star Trek: Discovery event is underway! Star Trek: Discovery Is Optimism, But Not for Us. “Can you bury your heart”? Having feelings about Discovery. Star Trek: Discovery as the End of Next Generation Triumphalism.

* CFP: Activist Speculation and Visionary Fiction (MLA 19).

* Jaimee Hills is officially a dangerous woman.

* The Male Glance.

* The university in ruins: UW Stevens Point. The administration clearly doesn’t even understand what it’s proposing:

When releasing the plan, university officials said that English majors for teacher certification would continue. But Williams said that under the state Department of Public Instruction’s certification criteria, a person looking to become an English teacher has to have been an English major.

“They just both have to exist, or both have to be eliminated,” Williams said. “One depends directly on the other.”

Professors earn about 15 percent less than others with advanced degrees, finds a study circulated Tuesday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Though perhaps some of us make it up in job satisfaction (really).

* It’s gotten so bad in the humanities even the Yale grads don’t get jobs handed to them as soon as they graduate.

Why Creative-Writing Programs Have Been Havens for Harassment.

It has taken me two and a half decades to recognize that my experience of having a senior male nominal adviser and a female (usually more junior) actual adviser is common throughout academe. On Ghost Advising.

* Abusers and enablers in faculty culture.

* 5% raises in West Virginia. Onward to Oklahoma.

* Marquette vs. Trauma.

Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ — and is in fact a VICTIM.

On the Blackness of the Panther.

* Loved this from Barbara Ehrenreich: Body Work: The curiously self-punishing rites of fitness culture.

If anything, the culture of fitness has grown more combative than when I first got involved. It is no longer enough to “have a good workout,” as the receptionist at the gym advises every day; you should “crush your workout.” Health and strength are tedious goals compared to my gym’s new theme of “explosive strength,” achieved, as far I can see, through repeated whole-body swinging of a kettleball. If your gym isn’t sufficiently challenging, you might want to try an “ultra-extreme warrior workout” or buy a “home fitness system” from P90X, which in 2016 tweeted a poster of an ultra-cut male upper body, head bowed as if in prayer, with the caption “A moment of silence please for my body has no idea of what I’m about to put it through.” Or you could join CrossFit, the fastest-growing type of gym in the world, and also allegedly the most physically punishing. The program “prepares trainees for any physical contingency,” the company boasts, “not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable, too. Our specialty is not specializing,” and the latter category includes the zombie apocalypse. The mind’s stuggle for mastery over the body has become a kind of mortal combat.

* Too big to tax.

In this economy you’re either burned out, or you’re boxed out.

* The Secret NYPD Files: Officers Can Lie And Brutally Beat People — And Still Keep Their Jobs.

A prosecutor who obtained a wrongful conviction that sent a Houston man to death row for nearly 10 years didn’t just withhold evidence but also denied under oath that he had information that supported Alfred Dewayne Brown’s alibi, court records show.

* Twilight of the cult film.

Could Trump get a White House job if he weren’t president? Didn’t we already know Trump couldn’t get a loan before he was president?

Beware Liberal-Baiting “White House in Chaos” Stories. Trump’s Position Is As Solid As It’s Ever Been.

* Gratuitous cruelty by Homeland Security. Lying to the immigrant soldiers you promised citizenship.

A Dozen Democrats Want To Help Banks Hide Racial Discrimination In Mortgages.

Guess Who’s Not Coming To America? International Students.

* Kobe Steel’s Chief to Step Down as It Discloses Wider Quality Problems Fifty-Year Conspiracy to Defraud Customers.

* Toddler feelings helpline.

— If you still feel pretty messed up about how they were just going to burn the Velveteen Rabbit, please mash all of the keys but mostly 2.

* White flight remains a reality.

* Liberate our schools.

‘50 or 60. If I get lucky maybe 150.’

* The grim reality of job hunting in the age of AI.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe only really makes sense when you remember Captain America is a trans man.

Wait, what exactly was Luke Skywalker’s plan in Return Of The Jedi?

* The opioid crisis has become an “epidemic of epidemics.” Meanwhile, a new study suggests opioids are no better than Tylenol for treating some kinds of pain.

* Kentucky’s ‘child bride’ bill stalls as groups fight to let 13-year-olds wed.

* U.N. Report On Magical Realism Warns Of Increased Incidences Of Women’s Tears Flooding The Entire World.

False news stories travel faster and farther on Twitter than the truth.

* There’s no idea so terrible there isn’t someone in favor of it.

York University philosophy professor and team submit brief supporting chimpanzee personhood.

* Ok, but you’re on a very short leash.

Her name was Kanga and she was trouble.

* I Am the Very Important Longread Everyone Is Talking About.

* The United States of Middle-earth.

* Understanding Fight Club.

* And the arc of history is long, but.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 9, 2018 at 11:39 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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