Sunday, February 18, 2018

Some Interesting Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2017

Some of the books discussed here!

Last year I wrote a post called "Most Interesting SF/F Novels of 2016" instead of a traditional "Best of" or "Favorites" list like I did for 2015.  As I explained with my post on TV of 2017, there's something a bit presumptuous about a "Best of" list considering that there's a lot of great stuff I haven't personally experienced.  Nobody can get to everything, after all.

So this year I thought I'd entirely forego the traditionally bombastic claims and settle for a post on some books published in 2017 that I felt were interesting.  I'm not ranking these, since each is interesting for different reasons, although careful readers will be able to discern my favorites.  This list is also focused on my reading in science fiction and fantasy.  I do read other stuff (especially philosophy books), and you can find see what I've been reading on my Goodreads profile.  While you're there, please feel free to add me as a friend!

You may also notice that I'm not posting this until mid-February of 2018.  I got a bit behind on my reading schedule (one book on this list is responsible for most of it!), and then I got a bit behind on my blogging.  Alas, I also have a job and other non-blog things going on.  But here I am at at last!  So without further ado, some interesting science fiction and fantasy books of 2017!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Some Interesting TV of 2017

I was originally planning to write a "Best of" list for my favorite TV shows of 2017, but I've gotten a little tired of the genre of "Best of" lists.  There's a mind-boggling amount of TV content available these days, so it seems a bit presumptuous to claim that the best of it can only come from the measly percentage that I've seen.  Also, these shows are all different enough that it seems unfair (impossible?) to rank them against each other.  Besides, it's mid-Februrary 2018, so it seems a bit late to march in the "Best of 2017" parade.

Instead I give you: Some Interesting TV of 2017!

(Note also that I'm limiting myself to science fiction and fantasy broadly construed.  I'm also only talking about shows that came out in 2017.  And I'm leaving out a few I did watch, like The Orville and The Mist.  I'll wait for a future post to tackle the latest episodes of The X-Files and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, which were released in the US in 2018).

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Reminders: Nazis are Bad and February is Black History Month


Maybe I was naïve, but until the last couple years I thought most people had figured out the whole "Nazis are bad" thing.  But then came the resurgence of explicit white nationalism and the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA.  More recently such hate has found its way to my own backyard: there was white nationalist propaganda featuring a picture of Hitler saying "Hitler was Right" pasted over a Black History Month sign at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Wed. Feb. 7, 2018.  (See the image below).

Friday, February 9, 2018

Listening to Asian Philosophy: Responses to Pigliucci

Śaṅkara, Maṇḍana, and Ubhāyabhārati engaged in philosophical debate

In an earlier post I mentioned a recent conference presentation of mine that generated a blog post from philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.  In my earlier post I reproduced the original handout from my talk.  Here I'm reproducing (maybe for posterity, maybe for fun) some of my responses to Pigliucci's post, particularly on the topic of "Eastern philosophy."  You can see all of the comments on his original post.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Truth Shall Set You Free? - Naiyāyikas, Stoics, and Skeptics on Philosophy and the Good Life

Marcus Aurelius: Stoic, Emperor, Horse Lover

I recently gave a talk at the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association called "The Truth Shall Set You Free?: Naiyāyikas, Stoics, and Skeptics on Philosophy and the Good Life."  Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher of science with an interest in Stoicism, was in the audience and recently wrote a blog post about my talk on his blog How to Be a Stoic (you can find his post here).

Given the interest in the talk, I thought I might reproduce my handout here on my blog.  So, here it is (with a few minor edits).  If you wish to learn more about any of the schools and figures I mention here, check out the bibliography at the end.  I may reproduce my comments on Pigliucci's post as a separate post here.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Five Lessons from Le Guin

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday at the age of 88.  She was, as I’ve said before, “a national – nay, international, nay, intergalactic – treasure.” 

I’ve often wondered why people mourn celebrities the way we do in our celebrity-obsessed age.  After all, I didn’t know Le Guin personally.  Sadly, I never even met her once.  But I have to admit that her death has hit me pretty hard this week.  (I’m not the only one: see this list of SFF authors’ commemorations).

Le Guin combined literary beauty with philosophical depth in a way nobody else ever did, nor, I suspect, ever will again.  She could make you feel as deeply as she could make you think.  She could wiggle into your consciousness to plant seeds of questions and ways of seeing you had no way of imagining, at least not before she had cast her authorial spell.  She possessed the ansible that could communicate directly with the reader’s deepest core of being.  Her dreams could change your reality.

I think Le Guin’s work has meant a lot to me because Le Guin was not merely an entertainer.  She was an educator.  Her work contains profound lessons for those open to learning them. I thought that the best way to commemorate her on this blog would be to list some of the lessons she has taught us and will continue to teach us as long as people keep reading her work.  (It is a bittersweet coincidence that I will for the first time be introducing students to The Left Hand of Darkness in my philosophy and science fiction course this semester).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Report on Chattacon 43

Skeletor costume at the Chattacon Vintage Halloween costume display, Jan. 2018

Last weekend I attended Chattacon, a nice little speculative fiction convention here in Chattanooga, TN, USA.  As I've written about before, cons are vital for the community of science fiction/fantasy/horror fandom as a place to meet other fans and let your geek flag fly proudly.

Here are a few highlights from my experience at Chattacon 43.