Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Root for the Apes: War for the Planet of the Apes

The thing I've always loved about the Planet of the Apes movies (as well as Pierre Boulle's novel) is how deeply subversive it all is.  Stories about "a planet where apes evolved from men" turn so many of our self-assured certainties on their heads when it comes to evolution, "progress," intelligence, race, and the place of humans in relation to our fellow animals and the universe.  If you didn't read "a planet where apes evolved from men" in Charleton Heston's voice, I must insist that you go back and do so immediately (see the clip at the end if you need help).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017 Hugo Ballot, Part Two

Hugo ballots are due TODAY (Sat. July 15, 2017).  See my previous post for part one of my ballot as well as my three principles of Hugo voting.  That post includes my votes for the main written fiction categories: novel, novella, novelette, and short story.  Here's what I think about the other categories!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Principles of Hugo Voting/ Hugo Ballot, Part One

Hugo ballots are due TOMORROW (Sat. July 15, 2017).  If you'd like to vote, you can do so from the Worldcon 75 website.  I had a great time at last year's Worldcon in Kansas City, but unfortunately I won't be attending Worldcon in Helsinki this year.  If you can't make it to Helsinki, either, you can still purchase a supporting membership for 35 euros, which entitles you to vote.  But do it soon!

There were a lot of great finalists this year.  You can see them all on the official Hugo Award site.  Way to go, science fiction and fantasy creators and fans!  There were so many good finalists, I thought of some handy principles to help.  Here are my three principles of Hugo voting (riffing a bit on Asimov's three laws of robotics just for fun).

Three Principles of Hugo Voting

  1. Works that are more ground breaking in the field in their construction, plot, characters, setting, ideas, etc. are to be preferred as are works that are neither sequels nor works by authors who have won Hugos in recent years.
  2. Works that delve more deeply into philosophical content are to be preferred.
  3. Works that are just plain fun and enjoyable are to be preferred as long as such preference does not conflict with the first or second principles.

Much like Asimov's three laws, I'm not sure it's possible to coherently follow these principles, but I did the best I could.  So without further ado...

My 2017 Hugo Ballot, Part One 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CONvergence 2017 Report

Last weekend I attended CONvergence in Bloomington, MN, which is, according to the website, "an annual convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy in all media: a 4-day event with more than 6,000 members, and the premiere event of our kind in the upper mid-west."

CONvergence is also special for me personally as it was one of the first cons I ever attended back in 2001.  I attended every year up through 2005, and I've been meaning to go back ever since.  So this year's CONvergence was 12 years in the making for me!  (What happened?  Short answer: I moved away from the Twin Cities in August 2005 and never quite managed to get back to visit during CONvergence ... until this year!).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Twin Peaks and the Pleasures of Weirdness

A relatively small dose of weirdness from Twin Peaks: The Return

When I was in junior high in the early 1990's, my friend Adam kept telling me about this weird show called Twin Peaks.  It didn't sound like the sort of show typical 14-year-olds would be into.  I couldn't really tell what it was about, honestly, beyond some sort of murder mystery and an FBI agent who really liked pie.  I probably watched a couple episodes, said, "Cool," and moved on.

Several years later when we were (technically) adults, Adam had a weekend Twin Peaks marathon on VHS (this was way before Netflix made marathon viewing a normal thing).  I've been a big fan ever since.  I've watched the original series a few times, most recently to prepare for the new season/return on Showtime.  Incidentally, Adam and I are still good friends, and it may be no coincidence that he became a horror and fantasy author -- check out his stuff as well as what he has to say about Twin Peaks.

The original Twin Peaks was many things: a murder mystery, an evening soap opera, an investigation into the seedier side of small town America.  But as compelling as all that was, for me the greatest achievement of Twin Peaks was its unrepentant weirdness that constantly leaves me wondering, "How in the hell did this get on TV?" (Okay, the commercial success of movies like David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) probably had something to do with it, but that really only deepens the mystery if you actually watch his movies.)

(Warning: Very minor spoilers ahead.  I'm mentioning things in general terms, not discussing major plot points).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cultivated Callousness: Is This What We Want?

Philando Castile

The problem with our contemporary culture isn’t that people can often be callous and irrational.  That’s our lot as imperfect creatures.  The problem is that we seem to have given up the idea that we can do any better. 

In fact, being callous toward others seems to be increasingly worn as a badge of honor.  It can be a form of powerful moral grandstanding to be callous toward a particular group of others.  Even our entertainment often celebrates individuals who obtain what they want through callousness to everyone else.

Many white Americans have a cultivated callousness toward black Americans, demonstrated most recently after the acquittal of the police officer who killed Philando Castile.  Although this case also has to do with structural legal issues that make it almost impossible to convict police officers, I see no sense in denying that responses would be different had Castile been white, especially from white Americans who say things like, "He didn't comply!" (with the implication that he thereby deserved to die) or the NRA's near silence in a case that ought to be a rallying cry for Second Amendment defenders. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Science, Magic, and Silliness: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

I picked up All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders after it won the Nebula Award for best novel and to do my diligence as a Hugo voter as it's a Hugo finalist.  I found it mostly entertaining with some interesting ideas and funny bits, but I don't understand the hype.  Maybe Anders is close friends with a lot of SFWA members (Science Fiction Writers of America - the group that votes on the Nebulas)?  Maybe her rightly praised work on the i09 website is doing some of the heavy lifting in the background?  Maybe I just don't get it?

I'll say more on the humor and the ideas in a bit, but first a bit on what didn't work for me.