Writers love to complain about the necessity of genre. They’d prefer to write above the petty differences among romance, mystery, fantasy, and dozens of other pigeonholes and sub-pigeonholes. Most writers, though, acknowledge the need for publishers and bookstore owners to make book-finding and thus book-selling intuitive for the reader through categorization. Genre gets mischievous when … More Reviews: It’s true. Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder is science fiction.
I’ll be honest. Movies based on comic books don’t interest me. The only reason I went to see Doctor Strange over the weekend was Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve become a major fan after his performances in the latest BBC version of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and his movies, particularly The Imitation Game, in which he played … More Review: Doctor Strange: It’s All Benedict Cumberbatch
America is going through another paroxysm of racially tinged violence, reminding everyone of our failure to reconcile our history with our ideals. In my own lifetime, the country has experienced urban riots (e.g, Watts in Los Angeles), violence after the Rodney King verdict, and last week, two more in a long string of deaths of … More Review: Augments of Change salient in a time of racial tension
As a writer who likes to look at speculative fiction through the lens of climate change, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to read Monica Byrne‘s debut novel, The Girl in the Road, published in 2014. Though its portrait of two women connected across time and space is classified as science fiction by some, … More The Girl in the Road: Literary fiction with a sci-fi overlay
Successful science fiction and speculative fiction reflect the hopes and anxieties of their day, the same as any other narrative art. Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury were men of their times. Writing at the peak of American technological, military, and economic power after World War II, much of their work was infused with can-do optimism. Sci-fi’s … More Review: Science fiction exists to explore the possibilities of change
A strain of environmentalism sees civilization as a mistake, a wrong turn in history taken 10,000 years ago at the invention of agriculture. The error sparked a chain of events taking us down the path to global warming and if you extend the trendline, global apocalypse. It would’ve been better if the first seeds sown … More Review: A faux-paleo world with email stumbles on its contradictions
Good artists copy. Great artists steal. — attributed to Pablo Picasso, among others Discussion of cultural appropriation has surged in the last few years in the context of race relations. White culture has borrowed and stolen from black culture for decades, particularly in entertainment, usually without enough credit to the origins of a style of … More Review: The appropriated world of The Guild of Saint Cooper
Spoilers ahead, including details of book endings You’ve invested days, maybe weeks of time in a relationship, but at the end, you’re disappointed. It happens in real-life relationships, and it happens to readers invested in a novel’s characters. Fortunately, the latter is a rare thing, but when it happens, it can be a gut punch. … More A Tale of Disappointment and Two Endings
Star War: The Force Awakens has taken in $1 billion in ticket sales, and I’m betting a large share comes from parents taking their kids to see the blockbuster. It’s more than mom and/or dad looking for ways to occupy the young’ns on a long holiday weekend. What was once a triennial or quadrennial ritual … More Why parents should take their kids to see the new Star Wars
Climate science encourages the public to imagine global warming as a decades-long desiccation, a slow transformation of liquid water to vapor locked in the atmosphere, turning the planet into a wasteland of deserts, as if everything is dropped into a saucepan over high heat and cooked into Nevada. In speculative fiction and fantasy, the image … More Review: Gold Fame Citrus is tangy, acidic, and tasty
My two college-age daughters and I walked out of a showing of The Martian last weekend in a mild daze resembling postprandial satisfaction. You want that feeling of well-being to go on, and so the first question I asked them and an accompanying friend was, “Should it get a sequel?” The answer: “NO!!!!!” I agree. … More Why The Martian’s success probably won’t spawn a sequel
I read Karl Taro Greenfeld’s The Subprimes in the midst of Seattle’s hottest summer in a century, so it was easy to imagine the characters in this laugh-out-loud satire surviving the burning dust of an expired exurb. I have a specific interest in climate change as a narrative force, and the novel’s slow strangulation of … More Review: The Subprimes is Primo Satire
My college-age daughter Emily and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road over the weekend and we left the theater wondering what all the fuss is about. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the George Miller action thriller a 98 percent rating. Competitor Metacritic rates it 89 percent. I know three people who probably wouldn’t recommend … More Mad Max: Fury Road sputters, despite its feminist cred
The western drought has forced everyone to know their rights. From San Diego to Seattle, talk shows, newspapers, and blogs overflow with debates over senior water rights versus junior water rights, who is abusing their rights to water by wasting it, and how much government is trampling on those rights. A year ago, water was … More Review: The Water Knife is bleak, but uncomfortably possible
Policy wonks, eco-alarmists, and right-wing denialists dominate the climate change conversation with boring reports, deafening polemics, and forgettable op-eds. The mound of non-fiction reaches to the moon, and we’re no closer to a collective response to a warming world. In contrast, the number of novels written with climate change themes might not reach the top … More Review: Why aren’t ‘serious’ writers writing about climate change?
The slow, rolling nature of the unfolding changes to the planet’s climate stump many storytellers, who fall back on the set-pieces–mega-storms, pandemics, floods–rather than focus on the subtler effects on the planet of rising CO2 levels. The long timescales are another problem; some transformations might be noticed in a human lifetime, others may take millennia … More Review: Clade shows love and hope are timeless in a changing climate
Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic with a multi-versal scope. On the one hand, it’s a young adult romance featuring a mixed-race boy named “Boy” and his infatuation with Valentine, a red-haired beauty with a talent for particle physics. On the other, it’s a speculative story of a family falling on hard emotional times … More Review: Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic
One of my pet peeves about environmental activists and climate change activists in particular is their shriveled sense of humor. Not all, mind you, but most beat a constant drum of doom and gloom that makes me want to jump off a cliff. Way to crucify my Jesus, people! That’s why it’s refreshing to read … More Review: Why can’t climate change be funny and romantic, too?
Ok, so I’m late to the party, but I just spent the last six or eight weeks (I’ve lost count) reading the 1,123-page paperback edition of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, book five of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly because my obsessive-compulsive tendencies prevented me from abandoning the door-stopper. … More Has Game of Thrones reached its sell-by date?
Interstellar is a glorious tangle, an ambitious film that accomplishes much, but fails to grab the audience by the throat. Director Christopher Nolan delivers a sci-fi epic true to the Hollywood form, spanning galaxies and taking the viewer to places impossible to visit in real life. It expands on a classic American (indeed, human) theme–striking … More Review: How “Interstellar” resembles “How the West Was Won”