You wouldn’t normally think of puppies as monsters bent on destroying the world, but this week, they did. The organizers of the Hugo Awards, the most prestigious fan-driven award in science fiction, announced the nominees for its 2016 awards. The SadPuppies and the RabidPuppies, the reactionaries angry at the awards for challenging their literary worldview, … More The Hugo Awards are dead, and the xPuppies killed them
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
The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend turned national politics on its head. Not only will Americans elect a new president, but the Senate will debate the future direction of the highest court in the land. The situation makes me wake up in the middle of the night with meme … More Two thoughts about the future U.S. Supreme Court
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
Once a week from 1959 to 1964, Rod Serling invited Americans to “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” The Twilight Zone illustrated the permeable boundary between fact and fantasy, a region explored by science, which pushes the edges of the unknown, postulating things unproven, but inferred. The announcement of the … More I Want to Believe in Planet Nine
An unfinished version of this post appeared earlier by mistake. Apologies for my fat fingers. A couple of days after Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened, Washington Post contributor Matthew Bowman pointed out a long fascination by the Mormon community for science fiction and fantasy. Some of the most well-known and best-selling writers in the … More What Catholic sci-fi writers can learn from Mormon writers.
It’s a ripe scene for satire. Twenty-five thousand bureaucrats and another 25,000 hangers-on are gathered in Paris at COP21 to exchange climate change jargon over sustainable wine and cheese. It’s hard, however, to ignore the seriousness of their effort, especially as a pall lingers over the city three weeks after the November 13 terror attacks. … More What is the role of a writer as climate change creeps up on us?
Many high-profile science fiction writers are bemoaning the tone and content of 21st century sci-fi and fantasy. It’s too dark, too depressing, too filled with rampaging robots, malevolent AIs, and oppressive governments. The trend is hurting humanity by discouraging the kind of can-do-ism that got America to the moon and beyond. We need to revive … More Is Microsoft co-opting sci-fi’s techno-optimism vs skepticism debate?
Great fiction dramatizes times, places and attitudes it was never meant to illuminate. Shakespeare’s plays are loved today, despite the sometimes impenetrable language and unacceptable sexism and racism, because they reveal the universal. For several years, I’ve been interested in how fiction authors deal with climate change, and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one … More How writers can read The Grapes of Wrath as climate fiction
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 find the genre wars incredibly entertaining, mostly because they’re pointless, and the participants waste an amazing amount of time making their points when they could be writing good stories. The kerfuffle everyone in the scifi universe talks about these days concerns the definition of “science fiction.” Traditionalists, who call themselves the Sad Puppies, have … More More Skirmishes in the Genre Wars
Science fiction has a long, glorious history on radio, beginning in the medium’s golden age with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Sci-fi dropped off radio’s radar as television took over, but the genre occasionally reappears in special projects. Chicago-based WBEZ-FM, one of the country’s leading public radio stations (This American Life; Serial), has produced a thoughtful … More Review: “After Water” Radio Stories Put Climate Change In a New Light
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
Spoilers ahead… The key moment of Ex Machina arrives when eccentric tech CEO Nathan Bateman tells Caleb Smith, his employee, why the young programmer was selected to deliver a sophisticated Turing test on Ava, Nathan’s android invention. Nathan lists off the reasons, and one of them is Caleb’s “moral compass,” his understanding of right and … More Review: Ex Machina and the amoral machine
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?
Cheaters never prosper. That’s what I was taught in kindergarten, and although the dissident science fiction writers known as the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” have only gamed the 2015 Hugo Awards ballot to their benefit, rather than defrauding it, the principle still applies. People who twist a system to their benefit only hurt themselves … More Here’s How to Beat the Sad Puppies: Let Them Win
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
I’m reading a new mystery novel and there’s a problem. I can’t help but think the author is holding back, like a sprinter on the starting block, but not quite ready to run all out. The novel’s characters are too nice to each other, preferring to forgive than hold a grudge, pulling back from saying … More Why science fiction writers should reveal their inmost selves
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
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?