REVIEW: “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”

MV5BNjVjODZmYWEtNjZhNC00MTdkLTgyMGYtNDBiODRmMzJkMDdjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_If anybody had told me five years ago that 2019’s hottest new fantasy show would be a spinoff of Jim Henson’s cult classic The Dark Crystal, I probably would have questioned their sanity. I’ve long had a fondness for the original film and even appeared as a guest on the Trial by Stone podcast. Nevertheless, Dark Crystal seemed destined to remain a niche fandom. The film came out the year I was born and wasn’t a particularly big box office hit. Moreover, the movie characters are all puppets; a fantasy epic without people doesn’t exactly scream marketability.

Fortunately, we live in a wonderful, bizarre world in which Netflix is prepared to give talented artists millions of dollars to bring their crazy visions to life. Continue reading “REVIEW: “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance””

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“Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy”

As regular readers of this blog will know, Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049 are two of my favorite science fiction films. I’m honored to have a chapter in the upcoming book Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy. The chapter looks at replicants from the perspective of the political science literature on ethnic conflict. This was a fun project and led me to new insights into the film. The book goes on sale on August 20, 2019.

 

“A People’s Future of the United States”

40163361._SY475_I’m a political scientist and I love science fiction, so in some ways A People’s Future of the United States was right up my alley. This is a collection of short stories by progressive science fiction authors about possible visions for America’s future. Some of the stories are more literal extrapolations of present trends into the future. Others try to show how our future could be different – for better or worse. A few work more on a thematic or symbolic level than a literal level.

As I mentioned, these are progressive science fiction authors. The futures imagined in this book all fall along the same political ideology. You won’t find libertarians in the vein of Robert Heinlein in this book. These stories don’t use subtle analogies to try to introduce new points of view or challenge preexisting biases. Rather, they’re bold proclamations about our political future. They’re more about inspiring those who already agree rather than persuading those who don’t. I certainly don’t say that as a criticism, but rather to note that the book will likely appeal most to certain kinds of readers.

I hope this isn’t the last book of its kind. I love the idea of science fiction authors engaging in more (overtly) political storytelling.

“Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski

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Some of us might know Joseph Michael Straczynski through his work on Babylon 5. Some of us came to know him through his time on the Spider-Man and Superman comic book lines. Some might have found Joe by browsing on Netflix and finding Sense8. Some of us might even know him primarily through his always amusing and often insightful Twitter feed.

Well, unless you’ve read this book, you don’t know Joe. Continue reading ““Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski”

“Relay” comic

672071._SX1280_QL80_TTD_-296x450Relay, a new science fiction comic series from Aftershock Comics, is both refreshingly original and frustratingly opaque. The story is set far in the future. In accord with the dominant religion, humans invite a giant device known as a “relay” onto each planet they have colonized. The relays guide human evolution, speeding up the process of civilization, but also impose uniformity. The main character, Jad, begins as a true believer, but ultimately starts to wonder about the true purpose of the relays.  Continue reading ““Relay” comic”

“Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden

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I am writing an article about Star Wars Expanded Universe references in the animated TV shows for an upcoming book, and so decided to reread Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple. This book is a fascinating case study in transmedia storytelling and adaptation. Dark Disciple is based on scripts written by Katie Lucas for The Clone Wars animated show before it was canceled in 2013. However, the seeds of the story originated in the Dark Horse Comics Republic line, which was part of the Clone Wars multimedia project in the early 2000s. The book both draws upon and contradicts the comics in interesting ways. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden”

“Defining a Galaxy” by Bill Slavicsek

51wIkLXTh2L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_I’m currently working on a project about the Star Wars Expanded Universe – the collection of tie-in novels, comics, video games, and other media before the Disney era – and how it influenced the Star Wars animated TV shows. I picked up Bill Slavicsek’s Defining a Galaxy as part of my research. Slavicsek worked as an editor at West End Games while the company was creating material for Star Wars roleplaying games during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading ““Defining a Galaxy” by Bill Slavicsek”

“Becoming Dr. Seuss” by Brian Jay Jones

511YVC9L5bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Brian Jay Jones is quickly becoming the foremost chronicler of the lives of American pop culture icons. His biography of Jim Henson is one of my favorite books of the past decade. His treatment of George Lucas wasn’t quite as insightful, perhaps because there have already been many other books about Lucas and Star Wars. His latest book, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, looks at a very different creative genius.  Continue reading ““Becoming Dr. Seuss” by Brian Jay Jones”

Game of Thrones: The Final Review

gameofthronesseason8posterGame of Thrones has ended. There will be no more episodes. It would have been impossible for the writers to wrap up every single plot thread in Season 8, especially because this past season had fewer episodes (6 instead of usual 10). The final episode, “The Iron Throne,” did manage to provide a sense of closure for most of the character arcs and had some incredible visual moments. However, in its rush to the end, the final episode lost sight of some of the political commentary and themes that made Game of Thrones so compelling in the first place. The raison d’être for this story is question “what makes for a good king?” The finale barely engaged with that question, which is a missed opportunity.

*** SPOILERS for Season 8 of Game of Thrones BELOW *** Continue reading “Game of Thrones: The Final Review”

“Star Wars: Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray

91AAlmNqJYLIt’s ages since we’ve had a compelling story set during the Prequel Trilogy. As Disney and Lucasfilm have focused on the Sequels and nostalgia for the Original Trilogy, it’s sometimes felt like the Prequels had been left by the wayside. Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice captures much of what made me fall in love with this era of Star Wars saga 20 years ago this month (hint: it’s not the acting). Gray is easily the strongest writers currently working in the Star Wars canon. She manages to imbue Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi with a depth only hinted at in The Phantom Menace.

*** Mild Spoilers below *** Continue reading ““Star Wars: Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray”