“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Over the next few weeks, Mythgard is running a free online course on Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. I’m rereading Le Guin’s Hainish books in order to prepare. The Left Hand of Darkness isn’t the first book in the chronology, but it is the most famous…

What would society look like without gender? How would love and politics differ if we were neither male nor female? Gender is such a critical part of our identity that this thought exercise turns out to be incredibly difficult. Almost all human stories have some element of romance, or at gendered norms. In The Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin asks readers to shed our cultural baggage and explore a humanity beyond gender.

Continue reading

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Update: Sci-Fi Handbook

Just a quick update. I haven’t posted in a while because things in the real world have been hectic. My next big project for this site is to review the Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy from the publisher. As you can see below, this is quite a hefty tome.

IMG_1449

As much as I love science fiction, I’ve always felt I didn’t have a particularly strong grasp on the intellectual history of science fiction. Of course, I’ve read some of the classics, but from the perspective of a casual reader, not as a scholar. I’m looking forward to learning how literary scholars approach the genre.

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Faded Sun (C.J. Cherryh)

 

200px-CherryhFadedSunOmnibusCover

I happened to find The Faded Sun trilogy on my dad’s bookshelf when I was helping him sell his house. I had never heard of C.J. Cherryh, but it had been a while since I’d read space opera from the 1970s, so I figured I’d try it. Plus, the beautiful cover art by Michael Whelan evoked Dune, with a race of ancient warriors on a desert planet.

The Faded Sun takes place some time in the distant future. Humanity has established colonies on other worlds. As the book opens, humans and an alien race called the Regul had just signed a peace treaty putting an end to a forty-year war. As part of the agreement, the Regul agree to cede the planet Kesrith to the humans. Kesrith also happens to host a colony of Mri, who served as mercenaries for the Regul during the war.

*** SPOILER WARNING *** Continue reading

Posted in Books, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek Beyond (part 2)

Star+Trek+Beyond+PosterIn Part 1 of my review, I focused on how Star Trek Beyond handles the characters of Kirk and Spock. In Part 2, I address problems with the villain Krall…

Unfortunately, like its predecessors, Star Trek Beyond struggles when it comes to giving the crew of the Enterprise a worthy adversary. Krall isn’t nearly as offensive to Trek sensibilities as Khan was in Star Trek Into Darkness, but the character is easily the weakest part of the film.

*** SPOILER WARNING: I will discuss some major spoilers, so it is best to watch the film before reading any further. *** Continue reading

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek Beyond (part 1)

Star+Trek+Beyond+Poster

Star Trek Beyond is a sequel to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, but it takes greater effort than either of those two films to root itself in the spirit of The Original SeriesBeyond is first and foremost an action film, yet it’s not afraid to slow down and allow the characters to interact. …

*** SPOILER WARNING: I will discuss some major spoilers, so it is best to watch the film before reading any further. *** Continue reading

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star_Trek_Into_Darkness_DVD_Region_1_coverStar Trek Into Darkness is a decent enough action film, but it’s not a good “Star Trek” film. On the level of pure spectacle, I probably enjoyed this film more than the 2009 reboot. However, Into Darkness suffers from basic storytelling problems. There are some interesting ideas in the film, but it’s as if the writers didn’t know what to do with them.

SPOILER WARNING: I’ll be discussing spoilers, so tread cautiously if you haven’t seen this movie. One character revelation in particular will probably prove maddening to older Trek fans.

Continue reading

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Star Trek (2009)

Star-Trek-2009J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek is easily the most polished Star Trek movie ever made. It looks great. Abrams moves the story along at such a brisk pace that it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. The new actors step into the iconic roles of Kirk, Spock, and Uhura with grace and ease. It’s a well produced summer action film.

Yet, that’s part of the problem. The 2009 film was the beginning of a reboot intended to introduce Star Trek to younger audiences. Unfortunately, that meant stripping the franchise of much of what made it “Star Trek.” This was quite deliberate on Paramount’s part. It even ran a marketing campaign boasting that this wasn’t “your father’s Star Trek.” The end result is a somewhat generic film. Continue reading

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season 6, Episode 10)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowWith only 13 episodes left for the show, Game of Thrones needed to wrap a lot of subplots in order to have enough time to deal with the impending White Walker invasion. “The Winds of Winter” did that, and then some. The episode killed off most supporting characters in a few dramatic scenes. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this downsizing was absolutely necessary. Game of Thrones had gotten too unwieldy; Season 5 seemed so intent on tracking the various subplots that it forgot to tell a story. “The Winds of Winter” violently confirmed that, at its core, Game of Thrones is, has been, and always will be about the three primary factions we met back in Season 1: the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens. Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Game of Thrones, TV Shows | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowGame of Thrones has become infamous for its unpredictability. Beheading Ned Stark in Season 1 shocked viewers because it defied everything we thought we knew about fantasy stories (namely, that the hero always wins). Over the past season, the plot of Game of Thrones has become increasingly predictable; the show is no longer willing or able to subvert audience expectations (Hodor’s death in “The Door” being a major exception). Instead, how the characters respond to predictable plot developments has become less predictable. This is what makes “Battle of the Bastards” so effective. The plot is about as straightforward as Game of Thrones gets, yet the episode contains moments that subvert what we knew – or thought we knew – about these characters. Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Game of Thrones, TV Shows | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Game of Thrones, “No One” (Season 6, Episode 8)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowSeason 6 of Game of Thrones has been an improvement over the previous season in all ways but one: Meereen. To be fair, Meereen is far from becoming the new Dorne, but the plot thread isn’t quite working as effectively as I’d hoped. Tyrion’s time in Meereen had the potential to be a fascinating story about political compromise, but the writers seem unsure how to adapt such a story to the show’s format.

At the end of Season 5, the Sons of the Harpy forced Daenerys to flee Meereen. It seemed like a firm rejection of Daenerys’ heavy-handed reliance on military force to impose a social and political revolution. Daenerys abolished slavery overnight and left many dispossessed elites bitter and angry. She proved unable to govern effectively without the support – or at least acquiescence – of those elites. Continue reading

Posted in Fantasy, Game of Thrones, TV Shows | Tagged , , | Leave a comment