“Miyazakiworld” by Susan Napier

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A few years ago, I discovered Studio Ghibli and fell in love with Japanese anime. I’m particularly fond of Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to use animation to tell stories that are emotionally moving, visually stunning, and intellectually stimulating. Miyazaki’s films combine whimsical settings, strong female protagonists, and unconventional plots. I’m still new to this brave new world of anime, so I was excited to find Japanese culture expert Susan Napier’s latest book to help me make sense of Miyazaki’s oeuvre. Continue reading ““Miyazakiworld” by Susan Napier”

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“Frank Herbert” by Timothy O’Reilly

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For anyone who wants to learn more about Frank Herbert’s life and philosophy, I recommend picking up Timothy O’Reilly’s biography of Frank Herbert. O’Reilly’s book is an intellectual biography of the man, his influences, and his thought process. He also interviewed Herbert for the book. It’s available for free on Tim O’Reilly’s website.

The “Alien” Female

615Jt--UndL._SL1024_On May 3, I’ll be joining the Mythgard Movie Club to talk about Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi movie Alien. Here I share my thoughts on what the film means to me, especially when it comes to gender representation in cinema…

During the past few years, female fans have become increasingly vocal in their disappointment over the lack of female protagonists in science fiction and fantasy. To be honest, I initially found this somewhat puzzling – not because I didn’t want female action heroes, but because I thought we already had them. When I was growing up, the biggest pop culture franchises featured characters like Princess Leia and Sarah Connor, while Dana Scully, Xena, and Buffy dominated on the small screen. My favorite sci-fi action hero was (and still is) Ellen Ripley.  Continue reading “The “Alien” Female”

The Last Jedi and Me

luke-last-jedi-posterIn the weeks since I shared my first impressions of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Episode VIII has become the most divisive film in the Star Wars canon. Professional reviewers, who tend to prioritize the acting and themes in a film, have overwhelmingly praised the way director Rian Johnson deconstructs Star Wars tropes and subverts expectations. By contrast, fans, who often care more about the characters and story continuity, have been much more mixed in their response. Some love that the film takes the franchise in new directions, while others complain about the self-aware humor and the slow middle act. The Last Jedi has become a sort of Star Wars Rorschach test in that each viewer’s response says as much about that person’s relationship with Star Wars as it does about the film. Continue reading “The Last Jedi and Me”

“Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War” by Ken Mondschein

52239536Like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings mythology, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is set in a world that looks like – and is clearly inspired by – our Middle Ages, but isn’t actually set in Europe between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. Instead, Game of Thrones takes place in a fantastical world in which winters last a generation and magic is real. However, given the similarities between our Westeros and Medieval Europe, it’s natural to wonder how much Game of Thrones accurately reflects our own history. In Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War, Ken Mondschein, an expert on medieval warfare, looks at how Martin’s books – and, to a lesser extent, HBO’s adaptation – depict medieval warfare. Continue reading ““Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War” by Ken Mondschein”

“Star Trek: DS9” & International Development

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star TrekPopMatters is running a series of articles about the franchise. I wrote a piece about Deep Space Nine and the politics of international development. I argue that the show takes a surprisingly nuanced approach to foreign aid. Some of what I discuss is based on my experience working for democratization projects in Southeast Asia. Check it out here!

Joss Whedon and Star Wars

whedonwarsEver wonder what a new Star Wars film would look like if Joss Whedon wrote the script? In a new book from PopMatters, After the Avengers, I have a chapter answering that exact question. In particular, I focus on the duality between the physical body and the soul (the “mind-body problem”), which has been a theme throughout much of Whedon’s oeuvre. A Star Wars anthology film could prove an interesting new medium for Whedon to explore this issue. Check it out here!

What’s wrong with the economics of sci-fi?

Does Emperor Shaddam IV look like he cares about economic growth?
He who controls the spice, controls the universe!

Economist David Berri has an article in Time criticizing the depiction of economics in science fiction. In particular, he argues that sic-fi stories frequently depict technologically advanced galactic empires despite the fact that, in the real world, autocracy sniffles economic growth. Historically, empires have seized private wealth, making citizens more reluctant to invest in technology and innovation. By contrast, inclusive governments, such as democracies, allow people to reap the rewards of their investments, thereby encouraging investment in technologies that stimulate economic growth.

I know something about both political economy and science fiction, and unfortunately Berri gets both wrong.

Continue reading “What’s wrong with the economics of sci-fi?”