This weekend, I’m attending the Mythgard Institute’s fifth Mythmoot, a conference that brings together fans and academics to talk about speculative fiction. I’m presenting a paper on the politics of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The schedule is available on the Mythmoot website. Hope to see some old friends there!
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”
In 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”
Like 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”
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, PopMatters 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!
Ever 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!
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.
In response to my “trolling” on Facebook, my friend Katherine Sas published a post on her blog Raving Sanity in which she discusses why some film adaptations fail even though they seem to superficially resemble the book. In “A Series of Uncorrelated Events,” she notes that adaptations can sometimes get bogged down in trying to convey the details of the source material without paying sufficient attention to the story in the film (a “paint by the numbers” adaptation). Although I generally agree with her argument, I think it worthwhile to look more closely at the different types and range of adaptation choices.
Before going further, let me clarify that I do not intend to engage in a debate with Kat Sas about the Watership Down adaptation. I enjoyed the novel and thought the movie was passable, but truthfully do not feel particularly well versed in either. Rather than pretend to be an expert on that story, I will engage with her analysis of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium.
Entertainment Weekly has an article celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first proper episode of Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica reboot. Simply titled “33,” this episode introduced the incredible drama, philosophical commentary, and storytelling that would mark the rest of the series. In this era of half-baked hollywood reboots and remakes, “33” also shows how a different artist can actually enrich upon the themes and story of an older work of art. Read the full article here if you’re feeling nostalgic for the show (warning: it contains spoilers). And if you haven’t yet watched BSG… what the frak are you waiting for?