The Cultural Gutter

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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

The Stephen King Universe

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This week, Science Fiction Editor Emeritus James Schellenberg returns as a Guest Star. Screen Editor alex MacFadyen will return next month. You can easily glance off the top of any book by Stephen King–get a few frights and move on. But there’s a hidden world beneath almost all of his books, and not only is […]

Gothic Galactic

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It makes sense that so much of Mario Bava’s oeuvre would deal with situations and people that/who are not what they seem. His whole life was spent in the world of deception and illusion. His father was a sculptor who moonlighted as an effects man for Italy’s magnificent silent era spectacles. Bava himself studied to […]

The Sci-Fi Life

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My first memories are of Ultraman, the Adam West Batman show, and something about jumping into a dumpster — but let’s leave that one out for now. It was probably related to one of the first two anyway. I vividly remember being mesmerized by Ultraman. From there, raised by young parents in a college environment […]

At Play on the Planet of Men

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“His mother had often said, when you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.” — Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory There is an age-old fallacy […]

The Trouble with Endings, Part 2: The Re-conclusioning

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The trouble with endings, of course, is that they are really difficult to do well. I’ll try to take that warning to heart myself, since this piece will be my last for The Cultural Gutter. And what better way to wrap up a really fun time on a neat project than to look at endings! […]

The Dark Tower, Videogame Soundtrack Edition

Speaking from recent experience, I don’t recommend getting a cold/cough/(something virulent and archaic, like consumption?) that sticks around for 4-5 weeks. It kinda sucks. With reduced brainpower, I’ve been watching a lot of Rifftrax (“There can be only one?? You should have mentioned that earlier!”). Fun, but not much to say, except that, yup, Highlander […]

Riffing Zombies and Incredible Time Travellers

I’ve missed the spooky month of October by one day, and probably rotted my brain on too much Rifftrax. In lieu of coherent thoughts, here is a compilation of recent observations. Like this:Like Loading…

Rambles

In which I take a rambling walk through some recent semi-connected pop culture items, starting with a videogame reboot that’s actually worth playing, moving on to nostalgia for a nostalgia-based movie, and ending with a look at child actors, in reality and in novel form. Like this:Like Loading…

Vampires, War, and Some Good Old 24-Style Torturing

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was a gruesome historical tragedy; or, a colossal act of hubris that cost the lives of 400 000 soldiers. Sounds like the perfect milieu for a vampire feeding frenzy! Jasper Kent’s Twelve is an odd mix of historical novel, horror, and, of all things, a somewhat too close examination of torture. […]

Blindly Jumping In

I’ve been a bit out of steam on pop culture lately. On a whim, and maybe as a way to recapture how I used to discover books when I was a kid, I grabbed two books off the shelf at my local library, and jumped into them blind. Like this:Like Loading…

Working in the Groove

Among Others by Jo Walton just won the Nebula Award for best novel, and Seanan McGuire (in combination with her pseudonym Mira Grant) was just nominated for four Hugo awards in one year, a new record. I figured I should take a look at Walton’s book, along with something by Grant (I ended up reading […]

Opening the Lines of Communication

It’s a classic set-up: humans are exploring space and receive a mysterious signal. Time for first contact! A.C. Crispin takes this familiar idea and runs with it in StarBridge, a smart and fast-paced novel from a few years ago, now released as an ebook for the first time. Like this:Like Loading…

Author’s Cut, Courtesy of the Ebook Revolution

Recent fantasy novels seem to spend a lot of time describing their magic systems – who can use magic? how does it work? and at what cost to the magic user? C.J. Cherryh’s Rusalka is, in most senses, no exception to this, since these questions are answered quite clearly. That said, Cherryh’s answers have some […]

Revealed by the Twentieth Repetition

Or the thirtieth or the fortieth! What happens to your experience of a genre work, ordinarily somewhat disposable, when you read or watch or listen to it multiple times? Most of the time, your brain turns to mush, or you tune out altogether, or every little thing about it becomes an irritant. But what if […]

Watership Vortex

Some books just grab a hold of you and never let go. The subject matter could be almost anything, from a big fat fantasy to, say, building a cathedral. Or rabbits! On the short list of absolute classics, Watership Down by Richard Adams, a story of rabbit life in pastoral England, takes pride of place […]

Infectious Enthusiasm

Sci-fi author Rudy Rucker has been busy, with four books that have come out in the last year or so. I’ve just finished reading his autobiography, Nested Scrolls, and it’s hilarious, insightful, and just about as science-fictional as his novels. You really can’t go wrong with Rucker’s books. Like this:Like Loading…

Same Tools, Different Project

With killer robots, underground societies, international con artists (one a man, one a genetically engineered dog), and a very dangerous far future Moscow, what could possibly go wrong? Like this:Like Loading…

The Hyper-Advanced Weapon-like Entity on the Mantle

Foreshadowing is tough: too subtle and the author’s effort is wasted, too obvious and the readers will figure out the setup way too early. Patrick Lee’s The Breach is a master-class in taking the obvious setup and blasting your face off with the thing you thought you were expecting. Like this:Like Loading…

A Glorious Mess

I like a clean, focused narrative as much as the next person, but there’s an undeniable entertainment value in the messy and sprawling kind too. Science fiction has a long history of welcoming the second kind of book, and David’s Brin’s Earth, an ecology epic from 1990, is a fun example of this type. Like […]

Murder in the (Fantastical) Big City

Let’s smash some genres together! Today it’s urban fantasy meets the murder mystery, and, at first glance, it’s a meeting of true minds. Like this:Like Loading…

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    NPR interviews Hank Willis Thomas on his exhibition showcasing images of white women in advertizing. It’s a follow up to his 2008 exhibition, “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America.” “I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us. But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.”

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    Our friends at Pornokitsch share a 1898 Philadelphia Press article on ghosts of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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    The Journal of Popular Romance Studies interviewed author Joanna Russ in 2007 about slash fiction: “Her 1985 essay, ‘Pornography By Women For Women, With Love’ helped to set the terms of the discussion for feminist scholars who followed, and it is widely cited in fan studies. Russ argues that fantasy has to be read in more complex ways than simply seeing it as an effort at one-dimensional wish fulfillment. She posits fantasy as something rich and metaphorical. She reads slash as a genre that tells us new things about women’s sexuality and sexual desire, things that—in 1985—weren’t being talked about except in the very divided feminist ‘sex wars,’ where ‘pro-sex’ and ‘anti-porn’ feminists created ever more polarized stances.”

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    At Hyperallergic, Jeremy Polacek writes about the history of Afrofuturism and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s exhibit, “Space Is The Place: AfroFuturism On Film”:  “Afrofuturism is an empowering rubric, an approach and aesthetic that clarifies and connects history and the hope, creativity, and pain there within. Afrofuturism is wry, wise, and leveling — it believes that a brighter, more equal, funkier future is within the realm of possibility. You can be different; this world can be different — self-invention commingles with worldly reinvention; Africa is both glorious past and technocratic future.

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    Sweet Jane shares a 1967 fashion editorial shoot mixing mod fashion and the work of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. (via arabellesicardi.com)

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    BBC Radio 4 is presenting an adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. You can listen to the first episode here. There are also other features, including an interview with Le Guin. (via Pornokitsch)

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