The Cultural Gutter

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Worthwhile Canadian Trilogy

Two great scifi writers, Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson, just published concluding volumes in their respective trilogies. Other similarities: both are Canadian, both have won Hugos, and their latest books are quite intriguing.

Unsatisfactory

Call me an online oddity: I ran out of steam, years ago, on doing the whole harsh-criticism thing in my review work. For a couple of reasons, summarized as “enthused librarian who points elsewhere for sad talk.”

Future Self, Meet Past Self… Now Fight!

I just finished re-reading A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin’s first volume in his (currently very hot) fantasy series, and I quite enjoyed it. Looking back on my notes from my first read-through ten years ago, I was startled to discover that I found it ho-hum and/or offensive! What gives?

Ruled by the Subconscious

A confession: I’m having trouble making my way through Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I must also confess I’m a bit puzzled by this. I’m definitely a fan of King’s work. And from what I’ve read so far, this book sticks pretty closely to high points of his career. What gives?

See You Later (Scifi) Suckers!

Lately I’ve noticed a few examples of a trend: authors who got their start writing science fiction have switched to writing fantasy. Why might this be? Probably because it’s become a bigger market!  

Conquer the Galaxy and/or the Mysterious Mind

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An iconic character in the earliest pulp novels and the latest multiplex blockbusters: the heroic space explorer, striding manfully forward, saving the natives, grabbing the treasure and the babes, and so on. What’s going on inside his head?

The Hierarchy of Contempt, Reality TV Edition

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Since April is our wacky month, I decided to venture far afield, basically into the scariest minefield of cultural contempt that I can think of: reality TV.

A Decade Later (Repost)

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Ever had one of those crazy months? I’m reposting an old article for that reason, with a few extra comments at the end… The dinosaur craze seems to be over, sorry to say. One last hurrah: Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, the latest entry in the Dinotopia series, is out now. James Gurney wrote and illustrated […]

Mishmash: McKillip’s Fate, Undersea Rapture, and Millennium Movies

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What do a riddlemaster on a quest, an undersea utopia gone wrong, and sexual perversion in Sweden have in common? The answer: nothing! But I don’t have a big thing to talk about this month, so I’ll have to make do with a mishmash.

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    The Korean Film Archive has been uploading classics of Korean cinema to their YouTube channel, Korean Classic Film Theater. Modern Korean Cinema reports on the latest 15 films uploaded.

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    A gallery of Mike Allred’s covers for twenty of DC’s titles. (via @profmdwhite)

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    Actor Lauren Bacall has died. Bacall is most famous for work with her first husband Humphrey Bogart, To Have And Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946) and Key Largo (1948), but she also starred in Douglas Sirk’s classic melodrama Written On The Wind (1956), co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), The Fan (1981), she appeared in Misery (1990) and voiced the Witch of the Waste in the English language dub of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and the Gray One in the English language version of Ernest and Celestine (2014). The Guardian and The Los Angeles Times, have obituaries. The Hollywood Reporter collects responses and remembrancesJulianne Escobedo Shepherd writes that “What I love about her is the intelligence and pluckiness that defined her acting and her life. That is what we should be most remembering — her talent, her strength, her fierce essence—the elements that made her an icon of the silver screen.” Here is Bacall’s 1994 interview with Charlie Rose.

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    Simon Fowler shares “The Five Best North Korean Films” at The Guardian. Did Pulgasari make the cut? Is the list Pulgasari five times? Click through to find out. (Thanks, Earl!)

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    Actor and comedian Robin Williams has died. There are many obituaries and remembrances out there, so we’re just choosing a few.  The AV Club, RogerEbert.com and Boing Boing have obituaries. The writers of RogerEbert.com offer tributes. Terry Gilliam talks about directing Williams in The Fisher King. Penny Marshall talks about working with Williams on Laverne & Shirley and directing him in Awakenings.  Marc Maron reposts his interview with Williams on Maron’s WTF Podcast. And here are a few of his less mentioned, darker films: Death To Smoochy (2002);  One Hour Photo (2002); Insomnia (2002); The Secret Agent (1996) and World’s Greatest Dad (2009).

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    Cleopatra’s Weave draws some amazing Elves of color (and David J. Prokopetz shares a story trying to get more racial representation in a fantasy illustration project).

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