The Cultural Gutter

geek chic with mad technique

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

Stories Are Important

after the golden age

This week SF/F Editor Emeritus James Schellenberg returns as a Guest Star! Stories are important, we all know this. I hasten to add: and they should be fun too, otherwise why bother reading them? Every once in a while, I run across a new author that balances “something to say” and “have fun saying it” […]

Twilight’s Anti-Fandom

Emma Vossen examines Twilight hate and anti-fans, writing: “People have become eager anti-fans of the series, creating an active subculture that manifests in hateful dialogue and value judgements on a seemingly arbitrary slice of a very large pop culture pie.”

If You Leave, How Will I Strangle You?

Computers and I are not the best of friends.  We’re more like work colleagues who really don’t care for one another.  We may act all professional, but secretly we’re each making sarcastic comments about the other’s hair, clothing, and annoying personal habits. Okay, maybe that’s just me.

“Flip a Switch, a Fairy Dies”

Pornokitsch writer (and Kitschies judge) Jared Shurin writes about fairies as fuel and the vast potential of Steampunk as a resource for discussing industrialization.

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.

Bulking Up

Adam Roberts (perhaps still scarred by his encounter with The Wheel of Time) takes a look at the relatively brisk 400 pages of Rivers of London and reflects on the appeal of a certain type of bulked-up reading experience, with a detour to talk about Sir Walter Scott: “The trick to understanding the prodigious success […]

Fandom is Magic

In the year 2001 I discovered a magical world. Not Harry Potter (that was a few years later) and not the Internet (although it was responsible), but a world that captured my attention and hasn’t let go ten years later. It has to do with fanfiction; unpaid fiction that is written by fans of a […]

In Praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger Series

“It’s the end of an era. The entertainment which has stretched across books, movies, and countless marketing tie-ins, which has captivated children and adults for well over a decade and which has, for better or worse, managed to become the defining myth for an entire generation, is winding to its close. I speak, of course, […]

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?

Whine. And Cheese.

Shakespeare claims it’s April, psychologists say it’s December.  But I think July is the cruellest month.  It’s hot; it’s grossly humid; I never manage to swing a proper holiday.  This year I have the added irritant of lacking air-conditioning both at home and at work.  Argh.

Could They Beat Up China Mieville?

Have you ever looked at someone and wondered, “Could they beat up China Miéville?” Now you have your answers, in story form.

A Short Story by China Mieville

An exclusive China Mieville short story, “Covehithe,” is available for your reading pleasure–and your feelings of dread–at The Guardian.

Talking More Twilight

Gabe Lezra hits a nerve when he writes about the white man’s burden in Twilight and New Moon and wonders why there’s no Team Bella and the comments at The Wesleyan Argus are all kerfuffled.

The Nature of the Hero, Rowling-Style

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A few months ago, I decided to take the plunge: I would burn through the Harry Potter series, now complete, all in one go. It’s been… interesting. I’ve discovered all kinds of things I had not realized before, including the fact that Harry is – to put it diplomatically – not a particularly effective hero.

Overstuffed vs. Undernourished

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How’s this for controversial: Harry Potter book 5, clocking in at a massive 900 pages, about 3 or 4 times longer than the first book, is too long and overstuffed, while the movie adaptation, clocking in at just over two hours, is way too short and leaves out all the good stuff. Wait a minute, […]

Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?

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Just how many times  do I have to kill this guy? It’s a question I’ve certainly asked myself while playing various games, along with Why aren’t you dead yet? and How many damn heads does it have anyway? Everybody’s version of tedium is different, but endlessly dodging around waiting for some gargantuan horror to blink […]

Fred Saberhagen, RIP

City on Fire and Days of Atonement author Walter Jon Williams has a eulogy up at his blog for Fred Saberhagen, who died a little over a week ago. Williams writes about Saberhagen’s unacknowledged influence on fantasy, science fiction and horror. And he tells a couple of nice stories too.

In the City

Dignity and survival in a crumbling, barricaded Toronto.

Toronto’s downtown has been abandoned by government and police. The rich have fled to the suburbs, and put up a barrier to keep all those nasty poor people from leaving the middle of the city. Nalo Hopkinson’s first book, Brown Girl in the Ring, takes this simple and believable premise and shows us what life […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Paleofuture, Matt Novak writes about Idiocracy‘s unpleasant implications: “Sure. As an over-the-top comedic dystopia, the movie is actually enjoyable. But the movie’s introduction makes it an unnerving reference to toss around as our go-to insult….Unlike other films that satirize the media and the soul-crushing consequences of sensationalized entertainment (my personal favorite being 1951′s Ace in the Hole), Idiocracy lays the blame at the feet of an undeserved target (the poor) while implicitly advocating a terrible solution (eugenics). The movie’s underlying premise is a fundamentally dangerous and backwards way to understand the world.” (via The Projection Booth)

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    Friend of the Gutter, Will McKinley looks at “The 1979 Rockford Files Episode That Inspired The Sopranos.” “A gang from Newark’s South Side is hiding Vinnie Martine’s body in a restaurant freezer. Tony’s mad because Anthony Jr. got caught pranking another mobster. And a boss who’s trying to reform gets his mansion sprayed with bullets. Remember that episode of The Sopranos? If you do, your memory’s playing tricks on you, because all these things happened on a 1979 episode of The Rockford Files—written by Sopranos creator David Chase.”

    And McKinley defends classic television with, “In Praise of Vintage Television.”

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    Journalist Margot Adler has died. She is best known for her work as a journalist on NPR, but she also created the speculative fiction radio program, “The Hour Of The Wolf” and was the writer of Drawing Down The Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (1979) and Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side (2014). The New York Times, NPR and  Suvudu have obituaries.  Here Adler discusses Vampires Are Us. And here is an excerpt from Adler’s memoir, Heretic’s Heart (1997).

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    The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its Midnight Madness and Vanguard programs for 2014. There’s lots of goodness in there and it’s worth taking a look even if you aren’t going to the festival, so you can you movie watching later this year or next. We’ll be posting the trailers from the films later.

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    Actor James Shigeta has died. Shigeta appeared in Die Hard (1988), The Crimson Kimono (1959) The Flower Drum Song (1961),  Bridge To The Sun (1961), Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), The Yakuza (1974) and many, many television shows.  The AV Club, Den Of Geek and Angry Asian Man have obituaries. Bridge to the Sun is discussed by Robert Osborne and Dr. Peter Feng on TCM.  At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz writes an appreciation of Shigeta’s life and work. “Shigeta, who died yesterday at 81, was a marvelous performer, and his work as Nakatomi Corporation President Joseph Takagi in the original 1988 Die Hard is one of my favorite examples of how an imaginative actor can sketch out a life in just a few scenes and lines.”

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    At RogerEbert.com, Alan Zilberman explores the history of the eye in cinema from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) to Mark Cahill’s I Origins (2014). (via Matt Zoller Seitz)

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