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Questions of Consent

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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked Autonomous. I thought Newitz’s vision of a future world with drug patent hoarding corporations and pirates willing to defy them scarily realistic. I also thoroughly enjoyed the embedded discussion of capitalism’s overreach of claiming human biological data, and the implicit criticism of how corporations gone wild will violently assert themselves to defend what they have appropriated. Newitz’s vision of information technology, an area of expertise for me, is also well-informed, and the robotic characters—whose assertion of constructed independent conscious will is a key focus in the story—are clever and subversive.

We see this patent gold rush in real life already, both in information technology, nanotech, and pharmaceuticals. Newitz pushes the phenomenon forward and hypothesizes an evolution of the same kind of white hat hacker that performs the vital service of keeping the Internet usable for the rest of us. These IP…

“Prime Meridian” and Its Many Marses

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Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Prime Meridian” is about Mars, though not the red planet nor the Roman god of war. Instead, this story features a black-and-white Mars decorated with cheap studio effects, another Mars that exists only as a bond between a young couple that cannot survive the chasm of their inequity of wealth, and a third Mars that calls to Amelia’s soul from a billboard. Each Mars drives the plot and situates the story in terms of real world history, culture, and the history of science fiction.

In Moreno-Garcia’s near future, Mexico City’s wealthy exploit the despair of vast masses of disadvantaged youth in a hyper version of today’s gig economy. Amelia, our protagonist, abandoned her studies of urban agriculture to care for her ailing, dying mother and is saddled with ferrying her sister's children around in the bargain. Amelia calls herself a freelancer on her CV, noting it is a “euphemism for unemployed.” Her …

My review of The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is brilliant literary science fiction. I will discuss the literary aspects of it in a moment, but first it’s important to place it squarely in the domain of science fiction.

First, under Darko Suvin's definition of sci fi, the question is whether there is cognitive strangeness and nova. They are very apparent, specifically the new assignment of gender roles, along with the reason they exist. The nova introduced are ecological disasters, an enormous rise in failure to Gileadeans to sexually reproduce, and the imposition of a fundamentalist government that divides women by their function, entirely controlling them. We know (again from the lecture) that Atwood was responding to societal changes, such as the rise of the Moral Majority, which lends a spooky plausibility to the strangeness, making it not so strange and that much scarier.

Delany's definition is wider. He asks whe…

Game of Thrones Finale

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In my opinion, this is the best shot from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Somewhat underwhelmed by the finale, because it all felt so rushed, but I'm excited for what the novels will bring. Winds/Dream. :-)

Devoured this scrumptious morsel in but a few hours and still left a little hungry.

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sharp Objects is a solid first novel, to which I would have given a higher rating, were it not for the summary technique in the conclusion that robs the reader of the experience of that year of discovery. Flynn does everything else right. Her characters are evocative, and the setting of the town is lush and vivid. The murders percolate in the consciousness while the protagonist lurches absentmindedly forward into danger. You will find yourself screaming at her not to be so stupid, courting peril with such intimacy, and it's so in character. It's damn near a 5-star book until the last few chapters and I still enjoyed it a lot (3-stars means I liked it :-{) It's just not as good as it could have been, even though we are given a long, lovely tease. Sigh.

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Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time) on Matriarchies in Finn

I'm just posting this so I don't lose it. --- For Anonymous-George, long ago I saw one of the first, I believe, novels about a young woman who wasn't allowed to use magic or whatever because she was a woman, and the thought occurred to me as to how it might go if men were the ones who were denied the right to do magic. Or whatever. I hate using the word magic. From that long ago thought grew the One Power divided into saidin and saidar with the male half tainted and the reasons for and results of it being tainted. Now in most of these societies...I did not and do not view them as matriarchal. I attempted to design societies that were as near gender balanced as to rights, responsibilities and power as I could manage. It doesn't all work perfectly. People have bellybuttons. If you want to see someone who always behaves logically, never tells small lies or conceals the truth in order to put the best face for themselves on events, and never, ever tries to take advantage …

The History of White Onliness in America

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Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long horrific account of America's deliberate segregation, its underlying current of white-onliness, born out of Loewen's personal journey of awakening to the fact he was surrounded by Sundown Towns, those locales so hostile to blacks that the communities orchestrate ways to keep them out. It's a long, hard slog, filled with disheartening stories, marks of shame of our past, of our present really, but books like this are so important both as eye-openers and motivators. Nobody conscious to American culture--again not just its history! We are talking about the present in many instances here--can deny these exclusionary practices, but Loewen focuses on the scale using census data and adds anecdotes that personalize the experience.

I read a lot of reviews here that mention how terrible reading this makes everyone feel, but for my part, I am overwhelmed by optimism, because it is cl…