Space Opera, the Course: Seeking Your Input!

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Last month, I asked the following on Twitter (and Facebook): [embed]https://twitter.com/shaunduke/status/818891962673676288[/embed] The idea behind this came from a conversation with the lovely Nina Niskanen. She suggested that I might teach a course on space opera for a more general audience using an online service . Her own interest came from the perspective of a writer who wanted to write space opera but didn't know enough about it. I thought that sounded like a great idea. Alas, I didn't have the time back then to really begin putting anything in motion. Teaching full time, working on a dissertation, attending conferences, applying for jobs, etc. But I'm about to graduate with a PhD in English (focused on science fiction). That means not only will I have a hell of a good credential for this sort of thing (aside from my existing work as a podcaster, etc.), but I'll also have quite a lot of time over this summer! And so here I am asking for your input. Since a lot of people who expressed interest in this are not academics or traditional students, it's important to me to figure out how best to approach the structure, focus, and presentation of this course. Below, I've broken things down into some general categories with occasional ideas about what I'd like to do. Mostly, this post is a series of questions for your consideration. If you're interested in any of this, please leave a comment or send an email with the subject "Space Opera Course" to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com. Getting this feedback will ultimately help me create a better product for people! If you know someone who might be interested, point them in my direction. General: Read More

The 2017 Hugo Awards Reading / Viewing List

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As I did last year, I have begun to compile a big massive (and, indeed, very sexy) list of all the books, stories, comics, movies, fans, etc. suggested to me via my recent 2017 Hugo Awards Recommendations form. The following is by no means a comprehensive list, as it is based on suggestions by readers. If something is missing, let me know in the comments. Note #1: I have deliberately excluded my own work from the list, which consists of The Skiffy and Fanty Show in the Best Fancast category. If you think my podcast deserves a nomination this year, then by all means put it on your ballot! The below list is just for all the other things out there :) Note #2:  Normally, I try to include links and publisher information for everything. Unfortunately, I ran out of time, and I figured people would rather see the list than wait any longer for me to fill in all the details. I'm not opposed to help with this, though. So, here's the list: Read More

2017 Hugo Awards Recommendations: What should I read/watch?

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2017 is here, and that means it's time to ask for recommendations for the Hugo Awards. Sadly, I have not been able to read nearly as much from 2016 as I would have liked, so I expect this to be one hell of a reading session for me! So, suggest some things! I'm looking for fiction and non-fiction in every category, pro and amateur artists, films, television shows, and anything else that fits! Use the form below to send your suggestions! Read More

Food Log for 1/2/17

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So it begins. The other day, I set a couple of goals for 2017 that included eating healthier and changing my workout schedule. So keep myself honest, I'm going to try to run a regular food log on my blog. So, here goes... Weight:
  • Current:  208.8 lbs
  • Goal:  190 lbs
Breakfast:
  • 3 eggs with spinach
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1/4 cup maple granola (low sugar), and 1/4 cup frozen berries
  • Earl Creme tea w/ 2 tsp demerara sugar
Lunch:
  • 1 Jazz apple (nomnomnom)
  • Salad (1 cup romaine, 1 cup spinach, and 1 plum tomato) w/ Newman's Own Honey Mustard Dressing
  • Earl Gray tea w/ 2 tsp demerara sugar
  • English Breakfast tea (black)
Dinner:
  • 1.5 cup of Almond Breeze original (unsweetened) w/ 2 scoops of Integrated Supplements chocolate protein powder
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • 0.5 a very large Salmon fillet
  • Salad (1 cup romaine, 1 cup spinach, and 1 plum tomato) w/ Newman's Own Honey Mustard Dressing
Today's Workout:
  • Body Combat (55 minutes)
So far, so good! I think...

2016: A Year in Review and Some Resolutions

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In just a few short hours, 2016 will be over for anyone living in the Eastern Standard Time zone. For others, such as you lovely people basically anywhere east of me, 2016 is already over. For some of you, that's a very good thing indeed, because 2016 has been a pretty terrible year. From political hellfire to celebrity deaths to personal disasters, so many of us have felt stifled by 2016. It wasn't all bad, though. Some of you published books or stories, fell in love or got married or had a child, discovered something super cool, read a lot of great books, made new friends, ate great food, got a new and better job, finished college, and on and on and on. I'm right there with you. A whole lot of bad sprinkled with some wonderful things. Here's a look at the things that happened to me in 2016: The Bad Read More

Dear Carrie Fisher: Thank You For Everything

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Dear Carrie Fisher, This isn't an easy letter / post to write. When I learned that you had left us for whatever is after this life, I broke down into tears and sobs. Losing you felt so personal, even though we had never met. In a way, losing you is personal. I first saw Star Wars when I was a little kid. My parents gave me a set of the original trilogy on VHS, which I watched over and over and over. When I had to stay home from school because of severe asthma attacks, I watched Star Wars. When I needed a friend or an escape from the world, I watched Star Wars. So, in a very real way, you were big part of my life. You were one of my heroes. I learned so many things from you. When you stood up to Darth Vader, led the Rebel Alliance against the Empire, and stood your ground on Endor, I learned about the power of sacrifice and the value of standing up for what you believe in. Your strength and resilience in adverse conditions reminded me that heroes can be more than fists and guns. They are leaders with strong values -- a commitment to justice, honor, friendship, and even love. When you met the Ewoks, you didn't just stand up for the seemingly powerless, you lifted them up. You loved them. You valued them as people. And you loved your friends and respected their decisions. You were in so many ways a role model on film -- one of the first feminist heroes of my childhood. I will always be a fan of Star Wars, and Leia will be one of my heroes until the day I leave this world. Read More

The Science Fiction Canon: Function, Limits, and Problems

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I have spent a lot of my time in graduate school thinking about how to talk about literary canons and ways to disrupt them. The literature classes I teach always include works that have otherwise been excluded from the Western Canon in a deliberate attempt to draw into question how canons are formed and the limited scope they present to us as readers. It's a tightrope game. On the one hand, survey courses have to teach students about crucial works of literature in an effort to provide some kind useful and repeatable literary knowledge base. On the other hand, simply repeating the canon is sort of like reading the headlines in a newspaper without ever looking at the article itself; sure, you'll have a firm understanding of a literary tradition, but you're missing out on a wide range of compelling material that could make for an even deeper reading of a field. In the realm of science fiction, that can be a bit tricky. Because science fiction is already a small bubble of a much larger literary world, text selections are often arbitrary or based on vague notions of what appears to be the "common core" of the field (we'll come back to this in a bit). Worse, science fiction "people" too often assume they know what the canon "is" and push that perspective on others as if it has weight -- which it does due to the power of cultural suggestion. I've heard too many stories of someone in the science fiction community telling someone else that they have to read X and Y if they want to be considered "educated" about the field; ironically, you'll hear the same ten names repeated in these claims, suggesting such individuals have a less comprehensive knowledge of the field than they assume. There are two false assumptions in these claims:
  1. That they speak using the authority of an existing literary canon.
  2. That the purpose of a canon is to provide a reading list one must consume to be considered "knowledgeable" about a field.
I'll return to the first of these later. The second assumption is remarkably easy to debunk. Let's use Western Canon as an example.[note]To be clear, I am not suggesting that the Western Canon is anywhere close to a perfect list. It has huge problems. It is, however, a useful starting point. Indeed, knowing something about the Western Canon is a great way to identify the gaps, which is one of my favorite things to do in my survey courses.[/note] Read More

The “True Fan” Argument of Stupidness (or, Could We Stop This Nonsense Now?)

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As a giant Star Wars fan, it is inevitable that I'll come into contact with people claiming to know what a "true fan" looks like. In the last year, that argument has become more prominent than ever. In the wake of The Force Awakens, hundreds of people flocked to the Star Wars franchise to declare themselves fans. And old school Star Wars fandom wasn't happy. Those new folks didn't understand Star Wars. They didn't really love it; they were just in it for the exciting new ride. They were just half-assed fake fans. None of this is particularly new to the fan world. People have been calling other people out for being fake fans longer than I've been alive.[note]Hell, the term "trufan" dates back to 1954, though it probably appeared much sooner than that.[/note] But as an argument, the "true fan" reasoning is, at best, bullshit. There are a couple reasons for this: Read More

Comics Are the Cure for the Common Cold (Or, I’m Reading Things)

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Grading is done, and I've got a dissertation to complete so I can defend it and get a real person job. And, as with Christmas tradition, I am catching some sort of cold or flu monstrosity. This seems to be the norm for me. It wouldn't be so terrible if the only illnesses I got around Christmas were colds, but as I've mentioned before, I also spent one whole Christmas on my first cycle of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, so there's sort of this added hatred of being ill around the holidays. So, instead of finishing a glorious blog post on why the Galactic Empire from Star Wars has always been about fascism and Nazis, I'm going to read some comic books. Currently, I'm reading the following:
  • Champions (Marvel) This series is actually fantastic. It features Ms. Marvel as the sort-of leader of a group of young superheroes, including Miles Morales' Spiderman, Nova, Viv (Vision's daughter), a young Cyclops (it's a long story), and some new version of the Hulk that is oddly super charming. Unlike the other superhero groups, they are guided by a non-destructive, non-lethal ethos, which makes sense given that Ms. Marvel is at the helm. You should definitely check it out!
  • Jessica Jones (Marvel)
  • I Hate Fairyland (Image) This comic is just batshit crazy.
There are about a dozen others on the list, but those are the main ones. I also tried reading the first issue of the latest Ultimates, but I couldn't stand the art; that's one that will go on the "don't pull anymore" list. So, I'm going to take a nap and wake up tomorrow fresh eyed and weird. In the meantime, a question:
What comics are you all reading?

Addendum: Strong Male Characters (or, That Rogue One Review is Full of Crap)

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Two days ago, I wrote a post about "strong male characters" that took to task some comments made in a review by Todd McCarthy. At the time, I had not seen Rogue One, so my argument essentially rested on the idea that we don't need "strong male characters" in every movie. Now that I have seen the movie, I feel it necessary to come back to McCarthy's review to address the substance of the claims. Expect some spoilers ahead! As a reminder, here is the relevant quote from McCarthy's review:
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega's Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm. Both Luna and Ahmed have proved themselves repeatedly in big-screen and television performances, but their characters never pop here, to the film's detriment. And given that Jyn is rather less gung-ho and imposing than was Ridley's Rey, there's an overall feel of less physical capacity on the part of the main characters.
None of this is remotely accurate. Actually, I'd hazard to call it complete and utter bullshit. Read More