On Space Opera: The Heart of Genre, Forgotten by Scholars

A few years ago, I taught an upper division literature course on American space opera. There were a couple reasons I chose that angle over many other possible science fiction topics I could have taught:
  1. It gave me an excuse to teach Ann Leckie, Tobias S. Buckell, and Star Wars.
  2. The course was marked as "American literature," so I had to stick with U.S.-American writers. I snuck some other stuff in, though.
  3. It was a subject that I particularly loved (but, as I discovered, which scholars had largely ignored up to that point).
It's that last piece I will talk about here. Read More

Worldcon 2019 (Dublin): An Accounting of Events with a Side of Bacon!

I am on my way home from Dublin OR have already arrived. Like science fiction, my future is fundamentally about the present. Naturally, that means Worldcon has ended along with my sadly short vacation in Dublin, Ireland, a quaint little city... Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Dublin is really cool, y'all. And since "recaps of adventures" are a thing in the science fiction community, I'm here to, well, recap my adventures. This one will be a long one, y'all. So here...we...go! The Dublin Worldcon was a bit like a dream. I pre-supported (or whatever it’s called) fairly early in the game AND bought an upgrade for my badge at the Worldcon in Finland (2017). I really wanted to go to a Worldcon in Dublin. More importantly, I wanted to support strong bids for non-U.S. Worldcons because, well, I actually take the “world” part of the name literally, and I don’t think you can have a “Worldcon” that doesn’t make an attempt to occur in various parts of the world. Read More

On Forgiveness, Bad Behavior, and Block Policies

If the post-GamerGate years didn't change the way I interact with people in SF/F and online, the past year certainly has. From the election of a serial asshole to the endless parade of turdmuffins on Twitter, the last year has made it clear that "business as usual" just won't work for my sanity. In fact, more and more, I'm learning that a lot of folks I know have even less tolerance for all sorts of behavior we all might have put up with a few years ago. Ann Leckie, for example, has for a while used this basic policy for handling responses to her Tweets: Read More

SF and Food: The Future Shall Be Fed

When I think about representations of food in science fiction, I'm struck by the fact that a lot of science fiction simply washes over the issue of production and distribution. Food is almost always "around" in SF literature. After all, most SF characters have to eat something from time to time (though they never poop). However, very little of the genre actually directly addresses the future economics of food, and even when it does, it's usually a cursory glance. The one exception might be the dystopian genre, especially Soylent Green (1973). Since dystopia and starvation go hand in hand, the genre is naturally concerned with food. Read More

Thoughts on Years of Reading (Mostly) Women

Back in 2015, roughly 92% of the works I read were by women. This was mostly intentional, as The Skiffy and Fanty Show hosted a women-centric (and non-binary friendly) theme throughout 2015.[note]If you count the works I assigned in my classes, the total comes out to roughly 55% in favor of women. The dramatic shift from 92% to 55% can be blamed on the relative absence of female writers during the periods in which my courses have focused, and so some of my courses swing in favor of men (though not by a massive margin; I didn’t actually read that much in 2015, so it’s not that hard to swing things in the other direction).[/note] In 2016, the numbers were less skewed, with 61% of works by women. Including my teaching numbers into this list is a bit too complicated, so I won't bother including it here.[note]Complicated primarily because one of the courses I taught focused on "Queer Autobiography," which includes numerous works by people with gender identities that are difficult to classify without making assumptions. If you count LGBTQ+ as a factor, at least 22% of the works I read were by people in that category. For all the numbers in this post, I went with easily accessible information about identity for what I hope are obvious reasons.[/note] Obviously, having a more "open" year for reading meant my numbers were more fluid. But even with that fluidity in place, there's a clear indication that my reading habits have changed. So, here's what I've learned from the past few years: Read More

Why I Will Never Give Up My Terrible Movies

Bad movies. Some of us love to hate them. Some of us just hate them. And then there are people like me. I have a fondness for a few films that practically everyone would agree are terrible. My seemingly illogical love of 1988's absurd McDonald's-funded E.T. rip-off, Mac & Me, has earned me a rotating sequence of callbacks on my podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show.[note]I'm only half teasing...[/note] It's a sickness to some, but for me, it's a product of experience.[note]This topic was suggested by wabbit89 on Twitter. Thanks![/note] To be fair, I almost deserve it. I will jump at the flip of a hat to defend that movie against almost any criticism, not because I believe it's high quality cinema but because there is a deeper connection to that movie for me, as there is for so many of the trashfire films that occupy my DVD rack. Read More

On Generation Ships and Pandorum (2009)

One thing that has always struck me about generation ships is the way in which they are usually treated as microcosms for the Earth (as it was, is, or might be). Like the wagon train to the west, the generation ship can help us move the social and political problems of our world into an isolated space for interrogation. That detachment, I would argue, is a part of what makes so much of science fiction so influential, and why generation ships are somewhat easy mechanisms for staging the kinds of socio-political criticism so much of science fiction is known for (in theory).[note]The topic of generation ships was suggested by Jeff Xilon on Twitter. Thanks, Jeff![/note] Read More

On Space Opera and Domesticity

Domesticity and space opera? Do they go together? Obviously, yes. But what happens when they do?[note]This topic was provided by Joyce Chng on Twitter. Thanks, Joyce![/note] Earlier this year, Tor.com hosted a massive space opera extravaganza. Liz Bourke contributed a post on the politics of domesticity in space opera, with particular attention on what she somewhat half-heartedly called "domestic space opera." One of the important points Bourke makes is that the personal and the political are not necessarily separate entities. Bourke defends this claim by looking at several examples of space operas which place heavy focus on domestic spaces and by suggesting that perhaps it is the emotional dynamics of those spaces that make up the bulk of the operatic (or melodramatic) focus present in so much of space opera. It's an interesting post, and I suggest you read it. Read More

Five Faves: Rums (Guest Post by Noah Mueller) #MonthofJoy

I want to take a moment to talk about rum. Rum is a distilled spirit that is frequently associated with the Caribbean because a major ingredient is sugar or molasses and the Caribbean has long been known for its sugar plantations. As a result, rum became the drink of choice for many of its residents. Generally speaking, there are three types of rums: light, dark and spiced. Dark rums are dark because they have been aged or because manufacturers have added coloring. I discourage buying young rums with added color because they’re masquerading as being older than they are. If you want a young rum, buy a light rum. Spiced rums frequently are darker than light rums, but this is because of a variety of spices that have been added during the manufacturing process. My favorite type of rum is the aged variety. Like Scotch, well-aged rums have a different flavor profile than younger varieties, and good aged rum can be enjoyed neat. I’ve been told that the older a Scotch is, the better it is. I’m not a Scotch drinker, so I cannot verify this, but I can say with certainty that this is not true for rum. In my opinion, the aging process for rum follows a bell curve with the best rums being aged somewhere between 12 and 16 years. Some rum manufactures will blend rums of different ages, and this is acceptable to me as long the “average” falls somewhere in this range. Now for my top 5 favorite rums. Read More