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

Five Faves: SF/F/M Movies or Shows I Love Because of My Grandma

A little over a year ago, we lost my grandmother, Merle Crawford. She was a quirky and jovial lady. The kind of person who could meet anyone at a grocery store and turn a chance encounter into a meeting between old friends. You can read a bit more about her life in the obituary I wrote for her in the Mountain Democrat, the local newspaper for Placerville, California. One thing that I often mention about my grandmother is the impact she had on me as a geek. While I certainly watched a lot of genre programming as a kid,[1. Let's be real. A lot of programming for kids is genre TV by default. G.I. Joe and TMNT are both SF/F. Dinosaurs is fantasy. Winnie the Pooh is fantasy. Most Disney films are fantasy. DuckTales is SF/F. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and The Secret World of Alex Mac and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are SF/F. A lot of programming for kids also falls under the mystery umbrella. I just don't think I ever thought about genre when I was a kid. Looking back? It almost seems inevitable that kids born in the 80s and 90s would turn out to be unintentional SF/F nerds in the 2010s.] there are two things that led to my passion for SF/F (and related genres):
  1. My mother giving me VHS tapes of Star Wars. The ones with Leonard Maltin's interviews with George Lucas at the front.
  2. My grandmother's insistence that I watch certain programs.
So to celebrate the massive influence my grandmother had on my life in a very specific way, here's a list of 5 SF/F/M (for mystery) movies and TV shows I love because of my grandma: Read More

Adventures in Teaching: The Aliens That We Are, or Roleplaying the World

Let's talk aliens, ethics, and mock United Nations debates, shall we? Since 2011, I have run an experimental debate session with my students at least once per year. In this debate, they are asked to roleplay as one of two alien species (or as members of an Intergalactic United Nations security council) who have been in a multi-century conflict reminiscent of the current Israel-Palestine conflict -- albeit, in a reductive and allegorical sense. One group wishes to be recognized as a planet (i.e., member state) in the IUN, while the other does not. A panel of students ultimately decides whether planethood (i.e., becoming a member state) will be granted; this decision is based on the strength of the presented arguments. If you're curious about the scenario, I've provided the full slideshow below: Read More

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), or Thor and the Amazing Technicolor Marvelverse

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of seeing the third installment in Marvel's Thor series. Directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows fame, Thor: Ragnarok has almost everyone head over heels with delight. And they've got good reason to be. Ragnarok is hilarious. From its absurd settings, colorful cast of characters, and heart-wrenching ending, this film is sure to please fans of the MCU and nab a few naysayers along the way. Read More

On the “Right” Kind of Reviews

One of the things that often bothers me about the reviewing process is the idea that some reviews are inherently more valuable than others. By this, I don't mean in the sense of the quality of the writing itself; after all, some reviews really are nothing more than a quick "I liked it" or are borderline unreadable. Rather, I mean "more valuable" in the sense that different styles of reviewing are worth more than others. While I think most of us would agree that this is poppycock, there are some in the sf/f community who would honestly claim that the critical/analytical review is simply better than the others (namely, the self-reflective review). 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

Teaching Against the Mainstream

I just turned in my book list for the courses I will be teaching in the Spring. Both are composition courses, so their default texts aren't particularly interesting outside of an academic interest, but one of those courses (ENC 1102) is a research writing course, which means I get to teach some literature! Every time I teach these courses, I try to make the readings accessible and relevant to the present day. Previous renditions looked at war (past, present, and imagined), social media and technology, and, most recently, etc.. Most of my ENC 1102 courses this year have been explicitly political. It's hard not to be. A lot of writers have talked about trying to be creative in the present political climate. As a teacher, I find that the best way I can deal with what is going on beyond screaming obscenities at my friend on Skype is to turn my courses into productive explorations of our present world. Over the summer, I explored fascism/totalitarianism in literature and the connection such ideas have to our present situation (it's complicated). Read More

Life Log #01: My Back Isn’t Broken and Media Consumed

Currently Reading:  IT by Stephen King (pg. 380 of 1184) Currently Watching:  Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Season 1) Mood:  Pleasantly Unperturbed I had an appointment with a physical therapist today -- the first of two. For the past two weeks, I've been out of commission from some sort of exercise-induced back injury. Nothing serious. Just a little localized pain and noticeable tightness. Rather than ignore it, I used the free healthcare options I have on hand to get expert advice on what is going on. And the verdict? My back isn't broken, my spine is in working order, and all I've done is sprained the lower back muscles. This is partly due to general weakness in the core, back, and thigh regions. That means I need to do more focused exercises to build those areas up so they aren't being pulled about by all the other bits. Or something like that. Read More

Five Faves: 80s Science Fiction Movies

The 80s were great.[note]They were also damn terrible. The horrible treatment of LGBTQ+ people, the AIDs crisis, Reagan, the Cold War, Reagan, and so on and so forth. I just like the art...[/note] Great music. Great movies. Great books. Great fashion. Yeah, I said it. Fashion. I love 80s fashion, and I don't care what you think about that! Anywho. For today's Five Faves post, I thought I'd take a stab at listing 80s science fiction movies. I know that the second I click the publish button on this post, I'm going to change my mind about the movies selected below. Oh well... Here goes: Read More