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

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