Five Faves: Fabulous Worlds of SF/F (Guest Post by Helen Lowe) #MonthofJoy

I believe worldbuilding is the characteristic that most distinguishes SF/F from other styles of literature. All other genres rely on the reader's understanding of the world as it is or has been. In SF/F, the writer must first build the world—a process that includes environment, geography, history, politics, culture, and religion, as well as technological and/or magic systems—for both the story to exist and the reader to engage with it. And as an avid reader of SF/F, as well as an author, there is nothing that rocks my reading and SF/F-loving world quite like a truly fantastic bit of worldbuilding. So in the spirit of #monthofjoy here are five of my favorites – although there are, of course, many, many more. Note: I should add that I am deliberately excluding both Middle Earth and Narnia, simply because they are so well-canvassed in the zeitgeist, but you may take it as read that they're definitely right up there for me. Read More

Five Faves: Disaster Films (Guest Post by Lauren Griffin)

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a sociologist and communications researcher who studies climate change, misinformation, and environmental attitudes. One of my research areas is climate fiction (“cli-fi”). More specifically, I study disaster films and how these films impact how we think about climate change. As a result, I’ve seen a lot of disaster films. I’ve given more hours of my life to this genre than is probably healthy, but even after all that I still love these movies, and not just as the subject of research. They have their own silly, adventurous appeal, and when approached with the right mind-set, they can give quite a few laughs and provide a fun distraction from the darkness in the world today. Disaster films overwhelmingly fall into two categories: big-budget blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow and San Andreas and low-budget productions like Sharknado. Both types have their charms, but most people have heard of the major productions. This post is going to focus on some delightful examples that you might have overlooked. Read More

Five Faves: Space Opera Books — #MonthofJoy

It's Five Faves time! Throughout the month of June, I'll be diverting attention away from the things I'm supposed to be doing in order to spend a little time babbling about the things that I love. This feature will do exactly what it says:  list five of my favorite things in a category. Most of the lists will be "on topic," which is to say "related to SF/F in some way," but some lists will be on my other ancillary interests, such as reptiles, books of theory, pies, and...wait...pie? Oh my god, I love pie! Anywho...today's post, as the title suggests, will list 5 of my favorite space operas. I will use the following criteria for this list:
  • Books will be taken to mean "narrative fiction at novel length" rather than the broader definition we use today. Comics and graphic novels deserve their own list anyway. That means no movies either.
  • I'm using my personal definition of space opera. I'm happy to talk about that definition at another time, but for now, I just want to share some things I love!
Here we go: Read More

Space Opera Course Update

A few months ago, I asked for input from folks interested in the online space opera course I planned to teach/run at some point during the summer. Many of you gave me some excellent feedback about the form the course should take, the readings, cost, and so on, and so I set out to try to put something together in time for summer 2017. Well, it's officially summer, and as should be obvious right now, things aren't exactly put together. And there's good reason for that. Read More

My OASIS 29 Con Schedule: Come See My Shenanigans!

I'm a guest at OASIS again! And let me tell you, I am super excited. Last year, I had the great pleasure of meeting A. Lee Martinez, who is both one of the nicest dudes that ever walked the Earth and also almost nearly as funny as me (not quite, but he gets like 9 points for being pretty cool :P; I don't know what these points are on about). OASIS is one of my local conventions, located in sunny Orlando. I'll be there for the full run of the convention -- May 19th to May 21st. This year, the Guest of Honor at OASIS is urban fantasy master Faith Hunter, author of the Rogue Mage series and the Jane Yellowrock series, among others. She has something like 9 million books published under one of her 9 identities (OK, so she's published around 32 books under three names, but 9 million is pretty close...). It should be a lot of fun to chat with her on panels in a couple weeks! And what am I up to?  Boy howdy am I in for a busy weekend. This is my schedule: Read More

2017 WISB Awards Long List

The long list returns! Last year, I introduced the first ever WISB Awards Long list, which represents all the things I loved in 2015 and, more or less, my Hugo Awards Ballot (some items are obviously not eligible). This year, I'm at it again. Shortly, I'll release the winners of the 2017 WISB Awards. Presumably, there will be thunderous applause or something. As always, I do not include my own work on the long list. If you're interested in nominating me for something, feel free to do so for the following:
  • Best Fancast
    • The Skiffy and Fanty Show (Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, Rachael Acks, David Annandale, Jen Zink, and Trish Matson)
    • Totally Pretentious (Shaun Duke and David Annandale)
Now here's the official 2017 WISB Awards Long List: (IMPORTANT:  I am in the process of filling out the categories. New updates will go up periodically throughout the day.) Read More

Space Opera, the Course: Seeking Your Input!

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

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?

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

The Science Fiction Canon: Function, Limits, and Problems

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