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Asking the Wrong Questions





Updated: 2018-01-20T16:26:24.396+02:00

 



Night in the Woods

2018-01-19T18:40:04.097+02:00

You've probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven't played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which



Introducing A Political History of the Future at Lawyers, Guns & Money

2018-01-14T17:21:09.391+02:00

The political blog Lawyers, Guns & Money has been a favorite hangout of mine for years, both for its sharp and often funny discussions of progressive politics, and for its vibrant, intelligent comment section.  As well as being political junkies, many of the bloggers and commenters at LGM are nerds, and the blog has hosted some great pop culture writing, including by Steven Attewell and the late



2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

2017-12-31T19:25:13.047+02:00

I read 67 books in 2017, a significant drop from 2016, but one that I was expecting.  More importantly, that drop in quantity was by no means accompanied by a drop in quality.  2017 was easily one of my best reading years, so much so that I've had trouble narrowing down this list to a manageable number of titles. If I have a problem with 2017's reading, it is that for various reasons, including



New Scientist Column Update

2017-12-22T16:42:34.987+02:00

If you're a New Scientist subscriber, you can read my latest SF column, in which I discuss Rivers Solomon's debut novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, and M. John Harrison's short story collection You Should Come With Me Now.  I'm sorry that the column has been paywalled, because these are both books that deserve more attention, so if you're not a subscriber I'll sum the column up by saying that you



Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2017-12-17T18:59:20.624+02:00

A few days ago, I reread my review of The Force Awakens, and found myself in the odd position of being completely unable to recognize myself in it.  It's not that I disagree with anything I wrote.  But only two years after the film's opening, it lingers with me so little that the strong feelings I had about its plot, themes, and approach to the broader Star Wars universe feel positively alien.  



Recent Movie Roundup 27

2017-11-26T18:01:55.753+02:00

The blockbuster movies of 2017 are winding down--there's really only The Last Jedi left to go--and then it'll be time for Israeli movie theaters to furiously start scheduling the year's Oscar movies before the ceremony (still bereft of release dates: The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, and probably several others I'm forgetting).  Here are my thoughts on a



Recent Reading Roundup 45

2017-11-20T18:22:27.086+02:00

This is a funny bunch of books: a few that I picked up on a whim; a few that I've been breathlessly waiting for since they were announced; and one that's been sitting on my shelves for years.  The result isn't as exciting--in good ways and bad--as the last roundup of books I published, but nevertheless there are some reads here that I can already tell are going to be highlights of this



Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2017 Edition

2017-10-10T15:38:13.162+03:00

I've been doing these fall TV reviews for more than a decade, and every year they feel less relevant, as either a guide to shows that people might like to watch or a commentary on the state of TV.  It's not that I believe that network TV is no longer capable of producing worthwhile, exciting fare--after all, my favorite show currently airing, whose second season is somehow managing to top even



New Scientist Column: Maggie Shen King, M.T. Anderson, and Dave Hutchinson

2017-10-03T11:14:22.500+03:00

My latest column at The New Scientist has a relationship focus: in Maggie Shen King's debut novel An Excess Male, China's one child policy leads to a population of unmarriageable men who are encouraged to enter into polyandrous arrangements.  There's a definite whiff of The Handmaid's Tale wafting over this novel (which, along with last year's The Power, leads me to wonder if we're seeing a



The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

2017-10-01T19:37:24.258+03:00

It might seem a bit strange to say that The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of the Broken Earth trilogy, had a lot riding on it.  For the past two years, the SF field and its fandom have been falling over themselves to crown this trilogy as not just good, but important.  Both of the previous volumes in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo.



That Gum You Like: Scattered Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return

2017-09-20T17:54:43.685+03:00

I missed Twin Peaks the first time around.  Which is to say that I was aware of it--aware, even at the time, that it was considered a major event, and a shattering of the norms of what television could and should do.  But I was a little too young to watch it.  If my mother had watched the show I might have joined her, as I did with St. Elsewhere and L.A. Law, but as far as I know she wasn't



The Third Queen: Thoughts on the Seventh Season of Game of Thrones

2017-08-29T18:09:29.723+03:00

Well, this season of Game of Thrones was pretty shit, wasn't it?  That comes as a bit of a surprise, to be honest.  For years, I've taken an attitude of fond indulgence towards the show.  What's wrong, after all, with watching a bunch of generally quite fine actors enact a complicated plot with stratospheric production values and the occasional fantastic action scene?  Sure, the show wasn't



Recent Reading Roundup 44

2017-08-27T18:22:19.026+03:00

Summer is usually a dead reading time for me, the heat and dust making it difficult to concentrate on anything but the least challenging fare.  But this summer--which has anyway featured some interesting developments--has turned out to be very exciting on the reading front as well.  I didn't love all of these books--in fact one of them is easily my least favorite read in quite some time--but all



The 2017 Hugo Awards: Well, That Happened

2017-08-12T11:30:11.792+03:00

I am thrilled, overjoyed, and genuinely shocked to report that at the Hugo award ceremony held last night in Helsinki, I won the award for Best Fan Writer. This came as a complete surprise to me.  I was certain that Chuck Tingle would carry the award away (and if you look at the voting breakdowns, it was a near thing).  At the same time, I knew that I had a chance, so the days before the award



New Scientist Column: Yoon Ha Lee, Karin Tidbeck, and Nina Allan

2017-08-09T23:02:25.539+03:00

Greetings from Helsinki!  I am briefly emerging from the chaos of Worldcon to link to my latest column in The New Scientist, in which I discuss Yoon Ha Lee's Raven Stratagem, Karin Tidbeck's Amatka, and Nina Allan's The Rift.  It was interesting to see how three novels that seemed so superficially dissimilar ended up being about very similar things, chiefly the way that humans construct their own



Recent Movie Roundup 26

2017-07-23T18:58:11.195+03:00

I haven't seen a lot of people take note of this--and what with everything else going on, that's hardly surprising--but 2017 is shaping up to be a really good movie year.  Specifically, the genre/action/adventure movies this year has served up have been genuinely strong and enjoyable, from envelope-pushing fare like Logan, Get Out, and Colossal, to well-made, thoughtful variations on familiar



Colossal

2017-06-25T18:35:56.741+03:00

Going into Colossal with only the film's trailers and promotional material to prepare you, it's easy to expect an entertaining but fairly shallow handling of its premise, in which a hard-partying alcoholic (Anne Hathaway) is kicked out by her boyfriend and returns to her home town to wallow and hang out at a bar with her childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis), before discovering that she mysteriously



Five (Additional) Comments on Wonder Woman

2017-11-26T13:27:30.823+02:00

I didn't expect to have anything more to say about Wonder Woman after publishing my short review of it.  But in the week that followed, the film has stayed with me, particularly the ways in which it complicates (and fails to complicate) the conventions of the superhero narrative.  Partly, this is just the shock of the new.  The MCU--and particularly those parts of it that are a bit more



Review: Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock at Strange Horizons

2017-06-06T11:40:27.697+03:00

My review of Anne Charnock's third novel, Dreams Before the Start of Time, is up at Strange Horizons.  I took this review as an opportunity to air some of my frustration at one of the most glaring blind spots of science fiction (and perhaps fiction and public discourse in general), pregnancy and fertility.  A genre that likes to imagine that it will dismantle any commonplace of modern life, and



Recent Movie Roundup 25

2017-11-26T13:27:30.827+02:00

This bunch of movies is something of a transitional group--a few of the early blockbusters of the year, but also some of last year's art-house movies that only made it into Israeli movie theaters recently, and one movie that I wasn't expecting to see here at all.  The coming summer doesn't have much that appeals to me (though I was excited to learn, just today, that both Colossal and The Big Sick



Recent Reading Roundup 43

2017-06-01T18:01:22.496+03:00

The first few months of 2017 reading have not been as breathtaking as the comparable period in 2016.  Nevertheless, the feeling of having gotten my reading mojo back persists, and this list of recent reads, a mostly-literary bunch (a lot of my recent genre reading has been for my New Scientist column, and you can find my thoughts on those books there) with a few awards contenders and interesting



New Scientist Column: Kim Stanley Robinson and Gwyneth Jones

2017-05-15T20:48:44.155+03:00

My latest column at The New Scientist looks at two novels that try to imagine how society will order itself in the wake of environmental and economic collapse.  Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 imagines the titular city as a high-tech Venice, where a quasi-socialist community has arisen in the vacuum left behind when finance retreated, and must now defend itself as the forces of



We're All Mad Here: Thoughts on Legion

2017-04-25T18:07:52.530+03:00

The superhero genre has been the dominant mode of our pop culture for at least ten years.  Which has turned out to be a bit of a problem, since, even by the relatively modest standards of blockbuster entertainment, superheroes do not lend themselves to particularly deep or thought-provoking ideas.  This is, after all, a genre that is still furiously debating the oh-so-provocative question, "



The 2017 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominees

2017-04-05T20:43:01.705+03:00

Yesterday saw the announcement of this year's Hugo nominations.  Usually I write an essay about the nominees and what state of the field they reflect, but these were announced just as I landed from a week-long trip to New York into several work and life obligations.  So instead, here's an itemized list of the reactions I had to the nominations when they were announced, not necessarily in the



Five Comments on Iron Fist

2017-03-20T19:44:22.275+02:00

Marvel and Netflix's latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership's (if not the MCU's) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist's reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make