Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Non-Superhero Summer Movie Roundup: Warcraft, Independence Day, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, The Secret Life of Pets, Kubo and the Two Strings

This year's summer movies largely seemed to follow the pattern of this terrible year: they ranged from mildly mediocre to grotesquely terrible.  I'm not sure about why that is, although this article from The Guardian's Benjamin Lee takes a good stab at it.  The awfulness of 2016 summer movies is especially odd compared to 2015, which gave us the masterpiece of Mad Max: Fury Road.  I even liked Terminator Genisys.

I'm not a big superhero fan, which probably saved me from some disappointment this summer.  I did have the misfortune of seeing Suicide Squad, but the silver lining for me is that as much of an offense to cinema as Suicide Squad was, it may signal that we are finally nearing the end of the mind-numbing domination of superhero movies.  Another benefit of Suicide Squad is that it inspired this hilarious video from Jenny Nicholson: "Suicide Squad Sales Pitch."

So without further ado ... my non-superhero summer science fiction and fantasy movie round up!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Worldcon Report 2: Fun Times, Hugo Results, and the Incoherence of the Puppies

The 74h Worldcon (MidAmeriCon II) has ended.  After a brief impromptu bonus vacation in Charlotte, North Carolina (due to missing a connecting flight), I'm back home in Chattanooga.  So here's Worldcon Report 2! (See Worldcon Report 1, which includes my first George R. R. Martin sighting of the con).

Luckily I had a shirt to wear for
my bonus vacation
Here are some of the highlights from Saturday and Sunday.

  • I saw George R. R. Martin around several more times.  He was even dressed up sans Greek fisherman's hat for the Hugo Award Ceremony.  More on the Hugos below.
  • I went to a lot of great panels.  Some of my favorites were Alienation in Science Fiction (which included Robert J. Sawyer, who I met later), The Art of Worldbuilding (which included Greg Bear and Carrie Patel), Alienbuilding (which included Larry Niven, Sheila Finch, and Caroline Yoachim), and a panel on Sense8 (which included Mark Oshiro, Sunil Patel, and Kate Elliott).
  • I bought several books, thus fueling my bibliophilia.  I made sure to buy a few books from smaller presses like Rosarium and Apex.
  • I met a lot of interesting people, some of whose names I unfortunately can't remember!  A few people whose names I do remember are Shiv Ramdas (whose work I hope to check out soon), Mike Substelny, and Chester Hoster.
  • Jo Walton signed a book for me, and I told her that as a SF fan and philosopher who regularly teaches Plato's Republic, I thoroughly approve of her Thessaly series, which is about the time traveling goddess Athena setting up Plato's Republic in the distant past (with robots and Socrates!).  She signed Necessity, the third book in the series, which I hope to review soon (see my reviews of the first two books here and here).
  • Before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, some friends and I ate at the Flying Saucer restaurant, which seemed like the most appropriate place to eat (the food was good and the beer selection was amazing; check it out if you're in downtown Kansas City).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Worldcon Report 1

I've been having a fabulous time here at MidAmeriCon II (the 74th Worldcon).    Here are a few highlights so far.

George R. R. Martin in his native habitat

  • I went to a bunch of really interesting panels on topics ranging from Afrofuturism, the history of the book, teaching science fiction, Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed, and more!
  • I caught a few minutes of George R. R. Martin's reading.  And then I had a GRRM sighting in the hallway in his native habitat: a science fiction convention!  (See photographic evidence above).
  • I've been hanging out with friends I haven't seen in awhile and I've met new people as well.
  • I voted for the site section for future the future Worldcon and future NASFic.
  • I had some excellent barbecue.
  • Above all, I've been enjoying being part of the fannish community. I've written about in the past, but Worldcon is bigger than the smaller local cons.  No matter how nerdy you are in the "normal" or "real" world, you are a valued and accepted member of this community.  This makes me think the whole Puppy fiasco is terribly at odds with the core idea of fandom: a beautiful acceptance of people who are often maligned and stigmatized elsewhere.  More to think about soon.

Next up: more panels today and then the Hugo Awards ceremony.  Tomorrow: my talk at 11!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Upcoming Talk at Worldcon!

Kansas City, Missouri

In a few days I'm heading to Kansas City to attend MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention (aka, Worldcon).  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, enjoying some panels, seeing some fantastic authors, attending the Hugo Awards Ceremony, eating some of that famous barbecue, and having an all around nerdy good time.

I will also be giving a talk on the academic track called “The Meaning of Life Among the Stars: Nolan’s Interstellar, Robinson’s Aurora, and Butler’s Earthseed."  

My panel takes place on Sunday, Aug. 21 from 11am-12pm.  See the full schedule here.   Maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More 80’s Than the 80’s: Stranger Things and My Totally 80’s Nostalgia-thon

Maybe it’s because 2016 has been pretty depressing so far – even our summer movies have been underwhelming.  Maybe it’s because I’m only several weeks shy of my 40th birthday.  Maybe it’s because I just watched Stranger Things.  For whatever reason, I’ve been feeling a lot of 80’s nostalgia lately.

The Sublime Bodaciousness of Being an 80's Kid

I’m a genuine 80’s kid.  I never stopped loving Arnold Schwarzenegger’s one-liners from “I’ll be back” to “Consider that a divorce” (see a comprehensive list here).   Growing up with sci-fi and fantasy movies like ET, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, Gremlins, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Labyrinth, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Back to the Future made my childhood a magical time.  I still learn lessons from GI Joe and He-Man

Monday, August 8, 2016

Philosophical SF Recommendations

Books!  Check 'em out!  (Includes a few from my list)

Eric Schwitzgebel has published new entries in his series of recommendations of philosophical speculative fiction from professional philosophers and SF writers with philosophical backgrounds.  The latest entries come from philosophers Paul Prescott, Helen Daly, John Holbo, and ... me!

CLICK HERE to read the recent entries.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Reading The Clan of the Cave Bear in Memory of Mom

After a two-year battle with breast cancer, my mom died 16 years ago today.  Last year I wrote about my typical Dairy Queen remembrance (“Commemorating the Anniversary of my Mom’s Death”).  This year I thought I’d try something new, but don’t worry, what my mom jokingly referred to as a “recommended daily dose of Dairy Queen” is still on order.

When I was a kid I remember that my mom was a fan of Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series.  The Clan of the Cave Bear and its sequels were always around the house.  Sadly my mom didn’t live long enough to read the last two novels in the series. 

I’ve always meant to read some of those books, both as a way to connect with my mom and out of my amateur interests in paleoanthropology (I’m particularly fascinated by Neanderthals).  Recently I decided to finally start the first book.