Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 in Hindsight


What a fucking year. At the beginning of 2020 I was looking forward to a year of tenure and travel. Here, at the end, I’m looking back on a year of turmoil.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sequels of McDune: Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson


All of these things are true in my opinion: 
  • People are too hard on the Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Dune books (aka, "McDune").
  • The books are nowhere near as good as Frank Herbert's originals.
  • I enjoy the McDune books the same way that I sometimes enjoy McDonald's (or really Taco Bell for me) even though I know it's not good.
  • It's fun to learn what happened immediately after the last Frank Herbert book even if I know it's neither the same nor as good as what Frank would have written.

The Epistemology of Evil Twins: The Dark Half by Stephen King


Only Stephen King could write a book with the somewhat silly premise of an author's pseudonym coming to life .... and make me believe it so engrossingly. 1989's The Dark Half isn't one of King's "A List" novels (it's not up there with The Stand, IT, or The Shining), but I think it's underrated.

This is also one of King's most epistemological novels (along with The Dead Zone), so let's call it... the epistemology of evil twins! (Epistemology, or theory of knowledge, is the part of philosophy that studies knowledge: what it is, how you get it, whether you have as much of it as you think, etc.).

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Twelve Nights of Christmas Horror Movies, Part Two


In "Twelve Nights of Christmas Horror Movies, Part One" I discussed a bunch of Christmas horror movies. And now I'm going to discuss a bunch more!

I ended up watching more than 12 movies, but I liked the title, so what are you gonna do? Besides, sometimes I watched more than one per night. Maybe you will, too.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Later Explorations of Earthsea: Tehanu and Tales of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin


I've been a huge fan of Le Guin's science fiction for about 20 years, but I didn't start reading the Earthsea books until a few years ago. I recently moved these two later books in the series --Tehanu and Tales From Earthsea--to  the top of my list to prepare for an online discussion of the Earthsea books (info here).

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Twelve Nights of Christmas Horror Movies, Part One


Last month I wrote about Thanksgiving horror movies to watch instead of spreading the Coronavirus to your family, so it seemed like a Christmas horror movie post was the next thing to do. (Although I should note that there is at least one Hanukkah horror movie out there).

It turns out there are a lot more Christmas horror movies than there are for any other non-Halloween holiday. Something about late December gives audiences an appetite for horror, I guess. There was sizable haul of Christmas horror movies in the 70's and 80's (you can read about some of them below), but the 90’s and 2000’s weren’t big decades for Christmas horror movies. Christmas horror returned from the commercial graveyard in the 2010’s, and given how horrific the 2020's have started off, I don't see this trend slowing down soon.

I'm not going to include the most obvious choice, Gremlins (1984), nor some recent favorites like Rare Exports (2010) and Krampus (2015). Nothing against any of those movies. They're all great! But I thought I'd scour my streaming services to bring you some lesser-known Christmas horror movies to watch while you're spending the holidays at home with people in your household. At least I hope you're not attending gatherings with people outside your household this Christmas! The horror!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Le Guin's Earthsea on Worlds of Speculative Fiction

I'm excited to be a guest for Dr. Greg Sadler's Worlds of Speculative Fiction tomorrow (Sat. Dec. 19, 2020). We'll be discussing Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series.

Here's the Facebook eventvideo link, and Zoom link. This is free and open to the public, so feel free to attend virtually.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Realism and Other Fantasies: The Changeling by Victor LaValle


I'm a huge fan of Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom (I even assign it in my course on horror and philosophy), so I was excited to read more from the same author.

The Changeling is a really different book than The Ballad of Black Tom, but it also shows LaValle's ability to blend realism and fantasy to tell an engaging story.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Solipsists, Useless Kings, and Lazy Guns: Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks


Longtime readers of this blog (or anyone who talks to me about science fiction for five minutes) may remember that I'm a huge fan of Iain M. Banks's Culture series (find out why in "Death and Utopia: Reflections on the Culture").

Against a Dark Background is not a Culture novel. It's neither quite as fun nor as deep as the Culture books, but it has its moments. Even a sub-par Iain M. Banks novel is above average science fiction.

But like Feersum Endjinn and The Algebraist, Against a Dark Background not set in the Culture universe (or at least not within the galactic territory traversed by the Culture). The Algebraist is probably my favorite of Banks's non-Culture SF, but Against a Dark Background has its share of Banksian brilliance.