Sunday, December 31, 2023

600th Post and New Year's Eve 2023 Spectacular!


I was planning to write a post "Holiday Horor 2023, Part 2," which would also feature some New Year's horror, but then I noticed that not only is it New Year's Eve, this will be 600th post on this blog! So here is my 600th Post and New Year's Eve 2023 Spectacular!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Review of Reviews: December 2023


It's the week between Christmas and New Year's, that blank time filled with cheese, sugar, and not knowing what day of the week it is. I've been having fun reading, but I have been somewhat remiss when it comes to writing reviews. Lest I disappoint the small handful of humans and bots who will read this, here are my reviews of some of what I've been reading lately: Transcendent by Stephen Baxter, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee, and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I also recently finished A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers, but I need more time to process how much I loved everything about it. I'm also returning to an old favorite, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, which I'm loving just as much if not more than I did when I first read it ten years ago. Anyway, on to this Review of Reviews: December 2023!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Holiday Horror 2023


Here at Examined Worlds we have a tradition of writing about holiday horror movies. I guess it's my way of dealing with my complicated feelings about the Most Wonderful/Horrific Time of the Year. It's not that I hate the holidays, really. It's just that it's all a bit much sometimes: the pressure to produce holiday magic at all times through food, cheer, and cheesy decorations, the rampant commercialization that makes you feel like an asshole if you don't buy your loved ones new cars and expensive jewelry, hearing a million versions of the same songs over and over and over and over, each one more insipid than the last ...

Okay, no need to rehash all that. On to the movies!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Dragons, Towers, and Constant Readers: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King


The first time I read The Eyes of the Dragon was about 30 years ago. I didn't remember all the plot details reading it again, but I did remember that it's a fairy tale fantasy novel. Above all, I remembered the warm tone of the narrator who speaks directly to the reader. 

It's pretty much King's style in the little forewords and afterwords where he directly addresses his Constant Readers, only if he were telling us a long fairy tale. I loved that aspect of the book just as much or even more than I did last time. I have a clear memory of reading a particular passage in which the narrator wishes the reader a good night. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing, dear reader.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Pandemic of Revenge: The White Plague by Frank Herbert


Let's start with the obvious: The White Plague is not Dune. But it is definitely Frank Herbert: provocative, complex, dense, and oddly compelling. And yes, there are epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter.

Instead of a galactic empire 20-some thousand years in the future, we start with Ireland circa 1980. Microbiologist John Roe O'Neill loses his wife and children in a terrorist attack. And later a virus decimates humanity, or rather, half of humanity, as it only affects women. It turns out that O'Neill designed the virus as revenge, intending it to strike Ireland, England, and Libya. Of course, viruses don't respect national boundaries and it becomes a global pandemic.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Israel/Palestine: A Dialogue with Myself

Me: I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happening in Israel/Palestine, but I’m not sure what to say. I haven’t been saying much about it. 

Me 2: But who are you to say anything? You’re not Jewish or Muslim, Israeli or Palestinian? Why should anyone care what you think? 

Me: I don’t know, honestly. Obviously, I relate to this issue differently and less personally than people more directly affected by it, or by the recent rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia here in the US. I guess maybe writing this is a way to figure out what I think? Maybe it could help others? Or they could tell me where I’m wrong? 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Vacation Revelations: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay


I often find novels written in the present tense to be a bit gimmicky (like the author is trying too hard to make it feel immediate). I also don't always like horror that relies heavily on Christian symbolism (I can appreciate The Exorcist, but I prefer it when authors create new ideas to terrify us rather than riffing on centuries' old preexisting material). Yet somehow I really loved The Cabin at the End of the World, which probably says a lot about Tremblay's skills as an author. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Spooky Reads for Spooky Season: Halloween 2023!


Spooky Season has been in full swing for almost two full months here in the US. One of the better things my fellow Americans have done in recent decades: turning Halloween into a full two-month-long festival of ghoulish goodness!

I've been watching a lot of spooky movies, from the old school The Wolf Man to The Descent to the entire Pet Sematary cinematic universe (I re-read the novel, which remains better than any of the films, watched both film versions, even got to Pet Sematary 2, which I don't necessarily recommend, and the brand new, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, which I do recommend). I've also been trying to branch out more internationally with films like Kandisha from France and Kaali Khuhi from India. 

And there's spooky TV, too, most excellently The Fall of the House of Usher (Mike Flanagan's fantastic take on Edgar Allan Poe) and The Changeling (based on a novel by Victor LaValle starring LaKeith Stanfield). I may write up some thoughts about my spooky cinematic adventures later, maybe sometime before my horror and philosophy students present their films on November 16! (stay tuned for details on that)

But for now, here are a few of my spooky reads for spooky season 2023! Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Holly versus COVID and Professors: Holly by Stephen King


Stephen King never (okay, rarely) disappoints, and this Holly Gibney novel, simply titled Holly, is no exception. 

Since I started reading the Holly Gibney stories in a weird order, starting with If It Bleeds and The Outsider without having read the Bill Hodges trilogy, I figured it was fine to pick up King's latest book in the tradition of having had new Stephen King for the last few autumns. I do plan to read the Bill Hodges trilogy soon, but when they came out I was under the impression (which I now realize is mistaken) that King's "crime fiction" would be less interesting than his traditional horror.

There's a lot one could say about this novel, so let me focus on two of its more controversial aspects: being King's first novel in which the pandemic is part of the plot, and being less of a traditional horror story (while nonetheless being firmly in the horror genre in my opinion).

Monday, October 9, 2023

Random Thoughts, Part 22: Dentists, Strikes, Care, Work-Life Balance, and Semis in the Left Lane


My random thoughts series has all led to this: Part 22! It sounds portentous, but it's actually just trivially true. Your whole life has led to you reading this blog post! See?

My random thoughts keep coming. If anything, my thoughts get more random every year. Or is that actually not random at all? If something becomes incrementally more random, is it thereby not random? Maybe let's set the AIs on that one instead of deciding people's economic fates or giving students new ways to cheat.

Anyway, enjoy this crop of random thoughts as well as another non-random fact: the ever-more ridiculous amount of random memes!

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hugo Ballot 2023: Novels, Novellas, and More!


I made it! I got my Hugo votes submitted by the Sept. 30 deadline! It felt like a compressed Hugo reading season to me. Maybe it was the delay on the front end from the local Worldcon or the fact that my late summer travels and the beginning of the school year ate into my reading time, but I felt a bit rushed this year compared to previous years. I barely finished the novels and only kinda finished the novellas (you can see how I voted on the novelettes and short stories here). I skimmed the Related Works, glanced at some of the art, and went totally from memory for the Dramatic Presentations. But I did manage to vote in most of the categories. I felt especially invested in the semiprozine category this year for reasons revealed below.

How'd it go? I surprised myself with a few picks this year, especially for Best Novel, but I can say I enjoyed reading all the nominees and would be thrilled to see any of them win. Check it out below! You can see how it all turns out during the ceremony on Oct. 21 at the Chengdu Worldcon! Good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Stirring the Past Into the Future: The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

My 2023 Hugo reading continues with The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal. What did I think?

I like the concept of this book, which you might call stirring the past into the future: pour a bit of the old Thin Man movies from the 1930's and 40's (married couple travels with their dog, drinking cocktails), but in space with a healthy splash of hard SF engineering--all served in a large glass of murder mystery. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Birthday Report: 2023


Every year I've had this blog, I've written a little something for my birthday. And this year is no different!

But aren't birthdays for kids? First of all, why should kids have all the fun? If being an adult requires draining life of all fun, wonder, and joy so you can pay bills and work until you die, well, then, what's the point of that?

I've always liked the message of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (yes, I am that old!): "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." And birthdays are great days to do that!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Hugo Ballot 2023: Short Stories and Novelettes!


It's Hugo reading season! The voting deadline is coming up on Sept. 30! There was a bit of a delay in releasing the list of nominees and the Hugo packet, and then summer travels and the beginning of the fall semester happened to me ... so, how am I doing?

I'm almost done with the novels. I may or may not get to all the novellas (sad, I know!). But I have now finished the novelettes and short stories.  Maybe because this year's Worldcon will be taking place in Chengdu, China, there are more finalists from China than usual! Unfortunately I won't get to China this year, but Worldcon will be in Glasgow, Scotland next year, and I'm hoping to attend in person as part of the Science Fiction and Philosophy Society (stay tuned for details).

Anyway, overall I thought there were some great novelettes and short stories this year. The novelettes in particular were really difficult to rank (reading the Hugo nominees in the last several years has taught me that I seem to enjoy the novelette-length short fiction best: enough space to dig in, but it's still not too long). Here are my rankings and what I thought about this year's short stories and novelettes!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Serious Cozybusiness: Legends & Lattés by Travis Baldree


I definitely recommend Legends & Lattés to anyone who has ever played Dungeons & Dragons, or really anyone who enjoys this quote from Tolkien: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

I'm nearing the end of my Hugo reading (for novels, anyway). I admit when I first saw this was nominated, I ... didn't know what to think. It kind of looked like a wacky self-published thing (and it was originally published directly on Amazon before Tor picked it up). It didn't really seem, well, like a Serious Hugo Nominee.

Dear reader, I was wrong. This may be my favorite Hugo novel nominee yet. It's not that the novel is "serious" in the sense of not having any humor. I chuckled out loud several times reading it. But there is, I think, a serious deeper point.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Digging New Wells: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Slivia Moreno-Garcia


I've enjoyed Moreno-Garcia's other work, like Mexican Gothic. I really loved Certain Dark Things, which I'd describe as an excellent vampire novel for people who usually don't like vampires. So how is The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, which has been nominated for a Hugo award this year?

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Dark Fantasy Horror Comedy: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher


I'm continuing my Hugo reading with the next nominee: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher!

At first I thought Nettle & Bone might be an entry in the genre of "modern retellings of fairy tales." But it is not that. Not really. (If you like that sort of thing, that's great, but it's not my personal cup of tea). Rather, Nettle & Bone is something much weirder and more fun, which shouldn't have been a surprise from T. Kingfisher.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Fun with Kaiju: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi


My Hugo reading has begun! Maybe it's because school starts this week and I told myself I'd get a post out there before that, but this review is sadly (some may say "blessedly") short. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Postcolonial Hogwarts with Fun Etymologies: Babel by R. F. Kuang


If I had to describe R. F. Kuang's Babel, or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution in one phrase, I'd go with "Postcolonial Hogwarts with Fun Etymologies." Depending on how you feel about Harry Potter, postcolonial theory, and etymology, that may sound dismissive, but I don't mean to be dismissive at all. I really loved almost everything about this book, especially the etymologies (although I have to point out a mistake with the Devanagari script when a Sanskrit etymology is given on p. 474). 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Random Thoughts, Part 21: John Wick, Colorblindness, Apps, Skinny Doctors, Weezer, the South, and So On

It's randomly that time again: My Random Thoughts series continues with Part 21! I haven't been moved to write much on this blog lately, but that doesn't mean the random thoughts have stopped. Far from it! I doubt I could turn them off if I wanted to, but lucky for me and for you, dear reader, I don't want to. And it's also an excuse for a random assortment of memes curated from my random internet amusements. Enjoy!

Friday, June 16, 2023

Review of Reviews: June 2023 (The Regulators, Schrödinger's City, and The Eye in the Pyramid)


It's time for another review of reviews! I'm still eagerly awaiting the announcement of this year's Hugo finalists so I can start this year's Hugo reading (although I'm taking a gamble by starting R. F. Kuang's Nebula-winning Babel, which is fantastic even if we improbably live in a universe where it won't be a Hugo finalist). While I'm waiting, I'm reading other books that are on my ever-increasing to-read list: The Regulators by Richard Bachman (aka, Stephen King), Schrödinger's City by Matthew Buscemi, and The Eye in the Pyramid by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I guess the through-line here is that all three of these novels are pretty weird--and delightfully so. Just to mix it up, let's start with the one I finished last: The Eye in the Pyramid!

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Movie and TV Mini-Reviews: The Boogeyman, Yellowjackets, Star Trek: Picard, Beavis & Butt-Head, and More

As the prophecy of a recent post foretold, I'm back with some short reviews of movies and TV I've been watching lately. I'm including The Boogeyman, Yellowjackets, Star Trek: Picard, Beavis & Butt-Head, John Wick 4, Sinister, Insidious, and X. These reviews get weirdly impressionistic, so if you're looking for elaborate plot summaries and the like, you may be disappointed. Just the mood I'm in these days, I guess. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Review of Reviews: May 2023


I'm a bit behind on book reviews, but rather than doing a few separate shorter reviews, I figured I'd do a review of reviews! This time it's Billy Summers by Stephen King, Dreaming Me by Jan Willis, and Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed.

I'll stick to books this time, but I may do some reviews of some notable TV and movies soon (maybe including Star Trek: Picard, Beef, Yellowjackets, Sinister, X, Dungeons & Dragons, John Wick 4, and the latest (surprisingly science fictional!) iteration of Beavis & Butt-Head.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

How the Other Bland Lives: Halfway Human by Carolyn Ives Gilman


"Slow, but engrossing" is how I would describe my experience reading Halfway Human. There's a lot to think about here, as with Gilman's other work (like Dark Orbit).

Friday, April 21, 2023

Old Grey and Ethan's Excellent Adventure

The moment in Wyoming I realized the road trip had been an excellent idea

A couple months ago I realized that I would have family visiting Reno, Nevada right before I had to be in San Francisco, California for the American Philosophical Association Pacific Meeting (for a few panels, including one for the new Science Fiction and Philosophy Society!). I'm also on sabbatical this semester. I also have been wanting to do an epic Western US road trip for a long time.

Putting all this together, a plan was hatched. A bonkers plan. A long plan. One that I'm happy to inform you, dear reader, came to delightful fruition.

Nebraska state capitol in Lincoln

I left my house in Chattanooga, TN in late March and didn't return until about two and a half weeks later. All with my trusty Ford Focus, Old Grey. Hence, Old Grey and Ethan's Excellent Adventure! 

(Okay, poor Old Grey had to stay behind in Reno for a couple days while I went to Lake Tahoe and then several more days at the Oakland Airport while I took the train and conferenced it up in San Francisco. But for the most part it was just the two of us on our excellent adventure!)

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Science Fiction and Philosophy Society Inaugural Meeting: April 5, 2023

I'm thrilled to announce that the Science Fiction and Philosophy Society will have its inaugural meeting at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in San Francisco, California, USA (Earth) on Wed. April 5, 2023 at 8pm. Details about the APA Meeting can be found here. Maybe I will see you there!

Random Thoughts, Part 20: Non-dualism, Tacos, Chattanooga, James Bond, and Such

I haven't made a "Random Thoughts" post since October, but rest assured: the random thoughts have kept coming. Here are a few of them! With memes!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

So I Watched All the Oscar Nominees for Best Picture


I don't always care about the Oscars. I don't even watch the ceremony every year. But this year I happened to notice that I had seen a few of the nominees for Best Picture already, so I figured: why not watch them all? So I did! And here's what I thought about all of them in a series of mini-reviews!

Overall I have to say I was pretty impressed with this year's crop of Oscar nominees. I found something to like about all of them, and some of them I thought were really good. One film stands far and above the others for me, but overall I can say I'm glad I watched all of these. I kind of hate ranking things precisely, so below is sort of my order of overall preference. But really who cares what I think? I guess we'll see what the Academy thinks a few hours after I post this!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Happy (?) Third Pandemiversary!


Sunset in Albuquerque, NM (March 2023, trip postponed from May 2020)

What follows is an entry from my COVID Pandemic Journal, which I don't write in as much as I used to and post here on the blog even less. But since it's our third pandemiversary today, I figured it was time to dust off this old practice. Enjoy!

11 March 2023 

It’s the third anniversary of the pandemic, our third pandemiversary. A lot has changed in the last three years, both for me and for the world. Whatever lessons we may be learning are not coming fast enough. They may not come at all, but I continue to hope they may come yet. 

I don’t think I’ll have as much to say as I did on this day last year (our second pandemiversary). And that’s one thing I’ve learned in all this: it’s okay to do less. But, above all, I’m just tired. (Some of that comes from the confluence of the pandemic, post-tenure exhaustion, and feeling middle age for me.) 

Today I was remembering March 11, 2020. I was visiting family in Minneapolis. My sister and I had a nice day: lunch, happy hour, we brought my nephew to a swim class, and then we all met up with my brother-in-law and went out to eat. When we got back to the house, the news was saying an official pandemic was declared, and (as I’ve put it ever since), the world changed, but not even overnight. It was faster than that. I ended up renting a car and driving home instead of flying. 

As I joked at the time, Spring Break 2020 never really ended (and not in a fun way) as we didn’t return to the classroom in person until the fall. I’ve continued to teach mostly online ever since, although I’ll be back mostly in person in fall 2023. (Now my joke is that being on sabbatical is kind of like winter break never ended for me…) 

A lot of people were done with the pandemic a year or more ago. Most people talk as if it’s over; COVID has moved into the past tense. The statistics are now mostly difficult, or impossible to gather and many local health boards have stopped tracking anything but hospitalizations, but it does seem like we’ve maybe reached a point that must’ve been reached around 1921 after the pandemic that began in 1918 where a lot of people have some protection. But, of course, a new nasty variant could always crop up and change everything. 

And some people are still getting it. 2022 was the year that Beth and I finally got it. It sucked, but we stayed out of the hospital. Others are not so lucky. Death rates are much lower, but not zero. 

Last month in Denver, I went to my first big in-person philosophy conference since Jan. 2020. It was nice to see everyone in person. I inconsistently wore a mask, and mostly I didn’t. I figured a group of academics would be overwhelmingly vaccinated. I did go to a lot of bars and restaurants. It seemed almost normal. But I did wear a mask on the plane. I still wear one at the doctor, pharmacy, and grocery store—places where I figure vulnerable people have to be. 

Beth met me and we rented a car and drove down to New Mexico, which was awesome. We were supposed to visit New Mexico in May of 2020, so this was an overdue visit. We hadn’t been there since 2015, so we ate a lot of green chile and realized how much we miss New Mexico. It has its own culture in a way that most US states do not. I always say that Albuquerque was my favorite of the many places I’ve lived, and that continues to be true. 

I have another conference in San Francisco next month. I’m planning to make use of being on sabbatical by making an epic road trip out of it, and may even get to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho on the way back (three states I’ve never visited). My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew will be visiting my brother-in-law's family in Reno right before the conference, so I’ll stop to hang out with them for a few days, too. It should be a fun time! And hopefully no new pandemics will start on this visit… 

Driving still feels safer than flying on the COVID front, anyway. And weird as it may sound, spending several days alone on the road may be just what I need. Or it may be mind-numbingly awful, or filled with bad weather. We’ll see. 

In general, I’m still a bit anxious and no doubt changed by this whole thing in ways I may not completely understand for years, but it does feel like I’m sort of finding a way back to … I won’t say “normal,” because normal wasn’t actually that great for me or for the world. But maybe I’m slowly getting back to a more expansive kind of life, one where I feel a bit more free to explore outwardly as well as inwardly, whether in epic road trips or thinking and writing about life, the universe, and everything. 

While I continue to fear that the world may not have changed for the better through all of this, I also continue hope that maybe a few of us have been taking notes and thinking carefully about how to go beyond “normal” to something that works a bit better for everyone.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Review of Reviews: February 2023


Although I still occasionally write a longer review, most of my book reviews have been shorter as of late. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just appreciating brevity these days, so on that note, on to the reviews of books I've read in the last month or so!

Monday, February 13, 2023

New Article: “Pramāṇavāda and the Crisis of Skepticism in the Modern Public Sphere” by Amy Donahue (Cross-posted from the Indian Philosophy Blog)

Depiction of a debate between Maṇḍana Miśra and Śaṅkara with judge Ubhaya Bhāratī


I haven't cross-posted anything from the Indian Philosophy Blog in a long time, so here you go! This is about a great article from my colleague Dr. Amy Donahue. There's also some information about an upcoming conference panel where she and I will be presenting with Dr. Arindam Chakrabarti. Check it out! 

PS: You can find the original post on the Indian Philosophy Blog here.

Readers of the Indian Philosophy Blog may be interested to learn about a new article in the latest issue of the Journal of World Philosophies: “Pramāṇavāda and the Crisis of Skepticism in the Modern Public Sphere” by Amy Donahue (Kennesaw State University). The journal is open-access, and you can download the article here.

Here’s the abstract:

There is widespread and warranted skepticism about the usefulness of inclusive and epistemically rigorous public debate in societies that are modeled on the Habermasian public sphere, and this skepticism challenges the democratic form of government worldwide. To address structural weaknesses of Habermasian public spheres, such as susceptibility to mass manipulation through “ready-to-think” messages and tendencies to privilege and subordinate perspectives arbitrarily, interdisciplinary scholars should attend to traditions of knowledge and public debate that are not rooted in western colonial/modern genealogies, such as the Sanskritic traditions of pramāṇavāda and vāda. Attention to vādapramāṇavāda, and other traditions like them can inspire new forms of social discussion, media, and digital humanities, which, in turn, can help to place trust in democracy on foundations that are more stable than mere (anxious) optimism.

I enjoyed reading the article, and I found it extremely thought-provoking. I hope readers of this blog will check it out. Also, be sure to look for the forthcoming online debate platform that Donahue mentions on p. 5! Maybe we’ll make an announcement on the blog when it’s ready. Or reach out to Dr. Donahue if you’re interested in collaborating.

Here are a few of my questions for further discussion:

  1. Since pramāṇavāda was an elite discourse in historical South Asian societies and it requires some educational training (as Donahue notes on p. 4 and p. 5), can it do the work Donahue asks it to do?
  2. Are jalpa and vitaṇḍā so bad? While most Naiyāyikas have denigrated them as illegitimate as Donahue notes (p. 6), a few have distinguished “tricky” and “honest” forms of vitaṇḍā (Matilal 1998, 3). And then there’s Śrī Harṣa’s debate at the beginning of the Khaṇḍanakhaṇḍakhādya with a Naiyāyika opponent about whether one must accept the means of knowledge (pramāṇas) in order to enter into a debate about the pramāṇas (he mentions that one understands the discourse of the Madhyamakas and Cārvākas, perhaps thinking of Nāgārjuna and Jayarāśi; I will have more to say about the Cārvākas in an upcoming conference presentation—see information below). Matilal has also argued that vitaṇḍā can make sense as resulting in a “commitmentless denial” similar to an “illocutionary negation” (Matilal 1998, 50-56). In terms of a modern public sphere, could vitaṇḍā be a useful tactic for, say, pointing out the inherent contradictions of various harmful dogmatisms? Or maybe the deepest benefit of the vāda-jalpa-vitaṇḍā framework is a bit of self-awareness about which form of debate one is using?
  3. Is vāda necessarily more prone to discrediting false beliefs than a Habermasian public sphere or the type of marketplace of ideas in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty? (p. 11) My point is most definitely not that we have nothing to learn from Indian logic and debate. Far from it! But I wonder how effective vāda can be. After all, you don’t find much philosophical agreement in the classical Indian tradition, which is precisely why I find it so interesting!
  4. Is the archive (p. 12) essentially part of vāda, or is it a cultural artifact of the Indian and Tibetan tradition of commentaries? Was there something similar in Hellenistic, Roman, Islamic, and Byzantine traditions, which were also heavily commentarial?

My questions here are meant to be taken in the spirit of vāda to keep the conversation going. I hope others will read Donahue’s thought-provoking article and join this worthwhile conversation.

Also, if you will be attending the upcoming Central APA Conference in Denver, Colorado, USA on Feb. 22, 2023, you will have the chance to discuss these and other issues in person! 

Wed. Feb. 22, 2023, 1-4pm

2022 Invited Symposium: Vāda: Indian Logic and Public Debate 

Chair: Jarrod Brown (Berea College)


Amy Donahue (Kennesaw State University) “Vāda Project: A Non-Centric Method for Countering Disinformation”

Arindam Chakrabarti (University of Hawai’i at Manoa) “Does the Question Arise? Questioning the Meaning of Questions and the Definability of Doubt”

Ethan Mills (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)  “Cārvāka Skepticism about Inference: Historical and Contemporary Examples” 

(More information about the conference here, including a draft program that includes several other panels on Indian philosophy.)

Works Cited

Donahue, Amy. 2022. “Pramāṇavāda and the Crisis of Skepticism in the Public Sphere.” Journal of World Philosophies 7 (Winter 2022): 1-14.

Matilal, Bimal Krishna.  1998.  The Character of Logic in India.  Edited by Jonardon Ganeri and Heeraman Tiwari.  Albany: SUNY Press.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

March to Oblivion: The Long Walk by Stephen King


The Long Walk is powerful, engrossing stuff, up there with Pet Sematary in Stephen King's literary explorations of death. I'm glad I finally got to it in my low-key plan to read all of King's novels, and it may be favorite so far of the Bachman books originally published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

Like King himself, I take a walk almost every day (although never a "Long Walk" thankfully!). I did an experiment while reading this book: I walked one mile in 15 minutes to get a sense of how fast the characters have to walk (four miles per hour). It's a somewhat brisk pace that only deepened my sense of the stark horror of the novel. Or maybe the real horror is that, much as we try to ignore death or make it an object of entertainment (like the Crowd and King himself to some extent), we're all moving briskly toward death.

Carrie was King's first published novel, but this may be the first novel he wrote; he started it in the late 1960's, and it was published as a Bachman book in 1979. It's the work of a somewhat less polished, less mature writer (some of the prose early on feels a bit more clunky than King's later work), but King's brilliance is still there, as is his honest, unflinching look into the darker corners of human experience.

In a future dystopian America, complete with military dictatorship and Squads that disappear unruly citizens, a contest is held every year called The Long Walk. One hundred teenage boys begin walking at the US-Canada border in Maine, and they don't stop until all but one are dead. If they walk below four miles-per-hour (a brisk pace as my personal experiment attests), they are given a warning. After three warnings, they are summarily shot by soldiers. The winner (i.e., survivor) receives a large sum of money and a Prize of his choice. (Remember: this was written decades before The Hunger Games!)

The science fiction nerd in me wanted a little more information about how we got to dystopia and the history of the Long Walk, but given what happens when Stephen King tries to do info-heavy science fiction (The Tommyknockers, Under the Dome, etc.), maybe it's best some of this is unexplained.

Where King shines, as usual, are his characters and engrossing the reader. We have, in effect, a moving small town in Maine, and the boys are all the types of characters you'd expect from King (one is even wearing a chambray work shirt). There's the main character, Garraty, an all-American, if slightly nerdy, protagonist (perhaps like a young Stephen King), the wise-cracking McVries, the good-natured Scramm, the stoic Stebbins, the cruel Barkovitch, and several more, each more complex than I've explained (but not too many: thankfully King didn't try to introduce all 100 boys!).

I think for me what sets this one above King's other Bachman dystopia (The Running Man) is a more likable protagonist and a wider cast of characters; I cared about these characters and was engrossed in their experience, horrific though I knew it would be for all of them.

And this guides the reader into the deeper themes of the novel. One way to read this novel would be a commentary on the war in Vietnam, which was raging as King started writing the novel and ended not long before it was published. The young men are literally marching toward their deaths after being chosen by the state; nobody is sure why, but everybody is celebrating along the sides of the roads.

But even more deeply, aren't we all on a long walk of sorts? We all know what the destination will be even if we don't know precisely how or when we will arrive. Like the Crowd, we try to take our minds off it, or even make it a form of gruesome entertainment, but the walk goes on nonetheless. King includes a bit of existential dread among the boys here and there just in case you didn't get it, but it's never overbearing (existential, yes, but he's not quite Sartre or de Beauvoir).

You could read this as an engrossing tale of an imaginary dystopia, or you could read it as that and something deeper at the same time. I think King's ability to work so well at multiple levels, of which The Long Walk is maybe the best early example, is a big part of why Stephen King has been successful for almost 50 years.

See also my Goodreads review.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Upcoming Talk and Recent Indian Philosophy Blog Posts


I'm on sabbatical this semester, which means I'm spending more time on the research side of my job. Here are a few professional happenings on that front.

I have a few other things coming up in the new few months, including in-person conferences in Denver and San Francisco. The San Francisco conference will include the inaugural panel of the new Science Fiction and Philosophy Society!

I had to promise my university I would produce a book proposal for a new book project during my sabbatical (likely focusing on Vasubandhu and Ratnakīrti), so I may have details on that in a few months. Stay tuned!

Sympathy for the Devil: Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey


I think I like the concept more than the execution of Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker, but overall it's an interesting read.

Monday, January 16, 2023

MLK Day and Kindred: History is Still With Us

MLK mural at the MLK Day Parade and March, Chattanooga, TN (Jan. 16, 2023)


Today has been another Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. In the past I've written posts including "MLK Day 2020: Labor, Love, and Community" and "So You're Going to Quote MLK?"  I thought of the former post a few weeks ago when Republican Congressman Chip Roy quoted King during one of the tragicomic votes for US House Speaker.

This year I attended the 2023 MLK Day Parade and March here in Chattanooga, Tennessee with my union, United Campus Workers. (See photo above).

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Chattacon 2023 Is This Weekend!


It's the middle of January here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which means it's time for Chattacon! This long-running con (it's a few months older than I am!) celebrates science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, games, cosplay, and all things nerdy every January. It's a small, friendly con (usually a few hundred participants) that I've been attending regularly since 2015. This year it runs THIS WEEKEND, Jan. 13-15, 2023.

And as I have been for the past few years, I will be an official Chattacon panelist! Here are the panels I will be on with links to the panel descriptions:

I will also attend a bunch of other stuff. You can see the full programming schedule on the Chattacon website.  Maybe I will see you there!

I'm always excited for Chattacon, but after an online con in 2021 and the anxiety of the Omicron surge last year, I'm hoping maybe I can relax a bit this year, especially in the best con suite I've ever experienced at any con (they probably can't mention it for legal reasons, but there may be beer and rumors of beer...). The con is asking people to wear masks, but I don't think there's a vaccination requirement this year. Obviously COVID is still an issue (rumors of the pandemic's death have been greatly exaggerated), but our local numbers (even the wastewater testing) aren't anywhere near as bad as they were at this time last year and I'm fully up-to-date on all my vaccines and boosters, so I'm hoping I won't have as much anxiety about attending as I did last year. I'll still test before and after just to be safe and responsible.

Well, I'd better make sure I have some notes for what I'm going to say on the panels, but if you are interested in more information or would like to buy a badge, check out the Chattacon website. 

Onward to Chattacon!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The Cosmic Grind: Gateway by Frederick Pohl

Frederick Pohl's Gateway is a weirder book than I was expecting. I may change my mind after I think some more about what it was saying and what it was lampooning, so let's call this review a draft (technically a third draft).

But before I get into it, a quick news item! I will be discussing Gateway and other classic 20th century science fiction at Chattacon 48 (Jan. 13-15, 2023) here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I will be a panelist! Maybe I will see you there to carry on the discussion in person!