Sunday, March 31, 2024

Review of Reviews: March 2024


It's time for another Review of Reviews! Since it's the last day of Women's History Month, I figured I'd include reviews of books by women authors. Is it too cheesy to call it "Women's Future Month" as I have before? I'll let you decide. Anyway, here are my reviews of The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson, Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse, Houston, Houston Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr., and Primary Inversion by Catharine Asaro.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Random Thoughts, Part 23: Cats, Conflict, Categories, Conservatism, Commercials, etc.


My Random Thoughts series continues. Randomly, we are now at Part 23, which is an extra large helping of random thoughts and even better: it comes with an extra large helping of random memes (although I should warn you, dear reader, that the Dune memes have been flowing more strongly with the release of Dune Part Two). Enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2024

Happy (?) Fourth Pandemiversary


For the last few years, I've made posts on the pandemic anniversary, or "pandemiversary," days. Here is one for March 11, 2024.

It’s our fourth pandemiversary. It was four years ago today that the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

So I Watched All the Oscar Nominees for Best Picture... Again!


Last year I wrote a post called "So I Watched All the Oscar Nominees for Best Picture." I didn't set out to do so, but at some point I realized I had seen a few of the nominations and figured I might as well complete my tour. So I did! And it was mostly pretty fun. It didn't hurt that my favorite, Everything Everywhere All At Once, was the winner.

Well, dear reader, as Britney Spears once said, "Oops, I did it again." 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Dune Part Two: Non-Spoilery First Reactions!


Earlier tonight I was lucky to be able to catch the early IMAX premiere of Dune Part Two five days before its official US release date of March 1! Like a lot of Dune nerds, I've been eagerly (obsessively!) anticipating this one since 2021. For those who haven't seen it yet and who aren't Kwisatz Haderachs, here are my 100% spoiler-free initial thoughts on the film!

  • The show I attended was almost entirely sold out. I think there were a few open seats in the front row, but choosing a seat off to the side didn't spare me from sitting in a full row. It's probably been four or five years since I've been in a theater so packed. I had forgotten how simultaneously exhilarating and annoying it is to share a film with a few hundred people.
  • How was the film? I loved it. The reviews are not kidding. This is a masterpiece. Villeneuve's Dune adaptations will go down as some of the best science fiction films of all time. And I don't say that lightly or just because you have to either 100% love or 100% hate everything in our current click-bait culture. It really is that good.
  • There were several scenes where even the near-constant shuffling and crunching and shifting of a few hundred people went entirely quiet, because every single person in the theater was too mesmerized to be annoying. Even the guy next to me put down his phone for a few minutes here and there.
  • Yes, there are changes from Frank Herbert's novel. Some of them are pretty big. But I loved all of them. They work in service of adapting Dune to a visual medium in the 2020's, and there are several things that serve Villeneuve's own vision, but not in a way that detracts from Herbert's. I sometimes get annoyed by narrow-minded fans who expect a film or TV adaptation to basically just film the book. But you can't do that. You shouldn't do that. And Villeneuve doesn't--to his credit. Besides, the book is always there if you want to read it--and you should!
  • I was really interested to see how the film would handle some of the weirder aspects of the book, and it succeeds admirably, splendidly, at time almost overwhelmingly. I'm almost tempted to think that Villeneuve should keep making the rest of the series when things get really weird and not stop with Dune Messiah as he intends to.
  • I loved Hans Zimmer's score of the first one, and I love this one just as much. Really some of my favorite film soundtracks in... well, ever.
  • The actors are all amazing. Javier Bardem and Zendaya in particular get a lot more to do in this one. Florence Pugh's Irulan does more than in the novel. Christopher Walken's Emperor is a bit understated compared to previous Emperors, but I like it. Rebecca Ferguson is always one of my favorites, and she brings the commanding presence she brought to Doctor Sleep to her role here (I would follow Jessica or Rose the Hat anywhere, whether out of fear or love or some combination of the two).
  • There are some funny parts. No, really. And they work.
  • The Harkonnens get to shine in their evilness even more. Austin Butler can do a lot more than Elvis impersonations. We get to see a bit of the Guild, too. The Corrinos get a decent amount of screen time, and Irulan does more than write epigraphs or the weird floating head intro to Dune (1984). The record for most Irulan still goes to Frank Herbert's Dune (2000), which is one of the things I really like about the miniseries. 
  • The Bene Gesserit are as interesting and terrifying as ever, maybe even a bit more. They've always been my favorite of the many factions in Dune, although some of this is colored by my love of the later books where they play a huge part.
  • The Fremen are depicted in a really interesting and more nuanced way (even more so than in the book, or at least the first book). Souhelia Yacoub as Shishakli deserves a lot of credit on this count.
  • Is it long? Yes. It's almost three hours. Does it feel as long as it is? No. Not at all. As if in a spice trance, time and space have no meaning while watching Dune Part Two.
  • There was at least one scene in the book that wasn't in either Dune (1984) or Frank Herbert's Dune (2000), but that does appear in Dune Part Two.
  • The deep and often troubling philosophical questions of the novel are there. Much more so than in previous adaptations.
  • There were a few things I wanted to see that weren't included, but most of them were more than made up for by the interesting choices of Villeneuve and the other filmmakers. My fellow Dune fans, even if you don't 100% love all the choices this film makes, I think any lover of Dune will agree the changes are interesting at the very least, or maybe they even make you rethink some aspects of the story. And after all, that's one of the great things any adaptation can do. Especially with a text and deep and multi-layered as Dune.
  • So overall: if you like Dune or science fiction or just fascinating bits of well-crafted cinematic weirdness, I encourage you to check out Dune Part Two! The official US release date is 1 March 2024 and slightly before or after that worldwide.

As I did for Dune (2021), I plan to write a spoilery review of Dune Part Two after I've had a chance to think about it, and maybe see it a few more times. Will my plan succeed? Only a Kwisatz Haderach can tell!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Connooga 2024!


Me at Connooga in 2017, which was apparently as blurry as the pre-pandemic years now feel.

After taking a few years off for the pandemic, I returned to Connooga last year (or at least for Saturday in a somewhat diminished capacity). This year Connooga is this weekend: Feb. 23-25! 

For Connooga 2024 I might try Friday and Saturday, and maybe Sunday, although duty requires I be elsewhere later that evening... for the early premiere of Dune, Part 2! (I'll be sure to share some preliminary nonspoilery thoughts of this movie I've been eagerly anticipating for three years.)

This year I won't be on a bunch of Connooga panels as I have been in the past. Unfortunately, the panel track I was part of (Deep Thought) was discontinued. Maybe next year I'll try to get on a few panels just to see how it goes.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Sci-Fi Kant: The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts


The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts has been on my list for years, and a cold snap in January seemed like the best time to read it. As a philosopher and science fiction fan, I was already on board for science fiction with a Kant angle, but the obvious links to Lovecraft and John Carpenter's The Thing made it so much MY THING (itself?) that I'm shocked it took me so long to get to it. I'm sure I would have read it sooner if I realized it was so funny (not quite as outright zany as Douglas Adams or The Illuminatus Trilogy and not quite on an Iain M. Banks wavelength, either, but in some category of hilarity nearby). 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Tilting Tolkien: Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey


Godslayer is the sequel to Carey's Banewreaker, or really it's more of a continuation of one long story. I felt about this second one much the same as the first one: I love the idea of it, but didn't find the execution quite as compelling as I hoped. Also, sometimes authors' styles just don't click with you, and that's probably part of it for me (your taste may vary). 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Favorite Utopias New and Old: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers and The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks


I was recently in the mood for some unabashed utopian science fiction. I had been saving the second volume of Becky Chambers's Monk and Robot series for the right moment. And I've been meaning to reread all of Iain M. Banks's Culture series ever since I frequently gushed about it so much on this very blog back in the mid-2010's.

I need some time to mull it over, but I think Chambers's Monk and Robot series may be one of my all-time favorites. I’d say I want to give it a million stars if that sort of hyperbole didn’t feel contrary to its entire ethos.

I loved it so much that I couldn't think of how to review it properly. So instead I wrote this weird... review? Or whatever this is...

Monday, January 15, 2024

Considering Our "Inescapable Network of Mutuality": MLK Day 2024


I had a great time at Chattacon this weekend, which included a fun panel on Dune and Philosophy!

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the US. I was looking forward to following up my Chattacon experience with my local MLK Day march and parade, but today we're having some winter weather. The local MLK Day festivities have been postponed.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Chattacon 2024!


I'm excited to be attending Chattacon once again this year! Chattacon 49 will take place this weekend (Jan. 12-14, 2024) at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee!

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Holiday Horror 2023, Part Two!


Is it too late for Part 2 of my Holiday Horror 2023? I don't know, but I'm doing it anyway! It may be early January, but the true horror of the holidays is with us all year, so check out some thoughts on Night of the Comet, I Trapped the Devil, The Sacrifice Game, and There's Something in the Barn ... and because I count New Year's as part of "the holidays," Strange Days, and Midnight Kiss.