Monday, June 17, 2024

Academic Cats and Dogs: Does Academia Need to Get Weirder to Survive?

I’ve never been entirely comfortable in academia. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and writing. I enjoy teaching and interacting with students. I’m fond of conversation about subjects most people don’t understand or care to understand. 

But in recent years—especially with the convergence of the pandemic, my tenure, and feeling middle age—I find myself caring less and less about academia as an abstract system of disciplines. I care about my friends, my colleagues, and my students. I care about philosophy as a global human endeavor. But I don’t care about being a Very Serious Academic. I’m not sure how much I ever really did. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Your Own Personal Dittos: Kiln People by David Brin


I met David Brin (the author of Kiln People and many other novels) at a signing about a decade ago. In our small talk (awkward for me; natural for him), I mentioned that I was a philosopher and he recommended Kiln People, which I soon picked up ... and somehow didn't read until now. (If only I had some dittos to get through my to-read pile!)

The idea is really fun and philosophically interesting when it comes to the issue of personal identity (What makes you you? What is a person?). But the plot never really engaged me, and the novel falls into a common SF problem where the societal changes of time and technology are under-explored, which made it hard for me to really buy into the whole concept of dittos.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Retellings, Buddhisms, and Other Fantasies: The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera

Vajra Chandrasekera's The Saint of Bright Doors just won the Nebula and it's part of my Hugo reading, so this seemed like a good time to finally review it (I read most of it on a trip and didn't have time to review it until now).

The Saint of Bright Doors is a difficult book to describe: South Asian inspired magical realism about doors leading to mysterious realms? A critical retelling of the life of the Buddha from the Buddha's son's point of view? A queer love story? A story of revolution? All of the above, and more?