The plot of the (original) Star Wars as a great big long infographic.
Because ’tis the season, archive.org apparently has a scanned copy of Collected Editorials from Analog, a selection of John W. Campbell’s op-eds collated by Harry Harrison—he’s the guy who wrote the novel Soylent Green1 was very loosely based on—seemingly for the purpose of… dunking on John W. Campbell. Content warnings for the usual Campbell garbage, especially virulent racism.
For the tl;dr version, James Davis Nicoll did a review back in 2014 and, well. The title alone really should give it away.
I mean, y’all know I kinda side-eye so-called “hard” science fiction in general, but… ye-ee-eah. Given that this is the sort of garbage believed in by its so-called “father”…
- It’s people! [↩]
John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Amazing Stories, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.
But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.
Jeannette Ng accepts an award.
I was wondering why I was suddenly getting so many hits again on my old John Campbell post…
(I’m certainly not the first person to’ve pointed out that Campbell was an asshole, but I think I was kinda the most recent person to point out that the award really shouldn’t be named after him? Either way: still totally should rename that, hey.)
I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.
International fascism again looms large … and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down […] Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.
Art Spiegelman (re)learns that everything is political.
Timely reminder that the CEO of Marvel donates substantial sums of money to Trump, as well as functions as a political advisor, and is actively involved in censoring any criticism Marvel employees attempt to make about the regime in the name of being “apolitical”.
(Also that last line probably could do with a whole essay of unpacking all on its own because… wow. What a massive, potentially unintentional, neg against the superhero genre. I mean… I’m into it. But also… wow.)
And not all biases are as obvious or culturally insidious. Maybe you just think no one under 21 should ever be depicted or mentioned as having sex because you’re under 21 and find the idea of sex incredibly distressing. And you’re allowed to find it distressing! No one should ever coerce you into having sex before you’re ready, whether that happens when you’re 17, 27, 97, or never! But if someone writes a YA novel where they draw on their own experiences of losing their virginity at 17, and it makes you uncomfortable – they are not sexualizing you. That YA author has no idea you, as an individual, exist. Instead of leaping to that explanation for why you find yourself uncomfortable, consider the chance that what you’re actually reacting to is someone portraying the experience of being a teenager in a way that you don’t identify completely with, and being challenged with the non-universality of your experience is what’s making you uncomfortable.
‘Lena on universality.
I think this is a really interesting way of framing this conversation, particularly because it explicitly states that reactionary fandom anti “discomfort”1 with media—despite usually being framed in “woke” language—is coming from exactly the same damn place as white boys who get mad about girls and people of color in “their” A Star War (or whatever).
- See also: people unironically using the word “comfy” to describe media, which is both a huge red flag and massive berserk button for me. Yay! [↩]
Season N of YYYY is available on Netflix. YYYY has tried to walk away from their life as a crime fighting vigilante but events conspire to bring them back into the life of violence they had rejected.
As always the acting is excellent with the lead actor bringing real depth to the role of YYYY. The pacing between introspection and violent, highly choreographed fight-scenes remains good but overall the plot would not have suffered from losing a couple of episodes. Like last season, there’s a sense that the show is trying to say something but in reality it is too mired in its own dubious ethical stance that hitting people is an effective solution to complex problems.
Well produced, well acted and with exciting fight scenes but stuck with a problem that YYYY objectively does more harm than good.
Camestros Felapton on formula.
[insert usually grumbling about the superhero genre here]
Yet I have come to suspect these punk derivatives signal something more than the usual merry-go-round of pop culture. These punks indicate that something is broken in our science fiction. Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better—but not so much better that the author can’t write a sequel. The 1980s have, in a sense, never ended; they seem as if they might never end.
We are still, in many ways, living in the world Reagan and Thatcher built—a neoliberal world of growing precarity, corporate dominance, divestment from the welfare state, and social atomization. In this sort of world, the reliance on narratives that feature hacker protagonists charged with solving insurmountable problems individually can seem all too familiar. In the absence of any sense of collective action, absent the understanding that history isn’t made by individuals but by social movements and groups working in tandem, it’s easy to see why some writers, editors, and critics have failed to think very far beyond the horizon cyberpunk helped define. If the best you can do is worm your way through gleaming arcologies you played little part in building—if your answer to dystopia is to develop some new anti-authoritarian style, attitude, or ethos—you might as well give up the game, don your mirrorshades, and admit you’re still doing cyberpunk (close to four decades later).
Lee Konstantinou on postpunk.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I am endlessly, endlessly cynical about anything with the suffix -punk attached to it, because to me it immediately flags someone as not learning a single damn thing from history.
You know what killed the punks? Like, the original ones?1 Capitalism. That’s always the failure mode of punk; it always sells out, or is appropriated. It’s turned into a marketable aesthetic, into thousand dollar handbags, into liberal communist propaganda for bougie middle-class kids who want to play in the sandpit of rebellion while not, ultimately, doing anything to change a system they know2 will benefit them in the end. And, okay sure. You could make that argument about everything—we live in a late-stage-capitalist hellhole, et cetera—but the fact that we apparently keep recycling this one particular failure mode over and over and over again, with an apparent utter lack of irony, is just frustrating.
Think up a new suffix, kids. Please. And stop retreading the same old paths dressed in different clothes. Trust on this: if you want to get somewhere different, you’re going to have to walk into the scrub.