Saturday, April 22, 2017

Jeff VanderMeer @ DePaul

photo by Kyle Cassidy
This last Wednesday, I was able to catch Jeff VanderMeer's talk, "Area X: Environmental Storytelling in the Age of Trump and the Anthropocene". Hosted by DePaul's Institute for Nature and Culture, his lecture meditated on the material and experiences that went into the Southern Reach trilogy, as well as some interesting post-publication developments. Most fascinating, for me at least, was his exploration of how weird art, philosophy, ecology, and politics intertwine—what we can learn about the world, about storytelling, and about resistance in this deeply weird time we're going through. Lots of discussion of animals and thinking/writing about the non-human.

This talk was delightful and thought-provoking. Annihilation has quickly joined my inner circle of most-important books (most re-read, most recommended, most pondered-upon), and learning some of the nature experiences & philosophical/ecological thought that went into that was really cool—speculative fiction, philosophy, and nature are so central for me, this lecture had me in the clouds.

The Southern Reach has become a touchstone for most of my Chicago book-clubs (it seems Think Galactic's discussion is the only one I have recorded on Positron); his forthcoming novel Borne sounds great, and there's two more chances to hear him talk:
Brief, incomplete, and possibly-disjointed notes from the lecture below:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Our first podcast focuses on
Ada Palmer's "Terra Ignota" series.
In case you missed it, so you don't:

On Positron:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Think Galactic- A Taste of Honey

For the April meeting of Think Galactic, we discussed A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson.

Set in the same sci-fantasy world as Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, the novella follows a young man, minor nobility in the kingdom of Olorumi, as he has an affair with a soldier from a distant land. These chapters alternate with scenes from Aqib's life years and decades later, as he lives out a very different life than he would have had if he'd fled with his lover.

We generally quite liked this! Brief notes and possible spoilers below:

Weird & Wonderful- Magic for Beginners

For the April meeting of City Lit Books' Weird & Wonderful book club, we discussed Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link.

The collection showcases Link's ability to draw on a host of genre techniques—most of these stories feel like they belong somewhere on a spectrum of horror-fantasy-surrealism—while also creating affecting human characters. "Kinda ghost-story-like" and "demented YA" were two terms we used.

As frequently and fruitfully happens at Weird & Wonderful, mixed opinions on this one! Brief notes below:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Chicago Nerds- Agents of Dreamland

For the April meeting of the Chicago Nerd Social Club, we discussed Agents of Dreamland (2017) by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

The agents in question are members of two different shadowy organizations who seem to be combating (or at least monitoring) incursions by some kind of Lovecraftian Elder-God-Type scenario; the novella alternates viewpoints between these two agents and Chloe, a young woman swept up in a sinister cult.

We gave this extremely favorable reviews! Brief notes and possible spoilers below:

Recap: Science, Science Fiction, & Imagining Nature's Future

Currier & Ives print
Yesterday, I got to catch a joint lecture—part of the SAIC's series on the anthropocene. Dr. Chuck Cannon, botanist & director of the Center for Tree Science at the Morton Arboretum, shared some views on conservation, ecosystem thinking, and some science fictional ideas on bioengineering. Writer, artist, and Sector 2337 co-director Caroline Picard then discussed some ideas about our shifting relation to the anthropocene, and shared a brief graphic novel.

Brief notes: