Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review of Jo Walton's "Lent" @ the CHIRB

In case you missed it, my review of Jo Walton's Lent is up at the Chicago Review of Books.

This was a fun book to review, primarily because it's so weird generically: you'd definitely want to shelve it as fantasy, but it doesn't sit very exactly into any of the categories it draws on. Alternate history, time travel, and historical fiction are all in the mix. As with a lot of Walton's work, there's a unique but winning kind of character study that powers a lot of theological/philosophical exploration.

It was a real treat to write something for the CHIRB--they're a great publication in their own right, and I really dig how much they're functioning as a kind of amplifier/attractor for the Chicago literary scene. Hopefully will do some more for them soon!

Friday, May 3, 2019


In case you missed it, so you don't:

Two exciting events on Saturday, May 4th!
  • The DePaul Pop Culture Conference, A Celebration of Disney, runs all day at the DePaul loop campus (247 S. State). Academic panels, artist talks, screenings--these have been a treat every year.
  • It's the live recording of the first episode of Uncanny TV! The award-winning SFF magazine is coming to screens of all sizes. This looks like a phenomenal free event for SFF-lovers.
Also keep on your radar:
  • May 8th: Unabridged Books is hosting Julia Fine for the paperback release of What Should Be Wild.
  • May 9th: it's the next installment of Deep Dish, Chicago's premier SFF reading event!
  • May 24th-27th is Wiscon! Wiscon is seriously the best.
  • May 30th: head to Bucket O'Blood for a discussion of Headcheese with author Jess Hagemann.
In case you missed it on Positron:
And, as always, if you are looking to meet other speculative book-lovers, check out the calendar for tons of upcoming clubs!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

C2E2: The Future is Now

C2E2 2019 had some more prominent literary guests & paneling than usual, which is awesome, and I was able to attend a couple. Brief notes below; errors mine!

The Future is Now brought together SF/F authors to discuss various questions on how they create future worlds. Panelists:
  • Alison Wilgus: writer & comic artist; recently published Chronin.
  • Sue Burke: Chicago-based translator and SF author, recently of Semiosis.
  • Cory Doctorow: SF writer, journalist, and activist, recently published Radicalized.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal: Chicago-based SF writer, audiobook narrator, and puppeteer, recently published The Fated Sky & The Calculating Stars.
  • Mirah Bolender: SFF author, recently of City of Broken Magic.
  • Didn't catch the chair's name, alas.
Chair: Do you have literary heroes or events in the past that particularly affect how you create future worlds?
MRK: Yes! Cyclical nature of fashion, political issues. The issues faced by women astronauts in her fiction (set in an alternate past) are drawn from examples today.
AW: Has been working on her project so long it's like collaborating with a 12-years younger version of herself. Much more aware of queer aspects of the book, and how we've made lots of advances in queer rights but also they're under attack in a way they weren't.
CD: Super-skeptical of the whole enterprise of prediction. Tries with fiction not to project forward but to reflect back on what we're going through right now. Focused on human rights & digital technologies. When we create a terrible technology, we need to beta test it on people who can't complain, so it starts with prisoners/refugees/students before moving up to other sectors of society.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

"A Memory Called Empire" by Arkady Martine

Nuanced critiques of imperialism are having a bit of a moment in science fiction and fantasy. The simplistic, moustache-twirling villain is in no danger of extinction, but an increasing amount of speculative fiction is instead taking up more complex visions of empire: as systemic, as seductive, and as power structures with which even the most rebellious protagonists are complicit. How to reform—or destroy—something as large as imperialism itself is the core question in recent SF work like Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, while novels like Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant or Addison’s The Goblin Emperor use it to reconsider the conventions of epic fantasy.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire takes up these questions at at personal and governmental levels. It’s a thoroughly diplomatic novel: there’s no separation between her enchanting characters and the taut political maneuvering that drive the plot. While it is a space opera—set against the background of the Teixcalaanli Empire, an expansionist interstellar power that has been at relative peace for almost a century—the novel focuses less on spaceships and aliens (both present) than it does on the bureaucratic and interpersonal intrigue that steers the empire’s course, and uses rich worldbuilding and personal detail to meditate on the effects, large and small, of cultural hegemony.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

From Dreaming to Running: Putting the Android on Screen

Last week I got to attend a very nice panel from DePaul and One Book One Chicago: three scholars discussing aspects of adaptation, with Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Scott's Blade Runner as the focus.

Paul Booth (who runs the wonderful DePaul Pop Culture Conference, among other virtues) chaired the panel. These were really engaging, fast-moving talks, with lots of visual aids, so notes below are just sketches and highlights.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


In case you missed it, so you don't:

There are, dear readers, tons of great events coming up over the next month or so, including lots of great stuff connected to One Book One Chicago (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and One Book One Northwestern (The Handmaid's Tale).

Tomorrow (3/7) is Deep Dish, Chicago's premier speculative reading night, at Volumes Books in Wicker Park! This is growing into a really exciting series, highly recommended.

Talks galore!
Events & Gatherings!
Phew! Don't forget to check the extensive list of book clubs and sundry our Upcoming Events Page.