Monday, January 22, 2018

Casella's 2017 SFF reflections

This past year has been like...submarines below their depth, and sinking further. Pressure creaking, unsure what hatches are safe to open, long tense moments listening, wondering what's next. I can't believe the piece I wrote after the election is over a year old—it feels like yesterday, and it feels like decades ago.

The political reality has had me one moment ready to write off all this genre fascination as escapism & trivialities, and then the next I'm convinced that it's exactly what we need right now: this cocktail of imagination, empathy, curiosity, silliness, willingness to dream but also to care deeply about reality, about the world and each other.

Also, as you may have seen from my reduced output here: I got busy otherwise, day job taking up a bit more time than previously, so I haven't had as much energy for Positron as I'd like.

But the books have been good. The discussions, the friends and fen, have been a bright spot.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Think Galactic- Iraq +100

For the December meeting of Think Galactic, we discussed Iraq+100, edited by Hassan Blasim.

The aim of this project was to get Iraqi writers—not necessarily science fiction writers—to set stories 100 years after the American invasion. The result is an interesting spread of stories.

As usual with our anthology discussions, we focused our conversation on a few pre-selected stories. At this meeting, we also picked our next 6 books for 2018. Brief notes and possible spoilers below:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Chicago Nerds- Lovecraft Country

For the December meeting of the Chicago Nerd Social Club, we discussed Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.

Set in the 1950s, Lovecraft Country follows a cast of connected characters from Chicago, all black, who become entangled in a number of supernatural adventures connected to a secret occult organization.

Generally quite liked, and we spent most of our conversation talking about how the novel sets actual Jim Crow evil up against a more pulp-SF, Lovecrafty kind. Notes and possible spoilers below!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Weird & Wonderful- White Noise

For the November meeting of City Lit's Weird & Wonderful book club, we discussed White Noise by Don DeLillo.

Described by DeLillo as a comedy about "technology, fear, and death", White Noise follows Jack Gladney, the head of the "Hitler Studies" department at a small university. Along with his fourth wife, Babette, and their gang of children from previous marriages, Jack must unexpectedly flee from an airborne toxic event that threatens their town; the cloud only heightens their vague but powerful fears of death, and even after returning home things are pretty weird.

Pretty weird, variously surreal and comic: we had a good discussion of this, with a big group. Notes and possible spoilers below:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Think Galactic- Everfair

For the November meeting of Think Galactic, we discussed Everfair by Nisi Shawl.

An alt-history of the Belgian Congo with steampunk & utopian elements, the novel follows a fairly large cast of characters over several decades. Brief notes and possible spoilers below:

Weird & Wonderful- We Have Always Lived in the Castle

For the October meeting of City Lit's Weird & Wonderful book club, we discussed We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

A superb horror/psychological thriller, the novel follows the survivors (and perpetrators) of a terrible crime years later. Brief notes and possible spoilers below.