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Showing posts from December, 2015

Alive in 2015

Reading through some of my previous year-end posts, I was struck how optimistic last year's post was. I don't remember 2014 with much fondness and yet things then were arguably better than this year. 
I think 2015 is the year when a lot people decided to give up hope in slow, steady progress. I don't have any other explanation for what transpired. The Ebola panic of 2014 has become the immigration panic, ISIS panic, and the Trump panic, and half a dozen other emergencies that have to be DEALT WITH RIGHT NOW! Then, something that does represent an actual challenge for this country, indeed the world, Global Warming brings together the entire world in an agreement that while rudimentary, lays some ground work for the future (as we know it) on this planet. That is a huge achievement that this country helped bring into being.
And yet - we're told this is a country that has lost its greatness. That this country has been humbled and defeated. 
I simply can't believe it. 

What I Watched in 2015

This last five best list is the hardest one. All of the movies listed below are terrific. The next two movies I didn’t include on this list are also pretty great. Yet, I think there is a virtue in ordering experiences and with that in mind, Mad Max beats out competitors. I’m not sure if this is a better movie than Spotlight or Ex Machina, but it certainly occupied more of my attention this year.  
Mad Max: Fury Road. To be clear, this is an action film. A well-made, sincerely wrought exercise in mayhem to be sure, but ultimately this is a long car-chase. But there is something about Fury Road that, for me, goes beyond a good movie and enters the realm of myth-making. This movie didn’t work on all of my friends and I’ve seen very detailed break-downs on how Imperator Furiosa is not a new-wave feminist icon, or how the plot has major holes, or this and that. But in the end, this film stands unmarked by carping. It found a way to make action movies cool again, sketching in 120 minutes a w…

What I Read in 2015

This is the second in my year-end series addressing works of music, literature, and film that seemed important to me. Today, I’m focusing on literature.
I read a bunch this year, mostly works from 2014 but a few from this year. Any long-time reader of this blog might be able to guess at my favorites from this year but I discovered plenty of exciting new artists along the way.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson: Hands-down my favorite novel this year and probably one of my favorites from KSR outside of the Mars Trilogy. Borrowing themes and motifs from previous works (even Shaman!), Kim Stanley Robinson here crafts a generation ship tale unlike any I’ve read. This novel will endure for me well past 2015 because its target is not just the implausibility of interstellar travel, but the pernicious danger of human ideas when confronting the hard truths. Put simply, people are bad at accepting facts they cannot see or choose to ignore. Sound familiar? Even so, this novel is not doom and gloom, bu…

What I Heard in 2015

Every year, I like to take a few moments to list works of music, literature, and film that seemed important to me. This is the first post in that series for 2015, the music I enjoyed.
The top two places on this list were obvious to me in June, but the others required many re-listens. Left off is the amazing return album from Sleater-Kinney, Kendrick Lamar’s exceptional “To Pimp a Butterly,” and works by Courtney Barnett, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Grimes. As always, this list is simply a record of the sounds that signified for me the experiences of a year.

James McMurty: Complicated Game. Right off the bat I knew this would be one of my favorite albums from 2015. Giving it listen half a year later, I’m struck by how powerful this album is, how bleak and perfect for this year. There was an easy confidence to these songs, a hard-bitten world view of people’s lives ground up and buried. I imagine some of these songs would sound samey to someone but to me each one is a poetic encapsul…

My spoiler-free review of Star Wars: The Force Awakened

Star Wars: The Force Awakened makes me care about Star Wars again. In a year filled with great science fiction and fantasy films, this movie finds its own special place.

The thing about thinking about an experience after you've had it, is that it is already an admixture - part of what you are feeling now will always affect what you thought you felt then. As best I can resurrect, what I felt watching Star Wars two nights ago was sheer joy. From the opening crawl to the final credits, I spent long, long moments completely immersed in this movie, completely enthralled. I liked a number of movies this year, but this might be the only one that grabbed my attention and never let go. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, which was an accomplished space opera, couldn't really match this movie's most effortless achievement - creating a whole bunch of characters I understood and cared about in a personal way.



I think the first and most apparent level of this movie is that personal engagemen…

Quick Note on What I Read in November

Alas, life intrudes again. I was able to read a number of excellent stories this month but I haven't been able to read nearly enough to justify a full short story review page for this month. So I'll name a few that I liked and try to wrap in a few more for my end of the year list.


So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer. (Clarkesworld) Clarkesword can be such a deadly serious journal most months, it's great to encounter a story like Kritzer able to have a little fun with the end of the world. This was one of my favorites because it suggested that a possibly apocalyptic event, a global superflu epidemic dealt with in the same way all of life's travails are: lots of cooking. Like Contagion but filled with people you actually care about.If on a Winter's Night A Traveler by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu for Clarkesworld). My favorite story so far this month. I struggle to call this science fiction or fantasy but it certainly has an otherworldly Borgesian aspect to it. A libra…

My Panels for Arisia

The panel announcements are up for Arisia 2016 and I'm pleased to report I'll be on some awesome ones this January.

First off, I'm going to be on the "Genre Fiction in Translation" panel Friday at 7:00 pm with a whole host of talented writers. Crystal Huff will moderate and I'll be sharing the table with Ken Liu, Sarah Weintraub, and John Chu. Ken Liu has been mentioned a few times here at Ancient Logic, both for his excellent short stories (including one of my favorites from last year "The Clockwork Soldier," and his work bringing Chinese language science fiction into English, including work from Liu Cixin. John Chu is one of his collaborators so I'm very excited to take part in this conversation. 

That same night (Friday 8:30 pm) I'll be taking part in The Future of Mars panel with another incredible line-up of writers and thinkers. The Guest of Honor, John Scalzi will be joining the discussion, as well as Ken Scheneyer (moderator) and Jeff …