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Reviewed: The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF

I picked up the “The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF” out of curiosity because I read, write and review science fiction, especially apocalyptic science fiction.

The book contains a mix of new and classic science fiction stories grouped by type of apocalypse. For example, there are plague stories and catastrophic global warming stories are grouped together. Then there are classics like “A Pail Full of Air”, “Fermi and Frost” and “When We Went to See the End of the World”.

The stories themselves are hit and miss, and unfortunately, the classics are often better. One notable exception was “The Clockwork Atom Bomb”. A post WW3 Kinshasa has weaponized black holes, and a poor country hit by biowarfare will make use of every resource it has. Another was Cory Doctrow’s “When Sys Admins Ruled the Earth”. Of course a working IT clean room is a safe place to hide during a biowarfare strike. And as XKCD has joked, there are sys admins who will crawl over glass to maintain 99.999999% uptime.

The Psychology Underlying Robert Heinlein’s ‘Friday’

The titular character “Friday” in the novel of the same name is an artificial person. She’s quite human, but she was created in a lab, born via an artificial uterus and raised in a corporate crèche. Her society sees her as inferior, and she sees herself as inferior. That is despite her greater speed, strength and intelligence. I spent a while wondering why, and then it hit me. It is as much due to her upbringing as the much vaunted “conditioning”, though both are by design. Furthermore, social engineering (or a good PR campaign) of broader society has been undertaken for the same purpose.

Sci-Fi Book Review: ‘The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories’

“The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories” by Walter Jon Williams encapsulate his expectations for a post-scarcity, post-Singularity world. These are worlds where you can upload your mind to a permanent virtual reality or raise children in them to be downloaded later. Nearly every one consists of worlds where nano-beds can scan your body, your mind and maybe even your soul to be downloaded into the body of your choice. Whether a gorilla body on Earth or adapted body on an alien colony world is up to you. Each story asks a different question while seeking to answer it.

Sci-Fi Book Review: ‘Friday’ by Robert Heinlein

“Friday” is one of Heinlein’s last science fiction novels. It isn’t as well known as “Starship Troopers” or “Stranger in a Strange Land” though it shares more with the latter than the former. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Robert Heinlein novel? And where did Heinlein hit the bulls-eye predicting the future in this novel?

Jazz VS. the Nazis: Esi Edugyan’s Extraordinary Half-Blood Blues

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 13: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

So as our series on major Canadian writers draws to a close, it’s time to ask the big questions that hang over everything: Who or what is to blame for the current state of Canadian literature? Why the tiny clique of writers who must content themselves with being the “Canadian Twain” or the “Canadian Bronte” or the “Canadian Faulkner”? Why the over-reliance on over-hyped creations like Atwood or Boyden? Where is the counterculture pushing for change, any change?

After spending more than a decade enmeshed in Canadian politics and culture, the only conclusion I can draw is: There is no impetus for change. Canadians simply don’t care whether they have a robust culture or not. Because if they did, there would be artists and funders and a homegrown Canadian counterculture movement, just like there is in every other country.

But, as the case of Esi Edugyan proves, there is no interest in building such a counterculture movement, even when the perfect leader of that would-be movement is right there.

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 4: Mitt Romney, Man of Steel

Considering Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as a Mirror to Today’s Politics

When doing pieces like these, it’s really easy for everything to become one giant Rorschach Test. You see some faint parallels between a book or movie you love and the current political situation, and you immediately start making these ridiculous connections between things that really have no relation at all. “Batman is Trump, so the Joker is Hillary Clinton, because they’re both the archenemies! And The Joker and Clinton both wear lipstick and… stuff…”

Thankfully, I think I’ve mainly avoided that throughout this series, but I have to admit, I started getting suspicious of myself when I got to the subject of this final article: Superman. He’s an integral part of The Dark Knight Returns, and a central part of Miller’s satire, so I couldn’t just ignore him. At the same time, any parallel I drew between Superman and a current political figure seemed to be an exercise in the “Rorschaching” that I was worried about. Is he Hillary Clinton? Robert Mueller? Pepe the frog?

See the previous installments in the “Making Gotham Great Again” series analyzing the themes of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and today’s political culture: Part 1: The MediaPart 2: Law and OrderPart 3: Ronald Reagan and the Republican Establishment

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 3: Ronald Reagan and the Republican Establishment

One of the most innovative aspects of The Dark Knight Returns is that Miller very clearly places Gotham City in the real world of 1980s America, and not a hyper exaggerated comic book universe. Ronald Reagan is president, the United States is locked in an ever-escalating Cold War, and real-life celebrities like David Letterman and Dr Ruth Westheimer are murdered by the Joker. Of course, Miller never comes right out and names these people, but by the way he draws them, it is easy enough to figure out what he is up to.

Based on previous installments of this series, you may assume that Frank Miller would be very supportive of Ronald Reagan. After all, Batman is a stand in for a type of conservatism that, to paraphrase Whittaker Chambers, recognizes the reality of evil and fights it instead of smiling and waving at it (Chambers, Witness, 704). In a time when Reagan was constantly (and rightly) denouncing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” while many on the Left did not want to hear it, a reader may easily think The Dark Knight Returns is thinly veiled pro-Reagan propaganda. When Reagan does show up approximately halfway through the book however, Miller paints him in a less than flattering light. In almost every appearance, Miller portrays Reagan as a doddering, uncaring fool, who throws American soldiers into Cold War conflicts for no particular reason.

Check out the previous installments in this series: Part 1, The Media, and Part 2, Law and Order

Akron Beacon Journal Reviews Fred Tribuzzo’s Pulse of the Goddess

Barbara McIntyre writes, “‘The world’s temporarily over,’ says Cricket Hastings, the main character in Ravenna author Fred Tribuzzo’s American Blackout series. In the first book, ‘Pulse of the Goddess,’ there has been a solar storm followed by a nuclear explosion over Kansas, and an electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all modern technology.”

Making Gotham Great Again, Part 2: Law and Order

Considering Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as a Mirror to Today’s Politics

In an interview with Comic Book Confidential in 1988, Frank Miller remarked that 1980s America was a “very frightening, silly place… it’s often silly and frightening at the same time and [he] hope[d] [The Dark Knight Returns] is silly and frightening at the same time.”

Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 of this ongoing series. Warning: spoilers in this and the previous installment.

You do not have to read very far in The Dark Knight Returns to realize that Miller can indeed illicit horror and laughs on the same page, if not in the same panel. Miller’s genius at combining these two seemingly contradictory responses lead to some intriguing commentary on criminality and society’s response to it. And like Miller’s satirical attacks on the media, his observations on modern America’s inability to seriously deal with crime make interesting parallels with the Trump era.

Check Out Daniel J. Flynn on ‘Custer’s Next-to-Last Stand’ at City Journal

Many thanks to Daniel J. Flynn for his kind mention of Liberty Island in his review of the new historical novel Armstrong, by H.W. Crocker, III.

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