The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
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April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
Leah Schnelbach
April 22, 2015
The Old Guy Action Comeback: I’m Getting Too Old for This Sh*t
Ryan Britt
April 20, 2015
The Net is the Meat: Bruce Holsinger’s Middle Ages
David Perry
April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
Kelly Quinn
April 16, 2015
The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
Showing posts tagged: Culture click to see more stuff tagged with Culture
Mar 6 2015 10:00am

On Iain M. Banks and the Video Game that Inspired Excession

Ian Banks Excession

Sid Meier’s Civilization was one of the most addicting games of my life. I feel like I could have learned several new programming languages in the weeks and months I spent building pixelated empires, warring with foreign nations, pursuing brand new technology, and losing everything in an inferno of digital destruction. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Iain M. Banks shared the addiction and that his Culture novel Excession was in part inspired by it. In an interview with SFX Magazines, Banks said:

“Inventing a world where you have different laws of physics, that would be about the ultimate version of Civilization. That’s part of where the idea of Outside Context Problems came from, you’re getting along really well and then this great battleship comes steaming in and you think, well my wooden sailing ships are never going to be able to deal with that. But when I started Excession I deleted Civilization off my hard drive.”

Excession is one of my favorite Culture books and I loved the way it focused on the Minds and the mystery behind the excession itself. The humans, though, seemed like they were tacked on, unnecessary accessories that distracted from the main attraction (I especially struggled with Ulver Seich, who threw a fit for not being able to bring her furry pets on a mission for Special Circumstance). It was only when I viewed them from the context of Civilization that the book took on an entirely different meaning.

[Read more...]

Jul 30 2014 9:30am

Yes, Women Want to Be Thor—So Why is the New Avengers Line-up Cause For Ire?

Mjolnir, Thor's hammer

Oh, the fury. The rage of fans who rally against change, across the board. There are so many reasons for the anger, too. There’s the academic “I don’t like where my media is going, so this specific move is a harbinger of everything that’s wrong!” There’s the over-concerned “I just think they should be more creative when trying to open up properties to groups that have classically been overlooked.” There’s the brazen “Diversity is just pandering, and if that’s what my favorites stories have become, I’m out of here.”

[What’s wrong with Thor being a woman, again?]

Jul 15 2014 2:15pm

Thor is Now A Title, Not A Name, and the New Thor is A Woman!

New Thor

Mjolnir is switching allegiance! It would seem that plain ol’ thunder-god Thor is heading elsewhere within the Marvel Comics universe, and a new Thor is on the way.

[Details, thoughts, armor...]

Jul 14 2014 5:30pm

Workout Like Your Favorite Superheroes, Spies, and Slayers!

Neila Rey Workout, Spider-Man

We know it can be rough to get our exercise on regularly, and we’re not going to be those Type-A people who try to convince you that it’s totally easy once you get the hang of it. But we stumbled across these awesome workout guides from Neila Rey—all for free, and most of them named for familiar characters that we know and love. There’s a legion of sets named for the spadex-clad, the super bad, and the secret sass-masters we would all like to emulate on certain days of the week.

What we’re saying is, exercising is way more fun if you can pretend to be Peter Parker while doing some weirdly modified push-ups.

[Check it out]

Jun 20 2014 1:30pm

Katie Passes Her Stormtrooper Armor to Another Girl in Need to Stop Bullying

Operation Armor Transfer, Allison, KatieHey, remember Katie? Two years ago, when her mother told the world about how her daughter was getting bullied for being a Star Wars fan, the community got together to let her know she was not alone. The 501st Imperial Legion made her a set of kid-sized stormtrooper armor as a gift in solidarity.

It’s been a few years, and another little girl is in need. So Katie passed on her gift to let another fan know that she had nothing to be ashamed of.

[May the Force Be With Allison...]

May 15 2014 10:00am

The Torn Generation: Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition

The Waste Tide Stanley Chan Chen Qiufan Article translated by Ken Liu.

This past March, I attended the Huadi Literary Awards in Guangzhou, where my debut novel, The Waste Tide, was honored with the top distinction for genre (SF) fiction. Published in the capital of China’s most developed province, Huadi is the magazine supplement for the Yangcheng Evening News, one of the largest newspapers in the world by circulation (in excess of 1 million). This was also the second literary award my novel has received (after a Chinese Nebula). As a former Googler, I want to invoke the button that rarely gets pressed: “I’m feeling lucky!”

The Huadi Awards was a joint effort by the local government and media, and as one might expect, it was suffused with the trappings of officialdom. Even the ceremony itself was held in a government auditorium. The winners were led on a night tour of the Pearl River, and our hosts excitedly pointed out the splendor of the post-modern architecture on both shores. However, one of the winners, Chen Danqing, a noted liberal opinion leader and artist, reminisced about his childhood visit to Guangzhou in the midst of the Cultural Revolution.

[On generational labels, the complex realities of modern China, and science fiction as an instrument of progress and possibility...]

Nov 11 2013 11:30am

Joss Whedon Hates the Word Feminist! So... What Does That Mean?

Joss Whedon, Equality Now

Writer/director/television-and-movie-maker Joss Whedon has spoken before at Equality Now functions, an organization dedicated to ending violence and discrimination against women. You have likely have heard his “Why do you create such strong women characters?” rant somewhere on the internet, and more elsewhere about his choices in developing complicated female protagonists in popular media.

Whedon spoke again at an Equality Now benefit dinner just days ago, and he has a new beef with a certain word. That word is “feminist.”

So let’s talk about that.

[What words become...]

Nov 8 2013 10:00am

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Being Bad. (So Let Them!)

Lady villains, Regina Mills, Lana Parilla, Once Upon A Time

When highlighting roles that women are historically allowed to occupy in fiction, most will break it down into the trinity—mother, maiden, crone. Have we gained ground recently? The characters on offer for actresses keep improving, but it’s telling that so many them still fall into one of those three categories. Male characters get a more diverse set of labels—rogue, villain, lover, fool, antihero—and even though women occasionally nab parts that fall under those banners, these types remain elusive to them.

Especially when it comes to bad guys.

[They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch...]

Nov 5 2013 3:00pm

The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building


The imagination is not context-less.

The words and conceptual markers a writer puts on the page arise from thoughts and perceptions and interpretations rooted in our experiences and knowledge and assumptions. Writers write what they know, what they think is important, what they think is entertaining, what they are aware or take notice of. They structure stories in patterns that make sense to them. A writer’s way of thinking, and the forms and content of what and how they imagine story, will be rooted in their existing cultural and social world.

[Who chooses what amount of world building is acceptable in fantasy literature? ]

Oct 25 2013 12:00pm

Carrie Fisher’s Sound Thoughts on Princess Leia in 1983

Princess Leia, Rolling Stone magazine 1983Everyone loves this ridiculous spread on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the 1983 Return of the Jedi ready issue that interviewed Carrie Fisher in all her bikini-ed glory. But more interesting than her space-faring beach party were the answers about Leia, and about the Star Wars films at large, that she gave to her interviewer, Carol Caldwell. Our Lady Organa had absolutely no illusions about why she was in a metal bikini, or why that galaxy far, far away rang true for the general population.

Basically, Carrie Fisher rocks, and was smarter about mythology and feminism thirty years ago than most people are now.

[Did you know that lots of fans didn’t like Leia very much?]

Sep 26 2013 1:30pm

Albus Dumbledore Didn’t Come Out at the Right Time (According to Everyone)

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Banned Books Week, gay icons

The Harry Potter series has been banned for many reasons in its still-very-young life, most of them having to do with—gasp—witchcraft! And most of us rightly understand how silly that is. (Although, acknowledging this upcoming BBC reality show about teenaged exorcists, it looks as though a few people still haven’t cottoned on.) I remember the books published in its wake, though, for all the fretting parents. Not the unofficial guides or theory books, but the ones with titles something like “How to Teach the Christian Lessons in Harry Potter to Your Children.”

I always figured, hey—whatever gets those kids reading about wizardry is fine by me.

[They celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts—Satanists!]

Sep 18 2013 9:30am

Is the Capitol Couture Clothing Line Sending the Wrong Message to Hunger Games Fans?

Capitol Couture

It has been reported that as part of the viral marketing campaign surrounding the Hunger Games film sequel Catching Fire, a “luxury clothing line” called Capitol Couture will be released this fall. The line will feature 16 pieces from high-end designer Trish Summerville, all of them meant to reflect the outrageous fashion trends of Panem’s rich and privileged.

A luxury clothing line. I’m sorry, what is the Capitol meant to stand for in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy again? Hang on, it’s coming back to me…

[The girl on fire!]

Jul 29 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: The Observer Effect

Andy Warhol Self Portrait Polaroid

We don’t do it a lot these days, but I remember when Instagram started being a thing, there was a lot of back-and-forth having to do with the use of filters, the accusations of hipsterism that came along with them. To some observers, the manufactured nostalgia of a pre-degraded image that gives the illusion of a history or Polaroid or Viewmaster cartridge seems to be emotional cheating. But to the person doing it, it’s a bit more involved and personal. That’s the part that interests me.

Digital images do not—and will not—ever degrade, and so the idea of putting forth an image as a thing-in-itself violates the most confusing, and omnipresent, rule of online life: Every statement made online contains within itself two completely separate levels of meaning. The first is the statement’s object, the thing we are talking about, and the second level is what it says about us. There’s a lot of confusion online about what’s a fact and what’s an opinion, and the reason for that is simple: All online statements are automatically both.

You are talking about a TV show, but you are also talking about yourself. You are making statements that are durable and global, and refer always back to you, and forth to the opinion you are presenting.

[Read more.]

Jul 16 2013 9:00am

Everyone Should Want to Be A Hufflepuff, Or, Stop the Hogwarts House-Hate

Harry Potter Hufflepuff Tonks

In a rare annotated copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling commented that she wondered if people would have thought differently of Hufflepuff House had she gone with her original instinct and made their mascot a bear rather than a badger. It’s an interesting thought, sure, but probably would have only led to droves of Winnie the Pooh comparisons, with pictures of Hufflepuffs holding their hands to their heads and shouting “Think!” over and over.

While Slytherin and Hufflepuff both have their share of intensely dedicated fans, it’s no secret that among the general Potter-reading population, most would prefer to be a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw. Why? Do people prefer lions and ravens? Red and blue? Or is it something a little less obvious… perhaps something to do with the attributes awarded to each house, and the values we place on them as a culture?

[“There lived four wizards of renown, whose names are still well-known...”]

Jun 10 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: Nice Days After A Red Wedding

designed by Jenny SlifeLast Monday the genre internet—which is to say, basically, “the internet”—seemed starkly divided into two camps: Those who’d been holding their breaths for up to twelve and a half years, and those who were still recovering. I don’t like the physical act of reading high fantasy, so I haven’t read the books. I do have a habit of devouring wikis having to do with these long epics I’ll never actually read, or the rules of roleplaying games I’ll never play, and I’d been following the story for at least ten years, but that doesn’t seem like a normal behavior.

Plenty of people have, of course, read the Song Of Ice & Fire series since A Storm Of Swords was published, and we all have geek friends that love nothing better than to either coyly tease with non-spoiler spoilers, or answer direct questions: I bet most of us probably do fall somewhere between those camps in one way or another. Either way—unspoiled, by the way, herein—it was an explosion.

[Read more.]

May 28 2013 12:00pm

Cultural Strip Mining vs Good Manners

Cultural Strip Mining vs Good Manners

Recently I attended my first neoPagan gathering in over a decade; while there, I picked up Staubs and Ditchwater by H. Byron Ballard (Silver Rings Press, 2012), a book on Appalachian folk magic. As I read, I ran across a statement that brought up an important issue: cultural appropriation, or as Ballard puts it, cultural strip-mining.

Ballard writes, “We tribeless white people learn dances and songs from other cultures that seem deeply spiritual to us, though we don’t know their context or deeper meanings, we just like the way they look or sound or make us feel. We think they’re cool.” (p. 12)

[Read more]

May 28 2013 10:00am

Geek Love: My Big Gay Skyrim Wedding

Geek Love My Big Gay Skyrim WeddingMy name is Jacob Clifton, and I am a bad gamer.

...Well, a bad role-player. Part of it is, I think, that coming into gaming in my mid-thirties means role-play has lost a lot of its appeal, since real life provides far too many opportunities for that as it is, but honestly I just can’t understand the appeal of being anyone other than myself.

What that means is that when I play a game—beyond Mass Effect, the games I’ve learned I love most are the Bethsda open-sandbox franchises, Fallout and Elder Scrolls—I play as myself. I suppose I’m missing out on part of the adventure, but I’m more interested in exploring other people’s stories than my own.

Minor spoilers, as usual—and plenty of nitpicking to be done—but not really the point.

[Read more]

May 15 2013 5:00pm

Scientific American’s “Armor against Prejudice” on the True Damage a Stereotype Can Do

Scientific American Armor against Prejudice

A common defense made by anyone who is called out for advancing a stereotype is, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” the implied message being that they are most often true. But what if by simply saying that, you were putting someone at a disadvantage? What if insisting on the accuracy of a stereotype was one of the very factors that perpetuated it? Scientific American’s June issue has some intriguing information in the article “Armor against Prejudice” by Ed Yong, on the perils of “stereotype threat” and the fascinating ways we can combat it to give future generations a better chance of success.

[Read more]

May 13 2013 2:00pm

Geek Love: Mass Effects: We Are Not A Mistake

Geek Love: Mass Effect

I’ve only been playing video games for about a year, because I only recently got the memo that videogames had turned into something I would enjoy. I don’t like being told what to do and I don’t see the value in things like fan fiction, usually, because I don’t get off on playing with other people’s toys. But people I trust kept telling me videogames weren’t like that anymore, so I gave it a shot, and I haven’t looked back since.

The first thing I got really obsessed with was the Mass Effect trilogy, which is basically a story about the diplomatic moves necessary to create a community in the face of Apocalypse. Over three games—hundreds of hours of playtime—you build an army, out of a complex variety of factions, races, interests and centuries of nasty political history.

The big selling point of the game—some would say, dubiously fulfilled—is that every choice you make carries weight. People you mess with in the first game might still resent you two games later. Valued allies you allow to die won’t be around when you need them, and so on. But there’s one choice, early in the game, that has led to more fights around the story than any other.

Minor spoilers to follow—and plenty of opportunities to nitpick, I’m sure—but they’re not really the point.

[Read more]

Apr 15 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: Pictures of the Floating World

Geek Love: Pictures of the Floating World

“And I had to wonder... Are we controlling the cell phones, or are the cell phones controlling us?”

After Gossip Girl was over—I recapped and analyzed every episode of the show, for all six seasons—my beloved Editorial team at TWoP suggested it might be a good idea to take on the new show from that production team, The Carrie Diaries. I didn’t need to think too hard before I said no.

Part of it is that I have beef with Sex & The City—for giving scores of bright young girls the idea that my life is an audition to be someone’s Pet Gay—but honestly, the majority of it is that I don’t have a lot of patience for period pieces.

And the reason for that has to do with futurism, basically, which is what I really want to talk to you about.

[Read more]