Of course in the future, when we’ve colonized other planets, the thing connecting humans will be the Internet. Asa Butterfield (who we last saw as Ender Wiggin in Ender’s Game) stars as Gardner, the only human ever born on Mars, while Tulsa (Tomorrowland‘s Britt Robertson) is an average Earthling, and they meet-cute through instant-messaging. But when he escapes to Earth in a reverse take on The Martian, all of the astronauts and scientists who have kept him alive (and secret) on a distant planet have to deal with the publicity nightmare of a “Martian” wandering around Earth in search of his true love.
Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory looks to be that rare sequel that builds on all the great stuff from the first film: Instead of Nemo being separated from his dad, Dory gets scooped up and dumped into the Marine Life Institute (a.k.a. a fish hospital); there’s a whole new cast of undersea creatures to help her in her journey; plenty of whale-speak; the fearsome angler fish of the original gets replaced by a scary squid… there’s even an update to the “MINE MINE MINE MINE” seagulls with two bleating sea lions.
Disney has released the first teaser trailer for its live-action Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle. The trailer sets the scene more than anything else, with a look at the Beast’s castle and that special red rose.
As we saw in the most recent featurette for Independence Day: Resurgence, after winning back their independence in 1996, Earth took alien technology and used it to improve the military, colonize the Moon, and… not really prepare for the possibility of the aliens coming back. This complacency bites them in the ass in a big way when, twenty years later, the aliens return. More specifically, “she”—the mothership with her own gravity. And she’s getting her revenge by picking up our cities then smashing them down, skyscraper-point-first, into other cities.
One of my favorite aspects of Orphan Black, a show that incorporates as many different genres as distinct clones, are the spy parts: Leda clones investigating their origins, often with disguises and/or Clone Swaps, uncovering layers of conspiracy. But while this may come more naturally to Sarah (as a con artist), or Beth (even hot-mess detectives have the right instincts), or Helena (growing up in a cult makes you resourceful), not everyone is cut out to be a proper spy. That’s what we learned in this week’s episode, the centerpiece of which was the most hilarious take on Spy vs. Spy: Donnie and Krystal skulking their way around BrightBorn under laughably shallow secret identities and, of course, trying to outwit each other.
Partway through Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, scholar-turned-witch Diana Bishop encounters a trio of familiar figures: a maiden, a mother, and a crone. These three archetypes are the aspects of the goddess Hecate, appearing as sisters. This triad has resurfaced in everything from Discworld to A Song of Ice and Fire, representing both one woman going through different phases of life and a functional coven of witches, each bringing a different perspective to the magic.
The Hecate Sisters are a useful lens through which to examine the current state of witches in literature—modern takes on a timeless figure, with witches’ conflicts and wants changing with the generations. In A Discovery of Witches, Diana Bishop recognizes that she, with her ability to give supernatural life through her blood, represents the mother figure. Katherine van Wyler, the ancient witch holding a town captive in Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s HEX, met her supernatural fate when her children were taken from her. And while she doesn’t have any children, Patience Gideon is undoubtedly maternal, taking care of the locals of Edda’s Meadow with her herbal remedies—and much more powerful cures—in Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow and Such.
In the past few years, the young adult genre has made renewed explorations into witch stories, tapping into themes of feeling set apart from other adolescents as well as growing into your powers. It’s no surprise, then, that Blue Sargent (Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and the entire Raven Cycle) and Nathan Byrn (Sally Green’s Half Bad) stand in for the maiden—who is also depicted as a huntress, which more matches Nathan’s place in his magical society.
The crone, in this case, is Judith Mawson, the old crank from Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford—the kind of community elder whose warnings the townspeople shrug off, while still keeping one ear cocked because she’s clearly lived a lot longer than anyone else. One can split the witches (or witches in training) of the past few years generationally, between the old hats who don’t quite belong to this time and the young upstarts who reject their magical heritage but find themselves forcibly drawn in by ancient artifacts and quests with world-ending stakes.
Every month, the Brooklyn Museum presents Target First Saturdays, in which current and prospective patrons can explore the museum free of charge and take in the current exhibits as well as multimedia programming linked by theme. Patrons attending this month’s event had the opportunity to learn about the Yoruba tradition of masquerade, take in a screening of the documentary Paris Is Burning, and attend a book club in which N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ibi Zoboi read from their novels while the performing arts collective BKLYN ZULU presented audio and visual soundscapes inspired by their work.
As the exhibit Disguise: Masks and Global African Art explains, masquerade can be a form of disguise, a tool for exchanging power, a way to hide and a way to be seen. Taking in the exhibit before the book club was incredibly rewarding, as the aforementioned themes became a backdrop against which to consider Okorafor and Jemisin’s selections—a chapter from Lagoon and “The Effluent Engine,” respectively. BKLYN ZULU’s work combined visuals of masquerade, the Internet, and the streets of Detroit (where Zoboi’s forthcoming novel, American Street, is set). There were a number of unintentional connections, as well: Lagoon and American Street both conjured up Legba, the Yoruba trickster god of language, communication, and the crossroads. And, in one of the night’s best moments, Okorafor said that one of the BKLYN ZULU members was dressed just like one of the masquerades who used to chase her around the streets of Nigeria with a whip as part of teasing children when the “Americanized Igbos” would visit. (When the panelists offered that she could move, Okorafor joked, “I know exactly where he is!”)
The authors (who are all friends) discussed writing from behind or in front of a mask, how they were initiated into their identities as writers, and the usefulness (or not) of Afrofuturism as a label. Read on for the highlights!
In the footnotes for her recent TED Talk, The Girl in the Road author and Tiptree Award winner Monica Byrne writes, “I started thinking about constraints because of the constraints of my TED talk: I had only twelve minutes. In those twelve minutes, I’d get across…what!? The Biggest Viral Idea in Narrative Form Ever!?” For all of the wide-ranging topics that TED Talks take, there is a certain formula: a charismatic speaker with a headset and, often, visual accompaniment in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. So, for her TED Talk, Byrne—also a short story writer, playwright, essayist, traveler, and lover of fancy dresses—made herself the visual: Dressed in a lavish gown from Kambriel (recommended by Neil Gaiman) that evokes an Egyptian priestess from the future, she transformed into a 318-year-old hologram projecting into the Vancouver of 800 years from now. And for twelve minutes, she told us in the Vancouver of the past (that is, 2016) about eternal life and eternal love. As Navid, the wife of our narrator Pilar, says, “Creation needs constraint.”
I’m not sure we quite make it all the way to rational control on this week’s Orphan Black. We certainly start with instinct—namely, Sarah’s instinct to stay alive, even if that means hastily patching things up with Felix so he can infiltrate a fertility clinic for her, making hacker Dizzy an honorary member of the Clone Club Sidekicks Union, bringing in Mrs. S to defuse a bomb, giving Ferdinand valuable information (everything short of the location of their safe house), and snapping at Alison and M.K. to get with the program. Fittingly, the most rational character in this episode is Rachel, who is considering different (but equally daunting) stakes when it comes to genetics and cures, and who is called upon to make an unemotional choice.
So, we have to assume that you know what The Hunger Games is, considering all of our commentary on the books and movie franchise. And you almost definitely wouldn’t be on this website if you’d never heard of Harry Potter. But the world of sci-fi and fantasy YA is ever-expanding (not unlike Aunt Marge or, um, a tribute who got stung by one too many tracker jackers), and it’s impossible to know every single book out there. Enter the brilliant ladies at Bookish (full disclosure: my former coworkers), who put together a comprehensive and fun flowchart using The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as shorthand.
I haven’t been able to figure out where this week’s Orphan Black got its title, but it’s a gripping visual nonetheless: forward momentum, but the kind that leaves a scar. The Clone Club has already lost so much blood, several embryos, and one eye, and had about as many things implanted. This week centers around two especially interesting implants: Sarah’s Neolutionist bug and Rachel’s eye.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s work has been described as “history with a quarter-turn to the fantastic”: It’s almost what you remember learning about in school, but overlaid with a new intrigue, or perspective, that doesn’t exist in our recorded history. Take his new book, Children of Earth and Sky: Set in alternate-history 16th-century Europe—in a city whose canals bring to mind Venice—it tracks the individual ambitions of an artist, an undercover spy, and a band of pirates as well as the looming threat of invasion from an eastern threat that resembles the Ottoman Empire. Bits and pieces that you may have read in books, woven together in a tapestry (to borrow the metaphor of one recent review) or, as I like to think of it, mashed up into a delightful historical remix. Kay has likely read all of the books, as well as some primary sources and other unusual texts—he recently talked to io9 about his involved research process.
It sounds like a joke: An SFF/speculative fiction author and a robotics law expert come together to talk about a killer sex robot. But it’s actually part of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University to explore how emerging technologies are changing our lives. While past Future Tense installments have included screenings of The Terminator with robotic experts and panels on genetic engineering or nuclear energy and environmentalism, this week takes a different approach: The Water Knife author Paolo Bacigalupi has written “Mika Model,” a short story about a sex robot who murders her owner (or does she?); and Ryan Calo, a law professor with a specialization in robotics, has penned a response.
What makes someone a cyborg? Is it an artificial limb replacing an organic one lost? Is it the ability to open your phone or your car door by waving your hand, or to sense magnetic fields in your fingertips? Is it someone who can “hack” their own consciousness toward the goal of improved mindfulness? Is it a woman who can control her fertility with an unprecedented near-certainty? In a fascinating piece for Fusion, Rose Eveleth talks about the two cyborg implants that add her to the growing ranks of bodyhackers: the RFID microchip in her hand, and the IUD in her uterus. The thing is, most people only recognize one of those as some futuristic, identity-changing technology, and it’s the one that Eveleth would have removed in an instant if she had to choose.
Pop cultural renditions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would have you believe that a bolt of lightning is what brings Frankenstein’s monster to life… but did you know that it was actually all thanks to a volcano?
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