White Bears in Sugar Land: Juneteenth, Cages, and Afrofuturism

We resist enclosure. Deer roam forests. Vines colonize abandoned Coliseums. A human being held in solitary confinement will self-harm, scream, plead, kick doors, smear feces on their cell walls, and refuse food if there exists even the promise of seeing the sun for fifteen minutes of their day. There are many words in English for what that human being quests for: liberty, emancipation, freedom, independence. So much of the American project has been dousing its cultural fabric in these colors. No mention of brotherhood and precious little of equality. Justice is nowhere to be found. Peace, somewhere far off in the distance. Over the horizon, in fact. Those messy words presume an After, and they presume that this After is other than post-apocalypse. Liberty, emancipation, independence, without brotherhood or equality or justice or peace, presume utopia. Any alternative imagining can only be fiction.

An episode in the second season of Black Mirror, titled “White Bear,” dramatizes precisely this conundrum. The protagonist, a woman played by Lenora Crichlow, awakens with amnesia, haunted by a symbol that flickers on the television screen in her room and hunted by unreasoning pursuers. People on the street catch sight of her and immediately raise their cameraphones to record. Even as her pursuers shoot at her and those who have decided to aid her, the spectators remain just that. Spectators. They’re being held captive by a signal from a transmitter at a facility called “White Bear.” Get to White Bear, destroy the transmitter, and free the world from their stupor. When she and her confederate reach the transmitter, two hunters attack. In what is supposed to be the episode’s climax, she wrestles a shotgun away from one of her assailants, aims, and pulls the trigger.

Out comes confetti.

[Read more]

Arrowverse Recap: This DC Universe Shines with a Strong Week of Stories

The CW’s robust lineup of DC Comics-based shows—oft dubbed the Arrowverse—can be a lot to keep up with. Join us weekly as Andrew Tejada keeps you current on all that goes on in their corner of TV Land!

The Legends have some extremely close alien encounters, the new Batwoman races to save the previous one, The Flash helps Cecile confront a dark truth, and Superman and Lois get a visit from dangerous family members on…

This Week in the Arrowverse!

[Spoilers Ahead]

[Read more]

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Spirit Folk”

“Spirit Folk”
Written by Bryan Fuller
Directed by David Livingston
Season 6, Episode 17
Production episode 237
Original air date: February 23, 2000
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Paris has reconstructed the Fair Haven holodeck program, and is in it driving a version of a 1904 Oldsmobile Runabout with only moderate skill, eventually crashing into a barrel, damaging a tire. Seamus comments on his ability to afford such a vehicle, and Paris says he came into an inheritance. Seamus asks for a tiny percentage of that inheritance to pay for a drink to celebrate Paris’ good fortune.

[When your quaint little seaside town starts to depolarize, don’t come crying to me.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Life at the End of the World: The World Gives Way by Marissa Levien

If you had evidence the world was ending and no one else believed you, what would you do? And even when evidence rears its terrible head, when everyone else catches up to you, what do you do with the time that’s left to you? Such are the big questions looming through Levien’s incredible debut novel, The World Gives Way, in which a generation ship that is the world that is a ship has begun to die.

It is very clearly stated early on that this is not something that can be fixed. There is a breach in the hull. The people onboard will not make it to their new home. Everyone will die. And as we begin, only Myrra, a contract worker embittered by the horrible life she inherited from her ancestors, is the only person that knows it’s coming. Across the city, an investigator named Tobias, himself toiling under a shadow from his past, searches for her. As the two of them spiral ever closer, the world around them crumbles, and indeed, begins to give way. To what, lies at the heart of the novel.

[Read more]

Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

[Read more]

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Finale: Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

For a long time now, watching The Handmaid’s Tale has been an uneasy undertaking. In wanting to honor June Osborne’s (Elisabeth Moss) trauma and road to recovery, I nonetheless found her endless well of anger—expressed through piercing stares and twisted smiles—more squeamish than gratifying. But then Hulu served up this especially disturbing season four finale, which achieves the difficult task of fulfilling June’s need for justice in a manner that calls back to the past four seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s still rough to watch, but it’s also wonderfully cathartic.

[Read more]

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Forty-One

Good morning and happy Thursday, my Cosmere chickens! I hope your week has been going better than Kaladin and Navani’s is, and that you are staying safe and healthy out there as the world slowly opens back up (here in the United States, anyway). Today in the reread we’ll be watching as Urithiru continues to slowly fall to the Fused and Regals. It’s like watching a very slow train wreck. Navani is trying desperately to throw rocks at the switch that will divert the train to another track, but…

Well. Let’s dig in and see what happens, shall we?

[We are immortal, and so think nothing can ever surprise us — and that makes us complacent.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Reading The Wheel of Time: Women Make Their Own Choices in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 32)

Welcome, welcome to part 32 of Reading The Wheel of Time. We’re really getting close to the end of the book now, covering Chapters 52 and 53 of The Fires of Heaven this week and boy oh boy am I having a lot of emotions about it. I’m sure you all know why.

Before we get started I’d just like to thank you all for your patience after we didn’t go up at the usual time on Tuesday! I needed a bit longer for this week, and unlike Moiraine, I was able to take it.

I have to say, this is one of those weeks where it was really difficult to recap without using far too many quotes. This is the best, tightest writing I’ve seen from Jordan so far, and every exchange is laden with as much meaning as the spaces between the words in Moiraine’s letter. I tried to keep down the amount of quotations I included, but it was not easy! And I have so much to say about this one! But I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

[There are always choices, Rand al’Thor. You have a choice, and I have one.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Could Be Worse… We Guess: T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, Part 8

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we cover Chapters 15-16 of T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, first published in 2020. Spoilers ahead!

[“Maybe it’s the willows. Maybe they got their roots into you and they’re dragging you back.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Body, Books, Beauty: The Membranes by Chi Ta-Wei

Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in the T City undersea dome, with a curated list of clients and an intimate workspace she calls Salon Canary. However, after a journalist client nudges her to do a public interview, Momo’s estranged mother contacts her again. She asks to meet for the first time in two decades—the first time since Momo left for boarding school. The possibility of reuniting with her mother provokes a cascade of complicated memories and feelings, which Momo frames through questions about the nature of her attachments, her memories, and even the flesh of her own body.

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese—one that is, with this agile translation from Ari Larissa Heinrich, accessible to an English-language readership for the first time. As part of Columbia University Press’s “Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan” series, this edition of the novel also comes with an excellent afterword titled “Promiscuous Literacy: Taipei Punk and the Queer Future of The Membranes.” The short essay conversationally explores the time and place that Chi Ta-Wei was writing from, an explosion of artistic and cultural development in mid-90’s Taiwan after the end of martial law—and reflects on what it’s like to read the book now, twenty-five years later.

[A review.]

Series: Queering SFF

A Striking Debut: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf and the Woodsman is Ava Reid’s debut novel. This fantasy draws its inspiration from the early medieval history of Hungary: the name of the land where the story is set, Régország, is a pair of Hungarian words that could be translated as “long-ago country.” It draws, too, from the history of Jewish people in Hungary. It would seem to fit comfortably into the recent tradition of Eastern European fantasy, a tradition that has its most popular and most iconic examples to date in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver, though other examples range from Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale to Rena Rossner’s Sisters of the Winter Wood and Ursula Vernon’s (writing as T. Kingfisher) The Raven and the Reindeer. The Wolf and the Woodsman is fiercer and more viscerally bloody than Novik’s work: an impressive debut.

Even if its climactic battle seems to arrive practically out of nowhere.

[Read more]

5 Thrilling SFF Books to Pump You Up

Our bodies are our own. We can mend, bend, and build them how we want. Personally, for me, I love a good workout and exercise session. It brings me into my body and allows me to move in ways I don’t normally get to. Plus, the endorphin boost is nice after long hours in front of a screen or at the crux of a book.

Even though I routinely exercise, the motivation isn’t so easy to come by. That’s why I tend to partner my training with someone else’s. And as a book nerd, that someone else is usually a fictional character from some page I crossed. It’s been helpful while spending time on my bike to read or listen through grander than life adventures of someone training, like me but not me. So, from me to you, here are some great books to help keep your motivation up while you hit the gym, trail, or whatever other method you use to exercise.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.