The Most Human Star Trek is the One With the Most Aliens

Over the recent holiday season I found myself becoming nostalgic about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Maybe the mid-season break in Star Trek: Discovery made me long for Trek of some kind, and DS9 was the first series that came to mind; maybe the fact that my girlfriend is re-watching Babylon 5 made me think of space stations; maybe knowing that 2018 would mark DS9’s 25th anniversary heightened its importance in my subconscious; or maybe the nostalgia was brought on by inscrutable caprice that can’t be explicated.

At any rate, once I became aware of this nostalgia, I decided I didn’t have the time to engage it in the obvious way, namely re-watching the series. And yet I couldn’t resist the urge to get back in touch, however briefly, with its universe.

I remembered hearing good things about the monthly DS9 comics published by Malibu shortly after the ...

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What’s Your “Cinnamon Word”? The Stats on How Authors Use Language

Grady Hendrix’s recent stats-focused piece on Stephen King’s body of work reminded me of a volume I’ve been meaning to recommend publicly for some time. Back in May, browsing the “Essays/Literary Criticism” section of a local bookstore, I chanced upon a book that so thoroughly captivated me I spent nearly an hour turning its pages while standing in the exact same spot I’d been standing when I first pulled it off the shelf. Fortunately—or so I like to tell myself—it was a slow day at the lit crit section, and I didn’t impede access to these shelves while I rapturously bounded from one enthralling section of the book to the next, from one hypnotic table to another, from one dazzling bar chart to another.

Tables? Bar charts? In a book of literary criticism, you ask? Indeed, for this one is a rare specimen, a marriage of literary analysis and… statistics.

...

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Science Fiction Dialogues: Seven Stellar Interview Books

Conversations with Robert Silverberg Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Science fiction is often characterized as being at least partially in dialogue with itself, as some authors explicitly respond to others’ ideas in fictional form, creating an ongoing “story conversation” in which notions are fictionally investigated and re-investigated from contrasting angles and differing sensibilities. Of course, there’s also another, more literal tradition of thought-provoking conversation within the field: probing interviews and books of transcribed conversations.

Today I’d like to highlight seven such volumes—in addition to illuminating the fascinating personalities and lives of their subjects, these books offer invaluable perspectives on the genre’s history and on the creative processes of some of its finest practitioners.

 

Being Gardner Dozois (2001) by Michael Swanwick

Being Gardner Dozois Michael SwanwickA brilliant writer and five-time Hugo winner, Michael Swanwick interviews one of the field’s most-beloved figures, Gardner Dozois, widely known as an editor (he’s won fifteen Hugos as “Best Professional Editor”) but also a fantastic writer in his ...

Dream Makers Charles Platt interviews
Pioneers of Wonder interviews
Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin
Conversations with Octavia Butler
Conversations with Samuel R. Delany
Borges at Eighty: Conversations
Gene Roddenberry The Last Conversation
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Asimov Reads Again

Illustration by Rowena Morrill Isaac Asimov would have been 97 today. In fact, this statement is somewhat speculative, since he moved to the U.S. at a young age without a birth certificate, and wasn’t able to locate such a record later in life. But based on what he learned about the timing and circumstances of his birth, he settled on January 2nd and celebrated that day as his birthday, and we’ll follow suit. (The obsessive among you may note that the first edition of his memoir I. Asimov [1992] states his birth date as “January 1, 1920” on the opening page, but this was corrected for the paperback edition, and the agreed-upon January 2nd date can be corroborated in many other places.) Back in July, 2014 Michael Cummings wrote an interesting post titled “Isaac Asimov’s Reading List,” and I thought that to celebrate the Good Doctor’s posthumous birthday ...

The Game Architecture: We’re All Living in a Cyber World

Cyber World cover art by Aaron Lovett Death to cyberpunk! Long live the new flesh! When I read Neuromancer at sixteen I was completely unprepared for it. Its dense prose, mystifying imagery and hard-boiled aesthetic bypassed my analytical circuits—where much of the science fiction I’d previously read had settled nicely, in a somewhat detached realm of ideas and thought experiments—and rushed directly to my limbic system. The text seemed to download itself directly into my amygdala, and it wasn’t an enjoyable process. In fact, I almost gave up on it several times. The novel was too stylized, too ambiguous, too saturated in every way—and too discontinuous from the science fiction I’d experienced before. But I couldn’t get it out of my system. When the initial overload dissipated, I thought to myself, “Well, that was an interesting one-off,” and returned to what I thought would be known quantities, the field’s current and/or emerging writers, who surely would give ...
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It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times: James Gleick’s Time Travel: A History

timetravelhistory If it’s true, as Alain de Botton has written, that “Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us,” then maybe this wasn’t the ideal moment for me to have read James Gleick’s latest book, Time Travel: A History. On the whole, though, I did have a good time. There’s much to commend. Gleick guides us on a fascinating survey of cultural attitudes towards time and how those have changed over time. He also recaps key scientific ideas about the physics of time and its most intriguing philosophical conundrums—such as the question of whether it actually exists. And, as promised by the book’s title, Gleick covers examples of time travel as depicted in literature and film, with particular emphasis on genre classics and enduring time travel tropes. But this isn’t really a history of time travel, in the sense of ...

In Praise of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Infamous “Reset Button”

Trek-NextGen-ship A friend of mine who had never watched Star Trek in any form recently decided—my endless nagging may have contributed—to check out The Next Generation. Halfway through season two he asked me, “Why do the characters start each episode acting like none of the previous episodes ever happened?” For our purposes that’s a good definition of the “reset button.” (Some might say it’s a “soft” version of the reset button. The “hard” version would be instances of timeline modification that actually erase the events we’ve seen, or something equivalent. Star Trek: Voyager was often accused of both types of resets—more on that below.) Accustomed to modern serialized shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Orphan Black and Breaking Bad, the fact that, for example, Picard could uncover a conspiracy at the highest levels of Starfleet (“Conspiracy”), or Counselor Troi could become pregnant with an alien ...
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