MMAcevedo (Mnemonic Map/Acevedo), also known as Miguel, is the earliest executable image of a human brain. It is a snapshot of the living brain of neurology graduate Miguel Álvarez Acevedo (2010–2073), taken by researchers at the Uplift Laboratory at the University of New Mexico on August 1, 2031.
Welcome to the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. This work-in-progress is a comprehensive quotation-based dictionary of the language of science fiction. The HD/SF is an offshoot of a project begun by the Oxford English Dictionary (though it is no longer formally affiliated with it). It is edited by Jesse Sheidlower. Please explore the menu links to learn more.
Aja Romano: Just how racist was H.P. Lovecraft? (Vox)
H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was also one of its most racist.
Still, there’s an extent to which all of this discussion has been taking place within Lovecraft’s niche community of genre writers — still well below the mainstream radar, away from the broader influence of his work. (As late as 2014, it was possible to read Lovecraft explainers in media outlets that made no mention of his racism.) That might finally be changing with HBO’s Lovecraft Country now spotlighting the conversation around the author’s racist legacy — but it also inevitably yields frustration because Lovecraftian imagery and themes are so embedded within the pop culture landscape.
[Victor LaValle] also stressed capitalizing on Lovecraft’s love of fanfiction of his own stories to overwrite that legacy into newer, more progressive visions of horror. For instance, his award-winning Lovecraftian horror novel The Ballad of Black Tom largely revolves around the underlying premise that much of Lovecraft’s horror is predicated on ridiculous white privilege. That horrific realization that all Lovecraft’s characters undergo that the universe doesn’t revolve around them? That’s not a problem any Black character would ever have.
A story about a pandemic written in 2015 that is eerily resonant with our current pandemic.
Some days it’s hard to imagine that this will ever be over, that we’ll ever be able to get things back to normal at all. When everyone is sniping at each other it feels like you’ve always been trapped in the middle of a half-dozen bickering children and always will be. When you’re in the midst of grief, it’s hard to imagine spring ever coming.
Naomi Kritzer: Didn’t I Write This Story Already? When Your Fictional Pandemic Becomes Reality (Tor)
Sometimes, you’re haunted by your own stories. I wrote “So Much Cooking” in 2015: in it, a food blogger describes cooking in quarantine during a pandemic, feeding an ever-increasing number of children she’s sheltering at her house with an ever-decreasing supply of food.
Researching the story in 2015 was when I first encountered the phrase “social distancing.” Obviously, you’d close the schools, and public gathering spaces like movie theaters; you’d have everyone telecommute who possibly could. How would you get food? Would grocery delivery services be instantly overloaded? Would restaurants continue to serve take-out? What are the ethics of ordering delivery if you’re just outsourcing your own risk to someone more financially desperate?
I’ve been struggling to end this essay—I think because we’re still in the midst of the crisis. But I think part of what appeals to people about the story is that it ends with the crisis unresolved. There’s hope; the protagonist absolutely believes that she’ll see her household through to the other side; but it’s not over, any more than it’s over for us.
Joshua Rothman: Ted Chiang’s Soulful Science Fiction (New Yorker)
In the course of our conversations, he and I discussed various theories about his writing—about what, in general, his project might be. At lunch, he proffered one theory—that his stories were an attempt to resist “the identification of materialism with nihilism.”
Siobhan Leddy: We should all be reading more Ursula Le Guin (The Outline)
Her novels imagine other worlds, but her theory of fiction can help us better live in this one.
Le Guin’s carrier bag is, in addition to a story about early humans, a method for storytelling itself, meaning it’s also a method of history. But unlike the spear (which follows a linear trajectory towards its target), and unlike the kind of linear way we’ve come to think of time and history in the West, the carrier bag is a big jumbled mess of stuff. One thing is entangled with another, and with another.
As well as its meandering narrative, a carrier bag story also contains no heroes. There are, instead, many different protagonists with equal importance to the plot. This is a very difficult way to tell a story, fictional or otherwise. While, in reality, most meaningful social change is the result of collective action, we aren’t very good at recounting such a diffusely distributed account. The meetings, the fundraising, the careful and drawn-out negotiations — they’re so boring! Who wants to watch a movie about a four-hour meeting between community stakeholders?
We will not “beat” climate change, nor is “nature” our adversary. If the planet could be considered a container for all life, in which everything — plants, animals, humans — are all held together, then to attempt domination becomes a self-defeating act. By letting ourselves “become part of the killer story,” writes Le Guin, “we may get finished along with it.” All of which is to say: we have to abandon the old story.
We are still learning how to tell stories about climate change. It is fundamentally a more-than-human problem, one that simultaneously affects all communities of people, animals, plants — albeit asymmetrically. The kind of story we need right now is unheroic, incorporating social movements, political imagination and nonhuman actors. In this story, time doesn’t progress in an easily digestible straight line, with a beginning, middle and end. Instead there are many timelines, each darting around, bringing actions of the past and future into the present. It collapses nature as a category, recognizing that we’re already a part of it. In a climate change story, nobody will win, but if we learn to tell it differently more of us can survive.
Simini Blocker #The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Sissix and Rosemary, again from Becky Chambers’ ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.’ I finished the second one last week as well, which has another cast of excellent characters. I love how cozy and lived in these books feel, while still being really thoughtful on challenging your perspective—it’s not something I’d come to expect from science fiction.
Vajra Chandrasekera: ‘Binti’ by Nnedi Okorafor (Strange Horizons)
A brilliant piece of literary criticism for a novelette I loved and am looking forward to the next installment of.
As a metaphor for acculturation into empire, this works almost too well. You can walk in the halls of empire, yes, as long as you're willing to accept invasive alien tentacles into your mind, to put alien needs above your own, to allow yourself to be instrumentalized.
At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.
Tammy Oler: This Groundbreaking Science Fiction Trilogy Has Won Pretty Much Every Award There Is
A review of Ann Leckie’s ‘Imperial Radch’ trilogy.
Central to Leckie’s trilogy is how important it is to feel a sense of control over one’s identity and how being recognized is a precondition for having power. These themes are not exclusive to one particular time or place, of course, but Leckie taps acutely into the feelings (and fears) that drive current American politics and movements for change. One of the chief pleasures of the trilogy is just how many wrongs Breq tries to make right and how committed she is to making incremental progress even when problems become fraught and complicated. Breq’s actions are underscored by her profound grief, anger, and shame that give way, even if just a little bit, to the solace and hope she finds in her crew and her makeshift family of A.I.s. The end of Ancillary Mercy is satisfying because it is so very un-Radchaai: diverse, messy, and honest. “In the end,” Breq realizes, “it’s only ever been one step, and then the next.”
Alex Dally McFarlane: Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages
On translation Ann Leckie's ‘Imperial Radch’ series:
What is clear in all of these responses is that by examining the notions of ‘neutral’ and ‘feminine’ in grammar and gender through the lens of translation, we reveal their complexity – and some of their possible futures in languages, in both literature and speech.