May 26, 2018

Evil Genius: The Pizza Bomber

I don’t know who all remembers this case but Netflix has a new documentary series that covers it in some detail and it’s compulsively watchable. Everything about the case is all so crazy and populated with such brilliant but broken people it feels more like fiction.

* I will however give a word of warning: the first ep has police footage of the bomb exploding. It’s not gory but it’s very disturbing.

May 8, 2018

Favorite Science Fiction TV: Blake's 7

Blake’s 7 was created by Terry Nation, who’s probably best remembered as the man who created The Daleks for Doctor Who. The show concerns the exploits of political dissident Roj Blake, who commands a small group of rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Terran Federation that rules the Earth and its many colonized planets. The Federation uses mass surveillance, brainwashing and drug pacification to control its citizens.

Blake is arrested, tried on false charges, and deported to a remote penal colony. En route, he and fellow prisoners gain control of a technologically advanced alien spacecraft. Blake and crew begin a campaign to damage the Federation while pursued by Space Commander Travis—a Federation soldier—and Servalan, the Supreme Commander and later Federation President.

Though marred by way too low of a budget, the top-notch writing and weighty themes clearly provided the inspiration for later shows from Farscape to Firefly, Cowboy Bebop to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. And it wasn’t until Rogue One that mainstream science fiction ever again acknowledged that trying to overthrow a totalitarian empire was dirty and dangerous, a tight-rope walk that required making hard choices.

May 7, 2018

Cosmic Aggressions

In higher ed, we talk a lot about something called microaggressions—everyday unconscious verbal and nonverbal slights, snubs, and insults that communicate hostile and negative messages to marginalized persons.

My newest Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story came from wondering how that concept would manifest at Miskatonic University.

Read “Cosmic Aggressions” in the Walpurgisnacht issue of Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror.

April 25, 2018

Space Jesus

I’ve never liked the idea of Superman as Space Jesus or Space Moses. To me a big part of Superman has always been a story about an immigrant. (Kal-el becomes Clark Kent as if he went through Ellis Island.) 

I think you can understand a lot about those early Superman stories where he fights common criminals and the occasional mad scientist or robot when you parse it that way. Siegel and Shuster were two sons of Jewish immigrants. And the one thing that Jerry Siegel never talked about is the death of his father...when he was only 17, Mitchell Siegel was shot and killed by a robber at his second-hand clothing store.
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