TV Reviews

Snoke clones? Palpatine? "The Mandalorian" | Season 2, Episode 4

Carl Weathers directs Season 2's most revealing chapter yet

The Mandalorian | Season 2 Official Trailer | Disney+

"Chapter 12: The Siege" premiered Friday, November 20 on Disney+.

Before getting into spoilers, let's discuss the episode's set up. Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian, and Baby Yoda are en route to the forest planet of Corvus to find Ahsoka Tano. Their ship remains badly damaged from the events of the previous two episodes, so they decide to take a detour for repairs. Okay, it's spoiler time!

Keep ReadingShow less
TV Features

"Lovecraft Country" Reminds Us That Magick Is as Real as We Believe It Is

One of the ideas explored by HBO's Lovecraft Country was the meta-boundary between fiction and reality—not only for the characters of the show, but also for us, the viewers.

The show (which is based on a book called Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff) finds Tic, his love Leti, and his father Montrose contending with the storyline of an autobiographical book (also called Lovecraft Country) written by Tic and Leti's future son.

One of the earliest episodes mentions the Necronomicon, an infamous book of magic featured in H.P. Lovecraft's fiction stories. This is an acknowledgement of the 100-year-old Lovecraftian world of antediluvian terrors.

But the way Lovecraft Country introduces the esoteric arts is very much aligned with real history. Magickal lodges with secret initiations exist. Voodoo priestesses exist. Korean shamans, called mudang 무당, exist and even influence top-level politicians. Lovecraft Country and HP Lovecraft''s legacy constantly interrogates the boundaries between fiction and reality, asking readers to question their own realities as well as their capabilities to create their own worlds or influence them through stories.
Keep ReadingShow less

7 Extremely Relevant Sci-Fi Books To Check Out This Fall

These sci-fi books will help you make sense of the real world.

The Broken Earth Trilogy

Photo by: Clay Banks/ Unsplash

Sci-fi may often be about alternate histories or futuristic societies, but it tends to offer very necessary reflections on our own world.

This fall, as we speed through a stressful election that has existential implications for all of our lives and continue to grapple with a pandemic, we'll need great sci-fi books to get us through the season. And what could be better than sitting back with some hot cider, watching the autumn leaves fall, and traveling to a distant sci-fi universe?

Here are 7 sci-fi books to help get you through the fall.

1. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Three Body 三体 written by Liu Cixin via Chongqing Press.

Game of Thrones' creators just announced that their next blockbuster adaptation will be based on The Three-Body Problem, an award-winning series about extraterrestrials that's really a reflection on humanity.

2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

via EmeraldCity

Octavia Butler is a must-read for any fan of science fiction, but her book Parable of the Sower feels extra-relevant today. It tells the story of a society brought to its knees by environmental destruction, racism, and economic crises. It stars a girl suffering from hyperempathy, or an extreme sensitivity to others' suffering. Studded with poetry and filled with reflections on dystopia, zealotry, and other problems, it also offers something extremely rare: a blueprint for a potential solution.

3. Dune by Frank Herbert

1965 Chilton Books hardcover first edition book cover of Dune by Frank Herbert, with art by John Schoenherr and AbeBooks

The 2020 movie version may star Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, but the actual print book Dune has been beloved by science fiction fans since 1965. Taking place around 20,000 years in the future, it is set in a feudal society in which varying powers compete for sovereignty over planets. The central planet in question is Arrakis, a wasteland of a planet that is also the only source of melange, a drug that allows users to travel through dimensions.

Dune has been translated to computer games, follow-up films, and many other forms of entertainment, but the original still occupies a very specific place in the sci-fi and fantasy canons. Whether you're looking to brush up on your Timothee Chalamet lore or want to dive into a distant and fascinating world, Dune is a surefire bet.

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Cover of the original UK paperback edition of the novel, PanBooks, Fair use,

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has remained perpetually relevant since it was published in 1966. Confronting meaninglessness, global annihilation, inane leaders, and the absurdity of human life, it offers a roadmap for getting through the (hopefully) last few months of the Trump presidency; and it may even be, as one writer put it, "The Book of 2020."

5. The Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ellison's classic novel appears on many books-to-read-before-you-die lists. It addresses what it means to be a Black man, but it also addresses and interrogates human identity on the whole. In the midst of a second Civil Rights movement, this book offers perspective and wisdom.

6. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

Publisher Orbit By, Fair use,

N. K. Jemisin's highly lauded Broken Earth series consists of three books—The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky. Taking place on a fictional planet, it tells the story of a world whose inhabitants are faced with regular, cyclical catastrophic periods of climate change. The series is difficult to explain in brief, but its nuanced perspectives on the war between humans and the earth made Jemisin the first author in the history of sci-fi to win three consecutive Hugo Awards.

7. Feed by M. T. Anderson

Feeling exhausted by the Internet, but not exactly sure why—or how to detach yourself from it? M. T. Anderson's YA cyberpunk novel "Feed" might provide the impetus you need to finally abandon the Internet once and for all, and it might also awaken you to the fact that everything on the Internet is specifically designed to sell you something.

The novel takes place in a future dominated completely by corporate exploitation, in which most people's brains are connected and controlled by digital implants that allow corporations to target and control them. The book takes place in an ecologically devastated world and offers a complex critique of capitalism, groupthink, and endless targeted advertisements.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) Trailer # 1 - Martin Freeman HD

In the opening pages of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Earth is destroyed. Now if that doesn't scream 2020 so far, what does?

In Douglas Adams's 1979 novel, which premiered as a radio series on BBC Radio4 in 1978 (42 years ago—but more about the significance of that number later), Earth is suddenly blown up in order to make room for an intergalactic superhighway. Now, in a year that has—after only 3 months, people—given us a contentious, confusing democratic primary, the death of Kobe Bryant, new and worsening facts about our climate and habitat at large, appalling leadership, and of course the rapid spread of and global shutdowns by the coronavirus (COVID-19), it seems impossible to turn to any source for comfort.

Enter The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a novel that starts with the global annihilation that we might be heading for and then follows the characters as they cope with new realities, with isolation and loss, an endless information source that brings with it endless anxiety, and an egomaniacal, arrogant, selfish, attention-craving president of the galaxy.

Keep ReadingShow less
Culture Feature

Boots Riley Drops Major Truth Bombs in Endorsement for Bernie Sanders

Boots Riley recognizes the need for radical direct action––Because without radical direct action, nobody will listen and nothing will change.

Boots Riley, the activist, rapper, writer, and director behind Sorry to Bother You–the most underrated movie of 2018 (although that's to be expected from majority white mainstream media when it comes to a biting satire about code switching and capitalist enslavement of black people)–has taken to Twitter with his endorsement of Bernie Sanders.

Keep ReadingShow less
Adult Swim

Since the pilot of Rick and Morty aired nearly six years ago, the show has become a cult phenomenon, responsible for at least one condiment-inspired crisis, and around 100,000 ill-advised tattoos.

Rick tattooPictured: A good decisionTattoo Life

As of May of last year, the series had become such a cultural force that Adult Swim ordered an astounding 70 new episodes, likely to add up to seven seasons of premium Sanchez-Smith goodness. This would put the series total at just over 100 episodes, which is the traditional threshold for a show to enter syndication—meaning a different episode can rerun every weeknight for 20 straight weeks, making it a valuable property for networks to snatch up.

But will any of that conventional TV wisdom even apply by the time these ordered episodes are delivered? More importantly, will those tattoos hold up for the entire run, or will they stretch and fade and have to be lasered off or covered up with characters from whatever show replaces Rick and Morty as the go-to-source for high-IQ pop-culture references? Considering the pace at which episodes have been produced in past seasons, we are looking at at least another decade and change of the familiar high-concept sci-fi shenanigans…or are we?

Rick and Morty Season 4 Opening Sequence | adult

The first episode of season four contains some hints about what the show's future is likely to hold, and it may not be what fans have come to expect. The first clues come from the show's new opening sequence. Each year, Rick and Morty's eerie Theremin theme plays over a new set of frenetic snapshot-scenes sampled from the season. Season four's intro includes five such snapshots that we can comb for clues: Morty as two different horrifying monsters—(1) a mutant tentacle-head sprouting smaller heads, and (2) a kraken-like sea-giant a la Clash of the Titans—(3) a ripped dude with a chin-strap beard beating the sh*t out of Rick, and two scenes of battle within the Smith household—(4) Rick fighting a two-headed goose, and (5) a tiny cyborg creature fighting a bunch of evil snakes.

Also, none of them feature Jerry, so they're definitely about to kill of JerryAdult Swim

The Clash of the Titans scene includes the nostril-headed aliens from "The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy" and, if I had to guess, I would say that the chin-strap dude—who is wearing two magic-looking rings—may be a send-up of Thanos. Other than that, these snapshots don't tell us much. The series is built on violent confrontation with strange creatures, and Morty is pretty much constantly being transformed into some monstrous shape or another. But when coupled with the episode's conclusion, we may gain some insight. After an eventful day of Morty becoming a monomaniacal, future-focused monster, and Rick randomly battling Nazis, they land on "split the diff" as the moral—both planning for the future and living in the moment—and set off their latest 100-years riff while Summer insults them in the background.

The whole 100-years bit dates back to the pilot, but now that the show has been all-but guaranteed to run into the 2030s, the joke feels a little on the nose, so the writers took the opportunity to establish the ethos for the show going into the distant future. In Morty's words: "Sometimes we'll do classic stuff, other times we'll do whatever. 100 years, Rick and Morty. Not sticking to one path, trying different things making sure to keep out of a rut. Doing stuff; sometimes not doing stuff. Going it alone or together. Making sure we keep our eyes on the prize, but also, sometimes just relaxing."

Rick and Morty Forever 100 Years | Rick and Morty | Adult

The writers clearly want to avoid the trap that so many long-running series fall into—always pushing things a little further, until it just becomes a parody of itself. So they're announcing a plan to take a more flexible approach to the kind of stories they're going to tell. With that in mind, maybe we can look to the snapshot scenes of the goose and the little cyborg guy as indicative of the show's potentially broader direction. Neither of these scenes are really suggestive of the kind of over-the-top action that this premiere episode—and the series in general—tend to focus on. Sure, they're both violent, but it's a tamer, more domestic violence. Rather than making the explosions bigger, the aliens weirder, and the plotting Rick-and-Mortier, the show seems to be saying that it will spend a bit more time at home, focusing on the Smith family, making room for episodes to be driven by the classic sitcom family drama, with Rick and Morty's irreverent banter, and maybe just a sprinkling of sci-fi craziness.

Rick and Morty domestic scenesAdult Swim

Of course, the other interpretation is that the writers have no idea how they're going to produce so many more episodes, and are trying not to get hung up on any long-term vision. So, with only four more episodes currently scheduled, and another 65 more floating in the ether, speculation may be a bit premature. Of course, the real question is how many of those 65 episodes will end up being shadow-puppet theater that takes place in Dan Harmon's bunker beneath the irradiated waste of 2030s LA. I'm betting 20, but I've always been an optimist.