The end of the world

Liu Cixin’s space-opera trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past revolutionized Chinese science-fiction, and creates a vision of the future as relevant and communicative as any in the history of the genre.

Liu’s avowed poetics for the work, at least as represented for English-speaking audiences, are given in an essay published in 2014, around when the first part of the the trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, was first translated. The essay concludes with his claim, “I wrote about the worst of all possible universes in Three Body out of hope that we can strive for the best of all possible Earths.”

The trilogy certainly takes a dark view of some of the ways humans relate to one another and to their world, but human nature is what Liu takes for granted: humans would act this way even in a Liebnitzian “best of all possible universes.” The “worst” universe Liu creates isn’t the human characters, it is the plot he embeds them in, which is so full of misfortunes that it borders on sadistic. Humans’ difficulties with one another and with their world are the subject that he wants to examine, and hopefully improve, if our actual universe turns out to be less awful than the fictional one he has drawn.

The center of the awfulness is the game-theoretic principle (invented by Liu) that gives the second book in the trilogy its title: Dark Forest Theory. Spoilers follow.

Continue reading →

Links We Loved This Week — 6/23/17

This woman has been slowly eating Infinite Jest for a year. We don’t really know why, but we support it.

If you, like us, are always just a few days behind on The Handmaid’s Tale, you may have missed Variety‘s fun, engaging interview with Elizabeth Moss about the finale.

Or, you might want to check out a pair of what I can only describe as cerebral fanwanks about hair and music in The Handmaid’s Tale at LA Review of Books.

Damon Lindelof might be doing a Watchmen series on HBO! And before you get upset, Zack Snyder he is not. He did wonders with The Leftovers by departing from the source material in meaningful ways.

This is the best tweet about the news, which came out right around the time Lord and Miller dropped out of the Han Solo prequel:

 

At Book Riot via The Millions, five writers inspired by Octavia Butler, whose birthday was Thursday, write about her influence on them. I happen to be in the middle of Fledgling and I’m loving it, so it’s a timely topic for me!

Links We Loved This Week — 6/16/17

Do you know about the creepy surrealist Youtube star Poppy? This article about her is fascinating, but what really fascinated me was just watching her “I’m Poppy” video. (via Wired)

After some anxious sponsors backed away from the notorious Trumpian production of Julius Caesar, Alexandra Petri for the Washington Post cheekily identified reasons why pretty much no plays should be acceptable to sponsors. For example, in As You Like It, “Woman wandering in the woods to get away from the current regime is portrayed as some sort of hero.” VERY inappropriate.

Rebecca Solnit argues in Harper’s that the mythical Cassandra is the feminine inverse of The Boy Who Cried Wolf: from Anita Hill to Cosby’s victims to Trump’s accusers and in countless other examples, men can lie over and over again and be believed, while women can tell the truth time and time again and be dismissed.

A poet who wasn’t getting any traction on Instagram conducted a social experiment in which he posted the most banal, non-sensical lines he could think of–and he immediately got thousands and likes and followers, many of whom were not in on the joke.

The New Yorker‘s Doreen St. Felix walks us through Bill Maher’s awkward, graceless apology–and why we probably shouldn’t accept it.

Rayna looks freaked out while an angry man behind her holds onto her and a gun points towards them both.

Taking The Leap: Our All-Time Top (or Bottom) Jumping-the-Shark Moments

You may or may not have noticed that we have stopped recapping Nashville, and it’s not because we’re lazy and/or behind (although that’s often the case). It’s because–and we’re sad to say this–Nashville has jumped the shark, an especially impressive feat for a show that was already about feuding country singers. So instead of recapping a show that has become too ridiculous even for our teen-soap-loving sensibilities, we’re going down the list of the best (or, more accurately, worst) jumping-the-shark moments that we’ve seen on television.

There are only three (loose) rules for something to qualify as jumping-the-shark: 1) It has to be f*cking ridiculous, in direct proportion to how ridiculous the show was to begin with; 2) it should preferably be a ratings ploy; and 3) it has to mark the point-of-no-return that begins a downward spiral, an evolution into a significantly stupider and/or offensive show that we never would have watched if we weren’t already attached to the characters. Enjoy.

SPOILERS ABOUND! Continue reading →

Wonder Woman holds a shield in one hand and a sword in the other, with a gleam of sunlight behind her.

See Wonder Woman. It’s “neat.”

I didn’t see Wonder Woman in an all-female screening. In fact, I was with Keets, and we were sitting near at least two groups of men who had come with no women at all. Which was a good thing, from my perspective; it’s nice to live in a city where people’s appetite for cliché-ridden action movies seems to depend more on their quality than the gender of the top-billed actor.

Continue reading →

Ranking the All-Time Personal Growth of the ‘Girls’

After six seasons of controversies, hot takes, empowering female nudity, depressing racial politics, and a few near-perfect bottle episodesGirls has finally taken its final bow. Girls grew immensely over the years, transforming from a tragically self-conscious drama about privileged brats into a slightly more self-aware and compassionate story about (still privileged) young women adulting for the first time. But while the show itself became vastly more mature, the same cannot be said for all of its protagonists. Here are our final personal growth rankings for all of the Girls characters, based on their respective farewells in the last three episodes. Continue reading →