As October is wrapping up, and we get closer to Halloween, there are so many stories that I didn’t get to this year that I can think of. Comics, short stories, TV episodes, and even poems that are great and creepy and perfect for the season. I’m not going to rank them, because none of them are any better or worse than the others. I might get to them in future Octobers, but for now, here’s seven stories that I know I’m going to be visiting before the witching hour is over.
valeriemclean1919 Arkham Asylum A Serious House on Serious Earth, Batman, Doctor Who, Edgar Allen Poe, Flannery O'Connor, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Halloween, Robert Browning, Teen Titans About Other Art, About TV, About Writing 3 Comments
Quick: what was the first Science Fiction novel? I, Robot by Issac Asimov (1950)? The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)? Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)?
The answer is “none of the above”– what is commonly agreed as the first Science Fiction novel was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818, written by Mary Shelly. Not quite what you’d think. Frankenstein, or, rather, Frankenstein’s monster, is a common figure around Halloween as the star of one of Universal’s classic monster movies. Frankenstein (1931) is a horror classic, and one of the first movies to be almost lying when it says “based on the novel by”. The novel is actually a lot darker, and more people die, but it also has a wildly different plot, so there’s that.
But still, since its inception, Science Fiction has been tied to horror and Gothic fiction. And historically, that makes sense– Science Fiction couldn’t really happen until science happened, and it also couldn’t really happen until the invention of the novel. Both of these things converged in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, during the Enlightenment. When you start learning the history of genres of literature, a lot of things begin to make sense.
Science Fiction is a very malleable genre. It goes with everything, like a good pair of jeans. Pair it with fantasy, and you have Star Wars. Pair it with historical fiction, and you have steampunk. Pair it with political thriller, and you have 1984, The Hunger Games, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451— basically any dystopian fiction. Pair it with horror..?
Much like a good pair of jeans, when paired, Science Fiction is more of a secondary genre. It lends its aesthetics and settings, sometimes a plot device or two, in order to service the main genre. Superhero fiction, for example, uses element of Science Fiction, but is mainly Action-Adventure. When Science Fiction takes the lead, however, that’s when things get interesting– especially when it comes to horror.
October is here! And with it, Halloween. While I’m not really a horror junkie, I enjoy a scary story every now and again. Over the next few weeks leading up to the 31st, I will be writing about some more spooky stuff for the occasion. But enough shop-keeping.
Over the Garden Wall is a miniseries produced by Cartoon Network and created by Patrick McHale. It follows two half-brothers, Wirt and Greg, and their traveling companion Beatrice. They travel through a realm called The Unknown, which is filled with magic and monsters. Wirt and Greg have to find their way home without being caught by The Beast, a creature that plagues The Unknown. With the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, Melanie Lynskey, and Samuel Ramey, it’s a beautiful art peice, and surprisingly dark for a TV-PG show.
Robert Frost, you probably know. You’ve probably read “Birches” or “Fire and Ice”, and you’ve definitely read “The Road Not Taken”. Frost is one of several American poets, along with Whitman and Dickinson, that is regularly considered as an American within the canon (Eliot, HD, and Pound are often considered British poets, despite their American origins). Frost’s poems give an overall aesthetic of fall and winter, incorporating it into his poetry. Maybe it’s his name, I don’t know.
What makes a character a Disney Princess? Do you know? There’s actually a procedure for it, with a set of rules and an official ceremony. There’s a list of official Disney Princesses, with inclusions and exclusions that may surprise you. Because the Princesses are an actual brand as opposed to a concept, there almost has to be some sort of regulatory procedure. This is the VIP club of Disney royalty, and not every princess gets in.
But if we consider the term as a concept, as most people do, the rules become a bit fuzzy. What Disney properties are excluded, that maybe shouldn’t be? What properties tangential to Disney would qualify? Why even stick with Disney properties– other properties have some great female characters. Is the concept that the Disney Princesses represent powerful enough that it surpasses the lines of branding, marketing, and copyright, to encompass something that we as a culture then fill in to fit our own ideas of what royalty, femininity, and heroism mean?
I mean, of course it does, but that’s beside the point.
A lot of really cool Star Trek stuff has been happening in celebration of its 50th birthday– a new show is coming into production, there have been events all across the US, a couple of documentaries have been released/announced, and the new movie is the best one since Galaxy Quest.
Star Trek is a cultural phenomenon, just as much as its counterpart Star Wars. Spanning 5 (technically 6) television series, 13 movies, and countless books and comics and video games, Star Trek has influenced countless science fiction stories and real life technologies and advancements. But it also has a complex series of influences within itself, an interweaving continuity with branches and parallel universes and all the temporal distortions that you could ask for. These “most important” episodes are important for internal canon and implications within the universe, but the Original Series was doing important things every day that it aired, possibly more than any other title associated with the franchise. But these episode gave ideas that allowed the series to exist beyond a cult show from the late 60’s. Ideas that kept the series alive.
— thelitcritguy (@TheLitCritGuy) August 29, 2016
TheLitCritGuy is part of a community of scholars on Twitter– which is actually a very interesting and entertaining group for the modern academic. This tweet and the subsequent thread was posted on Monday, and summarized Edward W. Said’s 1984 essay “The Future of Criticism”.
Yeah, this week’s gonna get a bit technical.
I read Said’s essay. There’s a lot to agree with. Literary criticism has become more inter-disciplinary, though it’s a slow moving process as with anything in academia. There are things that could be better, but it could be much worse. There are two problems I saw in his analysis, however. One is something he could not have seen coming, that no one saw coming, and that is the advent of the World Wide Web and its impact on every facet of life. The other is a more personal issue, one that informs almost my entire critical process, and that’s the implication that there is literature that is worth being thought of critically, and literature that is not. The two dovetail, so I’ll talk about each in the context of the other, but what’s important to understand before I start is that there are no wrong answers. Every person that writes criticism does so for their own reasons, and picks their subject matter similarly. If you want to study every word that Lord Byron ever wrote, research his life to the last detail, find every person he ever slept with or was rumored to have slept with, and become the premier Lord Byron expert of your generation, go for it. Send the journals my way, I’ll read it. But as Said pointed out, there’s more types of criticism out there than essays about poetry.
Maybe even more than Said thought.
valeriemclean1919 American Gothic, Genre, Gothic Literature, Horror genre, Netflix, Southern Gothic, Stephen King, Stranger Things, Television, To Kill a Mockingbird About TV, About Writing 0 Comments
How great is Stranger Things? I’ve never been so impressed by original Netflix content. Daredevil had a solid first season, Orange is the New Black is good, but Stranger Things is just absolutely captivating. The writing is rock solid, the acting is incredible (Winona Ryder needs an Emmy for this), and the design of the show is beyond what it has any right to be. And it is so many things– people have called it so many things– that it only just slips the might what it isn’t.
Stranger Things is not horror. At least, it’s not just horror.
Now, I’ve probably called it horror in conversation, and if you love horror, you will love this show, but it’s not simply horror. I considered doing a “Breaking Genre” piece on this like I did for Star Wars, but this isn’t such a difference that it would make sense. And in any case, it’s a very specific genre that most are not as familiar with as they are Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Stranger Things is American Gothic.
Mild spoilers ahead.
Well, at least of Seasons 1 and 2.
I’m still on a music kick, but let’s head a bit back into the wheelhouse. Steven Universe is a cartoon on Cartoon Network about a young teenage boy named Steven Universe and his family, a group of women warriors called the Crystal Gems (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl). Along with his dad Greg and his best friend Connie Maheswaran, Steven saves the world and gets into many adventures in his hometown of Beach City. One of the best things about the show is all of the original music that they compose for the show, and how they use music in the show. This list will focus mainly on the songs with lyrics, but the use of music in the show is some of the most inventive I’ve seen in a while. That being said, the music with lyrics is absolutely amazing. Anyone here keeping up with Summer of Steven? Watched “Mr. Greg”? Yeah, you know the song.
This will only cover the first two seasons mostly because the third season isn’t over yet. I’ll probably do another list for season 3, but for now, here’s the list.
valeriemclean1919 1776, Anime, Ghostbusters, Hamilton, Henry V, M*A*S*H, Movies, Musicals, Shakespeare, Star Trek, Television, Yu-Gi-Oh! About Film, About Other Art, About TV, Uncategorized 0 Comments
The was a great article in the Post today about how going to see the new Ghostbusters has become a political act. Basically, all the backlash against the all-female lead team has lead people into taking sides like this is Civil War. I’m not saying that movies and such can’t or shouldn’t be political, but a movie about busting ghosts probably isn’t meant to be. However, considering that we have people saying that it’s the worst movie ever before it’s even hit theaters, and between the terrible trailers and everything that happened with the Angry Video Game Nerd the other week, there’s obviously something that was lost in translation. It’s not just with Ghostbusters, Rouge One has experienced some similar backlash. To say that there are certain genres where the same groups of people are generally underrepresented, and that said representation leads to situations like we have now with these movies is the most delicate way that I can put it (and someone will still find offence in it.) If you read my post on remakes, I’m not inherently opposed to the concept of remakes, especially if it adds to the conversation or ultimately makes a better project than the original. I’m not saying Ghostbusters will, but they struck on an idea that could be used to help our current cultural climate, because the only way to fix this is to normalize the presence of women (both white and woc) in our media.
There are several pieces of media that could use such an update. What the new Ghostbusters movie has done is what is known in internet parlance as “Rule 63”– the concept of taking a piece of media and swapping out one gender for another. It’s along the lines of “What if Sam and Dean Winchester were Samantha and Deanna? How would that effect the work?” Or, like what Ghostbusters seems to be doing, simply telling a new story with some or all of the characters as women. People were recently campaigning for Gillian Anderson to be Jane Bond, and within the franchise, Judi Dench was one of the best “M”s put to screen. Skyfall wouldn’t have been the same movie if Ralph Fiennes had replaced her right at the beginning. It could also breathe new life into a franchise that needs updating or revamping.
Here are five pieces that I think deserve such consideration.