Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writer: Leonard Nimoy
I was reticent to re-watch The Voyage Home simply because it looms so large in my memory of childhood. But with Nimoy’s death, the house decided to marathon Star Trek II-IV, and The Voyage Home did not disappoint.
Star Trek IV is the only Star Trek movie both written and directed by Leonard Nimoy, and stands as the most on point (in my opinion) movie in the franchise.
In case you watched all the Star Trek movies decades ago and can’t remember which one I’m talking about: this is the one where the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to the 1980s to save the whales. It makes explicit the concept that if we don’t save the whales, the entire earth will eventually die.
Continue reading Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
by Natasha Alvarez
2014, Black and Green Press
I study anarchist fiction. I read fiction that anarchists write and I read what other people write about what anarchists do. And in all that time, I can’t say I’ve read anarchist fiction that’s more deeply engaged and poetic than Liminal, a novella published by Black and Green Press.
To be honest, I’m cynical about activist fiction (or whatever you want to call it when people hoping to transform the world write fiction). I’m cynical for a bunch of reasons (most of which I learned by interviewing people who are much smarter than me). For one thing, fiction is generally more adept at asking questions than it is at providing answers. For another thing, writing fiction is really fucking hard to do well, and most anarchists and radicals and activists just haven’t put in the work required to create beautiful, compelling narratives.
Continue reading Liminal by Natasha Alvarez
“The Last of the Masters”
by Philip K. Dick
1954, Orbit Science Fiction #5
I like Philip K. Dick. I appreciate how earnestly weird he is. Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep meant almost as much to teenaged me as Blade Runner did. Dick was a pioneer of science fiction that explores the mental and spiritual landscape instead of just outer space.
“The Last of the Masters” is one of his first stories (technically a novellete, I suppose) and was published when he was 25. It’s also, in my research thus far, the only story he’s written that explicitly deals with anarchism.
Continue reading The Last of the Masters by Philip K Dick
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Written by: Jonathan Raymond
Recommended? That’s complicated.
I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and I still don’t know how I feel about Night Moves. My informal poll of eco-anarchists (okay, I asked two people) is split right down the middle: it’s an excellent movie except for the end, or it’s garbage the whole way through.
But the thing is, it was still stuck in my head. The very least I can say is that it’s not an inconsequential film. So I tracked down the screenwriter, Oregon novelist Jonathan Raymond, and interviewed him.
I include that interview in full in this review, but the interview is very spoiler-heavy. So there’s a short movie review, the interview, and analysis.
Continue reading Night Moves (2013) and an interview with Jonathan Raymond
by Robert Heinlein
1959, G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Recommended? Know thy enemy
I can’t talk about a Heinlein book, let alone Starship Troopers, without talking about my dad.
My dad’s a lot like I am. We look alike. We both have wanderlust. We both instinctively refuse authority and we both give to people flying signs by the side of the road. We’re both writers, and he raised me to read science fiction. In particular, he raised me to read Heinlein.
My father’s also a marine. He never saw combat—he was honorably discharged for medical reasons not too long after bootcamp. But, you know, once a marine, always a marine.
It’s hard not to imagine that, had I joined the military, my experience would have been similar to my father’s. And his experiences (as I understand them) entirely belie Heinlein’s glorious presentation of the armed forces.
Continue reading Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Recommended? As a movie, but not for its lessons
Wolverine goes back in time to stop Mystique from killing a scientist who tortures and kills and studies mutants. The scientist is doing these things so that he can build giant machines to kill all the mutants.
I dunno, maybe instead of going back in time to get Mystique not to kill the guy, Wolverine should have gone back in time even further and just killed the guy as soon as he became a violent bigot. Why is it right to go back in time to tell Mystique what she can and cannot do, but not to go back in time and tell Peter Dinklage what he can and cannot do?
I know it’s like, a really big part of the whole X-Men universe, but I just don’t understand why killing is presented as always wrong.
Continue reading X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
1974, St. Martin’s Press
As far as I know, The Forever War is basically the antiwar sci-fi novel. Between it and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you’ve got the “why it sucks to go to war” pretty well covered.
Written in 1974 and based on Haldeman’s experience as a draftee in Vietnam, The Forever War uses science fiction’s potential to its artistic fullest—he takes an element of war he’d like to describe (the alienation of returning home) and exaggerates it for effect with science.
In the world of The Forever War, the battles are taking place lightyears away from each other and from Earth. And despite a series of wormholes scattered throughout the galaxy, ships are required to travel for months or years at a time through regular space at near the speed of light. Which, for those science fans following along, means time dilation. While only months go by for the people aboard the ships, years, decades, even centuries pass on earth. After every raid, soldiers return to a completely different world. The moral? You can never go home.
Continue reading The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
The Walking Dead, seasons 1-4
Recommended? If you’re going to watch epic amounts of TV, then yes.
Rooting for The Walking Dead isn’t exactly rooting for the underdog, I know. It’s apparently the most-watched show on cable. But, after binging my way through four seasons, I’ll say this: I’m glad it’s so popular.
As a warning, this review is going to assume you’ve seen the show or don’t care about spoilers. It’s light on specifics, though.
The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic zombie drama set primarily in rural Georgia, based on a comic series I haven’t read. When it first came out, I gave it a shot but got kind of bored after a few episodes.
You see, the protagonist is a cop. The second-in-command? Also a cop. This isn’t a really good way to hook me. In fact, throughout the whole first season, I basically felt like the screenwriters were good-cop/bad-copping me: good cop is so good! Bad cop is so bad! Therefore, we need more good cops!
Continue reading The Walking Dead, seasons 1-4
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Recommended? you could do worse
Bechdel Test: Pass
I saw a trailer for this film awhile back, long before I convinced myself to watch it. In the year 2022 unemployment, poverty, and crime are at record lows—all because for one night a year, from 7pm to 7am, every crime is legal. (And by “every crime” the filmmakers really just mean murder.)
I’m an anarchist. My entire political understanding is wrapped up in the idea that without law and government, we’d actually all get along alright. I wasn’t expecting to like The Purge.
But the filmmakers actually took the themes of the movie in interesting directions.
First of all, let’s talk about class war. The protagonists are bootstrapping war-profiteers, basically: the husband sells security systems to rich people for the Purge. “Ten years ago we couldn’t pay our bills, and now we’re thinking about buying a boat,” he says at some point early in the film. The family puts out a symbolic display of blue flowers, showing their support for the Purge, before retreating into their secure home.
Continue reading The Purge (2013)
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall
Harebrained Studios, 2014
Recommended: Without question
Summary: Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is a fun, incredibly well-written computer roleplaying game that takes place in a good-guy-anarchists-against-evil-megacorporations future. It nods to punk anti-fascism; it makes fun of state communists; there are multiple, non-sexualized homosexual relationships; and there’s awesome German graffiti everywhere in the background. So yes, I like this game. It didn’t get everything perfect, but it got a hell of a lot right.
There’s always going to be a place in my heart for Shadowrun. I think I was in fourth grade when a friend introduced me to the world for the first time, handing me the second edition core book. There on the cover were a bunch of punk humans and elves, hacking a computer terminal in the middle of a gunfight.
Continue reading Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall