June 2010


They were a terrific bunch, very likable and smart and thoughtful.  These kids today.  I didn’t always feel at the top of my game, especially on bad hamstring days, but they usually had something interesting to say.  Their unfavorite book, by a wide margin, was Snow Crash—even worse than Neuromancer in years past.  Forever War was once again the class favorite, though Boneshaker was a strong second.  They were quite enthusiastic about Boneshaker the first day we discussed it, when a construction worker accidentally set off the wrath-of-God alarm system, ending that discussion.  When we returned the next day, the spark had gone, but I would definitely teach the book again.  One thing the class especially liked about the book was Briar, a strong female character.  The one thing most liked about Snow Crash was the character of Y.T., another strong female character.  Some of the best papers were definitely on Boneshaker.  They liked the book better than I did (I wearied immediately of the sullen whiny adolescent boy), so I learned a lot about it from them.  I love it when that happens.  Monday Urban Fantasy begins, and I’m spending the weekend with Anansi Boys.  We’re practically old friends.  Throw me in that briar patch, Neil!

The envelope please.  Every year I ask my students to vote on their favorite and least favorite items on the syllabus.  We watched the last of the films, and the somewhat surprising winner was 2001: A Space Odyssey.   The clear loser?  T2.  So much for the conventional wisdom that these kids today require non-stop action and will reject Kubrick’s glacial pace like a bowl of cold oatmeal.  Second place went to Sleep Dealer, which pleased me.  It’s a very smart film.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show was beloved by fans, but as is often the case with fans, they weren’t eager to articulate the sources of their affection.  While Body Snatchers was nobody’s fave, it was still a success with most of the class.  I also just read their papers in which they review an sf film of their choosing.  A particularly good paper on Repo Man has me reconsidering that cult gem for the problematic 80’s.

It seemed like such a good idea—to include the most watched sf movie ever made—The Rocky Horror Picture Show—but I discovered that watching a movie in an inebriated state, throwing food, and shouting ritual responses are poor preparation for any critical appreciation of a film.  It’s become inseparable from its ritual.  There was a small but quiet group of loyalists, but for the most part, the movie tanked.  I identified with Eddie.  Looks like its back to Alien next year.  The Forever War, however, was successful once again.  This is an excellent class, their papers were quite good, and they’re not afraid to talk and disagree.  We screen T2 today, and who doesn’t like the Governator?  My classroom is next to the stairwell, so the noise doesn’t carry fortunately.  We can blow shit up to our heart’s content.  I’m showing the superior theatrical cut.  Cameron’s restored scenes in DVD release are mostly plot-bloating cheese, especially the dopey ghost-of-Kyle scene in the mental hospital.  Then on to Snow Crash, a book that’s growing on me, especially the incisive descriptions of the burbscape.  I do wish Neal Stephenson would follow Miéville’s fine example and write something of a teachable length!