In 1998, Spanish neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso caused a flurry of bad science journalism by speculating in an academic journal that vampirism originated as a fictional extrapolation of human rabies. The traits were all there. Hypersensitivity to strong stimuli, like bright lights, garlic, and mirrors. Insomnia. Hypersexuality. A tendency to bite, potentially killing their victims or passing on the condition. Furthermore, the peak of vampire fascination in Europe came soon after a well-documented epidemic of rabies in Hungary.
Hamilton has transcended musical theater, illuminating issues of inequality and success in new ways. Stephen Curry has transcended athletics, redefining what it means to be the best. This duo came to a head in February. Hamilton made its television debut during the Grammys, and Stephen Curry dazzled in Toronto at the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game. In these moments, we had front row seats (metaphorically, I mean who can afford those?) not just to history, but to an apotheosis—an apotheosis of genius, challenged by the bright lights of cynicism, triumphing. Greatness, in the form of Hamilton and Curry, is looking into the face of a hyper-connected, hyper-critical society and surviving.
How lucky we are to be alive right now.
What makes a great villain?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately. Prompted, as these things usually are, by something quite mundane: the realization that I was steadily losing interest in a show I’d previously been enjoying.
Last month, several popular TV shows got the axe - including Nashville, Agent Carter and Castle. Fans were outraged, and when outrage and fans come together, you get hashtags.
But which of these cancellations triggered the most outrage? And where? And with whom?
I was curious, I used social media monitoring tool Audiense to answer these burning questions.
For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.
A few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.
Let's be clear, Batman vs Superman is not good.
It is too long, too ponderous and takes itself way too seriously. It has mediocre acting, macho ham-philosophy, a bad score and confusing action sequences. It is packed with 'easter eggs' that are largely meaningless, espouses terrible politics, devotes itself to building its own mythology, and is rife with visual decision-making that is, at best, suspect.
Which is to say, it is no worse than many, many other superhero movies.
For controversy's sake, here are 25 recent-ish superhero films from the last 20 years that are just as bad - if not worse - than Batman vs Superman:
We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land, age or world of the author's invention - a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real - a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil.
Carter goes on to say that, although the term was coined by Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard should get credit for founding the genre.
As with all genre generalisations, it is easier to think of exceptions than rules. But given this is from Carter, one of the editors/authors/canonisers at the heart of the movement, it is fair to take this at face value. This is the 'institutional' definition. That is, for what 'Sword & Sorcery' meant at the time. My challenge would be - does this still apply? And, even looking back, can we still apply this definition now to stories written then?
From K.J. Parker's Two of Swords (Episode 9):
"You want to know a secret? Writing what you call good music is easy, piece of cake. You're writing for intelligent, educated people who are prepared to meet you halfway. It's the army songs and the romantic ballads that made me sweat blood."
"I don't believe you."
"Because they're simple and accessible? You don't know anything about writing music. Simple and accessible is the hardest thing there is. It's like designing a clock mechanism with only two moving parts. It's working with both hands tied behind your back. You're limited to a simple melodic line, which has to conform to strict form. You've got the voice and one instrument and that's it, no orchestra, no counterpoint, nothing.... And that's why I earn good money. Because I can give people what they want. Not just the smart ones. Everybody."
"All right," she said grudgingly. "If money is all that matters -"
"It's the only reliable way of keeping score," he said. "A thousand cultured folk will tell you they love your symphony, but can you believe them? But if a hundred thousand poor people decide they can afford two stuivers to hear you sing, that probably means you're actually getting something right."
The editor of this magazine [Ray Bradbury], under the impression that I am still one of that queer tribe known as science-fiction fans, has asked me to write an article. I am no longer a science-fiction fan. I'm through! However, I have decided to do the article and explain with my chin leading just why I am through.