Watch The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin free until 8/30/20

Ursula K. Le Guin

PBS is making it’s documentary, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin free to watch through 8/30/20! Ursula K. Le Guin was a trailblazer writing about complex and interesting societies, her stories reflected the deepest questions that mainstream society has only recently begun to face in meaningful ways. The Left Hand of Darkness (winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards) in particular is a must read.

View it on the Open Culture web site before it goes away.

American Gothic Literature, a new kind of horror story

American Gothic Literature, a new kind of horror story

A Review of “American Gothic Literature”

Ruth Bienstock Anolik, 2019, McFarland & Company Inc. 306 pages


Like the genre it examines, this work is insightful, inspiring, exhilarating, and challenging. However, it is not for the faint of heart! A somewhat exhaustive look at the history and current state of American Gothic literature, Ruth Bienstock Anolik takes the reader on a tour of not just a uniquely American literature, but of the emergence of an American identity derived from its Old World beginnings.

Unlike many other mainstream works it has an emphasis on the marginalized and powerless peoples of America that is uncommon. While it does not attempt to allow these peoples to speak for themselves, as might expect of a work of a literary history, it does effectively revel many stories through an examination of academic works. While this might sound dry the author makes excellent use of broad overarching themes contrasted with small details that draw the readers’ attention. For example, the work effectively moves between examinations of 17th and 18th century European folk tales and modern American Gothic/Science Fiction novels to point out “hidden” themes of feminism, alienation, oppression and dispossession that might otherwise be lost to readers of both types of literature. In this way the author links such disparate works as Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” with Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” and “He, She and It” by Marge Piercy to show how they inhabit a shared space and each contributes to American Literature in unexpected ways. Gothic tropes are examined, placed in context to their world and re-examined to show how they contribute to the understanding of our (modern American) world.

American Gothic’s central theme is that Gothic literature, although confined to it’s own tropes is also very flexible, further, America has produced it’s own version of Gothic literature. This version grew out of the English and American writers who have dealt with this situation since the birth of our country. “American writers are haunted by feelings of inadequacy, and of guilt, as American literature finds itself haunted by the looming ghost of its predecessor, English literature.”⁠1  In spite of this, American Gothic has evolved to become a mature literature that is used to explore American issues. As Ms. Anolik points out, while examining an American classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin:

“in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the slave Cassy takes possession of herself by appropriating the Gothic narrative; in materializing Legreee’s fears, Cassy is able to make her escape and repossess her body from the bonds of chattel slavery. These examples illustrate the uses of the Gothic for the disposed and insecure American writer.”⁠2

Ruth Anolik is not afraid of drawing conclusions from her source material, this is more of an essay meant to persuade us of a point of view than a history textbook. Her conclusions are logical and placed within the context of what she examines, and they are likely to surprise some people. They range from the subtle and somewhat obscure; for example, she points out the association of the feminine with the dybbuk and the masculine with the golem, to the more controversial association of Vampires and Zombies to the modern American aristocrat. Her language is for the most part value-free; she relies on the example she chooses and the writers examined words to help her make her points. Even though much attention is devoted to issues of marginalization and feminism social commentary is subtle and can be easily missed if the reader does not pay attention. All-in-all, this is a well-researched work with valuable insights. This work is highly recommended to those who are interested in American Literature or the Gothic in general.


1 P. 10

2 P. 272

The Good

Interesting thesis

Well researched

The Bad

Occasionally gets lost in the details

Sometimes difficult to follow


Via #Shutdownstem

On June 10, 2020, we will #ShutDownAcademia, #ShutDownSTEM, and #Strike4BlackLives.

In the wake of the most recent murders of Black people in the US, it is clear that white and other non-Black people have to step up and do the work to eradicate anti-Black racism. As members of the global academic and STEM communities, we have an enormous ethical obligation to stop doing “business as usual.” No matter where we physically live, we impact and are impacted by this moment in history.

Our responsibility starts with our role in society. In academia, our thoughts and words turn into new ways of knowing. Our research papers turn into media releases, books and legislation that reinforce anti-Black narratives. In STEM, we create technologies that affect every part of our society and are routinely weaponized against Black people.

Black academic and Black STEM professionals are hurting because they exist in and are attacked by institutional and systemic racism. Black people have been tirelessly working for change, alongside their Indigenous and People of Color allies. For Black academics and STEM professionals, #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM is a time to prioritize their needs— whether that is to rest, reflect, or to act— without incurring additional cumulative disadvantage.

Those of us who are not Black, particularly those of us who are white, play a key role in perpetuating systemic racism. Direct actions are needed to stop this injustice. Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it. This moment calls for profound and meaningful change. #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM is the time for white and non-Black People of Color (NBPOC) to not only educate themselves, but to define a detailed plan of action to carry forward. Wednesday June 10, 2020 will mark the day that we transition into a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM. We join with members of Particles for Justice in calling for a #Strike4BlackLives.

To be clear: #ShutDownSTEM is aimed at the broad research community who is not directly participating in ending the global pandemic, COVID-19. If your daily activities are directly helping us end this global crisis, we send our sincerest gratitude. The rest of us, we need to get to work.

Share your detailed plans and actions with the global community using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia.

Our collective efforts will lead to eradicating anti-Black racism because Black lives depend on it.

Go to #ShutDownAcademia




Get me to Alpha Centauri!

I want my anti-matter!  It’s hard to make, hard to store, expensive and volatile.  But damn it, I want some!  “If you had some,” you might ask, “what would you do with it?”  Really? Do you have to ask?  I would use it for fuel to get me to Alpha Centauri. Or perhaps...

The Raven-

It is often a fine line between SF and horror, finer still as we approach Halloween!  In the spirit of the holiday here is a tidbit for your pleasure!  

The Future of A.I. will be live streamed

The Future of A.I. will be live streamed

As part of Pres. Obama's Global Entrepreneurship summit Stanford University will be hosting a conference on the future of Artificial Intelligence. This is an example of the acceleration of a trend we have seen in recent years in which the focus of A.I. has been...

Best Political Song Ever?

Best Political Song Ever?

Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who's Pete Townshend We'll be fighting in the streets With our children at our feet And the morals that they worship will be gone And the men who spurred us on Sit in judgement of all wrong They decide and the shotgun sings the song I'll...

Danger enough to give them glory

by David A. Mindell    First published on David A. Mindell is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing at MIT. This article is excerpted from Our Robots, Ourselves, published...

Can Yahoo save democracy?

Can Yahoo save democracy?

It is fashionable these days to bemoan the state of democracy, voter participation is weak, public engagement is in decline and many citizens feel powerless and alienated. In fact many people do not even register to vote! Yet it is a fundamental assumption that...

Geek Books!

Geek Books!

This is neither Political Science or Science Fiction, but if you know the difference between a UI interface and an SQL server (as I know many of you do) then this post is for you.  Eric Ligman, a Microsoft minion, is giving away a bunch of free e-books.  The really...

A Star Trek documentary?

A Star Trek documentary?

A Star Trek documentary?  Hasn't that been done to death?  Well, yes and no.  Sure their are plenty of Star Trek documentaries around, but this one is a little different.  It is being done by Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy's son.  I wouldn't expect an unbiased view of...

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to speak at Stanford

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to speak at Stanford

As part of the observation of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be speaking at Stanford University June 25th at 3pm.  Of course this is because Stanford is such an excellent place (although I am biased since I work here)!...

Getting to know President Lincoln

Getting to know President Lincoln

The problem with history is that it is so far away.  Reading about a noble figure such as Abraham Lincoln so often leaves one feeling oddly detached from the very figure that we are trying to get to know.  Reading about his leadership during the Civil War, his great...

Read Edgar Allan Poe (for free)

Read Edgar Allan Poe (for free)

Sure you could go to the library but what you really want is to stay home in your pajamas and still be entertained. So here is a link to the Poe Museum which has among other things many of Poe's writings available for free. Enjoy!

Science Fiction: Catalyst for Reality

Science Fiction: Catalyst for Reality

If your going to be in Seattle on May 20th 2015 you might want to check out this get together at the Microsoft campus, Science Fiction: Catalyst for Reality.  With Greg Bear as a presenter and run in conjunction with MIT's Enterprise Forum Northwest it promises to be...

A Magna Carta Cartoon!

Most Americans tend to think that the ideas in the Declaration of Independence were original to Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries, but as they say, their is nothing new under the sun!  Take a minute to learn about the Magna Carta.  Courtesy of the British...

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