Say what you want about the impending year 2017, but there is one thing we know it will bring us: a new season of Fargo, the quasi-anthology television masterpiece from Noah Hawley and FX.
A few months ago, I reached out to blogger and Fargo (the show, not the place) super fan Zach Ellin to see if he would be interested in conversing about what exactly makes Fargo so good, including literary references, fan theories, politics, and more.
Zach writes a blog called Blue Ox Talks, where he explores the world of Fargo, investigating motifs, comparing the television show and the films of the Coens, and interviewing the cast of Fargo, including an enlightening conversation with Zahn McClarnon of Season Two.
It’s early December, which means two things: time to start recapping 2016 and predicting 2017.
While not as exhaustive as The Economist’s The World in 2017 or as doomsday-esque as some other lists that I won’t link to, this is my list of the headlines and stories I expect in the coming year.
Netflix Starts Original News Programming
I don’t watch Netflix original programming much. I think it is the most lowbrow of available television services, churning out binge-friendly quantity over quality that peddles in nostalgia as Buzzfeed peddles in cuteness. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of their content is just good enough to keep you watching and just bad enough to end every episode with a cliffhanger.
That said, there is something I do like about Netflix: it’s a great equalizer. Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch MSNBC; young people watch Vice and old people watch 60 Minutes; everyone watches Netflix. You don’t need cable, money, or a confirmation bias. You just need a couple dollars a month and a desire for something to watch.
Which is why it’s time for them to start serving as a news source, and I think 2017 is the year we will see it. It’s not like it would be considered an untrustworthy news source: people are currently getting their news from spam websites shared by strangers on social media. If anything, Netflix becoming a news network could actually bring some reality back to the post-truth America.
I’ve been trying to write this article for a while. Years. While I try to avoid listicles, I’ve found that, at times, they have their uses. These are my opinions and observations on what we talk about when we talk about fan theories, and what they are, and how we should talk about them.
No one has an agreed-upon definition for “fan theory.”
Fan theory is not listed on Urban Dictionary. It is not explained on Know Your Meme. Even the /r/FanTheories subreddit does not have any official stance on what makes a fan theory a fan theory.
This is largely because the phrase “fan theory” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Part of why I’m writing this is to reach some kind of definition and meaning, and to refute what I see as being inaccurate uses of the phrase.
A fan theory is a form of contemporary critical theory, in which the audience analyzes the text and creates a new interpretation that explains “what really happened,” creating a separate narrative aside from or within the narrative.
This is what I’ve come up with. I don’t know if it’s perfect, but I think it says a lot.
Now, more importantly, I’d like to explore both what makes a fan theory good and what makes a fan theory bad and what makes a fan theory not a fan theory. Part of this will include citing particularly good and bad fan theories.
A weak fan theory is anything that suggests “it was all a dream” or “the main character was dead the whole time” or any variation of this.
I’ve received a number of questions about The Moonborn: or, Moby-Dick on the Moon, my novel that came out on Monday, November 14th. While I love getting questions about it, I decided to put together this list for people who might have questions and would like an easy answer.
Note that there are no spoilers, other than in a very general sense.
Is it really about Moby-Dick on the Moon?
Yes. With robots instead of whales. However, you may find that it’s slightly more metafictional than your standard dark and gritty reboot. Or you may not.
Do I need to read Moby-Dick first?
In my opinion, no. The narrator of The Moonborn hasn’t even read Moby-Dick. But I would like to think that you’ll find yourself wanting to read Moby-Dick after The Moonborn.
How do you think Herman Melville would feel about all this?
Not the whale, but the book. 165 years ago today, Herman Melville’s epic novel was published in America for the first time. (A different version of it had come out in England one month earlier, but today is accepted as the anniversary of the version the world knows).
In honor of this anniversary, I think it’s worth taking a moment to look at the books, movies, music, and more that we have as a result of Moby-Dick‘s legacy.
Leviathan ’99 by Ray Bradbury
“The doomed crew of a starship follows their blind, mad captain on a quest into deepest space to joust with destiny, eternity, and God Himself . . .”
Sound familiar? This novella—collected alongside “Somewhere a Band is Playing” in Bradbury’s Now and Forever—is an unapologetic retelling of Moby-Dick. It’s also sci-fi, set in space, like one or two other works on this list.
There has never been a better time to start reading Kurt Vonnegut. To begin with, today is his 94th birthday. Second, we appear to be living inside one of his novels, with an egocentric billionaire slouching toward the White House, the National Anthem at the center of controversy, and our entire existence increasingly descending into a parody of itself (for more on all of this, see my article What Would Kurt Vonnegut Say About the 2016 Election?)
But where to begin? The first Vonnegut novel was published over six decades ago. In the next fifty years of his life, he wrote another thirteen novels, hundreds of short stories and essays, one play, and created a series of paintings and drawings.
I’m here to tell you where to start, and how. You should read Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, if you haven’t already. Should you read all of them? That depends. But you should at least read one of them. (Note: this blog post originally began as something I wrote for the /r/truebooks subreddit, for people looking to read more Vonnegut and not sure where to start.)
In order to give you some guidance in determining a reading order for his lists, I’ve divided his novels into three tiers:
Tier One: The novels to start with. His masterpieces. Or, if you’re only going to read one or two of his novels, choose one from this list.
Tier Two: The ones to read after you’ve burned through the first tier. Not that these are worse, but they are perhaps less accessible, or won’t make as much sense unless you’ve read the others first.
Tier Three: The novels that are either very bizarre, very meta-fictional, less novels than thought experiments, or the ones that expect you to have a greater understanding of who Vonnegut is before tackling.
Make sense? Let’s begin:
Which Vonnegut Novel to Read First?
So you want to read a Vonnegut novel, but not sure which one? I recommend beginning with one of these four:
Or, When Did We Start Living in a Fictional Satire?
I’ve compared recent events—and, in particular, this presidential election—to many things: Armageddon, Alien, every Batman story, and almost every ’90s action movie.
But there is one painful metaphor that I have not explored: the 2016 election appears to have been written by writer and satirist Kurt Vonnegut.
I first started pondering the question of did Vonnegut write our current political climate this spring, when my aunt (a librarian) pointed out to me how much Donald Trump resembles a Vonnegut character.
I soon googled trump vonnegut and was surprised not to see more about it. I found a handful of articles, but none that fully explored the extent to which the candidate Donald Trump seems to have sprung straight from a Vonnegut novel. Nor did anyone mention the extent to which this entire election resembles a Vonnegut-penned narrative and universe.
If you aren’t familiar with it, The Eric Andre Show is a post-modern talk show starring Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress, two comedians who are either parodying a late night show or trying to escape one.
In its description of the show, Hulu describes it as the “most manic and unorthodox late night talk show ever made,” calling Andre “inept and bipolar” and Buress “his apathetic co-host.” The AV Club says “what most distinguishes The Eric Andre Show is its disintegration.” MediaLife Magazine, in a furious review, calls it “slapdash, noisy, annoying and not funny.” IndieWire, in a review of its fourth season, calls it “some beautiful chaos.”
But the review that still haunts me and informs my entire viewing of the show is one on IMDB, titled Is This Comedy? The author, diesixdie, describes the experience of The Eric Andre Show with such troubling precision and insight that it has informed my view The Eric Andre Show ever since:
“We seem to be viewing some sort inescapable closed universe containing nothing but an endless slightly nightmarish talk show. It feels like a bad dream, half remembered. It feels like there’s some unspeakable horror lurking just off-camera that the people on-stage can see, but, we can’t, and they can only stay safe by pretending to ignore it.”
You may have noticed this blog’s recent lowered activity. Nothing new since early August, with only a handful of new posts since the beginning of summer. What is the deal, you may ask.
Where is your latest needless fan theory? Where is my latest exhaustive Batman dissection? How have you still not reacted to the most recent Bond film? Have you finally tired of comparing the 2016 election to your favorite action movies?
The answer to these questions is simple: I have been busy with other projects. One project, in particular: The Moonborn, an e-novel I will be self-publishing this November.
I have also been busy with another project: Wildcat, a short story I wrote years ago that I finally decided to dust off and self-publish. Here is its cover, created by artist Dusty Conley:
I wrote this story as a student at Denison University, and I think it’s the first thing I ever wrote that I still take pride in today.
Sometimes, I don’t want to dedicate a full blog post to an idea, but I still want to share the idea.
Is 2016 the Year of the Feral Child?
First, a fun and simple Jungle Book, which served as both a new adaptation of Kipling and a remake of the classic Disney cartoon. Then, a new Tarzan film. Soon, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, in which apparently Pete is a feral child raised by a dragon. Oh, also, Stranger Things and Eleven, its take on the feral ’80s child.
Why all these narratives suddenly? And does it mean that we will get even more in the coming years? Perhaps a reboot of George of the Jungle? Perhaps a biopic of Victor of Aveyron? Or will we see feral children shoehorned into other narratives, like the Justice League or the Marvel films?
It was hard to tell the difference between the RNC and The Purge: Election Year