The Girls Who Lived

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When it comes to female fictional characters, I know my type: the stoic, strong, emotionally-detached loner with a burden (maybe a chip?) on her shoulder. NAKAJIMA, Youko (12 Kingdoms), KISSHU Arashi (X), Balsa (Seirei no Moribito), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games series),and Katsa (Graceling series) are basically different incarnations of the same archetype. I like that they’re tough, but not unyielding. They’re more than able to take care of themselves, but they are all capable of love and would rather take care of other people. I like that they’re capable in many things, but still accepting of their own weaknesses and would ask for help, even though it would kill their pride and independent spirit in the process.

The boyfriend and I are currently both obsessed about Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now. We both read the novel last month, and got the chance to watch the movie this past weekend. This novel was published in 2004 and won the Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature. This short work follows Daisy, a sixteen-year old from New York, who is sent to England to live her with maternal relatives. Her father has remarried and is expecting a child, so instead of having to deal with Daisy’s rebellious attitude, he decided that sending her to live in the idyllic English countryside with her cousins would do her a world of good. Little did she know that her life as she knew it would change and she would have to use her smarts and her spirit in order to face the horrors to come. Continue reading

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When Fandom Invades Your Fiction

Cinder by Marisa Meyer is marketed as a “sci-fi retelling of Cinderella,” complete with its cover of a cyborg foot dressed in a bright red pump. As a big sucker for a good fairy tale retelling, I was really excited to get my face all into those glorious pages, seeing how the author would retell this classic story in a futuristic age. Little did I know that this story isn’t as much about Cinderella as it is about Sailor Moon.

This novel is the first of a four-book young adult series entitled “The Lunar Chronicles.” Generally, when I start a new book series, I try not to look up too much information on it. I thought the series title was sorta weird and not really “fairy-tale appropriate,” but sure, I’m willing to run with it. So anyway, Cinder, our heroine, is a cyborg mechanic living in a city named New Beijing. She was adopted into a family after her parents were killed in an accident, the same accident that destroyed one of her hands and her feet and which condemned her to a cyborg existence. She has only a couple of friends: her foster sister Peony and the house android Iko. This novel actually makes a lot of cute parallels to keep the spirit of the original fairy tale: instead of a pumpkin that turns into a coach, Cinder goes to the ball in a pumpkin-colored car, etc. I’m okay with those parts — it’s really the Sailor Moon fanfic part that I didn’t care for.

Obviously, spoilers from here on. Continue reading

Octavia Butler and the Question of Diversity in Sci-Fi

For another great take on the issue of women authors in the sci-fi canon, Ian Sales has a well-written guest post over at the Little Red Reviewer.

Sci-Fi Month is more than halfway over, and to be perfectly honest, I feel that I’m not getting as much out of it as I’d thought. It’s mostly me, since I could’ve set a more aggressive posting schedule for myself instead of limiting my posts to only twice a week. But I had a feeling that I would burn out if I set a higher reading/posting goal, and hey, if you’ve been reading me and my blog, you know that I’d rather ramble on for a couple of thousand words once in a while rather than post short segments more frequently.

I’ve been getting a lot of great sci-fi title suggestions from various commenters, and from the various top-10 or definitive sci-fi book lists that have been posted by other bloggers. They all look interesting and I’m looking forward to reading as many of them as I can get my hands on, but one thing that I’ve noticed (and again, this is no fault of the people giving the suggestions) is how so many of the authors skewed male and white. And while I’ve nothing against white male authors (many of my favorite authors are white males), I wanted to learn about and highlight someone who doesn’t typically fit the preconceptual image of SF author.

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Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

In the near future, scientists will have figured out a way to monitor and view dreams through psychotherapy devices. With the help of this technology, they will be able to interpret and provide therapy through intervention and thus will be able to fix whatever ails us. This is the setting of Paprika, the Japanese sci-fi psycho-thriller written by author Yasutaka Tsutsui.

Paprika is the alter-ego of psychotherapist/researcher Atsuko Chiba. By day, Atsuko works alongside her colleagues in the Institute for Psychiatric Research, collecting dreams from patients with mental disorders and analyzing the contents of these dreams for further study. By night, as Paprika, she takes the research a step further. Paprika actually meets with patients and appears in their dreams to help them figure out what these dreams actually mean and how they can be resolved to stop the patients’ anxiety or depression, etc.

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For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Waitomo Glow Worm Cave, New Zealand (c) travelx.com

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love living in the future. I love that my smartphone may be used as a compass, as a camera, as an e-book reader, and as a gaming machine. I love that there are such things as e-readers so I don’t have to carry five books in my purse all the time. I love that I can access any tv show or movie that I want through my PS3 or through my laptop through internet streaming services. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many aspects of 21st Century life that seem to commonplace to us now, but would’ve been so amazing even to younger versions of us twenty or thirty years ago. Technology has made our lives easy, amazing, and comfortable.

Some technological improvements seem like witch’s curses though, like “Sure, Miss Mermaid, I’ll give you legs, but you won’t have a voice” type of deals. Genetic modification of agriculture results in pest-resistant and higher-yield crops, but these super-crops harm the local ecosystems and encourage the development of super-weeds and super-pests. Medication has been developed as therapy for detrimental diseases and conditions, but the side effects are just as bad as the sickness themselves. And, closer to home, the internet and www were conceived as the great social equalizer, enabling people to share their ideas and to communicate on a global scale — and people just use it to post cat pictures (hey!) and to bully and send hurtful and hateful messages anonymously. This novel asks the question, “what happens when the use of technology goes too far?” or “would we all be better off if technology wasn’t available in the first place?”

This was where the evil began. What was the harm, the Lost used to say, in creating a wheat strain with a shorter growing time, one that would produce more grain per stalk? What was the harm in devising a plant with such a complete array of nutrients that it would render growing anything else for food pointless? What about a plant that could subtly poison the ground so as to make it only capable of providing sustenance for that kind of plant? What about extrapolating all of that beyond the world of plants–to animals? To people?

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