Author Archives: RA Stone

Voltron Legendary Defender Kicks Giant Robot Reboot Ass

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Last week, Netflix released the latest iteration of the Voltron franchise. I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the new series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, since I heard about the project. The more I saw animation clips from Dreamworks and interviews with showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, the more torn I became. Legendary Defenders looked amazing. It sounded like the folks involved were on the money and trying to create a show that both old and new Voltron fans could enjoy. Still, I couldn’t let myself get too excited. I’ve been burned by too many lackluster reboots and updates, and Voltron is important to me. I don’t think I would’ve made it through fourth grade without Voltron. I debated whether I should tune in on June 10, and after much angst, I decided I would watch the first three episodes. I ended up watching the whole series. This post is not so much a review but a reaction. I’ll have reviews and more indepth commentary in upcoming weeks, once Comparative Geeks makes its move to self-hosted.

voltron legendary defender blue lion cave

Editor’s Note: post includes a few excited expletives. 

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How to Build A Fictional Education System

Few things say as much to me about a culture as its education system. What a society values, it teaches to its young, and that means its values are at the core of any system designed to teach and enculturate children.

Education is a big issue right now. People are drowning in student debt, but many of them are unable to get jobs in the fields that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire qualifications in.  We’re wrestling with questions about what education is for, what constitutes a good one, and how much it should cost.  Eventually, questions like that will (or should) filter into our speculative fiction.

There are lots of middle grade and YA books where schools function as a setting element.  Harry Potter, Vampire Academy, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid come to mind. In those stories, if education is relevant at all, it’s a catalyst for adventure or an obstacle that the characters have to deal with while trying to get what they want.  So the education systems are familiar: residential English school, American-style public school. They’re a backdrop, or a motif, not a problem in themselves.

Adult lit doesn’t spend much time on education at all, unless we’re dealing with some kind of magical initiation and training. In those cases, again, the method and problems associated with the educational system are usually not discussed beyond the protagonist whining or complaining about the hardass mentor. I’m betting we’ll see a shift in the next 10 to 15 years because more and more people are returning to school later in life, and we have increasing numbers of college grads who can’t get the jobs they want.

Check out The Foxes of Synn by Rose B. Fischer

I’m also betting on this because, in the past five years, I’ve had two long-term, large-scale spec fic projects up-end themselves and decide that they were suddenly going to start making a HUGE DEAL about how the education systems in their societies are broken, holding people back, and need to change.  Well, I’m not a political writer, and I’m not a psychic, but I do pay attention to social movements, and I listen to what is important to people.  I didn’t plan to write about education, but I figure if both of my story worlds have decided that education needs to be written about, I’m gonna go with it.

So, when I realized this was happening in my work, I took a step back and started asking myself some hard questions. What is the purpose of education? David’s tackled that here in a Feminist Friday Post and here in an analysis of education in Naruto. What does the ideal education system look like? Who should have access to education, and who should pay for it? Is education really the social equalizer? The more questions I asked, the more I didn’t have good answers – and I still don’t, but that’s okay with me because I never want to preach to my audience.  I want to pose questions and let my readers make up their own minds.

I decided to get more purposeful about the education systems in my universes, though, and to that end, I came up with a list of “ideal education system criteria.”

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Long Running Media Franchises and Trends: Do Geeks Get Burn-Out?

I’ve noticed that I get sick of long running franchises (and even entire genres) a lot more quickly than most of my geeky friends seem to. I’ve always known that there was a point at which I would just be “done” with something and not be able to tolerate watching, reading, or even really hearing much about it anymore. The first time it happened to me was with He-Man and She-Ra back in the 80s. As much as I loved them, I Just. Couldn’t. Take. Anymore.

In fairness, that might have had to do with how often they were on and how many different stations were running the SAME EPISODES. My siblings are quite a bit younger than I am, and if they were left to their own devices, we would have watched the same four episodes 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s only so many hours of pink furry underwear and sparkly horses a kid can handle before her brain implodes.

Maybe I just got conditioned to have a low tolerance for repetition. I do eventually get over my “done-ness.” I rediscovered He-Man and She-Ra in the early 2000s and I even blog about them now. Still, once I’ve reached the burn-out point, I need a long time to recover (longer, it would seem, than most folk) and I have a shorter tolerance than I did before.

To give some more recent examples, I was reaching burn-out with urban fantasy and particularly vampires around the time that Twilight first caught on. At this point, if I hear or see mention of a vampire/urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, I actually feel vaguely queasy. What I would like to say is, “Seriously? Are we done yet? What else can POSSIBLY be said with this subject?” I know that’s not fair or polite. I’m sure there’s plenty left to say and do with it. Several of my writing friends are still working in this genre, and my tongue has its own suit of armor now.

I don’t know exactly when I hit the burnout point with superhero movies, but the last one I actually liked was released in 2006. Iron Man, if anyone’s curious. Since then, my reactions have ranged from indifference to a desire to hit myself with a hammer. Obviously, most of my WP friends are pretty rabid about comic book tie ins and the superhero genre right now. (Again. Tongue. Suit of armor. Possibly an Iron Man suit.)

If you know me at all, you know I love Star Wars. I think I hit the burnout point on the franchise around 2010 after I spent several years involved in collaborative fan projects. I’m touch-and-go with SW now. I can blog about it or read about it in spurts, but I’m having a very hard time working up any enthusiasm for new SW media. I just…don’t care, even though I should.

Last year, I discovered the Disney Fairies franchise. I watched the first four movies in rapid succession and loved them enough to blog about them. Some of my friends did as well. People started sending me links to other blogs about them as well. Then, the fifth movie came out, and, I realized I just didn’t give a shit anymore. I’m sad about that, but I’m pretty sure that at some point in the next couple of years, I will care again. I hope so.

My point in writing this is to say that I’ve observed that most geeks seem to decide they like something and want to read/watch/experience every possible permutation of it and analyze them all, sometimes for years at a time. I think I do that, but I seem to want to do it in smaller doses. I need a lot of time and space between doses, too. It makes me curious. Where is your burn-out point and what will trigger it?

This post was by Rose B. Fischer. Help thank her for her guest post by heading on over to her eponymous blog and giving her a follow! But first, answer her question down in the comments below!