Tag Archives: fiction

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Journalism in Fiction – Comparative Opinions Episode 44

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week, hosts Holly and David consider the prevalence of journalism, as well as reading and literacy in general, in science fiction, fantasy, and comics properties… as well as the seeming lack of such in the Star Wars universe. Short answer: there’s a whole lot of journalism in fiction!

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

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Realistic vs. Romantic Literature – Throwback Thursday

In many ways, I feel like this was where the whole series I had been writing on the Definition of Science Fiction (and Fantasy) got good. Sorry I missed getting this out last week, but here we go! Also, to note: this one got pretty long…


Hello my readers, time again for me to touch on a series of posts I’ve written over the course of the blog so far. It all started out from a definition of science fiction I read in a book, which led into a blog post exploring that. Then, for comparison, I explored a definition of fantasy based on a quote that’s floated around social media. So between the two, I had pitted Frank Herbert against J.R.R. Tolkien. Then, for another look at it, I compared Star Trek and Star Wars. I still really like my genre exploration there.

And then I listened to George R.R. Martin on the Nerdist Podcast, and it got me thinking that all this work of putting things in genres, and holding one over another or pitting them against one another, was wrong; and I was working on coming up with new terms or new ways of thinking about the differences, of trying to really articulate what I was trying to say.

That’s when I got a comment back on that first post, questioning what I meant about science fiction, making me really think about what I was saying. The commenter – who had the opportunity to interview the author, Paolo Bacigalupi – recommended and discussed The Windup Girl. So I felt I needed to read that first and consider it. And to consider what it is I have been trying to articulate, to think of the terms and groupings and ways that we talk about these sorts of stories, and so that is where I am coming from with this post. Let me know in the comments what you think!

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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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Consuming Comics – Geek 501

After checking out a whole bunch of comics and graphic novels from our local library it got me thinking of all the forms that comics take. There is the comic strip in the newspaper that so many of us grew up reading. Now we have online web comics that for many of us have probably replaced reading any newspaper comics. Then there are the serial comics that come out monthly with longer stories that can happen over years. These are the typical superhero comics, such as Batman and X-Men. They might be released on a regular schedule, but then the stories will get compiled into a trade paperback. On top of that there are graphic novels that are single releases of a story. Often times they are fictional, but they have also been used for memoir or other non-fictional stories. This has even gone so far as to be used to help explain concepts such as copyright and media consumption.

Using drawings to help tell a story means that the visuals of the story can be shown through the pictures instead of explained and interpreted. The interesting thing is that even though all the elements are the same there seems to be a class difference between the various comic types. Graphic novels definitely seemed to be treated as a higher form than the regular weekly / daily comics. Even though there is an art to being able to get out so much content every week. Continue reading

Summer of Sandman: Favorite Places

Gaimain’s Sandman series is built as much in image as in word, the artistic renderings of characters and places adding texture and depth to the story–as is the nature of a good comic series. And the material is what Gaiman and the artists excel at: constructing fantastical worlds.

We are always aware of *where* we are in the series. Setting matters, and it’s exquisitely rendered. Sometimes, the space is terrifying: it’s the depths of Hell or the worst of nightmares. But sometimes it’s beautiful, intoxicating, and uncanny. Here are some of my favorites in the series:

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

1. Fiddler’s Green.
Fiddler’s Green is both a place and a person (you’ll find him as Gilbert on my list of favorite Sandman characters).  As a place in the Dreaming, Fiddler’s Green recalls the maritime folklore of a place for sailors, a beautiful, pastoral resting place for those who’ve sailed the seas.

2. Dream’s Library.
As a book lover, there are few things in the world of the Dreaming that have more pull for me than Dream’s library. Inside the library are all of the books that have been dreamed but never written, and they are cared for by Lucien. I’d love to pick a cozy chair and just read and read and read.

3. World’s End: A Free House.
In the frame story for World’s End, travelers are drawn to a mysterious inn and, like Chaucer’s Canterbury travelers, they begin to tell tales. The inn itself is a sheltering place during reality storms–this one ushered in by the death of one of the Endless. The array of people and the old-world feel make this one of my favorite spots in the series.

4. The Boarding House.
In The Doll’s House, the second Sandman collection, we spend much of our time in a boarding house with an eclectic set of inhabitants: the dream vortex Rose Walker, Gilbert (aka Fiddler’s Green), the Havisham-like Chantal and Zelda, Hal (who is both the landlord and a nightclub performer), and Barbie and Ken. The boarding house works as a way to bring together a diverse and fascinating set of characters.

5. Faerie.
We don’t actually see much of Faerie, but what we do see is beautiful. It’s largely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Titania as its queen and gift-giving as its currency. Like the best of faeries, the realm and its inhabitants are magnetic and dangerous.

6. The White Horse.
In 1389, Dream met a man named Hob Gadling who swore never to die . The White Horse became their annual meeting place. We see the place change, take a few new names, and eventually deteriorate, reminding us of the breadth of the story and the longevity of the enigmatic Hob.

7. Dream’s Castle.
Dream’s throne room is beautiful—and so is the rest of his home. It’s guarded by a gryphon, a wyvern, and a hippogriff, and it is the heart of the Dreaming. Like its owner, the castle is but an aspect of dreams, if a beautiful one.

8. Death’s Apartment.
Death is perhaps the most human of the Endless, and though we don’t see her domain, we do see her apartment. Yes, Death has an apartment. There’s a floppy hat collection, goldfish named Slim and Wadsworth, and a big comfy couch. It sounds a lot like a place I’d want to have coffee.

9. Barbie’s Dream World.
Barbie is one of the residents of the Boarding House. Later in the Sandman run, in the collection A Game of You, the rich fantasy world that Barbie creates in her dreaming takes front and center. Barbie’s dream world is a fantasy land threatened by the villainous Cuckoo and inhabited by some of the most interesting characters in the series.

10. The Soft Places.
Soft places are spots where the boundary of dreaming and waking are malleable. They are places where Marco Polo can encounter inhabitants of the Dreaming, where historical figures meet dream figures and nothing is terribly certain.

11. The House of Mystery.
The House of Mystery is both in the Dreaming and the waking world, somewhere just north of Louisville. The architecture of the house and its interior change from time to time. It’s the home of Cain, and it sits close-by The House of Secrets, the home of his brother Abel.

12. The House of Secrets.
The House of Secrets is the domain of Abel, and like his brother’s home, it exists both in the Dreaming and the waking worlds. The house moved itself to the other end of the graveyard where The House of Mystery sits, and the two houses are mirror images of one another.

13. The Garden of Forking Ways
This is Destiny’s realm, and we’re not there often—but when we are, it’s phenomenal. Blind Destiny walks the labyrinthine paths of the garden continually, and there seems to be no end to its paths.