Tag Archives: The Windup Girl

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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Science Fiction Today – Food (Again)

Holly already wrote about Food for a Science Fiction Today post, but with trying to introduce solid foods to the Geek Baby, it’s a topic that’s certainly on our minds. Holly talked about how we might run into problems with the crops, like in Interstellar. Or else, how we might be able to artificially generate food – like in The Fifth Element.

I think to get to where I want to talk about those, we have to talk about where we are today with food. Which is to say, we’ve gotten pretty far away from the origins of food, the growing of food. Because of that, would we accept a food substitute like in the video? 

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Science Fiction Today – Xenophobia

Whoa, dropping a big word to get in an X. Let’s go for a definition:

“fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners”

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

As someone in the US, the obvious place where I am coming from is immigration debates in a country largely made up of immigrants. However, I am also fully aware that things like loosening borders in Europe due to the European Union, for instance, are leading to similar debates, concerns, or prejudices elsewhere in the world.

A lot of things feed into xenophobia, so it definitely counts as a problem with no easy or obvious answer. Saying “everybody like everybody else!” doesn’t quite cut it, as words alone might work in abstract, but how do they work in the specific? Luckily, this is a topic addressed a lot in science fiction: so what answers or future problems do we see?

The Solution – Us versus Them

It’s Watchmen. The conclusion that we always need to identify an Us, those like us, and the Them, the outsider. And we don’t like the outsider. So in much of science fiction (or fantasy, for that matter) the outsider is not another human being at all: it’s an alien race, from somewhere else. If aliens attack the earth, humanity will hopefully be at peace with each other. I’ve just read this idea in The Lathe of Heaven as well.

Of course, there is a more hopeful solution in mind. If we solve the sorts of scarcity problems that create differences and a feeling that we need to protect what is ours, then maybe we won’t fear the outsider. Think Star Trek. The crew of the Enterprise is always on a mission of peace, with a diverse(ish) crew of humans and aliens, and off to meet aliens, to meet outsiders. Peace can be imagined, but it does seem like a far-flung future to get there!

Compounded Problems

However, if we don’t reach an idyllic Star Trek sort of future, then often authors envision a dystopia – and xenophobia is often a problem in dystopias. When things go poorly, when there is war or famine or plague, the outsider is one of the great fears or hated groups. I’m thinking of dystopias like V for Vendetta, or Children of Men, or The Windup Girl. All of these show worsening relations between nations, and worsening racial situations. General distrust and unhappiness.

Which unfortunately means that even if we reach an idyllic future, we may have to go through worse xenophobia to get there. Even in Star Trek, the idea is that they went through World War 3 to get there – and things were likely not very friendly at that point in future history. It was the introduction of aliens and space travel that united humanity and led to peace.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – Food

FFood has gone from something that we had to seek out, to something we cultivated, and now is becoming something we create. Continually questions get raised about where the food we eat actually comes from and whether we really recognize all the chemicals that we are adding to our food. There has even been discussion of being able to use 3D printers for food.

Food supply can often be either a main issue or a side issue in science fiction stories because food is a vital part of keeping a society alive. Some of the problems I can see is usually in the examples of the future either there is a food crisis or we have switched to entirely created food and “all natural” is a luxury.

Food Crisis

The food crisis scenarios are ones where the food sources that we have are either drying up or just not enough to support the growing population. This can be seen in movies such as Interstellar or books like The Wind Up Girl. In both of these situations an infection of our food source begins to destroy crops and the world cannot find a way to fix the problem.

An infection of the world’s food source is not the only potential problem that could happen – there is also the fact that the world population keeps growing beyond the real limits of what the food source can actually hold, but we keep finding a way to supplement it. In many of these situations it is just about finding a way to get people some kind of nutrition, but often it is not enough.

Created Food

When I talk about created food I am thinking of things such as the replicator in Star Trek or the scene in Fifth Element where they put in a small pill in a machine and out comes a whole chicken. This is a situation where there is no food crisis because we have figured out a way to generate food. The big problem I can see with this is that there would still be pockets of natural food, but it is either by people farming for themselves (like Picard’s family) or a luxury paid for by the rich.

There are a lot of people, even in today’s society, who talk about not wanting to put unnatural things into their body. I don’t know how people would react to food that just creates itself! There is a distrust of things that are viewed as artificial and I cannot imagine that generated food would not be completely artificial. But it does also contribute to the option of the population just continuing to grow.

There are trade-offs to being able to create a never-ending food supply and being able to just have the population keep growing. At the same time down the road will we discover that some of our choices about what we put into our food have actually created other complications?

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – 5 Ways the World Could End

It’s been a bit since we did a Science Fiction Today post… so here’s a fun one. How about the end of the world?

Armageddon, the Apocalypse, Ragnarok, the Eschaton… these names and more could be thrown at it. I feel like I have grown up in an era when we’ve half expected the end – at the year 2000, in 2012, any number of times around and between. When we’re not expecting it for real, we seem to be thinking about it in fiction – in science fiction, in horror. 

Maybe it’s the EMP Museum that got me thinking about it. They talked about how the current problems of the world tend to bleed into what happens in our horror stories – like the original Godzilla in the advent of the Atomic Age. So what are some of the things we’re worried about right now? Here’s my list of 5 ways the world could end!

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