Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! In the wake of the bad reviews for both Valerian and The Dark Tower, hosts Holly and David talk about franchises (and adaptations) that have succeeded – like Harry Potter – and ones that overstayed their welcome or didn’t even get going. They speculate a bit on some franchises and adaptations in the works, and then go through some of the titles they would like to see adapted.
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.
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.”
Recently I was asking the question, what does it mean to be an adult? It seems like a good question, in a society lacking a proper coming-of-age, and where we have many aspects of dependency now carrying on late into people’s 20’s. What does it mean to suddenly, somewhere in the midst of all of that, be an “adult?”
In thinking about this question, I have also been wrestling with some opinions that I’ve read. One is Alan Moore, acclaimed comics writer, who thinks that comics are for teens, and that the adults (generally probably men/manchildren in his mind) reading comics are just refusing and failing to grow up. I wrestled with this a bit in a discussion of Watchmen on Sourcerer, and I was talking Alan Moore again today for V for Vendetta.
The other opinion is that of Alejandro Inarritu, director of the new film Birdman. I read about this on We Minored in Film – great post (and it got me commenting at length) and it got me thinking I wanted to write about this. Well, rant about this. Inarritu believes… well, in his words (quoted from We Minored in Film):
“I think there’s nothing wrong with being fixated on superheroes when you are 7 years old, but I think there’s a disease in not growing up.”
So two creators, saying comics, comic movies, superheroes… these things keep us as children, make us weird or wrong as adults. And I want to respect and engage with their opinions, because unlike people who don’t even give science fiction a chance, these creators are engaging with the genre, creating works in the genre, and not just completely dismissing it. So what does it mean for a genre – like the comic book story – to be for children? Well, let me be sarcastic, and then a bit serious.
I recently finished reading Clockwork Angels, written by Kevin J. Anderson, based on lyrics by Neil Peart of Rush. I first saw this book sitting on the shelf about a year and a half ago, and was excited to find both that Rush had a new album out, and that someone had finally written a book based on some of the excellent mythologies and stories Rush has produced.
So I listened to the album for quite a while before reading the book finally, which is maybe how it should work with this. With a solid backing in the music – which is, as I understand it, the first total-album concept album by Rush – I then turned to the book. I had some preconceptions, based on the album, based on Rush and their Libertarian leanings, and maybe based a bit on what I was expecting to write about it in the blog once we reached the point where that was a thing.
I see there’s a concert album coming out next month – going to have to get that! They released one of the songs, so let me share that with you:
There will be spoilers to come about this book, but then, it’s based on an album, so in some ways, spoilers were the name of the game. However, if you never planned on reading this anyway, definitely read on to see what they created by combining these two artforms! Especially if you like what you hear in the concert video!