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Have you heard about the story set in a neo-noir dystopian society somewhere in the not so distant future? Most of you are probably nodding your heads in an emphatic yes.
Adding to that list is Jason Shawn Alexander’s first issue of Empty Zone.
Though the setting isn’t original, the story and the artwork make this comic a fantastic read. Think if the movie Blade Runner, the movie Tank Girl, Vertigo’s Sandman comic, and the anime Ghost in the Shell had a torrid love affair. Empty Zone would be the reason all of them have to submit to a paternity test.
The protagonist’s name is Corrine, a young and sexy woman who moonlights as super soldier for hire. Her easy-on-the-eye looks hints nothing at her enhanced abilities (save for her giant robotic arm of course). Her constantly reoccurring nightmares make her a haunted woman. But in this future where technology is advanced and society is crumbling, bad dreams are not the only things haunting her.
As the story goes, this first issue does well in introducing us to the characters, but still holding enough back that we are left wanting to learn more about their personalities and motives. The strange scenery and events leaves many questions to be answered, setting up what may be a good run for the series. As I mentioned, the atmosphere may not be original, but the writing makes up for that. The twist introduced at the end also sweetens the deal.
Writing aside, the artwork could carry this comic alone. Each panel looks like it should be framed on the wall. A lot of care went into the drawing, inking, and coloring (to which Jason Shawn Alexander wears the three hats of creator, writer, and artist). The facial drawings remind me a little of the rotoscoping used in A Scanner Darkly. Rotoscoping is essentially tracing over a film frame by frame. Everything from body articulation to facial expressions is highly detailed and close to real life. Objects and scenery are equally as well done. Overall, this thing deserves to be appreciated.
Empty Zone is a great addition to comics and collections. The artwork and writing is well done, with the pace taking readers for a fun joyride that doesn’t move too fast or slow. Fans of dark comics, as well as science fiction books and movies will surely enjoy this series. Image Comic’s Empty Zone hits local shelves June 17th.
Once a month I lead a book group for 8-12 year olds at our local public library and our most recent session was about science fiction books. It was one of the most enjoyable sessions we’ve had, so I thought I’d share what we did.
My first challenge was to come up with a list of science fiction which 8-12 year olds might enjoy. This wasn’t such an easy task, but in the end my book list read like this:
Several people helped me come up with this list (thank you!), but I’d like to give a special shout out to author SF Said who was tremendously helpful in making suggestions about books I might like to consider.
I knew that most of the kids in my group hadn’t read any science fiction at all (though most had seen either some Dr Who episodes or the Star Wars films), and so first we had a discussion about what we mean when we talk about science fiction in relation to books. The definition we came up with was:
Fiction which typically focuses on:
either science or technology
life in space, on other planets or aliens
and whilst there is often some sort of fantasy element, the fantasy is potentially believable (through technological advances, for example), and therefore distinct from fantasy with dragons and spells.
As the aim of the session was to get the kids exposed to a wide variety of SF, and to choose at find at least one SF book which they thought looked interesting enough to read, I wanted to expose them to lots of different books in the short time we had. And so I came up with a board game which the group played in teams.
All the books on my list above, plus some space-themed poetry and space non-fiction books were placed in the centre of our table, and each team was give a game template, a dice and a lego spaceman or alien as their counter.
The aim of the game was for each team to get to the end of the board game (set out a little like snakes and ladders ie with the possibility of having to move forward and backwards on the board), collecting as many (glow in the dark) stars as possible along the way. Teams won stars by correctly answering questions associated with the numbered star they landed on each time they rolled the dice.
All the questions were about the books in the centre of the table, and so to find the answers, the kids had to do a lot of browsing. Some questions were very simple (“Who is the author of X”), some involved a value judgment (“Choose three words to describe the illustrations in Y”) and some required more in-depth browsing inside books (eg “Which book opens with the lines XYX” or “Which book is set in X”). When each team had found the answer to a given question they came and gave me the answer, and if it was correct (or simply reasonably thoughtful in the case of value judgments), the team got a star and returned to roll the dice for their next question.
The game was over when every team had reached the end point on the board, and the winning team was that which had collected the most stars. The victors each won a Mars bar (you get the space connection?) and the book of their choice from a small selection I brought with me from my past review pile.
Once winnings had been distributed we went round the group and everyone had to pick up one book which had caught their eye, and comment on what it was about the book that they liked the look of.
The session went with a blast (no pun intended, but I’m happy to keep it in ). I think it worked so well because:
There was a (team) competitive element – this meant the game got quite loud and physical, with lots of books being picked up and discussions going on
The kids won stuff – everyone went home with some glow in the dark stars, in addition to the victors’ winnings
The kids had a period of pretty intensely browsing books they might not otherwise have picked up, and everyone went away with a new discovery (the most popular books were the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time, Space Cat, Space Dog, Phoenix, Mars Evacuees and Lost on Mars)
If you’d like to try the game out you can download a copy of this board game here (pdf) but you’ll need to create your own set of questions to go with whichever books you’re using in your session. You’ll see on the board that there are time warps (they look like tornadoes), a teleporter, and two tardises (tardi?) – if kids landed on these they had the choice to go forwards or backwards along the board, and pretty soon they realised that it was actually beneficial to move back wherever possible as this gave the team the chance to win more stars.
Next month’s bookgroup meeting is actually all about celebrating our first birthday, so if you’ve any suggestions for great book-themed party games to play, I’d really love to hear about them!
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The Latest issue of Luna Station Quarterly is live and available to purchase as a digital download or a lovely hardcopy to hold in your hands. Or, you can read it for free at the LSQ site. It’s chock full of exciting, thought provoking, fantastical tales. Enjoy!
I have finally found an environmental book for older readers, and it is terrific.
Sixteen-year-old Laura, the journal keeping main character in The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd, is a member of a punk band. She has an appalling older sister, and her parents are falling apart. Sounds pretty generic YA, doesn't it? What makes this book riveting is its setting and its main character.
Are Good Environmental Books All About Setting?
The 2015 Britain of The Carbon Diaries is one suffering from energy shortages and horrific climate problems, as is the rest of the world. Britain, however, is the first country to start carbon rationing. The book is Laura's account of her family and neighbors dealing with limited access to energy while suffering through an extreme winter, a drought, and torrential rain. Her older sister is appalling because she is bitter and angry about her gap year in America being cancelled. Her parents are falling apart because they're having trouble coping with the social change they're being hammered with. Dad, for instance, is the head of a travel and tourism school. With carbon restrictions, people can't travel. That pretty much puts an end to the tourist industry in Britain, and he loses his job.
The book isn't a cautionary tale, in my humble opinion. It's much more of a thriller. What's going to happen next and how will the characters survive it? Though Laura comments on the selfishness of others a couple of times and wants very much for the rest of the world to get on board with carbon rationing, this is not a "Let's save the planet!" story. There is no instructive message.
I'm sure many reviewers probably write about The Carbon Diaries' environmental themes. I always have trouble determining what an environmental theme would be. I've seen some writers calls The Carbon Diaries' theme "climate change." That seems more like a subject to me. I would say the theme of The Carbon Diaries involves a teenager struggling to find her place as an older person in her family and her place in society, one that is dramatically changing. Those are traditional YA themes, not environmental ones. It's the environmental setting that makes those traditional YA themes interesting and makes this book environmental.
Isn't climate fiction, fiction dealing with climate change, all about setting?
A Good Character Always Does Wonders For A Book
Laura is like an edgier, smarter Georgia Nicholson. The format of the book is even similar to the Georgia Nicholson books. It's a journal, of course, and there are several pages at the end translating British terms for American readers, which you find in Georgia's books. This is not a complaint. I like Georgia. I like Laura.
A Good Book Doesn't Have To Teach You Anything
Though The Carbon Diaries doesn't insist that readers do anything, the characters' struggle was so intense that it has an impact. I hadn't read much before I started obsessing about whether or not I'd turned the heat down at night. I freaked out a bit over that power outage in Washington earlier this week. And, yikes! They're rationing water in California!!
Very few people like to be preached at or taught. If a piece of fiction is well done, it creates a response in readers without doing either of those things.
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The limited-time TIME TRAVEL STORY BUNDLE is officially on sale for one more week. A lot of you have already bought it, which is great–I hope you’re enjoying the books in there as much as I am! I’ve already ripped through 3, and have 9 more to go (I can skip Parallelogram (Book 1: Into the Parallel) since I wrote it myself and consequently have read it more than anyone else in the world. So far). I love reading about time travel, and these books are such a treat for my brain. I hope you’re all treating your brains to this fabulous book bundle, too.
If so, then are you ready for one more free thing?
This one isn’t a high-stakes giveaway like the last two I’ve done, it’s a straight bonus offering for the first 20 people who respond.
So whether you’ve already purchased the Time Travel Story Bundle, or are about to go do it right now, the only thing that matters is being one of the first 20 people to send me an email here with two pieces of confirming information: the email address you used when you made the purchase, and the download link you received once the purchase was complete. That’s it! Then if you’re one of the first 20 people who qualifies, I’ll send you everything you need to get the free audio book.
Why am I doing this? Because I know you’re going to love the books in the story bundle, and I also take a gleeful kind of pleasure in giving away free stuff. I have a plan to do that every month for the rest of this year, so make sure you’re part of my Readers’ Group mailing list so you always hear about it first!
Good luck! Can’t wait to give 20 of you some audio swag!
Readers looking for tension, angst, fantastical myths, well-rounded characters, and a very human tale of survival will delight in this quick and engrossing page-turner of a story, sure to inspire the inner-Zodiac in everyone.
Cambridge University Press recently released The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction edited by Eric Carl Link and Gerry Canavan, a sequel, of sorts, to 2003's The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn. I bought the James and Mendlesohn volume at the first science fiction convention I ever attended, the Worldcon in Boston in 2004, and I think it's an admirable volume that mostly does its best to try for the impossible, which is to present a coherent overview of the history and scholarship of science fiction as a genre-thing (mostly in the Anglo-American mode). I have mixed feelings about the Cambridge Companion to... series, because the volumes often feel like grab-bags and pushmi-pullyus, a bit too specific for people looking for an introduction to the scholarship on a topic, a bit too general for people with knowledge of a topic. They often contain a few excellent individual chapters amidst many chapters that feel, to me at least, like they needed about 15 more pages. That's still, inevitably, the case with James and Mendlesohn's volume, but many of the chapters are impressively efficient, and as a guide for beginning scholars, the book as a whole is useful.
The new Link and Canavan book doesn't work quite as well for me, and it has a higher number of chapters that seem, frankly, shallow and, in a couple of cases, distortingly incomplete and sometimes flat-out inaccurate. With a topic limited to a particular geography, you'd think the editors and writers would be able to zero in a bit more. Some chapters do so quite well, but my experience of reading through the book was that it felt more diffuse and less precise than its predecessor, with annoying little mistakes like Darren Harris-Fain's statement that James Patrick Kelly's story "Think Like a Dinosaur" requires close reading to find its SF tropes (it's set on a space station and includes aliens; finding the SF tropes doesn't require close reading, just the most basic literacy). Despite the annoyance of little errors and the frustration of wild generalizations in many of the post-WWII chapters, I began to wonder if the big problem might be a matter of the volume's determination to focus on "American" science fiction, a determination that works very well for the chapters looking at pre-World War II fiction, but then becomes ... problematic.
The problem, though, might be me. I'm not at all the intended audience for the book, I have ideological/methodological hesitations about some of the framing, and I have a love/hate relationship with academic science fiction scholarship in general — feelings that are probably mostly prejudices unburdened by facts. (Sometimes, I have trouble shaking the feeling that SF criticism is still wearing training wheels.) At the same time, though, I'm also drawn to the idea of scholarship about science fiction and its related genres/modes/things/whatzits, because I am (for now) ensconced in academia and also have been reading SF of one sort of another all my life, off and on. I'm not particularly familiar with Eric Carl Link as a scholar (though I'm using his Norton Critical Edition of The Red Badge of Courage in a course I'm teaching right now), but I've been following Gerry Canavan's work for a few years and I think he's a force for good, someone who is trying to keep SF criticism moving into the 21st century. Indeed, I just got back from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, where I heard Canavan deliver a truly interesting paper on posthumanism, Kim Stanley Robinson, eco-SF, etc.
In my more radical moments, I wonder if, to move into this century, we shouldn't just get rid of the whole idea of "American" science fiction, or at least the study of it as such. (Heck, in my most radical moments, I wonder if we shouldn't get rid of the whole idea of "science fiction", but that's a topic for another time...)
Let's look at the book, or at least its premise and introduction. (I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow review of each chapter. If you must know, the chapters that seem to me most worth the time it takes to read them are Lisa Yaszek's "Afrofuturism in American Science Fiction", John Rieder's "American Frontiers", Karen Hellekson's "Fandom and Fan Culture", and Priscilla Wald's "Science, Technology, and the Environment".) The introduction by the editors serves various purposes, and succeeds impressively in giving a concise overview of 19th century American science fiction. If you want to know where to begin with American proto-SF, you could do a lot worse than to read that section of this intro.
The most provocative part of the introduction is the part that seeks to justify the book's focus on science fiction from the United States (there's no Canada or Mexico, so this isn't North American SF, though Margaret Atwood gets some passing mentions; there's nothing about South American SF; this is United Statesian):
The simple premise of the present volume ... is that the science fictional imagination is so fundamental to the arc of history across the so-called American Century that we might productively talk about a specifically American SF. Many of the ideas, themes, and conventions of contemporary science fiction take their roots in a distinctly American cultural experience, and so SF in America serves as a provocative index to twentieth- and twenty-first-century American culture, reflecting America's hopes, desires, and fears. (4)
I am an avowed skeptic of canonical nationalism, and so my instincts are to tear into these statements, but at the same time there's a real truth to them: science fiction as a genre is deeply tied to origins in American pulp magazines and then in the paperback revolution of the 1950s, '60s, and 70s, as well as, to some extent or another, the dominance of blockbuster Hollywood over so much cultural production (although in some ways that also helps de-genrefy SF by absorbing the idea of the science fictional into whatever Hollywood product happens to be highly popular, whether Star Wars or The X-Files or superhero movies). Additionally, as this Cambridge Companion makes clear, USian mythmaking is a key component to a lot of the foundational works of what we think of as genre SF — myths of individualist heroism, myths of the frontier (John Rieder's chapter tackles this head-on, which is one reason why it's among the strongest chapters in the book). For a long time, what we USians might call SF in other countries was different from American SF, even as American SF was derived from primarily European writers of the 19th century, especially Wells and Verne. One of the major differences was that it was in the US that an immigrant from Luxembourg, Hugo Gernsback, successfully severed science fiction from other streams of fiction, distinguishing it not only from "literature", but also from all other types of popular and pulp fiction. The innovation was not simply a matter of definition or labelling, as that had been done plenty of times elsewhere, with terms like "scientific romance". Science fiction as a genre didn't need a definition, it needed a system. It was Gernsback who, in the late 1920s, not only gave SF its own magazine but also created ways for readers of that magazine to identify themselves as a discourse community — to be, in a word, fans. It was in the US, then, that the production, distribution, and reception of SF as a genre system successfully began, and that system soon allowed for the dissemination of the values constituting it, values that were often stereotypically "American".
After World War Two, things get awfully complex, however, as genre SF becomes quite productively transatlantic, and as the space race and the Cold War affect global perceptions of technology and the future. The New Wave, for instance, makes little sense from a purely US-centric standpoint, and yet the decade of the 1960s in literary SF — and all its repercussions — makes no sense without the New Wave. (Further, as Samuel Delany has pointed out multiple times, it should really be New Waves — Moorcock's New Wave was not Ellison's New Wave was not Merril's New Wave was not Cele Goldsmith's New Wave, etc. The way they diverge and overlap deserves attention.)
And yet, it's also true that American SF publishers and media producers have had more power and success overall than others, at least with English-language SF, and so their ideas of SF spread easily beyond US borders.
The hegemonic monster (hegemonster?) of US power in the second half of the 20th century deserves scrutiny, and science fiction could be a tool for such scrutiny, as I expect the editors of this book hoped to be able to at least begin to do, and as some of the chapters, do, indeed, pay attention to. We need, though, a Cultures of United States Imperialism for science fiction, or a study of Rick Perlstein's histories of US conservatism alongside a study of science fiction in the same era, or ... well, the possibilities are many, because science fiction is often a genre of power fantasies, and the United States is often a country fueled by such fantasies. (For all its messiness, Thomas Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of at least asked some useful questions.) Such an intervention isn't really what Cambridge Companions are about, however.
One of the dangers that the field of American Studies faces is the danger of re-centering American power just as we're beginning to de-center it in literary, cultural, and political studies. We can see the de-centering effort on a small scale with literary science fiction, where the rise of the internet has allowed a nascent movement of global SF to grow, and where there is a stronger awareness than ever of writers and audiences from around the world. There's a long way to go, but if the 20th century was an American century, and also a century of American science fiction, then perhaps the 21st can centered differently.
The editors of the Cambridge Companion hint toward this in their introduction. They are no American jingoists. But they also write: "The vast canon to which all contemporary creators of SF (in all media, forms, and genres) respond is thus (for better or worse) tightly linked to American ideas, experiences, cultural assumptions, and entertainment markets, as well as to distinctly American visions of what the future might be like" (5). I think that statement is false in one important way — I would say "most creators of anglophone, genrefied SF" rather than "all contemporary creators of SF (in all media...)" etc, because I think this rather all-encompassing generalization neglects certain tendencies in British SF that have been influential, and it completely wipes out non-US/UK SF. The result is an unfortunate and I expect unintentional valorizing of UScentricity, unless it is premised on a very narrow definition of SF, which it seems not to be. But this is the danger of nationalistic scholarship, especially when performed by scholars from within a particular nation — they remain blind to the world they cannot see, and so the map they create is one where the US is in the center and is bigger than any other area.
Americanness was, obviously, not quite so much of a problem for the James and Mendelsohn Cambridge Companion, where many of the contributors were not America. Nonetheless, it was very much not a Cambridge Companion to Global Science Fiction — a topic too big for the slim confines of any one book in the Cambridge Companion series. (To see some of the scope, look at the International tag at the SF Encyclopedia site.)
There is no denying the centrality of the US to science fiction in any way that science fiction makes sense as a label. (For better or worse, as Link and Canavan say.) But for myself, I wonder what it means to study American science fiction solely, much as I wonder what it means to study American literature solely, or American anything solely. Or to call it "American".
And yet to deny the centrality of a thing called "American literature" is foolish and distorting, even though, in my more idealistic and la-la-land moments, I might want to. We are not the world? We are the world? We are ... what?
As I think about the introduction to this book and my inchoate (if not incoherent) resistance to the American in American Science Fiction, I can't help but also think about a paragraph in Aaron Bady's recent, important Chronicle of Higher Education essay, "Academe's Willful Ignorance of African Literature", a paragraph that I have no answers for, and which nags at me:
I worry that as Americanists move into “World Anglophone” literature, the world outside of Britain and the United States gets included in theory, but will continue to be excluded in practice. As crass it might be to use “world literature” as a shorthand for “the rest of the world,” the alternative might be worse. I worry that the actual effect of rebranding English departments as “World Anglophone literature departments” would only normalize the status quo. Will their survey of Anglophone letters still consist of dozens of scholars working on British and American literatures and a single, token Africanist? That might be the best-case scenario. For all its flaws, at least the term “postcolonial literature” recognized on which side of the global color line it located its subject, and recognized how much work was yet to be done.
When thinking of "American science fiction", I can't help but think of all that that term doesn't encompass, and perhaps my struggle with this Cambridge Companion is that my own deepest interests are in what sits at the margins, what defies the definitions, what lurks beyond the scopes.
(I told you I'm not the audience for this book!)
I wonder, too, why there isn't more scholarly attention to things like Analog magazine and Baen Books. Neither appears in the index to The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction, and the sorts of things published by Analog and Baen don't seem to get much discussed by SF scholars. And yet shouldn't a book about American science fiction provide more than just the most passing of passing mentions to Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven? The ascent of science fiction in the United States parallels the ascent of Reaganism and neoliberalism, and how is it that among the various references to Star Wars in this book there are none (that I found, at least) to Ronnie's own beloved version? This American Science Fiction needs more Amurrican science fiction, more Newt Gingrich, more Rapture culture, more survivalism. Too much academic SF criticism cherry-picks favorites to valorize, and since most academic lit critics are armchair leftists of some sort or another (myself included), we get lots of Left Hand of Darkness and not nearly enough Left Behind.
(I have no good transition between these paragraphs, so I hope you'll pardon me this momentary aside to admit it. Hi, how are you? Thanks for continuing to read this rambling post, even though I'm sure you have something better to do. We're almost done. Shall we get back to it?)
To set down scholarly stakes within a realm called The American not only risks valorizing an already highly valorized Americanicity, but it also risks seeing things in a narrower way than the creators of the works under study themselves did, and I firmly believe that criticism should add breadth and depth to material rather than narrowing it, should give us more techniques of reading rather than fewer. This is my problem with some versions of canonical nationalism: they are procrustean, and miss the ways writers, for instance, learn from a variety of materials that are not so geographically bound. Among scholars, there's been in recent decades more of a push for, for instance, a view of transatlantic writing and thinking — of the Black Atlantic, of transatlantic Romanticism and transatlantic Modernism(s).
"American" is not only geographical but ideological: the mythography of Americanism. Tracing the flows to and from that ideology is especially interesting to me, particularly as a way to try to interrupt those flows, or at least look at their edges, cracks, and pores. (The Cambridge Companion to Anti-American Science Fiction, anyone? No?) I like that Link and Canavan end the book with a chapter titled "After America", and though I have reservations about the chapter itself, which isn't nearly ambitious enough, the gesture seems necessary for this age: to at least imagine a move beyond the centrality of US power and US dominance, to change the perspective and shift our lenses. Certainly, as global warming threatens to eradicate most life on Earth, the moral imperative of our age is to move beyond any one nation, to perceive the planet entire, and to do what so much science fiction has aspired to do, even if it has almost always failed: to look at things from a broader perspective.
What if "After America" were to mean after the idea of America, after the dominance of the nation, after the discourse of Americanness? (America is just so 20th century, dude.) By ending with "After America", this Cambridge Companion includes the seeds of its own destruction. A worthwhile move, it seems to me. But then, I like books that want to destroy themselves.
Today, Faber Academy and I are kicking off the blog tour for Kim Curran's DELETE! It's had a bit of trouble getting out, due to the closure of Strange Chemistry, but it's coming and it's having a blog tour!
Summary : The country is at war. Beset by enemies within and without. And all because of the decisions changed by one boy, Scott Tyler. In this ravaged alternative reality, Scott hardly recognises himself. He's a war hero, a leader of a unit of Shifters and maybe the only one who can prevent the country's frail defences from crumbling.
But all Scott wants to do is find a way back to the world he knew, without losing the girl he loves. With every Shift he makes, Scott edges closer towards oblivion. With no one to trust – not even himself – how much is he willing to risk to get home?
Review: This is the end of a trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers for the first two books (and you really do need to read Shift and Control before this one). Following the end of Control, Scott finds he has shifted to a world where Britain is at war, and Scott is apparently the Commandant of ARES, or at least its present form, and everything is completely different. However, unlike most Shifters whose realities change when they shift to accomodate for that shift and they accept that shift as being the one true reality, Scott remembers the more peaceful, less treacherous world, and he wants to get back.
I really enjoyed Shift and Control, and thus I was very excited to read this. When I did get to read Delete, I read it so quickly. I think if life didn’t get in my way, it would be a one-sit-read.
You know how I said Control put the plot on a larger scale to Shift? It’s happened again. Majorly. Again.
I loved the different sides of the characters we got to know. Frankie, Aubrey, and Katie were all changed but also still them, and Scott...woah. in this world, Scott’s personality is rather different to the one he remembers having, and I loved seeing him struggle with what he remembers, what he thinks he is, what what he has to do in this world. So much character development.
The plot progressed well. It’s fast, but there are also quieter moments. Especially between Aubrey and Scott as he tries to find the differences between the past Aubrey and the one now. .
I did have mixed feelings about the end. Initially I really disliked it, but after a little time, I realised how wonderful it was because Scott has learnt things and might be able to make things better and maybe it isn’t as bad an ending as I thought.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to a brilliant ending to an action packed series examining decisions and their consequences.
Some people say I’m a book pusher. I’m okay with that. I get impatient with friends when they still haven’t read that book I recommended at least A WEEK AGO, for heaven’s sake, so I just go online and send it to them. Pushy? Bossy? I will not apologize. People need to read certain books and yes, I do know what’s good for them.
Which is why I’m about to go full-on pushy once again, and not only recommend some books that you need to read RIGHT NOW to fulfill your need for kickass science fiction heroines, I’m also going to go the extra step of enforcing that by actually giving them away free to one lucky winner.
First, Diving Into the Wreck, part of the Diving Universe series by Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I’ve been a fan and student of Kris’s for about 13 years, and have always viewed her as a pretty badass woman and author in her own right. But she also writes amazingly complicated and strong women characters who are always so much fun to spend time with. Kris has generously offered to give the lucky winner a signed copy of the book. She also answered some interview questions for me that I’ll share below, so hang on. It’s always fun to hear how other writers think.
Second is Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, and if you were a fan of his Jurassic Park you may think you already know all there is to know about this sequel, but I think perhaps you don’t. Because the reason I’m pushing it is that it has one of my favorite heroines of all time, Sarah Harding, who is both scientist and never-say-die person-you-most-want-with-you-in-a-crisis, and I am so inspired by her intelligence and toughness I actually reread this book about twice a year just to pump myself up. I think once you’ve experienced Sarah Harding for yourself, you’ll be totally hooked, too.
Third is my own Parallelogram series. Why am I book-pushing my own series? Because I wrote it for a particular reason: to show two very different girls who are entirely kickass in their own separate ways. One is a scientific explorer, willing to try out all sorts of bizarre (and potentially hazardous) physics theories she’s come up with, and the other is a teen adventurer who has been raised by her very badass explorer grandmother to handle all sorts of physical risks with a cool head and a deep will to survive.
In my spare time I like to read a lot of true adventure books by real-life explorers, and I based the teenage adventurer Halli and her grandmother Ginny on two women explorers I really admire: Roz Savage, who rowed solo across the Atlantic (why not??), and Helen Thayer, who was the first person to ski solo and unsupported to the magnetic North Pole. When she was 50, by the way. So yeah, I think you should read Parallelogram for the same reason you should read the Rusch and Crichton books: because the girls and women in these books will entertain and inspire you.
I asked Kristine Kathryn Rusch a few questions about her own writing process and what inspires her to write the strong kinds of characters you’ll find in all of her work:
RB: What qualities do you admire in the heroine of your book Diving Into The Wreck? Did you write those qualities into her character on purpose, or did they develop over time on their own?
KKR: Boss is her own person. She only lets people call her Boss, and she won’t tell anyone her name, because it’s her business. What I love about Boss is that she is so secure in who she is. She knows what she can and cannot do, and she knows just how much she’s willing to tell/give in any situation. She admits when she’s wrong, and she analyzes everything. She’s very strong, but she also can be vulnerable.
My characters come fully formed, but they do reveal parts of themselves over time. Boss & I share a love of history, but she’s so much more adventurous than I am. She would go crazy in a room writing all day. I love it. I never add traits consciously. Subconsiously, who knows? I assume so. But the characters are real people to me, with their flaws and strengths, and that includes Boss.
RB: Who are some of your favorite kickass heroines in other people’s science fiction books and movies? What about them inspires you as a person and/or as a writer? (I’m a big fan of Ripley’s in the Alien series. When she’s rescuing the little girl Newt from the breeding area in Aliens and fighting off the queen alien and her posse–you’d better believe Ripley makes me want to be braver in real life.)
KKR: Favorite SF women. Honestly, that’s a tough one for me. Most of the sf I read is short fiction, and the characters are one-offs. None of the women in the stories I read rise to the level of favorite. I like Ripley–and she was inspiring to me–but is not someone who comes to mind easily.
In SF, my examples were always negative. For example, in Trek, I was so happy that Kathryn Janeway had her own ship. Then I saw the dang first episode, and when she was faced with a big issue that James T. Kirk could have solved in 45 minutes, she gave in, and made her crew suffer for **years** I think most of the sf films/TV suffer from stupid women problems.
The strong women I read about appear in the mystery genre. I adore Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski. I used to love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Malone, especially when I encountered her in the 1980s. The female lead detectives were unusual women, who did their own thing in a man’s world. They’re the inspiration for my sf heroines.
RB: This is a chicken-or-the-egg question: Do you give your characters some of your own kickass qualities of bravery, wisdom, compassion, etc.–or do you feel inspired as you write their stories to be more like them yourself?
KKR: LOL, Robin. I love that you think I have kickass qualities. I think my characters are more articulate than I am, smarter than I am, more adventurous than I am, and more courageous than I am. I am blunt and stubborn and difficult, and in my fiction, those qualities are virtues, so there’s some of me there. But these folks are not people I want to be: they’re people I want to meet.
RB: Which character of yours has changed you the most as a person? Why?
KKR: The character of mine who has changed me the most as a person is Smokey Dalton, from my Kris Nelscott mysteries. He’s an African-American detective in the late 1960s. He’s a true hero, in my opinion. But his situations are beyond difficult. I always put him in the middle of a historical situation, and then ask him to respond. Some of those historical situations–I keep thinking, if I were there, would I have had the courage to do what he did? Would I have known what to do? And the thing I admire most about Smokey: His world, horrid as it is, doesn’t break him. It makes him stronger. That has had a huge impact on me and my thinking and my writing.
RB: What do you prefer in your favorite heroines, whether it’s the ones you write, read, or watch: More stoic than compassionate, vice versa,or a particular ratio of both? (For me, 80% stoic, 20% compassionate.)
KKR: Compassion first. I quit reading a mystery series set in the Middle Ages because our heroine–a smart and active woman–had a baby, and then abandoned that baby to go on a crusade. Well, this is the Middle Ages, and yes, she might have done that historically, but it would take 2-3 years to return to that child, and there would be no guarantee that the child was safe or well cared for. So I quit reading right there. The woman was too selfish for me to read about. Stoic, yes. But willing to sacrifice someone she loved for her own ends. Not someone I want to read about.
RB: Bonus question: I know you’re a big fan of the time travel series OUTLANDER, as am I. (I just finished the fourth book. What a ride!) If you were in Claire’s position, catapulted back to 1745 Scotland, what skills would you want to bring to the mix? I love her medical knowledge–it’s such a huge asset. But is there some skill you’d find just as valuable?
KKR: Great question. I have a wide variety of historical knowledge and weird trivia. I know how to make a match for example, and I know how to sterilize a room (even back then) and I know what’ll happen when in most of the English-speaking world. So I like to think all of that will be beneficial. Knowing outspoken me, though, I’d probably be jailed as a witch and executed. I also know that I’d be panicked as hell about dying of something preventable, like the cold that has felled me this week in 2015. If it became an infection in 1745, I could die. And I’d probably worry about that more than anything (except the food, which–yuck!) So as you can tell, I’m probably too much of a worrier to time travel safely.
SPEAKING OF TIME TRAVEL …
Kris and I both have novels in the Time Travel Story Bundle, which is on sale for just two more weeks. Here’s your chance to score a whole bunch of great fiction at an incredibly low price. Don’t miss it!
And as soon as you buy the bundle, head on over to my GIVEAWAY PAGE and enter to win those three fabulous science fiction books! I push them because I love–the heroines in those books and you, Dear Readers. Enjoy!
I LOVE TIME TRAVEL STORIES. I love to read them, watch them, write them. My current obsession is Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful (and lengthy! Hurray!) time travel romance series OUTLANDER. Love the books and now am enjoying the DVD of the first season of the TV series. More on that in a minute.
My young adult science fiction series PARALLELOGRAM has a whole time travel element to it, which is why I’m thrilled to tell you that the first book in the series, INTO THE PARALLEL, has been selected for inclusion in a fantastic TIME TRAVEL STORY BUNDLE featuring some of the top names in science fiction and fantasy.
Here’s what’s in the bundle:
The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
The Rock by Bob Mayer Time Streams by Fiction River Alternitech by Kevin J. Anderson Time’s Mistress by Steven Savile Parallelogram Book 1: Into the Parallel by Robin Brande Lightspeed: Issue 28 by Lightspeed
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $14, you’ll get another six titles:
The Edwards Mansion by Dean Wesley Smith Time Traveled Tales by Jean Rabe The Trinity Paradox by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason Summer of Love by Lisa Mason Ansible by Stant Litore Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
This incredible book bundle is available for only 3 weeks. I know you’re going to want to buy it–we all are. But as a special bonus for buying it now, in the first 48 hours it’s on sale, I’m throwing in a TIME TRAVEL PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY. Because we all want more!
The DVD of my favorite time travel movie, Richard Curtis’s ABOUT TIME. Love this movie so much, I want to make sure everyone in the world sees it. And at least one person besides me owns it so you can watch it over and over.
The PARALLELOGRAM Omnibus Edition, which includes the complete 4-book PARALLELOGRAM series. No waiting in between cliffhangers! Everything right there for the reading!
Now here’s the interesting thing about the giveaway: Unlike with most giveaways, your chances to win this one actually improve the more people you share it with. When you enter, you’ll get a special code to include on your own tweets or posts about the giveaway, and when someone enters using that code, you get 3 EXTRA ENTRIES for yourself. How cool is that?
So there you have it: In the next 48 hours you can buy 13 exciting time travel books AND enter to win more books and a couple of movies. Not bad for a Wednesday!
Title: Spirit Circle Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Viz Media (US) Story/Artist: Satoshi Mizukami Serialized in: Young King Comics (33 out of 33 chapters reviewed) Fuuta Okeya lives a normal life and has gotten to his second year of middle school without incident, although he can see some spirits including the one following his new classmate, ... Read more
Great Ball of Light by Evan Kuhlman with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes, weaves together two seemingly disparate plot threads to create a fantastic story that is also thoughtful and philosophical. Like a peanut butter and pickle sandwich - something that sounds incompatible, even kind of gross - Kuhlman blends the story of a broken family on the mend with lightning in a jar, specifically a
Science fiction for kids is rare enough; truly funny middle-grade science fiction is even rarer. In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of one book in the hilarious middle-grade science fiction genre: The True Meaning of Smekday. Now that number has doubled, with the publication of a worthy sequel, Smek for President.
If you haven't read The True Meaning of Smekday, why not? Go forth and read it now! It's a great road-trip buddy comedy about a girl and an alien on the run from the evil alien overlords. Beyond this point there will be spoilers for the first book.
In Smek for President, human leader Dan Landry has taken credit for defeating the Gorg. No one, human or Boov, knows that it was really Tip and J.Lo who discovered the Gorg's weakness and defeated them with hundreds of cloned cats. Tip is living an anonymous life trying to adjust to being a regular girl again. J.Lo is infamous on two worlds: he can't seem to stay out of trouble in their community on Earth, and to the Boov he's still the Squealer, who accidentally signaled the Gorg in the first place. Tip and J.Lo decide to take a trip to New Boovworld (formerly known as the moon Titan) to explain to Captain Smek what really happened and clear J.Lo's name.
Hilarious hijinks ensue, including a low-gravity chase that is every bit as awesome as you'd hope for a low-gravity chase to be, an escape into a garbage-pit, (with obligatory Star Wars reference) and a lonely bubble-billboard. There's more awesomeness that I can't say anything about without spoiling the book. There are several comic sections that extend the story throughout the book.
There's not much else I can say, except that this is a perfect middle-grade book, and fans of The True Meaning of Smekday will love it. Anyone who hasn't read The True Meaning of Smekday would be well served to read it first.
The protagonist Tip is mixed-race and dark skinned. She's also an awesome character that boys and girls of all races can identify with. (How many times am I allowed to say awesome in one review?)
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
The 2014 Nebula Award nominees have been announced, and with it the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Nebula and Andre Norton awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Two of the Andre Norton nominees were also Cybils Awards finalists:Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan, and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King. As a Cybils judge, I read both books and they're both excellent, although very different, books. I've also read Love Is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and loved that one as well.
Here's the full list of Andre Norton Award nominees:
Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)
Alex Wayfare is a time travel story. I'm not a big fan of those, mainly because I usually have trouble following the mechanics of how it happens.That's the case with The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, too. Alex is a Descender who can descend into her former lives. Until she's well into her teenage years, she believes she's just having very unpleasant visions. This part of the book was intriguing. As she begins to learn about who and what she is and starts time traveling, I got lost. The plot involves evil scientists who use Alex and others like her either to manipulate science for the benefit of present day or "base life" research or to steal items and hide them so they can be found in the present day or "base life." There's a lot of "who is this guy?" with a number of characters.
This could have made a TV show with Alex developing a Scooby Gang like Buffy's. Alex suggests as much, herself. Not the TV show part, but the Scooby Gang. I think base life boyfriend interest Jensen and Alex's sick sister, Audrey, should be included.
A sequel to this book was planned for this spring. However, the first book's publisher, Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot Books' YA imprint, closed last summer. I haven't found anything about the second Wayfare book, The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare, being published. Now I will never know if two young characters are one and the same person. That's my theory.
Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]
A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
Did I love Brave New World? Not exactly. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Brave New World is a classic dystopian novel. The first half of the book seems more focused on world-building, on providing the reader with all the little details that make this future world so horrific. Not much happens but world-building. Readers meet a character or two, sure, but mostly description and information. The second half of the book, in my opinion, is where the characters become more developed. The basic premise: children are no longer born. No more mothers and fathers. No parenting. Children are "hatched." Sometimes several thousand at a time--all identical, I believe. Conditioning begins early in an artificial womb of sorts. Every single little thing is planned and accounted for. Nothing really left to chance. The conditioning continues through childhood. Even at night. Different classes are conditioned differently, of course.
In the second half, Bernard and Lenina go on vacation together to a reservation in New Mexico. They'll get a chance to see savages first hand. They meet two savages that interest them very much. For one is a woman who grew up civilized. (Her name is Linda). She was on vacation when something happened--she became separated from the group and was left behind. She's gone native--forced to go native. She's even had to--shudder--become a mother and raise her own child. His name is John. Though, for most of the book he is simply Savage. They tell their story to Lenina and Bernard. Bernard seeks permission to bring the two back with him. All four head back to civilization--back to London. But how well will John cope with civilization?
Brave New World is both strange and thought-provoking. Also depressing. The world-building was nicely done, I believe, but I would probably need to reread it a time or two to "catch" everything and fully appreciate it. There is plenty to 'shock' that's for sure. Some scenes are just disturbing--and are meant to be disturbing or disorienting at the very least.
I did like the second half more than the first half. It's not that the second half was less disturbing--it wasn't--but the fact that the focus was more on the characters. I can't say that I "liked" or "loved" any of the characters. I pitied John the most because he felt so out of place on the reservation and so out of place in civilization. John wasn't the only memorable character either.
I can see how Brave New World inspired other writers through the decades. Anyone who reads modern dystopian novels--there are so many I could list--should consider reading this one.
"I don't understand anything," she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. "Nothing. Least of all," she continued in another tone, "why you don't take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You'd forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you'd be so jolly. So jolly," she repeated and smiled..."
The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.
Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.
Did I love Station Eleven? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I'm almost sure of it. Only rereading it a year or so from now will answer that question definitively. But regardless of if it was love or LOVE, Station Eleven is a fascinating, absorbing read. It isn't exactly chronological in its storytelling, yet, I found it easy enough to follow. Its storytelling--the form of it, almost reminds me of LOST. It tells both the story of civilization's collapse and civilization's rebuilding. Readers meet a handful of characters then and now.
The "then" sections perhaps center around the character of Arthur Leander, an actor, a celebrity. Chapters focus in on significant, dramatic moments of his life. Not necessarily in chronological order. And not always from his point of view. Readers meet two of his three ex-wives, his son, his (former) best friend, his lawyer, etc. The novel actually opens with Arthur's death on stage. One young witness to his death is a young girl, Kirsten. Another is a former paparazzi turned paramedic.
The "now" sections center on the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten is one of the actors/performers in The Traveling Symphony. The group travels--horses pulling trucks, I believe--from place to place (town to town) performing. They perform music. They perform Shakespeare.
As I said, the focus is on the collapse of society and civilization. What life might be like if 98% of the population died from a terrible plague/disease within a few weeks. In this book, it's the "Georgian flu." What would life be like without modern conveniences--gas and fuel, electricity, telephones, television, internet, etc.
The book is beautifully written. I liked the world-building. I especially liked Miranda's creation of the graphic novels Station Eleven. I liked what little description we get of Dr. Eleven and his situation. I wouldn't have minded more. It actually would be a graphic novel that I'd want to read if it existed. I liked what the two graphic novels meant to Kirsten.
Then, Matthew Goodwin, editor of the forthcoming Latino/a Risinganthology offered to scan and send me not only the essay about my book, but another that he wrote himself. And they say that the social media is waste of time!
In his essay, “Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” Goodwin proves that he knows what's going on in the wide-ranging, multimedia field of Latino/a speculative ficion in a discussion of three works: “Reaching the Shore” (1994) a short story by Guillermo Lavin, El Naftazteca: Pirate Cyber-TV for A.D. 2000 (1994) a satellite television event by Guillermo Gómez-Peña (outtakes of it can be seen online), and Sleep Dealer(2008), the powerful film by Alex Rivera. Goodwin points out that The dystopian problems depicted in these narratives are not future fantasies but present-day realities and: The beauty of these artworks is that they imagine highly creative protagonists who use virtual reality for their own purposes and find some way to change reality.
Those things could also be said about my works.
In her “Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan's High Aztech” Lysa M. Rivera not only discusses my work, but getsit:
Reminiscent of Oscar Zeta Acosta's Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo(1972) as well as Stephenson's Snow Crash,High Aztech is pure Chicano cyberpunk.
But what is Chicano cyberpunk?
At once an aesthetic and a survival mechanism, rasquachecomes closest to describing Chicano/a cyberpunk production, which also transforms a found object (in this case, classic cyberpunk) by repurposing it to speak for a cultural underdog . . .
Creative protagonists again, changing reality!
High Aztechcan be read as a science fictionalization of Vasconcelos's theories of mestizaje.
Yeah, I'm a proud mestizo, believer in mongrel power, and consider impurity a good thing. I consider myself to be a member of La Raza Cosmica, the race that encompasses all other races. I tried to express this in High Aztech.
As a Chicanafuturist text, then, High Aztechnot only explores the effects of technology on people of color but also imagines alternatives to those impacts.
Protesting isn't enough. And I don't see – as some of my peers in decades past did – technology as the tool of the oppressors. Grab the tools, use them to build your world.
Hogan's text functions as a Chicanafuturist narrative not simiply because it is SF written by a Chicano but more specifically because it adopts a critical stance similar to an Afrofuturist.
I was doing postcyberpunk back when cyberpunk was just beginning. Afrofuturists have told me that High Aztechinfluenced them.
For Hogan and others like him, the motifs and metaphors of SF are best suited to counterdiscource, not escapist literature.
Escapsim is not enough. Contemporary, corporate-generated sci-fi tends to create escapist modules for oppressed consumers to retreat into. In books like High Aztech I hope to give people ideas as to how they can change their assigned realities.
Learning to survive in heterotopia requires a new way of being in the world, and what better genre is there than SF to make this happen?
Heterotopiameans the modern, urban multi/recombocultural environment, NOT a utopia based on the philosophy of Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine . . . you really do need to exist in new ways there. And like I've said, Chicano is a science fiction state of being.
And a friend has offered to buy a copy of Black and Brown Planets for me. I will review it here.
The world may once again be in turmoil, but I'm feeling great, ready to take it on!
Ernest Hogan's High Aztech will be re-released new, improved, ebook and softcover Strange Particle Press editions from Digital Parchment Services in 2015. Meanwhile, buy their new Cortez on Jupiter. And buy and give La Bloga authors for the holidays.
Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes some wicked-awesome deals! Anyone who has an ereader or tablet will benefit from this wonderful opportunity to score 40 fabulous reads for the holidays. Musa Publishingis offering 13 Days of Free Ebooks starting December 13th—whoa that’s TODAY folks! Below is a list of ebooks and authors on board with this promotion, but you better act fast, as their ebooks are available for free download for only ONE day. BTW—I’m on the list too, and anyone who gets an ereader or tablet for Christmas will benefit from my free download day! Ho Ho Ho…
I hope you take advantage of this wonderful offer from Musa Publishing. There’s a book for every taste on the list from romance, science fiction, horror, thrillers, paranormal, fantasy, speculative fiction, and young adult, so please help yourself to this buffet of ebooks! Wishing you, and your family, a safe and happy holiday season! Cheers and happy reading!
This is going to be a great series for grades 2-5!
Ranger is a golden retriever who failed search and rescue school because he can't stop chasing squirrels. He also love to dig, and one day, he finds a old first aid kit while he's digging in his back yard. When he slips the strap over his head, he is transported in time to 1850. He uses his search and rescue skills several times along the Oregon Trail to help Sam Abbott and his family.
After the story, Messner has included a very readable 10-page author's note about the time period and her writing process.
Next up in the series, Ranger travels in time to Ancient Rome!
Exactly four months from today, Trackedwill hit shelves, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! So I’m celebrating by firing off a double-shot of good news:
1. On the first day of Christmas, my true love (@coachmathmartin) gave to me…the debut present of a lifetime. Seriously. This Tracked-related surprise is made of hand-polished, custom-welded, plasma-cut steel. You can see it below, in Tracked‘s first official trailer! Check it out:
2. Today, we’re also announcing TRACKED‘S OFFICIAL CREW. By joining Phee Van Zant’s circuit rally team, you’ll be the very first to snag book excerpts, custom swag, and exclusive content. And did I mention prizes? Hit the starting line now, and lap the competition by winning BIG. Each month, from now until May, there will be wildcard giveaways and winner’s circle prizes for one-of-a-kind Tracked-related bags, posters, bookmarks, keychains, t-shirts, quote cards, autographed books, skype visits and MORE. There will be loads of opportunities to win, and multiple winners will be chosen for each lap! Trust me. You’re not going to want to miss this race, so join by signing up below!
Adion Designs is hoping to raise $4000 on Kickstarter to build an interactive reading tool for Sindarin Elvish and any fictional or existing language.
The open source tool will consolidate all of Tolkien’s notes to present a clear picture of NeoSindarin’s syntax. The goal is to help readers, teachers and linguists decode the language. Ultimately the app will form a public online library of translated texts using this software.
Check it out: “We want to build…The most intuitive user interface for composing, reading and decoding language. We believe even languages such as the Sindarin of Tolkien’s Elves can be revitalized and learned by thousands more with the right learning tool. A tool that gives you everything you need to know, in one place.”
To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
"What are we to do with him her?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat. "Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him her from old. He She is now possessed. He She has got a new craze, and it always takes him her that way, in its first stage. He'll She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him her. ~ Adapted from Wind of the Willows
Me obsessed with Babylon 5?! Really?! Perhaps.
I've read To Dream in the City of Sorrows three times now. I reviewed it in 2011 and 2012. I think it is a must read for fans of Babylon 5. In the introduction, J. Michael Straczynski writes, "What you hold in your hand is an official, authorized chapter in the Babylon 5 story line. This is the definitive answer to the Sinclair question, and should be considered as authentic as any episode in the regular series."
But where to place it?! That is the question. It's tempting to read it in between season one and season two. After all, most of the book's events are parallel to season two. Readers get a chance to read what Sinclair is doing in the meantime. But not all the events, and that is where it gets tricky. Reading To Dream In the City of Sorrows before viewing season three would spoil things for you. So reading it after you've seen the third season may prove best. Since I've seen most all the seasons multiple times, I read it when I like! [For the record, this time around, I've seen all of season one, and the first eight episodes of season two.]
So the framework of To Dream In The City of Sorrows--the prologue and epilogue--take place shortly after season three's "Grey 17 is Missing," and are narrated by Marcus Cole. (I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marcus Cole!) But most of the book focuses on what was happening with Jeffrey Sinclair after he left Babylon 5. (The gap between the last episode of season one, "Chrysalis," and the incredibly intense two-part episode "War Without End" of season three.)
Read To Dream in the City of Sorrows
If you want to know what Sinclair was doing in season two and three
If you want to know what became of Catherine Sakai, to learn if these two were able to make their troubled relationship work...with the added drama of Shadows and Rangers
If you want to know more even more about the Shadows' movements during this time
If you want to learn about how Sinclair became Ranger One and re-energized the Rangers (first started by Valen)
If you want to learn more about Minbari prophecies (also their culture and caste system)
If you want to learn more about the Vorlons; in particular readers are introduced to Ulkesh. (Loved Sinclair's first impression of him! And his insights about the Vorlons in general. How Kosh may not be the most representative of his race.)
If you want to learn more about Marcus. Readers meet William Cole AND Marcus Cole. Two brothers with an imperfect relationship. William is an eager ranger-in-training trying to get Marcus to join him, but, things don't always go as planned.