Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

A Hope for the Genre?! No way!

show_art_Killjoys_new

Genre: Space Opera/Space Western

Medium: Television

The premise: Killjoys is a sci-fi adventure story co-produced by SyFy and the Canadian genre channel, Space. It tells the story of three bounty hunters Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore), and D’avin Jaqobis (Luke Macfarlane) who navigate a colonizing human society known as the Quad ruled by an oligarchic council called the Nine and a domineering corporation simply referred to as the Company. Bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, work on behalf of the Company to bring in or assassinate wanted criminals. Life is neither easy nor simple for these protagonists, who most negotiate obstacles both martial and political to stay alive, all while also overcoming the dark secrets of their own pasts.

Why it’s awesome: If you’re a fan of Firefly, Farscape, or Outlaw Star, you’ll enjoy Killjoys. (Or if you remember the glory that was campy nineties television.) Although the show doesn’t lack for serious moments, danger, or suspense, it is tremendously good fun to watch and does not take itself seriously to the extent that so much television does today. Sometimes as genre fans we want to explore deep, thoughtful questions–and sometimes we want to watch a kickass heroine take down baddies and rescue her friends from certain danger. Hannah John-Kamen is wonderful to watch as Dutch and Aaron Ashmore complements her perfectly as her partner Johnny. A host of entertaining secondary characters from their fellow Killjoys to bureaucrats to the bartender at their favorite watering hole round out the cast.

Why it’s hopeful: It’s refreshing to see a woman-centered science fiction show on sci-fi. Especially since Dutch is a woman of color. She’s also a capable, complicated yet sympathetic character with real human relationships and a mysterious backstory. There’s no doubt who Killjoys is really about. Even better, Dutch’s friendship with Johnny is the emotional centerpiece to the show. Whatever romantic relationships the two pursue elsewhere, they are always reunited. It shouldn’t be revolutionary to have a compelling friendship between a man and a woman on an action show that doesn’t devolve into sexual tension…but it is. And while some critics have said that Killjoys is thematically light, it has plenty to say about class and class structures, power, and the destructive force of capitalism in society. There’s a lot to like here and I’m happy to report that the show will return for a second season in 2016.

What’s that? A bird? A plane? A review of an anthology paying tribute to one of science fiction’s most singularly game-changing writers?

It’s probably that last one.

It should go without saying but: spoilers below. It is difficult to review anything without spoiling something. Thus, there will be no kvetching about spoilers.

Octavia’s Brood edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, out April 14, is a collection of stories, essays, and–in one remarkable case–a T.V. script, which seeks to capture the visionary fiction aesthetic and social justice mentality of the great Octavia Butler. Brown and Imarisha solicited its contents from a wide range of activists, from journalist Dani McClain to actor LeVar Burton. The stories include speculative fiction of all stripes, including more recognizable spaceships-and-aliens sci-fi, fabulism, zombie apocalyptic horror, and–unsurprisingly–plenty of dystopian fiction.

In other words, there’s pretty much something for everyone between the covers of Octavia’s Brood, provided you’re interested in having your ideas and social assumptions challenged. Much like Butler’s work, this is an anthology driven by questioning and the questions asked–about race, gender, and sexuality in society–are not easy ones. Consequently, I recommend it as a slower read. Take some time to chew on what you’ve been given. Think about the stories and go back to them if you can. This is a book that requires patience and introspection; if you blow through it, you’re not going to get anything much out of it.

But assuming you are that kind of reader–and if you love Butler, you almost certainly are–definitely pick up this book. If you can, read it with some likeminded (or maybe slightly different-minded) friends. It will precipitate the types of conversations many of us want and need to have. Good fiction, like Butler’s fiction, can do that for us. It can make us grapple with the issues of our identity, the ways in which we conceive of one another, the often unnoticed harm that happens to those of us outside the margins.

That’s all well and good, Julia, you might be saying, but how were the stories? That’s what we read anthologies for, after all. Ideas can only get us so far.

I’ll admit, not everything in here was my cup of tea in terms of plot and structure, but as I said, that doesn’t seem to be the goal. There’s something sort of scattershot, sort of busy, in this approach–a cramming in of different types of stories to spur as much conversation as possible. And, because many of these people aren’t writers by trade, the quality of prose can be a little uneven at times. Some stories seemed to need more room to breathe. Others felt sluggishly paced. But there were plenty of gems, too, by my estimation.

My top five were:

“Revolution Shuffle” by Bao Phi. The anthology opener kicked it off with a socially conscious zombie twist worthy of early Romero. Hit all the right buttons for me and gave us that “on the edge of revolution” feel that persisted throughout Octavia’s Brood.

“The River” by adrienne maree brown. Hands down the most beautifully written story in the book and the prose lent itself to the eerier qualities of this ghostly story set in post-industrial Detroit.

“The Long Memory” by Morrigan Phillips. An unusual sort of tale that deals with the issue of cultural and social memory and the problems we encounter when only a handful of people are aware of that inheritance.

“The Surfacing” by Autumn Brown. Interesting in media res approach which details the ousting of a woman from her subterranean society, only for her to discover everything above wasn’t quite as she thought.

“Lalibela” by Gabriel Teodros. This story that shifts through space and time reminds us how much has changed and how little.

It should be noted, too, that the essays at the end of the anthology are pretty fantastic all on their own, especially if you like talking about Butler’s work or Star Wars.

On the whole, despite its flaws, I was glad for the opportunity to read Octavia’s Brood and dwell on its questions. I sincerely hope there will be more anthologies like it in the future.

7/10.

The 15 in ’15 series concludes with this year’s exciting new genre literature!

[Note: It was most convenient to link to Amazon in this case, but please consider purchasing from your local bookstore.]

  1.  The Just City by Jo Walton (1/13) Time traveling Athena? Greek philosophy as spec fic? Yes, please.
  2. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (2/3) Link is at the top of the Pantheon in American dark fantasy/magical realism.
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (2/3) Gaiman only releases new collections every several years, so there are many reasons to be excited about his newest compilation.
  4. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2/3) Old West steampunk from a Hugo-award winning storyteller.
  5. Shutter by Courtney Alameda (2/3) Debut horror with a promising premise–always worth a look.
  6. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson  (2/10) I tried to avoid sequels as much as possible for this list but the Shades of London series is so good you should just go read it anyway. Besides, it’s Maureen Johnson.
  7. The Death House by Sarah Pinborough (2/26) Sounds thoroughly creepy.
  8. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (3/3) From the genius who brought us Never Let Me Go, his first novel in a decade.
  9. Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory (3/24) Lovecraft meets family drama in this macabre tale of a boy searching for his mother.
  10. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (4/7) His debut novel! (If you haven’t read his stories, get to it.)
  11. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor ( 5/5) Prequel to the amazing Who Fears Death, a story of another powerful woman making her way through an unforgiving world.
  12. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (5/19) From the brilliant author of the Temeraire series, a different take on dragons and sacrifices.
  13. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (5/26) Bacigalupi returns to a climate change ravaged future to explore a new dimension of our diminishing resources–the men who protect water supplies in desert cities.
  14. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (7/7) A compelling new take on time travel and environmental issues.
  15. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (8/26) From the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, a reimagining of film and Hollywood in an alternate universe.

 

What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

The 15 in ’15 series continues with this year’s exciting new genre television!

1. Galavant (showing now) [ABC] It’s hilarious, deliberately corny at times, and doesn’t take the musical genre too seriously. Plus, they’ve gotten some fantastic people to guest star, including Hugh Bonneville and Weird Al. And they’re so very diverse!

2. Agent Carter (showing now) [ABC] I cannot believe this isn’t getting better ratings. This show is everything I wanted and more. Here’s hoping it kicks open the door to a wider range of stories being told in comic book adaptations.

3. Face Off (showing now) [SyFy] I appreciate that SyFy tries to do something a bit different every season. For 8, they’ve brought back three champions to mentor the current group of aspiring make-up artists. The friendliest reality TV show on the air.

4. Last Man on Earth (3/1) Following in the footsteps of films like ZombielandLast Man on Earth aims for a comedic post-apocalypse. It’s good for us to laugh at this subgenre, I think.

5. Community (3/17) Saved from the clutches of cancellation by Yahoo, your favorite community college tv show returns for season 6. And if you don’t think this counts as a genre show, you’ve clearly never seen any of their fantastic pastiche episodes.

6. iZombie (3/17) [CW] Yup, they had me at zombie.

7. Daredevil (4/10) [Netflix] I will watch this for two reasons: 1) it’s humanly impossible for it to be worse than the Ben Affleck movie and 2) Netflix has been kicking ass at its original series.

8. Orphan Black Season 3 (4/18) [BBC America] I have been madly, madly in love with this show since the first episode and last season ended with a killer plot twist. Plus the teaser will give you chills.

9. Penny Dreadful Season 2 (4/26) [Showtime] This show is a wonderfully fun–but not campy–celebration of gothic literature. It’s great to see the genre dealt with so lovingly.

10. Wayward Pines (5/14) [Fox] I am genuinely curious to see how M. Night will handle this new medium. It might be that his deep affection for plot twists will serve him better on the small screen. Unless this goes the route of Lost, of course.

11. Supergirl (Unknown) [CBS] See my comments for Agent Carter.

12. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Unknown) [BBC America] The book is amazing; I have no doubt the BBC will do a beautiful job with it. And I am thrilled at the prospect of a fantastic series that isn’t utterly ridiculous (looking at you, Once Upon a Time).

13. Humans (Unknown) [Xbox] It’ll be interesting to see how this approach works for XBox. It’s heartening that they’re collaborating on the production of this show, which has an intriguing premise and supposedly very good source material in its Swedish counterpart.

14. The Magicians (Unknown) [SyFy] You never know how a Syfy show will turn out or whether it will last. I am, however, a Sera Gamble fan, so it’s encouraging to know she’s onboard for this adaptation of Lev Grossman’s very popular book.

15. Scream Queens (Unknown)[Fox] Three words: Jamie Lee Curtis.

What TV shows are you looking forward to in 2015?

Project: Queers Destroy Science Fiction! by Lightspeed Magazine

End Date: February 16, 2015 8:21pm EST

Prizes: Ebooks! Subscriptions! Big beautiful print copies! Back issues! Anthologies! Combo packs! Skype with Seanan McGuire or Mark Oshrio! Have dinner with Steve Berman!

Current Goal: $5000

Current Number of Backers: 163

Current Pledges: $3977

Why they deserve your support: Because representation is still insanely important, especially in science fiction. (Read their essay series if you’re unconvinced.) Because Lightspeed is a fantastic publication and Women Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror were amazing, amazing issues. Because Seanan McGuire, Steve Berman, Mark Oshrio, et al., are pretty damn brilliant and capable. Because don’t you want to read incredible spec fic by writers you’ve never met before? Because they’re doing the issue anyway–this just means there will be more stories. Because their stretch goals are pretty freakin’ sweet: including an anthology option if they raise $50K. Because you know you want to.

Did I donate: Still deciding my pledge level. Do I want a print copy? A subscription to Nightmare? It’s all so enticing…

We’re back with the gift guides! Get your ideas for fantasy and science fiction in today’s The Girl Who Loved Zombies doubleheader.

santa-time-lord

What’s the best present for your favorite Trekkie? What do you buy the aspiring Viper pilot who has everything? How many lightsabers can one person possibly own? My suggestions:

  1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy coaster set.
  2. The Battlestar Galatica mug we all need for Monday mornings.
  3. This “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome” shirt in Gallifreyan.
  4. Star Trek Catan.
  5. Their very own (tiny) Delorean.
  6. Lock In  by John Scalzi.
  7. Season One and Two of Orphan Black.
  8. A subscription to Lightspeed.
  9. Starfleet cufflinks.
  10. This Wheatley Laboratories messenger bag.
  11. The Dancing Groot bobblehead. (I’ll take two, thanks.)
  12. Chicks Dig Time Lords Queers Dig Time Lords.
  13. Robot and Frank / Moon Safety Not Guaranteed.
  14. This official NASA shuttle tie.