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She Can Do It: Mechalarum’s Feminist Undertones

Mechalarum_CoverA moment of full disclosure – I’m friends with Emma Larkins so my opinions on her debut sci-fi novel Mechalarum are slightly biased. That is why I decided a full review of Mechalarum would not be the best route as far as ruminating on it for my blog. It would be a damn-near Herculean effort in staying objective and telling you whether it’s a good book or greatest book. So, what I decided was doing what I do best and look at in a certain academic tone. There’s two in particular: the feminist undertones inherent in the novel.

What is really interesting in contemporary literature is in how YA books have pushed the female protagonist. YA fiction is female-heavy, which is an interesting turn on fiction in general given their popularity and how that shows the cultural shift in feminism in general. the interesting part of how that plays in Mechalarum is that a significant portion the time Kiellen the protagonist is badgered by others about a supposed romantic link between Gage, her friend and science-mechanic sidekick. The roughnecks of the lands outside the comfortable citadel assume that connection exists, just as many would in many real-life partnerships, but it is denied.

 

Kiellen tilted her head to glare up at Jey. “I’m not his ‘girlie.’ You keep saying that. I’m no one’s, save my own.”

The way it is written denotes a hangup all too familiar in real-world creative ventures, whether it be technology, music, or other fields. This is reminiscent of the type of rumors that are very common between a female musician and the male producer working on her songs, or how some men put down women in STEM by saying their worth is undervalued because of personal relationships with men. Larkins’ characterization of Gage does not infer that connection immediately but what is important is this question is this: is that truly important in the scope of the book? Sure, he takes many risks for Kiellen’s safety, but it comes from the standpoint of friendship for most of the story. When an intimacy – albeit a small one – forms between the two, it comes from the necessary position of Kiellen taking charge of the moment. That is pretty important for readers looking at a female character, seeing her take the first step instead of waiting for the guy to make the move. Overall it is interesting in seeing Larkins’ change of a male character like Gage to a dutiful, almost subservient role that is so routinely delegated to a female.

In the future I’ll think some more about the actual Mechalarum suit. There are things to it reminiscent of other suits in media, but for that post I think I’ll have to let it marinate in my head a bit more.

 

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Weekly Tumblr Dump 4/18/14

Cien años de soledad  is one of my favorite books from the magic realism style he created. While I don’t think it’s apparent, my writing DNA has a considerable amount of Gabo in it. Que descanses en paz.

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Rod McKuen, from Listen to the Warm, 1967

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Via Laughing Squid is a great 8-Bit Cinema of The Fifth Element,  including the taxi chase scene and Zorg ZF-1 test demo.

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St. Vincent at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Photos by Nate Ryan. Her new album is really good, I recommend “Rattlesnake” and “Prince Johnny”.

Death Bar Weekend Update


The double-edged sword of this weekend really knocked down my expectations of writing this weekend. My Sunday didn’t help me pound out as much words to meet my (now in hindsight overambitious) 1500 word goal.  Saturday’s event  took out a large chunk of my time and a need for decompression afterwards. However, it was so inspiring that I’ll be writing about it tonight, practicing my outlining before writing  the real post tomorrow. The increase in the count are split by the following:

350 words cleaning up the Mexicans in Space story. I’m still trying to sure the climax fits the story’s title.

736 words on expanding and then writing a post on the Amerasian girls I’ve known. That probably won’t make it into publication just yet.

Top Five Go-To Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actors/Actresses

Science fiction and fantasy in TV and movies are always going to have your mainstay actors or actress who connect with the story and the fans and constantly get gigs in those genres. Sure, sometimes they get typecast, but many are just so damn good at that one spot, it doesn’t matter. Let’s get started on the Top Five “Go-To” SF/Fantasy Actors and Actresses:

Sigourney Weaver –  Weaver was James Cameron’s first pick for the Dr. Augustine character in Avatar,  years after they made Alien together back in ’79. It doesn’t stop there: she’s also been in other greats like Ghostbusters and Galaxy Quest. Hell, add the voice work she’s done on other sci-fi shows and movies like Wall-E and Futurama, and you can’t deny that she’s still the reigning queen of sci-fi.

Sam Rockwell– Full disclosure time: Sam Rockwell was kinda the reason I came up with this after he basically admitted he was playing Bill Paxton’s character in Aliens for the aforementioned Galaxy Quest. That aside, he’s been in Moon, Iron Man 2, The Green Mile, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and even a head thug in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from ’90. He’s also in the upcoming Cowboys and Aliens movie, so it’s not like he’s shying away from the sci-fi anytime soon.


Keith David Most geeks will remember him as a go-to for John Carpenter flicks, playing the irritable Childs in The Thing or beating the crap out of Roddy Piper in They Live, but if you look deep in his IMDB file, you’ll see that he has been ridiculously prolific in both genres, especially in voice work. I mean, he’s he voice of Goliath from Gargoyles, the cat in Coraline,  and numerous characters from DC/Marvel animated movies and shows. Go down the video game path, and he’s the voice of The Arbiter from the Halo series, Cpt. Anderson in the Mass Effect series, and his voice is even in the first Fallout game. he’s textbook “go-to” if you want a commanding voice for a character.


Tricia HelferOh, Number Six. She’s definitely done other things since BSG, but since she made her big break on the seminal Syfy show, she hasn’t stopped making moves in the genre. Like Keith David, she’s done voice work for Halo, Mass Effect, and comic book-based media, but she’s also jumped on as the voice of Kerrigan for Starcraft 2. Hey, if you’re gonna need someone to play a sci-fi femme fatale, she’s the one getting a lot of calls now.


Jeff Goldblum Oh c’mon, you knew this was coming. While he’s doing the genre stuff as much now, Goldblum was seriously owning it from ’78”s Invasion of the Body Snatchers to ’97”s The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He’s been an entomological freakshow and an alien-beating hacker. All Hail Goldblum.

Honorable Mentions

Joe Morton
Chiwitel Ejiofor
Peter Mensah
Kurt Russell
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bill Paxton
Sam Neill
Milla Jovovich
Michael Dorn
Hugh Jackman
Claudia Black

Alt/1977 to Maury Chaykin

To kick this series of oddities I find interesting off, Alex Varanese went on a serious reverse anachronism kick and took tech back to the 70s with his ALT/1977 series of false ads for electronics cool enough for both Steve Jobs and Burt Reynolds. Here’s a sample:

Comic book writer Matt Fraction had a great presentation at Comic-Con this year titled The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines, where he talked about comics, his mother’s medical struggle and how that affected him, why Stilt-Man sucks so much, and how it all fits together in the grand scheme of things. It sounds like a rambling mess, I know, but trust Fraction, his work on Invincible Iron Man and Casanova are really top-notch.

Shaenon K. Garrity  has made a pretty humorous interpretation of Edward Gorey’s recorded love for Star Trek by drawing the famous “Trouble With Tribbles” episode in his style:

i09 dropped a pretty good list of advice taken  from sci-fi and fantasy books. There’s some pretty good ones from people in the comments section too, check that out.

Some of you might have seen this already, but for all the mashup/Palahniuk/Pride & Prejudice fans out there, I present to you: Jane Austen’s Fight Club:

Morgan Meis’ article on video games and the book Extra Lives is actually pretty refreshing and intelligently written. At one point the article reminded me of a line from “Little Weapon”, from Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool:

Imagine if I had to console
The families of those slain and slayed on game consoles

And I’m going to have to end it with a bit of bad news: the great character actor Maury Chaykin passed away yesterday at the age of 61. In honor of him I’m putting down a clip from A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which was a mystery program on A&E from 2001-02 taking Rex Stout’s stories and putting them on TV. Chaykin is the one playing the eponymous character sitting down:

From 3030 to Lazerfaces: Sci-Fi’s Influence on Hip Hop

To continue on my unofficial “things that people don’t associate with science fiction” series of articles, I have decided that it’s about time I wrote on the effect science fiction has had on hip-hop. Now, there are a lot of differences between the music of  The Notorious BIG with the writings of Isaac Asimov, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some sort of overlap. Both genres have a thing for pointing out sociopolitical undertones via a narrative, be it through the lens of a robot on a generational ship or a crack dealer through his Pyrex. Both have larger than life characters that have to deal with “the struggle,” whether it’s an intergalactic war or the five-o. For my examples, I’ll present two different artists who have used SF elements: producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and rapper/producer Jaime Meline, also known as El-P.

The idea of a connection between a part of black culture and sci-fi in music is not a new one. Read the rest of this entry

On the Subject of the Twelfth Album

I am a huge fan of alternate histories, whether massive or minuscule in its scope. Most people turn to Harry Turtledove, and with good reason, but other people have done interesting takes with the concept. Take Stephen Baxter‘s short story  The Twelfth Album.

The story starts with two dock workers stumbling onto a mysterious black album with the word God written on the lower left hand corner. In it was a shocker: An album by the Beatles from an universe where they made one more album after Abbey Road. The songs in the album are (in our universe) ones from their solo albums, so some of the titles sound familiar, but the way they were arranged  are definitely something different. Take into account the last track on this incredibly peculiar album, in  Baxter’s words ( thanks to user  Necanthrope from  everything2):

This would be the the ultimate track–the twelfth track on the twelfth album.

The last new Beatles song we would ever hear.

Because, of course, by now we both believed.

It was recognizable from the first, faded-in, descending piano chords. But then the vocals opened–and it was Lennon.

“It’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed,'”, I said, awed. “Mcartney’s greatest post-Beatles song–”

“Just listen to it,” said Lightoller. “He gave it to Lennon. Listen to it.”

It didn’t sound like the version from our world, which {McCartney], battered and bruised from the breakup, recorded in his kitchen.

Lennon’s raw, majestic voice wrenched at the melody, while McCartney’s melodic bass, Starr’s powerful drumming, and Harrison’s wailing guitar drove through the song’s complex, compulsive chromatic structure. And then a long coda opened up, underpinned by clean, thrusting bass, obviously scored by George Martin.

At last the coda wound down to a final, almost whispered lament by Lennon, a final descending chord sequence, a last trickle of piano notes, as if the song itself couldn’t bear to finish.

The stylus hissed briefly, reached for the run-off groove, and lifted.

That is pretty powerful, at least to me, growing up watching the Anthology documentary and knowing all the turmoil the band was going to at that point in history. As it stands, some people aren’t fans of the story, but opinions are like..well, you know. I want to get my hands on the story myself to get the whole deal. Oddly enough, people have taken this idea and run with it. This guy here might have taken it a  little too far, but I do want to see if he gets a cease and desist from EMI. Hey, it happened to Danger Mouse, right?

As a side note, I wonder if Kieron Gillen has ever wondered about tackling the Beatles for his Phonogram stuff, but that’s another thing altogether.