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Reading with the Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club: Revelation Space, Kindred, The Martian Chronicles, When Gravity Fails, and Inferno

7 Jun

The first five months of 2017 have seemed to fly by at rocket speed.  I wanted to take a moment to take a quick look back at the books we have read so far as part of the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group. (Click here to read more about this book club.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  Before the book discussion we also typically watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read.  On June 19 at 6 PM we will be discussing the Space Epic Leviathan Awakes by James S. A. Corey.  To join our mailing list email hplwriters AT gmail DOT com.

Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds

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The group started 2017 reading, Welsh author, Alastair Reynold’s Space Opera Revelation Space. Some of the group found it a bit confusing at first how there were several different plots with different characters set during different time periods, in different places. However, all these diverse plots come together in the end for a satisfying read.  Reynolds has a background in astronomy which he used to infuse the novel with realism. I was particularly drawn to his depiction of the one character who was an xenoarchaeologist who was studying an extinct species who had evolved from bird like creatures. Revelation Space answers the question of why humans seem to be alone in the universe. The novel became the first in the Revelation Space series.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler

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For African American History Month, we read Octavia E. Butler’s time travel classic Kindred. In Kindred, Dana, a modern black women in the 1970s who dreams of becoming a writer, is suddenly pulled back in time where she must save from drowning the white child of a plantation owner. She is returned to her own time, but several times is pulled back again each time to save Rufus who she learns is one of her ancestors. Kindred looks at the complex legacy of slavery that continues to be felt in our contemporary world. Many of Butler’s other novels also deal with issues of race and gender in unique and illuminating ways which will appeal to even those who are not traditionally fans of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles is one of Ray Bradbury’s most well-known works. Bradbury combined several short stories along with new materials to chronicle the history of Mars from the first exploration by humans. Some of the group would have preferred to see more of the story centered on the original Martian inhabitants of the novel which are inventively described by Bradbury, however, Bradbury’s beautiful writing style was praised. The group felt the book was fast paced though did feel more like a series of short stories that it started as rather than a cohesive novel.

When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger

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Very often cyberpunk novels feel very dated and more reflective of the 1980s than a vision of a future when read today. Effinger’s When Gravity Fails, though published in 1987, the group felt was much more contemporary than other’s in the genre. The novel will appeal to fans of noir mysteries as well as science fiction. When Gravity Fails is set in the Budayeen, a technologically advanced urban ghetto in the Middle East. People can plug in “daddies” to gain new skills like speaking a foreign language and “moddies” to turn themselves into someone else entirely. Many of the characters including the main character’s girlfriend are transgendered. One character has even had surgery to appear as a different race from the one she was born as. This provided interesting topics about identity and responsibility in an increasing technological age. Effinger wrote two other books in the series and started work on his fourth before his death, which a portion of can be read in the short story collection Budayeen Nights.

Inferno, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

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For May’s discussion, the group read Inferno, a 1976 retelling of Dante’s version from Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.  In this version a science fiction writer, Allen Carpenter, must make his way through the many circles of Hell as he tries to escape.  Carpenter explores his own beliefs and examines his behavior during his life during his journey.  Along the way he encounters some famous figures from history such as Jesse James, Vlad Tepes, and with some dark humor Kurt Vonnegut’s tomb.  Most of the group found the book to be a quick enjoyable read.  The group had read two of Niven’s science fiction works, Ringworld and Protector previously so it was interesting to see a work of fantasy by him and Pournelle.  A sequel to Inferno, Escape from Hell, was published several decades later in 2009.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

When Fanfiction Becomes Canon: Twilight; Life and Death: A Reimagining of the Classic Novel, My Little Pony Equestria Girls, Adventure Time’s Fionna and Cake, and Supernatural

30 Sep

Fanfiction where fans of books and TV shows expand on the characters and the universe to create their own spins has become a huge part of Sci-fi and Fantasy fandoms especially with the ease of sharing content on the internet.  Many of the reviews of the recent Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which depicts many of the characters from the main series as adults along with their own children, have claimed that the play reads a bit like fan fiction, which had me thinking about times when fan fiction ideas and creations have made the jump to becoming canonized as part of the actual series.

Twilight; Life and Death: A Reimagining of the Classic Novel, by Stephenie Meyer

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In honor of the 10th Anniversary of Twilight last year, Stephenie Meyer released a double book with her Young Adult novel starring the vampire Edward and human Bella on one side and bound on the opposite the story told with the gender roles reversed so that it is the story of a human male who falls in love with a female vampire.  She was inspired by fan fiction about the characters. Meyer had also released online a portion of Twilight rewritten from Edward’s perspective.  Infamously also the very adult Fifty Shades series began as Twilight fanfiction; E.L. James also published Grey, with her first book told from Christian Grey’s perspective in 2015.  Borrow all of the Twilight series and Life and Death from BCCLS libraries.

My Little Pony Equestria Girls

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As a little girl I loved My Little Ponies–both the TV movies and the pastel colored toys.  The ponies have since went through several different incarnations.   The most recent series centers on Twilight Sparkles and her five new BFFs, who learns about friendship when Twilight takes up residence in Ponyville.  I wasn’t sure about the new series based on my beloved childhood memories, but the fact that Twilight Sparkles loves books and resided, in the beginning of the series, in a library inside a tree won me over.  The surprising thing about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was it wasn’t just little girls this time becoming fans of the show, but also young men who enjoyed the clever animation.  There wasn’t just fan fiction springing up but remixes of the music in the episodes, a vast variety of art, and more.  My Little Pony Fan Conventions popped up across the country.  At the Cons fans often dressed up as human versions of their favorite ponies which were also depicted in some of the fan art.  This inspired Hasbro to create movies based on an alternative universe where the ponies all have human counter parts.  You can borrow the Equestria Girl movies Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games from Hoopla.  BCCLS libraries also have the first in the series Equestria Girls and many of the cartoon series and movies that have appeared through the years.

Adventure Time’s Fionna and Cake

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Although I am totally behind in my viewing of it Adventure Time about the last human boy, Finn, and his magical transforming dog, Jake, living in post-apocalyptic land with a candy kingdom, flying unicorn, and a crazy ice king is another cartoon with a lot of adult fans.  Quirky characters and an intriguing story line make it fun for the whole family.  The creator Pendleton Ward was inspired by Dungeon and Dragons (something I loved playing with my Dad and sister as a kid).  My husband and I enjoy watching Adventure Time with our son, who is still a bit too young for D&D.  Like Twilight its fan fiction moment that became canon comes from gender swapping the characters.  Natasha Allegri who worked on the show created some sketches of Finn as Fionna and Jake as a female cat Cake.  Not only were fans charmed, but so was Ward and Fionna and Cake have appeared in several of the episodes of the show.  Fun fact: Neil Patrick Harris performs the voice of Prince Gumball (in place of Princess Bubblegum) in some of the gender swap episodes.  You can borrow seasons One through Five of Adventure Time from BCCLS Libraries.

Supernatural

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Some fantasy series start out strong and then burn out fast, but Supernatural has lasted for over ten seasons and survived the jump from the WB to the CW network.  The show follows the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, on their endless road trip fighting demons and saving the world time after time.  Having been on so long there are few myths and legends the series hasn’t at some point focused on.  The series has acknowledged fan fiction in several stories.  Season 10’s fifth episode is even titled “Fan Fiction”; the episode focuses on a teacher’s disappearance at an all girl’s school, where they are performing a musical based on the Carver Edlund’s comic book series which is the story of the brother’s adventures.  In earlier episodes, in a metafiction twist, Edlund was revealed as a sort of prophet, who  has visions about the brother’s journey.  These episodes allow the show to lovingly poke fun at some of what has become standard in both the series’s fan fiction as well as the series itself.

Have more examples of when Fan Fiction became Canon?  Let us know in the comments!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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