Tag Archives: Annalee Newitz

Celebrating Trans and Non-Binary Speculative Fiction Authors for LGBTQ Pride Month

9 Jun

We’ve read some great Speculative Fiction works as part of our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group by Trans and Non-Binary (sometimes you may also see Non-Binary individuals referred to as enby because of the letters n and b) authors recently, which had been recommended by group members, and I thought Pride Month would be a perfect time to share them with our larger library community. You can borrow their books from the Hoboken Public Library as print or ebooks from eLibraryNJ or Hoopla. Hopefully their success will be an example for other individuals who have not yet felt comfortable acknowledging their own identities, and their work will stand as compassionate depictions of diversity for all readers.

Annalee Newitz
Author of: The Future of Another Timeline
I had written a previous blog about Robots that included Newitz’s first novel Autonomous, which I enjoyed a lot, but I think I liked their 2019 novel, The Future of Another Timeline even more.  We read it for our November 2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion.  In the novel two groups of time travelers, use time machines that seemed to have always excited in certain geological formations, try and work against each other to make small changes that could have big consequences in the future.  A chunk of the action takes place in the grunge scene of the 90’s that had me nostalgic for my own young adult years.  My favorite scenes, however, were those set during the time of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, which Newitz brought vividly to life.  I appreciated that they included information at the end of the novel about their real life inspiration for historic characters and the historic events that inspired them.  Newitz identifies as being non-binary (Newitz started using they pronouns in 2019) and there is a touching side story about a couple, one of whom is trans and is purposefully removed at one point from the timeline due to her identity.  There are moments of violence which could be triggering to some, but on the whole I’d recommend the book especially to those looking for science fiction with a strong feminist and/or queer perspective. Both their books are available from elibraryNJ (Hoboken patrons have exclusive access when logging in with their barcodes).

Rin Chupeco
Author of: The Bone Witch
Rin Chupeco identifies as being pansexual and non-binary.  They are of Chinese, Malay, Thai, and Filipino descent, but currently live in and grew up in the Philippines.  We read their book Bone Witch for our July 2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion.  Bone Witch is the first in a YA trilogy followed by The Heart Forger, and Shadowglass.  The group enjoyed the story of Tea who comes from a family of witches, but whose talent for necromancy while making her the most powerful also ostracizes her from those she loves.  Several members remarked that it had elements of Memoirs of a Geisha, but beyond those references there is a larger detailed world populated by interestingly nuanced cultures and traditions in this epic fantasy.  One of the side characters, perhaps my favorite in the book, was depicted as possibly being trans.  In a recent social media post, Chupeco mentioned that they plans to have a focus on nonbinary characters as protagonists in their fiction that they are currently writing. You can borrow the Bone Witch series from Hoopla.

Charlie Jane Anders
Author of: All the Birds in The Sky
Charlie Jane Anders was founder and co-editor, with Annalee Newitz, of the science fiction blog io9 and currently the partners have a podcast, Our Opinions are Correct.  We read All the Birds in The Sky for last month’s book discussion.  It definitely ranks as one of my favorites we have read as part of our book discussion group and several of the other members also agreed.  It merges science fiction and fantasy, with Laurence, a robotics genius, and Patricia, a witch, who become friends as outcasts in middle school only to be torn apart and then meet again as adults.  In an interview with the Huffington Post, Anders said, ““The feeling of alienation and of difference is something that is threaded throughout speculative fiction. My experiences as a trans person always come back in my writing,” particularly “the desperate struggle to claim your identity … an identity that people either don’t understand or are hostile to.”  Both Patricia and Laurence want to save the world, but what that looks like for magic and what that looks like for science are two very different things.  Can two such diverse people come together?  I really enjoyed the humor and creativity in the work.  I look forward to reading more works by Anders in the future (her new YA novel Victories Greater Than Death came out in April). You can borrow All the Birds in the Sky from eLibraryNJ (Hoboken patrons have exclusive access when logging in with their barcodes).

Have a favorite book with a positive depiction of a Trans or Non-Binary character, or a favorite author to read for LGBTQ Pride Month?  Share them in our comment section!

If you are interested in our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group you can email hplwriters@gmail.com for more information and to be added to our mailing lists. We read works by a diverse group of authors, everything from classics of early Science Fiction like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to contemporary Urban Fantasy like Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice. You can read some of our past book club blog posts here.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

Meet the Robots Next Door: Autonomous, The Clockwork Dynasty, Humans, and Doug Unplugged

4 Apr

More and more robots are in the news from DARPA/Boston Dynamic’s Big Dog, a futuristic pack mule, to Hiroshi Ishiguro’s AI robot, Erica, which can converse on 20 different subjects.  It makes me question what the world will be like surrounded by machines that someday may be able to not just think, but also feel.  Check out these visions of what our robotic future could hold.

Autonomous
by Annalee Newitz
Autonomous

Autonomous is the debut novel from the founder of the Science Fiction Website io9, Annalee Newitz.  Autonomous follows Jack, a Robin Hood of pharmaceutical patents who is trying to fix the catastrophic results from her latest reengineering of a productivity drug that has caused its users to stop eating, drinking and sleeping due to an all-consuming desire to work.  International Property Coalition Agent, Eliasz and his indentured robot partner Paladin are hot on Jack’s trail and unexpectedly find love in a future where robots and human uneasily coexist.  Newitz imagines a world where humans can be indentured as well as robots since the theory is if it is ethical to enslave one type of sentient being than it is justified to allow humans who cannot afford to live on their own the same “option.”  Autonomous deals with a variety of social and philosophical issues including rights to health care, gender identity, corporate responsibility, and what being autonomous means for not only robots, but humans as well.

The Clockwork Dynasty
by Daniel H. Wilson
Clockwork Dynasty

Robots are not a new concept with automatons dating back a hundred years.  In Japan’s Edo Era, the  karakuri ningyo, a type of mechanical dolls could pour tea, shoot arrows, and even paint Kanji characters.  While Newitz focuses on the robots of the future, Wilson looks back to these earlier mechanical dolls and imagines a world where robots have been secretly living with us for centuries.  The main action of The Clockwork Dynasty jumps from the current day when a brilliant grad student studies early automatons and 1725 in Russia, when the Czar Peter the Great has secretly had Peter and Elena, two avtomats, carrying out secret missions for him.  The Avtomat, as the robots, are called in The Clockwork Dynasty reminded me of the folk tales of golems since each golem was activated by a word such as truth, and each of the avtomats have a guiding principal they are programed to uphold.  The relationship between the adult bodied Peter and the child bodied Elena reminded me of the relationship of Louise and Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, where the differences in their appearance impact their experience of immortality and relationship with one another.  For those who enjoy The Clockwork Dynasty also check out Wilson’s novels Robopocalipsis and Robogenesis, as well as his humorous non-fiction, How to Survive a Robot Uprising.

Humans
Humans

I recently started catching up on episodes of Humans, which is available to stream from Hoopla.  Humans is set in the UK in the near future when robots called synths have replaced much of the workforce and act as maids, babysitters, and more.  The Hawkins family has just acquired a new synth Rita and each reacts differently to her presence with father Joe feeling it fills the void left by his wife while at work, his youngest daughter views her as a doll come to life, his wife is suspicious of her and sees her as a threat to her family safety, their older daughter is angry that her future is limited by the synths like Rita taking all her job opportunities, and their teenage son views her as an object of adolescent desire.  What none of them realize is that Rita is part of a group of synths that cannot just mimic humans, but has also gained consciousness.  The series is based on the Swedish series Real HumansHumans will appeal to fans of drama as well as science fiction.  Hoboken Resident Library Card Holders, check out the first two seasons on Hoopla before the third season debuts later this year on TV.

Doug Unplugged
by Dan Yaccarino
Doug Unplugged

The previous entries all contain violence and other adult content not appropriate for a younger audience, but of course the concept of robots is one that has long been intriguing to children.  My son is a fan of them so was delighted with another title available from Hoopla, Doug Unplugged.  Dan Yaccarino’s Doug Unplugged is a charming picture book which features bold colors and retro-futuristic illustrations.  Doug’s parents leave him plugged in to learn all about the city where he lives, but he discovers when he unplugs himself and explores on his own that nothing beats experiencing something for oneself; this is an important lesson for our screen addicted times.  You can either check out the print version available at our pop up branch or check out a Hoopla version which animates some of the drawings and features a read along to the narration to assist your emerging reader.  Also available in print and from Hoopla is Doug Unplugs on the Farm.

Want more robots?  Check out my previous posts discussing Isaac Assimov’s I, Robot and Charles Stross’s Neptune’s Brood.
Written By Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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