deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
So [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman and I have an expression, "killing the baby." For us it means that moment when an interesting thought experiment ceases to be interesting because there is a clear moral choice. (It comes from the moment in Lois Lowry's The Giver when, in my opinion, no reader can continue to think that there's a moral option in not destroying the protagonist's society. Although I have definitely learned over years of teaching the book that for many students that moral decision comes much earlier. Never seems to come later, though.)

One of the things I find frustrating about most dystopian novels is that, well, they are clearly dystopian. We don't have a word for Potential Utopia, Sort of Dystopia, Chetzi-Chetzi Dystopia/Utopia. By definition they are Bad Places™.

Yet for me, they're more interesting, not just as philosophical thought experiments, but both aesthetically and viscerally as stories, if it's more complicated than that. I don't want the dystopia to hold my hand and show me why a certain societal structure is wrong, I want the story to make both me and the story's own protagonists think about trade-offs. Is the society in The Giver one that has benefits that might offset its costs? Is the Empire really that much worse than the decadent final days of the Old Republic?

Of course usually the answer to these questions are easy. Usually there is some disastrously evil act the dystopian society participates in: infanticide, having a comically ugly evil dictator, secret slavery. But all this disastrous evil does is prevent us from having to consider the pros and cons of the two structures. All it does is make reading too easy.

I've talked about this before when I addressed my feelings about the difference between The Hunger Games the novel and The Hunger Games trilogy, how after book one I still thought the trilogy might be the dystopia I had been waiting for, the one that shows contemporary American society's dark mirror without requiring a cackling evil overlord.

Can you think of any dystopian societies where it's not that cut and dried? Ones where, ultimately, there's not a correct moral answer? And are any of them created for young audiences?

(What I think might come closest that I can think of is The True Meaning of Smekday, which isn't a dystopia at all, it's an alien invasion story. But within that alien invasion, there are constant reminders that what is the right versus wrong way to run a society is complicated. But alien invasion stories have their own genre conventions, and finding complication in your relationship to the other is, well. It was thinking about Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," that made make this post, but now I am inclined to think about her "The Word for World Is Forest" as an example of the alien-is-us trope. My first exposure to it was probably Enemy Mine. It's different, is what I am saying.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Rather than completely retelling the story of how I, two years ago, became a pseudo-lawyer defending an SQL injection attack, I will point you to my housemate's blog post on the Safari Books Online blog about how that became a successful (friendly) PostScript injection last month: "Play New Tricks on an Old Dog: a PostScript Injection Attack".

Things we learn from this includes:

  • You need to protect your code from possible hostile injection.
  • PostScript is a real language.
  • Denis and Marc are awesome.


This year, for what it's worth, I defended "Stacking all of the Gorg in the galaxy on top of each other." Not nearly as funny as the successful injection attack, but a shout out to one of my favorite funny books, The True Meaning of Smekday.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Karen Healey's guest post over at the book smugglers, "on awesome female characters", calls into question the entire idea of praising people for writing awesome/kick ass female characters. Karen is S-M-R-T smart, and her ideas are smart -- and she then goes on to write an utterly fabulous list of awesome female characters. Because I love every one of the characters in there that I recognized (Tip Tucci! Syrah Cheng! Cass Meyer! Melanie Tamaki!), I'm going to have to add every other book and movie mentioned to my miles-long To Be Read list. *Shakes tiny fist at Karen*

Not to mention that I adore the vid she links to at the bottom of the article, [personal profile] fizzyblogic's "What About", which I just watched to get some inspiration to start the rest of my day.

(OK, I don't agree with everything Karen says. I was not a big fan of Princess Ben; it had some fat hate that made me sad. And before cheerleading becomes an Olympic sport, there are some fairly major issues around sports and sexism that need to be resolved. (Fair warning: that link is specifically about US sports politics and Title IX, and Karen is a New Zealander (ETA MEA MAXIMA CULPA), and the Olympics are international. But it's the link I knew off the top of my head and I'm supposed to be working.))

(But she is still wicked smart, is what I'm saying.)
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
My posts have a tendency towards the Fully-Formed Opinion model of essay, but this one is more of a request for you guys to help me formulate my opinions, and my burgeoning discomfort with a new form of exceptionally clever ™ young adult and middle grade fiction.

This post contains one minor spoiler for Adam Rex's Fat Vampire, in that it mentions where one scene takes place. Comments may well contain more substantive spoilers. )
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