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    1. What are you reading these days?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.

      Previous topics

      Previous topics are listed in the wiki.

      21 votes
    2. The issue with modernizing stories: representation in The Killing Joke (book vs. movie)

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I've very loosely applying the title I used in yesterday's post because quite honestly, I can't even call what they did with the movie a modernization.

      Intro

      Old stories are always being updated for lots of reasons, ranging from trying to appeal to new audiences to correcting toxic depictions to fitting better to the current social or political climate and more. There's nothing new there. However, one thing I find a bit odd lately, as in the last five years or so, is that a lot of this modernization is actually done pretty poorly in main stream media. We see more forced diversity, queerbaiting, and generally bad storytelling.

      There will be spoilers for both.

      Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore (1988)

      This is probably my least liked batman comic that I still recommend fans read.
      It's one of the few Joker origin stories and have impacted the tone of Batman since. It's honestly the story I think of whenever I'm thinking of Batman and the Joker's relationship, and makes Joker the all-time greatest DC villain.

      And of course, through the paralysis of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), we get one of the strongest female heros in DC - Oracle.

      The Killing Joke is infamous for adding Batgirl to the list of Women in Refrigerators. The treatment of women, specifically Batgirl, is probably the most easily agreed upon aspect to modernize. She was pulled into this story without much thought on the effects of the character before or after.

      Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

      When details about this movie was in the works, it was hinted (and then confirmed) that about half an hour will be added to the beginning of the movie and better flesh out Barbara Gordon. This was exciting. The end result was disappointing almost to the point of offense.

      The additional time was devoted to Barbara debating with her "gay best friend" (who is every stereotype that phrase can embody) how her "boss" (Batman) doesn't respect her and that she should just quit. Also comes with a scene where she insists on being heard, is aggressive and then has sex with Batman. Yeah...I can't even truly describe how bad it was... (I'm just glad tickets were sold out at the theater so I didn't have to pay money to see it. I borrowed it from the library for anyone wondering.)

      The quitting thing in particular really bothered me. Barbara is one of the few heros in the DC universe that does not have a tragic back story. She chose to be Batgirl for the same reason someone chooses to be a cop in a corrupt city like Gotham. In the animated series and in Adam West's Batman, Barbara became Batgirl independently. She wasn't seeking approval or permission.

      Enough of the rant...why it didn't work? Ultimately, it was a lack of respect in general. There was a feeling all around that the team was asked to modernize, but they themselves weren't convinced. The end result was what you would expect a bunch of closed minded straight guys to write. Obviously no research was done to better understand gay men or women. They were ultimately not treated as real people. There was no research on Batgirl herself, and this includes watching Adam West's Batman, or reading any comics with Batgirl or Oracle.

      Final thoughts

      The sad thing is, they had a chance to really add to the original story. I would have love to see Batgirl in her prime. Show how strong and capable of a hero she was before she was paralysis and emphasize the loss Batman and Gotham will feel from loosing Batgirl. Show Barbara's determination in perhaps a little Oracle origin story. She's very smart, let's see some of that. Show her dealing with her own loss while still carrying a duty.

      Edit to add: I would also drop the gay best friend. In the new 52, Barbara's roommate is trans and they build a real friendship before she's comfortable enough to tell Barbara. Steal directly from that!

      What are your thoughts? Any other comic adaptations that stood out for you? (There are so many!)

      9 votes
    3. Daily Book: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson ( Hard Science Fiction )

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science popularizer "Doc" Dubois Harris calculates that the number of collisions will increase exponentially. A large number of moon fragments will begin entering Earth's atmosphere, forming a "white sky" and blanketing the earth within two years with what he calls a "Hard Rain" of bolides; this will cause the atmosphere to heat to incandescence and oceans to boil away, destroying the biosphere and rendering Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. It is decided to evacuate as many people and resources as possible to a "Cloud Ark" in orbit, including a "swarm" of "arklet" habitats that will be able to avoid the debris from the moon—both to attempt to preserve the human race and to give the remaining doomed inhabitants of Earth something to hope for, to prevent civil disorder from breaking out on Earth before its surface is destroyed. Each nation on Earth is invited to choose by lot a small number of young people to become eligible to join the Cloud Ark.

      The Cloud Ark is to be based around the International Space Station (ISS), currently commanded by American astronaut Ivy Xiao. The ISS is already bolted onto an iron Arjuna asteroid called Amalthea, which provides some protection against moon debris. Robots are used to excavate Amalthea to provide more protection in a project run by mining and robotics engineer Dinah MacQuarie. Technicians and specialists, including Doc Dubois, are sent to the ISS in advance of the Hard Rain to prepare it to become the headquarters of the Cloud Ark.

      The plan is that the Cloud Ark must be self-sufficient for 5,000 years and capable of repopulating Earth once it is habitable again. A Human Genetic Archive is sent to the Cloud Ark, with the intention that it will be used to rebuild the human population. Approximately 1,500 people are launched into space in the two years before the Hard Rain begins.

      Suspecting that some architects of the Cloud Ark are interested only in pacifying Earth's inhabitants with false hope (rather than creating an environment that will actually survive in the long term), a billionaire named Sean Probst realizes that the Cloud Ark will need a ready supply of water in order to provide propellant for the space station and to prevent it from eventually falling into the earth's atmosphere. He embarks on a two-year expedition to extract ice from a comet nicknamed Greg's Skeleton, using a nuclear reactor to provide power to bring it back towards Earth.

      The Hard Rain begins approximately two years after the destruction of the moon as predicted; human civilization as well as nearly all life on Earth is obliterated, although some try to take shelter underground (such as Dinah's father) or in the deep ocean (such as Ivy's fiancé). Markus Leuker, appointed leader of the Cloud Ark, declares all nations of Earth to be dissolved, and imposes martial law under the Cloud Ark Constitution. Despite a worldwide agreement that members of government will not be launched into space, the President of the United States, Julia Bliss Flaherty, manages to get herself sent to the Cloud Ark at the last minute. Shortly afterwards the main cache of the physical Human Genetic Archive attached to the ISS is ruined by the thrusters of an arklet passing too closely, leaving only samples that had been distributed amongst the arks.

      There is disagreement on the Cloud Ark about the best way to organize its society and avoid the debris of the moon. Some "Arkies" favor converting the Cloud Ark into a decentralized swarm of small space vessels at a higher orbit out of range of debris, rather than maintaining the central authority of the ISS. Doc Dubois wants to shelter in the "Cleft", a crevasse on the now-exposed iron core of the moon. Others want to go to Mars. Julia Flaherty starts to acquire a coterie of followers and encourages the proponents of the decentralized swarm plan.

      Sean Probst's expedition has succeeded, and he has brought a comet into an orbit that will soon pass by Earth. His radio has failed and he has built a replacement by hand, and is able to communicate with Dinah MacQuarie by Morse code. However, he and his party die of radiation sickness caused by fallout from their nuclear reactor long before the expedition is complete. Markus Leuker and Dinah travel to the comet with a small crew to take control of it and bring it back to the Cloud Ark, in order to provide sufficient propellant to reach the Cleft on the moon's core. Just before Dinah returns with the ice as the sole survivor of the mission, Julia Flaherty persuades the majority of the population to abandon the ISS and move to higher orbit in a decentralized swarm, and sends a preliminary expedition to Mars. In the course of their sudden, unauthorized departure the ISS sustains catastrophic damage to many sections. The surviving portions of the Human Genetic Archive are carried along with them, but due to the Arkies' ignorance, these surviving portions are discarded or ignored. Only the digital version of the Human Genetic Archive survives aboard the ISS. The ISS and remaining third of the cloud ark combine through reshaping the ice into a support structure, and is rechristened Endurance.

      During the three years that it takes for Endurance to reach the Cleft, the majority of its population die of various causes (cancer caused by cosmic radiation, suicide, bolide strikes, etc.); by the time they are within range of the Cleft, only about 30 survivors remain. Julia Bliss Flaherty's Swarm splits into two factions, who fight; Flaherty's faction is defeated. Running out of food, the Swarm resorts to cannibalism, and by the end of three years only 11 survive, including Flaherty and the leader of the opposing faction, Aïda. Aïda requests to reunite the remnant of the Swarm with the Cloud Ark before it reaches the Cleft, but secretly plans a battle for control of Endurance; as a result of that battle the population is diminished even further.

      By the time Endurance reaches the relative safety of the Cleft, there are only eight surviving Homo sapiens in space, all of whom are women. One, the sociologist Luisa, has reached menopause, and the remaining seven (Dinah, Ivy, Aïda, Tekla, Camila, Moira, and Julia) come to be known as the Seven Eves. The Human Genetic Archive has been destroyed, but they have sufficient resources to use the surviving genetics laboratory to rebuild the human race by parthenogenesis. They agree that each of the Seven Eves gets to choose how her offspring will be genetically modified or enhanced. Aïda predicts that, hundreds of years from now, this project shall result in seven new races.

      The narrative jumps to 5,000 years later. There are now three billion humans living in a ring around the Earth, and they have indeed formed into seven races, each one descended from and named after the Seven Eves who survived the events of Part 2. These races have quite distinct characteristics, including "Moirans" who can undergo "epigenetic shifts", radically changing their bodies in response to new environments. The iron core of the moon has mostly been used to build space habitats, but the Cleft itself has been turned into "Cradle", an exclusive piece of real estate attached to a tether that occasionally "docks" with Earth.

      Humanity has divided mostly along racial lines into two states, Red and Blue, which are engaged in a form of Cold War characterized by cultural isolation, espionage and border skirmishes, mediated by treaty agreements more honored in the breach than the observance.

      The orbiting races, the Spacers, terraform Earth by crashing ice comets into it to replenish the oceans, and seed the planet with genetically created organisms based upon re-sequenced DNA data saved from the escape to orbit. Once a breathable atmosphere is recreated, and sufficient plant and animal species have been reseeded, some members of the orbiting races ("Sooners") resettle the planet, in violation of treaty agreements.

      A "Seven", a group of seven people with one member from each race, is recruited by "Doc" Hu Noah, to investigate mysterious people who have been sighted on Earth. As the story unfolds, they discover that some humans did indeed survive the Hard Rain on the planet by living in deep mines ("Diggers"), while others survived in ocean trenches using submarines ("Pingers"). Although these survivors have also evolved socially and biologically to form two additional races, the survival of root stock humanity separate from the Seven Eves causes turmoil in Spacer high politics. Ground conflict eventually occurs because each of the orbiting camps (Red and Blue) wishes to establish a preferential or exclusive relationship with the Earthbound races: the Diggers, although descendants of Dinah's family, interpret the Blue state's presence on their territory as an act of aggression and develop an alliance with Red, prompting Blue to seek out an alliance with the Pingers on the strength of Ivy's connection with one of their founders. Matters are further complicated because the Diggers claim all of the Earth's land surface as their own, and initially hold the Spacers in disdain (despite their high technology) for having fled the planet eons ago.

      In an epilogue it is revealed that a separate, secret underwater ark had been created concurrently with the cloud ark, leading to the development of the Pingers, based on analysis of the "selfies" Ivy's fiance had sent her, using diagrams and sketches in the background as clues. Ty invites the surviving Seven (along with Sonar and Deep, representatives of the Diggers and the Pingers, respectively) back to apartments at his bar in the Cleft with the intent of forming the first "Nine".

      7 votes
    4. Daily Book: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson ( Hard Science Fiction )

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science popularizer "Doc" Dubois Harris calculates that the number of collisions will increase exponentially. A large number of moon fragments will begin entering Earth's atmosphere, forming a "white sky" and blanketing the earth within two years with what he calls a "Hard Rain" of bolides; this will cause the atmosphere to heat to incandescence and oceans to boil away, destroying the biosphere and rendering Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. It is decided to evacuate as many people and resources as possible to a "Cloud Ark" in orbit, including a "swarm" of "arklet" habitats that will be able to avoid the debris from the moon—both to attempt to preserve the human race and to give the remaining doomed inhabitants of Earth something to hope for, to prevent civil disorder from breaking out on Earth before its surface is destroyed. Each nation on Earth is invited to choose by lot a small number of young people to become eligible to join the Cloud Ark.

      The Cloud Ark is to be based around the International Space Station (ISS), currently commanded by American astronaut Ivy Xiao. The ISS is already bolted onto an iron Arjuna asteroid called Amalthea, which provides some protection against moon debris. Robots are used to excavate Amalthea to provide more protection in a project run by mining and robotics engineer Dinah MacQuarie. Technicians and specialists, including Doc Dubois, are sent to the ISS in advance of the Hard Rain to prepare it to become the headquarters of the Cloud Ark.

      The plan is that the Cloud Ark must be self-sufficient for 5,000 years and capable of repopulating Earth once it is habitable again. A Human Genetic Archive is sent to the Cloud Ark, with the intention that it will be used to rebuild the human population. Approximately 1,500 people are launched into space in the two years before the Hard Rain begins.

      Suspecting that some architects of the Cloud Ark are interested only in pacifying Earth's inhabitants with false hope (rather than creating an environment that will actually survive in the long term), a billionaire named Sean Probst realizes that the Cloud Ark will need a ready supply of water in order to provide propellant for the space station and to prevent it from eventually falling into the earth's atmosphere. He embarks on a two-year expedition to extract ice from a comet nicknamed Greg's Skeleton, using a nuclear reactor to provide power to bring it back towards Earth.

      The Hard Rain begins approximately two years after the destruction of the moon as predicted; human civilization as well as nearly all life on Earth is obliterated, although some try to take shelter underground (such as Dinah's father) or in the deep ocean (such as Ivy's fiancé). Markus Leuker, appointed leader of the Cloud Ark, declares all nations of Earth to be dissolved, and imposes martial law under the Cloud Ark Constitution. Despite a worldwide agreement that members of government will not be launched into space, the President of the United States, Julia Bliss Flaherty, manages to get herself sent to the Cloud Ark at the last minute. Shortly afterwards the main cache of the physical Human Genetic Archive attached to the ISS is ruined by the thrusters of an arklet passing too closely, leaving only samples that had been distributed amongst the arks.

      There is disagreement on the Cloud Ark about the best way to organize its society and avoid the debris of the moon. Some "Arkies" favor converting the Cloud Ark into a decentralized swarm of small space vessels at a higher orbit out of range of debris, rather than maintaining the central authority of the ISS. Doc Dubois wants to shelter in the "Cleft", a crevasse on the now-exposed iron core of the moon. Others want to go to Mars. Julia Flaherty starts to acquire a coterie of followers and encourages the proponents of the decentralized swarm plan.

      Sean Probst's expedition has succeeded, and he has brought a comet into an orbit that will soon pass by Earth. His radio has failed and he has built a replacement by hand, and is able to communicate with Dinah MacQuarie by Morse code. However, he and his party die of radiation sickness caused by fallout from their nuclear reactor long before the expedition is complete. Markus Leuker and Dinah travel to the comet with a small crew to take control of it and bring it back to the Cloud Ark, in order to provide sufficient propellant to reach the Cleft on the moon's core. Just before Dinah returns with the ice as the sole survivor of the mission, Julia Flaherty persuades the majority of the population to abandon the ISS and move to higher orbit in a decentralized swarm, and sends a preliminary expedition to Mars. In the course of their sudden, unauthorized departure the ISS sustains catastrophic damage to many sections. The surviving portions of the Human Genetic Archive are carried along with them, but due to the Arkies' ignorance, these surviving portions are discarded or ignored. Only the digital version of the Human Genetic Archive survives aboard the ISS. The ISS and remaining third of the cloud ark combine through reshaping the ice into a support structure, and is rechristened Endurance.

      During the three years that it takes for Endurance to reach the Cleft, the majority of its population die of various causes (cancer caused by cosmic radiation, suicide, bolide strikes, etc.); by the time they are within range of the Cleft, only about 30 survivors remain. Julia Bliss Flaherty's Swarm splits into two factions, who fight; Flaherty's faction is defeated. Running out of food, the Swarm resorts to cannibalism, and by the end of three years only 11 survive, including Flaherty and the leader of the opposing faction, Aïda. Aïda requests to reunite the remnant of the Swarm with the Cloud Ark before it reaches the Cleft, but secretly plans a battle for control of Endurance; as a result of that battle the population is diminished even further.

      By the time Endurance reaches the relative safety of the Cleft, there are only eight surviving Homo sapiens in space, all of whom are women. One, the sociologist Luisa, has reached menopause, and the remaining seven (Dinah, Ivy, Aïda, Tekla, Camila, Moira, and Julia) come to be known as the Seven Eves. The Human Genetic Archive has been destroyed, but they have sufficient resources to use the surviving genetics laboratory to rebuild the human race by parthenogenesis. They agree that each of the Seven Eves gets to choose how her offspring will be genetically modified or enhanced. Aïda predicts that, hundreds of years from now, this project shall result in seven new races.

      The narrative jumps to 5,000 years later. There are now three billion humans living in a ring around the Earth, and they have indeed formed into seven races, each one descended from and named after the Seven Eves who survived the events of Part 2. These races have quite distinct characteristics, including "Moirans" who can undergo "epigenetic shifts", radically changing their bodies in response to new environments. The iron core of the moon has mostly been used to build space habitats, but the Cleft itself has been turned into "Cradle", an exclusive piece of real estate attached to a tether that occasionally "docks" with Earth.

      Humanity has divided mostly along racial lines into two states, Red and Blue, which are engaged in a form of Cold War characterized by cultural isolation, espionage and border skirmishes, mediated by treaty agreements more honored in the breach than the observance.

      The orbiting races, the Spacers, terraform Earth by crashing ice comets into it to replenish the oceans, and seed the planet with genetically created organisms based upon re-sequenced DNA data saved from the escape to orbit. Once a breathable atmosphere is recreated, and sufficient plant and animal species have been reseeded, some members of the orbiting races ("Sooners") resettle the planet, in violation of treaty agreements.

      A "Seven", a group of seven people with one member from each race, is recruited by "Doc" Hu Noah, to investigate mysterious people who have been sighted on Earth. As the story unfolds, they discover that some humans did indeed survive the Hard Rain on the planet by living in deep mines ("Diggers"), while others survived in ocean trenches using submarines ("Pingers"). Although these survivors have also evolved socially and biologically to form two additional races, the survival of root stock humanity separate from the Seven Eves causes turmoil in Spacer high politics. Ground conflict eventually occurs because each of the orbiting camps (Red and Blue) wishes to establish a preferential or exclusive relationship with the Earthbound races: the Diggers, although descendants of Dinah's family, interpret the Blue state's presence on their territory as an act of aggression and develop an alliance with Red, prompting Blue to seek out an alliance with the Pingers on the strength of Ivy's connection with one of their founders. Matters are further complicated because the Diggers claim all of the Earth's land surface as their own, and initially hold the Spacers in disdain (despite their high technology) for having fled the planet eons ago.

      In an epilogue it is revealed that a separate, secret underwater ark had been created concurrently with the cloud ark, leading to the development of the Pingers, based on analysis of the "selfies" Ivy's fiance had sent her, using diagrams and sketches in the background as clues. Ty invites the surviving Seven (along with Sonar and Deep, representatives of the Diggers and the Pingers, respectively) back to apartments at his bar in the Cleft with the intent of forming the first "Nine".

      4 votes
    5. Daily Book - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Sleeping Giants is a science fiction novel by Sylvain Neuvel in which an unknown interviewer and scientist Rose Franklin attempt to decipher the alien origins and purpose of a giant robotic weapon. Told by way of case files – transcripts, diary entries, and other documents – the novel spans the course of four years, beginning with a prologue set when Rose is 11 years old.

      When the novel begins, Rose takes out the bike she has received for her birthday, only to fall into a massive hole near Deadwood, South Dakota, in which is a giant hand. Seventeen years later, Rose now spearheads the effort to determine what the hand is, and to crack the code of the symbols featured on it. At the same time, two American pilots, Kara Resnik and Ryan Mitchell, testing Syrian airspace for radiation, return over Turkey when another body part appears beneath them, activated by the radiation they trail. Because of this, Kara and Ryan are tasked to be a part of Rose’s team. A French-Canadian linguist, Vincent Couture, is brought on board to help decipher the symbols. Scouring the globe, the team completes the robot.

      The team is watched over, protected by, and instigated by an unknown interviewer (to whom the files belong and who appears in most of the files speaking to the members of the team). The interviewer has immense power that spans presidential administrations, and indeed he only has two equals: the sitting president and an unidentified subject whom he meets in Washington D.C. The unidentified subject turns out to be the descendant of alien soldiers who came to Earth as the most far-flung colony of their alien empire, to guard it against the threat of invasion using giant war machines. When the danger had passed, they left one robot behind in pieces so that when humanity advanced enough technologically, it could operate the robot on its own and prove worthy of alien contact – or destruction. The ability to master the atom for war is the sign of humanity’s advancement, and progress by the 2010s has allowed the robot to be found, reassembled, and activated, for it uses radioactive material as fuel. The aliens are now watching to see what becomes of the robot they left behind.

      Kara and Ryan become pilots for the robot, but they are unable to make much progress because the robot only responds to Kara. When Vincent attempts to operate the robot, he is successful, meaning he and Kara are both descendants of the aliens – the only ones who can operate alien machinery because of their genetics. As a result, Greek geneticist Alyssa Papantoniou is brought on board to study Vincent and Kara. But a testing accident on the robot destroys part of Denver International Airport, kills hundreds (seemingly including Rose), and exposes the top secret project to the world. The United States then goes public with the truth about the robot, and sinks it in the Puerto Rico Trench so no country may harness its destructive power. Secretly, the interviewer oversees a consortium of nations other than America which buy into a project to recover the robot.

      The new secret project is overseen by Alyssa. But when the project is exposed because of Alyssa’s incompetence, the United States must intervene – now holding the moral high ground – to take custody of the robot – with everything happening at the workings of the interviewer. The United States then gifts the robot to the UN to form the Earth Defense Corps, a multinational effort to prepare for potential alien invasion. As the novel ends, in an epilogue, Rose wakes up on the side of a road in Ireland, with no memory of the project and no memory of the past four years – though she does remember everything before.

      6 votes