Solar Punk/Lunar Punk

Blame Cyberpunk.

The novel Neuromancer is credited as kicking off the Cyberpunk genre. You may not have heard the term, but you probably know it  – a dark blend of high-tech in a crumbling dystopian world where the poor get poorer and the rich have all the technology – think Bladerunner, Ready Player One, Alita: Battle Angel, Real Steel, Elysium, Guardians of the Galaxy, even Hunger Games and Divergent (you could make a serious argument for Star Wars, as well). They’re gritty, dark, and sometimes disturbing, and paint a not-so-nice view of the future, with emphasis on classism, violence, famine, and a disturbing police state. 

Steampunk is also a well-established fantasy genre, carrying on as if the gasoline engine never materialized and the world was stuck in 1890 and using steam power and copper pipes for everything. They’re wildly imaginative and adventurous – check out Chris Wooding, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, or Richard Preston Jr., or movies such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or The Golden Compass, among others.  

Since then, just like music has a thousand nitpicky subgenres (Simpsonwave, anyone?), fiction has also fractured into microgenres. Most are so nitpicky they’re pretty much covered under larger categories, but two more are becoming increasingly prominent: Solar Punk and Lunar Punk (Punk seems to be a word thrown in because someone is going against the establishment). Never heard of them? Neither have most people, but the genre is growing and defining itself.

Solar Punk is a backlash against all that dreary doomsday cyberpunk. Solar Punk is full of hope and ecology. Everything is green spaces, clean power, civil rights, encompassing communities, anti-establishment, and personal choice. Renewable energy, harmony with nature, and spirituality are key themes. Solar punk is a view of the future where everything finally does work out, a world where everyone benefits from the progress of mankind, because they’re all in it together. If steampunk is Victorian, Solar Punk is art nouveau. Think Star Trek, The Disposessed by Ursula LeGuin, Ectopia, by Ernest Callenbach, Dune by Frank Herbert, Disney’s Tomorrowland, and Black Panther (is anything more Utopian than Wakanda?).

If Solar Punk is all bright lights and butterflies, Lunar Punk is Solar Punk when the sun goes down. It’s moths and the twinkling of fireflies. It’s night-blooming lilies instead of sunflowers. It may be dark but it’s not dreary, like your backyard party at night, with fairy lights everywhere. Lunar Punk often deals more in mysticism, spirituality, magic, and the occult. Their flowers are mushrooms, their light is moonlight, their colors are the blues and purples and silvers of twilight. They have no solar, so they use bioluminescence. Individuals are more important than the communities they live in. The movie Avatar – the world of the Na’vi – exemplifies Lunarpunk. Still utopian, still upbeat ecological fantasy, but out of the bright sunlight. Andy Weir’s Artemis can fall into this category. Many Anime series can fall into these categories.

Solar Punk and Lunar Punk are often categorized together, both supporting the same type of ecologically based, optimistic utopian fantasies, a genre that is growing to match our current promises of renewable energy and inclusive societies. Many of the new teen novels have been exploring the genre. They are the generation who has grown up with recycling, solar chargers, zero-emission footprints and Bald Eagles back in the wild. For them, Solar Punk could very well be the future. Check out some of it today!

Graphic Novel Adaptations: Old Stories with a New Twist

Graphic novel adaptations are not new, comic books based on classic literature could be found as early as the 1940’s and 50’s. Lately, however, there’s been a new crop of adaptations in graphic novel format that deserve some attention. While an adaptation of a book can never take the place of the original, it has value as a companion piece to the original, offering a fresh perspective on a well-established tale. This is particularly true of graphic novel adaptations, where illustrations and a change in pace can breathe new life into an older book. Even when a book isn’t all that old, a graphic novel interpretation allows us to see the story from a different angle.

We have a whole bunch of graphic novel adaptations on our shelves, for all ages. Here are some of our favorites.

FOR ADULTS:

The Handmaid’s Tale, original story by Margaret Atwood ; art & adaptation by Renée Nault.

Animal Farm, original story by George Orwell ; adapted and illustrated by Odyr.

The Great Gatsby, original story by F. Scott Fitzgerald ; illustrated by Aya Morton ; text adapted by Fred Fordham

Small Gods : a Discworld graphic novel, original story by Terry Pratchett ; adaptation by Ray Friesen

City of Glass, original story by Paul Auster ; adaptation by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

American Gods 1: Shadows, story and words by Neil Gaiman ; art by Scott Hampton 

A Game of Thrones, original story by George R.R. Martin ; adapted by Daniel Abraham ; art by Tommy Patterson

FOR TEENS (and adults, too!):

The Hobbit, original story by J.R.R. Tolkien ; adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming : illustrated by David Wenzel

To Kill a Mockingbird, original story by Harper Lee ; adapted and illustrated by Fred Fordham

Jane (based on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë), written by Aline Brosh McKenna ; illustrated by Ramón K. Pérez 

Poe : Stories and Poems, original content by Edgar Allan Poe ; adapted by Gareth Hinds

A Wrinkle in Time, original story by Madeleine L’Engle ; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

The Giver, original story by Lois Lowry ; adapted by P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Scott Hampton

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson ; artwork by Emily Carroll

FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS:

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) ; adapted by Rey Terciero ; pencils by Bre Indigo

Anne Frank’s Diary ; adapted by Ari Folman ; illustrations by David Polonsky

The Graveyard Book, original story by Neil Gaiman ; adapted by: P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by: Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, Stephen B. Scott

Anne of Green Gables, original story by L. M. Montgomery ; adapted by Mariah Marsden & Brenna Thummler

The Secret Garden on 81st Street (based on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett) ; adapted by Ivy Noelle Weir ; illustrated by Amber Padilla

The Witches, original story by Roald Dahl ; adapted and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu

Oz : the manga, original story by L. Frank Baum ; adapted by David Hutchison

New to Graphic Novels and wondering where to start? Here are 10 to try!

Comics and graphic novels (long-form comics) aren’t just about superheroes, and they aren’t just for teenagers. They are published in as many genres as traditional print books – you’ll find humor, horror, science fiction, history, classics, and memoirs, to name but a few. With so many movies and television shows using graphic novels as their source material, you may be curious about graphic novels, but unsure about where to start when it comes to reading them. It can be intimidating, so here’s a list of 10 terrific graphic novels for adults, a good way to get your feet wet!

The March series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. This 3-part series is the first-hand account of the late Congressman John Lewis’s lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. It spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington.

Y, the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The saga of Yorick Brown—the only human survivor of a planet-wide plague that instantly kills every mammal possessing a Y chromosome. Accompanied by his pet monkey, a mysterious government agent, and a brilliant young geneticist, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris. Told in the form of a ten-year-old’s diary entries in the 1960s, this gripping story has a B-horror-movie feel to it. Karen tries to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a survivor of the holocaust, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. An unusual memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, funeral home director, high-school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence. The Sandman was one of the first few graphic novels ever to be on The New York Times Best Seller list (along with Maus, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns).

Kindred : a graphic novel adaptation  by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. This searing graphic-novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction classic is a powerfully moving, unflinching look at the violent, disturbing effects of slavery on the people it chained together, both black and white – and made kindred in the deepest sense of the word. 

Alice’s Story : based on the novel The Magicians by Lev Grossman ; by Lilah Sturges and Pius Bak. An all new chapter set in the world of The Magicians trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman that retells the events of the first novel through fan-favorite character Alice Quinn.

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. An epic graphic novel of Hollywood in the early days of the Blacklist. The story goes from the murder of an up-and-coming starlet from studio backlots to the gutters of downtown Los Angeles. Contains behind-the-scenes art and stories, sketches and layouts, and several historical essays.

Here by Richard McGuire. This innovative graphic novel presents the story of a corner of a room and of the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. The book experiments with formal properties of comics, moving forward and backward in time, using multiple panels to convey the different moments in time.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. A collection of comedic, autobiographical and deceptively illustrated essays on topics ranging from childhood and very bad pets to grief, loneliness and powerlessness in modern life.

Read it Before You See it: Book-to-Screen Adaptations Coming in 2022

So many screen adaptations, so little time! There are so many books coming to big and small screens this year, it’s easy to lose track or what’s coming out when. We’ve put together a list of some adaptations that we’re really looking forward to this year – some have release dates, some do not, but the list will give us time to read as many books as we can before their adaptations come out! Which books are you most looking forward to seeing on the screen this year?

 

MOVIES

 

The Black Phone Release date: Feb. 4, 2022

Death on the Nile Release date: Feb. 11, 2022

Mothering Sunday Release date: Feb. 25, 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing Release Date: July 22, 2022 (Netflix)

Salem’s Lot Release Date: September 9, 2022

White Bird: A Wonder Story Release Date: October 14, 2022

She Said Release date: Nov. 28, 2022

The Nightingale Release Date: December 23, 2022

Persuasion Release date: TBD 2022

The School for Good and Evil Release Date: TBD 2022 (Netflix)

The Wonder Release Date: TBD 2022 (Netflix)

 

TV SERIES

 

Outlander Season 6 (Starz) Premiere Date: March 6, 2022

Based on the book: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon 

Bridgerton Season 2 (Netflix) Premiere Date: March 25, 2022

Based on the book: The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Lord of the Rings (Amazon Prime Video) Premiere Date: Sept. 2, 2022

Based on the books: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein 

The Sandman (Netflix) Premiere Date: TBD 2022

Daisy Jones & the Six (Amazon Prime Video) Premiere Date: TBD 2022

Conversations with Friends (Hulu) Premiere Date: Spring 2022

Passing the Bechdel Test

Have you given anything a Bechdel test? Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test?
I’d never heard of it either (and I went to a women’s college!) until it popped up on an internet group I belong to, and I had to look it up.

The Bechdel test (or Bechdel-Wallace test) is a measure of representation of women in fiction. It first appeared in Allison Bechdel’s 1985 cartoon strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (I didn’t name it) commenting on films, brought on by a quote from Virginia Woolf, in that women in fiction might sometimes be mother and daughter, but rarely are two women friends in literature. Almost always, women were viewed by their relationship to men – wanting a man, chasing a man, depending on a man, chasing off a man, etc. (Hence Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”). Real women in real life talk to other women about more than just men (even if it’s only about their cat or dog).

Therefore, Bechdel gave three commandments for films to be considered women-friendly (and by default, TV and books):

  1. It must have at least two women in it (preferably with names)
  2. Who talk to each other (preferably for at least 60 seconds)
  3. About something besides a man

And the off-hand comment in a sarcastic lesbian cartoon strip surged until it’s become an almost a standard metric for the industry.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Not passing the Bechdel test does NOT make a film bad, nor does it make it not worth watching. Not every movie is going to center around women – Dunkirk, for example, a splendid movie about a specific battle in World War II. Women were just not involved in that. Stand By Me – a magnificent story of four young boys on a quest. Girls aren’t in the story, and if you skip this movie because of that, then you’re missing one of the best American movies. Nor is every film required to pass the Bechdel test. Casino passes two of the three qualifications, but women are mistreated throughout the film. Inclusion is just that – inclusion, not a judgment of how women are treated by the story, not a judgment of female competence, not a judgment of feminism (Gravity, with a female astronaut who saves the day, can’t pass the test, though The Martian, with a male lead, does). A woman may love a movie that can’t pass the test, and a man can certainly love a film that does. Movies of every genre pass or fail; there is no specific type of film to look for.

All the Bechdel test does, really, is point out films in which women – a full 50% of the population – are a larger focus of the story, and even if they aren’t, they’re portrayed as real, well-rounded people who speak to each other about real subjects, even if it’s about burning a roast, not just love-starved buttercups who are nothing without a man. So, if you’re on the lookout for films that show women – important or background characters – in a more realistic light, here are 15 various films that do pass the Bechdel test:

The Finest Hours

Little Miss Sunshine

Wonder Woman

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Last Jedi

Girl, Interrupted

Hidden Figures

Kill Bill

Thelma and Louise

The Exorcist

Chicago

Frozen

Birds of Prey

Bill and Ted Face the Music

Knives Out