Le Guin

5 Kickstarter Projects for Book Lovers

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So, I have a bit of a love affair with kickstarter. The platform is fantastic for independent projects and unique works that may otherwise not get produced. BUT, it can be a slog to sort through what’s out there to try and get what you like. So, here’s the deal: I like books; you like books; I saw these and thought of you (and also how cool it would be if they were funded).

 

Victoria Jr. Presents Little Prometheus by Manny Trembley

Cover to Victoria Jr. Volume One

Days left: 9 days

Amount Funded: 404% (into stretch goal territory!)

What’s this project about?

 

Victoria is a human girl adopted in to a loving family of monsters. Victoria Jr. was named by The Monster, after his creator, Victor Frankenstein. She lives in a world of fantastic monsters and creatures.

One day on her way to school, Victoria Jr. decides to capture the mythic “Spark of the Sun”. This is the same spark that the Greek Titan Prometheus stole to give fire to man. She thought maybe the Spark of the Sun could warm the undead hearts of her father, mother, and her younger brother.

Why is it cool?

Are you really asking me why a story about a little human girl living with monsters and trying to warm their hearts is adorable? Or why you should be all about a family-friendly comic?

Aside from the fact that the story sounds awesome, Victoria Jr. pays homage to the kind of stories that are fundamental to science fiction and fantasy. It’s sure to check boxes for SFF lovers and be a book to introduce children into the SFF world in a relatable, unintimidating way.

As a literacy tutor for ESL students, my favorite thing to give the kids I worked with was comics. They’re dynamic and visual, perfect for short attention spans. AND the embedded text makes the story feel like it isn’t work while still encouraging confidence in reading and significant vocabulary growth.

Who is behind it?

Manny Trembley is an indie comics artist with his own self-publishing line of comics. He’s run 6 successful kickstarter campaigns. This will be his second Victoria Jr. book.

What do I get at the lowest award level?

$6 gets you a .pdf of the comic

Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life by Zoobooks

Days left: 16

Amount funded: 66%

What is this project about?

Zoobooks are educational kids’ books about animals and ecology. Unfortunately, the last round of dinosaur books is pretty old. This project is going to update the books with new science and create a set of integrated apps.

Why is it cool?

Dinosaurs. Science. Zoobooks, what’s not to like? Zoobooks were a pretty big part of kiddom in the 90s and 00s. They’ve helped tons of kids learn about science using visuals and intriguing animal subject. They’re committed to keeping their books scientifically accurate, and are fairly accessible through most library systems.

Plus, dinosaur feathers drawings.

Who’s behind it?

Zoobooks, a 35 year old company with tons of books to their name and support from Wildlife Education, LTD.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$10 gets you the app and a series of exclusive updates.

 

People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction by Lightspeed Magazine

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lightspeedmagazine/people-of-colour-destroy-science-fiction/widget/video.html

Days left: 16

Amount funded: 550%

What is this project about?

We believe in science fiction’s transformative powers, its ability to remedy the dreariness of our lives. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! will exist, with your kind help, of course, to relieve a brokenness we’ve enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. We won’t harangue you with guilt trips involving the importance of openly listening to the assimilated, the colonized, the misappropriated. That’s just not how we roll. What we aim to do, instead, is to challenge you: Join us because it is fun to do so. We don’t mean fun as a vehicle for trivializing centuries of injustice that resulted in the lack of representation for certain groups of people because power structures were skewed heavily in favor of a chosen few. We mean fun as the satisfaction we get in those light-bulb-in-the-head moments of our lives, the satisfaction we get from meaningful conversations that lend clarity, the satisfaction we get when we move past those feel-good-driven acts of tokenism, the satisfaction we get when we read stories that have palpable artistic and intellectual values that speak of our present time and most of all, our future.

 

Why is it cool?

The POC Destroy project is about raising the voices of marginalized groups in SFF. It includes a series of fiction and nonfiction writings written and edited by people of color. It includes art, flash fiction, novellas, and author spotlights.

The POC Destroy issue is set with a fantastic cast both of authors and editors including Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl. It’s also open to new voices in SFF. Basically, you need it.

Every extra dollar goes towards stretch goals that increase content.

PLUS it’s a project Lightspeed is committed to. They promised to publish the edition regardless of if they reached their funding goal. That’s pretty damn cool in my book.

Who’s behind it?

Lightspeed Magazine is a Hugo Award winning publication with a ton of experience and a whole series behind it. This project is in line with the DESTROY series which includes Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Women Destroy Science Fiction, and many others.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$5 gets you an ebook version plus all electronic supplementals achieved in stretch goals

 

Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin by Arwyn Curry

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arwencurry/worlds-of-ursula-k-le-guin/widget/video.html
Days left: 30

Amount funded: 111%

What is this project about?

In the film, we’ll accompany Le Guin on an intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author, inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way. To tell this story, the film reaches into the past as well as the future – to a childhood steeped in the myths and stories of disappeared Native peoples Le Guin absorbed as the daughter of prominent California anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and author Theodora Kroeber.

Ursula K Le Guin is a queen of science fiction. She changed the game radically. This project is largely already filmed, but needs a post-production budget. Part of the funding is contingent on non-NEH funding, so here we are.

Why is it cool?

It’s Ursula.

As a total bonus note, all the levels are named after characters from her stories.

Who’s behind it?

Arwyn Curry and her team have made a number of documentaries and written a number of articles for organizations like PBS, HBO, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$10 gets you shout outs and updates

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party by Shipwrecked Comedy

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1029702011/poeparty/widget/video.html
Days left: 32

Amount funded: 29%

What is this project about?

Edgar Allan Poe invites all his buddies and loves to dinner. It includes  Hemmingway, H.G. Wells, Annabelle Lee. It’s a video series that will be hosted vlog style with some livestreaming options, over a series of ten videos.

Why is it cool?

This form of storytelling has really been catching on. The format lends itself to interactive audience participation, visible and marked character growth, and innovation in film and story adaptation.

Cast includes Mary Kate Wiles who you may recognize from the Lizzie Bennett Diaries where she played Lydia.

Who’s behind it?

Shipwrecked Comedy has run a number of past projects that have been done in a similar vein.

What do I get at the lowest rewards level?

$5 reward is a digital invitation and livestream shoutout

 

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Review | The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin

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I recently finished The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s the fifth in her Hainish Cycle, a series in which a variety of humans and human-variate species are slowly working to create a kind of federated utopia of planets. This particular installment was published in 1974 and received the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards for that year. My edition is the Olive Edition reprint and it sits at just under 400 pages.

The Dispossessed is a key work in the Hainish Cycle. It describes the creation of the Ansible, a communication device that allows planets to communicate with one another in real-time, despite how far apart they are. As a result, the story is key to a number of later stories in the same universe and shines light on some of the stories preceding it, like The Left Hand of Darkness, where the ansible is used.

The Dispossessed takes place in the Cetian system on two planets that are paired together, revolving around one another in a moon-planet like relationship. The main character, Shevek is an Odonian from Annares, a member of a religious-political faction that fled from Urres, the more lush of the two planets, over 150 years prior. Shevek and his fellow Odonians live in a kind of anarcho-Marxist utopia, where there is no central government, and people work communally to do what work needs to be done.

Shevek has spent his life dedicating himself to physics and the dilemma of sequentialism and simultaneity. In a sense, he’s dealing with the temporal aftermath of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and has come to find that his work is stunted on Annares; he’s frustrated by the inability to communicate freely with Urresians and, when the story begins, he is about to travel to Urres, the first Anaresti Odonian to do so since the Odonians left 150 years ago.

In contrast to Annares, Urres is a more typical capitalist and patriarchical society. While Shevek has gone there in search of a kind of eureka moment in his work and to disseminate it according to his ideal of freedom of information, he’s soon to realize that there’s more to the capitalist political system than he had thought and he becomes embroiled in political conflict.

In this story, Le Guin is examining a number of interesting political situations. While clearly critiquing patriarchal structures and the capitalist system, she is also examining anarchim, particularly anarcho-Marxism (the intersection of anarchism and Marxist communism) in the face of extreme resource scarcity. Both fans and critics have pointed to the story as an analogue for United States/ USSR relations in the Cold War. It brings under fire both systems and the use of proxy wars. While anarchism comes out in a more favorable light, Le Guin also points to the difficulty in having a society without government, including the continuation of power struggles that are maintained by natural social structures outside of government structures, the exercise of social pressure as a replacement for a criminal justice system, and the difficulty in providing for society’s needs without bureaucracy supplanting the anarchist system.

The story is interesting, and the plot is complex. Structurally, it’s split between two timelines: Shevek on Urres and Shevek growing up on Annares. This is part of what allows Le Guin to provide multiple criticisms throughout the story without them piling up on one another. It also provides a slow insight into Shevek’s “present” timeline with the problems that faced him before leaving for Urres. Le Guin takes a great deal of time describing the Odonian’s lives and structures. The reader is meant to explore Odonian society with and through Shevek’s growth, and through Shevek’s later observations contrasting Urresti (captialist) society with his own. This also allows the reader to slowly become accustomed to the strange speech patterns and behaviors of the Odonians, and to ease into criticisms of an anarcho-Marxist society that, especially during the Cold War, readers may have jumped to quickly and without examining their own assumptions.

Shevek is out-of-place with his fellow Odonians. Their society has come to a point of complacency with bureaucracy that constantly seems to frustrate him; he has no real outlet to overcome the social and political structures that seem to stifle his work; and he’s significantly more self-isolating than is considered acceptable by social norms. This makes him a very approachable character, not just to the reader, but also to the “true” anarchists and outliers of Anarresti society. Shevek finds himself constantly drawing people who want to challenge the system, as informal as it may be. I liked this about him. I think it was a very successful strategy for Le Guin and really helped the reader to digest what was happening. His fellows call him an “egoizer,” a “profiteer,” and a “traitor.” In many ways, Shevek is more likeable for the taunts and anger he draws.

The science is pretty handwave-y and the idea that a planet can be another planet’s moon was a little silly. But the science isn’t so much the point. Le Guin uses it as a way to talk about freedom of information and intellectual integrity. Shevek is constantly finding himself at odds with his own moral system, and that espoused by both Annares and the Urres. He’s constantly rejected by one and is being misused by the other. His search for a way out of the dilemma is interesting and leads him to take action that may otherwise be counter intuitive.

The side characters are interesting, particularly Shevek’s partner, Takver. Takver is a fish geneticist and the two are often far apart, fulfilling society’s needs where needed, but constantly drawn back to one another. Takver is left to deal with the consequences of Shevek’s studies, her own drive to create and understand, and the bindings of family life often by herself. While she doesn’t have her own point-of-view, she comes off as very strong and perhaps more resilient and accepting than others deserve. Le Guin at times seems like she wants to dive more into Takver’s story, but can’t, which made me as a reader feel frustrated at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and its contrasts and comparisons. I liked the characters and the way the story took twists and turns. It’s criticisms were appealing to me, and I liked having more background into the grown of the Hainish universe and its technology and people. I would suggest reading this as one of your first Le Guin books, though I am partial to Left Hand of Darkness, because I think the context it provides helps to make later books a bit more comprehensible.

Have you read The Dispossessed? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments!