Monday, March 27, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS: Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler




Dossier: Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. [Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993]

Filetype: Book

File Under: Stateless Dystopia

 
Executive Summary: Los Angeles 2032, most Americans with any sort of privilege live in walled communities for protection. Lauren Olamina's community is overrun and she flees north with other survivors. Lauren has a vision of a new religion and as the refugees cling separately to survival, a community forms around Lauren and her religion of Earthseed.

Dystopian Visions: With a collapsed government that is all but powerless to protect its citizens
, the America of Parable of the Sower is pure dystopia. I frequently want to call this post-apocalyptic, but the only apocalypse is the breakdown of society and government services and I usually look for something extra for the apocalypse, though to the characters in the novel there is likely no real difference.

Utopian Undercurrents: God is change and humanity has the ability to reshape themselves and reshape god, and by doing so, to rebuild a better life out among the stars. So much of Parable of the Sower is a blended post apocalyptic dystopia, but Earthseed is the utopian undercurrent running through the novel - it's the little bit of hope and possibility of what humanity could be again.


Level of Hell: Seventh, because apparently there is still sort of a functioning nation tucked into the enclaves and wherever the power of the Army can reach, but this is a violent and nasty America.

Legacy: Nominated for a Nebula Award in 1994, Parable of the Sower is one of the standout novels in the superb and too short career of Octavia E. Butler. It remains a powerful and important novel.

In Retrospect: Parable of the Sower seems eerily prescient right now. Set not that far into our future the novel begins to take on some frightening possibilities as something not as distant as it might have as when it was originally published in 1993. More - Butler envisions a demagogue candidate for President calling out to his followers to "Make America Great Again" and encourages violence against anyone not a white American in such a way that he can never be truly blamed for the actions of his followers - but it's clear that he supports and approves of it. Naturally, this is the man elected to office. This is a frightening plausible future America that I can only hope is an alternate timeline that we're not going to go down. As good and important a novel it was when first published, Parable of the Sower is a vital and essential novel today.



Analytics

For its time: 5/5
Read today: 5/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 10/10.

Note: this dossier has been adapted from an earlier review.



POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nanoreviews: River of Teeth, Feedback, The Autumn Republic

Gailey, Sarah. River of Teeth [Tor.com Publishing, 2017]

Um, did you know there was a serious plan to bring hippopotamuses to America to alleviate a meat shortage? I didn't either, but Sarah Gailey did. I'm so happy that she knew this because it grew into this insanity of a novella that delivers a fantastic story that feels like the wild west as seen from hippoback. River of Teeth is glorious, but it is more than just the wonderful idea of using hippos as beasts of burden and transit (and oh, this idea is so well excuted) - it is also filled with striking characters like Winslow Remington Houndstooth and Regina Archambault, but the whole cast, really. It's great. You should read it.
Score: 8/10

Grant, Mira. Feedback [Orbit, 2016]

Mira Grant returns to her broken zombie infested near future world of the excellent Newsflesh trilogy by stepping back and telling a side story that runs through the timeline of much of that trilogy, but focusing on a different set of blogging heroes. Despite the title, this isn't just Feed Redux and the team of Aislinn, Ben, Audrey, and Mat are not the Masons, though they likewise are pulled into covering a political campaign and it likewise goes poorly for them the more they do their jobs. That's just the nature of this world. Mira Grant has a strong and comfortable authorial voice and reading Feedback is like visiting old friends that you just hadn't met yet.
Score 8/10

McClellan, Brian. The Autumn Republic [Orbit,  2015]

There's just something about compelling characters fighting gods that just gets me. The Autumn Republic is the concluding volume of McClellan's epic flintlock fantasy trilogy and he absolutely sticks the landing.  The Powder Mage novels are a blast to read and I absolutely recommend them.
Score: 8/10



Note: Everyone gets an 8/10 today. This must be what Oprah felt like during her giveaway shows. You get an 8! You get an 8! Everyone gets an 8! Also, all three of these books were a delight to read in three very different ways so these 8's were very much earned.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Morning Superhero

In non-comic related news, there is amazing Kickstarter in its final days that is worth your time and attention.  Pandasaurus Games is running a campaign for Dinosaur Island, a game that has you creating your own Dinosaur theme park.  Featuring a color scheme and graphics straight out of the 90's, this is a game that pulls on all sorts of nostalgic heart strings.  Check out the campaign here.  In addition to being excited about building my own dino theme park, this week's books were phenomenal!



Pick of the Week:
Darth Maul #2 - When you combine Darth Maul and Cullen Bunn you know you are going to get a series that is going to be a lot of fun.  This issue brings that together, and mixes in a little but of Cad Bane for good measure.  As Maul attempts to find an appropriate outlet for his rage, Darth Sidious seeks to take him farther down the path of the dark side.  Maul is instructed to lay low, but the desire to seek revenge on the Jedi is too great.  While I really enjoyed watching Maul fight without overtly demonstrating his use of the Force and his light saber, this book really shines in the scenes where Sidious is manipulating Maul in order to fuel his hatred.  One thing that the comics have done an amazing job with is making the Sith a true force to be reckoned with.  Hearing Maul talk about his fear of Sidious and what would happen if his secret plans are discovered casts Sidious into an all new light.  In the movies he appears more fragile, yet in the comic book the fear is palpable.  There is a reason why Sidious was able to work under the noses of the Jedi and manipulate formidable Sith Lords like Vader.   I hope Bunn continues to explore the relationship between Sidious and Maul in future issues.

The Rest:
Dept H. #12 - The plot gets thicker as we learn that the crew has been exposed to a new strain of the H-virus and are quarantined on the base, which is currently hanging on by a thread.  While Jerome may have found the cure for the original H-virus, it appears that the research process may have exposed everyone to something else.  This underwater whodunit gets more and more complex with each issue, and the potential motives for the various crew members seem to grow with each issue.  I a not sure who I suspect, but I do know that Mia and her father may be the only decent humans that have set foot on the base.  I don't want to spoil what happens at the end of this issue, but it left me absolutely speechless and really shifted my thoughts on who may have killed Mia's father and what their motive might be.  This is a truly mesmerizing series and the art from Matt Kindt and the colors from Sharlene Kindt provide a surreal setting that is appropriate for a mystery of this magnitude.

Birthright #23 - We learn a little bit more about why Lore was allowed to attach the Nevermind to Mikey.  It seems that Lore has struck a deal with Mikey and may have more in mind then simply destroying the mages who are on earth.  In addition, his daughter seeks him out and it isn't clear whether she opposes him or wants to join him.  All this time Rya, who is pregnant with Mikey's child, is dealing with the struggle of stopping Lore and saving Mikey.  I am not sure how many issues this series is slated for, but it feels like we are racing towards some sort of finish line and I am on pins and needles wondering how this is all going to work out.



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #68 - When we last left the turtles it looked like Slash, under government control, captured the mutanimals and possibly killed Seymour and Mutagen Man.  Old Hob managed to escape to warn the turtles, but it might be too late as it looks like the captured mutanimals may be the next victims of governmental brainwashing. In addition to the peril that the mutanimals find themselves, the government soldiers have tracked down the turtles' new lair and are preparing an all-out assault.  I sure hope that Splinter and the foot clan, who he is currently leading, can intervene and provide some much needed support.  Between the tension that the turtles have with Splinter and the mutanimals, and the fact that they will need to unite in order to take down the government operatives, this series is getting quite intense.

Valiant High #2 - Valiant's ComiXology exclusive high school take on its universe continued this week and this series is an absolute blast.  I have dipped my toe in some Valiant books and have enjoyed them, but feel motivated to take a closer look after reading this book.  There seems to be a mysterious dynamic between Principle Haruda and Gilad, who has been a sophomore as long as anyone can recall.  This book opened up with a no holds barred version of dodge ball, featured a mysterious janitor, and included references to both Buffy and Veronica Mars.  This is a nice light and entertaining series that everyone should give a chance.



POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS Guest Post: Ian Sales, "The Road to Dystopia"

Today we welcome Ian Sales with a guest essay for Dystopian Visions! Sales is the author of the award-winning Apollo Quartet (see our glowing reviews of this must-read series: hereherehere and here), and founder of the SF Mistressworks blog. He can be found online at iansales.com and tweets as @ian_sales




The Road to Dystopia

There is a famous road paved with good intentions, but it is a very different sort of path which leads the way a dystopian future. We know the signs, we’ve seen them before--if we’re not old enough to remember them, then we’ve studied them in the classroom. Yet people these days seem all too happy to treat those warning signs lightly. And I have to wonder:

How much of that is science fiction’s fault?

True, there are several well-known cautionary tales - Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is the obvious ur-text, but there’s also Zamyatin’s We, Karp’s One (though its concept of dystopia seems clearly aimed at a subset of US readers), Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange... none of which, of course, were published as science fiction, although they have been claimed by the genre. But there are also plentiful dystopian novels that were published as SF--Fahrenheit 451, The Space Merchants, Stand on Zanzibar, High-Rise… and, more recently and much more widely-known, The Hunger Games trilogy, which was published as YA but is widely recognised as science fiction.

No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…

Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.

In each novel, there is one small, almost throwaway, element - a piece of background, a minor plot point, something which is either not needed or could have been achieved by other means – relevant to this piece.

In the first novel, the one published in 2014, a means of communicating with the relatively recent past has been discovered early in the twenty-second century. However, the act of communication, as in Schrödinger’s thought experiment, creates a new timeline which cannot lead to the communicator’s future. And so a “hobby” has grown up around this, with people of the twenty-second century using their more advanced knowledge and technology to interfere in the iterations of the early twenty-first century they generate. In a throwaway line in the novel, a character mentions one person who creates alternate twenty-first centuries with the sole intention of testing weapons technology, forcing the world of each past into a global war, so that he might harvest the fruits of its desperate technological struggle for survival. What the novel fails to point out, however, is that this “hobby” is playing with the lives of six billion plus people in every single one of the alternate worlds, often to fatal ends.

The plot of the earliest of the three novels revolves around an alien virus discovered on a moon of one of the gas giants. An executive of a powerful corporation is keen to learn the actual effects of this virus, and has decided that laboratory tests can tell him only so much. So he hires a group of mercenaries, seizes control of an asteroid community with a population of 1.5 million people, introduces the virus and seals the asteroid. In other words, the executive consigns 1.5 million people to death, a particularly horrible and gruesome death, in an effort to find something which might prove profitable.

In the third sf novel, published between the two mentioned above, a young woman’s peculiar origin is important in a billionaire’s plan to regain his former political position. But he can’t simply ask the young woman to help, as she has an important public role to play in her culture. He must kidnap her. And in order to hide her disappearance his agents crash a spaceship into the ocean, causing a tsunami which kills tens of millions of people.

The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.

Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”…

Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing. There is no commentary on the morality of such actions. And very rarely any discussion of the effect on the victims and survivors. Such consequence-free deployment of mega-violence not only desensitises the reader to large numbers of deaths, but it also normalises the thinking which results in those atrocities.

Because these are atrocities. Some might be acts of war, dialled up to unrealistic levels in order to tickle the reader’s sense of the dramatic, but many of them are not. The authorial lack of empathy for those millions and billions is breathtaking. True, they are fictional people, they never existed, they are not real. Indeed, they’re likely not even named characters, just part of the background, like buildings or the landscape…

There are even fictional worlds which can only exist because atrocities such as the above were committed before the story began: dystopias. Dystopias do not happen overnight. War, a fascist or theocratic regime, epidemic, climate crash… something at some point slaughtered or enslaved huge swathes of the population, and this is considered simply “world-building”. Science fiction is more concerned with the costs of dystopia on those living within it - and the genre can play an important role in that respect, although waiting for the right special snowflake to come along and save the the day is not it - than it is the events which led to it. And if the latter are discussed, it’s with a sense of inevitability - who can stop the Bomb from falling, after all - that the narrative fails to address. In most dystopian novels, the dystopia is presented as a fait accompli. It is not worth commenting on how it could have been prevented because the lesson of the narrative is either accommodation or overthrow. And the latter, while much more dramatic, is almost certainly going to lead yet more mega-violence. Often to no good effect.

No discussion of dystopian fiction would be complete without mention of a work which discusses the costs incurred on the road to dystopia. Unhappily, I can’t think of a single science-fictional example. Science fiction is not interested in “works in progress”, or protean futures, only in applecarts which can be upset or re-righted. But then a setting is little more than a backdrop against which the protagonist can be shown under the brightest of lights. Who would want to read a book in which the hero’s impact was not immediate but might take decades or centuries to manifest?

In the name of world-building, in the name of drama, science fiction has created stories where millions or billions are slaughtered on the flimsiest of pretexts (to be honest, I can’t actually think of a single acceptable pretext), or where villains have a single setting: psychopath. The more such stories readers see, the more readers become inured to these sorts of actions. But that’s not what fiction is for, and certainly not what science fiction is for.

Someone once said dystopian fiction plays an important role because it shows the privileged what the lives of the unprivileged are like. And yet so little published dystopian fiction actually meets that description. Science fiction has spent over a century reinforcing the prejudices of its readers, and all the while it has claimed to be “challenging their horizons”. It is an astonishing sleight of hand.

Not, of course, that science fiction is unique in popular culture in doing so.

However, science fiction at least has the advantage of an active community of creators and consumers. So instead of telling stories of genocide and mega-violence and psychopathic villains, throw a little empathy into the mix. When writing war stories, show the cost on all involved, not just the hero. Don’t escalate the violence while blithely ignoring the morality.

Let’s all be responsible about what we read and write, because it does matter.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

NoaF Nominates: One Fan's Ballot

Things have been quiet around here regarding the Hugo Awards. We ran our second annual four part collective Hugo Award Longlist (1, 2, 3, 4) and then pretty much went radio silent. We want to be a resource and part of the conversation, but we don't want to be THE conversation and make it about any sort of Hugo agenda. To be fair, with fifteen of us, I'm not sure we would be able to put together any sort of unified agenda anyway, but that isn't really the point.

Now that the nominating deadline has passed, it is appropriate for the various writers here to share their nominating ballots - though this post should also not be viewed as the first of a Ballot Series. I just love talking about the Hugo Awards too much and part of that conversation is sharing my nominating ballot.

With two exceptions, I am going to let the ballot stand as is without comment.


Novel
The Obelisk Gate; N.K. Jemisin; Orbit (my review)
Flesh and Wires; Jackie Hatton; Aqueduct Press (my review)
City of Blades; Robert Jackson Bennett; Broadway
Infomocracy; Malka Older; Tor.com Publishing (Charles' review)
All the Birds in the Sky; Charlie Jane Anders; Tor (my review)

Novella
Every Heart a Doorway; Seanan McGuire; Tor.com Publishing (my review)
Lustlocked; Matt Wallace; Tor.com Publishing (my review)
Pride's Spell; Matt Wallace; Tor.com Publishing (my review)
The Drowning Eyes; Emily Foster; Tor.com Publishing (my review)
Everything Belongs to the Future; Laurie Penny; Tor.com Publishing

Novelette
"Small Wars"; Matt Wallace; Tor.com

Short Story
"Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies"; Brooke Bolander; Uncanny, Issue 13
"This City Born Great"; N.K. Jemisin; Tor.com
"Listen"; Karin Tidbeck; Tor.com

Related Work
The Geek Feminist Revolution; Kameron Hurley; Tor
Fireside Fiction Special Report; Brian J White; Medium.com

Graphic Story
Paper Girls: Vol 1; Brian K. Vaughan
Monstress: Awakening; Marjorie Liu
Saga: Vol 6; Brian K. Vaughan
White Sand: Vol 1; Brandon Sanderson
Paper Girls: Vol 2; Brian K. Vaughan

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Deadpool
The Expanse: Season 1
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Zootopia
Hidden Figures

Dramatic Presentation,  Short Form
"The Door"; Game of Thrones
"Battle of the Bastards"; Game of Thrones
"Leviathan Wakes"; The Expanse

Editor, Long Form
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (All the Birds in the Sky)
Carl Engle-Laird (Infomocracy)
Devi Pillai (The Obelisk Gate)
Julian Pavia (City of Blades)
L. Timmel Duchamp (Flesh and Wires)

Editor, Short Form
Jonathan Strahan
Ann VanderMeer
John Joseph Adams

Professional Artist
Christopher Park; People of Color Destroy Science Fiction
Cynthia Shepard; The Drowning Eyes
Richard Anderson; The Burning Light
Todd Lockwood; The Summer Dragon
Victo Ngai; Everfair 

Semiprozine
Uncanny Magazine 

Fanzine
Nerds of a Feather (The G, Vance Kotrla, Joe Sherry)
SF Bluestocking (Bridget McKinney)
Quick Sip Reviews (Charles Payseur)
SF in Translation (Rachel Cordasco)
Lady Business (Renay, Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Susan)

Here's one of the two comments I want to make about my ballot. I nominated the blog I co-edit and write for. I do acknowledge that can be viewed as somewhat self serving and shallow, but I also think that the collective flock here at Nerds of a Feather do really fantastic work. The collective is stronger than any individual writer we have here (and we have some pretty darn good writers). Also, I think we very strongly reflect the modern fanzine as group blog. I think we're pretty darn awesome, but I love all my kids.

Fancast
Cabbages and Kings
Rocket Talk
Midnight in Karachi
Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men

Fan Writer
Joe Sherry; Nerds of a Feather
Bridget McKinney; SF Bluestocking
Abigail Nussbaum; Asking the Wrong Questions
Charles Payseur; Quick Sip Reviews, Nerds of a Feather
Brandon Kempner; Chaos Horizon

So, uh, this is the other comment I wanted to make. It's one thing to nominate yourself for a Hugo, it's another thing to talk about that in public. This is why we didn't specifically recommend ourselves on the Longlist. To quote Charles M. Schulz, "How gauche". But, after a number of years of lagging motivation, I was asked to join the flock here at Nerds of a Feather and I think I've since turned in some of my strongest work in a long time. I don't know that anyone else will have nominated me as there are a number of much higher profile writers who are doing really strong work, but I'd also really hate to miss the final ballot by one vote. 

Series
The Expanse; James S.A. Corey; Babylon's Ashes; Orbit
Tao; Wesley Chu; The Rise of Io; Angry Robot
Wild Cards; George R. R. Martin; High Stakes; Tor
Court of Fives; Kate Elliott; Poisoned Blade; Little Brown
Mistborn; Brandon Sanderson; The Bands of Mourning; Tor

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Jackie Hatton; Flesh and Wires
Malka Older; Infomocracy
KB Wagers; Behind the Throne
CA Higgins; Lightless
Kelly Robson; Waters of Versailles


POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS: City of Lost Children


Dossier: City of Lost Children

Filetype: Film

File Under: Stateless Dystopia

Executive Summary: One, a circus strongman in a surrealistic nightmare world that is equal parts Salvador Dali, Tom Waits spoken-word pieces, and Charles Dickens, via Fritz Lang's Metropolis, sees his little brother Donree abducted from a crowd and begins a single-minded hunt for him. One is aware, certainly, of the criminal element that runs through this society like capillaries, and of the roving bands of cyborg cultists that seem to be part police force and part kidnapping ring, but One is completely unaware of something far stranger at play...the scientist Krank.

Located on a secret, aquatic fortress, Krank and his brothers and sister are all created beings, the products of The Original. But they are all somehow broken. Martha is a dwarf; Uncle Irvin is a brain without a body, and plagued by migraines; the clone henchmen all have narcolepsy; and Krank cannot dream. Krank has been supplying the cultists with the cybernetic apparatuses they drive into their eyes and ears to better comprehend the true nature of reality. In exchange, the cultists have been stealing children for Krank's experiments. He believes that by inducing dreams in these stolen children, he will unlock the secret and gain the ability to dream for himself.

One meets a young girl named Miette, an orphan who has been forced into a life of crime by The Octopus, conjoined twins who control the lives of a large group of orphans and force them to commit both petty and elaborate robberies. After One helps Miette and her peers steal a safe, the two become unlikely partners and continue the search for Donree, braving the cyborg cult, The Octopus, tics trained to deliver murderous poison at the bidding of an organ grinder, and more as they move closer to a confrontation with Krank.

Dystopian Visions: Equal parts surrealism and dystopia, City of Lost Children draws upon the horrors of a Dickensian world of an invisible underclass with no hope for ever moving out of their station beneath this society (but is there even an upperclass in this world?), and fuses that with elements of both technological and fundamentalist dystopia. The lives of Miette and her fellow orphans are rarely presented as in strictly mortal peril, but their existence is bleak, and the idea of "childhood" is completely alien. The cyborgs, known as The Cyclops, are seen in their cultish meetings in a scene that is evocative of those in Metropolis where the robot Maria whips the underground workers into a rebellious frenzy with fire-and-brimstone religious fervor. 


This world is essentially one of lawlessness, where reason is not to be relied on, and destructive forces of many different stripes imperil everyone, forcing them into terrible choices that ultimately prove impossible to live with. We see converts give up their eye and ear in terror as they join The Cyclops. We see lackeys and con men forced into crimes they would never otherwise entertain. We see Krank's family suffer with their own monstrous actions, never certain if the scales can be balanced between their own pain they are trying to mitigate, and the pain in so many others they cause.

Utopian Undercurrents: In the legend of The Original, we see the glimmer of a utopian ideal in a man who attempted to use science to create beauty, intelligence, and a gateway to deeper understanding. But whether through that one man's personal limitations, or the hubris of any man attempting to create such things, the end result wound up being a horrible distortion that actually brought more pain and confusion into the world.


Level of Hell: Third. The world here is grim, for certain, but throughout it, we see that the human capacity for love and connection remains strong. It has not been eradicated, nor has it been actively subverted, as we see in many statist dystopias. One has deep connections with Donree and Miette, there are strong connections between many of the orphans, and even Martha is fiercely protective of Krank and the other creations. Love does not conquer all, but love always puts up a fight.

Legacy: If you enjoy Amelie, you can thank this earlier Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. The subsequent films Dark City and The Matrix also drew heavily from the same palette this film established.

In Retrospect: This movie is so good. The cleverness, the humor, the performances, including the otherworldly, old-soul performance of Judith Vittet as Miette and Ron Perlman speaking in French as One are astounding. As a work of visual imagination, this film has few peers. It is a masterpiece.



Analytics

For its time: 5/5
Watched today: 5/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 10/10.

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS: Children of Men



Dossier: Children of Men

Filetype: Film

File Under: Statist Dystopia

Executive Summary: it has been 18 years since the last baby was born, and no one knows why. The entire world, save Britain, has fallen completely apart. Theo is a burned out activist-turned-bureaucrat who is roped back in by his ex, And becomes the protector of the last hope of humanity.

Dystopian Visions: The first thing you notice about Children of Men is that it is not a *pretty* film. This is most certainly by design, but absent are any bright colors or suggestion that anyone is, in any way, happy or satisfied, even those ostensibly in control. Even at the points where the excess of the ruling class is shown, a bare splash of green and red is the most they are allowed. Throughout, the camera lingers, wanders, to the periphery, allowing us to take in the world around (depicted in the header image of of the post introducing this series).


That world is indeed ugly, bland, and hopeless. This isn't just communicated through exposition, or the visuals, but through what *isn't* there. Where a good deal of movies would feature swelling music informing our emotions, this leaves silence, allowing the movie to speak for itself in a raw, coarse tongue.

Children of Men goes out of its way to make sure that you, the viewer, know that hope is pointless in the world, and it immerses you in that world until you feel that hopelessness in your bones.


Utopian Undercurrents: In light of the above, it would be very easy to write off this entire section. There is no brightness, no light, no hope. It is everything a Utopia is *not*.


And yet.

Allow me a brief aside. I, generally speaking, detest political books. Not books with a political message, mind, but books (ostensibly) by politicians, used to prop themselves and their careers up. There was one, though, a few years back, by a young senator of whom you may have heard, called "The Audacity of Hope", and that phrase fits this movie to a T.

Because in the dimness of the world presented here, hope requires courage and audacity. Theo, as a protagonist, personifies this. Burned out and cynical, he comes to have hope, even when there is really very little to base that hope upon- besides his courage. Yet he, and the few with him, hold to that hope, audacious though it may be.
Sometimes hope is like that

Level of Hell: Eighth. For my money, this is as bad as it gets. Potentially worse by going to, say Mad Max levels of everyone-is-starving-in-a-desert, but this is 1984 levels of corruption and hopelessness.

Legacy: 100. A+. Fire emoji. There are more important and influential *books*, to be sure, but for movies? Very little comes close.


In Retrospect: Children of Men is a movie that is receiving a fair amount of attention these days. The cinematography is being recognized for its brilliance, but viewed through the lens of 2017, it becomes impossible to ignore. In 2006, it was good movie. In 2017, it is essential. I could go on for thousands of words, but watch it, and then watch it again. The smallest details, the word choices, the phrases and ideals we are seeing day after day all stand with stark clarity in a dim world.



Analytics

For its time: 4/5
Read today: 5/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 9/10.