WBEZ | sci-fi http://www.wbez.org/tags/sci-fi Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Lydia Netzer Interview http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-08/lydia-netzer-interview-102015 <p><p>Today I chat with Lydia Netzer, the author of <em>Shine Shine Shine</em>. Reviewers have passionately praised Netzer&#39;s debut novel for its sci-fi love story: the book follows the relationship of Sunny, a congenitally bald woman, and Maxon, a robotic space engineer, as they find their own version of normal both at home and up among the stars. The novel&#39;s blend of folksy and futuristic is like a bacon muffin: shocking, yet somehow it all makes perfect sense.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lydiaauthorphoto.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Lydia Netzer (Courtesy of the author)" /><strong>One of the things I identified with most in your book was the somewhat mystical/alien nature of pregnancy. What was the weirdest part of being pregnant for you?</strong><br />Feeling the baby move for the first time was terrifying. The reality of having created a life form within myself which was separate from me and controlled by a brain other than mine really freaked me out. If I think about it too much now, I still get unsettled.. I mean, imagine if you had a worm inside you that was going to grow by a factor of like a thousand, and then bust its way out the nearest available hole and go found a corporation.. Yet our reaction is supposed to be to coo and crochet a hat.</p><p><strong>The following two questions will take you through some high-highs and low-lows. Your book has elicited some really positive reviews. What were some of the best compliments people have paid to your book?</strong><br />The best compliments I have received were supportive messages from parents of children with autism, or wives of men with Aspberger&rsquo;s Syndrome. I wrote my book including characters with these traits, but I did not not make it a central point of the book. I was concerned I would be seen by people who live with these disorders as having been dismissive, or trivializing the troubles they experience. That doesn&rsquo;t seem to be the case, and that&rsquo;s very rewarding to hear.</p><p><strong>Now: What were some of the meanest critiques you received on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lydia-netzer/marriage-secrets_b_1459770.html">your piece about a successful marriage</a>?</strong><br />I think the best one was the woman who was like, &ldquo;Fifteen years? That&rsquo;s nothing! Try again when you get to 30, like me!&rdquo; And I mean, there&rsquo;s no response to that, except to say, yes, you&rsquo;re right. Thirty is certainly a larger number than 15. It doesn&rsquo;t really bother me &mdash; in fact, I&rsquo;ve had as much fun with the one-star reviews of my book as the five-star. The person on <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13167199-shine-shine-shine?auto_login_attempted=true#other_reviews">Goodreads</a>&nbsp;who trumpeted, &ldquo;<em>Shine Shine Shine</em>? This book is crap crap crap!&rdquo; made me laugh &lsquo;til I cried. I mean, you have to laugh. You can&rsquo;t take anything so seriously.</p><p><strong>So many depictions of marriage in pop culture paint it as a drag. What are some examples of marriages &mdash; either fictional or real &mdash; that seem sexy and fun?</strong><br />I always really loved the Bartletts on the show <em>The West Wing</em>. They always had a twinkle in their eyes with each other, even when they fought. I like the Obamas, too. I really love seeing couples that kid around with each other without crossing a certain line of respect. The difference between the marriage on <em>Everybody Loves Raymon</em>d, which I found depressing, and the marriage on <em>Roseanne</em>, which I found fun, was that strangely, Roseanne and Dan actually never really crossed that &ldquo;teasing&rdquo; line into insulting. Of course, I like April and Andy on <em>Parks and Recreation</em>. And I love Pam and Jim on <em>The Office</em>.</p><p><strong>What are some of your favorite examples of books or movies that successfully combine sci-fi and romance?</strong><br />I&rsquo;m reading a book right now called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Infinite-Tides-A-Novel/dp/1608198103"><em>The Infinite Tides</em></a> by Christian Kiefer. While it&rsquo;s not really a romance, I think it really gorgeously combines sci-fi elements with contemporary literary fiction, so it&rsquo;s a compelling statement about fatherhood, marriage and identity, and it still has astronauts, space walks, math and rockets. One movie I really love is Contact, which is about a straight-laced, scientific-minded woman falling for a woo-woo theologian dude, all in the framework of alien contact and extraterrestrial machines.</p><p><strong>What&rsquo;s one of the biggest differences so far, between<em> Shine Shine Shine </em>and its follow-up?</strong><br />The new book has no robots. Which is sad, but if I put robots in every book, people would start to think I had an unnatural affection for them. Which I totally don&rsquo;t. Really.</p><p><strong>What did you learn from writing and publishing <em>Shine Shine Shine</em> that has helped you in approaching the second book?</strong><br />Readers have responded so positively to the elements in <em>Shine Shine Shine </em>that I thought would be the most strange and inaccessible: the meditations on A.I., the weird death/hallucination/memory scene, the spacewalk encounter, etc. I really feel, after having people connect with and love those elements, that I have permission to let myself write what I really want to write, and not edit my imagination to the things I think will be palatable for a wide audience. I think the wide audience has more willingness to engage in strangeness than I had given them credit for.</p><p><strong>You give lots of helpful writing advice online: Whose writing advice has helped you?</strong><br />I often use <a href="http://writeordie.com/">Write or Die</a>, which is writing software that begins to blink, beep, flash and shout at you if you stop writing for more than three seconds. I also am addicted to National Novel Writing Month, which encourages mad drafting, no editing and buckets of output in a short time.</p><p><strong>You&rsquo;re making the <a href="http://media.us.macmillan.com/rggguides/9781250007070RGG.pdf">book club</a> circuit: for those new to that world, how would you advise authors on how to best prepare for these appearances?</strong><br />Engage as a member of the club as much as possible, and as The Visiting Professional Author Lady as little as possible. Be a friend, be a nice person, be a good addition to the group. Listen.</p><p><strong>You homeschool your kids. What are some of the biggest misconceptions of homeschooling you encounter, either regarding the parents or the kids?</strong><br />That homeschoolers are isolated. I mean there are stereotypes about homeschoolers being religious nutburgers or hippies or anarchists. . . &nbsp;but those are pretty much dissipating nowadays as homeschooling becomes more mainstream. What people still really don&rsquo;t understand is how much interaction these kids get &mdash; karate school, horse barns, violin academy, homeschool co-op, church &mdash; and that&rsquo;s not even counting the intentional socializing that homeschoolers do at park days, dances, play dates, field trips, etc. If there&rsquo;s one misconception that I wish I could explode, it would be that homeschooling is lonely. We actually have to work to *limit* the kids&rsquo; social calendar, so it doesn&rsquo;t start taking over our lives.</p><p><strong>Who are some of your favorite famous baldies?</strong><br />I loved <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=bald%20natalie%20portman&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=Hv48UK_HO6TgyQGj14CADw&amp;biw=1024&amp;bih=569&amp;sei=JP48UILIMKObyAHfmYHQCg">Natalie Portman bald</a>. She&rsquo;s my very favorite Also <a href="https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;hs=MkQ&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;q=bald%20sigourney%20weaver&amp;biw=1024&amp;bih=569&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=Vf48UM3-H6rRyQG8xYCICw">Sigourney Weaver bald</a>. I&rsquo;d love to see Claire Danes bald! Demi Moore and Britney Spears, not so much. In terms of boys, Bruce Willis, definitely. <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=Dostoevsky&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=vv48ULf1OcndyAH4q4DYBw&amp;biw=1024&amp;bih=569&amp;sei=wf48ULemG8PkywH0pIGADg">Dostoevsky, obvs</a>.</p><p><strong>How does it feel to be the 324th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?</strong><br />It&rsquo;s a dream come true. Thank you so much for having me! You&rsquo;re a peach, and all my love for your new baby!</p><p><em>Lydia Netzer lives in Virginia, where she homeschools her kids, <a href="http://lydianetzer.blogspot.com/">writes wonderfully about writing</a> and runs this <a href="https://twitter.com/lostcheerio">Twitter account</a>. Click <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/2012/08/the_lydia_netzer_interview.php">here</a> to read an extended interview with Netzer.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-08/lydia-netzer-interview-102015 Weekly Guide: 'Alien Queen' team crafts intergalactic weekend http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-09/weekly-guide-alien-queen-team-crafts-intergalactic-weekend-94755 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-09/Alien Queen.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The mash-up has become as American as apple pie, providing great mixes – like Jay-Z and the Beatles--and some questionable ones-–hello Snoop Dogg and Katy Perry? But how about the rock band Queen and the sci-fi horror flick <em>Alien</em>? That cultural pairing may be unfamiliar to some–-but not for much longer --thanks to Scott Bradley, one-half of the mad genius behind the rock concert slash parody slash musical known as <a href="http://bigtopjojo.com/scooty/shows/alien-queen/" target="_blank"><em>Alien Queen: The Concert</em></a>. The show takes place this Saturday night at 9pm at the <a href="http://metrochicago.com/" target="_blank">Metro</a> in Chicago. Ryan Lanning is its star – he plays Ridley in <em>Alien Queen</em>. But before they broke any legs, <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>invited them to be the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/weeklyguide" target="_blank"><em>Weekly Guides</em></a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Picks from Scott Bradley </strong></p><p>Friday:<br> <a href="http://www.neofuturists.org/" target="_blank">Neofuturists</a> "Burning Bluebeard"</p><p>Saturday:<br> <a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com" target="_blank">The Paper Machete Show</a></p><p><em>This week at TPMS:</em><br> Madame Barker’s Cabaret (Molly Brennan and John Fournier)<br> Art and Nancy Brennan (Occupy activists)<br> Chad the Bird<br> Cameron Esposito (Stand-up Comedienne)<br> Kate James and Steve Waltien (The Second City)<br> Claire Zulkey (Blogger/Funny Ha Ha)<br> Music by Baby Teeth</p><p>Sunday:<br> <a href="http://www.ludorock.com/" target="_blank">A Very LUDO Christmas</a> at Metro - 6:30pm all ages - really fun St. Louis rockers.</p><p>Monday:<br> Monday night: <a href="http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/" target="_blank"><em>Raiders of the Lost Ark</em> at Musicbox Theatre</a> -&nbsp; Face-melting Nazis on the large screen!!!!</p><p><strong>Picks from Ryan Lanning</strong></p><p>Friday:<br> <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/lists/sedaris/" target="_blank">Santaland Diaries</a></em><br> Written by David Sedaris, Adapted by Joe Mantello<br> Thursdays-Sundays through Dec. 31, Theatre Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave - $20-$55<br> &nbsp;</p><p>Saturday:<br> Tori Amos at the <a href="http://www.thechicagotheatre.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Theatre</a></p><p>Sunday:<br> <a href="http://www.bucktownpromotions.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Bucktown Holiday Artshow</a><br> Holstein Park Fieldhouse 2200 N. Oakley Ave.<br> 13th annual art showcase, featuring original work from 100 artists spanning all mediums. $2</p><p>Monday:<br> Through Dec 24 <a href="http://www.christkindlmarket.com/en/" target="_blank">Christkindlmarket</a> in Daley Plaza<br> German Holiday Market -&nbsp; German Crafts and delicious food and drink - Stollen, Fudge, Sausages, Beers. Free<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 09 Dec 2011 14:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-09/weekly-guide-alien-queen-team-crafts-intergalactic-weekend-94755 Mind-bending sci-fi books for a fantastical summer http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-14/mind-bending-sci-fi-books-fantastical-summer-87820 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-14/sci-fihires.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Publishers like to throw around the term "speculative fiction," but you won't see too many fans of the genres it comprises — fantasy and science-fiction — bandying it about. For one thing, it's redundant; all fiction speculates, or it isn't fiction. More importantly, true fans of science fiction or fantasy don't feel a particular need to justify that love, much less dress it up in more "respectable" language. It's a mug's game, after all: Those readers who reflexively turn up their noses at genre fiction will continue to do so, no matter what name it goes by. (That they will do so while embracing "literary fiction" — a genre replete with tropes and strictures of its own — is an irony lost on them.)</p><p>But nevermind the semantics. One thing the fantasy and science-fiction genres share is an ability to address our most enduring cultural metaphors by making them literal, to engage abstract concepts by bestowing upon them narrative life. In the novels below, corruption assumes a malevolent physical form; a woman becomes a figure of speech; time is a currency that can be hoarded or squandered; the secrets kept by a sleepy Southern town weaken the boundary between life and death; and we glimpse, in a satirist's vision of the future, a stark and unflattering portrait of the present.</p><p>The assertion is that these disparate books offer satisfying, intellectually chewy pleasures perfect for a summer afternoon. That much, at least, is no idle speculation.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>Heaven's Needle</strong><strong> </strong></p><p><h6>By Liane Merciel, paperback, 480 pages, Pocket Star, list price: $7.99</h6></p><p>Liane Merciel's second novel set in the world of Ithelas comes factory-equipped with the deluxe High-Fantasy options package: a Manichean conflict between the virtuous priests of sunlight and the evil practitioners of blood-magic we met in the first book, <em>The River King's Road</em>. But Merciel tweaks the formula — and deepens her storytelling — by introducing a third element: a plague of pure chaos capable of tempting noble knight and nasty necromancer alike into despair, madness and unspeakable violence. As bitter enemies forge an uneasy alliance to cleanse a remote village, Merciel splinters her narrative and discretely parcels out clues to the mystery so that the reader stays one step ahead of her characters — and watches in mute horror as they blunder into situations that could cost them their very souls. You needn't have read the first book to enjoy this swords-and-sorcery yarn, but squeamish readers should note that Merciel's breed of fantasy is anything but fanciful; in her world, violence is visceral — often quite literally.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>Embassytown</strong><strong> </strong></p><p><h6>By China Mieville, hardcover, 368 pages, Del Rey, list price: $26</h6></p><p>Although there are spaceships and robots aplenty, the science that's truly at the heart of British author China Mieville's latest novel of science fiction is that of linguistics. In <em>Embassytown</em>, set in a human outpost on a planet home to a strange race of beings called Hosts whose metaphor-based language must be spoken with two voices and resists translation, Mieville has created a singular mashup of semiotics and space opera. Avice Benner Cho is an immerser — a human capable of crossing vast interstellar distances by accessing "ur-space" — who finds herself transformed into a living simile in the alien's language.</p><p>Those unprepared for Mieville's playfulness with language may find the neologism-stuffed opening chapters of <em>Embassytown</em> rough going. But once the reader acclimates, Mieville's dense argot enriches this heady tale of interstellar diplomacy gone horribly wrong.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>The Quantum Thief</strong></p><p><h6><strong><em> </em></strong>By Hannu Rajaneimi, hardcover, 336 pages, Tor, list price: $24.99</h6></p><p>The big ideas keep piling up as you dive deeper and deeper into this first novel: a city that marches across the Martian desert; a cloud of universally accessible data called "exomemory" that floats in the air around people, places and things; a quantum-jail; interpersonal communication re-imagined as a dense network of negotiable privacy settings; the individual minutes of a person's life used as legal tender. But the accrued weight of all of these notions never slows <em>The Quantum Theif</em>'s pace, because the engine Finnish author Hannu Rajaneimi uses to drive his narrative is a good, old-fashioned heist plot: A charming thief is rescued from prison by powerful, possibly sinister beings and forced to find a mysterious treasure he stole in one of his past lives. As he attempts to decipher the clues left by his past self, a young amateur detective stumbles on his trail. It's a thoughtful, stylish, wryly funny debut.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>Graveminder</strong><strong> </strong></p><p><h6>By Melissa Marr, hardcover, 336 pages, William Morrow, list price: $22.99</h6></p><p>If anyone can put the goth in Southern Gothic, it's Melissa Marr, author of the popular Dark Fairie YA series <em>Wicked Lovely</em>. <em>Graveminder</em>, her first novel for adults, finds a young woman returning to the small Southern town of her youth upon the death of a beloved mentor, only to find herself at the center of a long-buried municipal secret. Can she accept her dark destiny? And is she prepared to face a jealous stepsister, whispering neighbors, a tortured but handsome old flame and — not for nothing — the fact that the dead have taken to walking around after dark to snack on the living? Though the book is a quick read, Marr takes her time building the world of Clayville, and the sinister mystery that dwells within its city limits. She's also careful to ensure that the book's wider themes — how and if we accept the roles life assigns us, and what happens to us when we refuse them — matter to us as much as the multiple cases of heebie-jeebies she doles out before the book is through.</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><hr /></p><p><strong>2030: The Real Story Of What Happens To America</strong><strong> </strong></p><p><h6>By Albert Brooks, hardcover, 384 pages, St. Martin's, list price: $25.99</h6></p><p>Way back in 1979, Albert Brooks parodied the television docu-series <em>An American Family </em>with his film <em>Real Life, </em>a satire that plumbed, with eerie foresight, the depths to which today's reality TV routinely sinks. So now that, in his first novel, Brooks is waxing prognostic about our national future, it makes sense to pay attention. In Brook's vision, the cure for cancer results in an America that can no longer afford to care for its increasingly hale, hearty and long-lived elderly; the deep resentment harbored by young people over the crippling debt visited upon them by their parents flares into violent acts; and the long-predicted Big One finally arrives, in the form of a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that reduces Southern California to rubble.</p><p>Hard sci-fi writers like Mieville and Rajaneimi, above, prefer to go about their furious futurism behind the scenes: We open the book and arrive in a fully imagined foreign world filled with unfamiliar words and technology, and the process of unpacking how the human race got from here to there is on us — and a big part of the fun. But Brooks' aim is satire; his goal is to show us how very, very close we already are to the dystopian, all-too-realistic future he imagines. Thus he takes great pains to show his work: His writing is loose and conversational, full of the kind of heavy exposition science fiction writers shun. In another's hands, his tendency to stop the action to explain how a given state of affairs came to be would come off as heavy-handed. But Brooks' voice is consistently engaging, his comic timing lets him know when to leaven the proceedings with a joke, and he resolves the novel's crisis in a way that's both surprising and inevitable — and, given the mordant tone of what precedes it, boldly hopeful. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1308062261?&gn=Mind-Bending+Sci-Fi+Books+For+A+Fantastical+Summer&ev=event2&ch=136825076&h1=Critics%27+Lists%3A+Summer+2011,Summer+Books+2011,Books,Arts+%26+Life&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137003853&c7=1032&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1032&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110614&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=136825076,136460322&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 08:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-14/mind-bending-sci-fi-books-fantastical-summer-87820