The Science of Superheroes?
The past ten years or so of superhero films, books and general mainstream popularity have seen a few bizarre offshoots from the main stem of the genre (if it is a genre, but I’m not going to get into that debate again). One of the most bizarre must be the books attempting to teach science through superheroes. Why, you ask?
And why now? That is, what is it that makes fairly bizarre characters — superhumans with extreme bodies, colourful tights and the ambition to save the world through massive beatings — gain in popularity over and over again as the history of popular culture unfolds? There are a few theories.
The Care and Handling of (Dis)Belief
In discussions on the literature of the fantastic – science fiction, fantasy, horror and such – you sometimes hear the term ‘suspension of disbelief.’ The idea is that the writer makes the reader accept things that (most) would assume to be impossible, such as dragons, ray guns or a working postal system. So far so good, but it turns out that this apparently innocuous little term is enough to cause trouble.
Just a few lines to say that my job as a moderator at Litteralund, the Swedish festival for children’s and YA literature, went well. The session was titled ‘Four Nuances of Fantasy,’ and I began by briefly interviewing Nene Ormes, Elin Fahlstedt, Niklas Krog and Maria Turtschaninoff. Then we had an interesting discussion on how to create the fantastic in text and images, different kinds of fantasy, what we are looking for in the fantastic, and so forth.
As for the festival itself, it was great fun. The session on the current state of the YA novel was one of many highlights, as was the interview with writer and artist Johan Unenge, the Swedish reading ambassador. Literacy levels are dropping, and a national jury has appointed the reading ambassador to do something about it. I wish him the best of luck.
And now for something completely different: we’re getting close to Litteralund, the Swedish festival for literature aimed at children and young adults. Come April 20, I will be in Lund to moderate a discussion between four fantasy authors: Elin Fahlstedt, Niklas Krog, Nene Ormes and Maria Turtschaninoff, four (very) different voices within the field of fantastic literature. The session blurb says ‘a conversation about magical doors to odd realities,’ and that’s what we will be aiming for. How do you transport the reader elsewhere (or even elsewhen), and is it more difficult in countries without the immense fantasy tradition of, say, the UK? This should be interesting – if you’re in the neighbourhood, don’t miss it!
The Nature of the Superhero, Part Two: Fantasy
In my last post, I thought a bit about superheroes and science fiction and came to the conclusion that superheroes aren’t sf. They might borrow props and situations from the sf genre every now and then, but otherwise the two types of fiction are quite dissimilar. Right – what about fantasy, then? Do Superman and Frodo have more in common than one might think?
As You Know, Bob …
Lo and behold, I have been on TV! The Swedish channel Kunskapskanalen recorded at this year’s Eurocon, where I moderated a panel on info dumping. Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald, Hannu Rajaniemi and Charles Stross had much to say on the subject — go to http://urplay.se/165713 to see the panel.