Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes, part 2: Spiders, Telekinesis, and More

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I made a post a few months back discussing a handful of sci-fi tropes that I’ve seen in books—here it is, if you’d like to have a look! When I wrote it, I knew I’d be writing several more similar posts; the world of sci-fi literature is so diverse in its content, so there’s no shortage of tropes, however specific, that I can discuss. Some of these tropes are broader and others are fairly minute, but I think they’ll be a lot of fun to discuss.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

David welcomes you | Shipping | Know Your Meme

SCI-FI TROPES: PART 2

MYSTERIOUS, TELEKINETIC WOMEN

dark phoenix gif | Tumblr | Dark phoenix, Jean grey phoenix, Marvel gif
had to include her bc she was the blueprint for this trope…probably

Here’s an interesting one to tackle. I see this one almost exclusively in space operas, but the basic premise is usually as follows: a woman, usually younger than the rest of the main cast, is either gifted with or born with unexplainable and unparalleled telekinesis. This power usually means that she’s the main decider in ✨the fate of the universe✨. These powers of hers often result in mind-bending displays of grandeur, including but not limited to: killing enemies in disturbing ways, crumpling spaceships like soda cans, and bending space and time itself.

Often, these powers come along with an intense emotional burden; at the heart of it, there’s a quintessential “why me?” dilemma with respect to her powers. Inner conflict is all part of the package with godly telekinesis, which often results in this character losing her mind and/or lashing out at other members of the cast. And, well…given that it’s either a “puppet of an all-powerful cosmic entity” or “being devoured from the inside by space energy” situation, it’s understandable.

What sometimes rubs me the wrong way about this trope—although I’m all for cosmic women tearing apart the fabric of the universe (who isn’t?)—is the fact that most of these women have a lack of agency. Which, given that a lot of the characters that come to mind are written by men, is more than a little concerning. Even with all of this awe-inspiring power, these women are often portrayed as helpless. Many of their breakdowns about the burden of their power are often reduced to “oh, she’s just a women being overly emotional, typical.”

Which brings me to why I appreciate a particular instance of this trope—Auri from Aurora Rising. She may still be frightened of her own power, but she takes control of the situation—she takes it upon herself to master her powers, break away from the path that the Eshvaren have set for her, and ultimately save the galaxy. She has agency, and, yes, that’s the bare minimum, but she’s written with a significant amount of sway over her abilities as the books go on.

This trope can be poignant and powerful if used right, but if misused, it can lead to a lot of reductive stereotypes.

BOOKS WITH TROPES: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Forgotten Star (Colin Weldon), The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams)

IF THE ALIENS AREN’T BASICALLY HUMANS, THEY’RE JUST ANTHROPOMORPHIZED ANIMALS

Bossk Star Wars GIF - Bossk Star Wars Empire Strikes Back - Discover &  Share GIFs
this is far from the most dramatic example, but Bossk is the only one I can find a gif of

I get it. Creature design is hard—how do you create an alien that’s simultaneously familiar enough for a reader to project onto (if that’s the goal) but also weird enough to pass as “alien?”

In my last post, I talked about the trope of aliens that just looked like humans. That’s the ultimate alien design deal-breaker for me, unless there’s a good explanation for it. But in my opinion, the next level down is just making your aliens intelligent versions of animals with no other changes. Like the human-alien trope, it just feels like lazy design. It’s not that basing your alien design off of a certain animal is bad—on some level, most alien design is just that. The lazy part is just making an upright version of an already existing animal and changing nothing beyond that. (Plus, if it’s mammalian, you’re just…making intergalactic furries? Uh…)

One of the worst examples that I can recall is from The Stars Now Unclaimed, which I DNF’d. Not only was their an alien species that were just upright wolves, the species itself was called a Wulf. I KID YOU NOT. At that point, it’s almost…self-aware of how lazy it is? Or it seems that way, at any rate. But you just…don’t do that. Under any circumstances.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams), Earth Force Rising (Monica Tesler), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson)

AND ON THAT SUBJECT, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE SPIDERS?

Ron Weasley is my spirit animal - GIF on Imgur

While we’re on the topic of creature design, here’s another trope that I’ve found several times. Lots of alien species in literature—most intended to be menacing, but not all—have been based on spiders, or described as spiders or spider-like.

One aspect of basing an alien design off of an animal is to still try and make it as alien as possible, and one way to do that is to base it off of an animal that many already consider “alien” or “scary.” These are often invertebrates—cephalopods, jellyfish, insects, and arachnids—spiders. By creating a creature with elements that are already unnerving to a lot of people, you’ve achieved the effect of making it alien without making it totally unfamiliar.

But why spiders in particular? Most of the spider-aliens that I’ve seen at the forefront of sci-fi stories are meant to be menacing. I suppose there’s already a latent metaphor of spiders catching unsuspecting prey in their webs, if menacing is the route the author intends to go on. If these characters are meant to be antagonistic, spiders are the perfect combination—not only do they look alien to us, but they’re also a commonly feared animal. They’re also involved in a lot of insidious metaphors, creatures known for ensnaring their prey in webs. I can speak to the “commonly feared” part myself—I’m fine with really small ones (jumping spiders and such—they’re cute), but big spiders? No way. I blame the wolf spider that I found in my room when I was five. (WHY DO THEY RUN SO FAST AAAAAA)

As far as aliens with animal basis, I think spider-aliens are effective. Even if they do fall into the “animals with no changes other than intelligence” trope, at least they’re not completely bipedal and upright—eight legs! But already, they’re so wildly different from us—the perfect starting point for an interesting alien.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Doom Machine (Mark Teague), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), The Outside (Ada Hoffmann)

THE FATE OF COMIC RELIEF RESTS ON THE MACHINES

C-3PO and R2-D2 discovered by Lux on We Heart It

Are none of your characters particularly funny? Have they not gotten the chance to banter properly? Are they all on a spaceship? I’ve got a trope for you, then…

This is the exact flip side of one of the tropes I mentioned in my first post—unhinged AI. Often times in space opera books with large cast, there is a character that’s some sort of machine: a droid, a ship’s AI, et cetera. But their main role, apart from providing convenient solutions to hacking-relation problems, is to lighten the mood.

So why machines? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I have a theory. Part of it may be to avoid risk—sometimes it’s too dangerous to have a character whose only personality trait is to be “sassy” or “the funny one,” so putting this personality onto an AI of some kind reduces the possibility of a one-dimensional flesh-and-blood character. AI are often reduced to minimal personality traits, as often, they’re designed for a particular task. Unless they have a short character arc where they have an epiphany of some kind about breaking free of their programming, they’re usually helpful vessels of humor in an otherwise hardened and dry-humored crew.

What’s more about this trope is how often it shows up—pick up any space-opera in the bookstore or the library, and there’s a good 75% chance that there’s a minor Sassy AI™️ character. I hesitate to say that it’s tried and true, but it’s certainly difficult to screw up. The problem is that most of them have the same sense of humor—sass, “oh, you humans are so stupid haha” condescension, and making jokes at inopportune times. (There’s also the inevitable running joke of the flesh-and-blood characters telling said AI character to shut up.) I appreciate good AI comic relief, but it’s become a formula, almost to the point where what I once thought was hilarious now makes me feel almost nothing.

So give your AI something unique—glitches, specific quirks, something, anything that will set it apart from 50% of other machines on the shelf.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson), To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Crownchasers (Rebecca Coffindaffer), Honor Among Thieves (Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your opinions on these tropes? What are some other tropes that you’d like me to discuss? Tell me in the comments!

Blade Runner 2049 - Album on Imgur

Today’s song:

listened to this whole album the other day. it was hit or miss for me overall, but when it got good, it got good

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

August 2021 Wrap-Up 🍰

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

And here we are. August, the end of summer and the start of the school year. My birthday month too, so that’s always a lot of fun. Still can’t believe we’re four months away from 2022 though…

[ahem] that aside…

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

school GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

For the most part, August was a pretty nice month. I didn’t plan on getting bitten by mosquitoes in Florida (okay: not that many mosquitoes, getting bug bites in Florida is kind of a given), but I got to read some good books while I was there. Plus, Kaz cane. Other than that, I just enjoyed summer’s last hurrah, reading, watching movies with friends, and soaking up the last of the warm weather. I had my birthday later in the month as well, and I had a lot of fun celebrating with family!

I started school about two weeks ago, and I’m slowly easing back in, and knock on wood, I’ll be able to keep all the A’s I have so far. 🤞I’m still in mostly honors/AP classes, but I’m glad that I have those classes in the subjects I’m good at. After AP Bio, I don’t think I could take another honors/AP science class…

After getting through Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve had mostly steady progress in my sci-fi WIP for most of the month! I’m close to the end of the draft, and I’ve gotten to write some of my favorite scenes in the whole story this month. My progress petered out a little bit once I had to adjust to my new school schedule, but I’m getting back on track now. As I’m writing this, I’ve just finished up the climax, so I’m getting close!

Ive Been Looking Forward To This Dooku GIF - Ive Been Looking Forward To  This Dooku Revenge - Discover & Share GIFs

Other than that, I’ve just been volunteering at the library, working my way through It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Gravity Falls, and What If?, going to my first live concert since the pandemic started (Wilco!),doodling still more aliens, watching The Suicide Squad, and eating all the cake and candy leftover from my birthday.

READING AND BLOGGING:

I read 20 books this month! I think this month is tied with January and June for the least amount of books read, and I can probably attribute that to a) a few really chunky books and b) getting back into the school routine. Nevertheless, I found some unexpected favorites in the bunch!

2 – 2.75 stars:

Amazon.com: When My Heart Joins the Thousand eBook : Steiger, A. J.: Kindle  Store
When My Heart Joins the Thousand

3 – 3.75 stars:

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) by RoAnna Sylver
The Lifeline Signal

4 – 4.75 stars:

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers
A Psalm for the Wild-Built

5 stars:

The Darkness Outside Us | eliot-schrefer
The Darkness Outside Us

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH (NOT COUNTING RE-READS): The Darkness Outside Us – 5 stars

Amazon.com: The Darkness Outside Us: 9780062888280: Schrefer, Eliot: Books
The Darkness Outside Us

SOME POSTS I’M PROUD OF:

POSTS I ENJOYED FROM OTHER WONDERFUL PEOPLE:

SONGS/ALBUMS I’VE ENJOYED:

the joy this song brings me oh my god
there isn’t a bad song on this album. on either of the discs. none.
shhhhh I swear I like this song for more reasons than the fact that St. Vincent produced it
god this song is beautiful…I had a dream about it the other night
never gets old

DID I FOLLOW THROUGH ON MY AUGUST GOALS?

Eat Cake GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
  • Read at least 20 books: 20!
  • Enjoy the last weeks of summer: certainly did!
  • Start the school year off on a good note: all A’s and I got an A on my first math quiz, I’d call that a good note!
  • ENJOY MY BIRTHDAY: very much so!

GOALS FOR SEPTEMBER:

giphy (22) - Made in Salford
  • Read at least 20 books
  • Don’t stress too much about college stuff oof
  • Take care of yourself

Since I already posted once today, check out today’s Book Review Tuesday for today’s song.

That’s it for this month in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Mini Reviews

Mini Reviews of Books I Read in Florida

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I was in Florida about a week ago for a quick trip, but as I always do, I brought some books along on my Kindle to get me through the plane rides and the heat. I like doing little mini-reviews of these books when I go somewhere else, so I figured I’d do it again here, since I certainly read a couple of very interesting books while I was in Florida. So here we have three mini-reviews of books I read in Florida.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🦎BOOKS I READ IN FLORIDA🦎

Forgotten Star – Colin Weldon

Amazon.com: Forgotten Star eBook : Weldon, Colin: Kindle Store

Blurb from Goodreads:

Following a devastating encounter with an unknown alien ship resulting in the disappearance of her parents as a child, Tamara Cartwright now spends her life scouring the galaxy in the hope of finding the dark force that attacked her father’s ship.
Now the Captain of a rescue vessel, The Massey Shaw, she makes a choice, resulting in the destruction of a star in order to save a stricken vessel, a prohibited act while using alien technology. Now, an outlaw, she is entrusted with the fate of a very unusual young girl endowed with special abilities. She must also find the survivors of an ill-fated ship at the hands of a malevolent race know only to the humans as the Ghosts. Driven by the hope of finding the truth of her parent’s disappearance and one last chance to make a difference to those in need of rescue, she must go on one final mission into deep space and deal with the monsters from her past.

Hansolo Badfeeling GIF - Hansolo Badfeeling Starwars GIFs | Star wars gif, Star  wars, Gif

TW/CW: human experimentation, loss of loved ones, death, graphic violence

Forgotten Star wasn’t without its flaws by a long shot, but it was such a fun and fascinating piece of space opera! With lots of political intrigue, strange aliens, and mysterious powers, there’s something for every sci-fi fan in here.

I need to start off with my main problem, though: the grammar. It was…inconsistent, at best. This novel definitely needed an extra round of editing (or two) in that respect; there were lots of errors in punctuation (mostly placement of commas), and there were a few misspellings and omissions that could have been fixed. (As well as a misspelling of “berth,” as in “a wide berth,” as “birth” …YIKES) On occasion, the faulty grammar was enough to take me out of the story entirely, but for the most part, I could let it slide. Sometimes.

But other than that, Forgotten Star was a great piece of sci-fi! One thing this novel did incredibly well was the handling of multiple POVs – for a lot of multiple POV books, it takes a while for all of the characters/elements to coalesce, but it didn’t take long for all of the elements here to come together, making for a cohesive and intricate story. I also loved all of the alien races, and the intricacies of their relationships with humans. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see aliens that clearly have some creative design put into them.

Some of the dialogue and characters were a little stiff and inauthentic at times, but for the most part, a lot of the characters were interesting to delve into. I liked Ona and Urhan, in particular – they had very interesting arcs and backstories, and I loved seeing them develop.

My only other major problem was that the ending wrapped up a *little* too nicely? From everything that built up over the course of the story, it seemed like there was a setup for a sequel, but the ending tried to wrap everything up too quickly. I’d like to see more from this universe.

All in all, though, a well-thought-out and intricate piece of space opera. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Queen of Coin and Whispers – Helen Corcoran

Amazon.com: Queen of Coin and Whispers: A kingdom of secrets and a game of  lies: 9781788491181: Corcoran, Helen: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade’

When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster–who took the job to avenge her murdered father–they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason.

Lia won’t mourn her uncle: he’s left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She’s sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her father’s murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

Animated gif about pretty in Fantasy and medieval by Marveline.

TW/CW (from Helen Corcoran): off-page suicide, murder, emotional torture

I’m not sure if I would necessarily call Queen of Coin and Whispers a fantasy novel – there wasn’t a whole lot that would distinguish it from a historical setting (no different magic properties/creatures/worldbuilding/etc.). But that’s not to say that it was a bad book – in fact, it was stunning!

There’s plenty of YA fantasy books on the market with protagonists who suddenly ascend to royalty. But Queen of Coin and Whispers addresses what most of those novels don’t – the mental tax of ruling a country at such a young age. Lia goes through endless trials and tribulations and even faces becoming the ruler that her uncle was, all while grappling with love and other relationships. Corcoran wrote her development so well, and it’s so refreshing to see a genuine-feeling story like Lia’s.

Additionally, the romance! Lia and Xania’s relationship was so sweet – sharing books, secret conversations, and all things warm and fuzzy. They go through all the ups and downs of first love, and I love seeing wlw rep like theirs in non-contemporary stories. I love those two. 💗

Other than that, the political intrigue and the depiction of the transition of power was so well-done! Everything was so multi-layered and detailed, making it feel like Lia and Xania’s world was a real and fleshed-out one. Just when you think you know the answers, something new pokes out its head, and you’re left guessing until the very last page.

All in all, a fascinating royal mystery with genuine characters and a sweet sapphic romance. 4 stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) – RoAnna Sylver

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) by RoAnna Sylver

Blurb from Goodreads:

Parole is still burning. And now the day everyone has been waiting for is finally here: it’s collapsed. A lucky few managed to escape with their lives. But while their city burned, the world outside suffered its own devastating disaster. The Tartarus Zone is a deadly wasteland a thousand miles wide, filled with toxic storms, ghostly horrors, and just as many Eyes in the Sky as ever. Somehow, this new nightmare is connected to Parole. And it’s spreading. 

Now Parole’s only hope lies in the hands of three teenagers reunited by their long-lost friend Gabriel – in their dreams. Now they’re on a desperate cross-country race, carrying vital plans that may be Parole’s salvation. First they’ll board the FireRunner, a ship full of familiar faces that now sails through Tartarus’ poison storms. Then, together, they’ll survive Tartarus’ hazards, send a lifeline to lost Parole – and uncover the mystery connecting everyone, inside Parole and out.

The world outside Parole isn’t the one they remember, and it didn’t want them back. But they’ll save it just the same. It’s what heroes do.

TV Shows | Queer Culture Chats

(for my mini-review of book 1, Chameleon Moon, click here!)

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, violence, near-death situations

I didn’t like this one *quite* as much as I did Chameleon Moon, but it was still such a fun read!

One of the things I love most about this series is how diverse it is – easily the most diverse series I know! We have an almost entirely different cast of characters in The Lifeline Signal, but among the three main characters, we have a nonbinary (xie/xir pronouns) Native American (Tsalagi) character with Arnold-Chiari malformation, a bisexual Indian-American character, and an aro-ace autistic Vietnamese-American character! Among the side characters, there’s no shortage of queer, POC, and disabled characters, including a Black hijabi woman, a nonbinary character, polyamorous relationships, and more! Books as diverse as this series don’t come along very often, so three cheers for RoAnna Sylver for all this representation!

The worldbuilding outside of Parole was also fascinating – there’s all sorts of weird sci-fi and fantasy aspects, including, but not limited to: superpowers, ghosts, dragons, giant ships, and robotic animals of immense size. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun! Between the relationships between all of the characters and the expansion of the worldbuilding, there’s no shortage of interesting elements to chew on. Plus, it was so sweet to see all of the characters from Chameleon Moon come back.

My only major problem was that the plot got a little bit convoluted at times – I found myself thinking “wait, why is all this happening?” several times throughout the novel, but it didn’t take me out of the story itself. Don’t get me wrong – The Lifeline Signal has a great story, but it seemed to get lost in itself at times.

All in all, a sequel that does justice to book one as well as expanding its world, while still providing an original storyline. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Today’s song:

I saw Sleater-Kinney and Wilco (we came for Wilco, they were AMAZING) on Tuesday night, and even though most of Sleater-Kinney’s stuff didn’t make me feel anything, there were a couple songs that I thought were interesting! This is one of them

That’s it for these three mini-reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: August 2-8, 2021

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

The first part of my week wasn’t terribly eventful, but I’ve been in Florida for some family stuff since Thursday, and my flight leaves tomorrow. It’s been…very hot to say the least, but I’ve had plenty of time to read, write and draw, so it’s okay. Plus, I found that awesome Kaz cane the other day! (See the Grishaverse Book Tag linked below for a picture…) I can’t wait until we can ship it home…

𝖙𝖔 𝖇𝖊 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖘𝖆𝖛𝖎𝖔𝖗 𝖔𝖗 𝖉𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖗𝖔𝖞𝖊𝖗 "𝘆𝗼𝘂… #fanfiction  # Fanfiction # amreading # books # wat… in 2021 | Freddy carter, Six of  crows, The grisha trilogy

Reading-wise, I’ve been reading everything on my Kindle this week, both library holds and books I bought for the trip. I got an unexpected 5-star read though, so expect a review next week! I’ve had a lot of writing progress as well, which I can mostly owe to the fact that I got to my favorite favorite scene in my sci-fi WIP and ended up chugging out a longish chapter.

Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, playing a bit of Minecraft, watching a few episodes of Alien Worlds (for a show with a name like that, there’s…less aliens than I expected?), and trying to beat this Florida heat.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

The Fell of Dark – Caleb Roehrig (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Amazon.com: The Fell of Dark (9781250155849): Roehrig, Caleb: Books

The Tiger at Midnight – Swati Teerdhala (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Amazon.com: The Tiger at Midnight (Tiger at Midnight, 1) (9780062869210):  Teerdhala, Swati: Books

The Darkness Outside Us – Eliot Schrefer (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Amazon.com: The Darkness Outside Us eBook: Schrefer, Eliot: Kindle Store

Forgotten Star – Colin Weldon (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Forgotten Star: Weldon, Colin: 9798667032830: Amazon.com: Books

Queen of Coin and Whispers – Helen Corcoran (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Amazon.com: Queen of Coin and Whispers: A kingdom of secrets and a game of  lies (9781788491181): Corcoran, Helen: Books

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) – RoAnna Sylver

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) by RoAnna Sylver

Suns Will Rise (System Divine, #3) – Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Suns Will Rise | Book by Jessica Brody, Joanne Rendell | Official Publisher  Page | Simon & Schuster

Today’s song:

oops I know you’re all probably sick of my constant Blur posting but this was on my playlist right before I got out of bed and I love it so

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!