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For several years now I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads, and as a result, the site offers me reading suggestions based on what its algorithms think I like, and they aren’t alone. Virtually every service that I use from Amazon to Netflix to Spotify uses increasingly sophisticated algorithms to figure out what I like and make purchasing/watching/listening suggestions based on that information.

 

As much as it disturbs me that they know so much about me, at least I have to make the choice to take them up on their suggestion. Amazon doesn’t just automatically send me stuff because they think I like it, and nobody can force me to watch/listen to something if I don’t like it. But what if they could?

 

QualitylandThis is the situation in Qualityland by German author Marc-Uwe Kling. The book is set sometime in the future where the third economic crisis within a decade has just ended, and upon consultation with Big Business Consultants the country (presumably Germany), decides to change their name to Qualityland. In their view, Qualityland just sounds like a prosperous and quality place. In keeping with the country’s new image, they also require the use of superlative adjectives whether they make sense or not. It’s not enough to call Qualityland a wonderful country. It’s the ‘wonderfullest’ country. A product isn’t good or even great. It’s the greatest.

 

As for the citizens, well they needed a total makeover too. Afterall, you can’t just have ordinary people living in Qualityland. The consultants decided that every boy would be given the surname relating to his father’s job, and every girl her mother’s occupation at the time that they are conceived. If your father/mother is a doctor or a lawyer, you’re laughing. Of course, there also ends up being names like Prisoner and Cleaner, but we don’t need to talk about them.

 

For all intents and purposes, Qualityland is a utopia. A universal ranking system determines your ability to find a job and your social standing.  Finding a partner is automated, and if your ideal match changes, the system will break up with them for you. Self-driving cars just know where you want to go, and you don’t need to worry about shopping for yourself anymore because TheShop (essentially Amazon) can do it for you. See something on TV that you like? Simply tell your Qualitypad (iPad) to order it for you, and boom- it will appear at your door in a flash. TheShop’s algorithm knows what you want without you even having to ask, and it’s automatically delivered to your door.

 

Unfortunately, the system doesn’t quite work for everyone. One day, Peter Jobless (you can guess what his father’s occupation was), who works as a machine scrapper in QualityCity receives a product from the shop that he is certain he neither needs nor wants. I won’t tell you what it is, but I’ll give you a hint- it’s pink, shaped like a dolphin, motorized, and definitely not for children.

 

Peter attempts to contact TheShop to return it, but discovers that this is practically impossible because machines don’t make mistakes. The algorithms are never wrong, and if they sent it, he most certainly must have wanted it. This leads Peter to start questioning the accepted norms, and how things work. Why are humans becoming less human while machines are becoming more so? What ensues, is a quest to meet with the head of TheShop to prove that they did in fact make a mistake and get a refund on the product that he very definitely does not want. The quest is set against the backdrop of an election where the choices are crazy right-wing celebrity chef and a hyper-intelligent, socialist robot.

 

Interspersed throughout the novel are news bulletins, guidebook entries, and of course comments from readers which results in the comment function being closed due to “a large number of idiotic comments”. Sound familiar?

 

The notion that machines can be mind-readers isn’t as crazy as it sounds. My entertainment apps already curate recommended lists based on what it assumes my tastes are, and I’m bombarded with suggestions from Amazon for products I might like based on what I’ve purchased in the past. If Amazon started sending me products based on what they think I want, I can’t even imagine what I might end up with. The problem with these algorithms is that in only ever showing me what I already know I like, I’m never exposed to anything new. The same is true of information, and this is the central point of the novel. If you’re only ever exposed to information and people who confirm your beliefs and opinions, it becomes a vicious circle. Our viewpoint becomes narrow and unchallenged, and anyone who doesn’t share those views has to be wrong.

 

The novel is a brilliant satire full of dark humour. Think 1984 but much more comical. The author has been aptly compared to Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, and it offers a sharp commentary on capitalism, our dependence on machines to think for us, and celebrity culture. It also challenges the narrow internet bubbles in which we increasingly exist. It’s a novel that I haven’t stopped thinking about and one of those hidden gems that I would recommend everybody read.  HBO also recently announced that Mike Judge (Office Space, Silicon Valley) will be adapting the book into a limited TV series, which is another good reason to pick it up.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, subscribe to our new YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu.  We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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So, there was an election south of the border, if you weren’t aware. Little thing, barely mentioned on the news *deactivates sarcasm filter*. Which gets me in the mood for presidents from history and from the world of fiction. And so, to add another distraction log onto the fires of 2020, I plunge into the backlist and think about past and pretend presidents of the elephant in the room.

 

How to Fight Presidents Daniel O'BrienA few weeks back, I mentioned one of my favourite comedy/history books, How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'Brien. This book, from a former Cracked writer and current writer on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, breaks down the reader’s ability to take every deceased president in a fight. It includes insights like, Grover Cleveland “was 5'11" and 250 lbs of president and his fists were described as “ham-like,” which might be delicious but is probably just scary and painful. He loved hunting and often carried around a rifle that he nicknamed “Death and Destruction” which isn’t a nickname a rifle earns for being pretty.”

 

It is a helpful guide should you ever travel back in time/be confronted with zombie presidents. It might be very important one day to know that you could have definitely taken Millard Fillmore in a fight, a man so hated that upon assuming the presidency after Zachary Taylor died (you also could have beaten Taylor in a fight) his entire cabinet resigned, his party abandoned him, and ultimately caused the downfall of the Whig party. “Please know”, O’Brien writes, “that after his presidency he also formed the Know Nothing Party, a political party that was sort of okay but mostly racist, and during his presidency he causally protected slavery. Because Fillmore wasn’t just boring and a bad president, he was a d**k.”

 

The Bully Pulpit Doris Kearns GoodwinStill on the historical side, but less on the funny is presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. I first came to know Goodwin from her many hilarious appearances on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. While most know her work from her Lincoln biography Team of Rivals (which Spielberg later used as a source for the film Lincoln), I prefer The Bully Pulpit, her biography of the rise and fall of the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. Roosevelt is one of my favourite US presidents, and Goodwin makes a solid case that Taft is one of the most misunderstood. But the focus of the book is on their friendship, and the betrayal that Taft felt when Roosevelt put his ego in front of that friendship. It is also a fascinating glimpse into the world of the media, the titular bully pulpit, of the time, and seeing the first awakenings of a mass media that has evolved to become all-encompassing in our own time.

 

Hope Never Dies Andrew ShafferOne of the best pieces of surreal fiction in the past few years has been the Obama/Biden mysteries novels Hope Never Dies, and the sequel Hope Rides Again, by Andrew Shaffer. Described by Penguin Random House as "part noir thriller and part bromance", and "a mystery worthy of Watson and Holmes with the laugh-out-loud bromantic chemistry of Lethal Weapon’s Murtaugh and Riggs," the books see the democrat duo become a mystery solving team in the streets of Delaware and Chicago. With Biden the President-Elect as of this writing, I wonder if we'll eventually get an addition to the series seeing Kamala Harris join the team, like Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 3.

 

Superman: President LuthorDid you know that in the world of DC Comics, Lex Luthor ran for and won the presidency back in 2000? The long time billionaire industrialist and Superman villain, an avowed anti-alien racist, who filled his administration with yes-men and people of questionable ability, had ties to corrupt and terrorist organizations worldwide, and is unable to escape his greatest motivation: his hatred of Superman. Eventually, before the end of his first term, his conspiracies and criminal activity while in power are revealed and his is removed from office, becoming a fugitive. I don’t know what made me remember all that. Weird. Anyhoo, Luthor’s term of office is chronicled in Superman: President Luthor.

 

The American President Aaron SorkinI think few could argue that the greatest fictional president is Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen in The West Wing. And while I am a huge WW fan, I am equally a fan of writer Aaron Sorkin’s previous political foyer, The American President, which starred Michael Douglas as President Andrew Sheperd. If we’re talking film presidents, than you also have to mention Kevin Kline in Dave, Terry Crews in Idiocracy, Harrison Ford in Air Force One, Bill Pullman in Independence Day, and Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. Digging real deep into the long-forgotten box is a mid-nineties movie called My Fellow Americans, in which Jack Lemmon (fresh off his Grumpy Old Men resurgence) and James Gardner play bickering former Presidents who are the target of assassination, and hijinks ensue.

 

A Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesYoung people should definitely have options about at least one fictional President, that being Coriolanus Snow from the Hunger Games series. Snow, far from being anyone's favourite, having presided over the Games for multiple decades. The recent A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes covers Snow's early life as a mentor and his rise to power. For other less savory politicians, there are likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in VeepTony Goldwyn as Fitzgerald Grant III in Scandal, and Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards. But I think most people have had enough of unsavory politics for a while. 

 

Which fictional presidents are your favourites? More than that, which fictional characters would you love to see run for president? Send your answers to mclark@lsc.on.ca.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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Yesterday was Indigenous Veterans Day. Wednesday is Remembrance Day. While we do not close for these dates, we do take a moment to reflect and to remember on the brave and valorous individuals who have fought and sacrificed, across history and the world. May they never be forgotten.

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As much as I hate to admit it, my family is a video game family. As much as I said I would never EVER be “that Mom” who would let their child engage in such a thing, I am that Mom. And as much as this pains me to write this, I myself, have succumbed to the world of video gaming.  Much like many other things, I blame the virus.

 

Mario Kart Deluxe 8My first video game console was the original Nintendo back in the late 80s. I played Tetris and Super Mario every day for months straight. Eventually I got bored of it and moved on to other kid stuff. As an adult, beyond the occasional round of Mario Kart 8, I don’t really play video games. My husband and son are a different story. They have all the games and all the consoles and it drives me crazy. Although, with the current situation, it has made life a bit less boring. And it’s actually been a good way of keeping my son connected to his friends, as he can chat with them while they play online together. Definitely a lot different than my childhood, but for now, it works.

 

Animal Crossing New HorizonsA few months ago, I broke down and bought myself a game. Yes, it’s true.  And even though I have to borrow my son's Switch to play the game, it’s mine, and I LOVE IT! Animal Crossings: New Horizons has been my place to escape to when I want to unwind. I just log on and head into my little island village and tend to my garden and talk to my neighbors (if I want), go fishing, and just escape. I don’t want to say how much time I’ve spent playing this, but it’s been… a lot.

 

As much as I’m enjoying myself right now, I still don’t think I’m a true ‘gamer’ and I’ll eventually get bored of this too, but I do get the fascination with games and can understand how people get hooked. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and right now it’s a great way to connect with other people while being socially distant.

 

Super Mario 3D All StarsNintendo and the Switch are celebrating Mario's 35th anniversary all year long, and have started the celebration by releasing Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which bundles remastered versions of the classic titles of Super Mario 64 (from 1996), Super Mario Sunshine (from 2002) and Super Mario Galaxy (from 2007). Nintendo promises lots more new and nostalgic content over the coming year. 

 

With the holiday season approaching, this is the time of year for the biggest, most talked about titles, as well as the new video game consoles. This year both Microsoft and Sony have new consoles releasing November 10th; the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Of course with the new consoles, there will be new games. While the PlayStation 5 is backward compatible (meaning it can play PS4 games as well), the Xbox Series X is cross-compatible.

 

It features something called ‘Smart Delivery’, which allows the user to get the best version of the game for the console they are playing on. This is very cool, because that means that one game will work on both consoles. The new games coming out for Xbox One and Xbox Series X are being sold as one individual disc, the ‘Smart Delivery’ feature allowing the disc to be played on either console.

 

Call of Duty Black Ops Cold WarOne of the biggest releases for the year is Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. My husband pre-ordered this title, so I’ve been able to see some of the beta gameplay. Shoot ‘em up games aren’t necessarily my thing, but I will say, the graphics have come a long way since the days of my old Nintendo. It’s amazing how real some of it looks. Pretty impressive. And great gameplay from what I’ve been told. Not for the younger gamers, the real-life violence give this game a M17+ rating.

 

Sackboy A Big AdventureAnother beloved series, Little Big Planet is coming back in the form of the most adorable Sackboy, in Sackboy: a Big Adventure for both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. From(PCN 4050206; 4050207). Featuring a 3D platform, gamers can play solo or with their friends in Sackboy’s adorable world. This E rated game is a safe bet for families, and did I mention it’s adorable?

 

Cyberpunk 2077Besides these new releases for the new consoles, one of the biggest talked about titles of 2020 has to be Cyberpunk 2077. Previously postponed in both April and September, it was just announced that the release date of November 19 has been postponed yet again, with a new release date of December 10. Game developers say that delays are caused by the challenges they have faced while having to work remotely, and making the game playable across 9 separate platforms. The game does look like it will be worth the wait though, and stars Keanu Reeves as the main character.  

 

This is just a very short list of a longer list of titles coming out this November and December. For the full video game release list check out slist #43578.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy gaming!

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Due to scheduled maintenance, our secure ordering services will be unavailable from Friday, November 6th at 9:00 pm until Monday, November 9 at 7:00 am.  

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I love a good ghost story, and so naturally I was drawn to The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix. As I was watching it, something about the story seemed familiar, and upon Googling it, I learned that it was yet another adaptation of Henry James’ gothic novella The Turn of the Screw. I originally read the book in University and loved it. It was spooky and suspenseful, and it had a big twist I never saw coming. 

 

The Turn of the Screw

If you haven’t watched the series or read the book, the story is set in a country house named Bly Manor, where a young governess is charged with the care of two orphans named Miles and Flora. Something doesn’t seem quite right about the house, however, and she becomes convinced the house is haunted.

 

In the hundred plus years since its original publication, the novel has become a cornerstone of gothic literature, and has been adapted several times into radio and film, including the recent film The Turning, the 2001 film The Others starring Nicole Kidman, and a 1961 film titled The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr. I’m a big fan of horror in general, but especially Gothic fiction for the suspenseful and atmospheric elements of these stories.

 

If you’re not familiar with the genre, Gothic fiction and regular horror have some distinct The Castle of Otranto differences. Gothic fiction is a sub-genre of horror which combines horror, death, and sometimes romance. The term Gothic is generally associated with the Gothic architecture of medieval Europe which is the setting for many of the novels, and originated during the romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

Gothic’s origins have been attributed to the English author Horace Walpole and his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. Books by Anne Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, and Daphne Du Maurier further developed the genre, and examples of Gothic writing can be found in Russia, US, England, and Ireland, each with their own unique characteristics.

 

In her 1818 novel Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen parodied the genre by introducing a naïve heroine who read far too much Gothic fiction and begins to imagine herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel such as Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. If you haven’t read Udolpho you can still appreciate Austen’s parody, but I suggest reading Radcliffe simply because she was one of the first to incorporate supernatural elements into her novel.

 

Right about now you’re probably wondering what makes a novel Gothic as opposed to straight up horror. The most obvious element is the setting. Almost every Gothic novel is set in an isolated estate, castle or house that is either said to be haunted or cursed. There are almost always secret passages, abandoned rooms/wings, and it is dark, possibly abandoned, and generally creates a sense of fear or foreboding. The weather is also unsettled, and it’s often foggy or raining.

 

A recent novel that is a great example of setting is Laura Purcell’s The House of Whispers which takes place in a sprawling house by the sea in Cornwall, Setting a novel in the UK isn’t a requirement, but the weather and the landscape make it a popular choice. The location of the house is remote and far from the city, and even comes with its own crazy lady in the attic. Cornish folklore plays into the story, and it’s exactly the kind of creepy that will keep you up at night.

 

Another major element is a character, often a woman, in peril. The character faces terrifying events, and often becomes trapped in the house, castle, etc.. In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel Mexican Gothic, the central character is socialite Noemí Taboada travels to High Place, an isolated house in the Mexican countryside and begins having visions of blood and doom in her dreams. The house contains many secrets, and if Noemi isn’t careful, she may find it impossible to leave.  

 

Also key to the story is something supernatural such as a ghost or a monster. The monster can be literal like Frankenstein’s monster, a vampire like Dracula, or even a mutant or cyborg. Graham Masterson’s House of a Hundred Whispers is a great example of a supernatural Gothic. Masterson’s novel is set in an isolated local in a Tudor mansion nestled in the English moors. The novel begins with the murder of the owner, the former Governor of Dartmoor Prison and just gets spookier from there. The author integrates elements of local folklore and witchcraft, and the story is a highly suspenseful haunted house ghost story.  

 

If you're interested in learning more about the major elements of Gothic horror, check out that link for a more detailed explanation. Meanwhile, if you plan to read any of the novels I’ve suggested, I have one piece of advice: Don’t turn out the lights!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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When my youngest daughter celebrated her birthday earlier this year, one of her gifts was An Elephant and Piggie Biggie Biggie #2 a book I knew she would squee with delight about since she got An Elephant and Piggie Biggie #1 for Christmas and loved it. Throughout grade one she would bring home the single copies of Elephant and Piggie from her school library and even though she was reading beyond the level of these particular books, it didn’t matter because she found them hilarious so I knew the bind up would be a hit.

 

Elephant and Piggie Biggie Biggie 2This got me thinking about that next step up from picture books when children start learning to read on their own. Elephant and Piggie is a great choice when a child is first introduced to sentences and sounding words together, however, traditionally, many parents or caregivers will come into a library and ask/look for the classic levelled reader that you will find in the easy reader section.

 

So what exactly is an easy reader? Typically, these books are a smaller trim size (6X9), 24 - 32 pages in length and are levelled 1 to 4. Many publishers have them under series names such as “I Can Read”, “Step into Reading” or “World of Reading”. They are often limited in word and sentence length and the words are usually repeated throughout the text. My youngest daughter spent many visits over the last year at the easy reader shelf at the library and would look for the Disney Princesses, Pinkalicious, Angelina Ballerina and of course…Barbie.

 

Now I know you are probably rolling your eyes, and over the years I have heard many comments about these types of “media tie in/character type readers” and how there are “better” higher quality readers out there (and one could argue that there are). But what I have found is that no matter how many non-media type related books I introduced to all my girls (who have all grown into very different human beings), they still  asked for the Princesses and to be honest, if that got them reading, then so be it.

 

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: Body under the PianoFast forward and I currently have one daughter reading a graphic novel collection called Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan, another is reading Call Down The Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater and the other is reading an advanced reading copy of a historical mystery called Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1) by Marthe Jocelyn. Three very different girls who all took a turn at reading a Barbie easy reader. In saying all this, if you are looking for some non-media tie in readers, you might want to consider Cece Loves Science or Pete the Kitty Goes to the Doctor.

 

With all that being said, there are some really great engaging fun early readers that I wish had been available when my girls were younger. These types of readers are becoming more and more popular and are great for kids just starting out reading.

 

Unicorn and Yeti: Sparkly New FriendsWhat About Worms (Elephant and Piggie like reading).

 

The Acorn reading series from Scholastic, which is a step before the ever popular Branches series.

 

Unicorn and Yeti by Heather Ayris Burnell: Sparkly new Friends #1, A Good Team #2 and Friend’s Rock.

 

Dragon by Dav Pilkey: A Friend for Dragon #1, Dragon’s Fat Cat, Dragon Get’s By and Dragon’s Halloween.

 

The Jack Books by Mac Barnet: Hi Jack and Jack Blasts Off are just two of many.

 

Attack of the 50-Foot Fly GuyAnd don’t forgot Fly Guy by Ted Arnold.

 

We'd love to here about your easy reader success stories, either with patrons or family members. What did they start off readering, what did they progress to, and what are they reading now? Send your stories to mclark@lsc.on.ca and we'll feature them in a future blog!

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Take care!

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Thanksgiving likely looks a lot different than usual this year. Reagrdless, take the day to be thankful that we've gotten this far, and be hopeful that things will get better from here. LSC will be doing so, but back at it all the more Tuesday morning. Happy turkey day, everyone! Gobble-gobble.

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Over the summer, when I was trying to relax and not think about the global pandemic, I picked up a book that had been on my list for a while: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. Toward the end of the book, he introduced to me a new emerging genre of fiction called Cli-Fi, or Climate Fiction. A genre whose name I hadn't heard before despite having read several recent novels that would fall under the heading.

 

The Uninhabitable EarthThe Uninhabitable Earth is not a book of die warnings; it is a book of dire facts. Wallace-Wells is a reporter, not a scientist, and not even a science reporter. The book is as if he were researching any other topic, bringing together reported incidents and expert analysis and presenting the clear truth of the matter. And the clear truth of climate change is increasingly, even if we meet the various accords and international agreements that no one seems inclined to ignore, change has happened. From here on out, it is just about mitigating the severity of climate change, not preventing it.

 

He introduces Cli-Fi as an example of how culture reflects the world around us. Fantasy fiction emerged in the early twentieth century, as science and exploration took magic out of the world and replaced it with facts. Science fiction emerged as a the space race turned the public attention toward the stars. So too, now that climate disasters and emergencies are a terribly regular part of our lives, they become setting for our fiction. Upon reading this new genre, my mind wheeled back to so many books I've read, an increasing number over the past five years, that would qualify.

 

New York 2140Wallace-Wells is quick to point out that while climate fiction tends to speculative, it tends not to broadcast centuries into the future. It is, what some call, "five minutes into the future." The fiction tends to look at what is happening now, and what might happen ten, fifty, one hundred years ahead. An excellent example of this is New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, set a century from now in which New York City has been permanently flooded by extreme rising sea levels, creating a Venice-like metropolis where people live on the higher floors of skyscrapers.

 

The Windup GirlMaybe the first example I can remember of this genre was 2009's The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A more extreme version of the genre, it is set in the Thailand of a distant future in which most nations have dissolved, replaced by mega corporations who control food production and therefore population. Biohacking is common, and long lost seed banks are the buried treasure that all executives hope to find and plunder. It is a dark, grimy, visceral, hard future to live in, let alone visit, and a book that has stuck with me.

 

The Disaster TouristRecent works like Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun have started to spin the genre more. In this Korean satire, the focus is on a travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. Much like Cli-Fi itself, rather than confront the realities and responsibilities of what is happening, this world has just folded it into the entertainment of the privileged masses

 

Marrow ThievesThe GG award winning Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is an example of the genre through an Indigenous, Canadian and Young Adult lens. In a world ravished by climate change, all people except First Nations, have lost the ability to dream. While the book is as much a metaphor for the genocide of First Nations peoples that was committed in the past, it is also a reminder that climate change has and will continue to produce displaced peoples, refugees, and genocides.

 

Mad Max Fury RoadIt's not just written fiction that has started to reflect climate change as a setting or an adversary. In the 1970s, Logan's Run and Soylent Green were climate change affected worlds even if they didn't use that terminology to describe their dystopia. By the 1980s, Mad Max was roaming a desolate wasteland brought about by car-culture created climate change. In the mid nineties, Kevin Costner floated across a flooded earth in Waterworld.

 

SnowpiercerAnd in the new millennium, perhaps the most famous of the Cli-Fi movies, The Day After Tomorrow saw Jake Gyllenhaal seek shelter in the New York Public Library when New York freezes over into a glacier. More recent films that have used Climate Change as their push to adventure include Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, and my personal favourite Snowpiercer from Parasite writer/director Bong Joon-ho, in which the remains of humanity cross a frozen world on a super-train. Even Pixar has entered Cli-Fi, while introducing us to the lovable Wall-e.

 

Climate change isn't going anywhere, and it seems like Cli-Fi isn't either. While in the past we might have escaped to Narnia or any number of strange, new worlds, this genre keeps our feet planted on increasingly disappearing earth. For libraries who might be interested in identifying more books of this genre, and growing this new collection, we've put together Slist 43859 to get you started. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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I read an article in Publishers Weekly which wondered whether or not publishing has become too reliant on bestsellers. The article discussed how top tier authors are taking over marketing budgets and shelf space in retailers (which also extends to libraries), and how what we call ‘midlist’ suffers as a result.

 

A long time ago when I was just out of university I worked in the box office for the National Ballet of Canada. Now you’re probably wondering what ballet has to do with bookselling, but stay with me here and you’ll see where this is going.

 

I remember a top executive explaining that while internally the staff and the dancers generally hated The Nutcracker, it’s the bread and butter of the company and the revenue generated from this holiday classic helps fund the more modern works that challenge and excite the dancers. Personally I love the full-length classical ballets, but those also need to be refreshed with new choreography, costumes, and staging which are also partially paid for by revenue from The Nutcracker.

 

The same logic applies to publishing. While some of us may roll our eyes at seeing the same group of authors on our bestseller list all of the time, those authors are like a publisher’s version of The Nutcracker. In theory, they generate enough revenue that the publisher can afford to take a chance on a special book that the editor loves, or a debut author whom they hope will find similar success.

 

To some extent that’s true. A publishing house is not made on midlist authors alone, but when bestsellers start drowning out midlist, it creates a vicious cycle where few new titles can break through. If you’ve read my blogs, you probably know that I’m a veracious reader, and while I try to read widely, it’s a lot easier to go back to the authors I know and love rather than spend my precious reading time on someone I don’t know and who I’m not sure I’ll like.

 

That being said, I do have a tremendous appreciation for unusual and original books, and if something catches my eye when I’m sorting through seasonal catalogues, or through online/social media channels, I will often request the title and give it a shot.

 

Recently I read a wonderful fantasy debut titled The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by New Zealand author H.G. Parry. It caught my attention because it’s been labeled Inkheart  for adults, and I love that book. I’ve also seen references to an adult sci-fi series Libriomancer by Jim Hines, which I’m definitely going to check out.

 

Charley Sutherland has a gift. He is what they call a Summoner, which means he can read the characters out of books. That alone sold me. Who wouldn’t love to be able to spend time with their favourite literary characters from time to time? From early childhood, Charley could make mischief with the Cat in the Hat, have tea with Sherlock Holmes, solve mysteries with a Millie Radcliffe-Dix, a Nancy Drew-like character, and hosts of others, and when when he's done, he returns them to their book. 

 

One night, he frantically calls his older brother Robert explaining that he accidentally read Uriah Heep (the villain from David Copperfield) out of the book and he’s escaped. Heep is a pretty dastardly villain, and Victorian or not, you really don't want this guy running around loose in the world.

 

In their pursuit of Heep, they uncover a hidden Victorian street where they meet other literary characters who have been living there in secret, including the White Witch from Narnia, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray who handles the secret world’s finances and tech, four Mr. Darcy’s from Pride and Prejudice. As it turns out, most people inadvertently summon a character at one time or another, and the version of the character that appears is subject to the reader’s interpretation. Darcy, not surprisingly, is a fairly often imagined character which is why there were four of them. Somehow, all of these ‘summoned’ characters have found their way onto the street, and they live there to keep themselves from being detected, and keep from being sent back into their books.

 

The brothers also discover that the street was created by another Summoner with Charley’s powers and malicious intent who needs to be stopped. All of the characters are aware of the other summoner's plans for a new world, but they don't know who he/she is, or exactly what that means for themselves or the real world.

 

I love books that reference other books, and I really enjoyed seeing different literary characters popping up in the novel. It’s also a wonderful tribute to the power that books and characters have over us, and still manages to poke a bit of fun at the literary theory we were all forced to study in English class. It’s smart and funny and original, and it’s one of my favourite books of all time. If like, me, you’re getting a bit tired of seeing the same old/same old on your bookstore/library shelves, give this one a try and I’m sure you’ll be as enchanted as I was. Or, if you were a fan of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, you'll at home in these pages.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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