the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘racism

Today, we’re gonna go 400 years in the future, to go to the 1950s. And on reflection, we’ll go  back in time another 2200 years or so,  and then jump to the present, and then back to the 1950s.


Ready for some time travel whiplash that would make Connie Willis proud?  Let’s go!


As Jean at Howling Frog Books is fond of saying, “what is January without a Star Trek story”?   Last year I blogged my way through season 3 of Deep Space Nine. I DO HAVE plans to watch season 4 (and hopefully 5!) this year, but in celebration of Vintage SciFi Month, I skipped ahead of season 6.  Episode 13, to be exact.  One of the most loved episodes of Deep Space Nine, “Far Beyond the Stars”. 

The story set up:  Captain Sisko is having a rough go. A good friend was killed when his ship was attacked near the Cardassian border, and Sisko is so distracted he can barely enjoy his father’s visit.  He starts seeing and hearing some strange things, and then technobabble happens, and then Sisko is standing in front of a newsstand in the 1950s, and he’s buying a copy of Galaxy Magazine.


It’s the early 1950s, and he’s not Ben Sisko.  He’s Benny Russell, and he’s a science fiction writer at a magazine.   His fellow writers are Maklin (not-O’Brien), Kay Eaton (not-Kira), Julius (not-Bashir), Rossoff (not-Quark), the editor is Pabst (not-Odo), and later Darlene (not-Dax) shows up as the new secretary (and she gets the Best. Line. Ever).   

Russell is trying to make it as a science fiction writer, while his fiance Cassie (not-Kasidy) is trying to convince him to run a restaurant with her, because it’s more stable work than writing. 


 One of my favorite parts of this episode was playing “recognize the voice”.   Nog,  Quark, Odo, and Worf. . .  with no make up.  Armin Shimmerman is criminally under rated.


Watching the episode was like watching a stage play, and I mean that as a compliment.  All my favorite characters sounded the same and mostly interacted with each other the same, but they dressed different, their jobs were different, their hairstyles were different, their passions and motivations were different.  And everyone was using typewriters! And I recognized many of the models! But the world is very, very different. The magazine wants to publish photos of the writers. Kay Eaton and Benny Russell are told to sleep in that day.


The pool of writers is given sketches as story prompts, and Russell takes a drawing of a three-pronged space station.  As he leaves the office that night, he’s harassed and threatened by a couple of cops, whose photos belong in the dictionary next to “racial profiling”. 


The image of the space station inspires Russell to create a story around a fiction space station called Deep Space Nine, captained by Benjamin Sisko, a Black man.  When he brings his manuscript to the magazine, his peers love the story.  Kay loves the strong female characters, and Darlene exclaims “There’s a worm in her belly! That’s disgusting!”. 

The Writer’s Room. Recognize anyone?


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Ok,  let’s get into it with Dread Nation.  This book has been on my TBR for ages, I just never got around to picking up a copy. When a friend of mine mentioned she had two copies, I asked to borrow one.   The only things I knew about this book, before I read it were:

  • I am in love with the dress she is wearing on the cover
  • The book is about killing zombies
  • Something alternate history civil war something?


First off, I really liked this book, but I also had some issues with it (not the issues you might think!).


and LOL, I thought this was going to be a hard review to write . . . .  Skip to the end if you don’t want to read 1200 words of me rambling.


The gist of the story is this –  instead of the South surrendering, the American Civil War was sort of “put on hold”, because the dead were rising as Zombies.  The Union and the Confederacy stopped fighting each other, and instead used their dwindling troops to fight an ever growing army of the shambling dead.


To keep civilians safe, governors, mayors, and other civic leaders need to come up with something, and need to come up with something fast.  But who counts as a civilian? Who counts as being worth keeping safe?  Well, it’s the 1870s, all the civic leaders are white, white people are landowners and tax payers, so basically, white people are considered worth keeping safe. Black people and Native Americans are sent to combat schools, where they will learn to fight the shamblers.  Thanks to the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, it isn’t a choice – you will attend the school, you will be re-educated that protecting white people is your place. If your free will can’t be educated out of you, it will be beaten out of you. (In Ireland’s Author’s Note,  she implores the reader to learn more about the United States’ system of removing Native children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, to be “civilized”.)


Jane’s mother tried to keep her home, and hidden, as long as possible. But the day came when the truancy officers couldn’t be resisted, and Jane found herself at Miss Preston’s Combat School for Negro Girls, in Baltimore, where along with combat skills she will also learn how to behave in civilized society.  If she’s very lucky,  Jane will become a personal bodyguard for a white woman. If she isn’t lucky, she’ll be sent to the front lines.  Jane is talented, but impulsive. She loves reading, and she’ll trade just about anything for the newest pulp novel.


And if Jane is very, very unlucky, if she stumbles onto a dangerous secret, she’ll be thrown into a train car and sent to the frontier.


The first half of the book is some hijinks at the school,  the reader getting introduced to Jane’s friends, and Jane sharing some details of her youth. Told in first person, it’s interesting to see what she chooses to omit, and how she makes excuses for getting into trouble at school. Jane has a fairly narrow worldview (or puts on like she does), and I’m not sure how I felt about that.  The second half of the book, which I won’t tell you much about because spoilers, takes place in a frontier town called Summerland.


I really dig that each chapter starts with a snippet of a letter that Jane is writing to her mother, and then later in the book (not a spoiler), the chapters start with a snippet of a letter that Jane’s mother has written to her.  It made me chuckle, in the beginning, that Jane is getting into trouble at school, and how she glosses this over in her letters home.  What I should have been paying closer attention to, is if Jane is glossing things over, what is her mother glossing over?

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.