content by

K.W. Colyard

Finding Love in Dystopia With Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children

Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children predates the late-Aughts YA dystopia boom by roughly a decade, but it would have fit right in alongside those later, post-9/11 stories. Set in a near-future version of our own world, ruled over by the battle-minded Overlords, who disappeared the world’s older teens and adults 15 years ago, Shade’s Children centers on a group of four teenagers—Ella, Drum, Ninde, and Gold-Eye—who have escaped certain death in the dormitories and now serve the mysterious hologram-person known as Shade. Living in seclusion on a submarine, Shade’s children must learn to fight the Overlords’ monsters, all made from teenagers just like them, in order to one day reverse the Change: the cataclysmic event that brought the Overlords to Earth in the first place.

Shade’s Children is not a love story, but it is a part of mine. My husband and I knew one another for more than a decade before we married, and we spent roughly half that time, not as lovers, but as friends. Looking back on it, however, I’ve come to realize that the moment he leaned over and asked me, earnestly, if I’d ever read Shade’s Children, was the moment I began to fall in love with him.

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Saving Aerith: Life and Death in Final Fantasy VII

Narrative video games provide the perfect platform to examine narrative framing and the viewing experience. The player moves the hero character, their in-game avatar, through the game world via a series of maps, each of which is shown from a different camera angle that the player may or may not be able to change or control. These camera angles, particularly those which the player is not allowed to control, help to shape how players feel about the heroes they embody. Camera angles used in in-game cinematics play much the same role in narrative video games as they do in films, provoking emotion and awe in the audience member. When players can no longer control the game’s camera, at the moment of the cutscene, they lose the authority and autonomy they held as the player/hero and becomes merely a player/viewer.

Released in 1997, Square’s Final Fantasy VII puts players in control of Cloud Strife, a mercenary hired as a bodyguard for flower seller Aerith Gainsborough, who is wanted by the corporatocratic government entity known as Shinra, and is murdered in the final scene of the game’s first act.

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I Love David Lynch’s Dune in Spite of Its Faults

I turned seven the year Star Wars celebrated its 20th anniversary. The space opera film trilogy’s re-release on VHS turned into a three-night movie event in my house, which in turn spawned my lifelong love affair with the franchise. I read the Star Wars Encyclopedia for fun, absorbing stories about Cindel Towani, Guri, and Nomi Sunrider, and I practiced using my Force powers, Silent Bob-style.

And so, when my father came home from the video store a year later with a new cassette, pointed to the foregrounded man in black, and said, “This boy is a prince, and he’s sort of like a Jedi,” well, you can imagine just how sold I was.

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Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and the Use of Language in Dystopian Science Fiction

I have a complicated relationship with Nineteen Eighty-Four. To this day, it remains the only book that has ever bored so deeply into my head that I could not bring myself to finish it. This, after multiple attempts, spread across nearly 20 years of a life lived happily in the stacks of libraries and bookstores.

I think about George Orwell’s novel more days than not. Sometimes I think that Nineteen Eighty-Four is the book that truly made me fall in love with language. Newspeak, the propagandic language created by the Party to limit expression and thought, permeates my own thoughts, which mentally—and hyperbolically—declare inconvenient situations as “doubleplusungood.”

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