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Closing The Diary

Well, I guess I figured this day was going to come sooner or later.

As of today, I will no longer be writing in Diary of a Dimension Hopper. It’s been a long time coming, to be honest, but I finally realized it was time to start on something new. I hadn’t been in the Liesel mindset for a long time.

I’m not going to stop writing though. You can still follow my recaps at Nerdophiles and I’m starting a new blog titled Ashley Leckwold and the Whiz Bang. There’s a longer explanation there of why I’m no longer here.

All the blog posts will remain, so if you ever want to throw the Steamhipster blog at someone, it’s there.

I love everyone that stuck around here and read my blogs. I hope you’ll continue to follow me as my life takes new directions.

Forever yours,

Liesel Hindmann/Ashley Leckwold

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Personal

 

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No Fooling: The Diary returns!

After many adventures across the aether that include getting involved with fire spinners, taking up the media editor reins at Steampunk Chronicle, zipping all over the east coast with The Extraordinary Contraptions, and the general tiredness that comes from that, I’m happy to announce that starting today, The Diary of a Dimension Hopper is back in business!

Did you miss me, friends? Because I missed you. And with all the fun that’s coming out this year in movies and music, I’d be remiss to stop writing the Diary. Plus, you might be hearing me on a podcast or two soon, but more on that when it happens.

I’m hoping to be on a MWF schedule, but I’ll be at least posting once a week on one of those designated days.

We’ll truly resume on Wednesday where I’ll reflect on the life of the recently broken up My Chemical Romance, but for now, let me give you the six songs I’m currently listening to over and over again.

1.) ‘The Phoenix’ by Fall Out Boy – The second single/opening song from their upcoming album Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy is proving that they’re back with a vengeance. With intense instrumentation, Patrick Stump dialing it up on the vocals, and production from Butch Walker that brings out the best of it all, ‘The Phoenix’ is a driving track that has me foaming at the mouth to hear it live (which I will on June 2nd). Plus, the video for it brings back the weirdness I didn’t realize I missed during their four year hiatus mixed in with a fandom kink meme for good measure.

2.) ‘My Simple Pop Song’ by Professor Shyguy – I’ve known Professor Shyguy for almost two years through his band The Aeronauts, but I hadn’t had a chance to see his chiptune solo project live until this past weekend. Now my brain is filled with 8-bit music and his extremely clever and catchy lyrics. ‘My Simple Pop Song’ has been the main offender, with a precise breakdown of how a simple pop song that burrows its way into your head is composed. Kind of ironic, but I don’t mind. Mixed with some excellent dance moves, I can see why he calls himself “The poor nerd’s Justin Timberlake.”

3.) ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake – Speaking of Justin Timberlake! Now, I’ve been very bad in the fact I haven’t actually gotten a chance to listen to The 20/20 Experience yet. Sorry Justin! But the second single ‘Mirrors’ definitely surpassed ‘Suit and Tie’. ‘Suit and Tie’ is a little bit catchier, but ‘Mirrors’ just pulls at the heartstrings and shows why Justin Timberlake is one of the best voices in pop music right now. Plus, the video Target released of him performing the song with fans is really adorable.

4.) ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ by Against Me! – Back on Election Day, I made a trip down to Athens with my friends BFT and Little Spoon to see Against Me! perform at the 40 Watt. It was an amazing show that opened with this song and just unleashed fury in the pit that I had to spend a few days recovering from. It’s been consistently stuck in my head since then, but there is sadly no recorded version out yet. I await patiently, opening guitar loop stuck in my head, and a review will happen when it does.

5.) ‘Slut Like You’ by Pink – A month ago, I had the chance to see Pink perform at Philips Arena with The Truth About Love tour. And to quote Rona Thorne, it was AMAZIIIIIING. The Truth About Love is already an amazing album, but getting to hear many of the songs live mixed with her theatrics was certainly a treat. While I may not have tickets yet, I know I’m going to see her again in December. There were plenty of catchy songs during that show that have been in rotation on my iPod, but the dirty  feminist power anthem ‘Slut Like You’ has been up there the most. Especially after the weekend I just had.

6.) ‘Bone China Cup’ by The Extraordinary Contraptions – Okay, I had to slip ONE April Fool in here. This was all Teodore’s idea! See what kind of Steampunk silliness you can spot here!

Until Wednesday, my friends…

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in General, Internet, Music, Steampunk

 

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The Six Best Albums of (the first eight months of) 2012!

I have this tendency that when I write my year end album reviews, I always miss a few albums that came out earlier in the year because the back half of the year becomes so saturated with awesome music and with major label artists trying to get their albums out before the November cutoff for Grammy consideration.

Especially in September and October, there are a lot of artists I enjoy that are releasing albums. Some are even releasing them on the same day! So what’s a dimension hopper like me to do? Well, keep track, hoard the albums like a dragon’s treasure, and just put in a partial year assessment for the albums that have already come out and what I’ve already enjoyed.

With that in mind, here are my top six albums of 2012 so far!

6.) My Head Is An Animal by Of Monsters and Men – I really didn’t want to bother with this album. I heard ‘Little Talks’ constantly on Dave.FM (preferred radio station when I’m stuck in modern day Atlanta!) and I enjoyed it greatly, but I wasn’t sure if the rest of the album would be as enjoyable. Such is the case with many indie bands that seem to only have hipster credibility. Well, when I saw the album on discount on Amazon, I decided to give it a shot. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! My Head Is An Animal is an extremely well done folk rock album that gives a little Icelandic twist to the genre that’s been on the rise since Mumford and Sons became popular. The use of horns and atmosphere give Of Monsters and Men a particularly refreshing sound and make My Head Is An Animal one of my biggest surprises of 2012.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Little Talks’, ‘King And Lionheart’

5.) Hey Hey Cabaret by Frenchy and the Punk – I love my friends Scott Helland and Samantha Stephenson, and I love the first of two albums that they’ve created for this year’s release. Hey Hey Cabaret is a continuation of their previous album Happy Madness. Filled with boundless energy and a lot of cheekiness, the New York duo solidify their cabaret sound with eleven tracks filled with happiness. Magic and steampunk can-do-ness sums up this album fairly well and shows why Frenchy and the Punk are so good at what they do.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Confession of Jack Bonnie and Sally Clyde’, ‘Birthday Fanfare’

4.) Leaving Eden by The Carolina Chocolate Drops – I already waxed poetic about the Drops when Songs from District 12 and Beyond came out, but Leaving Eden just confirmed my love for them. Equal parts continuing folk music tradition and the band expanding their own songwriting skills, Leaving Eden is an excellent album in the band’s lineup. The Drops are the best at what they do, and Leaving Eden is just as worthy of attention the way the Grammy-winning Genuine Negro Jig was. Plus, they’ve been getting a good chunk of attention with the ‘Country Girl’ video playing on CMT. It just makes me sad that their cover of ‘You Be Illin” is only on the deluxe edition.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?’, ‘Country Girl’

3.) Not Your Kind of People by Garbage – When I heard that Garbage was releasing their first album since 2005’s Bleed Like Me, I nearly cried. Shirley Manson has been my idol for a long time and I never thought I’d see the day when Garbage would release a new album. I eagerly anticipated it for months and it did not disappoint! Falling somewhere between Version 2.0 and beautifulgarbageNot Your Kind of People brings Garbage’s dark electrorock full steam into the digital age. First single ‘Blood For Poppies’ is extremely catchy in a way that brings back memories of ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, Shirley’s vocals have never been so darkly sweet the way they are on ‘Control’ and ‘I Hate Love’, and ‘Automatic Systematic Habit’ carries on the tradition of Garbage’s amazing album openers that knock the doors down. Great album, and a great band that I’m sad I will be missing at Music Midtown.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Blood for Poppies’, ‘Control’

2.) Garage Hymns by Empires – This was already going to be on my list, but then I saw Empires live for the first time ever. Something about Sean Van Vleet nearly knocking me over from the stage as he sings ‘Hard Times’ just sort of seals my love for Garage Hymns. With a sound that could raise Hell, Empires continues and refines the precedent set with their debut album Howl and EP Bang. The songs have something of a hardrocking, supernatural quality to them and definitely prove why the band got as far as they did in the Rolling Stone contest. It’s onward and upward for Empires and Garage Hymns gives the other bands in Empires’ circle a quality to strive for.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Hell’s Heroes’, ‘Hard Times’

1.) O’ Be Joyful by Shovels and Rope – I already went on about this album for Steampunk Chronicle. It’s good though, and shows why Shovels and Rope are better with two than most bands with four or more. Hence why this high energy album is my number one… so far.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Kemba’s Got The Cabbage Moth Blues’, ‘Hail Hail’

By the end of this year, this list will surely be updated, but here’s what I’m enjoying so far!

I’m hoping to update more this week as I continue my job hunt, but Dragon*Con prep takes a long time and is very stressful! Still, if any one following this blog is going to Dragon*Con, please let me know and I do hope to see you there! I will post more information on my wherabouts closer to the convention starting.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Music

 

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52 books in 52 weeks, part 2: Steampunk Benders and Paper Towns

So my weekend was a bit hectic. Between hosting Birdeatsbaby, going to the Red Bull Soapbox Race, and watching the Tonys, every moment of downtime between them was welcome. I’m currently trying to figure out a way to catch up, but for now, I’ll be back on schedule with the second part of my 52 in 52 review. This one has a lot of Graphic Novels, but also some Steampunk goodies. Starting with…

14.) Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine – This was a peculiar, but very interesting book. Set in a steampunk circus that’s surrounded by a bleak dystopia, the tale of the Circus Tresaulti is filled with plenty of contradictions and mystery. By the end of the novel, I’m not sure if anything was clearer than it was at the beginning, but it was an enjoyable ride nonetheless. It’s like the reader is one of the people who only briefly joins the circus. You enjoy your time there, but you’ll never truly know anyone who’s in it for life.

15.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – My re-read took longer than I thought, but re-reading the book before and after the movie’s release gave me a better idea of what was changed in the film, and how the film stayed true to the book nonetheless. I need to start my reread of Catching Fire soon.

16.) Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope (The writers of Parks and Recreation) – If this book seemed massively entertaining in the episode ‘Born and Raised’, it’s because it is. A complete history of everyone’s favorite fictional and ridiculous Indiana town, Leslie’s book is just as hilarious and spirited as the town itself. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is an episode of Parks and Recreation set to paper, as evidenced by the huge smile on my face while reading it.

17.) Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru – I don’t think I hate this book as much as some Avatar fans, but The Promise seems to be missing something that made the series so great. I like the set up for the reason Republic City will be built, and Sokka being grossed out by Aang and Katara is great. Will report back for Part 2 when I get it.

18.) Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures by Various Authors and Artists – The comics in here range in art and length, but provide wonderful little insights into what the Gaang is doing when we can’t see them. Gym coach Kyoshi might be my favorite though.

19-21.) Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volumes 2-4 by Naoko Takeuchi – As I said in my previous post, reading these books is like visiting old friends in different dimensions. Everything is familiar, and I have vague memories of how they were before, but things are just different enough to differentiate it. At some point during Vol. 4 though, I realized I was approaching the end of what I knew. I was close to resolving the cliffhanger that’s been with me for almost 10 years.

22.) Paper Towns by John Green – I bought this book on a whim, and couldn’t stop reading it until I was done. I had previously read An Abundance of Katherines, but it was nowhere near as entertaining and wonderful as Paper Towns is. Even with the strange things happening to Quentin Jacobsen, the events of the book seem so realistic and are beautifully written. John Green has a gift, and I’m glad he’s sharing it with the world.

23.) Clementine by Cherie Priest – This is the least known entry into Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century, but it’s probably my favorite. Telling the story of Captain Croggon Hainey on the chase for the Free Crow after the events of Boneshaker, it’s another Priest novel with two protagonists. The other being the tough-as-nails Maria Isabella Boyd, a former spy for the Confederate army. Boyd might be my favorite of all of Priest’s protagonists, and it’s so much fun to see two extremes like Boyd and Hainey work together. It makes me sad that this is the shortest of all of Priest’s novels in the Clockwork Century.

24.) I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! by Stuart Smalley (Al Franken) – I found this book completely by chance, but I’m glad I did. A daily affirmation book written by the hapless Saturday Night Live character, the book quickly turns from a daily affirmation book to a story of a broken man trying to make it through life. It’s very entertaining, and sometimes true to life.

25.) Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 5 by Naoko Takeuchi – This is where I’m picking up where I originally left off. It’s as exciting as I thought, and I can’t wait for the Outer Senshi to appear in Volume 6.

26.) Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman – It took me a long time to finally read this, but I’m glad I did. While it’s not a good collection overall as Fragile Things, it’s still plenty entertaining with stories such as ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ and ‘We Can Get Them For You Wholesale’ within it’s pages. My favorite quote in the whole thing though had to be in the introduction about Alan Moore. “One day the good burghers and honest townsfolk of Northampton will burn Alan as a warlock, and it will be a great loss to the world.”

Next post will be my review of Prometheus, and how it falls parallel with Alien.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Books, Steampunk

 

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52 books in 52 weeks, Part 1: Comics, Languages, and Sailor V! Oh my!

After ending last week’s post, I realized what my topic for today is! Earlier this year, I signed up for the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. My book reading last year was abysmal, and I wanted to improve upon that. So far, I’m halfway through my challenge, but I’m only going to cover the first 13 today! The next 13 will come either tomorrow or Saturday depending on when I want to do my review of Prometheus.

Anyway, here we go!

1.) The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi – A short illustrated fairy tale by the author of Persepolis. It’s a quick read, but Satrapi’s fairy tale about a young woman falling in love with a prince, and finding a way to bring him back to life after she accidentally kills him. It’s a lovely little tale with nice morals and lovely illustrations.

2.) Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley – Before there was Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley created Raleigh, the teenage protagonist of Lost At Sea. While the art isn’t as refined or dynamic as it was in the Scott Pilgrim series, Lost At Sea was a surprisingly accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be introverted and depressed at that age. While I never ended up on an accidental road trip the way she does in this book, reading about Raleigh was a lot like reading about myself at that age. O’Malley has always been good at writing women, and Lost At Sea just proves it.

3&4.) Codename: Sailor V, Volumes 1 and 2 by Naoko Takeuchi – Ahhh, the long fabled prequel to Sailor Moon. Something that was never read by most Americans until Kodansha acquired the rights for re-translation and publication in the US. As a Sailor Moon fan, reading about Minako’s adventures before she was a fully realized Senshi was a treat indeed. It was a bit surprising to me though, because Sailor V tends to read more like a loving parody of the magical girl genre than an actual prequel to the biggest magical girl manga of all time. Still, Sailor V made me love Minako more, and made me glad that Takeuchi’s work is available to us again.

5.) Habibi by Craig Thompson – I’m going to be honest here. I’ve never read Thompson’s debut novel Blankets. I’ve always seen the thick tome on the shelf of comic shops and graphic novel sections, but I never thought to pick it up. So going into Habibi, I was not aware of how lush Thompson’s work actually is. A tale of love between two children sold into slavery, this beautifully illustrated tale tells a story of religion, math, writing, and language as we read the story of Dodola and Zam. This book was a labor of love, and it shows on every page.

6.) Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff – Man, this book was weird. It starts with a woman charged with murder claiming that she’s an assassin, but by the end, it’s just a confusing combination of twists that left me staring at my iPad and flipping pages back and forth. I’m not sure if I hated it or loved it.

7.) Freerunners by Joseph Chandler Cain – I’ve pretty much said everything I needed to say about this book. It’s flawed, but still fun.

8.) Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi – Reading the Kodansha edition of this book was like visiting an old friend from another dimension. I know that it’s pretty much the same thing I read when I was 12, but something about her is slightly different. Like I said with Sailor V, it’s nice to have these new editions in the US.

9.) Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket – This book is a quick read, but it’s full of wonderful snark and truth that only the creator of A Series of Unfortunate Events can provide.

10.) The Beejum Book by Alice O’Howell – I read this children’s book on the urging of my friend Thaddea, who is so named for the main character of this book. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it as much as Thaddea did, but I’m happy to be wrong here. A wonderful children’s book, it’s a great book that combines imagination, real life lessons, religion, and psychology into a way that translates for children of any age. It makes me sad that this book isn’t really in print anymore.

11.) Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare – Having an e-reader to read these classic sonnets on is magical. My copy in iBooks is covered with a digital purple highlighter that has all my favorite lines and poems. Oh Will, you wordsmith you.

12.) Oracle of Shadows and Light Guidebook by Lucy Cavendish – This was a small book that accompanied a wonderful oracle deck illustrated by Jasmine Becket-Griffith. Sometimes, Cavendish seems very new age-y, but the deck and her explanations of how we work makes so much sense to me. It doesn’t hurt that Becket-Griffith’s paintings are so very lovely.

13.) In The Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent – This is an immensely entertaining book. While it is a non-fiction story about invented languages, linguistics PhD Okrent manages to explain the nature of language and the people who invent them in a way that all of us can explain. The beginning of the book may be a bit hard to get through, but the language that she’s dealing with is pretty hard to get through too. In the pages of this book, she really makes these languages shine, and the people who create them sympathetic. It’s not just a guidebook. It’s a story for the underdogs.

Tomorrow will either be more books, or Prometheus. Also, if you’re in Atlanta tomorrow night, you should come see The Extraordinary Contraptions perform with Birdeatsbaby! See you then!

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Books

 

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Reversing retrofuturistic technology tropes with The Legend of Korra

Good Monday, readers. I’m going to have to apologize again for the delay on my review of The Avengers. Getting prepared for and attending Steampunk World’s Fair made writing blogs a bit difficult. Plus, watching my new favorite television show made me want to change my next topic.

Earlier this year, I decided that I was finally going to start watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Mostly because I have been hearing about the series for years and wanted to finally see what everyone was talking about, but partially because I REALLY wanted to see The Legend of Korra and the completionist that I am wouldn’t let me watch the new series without seeing the old.

Desire to see The Legend of Korra aside, I massively enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was great example of the power of animation. It was emotional and heavy, but it still managed to include a lot of life’s natural humor within it’s books as well. The action was well done, and getting to know the characters was like getting to know a group of friends. Aang’s journey to becoming a fully realized Avatar wasn’t just a story for children. It was a story that was timeless at any age.

It didn’t hurt for me that the series was a little bit Steampunk as well. It wasn’t as overt as some series. Most of the world of Avatar had been set back technology wise due to the Hundred Year War, but there was still a nice range of technological advancements that benefited benders and non-benders alike. My favorite example of this was ‘The Northern Air Temple’, where Aang returns to one of the air temples to see that a group of refugees with flying machines has taken over living there. This is the beginning of the Gaang’s  relationship with The Mechanist as well as an interesting take on adapting technology in a world based on bending of the elements and how to use said technology against those who would use it to destroy. It’s a common trope in Steampunk and Retrofuturistic works that the antagonists are at the technological advantage and it’s up to the protagonists to use their skills to defeat them, be it their own inventions, wits, or powers. But it’s a trope that works if it’s done right, and I think Avatar: The Last Airbender managed to balance that question of advancing technology fairly well.

(WARNING: What follows will include some SPOILERS for the two most recent episodes of The Legend of Korra. Proceed at your own risk.)

Flash-forward 70 years to The Legend of Korra. After the Hundred Year War, the world is less divided. So much so that the United Republic of Nations was formed as a place that the world could live in harmony. This causes a spike in the technology that was used by the Fire Nation and the Resistance to create a world where bending and technology have come to co-exist completely. Firebenders work lightening in the power plants, metalbenders help enforce the laws of Republic City, and the world’s main sport is a confluence of bending and tech. This, of course, leads to a technological have and have not situation between Avatar Korra and the battles she has to fight. Except this time, the ones that have the technology are the ones that have been repressed by the bending co-dependence.

You see, a large part of the “Antagonists Have the Technology” trope in Retrofuturistic fiction is that it’s mostly in the hands of the repressors. It happened in The Hunger Games with the Capitol keeping the Districts away from the technology they had as much as possible, and it definitely happened during Aang’s time as the Avatar. How often did we see Aang and his friends have to fight off a Fire Nation tank, War Balloon, or Drill? We even saw Sokka, Suki and Toph take out a whole fleet of flying war machines that were going to help Ozai destroy the Earth Kingdom in the final episode.

But here in The Legend of Korra, it’s especially emphasized that the ones with the technology that could cause danger to the city are the rebels who want to take out the bending piece of the equation. While ‘The Aftermath’ showed that this technology was being provided by Hiroshi Sato, the richest man in Republic City, it’s still being dispersed to rebels of all classes. It’s being given to people who aren’t seen as valuable by some people in the city due to their lack of bending, and are willing to put the balance of the city and others in danger in order to put everyone on the same level. Basically, for once, the antagonists are regular people who just happen to have access to electric gauntlets and platinum mechs that can’t be bent by the police.

The fact that Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino decided to reverse the common trope in this way just emphasizes a certain point in the war between Republic City and the Equalists. That there is a certain discrepancy between benders and non-benders in the world of Avatar and it’s only emphasized by the fact that so much of the jobs and technology in the world depend on benders to use it. While not all benders are like this, there are certain benders that will abuse their powers and abilities to get what they want and it has only been made worse in the years between Aang’s death and Korra’s arrival in Republic City. Now it’s Korra’s job to fight against those who want all benders taken out of the equation for the actions of few. Coexistence is not an option for these people any more, despite the fact that taking benders away from Republic City will upset the balance of it. It opens the door to how Korra has to consider her fight, how she will recognize the privilege she has as the Avatar, and how she will find a way to bring peace back to the city that has desperately needed its Avatar since the death of Aang.

Sadly, we have two weeks in between this episode and the next episode, but hopefully we’ll begin to see how Korra will begin to approach this fight and carry on the legacy that Aang left behind.

My Avengers review will come this week, but I’ll also be looking at the ladies of the Avatar universe as well. Why? Because why not.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Steampunk, Television

 

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Hunger Games Month: Six Reasons Retrofuturists need to pay attention to The Hunger Games

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers! You get a special today due to the fact my own personal schedule made it impossible to do my blog on time this week. Instead of one blog post, I’ll be posting two!

First off, I just wanted to share my recent Backing Steam column, in which I interview Professor Elemental. Lovely chap, the Professor. I’d love to speak with him more in the future. Even more lovely is that he has since reached his goal on Crowdfunder! Splendid!

Anyway, to what I promised to post.

You know how they teach you in school that every rectangle is a square, but not every square is a rectangle?

That’s how I feel about Retrofuturism and Steampunk.

Steampunk is Retrofuturism. There’s no doubt about that. It’s what happens when the Victorians get a hold of our technology, or when we have to depend on advanced steam technology to get things done.

However, people tend to forget that not all Retrofuturism is Steampunk. Retrofuturism is a blending of old and new technologies and concepts. This can be Dieselpunk, Da Vinci’s technology advancing the Renaissance, or, in today’s case, a dystopian future where most of the world is in desperate poverty.

The Hunger Games is one of the best examples of Retrofuturism in mainstream media. However, I haven’t seen many people who share the same opinion. I can get enough opinions about the love triangle or the battle to the death (more on that next week), but I’ve only known one other person who’s recognized the Retrofuture elements of The Hunger Games.

Well, that’s what I’m here to do. Here are my six reasons that Retrofuturists need to pay attention to The Hunger Games. Spoilers follow!

1.) The setting dichotomy – The Hunger Games deals a lot with the settings of the District 12  and the Capitol and how different they are. The Capitol is pure luxury and technology that we only dream of today. District 12, however, is extremely poverty stricken and feels like it’s mostly out of place. Most of the districts from the reader’s understanding are. Their technologies are no where near as advanced as The Capitol’s. They live a life that doesn’t feel like a future society, so the Capitol lifestyle sticks out like a sore thumb.

It’s not just the setting though…

2.) The District 12 lifestyle – Getting to know life in District 12 feels like what would happen if people from the Coal Mining South held onto their traditions while the rest of the world collapsed and rebuilt around them. Life in 12 revolves around the mine and it’s very much set up like a mining town. The differences in culture definitely stand out in Mockingjay during the wedding scene in District 13. Where 13 is probably what many sci-fi writers had in mind when they came up with a militaristic utopia, for a brief moment, they get a shock of 12 culture when they celebrate with folk dancing and a fiddle player.

3.) The fashion – As I mentioned in my Effie post, Capitol fashion takes well after Neo-Victorian fashion with big hats, big bustles, big ruffles, and sleek suits. However, the clothes of the other districts, while simple, do have a twist of the old. Take Katniss’ Reaping dress compared to Effie’s for example. It’s such a similar vein of time at two different ends of the spectrum. If you hadn’t told me that The Hunger Games was set in the future, I wouldn’t have known any better.

4.) The technological imbalance and dystopia – From my personal experience, while many Retrofuturists believe in utopianism, they LOVE some dystopia. Especially when there’s a certain technological imbalance with who has access to what, who can make something out of nothing, and how the technology is used to keep those who can’t access it down. This happens a LOT in The Hunger Games, the biggest example being Lavinia’s capture in the woods of District 12 and subsequent punishment. Also, the main character in this science fiction series hunts with a bow and arrow. That’s about as archaic/anachronistic as you can get in a society such as Panem’s.

5.) The music – I’m reviewing the soundtrack next week, but oh man, I nearly jumped for joy when I saw the tracklisting. Seriously. Look at it. I don’t want to know any Steampunk/Retrofuturist who doesn’t want to hear most of that. Plus, along with their contributions to the soundtrack, Arcade Fire and The Carolina Chocolate Drops have also contributed to James Newton Howard’s score, which is sure to incorporate many of the retrofuturistic elements, but I cannot stop thinking about the fact that Arcade Fire wrote The Capitol anthem.

6.) The anachronistic elements help tell a timeless story – This one is sort of self explanatory. While science fiction is used as a way to tell stories of the fantastic that somehow relate back to our current society, it’s my personal belief that these stories are more effective if there’s something about it that is not quite current. This is part of the reason why Firefly was such a great series. Even though it was set in space, the more anachronistic elements of the show helped tell a very timeless, human story about survival and family. The Hunger Games does a lot of this as well. Through Katniss and what she experiences, we get a very intense story about survival, poverty, and (in the later books) dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s made even more real by the fact Katniss isn’t living with the colorful Capitol beings or surrounded by the highest technology when we initially meet her.

My fellow Retrofuturists, I hope that my list had convinced you. If it did, I will see you at the Games. If not, well, I guess the odds (and my writing) weren’t in my favor.

Stay tuned to this blog today. Later, I will be talking about the brilliant irony of Lionsgate’s marketing for the film.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Books, Film, Steampunk

 

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