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Praise For The Next Continent [Archive]

Hard SF, now WITH girl cooties!

Here at Haikasoru HQ it looks like Valentine’s Day will never end, as love is in the air and this week we’re featured on Romantic Times Book Reviews. Not only is there a little interview with yours truly, there are two great reviews:

Rocket Girls

got four stars Nojiri himself appears to be nearly as forceful a proponent of space flight as the SSA; he has tried to play fair with the limits imposed by real world science without ever losing sight of his comedic goals.

Then The Next Continent

got a stunning four-and-a-half stars: The Next Continent, translated by Jim Hubbert, is a welcome holiday from the relentlessly pessimistic and bitter tone of North America SF. What could be a tedious exercise in engineering porn is humanized focus by its principle characters: Junior Engineer Aomine, who finds himself drafted into a central role in this grand undertaking, and Tae, the determined young woman whose vision frames and defines the Sixth Continent Project.

These reviews are especially gratifying coming from a venue primarily interested in the romance genre. For a long time, a retrograde fear of what author Debra Doyle calls girl cooties has infected the world of science fiction, and hard SF—science fiction that uses and privileges real science—was the worst of all: “Hard sf” is their science fiction of choice, because it has the fewest girl cooties of any of the sf subgenres. No subjectivity, no mushy bits, none of that messy relationship stuff getting in the way of the classic sf values of hardness and rigor (and no, I don’t think the elevation of those particular values is coincidental.), Doyle writes.

Romance, of course, is wall-to-wall girl cooties. Perhaps not surprisingly, the feeling was often mutual—hard SF was seen as the precinct of uber-nerds and nobody interested in human relationships would want to ever want to read any. Sometimes this fear of girl cooties even enters into the world of real speculative science, as biologist Athena Andreadis points out with her essay (with a not-safe-for-work drawing) on 2009’s Singularity Summit. (The Singularity being a concept beloved of hard SF fans and, increasingly, policymakers and scientists.)

But in Japan, at least as far as SF literature is concerned, girl cooties and hard SF mix just fine. Why, one might say that the units of “girlishness” in books like The Next Continent and Rocket Girls aren’t an infection at all, but actually an organic part of the human condition. Science is for everyone, after all, as it increases our understanding of the universe in which we live, and as it can potentially be used to improve all our lives. Indeed, if we want science to improve our lives rather than destroy them, we’d all better have an interest in the field and its implications for policy, health, and the environment. That’s why hard SF needs to be written for a wide variety of readers, not just for the nerdcore hardcore of those men who are afraid of “girl cooties.” Publishing hard SF titles that can be reviewed and championed by Romantic Times is one reason why I love my job.

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A whole bunch of reviews!

Let’s see, over at the popular science fiction blog Bibliophile Stalker, it must be Haikasoru Week, because there are three reviews up since Sunday.

On Loups-Garous: Kyogoku makes the reader question the dystopic elements of the setting; the characters feel mortal and just when you’ve left your guard down, a twist in the plot keeps you unsettled.

On Slum Online: …excels in conveying the virtue of humble accomplishment, of proving to yourself that you’re the best, even if the public isn’t necessarily aware of it.

On The Next Continent: It harkens to conventions of a certain genre of science fiction [hard SF] and yet is nonetheless infused with Japanese optimism and culture. (I think this is the first review of The Next Continent I’ve seen, so I’m especially happy.)

Meanwhile, over at Otaku USA, we have reviews of different titles.

On The Stories of Ibis: I firmly believe in the importance of fiction and mythopoeia in helping people understand themselves, others, and the world around them, and in providing a safer environment to come to grips with complex, troubling issues…

On Usurper of the Sun: This frequently fascinating debate on alternative forms of consciousness permeates the novel, twining with the time limit until the Builders arrive in the solar system to provide the main narrative thrust.

Well, what are you waiting for? Consume!

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