Aug 24, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Exploring New Genres

The Sunday Salon.com This Sunday I am working on two ground breaking piece of literature. Watchmen was on of the first comic books to be published in graphic novel format and establish it as a piece of literature as opposed to kiddie fair. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is the second title I am currently reading. It was on the forefront of the cyberpunk science fiction genre established by William Gibson.

Watchmen was written by Alan Moore and published in a twelve-issue series starting in 1986 and then later republished in single paperback novel. This graphic novel has become the only one to have ever won the Hugo Award, in part because 1988 was the only year that had a category in which a comic book or graphic novel would qualify. It is brilliantly illustrated by Dave Gibson who utilizes creative adaptations of cinematic techniques.

Watchmen tells the story of a group of superheros. The book shows them as real people who must confront ethical and personal issues, who struggle with neurosis and failings. In the comic, they refer to themselves as "costumed adventurers" occasionally "masked vigilantes."

The story is set in 1985 and give an alternate history of the United States, sharing the journey of these heros since the Keene Act outlawed non-government affiliated vigilantes in 1977.

I am currently about halfway through the book and enjoying it immensely. Moore's attention to detail and countless allusions has made my fist experience with a comic book nothing but enjoyable. Moore has been quoted as saying that when he wrote Watchmen he set out to create "a superhero Moby Dick; something that had that sort of weight, that sort of density."
One of the main reasons why I decided to finally leap into this genre is the upcoming release of the Watchmen movie. Many fans are concerned that the movie will not do the comic book justice. But the trailer has been getting a lot of buzz.

I have not actually viewed this trailer yet and I won't be watching it until I finish the book. Here is another great link that compares the book with the movie.

Okay, deep breath. That was quite a fistful.

Onto my second groundbreaking novel! Snow Crash was published in 1992. Gibson's iconic cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer was published nearly a decade earlier. Yet even with the gap in the time span Snow Crash in considered an influential novel in the cyberpunk genre. Stephenson's addiction to the genre is his use of satire and black humor. He also alludes to history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, and philosophy.

So what is cyberpunk? Well, I am not really sure. But I am going to attempt to find out. Cyberpunk is a science fiction genre that focuses on the advancement of information technology and cybernetics in some juxtaposition to the change or breakdown in social order. Lawrence Person is a major writer, critic, and editor of the science fiction genre. In his critical article "Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto" he says,
"Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body."
In Snow Crash there are two realities; that of the real world, and a virtual reality of the Metaverse. In a way Stephenson's vision of the internet resembles a MMO or massive multiplayer online game.
So Hiro's not actually here at all. He's in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his gogles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is know as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse (24).
The novel's main character, Hiro Protagonist, spends a lot of time bouncing between these two realities. Through his experiences, Snow Crash tackles the breakdown of information and the understanding of it including ideas of theology. I am about a quarter of the way through and enjoying it. The book can be a difficult read at times but I am happy to be pushing through it. If you are thinking about reading it, I recomend going with the audiobook, which I have been using to suppliment my reading as well.

Curious to know what else I am reading?
Check back on Tuesday for my weekly round up of teen literature. Read a lot of YA yourself? Join us!

5 comments:

  1. Ha! Hiro Protagonist? Seriously?

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  2. My brother-in-law is a huge graphic novel fan, and I am slowly becoming one. I look forward to reading this one myself...after reading a few Batman graphic novels by Frank Miller (a la Sin City). My brother-in-law thinks Alan Moore, who also created V for Vendetta is truly one of the best. I'm so out of it that I didn't realize Watchmen was Moore too. D'oh!

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  3. Thank you for noticing that Watchmen won in no small part because a special one-shot category was created where it would have a better opportunity of winning. Technically, graphic novels currently compete in the Best Related Book category, such as Shaun Tan's The Arrival, which was nominated this year.

    As you may have heard, the World Science Fiction Society (which consists of all members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention) voted this year to add a new permanent category for Best Graphic Story. If ratified at next year's Worldcon in Montreal, the award will be added, subject to further ratification in a few years. In the meantime, next year's Worldcon has agreed to add a Best Graphic Story category to next year's Hugo Award ballot. I have written about this in further detail here, and encourage anyone with an opinion on this -- either in favor or opposed to it -- to join Anticipation and get involved in the debate.

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  4. Yes, the library has two other books by her including Q's Legacy that I want to check out. :)
    I am also going to get the movie version of 84 Charing Cross Road.

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  5. These are both books I really want to read. My husband is a huge comic book fan and introduced me to graphic novels years ago. I don't read them often, but have enjoyed all that I have read.

    And Snow Crash is one my husband read recently and loved.

    I hope you have a great week!

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