Chris Eboch Talks With Linda Joy Singleton

Our interviews with each other continue–today Chris Eboch talks with Linda Joy Singleton, author of over 35 books, including THE SEER series, DEAD GIRL trilogy and the March 2012 BURIED from Flux Books. She has a continuing contest on her website plus free short stories:

Chris Eboch: The 6th THE SEER came out last year. Is this the end of your psychic series?

Linda Joy Singleton: While THE SEER ends with the 6th book, a favorite character from THE SEER, a Goth girl named Thorn, continues with supernatural mystery in her own book next March. BURIED, A Goth Girl Mystery, follows Thorn to Nevada with her family where she meets a mysterious masked guy and follows psychic vibes from a locket to a killer secret that’s been buried for a long time.

CE: In January your book, DON’T DIE DRAGONFLY, was a free download from Amazon. How did that work out?

LJS: It was a great experiment. It worked well for my books because there are 6 books in THE SEER series, so
offering one of them for free led to the other books gaining more sales. In fact, my publisher is going to do it again with DEAD GIRL WALKING, the first book in my paranormal trilogy. Beginning May 1st, DEAD GIRL WALKING will be free for one month from Amazon, B&N, Kobo and (perhaps) Sony. This will be a one month only offer, and I’m really excited for this opportunity to find new readers. DEAD GIRL WALKING is about a girl who wakes up in the wrong body then tries to find her way back to being herself, making new friendships and gaining insight into others along the way.

CE: What are you working on now?

LJS: I’m writing a futuristic book which is nothing like anything I’ve ever written before. Over 2 years ago I wrote the first 4 pages to this book and continued to think about it until I finally had the time to work on it. Some people will call it dystopian only it’s not a dark look at the future, but more of a question of a girl’s identity and a murder mystery, too. When I finish this book, I’m hoping to write another Thorn book…but that will be up to my publisher. I also have a picture book and middle-grade being submitted. Every day I wake up hoping something wonderful will happen.

Thanks, Linda. Our interview series continues next week!

Chris Eboch with Haunted booksChris Eboch

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Linda Joy Singleton Talks With Chris Eboch

In the coming weeks, we here at the Spectacle will be interviewing… each other! It’s our chance to tell you a little bit more about ourselves and our books. Today, I’m interviewing Chris Eboch, author of a dozen books for young people, including the Haunted series, The  Well of Sacrifice, and the ghost on the stairs. She writes action-packed romantic suspense for grown-ups under the name Kris Bock.

Linda Joy Singleton: The Haunted series has three books out, The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom and The Knight in the Shadows. But we haven’t seen a new book in a while. Is anything new in the works?

Chris Eboch: The Haunted series got dropped by Aladdin after major upheavals that included my editor leaving. A couple of months ago, I posted on Verla Kay’s blue Boards — a discussion board for children’s book writers — that I was considering self-publishing the fourth Haunted book, which I had already written.

Last week, I got an e-mail from a new, very small press, wondering if I would be interested in working with them to release the book. We haven’t settled anything yet, but Haunted 4: The Ghost Miner’s Treasure will eventually make its way into print, one way or another. I’d like to keep writing more in the series, but that depends on whether or not I can make enough money to support myself while I write them.

The Ghost Miner’s Treasure continues Jon and Tania’s adventures in hunting — or rather helping — ghosts. This time their paranormal pal is an old miner who struck it rich in life but then couldn’t find his mine again, so he’s still looking, a century after his death. The kids get to join the Haunted ghost hunter TV show on a trek into the Superstition Mountains to hunt for the mine — but someone dangerous is tagging along, and this time it’s not the ghost.

LJS: You did a series of blog posts recently on your decision to self publish after years of traditional publishing. How is that working out?
The Eyes of Pharaoh cover
In terms of the success of the books, it’s still too early to tell. For my first adult novel, the romantic suspense Rattled, I’ve been finding support in the community of mystery writers and fans. I’ve done guest posts on several blogs and have more lined up. It’s really hard to tell how often these things lead to sales, of course, but it helps to get the word out. I also have some great reviews on Amazon!

So far I haven’t seen a big difference in sales between Rattled and my SP middle grade mystery, The Eyes of Pharaoh. I need to contact some of the teachers who use my Mayan historical fiction, The Well of Sacrifice, in the classroom and let them know about the new book.

One of the big challenges is finding the time to promote the books properly, when I have to spend most of my time earning money by teaching, critiquing, and writing articles. But I figured it would be six months to a year before the books had a chance of reaching some kind of “tipping point” and taking off.

I’m still not convinced that self-publishing is the only way to go. I recently met an editor at a conference who is interested in seeing my next romantic suspense, and I’ll probably send it to her. It would be nice to get an advance and more help with the publicity, not to mention the greater distribution. In the meantime, I’ve gotten good feedback on both the SP books, and I’m pleased to have them available to readers. So no regrets, though the process is slow!

LJS: What are you working on now?
The Rattled Cover
I’m working on my next romantic suspense. Rattled is intended to be the first book in a series about treasure hunting in the Southwest, but the new book is a separate stand-alone. It’s similar in that it involves adventures in the Southwest wilderness — this time, Hovenweep, a small national park with Ancestral Pueblo People (Anasazi) ruins. The main character is a young archaeologist who is just trying to get away from it all, but she discovers that there’s a lot more going on in this remote area than she expected. Eventually I want to get back to the cast of Rattled. The main character may be on her way to Happily Ever After, but her best friend needs to star in her own book!

I’m also working with a book packager on a contemporary teen series. I don’t want to say too much about that yet, though. Just know that I haven’t stopped writing for young people entirely!

Thanks for chatting, Chris! I hope everyone will enjoy our upcoming talks with other Spectacle contributors.

Linda Joy Singleton

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Janet Lee Carey givaway winner!

Judy Bodmer won a copy of Janet Lee Carey’s The Dragons of Noor for posting after the interview. Judy, Janet will be in touch.

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Sarah Beth Durst Talks Fairy Tales

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of Into The Wild, Ice, and Enchanted Ivy, novels that put a new spin on traditional fairy tales. She joins me here for a Q&A about once upon a time, witches, and were-unicorns.

Q: What made you decide to write about fairy tales?

A: I think “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” are two of the most powerful phrases in the English language (right up there with “I love you” and “free pizza”). You hear them and you’re instantly transported. As a writer, it’s fun to play with something that has such cultural resonance and so much emotional baggage attached to it. Kind of like playing dress-up with the Crown Jewels.

Q: Why do you think fairy tales still resound with audiences so many years after they were written?

A: Fairy tales are stories stripped down to bare bone. The characters lack internal lives and often are missing motivation and even logic. So that means that the reader (and writer!) is free to impose her or her own meaning on the stories. Combine that with the universal themes (true love, jealousy, revenge, etc.), and you have a set of stories that can be made relevant to virtually any culture in any time.

Also, fairy tales are awesome. Candy houses, dangerous fruit snacks, and heroines who befriend rodents — what’s not to love?

Q: How do you flesh out characters and plotlines from the fairy tales your stories are based on?

A: Honestly, it’s not so different from fleshing out a non-fairy-tale-related story. Personally, I always start with the characters. I ask myself: What does each character want and fear? Once I can answer that question, I put my main character into a situation that touches on those wants and fears, and I see how they react. At their core, most stories are about a character facing his or her worst nightmare and then changing because of it. It’s the why and the how that make things interesting.

Q: If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?

I’d love to be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She makes dreams come true, and she doesn’t fall off a cliff or die in a horrific fashion. In reality, though, I’d probably be a random extra who gets eaten by a wolf.

Q: I especially love your INTO THE WILD books. Who is your favorite character in these books and why?

A: Gothel, Rapunzel’s witch. She’s evil by nature but good by choice, which made her a lot of fun to write.

Q: Will you be writing more twisted fairy tale books? If so, can you tell us what’s next?

A: My next book is called DRINK, SLAY, LOVE. It’s about a sixteen-year-old vampire girl who develops a conscience after she’s stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn’s horn. It comes out in September 2011 from Simon & Schuster, and I’m really, really excited about it!

Q: Is there a fairy tale your fans have asked you to write about? If so, what is it?

A: I’ve written about a bunch of obscure fairy tales on my blog (compiled here). One reader favorite seems to be the bricklebrit donkey, who spews gold out of both ends when you shout the word “Bricklebrit!” He hasn’t actually shown up in a novel yet, though…

Q: Is there a fairy tale you won’t ever write about?

A: It’s probably a good bet that I won’t ever write a novel about “The Juniper Tree,” which is a charming Brothers Grimm story about a mother who kills her son, tricks the boy’s sister into thinking she’s responsible, and then serves the boy’s body to his father for dinner. Talk about family issues! I like my stories to be a wee bit more upbeat than that. :)

Q: I love to hear about fan mail. What are the most common comments you receive from readers?

A: I love email from readers! My favorite emails are the ones in which readers tell me their favorite characters or their favorite parts or why they liked a particular book. One of the best things about being a writer these days is how easy it is for readers to reach out to you. I feel bad for pre-computer authors. I bet Jane Austen would have adored tweeting.

Q: Share a favorite line(s) from one of your books.

A: From ICE:

The bear bounded through the snow. Cassie clutched his thick fur and clenched her teeth as the impact jarred her bones. Snow spewed out in waves.

“Are you afraid?” the bear shouted to her.

“Like hell I am.”

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Linda Joy Singleton


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Easter Eggs in Space!

Quick! Identify this image:

Guess what: Speckled eggs?

Speckled eggs? No...

Although they may look like speckled eggs, these are alien worlds: a few of the 1,235 exoplanet candidates identified since 2009 by NASA’s Kepler observatory. Before Kepler, about 500 exoplanets total had been discovered, painstakingly, one-by-one, over more than a decade–which demonstrates how dramatically the pace of discovery increases as new tools come online.

The “eggs” above are stars arranged in size order. The “speckles” are planets in silhouette. The entire image, created by a scientist named Jason Rowe, can be seen here.

On this scale, our own sun (occluded by Jupiter and Earth) would look like this:

Space egg

Note: Earth is almost too small to see.

Based on the information the Kepler project has gathered so far, astronomers are estimating that there may be as many as 50 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy with 2 billion of those being about the size of Earth, about 10 million of which might be in a range to hold liquid water necessary for the development of life.

If you’d like to participate in your own Easter egg hunt in space, check out for a chance to be part of a crowdsourced project using Kepler data to find some of the exoplanets that Kepler’s automated algorithm may have missed.

–Greg R. Fishbone, hard boiled

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Happy Earth Day with Janet Lee Carey

Happy Earth Day! And welcome to day three of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Yesterday we promised to look into how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.

CE: What is your process for world-building?

JLC: The fictional world has to be put to the real-world “sludge and roses” test. It should be as wild, beautiful, dangerous and messy as our own world.

Building from the ground up, I use what I know from the natural world, from natural history and human history to create a believable world and complex society. The setting usually plays a large role, challenging the characters in some way. For Stealing Death, I created a country, Zolya, decimated by ongoing drought. I studied drought-ridden Africa where I saw how arid farmlands, thirst, and lack of clean drinking water can shape a whole society. By page one the drought has already pushed my main character, Kipp, to the very edge of existence. We sense the Death Catcher is not far away.

World-building for The Dragons of Noor began with book one The Beast of Noor, but creation/recreation is ongoing. In the second book, Noor is threatened by the loss of the ancient forest and by the storms brought on by the splitting worlds.

CE: For Earth Day you promised to share how world-building for fantasy worlds can lead to change in our own world.

JLC: The Dragons of Noor have an environmental disaster on their hands. The ancient Waytrees retain deep history in their roots and bind the two worlds of Noor and Oth together. The dragons have been guarding the last Waytree forest for generations:

When the Waytree bridges fall,

Roots die binding all to all. ~ Dragons’ Song

When men come to cut down the trees, the two worlds split farther apart. The splitting worlds unleash quakes and horrendous storms, and the old magic sends a wild wind out that steals young children. Miles and Hanna join with the dragons to try and stop the devastation before the two worlds completely split apart.

I did a lot of research about the state of old growth forests to write the tale and was appalled at what I learned. According to Eco Evaluator “Almost 80% of the world’s old-growth forests have been exploited or completely destroyed. . . Each year, about 25 million acres of ancient and endangered forests in the world are being cleared.”

I usually do some kind of charitable outreach with each book release so I already knew I had to link myself and my readers up to some solution. I chose the Nature Conservancy’s Plant A Billion Trees Campaign.

Plant a Billion Trees goal: to restore one billion native trees to Brazil’s highly endangered Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years. “Tropical forests are the lungs of the earth, filtering out ten million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Every day these valuable trees help reduce global warming.”

Growing up under towering redwoods, I’ve always been close to trees. I believe trees are vital. Our bodies, hearts, and brains need their silent majesty, green boughs, and shade. Trees are rooted in humankind’s childhood. When we cut them down we sever ourselves from our wild past and chop down our most ancient playground.

I’ve been celebrating Earth Day, educating readers about Plant A Billion Trees on school visits, and donating 10% of my school visit fees to PABT since the launch of The Dragons of Noor in Oct. 2010. Together with readers we’ve planted 250 trees in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest! We’ll continue our efforts through next school year after the paperback comes out Oct 2011.

Blog readers here who want to help restore the forest can swing by the website page or go directly to Plant a Billion Trees campaign.

Janet under a Banyan tree

~Feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk. Heart to root; remember the ones who hold you up.~ Evver the tree spirit of Noor

Thanks, Janet! Readers, post a comment to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.


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Janet Lee Carey interview: part 2

Welcome to day two of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Remember to post a comment tomorrow to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.

CE: What are your writing days like?

JLC: I start my writing day as if I’m going on a climb and I need to bring provisions with me: a thermos of hot tea on cold days, plenty of water on warm ones. I daydream and write in my journal a while to get the ideas flowing. Soon I light the candle in my Aladdin’s lamp, switch on the computer, and journey into the story world. I’m lost in there until lunch time when I emerge ready for a bite to eat and a walk. After the walk, I’m back to the writing. Of course this is my “ideal” day; I also spend a lot of time with the busyness of the business, all writers do, but I begin to feel story-starved if I stay away from writing for too long.

Janet Lee Carey

CE: Tell us how you create and develop your characters.

JLC: I create the character’s past before they step into the story so I know his/her loves, losses, longings and secrets. I highly recommend stealing acting exercise and treasure from other art forms to help with character creation. Movement can really help you get into character.

I loved reading The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for Life by the famous choreographer, Twyla Tharp. She got me to move into character. I began to do what I call Positions. Simply put, this is moving about until I find three body positions for my character: a First Position for the opening of the story, Second Position for the middle, and Third for the end.

For example I ask, “What body position expresses Hanna at the beginning of The Dragons of Noor?” I dance until I find it. Hanna stands with her right foot forward, left foot back, right arm extended forward with an open hand, left arm extended back with an open hand (something close to warrior pose in yoga).

Hanna is pulled in two directions; by the need to stay home and protect her younger brother (left foot and left arm back), and the need to rescue the Wind-taken children (right foot and right hand forward). Once her little brother is Wind-taken, she is launched forward into the heart of the story. Getting out of my writing chair and moving to discover the Three Positions helps me to get inside the character’s body and emotion.

Come back tomorrow for the Earth Day interview. What do the azure trees of Noor and the endangered rainforest of Brazil have in common? Tomorrow we look at how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.

CE: And don’t forget the book giveaway! Comment on tomorrow’s post to enter.


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Janet Lee Carey Interview

Today I’m chatting with Janet Lee Carey, the author of a seven fabulous middle grade and young adult novels, including Dragon’s Keep (starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal) Stealing Death, and the Beasts of Noor series. Janet writes contemporary and historical fiction, but has most recently received critical acclaim for her fantasy novels. School Library Journal said, “Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.”

Janet will be visiting The Spectacle for three days, culminating in a special Earth Day post on Friday. We are also doing a book giveaway, so stop by every day, but most of all be sure to post a comment on Friday to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.

CE: Tell us about your book.

JLC: The Dragons of Noor is based on brokenness—two worlds breaking apart, the breaking of a dragon treaty that protected the Waytree forest, the breaking of a family when the youngest child is stolen by the wind . . . It’s my seventh novel for young readers, and the second Noor book. In this tale Miles and Hanna try to “bind what’s broken”. They join the dragons’ fight to save the Waytree forest—the ancient trees that bind the two worlds. If they fail and the last Waytrees fall, the worlds will split in two. All magic will go out of Noor, and their little brother will be forever lost.

The Dragons of Noor Teens Read Too Gold Star Award Winner

CE: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

JLC: People say my fantasy reads like novelized fairytales, though the tales are my own. I feel as if the genre chose me. When I’m lucky, a story idea hits me like cupid’s arrow. I’m shot with love and wonder and go into what my family calls a “Janet trance.” This happened with The Dragons of Noor. The idea started with a daydream of a Wild Wind blowing children up into the sky and over the sea like windblown leaves. I thought I’d write a fairytale about it, but, as usual, the story became a full-length novel.

Inspiration to write fantasy came early. As a child I climbed my “reading tree” with favorite books. In the branches I was swept into Narnia, Middle-earth, and other magical lands. I loved going on these journeys and wanted to grow up booking passage to faraway places for other young readers. I’m continually inspired by Ursula K. LeGuin, Juliet Marillier, Patricia A. McKillip, Kristin Cashore, Robin McKinley, Franny Billingsley…. I could go on and on.

CE: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

JLC: The most difficult challenge is to make the story fresh. A poet faces the challenge to write an original love poem. Fantasy writers are challenged to do something new with archetypal beings like dragons.

I enjoy the challenge to make my dragons fresh. Dragons are like nature unleashed. If a hurricane were an animal, it would be a dragon. Their age and size, their very otherness puts me in awe. Knowing they are both keenly intelligent and wild animals, I spend as much time and care on the dragons’ personalities as I do on my human characters.

CE: How have publishers reacted to your work?

JLC: After writing realistic fiction, I had a hard time breaking into fantasy, but I’m bullheaded, I kept persisting. I fought through rejection like the prince cuts through the brambles in Sleeping Beauty, writing and resending until my first fantasy novel was accepted. I still feel exhilarated about it as if I’ve stormed the castle to awaken my childhood dreams!

CE: How about readers? Have you found any special challenges reaching people with this genre?

JLC: I meet readers on school visits, on Facebook and through the contact email on my website. I try to answer all my reader fan mail and email. Last year a teen boy wrote me saying: “I want to thank you for changing the way I look at my life. After I read Dragon’s Keep, I thought about myself in a different way. . . . Dragon’s Keep inspired me to make a difference in my life.”

CE: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

JLC: Middle-earth hands down, but Middle-earth before the ring is found, or after Sauron of Mordor is vanquished. Why? Because Tolkien’s world is richly imagined, deeply green, both magical and practical, and humans are but a part of a wild tapestry of folk.

CE: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

JLC: I’m terrified of spiders. I used to make my older brothers suck them up with the vacuum. Then I started to fear the vacuum. What if the spiders were all in there planning a counterattack?

CE: Sounds like a writer’s imagination! Readers, stop by tomorrow for part 2. If you have questions for Janet, please post them in the comments.


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Literary Science Fiction and Fantasy For Young Readers

In its earliest days, science fiction would never have been called literary. But for every “astounding” story of the 50′s, there’s a lyrical Bradbury tale or an experimental Mieville novel or a pointed dystopian story. Both science fiction and fantasy now share shelf space with literary novels of the more typical contemporary and historical bent. In the YA and MG markets,  literary science fiction and fantasy particularly flourishes.

There’s no shortage of praise for literary science fiction and fantasy for young readers. Last year’s Printz award-winner was the surreal Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Franny Billingsley’s Chime, a recent fantasy novel whose dominating element is its lyrical voice, has received an incredible six starred reviews. Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a novel about telepathic cousins who fall in love during a future war, received the 2005 Printz. And M. T. Anderson’s futuristic satire, Feed, was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award. Not to mention all the middle grade science fiction and fantasy novels that have won the Newbery, including The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, and When You Reach Me.

What makes this particular strain of YA/MG literature so successful? It might be that it’s a magnet for both high sales and good reviews–teens are drawn to the high-interest elements, like supernatural romance, while reviewers are keen to praise the quality of writing. It might also have to do with the perception that young readers are open to reading books that experiment with structure, voice, and setting–something common in literary works as well as science fiction and fantasy stories.

In any case, it seems that agents and editors are looking for sf/f literature that blends literary style with high-interest stories. What do you think of literary science fiction and fantasy–are you writing it? Reading it? Do you love it or are you sick of hearing about it?

Parker Peevyhouse just finished reading Chime in preparation of our May book talk

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Time Travel Banned In China

Recently in China, there have been a glut of popular time travel television shows and movies. Typically, a character from modern China goes back in time and discovers that the past was a great place to live: lots of unpolluted air and water; horseback rides instead of traffic jams; epic battles for a noble cause; and romance everywhere.

Chinese Time Travel scene

"OMG! This picture will rock my Facebook page!"

This seems like a fun idea, but the Chinese government has taken a hard line and reportedly banned the entire time travel genre until further notice, as well as historical dramas based on certain works of classical literature. (Although I’m still hoping it’s all a big April Fool’s joke.)

From the Chinese General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television (via Boing-Boing):

“The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”

If the pretext is that time travel stories are frivolous and inaccurate…well, duh! Here in the United States, cartoons about Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman, debuted in the 1950s as part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Mr. Peabody was a Gallifreyan Time Lord whose botched regeneration had given him the form of a talking dog. Sherman was Mr. Peabody’s companion, whose sole purpose was to wander around asking, “Where are we, Mr. Peabody? What’s this, Mr. Peabody? And who is that, Mr. Peabody?”

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Also, Mr. Peabody needed Sherman's opposable thumbs.

According to Wikipedia, 91 segments of “Peabody’s Improbable History” were aired, with each containing a silly plot that ended in a horrible pun. Did the writers “treat serious history in a frivolous way?” Heck, yeah! But that didn’t make anyone want to ban Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine, Doc Brown’s DeLorean, the Doctor’s TARDIS, and all other depictions of time travel on TV and in the movies. There’s got to be something else going on in Beijing.

My theory: time travel stories often include a political message or cultural commentary. By making a purposeful connection with the past, or by projecting current trends into the future, an author can make a powerful statement about the present. This goes back at least to H.G. Wells’s 1885 novel, The Time Machine, which took a stab at class warfare in Victorian England by journeying to a future where the upper and lower classes had evolved into two separate species–with one literally cannibalizing the other.


Behold the future of the lower classes!

Sometimes the subtext is open to interpretation, or may be an unintentional consequence of some throwaway joke in the script. Like when Robert Zemeckis gave us an alternate take on the origins of rock and roll music in the first Back to the Future movie. Did he really mean to create a scenario where African Americans stole rock & roll from white kids instead of the other way around? You be the judge!

Johnny B. Goode

"Hello, Chuck? It's me again. When you steal 'Johnny B. Goode' from that white kid, maybe skip the weird part at the end."

In recent Chinese time travel stories, “the past as a primo tourist destination” is a theme that could be perceived as clashing with the party line that “things have never been better than now.” And because the subtext can be subtle and subjective, the censors might have chosen to shut down the entire genre just to be sure.

It’s a shame because this apparently now-banned series looks seriously awesome:

–Greg R. Fishbone, time after time


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