Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Malice

In middle school, I was one of those kids going through all the adventure books the library had to offer. From the The Famous Five to kid detectives to opening that wardrobe, I loved it all and then had fun with my friends digging holes, running away from imaginary bad guys and hidden doorways. After that, a lot of “grown-up” books were a disappointment to me at first until I learned to embrace speculative fiction and started to consider other topics exciting as well. But this is a very long-winded way of saying that I still am that kid looking for adventure stories and when I heard about Malice in Ovenland, I knew I had to give it a go. And yes, middle-grade books still deliver the same fun and no, I did not try to explore behind my kitchen oven, cause that would be weird. (it was very dusty!)

Malice in Ovenland is a middle-grade comic by Micheline Hess and published by Rosarium. The first volume introduces fierce young, Black Lilly Brown, who does not get to spend her summer at camp like her friends but instead has to take care of her mother’s organic garden and a list of other chores. Already, and with adult eyes, I find this positioning important: Lilly lives with her mom and loves fast food but her mother has chosen to grow organic food to take care of her daughter and herself and Lilly also has responsibilities that she might not enjoy but takes care of nonetheless. This is not your spoiled middle-class kid and I love this glimpse of Lilly’s mother. And then, when Lilly attempts to clean the oven she tumbles into Ovenland, like Alice once fell into Wonderland.

malice1

How fantastic are those colors and especially that last panel!?  I love all the details like the cracked glasses and the horribly-green Bleh! Now in Ovenland, Lilly is locked into the dungeon, meets a queen and finds a kingdom in crisis over the lack of incoming grease. Yup people, if you’re going organic, make sure you’re not cutting off the kingdom behind your oven!

Lilly is everything I’ve always wanted from a heroine in an adventure story and I was in turns delighted and grossed out with her. There is a lot of monologuing going on initially but keep on reading it’ll get better and I did not find the message overly preachy, so hopefully middle-graders won’t either. I think there is a lot of potential in this story and I look forward to future volumes and Micheline Hess’ next project. I wish I’d had more female characters of color to look up to when I was younger, especially ones so visually present as in comics, and Malice in Ovenland totally delivers. It makes me want to get some kids from somewhere just to push this comic on them. And since I don’t have and don’t want kids, this is high praise indeed.

Malice in Ovenland Vol.1 will be out August 31, get it for your kids and your inner child! Also make sure to check out Rosarium Publishing here, they specialize in multicultural speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction.

Disclaimer: I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. But never fear, I remain my opinionated self!

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5 On a Theme: Chican@ & Latino/a Speculative Fiction

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This was a difficult one! But since Chicana and diverse SF were requested, here’s my attempt to combine them. A note on terminology: I’ve included writers that I have seen included in Latino/a or have seen identify themselves as such. Some but not all also identify with the sometimes overlapping but radical Chican@, let me know if I got something wrong! Also, the @ is for inclusion of all gender identities but since Latin@ is something else, please excuse my binaries.

I think the difficulty in finding Chican@ and Latino/a science-fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction, without going in the direction of Latin America and magical realism, just goes to show that we need to promote these stories better and let authors and publishers know that we will greet these books enthusiastically. From what I can tell, writers and artists are doing amazing things in the borderlands as Vourvoulias uses the term for that grey queer space of non-/indie-/self publishing. They should be getting lots of acknowledgement and recognition in the limelight too. These stories are what I want to see when I enter a bookstore!

Lunar Braceros

1) Lunar Braceros by Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita

This science fiction novella is set in a dystopian 22nd century in which the US does not exist anymore and different territories have emerged. The new order connects to the history of oppression suffered in the Americas and is written with an explicit social justice approach which is what drew me to the book in the first place. I loaned this one from a friend who warned me that the ideas and politics were amazing but that the style was more lecture than dialogue. I’m glad I knew this beforehand and got so much out of it, such an amazing work, I would’ve gladly read more!

high aztec

2) High Aztec by Ernest Hogan

Techno Aztec/h city Tenochtitlan formerly known as Mexico city has stainless steel pyramids and lots of immigrant (I’m only using this term instead of refugee etc cause things are turned on its head with US citizens as those fleeing) influx from the declining US and Christian and Aztec beliefs clashing. There’s another problem though: Zapata! He’s a cartoonist carrying a virus and everyone is after him. Hogan has written genre fiction and I mean this in the nicest way possible. This is so cool and has been under my radar for far too long!

ink

3) Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Dystopian fiction taking the anti-immigration rhetoric and politics of the US to its logical conclusion. People with such a history, Latino/as have to wear biometric tattoos and they are known as inks. We follow different narrators over several years and see them caught between these violent conditions, belonging, magicks and making connections. The four narrators made the book’s structure a bit chaotic but I loved it nonetheless! Also how awesome is this cover!

the assimilated guide

4) The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez

This is a new short story collection published by amazing RosariumPub. Hernandez writes strange, intriguing stories from a Cuban-American perspective. Expect everything from sexy robot pandas to quantum mechanics bringing along unicorns to illegal aliens! This is on my tbr.

Latino.a rising art

5) Latino/a Rising Anthology

I know, this one won’t be out till next year but I’ve been following their campaign and it’s so amazing to see there was enough support to get it done! The anthology will be published in 2017 by Wings Press. Vourvoulias will also apparently contribute a story and check out the line-up here!

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There’s also an amazing article by Vourvoulias, where you can find Latino/a speculative short story recommendations and this list of Latino/a genre writers. Another great source is La Bloga’s Latino Speculative Literature Directory.

Do you read diverse science fiction and speculative literature? How do you come across them? Also: Do please leave me your faves in the comments!