Mini-Review: W.U.M.E.: A short story, Marc Poliquin (2014)

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Contains the Seeds of a Chilling Dystopian Novel

three out of five stars

Kate Murdoch is seven months pregnant – and under contract with her husband’s employer. In exchange for covering all the fees associated with Kate’s pregnancy and delivery, Kate granted SnazzyCorp the right to imprint her baby Ben starting in the third trimester.

Developed by Carson Hill, the Wired Uterine Manipulation and Encryption Procedure – W.U.M.E. for short – is a way for corporations to cultivate brand loyalty while people are still in the womb. Hill’s assistant, Virginia Williams, served as test subject #1; when her child was born, the newborn immediately refused her mother’s breast in favor of ChemLax baby formula. Years later, and the procedure has taken off; instead of competing for consumers, companies wage war over access to fetuses on the battlegrounds of their mothers’ bodies.

When Kate has a sudden change of heart and attempts to break the contract, SnazzyCorp kidnaps her from her bed in the dead of night in order to subject her and Ben to forced imprinting. Ostensibly saved in the nick of time by a mysterious rescuer known only as Nate, Kate soon finds herself in an even more horrifying situation: imprisoned as a Carrier in the Factory, a clandestine human trafficking facility run by SnazzyCorp competitor GloboDiTech Ltd.

“W.U.M.E.” is a chilling science fiction dystopia in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale. It contains the seeds of a potentially great novel; unfortunately, at just twenty-one pages, it’s a little short on character development and world building for my taste. I would love to see the ideas presented here fleshed out in greater detail.

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Book Review: The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen, Valerie Estelle Frankel (2013)

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Team Katniss

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the author’s invitation.)

If you’re a voracious reader of THG criticism, you might already be familiar with the work of Valerie Estelle Frankel: in addition to a short guide to The Hunger Games (Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games), Frankel also contributed an essay to the 2012 anthology, Of Bread, Blood and the Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy (“Reflection in a Plastic Mirror”). I had the pleasure of reviewing each of these, as well as a study of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it relates to Joseph Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey (Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One).

In this latest book, The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of the Hunger Games, Frankel revisits and expands upon many of the ideas introduced in her previous guides and essays. In particular, Chapters 4 (“Katniss Lives the Roman Histories”), 5 (“Katniss the Hungry: Food in the Hunger Games”), and 8 (“Katniss the Mockingjay: The Power of Story and Song”) are an extension of Katniss the cattail: a more in-depth look at the names (Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Prim, Claudius Templesmith, Plutarch Heavensbee, Presidents Snow and Coin, etc.) and symbols (bread, arrows, primroses, etc.) found in The Hunger Games trilogy. Likewise, Chapter 1 (“Katniss the Reality TV Star: Reflection in a Plastic Mirror”) is reprinted from Of Bread, Blood and the Hunger Games.

But far from a rehashing of old ideas, The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen is a fresh and insightful discussion of the major themes of the trilogy, from its criticism of our current obsession with reality television (which, coupled with our war fatigue, is especially insidious – we enjoy watching the suffering of others, but turn our backs when it happens en mass) to the execution of the film adaptation:

1 – “Katniss the Reality Star: Reflection in a Plastic Mirror” – No less enjoyable the second time around, the opening essay in this collection compares Panem to the modern-day US; the Hunger Games are an exaggerated version of our own reality television – our own bread and circuses, if you will. In this way, The Hunger Games isn’t just a future dystopia – but a present one, as well.

(More below the fold…)

Liberation BC & PCRM: Vegan Diet Doesn’t Cause Birth Defects

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Sigh. Almost two years after “vegan” parents Lamont Thomas and Jade Sanders were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for starving their son, Crown Shakur, to death (hence Nina Planck’s oh-so-clever – and, not to mention, compassionate – “Death by Veganism” column title), non-vegans *still* refer to this case as proof that vegan diets are inherently unhealthy and unsuitable for infants and children. (And, in more extreme cases, that vegan diets constitute child abuse and warrant state intervention.) Even though, as I explain at over at Bitch, these “death by veganism” cases could be more accurately described as “death by starvation.” With proper knowledge and planning, vegan diets are actually healthier than diets which involve animals and animal by-products. For infants, breast milk and soy formula – rather than the soy milk and apple juice Crown Shakur received – are part of a healthy vegan diet.

Anyhow, cue the latest bit of anti-vegan scare-mongering: “Vegan diet tied to birth defects,” which PCRM and Liberation BC critique below. Please consider contacting the newspapers that ran the story, and politely correct their shoddy science “reporting.”

Mary Martin at Animal Person also offers an interesting deconstruction of PCRM’s press release from a radical vegan perspective. I’m embarassed to say that I didn’t pick up on PCRM’s odd choice of wording at first!

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Liberation BC
Date: Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 4:10 PM
Subject: Vegan Diet Doesn’t Cause Birth Defects

Liberation BC has had a few people write to us asking about an article in several newspapers, “Vegan diet tied to birth defects”, so we thought we’d send out an Action Alert with a little more information.

The article claims that a study shows that “…vegans and women who eat little or no meat, fish, eggs, milk or cheese are at the highest risk, as well as women with stomach or intestinal problems…that keep them from absorbing enough B12.”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has issued a press release in response, stating that what the article doesn’t mention is that “…the study is based on analysis of stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. It’s not clear if any of the women were vegan, but the study clearly states that this population was deliberately chosen because vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare at that time. The women lived in a region of traditionally high neural tube defects prevalence, suggesting a moderately high genetic predisposition.” (Doctors endorse vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies, 2 Mar 2009)

Of course, it is absolutely true that everyone needs to get B12. It is the only vitamin or mineral that one cannot get on a totally vegan diet. An incredibly small amount of it is necessary–less than 10 micrograms a day–and yet it is so important that without it, we can become very ill indeed. Fortunately, however, it is also a very easy vitamin to get.

It is also worth noting that the experts wholly endorse a vegan diet. The Dieticians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association have stated that:

“Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation. Appropriately planned vegan diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth.”

(More below the fold…)