Author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury passed away last night at the age of 91, and he’ll be missed for a whole lot more than just those books on your high school reading list. Today, as you head into the theaters to see The Hunger Games and Prometheus, stroll down you bookstore aisle to pick up the latest hot dystopian YA novel, or flip on your ginormous flat-screen TV, you owe something to Bradbury. As much as we refer to George Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984, rail against the dangers of Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World and conjure up nightmares of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, those book-burning “firefighters” of Fahrenheit 451 strikes fear into the hearts of many a reader and writer. His sci-fi writing (in short stories, The Ray Bradbury Theater TV show, and elsewhere), has also inspired many too follow in his imaginative footsteps. Granted we haven’t read his books since high school, so here, based largely on educated guesses and wild speculation, are 5 pop-culture things we owe the guy:
1. The Hunger Games: Fahrenheit 451 starkly contrasts the sterile, overstimulated emptiness of the dystopian city with the romanticized beauty of the country. Sound familiar?
It’s kind of all the rage to fight bullying these days — Lady Gaga, Glee, Demi Lovato, Ian Somerhalder — all our faves are taking on the mission. So is best-selling YA author Susane Colasanti, with her newest novel, Keep Holding On, about a girl who’s sick of being ostracized for being poor and stands up to her tormentors. Colasanti herself was once a bullied teen, and she, like some of us, remembers that pop culture’s battle against mean guys and girls is nothing new. Back in the day, there was a fair share of books, TV shows and movies that dealt with bullying. Here, she shares her top 5 favorites:
I was obsessed with both the book (by S.E. Hinton) and the movie in junior high. You would not have wanted to watch the movie with me. I was that annoying person who said every line of dialogue along with the characters. I slept with the book under my pillow, wishing for some sort of osmosis to transmit its magic into my brain so I could write a teen novel one day that would help readers the way that book helped me. How the greasers were always taunted by the Socs made my heart hurt. Ponyboy was my favorite character. I loved how he was into sunsets and colors and things. He hated how the Socs felt entitled to harass the greasers, especially since they were all just kids. Ponyboy summed it up best when he asked Cherry if she could see the sunset from the Southside very good. She told him she could. “You can see it from the Northside, too,” Ponyboy said.
The quintessential portrayal of a Pretty Perfect Popular girl clique. The clique includes three girls named Heather (Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker) who rule the school. These Heathers are some seriously cruel beyotches. The fourth girl, Veronica (Winona Ryder), wants the Heathers to chill. When Veronica and boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) expose their shallowness and insecurities, the consequences shatter their whole world.
Ever since we saw Hailee Steinfeld manipulate a bunch of grown outlaws in True Grit, we’ve been begging Hollywood to cast her in everything — she was a big favorite to play Katniss in The Hunger Games before fellow Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence got the gig. And, as much as we’re looking forward to seeing her in Romeo and Juliet and as Petra in Ender’s Game, we’re much more excited about today’s casting news. According to Deadline, the 15-year-old is in negotiations to play Min Green in the adaptation of YA novel Why We Broke Up. It is just the sort of smart-ass-but-vulnerable girl we’d love to see her take on.
The novel, by Daniel Handler (who normally writes under the pen name Lemony Snicket) and illustrated by New Yorker regular Maira Kalman, is a really long letter from Min to her ex, Ed Slaterton, that accompanies a box of all the memorabilia she gathered over the course of their relationship (each of which is cleverly illustrated by Kalman). And even though the title tells you EXACTLY what happens at the end of their relationship, you will probably find yourself crying and throwing the book across the room multiple times while reading it. You might even mope around all day before realizing that no, you did not break up with someone just now; it was just the fictional characters in the book. (Not that this happened to me at all.)
Min, short for Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, is an independent girl who is obsessed with film and couldn’t care less about typical high school things like sports and school dances. But when Ed, the captain of the basketball team, crashes her best friend’s party and asks her out, she finds herself entering his world of bonfires and jock parties and mean ex-girlfriends. She, meanwhile, draws him into her clever world, and they begin planning an elaborate surprise birthday soiree for an old lady she’s convinced is silver-screen movie star Lottie Carson. Much to the chagrin of their friends, of course, they fall in love.
A more cynical writer (or less indulgent reader) might say this marks the moment that 50 Shades of Grey — or, more accurately, making fun of Fifty Shades of Grey — jumped the shark. Selena Gomez and Nick Kroll have made a Funny or Die video in which the teen queen fantasizes about her gross house painter as a result of reading a little too much E.L. James. But I’m not going to say that, because I have laughed at EVERY SINGLE ONE of these, and I’m showing no signs of tiring of the topic. Comedians of the world, you may still keep these parodies coming, for our appetite is as insatiable as Anastasia Steele’s. What I do fear is that by the time they get around to actually making the real movie, we won’t be able to take it seriously in the least. If we ever would have, that is. (OK, if Ian Somerhalder plays Christian, I promise to take it seriously.) Here five other readings/parodies to enjoy … until the next one comes along. None of these are SFW, btw.
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, the animated trailer. If you’ve read the book, I have two words of warning for you: blue string. If you haven’t, just prepare for some CGI gross. Read more…
It’s a sad day for everyone who ever put on a wolf costume, got sent to bed without dinner and/or dreamed of being fierce rulers of our own private island. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, died early this morning at age 83 of complications from a stroke, according to the New York Times.
In 1963, when he first published the story of rebellious Max and his adventures as the king of a tribe of monsters, it was a huge departure from the safe Dick and Jane world of children’s literature. Now generations of us will recall identifying with Max’s anger, fear, euphoria and melancholy — for some of us, it’s the blueprint for the way we’ve wanted to feel about every fictional character that follows.
Sendak himself had a curmudgeonly, Max-ish reputation, which probably initially grew from growing up an underprivileged, gay Jew in Brooklyn. It also made for a hilarious interview with Stephen Colbert in January, as he railed against ebooks, mice, celebrity children’s books authors and Newt Gingrich.
“I didn’t set out to make children happy!” he said. Sorry, Maurice, you did.
We’ll still have our Cullens, Eric Northman and the Salvatore brothers gracefully prowling across our screens for a bit longer, but I think it might soon be time for some, er, fresh blood in the vampire game. So does Hollywood, apparently. Palomar Pictures and Harlequin Teen announced today that a book that isn’t even out until next Tuesday, Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules, has been optioned, along with the sequels that will follow it in the Blood of Eden series. The movie would be produced by Joni Sighvatsson, who has made a number of dark and twisty movies, such as Killer Elite, Brothers, Wild at Heart and Basquiat.
Part of the excitement for Immortal Rules stems from the immense popularity of Kagawa’s fairy series, The Iron Fey. The new novel takes place in a future when vampires rule the world and humans are kept like cattle to feed them. Allison Sekemoto was one of those humans, who dreamed of fighting back against the vampires until she was turned into one.
Incidentally, Kagawa fans, the above photo is an outtake from the Immortal Rules cover. We like how her warrior stance and the book’s whole post-apocalyptic setting is bringing the genre back to gothier territory than Twilight, TVD and True Blood (not that there’s anything wrong with vampires in the sun, too, we just like variety!).
Between Blood of Eden and the long-awaited Vampire Academy adaptation, we are holding out hope for a long future ruled by blood-sucking fiction.
Pick up the book on April 24 and come back here to play fantasy casting with us!
[Photo: Harlequin Teen]
We’re not sure we can be objective about More Like Her, the new novel from author Liza Palmer. That’s because she’s family — a writer for VH1’s Pop Up Video. So rather than review the book, we invited her to write a guest blog about it, the world of celebrity and which celebrities she dreams of casting in the movie adaptation.
I’ve been writing books for almost 10 years and wrote for the first season of VH1’s Pop Up Video in 2011. My books, like my life, have explored the idea of identity and being comfortable with who you are, warts and all. What is this “normal” we’re all reaching for? Clearly, after four books, I’m still trying to figure it out. But, with More Like Her I wanted to raise the stakes a bit. I wanted something to happen that couldn’t be taken back with an apology or a conversation.
Liza’s fantasy casting for More Like Her.
We all know celebrities are airbrushed, both their photos and their lives. And yet, we keep striving for it: that same Photoshopped perfection. We imagine there’s some green room awaiting us with everything Gwyneth Paltrow promises on Goop, a tablescape by Martha Stewart and an outfit from J. Crew that will look better on us than it does on the first lady.
But perfection doesn’t exist. And we know it. That doesn’t stop us from scrambling for it day in and day out. What are we all hiding? To answer this question, here are just a couple of the comments left after gossip blogs posted a photo of Scarlett Johansson wearing a bikini while on vacation in Hawaii:
“Ugh… spotty knees, hair can be seen on her right calf area!!”
Back in February, J.K. Rowling warned us that her upcoming book would be “very different to Harry,” but we’re not sure anyone was prepared for just how different she was talking about. We thought maybe more mature, since it’s for adults; perhaps more self-contained, after the exhausting process of the seven Harry Potter novels and companion books. Still, we kind of expected there to be some kind of magic or other form of entirely imaginative new world, or something wholly captivating like that. Today, her new publisher, Little Brown, announced the title and synopsis of the novel, The Casual Vacancy, and it turns out to be a story about … um … local politics?
“When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock,” reads the synopsis of the book, which hits shelves on September 27. “Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.”
It’s a “blackly comic” novel, the publisher promises. Actually, it sounds pretty good. Rowling is as skilled with developing interesting characters as she is at wizardy things, we know. And we’re sure most original Potter fans are all grown up and reading all sorts of different genres. Now, she stands to add to her empire by bringing in all the readers who steer clear of any hint of fantasy. OK. We’re happy for her being able to stretch her wings and all. But if this doesn’t work out, or even if it does, Jo, we’ll be here, hoping you can pick up that wand of yours again one day.
[Photo: Getty Images]
Do you still have the shakes from Hunger Games withdrawal? Have you still not seen it because you don’t like to follow the pack? Are you reading this from your mobile device as you wait for the trailers to begin on your umpteenth viewing? Whichever category you fall into, we thought you’d benefit from a different perspective of the film, from the authors of the next book-to-movie adaptations you’ll probably get hooked on. On Monday, we gave you Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s fangirl review. Here’s a review from Maggie Stiefvater, whose books The Scorpio Races, Shiver and the upcoming The Raven Boys are published by Suzanne Collins’ home, Scholastic. And yes, the former two have been optioned by movie studios.
I don’t think you have any idea how many movie trailers have horses in them. Next time you go to the theater, count. I will spoil it for you: there are a million. I never realized this until my latest novel, The Scorpio Races, got optioned by Warner Brothers and KatzSmith Productions. It’s about an island where people race deadly Irish water horses that emerge from the November sea. Of all my novels, it’s the one I most imagined as a movie, and now that it’s been optioned, every trailer with a horse in it becomes an imaginary trailer for The Scorpio Races.
It gets exhausting.
Last weekend, I went to see The Hunger Games. They showed two trailers with horses in them. Through both of them, my husband looked at me knowingly. My I-wish-those-were-my-killer-water-horses face is easy to identify. Once I got past the fact of the horses, I could get down to my other two movie hobbies.
1) Obsessing about the mood
2) Picking at the edges
We’re still in the process of coming down from our Hunger Games high, and worried about withdrawal symptoms. So naturally, we have to think of other things to look forward to, like all the other dystopian YA novels that will one day be made into movies. Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me is one such book, and it just so happens that she’s a Hunger Games superfan as well. That’s why we asked her to share her review of the movie as she thinks about whether her own adaptation will one day whip us into a record-breaking frenzy.
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that The Hunger Games does to me what sloths to do Kristen Bell. I’ve made several unverified statements about sharpie-tattooing “PEETA4EVA” on my forehead, always freak out when I meet people with Mockingjay tattoos and have lied multiple times about showing up to the premiere with little more than a bag of pita bread and a bucket for my tears. So to say that I was really excited to see this movie would be a huge, hilarious understatement.
For us rabid fans, our expectations are a little higher, a little harder to satisfy. We’re the ones who already know exactly what The Hunger Games is all about, the ones who know that Suzanne Collins’ gripping dystopian novel is much more than a story about 24 kids who have to kill each other on national television. We’ve been curled up in a fetal position since the series ended, quietly rocking back and forth in anticipation of its cinematic debut. But I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay.
Because they nailed it.