A report in Slate looks into why there has been so little looting in Japan since the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis. Looting is a common problem in most countries after major disasters, but observers have noted the lack of it in Japan since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit more than a fortnight ago. Moreover, the Japanese reaction has been typified by a sense of calm and community support. It begs the question, are the Japanese innately more polite than other societies or cultures?
It turns out that the difference in Japan’s post-catastrophe behaviour is three-fold: “a robust system of laws that reinforce honesty, a strong police presence, and, ironically, active crime organizations.” The article quotes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and a guest of last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival. Commenting on the role the yakuza play in maintaining social order, Adelstein notes the major yakuza gangs have “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn’t occur”.
Chris is a young adult author who’ll be appearing at the festival on Sunday. He wrote the first four titles in the smash-hit Zac Power Mega Missions series. He has since written a total of 12 Zac Power books as well as six titles in the popular series The Phoenix Files.
Chris writes for a segment of the children’s book market educational experts have come to call the reluctant reader. There are several kinds of reluctant readers: smart kids who like books but who read with difficulty; kids, some of whom can read well, who aren’t interested and thus at risk of falling behind; and kids with learning problems that impede their reading. Fortunately there’s a wealth of websites, research and resources to help teachers and parents with reluctant readers.
On the subject of how he came to write for reluctant readers, Chris comments, “I’ve never made any conscious decision to create a career out of writing for reluctant readers. It all happened more or less by accident … I am constantly amazed by the number of humbling, heart-warming emails I receive from parents of formerly-reluctant readers – or even from the children themselves – telling me how The Phoenix Files has helped to change their mind about books…
“But it does make me wonder if we have a tendency to get a bit too fixated on uncovering a magic formula for ‘curing’ reluctant readers when, at least for some of them, the solution may simply be a case of finding the right book for the right child…
“Reluctant readers are not some peculiar alien species with an entirely different way of interacting with texts. If they’re going to connect with a story, they’ll do it for the same reasons that all of us do: characters we can fall in love with, plotlines that make us think and dream and gasp and wonder, expressions of hope and redemption that shine light out into the darkness of the world.”
While Douglas Adams was writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – which first aired as a radio series in 1978 – he was also working as a scriptwriter for the BBC’s Doctor Who series. The precocious Adams, still in his 20s, wrote a six-part series, called Shada. It was supposed to end the 17th season of the science fiction series, at which time Tom Baker played the title part – its fourth incarnation and, according to many fans, its best. Although parts of the series were filmed, industrial action at the BBC halted filming and it was later abandoned.
The Guardian now reports that a novelisation of Shada will be published in 2012. The series has hitherto never been novelised because Douglas Adams wanted to write it himself. Always too busy, Adams died before he could undertake the project in 2001. Instead, Shada will be adapted for novel form by prolific Doctor Who scriptwriter Gareth Roberts.
Douglas Adams can claim to have popularised a new kind of science fiction writing, comic science fiction – although he didn’t invent it. That honour falls to duo Henry Kuttner and Arthur K. Barnes, writers of the Pete Manx series, first published in magazine story form in the 1930s.
Comic sci-fi, hard sci-fi, time travel sci-fi, slipstream, space opera – science fiction has splintered into many sub-genres. Here’s something approximating a thorough list – although, as ever, if you feel something is missing, please feel free to comment.
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