What reading science fiction taught me about historical fiction

Pop Culture

Ok, folks, I’m about to admit to something I’m not proud of. There was a time when I would look down on people who read historical fiction. Ok, that’s not completely accurate: I didn’t care if someone would read historical fiction purely for its entertainment value. What would bug me would be the people who’d read a work of historical fiction and then go on about how much they learned about something simply by reading this one novel.

Fiction – historical or otherwise – is first and foremost fiction, I reasoned. It’s made up; it isn’t real. Just because a novel is based on historical events doesn’t make it factually accurate. For the longest time, I’d be annoyed with people who insisted they learned something about a historical event because they read historical fiction.

And then I discovered science fiction.

I’d been watching science fiction on television and in films for a while, but until this year, I hadn’t really read much science fiction aside from the random dystopia or post-apocalyptic novel.

I should take a moment to explain that math and science really aren’t my forte. In fact, I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to the academic study of either discipline. Conversely, I’m much more comfortable with history. I’m not a historian or any sort of historical expert by any stretch. But, I have been known to read works of historical non-fiction – including works that others might find dry or boring – and enjoy every minute of it.

My lack of scientific background is part of what draws me to science fiction. I may be ignorant when it comes to science (what I like to call “science stupid”), but I’m interested in learning more. Because I don’t have a scientific background, I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of picking up a non-fiction text about science. I’m not even sure I’d understand it even if I did. So what’s someone like me to do?

For me, I feel like reading science fiction has helped a lot. I don’t expect the science in my science fiction to always be absolutely correct. It is, after all, fiction. But science fiction has made it possible for me to get my toes wet in a fun, less intimidating way. And maybe, as some point, I’ll give non-fiction about science a try.

My experience with science fiction has got me thinking about historical fiction. What if some of the folks reading historical fiction are people who don’t have a background in history? What if reading non-fiction about history intimidates them the same way non-fiction about science intimidates me?

I think I’ve officially developed a new appreciation for historical fiction. One of the great things about books, I think, is their ability to meet you where you are. I still want to remind you that while reading fiction is great, reading The Other Boleyn Girl doesn’t make you an expert on Anne Boleyn any more than my reading The Martian makes me an expert on space travel. I believe that everyone should be able to read what they want. I just also think it’s important to think critically about what you’re reading.


Three things I loved about Sailor Moon season three


To recap a few things: I’m recently watched the original Sailor Moon anime for the first time. That’s right – I wasn’t subjected to the English dub that aired in the States in the 1990s. I’ve heard various things about the dub (and undoubtedly so have you), but since I haven’t seen it, I can’t comment. I have yet to see any of Sailor Moon Crystal and the first arch is pretty much all the manga I read. I started watching Sailor Moon because I was interested in trying out some anime, I didn’t know much, and Sailor Moon was something I’d heard of.

Since I recently finished season three of the original anime (also known as Sailor Moon S), I wanted to talk about three things I loved about the season.

  1. Meeting the Outer Senshi.
    I’m not going to lie: this was something I’d really been looking forward to. We were introduced to Sailor Pluto in season two, but didn’t see much of her. Not only did we get more of her in season three, but we were introduced to Sailors Uranus, Neptune and Saturn. While it’s never explicitly stated, Uranus and Neptune are pretty obviously lesbian lovers and a very welcome addition to the show. The Outer Senshi has a very different approach to fighting the bad guys and were an interesting juxtaposition to the Inner Senshi.
  2. Chibi-Usa was far less annoying.
    Of the three seasons I’ve seen so far, the second has been my least favorite. I think Chibi-Usa is the primary reason I disliked season two. I just found her really annoying – perhaps because I don’t really like little kids? So when Chibi-Usa returned for season three, I was kind of bummed at first, but was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t annoy me. In fact, I enjoyed her as Sailor Chibi-Moon. I don’t know if I found her less annoying because she grew on me or if the character has grown. Also, it seemed like she had less screen time in season three than season two, though I don’t know if that’s accurate or just my perception. And can I just say that her relationship with Sailor Pluto is really sweet?
  3. The villains of season three could be hilarious.
    I loved that Mimete was obsess with celebrities. It amused me that every time the Sailor Senshi defeated one of the witches, a handwritten sign would appear on their door indicating how many witches were left.

Which season of Sailor Moon is your favorite and why?


In Pop Culture, There’s Always A line

Pop Culture

We can all pretty much agree that pop culture is a complicated beast, right? Unless you’re a hermit who lives in a cave and has no contact with the outside world (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this), you’re going to be exposed to pop culture. Whether we want to admit to it or not, pop culture impacts our lives. It’s easy to dismiss all TV or all films or whatever we don’t like as trash, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Pop culture gives us insight into who we are and the world we live in.

What I like about magazines like Bitch is that it takes an element of pop culture – a movie, a television show, whatever – and examines it through a feminist lens. I credit Bitch with awakening my critical eye when it comes to pop culture.

What I really want to talk about here is how pop culture is neither entirely good nor entirely bad. It operates in a grey area. Regardless of how much we like a particular pop culture artifact, it’s bound to have at least one (probably more) negative element to it. And I think it’s important to constantly be aware of that. It’s important to be able o accept that something you love is flawed. Enjoying a flawed pop culture artifact doesn’t make you a bad person; being able to see those flaws and a willingness to discuss ways it could be better make you a smart person. No matter how much I enjoy the Harry Potter books or the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, there’s no denying that both have some pretty serious issues.

We each draw a line somewhere. On one side of the line are things we’re willing to overlook (ok, “overlook” is probably not the right word for me to use here, but it’s the best I’m able to come up with) in order to enjoy pop culture. On the other side of the line are things we’re not willing to accept under any circumstance. Some of us might be able to compromise. For example, we might be willing to accept depictions of x, but only if y and z are also present. It’s like we agree to accept the bad as long as we get something we feel important a long with it.

As for me, I’m not entirely sure where I draw the line between what I think is acceptable and what I think is unacceptable. I do know that a pop culture artifact has to give me a really compelling reason to like it, something truly amazing to get me to enjoy it for what it is.


Comic pull list, 08 October 2016

Books, Comics
Comic haul, 08 October 2016

Comic haul, 08 October 2016

Aren’t they beautiful? I’m so looking forward to reading these suckers.

You guys. I finally set up a pull list at my local comic shop on the eighth of October. And it’s a doozy of a list. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with all the titles on my list. This is my first ever pull list and I may have gone over board. I like to think that I’m testing the waters to figure out what works for me.

When I was in the comic shop setting up my pull list, I also picked up the following comics:

  • The Backstagers #2
  • Cage! #1
  • Faith #4
  • Jessica Jones #1

Stranger Things is happening!

Stranger Things

It’s hardly a secret that I have a hard time keeping up with current shows on network TV. I usually prefer to focus on a show or two and watch it either via a streaming service or on DVD. I had been watching a lot of superhero shows (Agents of SHIELD, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Arrow, etc) and as much as I’m looking forward to watching Luke Cage, I think I need to take a break from the genre so I don’t burn out. In the meantime, I think I’ll give Stranger Things a go.

Things I know about Stranger Things:

  • Winona Ryder is in it.
  • It’s set in the 1980s, perhaps 1984?
  • Creepy government experiments.
  • Creepy kid.
  • Missing kid.

For as popular as Stranger Things seems to be, I’m really glad I haven’t really been exposed to spoilers. I’ll certainly be talking about this show on Twitter. What I’m trying to decide is how I want to talk about the show here. Do an episode by episode review? Or just talk about the whole season when I finish? Thoughts?

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Comic pull list, September 2016

Books, Comics
Comics purchased in September 2016

Looking forward to trying out these comics.

Ok, so I don’t officially have a pull list set up at a comic book shop. Yet. I’ve been wanting to set up a pull list at a local comic shop for ages, but have been nervous to do so. For those unaware, comic shops have a reputation for not being the most welcoming of female (or female presenting) customers. So I’ve been nervous to walk into a comic shop and ask. Fortunately, my fears were assuaged when I walked into Atomic City Comics here in Philadelphia. The staff was not only friendly, but it looks like at least some of their employees are women. This was encouraging: if comic shop that’s willing to hire women, to me that says that they’re committed to making the space welcoming to female customers. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

Anyway, I spoke to a friendly employee about setting up a pull list. Sadly for me, they wanted a deposit. Which is understandable, but I didn’t have enough money on me to both pay for the comics I wanted to buy that day and give them a deposit. But I’ll definitely be going back very soon with enough money for the deposit.

For now, let me tell you what I picked up when I was there:

Single issues

  • Backstagers, The #1
  • Bitch Planet #8
  • Faith #1-#3


  • Jem and the Holograms vol 3

And that’s it. I’m thinking I’ll do some sort of monthly post of the comics I picked up that month, so look forward to future updates.


LootWear, Sock edition – September 2016

LootCrate logo
LootSocks - September 2016 edition

LootSocks – September 2016 edition

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for subscription boxes – services where you pay a monthly fee and receive a mystery box on your doorstep. I have a knack for signing up for things and ending up with a lot of crap that I won’t ever use. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I signed up for LootWear from LootCrate, or more specifically the sock edition, because I was looking to acquire some nerdy socks to wear around the house. I’ve gotten to packages from them so far and haven’t been disappointed. Pictured above is what I received in September – a pair of Deadpool socks and a pair of Sonic the Hedgehog socks. Of the two, I think I prefer the former, but I’m sure I’ll get some use out of the Sonic socks as well. Assuming I continue to be happy with this service, I’ll probably add LootTees to my pile of subscription services.


A blog in transition


I see this blog as being in a transition of sorts: I’m playing around with different things, trying to figure out what I like. You’ve probably noticed the Twitter digest posts. Those aren’t going away, but I’ve reset them to post on a weekly basis rather than a daily one. I’m trying to determine which I prefer.

In other news, I’m going to be trying out some shorter posts. Is this the sort of thing people want? Yes? No?

What length of blog post do you prefer to read?

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The state of the blog


If you’ve been around JossArden.com for any length of time (and I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t been around; this site is a ghost town), you may have noticed a couple things. First, the blog wasn’t updated for most of July or August. And then, suddenly, all the old posts disappeared and what’s here now emerged.

What happened…
It’s no secret that I’ve never been that great at consistency. It’s like I never managed to post anything here on any sort of regular basis. What you might not realize is that I had a posting schedule I desperately wanted to adhere to: I really wanted to make a point of putting up a new post every Wednesday. Obviously, that didn’t always happen and there were a number of reasons why. I always have the best of intentions, but this summer was especially tough for me. Stuff came up that I wasn’t expecting and it cut into my writing time. Then, money got even tighter than it already was and I had to transfer my blog to a different, cheaper hosting plan. It was during this transfer to the cheaper hosting plan that all my previous posts disappeared. On a positive note, I did have the presence of mind to export all my previous content before the hosting change occurred. I could, theoretically, upload all my previous content. But I’m not sure I want to. There was some content that I kind of regret posting((I realize that the internet is forever and just because I delete it from my blog doesn’t mean it’s gone for good and blah blah blah – I don’t care if this content continues to be saved on some server somewhere – it’s not that kind of regret; rather, I don’t feel the content fit in with what I hoped to accomplish with this blog)) and I’m not sure if I want it back. So I’m thinking I might rather start over.

The future…
As I mentioned above, I had it in my head that I wanted to post new content every Wednesday. When that didn’t happen, I felt like a failure as a blogger. I know that people won’t read this blog if there isn’t some sort of consistency as far as when things get posted and I so desperately wanted to be seen. But I’m trying to let go of this. According to Albert Einstein, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I hereby challenge myself to do the same thing over and over and expect the same results: I’ll post here when I have something I want to write about relating to science-fiction or fantasy media (which is basically what I was doing already; I was just deluding myself to think anything different) and I will do my best to accept that this will never be a popular blog. I’ll do my best to accept that it’s very possible that no one will read this blog, ever. The point of this blog will be to express myself in a way that I enjoy. If I manage to connect with one person through my blogging, that’s great! But I need to learn how to be fine with not having followers.

JossArden.com will continue to be a blog about my thoughts of SFF media. I will blog when I feel like it.

In recent weeks, I’ve live tweeted classic Doctor Who stories as well as posting random thoughts about SFF TV on both Twitter and Tumblr. I recently subscribed to LootWear (sock edition) and today I posted a Snapchat story discussing what I got in my first shipment. And I anticipate doing this for future shipments as well. If those sound like things you might be interested in, please follow me on those platforms.

Joss Arden, out.


Hello again, world!


Hello world! Stuff has happened. Posts were deleted. I’ll do a proper update later…just know that I’m not dead and stuff is in the works.