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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest Post by Nansi Kunze

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Nansi Kunze, the author of Dangerously Placed, graciously agreed to write a guest post for Strangemore! Below is what she has to say about why science fiction is so compelling. Thanks, Nansi!!

Check out her site at www.nansikunze.com!

Guest post written by Nansi Kunze: Why I Love Sci Fi

As a writer, I’m often confronted with readers’ strange ideas about Science Fiction. Like any genre, there are those who love it, those who despise it and even those who’ve never read any of it (poor deprived souls). But more than most genres, I think, Science Fiction is a hazy concept to many. Some people hear the word ‘science’ and immediately prepare for near-terminal boredom … because science is all incomprehensible technical jargon and lab-coated dudes with no sense of humour, isn’t it? To others, Science Fiction is all like the B grade movies of the 1950s: hideous aliens, guys with ray-guns and female characters whose main use for cutting-edge technology seems to be in the realms of corsetry.

Well, while I’m not averse to stern guys in lab coats and actually wouldn’t mind owning a silver jumpsuit with built-in anti-grav body-sculpting, to me Sci Fi is something quite different. It’s all about technology. And before any of you decide that first group was right about science, let me assure you that I don’t mean the detailed inner workings of time machines or spacecraft propulsion specs. I’m talking about the technology we have all around us: phones, gaming systems, the internet. Technology we enjoy.

Although Sci Fi is hard to define, one simple definition that’s been used a fair bit over the years is that it involves technology that doesn’t yet exist. This means that what I write is just barely Science Fiction. It wasn’t that much of a stretch for me to imagine how Virk – the virtual workplace system in Dangerously Placed – would function, because we already interact online, use avatars in games and communicate audio-visually over vast distances. Sure, it counts as Sci Fi, because as far as I know there are no virtual offices, or Virk Suits that can make you see and feel a colleague’s handshake as if she were right in front of you instead of on the other side of the world … but there could be.

That’s what I love about Sci Fi: the way it could be real. Authors sometimes use Sci Fi to explore what could go wrong in our world. So do I, occasionally, but I much prefer to envisage some of the awesome things we could do with technology. Sci Fi author Neal Stephenson recently wrote an essay about how important it is for authors to write about what we want to do with our future, because our stories inspire scientists and engineers. The great Isaac Asimov was thrilled to discover that his Science Fiction stories had actually inspired the invention and production of the first-ever industrial robots. I love that one day someone might be inspired to make the technology in my books real too (okay, maybe not things like Alex’s virtual-jeans-trying-on system, but then again – who knows?).

Sci Fi is like Fantasy: it gives the writer – and the reader – the opportunity to experience a world that’s very different to the one we live in. But unlike Fantasy, Science Fiction has the capacity to become reality. Magic may not be real, but technology is. Sci Fi shows us the potential we have to make our future as weird and wonderful as we want it to be.
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Review for Dangerously Placed

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Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze

Strangemore Rating: 4 Stars

Reality is individual. We all have different tools with which to perceive it.

The Aussies have done it again! Aussie author Nansi Kunze has created a thrilling virtual world within one thriller of a book.

I don't know what it is about virtual reality that gets my motor running. The world of gaming calls to me like a bird feeder calls to a squirrel. Then it spins me round and round until I'm too dizzy to walk straight and all I can think about is how long until I can hop back on.

You've heard of the Holodeck, right? If not, do yourself a favor and go watch some Star Trek: The Next Generation. It also has a nice piece of android named Data. Rawr.

The key technology featured in this book is basically the predecessor to something like The Holodeck or The Matrix. The tech is also close to what could potentially be achieved in our lifetimes, making it all the more intriguing.

The Rundown

Dangerously Placed centers around a young girl named Alex, who is beginning her work experience at a company called Simulcorp. But this isn't your everyday paper pushing office. It's all virtual. Using something called a Virk suit in a specially designed Virk Room, people from all over the world can sign in and meet up in a virtual work environment.

Things are going well until... dun, dun, dun... someone gets murdered. Of course, in true young adult style, our main character tasks herself with discovering the identity of the killer. It's an especially important task, considering she is one the main suspects.

The World-building and Pacing

When I first started, it reminded me of a cartoonish cross between Nancy Drew and The Matrix. I don't know why, but I imagined this book in CGI. It would make an amazing Pixar film, but it would, of course, need a much cheesier name. Something like... The Virkuals!

I give this an A++ for concept and I am a concept kind of girl. In fact, if the book has a stellar premise involving speculative fiction, I am usually a pretty happy campy-camper. Of course characterization is important as well, and I quite enjoyed the characters in Dangerously Placed, in spite of their Disney Channel Original tendencies (which the cheeseball monster inside of me happens to love). Though the science may not have been perfect, it was the most believable young adult sci-fi I have read in quite some time.

It was fast and thrilling with a hint of scandal. It had about as many twists as an episode of Lost... but without the side-character eating smoke monster. There may or may not be a dragon, though!

The evolution of the romantic storyline was unforeseen and unexpected, as well as very, very welcome. You aren't bombarded with instalove right from the beginning, which is a rare find in the current YA market. The relationship developed sincerely and unfolded realistically, or as realistically as possible considering the preposterous situation these teens find themselves in.

The Verdict

I'm giving this one high marks for keeping me thoroughly involved and addicted throughout. It reads a bit younger than I typically gravitate toward, although I think this could open it up to a wider audience. It was entertaining none the less.

Nansi is a fresh science fiction voice in the world of YA. I will definitely be on the lookout for more titles from her!
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