The Connection Between Libraries and Theaters

People tend to be surprised when I tell them how many former theater people end up going into libraries as a second career. But it’s true—I know several former costumers and stage managers, even a sound guy and a dramaturg or two, who left theater to pursue new careers as librarians or archivists. I estimate fully one third of my class in my Masters of Library and Information Science program were former theater people.

(Interestingly, I don’t personally know any actors, designers, or directors who left theater for libraries. None of the creative side, just us backstage folk.)

Thing is, theaters and libraries are a natural fit.

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Book Review: Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact by Joel Levy

Cover of the book Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact by Joel Levy
Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact
by Joel Levy
Smithsonian, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on September 15, 2019.

Science fiction starts with science and extrapolates possibilities. But how, and how often, does science fiction influence the course of science and technology? Levy does an admirable job of teasing apart this relationship by exploring the history of science fiction and tracing the origins of many ideas which came to dominate science over the years: H.G. Wells envisioned the atom bomb and tanks, for example; credit cards were predicted in a work written in 1888; and Star Trek gave us ideas for 3D printing, telecommunications, and health apps. In some cases, science fiction explores scientific ideas before they enter the mainstream. In others, people who grew up on science fiction work to make those stories a reality. Much of what Levy illuminates is already well-known but there are some surprising connections here, too. Most notably, he argues that telepresence (as portrayed in the movie Avatar) belongs to the evolution of videophones. He presents information in an accessible and engrossing way, highlighting many forgotten classic works of science fiction. This work should appeal to anyone who’s interested in the history of science, technology, and science fiction.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/S – special interest: High school and even advanced middle school readers with an interest in science fiction and technology will appreciate this accessible book.

Book Review: The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence

Cover of the book The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence
The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures
by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence
Skyhorse, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on September 1, 2019.

Hafdahl and Florence, cohosts of the popular podcast, Horror Rewind, explore some of the real-world, factual basis for 30 popular horror films from the early days of Hollywood to today. The authors don’t offer specific analyses of each film so much as use the movies as jumping off points to explore ideas that arise from them. In some cases, the ideas are directly related to a specific kind of movie: slashers based on the psychology of real-life serial killers, rare physical conditions that inspired movie monsters. In other chapters, the ideas are only tenuously connected; for example, the chapter on Alien discusses dark matter and neutrinos, which have nothing to do with the movie. But this is part of the book’s appeal. It’s fascinating how these films can inspire curiosity about a wide range of topics. The chapters are all brief, and none go into any depth, but brevity makes this a quick and fun read. If readers want to know more about the topics explored, there are good end notes to direct further research.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/General Interest: Pop-culture hooks make for easy entry into scientific topics. —Julia Smith

Book Review: Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

Cover of the book Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather
Sisters of the Vast Black
by Lina Rather
Tor, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on September 1, 2019.

An order of nuns ministering to colony worlds in the outer reaches of human settled space. A living spaceship that might have a will of its own. Conflict between Earth and the outer systems. A controlling church. A deadly plague and a conspiracy with galaxy-spanning consequences. Sisters of the Vast Black uses these elements to explore questions of faith and free will, the conflicts that arise between obedience and conscience, complicity and refusal, and how people move on from tragic pasts. It offers a compelling blend of religious and moral challenges, science and politics. Awfully heady stuff to tackle in a novella, but Rather succeeds with intelligence and empathy. Her world building is exceptional, especially in her descriptions of the little details on the sisters’ living ship. Her characters are authentic and developed with compelling back stories. What stands out the most is Rather’s lyrical and assured style. Her language invites the reader in and sustains a sense of wonder within a challenging world. This is a beautifully written work.