Emily Skrutskie’s new sci-fi novel Hullmetal Girls is a world of economic inequality, a militarized police force, and humanity’s last breath. (transcript)
In today’s episode…
In Emily Skrutskie’s new sci-fi novel Hullmetal Girls, humanity has spent centuries in a fleet of starships searching for a new planet. We follow two protagonists, one from a background of poverty, the other from a background of privilege, as they are transformed into cyborg weapons for the fleet’s oppressive army. They have to learn to work together and decide whether to stand with their programming and the General Body or the rebellious Fractionists—and try not to kill each other along the way.
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*1:51: The characters’ relationships with the AI
*5:41 Cue the training montage! Errr, not.
*7:56 Religion and representation in this book.
Danielle: Hanging out with YA author Amanda K. Morgan. She was a guest on Episode 13 of our podcast, and we also featured her book Secrets, Lies, and Scandals on episode our YA Thrillers compilation episode.
Amanda: Exploring the ethics of AI, check out some links for suggested reading below.
UP NEXT: When Life Gives You Demons
by Jennifer Honeybourn
*13:33 “Venting” (no, not *that* kind of venting)
*16:56 Key, the “Archangel”
*20:58: Amanda compares the Scela’s surgery elements of Scott Westerfield’s Uglies trilogy
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More ideas and resources for teachers and librarians…
Science fiction allows us the space to reflect on problems in our own society as they are mapped onto a fictitious world. Sometimes, these are merely “what if” dystopian constructs, but sometimes, stories address issues of today.
One of the issues raised in Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie is the existence of AI in the exosystem that melds with the humans’ minds. The characters question their free will, and the ethics of a system that could override their own judgment. The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard is doing some interesting research and think-tanking about artificial intelligence, which Amanda mentions in her Latte. Here are some projects you may be interested in sharing with your students: Algorithms & Justice, Youth & Media, Media & Information Quality.
Another big issue broached in this novel is that of consent. Each of the characters has to “consent” to the medical procedure of becoming a Scela. Aisha is provided a financial incentive and has the clearest consent we’re shown. Praava also seems to have fully consented. Woojin is offered the procedure as an alternative to a lengthy prison sentence. This parallels an old practice of “jail or military service”. This makes consent really fuzzy since the level of coercion is so high. Lastly, Key did not consent, which is hugely problematic. Each of these situations has parallels in society, and it would be fascinating to have students research them.
What did you think of Hullmetal Girls? Get in touch with us on Instagram and Twitter at @yacafepodcast or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
Hosts: Danielle Hall (who blogs at teachnouvelle.com)
& Amanda Thrasher (a booklover extraordinaire)
Producer: Leila Hobbs
Music: Matt McCammon
Many thanks to Delacorte for the review copy!