"Wormhole travel" by Les Bossinas is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: this article contains spoilers for Aurora. 

Aurora, the most recent novel by the science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, focuses on the long-distance voyage of Earth’s first interstellar generation starship. A generation starship is a spaceship designed to sustain a small human population stuck on the ship for several generations. This generation ship is travelling 11.9 light years to the Tau Ceti system, a voyage that takes them roughly 200 years to complete. Thus, the inhabitants of the ship that we meet are not those individuals who signed up willingly for the expedition, but rather the descendants of their descendants.

"Massey hall, toronto, April 18, 1980" by Jean-Luc Ourlin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikipedia)

Bob Dylan has won countless music awards throughout his career, but his most recent award – a Nobel Prize in Literature – has left many confused. The debate boils down to what can be considered “literature.” Webster’s Dictionary defines literature as “written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance.” Although Dylan’s poems were performed musically, the actual lyrics seem to meet this definition. However, many still debate both the eligibility of Dylan’s work, as well as the reasoning behind awarding him over up-and-coming writers.

Book Cover provided via Macmillan Press

“I’ve been charged with a crime so heinous that busting me for possession of marijuana on federal property would be like charging Hitler with loitering and a multinational company like British Petroleum with littering after fifty years of exploding refineries, toxic spills and emissions, and a shamelessly disingenuous advertising campaign.”

The criminal in question is the narrator of Paul Beatty’s novel, “The Sellout,” who is  sitting in the United States Supreme Court, reflecting on the actions that have landed him there, all whilst preparing a bowl of marijuana, which he will proceed to smoke then and there. What is he charged with? The outlandish charges of owning a slave and segregating a public school—charges that he is actually guilty of committing. Told in reverse chronology, the story is grounded by its setting, the fictional ghetto of Dickens in the outskirts of Los Angeles, which happens to have been recently removed from the map of California: vanished, as if it was never there. The novel follows the narrator’s enactment and plotting of his “crimes” as a way to reassert Dickens, its inhabitants, and put it back on the map.

"Foto von den Dreharbeiten in Berlin" by Sudwambel is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikipedia)

When you ask people the meaning of learning history, the most of them will say, “so that we can learn from the mistakes we made in the past and never repeat them again.” According to this reasoning, one will also say, “if Hitler were alive today, we would never support him.”

"083012_MittRomney_03" by PBS NewsHour is licensed under CC-BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

One should never underestimate Donald Trump’s taste for showmanship. Long synonymous with his brand, the candidate’s tendency towards spectacle was on display throughout the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Seasoned politicians like Paul Ryan shared stage space with sports stars and soap opera celebrities. Highly stylized film trailer-esque clips emphasized the nominee’s expertise in a variety of areas. And, when Trump made his first appearance, he walked onstage to blinding lights and fog, a podium rising from the floor in front of him. In the background, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” sounded throughout the convention floor. 

"Gun Show" by M&R Glasgow is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (via Flickr)

Last week, the New York Times reported that, thanks to a set of fairy tales creatively recreated by the National Rifle Association, children can now read their favorite fairy tales from the perspective of if the characters had guns.  

In the retelling, Little Red Riding hood confidently tromps through the forest with a rifle across her back, and Hansel and Gretel hold the wicked witch off at gunpoint.  Even the Grandma, the unfortunate first casualty of the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story, now has a shotgun she makes use of to hold the wolf at bay.

"Anne Frank Diary at Anne Frank Museum in Berlin" by Heather Cowper is licensed under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On January 1, Anne Frank’s diary was published online by more than one person, despite outcry from the Anne Frank Fonds, the foundation founded by Anne’s father. The argument of the publishing academics was that more than 70 years have passed since the death of Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which sends the work into the public domain across most of Europe. However, the foundation argues that Otto Frank, as editor and publisher, held the copyright. He died in 1980, making the work still under copyright. Additionally, the translator that worked with Otto Frank on the diary, another copyright holder, is still alive.

Mein Kampf, by Hitler (2t) by Gwydion M. Williams is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Part of Post-World War II policy in Germany was to ban Nazi propaganda and symbols from being displayed. This includes propaganda from the Nazi regime that we commonly see in museums or is shown in history classes. While I found German Holocaust and history museums to be largely well-done and factual despite the restrictions, containing acknowledgment of wrongdoing, one has to wonder whether the ban may actually go too far and be detrimental to education. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and the accepted way to prevent this repetition is to educate the next generations about the past. Germany’s policy is now confronted with that educational and moral dilemma over Nazi texts from an academic perspective.

To Kill a Mockingbird Trailer 2 by Universal Pictures (Public Domain)

The release of author Harper Lee’s long-awaited second novel, Go Set a Watchman, has sparked controversy even before hitting the shelves. Central among these controversies is the revelation that Watchman’s Atticus Finch, a celebrated character from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, is portrayed as a harsh racist, more akin to the Ku Klux Klan than the defense against racism with which he is associated. As parents reevaluate naming their children after the character and others raise suspicions about the book’s publication, it is practically ensured that the text will be one of the most controversial publications this year.  Yet, for others, the publication of Lee’s latest novel has provided the opportunity to air longstanding grievances that existed long before Go Set a Watchman – grievances that stand to change the way we think about To Kill a Mockingbird’s legacy.