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* If 1) while reading C.S. Lewis you've ever been troubled by the problem of Susan Pevensie, and/or 2) you love Doctor Who, by all means read "The Solution of Susan." In less than half a page, it packs more of a punch than some novels I've read. Thank you, The Hero of Three Faces.

* In other news, my most recent "Looking Back into Genre History" segment is up on the latest episode of StarShipSofa, and in it I discuss the great Ada Lovelace. If you listen, I hope you enjoy!

* My inspiration for this episode is a new book for middle readers that I highly recommend to young and old alike.


In The Case of the Missing Moonstone (Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1), Jordan Stratford brings together the mother of modern science fiction, Mary Shelley, and the world's first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, as girls (14 and 11, respectively). In honor of the feminist writings of Mary's late mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, the two create the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. They use science to solve the mystery of the missing moonstone. There is so much to love here: clever dialogue, evocative description, action, and intelligent young women using their reason.

For young readers, the novel serves as an introduction of sorts to the intellectual history of the Victorian era; for those who are already in the know, the inside jokes and loving homages are a treat. The mystery is a retelling of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, the first great detective novel in English. Percy B. Shelley and Charles Dickens play key roles in the tale, as do mesmerism and Newgate Prison.

The book ends with a discussion of the real history behind Ada, Mary, Wollstonecraft, The Moonstone, and the other ingredients of the story, and Stratford makes it clear when and why he's taken liberties with the past (for example, in narrowing the real gap between the ages of his protagonists so they have the chance to be young heroines together).

This is a perfect storm of inspiration, entertainment, and education. I'm already making plans to put a copy of this book into the hands of the young readers I know.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2015 04:22 pm (UTC)
I've never seen the problem of Susan as a problem, mainly because people frame it all wrong. Critics like Philip Pullman complain that Lewis sends her to hell, but he doesn't! He lets her live, presumably allowing her to grow and learn and find her way back to Narnia in the future.

That said, I like the idea of her going off with the Doctor very much. :-) I imagine that a journey or two on the TARDIS would not only make Pullman happy, but also help her deal with the problem of character that Lewis was really trying to highlight: the fact that she had let herself become shallow and place too much value on ephemeral things.

Thanks for the book rec -- I will definitely look that one up!

Edited at 2015-01-28 04:23 pm (UTC)
Jan. 28th, 2015 05:30 pm (UTC)
I second your statement. Let's consider the facts (I'm doing this from memory, so it might not be 100% accurate). In LW&W, she gets described as being practical. When Lewis applies that adjective to someone, it is not a compliment. In Prince Caspian, the matter of the vote on following up on Lucy's claim about seeing Aslan is most telling. Trumpkin has no reason to believe that Aslan even exists, while Peter had the rock and a hard place position of the tie breaker. But Susan's reason for her vote was (if you'll pardon the expression) kind of bitchy. There's also the fact that she's the last one to perceive Aslan. Finally, in VotDT, Peter is studying for finals with Professor Kirke while Susan goes to America with her parents, thus further disconnecting her from Narnia. There are probably other tells that I can't recall right off. But this is enough to indicate that it's not really a stretch that she would come to regard Narnia as children's make believe while subscribing to a rather immature view of what it means to be a grown up.

Of course, we're never given a reason to believe that she was even on the train that crashed. Indeed, the shock of losing her immediate family could be the kick in the pants she needs to get her priorities straight.

Edited at 2015-01-28 05:34 pm (UTC)
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughts on this!

It does offer an intriguing explanation for the First Doctor's Susan, even so, IMHO. (YMMV.)

Edited at 2015-01-28 10:14 pm (UTC)
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, I definitely agree with you that Pullman gets Lewis wrong. I have issues with Lewis on this matter, but I do see your point.

I'm so glad you liked the Who idea! Suddenly the First Doctor and his "granddaughter" Susan make so much more sense. :) And her departure from the Whoverse is all the more poignant, too, through this lens.

Thanks for the book rec -- I will definitely look that one up!

My pleasure! I do hope you enjoy it.
Jan. 28th, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC)
Okay "The Solution of Susan" is brilliant!!!!!!! Thanks for finding and sharing!!!!!!!!!
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:09 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! I couldn't keep the squee to myself. ;)
Jan. 28th, 2015 08:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow re: "The Solution of Susan."
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:11 pm (UTC)
It puts a whole new spin on the First Doctor and his "granddaughter" Susan, doesn't it? I can just picture the twinkle in William Hartnell's eyes.
Jan. 28th, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the book rec
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:11 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! :)
Jan. 29th, 2015 12:09 pm (UTC)
I never knew that Susan was a "problem" until I got on the internet. :) Aslan told the children early on that they had to learn to recognize him in their own world. I always assumed that Peter, Edmund, and Lucy learned this early on. By the time the train crash happened, Susan hadn't learned yet, and instead of making her go into a world that she would still see as a silly fantasy (much like the Dwarfs in "The Last Battle"), she was allowed to stay in the hope that she would continue to grow in belief and eventually find her own way into the "real" world. I thought it was sad that she couldn't join her family immediately, and sadder still that she'd have to deal with the loss of them all alone, but I never thought she'd be separated from them forever.

That said, I will read the story you linked, because I love your recommendations, and also I love Doctor Who. :D

Edited at 2015-01-29 12:12 pm (UTC)
Jan. 29th, 2015 01:16 pm (UTC)
I never knew that Susan was a "problem" until I got on the internet. :)

Ha! Well, I'll confess to playing off of the title of Neil Gaiman's thoughtful short story of the same name, which deals with Susan P.

I do hope, as a Doctor Who lover, that you enjoy this. It fits beautifully with the First Doctor's canon.

Edited at 2015-01-29 01:19 pm (UTC)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )