Books·Canadian

Sputnik's Children

In Terri Favro's novel, a cult comic book creator's superhero series begins losing fans and she struggles to come up with new plot lines.

Terri Favro

Cult comic book creator Debbie Reynolds Biondi has been riding the success of her Cold War era-inspired superhero series, Sputnik Chick: Girl with No Past, for more than 25 years. But with the comic book losing fans and Debbie struggling to come up with new plot lines for her bad-ass, mutant-killing heroine, she decides to finally tell Sputnik Chick's origin story.

Debbie's never had to make anything up before and she isn't starting now. Sputnik Chick is based on Debbie's own life in an alternate timeline called Atomic Mean Time. As a teenager growing up in Shipman's Corners — a Rust Belt town voted by Popular Science magazine as "most likely to be nuked" — she was recruited by a self-proclaimed time traveller to collapse Atomic Mean Time before an all-out nuclear war grotesquely altered humanity. In trying to save the world, Debbie risked obliterating everyone she'd ever loved — as well as her own past — in the process.

Or so she believes... present-day Debbie is addicted to lorazepam and dirty, wet martinis, making her an unreliable narrator at best. A time-bending novel that delves into the origin story of the Girl with No Past, Sputnik's Children explores what it was like to come of age in the Atomic Age. (From ECW Press)

Sputnik's Children is on the Canada Reads 2020 longlist. The final five books and their champions will be revealed on Jan. 22, 2020.

Terri Favro is a Toronto-based comic book writer, essayist and novelist. Sputnik's Children is her third novel. She is also the author of Once Upon A Time in West Toronto and The Proxy Bride.

From the book

A thin line of mutants, villains and superheroes stretches from the entrance to Conference Room B all the way to the slot machines. Yawning into their Red Bulls, gently farting and burping as they slump against windows and walls, most of them look like they partied all night on the American side, crossing the Rainbow Bridge at dawn for the free all-you-can eat breakfast at ComicFanFest Expo.

No one makes eye contact with me. When a representative of Grey Wizard Comics hands me my contractually obligated low-fat chai latte before escorting me to the book-signing suite, a buzz ripples through the crowd. It's starting to dawn on them that I'm the one they're here to see.

It's a better turnout than I expected, mostly teens and twenty-somethings with a smattering of stuck-in-the-past baby boomers costumed as characters who sprang out of my head twenty-five years ago. True believers, every one of them desperate for my comics to lift them out of their disappointing lives and turn them into ass-kicking saviours of the planet.


From Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro ©2017. Published by ECW Press.

Why Terri Favro wrote Sputnik's Children

"I'd been noodling around with writing about the experience of growing up in a place that was very paranoid about the possibility of a nuclear bomb falling because I grew up near Niagara Falls in Grantham Township. As kids we were always told that if there was a nuclear war, we would be the first to go because we lived so close to the hydro station, which was a first strike target for the Russians. The kernel of inspiration for the book came out of asking, 'What if the bomb actually had dropped?' I think that, on some level, I always really believed it would happen.

Those reports from Hiroshima really informed the way I described some of the events toward the end of the novel.- Terri Favro

"I guess I always imagined that if it had happened, it would be very much like the things we were told about Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath. In the late 1960s or 1970s, when I was in high school, they showed us some footage of interviews with survivors of Hiroshima and it was absolutely horrific. If we hadn't been terrified of the prospect of a nuclear war before that, we certainly were afterwards. Those reports from Hiroshima really informed the way I described some of the events toward the end of the novel."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.