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Zamzummims

When I was little — not last week, oh foolish one, but probably about 4 years old, so somewhat littler than now, I remember clearly meeting a giant. He was my cousin David, and while adults like my parents were huge, he was clearly not human, but one of the giant people, left over from the first days, from the times when giants were fairly commonplace, rather like Toyota Priuses, doing important things for the earth, like moving vast rocks and building causeways, which afterwards you might wonder just why they bothered. They were still quite abundant in Africa when I was young, before they fell to quarrelling and destroyed themselves. You’d hear them in the storms throwing furniture around, and their distant booming voices as they called each other rude names.

Anyway, when this real giant wandered into my orbit, and he was real to a little, awed boy, a BFG type giant, he had a profound effect on what I did, believed and even read. I informed all my dear families that thenceforward I only read informative (yes, that word) books. I didn’t read ‘story’ books. Sniff. Those were for little kids, not those of us who took advice from giants. My dear family, not being as wise as the Elephant’s Child’s family, did not spank me for my ‘satiable curiosity and temerity, but gave me all sorts of books about everything from rockets to rust. And thus I was shaped, probably by a throw-away comment. But to me it was giant-advice, to be followed with scrupulous care (and lasted for about 3 years). In the fashion of giants he must have found something else that needed doing and wondered off with his vast strides across the impossible leagues to go and do it. If he’d told me it was to hold back the tide, I would have believed him.

I didn’t see my cousin for, oh, another fifteen years or so. And strangely in the meantime someone had fed him a humanising potion. I was most disappointed to find he’d entirely given up on uprooting trees or dropping multi-ton boulders when wandering across the countryside. Yes, he was about 6’4’’, and quite wide, and still the gentle sort of bloke who probably could do you a damage if he’d been that way inclined, but wasn’t. And um, far from being God-like in his wisdom, battling a bit to make a living, and mystified that he’d caused a young mind to be fed on non-fiction, because he wasn’t much of a reader at all.

That’s the effect of time on the giants of yesterday… they may shrink, but what they did just back then in their casual strength doesn’t. The Jesuits are right – give them to me young and they’re probably mine forever. I’m still, fifty years on affected by that casual brush with that particular one. As a writer, and as a human, it colored me forever. Many of my early brushes with giants in the world of Science Fiction (to which I had a preference, probably due to my cousin’s early intervention.) shaped my reading and for life, and certainly my writing.

And this worries me, I’m heading toward the age where being a grandfather is no longer terra incognito. And I look around and see, to my delight, that there may (by the time those grandkids come along) be giants walking in sf again. (I honestly can’t think of any sf writers first published in the last 20 years who ranked anywhere near the giants like Heinlein, Asimov, Simak, de Camp, Anderson let alone the slightly smaller (to me, to me) Laumer, Lieber, Lienster EFR and Schmitz (what was it about ‘l’?) and a long list. Off-hand only Pratchett (yes, he wrote good sf) Cherryh, and Alan Dean Foster ended up being ‘recommended’ and passed out to my boys of recent crew. But after that, only Baen’s books, and that with a heavy slant to military side, are something you’d want those kids and grandkids to be influenced by. Yes, well, when we consider that ideological preference rather than story got to take over publishing, and PC became all important, and science definitely become less so, it’s not surprising, although the consequences have to be devastating to the readership (and thus writers) coming through (as amply displayed both by sales and what the ‘leading’ Trad houses are publishing from authors who grew to maturity fed on their pap. But now we have Indies starting to come through, and there will be giants again. Yes some of those young indies will have been reared on the PC crunge of the last couple of decades, but I believe that their market is quite limited…

But that is only part of the story. The truly worrying part is is YA and MG fantasy and sf area. Because that remains a command economy, where e-books are still not the major sellers and… the gatekeepers are 1) Traditional publishing (haven’t they done well in the last few years with giving everyone exactly what they might enjoy reading… NOT) 2) The library system. I used to adore librarians – they were people who could spend their whole lives in with all those books. It’s become obvious that it works well… sometimes and with some libraries. But it’s also caught PC disease. 3) The public education system. It is very hard to be polite about the US public education system. It seems to my jaundiced and outsider’s eye (and I say this as the son of teacher, from back when it wasn’t so) to have become very feminised, and the standards required to qualify as a teacher are lower than for other professions. (Back where I grew up, you had to get a conventional B.A., B.Sc. or B.Com to then take teachers training. It kept the standards up.) This is the road to perdition, and these are not the people who ought to be choosing books. 4) And finally, of course, parents (and grandparents) buy those books for their kids. It was interesting to note among my peers the number doing YA/MG… and the number of these saying that their publisher was pushing their book toward the library/education tack, rather than the retail one. It’s not hard to guess which sort of authors they are. Amanda’s post referenced some of the delights they think would be good.

But they’re still the ‘giants’ your child/ grandchild will be influenced by. You’d better actually get off your dead ass and read some of the offering. At which point, when you finish throwing up or are now helped to understand the correct view of the world, and like the kid who never heard of half this stuff are now wondering if you have same problem, or you should try whatever, (yes, the 1 or 0.1 or 15% might just adhere to these norms, and appreciate that the rest of the school knows how they feel. And do you know how many medical students – let alone kids – mysteriously come down with what they’re studying? How many psycho students suddenly exhibit the very trait… how many people suddenly start seeing UFO’s with grey men just after the movie…), you may want to start thinking about why the left-wing publishing establishment that obsesses about power and influence (‘it’s for their own good’) is so casual about the loss to Indies. Partly it’s because they still are secure in their self-esteem, but also, it is because they see this as a battle – and even if they lose a few adults, as they cut supply chain, they win the war.

We need to fight this. We need to fight now and we need fight it hard, in the system, and out of it, and if need be, dirty. Unless of course you LOVE the public schooling system, adore the social and political indoctrination that has infiltrated it and are delighted to consign you kids/ grandkids, and future to it.

We need new giants for small folk. And we need them REALLY big.

Anyway, Names. Commendations. New authors from the last 20 years only please. (and please spare me derivative fanfic. I’d rather give the kids real Heinlein than Heinlein knockoffs.)

69 Comments
  1. mobiuswolf #

    I’m from the same era and quite agree on your giants, even the lesser ones. I’ve been finding comfortable shelter in post-apocalyptic and zombie fiction, after a long hiatus. Still, half or more are liberal brain-deads, easily recognized by their complete mistreatment of firearms, but even they are forced by the genre to evolve their character to at least some level of self reliance. It’s limited by their own lack thereof, of course.

    It can’t take the place of the sci-fi of my youth, but I’m quite enjoying it.

    On the other hand, Sarah’s wave shows promise, and I include you in that.

    September 2, 2013
    • I am busy reading some entertaining ‘Zombie’ fiction, right now, by feller called Patrick Richardson. Tell him to get off his dead arse and finish it. At least if it is recovering from apocalypse it has to be some damn good. Of course some people can stuff that up too.

      September 2, 2013
      • mobiuswolf #

        Lots of strange and varied Pat Richardsons but no Zombie writers.
        My google fu must be on the fritz.

        September 2, 2013
  2. mobiuswolf #

    ack!! notify

    September 2, 2013
  3. bearcat #

    Kratman, Williamson, Weber, and Ringo. Flint also, but I assume they will be introduced to him through you. Non-scifi I would definitely go with Gordon Korman, which is true YA.

    September 2, 2013
    • And who publishes those? (the Korman is new to me). Look, on the list of books I will – as grow give them as something you ought to read – Dave Drake will be there (with me, they’re read once, don’t need to go back there. Respect the man enormously). But basically because Baen has slanted toward MilSf, that’s most of what is good out there. But other Eric’s Alternate history – What straight up ordinary non-milSf is there? What Farmer in Sky, what Icerigger can you offer me?

      September 2, 2013
      • mobiuswolf #

        Farmer in Sky
        I go back for that one, every so often, and Farnum’s

        September 2, 2013
      • mobiuswolf #

        Of Otherwhere Gazette? Found him maybe. I see Ringo has one. Can’t wait to read it.

        September 2, 2013
      • I’ll second the suggestion of Gordon Korman.

        Put it this way: all-boys Macdonald Hall is across the road from Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies. The kids sneak to the other school all the time—for nothing worse than helping Cathy play quarterback on the Macdonald Hall team and things like that.

        September 2, 2013
        • On my to read list 🙂 (just for a name like Miss Scrimmage aside from the commendations,)

          September 2, 2013
      • bearcat #

        I had to leave while making the comment this morning. Gordon Korman is a Canadian YA author, and absolutely hilarious. For non-milSF I would recommend Anne and Todd McCaffrey, particularly the Pern books, for a couple of indie YA authors that aren’t big names but I would recommend for your kids there is Mackey Chandler’s April series and Sandra Leone’s Jackal chronicles. For dark but clean (no sex or bad language) fantasy I would recommend Barb and J.C. Hendee’s Dhampir books.

        September 2, 2013
        • To be fair, the McCaffrey fall outside the 20 year window (yes, I still am collecting a stock of the same to inflict on the future grandkids, but I was looking for something in th recent past. There are a few, but they’re very few indeed.) Thank you for the other names.

          September 2, 2013
  4. Dan Lane #

    Agree with you on David Drake. RCN series I *do* re-read, but they remind me of O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series (which is probably apropos, they are just that good). Hammer’s Slammers and some of his short fiction was better for later years. It helped get a young man (technically an adult by the laws of the land) through a bad spot and so is something of a giant himself to me, but not something I re-read often.

    New author, Nathan Lowell. Other end of the spectrum from mil-sf, nearly no violence. Taylor Anderson is sf only by the odd stretch, but an entertaining story nonetheless (alternate history with lemur-like people and lizard people, an early WWII era destroyer with her captain and crew in an age of sail era world). Not as “new,” Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor et. al, (Vorkosigan series) never struck me as truly mil-sf, but are quite good as nonetheless. Those are the few I can think of off the top of my head. John G. Hemry’s (Jack Campbell’s) Lost Fleet series I am enjoying as well- but again, not new and mil-sf…

    Having occasion recently to go back to Heinlein and others, yep there is indeed a difference in character and tone in what was then and what is now. It seems only natural for these things to shift somewhat over the years, as I can’t remember the last time I read a book written as a dialectic or a true bildungsroman. The drastic reduction in tales of wonder and adventure that I can recall from when I was very young (I’m a child of the 80s) to now bespeaks obvious meddlement and monkey business, which has evidently paid well enough to keep a few small minds perched comfortably atop a steaming pile of mostly crap. Where is the hope, the dashing adventure, the ideas that say “a man can do great things if he perseveres and puts forth concentrated effort,” or just the concept that freedom is the stars and not another straitjacket.

    There’s hints of that, still alive. Larry Corriea doesn’t write sf (yet?) but writes delightfully good adventure. Nathan Lowell has that Heinlein idea that a man can do anything he sets his mind to. Sarah Hoyt looks cross-wise at the publication establishment (saving of course Baen) and says “Neener neener!” with every indie sale. There are others out there (and probably in here, in the club of the Mad, reading and writing), but my de-caffienated brain refuses to respond to the lash it just lays there twitching when I demand a response right now.

    I refuse to believe the market for Big Idea sci-fi has dried up. The closest I can think of off hand is Ringo’s Death Star series (Live Free or Die, etc). Zombie fiction and post apocalyptic fiction share some elements that have deserted sci-fi, it appears- self reliance, adaptation to a new environment. Hope’s a bit lacking in most of them, though. If somebody, somewhere, has the vision, talent, and the Objects of Spherical Fortitude to write those kind of stories again in sci-fi I will pay to read them. And I bet there’s a whole hoard of sci-fi geeks each with a fistful of dollars, drachma, denarii or whatever waiting for that, too.

    September 2, 2013
    • I’ll second most of this, including hearty +1 for Nathan Lowell’s “Share” books – Quarter Share, Half Share, Full Share, Double Share, Captain’s Share. Listened to them all in audio until Owner’s Share, which caused a bit of a stir amongst the fans for various spoilery reasons. But very good stuff.

      And I made the kiddo read Monster Hunter International last year, which she enjoyed, except that there was “too much stuff about guns.”

      September 2, 2013
    • The Taylor Anderson sounds close to a must buy to me. I don’t think the ‘big idea’ book is dead either, nor do I believe that books won’t recapture the sense of wonder/you can do it if you get off your dead ass attitude are dead. And yes, I think parents and grandparents will buy them, feed them to kids who will make giants out of them. And we need to do this.

      September 2, 2013
      • Dan Lane #

        Into the Storm is the First book. I think he’s up to eight books now, and this one is on my reading list to start over, as I haven’t got the latest and want to make sure I remember it all.

        If we’re talking genre other than sci-fi, I rather enjoyed Brian Jacques Redwall– a story of mice and adventure, YA faire, and the first one’s free right now. Consider it a clean gateway drug. Christopher Rowley’s Bazil Broketail is another one I liked, but that series is getting hard to find (still around used someplaces) and it isn’t on kindle. That one’s another fantasy, sword-fighting dragons and dragonboys that squire for them. For that matter Naomi Novik’s Her Majesty’s Dragon is quite enjoyable. Another alternate history fantasy, Napoleonic Wars period with dragons and dragoncrew that fight a bit like skirmishing age of sail ships, but only a little bit. Probably better for the “older” YA in the teens or the precocious younger ones. I think someone already mentioned Jane Lindskold’s Through Wolf’s Eyes, which is pretty good, too.

        Those are all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment. Several others, while good, are too old (David Gemmel’s The Legend fits pretty high here), others aren’t quite YA enough (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files). I’ve also got a shelf full of military history fiction and naval fiction staring at me, but those are both too old and not quite what we have in mind here, and I blame my father for those. *grin* Not very much, but O’Brien, Corwell, and Forrester would likely never have made it under my nose if not for him.

        September 2, 2013
  5. Ori Pomerantz #

    As the father of four kids (boys: 10, 8 and girls: 6, 6) let me share my observations:

    1. The US public school system may not suck as much as you hear it does. The sucky schools are newsworthy, the good ones aren’t. Of course, my experience is biased, because all of the teachers here chose to live in Texas rather than somewhere more “enlightened”.

    2. Their favorite genre is videos based on video games. It is a cheap, indie style animation.

    3. The boys prefer to read non-fiction, but they read fiction when it is appealing enough (for example the “How to Train Your Dragon” series). The girls are fine with either.

    4. The 8 y.o. boy says he won’t read non-fiction because it is not true, but he’ll still read manga about video game characters.

    5. They get a lot of their values from video games. That is not such a bad thing, They learn how to handle frustrations (when they lose, get mad, and then get back and try again), how to cooperate, how to be look for solutions to problems, creativity and so on.

    September 2, 2013
    • Ori, as I have a strong ideajust how much extra the parents in your family are putting in, I call mild BS on this one :-). And quote Larry Correia -http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/fisking-slate-over-public-schools/ – and remember what effort one my friends had to go to to get books he approved of put on the reading list. Yes, there are some good public schools. – see Rick Boatright’s comment. But they’re fighting a tide of poor standards of teachers coming throught – the good are still great, but the average isn’t, and school adminstration, and state education policy. A parent CAN still have a vast effect by adding to that education and suplementing that reading. What I am saying is: you _must_ if you love your child and care about their future. I know you’re trying precisely that.

      September 2, 2013
      • Dan Lane #

        I must echo Dave, Larry, and Rick on this. My mother was an elementary school teacher, tutor, general jill-of-every-trade in education until about a year or so past. I helped pay for my college and snag a few extra dimes teaching and tutoring pretty much since I was fourteen, and have gotten the unfortunately straight dope on this a time or twelve.

        The standards were noticeably slipping in the 90’s. They’ve fallen even further over the last decade. By “standards falling” I mean the very methods of teaching that are mandated by the bureaucracy are working at cross purposes to actual learning going on. Much time is wasted on PC crap.

        Keep doing right by those kids and giving them support and love. Some kids may not be readers to the extent that I am, but many are just sick of the books foisted upon them by the schools. If that’s the case, turning them on to something worthwhile that they *will* like and learn from cannot but be a good thing.

        September 2, 2013
      • Ori Pomerantz #

        Of course you need to parent your children. But that isn’t a sucky school issue. School is a form of outsourcing, and like all outsourcing you have to keep QA to make sure they do their jobs. Also, at least until the kids are teenagers, the parents have a lot more influence over them than the school. With 35 hours a week, school CAN’T ensure the kids grow up educated.

        September 2, 2013
        • Dan Lane #

          The sucky school issue is that the outsourcing often enough is 1) indoctrinating values and ideas contradictory to those some families wish to teach their kids 2) doing so in an often inefficient and wasteful if not downright destructive manner (it counts as destructive if they have to *unlearn* what public school taught them in order to survive and prosper in life) and 3) NOT teaching them things that they should.

          There was a post about (non-school) libraries here recently on MGC where several people in the comments brought up a few horror stories that looked depressingly familiar. I know Sarah’s talked about it on PJMedia. It’s not hard to find these things.

          If you are pleased with your local public schools and feel no need to change them, that is your right and responsibility as a parent. You raise your kids the way you believe is going to do the best for them, and I support those who care and do this (as long as you don’t believe in human sacrifice or the like *grin*). If the quality you were receiving from your child’s education was *not* up to your standards, and you could not change them on what you see as several essential issues, we might be on the same side. If you’ve no problems dealing with your school, also good!

          There remain those of us that *do* have these issues and we *cannot* change the system without voting out elected officials and getting new ones to change it, or convincing the ones that are in office that, say, Common Core needs to go. Or the Accelerated Reading program. Personally, I’d love those who already like their schools to keep doing what they are doing well. That said, I’d prefer local education systems to have more control and less meddling from higher, so what may work out well in the Bronx isn’t the system forced on my young ‘uns in Speck, Appalachia where it may not work at all.

          September 2, 2013
          • Ori Pomerantz #

            I think I did a poor job of explaining myself. I am not saying all public schools are good. I am saying that not all of them are bad, and that almost all of them suffer from inflated expectations. They cannot do nearly as much as we expect them to. Parents will always have to supplement education at home.

            September 3, 2013
          • You need to run for your local school board. Or find and support someone else for that. > >

            September 3, 2013
            • Dan Lane #

              I agree, not all is bad with public education. There’s a problem in that it is easier culturally and as human beings to focus on the outrage rather than the warmhearted story. For every “teaching sex ed to six year olds” or “political indoctrination instead of pledge to the flag” there are dozens of good, hardworking teachers that do their best for the kids.

              That said, public schools are publicly funded. To get those dollars, to pay the teachers (often poorly) and buy classroom materials, they must comply with what the state requires of them. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is a prime example of this. Yes, I’ve worked with the school board a time or two, and I’m not afeared of making my issues known to candidates and board members. We worked hard to get exempt from NCLB, as a state, and pulled it off. Well, not exempt, it’s a “waiver” that requires we raise standards, improve effectiveness, implement reforms, etc. Minor victory.

              Part of what irritated me- and my mother even moreso- was those very requirements and standardized testing. They can leave very little time for helping the one kid who is lost in trig, or the other who needs help with basic chemistry. I know about not being able to deliver unrealistic expectations, believe you me. Some of the parents may be odd, yes, but by and large they truly care about their kids.

              The state wants what it wants, and often makes education into a bone of political contention, a prize to be quarreled over in electioneering. Less damage can be done when education is firmly in the hands of local folks, rather than suffering the whims of the political elite. And the latter holds all the money right now. Thus if I want my godkids to completely avoid that, my options are limited.

              You have my apology if I have misinterpreted or offended, but this *is* a rather hot issue for me. It’s why I generally prefer home schooling over public school (and there are a *lot* of good tools for homeschooling, but it takes a lot of work). Low quality education can hurt a child, especially a very bright one. That’s a big part of what bothers me.

              September 3, 2013
              • Oh, no apologies needed at all. I hope what I said wasn’t viewed as sarcastic, because I was serious.
                Airing your views is good, right, proper and appropriate. These elections, from what I understand, turn on small numbers of people. If you’re not happy with what the school board (or, heck, the state lege) is doing, the time to get involved in the election stuff is… unfortunately… now. Start looking for people who have the time and maybe some resources or at least be willing to take a look at it.

                September 3, 2013
  6. TXRed #

    Patricia C. Wrede. Her Magical West series does have a female protagonist, but I’d bet boys would devour the magical monsters, pioneering, exploration, and commiserate about people who don’t know how to pack. And the older dragons books are divided between male and female leads.

    September 2, 2013
    • See the first publication of the author date: 1980. My boys – now married men, enjoyed her books.

      September 2, 2013
      • TXRed #

        Huh. The Magical West books I’ve read date 2010-2012. Myst be a new printing.

        September 3, 2013
        • Arwen Riddle #

          She has been writing since the 1980s but I think the Magical West books were written in the last five years or so. I read somewhere that she was inspired for the series by a mini series on mega fauna.

          September 4, 2013
          • My point is (to repeat myself :-)) that while these may be recent books from the author, the author began publishing many years ago. The author is not young, and will -as all of old folk do (me included) begin to taper, and then die. For the long term you need a steady input of talent there to produce good books for a while.

            September 5, 2013
  7. I was a teacher, in Texas. I’m not prepared to let that condemnation stand without argument!
    I was pretty successful, did some innovative things (see my blog for some of that), and retired early to get away from a particular principal. I tried repeatedly for transfer, he blocked every one, I quit.
    That said: teachers are assumed to be the god in the classroom. Not so. We teach what we’re told to teach, when and where and with what (except for what we buy ourselves), and how we’re told to teach it.
    Decide to set high standards? You’ll fail about two thirds of your students, maybe more. And you’re not permitted to do that. So the system becomes clogged with ever greater numbers who are more interested in socializing, texting or sexting, or drugs. Instead, you learn to water down some of the grades, teach to a high standard, test to a low standard, and hope for the best. And encourage as many as humanly possible. I became as much entertainer as teacher, and things went much better after that, but I’d have been called on the carpet if the admin’s had seen some of my entertaining games. But they worked.
    If you ever want real change, throw out the politicians. Judges, too. I doubt it can happen, but those are the people who have decision authority. School boards are captive to state money, so they do what the state wants and the state mostly does what the feds want. Teachers? No more than cogs in the machine. A very few can work in the system, but it takes enormous talent…and by definition, most won’t have that.
    Remember when the bad actors got expelled? Long time ago; now the mantra is ‘You can’t deprive a child of an education.’ Even when the child is in jail accused of murder. Fact. I took supplementary materials to the jail for a while, until the case moved on in the judicial system.
    Next classroom over to me had a washer and dryer, a certified teacher and an aide. And one student, calendar age 14, mental age 2. He had a tendency to spit on the teacher. But he’s ‘special education’ as mandated by federal law. So he’s the school district’s problem.
    Meantime, that school district I worked for and eventually retired from? Creative. They decided that since minorities with some language problems were the ones likely to fail the mandatory tests, and since those tests were administered to sophomores…stroke of brilliance, name the questionable ones JUNIORS! Google it…El Paso ISD, in Texas. Happened a few years after I retired.

    September 2, 2013
    • The points I’m making do not exclude the fact that there are some excellent teachers – My point is simply if you make it easy to get a first class (whatever the US equivalent is) and hard to fail, you soon have a few great teachers… and a lot of not so great, and no real mechanism for sorting. Of course it’s not teachers per se setting reading lists and ordering books – if it is at all like SA they have no/very limited input at all. (as it happens my sister was friends with one of the women who set the reading curriculum back in the old country, when my kids were at school. Perfect example of the Peter principle in action. She was useless as teacher, so they made he a headmistress, and she bad at that so they made her an administrator. Where she spread drekk in her wake, and books sure to put kids off reading for life. But very PC. And very ‘witwerwe mewit.’ shudder.

      Now tell me: am I wrong – what is the proportion male: female teachers, And that in Administrators too? Does a student doing a B.Ed who will teach maths for example stand a 98% chance of getting the same mark if he/she had taken a Science or engineering degree?

      September 2, 2013
      • Arggghh! Lost a longish essay. Shortened, here goes.
        The problem is societal more than education in nature. Poor salaries attract poor quality people in the profession, few teachers sign up for education degrees and so colleges of education do all they can to not flunk students. Many good teachers leave the profession within 5 years. Teacher’s colleges water down the curriculum for this reason, and rarely approve the student who wants to substitute the difficult professional-level courses so that those who want to pursue advanced degrees aren’t qualified to seek them in, say, science or math or engineering.
        I DID have a solution to try to change society. Another teacher and I established a program at Guillen Middle School, El Paso ISD, called No Failures.
        Simple in concept; we accepted no excuses. Excessive absences, tardies, discipline problems, failing tests, not doing homework, any teacher or administrator could refer the student to us. We collected them after school the following day and kept them until the makeup work was done. No set time; when the student finished, he could go. Misbehavior after school in our program? Mom could attend the program and sit right beside the miscreant. No excuses accepted.
        The principal loved it (and paid us for the extra time), teachers loved it, parents loved it, even the kids loved it! Surprise; someone finally cared enough to get through the BS.
        It lasted for about 4 months. Then the district and the superintendent decided to ‘reconstitute’ the school and ever teacher, administrator, even the cooks and custodians got booted. We went to other schools, and a new faculty came in the following year. Five years later, things were worse than before.
        The staff at the two schools where I taught had 100% turnover within 10 years. New teachers came in, left as soon as possible. The neighborhoods didn’t change and neither did the schools, despite the shiny new teachers who came in to replace the exhausted ones.

        September 3, 2013
        • Ori Pomerantz #

          Exactly. Teachers, even if the are willing to put in the extra work, can’t fix society. Plus, the administration often gets in the way of initiative because, well, it is a bureaucratic administration.

          September 3, 2013
  8. You can throw coconuts at me if you want, but… Vulcan’s Kittens has a lot of the traits you are looking for. Yes, it’s mine own, my precioussss, but I did write it for my daughters, and I wrote a clean book, one with lots of adventure, wonder, and strong adult characters. I’m sick of the whole Disney channel ethos that has parents as bumbling, inept, and even corrupt figures while the child knows best. My book is science fiction, although you have to read most of it to cue onto that, since it’s also mythology. I’m plotting for the sequel now, and will bring in more science.

    As for other YA novels by authors I like… Hm, seems there are a couple by a guy named Dave Freer. 😉 Cuttlefish and Steam Mole, and even Dragon’s Ring, are all ones I have recommended as a librarian. I gave my dragon-obsessed daughter Dragon’s Ring recently, I look forward to seeing what she thought of it.

    She enjoyed David Weber’s new YA series about tree cats, and she and her sisters really like the Rick Riordan series, but that is fantasy. Venturing into ebook territory, I recently read the Well-Traveled Rhodes by Gina Marie Wylie, classic space opera with a very young protagonist, and I recommend that as well. I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more later, but for the moment those are the YA that come to mind. There are no MG SF writers I can think of, it’s a definite void.

    September 2, 2013
    • The problem is that if your parents were hippies, the child/children probably do end up saner, more practical, and doing most of the work. Same thing for a lot of kids from broken homes whose parents are busy dating or spending time with the new significant other, instead of with the kids. Same thing if the parents are very self-centered, or very insecure and afraid to give the kids rules. (Well, okay, in the last case the kids only think they’re so smart, but it’s in a similar ballpark.)

      So yeah, that’s why I think it’s a popular trope among writers in Hollywood.

      September 2, 2013
    • Have a coconut 🙂

      September 2, 2013
  9. Christopher M. Chupik #

    I also echo the recommendation of Weber’s Treecat series, and add something else: Timothy Zahn’s six-part Dragonback series. Strong male and female protagonists and a non-dystopian Space Opera setting.

    September 2, 2013
    • bearcat #

      I didn’t care for the Treecat stories that much myself, but it does remind of Jane Lynksgold (sp) who has some good books on her own with a teenage protagonist.

      September 2, 2013
    • Dates, genlefolk, dates. Weber – Mutineers Moon 1991 (so, just outside the 20 year window) Zahn 1983. That’s my point. A lack of new writers, who should be filtering in.

      September 2, 2013
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        Sadly, it’s hard to come up with newer writers.

        September 2, 2013
      • bearcat #

        Being devils advocate I will point out that the first YA Weber wrote was the Treecat stories (not that the rest of what he wrote isn’t perfectly acceptable for any reader mature enough to sit down and read a full length novel) and the first of them was published in the last couple years.

        September 3, 2013
  10. Nathan #

    Alas, it seems that derivative fanfic wins awards these days.

    September 2, 2013
    • That classes as straight cringeworthy embarrassing for the whole genre IMO, but it has happened a couple of times. Part of the problem is that awards have been cheapened (to the extent where they have a negative sales value) by such practices as log-rolling (Nebs) and in-group publicity/popularity contests (Hugos) and PC-centric judge-panels elsewhere. I’ve written about this before: the point of an awards system is to tell readers a book/author worth trying. Abuse it – as they have – and it’s like downgrading how hard it is to get a good degree. It’s a hard won reputation pissed away in an instant, almost impossible to recover, bad for deserving earlier recipients, and meaning it is worth nothing in the future. The short-sighted, little self-centered used butt-wipes who did this deserve pillory at the very least. (and I’m being very restrained ;-))

      September 2, 2013
  11. I’ve been racking my brains and couldn’t think of anything very recent (except for what’s been mentioned). But I did just think of something.

    Peter J. Floriani is a big Chesterton fan whose blogs I’ve followed for years. He is a computer science guy who had a great university fraternity experience, used to run a small cable TV provider’s networky stuff, dabbles in a lot of hardcore math and science, and now writes novels. He also believes intensely in showing the connections between math, science, the arts, and Catholicism, so he’s a real breath of fresh air. Super quirky, super smart, super merry.

    His first novel was on his blog, and _Joe the Control Room Guy_ was both an interesting adventure novel with sf touches, and a great slice of life about cable back in the day. (It will soon be published.)

    Then he moved on to a 13-book series (plus short stories on the side) set in the same milieu, but as near-future sf. The series is all about high school and college boys founding a new order of chivalry, adjusted for higher tech equipment and skills. It’s called De Bellis Stellarum (yes, the man also does horrible puns), but it’s not at all fanfic. Totally original boys’ adventure sf. They get better as they go along.

    The bad news is that they’re only available at the moment as CreateSpace paperbacks, but they are pretty much exactly the kind of books I wanted to read when I was young (and snarfing books out of my brothers’ bedroom). I also think it’s good for getting young people to think about building the life they want to live while they’re still young. A lot of kids feel like they have no control over themselves or their future lives; his heroes make plans and follow through.

    September 2, 2013
    • I have to read this.

      September 2, 2013
  12. bearcat #

    While not strictly YA Sabrina Chase’s books are appropriate for a younger audience than Ringo/Williamson, and would be great gateway books for kids. Adult themes, but clean and positive. Unlike so many books these days, you would be happy to have your grandkids aspire to be like the main characters.

    September 2, 2013
    • Oddly I got one of her books ‘recommended for you’ By Amazon. Which suggests that other people reading them share my tastes.

      September 2, 2013
    • Aww, thanks! Actually I’ve been planning a (on purpose) YA book with an adventurous boy main character, and wondering where I could find suitable beta readers. It sounds like I should move that project up the writing queue from what I’m reading here…

      September 2, 2013
  13. Fantasy, again, but I’m toying with the idea of getting the daughter started on Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series – great characters, both male and female, big adventure, adult themes, but all about responsibility and overcoming obstacles and hardships, and lots of other things kids should be reading more of.

    Another one I’ll toss in as a recommendation is Scott Sigler’s The Rookie. It’s a mix of Star Wars, the Godfather, and Any Given Sunday. Yes, the football movie. Apparently, in the future, almost every race in the galaxy is fighting internecine war until one race that no one thought was intelligent decides they’ve had enough of it and conquers everyone else. They start looking for ways to reduce the hostility between alien species, and they happen on the effects that professional sports had on human beings in reducing racism… so they start a pro football league. With the incentive being that the pro teams don’t go through customs checks. So they all get bought and supported by organized crime syndicates. It’s insane, but what I’ve read (the first book) was FUN.
    While the first one was written in Scott’s normal style (he’s normally a horror writer with a penchant for science-based horror and the copious use of profanity), when he submitted it to the Apple store… well, one of the app reviewers had apparently in an earlier life been an acquisitions editor for someone, and made him re-write the profanity out of it, saying specifically that he’d written a YA book. At any rate, there are four books out so far – The Rookie, The Starter, The MVP, and The All-Pro.

    September 2, 2013
    • it is however tricky for a lot parents to recommend such, simply because readers DO go and search out other books by the same author.

      September 2, 2013
      • True enough. Of course, at that age I think I was reading Stephen King pretty regularly. Not an excuse, of course.

        September 2, 2013
        • Christopher M. Chupik #

          Me, I just skipped the YA section altogether. I was reading Burroughs (Edgar Rice, mind you) in elementary, Howard in junior high and Herbert by high school.

          September 2, 2013
          • Familiar story. I’d read everything age appropriate by eight, and went to my mom’s shelf where I found the early Xanth novels, Burroughs (Barsoom and LOTS of Tarzan), Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth books, etc.

            September 2, 2013
            • bearcat #

              Yeah, Burroughs and L’amour here. Interestingly enough I didn’t consider Burroughs science fiction as a kid, because I didn’t Like science fiction. As an adult that changed after I had read Anne McCaffery, who introduced me to Elizabeth Moon, who through EVERY review comparing her books to Honor Harrington introduced me to Weber, who introduced me to the rest of Baen, etc.
              I still find Burroughs to be the best of the classic science fiction, and can think of very few golden age sci-fi novels I have tried that didn’t disappoint me.

              September 3, 2013
          • I’ve had this one with our feminist YA writing sisterhood. “Well, boys just skip straight to adult books. Therefore it is RIGHT that we need more squee-joy for new-pubescent girls about all the lovely angst and other rightful subjects, and none of this male heroes or worse (shudder) male writers.” As this means we’ve passed through the ‘there is no selective bias’, to ‘Okay so there is, but it’s our turn now, and boys can just suck it up because that’s what I had to do’ to ‘that’s dooming your daughter to an illiterate partner if he’s male,’ inevitable stages of this argument (if you can get it to go this long without the la la la, sexist sexist chant) it’s not much use pointing out that this implies women are considerably weaker and less able. But, put simply: if you’re a massive reader, yep. That’s what happens (regardless of gender) if you’re not, the bridging books are good. And even if you are, they have considerable value.

            September 2, 2013
          • mobiuswolf #

            Those weren’t YA? my bad. 😉

            September 3, 2013
          • First novel I ever read was ERB, one of the Tarzans, Tarzan and the Golden Lion if I remember correctly. I was 8. Found from the attic while in a sleepover with a friend. There were several others, which I went through on other sleepovers, they were her father’s. So, next I dug out everything by ERB from the library, and pestered my parents to buy several.

            After that I mostly searched for old adventure books (anybody else familiar with Karl May? German writer, most of his were to be found as a decade or two old translations when I was a kid, he wrote in the late 19th century and had several which happened in the old West – seems he was rather in love with Wild West, although I don’t think he ever traveled there himself. Fond memories, although I haven’t read any of them as an adult), I think the only books actually aimed at children or young teens I read where the Enid Blyton ‘famous five’ and some classic horse stories like ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Black Stallion’ (what is it with black horses, anyway?), until ERB’s Mars series got new translations, starting when I was about 11 or 12, which led to the discovery of things like science fiction and fantasy, and I decided I liked those even more.

            Which led me to being fluent in English by the time I was about 16 or 17, and had ran out of translated books, and was spending most of my money in those couple of big Helsinki bookstores which had English sf & f sections (Heinlein…).

            Frankly, if all I had encountered had been what was offered and recommended in school I don’t think I’d be reading much now. Or with what they tried to steer me to in the library back then, for that matter.

            September 3, 2013
            • mobiuswolf #

              Great place to start. Burroughs used the most amazing vocabulary. I started with Andre Norton and went hog wild from there. Never did distinguish YA from the regular flavor. I still have trouble. 🙂

              September 3, 2013
              • I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but a few years ago, I was teaching in a kindergarten after-school program at a private school in Salt Lake City, Utah. Which was a fun time. I broke their swing.
                BUT… this was about the time when the Disney “Tarzan” was coming out, and knowing that the kids would be all kinds of excited for it, I bought a new copy of Tarzan and started reading it to the kids, chapter by chapter, every day. They LOVED it!
                And then we got to the part where Tarzan starts stalking and killing African villagers (yes, they were evil villagers, but still…), and I chickened out and we switched books. Probably for the best, all things considered, but still…

                September 3, 2013
                • In the Golden Lion he teaches the lion to kill on command, by tying a piece of meat to the throat of a dummy, as far as I remember, and later in the novel he then does command it to kill some bad guys like that. Suitable reading for an 8 year old 😀 – but back then the Tarzans and everything else by ERB (Tarzan, Mars, some of his western novels, about half of his production had current translations) was to be found in the YA section of our library, as well as many others of those old adventure novels I was addicted to. So in that sense I was reading YA, only lots of those novels had not been written specifically for younger readers, and had quite a bit of bloodshed and the heroes killing bad guys left and right, sometimes rather graphically described, in them.

                  No idea how things are now in libraries, there was something of a furor about the racism to be found in those old books (well, true with some, but often also ‘racism’), Tarzan usually being used as a prime example, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, so it’s possible they have been moved now, if they can be found there at all. There have, however, been new printings of the Tarzan series about once every decade, although now they seem to print mostly only some of the first novels, not the whole series (not quite sure, but the earlier ones may be out of copyright here now). I think the last new translations are from a couple of decades ago.

                  September 3, 2013
                  • Ori Pomerantz #

                    Whenever I get worried about a book being too graphically violent, I remind myself that generations of kids grew up on the stories of the Old Testament. Not exactly a violence-free book.

                    September 3, 2013
                    • Which immediately makes me think “Go up, thou bald head!” and then I shudder a little.

                      September 3, 2013
  14. Hi, I’m not a regular here but I feel compelled to comment. I’ve shelved books in my local library for a good 6 years now and never was interested in anything the YA section had to offer…
    Most “adult” Star Wars books (ie found in the adult fiction vs ya/juv section of the library) are of varying quality. There is one exception… Karen Traviss is an amazing writer who wrote the Republic Commando series. They would count as YA but an adult could dig them as well since she doesn’t talk down to readers nor include unnecessary sex / violence. (themes such as love, death, honor, duty are treated with due maturity)
    1. It’s based on a (really good) computer game. (graphics may be dated but its one of the last good games Lucasarts made before shutting down)
    2. Protagonist is a young woman jedi who is assigned to work with elite clone commandos during wartime.
    3. The clones are childlike yet lethal, possessing a strict code of honor and duty given them by their respective father figures in academy.
    4. Concepts of morality and geopolitics are handled deftly as the reader realizes the jedi are using a slave army to fight a war for dubious ends.
    5. Marriage and family are portrayed as positive goods. As the dawn of the evil Empire nears, the weary soldiers prepare an exit strategy to leave warfare behind and live out their days in peace.
    6. Military service is portrayed as an honorable thing. Pacifism is not the message even though these men eventually go AWOL from a cause that is not just.
    If there was a series for young guys/girls who love military stuff due to playing too much Call of Duty, this is it. (before they can get into Tom Clancy haha). It’s not so much sci-fi as it is military fiction. Not nearly as hardcore as a Ringo/Kratman gorefest but characters are based on real soldiers the author knew.

    Traviss was a journalist embedded with British military units and is familiar with the police blotter and dirty politics.
    Her Republic Commando series was cancelled before the last book could be written due to George Lucas intention to make the Mandalorians a pacifist group in his tv show rather than a noble warrior culture.

    Traviss also wrote the tie-in novels to Gears of War. Those have strong language. However, the “curses” in Republic Commando are in a made up language.

    btw, Peter Floriani is the best 😉

    September 3, 2013
    • Thanks for that add-in, and welcome to the mad house 😉

      September 4, 2013

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