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Posts tagged ‘YA’

And another one bites the dust

Figuratively speaking at least.

It seems the “right thinking” folks on social media have targeted yet another YA author. Kosoko Jackson has chosen to withdraw his novel after facing “backlash for centering a story about the Kosovo War around two non-Muslim Americans.”

Some early reviews heralded the book for telling a YA love story about two young, queer men of color, while other reviews expressed outrage that Jackson used a devastating war as a backdrop to tell that story without enough historical understanding.

Instead of standing his ground, Jackson caved to the pressure of social media. In doing so, he issued a statement via Twitter apologizing and saying he was withdrawing the book from publication. So the bullies win again. This time, however, they are eating one of their own. If this keeps up, there won’t be any books, at least no entertaining books, out there in the YA genre because authors will be to worried about ticking off all the points on the “approved list of topics, subjects, messages, etc” to actually write anything but the message. Read more

The Grim and The Bright

(Thanks for rescuing me. They were threatening to make me write romance novels as a form of punishment until I showed them one of my pen names and the Harlequin-esque novel. They hurriedly gave in to your demands and now I’m free.)

Part of the issue today with aspects of science fiction is that some authors believe that there is no hope in the future. This reflects in their writing, and their public personae as well. Far too often we’re trying to hook teens and young adults on gritty realism and bleakness when we should be offering them hope and escapism in a story. I know that the kids at my work don’t want to read a book about the grim realities of life. They prefer superhero movies where there is a chance at the hero to be a hero.

Read more

Changeling’s Island

Well, first the bad news. It’s Monday and you’re stuck with me. I will forgo the obligatory Mwhahahaa. Oh, what the the heck. MWHAHAHAAA!
Now the good news, it will probably be Tuesday one day relatively soon (and that is one day closer to Friday).

On other news, for those of you who delighted in my ‘ordinary’ a while back – in the excerpt I posted of CHANGELING’S ISLAND – the YA novel I have set on Flinders Island — About a city-raised kid who gets into trouble and gets sent off to live with his crazy grandmother on a remote farm on the island.

The wind flurry brought angry drops of rain hissing down the blue-grey wall of the surging swell. It roared up the ramp in a seething ravel of white water and rolling stones. The inky blackness across the water devoured the outer islands, and the horizon had vanished into the rain haze. Suddenly it was back-lit by a tracery of jagged lightnings showing every black billow of the vast, stark, roiling mountains of cloud above the white-capped grey sea.

“It looks a bit ordinary out there,” said Tim, zipping up the red life-jacket. “I’m going to a get little wet.”

The book has been bought by Baen. Tony Daniel asked to see it when I mentioned it in a podcast I did with Eric, and it appears Baen are venturing on a YA line. I said it would be too Australian for them but he seems to think it adds to the book’s exotic charm. I can’t wait for Kate’s take on that. (and yes, that is what sheep say too. It’s too late. We’ve heard all the sheep jokes, and besides, we tell them about new Zealanders.)

I have decided to go with the trad route on this one, firstly, because it is Baen, and secondly because it is YA. I think this is going to change, but it and MG are still areas where authors are going to struggle going Indy. I’ve got a soft spot for Baen and I think, to be honest with you guys that they’re bucking stacked deck here. The SJW brigade have largely taken over YA, and books-in-schools. They’re outright not going to like CHANGELING’S ISLAND, it has a strong male hero (strike 1), with a perfectly good claim on victimhood who utterly fails to whine and blame anyone (strike 2), and makes and shapes his own destiny (strike 3). Oh yeah, and to add insult to injury it lets a battler country hick be an honorable hero, and deals with the very non vegetarian reality of where food comes from and how hard it is, and how valuable that is. And there is complete absence of kinky sex, but an abundance of rugged outdoor adventure. And entirely the wrong attitude to tools.

She looked at the sea. Shook her fist at it. “And yer be off. Don’t yer be coming anywhere near here, or I’ll stick a pitch-fork in you.”

“Who? Who are you talking to?” asked Tim looking at the gray, angry water.

“The seal woman. She’s nothing but trouble.” She pulled a face. “Have you got a knife?”

“Uh. No.” Knives had caused one of the boys at St. Dominic’s to get expelled only the term before. Pupils were not allowed to carry them, and while it had been tempting… Tim had not ever had the spare money, or really been… well, bad enough to get one. He’d wanted… sort of to be bad, to get a bit of respect and to make up for being small and really not much good at ball sports. His life was too full of people who thought he was bad, and trouble and didn’t give him any of that respect, back in Melbourne anyway. Did his gran think he was a mugger and a shoplifter? Why did she think he had a knife?

“Yer need one. Yer never to go near the sea without steel. I’m a fool. I didn’t even think of that,” muttered his grandmother. “Well, she’ll not come near while I’m here.”

They gathered armfuls and then carried loads of stinking seaweed up to the ute. Crabs scuttled away. Little bugs ran out of it. March flies bit at them if they stopped…

And then, when the ute tray was full, piled high, his grandmother said: “I hope yer can move the seat. It hasn’t bin moved since yer father was a boy.”

Tim noticed she never mentioned his father’s name. Hardly ever even talked about him. If she did talk about anyone, it was ‘My John’ and even that didn’t happen too often.

They wrestled with the seat, and got it to move slightly. Then it stuck. “Can yer push the pedals all the way down?”

Tim tried. The ute lurched forward. “Foot off the clutch, on the brake,” said his grandmother.

He got the part about taking his foot off the pedal. “Which is the brake!?” he asked in in panic.

It was rather a long trip back with the sea-weed. Tim was exhausted, but quite pleased with himself. He’d found the concentration of driving a strain. He’d stared hard ahead so much that he imagined he saw all sorts of things out of the corner of his eye that just weren’t there when he looked properly: Potholes, logs, a small hairy manikin in a hat clinging to the outside mirror. That, on a second glance that nearly sent them off the road and into the bog, was a bunch of weeds.

When they got home his grandmother said: “I need a pot of tea. And they deserve some beer. I don’t think we’re ready to try taking the ute into the shed yet. Just stop.”

Tim had got used to his grandmother’s ways by now, or at least the beer for the fairies idea. He set out the bowls. There were two of them to be put out, one in the barn, and one in the corner of the kitchen, each with a quarter inch of beer in them. A bottle lasted a couple of weeks or more. The mice or something must love it.

Only this time he was tired enough to just sit there in the kitchen, and happened to be looking at the bowl. The flat beer was a limpid brown pool in the bowl… and then it began to ripple, as if something was lapping at it. And then, all by itself, the bowl tipped a little. Tim blinked. Rubbed his eyes.

Looked. Rubbed them again.

The bowl was empty. Drained of the last drop.

It must have been a mouse he couldn’t see at this angle… or something. It was enough to creep him out. But Gran decided they’d sat about idle for long enough, so she said: “Come. We’ve got a Ute to offload.” She hesitated for a second. Went to the drawer of the kitchen dresser and rummaged about. “Here,” she said, holding a flat, yellowed object out to him. “It was yer great granddad’s penknife. Useful on the farm. I thought yer must have one.”
It was a solid, heavy piece of steel, with the outside casing made of a yellow, scratched… something.

“It’s supposed to be walrus tooth. Sailor’s knife, been in my family a long time. Must have come from Scotland, somewhere. We don’t have walrus here.”
Tim opened the knife warily. It had obviously been sharpened many times. Once it must have been quite a broad blade. Now it was narrow. He tested it against his finger, and cut himself. “Ouch. It’s sharp,” he said, looking at it.

“Yer keep it that way,” said his grandmother. “What use is a blunt knife? It’s not this new stainless steel, boy. It’ll rust. Yer oil it, clean it after yer use it, and keep it sharp.” She took a deep breath. “And yer keep it with yer all the time. Especially at the sea, or near it. That seal woman doesn’t like iron. I didn’t know she was still around. Yer don’t ever go into the sea without a knife. You wash it in fresh water and oil it after, as soon as you can.”

“But… it’s dangerous. I…I’m not allowed to have a knife.” He could just imagine his mother finding it. Or someone at St Dominic’s. Or the store where he’d been caught.

His grandmother snorted. “Townie nonsense. They got nothing they need a knife for, except to try and pretend they’re tough, and cut each other. It’s different here, Tim, working on the farm. A knife ain’t dangerous, any more than a spade. It’s laid there in that drawer for 40 years and not hurt anyone. It’s what you do with it that’s dangerous, if you’re a fool or child. It’s a tool, not a toy. Don’t play with it. And never test it on yer thumb.”

Tim felt quite peculiar about the old knife. He wanted it, badly. But he was scared about being in trouble because of it. “They won’t let me have it at school.”

His grandmother rubbed her chin, a sign, Tim had learned, that she was considering something. “Fair enough. It’s far from the sea. But the minute you get back here it goes in yer pocket. No going near the water without it.”

Let’s hope there are lots of parents and grandparents who don’t want their kids reading SJW decreed pap, but books with adventure, honor and courange… and responsibility. Baen might be better at reaching them than I am.

Iggy and the Beach

As most of you live in the Northern hemisphere, and cold winter is on you, I thought I’d fill you all with a happy vision of Southern hemisphere beach holidays to make you feel better about the amount of fuel your furnace takes:

Iggy’s Beach Holiday

Eyes pinched tight against the sandblast that was stripping away his epidermis, Iggy and his snow-white feet began their brave journey, armed only with a towel, hat, and pair of trunks that had mysteriously shrunk by being in his closet for ten years. The plump saunter to the sea suddenly transformed itself into a perfect performance of the ten-month pregnant sugar plum fairy. He punctuated his arabesques with high-pitched gasping shrieks of: “Hot, hot, hot!” until he reached the foam-laced icy sea. It was toe-numbing.

Marina, in shades, a wrap and sandals followed in more elegant and leisurely fashion. “Iggy,” she said, pointing to a thin, startlingly blue line glistening among the dirty white spume. His eyes tracked from that to the next… and more, blue stringy shivering trails leading to things that were translucent, blue and… not bubbles.

“Agh! Stingers!” screamed Iggy, and levitated clean above the water, back onto the searing sand.
He dropped his towel and stood on it, as the wind seized his hat and sent it rolling merrily along the beach. Iggy didn’t even try and follow.

“Marina,” he said, “This is such fun, isn’t it?”

“Yes, dear,” she answered tranquilly.

“Good, I’d hate to think my enthusiasm was misplaced.”

-00-
And a Merry Christmas to you all. The Christmas Spirit is not (just) what you drink.

And now for some useful information. Given New York Publishing’s impressive and impeccable track record I think we can safely say that contemporary ‘sick lit’ (which I gather means a lead character is dying/very ill/dies – rather than the normal depraved taste of NY Publishing.) will be what they’re buying and what no-one outside NY Publishing would want to read.

And in a similar vein – a list of books to avoid ;-/ If the Beeb is recommending them – I’m staying away.
Is this where we’re going with MSM and traditional publishing? If they love it, I probably don’t.

And now I must return to my frantic word-chase.
May Santa bring you lots of great books to read (Hopefully Mad Genius ones) and may your Christmas be merry and bright, and full of love and laughter.

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.)

To YA or Not to YA

by Amanda S. Green

I received an email yesterday from a friend that came at just the right time.  I’d been trying to figure out what to write for today’s blog and couldn’t make up my mind.  Sure, I could talk about the Borders being granted an extension to October to file its reorganization plan.  I could talk about the importance of following guidelines when submitting to a publisher (yes, I’ve been reading slush this weekend and it always makes me wonder if NRP wrote its guidelines in Sanskrit or something).  But, frankly, I didn’t want to.  I wanted something else to write about.  Then I looked up from the computer screen and realized that the movie I’d been watching was over and that, gag, Twilight was on.  Yes, I know.  There are masses of folks who adore the book and think the movie is to die for.  At the same time, I opened the email and I had my topic and, oddly enough, it has a tie-in with Twilight.

It seems that yesterday, Meghan Cox Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal kicked up a firestorm by daring to question the appropriateness of some YA fiction for, well, young adults.  She opens the article by recounting the trials of a mother trying to find something for her 13 year old daughter to read.  Instead of finding something uplifting, she found row upon row of books she felt were inappropriate for her daughter.  It’s not an uncommon feeling among parents, believe me.

YA has turned into the catch-all phrase for books spanning that vast gulf of ages from 11 – adulthood.  Not, necessarily, in the minds of authors or editors, or even publishers, but in the minds of the booksellers.  That, in turn, has made it the catch-all for the book reading public.

Add in the fact that so many of the books assigned students these days have to have a “social message” and you can see why parents view YA with a jaundiced eye.  My son’s 21 now, but I remember the first summer he was assigned books from what I now realize was the YA list.  One book ended with a graphic attempted rape by a human who was then murdered by a ghost, also depicted very graphically.  Another detailed the life of a teen drug addict in detail.  Another dealt with mental illness.  If I remember correctly, there was also one centering on incest.  My son, at the time, was still in elementary school.

My reaction was to go to the school as soon as possible and discuss the list with his teacher.  I was told that the list was put together by a group of librarians, educators and administrators from around the country.  I was also told that the list was actually for students who were at least two years older than my son.  However, someone had decided that students in the gifted and talented program needed to be reading these books.  The decision was made based on the average reading ability of the GT kids, not on their emotional or mental maturity levels.

And that is the problem with the YA classification right now.  It is too broad.  Books that are appropriate for a 16 year old might not be for an 11 year old or even a 13 year old.  And, before the howls of outrage begin, I’m not short selling our youth.  Having raised a kid who was always much smarter than I at his age, I am well aware of the fact that we need more than advance My Pretty Pony books for them.

But there needs to be a change in the industry to recognize that YA has become too broad of a term.  Middle graders are reading it now.  Why?  Because it is popular and also because there just aren’t that many good middle grade books coming out.  So, there’s the first solution.  Bring out more good middle grade books AND PROMOTE THEM.

Perhaps publishers and bookstores need to do as the store in the WSJ article did and split their YA section into age categories.  Isn’t that where the YA designation first came in?

I’m not sure what the final answer will be.  There are always going to be parents who object to something on their child’s reading list.  I don’t think we’ll soon forget all the challenges to Harry Potter because parents thought it taught their kids witchcraft.  I have as much fun as the next person laughing at some of the reasons books are challenged.  That said, as a parent, I do have problems with a 10 or 11 year old reading a graphic rape or murder scene.  I still believe reading should be as much for entertainment and enjoyment as it is for education.  (And this is something those putting together school reading lists seem to forget)

I guess what I’m saying is that there has to be a middle ground somewhere.  Parents need to take responsibility to know what their kids are reading — and they should be reading it as well.  That’s the only way to know what the book is really about and, gee, it also gives them something to talk about with their kid.  Authors should keep their audience in mind and remember that a good story doesn’t always have to be dark and depressing.  Publishers should consider putting a suggested age range on their YA books or creating age-specific imprints.  Retailers should consider setting up their YA section similarly to how the Washington D. C. bookstore did.  No censorship, no banning but a means of giving the tween/teen and parent a better understanding of what age the book is written for.

On a personal note, please, no more shiny vamps and emo werewolves and lots more rollicking adventures.

Or am I wrong here? (Entirely possible, I’ll admit.)