Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Young Adult Science Fiction survey and giveaway

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164 books - that's how many YA science fiction books I've found in my survey. I've read 17 so far from this list and my goal is to read 15 more this year. I also have 3 YA SF books to give away (scroll down if you want to skip my summary of the survey and want deets on the giveaway).

I compiled my list of books during a couple weeks of "market research" - i.e. trolling a dozen Goodreads lists (like this one) and this wonderful blog, Charlotte's Library (devoted to MG and YA science-fiction and fantasy). Since my current work-in-progress is a YA science fiction story (working title: Startripped), I wanted to find out what's already been done, over-done, and where there might be room for new ideas in this area.

I thought others might be interested in my results, so I've got all the books listed on my YA SF survey page, with short descriptions and links. But to sum it up quickly for this post, I grouped the 164 books into these 9 categories:

Rebellion against futuristic government control (e.g. The Hunger Games) 22 books
Our bodies are not under our own control (e.g. Uglies, Delirium)  27 books
Memories or minds are messed with(e.g. Adoration of Jenna Fox) 9 books
Computers / artificial intelligence / virtual reality (e.g. Feed)  11 books
Space travel / new worlds (e.g. Across the Universe) 23 books
Aliens (e.g. I Am Number Four)  7 books
Time Travel or Time Twist (e.g. PathFinder)  8 books
Apocalyptic/post apocalyptic (e.g. Gone or Ashfall)  37 books
Paranormal/fantasy/steampunk/SF crossovers (e.g. Leviathan) 22 books

(This list does not include fantasy or paranormal novels unless they also include a scientific element, not just magic or superpowers. Also, I did not include sequels, but the list does include upper middle grade SF novels.)

The categories are my own definitions (other might classify SF books differently), and there  is considerable overlap among categories, too. For instance some of the space travel books overlap with time travel and with other categories.

But I thought it was really interesting that the category with the most books was Apocalytic/post apocalyptic. I'm thinking that area of YA science fiction might be getting saturated? I mean, how many ways can civilization as we know of now might be drastically altered? Volcanos, earthquakes, meteors, plagues, seas rising, deserts spreading, monster sandstorms, toxic air, global economic collapse, electromagnetic pulses, global winter, nuclear war, solar flares, and a technocaust (hmm, that last one sounds unique!) Lots of great science and great ideas here.

Some concepts are definitely overdone though: I found at least four books where society is living inside protective domes. And three books with "ash" in the title: Ashfall, Ashes, and Ashes, Ashes.

My WIP falls in the "memories or minds are messed with" category, and I only found 9 books with a main premise in this area (admitting that my grouping might be flawed though since I was basing these categories off of one to two paragraph blurbs). But I'm pretty hopeful that my idea hasn't been overdone and it's not too close to other ideas out there. (phew).

And speaking of ideas, I also learned while compiling this survey, that light-hearted space opera doesn't fly in the YA realm. You have to have a really gripping high concept premise. You could pretty much state 80% of these books in a single sentence of this type:

In a [insert society, location or world] where [insert premise, such as everyone has a genetically engineered sixth sense], sixteen or seventeen year old [insert name] is [choose one: a rebel, misfit, defective, different some way, discovers a secret or is keeping a secret].

I just came up with that genetically engineered sixth sense thingie on the fly. Hmmmmn, I like that idea!

I tried this formula for a couple books I've read:

The Hunger Games: In a world controlled by a despotic Capitol, where teenagers must fight to death for the entertainment of the audience, sixteen year old Katniss rebels against the rules. 

It takes a little modification though to get it to work for SF that isn't dystopian:
Cinder (Marissa Meyer): In a science fiction twist on Cinderella,  Cinder is a second class citizen and a cyborg and her enemy isn't just her step mother but also a lurking lunar society.

How cool is that??? A science fiction twist on an old fairytale? (Cinder just released this month, by the way).  Also recently released is:

A Long, Long Sleep (Anna Sheehan) - the SF version of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew.

And releasing this coming July, there's a SF retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion called For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund)So, not just fairy tales. Now we have SF retellings of 19th century classics. Cool! I wonder if it will be sort steampunkish?

Speaking of steampunk, I think that's another up and coming trend in YA SF, after the amazing success of Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld). I found less than 10 books in this genre so far (both YA and upper Middle Grade). Traditional science fiction is usually futuristic, so I love that steampunk is sort of science fiction set in the past.

Okay, now for the YA SF giveaway. Leave a comment and you are entered to win one of these: 

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both.  

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal.  June's brother has been  murdered and Day is the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge her brother's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

 No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. The world is crumbling to pieces, and The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now. Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

The giveaway ends at midnight on February 13. (So you may get a little Valentine's day surprise if random.org picks your comment number on February 14)

Make sure your comment includes your email or some other link I can contact you at, and which book you'd prefer (if you have a preference).  And I'd love to hear any opinions on my oh-so-scientific YA SF market predictions!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teenage love that lasts forever

This is a potentially controversial subject that no doubt has already been talked about by others more knowledgeable than me. But it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately.  There's a whole herd of YA paranormal novels where you've got a girl and a boy falling in love and it's a "I'll die for you" or "I can't live without you" kind of love.

I think Twilight opened a flood gate and there's apparently a big demand for these kind of stories in YA (I confess, I've read quite a few. They aren't the ONLY kind of stories I read though).

I adore a good love story that overcomes all odds but I'm really wondering - I'm struggling - whether its creating unrealistic expectations in YA?

The cynical side of me says, well Disney's been pushing these fairytale love stories on little girls for at least 80 years. The damage has already been done.

And my romantic side argues back, "well, it really can happen. Maybe it's rare, but it's possible."

I also think it's possible to write a great teenage love story and still keep it realistic. But this is where it's a little tricky, defining what "realistic" is. I'm still trying to figure that out. My own love story experience was very different! - a whole lot of false starts, and then finally finding true love in my late twenties. And even then, it's been a rocky road.

So I just had another thought about Disney. The classic Disney love stories are all set in far off places or times - they are basically fantasies. YA paranormal has the distinction of bringing fantasy "closer to home" - so to speak. They are all set in, or at least start out in, a normal teenage high school world, but they create a bridge to a fantastic world. I have yet to find one of these all-consuming teen love stories set entirely in the real world (West Side Story, maybe? - any other real world examples?)
This is my first post for Young Adult Teenage Tuesday  - a new meme started by Sheri Larsen over at Writer's Ally (let her know if you are interested in joining!) - it's pretty much open to anything related to YA reading, writing or teenage life in general.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mythical madness

IMAGES REMOVED in case of potential copyright violation (7/27/12)

Welcome to another Friday Mythical Madness, in which I take images found on Tumblr and imagine mythical creatures to go with them. The plan is to come up with new creative ideas, but really that's just an excuse for the fun addiction that Tumblr is.

Now, pretend you are a child  like the one in this image, with an imaginary forest of plants and animals sprouting up around you. When these plants photosynthesize, they sprout all sorts of magical things. See image

An old cathedral or palace overgrown by nature is a perfect dwelling for mythical creatures. This made me hypothesize that if enough moss grows on an old statue, it can come to life. See image

Mythical creatures also live in space. This picture of the Orion nebula looks like a huge moth made of stars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Most antagonists stop here. One that doesn't

It's been many months since I saw the movie Thor, but one of the characters, Loki, inspired me to recently watch the movie again. He's one of the most interesting antagonists I've encountered in a long time, and I wanted to figure out why (WARNING: spoilers ahead):

Who is he? A prince, infamous for being a trickster and a silver tongue

What does he want?  To be king of Asgard.

What stands in his way? His older brother, Thor.

Loki makes a deal with the enemy and capitalizes on his brother's weakness - pride, recklessness - to get Thor banished from Asgard, which puts him in line to become king

Most antagonists stop here. They have only one motivation.

Not Loki. Here's where it gets interesting.

In the process of getting Thor banished by breaking the truce with the Frost Giants, Loki discovers he has some scary similarities to the Frost Giants.

He confronts his father, Odin who confirms that he is indeed the offspring of their worst enemy. Loki's world is shattered. Odin claims he still loves Loki as his own son, but Loki thinks he's just a pawn in the political maneuverings. 

This turns him bitter, so when he has an opportunity to step in as a regent king, he not only tries to destroy Thor but also tries to destroy the planet of the Frost Giants, perhaps in a bid to erase any memory of his unsavory link to the enemy.

We know that we have to throw something unexpected at our protagonists which change their goal(s), but I don't think you see this enough with antagonists.  I think it's this unexpected development in Loki's world that makes him such a memorable antagonist.

Anyone else have a memorable antagonist (from a book or movie) that I could analyze?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Finding creatures in unusual places

IMAGES REMOVED in case of potential copyright violations (7/27/12)

They're hiding everywhere: under your stairs, in the forest, in coral reefs, in the Northern Lights... at least that's my fantasy. I love collecting pictures/photos of beautiful or scary places and imagining what mythical creature might inhabit those places.

As you all know I have this weird thing for mythical creatures - not just the famous ones (dragons, vampires, etc) but also the little known ones, like the Hungarian Vadleány, a forest sprite who seduces shepherds, and the Japanese Aka Manto, a malicious spirit who haunts public and school toilets. See image

Seems like there ought to be a mythical creature or two in this tree. I’m the girl at the bottom, hoping to glimpse one. (image removed)

You’ve heard of the sandman, but did you know about this mythical creature that brings darkness every night? (image removed)

 Okay, this isn't a mythical creature, but as soon as I saw this picture, I thought of Old Kitty and her cat Charlie (wrong color, I know, but I still had to share it, esp. since one of the names on the page is Charlie! (image removed)

And it's a stretch to call this a mythical creature, I know, but I couldn't resist sharing it, either. Forget pillow pets - I’m thinking this will be a new craze - fat unicorns with mohawks.They are called Churbbicorns. see image at liquidcrow.deviantart.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new year without resolutions

Source: mariathomasonline.com
I'm an overly wordy person. I write blog posts over a thousand words, and then painfully trim them down (wincing all the way) to maybe 600 or 700 words. I write novels over 100,000 words and then slash them (wincing all the way) down to 90k. Then I give up in exhaustion in the pursuit of a more marketable 75k or 80k.

Anyway, as this new year starts, I find myself at a loss for words for once (or at least, a lot less words!) This would normally be the post where I share my writing goals or resolutions for the year to come. I'm skipping the whole resolutions thing this year.

Though I do plan to set some short term goals from time to time. Those seem to work better for me.

Also, maybe I'm not getting a big rush of words because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and  the beautiful picture above (with just a few words) says everything I want to say perfectly.

Here's a wonderful article, A Sense of Self  (from Writer Unboxed),  that's sort of related to the picture above - how life is a voyage of discovery.
What we want from  them [heros or protagonists] is not just entertaining stories but examples of how we can feel, see the world, conduct ourselves, grow and change. We admire them, learn from them, celebrate them and return to them over and over for inspiration.
(There's also some great writing tips for developing characters that people want to return to for inspiration).

For writers - or at least, for me as a writer - I  think I learn a lot from the protagonists that I write about - they travel with me on my journey through life, showing me sometimes surprising and unexpected things about myself. I'm wondering if anyone else has ever discovered something on the voyage of their own lives from the stories and characters they've written about?
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