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(editor's note: this competition is now closed, but please read on!)
Olympus 2012: the really BIG British National Sci Fi convention. It was my first time at Eastercon. I was a little nervous, but it was weird and wonderful: my kind of place! I got the impression anything goes, and the natives were friendly. Besides, it is hard not to like a place that gives you a mug and an Easter Creme egg.
This is what I was there for: the Dystopian YA panel. Here they are:
From left to right: Caroline Hooton (chair and author-in-waiting), Emma Newman (author of Twenty Years Later), Amanda Rutter (editor with Strange Chemistry Books), Tom Pollock (author of The City's Son - Skyscraper throne, book 1, out in August 2012 ) and Cory Doctorow (author of Little Brother).
They were there to talk about dystopian young adult fiction. Dystopian stories - set in dark future worlds – are in the spotlight now with the release of the Hunger Games movie, based on Suzanne Collins’ novel.
Is dystopian fiction for young adults a new trend, or one we've only just noticed?
Amanda: it is both new, and not new. It is a cyclical trend, but for YA readers who are reading it for the first time now, for them it isn’t a trend. And when they love something, they really love it. They want more.
Tom: it reflects the level of anxiety about the future at the moment; it resonates in a new way.
Amanda: getting rid of adults isn’t new, from Enid Blyton to Harry Potter.
Tom: there is a distinction between books where adults disappear, and those where adults are the problem (eg. Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness; Divergent by Veronica Roth). Also there are books where the adults are gone but it isn’t their fault, like Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now: sometimes you are on your own, and just have to cope.
Is the focus in dystopian YA on bringing things down, not rebuilding?
Cory: rebuilding isn’t dramatic; a well rebuilt society lacks drama
Scott Westerfeld has been quoted as saying: ‘High School is a dystopia.’
Emma: it is not just High School in the US sense, more it is the internal struggles at this age, not always to do with school culture
Amanda: YA emphasizes issues – making decisions about who you want to be and where you fit in, not just in school, but in everything in life. It reflects adolescent fears that every decision you make is SO important, and affects your life forever.
A question from the audience: why do you write dystopian tales?Emma: we’ve been sucked into the system and feel disempowered: maybe we’re trying to give ourselves therapy. Anyhow we’re all writing from our unconscious mind.
Amanda: don’t look at dystopian YA in isolation; much of YA is also hopeful where dystopian YA is dark.
Amanda: endings are often more open – whether the future will be good or bad. YA is the bravest area of fiction being published today: it doesn’t tread the same old paths.
Emma: YA is popular with adult audiences also: it is fast paced, and stuff happens; vs. adult contemporary literary fiction where nothing happens, it is reflective and boring.
Concluding remarks?Knife of Never Letting Go, and Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now.
Amanda: be brave in choices in YA fiction: try it! YA isn’t all dystopian, try other things for balance.
Caroline (chair): recommends Dark Parties by Sara Grant, and Slated by Teri Terry (honest: she did! I’m not making it up!)
My thoughts on this:
The giveaway: you pick the prize!(editor's note: this competition is now closed)
The winner can pick as prize any one of any of the books pictured in this blog - or, if you prefer - the official Olympus 2012 mug (without the creme egg. It's long gone).
To enter, leave a comment below, saying which prize you will pick if you win - and any other comments you'd like to share about this event - and follow this blog if you aren’t already. If you tweet it as well, mention that in your comment; you’ll get an extra entry.
Open internationally. This closes at noon UK time on April 30. The winner chosen from the comments using a random number generator will be posted here, and then they have 7 days to contact us with their details before another winner will be chosen. Good luck!