I’ve been re-reading much of my SF collection over the past couple of months, and am currently on Lois Lowry’s The Giver. And I’m even more impressed with it than I was the first time I read it.
What strikes me this time around is her use of language. On the surface, the book is written at an age-appropriate level for the primary target audience (teens). But she uses that age-appropriate language to convey bigger themes and subtle nuances that you would never find in (say) a Nancy Drew mystery. I kept catching myself thinking over some surprisingly sophisticated idea she’d just conveyed, realizing that I had picked it up without consciously noticing it, and then reading back over the preceding paragraphs to see exactly how she’d done it.
You can look at this book as a complement to Heinlein’s juveniles. Heinlein conveyed to a similar audience a number of similar themes (I read both The Giver and the juveniles as pro-liberty, pro-individual – whether or not that is Lowry’s intention or reflective of her philosophical alignment), but did so in a more overt way, one stylistically appropriate to the action/adventure-focused nature of his stories.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I heard it was pretty weak by comparison to the book – which is to be expected, given the themes and the way they play out in the latter. But I highly recommend the book, even to adults – and especially to adults who want to write for the teen or young-adult markets.
Scholastic Books has launched Storia, their eBook download application. They indicate over 1500 titles available, ranging from pre-K to “7 and up”.
So Scholastic is finally getting with the program; not a choice, really, given the proliferation of eReaders. Unfortunately, in perusing their site, I don’t see anything that allows for self-published or eBook-only publications. So, at least for now, no bypassing the traditional publishing model.
It was my pleasure this afternoon to speak to the After School Writing Club at Travis Elementary in Houston, TX. I was invited by a fourth grade fan of our book (thanks, Anthony!), and enjoyed the opportunity to speak to them about writing in general, and In the Shadow of Ares in particular.
Based on the level of interest and strong questions that met my presentation, I have no doubt that some really good stories will emerge from this smart, enthusiastic group.
March 11 will see the release of Mars Needs Moms, a computer-animated Disney movie based on the children’s book by Berkeley Breathed. I’ve read the book to my children, and look forward to taking them to see the adaptation. It will be interesting to see if a film based on a 700-odd word story can stand on its own, or if it will be an afternoon wasted, a la The Polar Express.
Of course, I’m hoping for the former. Even if realism is out the window, anything that gets the next generation interested in Mars is a good thing. What I’d really like to see, however, is some realistic Hollywood fare to get kids excited about Mars. In the Shadow of Ares would be a great place to start.
A driving force behind In the Shadow of Ares, going back to our 2001 decision to write the novel, was a desire for more optimism in science fiction. We wanted to provide a vision of a hopeful future, as a counterbalance to all the negative, anti-human, post-apocalyptic stories that seem to dominate the genre today.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of outstanding stories that include some of those elements. Still, a hallmark of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” was certainly the bright, shiny future that was ours to grasp. I for one miss that hopeful optimism. Not only does the current wave of negativism drive away younger fans, but it’s unhealthy for society at large to fear technology and lack hope for the future.
There are a few others who see the same deficiency and are trying to fill it with the occasional positive novel or anthology. I recently came across an interesting, if dated, discussion thread on Asimov’s Science Fiction, appropriately titled “Canon of Optimistic Science Fiction“. One comment included the following observation:
A good deal of “Libertarian Science Fiction” is optimistic though and so is some Young-Adult SF.
Chilean scientists along with scientists from several other countries will construct a base in the most-arid desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama (where the 33 miners got trapped) aiming to simulate life in a space colony on the planet Mars, which shares a lot of characteristics with Atacama.
While the tie-in to the Chilean mine rescue is interesting, it is not clear if mining will play a significant role in any simulations. It would certainly seem to be relevant. As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements.
At least the Chinese seem to think so:
In March 2011, a delegation from the Chinese space agency will visit the Chilean desert project. The Chinese are projecting that by 2020 they will have below-ground bases on the Moon to extract minerals and are eager to research and test their cutting edge space technology.
Where can we expect the United States to be in 2020? Will the recent shift to private enterprise see the economic and regulatory incentives necessary for this fledgling industry to survive and thrive?