A few weeks ago, my very smart friend Jen mentioned on Twitter that she was reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. My reactions, in order, were, “Awesome!” and, “Really?” Because (aside from superhero stories) Jen is not much for my beloved scifi/fantasy genres. So while I’d classify The Hunger Games as “book that you should read regardless of genre,” it wasn’t something I’d have recommended to her.
We had the following exchange:
Me: Ooooh. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, though I probably wouldn’t have recced it to you.
Jen: I love dystopias! And I loved the movie of Battle Royale. So I think I will like this.
Me: How did I not know that about you??? (I guess I think dystopia = scifi = not so much your interest?)
Jen: I don’t see dystopia as sci-fi; if anything, it’s the reverse of historical fiction, which I also love.
Me: That is really interesting! I tend to think of it as just a sf subgenre, but I can see why you don’t.
Interesting thought, filed away for “things to think about later,” though I never really did. Until I ran across this post on io9 in Google Reader. I clicked over because that was the first time I’d seen a cover or title for the final book in Wasserman’s Skinned series — which I will definitely buy in hardcover as soon as it comes out — and the actual post turned out to be a question of whether or not YA has moved on from scifi.
My initial reaction is, um, no, especially not given the fantastic success of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, as well as Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, and a handful of others. But the post posits that the argument for YA not being big on scifi right now is based on not counting dystopias like the ones I just mentioned as science fiction. Interesting, especially because almost all of the YA scifi I can think of — at least published recently — is very near-future, is dystopian, or both.
Innnnnnteresting. So if you have thoughts, please throw them out in the comments! Do you consider dystopian novels part of a larger science fiction genre, or are they their own beast? Does it depend on the story? (Any recs? Because I need a longer reading list…)
So, speaking of what is big in YA, an interesting link: Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs:
Twilight is more than a teen dream. It’s a massive cultural force. Yet the very girliness that has made it such a success has resulted in its being marginalized and mocked. Of course, you won’t find many critics lining up to defend Dan Brown or Tom Clancy, either; mass-market success rarely coincides with literary acclaim. But male escapist fantasies — which, as anyone who has seen Die Hard or read those Tom Clancy novels can confirm, are not unilaterally sophisticated, complex, or forward-thinking — tend to be greeted with shrugs, not sneers. The Twilight backlash is vehement, and it is just as much about the fans as it is about the books. Specifically, it’s about the fact that those fans are young women.
I’m no fan of Twilight, but that’s not really what the article is about. It isn’t a question of whether Twilight is good or bad, it’s about why Twilight fans are greeted with sneers and disdain. Hint: because girls like it. And quality and content of the novels aside, that’s not an okay reason to dismiss them.
And continuing in that vein, tween stars. Jen (the same Jen as above) passed on a link she realized would be relevant to my interests: Smells Like an Ethnically Divided Teen Star System
The editor who chose to display the photos in this manner might argue it was simply artful to play up contrasts. And it’s not to argue that the “ethnic” stars have particularly dark skin (this is Hollywood, after all), just that they are racialized as not exactly white, and the positioning next to “whiter” stars makes this assertion stronger. Moreover, the juxtaposition eerily echoes the way in which leaked gossip in 2008 characterized Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana actress and singer Miley Cyrus (the arguably All-American daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus) as unfriendly rivals and ultimately positioned Gomez and purported BFF Demi Lovato, another Disney actress and singer also of half-Mexican heritage, in a separate camp from their more EuroAmerican counterparts at Disney. Is the conglomerate thinking of teen celebrity promotion in relation to ethnic blocs?
Interesting stuff. There’s also a good point in the comments; most of the ethnically ambiguous actors you see on Nick and Disney and even the CW are female; with the exception of Taylor Lautner and his Amazing Abs, the young, male heartthrob ideal remains pretty freaking white. I can think of a few other Disney kids who are ethnically ambiguous, and a few who are non-ambiguously African-American — but they aren’t kids who are being set up to follow the Zac Efron mold, either, which makes me think Lautner is an exception that proves the rule.
And now, because it is a lazy Sunday, I think I will take a nap. (Translation: I have no idea how to conclude this blog post.)