Thursday, January 17, 2008

Orson Scott Card wins award for "writing for teens".

Orson Scott Card has been given the Margaret A. Edwards Award. " The award, established in 1988, honors an author and a specific portion of his or her work, and is administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and sponsored by School Library Journal." Not everyone is pleased. There is a write up here in which David Levithan (an author whose work I adore writes,

“I would like to believe that the Edwards committee would not have honored someone who had written essays that were as racist or as anti-Semitic as Card’s are anti-gay,” he says. “The charter of the Edwards award says that it “recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world”—I think Card’s writings on homosexuality do the exact opposite of that.”

I have two opinions on this, and the following was posted at the hornbook editor's blog.

Card's older books have been repackaged for teens, but he has never to my knowledge set out to write for teens (and I've heard him speak several times).

I am afraid, fan of his work that I am, I also share Levithan's feelings that here is someone who holds views about me and mine, that if they were concerned with my religion rather than my sexuality would be abhored by the same committee as has just presented him an award. It's rather shameful that hate speech against gay people is defended under "freedom of speech". Card is indeed free to say such things, but we are also free to point out their repulsiveness, and no one is obliged to ignore them.

See here for an example of Card's writing on the subject.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Because, you know, there isn't any amazing science fiction for kids and teens being written today.

The Nominations for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy 2008.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling, J. K. (Scholastic Press, Jul07)
Into the Wild - Durst, Sarah Beth (Penguin Razorbill, Jun07)
Vintage: A Ghost Story - Berman, Steve (Haworth Positronic Press, Mar07)
Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog - Wilce, Ysabeau S. (Harcourt, Jan07)

My personal nominations for best YA sf of 2007:

Baxter, Stephen. The H-Bomb Girl. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.
Bertagna, Julie. Zenith. London: Picador (PanMacMillan), 2007.
Daley, Michael J. Shanghaied to the Moon. New York: Putnam & Sons, 2007.
Lennon, Joan. Questors. London: Puffin, 2007.
McGann, Oisin. Ancient Appetites. London: Random House, 2007.
---. Small Minded Giants. London: Doubleday, 2007.
Reeve, Philip. Starcross. London: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Only one of the above is published in the US, and the SFWA decided that this would be a useful criteria.

Next year look out for Cory Doctorow's _Little Brother_. I'll blog it here soon.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nowhere on Earth: Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubenstein. (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1992).

Three children are kidnapped to become gymnasts in an alien circus, but the middle girl is no good and is sent instead to be a pet. There she discovers that they are really still on earth and the "aliens" are very elderly and rich humans.

The book is interesting less for the plot than for the really excellent contextualisation. The children are all from war zones, lost and unregarded. The circus brutalises them but one of the older children has attempted to create a lingua franca patois and to create some kind of dignity and collaboration. Rubenstein does an excellent job of depicting slavery, the process of divide and rule, and active reistance.

Addicted to the future? E. M. Goldman, The Night Room (New York: Viking Penguin, 1995)

Seven teenagers are invited to take part in a virtual reality programme which "anticipates" their future, casting a projection based on their hopes, ambitions and characters. The first five each have worryng experiences, but most worrying is the absence of one of their number. All the data suggests that she died in high school. They set out to protect her.

It turns out that someone whose girlfriend has split up with him on the basis of the projection he saw has planted a "death" in the programme for the sixth person to go (the final clue is when the teens realise that a shift in the order has changed the target: the person missing in the first projection is not the same person as was missing in the other four).

The book has much to offer: first these are real characters, not avatars, who react in ways that make sense for who they are. Each of them is a complex person with personal politics stitiched into a wider school scene (no "righteousness" on diplay of either liberal or rightist type). Goldman is also careful to emphasise that what is presented is a projection, not a real prediction. None of it may be true. All the students are competent in individual ways. Parents are portrayed as complex and as people who are part of their children's lives without being rescuers'. One of the students reads sf and carefully feeds her reading into the book (which is in part a thinking through of a science fiction convention speech about the real life perils of a holodeck).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Boys Own Space Adventure: Starcross by Philip Reeve (London: Bloomsbury, 2007)

A sequel to Larklight, Starcross sees Arthur Mumby, his sister Myrtle and their several million year old Mother invited on holiday to the asteroid resort of Starcross. There they meet intelligent hats, discover a dastardly plot and defend the British Space Empire against the machinations of a French spy, daughter of the failed American revolutionary Wild Bill Melville. At the end the irritatingly prim Myrtle decides to study alchemy in order to prove to her love, the ex-pirate Jack Havock, that she really is the girl for him.