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On YA Dystopias...

Psst! Did you know darchildre was reading Icelandic sagas and sharing the recorded narrations? Run, don't walk, to partake of the goodness.


And now, on the subject of YA dystopias...

* From The New York Times: "Our Young-Adult Dystopia" by Michelle Dean. There are some interesting assertions here, especially in the context of Divergent and The Bone Season:
"I often wonder if the people in charge of these decisions noticed that Rowling was 30 when she sold Harry Potter, or that Collins was 46 when The Hunger Games appeared.... Forgive the presumption, but our present circumstances lead me to suggest another item for C.S. Lewis’s list: We like these stories because they have a special relationship with time. Children’s literature toys with our chronological expectations because the best of it has always been written, actually, by the comparatively elderly. Lewis himself was 51 when the Narnia books came out; Lois Lowry was 56 when The Giver was published; Madeleine L’Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time in her 40s, and L. Frank Baum his Oz books in the same decade of his life. Age is what the greats have in common. The long years between adolescence and middle age seem to be necessary soil for this craft."

* On a related note, from Charles Stross: "Generation Z." (Thanks to whswhs.)
Stross articulates some of the questions I've been asking in my work:
"There has been a boom market in dystopian young adult fiction over the past decade. There is a reason for this. Play and recreation is an important training mechanism in young mammals by which they practice or rehearse activities that will fit them for later adult life experiences. (It's also fun, but bear with me while I discuss the more ploddingly puritan angle for a moment.) Could it be that the popularity of YA dystopias reflects the fact that our youngest generation of readers expect to live out their lives in dystopia? (The alternative explanations hold that (a) high school in the age of helicopter parenting, fingerprint readers in the library, and CCTV in the corridors is an authoritarian dystopia anyway, and YA dys-fic helps kids understand their environment; and (b) that worse, their parents (who influence their reading) think this.)"

Catching Fire


On a less dystopian note, happy early birthday wishes to angelinehawkes, idwoman, pseudoanorexic, vyrdolak, lyria_theringer, bistokidsfan77, catw, dragonrose1125, dduane, lexie_marie, jalara, theladyrose, elvenjoy, jan_u_wine, gondoriangirl, vivien529, and senket. May each of you enjoy many happy returns of the day!

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
jan_u_wine
May. 1st, 2014 12:33 pm (UTC)
thank you, Amy!
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:25 pm (UTC)
I hope you'll have a great one!
estellye
May. 1st, 2014 12:54 pm (UTC)
That is exactly what I have been thinking. These stories are about individuals revolting against and surviving in spite of efforts to control and diminish them, they are about revolution, and at least the possibility of creating something new from the ashes. We can't really blame novelists for being a bit skeptical about just how great that new thing will be in times like this. Am I wrong in thinking that history supports that this sort of dystopic fiction has tended to appear prior to and during times of social upheaval and are often followed by periods of comparative harmony and prosperity? I'm trying to look at this as a hopeful sign for the future, help me out, here. ;)
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
We can't really blame novelists for being a bit skeptical about just how great that new thing will be in times like this.

Good point!

Am I wrong in thinking that history supports that this sort of dystopic fiction has tended to appear prior to and during times of social upheaval

No, I think you're spot on! That's certainly what it looks like to me.

and are often followed by periods of comparative harmony and prosperity?

Erm, I'm not quite as confident about this, to be honest. I'm working on it. ;)

I'm trying to look at this as a hopeful sign for the future, help me out, here. ;)

LOL! I do think there's good reason to find *some* hope in this trend (the ongoing success of The Hunger Games, for example, strikes me as very positive, given the ideas in the books) -- and in the attention it's drawing, too. There's also an argument that suggests that the trend says a lot more about the writers' generation(s) than the YA audience itself, which raises a whole different set of questions. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it all.

whswhs
May. 1st, 2014 01:25 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that high school students have lived in dystopian societies for a long time now.

Did you ever see a little book called Coming of Age in America, by Edgar Z. Friedenberg? It's a curiously radical work: Friedenberg starts out by saying that high school trains students for adult life by treating all the basic rights of citizens in a democratic society as privileges to be revoked by authority, and ends by calling for the abolition of compulsory education. In between he describes students reactions to six vignettes about life in a fictitious high school ("LeMoyen High School"), including an almost literary one about the son of a wealthy lawyer falling in love with a boy from a lower class background, having the whistle blown on him by a jealous would-be girlfriend (named "Monica St. Loup"!), and having his loss and grief dealt with by ordering him to see a psychiatrist. Friedenberg's commentary is often quite witty. I read it when I was in ninth grade and discovered a lot more depth in it when I came across a copy a few years ago and picked it up.

But I suspect the dystopian aspects are getting worse, if only because the aspects of society that are nightmarish to an introvert like me seem to be getting stronger.
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that high school students have lived in dystopian societies for a long time now.

Excellent point. (And it's quite possibly getting worse, as you say...)

I haven't seen Coming of Age in America, but wow, it sounds very relevant, not to mention fascinating. I'm definitely going to track down a copy. Thanks so much for the recommendation!
febobe
May. 1st, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, Icelandic sagas! When I can stick around later, I'll go visit. :)

This is one of your best posts ever, IMO. :)

Thanks,
Febobe :)
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC)
Oh yay! Thanks! *hugs*
darchildre
May. 1st, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much for spreading the link. 8)
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:37 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! Thank you for sharing your recordings!
splix
May. 1st, 2014 03:50 pm (UTC)
I wish I could remember where I saw the article that mentioned the same basic concept of growing up with dystopian fiction and expecting to exist in a dystopia, and how that's actually lowering the desire to do stuff like recycle, because what's the point? It was sobering. :-/
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
Ack! Sounds very sobering indeed. :( There's a chicken-and-egg issue somewhere in there that I'm still trying to work out.
wellinghall
May. 1st, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
We've just got back from Orkney, which has its very own Icelandic saga - the Orkneyinga saga.
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:39 pm (UTC)
Yay! Your Orkney pics were breathtaking, by the way. What an amazing trip.

Edited at 2014-05-18 08:40 pm (UTC)
wellinghall
May. 19th, 2014 06:01 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! :-)
angelinehawkes
May. 1st, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! :) Happy birthday to my Birthday "Twinsies"!
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:40 pm (UTC)
Yay! :D
amedia
May. 1st, 2014 06:23 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated by the passage from Stross.

A dear friend of mine who passed away recently (she was in her 80's) was an English prof who marveled at the exuberance of Chaucer contrasted with the comparative uncertainty and brevity of life in those days. Whereas people nowadays, with our far higher life expectancy and standard of living, tend to be overwhelmed by depression, ennui, anomie, and all those other French words.

It occurs to me that the music of the 1980's has that Chaucerian paradox in it--I mean, some of the best and catchiest dance music emerged from the shadow of the constant threat of nuclear war. We're "on the edge of oblivion" ("Everybody Wang Chung Tonight"), "we could all die any day" ("1999"), and yet "we can dance if we want to" ("The Safety Dance").

Since the end of the Cold War and the removal of this constant fear, people don't seem any happier; in fact, they seem a lot less happy. Maybe we NEED some sort of darkness, and by golly, if the world doesn't oblige us with plague or nuclear threats, we'll make up our own.
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 10:45 pm (UTC)
I love your description of the Chaucerian paradox your friend identified. I see exactly what you mean about how this appeared in 1980's pop music. (I vividly remember dancing to the perky beat of "99 Luftballons" as it described an accidental nuclear apocalypse. "If I could find a souvenir, just to prove the world was here...")

Since the end of the Cold War and the removal of this constant fear, people don't seem any happier; in fact, they seem a lot less happy.

Very true. Looking at some of the poll data (exiting high schoolers, entering/exiting college students) for the Millennial generation, I am getting the impression that those who have been raised with the greatest stability (speaking broadly and historically) are also far more likely to assume the end is nigh than previous generations. It appears to be a strange mix of high self-esteem and dire expectations.

Maybe we NEED some sort of darkness, and by golly, if the world doesn't oblige us with plague or nuclear threats, we'll make up our own.

Good point. Hmmm....
elvenjoy
May. 2nd, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
Thank you Amy! And Happy Birthday to my fellow May peeps! :)
eldritchhobbit
May. 18th, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
You're most welcome! *hugs*
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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