What does YA SF Need?

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I need your insights! (In 20 days I’ll present at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland). My topic: Young-adult science fiction.

  • What are some of your all-time favourite SF books–that are either readable for YA (ages 12+) or could reasonably fit into the YA category?
  • What do you wish publishers/writers/literary agents would consider for YA SF?
  • What types of characters and futures do you think are currently missing from the YA SF diaspora?

All comments entered into random drawing for the following: a free copy of one of my SF short stories or the first chapter of one of my books (your pick!) Three winners will be chosen. Deadline for insights: July 31st @ 10.00am (Munich, DE time zone).

Tea & Chemo by Jackie Buxton

You don’t have to have a cancer diagnosis to enjoy this book!

My father and good friend recently survived cancer and I found Jackie’s portrayal of the experience of debilitating disease to be most uplifting and heart-warming. I suffer from an immune disorder that often makes life very unpleasant.  I was personally inspired by Jackie’s account of how she fought for life and tried to embrace the brighter side of suffering, which is something I need to learn to do!  Jackie’s upbeat statement: “Why NOT me?” really made me consider the difficulty my friends and family have undergone during their cancer treatments and follow-up therapies to keep disease at bay. Jackie doesn’t whitewash how incredibly scared she was, at times. As the mother of two daughters she had to find a way of coming to grips with the possibility of not seeing her daughters grow up.  Thankfully, Jackie is currently cancer free, but as she points out, this doesn’t mean she, or anyone else is out of the “danger zone.”

I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone: those with no experience with cancer, but whom need a little inspiration, those with family members suffering from cancer, or people like me, who have a lifelong non-curable immune disorder that makes life unpleasant a lot.  The best part about Tea & Chemo is that a huge portion of the proceeds from book sales are donated to cancer research.

I was really uplifted by Jackie’s book and look forward to reading Glass Houses, now available in both hard-copy and online here.

Stunning debut: Paris Mon Amour

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A wonder and a delight, Isabel Costello’s debut, Paris Mon Amour has all the ingredients of an engaging novel that will definitely be hard to put down. Alexandra, the main character, is at a critical point in her life when she says, “I ask myself if, on average, other people are happier than me.” Waylaid between a past disaster and the present state of her marriage, Alexandra is a character I can relate to and empathise with, despite huge cultural differences. Each of the characters are so beautifully drawn that I was a part of Alexandra’s struggle for love and personal acceptance. Costello does an incredible job of balancing humour, passion, and evoking the atmosphere of one of the world’s most beloved cities. This is a novel I enjoyed living inside. Paris Mon Amour caused me to question many of the assumptions I hold dear about the nature of romantic love and what it means to find your identity when you are caught between cultures.

Available here starting June 13, 2016.

One by Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah Crossan
This is one of the most requested novels for my students to borrow. I had to finally tell them they had to buy their own copy before they ruined mine!
Crossan perfectly portrays two girls who wish to live as normally as they can in a completely abnormal situation. This book is really well suited for teens ages 12+ who can relate to trying to understand their changing bodies, while still maintaining a sense of control over their identity.
For Grace and Tippi, the whole experience of becoming a teenager is complicated by their fused bodies and inability to live separately. Though both would love to have their own lives, they are aware that the dangers of separation could extinguish both their lives. I highly recommend this incredibly well written novel for both teens and adults.
NB: For those living in the EU, I find that bookdepository.com has far more competitive rates on shipping than amazon.co.uk, for those without a military postal box.  I tend to price compare when reading UK titles between amazon and Book Depository and have been quite pleased with Book Depository’s customer service.

Entwine With Nature by K Williams

(This essay was written by a twelve-year old young lady living in Weiden, Germany.  K enjoys acting, baking sweets, and singing.  K is one of our latest Young Voices being featured here on Murasaki Press.)

We, as humans, have our lives based upon nature. Not realizing this has led us to a broken environment. All of our resources can be traced back to the natural world. Millions of sea animals are killed every day because of us.

It may seem terrifying that we are ruining our earth but some people do not seem to care. Our terrain is the staple that holds all cultures together. If you look at all the cultures of the world you get a sense of how they treat it. Some people care about our world more than others.

Walking in the woods or swimming in the ocean, surprisingly, can be a remedy or method of relaxation. If you think about a spot that you would love to be in right now, I am guessing that you probably picked someplace that has to do with the outdoors.

Imagine walking on a cement path, cars honk and steam billows into the air causing a smoky odor that pricks your nose. You then walk into a clothing shop as an ancient shopkeeper walks over to you smiling in fashionable ensemble. You feel strange getting the same outfit as the old lady, but it looks good.  Next, you walk out of the small store to a fancy hotel filled with fragile glass figurines scattered over everything. This is where you will stay.

Seems stressful, right? We plowed down wildlife to build the above scenario. Now for a less nerve wracking scene: you feel and hear crunching snow and pine needles as you  walk through a white forest wonderland. You feel peace, spirituality and God’s love for you. After minutes of magical silence the sky brings down white snow so you decide to step in your small cottage made of bricks. You open a simple wood door and are greeted by a warm, soft bed and a cheerfully popping fire.

Nature, like in the scene above, can bring peace and joy. If we destroy nature we are destroying a vital part of all of our lives and us. We and nature are one and the same. We are a part of it and are destroying an important part of us along with our natural world.

Important Questions

In a recent conversation with a fellow writer, he highlighted the importance of reading in my life and how my love (and often voracious omnivore reading habits) of the written word isn’t overtly stated in a memoir I’m writing about growing up Mormon in Japan.

A lot of people, when they hear the premise of my memoir, ask, “So are you still Mormon?”  I always answer “yes” because it’s true, I am.  However, it surprises me how narrowly my faith is defined.  Culturally, I don’t fit well into the “typical LDS” stereotype.  Sadly, LDS/Mormon stereotypes exist because not enough people are aware of the diversity in what is considered a “new American” church.

My father raised me to believe in faith as something deeply personal, a matter which often cannot be properly conveyed in words.  As I write this memoir, I struggle with putting my beliefs into words.

I question where I belong in what is rapidly becoming a global church with a very strong emphasis on family.  When I watch General Conference we no longer have speakers for whom English is their primarily language.  I like this diversity of nations and languages.  It makes me feel more comfortable about my own very multi-cultural upbringing as I’ve lived over half of my life outside of the country I was born in.

For a lot of people their culture of origin doesn’t matter.  One of my favourite friends in the whole world made a startling revelation to me as we walked across the London Bridge.  “My cultural identity doesn’t matter to me, because my identity is truly in Christ.  Nothing else matters.”  I nodded my head and thought, “Yeah that’s my new mantra.”

However, it only worked for so long.  Identity is this sticky thing, and when you’re writing about it in  sociocultural religious context s it makes it ever more interesting.  Writing about your life and debating what defined you growing up and what defines you now isn’t a fluid process.  Identity isn’t a fixed point.  You can’t foreclose on a particular label and make it applicable.  Humans don’t work that way.

It is difficult to envision a certain label being applied to me when I say, “I’m still Mormon.”  Generally people are surprised because they expect something different and although I am flattered that maybe I’m being an iconoclast I also want to be accepted within a variety of contexts and not feel like an outsider because I happen to be religious.

What is even more puzzling is how often people of faith have difficulty with questions.  Like “label affixers,” I find within Mormon culture a need to have solid, practical answers that quash all doubt.  For a long time I have struggled with doubts about a variety of things in my life, like any human being.  But, somehow having questions about matters of faith or philosophy I felt guilty about.

A member of my congregation said it best when she was talking about a controversial issue surrounding women holding the priesthood, “I like to be able to talk about issues without having to make up my mind about anything.” When she said that I was a little scared, thinking that the thought police might catch us. (Not really, but it is enjoyable to be rather dramatic about my fears).

When a former professor sent me a link to this radio broadcast I found a wonderful answer through Melissa Leilani Larson’s interview.  Instead of having LDS members portrayed as very stock characters, I was relieved by Larsons questions about the future of our faith and what would happen in a fictional future if a certain solution was provided for single females in the church.

I like investigating beliefs that I hold dear. By having a conversation bonds can be formed between people instead of barriers due to a lack of sameness.  I would like to believe that people of all faiths and beliefs can have conversations from a variety of vantage points.

The most important questions I have been asked are from fellow writers who accept each other, as we are, as we believe.  Writers are some of the most generous and giving people I know on earth.  And I believe that as I keep asking questions, answers may or may not come, but perhaps the important part is the seeking and not the arrival at a set answer in time.