Is it just me?

Is it just me, or are Young Adult (YA) books going the way of their older sibling, the New Adult (NA)?

First, let me define what I mean by YA and NA.

Young adult fiction is fiction where the protagonist is a teenager. Usually mid-late teens rather than early teens. It is often a coming of age story. While the intended audience is teenagers themselves, these books are often also read by adults.

New adult fiction was intended to be stories about people just into adulthood. Late teens or early twenty-somethings. About what happens to teenagers after they finish secondary school and start on the next period of their life.  University/College, or work.

Or, as Cora Carmack succinctly wrote on her blog a few years back:

Young Adult books are about surviving adolescence and coming of age. New Adult is about how to live your life after that. New Adult is the “I’m officially an adult, now what?” phase.  Just like growing up, that life stage is different for everyone, but I do think there are some things that are constant.

Cora Carmack, The one about what new adult means to me

Except new adult very quickly turned into a specific type of book. Post-young adults and sex. In fact, it has a reputation as ‘sexed-up* young adult’ stories.

And you expect this, for yes, people that age are likely to have sex. Most of them, anyway. Many teens have sex as well, and one expects that to be reflected in young adult books too, although often not as explicitly.

I would also add, primary audience for new adult books appears to be female.

Young adult and new adult are marketing groupings, a way of putting books together in a bookstore so that the desired audience (people of around the same age or a little younger than the protagonists) can easily identify the books they want to read, books about people like them.

But it’s not just readers the age of the protagonists who read these books.  Adults do too, and voracious, mature younger readers as well.

I read a lot of young adult books. Fairly obviously, I enjoy them.  But lately they’re all starting to sound the same. So much so that the last three I picked up, I put down without reading past chapter two. In every one of the three books the heroine was an angsty 16-17 year-old. She hates, or is angry with, a handsome, superior boy a year or two older than herself. The only difference in all three books was the best friend.  One was a girl, and I wasn’t sure if she’d stick by the girl to the bitter end or betray her, another was the quiet, ever helpful guy as best friend who you knew would turn out to be secretly in love with the protagonist.  The third book didn’t have a best friend.

Sigh.

I need to read more widely.

 

* There’s a list on Goodreads, New Adult that’s not about sex. It looks to have interesting books, with authors like Rainbow Rowell. I think I might go and re-read Carry On.

Copyedits – the new book is coming fast

 

Stars Uncharted

The copy edits for Stars Uncharted came back on Thursday.

By this time in the writing process Sherylyn has taken over all the editing on the book, so while she carefully works through each edit, I continue working on an early draft of the next book.

So far, she’s seeing lots of comma changes, a few missed/added words, and some questions about the timeline.

So, not too bad, so far.  We’ll see if it stays as clean as we get into it.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of red markup, because there is, but they’re small things, like the commas, or slight grammar issues.

We have to get the copyedits back by the end of this month, and our author portal tells us the book will be out in August next year.  It’s a long way away, but it’s also coming fast.

 

Passionate writing

Some of the best passionate writing comes out of things you feel strongly about. Given today’s political climate, it’s not surprising that a lot of people feel strongly about politics and prejudices.  I’d like to point to Chuck Wendig’s The Game Is Rigged as an example of some strong, powerful writing.

 

Some things you take for granted

Hmm. There are some things you take for granted.  I would never have expected anyone to consider Leckie’s use of pronouns anything but deliberate, but I suppose, if you hadn’t read her first books, maybe you would think they were typos.

I enjoyed Provenance, by the way, and I’m so envious of the way Leckie managed to make Ingray such a different person to Breq. The weird thing is, even though the story is nothing like—and I mean absolutely nothing like—Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, this is the book it reminded me of.  I still can’t pick why.  Maybe it’s the hopeful tone.

Conflux roundup

Vibe hotel, Canberra. Image from hotel website.

One of our goals this year was to go to a science fiction convention.

We’ve been to conferences in the past, but they’re all aimed at writers. Genrecon, RWA. But we’ve never been to a con specifically for speculative fiction. Nor one that’s not just about writing but about consuming what has been written.

We missed our local—Melbourne—con, Continuum. This was back in June, and I had work commitments.

Our next-nearest convention was Conflux, in Canberra, which always seemed to have good mix of topics. Not only that, the con was at the Vibe hotel, which is at the airport and meant we only had a walk a few hundred metres once we got off the plane. It sounds a weird place for a con, but it worked really well.

The conference was also held during Canberra’s Floriade festival. We thought maybe we could sneak away for a couple of hours and look at flowers.

We couldn’t make all four days, only the weekend, so another advantage was the reasonable day rates.

We arrived Saturday morning, checked in our baggage, and joined the fun.

Everyone was friendly, approachable, and easy to talk to.

The guests of honour were great, the panels interesting and informed.  Standouts for me were:

  • Steampunk martial arts (Rik Lagarto, Aiki Flintheart, Laura Goodin and Madeleine D’Este). An entertaining look at how one protects oneself wearing Victorian garments.
  • To PhD or not to PhD (Angela Slatter, Cat Sparks, Tim Napper, Donna Hanson, Rachel le Rossignol). I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I came away thinking maybe I should try for a PhD.
  • Putting science in stories (Ellen Datlow, Craig Cormick, Rob Porteous, Dion Perry). An interesting topic.

The first two sessions were on the Saturday, the third on Sunday.

Plus, there was our own panel on the Sunday morning, Starting writing later in life. Sherylyn and I did this with Laura Goodin, with Zena Shapter moderating.  If you were there, you were a great audience, interested and engaged, and you participated, which is what every panellist hopes for when they sit down there at the front.  Thank you.

We didn’t get to Floriade. There was too much happening at the Vibe, and we were having a good time there. I’d recommend it as a conference for first-timers. It was small, it was friendly.  Even better, they had a ‘first-timer’ rate, where you could go along for one day at half price.

Conflux 2017

Zena Shapter (right) launching Towards White at Conflux on Saturday afternoon. Zena’s hosting a panel we’re on later today (Sunday), along with Laura E. Goodin. Come along and see us all.

This weekend we’re at Conflux, in Canberra. I have to say, the weather today is beautiful.

Canberra is only about 400km from where we grew up, so this is almost home territory for us.

Fishy facts

Did you know that when you catch snapper they sometimes have a bump on their head?

According to a fisherman I heard on the radio yesterday morning, he’s seen the bumps and he’s seen the fish banging their head against a reef to get the crustaceans out. (He was diving at the time, not fishing.)

The radio host talking with him added this fun fact.  In their search for said crustaceans, snapper can die from eating too much of the mud along the bottom of the sea,

How do I know this?

I’ve had my clock radio ten years now. It’s nothing fancy. It does the job.  I can see it when I wake in the night. Most important, it’s easy to reset if the power goes out.  The one I had before that was horrible. It had one button to reset the time.  You pressed it and the minutes would flick by, one second at a time.  Hold your finger down for a few seconds and the time speeds up.  But, take your finger off too late and you go past the time you wanted to set it to and had to go around the whole 24 hours again.

Back in those days, we had quite a few power problems, too.

So I like my (now ten years old) clock. The alarm wakes me in the morning with news and music and weather.  That’s all I want. I don’t need—don’t want—talkback radio first thing in the morning. Seriously, all I want to do is go back to sleep.

The alarm itself is an AM radio.  Who needs an alarm like this anyway when you’ve got a phone with an alarm on it?

I do, because I forget my phone if it’s in the bedroom.

I might need to start using my phone soon, however, because many of the radio stations have left the AM band. (And sometimes on the FM band too.)  Some of them are going digital. A lot are closing down.

The only thing that’s making money at the moment are the talkback stations, and you know what I think of them for waking up to.  I don’t mind them later in the day, just not first thing.

So this is the third radio station I’ve had to switch to in the last two years.  On weekdays they play music, but on Saturday morning they have a fishing show.

It’s kind of surreal.  Saturday mornings I wake up to little snippets of fishing trivia like the above. In between gale warnings, and ringing various fishermen around the bay, and on the rivers, to find out where the fish are biting and what type of fish are being caught in that area.

Goodbye Cassini. Thanks for all the data

So I watched the last minutes of Cassini on Friday night (Melbourne time).  Got a bit teary, I must admit.

The Cassini-Huygens mission ran for twenty-seven years. The module itself was launched into space on 15 October 1997.

The Huygens module broke away and went on to Titan, while Cassini spent 13 years orbiting Saturn.

The decision to destroy the probe has a lot to do with protecting Saturn’s fascinating moons from contamination. Thanks to [Cassini] we now know that some of these worlds hide liquid water and may have the potential to support life.

Eric Mack, CNET, How NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will dive-bomb Saturn and die

Well done, Cassini, and responsible science, too.

There’s this great cartoon by Erika Neskvold (@erikanesvold) going around the Twitterverse, which I think anyone who had an interest in Cassini might appreciate.

I’m not sure about copyright here, so I’m not reproducing it on my blog, but here’s the link.

Answers to last week’s quiz

So last week we asked you to name some characters from speculative fiction you thought you really shouldn’t like, but did.

This week we have some answers for you. If you haven’t done the quiz, go and do it now.

I used to be a hero, until I got tortured. Now I’m the torturer. I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

A measure of how well readers love a character is at author talks, when lots of the audience ask specific questions about one character.

The first time I heard Joe Abercrombie talk was at GenreCon Australia.  Come question time, it seemed that all anyone wanted to talk about was Sand dan Glokta, from Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. You could tell, from the way the audience reacted to both the questions and the answers, that they loved Glokta.

And you have to admit, he is a great character. Even though he does torture people. You even make excuses for him. He’s in pain all the time, he was tortured himself.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

Here’s a perfect example of a character who has a reputation that doesn’t gel with who he is.

Hell Tanner, from Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. He’s the opposite of the unreliable narrator. It’s external people who say he’s one thing, he behaves in another way.  That is, we’re told he’s a monster, murder and rapist (and no doubt he is), but we see him as a someone who loves his brother, and tries to stop him going into danger.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

Louis and Angel, from John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series of books.

These are two more characters popular with readers. I first heard about Louis and Angel when I went to a dinner organised by one of our bookstores, Dymock’s. John gave a talk. A member of the audience wanted to talk about Louis and Angel. You could hear from the response of the other people in the room that it was a popular question.

Sherylyn, who has since read some of the Charlie Parker books, agrees. Louis and Angel are great.

They even get their own book, in The Reapers.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh? But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

This one was easy, yes.

Death, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

What else can I say?

Except that Death is a great character.

 

 

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

 

I sort of wish we could write characters like Jack Holloway, from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. I don’t think a lot of Jack, and I still can’t work out if he’s deliberately written to be a decent man who hides the fact that he does a decent thing behind a facade wisecracking and moral unpleasantness, or whether I just didn’t like him much.

I sort of don’t wish we could write them, too, because Jack wasn’t a great person. The closest we’d get to someone like that is Jordan Rossi (in the unpublished Acquard stories, not in Linesman.)

Or maybe not.

Loved the book, didn’t know what to think about Jack, even after the story finished.

 

How did you go?

Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to hear either Joe Abercrombie or John Connolly talk, go along. They’re both great speakers.

Quiz: Characters you like, but feel you shouldn’t

We haven’t had a quiz for a while, so let’s talk about characters who really aren’t nice, but you like them anyway.

They’re all speculative fiction (and the fact that we used that word rather than fantasy and science fiction is a clue in itself, folks, as one is more a mystery with supernatural elements). Some of them are anti-heroes, some secondary characters in other books.

Also, your degree of ‘not nice’ may differ from ours, especially for the last one. It’s subjective.

 

   I used to be a hero, until I got tortured.  Now I’m the torturer.  I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh?  But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

You may not consider this guy unlikeable. We do, but we can’t work out if he’s deliberately meant to be an unpleasant man who turns out okay, or if he’s supposed to be an okay man who just doesn’t work for us as a character.

We’ve actually mentioned our ambivalence about him in another blog post (and that’s another clue). You decide.

 

How do you think you went?

Answers next week.

Why I’ll take Wonder Woman over Sarah Connor any day

“She’s an objectified icon … to me, it’s a step backwards.”

[Cameron] believes one of his popular protagonists, Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, sets a better example for female leading characters in movies.

“Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit,” he said. “And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

News.com.au James Cameron Slams Wonder Woman: “It’s a step backwards.”

Sorry, James Cameron, but you talk about objectified icons.

I am sure Sarah Connor is everything you say she was. Plus, I suspect, you’re talking about the second and subsequent Terminator movies, too, not the first.

I don’t know. I only ever watched the first movie. I couldn’t watch the rest.

It’s not because I didn’t like most of the movie. It was okay. And Arnie’s terminator is certainly iconic, and goes down in history as one of the great movie characters of all time.

But we spend the whole movie having the Terminator chase Sarah, only to find out that he’s after her because she’s somebody’s mother.

Sarah Connor is a victim.

Sure, she fights back. And I like it when a victim empowers her-or-himself to fight back against their oppressor. And I don’t mean to denigrate anyone who fights their way out of being victimised like that, for they are inspiring. Woman or man.

But if I want a hero—someone to hold up as an example, someone to emulate—I’ll take the woman who starts out with a conscience, and a determination to do right by the world. Someone who lives by that standard, and embodies it in everything they do and say.

Rather than someone who simply reacts to a situation they have been placed into.

So that I, and the Sarah Connor’s of this world, know we can live by those standards, too.

Wonder Woman is not about beauty. Hollywood objectifies everyone, male and female

Wonder Woman is encapsulated by the scene in No-Man’s land. Where a woman knows this is wrong, and says so, only to hear others say, “Sure, but we can’t do anything about it,” and she chooses to do something anyway.

Down in our little corner of the world

If you’re not part of the solution …

Right now the Australian government ministers are behaving like kids in a classroom, where the teacher has left the room, and been gone for a while. Calling each other names, doing stupid things, bullying, offending our nearest neighbor.

We’re waiting on an envelope in the mail to vote whether or not we want to allow same sex marriage, but even if we all vote yes (I’m voting yes), that doesn’t necessarily mean the government will allow it. It just means that that the government will introduce a bill to allow them to debate whether or not to allow same sex marriage. It also, I think, allows members of parliament to vote as per their own conscience, not along party lines.

Confused? So am I.

We haven’t even got problems, compared to other countries.

I don’t have to mention the United States, where it seems that the craziness has escaped the confines of the White House and infected the populace. We’re hurting for you.

It seems like whole of the democratic world has been infected by … I don’t know what you’d call it. The pendulum, having swung one way, is swinging madly the other way. It feels a lot like Galloping Gertie right now, ready for that final swing.

The new Anne Leckie

On a more positive note, Anne Leckie’s newsletter dropped into my email the other day. Provenance is out in just over a month.

I like the way Anne does her newsletters. Only when she really has news. And she put the first three chapters in the newsletter. Yes! (Lots of exclamation marks here.) We might try this ourselves.

Naturally, I read the excerpt immediately.

There are characters you take to immediately, and I love Captain Uisine. He’s not the protagonist, so I hope he’s in the book more than just two chapters.

Afterwards, I went straight to Amazon’s pre-order page. I’m looking forward to late September.

And lastly

Linesman