Monday, June 18, 2012

Speculative fiction and fantasy for young adults: a post-Continuum 8 post..

There was some animated conversation at Continuum 8 on speculative fiction for young adults, specifically talking about alternatives to the paranormal romance push we've seen led by the Twilight series. As with all publishing phenomenons, a success story like Twilight, spawns a host of less successful stories trying to ride on the coat-tails of the original's popularity. In the case of Twilight, I'd argue that some of the other takes on vampires published around the same time were wittier, more challenging and more interesting than the unrequited sexual tension between sparkling Edward and accident-prone Bella.

The following is a list of speculative fiction for young adults recommended by these panelists at Continuum 8, Liz Barr, Sue Bursztynski, Kelly Link and Michael Pryor.

In terms of speculative fiction, steampunk is a genre which is attracting a lot of attention. The premise of steampunk is that steampower succeeded as the prevailing technology, or that it is at least still widely used. There is a lovely play with anachronistic and fantastical inventions and some great steampunk is set in the Victorian era. But it can also be set in the Wild West, a post-apocalyptic future or even medieval times.

Michael Pryor's Laws of Magic series is an example of steampunk in a quasi-Edwardian setting and has been hugely successful with its young adult readership. Michael noted on the panel that young adults have turned up to launches and events dressed in steampunk fashion and Michael himself was seen wandering around the convention wearing a very proper top hat.

The other Australian author who has embraced steampunk is Richard Harland with  Worldshaker and Liberator.

Steampunk is lots of fun - and filled with great inventions, but you do need to do your research if you are going to use alternative history.

Dystopian fiction (not so much fun!) is also popular with young adults. We've just witnessed the success of the Hunger Games trilogy and the making of the first movie from this series. Suzanne Collins' books features a feisty central character, Katniss, an oppressive governmental regime and some very nasty ways of keeping the disenfranchised population under control. It's compelling reading. Also recommended in this field was the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu and  Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy.

David Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo got a shout-out - and check out the production values of these books if you can.

An epic high fantasy, Throne of Glass, was discussed - this has yet to be released. It's interesting to read the inspiration behind this book and how it changed in the writing.

Another book which was discussed throughout Continuum 8 and which I can't wait to read is Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. This shouldn't be missed!

If you've read anything you'd like to recommend - please comment!

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