December 18, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 63: Stepan in the HOD a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters  and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (40,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Stepan had once been Natan, one of the Heroes of Mars during the ascent of the Unified Faith In Humanity. He’d defended seventy-two children in an elementary school from Christian and Buddhist gang members caught up in inter-gang warfare. His smile was wan before he said, “It was close, dad. If you wanted to listen, I’d have talked your ear off – and maybe even stuck with you.”

“Your mother listened,” Stepan’s father, known in the HOD – the Home Owner’s District – as Old Man Gillard had taken off his hood as they spoke in the main room of the adobe. He hung it on a hook embedded in the wall. Built against the outer wall of Burroughs Dome, through two meters of brick, mortar, and steel; was the nearly non-existent atmosphere of Mars.

Stepan nodded, “She did. But I wanted you to hear me. You’re my hero.”

OM Gillard opened his mouth, then turned away abruptly. His voice came weakly, bouncing off the wall. “Just go.”

“I didn’t come to open old wounds, Dad.” When his father didn’t respond Stepan turned away and started walking.

“I guess it doesn’t matter what you came here for. The wound is open.” He father sighed, the added, “You can borrow the anti-grav plate. I’d let you take the community antigrav lifter, but I doubt your friends on the Rim would trust you any more if you brought something like that.”

Stepan sniffed, “I’d have to agree with you.”

“There’s a first.”

“Nah, Dad. The first is that you’re still my Dad and you’re still my hero.”

The old man lifted his hand weakly but didn’t turn around. Stepan nodded and kept walking. As the door behind him, he said, “See you, Dad. I still love you.” Outside the adobe, Stepan stopped as a disciple of his father’s stepped up to him and handed him a large, jagged-edged piece of plate metal. He nearly dropped it until the disciple held it on either side and bent it slightly. Then it weighed nothing.

The woman said, “To make it rise up, stomp on it once, to make it sink, stomp twice. When you’re done with it, sent a message with your servant and we’ll send someone after it.”

“I don’t have a servant...”

Quinn waved over her shoulder, who said, “I thought they’d killed you and roasted you.”

The woman turned to him and said, “We don’t do that!”

He shrugged, “You’re not going to tell me you don’t think I’m some sort of animated furniture?”

“We made you – just like we built these houses! You’re a thing!”

“I’m a kid, just like your kids! I’m not a thing!”

The Disciple looked scandalized and exclaimed, “You are nothing like a real person!”

Stepan shook his head, grabbed Quinn’s shoulder and said, “Come on. We have work to do.”

What he didn’t see was his father, shadowed in the adobe’s window well shake his head sadly and turn away.

December 16, 2014

Ideas on Tuesdays 188: Practicing Evolution...

Into the deep_COSMOS science magazine
A regular feature on POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS, rather than irritating you, I'd like to both challenge and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them -- and that you can post in the comment section.

Summers I teach a class called Alien Worlds. So many kids took the class that I had to create an ADVANCED Alien Worlds; and my "kids" are getting older and older.

Part of the class involves creating an intelligent alien from a simple creature using logical, realistic changes that take place over time.

Here's a recent discovery about deep sea life research into something called a "dark energy biosphere". Give yourself a couple of characters and write me a STORY!

(PS -- the reason for the brevity is because I'm going in for skin cancer surgery this morning! Later!)


December 14, 2014

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Christmas Lights, The Star of Bethlehem, and “The Star” – Another Interpretation
I love Christmas lights! If you ask my family, I would leave them up all year and light them as the mood struck me. I did that very thing one particularly busy year.

Why do I like them? Because they bring to mind the glory of the heavens and connect God and the Universe with the science of astronomy and in particular, they remind me of the Star of Bethlehem that led the Wise Men from the East to the nativity of the Savior.

Christmas lights were not the impetus for Sir Arthur C. Clarke to write “The Star” –“...Clarke noted that he wrote the story for a contest in the London Observer on the subject ‘2500 AD.’ ‘I realized that I had a theme already to hand. The story was written in a state of unusually intense emotion; needless to say, it wasn’t even placed among the ‘also rans.’”

However, the glory of the heavens and the connection between God, super novae, and Christmas certainly was. While Clarke was an outsider [someone who does not hold that the tenets of Christianity are factual; Kinnaman, Lyons, UNCHRISTIAN] when it came to Christianity (“I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in her.”; “It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God - but to create him.”), he was well aware that as he wrote this (@ 1954) the vast majority of Europeans and those of European descent at least gave lip-service to Christianity, so he wasn’t going to be openly antagonistic.


Maybe he wanted to torpedo the faith of people like me. Maybe he wanted to slap God in the face. Maybe he wanted to win a contest and wrote the most notorious thing he could think of – calling into question the existence of a loving God. By his own admission, he wasn’t dispassionate when he wrote it, though he doesn’t give an indication why he was in “a state of unusually intense emotion” – at least not that I can find (if the reason is written elsewhere, LET ME KNOW AND I’LL INCLUDE IT HERE!)

The story has certainly been dissected (see below). It certainly won the Hugo (science fiction’s Emmy award) in 1956 for best short story. I certainly remembered it. But why I remember it and why others remember it may be for markedly different reasons. I’m pretty sure that when I think of it, it’s in a way I’ve not run across elsewhere.

Most people look at it like this: “Before his journey to the Phoenix Nebula, the priest clearly ‘believed that the heavens declared the glory of God's handiwork,’ (303) but now he has learned that the supernova seen as the star of Bethlehem wiped out a whole civilization when it exploded. Before his journey he could visualize the star as ‘a beacon in that oriental dawn,’ (307) that is, as a symbol of hopefulness and of new life. Now that he has learned the scientific truth, he no longer can see the star as a positive symbol and when…’” “I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer...for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.”

And again, in another review: “What the narrator has learned but not yet communicated to the others is that the supernova that destroyed this civilization was the Star of Bethlehem, which burned brightly in the sky to herald the birth of Jesus Christ. His discovery has caused him to reexamine and to question his own faith.”

Maybe the reviewers are people of faith. I don’t know, but it seems to me that they ascribe an unwarranted fragility to Christianity – that once these incontrovertible, scientific facts are discovered, the entire faith will collapse in on itself and be no more.

Another incontrovertible fact is that I look at the story as something that Clarke may not have intended; something that might not even be acceptable. Maybe the Jesuit priest has tunnel vision; maybe he’s simply exhausted from his journey to the farthest reaches of the known universe. I will argue that instead of dashing God against the rocks of scientific reality, “The Star” foreshadowed the sacrifice that the Son of God would make at the end of His earthly life. Given Clarke was an outsider, I doubt that this was his intent. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time words launched in one direction ended up hitting an entirely different target.

I’m for the serendipitous interpretation. Besides, it’s not entirely out of line with Clarke’s view of the universe: “I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.”

December 11, 2014

This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

“Nah,” said Freddie Merrill, “The lady truck driver wasn’t no nurse, she was a mechanic!” Tommy Hastings elbowed him.
“A girl working on trucks…” Charlie Fairlaine started. From down the hill came the roar of a truck climbing the hill. Over the grinding of gears, they heard shouts. Curses. Charlie said, “That doesn’t sound like it’s in English.”

Tommy said softly, “It’s not English. It’s Finnish. The Socialists found us…”

Freddie whispered, “We’re dead.”

Charlie grabbed the shirts of both boys and dragged them after him, saying, “Neither one of you’se is dead yet! Let’s go!”

Tommy let Charlie drag him along. Freddie pulled back, “We have to hide! You’re running in the wrong way! You want us to get caught!”

"I’m not giving you to the socialists!” Charlie exclaimed. The truck ground its gears again and more cursing poured from the street.

A voice shouted in perfectly good English, “The boys won’t be anywhere but here! We grab them, torture them, find out where the picture is!” The lights from the truck suddenly bounced up the hill, sweeping wildly over buildings, the tower, the houses across the street.

Freddie shouted, “That’s not the Socialists!”

“It is! They were talking Finnish…”

“Why would somebody talk American if they’re with the Socialists?”

“There’s American socialists!” Tommy said, “Come on! We have to...”

“We don’t need to be afraid! It’s Americans!” Freddie shouted, pulling away from Tommy and Charlie. He pulled away from them, running backwards.

“Come on! It’s the Socialists!”

“It’s not!”

The truck swung into the gravel parking lot, headlights swinging, hitting the creamery. Charlie stepped next to Tommy and said, “When I say ‘throw’, hit the headlights.” Freddie ran toward the truck. “Trip him!” Charlie whispered. Tommy stuck his foot out, knocking Freddie’s feet out from under him, sending his life-long friend sprawling in the gravel and dust. Charlie shouted, “Throw!” Tommy let fly. Glass exploded from one headlight, then the other.

Finnish cursing poured from the back of the truck as the sound of people trying to get out without knocking each other over – which they were failing to do – rumbled over the dark parking lot.

“Grab him!” Charlie said, pushing Tommy forward. They scooped up Freddie. “Hit the truck!” They ran across the lot, Charlie found the door and opened it.

Pysäyttää heidät! Tappakaa heidät!”

“They want us to stop so they can take us home!” Freddie cried out, struggling against Tommy and Charlie. “They’re here to take us home!”

Charlie shouted, “They want to kill you!”

“How do you know?”

“My girlfriend is Finnish! I can speak it!”


“They’re gonna kill you guys! Get in!”


Tommy grabbed Freddie’s face and shouted, “Get in or we’re gonna die!” then shoved him into the truck and shouted to Charlie, “Go! Go! Go!”

The truck roared to life, Charlie turned the headlights on and swung the truck around, charging the Finns and their truck. The Creamery truck fish-tailing on the loose gravel, Finns leaped to save their lives, and with a tremendous BANG! The truck was suddenly sliding in the other direction. For a moment, it hung at the edge of the abyss...

December 9, 2014


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: Android and Detective

Aiden Rakotomolala and Gargaaro Sukarno stared at the cow-shaped robot. Aiden said, "This is what they gave us?"

Gargaaro -- she preferred Ro to her whole name -- said, "That's what they said.

"A robot cow?"

The robot said, "I am not a cow, but a mule. And I am an artificial intelligence. I prefer to be called Ferocious Veldt Roarer. You can call me Ferocious."

Aiden burst out laughing, "How about I call you Cow Roarer?"

"That would not..." the robot began.

Ro laughed as well, "I know my name's funny, but yours? We can call you Cower for short!"

Cower would have scowled if she'd had a face. Or skin. Or a head. As it was, she said, "I'm not programmed to have feelings or a sense of humor, so I'll call you Rack and Gargoyle."

Aiden exclaimed, "Hey! That's not funny!"

Ro scowled, "At least yours doesn't comment on your looks."

"True, but it does make a comment on his intelligence -- roughly that of a cue ball in a game of billiards."

Aiden opened his mouth to protest as the door to garage opened from the police station side. The pair of officers who strode in were imposing and grim. The male, short, dark, and scowling, whose uniform seemed barely able to control the musculature beneath; the female, tall, lithe, whose own musculature owed more to maraging steel cable than muscle and whose face gave away absolutely nothing. She was the one who said, "What a wonder. A billion dollars in training and manufacture, and all these three can do is act like middle school children."

The male shook his head, "It would be better if the two of us just went and did what we do best."

"What? Kill people?"

The male grinned -- and the two humans and even the robot took a step back.

The woman said, "I'd love to let the three of you bond and get to know each other, but there are two hundred school girls who have been taken hostage in southern Brazil by JHB."

"Who?" Rack, Gargoyle, and Cower said in unison.

The woman looked at the man, who grinned. "See. I said they would."

Again, RGC spoke as one when they said, "That we would what?" Aiden and Ro looked at each other. Ferocious abruptly sprouted spines along its back that quivered.

"Synchronize," said the female. "We're sending you to southern Brazil to infiltrate and possibly extricate these girls. We suspect they're all dead."

"What?" Rack, Gargoyle, and Cower exclaimed again.

The male shrugged powerful shoulders and said, "Most likely there's nothing for you to do except learn to work together. On the off chance you might actually be able to do something, you've got your orders." He glanced at his female companion and the two snapped off a salute, turned and left the three alone.

Cower said, "Great. Now I'm stuck with two teenage meat bags." It made an amazingly realistic sigh, and plopped down on one of its backsides.


Names: Somalia, Indonesia; Australia, Madagascar  

December 7, 2014

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Firestorm!” (Cricket July 2001) Guy Stewart #10

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote to the left will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

This short story was born out of a novel that I had written called RED DEMON.

The novel I’d written out of a frustration with the then popular GOOSEBUMPS series of books for young people. I’d grown tired of hearing teachers say, “Well, at least they’re reading!” It was my contention that there was plenty of horror to go around in real life and that authors didn’t really need to make up stories to scare kids!

The initial idea came from a camping trip we’d taken to central Minnesota. There in Hinckley we toured the Great Hinckley Fire Museum, detailing a horrendous conflagration that had swept over the town in 1894 killing 418 people, and in a chilling addition to ethnic hatred, “some Indians”.

Hundreds were saved as well, but the details of the fire, once I began my research, were overflowing with “dramatic possibility”

My sources were popular, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RED DEMON (Larry Millett, 1996), historical UP FROM ASHES (Grace Stageberg Swenson, 1988), and an incredibly dull monograph called THE HINCKLEY FIRESTORM OF 1894 (collection of reports, articles, and eyewitness accounts, 1964 – came from a University of Minnesota collection).

The research was fascinating and I kept copious notes. When I put the story together, I created a protagonist who was 12, and whose name was Meg and wrapped her in the history of the period, using incidents I’d earmarked from my research to happen to her.

I submitted the book to the editor I knew at CRICKET MAGAZINE who was also the editor of CRICKET Books. She liked the story but had me rewrite it six times and ultimately turned it down – after I notified her that local author Jan Neubert Schultz had just published FIRESTORM, a novel with a young female protagonist named Maggie...

I refused to let it go though. The story was fascinating, the incidents numerous, and so I used everything I knew about the setting to write a short story with entirely different characters that detailed a different aspect of the facts. This time I used two boys in conflict, had them fall down wells and survive the Great Hinckley Fire – and I mentioned briefly that internationally famous journalist, Nellie Bly, had gone to Hinckley to report on the fire.

That was the ticket – the editor at CRICKET bought the story and ordered a sidebar as well highlighting facts of the fire. One pass of her pencil, and the story appeared two years later in the magazine.

The moral of this story is obvious – when you do lots of research on a book, use as much of it as you can in as many ways that you can!

What about the novel? I’ve got a plan to rewrite it as a time travel story and use it as an anchor for a second and a third novel in which young people change their “present” in much the same way that Marty McFly changed his present in the BACK TO THE FUTURE movies. We’ll see what happens with those, but I’m looking forward to a return to the world of 1894 Minnesota – and I am a much, MUCH better writer now than I was then!

December 5, 2014

The Cold War between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo has become a shooting war.  On Earth, there are three Triads one each in Minneapolis, Estados United; Pune, India; and Harbin, China. Protected by the Triad Corporation, they intend to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world.; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. The Yown’Hoo know about the extra-Universe Braider, aliens whose own “civil war” mirrors the Cold War. The Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is to physically construct a sort of membrane that will produce a canceling wave – generated from the rim of the Galaxy inward. The Braiders don’t DO physical stuff on that scale – the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads may be their only chance of creating a solution. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce a stability capable of launching incredible expansion, creativity, longevity and wealth – and building the Membrane to stop the wave.

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans –two; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds. Grendl, Manitoba is one such place. No one but the Triad Company has ever heard of it and the physical plant goes by the unobtrusive name of Organic Prairie Dairy.

The city Triads never hear of anything they aren’t spoon fed in their luxury worlds and have heard only rumors of the farms and ranches. Surrounded by a Humanity that has degenerated into a “duck-and-cover” society as the Big Boys fight their war, the Triads don’t care about anything but their own lives. Oblivious, cocooned, manipulated, they have no idea that their privileges are about to be violently curtailed and all of their biology ransacked for the correct Membrane pattern. (update: 5/2/2014)

Having seen lots of old movies where the driver of a car had to use something called a “clutch”, I was glad I didn’t have to use one. I’m pretty sure I would have killed the engine just then. As it was, when I slipped and floored the accelerator, I laid rubber on the parking ramp, squealing the tires. Everyone in back screamed at me.

“Oscar!” Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh shouted.

I slammed on the brakes. Everyone screamed again. “What?”

Patrick cleared his throat, held up his hand to the mini-riot that was breaking out in the back of the bakery delivery truck. Everyone shut up. How does he do that? Everyone listens to him – the Pack Masters, Pan and Zir and the Mother of All Herds, Ji-Hi and the Solar System famous, St. Admiral, hero of the defense of Earth. I said, “How do you do that.”

He waved at the parking lot, ignoring me and said, “This time, accelerate gradually and build up inertia slowly rather than trying to circumvent Newton’s Third Law.”

He was just being mean to me, but I said, “Sure. No problem.” This time, my foot eased on the pedal and there were no screams from the back. I’m pretty sure I heard Kashayla mutter something, but I couldn’t quite hear it.

“Up the ramp to your right. Slow down when you get to what’s left of the garage door.”

“What do you mean by that?” I tried to say, but my voice cracked. I hate it when it does that.

“Nice signal,” Patrick said. I shot him a look but he was staring through the windshield. “That way you know the Kiiote will hear the higher frequencies of your statements and quiet down.”

“Why are they quieting down?” He didn’t answer as we drove up the ramp, steeply tilting forcing everyone in back to brace themselves as we moved. He motioned for me to slow down as we came to a straight stretch of ramp.

“Because if we go too fast and are so noisy, someone’s likely to take a shot at us.” He did something under the dashboard and the truck started making deafening sounds. He shouted, “Stop here!” He jumped from the truck as I hit the brakes. There were some hisses and whistles from the back, but no one yelled at men. He scrambled over a pile of twisted metal and broken stones. He strode into the center of the street ahead, looked both ways, then waved at me.

I held my hands out, figuring he didn’t want me to shout. Besides, no one could have heard me over the rumbling coming from the truck. How was I supposed to drive over…
The entire pile of rubble lifted up like it was hinged on the left hand side. Patrick waved me out and as I pulled out, he ran up to the truck, jumped in and shouted, “Left and step on it!”

This time there was no protest as I did what he told me to do. No protest until something exploded in the yard of the house across the street from the ramp.

December 2, 2014


 photo gumiho14-00130.jpg
Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Horror Trope: “Another Man's Terror. This trope takes place where one character is thrown into the shoes of a dead man to experience his final moments....or he has to complete a dead man's task, witnessing and experiencing what killed the person before you.”

Current Event: Though I can't find this idea exactly, I'm sure it's out there somewhere...“Sister dies, deadbeat brother channels her dreams”

Chengpao Yang stared at his mother and said, “What?” She explained again in Hmong this time, because her English was so bad, even his sister couldn't understand Mom right now. If Mom was saying it right, Victoria would never be able to try and understand her mother again. He said, “Are you trying to tell me that Victoria is dead?"

The affirmative was a wail of grief.

What followed was both a long explanation of what happened and an accusation that if he’d been home, she never would have tried to protect her mother against the robber and died of a knife wound that had looked like a nick, but turned out to be from a poisoned knife.

“You mean you would rather have had me die than her?” Mother looked at him for a long time, then buried her face in her hands and wept harder. She collapsed to the floor in a puddle of her house clothes and hair. Chengpao stared down at her for a long time, torn between the urge to kick her, break out into tears and weep, or curse the world, his mother, his dead father, and his overachieving sister.

She rolled over on to her back, staring through him and at the ceiling. Shaking his head, he felt tears welling and finally said, “Fine then. If that’s what you want,” he raised his arms into the air and shouted at the ceiling, “If the spirit of Victoria is hanging out anywhere nearby, go ahead, take over my...”

Without missing a beat, his voice abruptly pitched higher, his posture shifted, and he made a motion with one hand that would have pushed a long strand of hair from his face – if he didn’t have a crew cut. He’d had a crew cut since his thirteenth birthday. He said, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m baaaack…”

Names: England, Laos; Laos, Laos

November 30, 2014

Slice of PIE: Is Dystopia Finally Dead? – Followed By a Completely Unexpected Turn in Thought Flow…

“If you see yourself as a left-leaning progressive parent, you might want to exercise some of that oppressive parental control and limit your kids exposure to the "freedom" expressed in YA dystopian fiction. But let's not worry about it too much, the good thing about laissez-faire capitalism is that things come in waves and pass out of fashion quickly, and already people are saying that YA dystopia is dead…”

“Obviously dystopian is not dead. It’s just on hiatus. Watch 2015 for its return, except disguised as other genres.”

“Book industry experts [Agent Barry Goldblatt] say dystopian literature, previously represented by bestselling series like 'The Hunger Games' and 'Allegiant,' is done as a trend.”

“Why do I think the genre will endure? Because teens…and even adults…love to see overcomers in dire circumstances. The way we portray life today as on the precipice of destruction, the youth like to read that if the destruction succeeds, mankind can also triumph above those circumstances.”

“Dystopia can be bleak, which may make its popularity seem odd (even Cormac McCarthy probably reached for a comedy to read after Mockingjay). But the genre holds a certain allure. A typical tale involves a future society with an oppressive government that demands conformity. Sometimes this is in the wake of a disaster that has befallen humanity. Sometimes the oppressive government exists just because its rules are convenient to the plot…Stakes are high. Resilience is tested. If you can look past the occasionally goofy names of characters and places, it's material that makes for compelling drama.”

OK – fine. And there you go. The family and I will probably see MOCKINGJAY Parts 1 and 2; probably pick up MAZE RUNNER when it hits Redbox.

While all this is cool, I was just wondering: what are poor black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and other underrepresented youth reading? Especially UR youth with lower socioeconomic status?

Is there any data? Because it seems to ME that they won’t much care to read the dystopian teen lit because they’re already living a dystopian teen life.

I googled it – there IS no data that I can find under “favorite black teen novels”. I get all  kinds of things that black teens SHOULD read; lots of sites bemoaning the fate of black teens who don’t read. But no simple list.

I DID stumble across the New York Public Library’s Summer 2014 Reading Challenge. Twenty-two percent of the population of NYC is under 18. Twenty-six percent are black alone; 44% are white alone, the rest of the 100% is comprised of racial/ethnic groups plus some “more than one” groups. With a population of 8.4 million 2013, that means that there are nearly two million “kids” in NYC.

On the Reading Challenge list, I did not see even one dystopian book. THE HUNGER GAMES are absent.


No DIVERGENT series.

Nothing of the “the future will be crap” books.

Don’t you find that interesting?

I most CERTAINLY do, and while I started this essay out as a riff off of the waning of the teen dystopian book, it led me to a reflection on what is it, exactly that non-white kids are being made afraid of by the plethora of almost exclusively white dystopian authors? Oh, that’s right, maybe it was the reaction of HG “fans” to the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue that may have “slightly” offended black readers…