wJun 4, 2008

Wiscon 32 Panel Report: The Curious Boundaries of YA Fantasy

56 The Curious Boundaries of YA Fantasy

Reading, Viewing, & Critiquing Science Fiction and Fantasy ♦ Saturday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. ♦ Senate A

What are the limits of what can be discussed in YA fantasy? What themes and issues are considered appropriate, and which are taboo? Who sets these limits and do they mesh with the desires and expectations of YA readers?

M: Mary Anne Mohanraj, Sharyn November, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Beth Durst

So, somebody else moderated this panel, but I can't remember who it was.

My notes are pretty sparse. I'm in it for the book recommendations, :D

Sharyn November wanted to begin the panel by defining what Young Adult fiction actually means, as many people don't know (She is an editor for YA fiction, in charge of the Firebird brand, which publishes fantasy stuff - if you look in the teen section of bookstores, you'll see it).

There are 3 levels. 14 and up is edgier YA stuff; 12 and up is standard, and 8-12 is the lowest. All readers "read up." So, if a book is for "14 and up," you as the writer should assume that your reader is 12.

Sexuality was brought up as the first topic.

Tamora Pierce said that the difference between YA and adult fiction is that sex, drugs, etc. must be present in a story for a reason, as opposed to being a background recreational activity. She also noted that nobody (ie, Texas librarians) has ever squeaked about the amount of violence in her novels, only the sex.

Mary Anne noted that Tamora Pierce doesn't describe sex in explicit detail, nor do any (?) YA authors.

Sharyn November notes that characters age, and become darker in YA fiction (Westmark!).
She also praised Tamora Pierce's magical contraception in her novels (To which Tamora Pierce said, "I love it, too!"). She also said that in the books she edits, explicit sex is the only thing she does not allow.

It was noted that in the Pern books, you will totally miss the sex references if you aren't ready for them.

An audience member was a physician (I think?) and worried about working with 10-14 year-olds who had been traumatized. She said that she would like books to have a warning.

Sharyn responded that this was a slippery slope. Also, adding such a warning will make everyone want to read the book!
She also noted that if you mark "Ages 10 and up!" on a book, 12-year-olds will skip it.

It was brought up a number of times that readers will self-censor if they're not ready for certain kinds of books.

Mary Anne noted that it can be good for victims to read books about people going through similar situations to know that they're not alone.

Sharyn November noted that the Victorian conceit of the child as a pure and unsullied figure is crap.

And here we come to my list of recommendations from the panel!

Robin McKinley is really good at writing the day-to-day. Her novel Chalice is coming up. Deerskin and Sunshine are good, but both are considered to be adult novels by the novel.

Sharyn November endorsed Tamora Pierce as being very responsible by addressing contraception, puberty, etc.

Megan Whalen Turner's books were mentioned, and apparently The Thief is a good place to start. It is hilarious, surprising, and brilliant.

Pamela Dean's story "Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary"
Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes (Cue the fandom wank on her plagiarism!)
Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard
Inside Out (By Ann M Martin??)
Ellen Kushner's Privilege of the Sword (Not technicall YA; its prequel was clearly adult)
Mercedes Lackey trilogy
Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

I think the last broad topic was how to draw the line with violence. Tamora Pierce talked about describing the impact and weight felt on a character's arm. She said a bit of blood is good, but not too much; also dust noise, etc. It's also good to note that the character is in battle-fever, and not registering everything around them. The wounds will hit them later on - sometimes they'll throw up.

Deep Wizardry has kids with lots of responsibility.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Fistful of Sky is a good place to start a series I missed the name of. It is stand-alone. There are darker themes, the books are funny, and good.

Perry Moore's Hero It focuses on being gay, family, father acceptance, etc.

Elizabeth Wien's The Winter Prince

My personal suggestion is totally the Animorphs series. I wrote them off when I was younger, but then read them in high school (and in college summers, bwahaha!). 6 kids fighting a war, all by themselves. Responsibility, violence, friendships, pacifism, etc. There are some clunkers, but hey, there are about 60 books; what are you going to do? They're so short and with big print! DO IT.

Current Music: Antoine laughing at every page as he reads some Yotsuba&! manga

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scribbled mystickeeper at 8:35 PM

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