Guest Post: The Anything-Goes Attitude of Post-Apoc

Today I'm hosting the fabulous Mindy McGinnis, author of the forthcoming YA novel Not a Drop to Drink. I met Mindy in the querying trenches, and I can tell you she writes one excellent blog post. You are in for a treat, dear readers. To learn more about Mindy, check out her bio below.

 The Anything-Goes Attitude of Post-Apoc

A lot of people wonder where the sudden surge of dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature is coming from. I’ve got a fast and quick answer – our inner psyche. But we don’t have to ruminate on that. There’s a really fun explanation too, and that’s the fact that anything goes in a world we create on our own.

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature moves us beyond the “what-if” to the “who-are-we, really?” as individuals, and as a human race. If there weren’t police would we obey traffic laws? If there were no enforcement of a moral code would we kill each other without regret? And even more important – are you scared of heights?

That last one might feel like a left-field question, but it nipped me in my creative bud earlier this spring. My debut NOT A DROP TO DRINK (Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins, Fall 2013) revolves around a teen girl who protects her pond in a world where water is scarce by sniping strangers from her roof. I wanted a few nice aerial shots for what I hope will eventually develop into my trailer, so I looped a camera around my neck, dug out a ladder, and proceeded to freeze up about ten feet off the ground.

Yep. Ten feet. I had another solid ten to go, and then a scramble onto the shingles before I could even pretend to be the feral creature my MC is. And it totally didn’t happen. I meekly crept back down, put the ladder away, and got some nice still shots of the placid surface of my pond.

Now, if there had been some kind of motivating favor, like say, a tiger chasing me across my yard, then yes – I probably would’ve scurried on up the ladder. But there was no tiger, and I don’t feel the need to shoot people who take water from my pond, mainly because nobody does. Who the hell drinks pond water when you don’t have to?

But what if you did have to?

What if that pond was the only thing keeping me alive?

What kind of person survives in a world like that?

This is what I like about my little corner of the writing world, and have liked about it since I read THE STAND when I was… well, when I was too young to be reading it. Post-apoc and dystopian give writers the chance to throw our characters into a place that has only the laws we set, and then see how they eek out a life within those parameters.

They’re amazing people, these fictional characters that survive the brutal punishments we put them through. They’re little glimpses of a tougher, leaner human race that are asking the same questions we are, but in a different environment. Who am I? What do I stand for?
And while it may seem that I’ve circled back around to the inner-psyche, the more relevant question in most dystopian is – will I live through tomorrow? That kind of pressure hovering over each minute refines our characters, making every movement inform the reader.

When the difference between making it to the roof is losing a good photo-op or losing your foot to a tiger, minor inconveniences like fear are overlooked. Anything goes in our brave new worlds, and the things that go leave us with a stripped person, who we build back up with the blocks of our own making.

There’s so much creative freedom in dystopian, which is why we see such a glut of titles these days, each of them with it’s own unique world and characters. Enjoy them all, but don’t dismiss any of them as “been-there-done-that.”

Chances are, you haven’t.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut dystopian, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs From the Write AngleBook PregnantFriday the Thirteeners and The Lucky 13sYou can also find her on Twitter and Facebook

Balancing Two Lives

While I am in Chicago for Chicon, the World Science Fiction Conference, debut author Kat Zhang has graciously offered to be my guest blogger at the League. Once you get to read her amazing book, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, you'll look back on this post in a different light.

As a university student and a writer, I often get questions about balancing the two. Life as a student and life as a writer can seem like pretty separate things, but really, they’re not—in the same way I think nothing is separate from the life of a writer.

Writing, more so than, I think, many professions, permeates every moment of life. A writer is really never not being a writer, because an essential part of writing is living/observing life, and if you’re not doing that, we’ve got a problem!

Being a university student certainly provides a lot of material in the form of interesting, varied characters (funny, how they like to be called “people” when you’re talking to them ;P), strange new experiences, and, of course, classes.

Now, I’m not saying I walk into lecture with a story notebook and jot down plot ideas, or that I have my class notes on hand when I sit down to write. But I’ve taken such interesting classes over the last three years, and if life bleeds into fiction, then why not classes, as well?

What’s Left of Me and the rest of the Hybrid Chronicles are wonderful stories to write, because they let me explore so many different things and pull on so many threads of information. The series is not really dystopian, not really sci-fi, but a little of both. During sophomore year, I took a Neurobiology class, and during junior year, a Political Science class. Little bits of both made their way into the first book. I’m signed up for a Science Fiction class this semester (go ahead, be jealous!), and I’m sure that’s going to worm its way into some story or another.

In my Science Fiction class, my professor mentioned a quote that was something like, “Literature must please before it can instruct.” I googled like crazy to try and find whoever said this quote, and couldn’t find anything, but appealing to the late-night crowd on Twitter got me some great similar quotes! (Thanks, twitter!) Apparently, Horace once said something along the lines of, “literature should please even while it instructs and instruct even as it entertains.”

“Instruct” is a heavy word for me, though. I don’t really like to feel like I’m being “instructed” by a novel, and I don’t write my books to instruct, either. But I do write my stories to explore and wonder and question, which really isn’t very different from what I love doing as a student.

And if any part of my books inspire a reader to explore and wonder and question on top of enjoying the plot, I’ll be a very happy writer :)

Kat Zhang’s WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, THE HYBRID CHRONICLES, BOOK ONE doesn’t come out until September 18 of this year. It was chosen for the very exclusive buzz panel at this year’s BEA, and readers are eager to get their hands on this poetic YA dystopian that has echoes of NEVER LET ME GO and WITHER. Visit her at

Learning from dystopian characters

I often get asked why I chose to write post-apocalyptic/dystopian books and, though there's no real answer since I didn't actually decide to write in a certain genre, I love dystopian fiction and can see its many merits. For me the fascination with the genre lies in the characters more than in the setting - which might sound strange, considering how important world building in dystopian literature is. But what really draws me in is reading about the characters' struggles and see them discover their strength and overcome their fears. It makes me think about the strength in each of us, what we're capable of and what we really need to survive.
Many of us will never have to forgo food and water for days, or live without daylight and electricity. Sometimes dystopian books make me wonder what we really need? How many of the things we're using every day are really necessary and not just something we're using out of habit or because we're too lazy to look for alternatives?
Do I really need to drive everywhere with my car? Do I need that third cup of coffee?
I always thought I couldn't live without meat. My mom had always cooked with lots of meat, and when my husband and I moved in together I kept up that habit. It was something I thought I needed and couldn't live without, but then three months ago I (and the husband too) became vegetarian and you know what? Breaking a life long habit wasn't that difficult and I don't actually need meat. I think in today's society it can be liberating to forego certain things - not because you have to but because you want to. And inspired by some post-apocalyptic settings, I'm thinking about other things in my life I could live without. We'll see which habit I'll lose next!
Of course, I might have to reconsider my vegetarian ways if I ever became a zombie, but until then...

Are there any things in your life you thought you couldn't live without and then suddenly did? Or is there something you want to do without in the future?

Btw, I'm having an international ARC giveaway on my blog if you're interested!

Preppers & Apocalypse Readiness

Have we talked about Preppers lately? No? Ok, then let's do it!

According to a recent Today Show report, there are over 3 million families in the US alone that are preparing for "the end of the world as we know it" by stockpiling food, medical supplies, and other survival essentials. FEMA recommends having a 72 Hour Kit handy (this is a portable kit with three days of food and water for one person) in case of disaster (natural or otherwise), but Preppers go much further, sometimes even changing their current lifestyle in order to be more prepared.

Prepper essentials may include:

- the previously mentioned 72 Hour Kit
- a portable "bug out bag" (contains some food & water but also tools for attaining more)
- get home bag (similar to the bug out bag, but usually stored in your car so that you can get home from wherever you are when disaster strikes)
- a gun and ammo plus lessons at a shooting range to defend yourself and your family
- a fully stocked food pantry (canned goods, rice, bottled water, MREs)
- a fully stocked supply closet (flashlights, blankets, etc)
- 3-6 month supply of all necessary medications
- acquiring non-electric kitchen gadgets for food prep
- a full tank of gas for every vehicle (at least)

More radical measures may include:

- moving to a place that is more than one tank of gas away from the nearest city
- cultivating a green house, a fish pond, a bee colony and/or raising your own livestock
- building a bomb shelter/ emergency accommodations
- going off the electricity grid: using solar panels and/or getting an emergency power generator
- acquiring gas masks & biohazard suits

How prepared are you for the "end of the world as we know it"?

Author Copies of ASHEN WINTER!

One of the wonderful traditions of the publishing business is author copies. When your book is published, a box shows up with however many free copies of your work are specified in your contract. In my case, it's twenty.

I'm fortunate to be published by Tanglewood Press, a small, reputable children's and young adult publisher based only two hours from me, in Terre Haute, Indiana. (If you aspire to write for kids or teens, they're a great house to keep in mind. Unlike most publishers, you don't need a literary agent to submit work to Tanglewood.)

So last year when I heard that ASHFALL was in from the printer, I couldn't wait for them to be shipped--instead, my wife and I hopped in the car and picked them up in person.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe the joy of holding the result of three yeas of work in your hands in the form of a finished hardcover book. It doesn't exactly wipe out all the rejections, all the time spent agonizing over the perfect words, or the sleepless nights wondering if anyone will enjoy your book; but it does make all those worries seem less important somehow.

The other thing about author copies? Our cats love them, too. When I got home from Tanglewood, I laid the books out on the bed for a photo, and all three cats had to come check them out.

I figured that this year, when the author copies for my second book arrived, it would be no big deal. Been there, done that, right? Not so much.

When I got home from my taekwondo class Thursday night, there they were. Twenty hardbacks of ASHEN WINTER, and twenty of the new paperback edition of ASHFALL.

It was almost as squee-worthy a moment as seeing the first book. Aren't they lovely? Here's a close-up:

The cats--well, one of them, anyway--were pretty excited, too:

A huge thank you to everyone who bought, read, talked-about, or blogged about ASHFALL. You made the paperback edition and the sequel possible, and I owe my joy to you. Thank you.

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What's Left to Fight For?

Today we have a guest post from debut author Jessica Souders, whose book RENEGADE launches this November from Tor Teen. Please give her a warm League welcome!

At a recent conference I was on a panel about dystopian literature and someone asked a question that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. I had no idea how to answer it.

The question? What’s left to fight for when there’s nothing left?

I’m fairly certain that I looked like a fish with my mouth opening and closing, and no sound coming out, but finally I settled on an answer. Love. However, the minute I said it, I had to backtrack, because even when love is gone there’s something left.


Hope to find love. Hope to conquer whatever task we’re trying to beat. Hope that things will get better. Even when everything else is taken, there’s hope. Hope is the most dangerous weapon a person, group, or society has. Because where there’s hope, there’s strength to accomplish anything. When we lose hope, we lose the ability to fight.

That’s why so many countries make sure the morale is up for their troops. With high morale comes high hope. With high hope, a higher chance of winning.

In the Hunger Games movie, President Snow makes a very enlightening comment about hope that illustrates my point clearly. In a conversation with the head gamemaker, Seneca Crane, he’s talking about why they have the Hunger Games. He asks Seneca why they don’t just line up the 12 children and shoot them instead. It’s certainly faster. When Seneca can’t answer, he says, “Hope: It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it.”

Seems a bit diabolical, right? Yes, but he’s right and he knew that if Katniss won the Hunger Games, she’d give hope to the people he didn’t want to give too much hope. Because by controlling their amount of it, he was able to control them. By doling it out in slow amounts, he made the citizens dependent on him. But too much would make them realize they didn’t need him at all. Thus starting an uprising. Of course, if they didn’t have any hope at all, he wouldn’t be able to control them either, because they wouldn’t care enough to do what he needed them to do. Make clothes, make their electronics, dig for coal, etc.

And like in life, hope is, in my opinion, the most important part of every story. Not to mention the one of the common denominators between every book, but most specifically in dystopian books. It’s what not only fuels our characters to keep going through their darkest ordeals, but it’s part of what keeps us reading. If we care about the characters, we’re hoping they’ll come out unharmed from whatever it is they’re dealing with and that they’ll have their (somewhat) happy ending.

So…do you agree? What’s left to fight for when there’s nothing left?

J.A. Souders is the author of RENEGADE, the thrilling YA underwater dystopian coming
November 13, 2012 from Tor Teen. Visit her at or @jasouders on twitter.

Future YA Reads

As the fall season approaches, we're all hearing about what's coming next, but we're scifi writers, yo, we're always looking to the FUTURE, so I thought I'd share some recent YA acquisitions that will be hitting the shelves in 2014!  (Doesn't 2014 sound so futuristic?  Perhaps it's the "teen" part.)

Shaunta Grimes's VIRAL NATION, the first books in a post-apocalyptic series featuring a high-functioning autistic sixteen-year-old girl and her older brother as they discover that the world they live in is not what it seems and the rules they've been forced to obey are there to enslave them rather than protect them, to Michelle Vega at Berkley, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Kim Lionetti at BookEnds.

R.C. Lewis's STITCHING SNOW, in which a royal teen runaway is scraping together a living in a mining settlement on the far side of the universe, until she is discovered and "rescued" against her will... a rescue operation that just might kill her, to Catherine Onder at Disney-Hyperion, in a two-book deal, in a six-figure deal, for publication in Summer 2014, by Jennifer Laughran at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Jenny Martin's debut TRACKED, pitched as Star Wars meets Speed Racer, in which a daring, street-racing girl transforms from rebel to revolutionary after a taking a no-win deal to race the corporate rally circuit, where she's catapulted between the boy who's been running alongside her all her life and the intense, castoff rogue who prepares her all too well for the road, to Heather Alexander at Dial, in a very nice deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world).

VCFA grad Amy Rose Capetta's debut ENTANGLED, pitched as Firefly as a YA novel, in which a girl who thought she was alone in the universe with just her guitar, finds out that she is one of two humans to be experimentally connected on the particle level, and has to launch herself across space to save the boy she is quantum entangled with, with the help of a smuggler and her rag tag crew aboard a living spaceship, to Kate O'Sullivan atHoughton Mifflin Harcourt Children's, at auction, in a very nice deal, in a two-book deal, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world English).

Kass Morgan's THE HUNDRED, following 100 teenagers with dark secrets, who leave their homes -- enormous, city-like spaceships -- to recolonize a barely recognizable Earth, only to discover they cannot escape their pasts, to Elizabeth Bewley at Little, Brown Children's, and Kate Howard andHarriet Bourton at Hodder & Stoughton, in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2014 and Fall 2014, by Sara Shandler and Joelle Hobeika at Alloy Entertainment (World English).

THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER trilogy author Megan Shepherd's THE CAGE trilogy, following six teens put in an elaborate "human zoo" by a powerful and psychic otherworldly race, and one girl's attempts to escape without falling first for her terrifyingly beautiful captor, whose job is to keep her in the Cage forever, to Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer & Bray, in a significant deal, for publication in Summer 2014, by Josh Adams and Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary (NA).

Care to discuss trends?

Is the Digital Piracy Threat Real?

I've been discussing digital piracy here for the last few weeks--in this post I argued that pirating digital content is immoral because if everyone did it, it would blight our creative ecosystem. In this post, I went further, arguing that the very structure of the internet encourages immoral behavior, and that we need to redesign the internet to better serve the humans who use it. I also argued that digital piracy is a form of counterfeiting, not theft, and that "counterfeiters" is a better term than "pirates."

So the question might naturally arise--am I being a Chicken Little? I imagine that if the counterfeiters get the upper hand, we might wind up with a digital dystopia in which no content creators can get paid for their efforts and all content becomes amateur. Instead of Hollywood movies that cost tens or even hundreds of millions to produce, we'll have . . . YouTube. Novels will still be written, but many of our greatest novelists--those who make a living from their work--would write less or not at all due to the necessity of taking on other work to put food on the table. Could that really happen?

For an answer, I turn to a fascinating discussion I've been having with Tanvir Hossain on Goodreads. Hossain is a Bangladeshi, and graciously took some time to comment on one of my posts. You can read the whole discussion here.

Hossain begins his comment:  "You are right. Piracy isn't right. But still I pirate ebooks. So why I do it? The main reason is - there is almost no chance in getting caught. If I try to steal a book form a book store, there is 99% chances that I will get caught. But If I download a book from a pirate site there is almost no chance that I will get caught. But this is illegal and immoral."

In Bangladesh, counterfeiting digital work is so widespread that it has become a social norm. Hossain again: "My dad works on a Government office and the operating system of the computers of his office is pirated windows 7. So if government is using pirated software, what can you say about this country?"

Counterfeiting has decimated the creative community in Bangladesh. Take the film industry, for example:  "Yeah, piracy is destroying the country. It had destroyed the movie industry and disabled the music industry. It all started in 1990's. When the VCR hits the stores of Bangladesh, piracy of Video Cassette begins [...] when the bootlegged copy of Bollywood movies came to Bangladesh they were instant hit. People started watch movies in VCRs not in cinema halls. As a result attendance to cinema halls dropped. So the movie industry get less money and with less money they made low budget and lower quality films than before. Now if you ask a Bangladeshi what was last bangla movie he watched I don't think he will able to tell you."

Could this sort of digital dystopia spread to the rest of the world? Of course. All it requires is that those who counterfeit creative work believe they can do so without getting caught. If the social norm becomes that content is free, then most kinds of professional creative endeavor must end. And that world would impoverish both content creators and consumers.

What can you do? Don't frequent counterfeiting sites. Don't link to them. Report counterfeiting sites to authors and/or their publishers. Let your friends who download counterfeit content know that it's not okay to do so. An ultimate solution requires redesigning the internet and probably our copyright laws, but in the meantime we can all help to maintain the social norm that authors and other content creators deserve to be compensated for their work.
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The Greatest Star Trek Question of All Time



Food Replicator?

This says a lot about your personality.  Choose wisely.

Total Recall

I saw Total Recall the other day. I had seen the original one with Arnold that was inspired and loosely based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story, “I Can Remember It For you Wholesale.” Like a lot of his adaptations, there was considerable irony in the story that wasn’t carried over to screen in either version.

The main character, Douglas Quaid, is first presented in the story as a mousy everyman, a salary worker bee. And that’s the point, isn’t it, that some average Joe who dreams of going to Mars should discover that he’s actually been there and in a very non-average role. However the problem is Hollywood likes to have charismatic, exciting leading men to carry a big-budget picture. So on the first go around, Arnold got cast, much to the chagrin of some of the creative people on the project. But the studio suits were right in terms of box office and the first Total Recall had the biggest opening that year.

That’s not going to be said for the current Total Recall, even though it would be hard to find anyone who would say Colin Farrell is not the superior actor. This Total Recall took in only $25.58 million the first weekend and was down 68 percent on the second weekend, dropping to 6th place. It’s not Farrell’s fault. The problems are with the script and direction, and early word of mouth must have ruled again, as audiences just seemed to know. I could pick it apart, first asking why they thought that a giant underground elevator between the colony (think Australia) and the UK would be a good addition to center the plot around, but I won’t. Let’s just say the film was easily forgettable.

Book recommendation: SLATED

This Saturday I'm leaving for Edinburgh book festival. In preparation for my panel with Anne Cassidy and Teri Terry next Wednesday, I read YA dystopian SLATED by Teri, and absolutely loved it!
Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

Kyla has been Slated.
At the beginning, you can compare her to someone who woke from a long coma. We as the reader discover the world with her. Whom can she trust? Who is she? What has she done before she was SLATED? There are so many questions we ask ourselves along with Kyla.
I loved reading about her character development - how she went from a naive SLATED to someone who realizes her own strength. And the romance in this book is super sweet. No insta-love.
Once I started reading, I just couldn't stop and that surprised me, since SLATED isn't full of action and fights like the books that usually do that to me. But still there was so much suspense and a constant feeling of danger.
A wonderful dystopian read!
The book is already out in the UK and hits shelves in the US in January 2013!

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The Side Effects of Teleportation

Every time I come back to Germany from a trip to the US (like I did yesterday), I suffer from jet lag. And then I always wish teleportation had been invented already.

But what might the side effects of teleportation be? Don't they have the potential to be even worse?  Since teleportation doesn't exist yet, all we have is conjecture to go on.  Well, that and fiction.  Our own Elana Johnson and Genn Albin tackle the subject in their novels with the side effects not too severe, while the TV show Fringe had Walter invent a teleportation device whose usage caused a rash of side-effects, from sunburn to decompression sickness (and ultimately death).

What do you imagine the side effects of teleportation might be?

The Immorality of the Internet

Two weeks ago in this space, I posted about a discussion I had with the owner of an ebook pirating website, and went on to explain why I believe it's immoral both to consume and to provide pirated copies of copyrighted works.

I've continued to think about this issue because it's important to me both as a writer and as a reader. An environment in which the value of writing drops to zero would impoverish me personally and the literary world in general. Yet people who love to read pirate books. Why? I found my answer in the book I read today, You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier.

Part of the reason digital piracy flourishes is the fundamental immorality of the internet as currently designed. (No, I'm not talking about porn sites--I'm talking about this blog, YouTube, Facebook: the bits of the internet all of us use every day.) How can that be, you ask? Isn't the internet just a tool that can be used for good or ill?

While the internet certainly contains numerous tools, it's more than that--it has become an environment in which many of us spend a significant fraction of our lives. And that environment--or any environment, for that matter--has a profound influence on our actions.

The popular conception of morality is that it's something innate to individuals. Most people think of themselves as moral, but can readily identify others (a mother-in-law, a spouse's friends) who aren't. In fact, for most of us, morality has far more to do with our circumstances than any innate characteristic. A famous study Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point found that most seminarians would stop to help a person in distress if they were told they had plenty of time before their lecture, but only 10% of them would stop if they were told they were late. To a lecture on the Good Samaritan, no less. Similarly, cities have discovered that they can cut crime rates merely by cleaning up graffiti and broken windows--the people haven't changed, but the environment around them has.

Would thousands of people have stolen ASHFALL if they had to come into my house and look me in the eye as they took it? Of course not. The internet is immoral as currently designed precisely because it creates conditions in which immoral behavior is easy, anonymous (or nearly so), and so widespread as to become a social norm. (Lanier never calls the current design of the internet immoral, by the way, but that's the logical outcome of his arguments about transient anonymity and mob behavior.)

I can hear the howls of protest from pirates. File-sharing is not stealing, they will say. I'm not depriving anyone else of a book when I pirate it. And in a sense, they're right. Stealing is an inadequate metaphor for digital piracy. Lanier suggests a better one when he compares digital piracy to counterfeiting.

Currency and books only have value (except perhaps as fire-starters) when they're scarce. Counterfeiting doesn't take money from anyone--rather, it devalues all money in exactly the same way that digital piracy devalues all content. Counterfeiting is a worse crime than theft because it hurts the entire society, not just one individual. That's why faking a $100 bill (or even just holding a fake with fraudulent intent) is a felony that will get you 15 years, while shoplifting a $100 item is only a misdemeanor. Counterfeiting undermines the value of currency; digital piracy undermines the value of most types of creative endeavor. Piracy is far worse than mere theft. In fact, the term pirate has too much of a romantic connotation--let's call them counterfeiters instead.

I can hear more counterfeiter howls. Elitist, they will cry. Everyone should have ebooks, even if they can't pay! Information wants to be free! I actually agree with the first statement. Everyone should have access to books--which is why copyrights are issued for a limited period (and why recent expansions of that period should be rolled back). There are literally tens of millions of books that are free and legal to distribute. Recent titles should be distributed in physical and digital form by free public libraries which have paid for the rights to the books.

The second statement is so wrong-headed it's dangerous. It places information--bits in our computers--above the humans who consume and create it. And remember, "worthless" is a synonym for "free." True freedom demands a rich flow of information which can only be achieved by paying for the efforts of content creators--if information ever does become free, humans won't be.

What can we do? Lanier suggests that we redesign the internet, putting into place a system that rewards content creators and prevents the worst abuses to civility. He proposes placing content in the cloud, rather than on our devices, and charging a small fee that compensates creators when the content is accessed. Another idea he espouses is ending all forms of transient anonymity, so that bad behavior will follow its perpetrators, whether they're anonymous or not--i.e. you'd still be able to be anonymous on the internet only by assuming a persistent fake identity.

What do you think will help end counterfeiting and make the internet a more moral place? Let me know in the comments, please. 

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Creative Blends

So I've seen several science fiction/dystopian novels lately that seem to be blending things in a new way. Of course, I love having science fiction IN my dystopia, and I think that's a natural, easy blend. I also love seeing some sort of paranormal aspect mixed in with dystopia, as I think this is a win/win on many levels.

One novel I was not expecting to blend genres so effortlessly was CINDER by Marissa Meyer. Have you read it?

I'll freely admit that I don't read back cover copy. I want to go into a book cold. But from the title and the general buzz, I knew CINDER was a retelling of Cinderella--with cyborgs. Okay. Some science fiction there, which by the way, I found awesome. I mean, fairy tales and sci fi? That's like win/win/win.

I did not expect to find even more science fiction in the novel. Like, hard core, spaceship science fiction.

And it was awesome.

If you haven't read CINDER, you should give it a try.

Do you like novels that blend genres? What are some of your favorites? 

Predictions from 1987

Twenty-five years ago, L. Ron Hubbard (yes, the founder of Scientology, who was also a science fiction writer), asked prominent sci-fi writers to predict what 2012 would look like. (You can read their predictions in “the time capsule.”) The responders included Isaac Asimov, Gregory Benford, Orson Scott Card, Gene Wolfe, and other prominent writers of the time.

In a nutshell, these writers got the broad strokes of now right: burgeoning population, economic decline, the rise of other countries, changes in technology, etc. But, they got the fine details wrong—or were a bit off-base concerning them. Our population is not quite 8 billion yet; we’re a just squick over 7 billion. HIV/AIDS is not the leading cause of death in the world. (According to WHO, HIV/AIDS is the sixth overall.) Japan and the Soviet Union aren’t the economic powerhouses ruling the world. (That’s, China, btw. And none of the predictors saw the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union coming.) Our economy didn’t slump in a “gentle yet relentless decline” but in a series of burst bubbles. (Although, taken overall, that might be seen as relentless.) You get the picture.

The other thing that struck me about these predictions from 1987--was that they were mired in 1987. AIDs was new. The Cold War was still on. Japan’s economy was booming—and moving in on ours. Actually, that’s not surprising because, even if we’re writing about the future, we’re really writing about now. We’re just projecting our fears and desires of today on tomorrow.

What are your predictions for 2037?

Chicon and a YA Award for the Hugos?


Chris Barkley started a petition for the Chicon 7 Business Meeting of the 70th World Science Fiction Society to allow a vote for a proposed Hugo Award for Best Young Adult Book. I’ve signed it, as have 184 other people so far. It needs 200 votes.

On the site it explains:

“The proposal was introduced last year but there was no debate because there wasn't enough time to discuss this proposal and other pending amendment. Public support for this open petition will aptly demonstrate to the members voting at the Chicon 7 Business Meeting that this proposal is needed and wanted.”

There is a discussion page here.

But if you are in a rush, and already know you believe in the value of a vote, the petition link is here.

I will be on two panels at Chicon, (Aug 30- Sept 3, Hyatt Regency Chicago) with some amazing, esteemed science fiction authors, as well as a kaffeklatch (that’s where anyone can sign up to sit and have tea with me, usually it is a table of 8-10 people), and a signing. For details, please visit my site. Hope to see you in Chicago!

In Defense of Exploration

Over on my own blog today, I posted a video about Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This one:

And the more I think about him, the more I just admire this man. He's an astrophysicist at the Hayden Planetarium and All Around Awesome Dude.

Two of my favorite quotes by Neil are below (thanks, GoodReads, for posting them!):

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.” 

“We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there.” 

But recently, he posted another quote on Facebook that really struck a chord with me:

The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.

I found this quote both sad and true. True, because one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind is exploration (the other, I would argue, is creation). But sad because of the recent cuts in NASA funding, and the seeming unimportance that the government (and many people) place on NASA exploration.

Space exploration fascinates me. Despite the fact that I can't science very well, I'm enamored of astronomy and I love learning more about the universe. The universe is so vast. And there is so much left for us to discover.

I find it very satisfying that the current Mars rover is named "Curiosity." I pray that, if nothing else, it is our human curiosity that will save exploration of the future.

(Satiate your curiosity: find out more here!)

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