What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

09 December 2010

New Genre for Me!

A real, live schoolroom from the time
of the school story heyday.
 For years, I've been obsessed with school stories.

At some point in high school, I realised that I was only about 50 years behind the times with my favourite genre, since apparently the heyday of school stories was before World War Two. One of my favourite series, The Chalet School by Elinor Brent-Dyer, is indeed from this time period. EBD's writing style influenced mine a lot for a while, which is kind of a bummer, because it's not really a modern-day voice (and as much as I like her stories, her writing is actually kind of wonky), but I think I've managed to shift her out of my immediate consciousness and found her a place in the composite of authors who all influence me a little bit.

Moving to Britain was a revelation, since there are a lot more British school stories than American, and I could get my hands on a lot more of them. And thanks to the genius of JK Rowling and Harry Potter, the school story as a genre has been brought back from the vaults. Yay!

Part of my Chalet collection

So with school stories being my obsession in my reading and writing for a long time, I kind of stalled. It's only in the past few months when I've started reading writer blogs and intentionally expanding my horizons that I've become re-interested in genres I once knew... and have heard of a couple that I was previously unfamiliar with.

One of those "new" genres is dystopia. I haven't read any yet, because I was mid-semester when I heard of it and got a list of titles, a couple of which are now on my TBR list for Christmas break. (Yay, new stuff to read!) And since I haven't yet read any, there's every possibility that I don't really "get" what it's all about.

The last day of the semester, someone asked New Spanish Teacher about his writing and research. He mentioned that he has written some fiction, but didn't elaborate on that; instead, he told us about his academic writing. I'll give you the Reader's Digest version: Everything, sooner or later, gets back to the sun. Our food, our fuels, etc. And so we (humans) aren't all that different from plants. I don't remember all of what he said, but that's the gist.

Scotland Street School Museum,
Glasgow, Scotland
(the pic above is also from this school)
On the way home, I had this picture in my head of a dystopian society where the humans are touted as the superior species, to the detriment of all plants and animals (okay, kind of like the actual world, but worse). And there's a group in rebellion, determined to get dispel the myth and convince people of the equality of plants and animals with humans. Maybe I'd have to throw in some fantasy, too, and get some talking animals and trees walking around... okay, now I'm bordering on Narnia.

So I wrote him an email, asking if his idea of everything coming back to the sun works its way into his fiction, because I could picture it as a dystopian plot. He said, "it actually does, a bit, make its way into there. And that's an interesting observation... dystopian plot device. neat." (Yes, I retained his capitalization issues.) He knows me as a poor Spanish student, after all, not as an aspiring author, so I may have surprised him with the question.

And if he's gonna write it, by golly, he'd better hurry up. I'm about to find out about dystopia, and adding one more WiP to the stack doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I have a few weeks of holiday for reading and writing; what books do you recommend?


erica and christy said...

I haven't tried dystopian, but it has gotten big since The Hunger Games series. My friend who writes it struggled at first with the similarities and differences between dystopian and apocalyptic, so I'd suggest a little research into that for you, as well. Good luck!

Mary Mary said...

I haven't really tackled dystopian, so no suggestions on that one. Although, I'll file that genre away for my book reviews . . . Anyway, have you ever read The War of the Words? It's more along the lines of classic sci-fi, but the way the book reads is nothing like any of the movies. It's actually rather fascinating. I have a ton of books I could suggest, but I'll just leave you with that one.

Su said...

@erica: Hunger Games is on my list to read. And thanks for the research suggestion! I really don't know anything about this genre right now, except that it exists.

@Mary: I haven't read it, but I do keep it filed away in the back of my mind. I'll pull it to the front of my to-read file, then! Thanks!

Margo Kelly said...

We writers are "told" to write what we love - - so do that first! As far as dystopian goes... I can't help but wonder if it's a trend that may soon become too saturated for any new writers to break into... hard to predict!

Hunger Games is a definite must read. I read the trilogy in two days. Great story.

Hart Johnson said...

I love dystopian stuff--actually have since before it was 'mainstream'--books like Margaret Atwoods 'A Handmaid's Tale'--though The Hunger Games is more enjoyable reading... still Atwood sure made me think. I have a teen who also really loved the Scott Westerfield series that starts with 'The Uglies'. I think it sounds like a great add to your list! (heck, why not have a school that is teaching kids about some aspect that seems particularly dangerous and put the two together!)

Patricia A. Timms said...

I'm back and forth on dystopian. It takes a good one for me to enjoy it. But I did enjoy HUNGER GAMES, and then there is THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (or any of his books) and soon there will be Elana Johnson's POSSESSION.

Have fun writing and reading. Great job on NaNo and will you be querying in the new year?

Su said...

@Margo: Yeah, I definitely plan to keep working on my school stories. It's fun to write, even if the only readers I ever get are my children. Oh, the market... there's no telling what will happen next.

@Hart: I suppose it's possible I've read dystopia and not realised it--I've only just heard the name in the past couple of months. Putting the two together-- my favourite thing! Great idea! And I'll add The Uglies to the list, thanks!

@Patricia: Yay, more books. I might not do anything else over the holiday. :D I have to finish my NaNo novel first; it's nowhere near done. Once I can see the light, as it were, I'll start to think about querying... but yeah, that is the plan eventually.

Faith said...

I'll second the Maze Runner recommendation, along with Uglies (though the second and third books in that trilogy are worth skipping). And it's not quite dystopian, but I'd try 'The Adoration of Jenna Fox' too, as it deals with advancing technology and possible repercussions of it. Robin Wasserman's 'Skinned' falls into a similar vein, but I didn't like that one at all.

Su said...

Good to know! Thanks for the recommendations.