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VIDEO: Scott Westerfeld on an Airship

I feel like a lot of people missed out on Scott Westerfeld's excellent novel, LEVIATHAN. It's an alternate history version of World War I in which the Germans have developed giant armored war machines and the British have found a way to reconstruct animal DNA in order to create battle-ready animal-vehicle hybrids.

In this video, Westerfeld takes you with him on his trip to learn more about the real-life airships that inspired the ones in his novel.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z44bV-P2eCU&w=560&h=315]

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance Written by Grant Goodman, 1/19/2015

Today’s holiday is a moment that is marked by hatred and tragedy, triumph and persistence. The fact that human beings had to fight for their right to be considered equal to other humans is something that never ceases to sicken me. The fact that it still continues to this day is downright depressing.

There is hope, though. The idea of fighting for civil rights finds can be found all over the YA canon. The more we read about this topic, even in fiction, the less likely we are to continue the cycle in real life.

I’ll start with the Harry Potter series. In Harry’s world, there is a hierarchy of blood purity that some still follow. To these wizard, pure humans are, of course, the lowest form, but they still reserve their hatred for wizards who are born to fully-muggle parents. The slur word for them, “mudblood,” is one that cuts deep. While there is no de-facto protest movement in the Harry Potter novels, there is still the matter of these wizards standing up for themselves.

Since Mockingjay Part I is still in theaters, let’s go ahead and examine the Hunger Games trilogy. The citizens of Panem, those who reside in the poorer districts, are all enslaved. They are fenced in, cut off, under curfew, and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by those in charge. Regardless of skin color, the residents of the lower districts are marginalized, demonized, and broken by the existing social structure of their world.

There are the people of Ishval in Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, whose homeland is taken over by a mighty military. The Smokies in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies are yet another persecuted group. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has its skaa. And while few people have read it, I have always loved Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Eye of the Heron for its amazing story of a space colony caught up in its own civil rights movement.

The worlds of YA mirror our own in many ways. There are tales of oppression, messages about “the other” and the ways in which they are ostracized, stories of interplanetary love. They all come to the same conclusion: hatred for your fellow man (or alien or cyborg or ghost or robot) is one of the universe’s darkest traits. We will always explore these conflicts, because our own sad history is rife with them. One of the best ways to deal with it—to learn to move forward—is to familiarize yourself with the struggles of others so you can empathize with them. That way, when it’s time to figure out what is right, you’ll know where you need to stand.

NaNoWriMo Advice from Scott Westerfeld

11/12/2014 For those of you still keeping up with your daily writing, congratulations. While I've been successful with NaNoWriMo in the past, this year is definitely not my year.

For those of you who have only come across finished drafts of novels, this blog post from YA author Scott Westerfeld will give you a small glimpse into what it's like to write your very first draft. It's an ugly, ugly thing.

When we pick up novels from a store, we're looking at polished, shimmering products. But if you take a look at how much work goes into making that happen...well, it's a long, dark process.

The Importance of a Sense of Wonder

The Importance of a Sense of Wonder Written by Grant Goodman, 10/5/2014

“Stuff your eyes with wonder”

-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Look, I’m not against mainstream fiction. I read a lot of it. My stack of books that I’ve read includes plenty that focus on people in New York, trying to deal with the daily pressures of life. They’re great reads. But they don’t spark up a sense of wonder. Most of the time, they hit me with character loss and disappointment, followed by a brief flash of triumph. That’s the connection.

The YA lit I tend to read still has those emotional moments. In addition, though, it feeds my imagination in a way that fills with me awe.

For comparison: mainstream fiction is like a real-life candy factory, full of loud, metallic machines and conveyor belts. YA genre fiction, however, is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, stuffed to the brim with wild ideas and impossibilities.

I need places like Hogwarts, with its nearly-headless ghosts and its moving staircases. I need inventions like the anti-gravity tech in Steelheart. I need to know that Tally has access to toothbrush pills in Uglies. I want to see Edward Elrich use his alchemy.

Those are the ideas that exist outside the ordinary. They’re a reminder that we can color outside the lines. They push the boundaries of what we accept and they make us think about whether or not we can make those little pieces of fiction into reality. To me, they’re as necessary as oxygen and music. Without them, everything is gray around the edges.

So what are the YA creations and inventions that you’ve come to love? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

BONUS POST: Ad for AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld has a new novel coming out. I love his writing (UGLIES, PEEPS, SO YESTERDAY) and I can't wait to see what this new tale is going to be. Check out this semi-sort-of-trailer for it.

WARNING: Contains John Green, James Dashner, Holly Black, and Gayle Forman, among others.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw_ItKvWd3c&w=560&h=315]