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World Fantasy Con

Just a quick note to let you know that I shall be shambling around WFC 2013 in Brighton from Thu 31st Oct to Sun 3rd Nov (though likely I’ll be hauling my newly cirrhotic carcass back home to London fairly early on Sunday). In among my hectic schedule of dossing about, eating and wandering hither and thither I have generously agreed to make time to appear on a panel:

FRI 4–5 pm
“The Next Generation” Not in Front of the Children: How Far Should You Go in Young Adult Fiction? (Oxford)
Sex, drugs, violence—open up a young adult book these days and there’s a good chance that you’ll find some—if not all—of these. Is this really what we should be teaching the younger generation, or is there an argument to be made that the earlier they are exposed to what were once considered adult themes then the better they will be able to deal with them?
Suffice to say I’m not likely to be arguing for much restraint, but feel free to throw your own tuppence worth into the comments section so I can nick your ideas!

10 Comments

  1. Jesse T. says:

    First time commenting, so I’ll start by saying how much I have enjoyed your books, starting with the Broken Sky series in my early teens and currently with the Tales of the Ketty Jay now that I’m approaching my mid-twenties. You have a writing style that is enjoyable to the utmost, never complicated but too good to ever be called simple, and your imagination is remarkable at it’s best and enviable at it’s worst. However, I digress from the subject at hand.

    The issue of what young people should be exposed to in literature is almost a moot point at present, given what has become accessible on television and the internet, but I’m game for any debate. In this case I would have to advocate not for the complete elimination of “mature” elements, but for a show of moderation when it comes to a younger audience.
    There is no need to describe to a fourteen-year-old every detail of a passionate sex scene, or the grisly details of a brutal death, or the wild effect of cocaine on a person’s mind. Too clear an image can be off-putting and make a young person uncomfortable, especially depending on how sheltered their upbringing may have been, and such things can detract from an otherwise enjoyable story. I have read more than one book where there are overly descriptive scenes that just seem out of place and it’s like a jolt that snaps you out of the pleasant mindset that comes from reading a good tale.
    At the same time, to remove such elements completely would turn the story in to a work of fiction that goes beyond believability. Death is commonplace, sex possibly more so, and even drug use -if you include things like smoking- is a daily occurrence. Such things can be included, should be included, will no doubt be included, but there’s a way of doing it that is tasteful and suitable for a younger audience. Most authors, including yourself, seem to know where that line is, but it is definitely blurring as time goes on.
    It’s like the old horror movies compared to the new: what you can imagine happening is probably more effective than actually seeing it, but if there’s no blood it just looks fake.

    thanks for all the great writing!

  2. Ysabel Mystic of Fairyland says:

    Well, about the YA lit.
    I was in 4th grade when I really stopped reading because my school library failed to have anything good, so I did the minimum requirement and by the time I got to JH I was done reading. About the middle of 8th grade, I was bored to death, went on amazon and found some books I thought would be interesting (Malice and Havoc were actually some of the first I started reading) and checked them out from the library. At first I was kind of shocked about what I was reading (and had guilt that I was enjoying the said violence) because I went from the sheltered school library with that annoying were the red fern grows stuff to books with actual action, suspense, and, well, AWESOMENESS. This was about the time my dad, brother, and I talked my mom into watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Avengers etc. After watching a few movies and reading multiple books from the YA section and the children’s section (where I realized there should be a tween-young teen section) and hearing the uproar about book content, I realized there was a fine line about what is appropriate and what is not.
    Drugs: Drugs are, unfortunately, a normal thing in this world. You’re likely to drive by a bar or see someone with a cigarette. Does that mean you should do drugs? No it doesn’t. Schools are trying to educate kids on the drugs effect on the body, but teenagers still do it because it’s “rebel” or because of peer pressure. If we must put it in a book, sure, but does it have to be often? No. Should it be perpetuated as “cool”? No probably not but teens do it anyways, but hopefully with education the rate of usage will probably decrease. Also, I don’t want to read about every second of someones high on shrooms or PCP. It usually doesn’t matter and it’s needless and stupid. To sum it up, I have mixed feelings about the issue and if drugs are put in a story for YA, then limit the amount.
    Sex: Okay, I’m not a fan of it used in stories. Can a pair love each other. Sure, cool, adds to the plot and can make us root for the characters more. Can the use of a cliche love triangle exist, of course but I hate it. Can a character think another of the opposite sex look “hot”, yeah. It happens all the time. But do we need the whole thing about throwing off shirts and slobbering all over each other… NO! It’s so annoying (and kind of gross). I’m not being immature (I love a good romance as long as it’s a subplot) , but usually these situations of what I just mentioned are done with teenagers who simply want the experience, not married couples or a close boyfriend and girlfriend who love each other dearly. Can’t we just stick to kissing and not the type where their tongues are in each others mouths.
    Ten attempts at YA series and I kind of gave up and went to the children’s section.
    Another issue related, since Twilight (the ultimate infamy), there’s a trend of stories where romance=Helpless girl who is actually really special+demon/vampire/somethinglikethat who stalks girl obsessively or is a jerk or both=romance perpetuated for teenage girls (and this is most of the YA section. No wonder there’s not many boys at my school that read! Heck I can barely find anything!)
    Violence: This is tough. There’s a fine line between “action” and “violence”. Action is throwing punches, danger, a bit of blood, a touch of fear, and deaths or potentially gruesome scenes being implied or just saying that it occurred rather than giving multiple details. “Violence is when there’s so much blood, gruesome scenes, terror, and such things that the enjoyment of the story is taken away. Action: Malice, Harry Potter
    Violence: YA horror books that I refuse to read because some things in the action range still bother me a bit.
    Addressing death, death is normal. And if characters did not die (please let heroes die in an epic battle please!) how BORING would the books become? VERY!!! Eventually it’d become this repetitive cycle of terror, suspense, AND of course they make it. We eventually stop rooting for the characters because of course they’ll make it so why do we even bother putting out energy into rooting for them anyways? At least kill off a minor character to make us fear for the survivors. So, morbidly enough, death in a story is actually a good thing (as well as sad).
    What annoys me to death is that these self righteous people are freaking out about this because OMG there’s “evils” and it’ll warp the kids brains!!!!! This comes from the people who are showing kids Indiana Jones and Star Wars (oh no! They make alcohol look cool!) and The Avengers (oh dear they punch people!!!). Thanks for not fighting for restraint.
    Well, there’s my ginormous essay on my opinion. I’m off to bed I have about 6 hours before I wake up for school…

  3. Brooklyn says:

    I personally think there is very little difference between a YA book and an adult book. If you’re lucky, the adult book will be bigger and might be a bit more of an advanced read. This generation has been raised on alcohol, drugs,Family Guy, Two and a half men and way to many “that’s what she said” jokes. Seriously if you talk to any teen, most will say that they’ve tried drugs, smoking etc. Yes it’s disgusting but do you think the kids getting high have ever read a book? Okay maybe that’s a bit extreme but really. People aren’t misbehaving and what not from reading a book. Reading is actually a great way to calm down and relax. I agree that YAs don’t need half a book of sex scenes but most people are grown up enough for the violence, drugs, etc.

  4. Brooklyn says:

    Chris are you dead?

  5. TwiFire says:

    To be honest, most of the things you listed on here are alright, as long as you stay on the ‘Rated T’ and under section. The whole point of a book is for you to be entertained (most of the time), and for an author to cut out the action, or drug use, or yes, the idea of sex is stupid. As one of the members of the younger generation, I can easily tell you that we know about drugs, sex, violence, and such. When you were 13 years old, I’m sure you saw people smoking cigarettes, and drinking. What’s the difference that we know about it too? And then there’s the other fact that adults try to cut out the gore, and leave the shooting and stabbing in, as if you can hurt someone, and they’ll be okay. It’s slightly amusing that adults actually try to hide this stuff from the younger generation, truth be told.

  6. Brooklyn says:

    @Twifire,
    Agreed.

  7. Ysabel Mystic of Fairyland says:

    @Twifire, so true…

  8. Brooklyn says:

    I remember I read a book about war one time and nobody on the “good guys team” were killed or seriously hurt. Even at a young age, I was just as morbid as I am today. I am a strange person…

  9. Brooklyn says:

    Well I probably won’t get around to saying it later so merry Christmas!

  10. Mystika says:

    Hmm, i think limiting teen book contents is stupid. I mean, if you odnt like a book chances are you wont read it. So what if we take all the death, sex and drugs from the teen books? if thats what they want to read all they have to do is go to the adult section. Personally i don’t like those kind of books myself but i just dont read them. And obviously some people do. I think there should be less of this stuff in books as its unpleasant reading but i dont think you should bar it from teens if its going to be available anyhow to adults.

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