Read the “Introduction” – Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction

futuredaze-cover-hi-res2Underwords Press presents the “Introduction” to Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood.

“Futuredaze is a fantastic choice for YA (and older) readers who enjoy science fiction and fantasy.” –ForeWords Reviews

“All of the stories are refreshingly short, 10 pages or fewer, encouraging readers to read the next and the next until the book is gobbled down. Fun for fans familiar with adult sf, and an enticing gateway for those new to the genre.” –Booklist, Lynn Rutan

“This is a great anthology, offering some of the strongest YA fiction I’ve seen in years. There’s something for everyone here, and not just young adults, but the not-so-young adults too.” Tangent Online

Introduction
Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction
Edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood

The Hunger Games isn’t the only reason that the young adult section is the coolest place in the bookstore. (And we’re talking any bookstore, mind you, from brick and mortar to digital cache.) From future dystopias to good old-fashioned teen romance that’s light years beyond Sweet Valley High or Hogwarts, young adult fiction (also known as YA) is experiencing a publishing boom. Teen fantasy and paranormal romance in particular have emerged as the dominant YA genres du jour—but, like a certain Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins has a bead on Stephenie Meyer, and the science fiction works of Scott Westerfeld (the Uglies series), Beth Revis (Across the Universe series), and Dan Wells (The Partials Sequence) have further opened the possibilities for the adventurous reader in the ever-expanding realm of YA. (Interestingly, estimates by publishing experts suggest that as much as a third of all YA fiction is bought by adults, further contributing to the YA upswell.[1])

It’s an exciting time for young adult fiction—though the careful observer may have noticed one downside. While fantasy or paranormal romance anthologies (edited by such authors as P.C. Cast and Melissa Marr) have proliferated, when it comes to the search for short science fiction for young adults, you could be in for a bit of a trek. However, we are pleased to see the recent anthologies by editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (After) and Tobias Bucknell and Joe Monti (Diverse Energies) hit the market in late 2012, but these anthologies primarily tackle the science fiction subgenres of post- apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. And with a noticeable lack of a wider selection of short science fiction for young adults in the market, the genre has had few opportunities to formalize itself.

We created Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction to help fill the void. (If the anthology helps to better define the burgeoning genre, we’re okay with that, too.) At a time when the YA market is dominated by novel-length fantasy, we hope to inject the short- fiction market with a measure of rocket fuel, a dash of dystopia, and an extra serving of undisguised wonder at the possibilities that the future may hold.

Since the inception of the science fiction genre, young readers have been given adult science fiction that was considered “safe” for them to read. However, books like The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl helped to pave the way for the emergence of a new genre: young adult fiction. As YA literature came into its own through works such as Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, YA became synonymous with teen-centered stories that are usually told from the unique viewpoint of a teen protagonist (a la close first person narratives of The Hunger Games and Twilight). Of course, adult science fiction novels like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dune, I, Robot, and other classics by the likes of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Ray Bradbury remain staples of young adult reading lists—which may explain why the subgenre of YA science fiction has been slower to emerge in its own right.

Whatever the subgenre (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal romance), YA at its best is far from “safe,” and is frequently constructed with the same level of emotional honesty and intensity that is found in the best adult fiction. The work of the late Maurice Sendak, author of such children’s classics as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, provides us with a good example of this. Presenting Sendak with the National Medal of Arts in 1996, President Bill Clinton noted that: “His books have helped children to explore and resolve their feelings of anger, boredom, fear, frustration and jealousy.” Sendak himself admitted an “obsession” with the “heroism of children” and with their urge toward “survival” in an often hostile world.[2] In this respect, Sendak’s work offers us a window into our own obsession with the exploits of such enduring YA protagonists as Harry Potter, Bella Swan, Artemis Fowl, Ender Wiggin, and the aforementioned Miss Everdeen.

The level of violence and adult themes found in much of YA literature continues to be a topic of discussion—but the ability to tackle thematic material is the badge of any story worth reading. Indeed, it is YA’s refusal to talk down to its audience that makes it so appealing to people of all ages—and the lens of youthful experience that makes it so relatable: whether you’re sixteen or sixty, who among us can fail to relate to the (often fraught) experience of growing up?

If the sales figures for The Hunger Games are any indication, the answer to the above question is “not many.” It is therefore puzzling that Suzanne Collins’s novel, with its basis in such classic future dystopias as Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale, has yet to revive the science fiction genre for younger audiences the way the Twilight and Harry Potter series revived paranormal romance and fantasy. Despite science fiction’s endless possibilities (near and far futures, alternate timelines and planets, for a start) there is nothing in current YA science fiction on par with the cultural phenomenon of The Hunger Games. And while today’s speculative fiction writers have drawn inspiration from such classic short stories as Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt,” Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” (and, dare we say, “little known” author Richard Bachman’s novel The Long Walk), there seems nothing comparable for today’s younger readers wishing to explore short science fiction from their own perspective.

With Futuredaze we hope to give the next generation of speculative readers and writers a taste (as it were) of the infinite possibilities inherent in both the science fiction genre and the short story form. Short fiction, with its suppleness and experimentation, is a great way for new readers to experience any genre—and, as we’ve seen a wave of epic fantasy and paranormal fiction on the market, we thought it was time to ask: where’s the short stuff ?

Also, where’s the diversity? “There Need to be More Nonwhite Protagonists” was the title of a recent New York Times “Room for Debate” piece by YA author Sharon G. Flake (Pinned). Like many of today’s writers she was expressing the need for more diverse YA characters. More nonstraight and other underrepresented minority protagonists could also help today’s readers to—as Ms. Flake has suggested—“find their voices, [and] share their insights and questions.”[3]

When developing Futuredaze, we too wished to represent a wider range of viewpoints than is typically seen in American popular culture, and to attract culturally diverse stories that reflect an equally diverse readership. This was, in all honesty, easier said than done as the majority of submissions we received did not venture beyond a white/Western perspective. Still: we remain hopeful that we’ve made a positive start and that the stories collected herein will prove wide ranging enough to begin awakening readers to the possibilities of viewpoints and experiences beyond their own. Ideally, literature should be for everyone, and science fiction in particular, with its themes of progress, should strive to provide new perspectives even as it allows us to encounter new frontiers.

Diversity for Futuredaze also includes the diversity of form. Outside the speculative fiction niche not many people have experienced science-fiction poetry. Gleefully, we correct this phenomenon—and then some. Having originally planned for a mere twenty pieces, we were quickly inundated with more quality submissions than we had dared hope to receive.

Futuredaze contains twelve poems and twenty-one amazing tales that run the gamut from heartbreaking to hilarious, interstellar to terrestrial, and “hard” to subtle. In “A Voice in the Night” by Jack McDevitt, a young Alex Benedict takes his first step toward becoming the inquisitive antiquarian of the award winning Alex Benedict novels. In “String Theory,” Danika Dinsmore takes the idea of time travel and mines it for its comic and tragic potential. Dale Lucas’s “Out of the Silent Sea” is both a pulse-pounding tale of military combat and a meditation on love. And (with a nod to Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange) Chuck Rothman takes a day at the mall and uses it to reinvent teenage speech in the ultra-funny “Spirk Station.”

Speech itself, whether inventing new languages or struggling with current modes of expression or self-identity, has become a kind of theme for this anthology both on and off the page: Our co-editor, Erin Underwood, recently met a delightful twelve- year-old Hunger Games fan at a dinner party.

“So you like science fiction?” Erin asked.

The girl wrinkled her nose and gave an emphatic, “No!”

“But … you know the Hunger Games is considered science fiction?”

“No, it’s not,” the girl said. “It’s Future Fantasy.”

Future Fantasy? We like that: a term once applied to early works such as Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom novels is given new life by a young reader who re-envisions science fiction as a more elastic and welcoming genre. It is this sort of elasticity that we have tried to represent in Futuredaze. While we haven’t been able to include examples of every possible subgenre, we feel the stories within these pages provide a solid overview of what science fiction has to offer. Future fantasy, dystopian fiction, alternate history, speculative fiction, slipstream, steampunk, space opera—whatever we call the branches, they all derive from the same literary tree. In Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction we embrace those gnarled, yet sturdy roots and allow the new buds to keep growing, reaching upward toward the skies.

Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood
—August 2012

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Futuredaze is Available Worldwide:

 

Copyright Acknowledgments
“Introduction” copyright © 2013 by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood.


[1] Thomas, Liz. “Boom in young adult fiction as sales jump 150 percent in six years thanks to hits like Twilight and The Hunger Games.” The Daily Mail. July 2, 2012.

[2] Krystal, Becky. “Maurice Sendak dies; author and illustrator wrote about children’s survival.” The Washington Post. May 8, 2012.

[3] Flake, Sharon B. “There Need to Be More Nonwhite Protagonists.” The New York Times. March 28 2012.

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