Dystopia Tuesday: Twisted Versions of Perfection

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Dystopian novels are combination horror stories and cautionary tales, set against twisted versions of perfect societies. Dystopian heroes are discontented—they don’t fit in, and often lack the self-awareness to realize why.

Teens (like the little ol’ seventh-grade version of me) who aren’t yet ready for the heavy-hitting social commentary in the classics of the genre may find those same themes and messages, presented in the context of a YA book, much more palatable.

In YA dystopian societies, civilization is usually managed by absent adult authority figures. For teenagers who fear they’ve inherited a chaotic world, yet feel stifled by the rules, these fictional societies resonate. Dystopian societies take rule-making to the extreme. Extreme control. Extreme censorship. Extreme surveillance. No dissenting ideas. In these societies, parents and children are often subjected to the same controls and restrictions.

The classics of adult dystopia tends to be more apocalyptic, more dire. YA dystopia can be apocalyptic and scary—but it can also feel a lot like high school, where everyone feels pressure to conform. To escape the fear, alienation, and danger, protagonists band together with others like themselves.

YA dystopian fiction opens a pathway to explore and appreciate the genre—and appreciating makes it easier for teens to fully absorb the classics when they’re assigned to read them at school, or choose to read them for pleasure.

Next up: I’ll compare Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Matched by Allie Condie

 

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.

 

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TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

Tracy is also the author of Counteract.

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.

There’s even a book trailer!

Dystopia Tuesday: The Year of My Dystopia

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I spent seventh grade in a dystopian haze, haunted by thoughts of totalitarian regimes, privations, curtailed personal freedoms, ubiquitous surveillance technology, and nuclear war.  Oh, and those awful utilitarian jumpsuits everyone had to wear.

And why, you ask? Well, it was like this…

Back in the 70s, young adult fiction as we know it did not exist. I read series like Trixie Belden and Sweet Valley High, which meant I was one step off from reading books about bunnies and rainbows.

But that year in English class, we were assigned Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, On the Beach, Fail-Safe, Brave New World and Flowers for Algernon, the bulk of the classics in the dystopian genre, with a science-fiction chaser and a couple Cold War propaganda novels and their film versions thrown in for good measure.  (Thank God they didn’t assign Clockwork Orange until high school.)

I was twelve, and I was terrified by what I read. I’d never seen a scary movie in my life. I had no frame of reference for the suffering in those books, didn’t connect with the characters, and found it hard to imagine societies and worlds so different from my own. I didn’t see these books as social commentary, as warnings, or as calls to arms. They were English assignments, and dreaded ones at that.

Years later, I choose to write in the young adult dystopian genre. Because now I get it, and I can tell an exciting story to share what I think. Frankly, writing YA dystopian fiction…rocks.

I’ve been re-reading the classics with great interest, and I’ll be taking a look at old v. new dystopian fiction in future posts.

Some of my new favorites:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Matched by Ally Condie

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Farm by Emily McKay

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Gone by Michael Grant

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.

 

TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

Tracy is also the author of Counteract.

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.

There’s even a book trailer!

The True Injustice of Cases Like Eric Garner

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Libertarians and limited-government advocating conservatives and Republicans frequently reference the fact that government is force. They say government policies, laws, and regulations are enforced at the barrel of a gun. And that’s about the point when liberals and progressives snort with derisive laughter and say that “it’ll never come to that” or “go wrap your head in tin foil, without government who would build the roads?”

Then we have the case of Eric Garner, who NYPD officers accused of selling “loosies” or single cigarettes. (This is not only illegal in New York City, but also a federal crime, by the way.) Police chose to engage Garner physically instead of simply issuing him a citation and court summons. When Garner appeared to resist arrest, five officers engaged in a take-down, which led to Garner’s death as one of the officers applied a “choke hold” in an effort to subdue him.

Much has been said and written about the incident already, and we don’t want to focus on the specifics of the case other than to say clearly the police engaged in an excessive use of force that resulted in the death of someone they were taking into custody. There must be consequences for this action. In our view, this is not a racial issue; it is a human one. The issue calls to question how much force the government should be permitted, especially when responding to non-violent offenses.

The Garner incident joins many other, and often not widely reported, incidents of police resorting to violence against citizens in what should be routine law enforcement matters. The Cato Institute publishes a map of such incidents, which you can view here:

Government’s willingness to go overboard and use armed and sometimes militarized types response units to respond to administrative, and sometimes imaginary, violations of law is alarming. All citizens of all ideological persuasions should be outraged and demand that this activity stop immediately and impose criminal and civil liabilities for government officials who act inappropriately.

In 2013, the federal code alone stood at some 43,000 pages of text (the Holy Bible, often decried as imposing too many harsh rules, by comparison is 1,100 pages). The federal code is only a collection of laws enacted by Congress; it does not include tens of thousands of pages of regulations and administrative rules imposed by executive and regulatory agencies. And that’s only at the federal level, and doesn’t include additional layers upon layers of rules and laws imposed by state and local governments.

It is indisputable that “government” laws, whether imposed by federal, state, or local authorities, have grown exponentially since World War II. A frequent complaint of many small government and freedom advocates is that law-abiding citizens could at any point be breaking several laws without knowing it. In fact, John Baker, retired law professor was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.”

At a recent graduation speech, President Obama encouraged graduates from the Ohio State University to reject voices who suggest “that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.”

In response, we’ll offer a quote from Atlas Shrugged :

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” – Dr. Ferris

The president insists that tyranny is in fact NOT lurking just around the corner. But for a growing number of people who have encountered the government’s machine of law enforcement by breaking petty rules like selling single cigarettes, buying cases of water that look like alcohol, or simply feeding the homeless, it just might be.

A Busy Few Weeks

It has been a busy few weeks here so we once again disappeared from “the Internets.”
So just what have we been up to?

Cover Front1. We released a children’s book under our Children’s imprint, Bellows Books. Cora Cassidy and the Craven Corgi is a children’s picture book written in verse and beautifully illustrated. The freedom theme is freedom from fear and how Cora’s pet dog Raven learns that getting over her fears about different times of the year help her to enjoy a more full and exciting life.

 

 

 

 

Cut_From_Strong_Cloth_front2. We released a novel! Cut from Strong Cloth is an adult novel set in 1860 Philadelphia where Irish immigrant Ellen Canavan pursues her dream of owning a textile business.

But it is 1860 America, and women just don’t “do” that sort of thing. Or do they?

 

 

 

 

 

Cover3. We released our speculative fiction anthology, Forging Freedom: Dimensions. As with all of our anthology projects, this was a tremendous amount of fun. Following our first anthology, we went out with another call and noticed so many science fiction and fantasy submissions that told compelling stories about freedom lost, won, and fought for. So we thought why not make it a stand alone book?

 

 

 

 

4. And last but not least, we’ve made some improvements to our publisher store. We’ve gained the ability to offer special deals, coupon codes, and add on items that we didn’t have before. Of course all of our titles are still available from Amazon.com, bn.com, booksamillion.com, and local stores who place orders for customers as well.

As a thank you for subscribing to our email updates enter code “15OFFDEC” (without quotes) at checkout and take 15% off your order total now through the end of the year. Tell us what you think!

And as always, Let Freedom Ring!