Tag Archives: adult dystopian

Language in Ruins: Exploring the Dystopian Cautionary Tale with Alena Graedon

Posted by March 13th, 2014

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Photo © Beowulf Sheehan

The death of print is a fear that comes hand in hand with the rapid technological developments of our digital age, but in Alena Graedon’s THE WORD EXCHANGE, it has become reality. She presents a not too far-off future where over-reliance on smart digital devices impairs our ability to communicate—even think. What goes into imagining a world in which technology inhibits our thought processes? How about our speech patterns? We talk to Alena about THE WORD EXCHANGE’s “language in ruins.”

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NG: THE WORD EXCHANGE is based in the recent future—and yet the death of print and the onslaught of sixth-sense digital technology have already tremendously changed the way people live. You had to coin new words and concepts that only exist in the futuristic sci-fi world of the book and think through how a language virus would change people’s speaking and thought patterns. Can you talk about that process of creating language in a novel about language?

AG: Language is really at the center of the book, you’re absolutely right. In some sense, it’s the hero of the story. Our relationship to language has been profoundly changed by technology, and I’ve been fascinated by the implications of inviting lots of beautiful, blinking machines into our lives, and of gradually relinquishing functionalities to them that we once viewed as fundamental to ourselves—decision-making, creating and interpreting things, communicating. Setting the book in the near future helped me explore what might happen when these processes have advanced just slightly, and how things could go really wrong.

A lot of the decisions I made in writing the book came from its focus on language. For instance, I always knew that lexicographers would tell the story. Dictionary-makers are especially attuned to words—to their diachronic evolutions over time, as well as to synchronic snapshots of what our living language means at any given moment. It was also interesting to have lexicographer protagonists because the publishing industry is changing so quickly, and the shift from print to a more fragile, ephemeral digital medium leaves us vulnerable to certain losses and threats. In the book, these include the hijacking and corruption of language, and also a disease, “word flu,” which makes communication nearly impossible, increasingly isolating and alienating its victims.

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Diving into YA Dystopian with SLATED Author Teri Terry

Posted by November 14th, 2013

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The precedent of the HUNGER GAMES opened up the door for other talented authors to tell their YA dystopian tales. Today we’re talking to British author Teri Terry, who pushes the envelope with her SLATED books, one of the most thought-provoking and chilling sci-fi series I’ve read in the past year. In SLATED, we meet young Kyla, who’s had her memory and personality erased as punishment for a crime she can’t remember committing. Who is really Kyla without her memories and what makes her *her*? Teri  takes on these big questions head on, and she approaches Kyla’s characterization with the kind of subtlety that is a joy to read.

NG: What inspired you to write a dystopian series for young adults?

I never set out to write a dystopian series. SLATED actually started from a dream I had, about a girl running, terrified, on a beach, afraid to look back to see what chased her. That same morning I wrote the dream down before I was really awake, and the story kind of grew from there. So it is really difficult to say what inspired writing it! The story chose me: it came from an unconscious need to explore issues that were troubling me, obsessions that I had. These include the whole nature-nurture debate: does someone who commits a horrible violent crime have something inherently wrong with how they are wired up inside, or does everyone have this capacity, given the right (wrong) circumstances? Next the identity issue: what makes us who we are? If you take someone’s memories away, are they still the same person? And finally, terrorism. More specifically: are a violent group defined by their objectives, or their methods? What is the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters? Do we define groups based on whether we agree with what they are trying to achieve?

NG: Your Master’s degree coursework was on the depiction of terrorism in young adult literature, which has clearly impacted the oppressive world you’ve crafted in the SLATED series. How did you thread your findings into the books?

slatedTT: Things happened kind of the other way around. I was thinking for some time about doing a creative writing MA, and in the end focused on a research degree. The way that worked is that I had to come up with a research proposal that included both a novel I planned to write, and a contextual thesis surrounding it. In my case the novel was SLATED, and the thesis was a consideration of the depiction of terrorism in YA dystopian fiction. However, I actually wrote SLATED before I really made much of a start on the thesis. Having said that, the impact the research had was more on examining how I wanted the trilogy to end, and why.

Traditional dystopian novels tend to end very badly for the hero: the whole point is that of a warning, a call to action – to change the world to avoid this coming to pass.

Conversely, YA dystopian novels tend to have more hopeful endings, even happy ones at times. Literary critics argue this negates the message of a dystopian novel; at the same time, debate rages about the impact of dark dystopian novels on younger readers. But I can’t tell you much more about decisions I made about the end of the trilogy without major spoilers!

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