Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 1, 2008

Sci-Fi Seminar

Filed under: Seminar Topics — traverse02 @ 8:54 pm

Hullo all.

Like Allison, I figured now would be a good time to share the 3 major texts I will be using for my seminar on Science Fiction in YA literature and the major topics that I’ll be discussing.

First, I will be using the novel Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini to talk about humanity’s increasing dependence on technology and its effects on culture (specifically youth culture). The book is about a high-school dork who swallows a pill-sized supercomputer that embeds itself in his brain and gives him the cues he needs to be cool and get the girl. Unfortunately, the squip (the supercomputer) develops a consciousness all its own. Hilarity ensues. This book is a very light read, but very entertaining and a good way to introduce science fiction to any young people who might be skeptic about how good the genre is, especially as a forum for social commentary. (Thank you Kari for introducing me to this book).

Second, I will be using Life As We Knew It, a novel by Susan Beth Pfeffer that addresses speculation into environmental catastrophes and how our life as a species could be affected. I haven’t started this yet, but the plot revolves around a young girl and her family trying to survive in a world where the climate has changed radically after a meteor collides with the moon, knocking it closer in orbit with Earth. I am interested in this mainly because it’s an example of what some people call “Science Fact” (think about films like Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, etc.) Although a scenarios like these are somewhat unlikely–especially in the case of The Day After Tomorrow– they are possible, and even if they don’t happen, it’s important to be aware of how the climate and environment can be altered by our own actions and circumstances beyond our control.

Last, I will be talking about Maxwell Strangewell, a recent graphic novel by the Fillbach Brothers (the creators of the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoons that ran on Cartoon Network a few years ago). I have really fallen for this book. To sum up, it tells the story of a young girl, Anna, who gets caught up in an interstellar war after witnessesing an alien called the Strangewell fall to Earth. She unwittingly names the Strangewell ‘Max’ after her old dog, and forms a psychic bond with him after he touches her forehead. The plot is hard to explain, so I won’t get into it here, but I want to use the book to talk about humanity’s acceptance/rejection of the unknown and what the implications of being close-minded could mean for all of us.

So, this should give you a rough idea of what I plan to do with my seminar. As always, I am open to suggestions so if there is any advice you might have to offer, please let me know. I will be posting what I have for further reading later. For now, I am getting away from this blasted machine.

Hope everyone enjoys the weekend.




  1. Hi Raph, all of these titles sound interesting. I only know the second one well enough to comment. My question for you at this stage would be what is the organizing principle that connects these three novels? And I wonder if you have been looking at some of the suggestions I made in various emails to you? Those titles were culled from lots to try to hone a list of some of the best sci fi being written today–for YA’s. KES

    Comment by sunyprof — March 2, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

  2. Raph,

    I am not ususally a Sci-Fi reader, but you’ve presented three books here that offer topics that I am personally interested in: dependence upon technology, environmental issues, and war. I look forward to hearing more about your seminar and what you have found in your research.


    Comment by joycehansen — March 3, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  3. Raph,

    Thank you for the thorough update on your seminar project. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with the texts, but the premises of them have gained my attention and interest. In particular, I think LIFE AS WE KNEW IT is ideal for today’s and future generation YA readers. Yes, the environmental devastation is a result of a meteor striking the moon, but it deals with serious topics that all ages need to be informed on. This can lead you into a discussion and/or study on global warming and climate change, pollution, conservation of energy and water, etc. Students can read articles from the New York Times (as an example) that prove the gravity and reality of environmental catastrophes.

    The plots from the other texts sound great too. I have always said that I “hate sci-fi,” but the plots of the books you have chosen have changed my mind slightly. Perhaps I’ll become a closet sci-fi reader now…


    Comment by jexter1 — March 4, 2008 @ 8:32 am

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