Friday, May 11, 2007

Ben searches for his inner YA

So we have a third of our shiny shiny stories selected now. All you authors aspiring to appear in our first year’s worth of issues, start polishing those shiny stones!

I’ve written a review of Scott Westerfeld’s The Last Days over at ASif! ( I know, I know, we’re always ranting about Westerfeld around here. But it’s a damn good book, and if you want to find out just how good YA can be, it’s a book you should check out.

I keep mulling around and around in my head, while we’re slushing, trying to work out what this thing YA is. On the one hand, I think adhering too vigorously to what is essentially a marketing category is crazy. But on the other hand, it’s obviously how we define ourselves, as a magazine, and so we have to have some kind of idea.

I’m still at the kind of “I know it when I see it” stage. There are stories we get that are well written but just aren’t YA. Stories that seem like they’re written for forty-five year olds. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it ain’t the Shiny tone.

On the other hand, I’ve been happy that we’ve been able to find stories that differ in tone. YA isn’t a tightly-defined, narrow genre. There’s a lot of room to move within it, and the authors sending us stories have proven that.

One of the fun parts, for me, of the process, is trying to get back in touch with my inner YA self. Fortunately I don’t have too far to go, as I was never hugely wise or mature to begin with. But it’s enjoyable to try to reconnect with the way you engaged with the world when you were younger, before all the years of baggage and social conventions started to close you up and limit your personality. YA-time is a time of potential, a time of discoveries and coming-into-being. It’s a time when you’re free to define and redefine yourself, where you dig unashamedly into the guts of your mind and try to find out just who you are.

I hope Shiny reflects that sense of discovery and redefinition and honesty.

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