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Update on my appliances, since I know you're all dying to know

February 27th, 2007 (01:16 pm)

what was wrong with the dryer:

Nothing, as it turns out. This is normal. The person on the phone in the service department was probably fully aware that this was normal, but unwilling to say "eh, don't worry about it" because it was a gas dryer and thus there was a small chance that it was actually some sort of extremely dangerous problem.

Apparently the dryer company oils up a bunch of parts a bit better than they need to, and the first time you run it, some of the oil burns off. Or something like that. Anyway, it quit smoking pretty quickly once I let it run (I hadn't been willing to try this on my own because, well, fire! bad!) and it has now cheerfully and efficiently dried one load of laundry.

In other news, I have been harnessing my powers of procrastination to do something productive. I don't feel like editing the novel I just finished (yet! I will get to it, I just don't want to do it yet) so instead, I have written 2400 words on a new novel. This is intended to be a children's (middle-grade) adventure SF novel. Molly won't read much fantasy, so I went looking at one point for some age-appropriate SF. I wanted some classic-style adventure SF of the "Voyage to the Mushroom Planet" school -- kids build a rocket or do something else cool, danger is involved but nothing too disturbing to a six-year-old. The catch is, Molly also mostly won't read books about boys, so the protagonists needed to be girls. It is relatively easy these days to find children's fantasy with empowered girl protagonists. Adventure SF with empowered heroines? NOTHING. If it's out there, I couldn't find it, and the people at Uncle Hugo's couldn't point me to it.

So, I'm going to write some. This is, quite honestly, the first time I've ever written something out of the motivation of "dammit, where are the girl characters?" I was born in 1973, and you know, I wouldn't have thought there were any categories left with this particular hole, except for possibly westerns.

If someone would like to point me towards the books I missed, and assure me that actually I don't have to write this after all, feel free. (I might write it anyway. Because Molly's read the first chapter and wants me to hurry up with the second -- actually, she immediately started to write the second chapter FOR me and wants to know what I changed of what she wrote. But, maybe I could point her towards something she'd enjoy to read while I write this.)

I have never written anything for children before, except for the things I wrote when I was a child. It's weirdly intimidating.


Posted by: (boing!) Cnoocy Mosque O'Witz (cnoocy)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)

What about Orvis by H.M. Hoover? May be a little old, but it's the right genre.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)

I really loved H.M. Hoover's books as a kid. I don't recall this one. But, the ones I read were all in a post-apocalyptic setting and somewhat grim. Weirdly, I read them as moderately upbeat (rather than focusing on the dystopia) because I was so terrified of nuclear war that any fiction that involved humans surviving one seemed optimistic to me.

They were impossible to find for a while. I think Tor is reprinting at least some of them. Still, I haven't tried all that energetically to track them down mostly because of the post-apocalyptic settings. They just seem more appropriate to an older audience.

Posted by: G. Jules (gjules)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)

This is more YA than MG, but Vonda N. McIntyre's Barbary would probably be a good fit a few years from now. Likewise Paula Danzinger's This Place Has No Atmosphere -- although that's really targeted at an older audience, despite being a fairly easy read.

Posted by: aseop_ (aseop_)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)

It's probably too adult but my mind jumps to "A Wrinkle in Time", Meg is a pretty strong character and I read that in 6th grade. I don't remember reading any SF before 5th or 6th grade, so nothing jumps to mind.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)

You know, that was my favorite book EVER for many years, and yet I didn't even think of it. I think I mentally classify it as fantasy even though it's pretty explicitly SF. (I also consider Diane Duane's Wizardry series fantasy, even though it's got a strongly science fictional feel. Molly might be old enough for So You Want to Be a Wizard but I haven't tried to point her towards those -- we have them in the house, but they're on my bookcase and not hers -- because the later books get so dark. They're fabulous, but a lot sadder than I could tolerate at six. I wanted all sick characters to miraculously recover just like in The Magician's Nephew, thankyouverymuch.)

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)

It was waaaaaaaaaaay easier to think of good YA examples of this.

I read YA myself but there's very little that would be classified as YA that is appropriate for a six-year-old. I didn't really think about this in a whole lot of detail before Molly started reading independently; it's not that I'm trying to shield her from bad influences, it's that I don't want her to get freaked out. It's hard enough to get her to take book recommendations from me as it is.

Posted by: imponderabilias (imponderabilias)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC)

Have you seen Mark Crilley's Akiko books? I'm pretty sure there are both graphic novels and short books.

But I'm glad you're writing kid's stuff, because Miranda will be ready for it in a couple of years. :-)

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)

I have never seen these. Do they fit the bill? Should I track them down?

Posted by: imponderabilias (imponderabilias)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)

I think Molly might like them. They're pretty age-appropriate (i.e., very mild violence and suspense, no sex), and although I found the plots a bit lame, my son (who used to love the mind-numbing 'Boxcar Children' books) really enjoyed them, despite the female protagonist.

It is more classic SF - space opera style. :-) Mixed with manga art.

Here's the author's website: http://www.markcrilley.com/childrensbookscomics.html

which explains the order and the difference between the comics/graphic novels & the books. Our library carries both (Crilley's a local author), so it gets a bit confusing.

Since March is 'reading month' at our schools, I've been hearing about how lucrative the school appearances are for these authors. They sound like they might be fun, too. My son has loved a couple of them (though one of his favorite authors gave a horrible presentation). Something to think about when you publish your award-winning kid's book. ;-)

Posted by: Nancy (_fakewings_)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Koda Kumi Grow into One

You're right. There isn't much female-centered SF. One book I remember enjoying in middle school was Annette Curtis Klause's "Alien Secrets." It's more YA than anything but I remember finding it to be so much fun.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)

I may look that up, but most YA isn't really appropriate for Molly yet.

Posted by: Sylvia (sylvia_rachel)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC)

I happen to have at my desk a book called Great Books for Girls (published in 1997 -- there may be a newer edition out there, but I inherited this one from my boss). The five- to nine-year-old fiction section was devoid of SF or fantasy entries; under "Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Middle Readers" we get lots of fantasy; the aforementioned A Wrinkle in Time and Alien Secrets; and, for some reason, Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte's Web.

The only ones that look more SF-ish than fantasy-ish to me are Away Is a Strange Place to Be by H.M. Hoover and Being of Two Minds by Pamela F. Service.

I of course am a huge fan of fantasy, which must be why I've never noticed this particular lacuna ...

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)

Pippi is fantasy? How bizarre. Charlotte's Web? Even more bizarre.

I may have to track down the Hoover stuff and see if any is less dystopic.

Posted by: Sylvia (sylvia_rachel)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)


This woman also doesn't like The Paper Bag Princess -- she lists it, but says the writing is awkward and stilted, or something. So I take her classifications with a grain of NaCl.

Posted by: Comfort me with Apples (tanaise)
Posted at: March 1st, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)

Well, they're fantasy in ways that are obvious to non-fantasy adult readers: Small children do not live on their own, and animals don't talk. So I can see the arguement, but at the same time, I would never make it.

Posted by: Adrian Turtle (adrian_turtle)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)

The only one that leaps to my mind immediately is _A Wrinkle in Time_, but I think you should talk to FJM. (Imagine that's a pointer to an LJ profile, and the email address linked therein. Isn't it lovely to live in the future?) She was doing a study of a staggering heap of children's sf, specifically sf as a distinct genre from fantasy. And children's, not YA.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)



Posted by: Lynn Calvin (romsfuulynn)
Posted at: February 27th, 2007 11:01 pm (UTC)

You may want to start with the Golden Duck Awards for children's SF awarded by Duckon, my local con, which started as a con for people with kids, and has kids programming tracks.

The website has some bobbles but:
http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/favorites/by_genre/science_fic.html (separately id's fantasy)
might be places to look for stuff for your daughter to read.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)

Hmmm. "Tria and the Great Star Rescue" looks very promising.

Posted by: consider that you may be wrong (ukelele)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)

OMG I *loved* the Mushroom Planet books growing up. So loved. Was thrilled recently to discover places I can get them for cheap so V will have them in her library.

Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly books are adventure, but not sci-fi, with a strong female protagonist. The Girl Genius webcomic/graphic novels are steampunky with (obviously) a female protagonist, but she'd probably miss a lot of what's going on at her age and the backstory is quite complicated (you might like 'em, though; I've been devouring them and it won't be so long before she'll be able to get mileage out of them; btw the graphic novels are better than the webcomics because the use of color is spectacular).

Posted by: Michelle (silkblade)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)

Joan Aiken does fantasy, with female protagonists and pretty YA/middle-grade-ish, but possibly not as young as you are looking.

Posted by: aranel (aranel)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)

Not exactly SF, but there's always The Magic Schoolbus: Lost in the Solar System (if your 6-year-old has not yet sworn off books with pictures). Features both girls and boys, with a female teacher.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)

Molly used to like The Magic Schoolbus but has considered herself beyond it for a while now. (She did read quite a few, last year.)

Posted by: jiawen (jiawen)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)

My first thought (again, I must have these things on the brain) was Choose Your Own Adventure books. They are usually written in second person, and quite gender neutral. Third Planet from Altair is my favorite.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)

I should totally go to Uncle Hugo's and see if they have any of those. Molly would probably find them fascinating.

Posted by: Comfort me with Apples (tanaise)
Posted at: March 1st, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)

I just stumbled upon this elsewhere, and thought of you and molly: http://www.firstsecondbooks.net/sardine/sardineGift001.html

I've been trying to think of SF books, but most of them I think are just too old for her--I don't think I read sf when I was her age, so even if I did read sf stuff for the right age, it was later so I don't remember it properly. There is Outside, by Norton, which I remember as being faintly ominous, but not really scary post-apocalyptic.

Oh! I just read a large number of Garth Nix middle grade readers. (I was recently addicted to him, and forced to read everything he's ever written, I think, except Shade's Children which was too scary.) I count his Seventh Tower books as SF, though she may have a more restricted view of the definition than I have, and they should be very easily readable for her. There's also The Keys to the Kingdom, which may be offically too old for her, but they're not inappropriate, and they're simply written, just pretty long. I wouldn't count it as any scarier than James and the Giant Peach--ie, if you're still reading books to her her, it's *perfect* for that, but she might get a little spooked by some part of it herself.

Posted by: jimlawrence (jimlawrence)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)

I can't think of anything that hasn't already been mentioned. Too young for Podkayne, etc.

Please push on with the SF novel for kids. My grandson will be four this summer and, given the delays in publishing, he will probably be the right age by the time the book is available. Besides which, I recently got an e-mail from my eldest that suggested that I be seated before looking at the attached jpg file -- it was a sonogram -- gender as yet undisclosed -- so I will be in the market for good children's literature for quite a while to come. (And my daughter and my younger son are still single and in their early twenties.)

Oh... and keep the other novels coming too. Thanks.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: March 7th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC)

Have you tried Bruce Coville books?

Jane Yolen also comes to mind, although my kids discovered her when they were already reading YA books. I know she has books for younger audiences.


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