Clever Clogs


“Mum, I have to go and see an author tomorrow.”

This, in tones which would not be out of place in an undertakers. From a 12-year-old literature junkie. What gives?

Alas, the privilege of leaving school during lessons to meet a writer with sales of four million is unappreciated because said author writes romances. Teenage romances.

And Maddie is heading gothwards. Underneath that personable, even merry outer veneer, she has all the qualities one would expect on the CV of a dementor. She admires science ficton: Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, and some modern writers I have not quite got my head round yet.

And her very favourite genre is dystopian fiction.

“Ah,” I intoned sagely, “but what about Jacqui Wilson? You like Jacqui Wilson, and she’s not …….post-apocalyptic, or whatever they call it.”

Somehow I can never find the term ‘dystopian’ when I want it. It keeps an eye on me and, as I am sidling down the metaphorical corridor towards it, it spots me and slips off to find the equally metaphorical coffee machine.

“Mum, it’s dystopian. And there’s a big difference between dystopian and post apocalyptic.” And she proceeded to lecture me about the difference, all the way down the road from the train station to our drive, where Clive Bond The Cat waited vacantly for us.

So of course I googled when we got home and she’s right. There is a significant difference. I sighed. Maddie would so love somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge, where people care passionately about this sort of thing. But to get there one must be rare indeed.

Bemused, I shared the experience on Facebook. Being lectured by your daughter on the difference between the two genres cannot, surely, be an everyday experience? And by the reponse, I guessed I was right.

I showed her the response this morning. BIG mistake, and cue for further lecture. The City of Ember is post-apocalyptic, the Hunger Games dystopian, and she even found a utopian novel amongst the ones mentioned in the Facebook stream.

There were umpteen calls for a guest blog from the 12-year-old literary critic.

She says she will write one. I think she’ll have to, or she might explode.

Still, she brought me the permission slip for the author visit. An author is and author is an author, when all is said and done. And she trotted off to school with quite a light step for an apprentice dementor.


25 thoughts on “Clever Clogs

  1. That’s added a new school of fiction to my mental library. I shall be prepared for dystopian when our grand children bring Suzanne Collins into the conversation. I wonder she has a French equivalent – more than likely in the much favoured illustrated novel genre.

  2. *gloomily* I can see that only one of my novels has any hope with modern teens, as being mildly dysptopian. A term, by the way, I’m still trying to get my head around.

  3. I wonder which generation has it worse: in our day the stories were full of the threat, and likelihood, of nuclear war but at least there is something hopeful and inspiring about given a clean, or nuked, slate to start again with. If today’s youth are filled with the threat, and likelihood, of society’s complete breakdown then it’s no wonder that they are ‘disaffected’. Is there any more point to dreams? πŸ™‚

  4. Maddie sounds like a niece or two (or three) of mine ~ dark, darker, darkest. Maybe all that dystopian fantasy makes them feel that “this” isn’t so bad? πŸ˜‰

    And I’d LOVE a guest column from Maddie about the difference and the appeal of either/or.

  5. I love it because alas, I have no child like this and especially no daughter. I do not know the difference but it thrills me to hear about her concern of teenaged romance. THAT, I have plenty of.

  6. Marvelous! I look forward to Professor Maddie’s lesson. I’m a fan of dystopian myself, but only if it’s clever πŸ™‚

    And Kate, it warms my heart to hear about her literary passion.

  7. Utopian: where the world is better (in Greek ‘good place’, though Thomas More would have it that it’s ‘nowhere’)
    Dystopian: where the world has gone down the pan
    Post-apocalyptic: where the world is totally unrecognisable after all hell is let loose but it’s not necessarily down the pan (though it could be)

    There must also be crossover genres, like post-dystopian or even post-utopian, but I’ve never come across them. Me, I’m anticipating a post-geriatric world [insert expressive dots].

  8. Love it! I can’t wait, really, I can’t, to read Maddie’s guest post. The girl is a wonder to me, in the most wonderful of ways. Was it Suzanne Collins she was eager to see?

    I would love to have a discussion with young folks about the Hunger Games trilogy – or just listen to their viewpoints. We read the first one for our book discussion group and it didn’t go over well. A few were annoyed that we’d read it and thought it horrible that children were killed (the same two who insisted we read The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo). Oh, I could go on, but, then I’d be wasting all this white space that Maddie will hopefully fill.

  9. I couldn’t define the differences between these edgy genres, but I completely understand Maddie’s passion. I’d love to hear her interpretations. I wish when I’d been her age my mom had taken any interest at all in what I was reading and the “why” behind my choices. I read a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have read at the age I chose them, but my reading choices were often my way of creeping slowly into adulthood. I’d love to read a post written by Maddie. I can easily understand why she’d be interested in meeting Suzanne Collins! Hope it worked out.

  10. Dear Kate, I chuckled when you used the word “dementor.” Those J. K. Rowling creatures who sucked out all joy from existence certainly to belong in the dystopian world. And I’d so like to read one of Maddie’s critiques. I’m at sea with what she’s defining and I suppose reading. The new genres seem to be passing me by and I’m caught in the 20th century.

    By the way, I just finished a book that seems to be a tour de force to me. “Life After Life” is by Kate Atkinson, a British author. The book it most reminds me of–although it’s quite different–is “The Confidence Man” by Herman Melville. With both books we remain, even after reading the final word, of what actually has been and will be. You might enjoy this book, Kate. I finished it last Sunday and it continues to haunt my mind. It’s provocative. Peace.

  11. Girl1 only read 9 pages of the Hunger Games. I’m challeneged by her not being a reader: I devoured the trilogy. Please, Maddie, write about it, so I can share πŸ™‚

  12. I’m an ancient adult, but I loved the Hunger Games trilogy. I think it’s right on describing a future filled with corporate-sponsored televised killing games between teenagers presided over by an electrified-fence totalitarian regime. It’s only a matter of degree, isn’t it, from the slippery slope we’re slithering toward?
    I think Maddie should definitely write a blog post about the genres in question. It would be very enlightening, I’m sure.

  13. Nothing wrong with HG or Bradbury – I always loved that collection of the latter’s short stories called ‘The October Country’. The Hunger Games takes the ideas of Rollerball by William Harrison as its core, though it expands on them greatly.

    These days I tend to read the likes of Iain M Banks and Alastair Reynolds – probably not dystopian enough for your discerning young lady and I’ll admit to loving the works of Roger Zelazny which is going way too far in the fantasy direction πŸ™‚

  14. One dystopian list of books includes “The City of Ember.” I haven’t read it, so I will not quibble with a literature junkie of any age who is knowledgeable about this genre. Ray Bradbury is an excellent writer. Ask Maddie where she’d place his “Fahrenheit 451.” It is another police state, upside-down world and a scary premise for anyone who loves books.

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