Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fahrenheit 451.2


Original text, or expurgated?
In 1953, Ballantine Books published Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a novel set in a near future in which books are banned and burned. Twenty five years later, in 1967, in an effort to capture the “school market,” Ballantine published an expurgated version of the novel. The words “hell,” “damn,” and “abortion” were deleted. A “drunk” man becomes “sick.” A man cleaning his navel becomes a man cleaning his ear. Seventy-five passages (in a 150 page novel) were changed.

The expurgated edition was sold in U.S. schools, with no indication in the book that it had been altered. Six years later, Ballantine tired of marketing two different versions of the same title, so they discontinued the original. From 1973 through 1979, only the expurgated edition was available in the U.S.

All of this was done without the knowledge of the author, or pretty much anyone else.

In 1979, Bradbury learned of the hacking and raised the Fahrenheit on Ballantine. In 1980 the original was restored.

Happy ending? Perhaps, but suppose Bradbury had been dead, or had remained unaware of the literary vandalism? There have been similar “sanitations” of books such as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Expurgated versions of Shakespeare’s plays have been widely used in schools.

To younger readers, this may seem like ancient history from the dark ages. I assure you it is not. Many authors, including myself, have had their works translated into other languages, or digitized and made into ebooks. Have these books been expurgated, bowdlerized, or censored without the author’s—or the public’s—knowledge? Almost certainly.

Today, an increasingly large percentage of our reading is electronic. Nothing is easier than for an individual censor to alter a text (one could search and replace “damn” with “darn,” for example) then disseminate it. All sorts of documents, from the Library of Congress to publishers’ catalogs, are vulnerable to attack.

I was thinking about that when I wrote The Forgetting Machine.

The Forgetting Machine is set in the near future, when cloud-based ebooks have mostly replaced printed books. How far in the future? I dunno. Most of the story is about a machine that can directly input information into the human brain, although for every bit of info inserted, some other bit gets deleted. 

This creates serious problems for the heroine, Ginger Crump, whose boyfriend learns a great deal of American History, but forgets her.

At the same time, as Ginger is reading Charlotte’s Web on her e-reader, the book’s files are globally hacked to eliminate any mention of talking animals. Ginger and her memory-impaired boyfriend set out to discover the identity of the hacker and restore Charlotte’s Web to its original form.

The Forgetting Machine will be published on September 20.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Angry Girls


I just got an advance look at a review of The Forgetting Machine from School Library Journal. I can’t post it here yet because it won’t appear in SLJ until next month, but I will share my favorite line:

“It’s refreshing to see a young female character express anger and not apologize for it.”


Why does that line please me so? Because all too often in reviews of my books, my female characters have been criticized for being “too angry,” or “not nice,” or “not likeable,” even though if I gender-flipped the character and had them do and say essentially the same things as males, those complaints would disappear. But I keep writing about angry girls because, well, girls get pissed off too. And, frankly, I like them that way.

Female Dragon Making a Point

I'll be posting the SLJ review and others in a couple weeks. 

Pub date for The Forgetting Machine is September 20. There will be some sort of party/signing in late September or early October. Details to come.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What I’ve Been Up To

It is halfway through 2016, I’m asking myself, “What have you done lately?” Well, one thing I haven’t done lately is write a blog post, so here goes:

How many hours have I spent torturing myself by reading articles about Donald Trump? Far too many. Years ago I attempted a story in which a man notices an ugly mole on his cheek, and over the course of the story the mole grows until it covers every inch of his body. The story lacked plot, character, and purpose, so I tossed it. That is how I feel about Trump. Why do I keep looking?

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my ninety-three-year-old mom, whose parents are perpetually on their way to visit her, and who recognizes her children only on her good days. We moved her to a new facility last week. She is very confused, but not confused enough to not know how confused she is. It’s hard.

I’ve been struggling with a novel, a ghost story. I work on it every day and manage to lengthen the manuscript by about a thousand words a week. I read about other writers who are able to produce four, five, even ten thousand words a day. I hate them.
 
Mushrooms, of course, take a lot of time. I was picking chanterelles on Wednesday. Saturday I’ll be looking for lobster mushrooms, black trumpets, and more chanterelles.

The dogs are fine, thank you for asking.


I have written two short stories for 2016! I don't do much short fiction, but I'm quite pleased with these two efforts.

“The Real Thing” is a chillingly amusing story about Fine Art, the myth of permanence, and the inevitability of entropy. It can be found in The Art of Wonder, published by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the University of Minnesota Press. Here’s the blurb from the MIA website:

“In celebration of the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s 100th birthday, the museum asked some of the United States’s most talented writers, photographers, and illustrators to muse about art, creativity, and inspiration in this newly released publication. Contributors include the late New York Times journalist David Carr, renowned photographers Alec Soth and Ann Hamilton, National Book Award-winning author Pete Hautman, illustrator Eric Hanson, hip-hop artist and author Dessa, and graphic novelist Kevin Cannon. The Art of Wonder also features personal reflections from the curators of the Minneapolis Institute of Art on the objects of their affection and wonder.”

It’s an oversize hardcover and a bargain at twenty bucks. Order from the MIA store, or wherever you like to buy your books.


My second story, “Opposite Land,” is about lutefisk. While researching the story I ate lutefisk for the first (and last) time. If you’ve never had lutefisk, I heartily recommend it as an experience you will never forget.

The story will appear this September in Sky Blue Water, a collection of short stories for young readers by Minnesota writers including…well, I’ll just list them all: William Alexander; Swati Avasthi; Kelly Barnhill; Mary Casanova; John Coy; Kirstin Cronn-Mills; Anika Fajardo; Shannon Gibney; Pete Hautman; Lynne Jonell; Kevin Kling; Margi Preus; Marcie Rendon; Kurtis Scaletta; Julie Schumacher; Joyce Sidman; Phuoc Thi Minh Tran; Anne Ursu; Sarah Warren; Stephanie Watson; Kao Kalia Yang.

Edited by Jay D. Peterson and Collette A. Morgan; published by the University of Minnesota Press.


And before I forget, don’t forget that The Forgetting Machine, book two of the Flinkwater Chronicles, will be out in mid-September.





Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Speaking the Truth?

The truth?

Lies, I tell you! It's all lies!

Well, sort of. This whole Truth vs. Fiction thing is very confusing. I make up stories for a living, and I'll do whatever I have to—true or not—to keep it interesting. But it always feels true when I'm writing it.

And that's what this book is about.


Back in 2013 I began exchanging emails with expert YA librarian Joel Shoemaker for an interview with VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates). The interview was published back in June, 2014, but my correspondence with Joel continued over the next two years, resulting in this book.

Needless to say, it's a huge ego trip for me. Joel not only read everything I’ve written, but he brought his incisive librarian eye. I learned a lot about my own work from reading the book, and a few things about my family as well. Joel not only read my books, he interviewed my mother, my siblings, and some of my editors. He also spent an afternoon at my home poking through the contents of my medicine cabinet (I mean that as a metaphor, which apparently I do a lot.)

The book provides synopses and analyses of all of my Young Adult novels, an overview of my personal history and family life, a chronology, and approximately one zillion footnotes. There are pictures, including a duck painting. It is 223 pages long, and every page sizzles. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that touched me so personally. Imagine that.


At $65.00 a copy, Speaking the Truth to Teens will find a fairly small audience. If you're feeling flush you can get it through any of the online booksellers. You probably won't find it at your local bookstore, but I bet they'd be happy to order a copy. And it should be available through most library systems.