Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sci Fi Short Story contest!

Hey, all of you who wrote sci fi stories for us this past fall: Here's another opportunity! Read carefully: You do have to be in high school, but there's no fee to submit, and you could win prizes!


Submissions for The Tomorrow Prize for original short sci-fi stories by Los Angeles County high school students are due Monday, February 26, 2018 at 11:59pm. There is no fee to submit.

Judges will select five to six finalists. Their stories will be read dramatically by celebrity guests on stage at LitFest Pasadena on Sunday, May 20.

There is also a new special prize for environmental-themed sci-fi, The Green Feather Award, for which there will be one winner.

After the reading, the first-, second-, and third-place Tomorrow Prize winners will be announced, and then the special prize for The Green Feather Award will be presented.

You can access the competition guidelines and instructions here. (Be sure you enter the teen contest, not the adult one!)

Good luck!



Friday, January 12, 2018

January Book Club Report (2 of 3)

Fifteen members of the 6+7 Book Club met on Tuesday to discuss Feedback, the sequel to our two-months-prior read, Variant, by Robison Wells. This was a highly contentious choice: While several people loved the book, most were terribly frustrated by its lack of answers to truly key questions, and all speculated about why there wasn't (yet?) a third volume to tie up some of the issues. It was noted that this book, while containing lots of action, was frantic at the beginning and at the end, and incredibly slow in the middle. Several felt that all the time spent on Benson being wishy-washy about what to do next while he waited for Becky's recovery could have been better used by clearing up some of the issues and questions! No one could agree on exactly what the ending meant. Several of us made the comparison to James Dashner's Maze Runner series, in which the resolution of each book just led you to more questions than you had had before! Who started this, what is its purpose, who is in charge, and why kidnap the president's twin daughters? C'mon!

The upshot was, ratings were all over the map, and we ended up with a low-to-middling score of 6 for this book. We are going to do some research to find out if there is, indeed, a third book planned or coming, or if this is it; and if this is it, then we feel Robison Wells owes us some answers! Book club members: I have gone to his website, found his contact info, and written him an email that included most, if not all of your questions--we will see what happens! Updates here later.




Next month's book is a bit of a change in pace: Although it DOES contain a cyborg, it's based on a traditional fairy tale, so some answers are somewhat foregone...or are they? We will be reading and discussing Cinder, by Marissa Meyer.

The list of books we considered contained a few left over from the previous month, and a few new books. For the month of March, we ended up choosing Gone, by Michael Grant, to Edward's triumphant delight and Anarda's dismay (she's not a fan of this series). The others we considered, in approximate descending order of popularity, were:

I Will Always Write Back, by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, & Liz Welch
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Ruby Red, by Kirsten Gier
The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card (someday, Kaleb!)

Next month's meeting is on February 13.



Our meeting of the 10-12 Book Club was a small one, due to various rehearsals and away games, with just 10 in attendance, but we still managed to have a lively conversation about Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.

The consensus was, everyone adored the 1980s trivia, and some also loved the story, especially some of the "reveals" at the end. Others thought the character development was poor, and one called Wade a "total Mary Sue." It seemed like our discussion was fruitful, in the sense that some of the big fans nonetheless could see what those with higher expectations were getting at, and vice versa. All were intrigued by the idea of having something like OASIS at their disposal, although not at the expense of living in the semi-dystopic world outside. One of us pointed out that James Halliday's selections from the '80s were ruthlessly sexist in nature, but others felt that since he was a complete nerd who was constitutionally incapable of talking to women, that this made sense. The reactions to the book were primarily positive, and although we did have two ratings of 5, the final overall rating was a solid 8.




Next month's selection is The Vault of Dreamers, by Caragh O'Brien. We were unable to find sufficient copies within our budget to read Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia, which had been our original choice; but everyone seemed happy with the substitution.



Other books we considered included a couple of repeat suggestions and a bunch of new stuff. Our ultimate choice for March was Romeo and/or Juliet, by Ryan North. It is a "chooseable path adventure," in which you can "play" one of the main characters (Romeo, Juliet, or the nurse) and make choices that send the plot in new directions every time you read. We're not sure how this is going to turn out, but it's certainly an intriguing concept.


Other books, in approximate descending order by popularity, were:

Starflight, by Melissa Landers
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
In A Perfect World, by Trish Doller
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, by David Wong

Next month's meeting is on February 8th.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

College Scholarships for Burbank Students

The New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts is offering two full-tuition scholarships to qualified high school juniors or seniors living in or attending school in Burbank!

One scholarship will be for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design, while the other is for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Animation/Visual Effects. For all of you who have dreamed of being game designers and animation/vfx artists (and I know that's many many of you), here is your chance!

There is an application deadline of March 1, 2018, but don't delay: Send an email to burbankscholarship@nyfa.edu to get an application request and to find out the details and requirements, or you can call 818 333-3558. This is an amazing opportunity--don't pass it up!

Monday, January 1, 2018

What we're reading: Space opera!

I can't believe that I am giving this book a great review. I'm saying this up front instead of leaving it to the end because I'm about to say some fairly negative things about the author's previous work, and I didn't want you to misunderstand and think I'm not a fan of this one—so keep reading!

As both a science fiction maven and something of a young adult literature expert (I teach YA Lit at UCLA in the library masters program), I have to say that I disliked Melissa Landers's first book on every level. I can only accurately say that I disliked Alienated, because I refused to read the rest of the series after suffering through the first; but I made an assumption (borne out by some of the reviews I have read) that the rest was equally disappointing. Alienated was, I quote from my review at the time, "set-your-teeth-on-edge, sugar-coated cute. I'm a sci fi geek, and I never can resist an aliens-come-to-earth-and-initiate-relations story, but this was just thinly veiled  stereotypical teen romance with trappings." And the trappings did nothing to redeem the book for me: The sci fi was boring, predictable, and sometimes illogical. The more I thought about that book, the less I liked it. I even went back and changed my rating downward later.

The only saving grace that book had for me was an accurate depiction of how deplorably people in our world treat people who are somehow different from them. I thought it was topical for our times, and rendered (very) faint praise because of that element. But otherwise? No.

Starflight, however, is a whole different story. After my first experience of reading so-called sci fi from Landers, I was determined not to go there. But a bunch of the teens at my library, as well as some people here on Goodreads, convinced me that maybe I should give her a second chance, and I'm glad I did.

Solara, fresh out of the orphanage that will no longer house and support her, is headed for the outer realms, a lawless place inhabited by those who can't afford to stay in the luxurious inner circle of the civilized worlds. Qualified as a mechanic and heading out to fill a job on Vega, her only way to get there (being without funds) is to act as an indentured servant to someone else traveling in the right direction, to get free passage on a spaceliner. Unfortunately, the only person left to whom she can become indentured is the wealthy, arrogant, entitled Doran, who tortured her all through middle and high school.

Partway through the flight, though, when Doran is planning to dump her at an outpost (a terrible fate for an innocent young girl), Solara engineers things so that the two end up instead on the Banshee, a small freighter run by a dubious crew, pursuing a different future.

THIS book is in the great tradition of space opera set up for us by the master, Robert Heinlein. He wrote an amazing canon of books, some for teens, others for adults, in which he used a particular formula: A single disadvantaged character manages, against all odds, to triumph over adversity, and oh, by the way, does that while in space. Heinlein's titles for teens include Time for the Stars, Have Spacesuit—Will Travel, Podkayne of Mars, Tunnel in the Sky, Time for the Stars, Citizen of the Galaxy, and others that escape my memory at the moment. And although some of the science has not held up well (let's face it, he wrote the first in 1947!), they are surprisingly current in their themes and are, besides, just a lot of fun. If you like rooting for an underdog and watching him or her ingeniously achieve seemingly impossible goals (while in space), try them out. We have some of them in our collection

Starflight, by Melissa Landers, has it all--the disadvantaged but plucky and clever protagonist (who is a female, so extra kudos for that); the initial obstacle to her success in the form of the spoiled rich boy, who soon has the tables turned on him by our clever girl and has to learn humility and to use his innate gifts for more than a hatstand; and the mysterious band of opportunists whose ship and society provides the two competitors with background, succor, and, ultimately, friendship. It's a lively adventure, with various mysteries to be solved, various villains to be defeated, and it also has space pirates, huzzah! Dare I say that in some respects it gave me some of the same feelings as my beloved Firefly? Also, although it is the first in a series, it isn't one of those dump-you cliffhangers; it has a satisfying resolution while leaving plenty unsolved for the next round.

In short, when I get back to work on Tuesday, I will be seeking out the sequel, Starfall, to find out what happens next to our intrepid crew. And while I don't apologize to Landers for dissing her first saccharine effort, I give her huge props for this new level of achievement, a giant step up. Yay for space opera!



Saturday, December 30, 2017

Honorable Mention: Post #4

For Teen Read Month, Burbank Public Library sponsored a writing contest, called "Stranger In A Strange Land." Here is the final story from one of our four writers who received an honorable mention:


Shifted
by Brooke Ferrell, grade 8

The eighth day, of the tenth month, of the year of Sargog - On Zarah

Before noon meal:


They’ve ordered me to keep a journal, to practice for writing reports. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time, but I kept my mouth shut. Surely the Dalent can’t expect me to report to such stupid commanders for much longer. But I suppose I’d better keep my commanding officers happy, at least until I get promoted, so I’ll keep the journal.

Describing my appearance would be pointless, because I’m a shapeshifter. I shift depending on my mood, and I love to unnerve other Zarath by subtly shifting eye color or hair color while I’m talking to someone. My favorite form is that of a eighty juanes girl, with shimmering green hair and matching green eyes.

I’m smart, I passed my competency test 20 juanes early. I’m also incredibly powerful. I’m one of two shifters on this planet, and one of three known shifters in the system.

I’m also the most likely candidate for the next Dalent, after the present one fades. I have no attachments, which makes me stronger, and have good family connections, which makes me an ideal candidate.

After noon meal:

This afternoon I had a meeting with the Dalent, but she was nothing like the rumors. She was neither sweet nor fragile. She looked innocent at first, but I didn’t fall for that and I’m glad I didn’t.

We talked for maybe five minutes before she turned to the guard on her right. “I reject.”

I was furious! How dare she use the one veto she has for Dalent candidates on me? I’ve been working toward this for juanes! I even joined the military so I would qualify for the position. I snapped, slapping her across the face. She didn’t react, just put her hand on her cheek where I’d connected.

“You’re a cruel senile woman who takes some type of pleasure in ruining lives!” I yelled. “There is no one else on Zarah who has as many connections and advantages than I do! Will your last act as Dalent be to ruin our planet?”

She didn’t even flinch under my barrage of words, just gestured for her guards to take me away like some common criminal. “You are no Zarath.” She told me. I am just as Zarath as she is, if not more! I left the building spitting and cursing.

I’m getting ready for bed now, and I think writing it down has made me realize my error. I lost my temper with the Dalent, which only confirmed her idea that I’m unsuitable for the Dalency. Tomorrow I’ll lie through my teeth and apologize. I’ll blame it on lack of sleep or something.

Lack of sleep may not be such an outrageous excuse… I’m more tired than I have any right to be. Did they add something to my-

The ninth day, of the tenth month, of the year of Sargog - On… Well, I’m not exactly sure.

Before noon meal:


Today was… interesting. Not in a good way.

I woke up and found that my sleep pod had been ejected from Zarah! My first thought was that there’d been an emergency and I’d slept through the sirens blaring. I manually opened my pod to discover there was no one around for miles. The Dalent must have had something put in my drink and then ejected me while I slept! At first I was mad, but when I could see straight I realized I had more pressing matters than getting my revenge on the Dalent.

I picked a direction and walked for a long time before I finally saw a building in the distance. I was starving, but I knew better than to just go up to some strange alien’s house. For all I knew, I was on a planet that hated the Zarath. I hid in the trees while a girl, about my age, in a form I’ve never seen before, walked out of the building and froze, meeting my eyes. I quickly shifted to match her, but kept my favorite bright green hair and green eyes. Once I was sure I’d fit in, I stepped out of the bushes.

“I’ve never seen you before.” She said in Milkayan, with a thick accent I couldn’t place.

“I’m… just passing through.” I offered in the same language. She spoke slowly, like she was a little stupid. She watched me a minute, probably processing what I’d said. I waited, but my patience was wearing thin when she said, “Where’re your folks?”

“I accompany myself.” I lifted my chin a bit. “Is that a problem?”

Instead of taking offence, the girl grinned. “Feisty. I like it. Do you have a place to stay while you’re in town?”

“No.”

She studied me for another minute until I almost snapped at her, but I reminded myself what happened last time I lost my temper. Then she turned and walked away. “Come on.”

I stood stock still. Were all the aliens on this planet so trusting of strangers? Maybe these aliens were more unintelligent than I thought.

She glanced back. “By the way, I’m Chloe. Chloe Smith.”

“Sorralyn.” I followed her at a cautious distance. If she thought she was going to form an ‘attachment’ with me, she was wrong. Zarath didn’t make attachments. They made political alliances. And this girl had nothing to offer me.

After noon meal:

Except food. This girl had nothing to offer me except food, which is something I hadn’t realized I’d needed so much. Food and shelter, in exchange for nothing. It’s a good deal for me, but I worry about them if they make deals like this often.

Her parents were more suspicious of me. They still let me stay, though. I think that says a lot about the average intelligence level on this planet. And then I met her brother, Nathan.

Her brother.

He’s older than her, and much smarter than the rest. He does speak slowly, like the rest of them, but he argued with his parents about just letting a random… he called me a ‘person’… stay in their house. He watches me like a hawk when I’m in the house, but never comes outside. In fact, he rarely stands up. If he were more active and could talk quicker, he’d fit in fairly well on Zarah.

I did learn that five of our jaunes is equivalent to one year here.

The tenth day, of the tenth month, of the year of Sargog - On Earth

Before noon meal:


With some well-placed questions, I found out I was on a planet called Earth, in a little town called Collinsville. Their medical knowledge is basic at best. Stimulating the regeneration of a form is unheard of. Not that I’ll ever do it on Earthlings. They don’t know my planet exists. I’m not going to give it away.

I think I’m homesick. I miss the juane party we’d be having right now on Zarah. I miss sleeping in my pod. I even miss training, as excruciating as that was. I want to go home.

Why do I care so much if I hold no attachments?

Asking that question makes my head spin.

After noon meal:

Nathan slept in past noon. No one I knew on Zarah did that, unless they were about to fade. His parents were worried, but they were trying not to show it. Chloe was the only one who was bright and happy. After we ate, I found a quiet place in the woods to sit and think. As far as I know, I’m not getting back to Zarah. This place is my new life. A place where I have to hide. Forever.

The first day, of the first month, of the year of Teleth - On Earth

Before noon meal:


Nathan doesn’t like me at all. I heard him arguing with his parents last night. He thinks that I’m dangerous, or a runaway. He thinks letting me stay here will put them all in danger.

That hurts more than it should. He’s not even Zarath. He’s an Earthling. I have no emotional attachment to him or his family, because I’m not weak. But for some reason, I still care about what he’s concluded about me. Why?

All this spinning is making my head hurt.

After noon meal:

Today I helped Chloe with her chores. I don’t know why I did it, I just felt like… It was the right thing to do. Not that I’ve ever cared about what’s right before… Maybe it’s an investment. She’ll feel obliged to help me when I need it.

Why did I help her?

My mind is spinning worse than ever.

The eighth day, of the first month, of the year of Teleth - On Earth
Before noon meal:

After fighting with him for days, Nathan and I made a peace. I won’t speak to him, he won’t convince his family to kick me out. They all treat him like he’s so fragile, like he’s about to break. Why don’t they treat Chloe like that too? Why does he sleep so late? Why does he hate me so much?

I have millions of questions, but no answers.

After noon meal:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been asking questions that I can’t answer. Staying here is no longer safe. I’m leaving. Tonight.

The…actually, I’m not sure. - On Earth

Before noon meal:


I woke up in a white room. The first thing that registered was a steady beeping. There was a band around my arm. I opened my eyes and realized I was in an unfamiliar room, surrounded by machines and signs written in Milkayan. A throbbing pain in my head was the next thing I noticed, but that I could do something about.

Wincing, I eased my way into my molecular structure and released some of the tension in my brain. I forced some of the cells to regenerate. A few moments later, I left my structure.

With the headache gone, I had the presence of mind to make sure I was in an Earthling form. Thankfully, I hadn’t slipped out of that.

Next, I examined the band around my arm. It held a needle in, and the needle was attached to a bag. I assume it was the Earthlings’ way of making sure I got nutrients, although it probably was what kept my body from realizing I needed to speed up my healing process. Slowly, I eased the needle out of my arm. The machine started screaming in protest.

Two people in blue scrubs entered the room almost instantly. “Oh!” One of them said, startled.

“You can’t take that out.” The other one told me.

I shook my head. “It’s not helping.” Without waiting for a response, I pulled it the rest of the way out and immediately felt my body flood itself with regeneration. I wasn’t nearly old enough for my regeneration to fail.

I sat up. “Where am I?”

“Collinsville.” The first one told me, having recovered from their shock of seeing me awake.

I nodded. “Why am I here?”

Both of them hesitated. “What do you remember?” The second one said.

I searched my memory. Needing to leave. Running away, towards where my pod was. Crossing the street in the dark. Headlights. Impact. “I got hit by a car.”

“Good.”

Now I probed what sensations I remembered while I was unconscious. A voice. Curses. A hand. Someone cradling me. “Someone found me.” Not someone. That voice… “Nathan found me.” I corrected myself.

They just nodded. “The Smith family’s been visiting you pretty often. Actually, they should be here any minute.”

No. “I have to go.” I stood.

“You shouldn’t do that!”

“Sorralyn!” I was too late. It was Chloe. She pushed through the door and practically tackled me. She’d grown. I hadn’t. I hadn’t been awake to will myself to.

“Chloe.”

She pulled back, a frown creasing her face. “You ran. You didn’t even say goodbye. You just left. Nathan said you were trouble. I didn’t believe him, but you just left.”

I flicked my gaze to where the Smith parents were standing by the door, trying to give us space. “I wonder why I would do that.”

“Chloe, Mom, Dad.” Nathan spoke up from where he stood in the corner. “I want to talk to Sorralyn.”

Without another word, the three of them filed out of the room, followed closely by the two people in scrubs.

He slid the door shut behind them before turning to face me. He was thinner than he was when I last saw him. He had deep purple circles under his eyes, and his hair had been shaved close to his head.

“Nathan, what-”

“What are you?” He asked. “You’re not human.”

I froze. “Of course I’m human.” I lied. “Why would you think I’m not?”

“Don’t lie to me.” His voice was quiet. Suddenly I realized something. He was really sick. He was fading.

I put a hand on his shoulder, accepting the pain that came with that minor contact. I almost didn’t need to search his structure, but I did and he jerked away. “Don’t do that.” I’d seen enough. There was an uncomfortable lump that shouldn’t be there. I reached out to try and burn it away, but he stepped back. “Tell me what you are.” His voice was rising. I couldn’t risk someone hearing.

“I’m Zarath.”

If he felt shock, he didn’t show it. “Where are you from?”

“A planet called Zarah.”

“How do you look like my sister?”

Slowly, I reached out my hand and let it shift back to its original form. “I’m a shifter. I’m one of three known.” He nodded, taking it all in. It was my turn to ask a question. “How did you know about me?”

“You… shifted… when I touched you.” Nathan said, slowly raising his gaze to meet mine. “It was like touching me caused you pain.”

I just had one question. “Do you know you’re sick?”

He sank down on the bed. “Is it that obvious?”

“I’m Zarath. All Zarath can stimulate natural regeneration. And they can sense when it’s needed. Of course, there are some minor side effects…” I gave him a wry smile. “Like painful contact with sick people.”

“I’ve known for a year.”

I swallowed. This was an intimate question, but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t ask it. “May I… try to heal it?”

His head shot up. “You can cure it?”

“I can try.”

“Go ahead.”

I put my hand on his shoulder, sending my consciousness to the lump. I forced some of the cells to yield, and dissolved them. I started on the next layer, but it was much stronger. I called for his immune system to help me, but very few cells answered my call. “No.” I whispered. He saved my life. I had to return the favor. I stimulated his natural regeneration, but the lump started to grow. I tried to pull my energy back, but it was like trying to grab a drop of oil from water. I was vaguely aware of Nathan crying out, but I couldn’t focus on that right now. I can’t have killed my friend. Then I got a handle on the energy and jerked it back, hard. The lump began to shrink again. His life force was flickering dangerously, mirroring my own, but I couldn’t give the energy back until the lump was gone. I clung to it, refusing to let myself give it back. After what felt like ages, the lump disappeared and I thrust my energy back into his system. I pulled back to myself, gasping for air.

Nathan was staring at me, his eyes wide. “What did you do?”

“Almost killed you by accident.” I rasped out. “Sorry.”

“Are you okay?”

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak, but he expected an answer. “I’m just a little rusty. I haven’t used that power since I got here.”

“Why-” He froze. The room was silent. Why was the room silent? I was about to panic when the Dalent appeared in front of me. She studied me a long moment, reminding me of Chloe.

“You’ve changed.” She said.

“What?”

“You were selfish before. You know you killed yourself and him, don’t you?”

I nodded. I’d felt myself fading from too much energy coursing through my body. “But why are you here?”

A slight smile graced her aging face. “I’m a time jumper. You think I didn’t know were you were these past three juanes?”

“When I was on Zarah, I didn’t care what your power was, as long as I was the next Dalent.” I told her, feeling my face burn.

“And now you don’t care if you forfeit the Dalency as long as you can stay here and save more lives.”

I hadn’t realized it until she said it, but it was true. I wanted to help the Earthlings who’d taught me how to feel. “Yes.”

She stared at me, and I met her eyes frankly. I had nothing to hide anymore. Then she smiled, a bittersweet smile. “If I’d met this girl three juanes ago, Zarah would be a lucky planet indeed. But you want to stay.”

I took a breath. Letting go wasn’t easy, and staying would be hard. I knew that if I forfeited the Dalency, I would be banned from Zarah. I had no guarantee I would be allowed to stay in Collinsville, or that no one would discover my secret. But I still said the two words that threw everything I’d worked for away, and turned to a new page. “I do.”

“Goodbye, Sorralyn.” The Dalent said.

“Goodbye, Grandmother.”

# # #


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Honorable Mentions, Post #3

For Teen Read Month, Burbank Public Library sponsored a writing contest, called "Stranger In A Strange Land." Here is a story from one of our four writers who received an honorable mention:


New World, New Rules
by Stephan Beglaryan, grade 10

It was a gloomy day that my six-year trip to the outer planet called Earth came to an end.

When my spaceship came close to the planet, there was a strange feeling inside of me as a new substance that seemed worthless to me started to fill the cabin of my ship. I later found out that it was oxygen and that humans, the people on Earth, need to be able to survive. I landed in a place called Russia and I later became aware that they had mistaken my landing for an asteroid strike, which further helped me stay in disguise. After touchdown, I destroyed my ship as it was no longer needed and shifted into human form. I went on day by day until I came by the first of them. I was scared and slightly angry as they did not even greet me but I was here not to hurt them but to study them to evaluate if they are safe to communicate with. For the next few days I walked which was quiet unusual for us brogis (people of planet Borgeria) as we tend to fly there and I studied their behavior. I found out that I needed to have some identifications to travel like a human being so I took my life to the forests and crossed into the United States by using a boat that I made.


I traveled for days and days, getting rides from the locals or walking, and finally reached a place called New York. It looked just like my old planet and I stated to change my opinion about the people of Earth. I visited many places, interacted with humans, and tried their food, which I found to be very delicious, but this was where my happy life on earth would come to an end.

One day, when I was sitting in a restaurant, two men approached me and asked me to step outside. Having no experience with humans before, I followed them. While one of them stayed back in the restaurant, the other human came outside, pinned me to the wall, and grabbed my transmitter, since he could not find money on me. This meant that I had lost my connection with my planet and could not return home unless a rescue mission was sent out for me.

I began to search for a human job, which I found very easily, and I earned decent money. Since humans wasted their time on a hobby called sleeping, they could not work as much as me, and I was soon considered to be a high-class member of society. My life was finally becoming normal, and I was starting to feel safe in my new environment.

This all changed on Friday, October 13th, when I got a knock on my door. It was a person dressed in a black suit, who asked me to follow him. I did so in fear of my life, and we were soon on the way to a secret agency deep in the heart of Nevada called Area 51. I did not know what to do, as there were humans surrounding me with guns at all times, and I was told that I could not leave. During my time there, I started hypothesizing about what this could be. I had many thoughts but one of them struck me: People of the Earth are not less intelligent than we are and I was as alien for them as they were for me. I started being taken into different rooms, and samples of my blood and skin were taken. They tested me in very advanced medical ways and did surgeries to test my cells.

Finally, they promised to release me if I let them put a tracing chip in my body, and without any second thoughts, I agreed. I was sent to New York, where my old home was, and I was allowed to have a job and to interact with people; but there was one catch: Every year on October 31, I had to change into my old, alien form and visit the houses of regular citizens and do the dirty work of the government. I was forced to collect candy from every house, and turn the candy in to the government office to reassure my freedom. I was doomed to a life of collecting candy and turning it in to the government, and I do not know why, but every time I did so they would laugh hysterically and congratulate me.

# # #


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book club substitution

We were unable to get sufficient copies of Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia, at a price we could afford, for 10-12 Book Club's February book; so we will be switching to our second choice, The Vault of Dreamers, by Caragh M. O'Brien.

Although I am sure we will enjoy O'Brien's book (I enjoyed her previous dystopian series), I'm sorry that we don't get to read Racculia's, after about a year of recommending it to you! Pick up a library copy and read it anyway--you won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What we're reading: A graphic novel

That's a new headline for me: Despite having been a teen librarian for nine years now, I have only read a few graphic novels during that time. I have ordered a lot of them (with direction from Anarda, who is much more familiar with the format), and vetted a lot of them, but I never thought it was a format that I'd enjoy reading. I don't know why not--I like to read, and I'm an artist, so you'd think it would be a natural. But for some reason, the square-to-square narrative is a hard one for me.

Although I won't say that I'm an instant convert, I did become a little more enthusiastic about them after my latest reading "assignment." Our librarian, Jeff, who ran the Genre-X book club, has taken a job as a teen librarian in a location close to his home (he's been commuting 35 miles one way for a few years now, which doesn't sound like so much until you realize that it's across the worst traffic Los Angeles has to offer), and I am the temporary fill-in host for that book club for the next couple of months. This month's book was a graphic novel called Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley, who is more famous for his Scott Pilgrim series, so I had to read one whether I wanted to or not!

The story, funnily enough, reminded me of the old Grimm's fairy tale, "The Fisherman and his Wife," in which the fisherman catches a flounder who claims to be, not a fish, but an enchanted prince, and entreats the fisherman to throw him back, which he does. But when the fisherman's wife gets wind of this transaction, she wants to know why the fisherman didn't ask for a reward for his mercy, and sends him back to get one. The couple lives in a decrepit hovel, and the wife tells her husband to ask for a neat little cottage. The flounder grants this wish, but the wife gets greedy, and proceeds to demand more and more luxuries and riches (a mansion, a palace), followed by titles (she wants first to be King, then Emperor, and then Pope!). Finally, when the wife asks to be God, the flounder has had enough and restores her, and her poor henpecked husband, to their original hovel. There's a moral here...

In Seconds, Katie is a young and successful chef in a restaurant she and her financial partners have built up from nothing into the most successful eatery in the city. But Katie wants her own restaurant, and so she finds financing, seeks out the perfect location, and starts working singlemindedly towards that. But things start to go wrong: The renovation bogs down, her ex shows up at her restaurant and throws her into confusion, her waitress is badly burned, and just like that, everything is a mess. Then, miraculously, a mysterious girl appears in her room in the middle of the night, with instructions to fix Katie's problems: Write your mistake, eat a mushroom, go to sleep, wake up to discover everything is fixed!

Just like that, Katie gets a do-over. But is Katie happy with this? No. And knowing that there are more mushrooms to which she can gain access makes her determined not just to make life good or better, but perfect. The problem is, Katie is rash, impulsive, and (honestly) not a very nice person, so she ignores the rules, alienates her benefactor, and makes a big hash out of everything.

Experiencing this graphic novel was a delight. The art was beautiful--alternately absolutely simple and incredibly detailed--and I loved the contrasting color palettes of bright/warm (red/orange) and dark/cool (blue/green/black) the artist used. I enjoyed the occasional byplay between the protagonist and the author (he narrates something and she comments on his narration), and the extreme variety of styles he uses to depict his characters--making Katie almost a manga character with her big eyes and spiky hair, while drawing the other characters more realistically--was intriguing.

While I didn't care much for Katie as a person, her story was entertaining. One of the people in the Genre-X Book Club expressed disappointment that this had a happy ending, because she thought it would have been more interesting if it hadn't, and I have to say I agree; but over all it was a satisfying read.

This format did let me know, however, that it's time for a new eyeglasses prescription: In a few instances of little teeny lettering, I had to haul out my magnifying glass! Hopefully that won't be a challenge for teen readers.