Wednesday, June 15, 2011

RTW: Guess This Dystopian Pitch

(updated: the link is also at the end, but the answers can be found here)

Love a puzzle. Love slapstick. Love reversal-filled, ambiguous conversations. So getting you guys to guess some of my favorite books by my own abstruse elevator pitches? On. It.

This week's topic: You're re-reading one of your faves when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!

Okay, okay. So this isn't quite about puzzles and slapstick, but I saw "blurb" and thought "pitch," and from "pitch" went straight to Abbott and Costello:

Costello: Look, You gotta pitcher on this team?
Abbott: Sure.
Costello: The pitcher's name?
Abbott: Tomorrow.
Costello: You don't want to tell me today?
Abbott: I'm telling you now.
Costello: Then go ahead.
Abbott: Tomorrow!
Costello: What time?
Abbott: What time what?
Costello: What time tomorrow are you gonna tell me who's pitching?
Abbott: Now listen. Who is not pitching.
Costello: I'll break your arm, you say who's on first! I want to know what's the pitcher's name?
Abbott: What's on second.
Costello: I don't know.
Abbott & Costello Together: Third base!
This pretty much informs half the dialogue between my MC and The Boy. Those scenes just fly.

But that isn't this week's topic. So. On to the pitches! I am going to give you two, one from my current YA pile, and one from my Russian exam pile. You'll see why in a moment.

Pitch The First
Okay, so there's this Society – and this is some unknown time in the future – where human social interaction has been turned into a science and all activity is measured and prescribed based on scientific calculations, including what once would have been called romantic pairings. The Society's solution to love is a mandatory operation that leaves people patient and unexcitable. The main character narrates a several month period in this Society after a new romantic interest comes into the picture, one who has not been assigned by the Society and who introduces to the very scientific, rule-abiding protagonist an unfettered, freer way of living life – a way that includes passion, love and an anarchic underground group that is out to antagonize the Society. 

Pitch the Second
Okay, so there's this Society – and this is some unknown time in the future – where human social interaction has been turned into a science and all activity is measured and prescribed based on scientific calculations, including what once would have been called romantic pairings. The Society's solution to love is a mandatory operation that leaves people patient and unexcitable. The main character narrates the changes that occur after the idea of love is made less abhorrent by a new romantic interest, whose presence in the story forces the main character to question the very basis of the "science" that Society uses to keep love at bay. The romantic interest also has connections to an anarchic underground group that is out to antagonize the Society.

Yes, I made those pretty dang ambiguous.


But to help you guys figured this out, here are two SPECIFIC details, one that matches to each, that make these books more distinct in an elevator pitch: one of them involves a planned spaceship project, a glass wall between the Society and the wild, and all the characters are named not with names, but with a combination of a letter and three numbers; the other one involves a rewriting of history and mythology to support the idea of love as the root disease of all human ills, cities bounded by guarded walls to keep the wild out, and characters named after prostitute "saints."

So. Guesses?

Answers – and videos! including a dance interpretation! – are in this backdated post.

Happy Wednesday, all!

Monday, June 13, 2011

RTW: Guess This Pitch REVEALED

Oh, dystopians. How we humans love you.

So! The first book Tomorrow* off-the-cuff pitched was...

The official blurb from the Mirra Ginsburg translation (trust her):
In the One State of the Great Benefactor, individuals have been replaced by numbers and passions subdued. But when the chief architect of the spaceship "Integral," known as D-503, has a chance meeting with the beautiful I-330, he stumbles upon an unexpected discovery that threatens all he believes about himself and the One State.
And, as promised, a modern dance interpretation (which is very cool):

And the second book was...

And that official blurb:
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. 
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
No modern dance interpretations that I could find for that one on quick review. But I am sure they will come with time.

So the takeaway from all this?

1) Russian literature is on its sh*t.
2) Dystopians are forever.

Now all you YA folk: go read WE!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kinetic (Saturdays): [dot dot dot]ting a troll

On the heels of the bananacakes WSJ business about too much darkness in modern YA literature and its subsequent fallout in the YA community and beyond, it seems like an apropos time to trot out this little gem of a kinetic typography video. Not because it's about darkness or YA literature, but because it so cleverly converses with culture of internet comments.

Happily, all of what I read regarding the WSJ article was considered and well-written – although I will admit that I consciously ignored most of the in-site comments to any of the articles in question, so I am sure my view has some skew. All the same, the vehemence with which the internet rose up in response to this issue is a good reminder (for those of us who might forget) of the sheer number of individuals out there in the world. AND THEY ALL HAVE OPINIONS.

Some are more reasonable than others.

Some, conversely, are so unreasonable that they fall in the "I couldn't make this up if I tried" category. And we creative types have field days with those.

This video falls under the second category. The author of this text, a dear soul going by the moniker Axman13, took umbrage with pretty much every aspect of a Newgrounds game called Super PSTW Action RPG, and in 2010 brought his complaints to the comment boards. What resulted was so heinously, patently bad that one of the voice actors for the game dramatized the rant, and a designer added the kinetic typography text. And the rant became golden.

So this immediately makes me think of two things.

First is the Stephen Fry speech which I posted for the inaugural Kinetic Thursday, in which he rallies against verbal snobbery, chides those "semi-educated losers" who go around sharpieing missing apostrophes onto signs and writing letters to grocery stores about "less" and "fewer," shakes his head at the idea that all that haughtiness is done for the sake of clarity. This last argument, Fry claims, "almost never holds water."

"I think," he continues, "what offends examiners and employers when confronted with extremely informal, unpunctuated and haywire language is the implication of NOT CARING that underlies it." And yet, Axman13 (and all the commenters to WSJ kershnuffle) obviously cares. He obviously cares. Cares beyond the point of "right" or "wrong" language. And his point is made! I might wince and sigh and judge at all the "resons" and "pepoles" and "blaaaaaaaam!s" used, but I still get what he means.

Proper language is wonderful, and often necessary for many kinds of clarity, but Not. Always. Communication is much more forgiving than we usage sticklers and spelling queens would like to admit.

The second thing I think of is how integrative our contemporary creative culture is, and how lucky we are for it. Just as Axman13 gave an actor and a designer the opportunity to create something bigger than the component parts on hand, the WSJ article kicked a snowball downhill that gave tens of dozens of authors a fantastic platform from which to make thoughtful, useful counterpoints. It gave a forum for tweeters – readers, writers, publishing industry folk, librarians, teens and former teens – to weave into visibility a previously invisible web of what YA literature means (#YAsaves, in particular). It created a fascinating, mostly supportive intellectual and academic dialogue in a very immediate and very public sphere.

And if that isn't what communication is really about…

Anyway, Axman13 "liked" the video.

Maybe Gurdon will end up "liking" the dialogue her odd editorial engendered, too.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kinetic Thursdays (er, Fridays): Weak and Weary

...of grading, that is.

I have determined that there should be a contract in undergrad courses that your final paper will not be graded if you attend less than 90% of the lectures. It's unbearable that the professor (or GTF) should have to do the work grading the paper of a student who won't do the work to show up to class.

*glares at un-dwindling pile of essays on her floor*

So, that mood established, let's go old-school with this week's kinetic typography video*:


Now someone bring me wine for the rest of these dang essays.

*(for an intro to this new thing I am trying to institute, go here)

Intense Debate Comments