alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

Oat Bran, Pixie Sticks & the James Tiptree Jr. Awards


I’ve been sour on YA & Fantasy (and especially YA Fantasy!) books for a while now. They all seemed so same-same; plucky young post-feminist heroine, fistfights and martial arts, boy sidekick, evil wizards, talking animals, fairies, “the magic is strong in you”, lovestory, yawn-wawn. All I wanted to read was realistic fiction of the kind I had rejected as Bor-ing during my undergrad years. I read Anita Brookner and Susanna Moore and Alison Lurie and Margot Livesey. I didn’t want bright ideas or magical worlds, I just wanted a straight narrative, good prose, and human relationships. I read these books without even looking at the covers (library bindings) or reading the jackets, like a  pixie-stick junkie going on an oat-bran bender.

I was working on a fantasy-ish story of my own, and I think that’s what gave me the x-ray spex of predictability. But now I’m done with that story and working on something much closer to the real world, and the last thing I want to read about is dreary human relationships. Give me new ideas! Give me alternate worlds! Give me zombies!

Carrie Ryan’s post-zombie ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ (top contender for creepiest/best-title ever) turned it around for me. There has been so much good-looking stuff coming out while I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve just filled up my reserve list at the library with all of the titles I can’t wait to read. Starting with:

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson (l) and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (r)"

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson (l) and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (r)

Thanks to Chris Barzak (author of an Honor book himself) for posting this year’s James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List and getting me all excited.

Author: Alisa Alering

I write stories. I read stories.

4 thoughts on “Oat Bran, Pixie Sticks & the James Tiptree Jr. Awards

  1. I love this one:

    In the Heart of the Valley of Love. Distopic future, realist characters, female protagonist, mystery, realism (no force is strong in you), etc.

    I’ve read it a couple of times and it stands up.

    If you really want to go down the road of ‘real sci-fi’ though, I have to push Stanislaw Lem. I am a total hard-ass about stories not ending right, resonating right, being totally impossible, etc, and he always hits the nail on the head. _Solaris_ is a good start. I think his main characters are always men, though, so there you go.

  2. You gave me this back in K street when I was downing a book a day to keep the voices away. Which probably explains why I remember so little, only a certain blurry feeling.

  3. Heuy, neat! But what do u mean by a “post-feminist” heroine?

    • I guess I mean those unrealistic girls in historical novels who are always sword-fighting, butt-kicking, and back-talking. I don’t mind it so much in fantasy worlds, but in novels that claim to take place in historical times here on Earth. The author strives for historical accuracy in foods, costumes, customs, and architecture, and then throws it out the window by making the young female heroine 100% modern.

      I probably should be glad that women’s place in society has advanced so much that most modern readers would be bored or offended to read about historically accurate heroines, but it just kind of bugs me.

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