It’s my turn to post for our March #MSWL Madness event! As a reader, it’s more important to me to really be hooked in by the characters than it is for the story to fit a specific trope or plot. With that in mind, here’s what’s currently on my #MSWL:
- Science Fiction that explores elements of identity in tandem with an intricately developed, visual world, through characters who grow and learn about themselves via the exploration of an energetic plot.
When I was a kid, I started my love affair with science fiction by reading the Young Jedi Knights series by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, but the first time I really branched away from the familiar (YA) world of Star Wars was for Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Despite the age of the character, Card’s development of thorough, believable internal conflicts alongside a spectacularly visual sci-fi world is what hooked me into the sci-fi genre in general. Ender is a character many people identify with for the way he approaches the isolation in his life, and the way the world approaches his differences from others as a Third, and then later in the adult books in which he stars, his inner turmoil really comes full circle while remaining fully connected to the external plots of each book.
This connection is what really matters to me: that a character’s inner development happens in tandem with the external development of the plot. I’m looking for characters who strike that identifiable chord on other matters of diversity and identity such as a character’s racial/religious diversity or their place on/movement through the LGBTQ+ spectrum in science fiction. Sci-fi worlds are the perfect places to explore these issues, as it’s easy to structure comparisons when a character is dealing with aliens or the feeling of alienness, or a new set of life/societal rules that might challenge a character’s long-held ideals and beliefs.
If you’re going to give me concepts like the multiverse, make sure it’s done in a wildly visual, explosive way. Challenge what I view as reality and make me envision something totally unexpected.
- Fantasy with stakes that crescendo throughout the story, new twists on fantasy structures, and relationships that make me weep in worlds that have yet to be explored in mainstream fantasy.
The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso is a fantastic example of how existing-world structures can be twisted into a totally-new fantasy world with just enough familiarity to trigger that “Ahh, yes, I feel as though I know this place!” feeling, while still surprising me with its newness and originality. I fell in love with Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, as I was shocked and surprised by the world’s intricacies at every turn but Terre D’Ange itself and its political/spiritual components have just enough familiarity, while still urging me to turn the pages rapidly to find out what comes next! The stakes in these fantasy stories must be far-reaching and dynamic, desperately personal and with global consequences should the character fail in her objectives. I truly want to explore cultures and places that I have not seen (or have not often seen) in fantasy so far, and worlds built around cultural aspects that feel really new and unfamiliar.
- Romance with LGBTQ+ characters, told in a voice that’s easy to relate to and honest.
In romance, though I’m not looking for new adult at this time, I am always drawn toward stories with unique voices that show realistic vulnerability and tackle insecurities like Losing It by Cora Carmack. I really want to see diversity in all the romance I represent right now, and have a focus on powerful romances with characters who are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, particularly as they learn to navigate their first authentic romance within their identities, or first romance “out.” One specific thing I’m looking for is a M/M romance with the Friends-to-Lovers trope, where perhaps the characters have not yet identified their sexuality to themselves or each other, in any heat level.
- Stories with a unique structure or shocking connection that comes at the moment of peak intensity.
In all adult stories, I love clever, surprising structures that come full-circle and make me want to read the story again and again to pick up on clues that I didn’t piece together the first time around until the big reveal. One of my favorite short stories/movies is Story of Your Life/Arrival by Ted Chiang, for the way the ending connects all the dots and makes me think about the actual world around me in a new, mind-blowing way.
- Young Adult fiction that explores the world in a way that resonates with today’s youth.
In young adult, I’m looking for settings and stories that resonate with today’s youth, and I’ll consider contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction stories for that age range. I love stories that give a new sci-fi or fantasy spin on a high school/boarding school structure (think House of Night by P.C. & Kristin Cast but not vampires), with technology and dialogue in those stories that matches today’s youth and their interests.
I am not looking for YA stories based on elements of suicide or suicidal ideation at this time. I do want to see YA stories that embrace diversity across races, religions, and gender and sexuality spectrums, done in an authentic and immersed way that really matters to the character. Coming out stories are absolutely welcome, but they are not the only LGBTQ+ stories I’d like to see in YA.
- Middle Grade fiction that represents diversity the way today’s adults wish they’d seen in the fiction of their youth.
In middle grade, magical elements are always a plus but I really want to see sharp new representations of diversity in middle grade fiction. My children want to read stories that expose them to new perspectives and ways of thinking, and they have been comforted by experiencing stories that reflect their own sets of challenges and differences. All children, of every color/religion/family structure, should have the right to be absolutely steeped in stories that highlight how things they feel are “different” about them are actually things that make them unique, powerful individuals with voices that deserve and need to be heard, and that’s why I’m also seeking picture books with these elements of diversity as well. All kids deserve characters they can relate to. Children learn kindness through understanding, and they can grow to understand people who are different from them through fiction.
No matter what you send me, the writing and voice is what matters to me first and foremost, so bring me your best, polished submissions and drag me into the depths of your creativity!