Interview with VOYA Press Author Brandy Danner

VOYA Press Presents: Dark Futures: A VOYA Guide to Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, and Dystopian Books and Media

An Interview with Author Brandy Danner

VP: What is your book about?

BD: It’s about the end of the world—and what comes after. Specifically, it’s a genre guide to help teens navigate the crowded literary landscape of dystopias, apocalypses, and post-apocalypses. What will life be like when today’s issues are taken to—and past—their logical ends? And what will become us when it’s the world, not the culture, that calls it quits?
As a genre guide, it’s hard to say “The book is about x,” because it’s about over one hundred titles on a theme. Within the broad category of “dystopia and post-apocalypses,” there are subcategories focused on social issues, technology, war, pandemics, and more.

VP: What is your interest/expertise in this topic?

BD: I’ve been a fan of these alternate-future storylines at least since I was in middle school, the first time I encountered Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. How does the world get to that point? How do we get to that point? In school, I encountered more of the classic dystopias, Brave New World and 1984, and my interest in speculative fiction grew. In college, I read The Giver, and it made me aware that these types of stories were also written for younger readers—that they had just as much appeal for children and teens as they did for adults. (Why this was a surprise to me is a mystery, given how much they appealed to me as a teen, but the realization still came as a wake-up call.) I had just started my library career when Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies was published, and slowly the dystopian train started rolling—and I read as much of it as I could.

Readers’ Advisory is one of my favorite parts of teen librarianship—a lucky thing, as matching teens to books (and books to teens) is a huge part of my job. I still think the current movement started with Westerfeld, but it’s the success of The Hunger Games that really caught readers’ interest, so knowing what dystopias and post-apocalypses are out there (and what the selling points of each are) and how to pitch them to teens is crucial.

VP: What are the best features about your book that sets it apart from other titles on this topic?

BD: For starters, there really aren’t any other books on this particular topic. There are genre guides to sci-fi that may include a chapter or so on dystopias and post-apocalypses, but then you’re getting maybe fifteen titles. Dark Futures has over a hundred. Traditional genre guides stop at a plot synopsis, and occasionally provide some background information on the author or a series; this book goes deeper to provide a brief booktalk, read-alike suggestions (if you like X, try Y, based on similar themes or tones), notes on appeal characteristics, and even some discussion of thematic elements in the works.

This isn’t just a genre guide; it’s a resource for those interested in exploring issues beyond the text, or for teens (and adults) who want to find similar titles. It’s so easy to say, “You liked The Hunger Games? Try Delirium by Lauren Oliver; they’re both dystopias”—but aside from both being set in a dystopian future, they have very little in common. Among other things, Dark Futures can help the librarian and the patron to find more obscure or underrated titles, as well as provide easily-accessible answers to the “What else is like this book?” question.
With dystopias and apocalypses as hot as they are right now, it’s not hard to see the worth in something like this as a collection development tool—or a reader’s advisory tool, especially for adults who serve teens but haven’t read as widely in his vein of sci-fi as their teen patrons may expect.

VP: How did you develop/research your topic?

BD: I read a ton, for starters, and begged publishers (and publicists!) for advance copies of anything I knew that was coming out before the deadline. The rest was mostly an exercise in creative thinking, drawing parallels to history, current events, and scientific breakthroughs and looking at these end-of-the-world scenarios through those lenses. Dystopia’s current popularity helped a great deal, and the variety of opinion in articles and blog posts published on the topic helped shape my thinking about and framing of this project.

VP: Have you thought about your next project?

BD: Yes and no—I’ve been thinking about several projects, among them some teen program development guides on a few different topics, but I haven’t yet decided which will be the next big one. I have a few smaller things that I’m working on (namely, preparing for my library’s summer program), so bigger projects are going to have to wait a little while anyway.

A VOYA Guide to Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, and Dystopian Books and Media. VOYA Press, 2012. 244p. $50. 978-1-61751-005-2.

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