Thursday, November 13, 2008

Discourse Breaks Down

I am hated for loving

My wife and I had a lovely time at the University of Connecticut this past weekend, participating in the UConn Children's Book Fair. The campus has changed an awful lot since we went to school there (yes, we are both alumni)but one thing hasn't changed: I love being there. I gave a short talk and then signed books and gave away every last T-shirt. The staff did a wonderful job with the event, which included a number of great authors and characters from kids books like Clifford, Strega Nona and one of the Wild Things. No zombies, though.

It was an almost perfect event. I say almost, because as I was starting to pick up and leave the signing table, an older man picked a copy of Generation Dead from the table and said, "Just what I like to see--horror stories for children." Then he picked up the book, cracked the cover,and read the first two lines of the jacket copy--"All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead."--said, "Great," and slammed the book shut.

I think I just have a face people want to punch.

I've written about a similar prejudgement made here, but I'm afraid my response to this particular gentleman wasn't as eloquent. I'd been speaking with a few of the volunteers, and thanking Nikki (sorry if I spelled that wrong!)for assisting me during the event and didn't really appreciate that sort of interruption, so all I said was "Well, you really don't need to read any further." The man stalked off.

The thing is, I agree with the sentiment that the man was trying to express. I do think there are materials, books, movies, video games, music, whatever--that are inappropriate for children in general. I think that Generation Dead is inappropriate for certain children of certain ages, and in fact tried to warn away one parent from purchasing the book for her 9 year old (the woman would not be dissuaded, however, and said she would read it with her child. I wouldn't let my own daughter, who is ten, read the book until very recently, and she reads more and more widely than most adults I know. I've seen the age recommendations for the book as 12 or 13 and I think, generally, those are good recommendations. That being said, I know my daughter at ten can handle the book. I also know certain 15 year olds I've met cannot.

There's a difference between something that is age inappropriate and something that is blanketly immoral, however. And I can't decide which would make me happier--someone, like this man, not reading the book and judging it immoral, or someone reading the book and judging it immoral.

I don't want anyone to read this and worry about me being thin skinned about these occurrences (and, as far as public visits go, I've had an "incident rate" of about 50%).I knew what I was getting into when I wrote a book about teenage zombies, believe me. The fact that the book (and continuing series, be warned!) examines, among other things, the "politics of inclusion" meant that I'd also catch heat from those who have and will take offense at some of the veiled societal parallels within, and that I'd have to absorb that heat with a smile on my face regardless if their reading matched my own. In the article I've linked to above, I stated part of the inspiration for the book and part of what I hoped it would accomplish. S'all good.

Of course, the man hadn't even finished walking away before a huge laundry list of "horror" stories that children of all ages should be reading sprang to mind. I'm sure even as you read this you are thinking of a few more.

I'm happy to say that I refrained from hurling any of these books (or my own, sitting so much more solidly in a neat stack at the edge of the table) in this man's wake. A list (although I think I will compile one, your suggestions are appreciated) would not have helped the situation. I think it is best to allow the man to continue to protect children in his way, and I'll try to continue the same in my own.


Paige said...

I'm sorry Daniel. =[ Whatever happened to the "don't judge a book by its' cover" (or in this case would, "don't judge a book by the first two lines in a book's jacket cover" suffice?) Although, I will say, when I was reading Generation Dead at school, some friends asked what it was about, and upon hearing the subject matter, dismissed it immediately. I asked them to read it (or forced =]) and they all are hopeless obsessive fans now. (HEAR THAT SHANNA?! I WANT MY BOOK BACK!!! =] ) First impressions can be wrong.
Anyhoo, hope you have a nice day!

Delaney the Undead said...

Unfortunetely there will always be people judging you in whatever you do in life. There are over 6 billion people in this world and they all have very different oppinions.

My advice:

Don't let it get under your skin. (an dit looks as though you havent really let it bother you too much)

Close minded people will live their lives close minded and unhappy...but your book (and books in the excited!) bring alot of happiness into alot of people's lives, and THOSE are the ones you should think about.

we love ya and all the characters youve created for us to enjoy!


(ps..ouch. I wont lie, paige...i first decided to read 'Generation Dead' because of the fabulous cover...but it turned out to be super awesome. Although I did get some stares at barnes and noble purchasing a 'teen' book when im 21 and had a baby on my hip. oh i said, close minded people can shove it! woohoo!)

Anonymous said...

Whenis Kiss of Life coming out? I think I may go insane waiting!!! If you answer me, you can just leave a comment on my blog and leave a comment letting me know!!! Thanx!


Maddie said...

Your book was great and I will confess I cried at the end. My mother wasn't too enthused when she saw the cover and I told her it was about zombies, but she has always been the kind of mom who is open to her kids reading just about any book. I did attempt to convince her it was more than just zombies. My sister and I are judged often because of the content of what we read, mostly by our church friends, unfortunately. Keep writing and don't worry about what other people think, you've got my vote and I'm sure others. Have an awesome day!


P.S. I seem to remember many of Edgar Allan Poe's stories be mandatory reading in school when I was younger. I wouldn't let kids read his stuff. :)

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Paige!

Thanks for the uplift--like I say, it's all good. And I don't think it is a bad thing for parents, if they find the cover suspicious, to want to delve a little into things before they allow a child to read it. As long as they delve, either in the book itself or by checking out reviews.

Hope you get your book back!

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Dee!

Good advice, entirely. I'll follow it as best I'm able. the problem is, I'm with closed minds the same way I am with closed doors-I want to open them!

Take care,

And P.S. You know, I think the number of adults reading YA novels is on the rise. Theres's so much good stuff out in YA right now, substantial stuff, and for whatever miracle of economics, books as long as an adult book are somehow seven or eight dollars cheaper.

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Chrisykins!

Don't have the exact date yet, but it will be May or June!

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Maddie!

Good call on E.A.P. I'm sorry you and your sister are judged because of what you're reading (probably by people who aren't reading at all). And mad props to your Mom by being open and trusting in you with regards to reading. If it helps, encourage her to read sections or chapters of the books you like, especially ones that may seem suspicious (like mine; I'm perfectly willing to admit that a zombie cheerleader in knee high boots makes the book look suspicious)to her. I think she'd find that her trust in you is well-placed.

Take care,

P.S. Sorry I made you cry!

Anonymous said...

I was lucky as a kid. My parents took me to the library and while they guided me toward works of literature (Dahl, Alcott, etc.), they let me read what I wanted. Then, because that's how we roll, I would talk to my parents about what I was reading. If I didn't like a book because it was boring, I didn't have to finish it, excepting for school. But, if my complaint against a school book(The Pearl, anyone) was perceived by my parents as being legitimate, they would fight for me. I think yours is an awesome book because while you make parallels to some concepts which I do not support, you are respectful of the realization that yours is not the only opinion. And you don't offer blanket answers to complex problems. And, you made me like the Ting Tings. Though what you see in Buckcherry, I can only shudder to imagine.

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Anonymous!

thanks for your post, and kudos to you and your parents. And thank you for the compliment on the book and my attempts to stay open minded about things. As far as you not agreeing with certain concepts in the book--that's great! I've said many times that the book was more about raising questions than providing answers. I will say that some readers have misread some of the "parallels"--or, probably more accurately, I misrote those parallels--either by providing a very narrow definition of what I "meant" or by missing the point entirely. Please understand, I'm not suggesting that you misread those parallels, only that I've read comments from a few people that had.

I won't try to convert you on Buckcherry (although I will confess to liking many, many bands even more inexplicably). I was listening to their first album with a friend the other day and he said, "I don't know why I like these songs so much--I don't identify with a single thing they sing about". For me it's the vicarious thrilles and the adrenal punch their music provides. But I don't think you can ever really convince someone to like music--they either feel it, or they don't.

At least we;'ll always have the Ting Tings. I'm still listening to them constantly.

Take care,

YourDeadFriendBee said...

That really is ironic; "Don't just a book by his cover."
Wow, I'm really sorry about that, but hey, at least you know that at the end of the day, you've have a legion of fans praising your book and dying (no pun intended) for more of Timmy and Adam, and Phoebe too ;p ).
Hope you're well!

Michael Williams said...

I loved the book and I must admit I stumbled on it by pure happenstance. I was looking for something to read and I have been on a teen book reading kick. I have found that some of the most inspired writing lately has come from that genre. Anyway it was Halloween and they had a display at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore of books for teens that had a vague connection to Halloween. Most were vampire stories (in fact besides your book only the book 13 Reasons Why were about something besides vampires) and I mistakenly believed yours would be too. I like vampires, don't get me wrong but I had started to see a lot of them lately. Either way I was hungry to read a book right then and there and had no desire to continue to look so I grabbed your book with the appealing looking dead cheerleader and then I looked at it. This book was about zombies! Holy crap, I thought, I love zombies!

I had one quibble with the story and that was the attempt to classify Romero's flicks negatively. Of course in the new world you describe it makes sense and doesn't. I think the people who show compassion for the dead would fall in to the title more honestly then the zombies themselves. As I think Romero actually loves zombies, after all they always seem to persevere in his movies and the humans are te inhumane monsters.

Anyway after finishing your book I was hungry for more and went online to see if I could expect more in the future. I am definitely glad you will be writing more. I have added your blog to my blog watch as a result of my internet search.

I am glad you told that guy not to bother reading further. What makes people pick fights? You aren't forcing it on him or secretly rushing over to share this book with his children or a group of 5 year olds...

Anyway there are so many levels that this book was effective and engaging, thanks for writing.


Ps. I wrote a stupid story for Halloween and your story was where I got the idea of a new type of zombie (a thinking and feeling zombie). Of course I decided to make living people ecome zombified after eating candy sticks... So it is merely inspired as I doubt I would have wrote about zombies otherwise. If you want to read it it is at my blog.

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Bee!

Thanks! I don't know about a legion, though...maybe more like a posse!

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hey Michael!

Cool story! Love the candy sticks. And thanks for your kind comments re: Generation Dead. I'm actually a huge fan of George Romero, though. I'm curious as to what in my book that left you with the impression that it portrayed his work in a negative light. I seek to vanquish quibbles (but not Tribbles) wherever I find them.

Take care,

Michael Williams said...

Thanks fopr reading the story I wrote. I am glad you liked it.

It has been a few weeks since I read your book so I am going off memory and it is often faulty. I think that I had the impression that "Romero's Children" was a slam used against the differently biotic. So basically people who did not like or welcome the dead to their second lives were using this term to cast them off or dismiss them. That is how I read the useage. I don't recall any more usage after that.

I am not surprised that you are a Romero fan, as Romero flicks are awesome. I recently saw his Diary of the Dead flick and was surprised and delighted by the twist he added to the story by having bloggers and the internet bear the real news.... not the watered down lies the mainstream promoted.


Ps. I am picking up a copy to give to my niece. She is very literary and might even take my recommendation but the most recent discussion we had she was telling me she had just read The Inferno, I have since dusted my copy off and have endeavored to get past Canto II, which is no easy task. I think it might be more likely she will read it if I give her a copy of the book and ask her to let me know what she thinks.

natti said...

i love the book but then i again i am 16 so therefore it is more age than ur ten year old daughter but i think people hav opinions and they epress them in different ways i love the book and so do all of my friend so i hope u write sequal to generation dead but if not i understand

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about the hater. I mean has HE ever tried writing a book? Whatever. My mom said that when people have something to say smile and nod. Just forget about and block it out.
I love your story, Mr.Waters. I have read it 5 times so far at work. (I have a cushion type of job) I even have people interested in the concept of the story. I had to tell this one girl three times NO! you can't borrow it. LOL. :P
I love it. And you have lots of fans behind you.

Anonymous said...

wow, sounds like all my teachers wrapped up in one! I really can't stand ppl like that....

Christel said...

Hi Daniel,
To me your book is a lesson in how people who are different are treated by society, and how they should be treated. My daughter is only 5, but if she were older, I would definitely let her read it, if not recommend she read it. The zombie's just make the story entertaining for YA's. That "gentleman" should have looked into the book further or asked you about it before commenting so quickly.

Anyway, I loved your book! I wrote a review on it over at my site if you want to check it out. I can't wait for the next one.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dan-

Sorry for the off-topic comment here- didn't know how to reach you otherwise. (Feel free to delete this message after reading.) Mark told me you were enjoying "A Book of Dreams". I'm glad! Please contact me if you would like to be on my email list. I have a new release available next month, which will be a free download from the Clinical Archives netlabel.

Best regards,
Joe Frawley

joefrawleymusic [at]

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Michael!

Thanks for the clarification--yes, certain charcters in the book invoke Romero's name as a sort of slur to denigrate the differently biotic. Doesn't mean I don't like his films, just means some ignorant people in the book equat the "real" undead in GD with the "fictional" brain eating Romero zombies. Cool!

Take care,

PS I hope you niece likes the book! Thanks for spreading the word!

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Natti!

Thanks. There will be a sequel--maybe more! Kiss of Life will be out next June.

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi KG's Babygirl!

Please, please don't get fired reading Generation Dead!

And thanks for your support.

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Meg!

All your teachers???? D'oh!

Take care,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Christel!

Thanks for your comment, and the nice review on your (very cool) site.

And thank you for trusting me (in the future anyway) with your daughter's mind--that kind of trumps whatever lingering annoyance I feel over Mr. Crack-the-Cover.

Take care,

Dory Enright said...

Hey Mr. Waters
I happen to be a big fan of horror stories, and I am only in my early teens. Some adults don't give kids enough credit for realizing the difference between reality and fiction, and also being able to gauge how much horror they can take.
While this man may have believed that your story was inappropriate for kids, I think that it was touching and well-written. People like him, I believe, all too often assume that horror is about death and monsters, when in reality many horror works have poignant themes. This is the same with "Generation Dead" and its underlying tones of the importance of acceptance and tolerance.
I was just looking for a fun read in the library one day, and I happened to find your novel on the new release shelf. I decided to give it a shot, and was greatly rewarded. It is an amazing book, and I look forward to its sequels (it is going to be a series, isn't it? Pretty please?).
Until then,

Daniel Waters said...

Hi Dory!

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I agree with you all the way.

Series? Yes.

Take care,

ImThe'Laugh'In'Slaughter' said...

Hmm. That man... he must be related to my mother. She believes I am part of a cult because all I am interested in these days are books about vampires, zombies, or any other mythological creature that is considered taboo in people's eyes.

Personally, I thought that man was funny. Not because he may have offended, but because he was odd and very straight-forward. I wouldn't be able to contain my laughter. I would try to reply with something cunning and smart-mouthed, but I would probably be incoherent.