FOR READERS OF THE FUTURE - WRITING SF FOR CHILDREN
25 March 2014
By Catherine Alport
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell are two of the most loved figures in children’s publishing. Writing together for over 20 years, they are behind the phenomenally successful Edge Chronicles, Muddle Earth series and Wyrmweald – amongst others! Their collaboration began in an unusual way – rather than being put together by a publisher, they first met in Brighton, in the playground of the school that their respective children attended.
The result is one of the most enduring writing partnerships in the children’s book world. This month, Macmillan Children’s Books are delighted to be publishing Paul and Chris’s first ever foray into SF, a genre that has influenced both authors through films and books since childhood. With fast-paced action, unforgettable characters and beautiful illustrations, Scavenger: Zoid is the perfect book for any child looking for their first foray into SF – and will be loved by adult SF fans as well.
But don’t take my word for it. I’ll let Paul and Chris tell you more about this fantastic series, and the world they have created.
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“One of the first things we discussed when we started collaborating was the books we’d read in our teens. It transpired that both of us had, for several years, consumed vast quantities of science fiction; John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin; Alfred Bester’s wonderful The Stars My Destination.
Despite this love of SF, however, in twenty years working together, we had never actually written any ourselves. That all changed when I saw a cross-section of a spaceship that Chris had drawn in one of his sketchbooks.
The sketch was of an intricately designed sphere, with three sectors – inner core, mid-deck and outer hull – set one inside the other, like the layers of an onion. It was a self-contained world. A Biosphere. An ark. An escape from a dying Earth… It became the setting for our first journey into proper science fiction.
We did what we always do when we start on a new project. We talked and talked, bouncing ideas back and forth. We asked each other questions. How many human body parts could you replace with robotic parts before he or she stopped being human? And what body parts? An arm or leg? A nerve-system? A brain? And if someone died, would it be ethical to upload their consciousness onto a hard-drive? And what would it be like to have a loved one preserved on a memory stick?
Slowly, a story started to form. The separate sectors of the Biosphere took shape. There would be a central mainframe and engine area, a bio-zone, an outer maintenance area. But we’re a thousand years into our voyage and everything has gone wrong. This is a dirty spaceship. The mainframe is corrupted; the plants and animals in the bio-zone have mutated; and, for reasons no one understands, the robots have rebelled. They have become killer zoids, and have one directive: the eradication of all human life on board the Biosphere. A war of attrition has raged for five hundred years. Now, with the zoids in the ascendancy, the fate of humankind is hanging by a thread.
And it is into this world that we threw our main character, York, a tough, resourceful fourteen year OLD, charged with the task of saving the human race. He reports back to us directly as he learns more and more about his world. Will he succeed? Well, that’s up to him, not us.”
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Scavenger: Zoid, is publishing on March 27th 2014 in paperback, priced at £6.99.
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