This year the theme at Apollo Con, or at least the track I did, was young adults. I was on several panels about YA. The first, YA heroines, ended up being about Twilight and why Bella was too passive and too self-sacrificing to be a good role model. Among other complaints. One of the audience members pointed out that we would consider a self-sacrificing man to be a hero, so why couldn’t we consider Bella heroic? Jeanne Gomoll, the fan guest of honor and an all-around neat and interesting person, responded that Bella’s self-sacrifice only served to put the people around her in danger. I went further and said that the behavior could be a kind of self-loathing.
The YA Depravity or Reality panel delved into the Wall Street Journal review and was involved and engaging. I played devil’s advocate a bit and discussed how the reviewer had a point, although perhaps had she read through the books she held up as bad examples, she would have realized they weren’t all about the shock value. For instance, the reviewer talked about the inciting event in shine, by Lauren Myracle, which I read courtesy of my sister the librarian. Had the reviewer finished the book, she would have realized that there was redemption at the end, that the ending was hopeful.
However, as I pointed out, by normalizing some aberrant behavior, we do risk making it acceptable, as in the pro-ana Websites which are support groups for teens with eating disorders, but they often teach teens the “tricks” of anorexia, and are a how-to for what is deadly behavior.
As my fellow panelists pointed out, though, a teen who believes they are alone in their feelings and behavior may feel a sense of relief when they read a book about someone just like them who survives and overcomes their depression or sickness or such.
I was also on a panel about how to create the next generation of fans, and essentially we must continue to suggest books and movies to our kids, but also make conventions more young adult friendly, to bring in kids with programming they want to take part in. At Aggie Con, you feel the energy of the convention because it’s all young people, some still in their teens, and the convention is all about the changing guard of fandom.
Finally, I was also on a panel about how to revive science and math education in Texas. We are up against it, folks, and the discussion was fast-moving, thoughtful, and varied, and basically the panelists and the audiences finished up with a mandate to go forth and start causing a ruckus with our local school boards. This is too important to leave to people who frankly are frightened of science. I have nothing against faith and people of faith, but science and religion can co-exist, it has for centuries, and we must continue to stand firm against the forces of that would return us to the dark ages.