Current reading

I’m currently reading fiction by two authors, taking turns between them. One is “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and the other is the “People” stories by Zenna Henderson.

I am enjoying both immensely, yet it has occurred to me that this is an odd pairing. Both are a series of science fiction stories about young people trying to deal with a strange and often frightening world. Yet in many ways they send exactly the opposite message.

Collins paints the world her characters must face as a brutish and nasty place, one in which growing up is a constant and uncertain struggle for survival. Henderson acknowledges that reality can be treacherous, but effectively says that once we go through our internal struggles to define ourselves — to figure out who we truly are — the world is a beautiful place that is waiting to welcome the full flowering of our being.

The former says that to survive we must learn how to cloak our true self, and the latter says we must learn how to accept and reveal our true self.

I wonder whether the difference is partly due to a cultural shift over the decades. Henderson was writing mainly in the early fifties to the mid sixties. Collins is, of course, writing her stories now.

2 thoughts on “Current reading”

  1. I think Zenna Henderson’s Mormon upbringing had a lot to do with it. Although it hadn’t been the case for many years, Mormons still talked a lot about being a persecuted group in the 1950s. You can still see some of the in Card’s “Folk of the Fringe” stories written in the seventies and eighties, but not at all in Brandon Sanderson’s or Dave Wolverton’s work, for example.

  2. Interesting. The sense I get from Henderson’s “People” stories is not so much of persecution, but rather of an almost dream-like feeling of redemption. It’s a universe where people may feel lost, and where ignorance can lead to fear, but fundamentally it’s more about people being good. Definitely religious overtones, yet not with a focus on persecution but rather on hope and connection and love.

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