Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Once We Were: Kat Zhang on Inspirations & Influences (& Giveaway)

Hello everyone and happy Friday! Today, our guest is Kat Zhang, author of the superlative young adult speculative fiction/dystopian Hybrid Chronicles series. Thea read the first book in the series, What’s Left of Me and loved it; naturally we were thrilled to be included on the blog tour for book 2, Once We Were.

Once We Were Kat Zhang

Give it up for Kat, everyone!

I was incredibly excited to be invited to write a post about my favorite dystopian/science fiction stories across media, because

a) my love for science fiction knows no bounds

b) while I love books, I adore other story-telling media as well. I will talk your ear off about my favorite TV shows and movies, if you let me!

So, if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to interrupt your usual broadcasting of book-talk to rhapsodize about TV shows, movies, and short stories. In order to keep this from getting too wordy, I’m not going to go actually explain the plot details of these stories. Many hardcore sci-fi fans will already be familiar with them, I think.

Three of my favorite Sci-fi television shows? Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (the reboot), and Doctor Who (which, okay, probably leans heavily toward fantasy, but I’m counting it as Sci-fi!).

If you know my TV tastes at all, you know I love Firefly, and that a little part of my soul dies each time I think about how there will never be more than 14 episodes. (Though another part of me acknowledges that perhaps the unfortunate cancelation froze the show with infinite potential, to be forever better in our imaginations than in actualization?) Firefly combines many of my favorite things: a theme of family and home; brilliantly nuanced yet larger-than-life characters; a mix of laugh-out-loud humor and grab-the-tissues drama; awesome world-building…and Joss Whedon’s dialogue. Because, face it, Joss Whedon is the god of dialogue. Even the horrifically pronounced and mostly nonsensical Mandarin couldn’t bring it down for me. Even if it made me cringe 😉

Mal (Firefly)

Battlestar Galactica caught my heart, on the other hand, because of how it uses a decidedly fantastical situation to mirror our present-day issues. This has always been one of my favorite part of science fiction (other than, you know, the fact that it’s cool), and BSG manages on the whole, to pull it off quite well. It was a long run, so some episodes are definitely wonkier than others—the last season, in particular, got a little too “out there” for me. But there are some real gems, and I am in love with Starbuck, Roslin, and Adama. This is gritty sci-fi at its best, and an often brilliant study of human nature.

Battlestar Galactica (s4)

Trivia: During one of the scenes in BSG, you can see Serenity from Firefly. No joke. Google it if you don’t believe me!

Compared to the other two, Doctor Who might seem like the outcast of the group. But there’s such an inherent whimsy to it which I adore. Depending on the episode, sometimes I get the feeling that I’m in love with the concept and idea of the show more than the actual episodes themselves, but it’s definitely a show that digs its way deeper into your heart the more you watch it. The mythology is vast, the pure emotions often beautiful, and hell, if the Doctor ever showed up at my door offering all of time and space, I’d be off like a shot. So, you know, if any of my series ever suddenly goes unfinished…

Doctor Who (12)

In order not to drag this piece on too long (because trust me, I could go on and on), I’ll only talk about one favorite short story and movie.

Has everyone seen Gattaca? Because you totally should. It’s atmospheric and brilliant, and although I didn’t buy into the romantic plot line at all, it was small enough to not be so important, and completely overshadowed by the two male leads being awesome. Also, young Jude Law. Unlike BSG and Firefly, this is a “quieter” film. Which isn’t to say it’s slow paced—at least, I didn’t think so—but there are no space battles or exploding planets. There isn’t even any flashy CGI, and despite the superior tech, the set dressing looks like something out of the 40s, which I personally loved. Too often, I’m saddened by sci-fi movies that seem to be little more than vehicles for meaningless action, CGI magic, and flash. I love me a good action movie, CGI magic, and flash, but I do think sci-fi can be so much more.

Gattaca Beggars in Spain

Moving on to my final two sci-fi/dystopian favorites—the short stories! The two coming to mind right now are “The Cold Equations” and “Nightfall.” Out of all my recommendations, these two are definitely the oldest, published in 1954 and 1941, respectively. I actually never got into reading sci-fi short stories until I took a class on science fiction in college (yes, you should be jealous, and yes, it was awesome).

I was actually one of the only in my class who liked “The Cold Equations.” Most found it rather maudlin and slow. Which, yes, I guess it could be seen as both. The premise isn’t terribly believable, as it hinges on a fact that seems rather silly (you’ll understand what I’m talking about if you read the story), but once I got over that, it punched me in the gut and made me think. “Nightfall” is the very first story we read in the class, and definitely an Asimov classic. It gets a bit technical, but the idea is really interesting.

I’ve almost passed a thousand words on this post, so I’m wrapping up now, I promise. Thanks for sticking with me and listening to me ramble. If you’re ever in the mood to talk sci-fi…you know where to find me 🙂

Thanks, also, to the Book Smugglers for having me on the blog to celebrate ONCE WE WERE’s release!

PS Okay, I can’t shut up about science fiction, apparently. So if you want another recommendation, read the novella “Beggars in Spain” (1993) by Nancy Kress!

About The Book:

Once We Were

“I’m lucky just to be alive.”

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

About the Author:

Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren’t riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat’s quirks today.

You can find out more about Kat on her website, and follow her on her blog, Twitter (@KatZhang), and Facebook.

Thank you, Kat!

Giveaway Details:

We have one set of What’s Left of Me and Once We Were up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the US only and will run until Sunday, September 22 at 12:01am (ET). To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Carl
    September 13, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I’ve gotta go with The Hunger Games. Sorry to be so obvious Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Kelley
    September 13, 2013 at 12:48 am

    I’m going to have to be unoriginal and the go with The Hunger Games! But I also really enjoyed the Delirium series.

  • Joni Patterson
    September 13, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I hate choosing favorites, but if I must pick ONE favorite dystopian novel I’d have to go with Wither by Lauren DeStefano. Looking forward to her new series coming out October…!!!
    And I’m looking REALLY forward to reading these books! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Lexi
    September 13, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I really liked Shipbreaker and his other books. This looks fun too though.

  • Halley
    September 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I am going to go classic and say The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was just so perfect. I really wish she had not written the sequels, though. I just pretend it is a standalone.

  • Anna T.
    September 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Hunger Games has a special place in my heart, but if I had to choose another, it’d be Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

  • Kelley (Another Novel Read)
    September 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Great interview – I love sci-fi! Firefly and Battlestar Galactica are also two of my favorite sci-fi TV shows, but I have yet to get on the Doctor Who bandwagon…

    As for my favorite dystopian YA novel… It’s a tough choice. Probably The Hunger Games or Divergent.

  • Alexandra
    September 13, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I was going to pick something but then I saw that Joni said Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy. I might have to go with that because there’s really not a dystopian like that out there. Or maybe Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky books because those are soooooo good but I don’t know if they’re technically dystopian(?) Or Ally Condie’s Matched Trilogy because they’re really good. Man, there’s so many to choose from!

  • superbwg
    September 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

    First off, I totally want to go have coffee with Kat Zhang, I agree with all your likes for mostly the same reasons, I bet we could spend a lot of time gushing over science fiction and all its myriads of meanings. As far as YA dystopias go I love love love Lois Lowery’s The Giver and Scott Westerfeld’s Ugliesseries. Both of these to me are great examples of realistic dystopias and how easy it can creep up on society.

  • Justine
    September 13, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Like others, The Giver and The Hunger Games are among my favorites.

  • Alison
    September 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I would have to go with The Hunger Games

  • Ellie
    September 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver would be my top dystopian picks!

  • Allison
    September 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I’m gonna have to go with Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series, which was my first taste of dystopian novels. They were just fantastic–although they kinda petered out a little with the events of the last two

  • Hannah H
    September 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    The best YA dystopia I’ve read recently is Railsea and no better one is coming to mind, but I don’t think I’d call it my favorite.
    Oh! Wait, does Animorphs count?

  • Tori
    September 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    My favorite YA novel has got to be The Hunger Games.

  • Katharine
    September 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    These books might straddle the line between middle grade and YA, but I really like Haddix’s “Among the” series, beginning with Among the Hidden.

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    September 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    The HUnt and the Hunger Games. Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me.

  • Kelley
    September 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    The Giver–loved it as a kid and then reread it as an adult and it didn’t really lose any of its awesomeness

  • johnnie-marie howard
    September 13, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    I’d have to say I really liked Divergent!!! It was great loved the hole splitting apart and being different wasn’t/ not really aloud!!

  • jennie
    September 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I have to echo several others and say The Giver because it stands the test of time.

  • erinf1
    September 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Hunger Games 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Kate & Zena
    September 14, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Well, The Hunger Games is a great one and since that’s the only one my brain can think up of, I’m going with that one!

  • Jasmine
    September 14, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Oooh, tough choice. Possibly The Maze Runner series.

  • Katherine
    September 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Not adding anything new here but…the giver!

  • jlee
    September 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    um okay I know it’s not exactly geared towards YA readers, but Brave New World is by far my favorite dystopian novel ever.

  • alicia marie
    September 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Does The Giver count? I love that and the Uglies series : )

  • Kaitlin S.
    September 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

    There’s a lot of great YA dystopia out there, but I think my favorite is The Giver. It’s not as large-scale as most dystopia – really, we only see the town Jonas lives in, but I think it’s all the more terrifying and creepy for it.

  • SaraC
    September 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    The Giver is a timeless classic, which I still love.

  • Cindy A.
    September 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    The Hunger Games is still my favorite.

  • Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books
    September 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I used to consider myself not a huge fan of science fiction, but I am unabashedly a fan of two of Zhang’s major sci fi influences (Firefly and Battlestar Galactica). I think that perhaps I’m a bit picky in the specific plots and subgenres I’ll read in science fiction. I am definitely interested in checking out some of her other recommendations now.
    I haven’t read her debut yet, but I’ve been interested in it since I first learned about it, so I’m looking forward to giving both What’s Left of Me and Once We Were a try. Thanks for hosting this giveaway!
    And my favorite dystopian is probably The Hunger Games.

  • Becky C.
    September 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The Hunger Games!

  • Kirsten!
    September 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Hunger Games is my favorite as well (though I haven’t read much in the genre yet).

  • Alyssa L.
    September 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    In YA-land, I really enjoyed Blood Red Road (post-apocalyptic-western-frontier-y-dystopia?). But Fahrenheit 451 will always have a special place in my heart!

  • Rain Jeys
    September 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I have to go with Catching Fire. It’s my favorite of the Hunger Games novels. It was brilliant. Also, she chose basically the best sci-fi tv shows ever made. Part of my soul is still dead due to Firefly’s cancellation, The Tenth Doctor’s departure, and the way Battlestar Galactica ended (brilliant as it was, it still broke my heart).

    Knowing the author’s excellent taste, I’m even more eager to read her books.

  • Sommer Leigh
    September 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I really love Firefly and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi 🙂 I have many favorites, but these two spring to mind first.

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