Cool New Sci-Fi for Middle Graders

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Why are teachers and librarians so excited about the new Sci Hi series we recently launched under our new fiction imprint, Argosy Press? Some of the most memorable books and movies are science fiction—Jurassic Park, Dune, E.T.—the genre captures our imagination. But often it’s difficult to find sci-fi books for readers in grades 3-6. That’s why Sci Hi is the perfect series for readers who are interested in fantasy and science or those who just want to escape into a great adventure.

The Sci Hi books feature friends Sidney Jamison, Hari Gupta, and Penny Day as they embark on a series of adventures at the elite Sci Hi institution. Along the way, these three students grow as scientists and as friends. They are miniaturized and sent into beehives to study Colony Collapse Disorder in their Microbiology class. An Advanced Energy Theory class sends them underwater to study nuclear reactors and beyond into parallel universes. And Physical Education takes on an entirely new meaning during Sci Hi’s zero-G dodge ball.

Tim with his wife Kay

We’re proud to count author Timothy Bradley as one of our own, and we’re constantly inspired by his imagination. Argosy editor Heidi Fiedler sat down to ask him how he created the world of Sci Hi.

Interview with Author Tim Bradley
Heidi: Science fiction is growing into a trend in children’s books. How did you first get interested in this genre?
Tim: I grew up during the 1960s and 1970s, when America’s space program was really underway. I remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the Moon, and being completely captivated, as everyone around the world was. I didn’t realize that there were authors actually writing space-oriented fiction until I came across a book called Islands in the Sky, by Arthur C. Clarke. It’s about a boy who wins the chance to visit a space station in Earth’s orbit. Clarke became my favorite author after I read a few more of his outstanding books, like Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which are all excellent books. Clarke’s books are really engaging, since there is a good helping of real science information in them, along with the action and adventure. They opened my mind up to thinking about things in new ways. My first sci-fi novel for kids, Infestation, came out in 2013, and from there, I jumped right into the Sci Hi series for Argosy Press, which has been very fun to work on.

H: What movies and books inspired you to write the Sci Hi series?
T: I think the movies and books that I always gravitated toward as a kid (and still do) have a few things in common: I’ve always been interested in the future and futuristic technology, the weirdness of the universe, and main characters that get thrown into extreme situations and have to figure out how to cope. Specific movies that I really enjoyed growing up were Fantastic Voyage, THEM!, and War of the Worlds, all still among my favorite films. My favorite books from that time would include R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury, Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, and A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke. I also really enjoyed the Tom Swift, Jr. series, which is about a young inventor and the awesome vehicles and gadgets he uses on his adventures around the world and into space.

H: The series is packed with adventure, but there’s also a lot of cutting-edge ideas in these books. How do you research the science that you include in your books?
T: I have always really loved science, so part of the fun of writing these books is reading and researching fascinating topics like black holes, parallel universes, and time travel. Most of my research is done in my local library, but I also will contact scientists or experts in a particular field if I need to get some more in-depth information. I’ve found that scientists can be very generous. I have been able to tour the “back rooms” of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and the London Natural History Museum.

H: Your latest book, Ripple Effect, is about parallel universes. Do you think parallel universes exist?  What would you hope to find inside if they do?
T: There’s no way to know for sure if parallel universes exist until we find a way to travel to one, but it’s sure a fun thing to think about! I believe that our universe is a much stranger place than we will ever completely understand. Parallel universes are a perfect topic for science-fiction stories. Some scientists speculate that there may be other dimensions that exist alongside ours, even though we can’t sense them, since we are trapped in our own dimension. We have to use our imaginations to speculate what they might be like, but that brings up more questions!

H: You also illustrate these books. How do you move back and forth between the visual and written parts of these books?
T: That’s actually pretty easy for me. I’m a very visual person, and I’ve loved drawing since I was 4 or 5 years old. When I’m writing a story, I see it in my head as if it were a movie. I play different parts over and over until they are saying the right things, and all the bits and pieces of the story fit together and feel complete. The illustrations are usually the most exciting parts of the story, or parts that I think would be really fun to draw. The most fun part is illustrating the cover. That’s usually the most exciting scene in the story, and the first image that I think of. Being the writer and illustrator of a book lets me show and tell the story the way I think works best.

H: What’s it like to hear from fans of your work?
T: It’s very fun to hear from readers that have enjoyed my books. I’ve met some great families through corresponding about my books, and at book signings. It feels good to think that maybe my books are having a similar impact on readers as the books I read growing up.

H: These books have received some strong reviews. What part of the Sci Hi books are you most proud of?
T: I think what makes me feel best about writing and illustrating books (apart from the actual writing and illustrating!) is when I hear parents or librarians tell me that their child couldn’t put down one of my books, or read through it twice in a row because they liked it so much. That’s how I was with my favorite books, and it’s nice to hear when one of my books reaches a reader in a similar way. I also am very gratified to hear when a reviewer thinks I have struck a good balance between real science and lots of action and adventure in my science fiction books.

The third Sci Hi book hits stores in October 2014.

Click here to check out the Sci Hi series now!

Your Turn!
Do you or your students have a question for Tim?  He’d be happy to answer them for you.

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