Kathie: Hi Sylvia, and welcome to MG Book Village! I recently had a chance to read your middle-grade science fiction novel, HANA HSU AND THE GHOST CRAB NATION, which comes out on June 21st from Razorbill Books, and I loved it! Can you give us a brief synopsis of it, please?
Sylvia: Thank you so much! In a hyperconnected world under corporate control, twelve-year-old Hana can’t wait to get meshed—her brain connected to the multiweb. She thinks this will bring her closer to her high-powered scientist mom and overachieving sister. But when she discovers a corporate plot that threatens her classmates about to be meshed, she must rely on her wits and newfound allies—new friends, junkyard hackers, and a qi gong master—to save them, all while navigating complex family dynamics. Also, throw into the mix some bird bots, cyber bees, and a massive online game featuring ancient Chinese monks, warriors, and scholars.
Kathie: I loved getting to know Hana. She’s loyal, curious, and has a strong sense of justice. How are you most like her, and in what way are you different?
Sylvia: Hana and I are similar in our strong urge to connect with family, friends, and community, and our eagerness to make sense of the world. Hana is more of a tinkerer and scientifically-minded than I am, which made it interesting to write her character.
Kathie: What made you set this book in the year 2053?
Sylvia: When writing science fiction, it can be easy to set a story a hundred or a thousand years in the future and let one’s imagination go wild. The trickier challenge is to speculate what might happen within our lifetimes. For me, thirty years in the future is a good amount of time to extrapolate from current events and scientific advances and explore how things might turn out. I also wanted to include “historical” references from the 1990s that will appeal to parents of current twelve-year-olds.
Kathie: I love how you balanced the advantages of cutting-edge science with some of its drawbacks. Why was it important for you to have characters like Hana’s grandma who were resistant to making those technological leaps.
Sylvia: In discussions about technology, there’s always a range of attitudes from the early adopters to those resistant to change. I wanted to show that people with all of these perspectives have good points to make. As someone who grew up without the Internet or social media for half my life, but who was an early tech and social media adopter (and who is sometimes too addicted to the online world), I see the costs and benefits of both sides.
Kathie: Hana wants to be enmeshed because she feels disconnected from her mom and sister. There are several timeless middle-grade themes in your story (such as feeling shut out of the life of an older sibling) with futuristic spins on them. Can you share a bit more about how you did that?
Sylvia: I believe almost everyone, at some point, has felt excluded from a group they want to be a part of, whether it’s a group of friends or a subset of family members. At its heart, Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation is about a girl who feels abandoned and desperately wants to belong again. So while I had a great time spinning a near-future with cool tech and an exciting, twisty thriller, I always tried to bring the story back to the emotional beats: Hana’s wants, fears, and joys.
Kathie: What’s one technological advancement you would like to see in your lifetime?
Sylvia: What a great question. I’d like to see people seriously addressing and reversing global warming. It’s going to take a lot more than technological advances to do so, but they are a critical part of the toolbox. For example, we need to figure out ways to trap greenhouse gases, conserve energy, and reduce our carbon footprint. One small example would be super-efficient solar power generation. The harder part will be getting the political will to make these changes.
Kathie: Can you share one thing about this book that you would like readers to know?
Sylvia: Almost every tech in the story exists or is being researched, from virtual gaming to connected brains (mice brains have been connected by wires) to bioluminescent trees and robotic bees for pollination. One thing that hasn’t been developed yet, as far as I know, is the Cat Memes Converter™, which translates cat language to human language!
Kathie: Where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thanks so much for joining me today, Sylvia, and I hope you get a fantastic response from young readers.
Sylvia: Thank you for having me!
Sylvia Liu grew up with books and daydreams in Caracas, Venezuela. Once an environmental attorney protecting the oceans, she now spins stories inspired by high tech, cephalopods, and the intricacies of family and friendship. She’s the author of the middle grade books Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation (Razorbill, June 21, 2022) and Manatee’s Best Friend (Scholastic 2021) and the picture book A Morning with Grandpa, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books 2016). Sylvia lives in Virginia with her family and a very fluffy cat.