Plot Twist

GWU Student Begins Work on Original Novel as Part of Project on Young-Adult Science Fiction

A Gardner-Webb University senior English major is working to complete an original piece of young-adult science fiction as part of an intensive research program for undergrads. Summer Byers (Forest City, N.C.) was one of 10 GWU students who conducted research during the summer term with a grant from the GWU Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. The students worked 40 hours a week for five weeks on their projects, which they are required to present in a professional forum. Each one had a faculty mentor or collaborator who worked with them. Byers’ mentor was Matthew Duffus, GWU Instructor of English Composition.

For her project, Byers studied young-adult science fiction and worked with Duffus to begin developing an original piece of genre fiction. “My research began as an examination of sci-fi feminism,” she explained, “but it slowly evolved to encompass agency, identity, technophobia, and post-humanism within the genre.”

Her research process involved discussion and processing with Duffus. “Mr. Duffus helped me understand the creative writing process as well as how to catalog all of my research,” she offered. “He was a huge help in the development of my own novel and progress of my research.”

For Byers, establishing a basic overview of the young-adult science fiction genre and developing a better understanding of the creative writing process revealed new insights within a genre she already loved. “I learned that young-adult science fiction focuses on addressing how advancements in society impact a young person’s sense of self and understanding of their place in a rapidly-changing world,” she reflected. “I also found that post-humanism is most evident in novels that address cloning as a form of technophobia. As a result, the cloned character often feels isolated from the world because they cannot identify themselves as human beings.”

Overall, she believes fellow students should consider taking part in the research program, and she gives credit to Dr. June Hobbs, professor of English and director of GWU Undergraduate Research. “I was able to participate in this amazing program because of Dr. Hobbs,” Byers concluded. “I am so grateful for the opportunity she gave me and all of the wisdom and guidance she provided throughout the whole experience.”

Learn more about the Undergraduate Research Scholars program by contacting Dr. June Hobbs