Utne Blogs > Literature

Arguing Young Adult Science Fiction

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: books and publishers, essay writing, science fiction, sci-fi, young adult literature, young adult sci-fi, fantasy, IO9, Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, BoingBoing,

Sci-fi bookshelf

Is dividing science-fiction lit into “Adult” and “Young Adult” (YA) classifications a way for the genre to better connect to specific audiences? Or are those labels a deterrent for both age groups? Two staffers from the hip sci-fi website io9, part of the Gawker network, argue the issue, and the end result is intelligent discourse that extends to any genre.

News editor Charlie Jane Anders credits YA sci-fi with almost singlehandedly pushing the entire genre forward: “Luckily, we can have both grown-up science fiction and the YA version. But to the extent that one is shrinking and the other one is growing, that may not be entirely a bad thing. Look at it this way: is it better to have [sci-fi] written for a subculture, or anybody of a certain age?”

Editor Annalee Newitz, on the other hand, insists that the YA classification is off-putting to both teens and adults: “You will certainly alienate possible adult readers, who feel vaguely nasty for cozying up with a genre aimed at teens. And I believe in the end you will lose teen readers, who are exactly the sorts of people who dislike being told that their youth bars them from understanding adult novels. What self-respecting 15-year-old wants to read ‘young adult’ fiction when she could be reading stuff actually written for adults?”

(Thanks, BoingBoing.)

Photo by Phillie Casablanca, licensed under Creative Commons.

ryan wanger
8/25/2008 2:39:08 PM

Why debate the theory? Have a bookstore with a few different locations do a test. Some stores shelve them without distinguishing, and others create two separate sections. The release the results into the wild. My guess is that splitting them up will sell more books to young kids (younger than "young adults"), but less to adults, who will shy away from the young adult section.