Point/Counterpoint: the case for and against young adult science fiction

Over on IO9, a pair of essays by Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz presenting the case for and against writing young adult science fiction:
It's great news that young people are getting exposed to SF at an impressionable age, without apparently feeling any particular stigma about it. And yes, a lot of those people will eventually come to view SF as "kid stuff" and stop reading when they reach adulthood. But if even 20 percent of those readers keep reading SF after they turn 18, that guarantees a sizeable readership for SF in decades to come.

The other great thing about YA science fiction is that people come to writing it from all sorts of angles. Some YA authors write non-speculative YA books and then drift into writing books with science-fictional plots.


What I'm trying to say is that labeling novels YA in the hope that that will make them "mainstream" may actually backfire. 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?

The beauty of science fiction is that our hypothetical 15-year-old can read adult fiction and enjoy it just as much as adults do. Not because scifi is simplistic, but because it usually operates on multiple levels: One level is devoted to an adventurous plot, and the other seethes with social subtext and commentary. The most successful scifi novels should work as entertainment for people of any age, and can suggest deeper ideas to people who have been on Earth long enough to want a little contemplation with their space battles.

Young Adult Books Will Save Science Fiction, Stop Writing Young Adult Science Fiction