lwe: (Default)
As some of you may have noticed, right now YA ("Young Adult") science fiction and fantasy are selling huge numbers, while adult SF and fantasy are not. It has been pointed out to me by various people (including my agent) that this isn't because of some huge demographic bulge of teenage readers, but because in recent years adult readers have been buying YA books for their own entertainment, in preference to the books nominally aimed at them.


Apparently, it's because YA novels have likeable protagonists and straightforward plots. Also, they aren't all sweetness and light, by any means, but they tend to be fairly positive in outlook.

In short, if what you're after is escapist entertainment, you're more likely to find it in a YA novel than in the latest adult release.

I'm cool with that.

And it occurs to me that this reflects the latest front in a war that's been going on intermittently in the SF/fantasy field since at least 1939, and arguably longer -- the battle between those who want science fiction to be respectable literature, and those who don't give a damn about that, but they want it to be fun.

This conflict was presented most openly in the 1960s and '70s, when the two sides were labeled the New Wave and the Old Wave -- said labels being created, obviously, by the New Wave advocates. The New Wave folks dismissed traditional science fiction as simplistic, poorly-written adventure stories, and wanted to bring on a Golden Age of brilliant writing and literary experimentation in SF.

It goes back further, though. John W. Campbell became a revered icon in the SF field by insisting that his writers actually be able to write competently, and that their science have some basis in reality -- in short, he was taking the "respectable literature" side and setting Astounding up in opposition to the pure escapist pulps like Planet Stories.

Some people argue that Campbell's big innovation wasn't better writing, just better science. These people should go look at back issues of Startling Stories, and remember that Campbell was perfectly happy to edit the pure fantasy of Unknown, so long as the writing was decent and the stories made sense.

Anyway, Campbell won out over the trashy pulps, and the New Wave more or less won out over the Old Wave -- but I think the rise of YA now is a counter-revolutionary movement by readers. They want stories they can enjoy without too much effort. They want to experience the escapist pleasures they found when they first discovered SF and fantasy as teenagers -- so they're buying books aimed at teenagers.

It's a theory, anyway.


lwe: (Default)

May 2017

 1 23456


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags