Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Science fiction for a young adult audience


Panelists: E.K. Johnston, Charlene Challenger, Leah Bobet, Jane Ann McLachlan

YA SF panel

Having just been in a session, Leah was a tad late . . .

JAM: Has fantasy done a better job reaching the YA audience? Who is the audience for YA SF?

LB: There’s the problem right there. Is YA about and geared to young adult readers, or do readers just find their ways to it? Adult authors will write YA SF to “convert” younger readers. That’s a bad reason to write YA SF.

EKJ: Girls are starting to look for science fiction in the YA section.

LB: It’s really YA novels that are paranormal at the core. Authors are starting to cater to YA readers bored with standard paranormal.

JAM: Who are the readers of YA? There are a lot of adults who are looking for, perhaps, a simpler plot or a more youthful protagonist.

LB: I wouldn’t trash readers.

Mel’s note: There was a bit of awkweird at that point. Leah confessed to a lack of sleep but continued to make her point. For the record, Jane Ann’s remark wasn’t intended as a slight to readers of YA of any age, nor was it intended as a slight to the authors of YA, of whom she is one.

EKJ: One of the things that YA does well is include something for readers of all ages.

CC: I remembered being intimidated by SF as a kid. Star Trek: The Next Generation made is accessible. [SF] elevates the human condition.

EKJ: It asks the important questions.

LB: SF is no longer about showing your geek pass card. It’s rooted in outsider culture.

JAM: Are there more female protagonists in YA SF? What does this say about the authors? The readers?

LB: Traditionally, SF has had a massive issue with sexism and misogyny.

Q: Would genre crossing novels find readers in YA?

EKJ: Maybe. That’s the charm of YA. It encompasses all genres. It would probably be an easier environment to break through with a cross-genre book.

Q: What makes for a good YA novel?

EKJ: The pacing is faster, length is a little shorter than the average novel in the adult category. The story doesn’t make them feel bad for being a teenager.

LB: In 2014, the biggest trend was adult readers, particularly women readers, reading YA. As a result, the YA market became huge. Advances were five times the advances in other categories. Publishers had the budget dollars for editing and promotion.

EKJ: Check out Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

JAM: Most YA share common themes: leaving home, dystopia, romance, authentication. Most are written in first person, present tense.

EKJ: Second person is rare, but it can be mind-blowing when done well. Fan fiction is a great way to learn the conventions and break them at the same time.

LB: Understand the conversation you’re entering.

JAM: What’s the difference between YA and adult fiction?

EKJ: Flexibility is the key. The main differences are the age of the protagonist and the age of the reader.

CC: The YA journey is outward. The adult journey is inward.

LB: It’s the reading culture. Adult SF is the classic authors like Asimov and Heinlein. It’s not accessible to new readers.

LAM: There is accessible adult SF. The Time Traveller’s Wife is an example, but is it really SF? Young adult is distinguished, in my opinion, by the intensity of emotion and its sense of optimism.

And our time was up.


I’m going to have to defer my next chapter post until tomorrow. I’ve had a couple of evenings out, I have full-tum syndrome (sleepy) and it’s late.

Until tomorrow, be well.

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