They've published books, linked to and even interviewed each other, but now authors Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi are collectively wondering whether anyone is paying attention to their most recent books, and just what is the most under-appreciated genre of literature: Young Adult or Regular Science Fiction?
Doctorow started the conversation by telling fans that the reason they're not finding his new book, Little Brother is because they're looking in the wrong place:
My editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, rang me yesterday to talk about a weird little phenomenon: people who were going to stores looking for my newest, Little Brother, were walking away unfulfilled because they were looking in the science fiction section, not the young adult section.
But that's okay, he decides, because it's kind of cool that no-one is paying attention to the YA section:
Living in a space that no one watches too closely is one of the secret ways that people get to do excellent stuff. Science fiction's status for decades as a pariah genre meant that writers could do things with literary style, theme, and political content that their mainstream counterparts could never get away with (games, comics, early hip-hop, mashups, and many of the other back laneways of popular culture have also enjoyed this status). These days, a lot of the coolest stuff in the universe is happening in the kids' section of your bookstore (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of calling attention to a field that has prospered because it wasn't receiving too much attention to blossom).
Scalzi, however, disagrees. Not that there's a lot of awesome stuff happening in YA SF, but that no-one's paying attention:
I have a friend with access to BookScan, which tracks book sales through stores and retail outlets, who at my request checked the aggregate bestseller list sales of adult fantasy and science fiction against the sale of YA fantasy and SF. Without mentioning specific numbers or titles, my friend says that last week, the top 50 YA SF/F bestsellers outsold the top 100 adult SF/F bestsellers (adult SF and F are separate lists) by two to one. So 50 YA titles are selling twice as much as 100 adult SF/F titles. The bestselling YA fantasy book last week (not a Harry Potter book) outsold the bestselling adult fantasy book by nearly four to one; the bestselling YA science fiction title sold three copies for every two copies of the chart-topping adult SF title. And as a final kick in the teeth, YA SF/F is amply represented at top of the general bestselling charts of YA book sales, whereas adult SF/F struggles to get onto the general bestselling adult fiction charts at all.
It's interesting that YA SF is great because you get to do a lot of cool stuff because it seems as if no-one's paying attention, and yet more people are paying attention to YA SF than "grown-up" SF.
Young adult sections in bookstore — a parallel universe of little-regarded awesomeness [Boing-Boing]
Why YA [Scalzi.com]