Is The Golden Age Of YA Science Fiction Already Over?

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We thought we were living in a golden age of young-adult science fiction, with authors like Cory Doctorow turning to YA protagonists and authors like Scott Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins hitting big. But two bloggers say YA SF is scarce.

There's been a lot of talk in science-fiction circles over the past year or two about how the biggest growth in SF publishing was over in the YA world. But now a couple of YA bloggers say actual YA science-fiction is hard to find. Says Tanita at Finding Wonderland:

Those serving on the Cybils committee this year discussed that there was a SERIOUS dearth of actual science fiction in the finalists this year. We had quite a few decent fantasies, but real science fiction is getting harder to find. Let's talk spaceships, labs, planets, robotics, geneticists and cyborgs. If anyone hears of anything that's actual science fiction coming out this year, talk it up! I think YA really needs science fiction.


Adds YA author Gail Gauthier, on her own blog:

This past year while I've been doing agent research, I've found that quite a few of them aren't looking for science fiction. They don't say why, and it isn't necessary for them to do so. I, however, will be happy to speculate.

1. Perhaps they are already representing authors with science fiction material to sell and feel there is only so much of the stuff they can find a home for. This would make sense. However, since we're not seeing much science fiction being published, it seems unlikely that they already have their plates full of scifi that they're placing.

2. Perhaps they don't believe they can sell science fiction, so it would be foolhardy to accept new authors with scifi books to market. This would also make sense.

3. Perhaps they just don't like the genre, and not everyone can sell things they don't like. This is certainly understandable. I can think of several types of books I'd hate to have to promote to absolutely anyone, forget about editors.

Whatever the reason, agents are among the literary gatekeepers who control what is published. If they aren't interested in a genre, how is it going to get out into the marketplace?


The comments on Gauthier's post speculate on the reasons for this perceived lack of YA science-fiction, including the idea that SF is mostly about leaders and scientists, and adolescents don't usually fill those roles. But it also seems as though many of the participants in this discussion are excluding anything dystopian or post-apocalyptic from their personal definitions of "science fiction," in which case I'm sure the number of books does drop somewhat sharply — if you're not considering The Hunger Games (a post-apocalyptic tale involving genetically engineered creatures and high-tech weapons) to be science fiction, then the picture probably looks quite a bit darker.

But maybe there's something else to what they're saying, that I'm not understanding?