Why we need more Sci Fi in YA
At roughly the 5 to 6-year mark, I saw Star Wars: Episode IV for the first time. It changed my perception of reality and how greater things awaited me beyond Peter and Jane, and my dear collection of Ladybird books.
All of a sudden, my mind expanded and the odd chair next to the table became a world filled with weird characters and danger looming from all corners. It was great. Soon came the weekly visit to the news agents to spend what little pence I had on comics or whatever I could get my hands on to feel engrossed.
By the age of 9, I read novellas, and then the influx of new experiences dwindled a little. There wasn’t much Science Fiction, or Fantasy novels to fill my appetite. Sure – there were stuff, but nothing that broke away from set formulas or opened up new paths. At the library I’d find many adult Sci-Fi books with adult characters doing adult things. A lot of YA novels in the 1990’s were gimmicky and made me wonder if the joy from when I was young remained there.
Many would say to me: Why do you read those sort of books for? It’s all make-believe. It’ll never happen.
Well . . . why do you watch serials? Why do you listen to music? Why do you go on a holiday? To escape. To leave behind the doldrums of life and to step into a window of opportunity where every page turn is unexpected . . . and even when it is expected, you’re glad it happened.
Thankfully, in the last 10 years, there has been a steady increase in the number of Sci-Fi YA novels. Slowly they are changing the old-age concept that all Sci-Fi was space opera, or princesses being rescued by smugglers and walking rugs.
I’m blinking glad.
And although my first novel: The Last Strider was fantasy, I altered it in 2011 to be more techno-fantasy, thus adding sci-fi elements. After that, my next batch of novels are sci-fi. I’ve gone back to what I adored as a child.
And what’s greater is how sci-fi writers are mixing the genres. Romance is filtering in. Political espionage. Segregation. I have to give credit to Maria V Snyder with Inside Out, and Beth Revis for Across the Universe. They have certainly provided me with vision of how to take a sci-fi story and not make it totally sci-fi. They’ve opened up emotions to a new generation. The young of today are seeing technology expand around them at lightning speed, and the ‘it’ll never happen’ is happening. So taking the now and thrusting it into a warped diversion is possible.
Of course – with my novels, there will be androids, force fields, and other techy buttons, but the root of the plot and the arc of the characters is deeper personality that if you stripped out the sci-fi bits, could still work.
Science fiction in YA can take several exciting paths.
I’m here for the ride.
I’m young again.