Episode 20: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!

Young adult science fiction, gender, race, Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth, the very sad passing of Ralph Vicinanza, Australian SF compared to SF from the rest of the world: these and other things were discussed when Gary and I fired up podcast #20 this morning.  It seemed to go pretty well. We hope you enjoy it!

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10 thoughts on “Episode 20: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!”

  1. Topic for next week.

    Most essential anthologies and collections of the last 20 years.

    Keep up the good work.

    JD

  2. There seems to be a problem in this podcastabout 15 minutes in where it just stops working — though maybe it’s at this end. I’m downloading it now to see if I can listen to the rest. Usually your podcasts work for me, this has been the exception so far.

    Anyway from what I was able to listen to, I think you’re making something of a common mistake about what YA actually is, or how it should be described, at least in my opinion.

    To my mind, YA is a subset of adult fiction, not of children’s fiction, and should be considered as having an entry reading age rather than an age *range*. The entry level is probably 13 or 14, but there is no upper level because the books are also for adults. Saying YA is 13-21, or 13-18 or whatever misses the point, because it suggests that the books are not for older adults, whereas I would say that in fact the core audience of people reading YA (and YA SFF in particular) are in fact 16-35. But this is only the core and the readership extends more broadly upward in age and down as well.

    A good YA book, and pretty much all the successful ones, work from their entry reading age to any adult age. They have a particular attraction for young adults, usually because of a young adult protagonist, but otherwise are essentially adult novels, with no holding back of mature content, language etc

    So YA books are not children’s books, they are exactly as the term suggests, for adults who happen to be young and this is a starting point, not a closed boundary.

    This does all get confused (by publishers, booksellers and everyone else) and of course like all categorisation issues is too simplistic, but as a general rule I think it works.

  3. Actually, Garth’s point about entry-level ages as the best way to describe a book’s audience makes eminent sense, although I’ve never had it explained to me quite that way before. It not only helps explain the broad appeal of everything from The Hobbit to Garth’s own books, but also how even some children’s picture books, like Daniel Pinkwater’s, draw a sizable adult readership. Much as it occasionally annoys me to see a book advertised as appealing to everyone “from 8 to 80,” it does seem to make more martketing sense than implying there’s some sort of upper age limit for a book’s audience.

  4. Interesting discussion about YA and the Hugos — though I can’t believe you got through without mentioning Little Brother! — but I think the acid test for whether the Hugos will recognise YA sf is whether the Hugos will recognise YA sf by a writer they don’t already know. So I find it entirely plausible that Ship Breaker could hit the Hugo ballot; much less so that Catching Fire or Monsters of Men will do so, despite (I’m guessing) having sold many more copies, because Collins and Ness don’t have Bacigalupi’s reputation in sf.

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