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When Will YA Sci-Fi Finally Arrive? by Alex Scarrow

In today's guest blog, Alex Scarrow, author of the TimeRiders series of books, talks to Kindle Post about science fiction for young adults. Scarrow's new book, Ellie Quin, is the first book in a brand new series for readers of all ages,

Ellie quinnWhy hasn't Science Fiction become the new Fantasy? Why is it that teen and young adult fiction is awash with fantasy and the super natural: wizards, elves, werewolves, vampires, warlocks, zombies? It's a rhetorical question. I don't know why.

It seems to me that writers and publishers are getting ever closer to stepping into this so far untapped area of the YA market, circling it like hungry sharks but not quite daring to wade in. Dystopian novels seem to be the closest we've got, and other novels that dare to go there quickly brand themselves 'speculative fiction' to avoid the dreaded 'Sci-Fi' tag.

I wonder whether there's a residual whiff of nerdiness hanging around this part of the market place. Perhaps teenaged and early-20's readers are still extremely wary of being seen to read uncool books that might involve warp drives and green aliens.

Well, two things come to mind regarding this Sci-Fi-phobia. Firstly, with the book reading world rapidly embracing the Kindle, it's now possible to read anything you want on your screen without fear of someone sneering at your choice of read. Secondly, one particularly successful American sitcom I can think of has made it utterly cool--and rightfully so--to embrace all things nerd and geeky; (I won't say which sitcom, but...well...Bazinga).

So, with TimeRiders having spent far too long circling the empty field that is YA Sci-Fi, I've decided to swim right on in with my next series, Ellie Quin.

It's science fiction in a vaguely Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy style; a breathless chase across a colourful universe. And not YA, but for all ages, since the main character turns 20 at the beginning of the book. That was a deliberate choice by the way. It allows the series to be marketed beyond the narrow moral confines of what is 'acceptable' for YA readers. So, yup...there's a swear word in there. Some mature themes. But, it is Sci-Fi full of young-at-heart optimism and, most importantly, fun. As opposed to the doom and gloom of the recent glut of darkly hued dystopian novels. It's Sci-Fi more concerned with lip gloss than laser guns; shopping malls instead of star ships; characters rather than caricatures.

A universe full of funky things; like, for example, nail polish that when it dries allows you to watch a digi-stream channel on each finger! Pocket pets that you can grow from seeds in a pot, (water for several days and this little genetically engineered creature emerges like a budding tulip and steps out of the soil). Giant plants like triffids with a grumpy demeanour. Soda drinks that wage bacterial warfare across your taste buds creating a constantly evolving flavour. Fun stuff. Lots of it. But at the heart of the series, a grand narrative about a very normal young lady with the fate of the universe thrust onto her shoulders.

It's a gamble of course. Maybe it's not the right time yet for this series. What do you think?

--Alex Scarrow


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Well that sounds like a fun book. Glad you are diving in all the way, creating your own waves for the type of YA fiction you'd like to see more prominently in the marketplace. It is time. And if it isn't time then it is time to make it time! :)

There certainly is not a lot of currently written go-to science fiction for young adults and much of it is, as you point out, of the dystopian variety. The most recent example of any I know of is Allen Steele's Apollo's Outcasts, a book I found highly entertaining. It is, however, a homage of sorts to Robert Heinlein's juvenile works and I wonder if that would be considered a step in the wrong direction? I personally think not largely because it also seems to fit into the description of what Jonathan Strahan called "fourth generation" science fiction. At any rate, I think it is a fun book..

It is interesting because all my life I've loved science fiction and never cared much what anyone thought of what I was reading. But my best friend's 13 year old son, by way of example, who has grown up openly loving Star Wars and plays SF games like Halo non-stop openly declares that he does not like science fiction and even though he is a reader cannot be persuaded to try anything that looks like science fiction.

We definitely need more stuff out there to convince kids that science fiction is the new cool. We almost need something like Harry Potter or Twilight with an obvious science fictional connection to sweep across a mass audience, something to not just kick the door down but to blow out all the doors.

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