One of the most interesting streams of discussion during AussieCon4, the 68th world science fiction convention, related to Young Adult and, more particularly, YA speculative fiction.
Providing commentary and discussion points on a panel devoted to YA, Bec Kavanagh, Zoe Walton, Kate Forsyth and Helen Merrick brought dozens of years of experience with the genre and, between them, professional expertise relating to dozens of published works.
Kate believes the “explosion of interest and sales in YA” comes from the strength of storylines and that kids love to be entranced with adventure and wonder. Bec added that since speculative fioction expanded from the “constraints of sf and fantasy” we now have a genre that can include Kate and Cory Doctorow, for example.
Bec said the “what if” zone is especially appealing to kids, and a recent poll showed both kids and adults favoured the genre with 48 of 100 titles having strong spec fic elements, a sure indication of the power and importance of the books.
Spec fic can transcend normal boundaries according to Kate, who is read in 13 countries and by men as much as women plus from an age range of 8 to 80 – the universal themes are not specific to geography or time period, allowing people of all cultures to immerse themselves in the stories.
The panel also believe YA has a richness of story in most cases, and see this in contrast to the “cleverness” of what we read in adult literary fiction.
Some panel members suggested High Fantasy may replace the dominance of Urban Fantasy over the next couple of years. YA is female dominated to a great degree, perhaps as a balance to the cowboy hero memes and male buddies in so many other genres and in film.
Bec added YA fans are very loyal and avid readers, while Kate suggested one secret is the common inclusion of “telling details” in the genre, citing the allure of secret rooms and adjective-rich descriptions.
Reading stats in last two years for the YA genre beat all others and, most significantly, have doubled each year in past two years. One reason cited for this is teens have enormous expendable time available, which can average 11 hours a day. Teens also now have large expendable incomes compared to just a few years ago, plus take a more active role in family decisions about which books to buy or borrow from libraries.