Sci Fi: A New Golden Age

Sorry for the delay in posting this--I thought I'd scheduled it, but apparently goofed!

I recently read an article by author Sherwood Smith entitled "The Problem of Kids and Sci Fi." You should totally read it if you've not--she mentions a really neat sci fi book that I'm going to check out. But she also says that:
Fantasy was by far the biggest genre among those who were eager readers. When I’d prompt about why they didn’t read sf, I’d get the wrinkled nose, and it’s boring or it’s too hard.
Some digging led me to the conclusion that the old formula—the joy of a garage chemistry lab, or building a space ship in the back yard—had totally lost its appeal. That book is about kids doing science homework. Who cares?
Her point was the old school sci fi typically involved a group of teens who were actively pursuing science, and that led them to adventure. That formula is certainly rarer--when was the last time you read about a group of teens whose science project led to the plot of a sci fi novel? The only one that comes to mind for me is Bruce Coville's My Teacher is an Alien series--and that is both on the older side and a MG novel, not YA.

Sherwood Smith posits that YA sci fi is more often distinguished by romance--these days, you can't seem to have YA without at least a hint of romance, no matter what the subgenre. And--sadly--she had a valid point here. It is more typical than not that YA must involve some sort of romantic undertones at the very least.

But I don't think it's the romance that distinguishes YA sci fi these days. Instead, I think it's a shift in genre.

In adult sci fi--and in YA sci fi of the old days--science was the driving force of the plot. But in modern YA, science is a part of the setting, with some other element--romance, mystery, adventure--being the driving force of the plot.

What are some new YA sci fi titles that you're looking forward to? Do they use science as a setting or a driving force of the plot?


erica and christy said...

I haven't read too many sci fi books, but am on the lookout for more titles. Recent reads include Across the Universe and I Am Number Four. I hadn't thought about what set current sci fi books apart from those of the past, but now that you spelled it out for me am in total agreement. The addition of romance and mystery may well be why I'm more eager to read this genre (and even give writing it a try) than I ever was in the past. Christy

Unknown said...

I think you're right on. Most ya sci-fi are nothing like the magic school bus set-up anymore. I would love to see a resurgence of the genre.

Unknown said...

Most of the YA sci-fi books I've seen focus more on dystopian or post-apocalyptic themes; they use societal themes more than science. Really, when you look back at a lot of sci-fi from the Victorian period and before, a lot of it just uses science to mask societal commentary (Jules Verne excluded).