Thursday, December 18, 2008

Science Fiction Romance of My Youth

During my teen years, I had no awareness of Young Adult as a marketing category. Without regard for age designations, I read what I read as far as SF/F was concerned.

My parents supported my love of reading but never screened any of the books. Fortunately for them, the most explicit sexual material I encountered hailed from a Judy Blume book—not from any of the SF/SFR books I devoured (unless I’ve blocked out the memories!). At first, I tended to randomly select books from the library or bookstore, so I could have been exposed to anything.

Fortunately, the authors I stumbled across without recommendations of any kind just happened to be great! Prime example: Anne McCaffrey.

In a sense, McCaffrey's books became my science fiction romance bread and butter (see also Lurv a la Mode’s trip down Nostalgia Lane: Anne McCaffrey). Though I had to reread my favorite books of hers a few times as I matured to fully absorb the layers, I found them sweet without being saccharine and intense enough without being disturbing. I also watched a lot of anime, some of which I currently define as SFR.

This subgenre has appeal for young adults, and not just from the romance. It’s an entertaining way to introduce science and impart excitement about how our universe works. But not all SFR is appropriate for young adults, the main reason being that their brains are still developing. So while I embrace the idea of SFR for young adult readers, there may not be a whole lot of choice out there right now. Never mind the challenges of marketing adult books “down” to younger readers.

And just because a book is light on the sex scenes doesn’t mean it’s not light on the violence. That’s another factor to consider when introducing SFR to young adults. In some ways, love and life affirming intimate relations portrayed in romances can be beneficial for young adults to discover in books. Those elements are not necessarily a deterrent.

However, the capacity to process violence and/or graphic sex scenes varies widely among adults, let alone adolescents/young adults, so it behooves the person doing the recommending to take into account both the youth’s maturity level and any sex scenes, violent acts or mature themes in a story.

For the above reasons, it’s my hope that regarding young adult readers under eighteen, a guardian, teacher, or mentor is available to engage them in discussion about any adult SFR books they might read.

With the recent boom in the YA market, this may change, and some say that YA SF is big business. Perhaps even a near-future trend? Makes me wonder if the youth of today will go straight to the SF section for their initial foray into the genre the way many of us ol’ geezers did, or if they’ll wet their whistles with the YA offerings.

Currently, some books could be included under the SFR umbrella if one considers SF with romantic elements, such as Philip Reeves’ MORTAL ENGINES and a handful of titles by Anne McCaffrey. Right now, a terrific resource for young adult readers interested in SF is Young Adult Science Fiction. There might be others, and I’d love to hear about them.

Which science fiction romance books, broadly defined, could you, dear passengers, recommend for young adults? The more readers we have—in any genre—the better.

Joyfully yours,