Hey there, Lytherians. I just want to take a moment to introduce the incredibly talented Katie French. Katie is a co-creater/contributer to one of my favorite blogs, Undergroundbookreviews.com. As someone tuned into the YA science fiction and fantasy market, I wanted to pick her brain on her thoughts about where this industry is headed. She was kind enough to provide the following article:
There used to be a time when reading Young Adult science fiction or fantasy was social suicide. As a teen getting caught with an Anne McCaffery paperback tucked under my arm was as embarrassing as having a peer see me in my New Kids on the Block fanny pack. I was a closet nerd, pretending to read the latest teen chick lit with the rest of the social elite all the while soaking up sci-fi like a leather-skinned sunbather soaks up sun. I thought that reading YA would plunge me into the depths of nerdom. I’d be sentenced to the back of the cafeteria with the misfits trading Magic the Gathering cards. I’d no longer be cool.
Times have certainly changed. Fantasy fiction has joined the A list. Ushered in with Harry Potter and rekindled by Twilight and Hunger Games, nerds like me can frolic in freedom. No longer are we resigned to hiding our hardcovers behind our backs. Everyone, from the cheerleaders to the jocks, has joined the fantasy band wagon. The evidence is everywhere. I don’t have to go ten feet in the high school in which I work to spot someone with a Hunger Games novel splayed open on a desk. Right now seven of the top ten YA series are fantasy or science fiction, and the review requests I receive from debut novelists on undergroundbookreviews.com are 90% fantasy or sci-fi. Fantasy has taken hold, but is it here to stay?
As a high school teacher for many years, I happily dragged teens through the literary movements of the 19th century. I can’t help but compare today’s boom of YA fantasy with the Gothic movement in the mid eighteen hundreds. Edgar Allen Poe is by the most famous Gothic writer, but others, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving, helped to shape American Gothic forever. Audiences were captivated by The Raven, shocked by The Scarlet Letter and intrigued by The Legend of Sleepy Hallow. Though these are the literary equivalent of Ambien to today’s teens, back then they were the Maze Runners of their time. That is until audiences grew tired of it.
I fear we are on the precipice of such a movement in today’s literature. Just as audiences turned from Poe and flocked to his Realist predecessor Mark Twain, I fear audiences may soon grow tired of the fantastic. There are, after all, only so many things you can do with a vampire (they already sparkle). In the last ten years teens have cast spells with Potter, ridden Dragons with Eragon and fought the future with Katniss. I think it is only a matter of time before they go, “Huh, I wonder what it’d be like to read a book about something that could really happen.”
So even though I lament my prediction, here it is: in the next few years we will see a decline in fantasy and science fiction and a rise in realism. Teens will put down Suzanne Collins and pick up Sarah Dresden. Don’t get me wrong. If that happens, I’ll lament the time I spent being part of the literary in-crowd, (as will many of you, no doubt) but I’ll never abandon my fantasy fiction friends. My fellow book nerds and I will be plunged back to the land of the lost. We’ll go there happily, clutching our novels to our chests. Afterall, who cares about being cool when you’ve got a good book?
Katie French is a high school counselor, wife and mother of two. She is the co-creator and contributor to Underground Book Reviews, a site devoted to providing quality book reviews and interviews to self-published and debut novelists. When she’s not reading new YA or working on her novel or playing with her children, she’s sleeping because frankly there isn’t time for anything else. You can find her at www.undergroundbookreviews.com.