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Why no YA in science fiction?

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I read the Hunger Games trilogy last month (and thought it was excellent). I thought of this thread as it's definitely in the young adult category and definitely a scifi series. I believe that it's in the process of being made into a film and could do great things for getting teenagers into the genre. Ok, so it's pretty mild scifi, future earth stuff with no spaceships or aliens to think of, and it's definitely a character-based story, but still, it's scifi.

I also remember when I was a teenager that the Point series of books (i.e. point horror, point romance etc.) ran a Point SF series and one book in particular that stands out was Obernewtyn by Isabelle Carmody. I never did manage to find the third book in that series but would still like to read it.


Geoff the head Uncle:
Hello Vinx

It does make me wonder what makes the difference between mild SF and hardcore SF. What do you see as the difference??


I've been pondering this for most of the day, with no definite answer springing to mind. I think that when I wrote the post about the Hunger Games, I was considering it as mild science fiction because you could read for a good while without realising that it was a science fiction book. So my thinking has been going in that direction - how long would it take a non-science fiction reader to realise that they were reading a science fiction book?

If it's set on a space station or off-world colony or spaceship the game is up straight away so on this basis I'd put people like Iain M Banks and Peter F Hamilton into the  hardcore category. I think I'd like to add that some serious science or basis in scientific fact should be used for books to fall into the hardcore category. I like to be able to go and look things up and say 'oh, this is what that technology might develop from' (read Asimov's original Foundation trilogy and then Philip Ball's Critical Mass to get an idea of what I mean).

With Pern novels, that you mentioned in another thread, I was convinced I was reading fantasy for a long time, and by a long time I think probably more than one or two books. These are books about dragons, they can't be science fiction, must be fantasy. Fools the casual reader pretty easily and it's only once you finally get to the computer parts of the story that you realise it's been science fiction all along.

Then perhaps you go to read The Man in the High Castle and could be convinced this is a history book, it's just speculating on what might have happened had real events turned out differently. That's not science fiction surely, just speculative fiction, and isn't all fiction speculative?

Taking this a step further, Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver won the Arthur C Clarke award, which recognises outstanding science fiction, and that definitely feels like a historical novel. Stephenson apparently argues that its science fiction because it's fiction about science, but I'd certainly class this as mild science fiction. I could probably give it to my Nan to read and she wouldn't notice that I'd tricked her into reading a science fiction book. To be fair, I didn't feel like I was reading a science fiction book either and found it a bit hard-going (Anathem on the other hand I loved from beginning to end).

So, to try and reach a conclusion. I think that hard science fiction needs to have a strong basis in real science and is immediately recognisable as being a science fiction book. Mild science fiction may have a science fiction setting but it is either not immediately obvious or other genres have a strong role in the book so that it's not immediately apparent that the story is science fiction.

I'm sure that other people would consider things differently, but that's how I consider it, and certainly the way my thoughts were heading when I posted that the Hunger Games was mild science fiction.


Geoff the head Uncle:
Hello Vinx

Fantasy tales usually use an Earth setting and Pern wasn't so I never took McCaffrey's books as anything but SF. The lapse back into medieval period being what happens when there is no available advance tech. If anything, when she wrote 'Dragon's Dawn', all the details were put into place.

Phil Dick's 'Man In The High Castle' can be sub-categorised as an alternative reality. As with all such books, you adjust the variables and see what comes out.

You raise Asimov but how do you see his robot stories?? After all, they still don't exist and much of the stories were about defying his three laws of robotics to show how difficult it is even if modern scientists have pointed out that it is very hard to define such laws in programming.

As you raise fantasy, my definition of Science Fiction is principally the story lives within the constaints the author puts in. With fantasy, if there's a plot problem, you can cheat the solution. I suspect there are some fantasy stories that can be re-defined as SF simply by staying constrained. Probably the best example is Marvel's Doctor Strange because although he uses magic, the incantations he uses has, at least until I stopped reading him in the early 90s, always had the same effect.

When it comes to hard and soft Science Fiction. I go along with you to a point. Hard SF uses its science as part of the solution although it doesn't necessarily has to be current science or you'd get unstuck with ftl and time travel. Soft SF uses the setting and a more standard solution and doesn't tax the reader so much.

Into all of this mix is plausibility but that's the skill of the writer to keep you on the written page.

Does that make sense?


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