YA is big and has been since the late 90s. But the future today doesn’t look like it did even 10 or 20 years ago. What does YA science fiction readers want today?
At the titular panel at WorldCon2019, I had the opportunity to listen to the top professionals in the field discuss what they see coming. On the panel were Charlie Jane Anders, James Smythe, Eric Picholle, Fonda Lee, and Kristina Perez.
3 Things That Don’t Fit In the YA Science Fiction of Today
- A sense of inevitable progress
The golden-age of science-fiction brought us flying cars and space cities. From the Jetsons to Star Trek, optimism for a better world was writ large in our stories.
These days, we’re making our dreams a little more down to earth.
The 90s and 00s taught us that angst and cynicism were ‘grown up’ and ‘mature’. Spoiler: they not. And teenage angst when written by adults, far too often turns into teenage melodrama.
With the advent of the space race, sf writers assumed our future was out amongst the stars. These days, we’re looking at our own planet and resources.
Space, right now, is a hard-sell in YA.
10 Things In YA Science-Fiction Today
- Social issues
You don’t have to evaluate them, but they should be in there.
Related? Teens don’t need as much hand-holding or explanations when dealing with LGBTQ+ themes, versus adult readers.
- Near future
Where we might be in 20 years, not 100 or a 1,000.
- Taking the brakes off
With YA, you can turn emotions up to 11. As a writer, you can delve into your own neuroses and baggage and trauma on the page.
The reign of dystopia is changing. The future looks bleak and people are looking for hope.
Even if we’re not there yet, we’re getting really close to being able to fake true artificial intelligence. I would say some robots are pretty close to dog-level intelligence at this point.
And then? There’s always “the singularity”, when the first artificial intelligence becomes self-aware.
- Genetic Manipulation/Trans-humanism
The science is there. It’s time to explore the moral and ethical quandaries inherent.
- Fun Adventures
Doing stuff with friends to fix things, save someone or something, or just wild hijinks!
Hackers are more and more becoming the heroes of the story.
- Online Friendships
Friends aren’t always local these days. Plenty of friendships have started or moved online as distance becomes less of a constraint.
- Mixed media
With text conversations and real world descriptions, mixed media storytelling is getting bigger.
Clearly, as we don’t actually have any time-travel machines, these are all guesses and YA trends change faster than any other genre.
Let me know what you think is coming for YA. Did the panelists get it right?
As always, thanks for reading and I’ll be back again soon with more writing tips and writerly musings.