Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Is Fantasy & Science Fiction Classified "Young Adult?"

Those of you familiar with either genre might say, "what are you talking about?"

Well, I'm specifically talking about the magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction and the fact that the main branch of my city library has put its copies of the magazine in its Young Adult section next to the graphic novels. A location where I would never have thought to look for the magazine until my daughter pulled me over there today and I simply stumbled across issues from the past couple years in a little section on the bottom shelf.

On the one hand, I'm very happy that the library now seems to carry this magazine. It happens to be one of the markets that I've been hoping to send short stories to, so I've been trying to save for a subscription. In general I've been hoping to subscribe to F & SF, Asimov's, and perhaps Analog for at least a year, to do mypart to try and sustain the market for this sort of speculative fiction.

On the other hand, I have no idea why they put the magazine in the Young Adult section, because it isn't aimed at Young Adult readers. The two issues I just checked out feature stories by authors like Thomas Disch (a classic reprint), John C. Wright, and Robert Reed, among others. I happen to be familiar with those authors and they aren't writing for a young adult audience. The magazines are not only in the Young Adult section, they're affixed with stamps labeling them as Young Adult.

That's not to say that some teens might enjoy these and other stories. I have very fond memories of sitting at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces and poring over the battered copies of Galaxy and Analog that filled a bottom shelf. But those were lumped in with the grownup books, as they should have been.

Moreover, these magazine aren't illustrated, so I think a kid in the graphic novel section who happens to pick one up will be disappointed.

I'll probably discuss this briefly with one of the librarians the next time I visit. I don't want to be a jerk, and I'm grateful that the magazines are here, but I'm a bit perplexed as to this categorization.

This did make me think about the recent flap over the Hugo nominations, in which the erstwhile critic (and sometimes writer) Adam Roberts slammed the 2009 Hugo nominees as being nearly all Young Adult selections and not representative of the best qualities of the genre. I thought Roberts was a bit condescending and arrogant in his observations, but he has something of a point (for the counterpoint, see John Scalzi, who wrote one of the nominated books that Roberts dumps on).

After years of lit teachers telling me science fiction and fantasy were juvenile genres, I had kind of hoped we were beyond this. I imagine that people who think of science fiction as a mainly Young Adult genre are thinking primarily of science fiction films, which are just action adventure with sci-fi special effects for the most part.

But the library does have a pretty good science fiction section, so I think this may just have been a mistake.

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