Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reading between the lines: YA is the new PG-13.

I've seen a lot of authors lean towards YA these days, or at least start to dip their paws in it. For genre writers with an established audience the pressure to "switch" to YA, brought on by their publishers and agents, is immense.

Since a lot of their current fans are genre readers, who can be pretty loyal to a writer, some writers might feel like their missing a chance to build their base by just making sure their next protagonist is a teen and female.

That's an epiphany I had the day I got lost in the Barnes and Noble YA section thinking that I was in the SF/F section. I really couldn't tell the difference.

The next epiphany slapped me in the face when I went Christmas shopping at Target. There , the only "adult" SF/F books in the fiction section were Game of Thrones and The Hobbit -- basically the two biggest media tie-ins of the season. The rest of the fiction pile for grown ups was the usual stable of names that echo throughout the big box store book departments across the nation -- Patterson, Cussler, Brown, Grisham, etc.

The YA section, however, was nothing but genre stuff, mostly science fiction or fantasy. The fantasy was in all sorts of flavors -- epic, urban, paranormal, etc. The SF was well represented by post-apocalyptic, but the space opera subgenre was absent.

I'm going to detour here into Hollywood, where genre movies have taken off. Well, to be more precise, it's been PG-13 genre fair that Hollywood is in love with. Poor Robocop.

Why? PG-13 is the Holy Grail of ratings since it reaches the demographic of 13 to 43. But, that attitude might change after this year.
So it occurred to me that YA fiction has now become the unspoken code word in both the Showbiz and the Publishing Biz as "Money making PG-13 material that's already been been market tested with solid book sales."

I could take some sort of affront to the implication that genre fiction isn't "adult fiction" unless it's a multi-million franchise media tie-in. But frankly, you have to pick your battles to keep your sanity, and as long genre fiction is represented by quality writing, I'm not going to complain ... too much.

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