Today I'm interviewing Kimber An of the Young Adult Science Fiction blog with some specific questions about young adult interest in Science Fiction and Science Fiction Romance.
Q: Your Star Captains' Daughter and Enduring Romance blogs have been very popular. What inspired you to start another blog directed at young adults interested in SciFi?
A: First of all, I’d like to say the selfish reason I started YA SciFi is so I can learn more about the Science Fiction which appeals to teens. I’m just getting started and I don’t consider myself an expert.
As a blogging book reviewer, what I see about readers often conflicts with what the publishing industry believes about them. I knew a lot of teens who loved Science Fiction, including girls. Yet, the industry thinks the market is extremely small. Correct me if I’m wrong because I would dearly love to be. Some even believe the Science Fiction label scares them off as ‘geeky,’ so they might label a YA Science Fiction novel as Fantasy or Paranormal instead. From my point of view, there is a healthy bunch of teens who love Science Fiction. It’s simply that the publishing industry has mostly failed to make a connection with them. I noticed some teens over here might know some great books while others elsewhere knew about some great games, but they couldn’t get together because the publishers didn’t know how to reach and connect them. I created the Young Adult Science Fiction blog to help teens find the Science Fiction they’ll love and so they can help each other find it too.
Q: What are your thoughts on why YA Science Fiction is so rare, but YA Fantasy is so predominant?
A: I’ve touched on that a little bit already. Actually, it’s not rare. It’s simply mislabeled. In an effort to reach readers, a lot of publishers have missed the readers who are truly interested. Publishers and teen readers are like two ships passing in the dark.
Q: In media, science fiction seems very popular for YA viewers. What's your take on why the publishing industry is not aligned with the current trends in television and theater?
A: Media is easy. It’s visual and audio and right there in front of you. Reading is completely different. Here are the reasons I think most publishers are missing the Science Fiction boat with teen readers-
1) They seem to think reading ability is low and that most teens don’t read. This is not true for teens who read Science Fiction. Sci-Fi Teens are avid readers who read waaaay above grade level. Most of the SciFi Teens I know skip YA and go straight to regular adult Science Fiction. That is why my blog is about the Science Fiction teens like, whether it’s meant for them or not.
2) None of the Sci-Fi Teens I know care about being cool and popular. They’re not afraid of marching to the beat of their own drums. Trying to shape YA Science Fiction to meet current teen trends is a waste of time and even a turn-off, in my observation. For example, my first teen reviewer, Madison, reviewed an original series Star Trek novel, DOCTOR’S ORDERS by Diane Duane from 1990. Assumptions cannot be made about SciFi Teens. They must be respected as individuals.
Q: What would you like to see/do you see happening in the YASF market in the near future?
A: I think Tor is onto something. It has an interactive blog for readers and a Science Fiction imprint for teens, Starscape, and they’re on MySpace as TorTeen. It seems to me they’ve really gone the extra mile to connect with teens. I’ll be following how they do closely.
I know publishers are all about getting teen readers to buy New, but I think they would do well to encourage teens reading all Science Fiction. Encouraging the love of Science Fiction as a whole will connect SciFi Teens while providing publishers with first-hand knowledge (rather than vast and general assumptions) on what teens like. Then, they can publish what teens love and teens will buy New.
Q: Do you have any articles of special note on your blog this week that you'd to share?
A: Madison’s book review is still at the top of the blog. I also reprinted an excerpt of one of Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s columns from Alien Romance. Obviously, not everything from that SFR blog is appropriate or appealing to teens, but Jacqueline’s wisdom is ageless.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to bring up on this topic?
A: I think the key to reaching and connecting with readers of any age is to search for the need and then figure out how to fill that need, rather than stepping up on a pedestal and saying, “Look at how wonderful I am! Now buy my book!” A lot of teens, especially, are used to being treated disrespectfully by adults. Also, they can spot a fake a mile away! You have to be genuine and genuinely interested in them.
Thank you, Kimber An, for taking time out from your busy schedule to offer insights and perspective on the Youth Adult SF and SFR market. You gave some very valuable information on a group that may often be overlooked as a potential SFR fanbase.