Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Child Readers...Maybe Any Readers?...Of Science Fiction

This past September I came upon and flagged a 2015 Horn Book article, The Campaign for Shiny Futures by Farah Mendelsohn. I probably read it at the time it was published, because I was subscribing to Horn Book then, and I've been familiar with Mendelsohn's work for a long time. I believe we were once members of the same listserv, I may have heard her speak at a scifi/fantasy conference years ago, and I find her to be an incredibly logical and coherent thinker and writer.

In The Campaign for Shiny Futures she has fascinating things to say about child readers of science fiction, how science fiction for children has changed over the last half century, who is writing science fiction for children...I could go on.

One of the things she writes about is child readers' interest in ideas and information in science fiction, versus relationships. I am only a dabbler in reading and writing science fiction, but I wonder if this may be true of adult readers of science fiction, as well.

I was reminded of a science fiction discussion I attended at my local library years ago, back in the day when it actually sponsored literary events vs. gatherings regarding crafts and cooking. (Why, yes, I do have an ax to grind.) I don't recall what book we'd read, but I had not liked it at all. However, I was sitting in a circle with people who were leaning forward, on the edge of their seats, consumed with interest. What is going on here? I wondered.

What I realized was that those people were reading for content while I was reading for style. Did that make me just a little superficial? Or a lot?

For example, I like the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. In fact, I believe there's a new book out I'll be buying myself for Christmas. However, I can't tell you a whole lot about what's going on in those things, the technical information, or ideas. I am totally taken with Murderbot, itself. The same is probably true for any science fiction I read.  

This means, I think, that I should not be shopping for or advising any true science fiction reader of any age.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

I wish there were more space adventures rather than all of the gloom and doom dystopias, but I think children's publishing in general has gone to the dark side. Sure, the 1980s and 90s had their problem novels, but also a lot of fun books. Not many fun books to be had today. No wonder children have anxiety!