Think about the latest science fiction/fantasy to really take off. What has been the most popular in the last year or so? The following are what come to mind for me-
Hunger Games – dystopian sci-fi
Twilight – vampire fantasy
The Avengers/All Marvel – comics/sci-fi
Percy Jackson series – fantasy
What do those things have in common? None would be nearly as popular without the young adult audiences. Sure, a few would hold up without the young girls and boys to fuel them, but they would not be nearly as successful. So, what does that mean for prospective science fiction authors?
Well, I think they need to seriously consider who their audience is going to be. Of course, they already do that. When writing a book or short story, an author is always conscious of who will be reading their material. Some set out from the beginning as young adult authors, some do not. An author will tone their book to the intended audience. Foul language and sexual descriptions are likely to be left out of books geared towards younger audiences.
Pandering to both young adult and adult audiences is hard. Many people I know won’t go near the young adult/teen section of a book store or Kindle store. Why? Not really sure. Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe they think they are less of an adult if they pick them up. Some adult sci-fi readers just prefer adult stories. As a writer, I love reading young adult books books. My reading mind has never really left childhood anyway. Heck, I’ll pick up Dr. Seuss if it helps my creativity. I read the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson books very quickly. The thing about well written young adult books is this – sure, on the surface they have kids in them, but the things those kids are dealing with are pure adult situations. They teach acceptance, responsibility, courage, and leadership. Those lessons are great for youth, but even better for a forgetful adult generation.
Can an author hit both audiences? Many have. They are the ones that have been most successful so far. To do this, the author can’t make it seem like a young adult book at all. I think it has to be an adult book that has some aspect in it that young adult audiences will respond to. Having a young adult being a main character in the book is a good way to do this, though I know how hard it is to integrate kids into an adult plot while ensuring they remain a vital character that can be taken seriously.
I guess success in science fiction is measured based on the needs and wants of the individual author. Some have no interest in catering to the young adult audience. Those authors should also be prepared to not reap the success that can happen if the younger ones go crazy over something (a la Bieber, One Direction, Hunger Games, etc). They bring a new meaning to viral. Of course, Stephen King and others manage to do well all on their own. Us indies have seen Hugh Howey explode to success without many young adult readers. So, it is possible, just harder.
I can’t wait to see how the new movie After Earth does in theaters. Sure, its a movie, but it can be a good case study. Will Smith, a favorite among almost all age groups, stars along side his son, Jaden Smith. Jaden is fourteen and will attract the younger audiences even though the plot and trailer make it seem to be a completely serious film (meaning, not geared towards younger audiences). It looks like the movie will revolve around those two, so it should be interesting.
After Earth trailer here!