Reading Is Like A Smorgasbord

I’m in quite a number of groups on both Facebook and Goodreads. Some are writers groups, others are genre specific. I write speculative fiction, currently science fiction, and I’ve been pondering the myriad of sub-genres in the world of speculative fiction and the place of YA in current speculative fiction reading and writing.

There are many passionate readers and writers of speculative fiction around, and many of them have strong opinions about what is and what isn’t included in their preferred sub-genre. The overarching term ‘Speculative Fiction’ embraces Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Steam Punk, Hard Science Fiction, Space Opera, Space Adventure, Epic Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction and Military Science Fiction, and then we add YA to the mix just to top it all off.

I personally, like to think about speculative fiction as primarily stuff that isn’t what is, but what could be, were we in an alternate reality or future setting. It’s the worlds of the imagination and the worlds of the possible and impossible future.

One of the groups I’m in has been attempting to define what they think Space Opera is. Some of the posters have very strongly held views, which include things that must be evident in the story, and things that must not.

Another group has been discussing the pros and cons of the current popularity of YA speculative fiction. I’m always interested to hear peoples’ thoughts on YA spec fic, because that’s primarily what I write. One of the things I find most fascinating are the people who deride or downplay YA as simplistic and full of easily understood language, so that as one poster put it, “that people whose literacy is more marginal can actually read the book.”

I have to say that I find this kind of comment much more a comment about how little the poster understands about YA literature. I love YA stories – quite unashamedly. Of course, there are simplistic stories in every genre, and YA is no exception. But there are writers in every genre who also use simpler word choices, or sentence structures, or less complex plots, but it doesn’t necessarily make their work less worth reading.

There are some readers and some writers, who count as less, anything that isn’t their favoured style or genre. Once again, I often find that those who hold such strong views, often demonstrate their own ignorance of other forms of literature. While something might not be your personal preference, it doesn’t necessarily make it less clever or less worthy.

Young Adult stories are often beautifully written. Many YA authors have a masterful command of language and nuance, as well as a wonderful ability to tell a good story. At the recent NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival, a panel of some of Australia’s best YA Spec Fic writers discussed this very subject.

One of the authors commented that teenagers are often very discerning, and that they’re a very demanding audience to write for. They read books to read a compelling story, and although a writer might use beautiful, lyrical language, if there’s no story, they won’t read on.

Adults also like YA (like me), and my opinion is that they read it because of the story, and the fact that it deals with eternal and important themes. Add the world building of speculative fiction, and you have a smorgasbord of wonderful story, full of memorable characters and exotic creatures ready to dive into.

I suppose that part of what I’m trying to say is that each story should be judged on its own merits, and not prejudged on genre or style. I’ve found over the years that I like a lot of stuff, from literary fiction right through to the odd bit of light and fluffy chick lit. It depends very much on what I’m feeling like at the time, what I enjoy reading. Certainly my favourite books are usually in the realms of speculative fiction, but it doesn’t preclude me reading other things.

As someone once said, if there’s nothing else, I’ll read the back of the cereal packet.

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