Is Science Fiction Too 'Adult' Now?

Vince W

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#1
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After reading a post from @Al Jackson over in the Andre Norton thread about how he, as a child, was reading more 'adult' science fiction like Galaxy Magazine made me think, has science fiction gotten too adult for its own good? Has it become too serious to make young readers become fans? Fantasy doesn't seem to have this problem, just science fiction. Thoughts?
 
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Av Demeisen

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#2
Huh? Then why do I have to wade through all these announcements for new young adult releases every month to find only a couple of interesting titles every year?
 

Al Jackson

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#4
After reading a post from @Al Jackson over in the Andre Norton thread about how he, as a child, was reading more 'adult' science fiction like Galaxy Magazine made me think, has science fiction gotten too adult for its own good? Has it become too serious to make young readers become fans? Fantasy doesn't seem to have this problem, just science fiction. Thoughts?
I am not clear by what you mean by adult !
Even as a teenager I started being more entertained by Ted Sturgeon, James Blish and Fred Pohl's 'adult' more than Heinlein's 'juvies' , which I still dearly love.
I mean my favorite SF novel is The Left Hand of Darkness.
Right now I much prefer The Expanse over Star Wars , I want something more engaging.
I mean , after all,
1 Corinthians 13
 

Al Jackson

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#5
I do notice that there are listings of 'young adult' science fiction , tho most of it is sort of like The Hunger Games … lots of dystopia , which kind of puzzles me, I mean why so much. Looking at it I don't see much 'hard science fiction' young adult. Hard SF adult is still around tho I can't say how popular it is these days since I don't really read it any more.
 

Vince W

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#6
What I mean by adult, I guess, is that there while there is SF aimed specifically at children/youths, the 'mainstream' SF can be too mature for many young readers. When I started reading SF it was through Heinlein's juveniles, however I had no difficulty in jumping straight into his non-juvenilles, or Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. Would a 10 year-old who has read one of these YA books be as inclined to jump into Reynolds, Banks, or Hamilton? Would they enjoy them if they did?
 

Al Jackson

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#7
What I mean by adult, I guess, is that there while there is SF aimed specifically at children/youths, the 'mainstream' SF can be too mature for many young readers. When I started reading SF it was through Heinlein's juveniles, however I had no difficulty in jumping straight into his non-juvenilles, or Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. Would a 10 year-old who has read one of these YA books be as inclined to jump into Reynolds, Banks, or Hamilton? Would they enjoy them if they did?
I think I would of enjoyed Heinlein at 10, but I did not read him until I was 13. It is interesting that I first read a Heinlein edited anthology when I just turned 13 , those would have been considered 'adult' … when I was 14 so guy at Jr. High got Galaxy Magazine , I traded some paper backs I had for Galaxy , which I thought was great I remember early Phil Dick , Fred Pohl and C M Kornbluth. I was reading a lot of 'adult' SF with I was 14.
 

Vince W

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#8
I enjoyed Heinlein immensely at 10, both his juveniles and adult SF. Same for other classic authors. They were accessible to readers of nearly all ages. Well, I thought so at least.
 

dask

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#9
If a story contains language you wouldn't use around your own mother it's probably adult and therefore "mature". If not it's probably good old stuff or will be in a decade or so.
 

williamjm

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#10
What I mean by adult, I guess, is that there while there is SF aimed specifically at children/youths, the 'mainstream' SF can be too mature for many young readers. When I started reading SF it was through Heinlein's juveniles, however I had no difficulty in jumping straight into his non-juvenilles, or Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. Would a 10 year-old who has read one of these YA books be as inclined to jump into Reynolds, Banks, or Hamilton? Would they enjoy them if they did?
I think there are definitely books that aren't going to be particularly accessible to a typical 10 year-old because of both writing style and content. I think both Reynolds and Banks would fall into that category as well as other modern authors like Anne Leckie or Yoon Ha Lee. Hamilton would probably be a bit more accessible (assuming they had the patience for such long books).

However, there books that I think would be more accessible - something like The Martian might be the modern equivalent of some of the older authors you mention. Other examples could be things like Hugh Howey's Wool or Becky Chamers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet or maybe Bujold's Vorkosigan series that don't have much in the way of inappropriate content and are written in a more straightforward fashion than something like the Culture series.

That said, the real question might be how are they going to find out about these books which they might like?
 
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#11
Personally, I believe that most 'adult SF' is what most youngsters start with anyway. By adult I mean, heavy themes that require a bit of knowledge, education, experience with the world and people... oh, and themselves. So I feel that "no, it has not become too adult."

Where it has changed, is that a lot of good (and bad) SF stories have more 'adult only' content than it used to, be it explicit violence, language, concepts or sex that are not suitable for those <18-y.o.. There is more of that in that it is more socially acceptable. No longer does it need justification via educational or historical reasons, nor is it only sold from under counters, hidden in brown paper bags.

That sort of 'adult themed' work is so acceptable 'now' that it in some cases becomes mainstream (wherein it never would have in the past). So, since adult writers can now get away with their adult interests as well, many choose to do so... Hence, a lot of good stories written are simply not suitable for youngsters.

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Vince W

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#12
A very interesting point of view. I agree somewhat. I have read a few books where the characters seem to swear just to create a more 'adult' setting. 'Ooo. Look at me. I say f--k a lot. I'm an edgy adult story.'
 
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#13
A very interesting point of view. I agree somewhat. I have read a few books where the characters seem to swear just to create a more 'adult' setting. 'Ooo. Look at me. I say f--k a lot. I'm an edgy adult story.'
Personally, I find cursing immature actually. Don't get me wrong, insert an expletive at the right moment with the right person (like sweet grandma through the whole story suddenly lets loose with one), or a normally reserved or controlled person cutting loose, might very well set the tone VERY appropriately.

To me it shows one of two things. Either a lack of control/extreme of emotion, or a lack of an education (and by that I mean, having learned better ways to express yourself). It is doubtful that most teens now-a-days, have not heard any word you can come up with. Those days of innocent/ignorant children are unfortunately long past. Now that doesn't mean that all restrictions are off because of that, and they're still easily influenced (mostly as to what is "cool"), however, it's not a deal breaker like it used to be, where the kid will go running through the house shouting some new word, or will insure their life path will degenerate into one of sin.

That said, there is a place in literature (good or bad up to you to decide) wherein expletives are not only appropriate, but in my opinion, mandatory.

You can write about X person who grows up under Y terrible circumstances in Z backwater slums, yet the second they open their mouth speaking like some seminary school scholar, well, that shoe just don't fit.
In what I'm working on now, the protagonist comes from VERY-low beginnings, and her life simply just kept slipping lower. She has virtually no anger control, is uneducated, and has never had any guidance except by the worst sorts. On the same token, the vast majority of the population now lives in slums speaking a pidgin made up of many languages mashed together.

If you're familiar with pidgin and slang, well guess what makes up a good chunk of it? Even refined slang like that from the south. Fudge=f***, sugar=s***, crud=cr*p/s***, darn it=d*** it, etc.. Pidgin works the same way (real world). Cutesy or hip words are used in place of common curse words... 'to mean the exact same thing!' But, because it is now slang or pidgin, though meaning the exact same thing and everyone knowing it, they feel it does not.

The reason is, it shows restraint and control. The same innocuous word can be used in both extremes however, and suddenly it has two very different extremes of meaning/intent, based on context.

SO as much as it may not be appropriate for young readers... meaning as far as I'm concerned, should not be read by them, to not make that leap where appropriate is... inappropriate ;)

Everything has its place. It's just that, that place isn't for everyone.

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dannymcg

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#14
Where it has changed, is that a lot of good (and bad) SF stories have more 'adult only' content than it used to, be it explicit violence, language, concepts or sex
Exactly the reasons I'd have picked them as a young teen.
Too many YA sci fi stories have the sub-plot of a mild teenage romance for the protagonist running concurrently with the main story; IIRC from way back then (for me!) that was a 'no no' when you could pick up something a lot edgier. :cool:
 

J Riff

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#15
well... here at McDonalds.... they have YouTube... which is just chock full of graphic shooting and death and gosh a lot of horrific moronic stuff on the good old 3-inch screen... so I think it's too late fer adults to save us from any of it. All I wanted was some good glue-gun 'life hacks' but no, it's cops shooting people, and animals being gunned down and/or run over. Is that 'adult' or just stupid? Let's ask an adult if we can find one.*"
 
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#16
Exactly the reasons I'd have picked them as a young teen.-- Too many YA sci fi stories have the sub-plot of a mild teenage romance for the protagonist running concurrently with the main story; IIRC from way back then (for me!) that was a 'no no' when you could pick up something a lot edgier. :cool:
Granted... I doubt simply because us geriatrics try to improve our young peoples lives by trying to impress upon them our experienced morals that they're going to stop stuffing men's mags under the mattress. Okay, that's a lie, they already have and just use the PC.

However, I'm a firm believer in the concept that there is tremendous value in impressing upon youth those values and morals, and sticking to them... while at the same time recognizing that if they're 'normal,' they'll likely disregard us just as most current adults did their parents. There is value in them holding off long enough for fear of punishment, until they can build up enough courage to go against their parents wishes. That choice to do so, at the right time, naturally occurring, is just as formative as passing along those learned values from experience.

IOW, as an adult, it's critical that the stand be made, that they abide by it out of respect (who am I kidding, it's fear), until they mature enough (adolescent wise), to consciously defy, likely sneaking, that stand. That's a good thing, at the right time, ONLY initiated and decided upon, by them. It doesn't mean you just roll over however. We need to stick to our guns, chaos ensues, we all get over it and the world goes on with them now one step closer to adulthood.

That said... my trash... err, masterpiece, is not suitable for most adults. So I do the best I can to keep it out of the hands of children. However, it has its place as well (likely the garbage, book burning, evidence in a trial, etc.).

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Parson

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#17
I wonder if what passed for Young Adult in my day even exists anymore. The YA books that I've read are all quite to very edgy. Think Hunger Games. In Fantasy you still have things like Harry Potter some Robin Hobb to fill the gap for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, but I can't think of any SF that would fill a modern gap for something like Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.
 

Abernovo

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#19
Is science fiction too 'adult' these days*? In a word, no.
I apologise for the rant in advance, but this attitude annoys me.

This sentiment is along the lines of 'we should go back to 1950s values. I don't think so.

There is a whole spectrum of sci-fi (and fantasy) now. Just because it doesn't all fit into one safe, inoffensive, little box, with contents which are not going to corrupt the minds of people who have not been children for many years...well, that's not a bad thing.

There are books for all age ranges, and all tastes. If you're not finding the kind of books you like then, frankly, you're not searching hard enough. There is vanilla escapism (which I'm not knocking, by the way), but there is also hard-hitting fiction which addresses issues in the world. For the record, there always has been, and there should be going forwards.

There's room for both. Maybe some people (and this is more directed at people making similar arguments outwith this site) should grow up, and then they would be ready for adult conversation in books. Or, maybe they should not, ultimately, think of sci-fi as something just for kids (which is one end-point for this leading question); they should certainly stop thinking of any genre as needing to be preserved in aspic, reminiscing on the not-so 'good ole days'. And they should, conversely, stop underestimating kids abilities to discern appropriate reading materials.

*As to 'these days', it's the age-old refrain, "O tempora o mores."
I'll stop there, as that's a quote from (Roman) politics. :p
 

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