I happened upon a great post decrying the dearth of science fiction novels nominated in the Cybils Awards (Children’s and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards). Out of 134 nominations, only 11 could be considered “real” science fiction – books that relied on science, not fantasy.
Given that I’m writing a middle grade science fiction novel, this confirmed what I had observed on the bookshelves: namely a lack of true science fiction books for kids. The racks are teaming with them in the Adult aisle (also simply known as the “Science Fiction” section), and there are even a few notable successes on the Young Adult shelf (Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series comes to mind), but there is a yawning void on the Middle Grade shelves where science fiction should be.
No lack of dragons, wizards or fairies, though.
Beyond my self-interested question of whether publishers will buy MG SF, I wonder why there isn’t more of it? Middle grade children love science fiction when it’s packaged in a visual media – Star Wars, anyone? Building space vehicles and fighting aliens is a full time occupation for many 8-12 year old boys. And science these days rocks, compared to when I was a kid, when we were still impressed when the Space Shuttle launched and came back in one piece. Today, DNA analysis is commonplace, there’s probably some wacko out there that’s actually cloned a human being, and scientists are creating miniature black holes inside of the Large Hadron Collider. This is cool stuff, people, and it’s old hat. Been done. The future is even brighter and shinier.
Or is it?
Even bringing dystopian science fiction into the fold, there’s still not much on the middle grade shelves. The future shouldn’t be any scarier than it’s ever been. When I was a kid, dystopian novels by Heinlein and Ursula K. LeGuin were some of my favorites. These were admittedly adult books, but even the kids know that as soon as the robots become sentient, we’re all doomed anyway. No sense shielding them from the apocalypse.
Seriously, kids these days are steeped in a science and technology oriented world. Admittedly, my kids are on the geekier side of normal, more likely to have a favorite physicist than a favorite ball team. But they’re not the only ones. The Science Channel has a whole series called Sci Fi Science, where you can learn how to design a light saber, or how to travel to a parallel universe. There’s no lack of cool science things out there.
So, why not in the kidlit? Is there just a subset of the universe that writes children’s books, and another subset that loves science, and the two intersect only in a small sliver of the planet somewhere in Idaho? I’m exaggerating, of course, and there are middle grade science fiction books out there. Two that I stumbled across went immediately on my TBR list:
If you can rec some middle grade SF books, please drop me a comment so I can add it to my list. If I get enough, I might even stop complaining.
And if you have a theory about the lack of MG SF on the shelves, even if it involves mutant cyborgs from the future that have wiped our brains, rendering us incapable of writing children’s science fiction and thereby eliminating the possibility that we will stop them from world domination . . . please let me know.