Over the next week, I’ll be spotlighting several MG SF authors and their books (both traditionally published and self-published), because I would love for there to be more of these books available for young readers!
Kicking off this SF Fest is a guest post from Greg R. Fishbone, as part of his tour to launch GALAXY GAMES: THE CHALLENGERS, his new MG SF novel. Galaxy Games is published by the Tu Books imprint of Lee & Low Books. Here’s the blurb:
“In this hilarious middle-grade romp through space, eleven-year-old Tyler Sato leads a team of kids representing all of Earth in a sports tournament against alien kids from across the galaxy.”
If you’re here as part of the blog tour, here’s your puzzle piece ( #7 of 31, how fun!).
There’s a Hole in My
middle grade science fiction should be. I’ve heard this from other people, so I
know it’s not just a matter of my own perception. One librarian even told me,
“Middle grade science fiction is really just you and Bruce Coville,”
which I know is an exaggeration, but I’ll certainly take any sentence that
lumps me together with Bruce as a huge compliment.
recently show the range of this genre: Adam Rex’s alien invasion road-trip, THETRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY; Mark Peter Hughes’s environmental dystopia, A CRACK INTHE SKY; the steampunk-style LARKLIGHT by Philip Reeve; and the cyberpunk/fantasy
crossover ARTEMIS FOWL books by Eoin Colfer. There are other books as well but
their numbers are dwarfed by the volume of fantasy novels for this age group,
and by science fiction for slightly older readers.
working against middle grade science fiction: 1. Science fiction is just for
boys; 2. Boys don’t read; and 3. Science fiction readers are too brainy for
middle grade books and will “read up” to YA or adult books.
Successful middle grade SF will have to prove all three of these presumptions
just for boys, any more than science is just for boys. This trope has already
fallen in the young adult field but still clings stubbornly at the middle grade
level. There’s plenty of MG-SF that include strong girl characters, and lots of
books that will appeal to boys and girls alike, but it’s telling that the
publishing industry is lacking girl-focused MG-SF books
the way they have girl-focused midgrade fantasy or girl-focused YA science
fiction. As a result, there is a gap on the bookshelf where girl-focused MG-SF
concerning problem for authors, educators, and parents alike. Reluctant readers
are disproportionately male and, given the perception that sci-fi is for boys,
traditional wisdom pushes science fiction books as reluctant reader bait. Many
MG-SF books tend to mimic science fiction movies and video games so they don’t
feel like books anymore, instead of taking full advantage of the literary media
or trying to appeal to the readers who do enjoy reading. As a result, there is
a gap on the bookshelf where literary MG-SF should be.
prolific science fiction readers prefer older-aged books, but I think they
migrate to YA and adult out of necessity, because the midgrade-interest SF
books don’t exist in a high enough quantity to hold their interest. That
certainly was my experience, looking for reading material when I was growing
up. Adult science fiction was interesting and accessible, but it was hard for
me to relate with characters who were in their twenties and thirties when I was
only twelve. And yet, because high readers in this age group are already
reading young adult or adult books, the publishers have no incentive to provide
them with midgrade-themed stories. Much as I believe that advanced readers
still need books with age-appropriate themes, there is a gap on the bookshelf
where midgrade-themed MG-SF should be.
filled, and when the right book finds this niche, it will do well enough to
encourage a flood of imitators. Five or ten years from now, we might be talking
about a glut of MG-SF and a gap that exists somewhere else.
Thank you, Greg, for stating so eloquently some of the resistance there is to MG SF. And I especially love the point about successful MG SF stories having to prove those presumptions wrong! Best of luck with GALAXY GAMES and your future books, and thank you for guest posting!