Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Science Fiction Needs Its Own Twilight

via Hijinks Ensue

Yeah, I said it.  Before you light the torches and haul out the pitchforks, though, hear me out.
In 2009, San Diego Comic Con was overwhelmed by hordes of tween girls desperate to see sneak previews of New Moon footage.  This caused a lot of consternation with older fans who felt the convention had been pre-empted by the sparkly pretenders to the title of Vampire.  However, Kevin Smith, a man whose geek cred is inviolable, talked about this in his packed address.

The relevant quote here is this:  “How dare you pass judgment on those twelve year old girls who like vampires!  They need to be encouraged, because in 6 years they’ll be eighteen year old girls who like vampires – that are all kinds of goth permissive and what not.  So, don’t pooh-pooh it:  There's a plan and it is working.”

He’s laughing as he says this but I think he’s 100% correct.  Those Twilight fans who got turned onto vampires and werewolves and a little bit of violence in their romance at a young age?  Those girls are primed for paranormal romances and urban fantasies galore.  It’s like Twilight is the gateway drug and beyond that is a plethora of awesome reads for them to find.  As they grow up, they may find they like things a little more UF and a little less PNR – or perhaps just the opposite.  Either way, there’s a massive following of females consuming every urban fantasy and/or paranormal romance they can get their greedy little paws on.

The same cannot be said of science fiction.  Girls are not reading science fiction - and worse, women aren’t writing it - at least not in anywhere near the numbers they should be.  There’s no reason why all those girls can’t have the same zest for aliens and spaceships that they do for vampires and werewolves.  We just need to find them that gateway drug - an introductory series that makes science fiction relatable enough for thousands of screaming fangirls to swoon.

Unfortunately, that’s a tall order.  “Hard” science fiction isn’t generally female friendly, mostly because things like feelings and, well, being female, are pretty much on the outs. Science fiction romance is a tough row to hoe – most women are morally certain they don’t like science fiction and won’t even try it.  They’ve read one too many twenty five page soliloquies about the hull of a spaceship, I suspect.

There’s also the sad fact that authors aren’t making much money writing science fiction.  Thus they turn to dark fantasy, which is The Big Thing right now. 

With the advent of John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation making the New York Times Bestseller List, I am hopeful that science fiction might become more of a ‘buy’ at publishing houses, and more women might be interested in picking it up.  Twilight has shown us that it only takes one big break to generate a tsunami of new reader interest, and we can have all these girls (and hopefully their mothers) as plugged into science fiction as we are.  We’re only one syrupy teen novel away from luring them in, never to be released.

So, who’s going to step up to the plate and get ‘er done?
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  1. It's not the sparkly that I object to, though that is fun to mock, it's the creepy value system. Hopefully that doesn't take.

  2. Someone needs to do something with Stardoc-a Scifi/Romance/Space Opera that totally hooked me. I think Duncan Reever could be the next Edward!

  3. I think Ann Aguirre is trying to "get 'er done" with her YA novel--Enclave...and what about Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games--doesn't that open the door for more dystopian teenage angst? It has been over 20 years and I am still waiting for the Ender's Game movie...Summit Entertainment (makers of Twilight) just required the rights, so maybe things are about to change.

  4. Beth Revis' Across the Universe might help too. Veronica Roth's Divergent and other dystopian works (like the above mentioned Hunger Games) might be "gateways" too.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, folks!

    I have Enclave sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read, and I need to pick up The Hunger Games. I'll add the others to my TBR list, as well.

  6. I think, the Hunger Games have kind of been that gateway, at least when it comes to YA literature. Isn't there a run on dystopian Sci-Fi almost as big as there was a vampire run? There's all those titles coming up now, those already mentioned and in addition "Matched" and "Delirium" and "Wither" and whatnot. I think it's just a certain kind of Science Fiction (dystopian and often very much in the tradition of "The Giver") but maybe the hype will spread - especially when the film is on next year.