My siblings are visiting me, so I’m showing them all my favourite places around town! The library, the other library, the place where I pick up books, and the store which sells books. (Don’t look now, you guys, but I think I may have a one-track mind.)
At any rate, while cruising the shelves at the library, I noticed something which I found odd. It is really hard to find Science Fiction written for kids. Even the bargain bookstore doesn’t stock it. There are SCADS of fantasy books, and those are vastly outnumbered by the historical fictions. The mystery section is tiny, and even that eclipses the SF books I found.
As soon as I found that I started poking around more, and something else interesting came up. Of the Fantasy books, most of them were very “soft” fantasy, where things are “just magic.” The mystery section– as mentioned– was tiny. What SF there was tended to be YA Dystopian where the world was taken, never explored. In only a small segment of the fiction for kids was there any kind of joy in technical thought, science or in a rigorous attempt to understand how things work. (In most of the YA science fiction and fantasy, while learning was necessary, it was horrible. e.g. you think your life is okay but the truth is that EVERYONE LIES TO YOU and also your dad kills babies. Etc.)
I am very fond of historical fiction, and of soft fantasy. I think these tell awesome and necessary stories. However, I also really enjoy books that have elements that talk about economics, and repercussions, and the interconnectedness of everything, and tactics, and science, and logistics (honestly, I nerd out over F/SF books with logistics in them. It’s kinda embarrassing), and rules of succession, and virology, and all the things which make up “how things work”. I love the struggle to acquire and use knowledge as a story arc. LOVE IT.
I have read a lot of posts about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in terms of gender, class, culture, body type, race and sexuality. And on the whole, I agree with these posts. If you are going to all this trouble to write an awesome story, why would you cheapen it by showing a world less rich than the one we live in?
Indeed. And why would you cheapen your picture of the world by leaving out the absolute awesomeness of the way things work?
If your answer is saying that learning belongs in the classroom, not for fun, or that learning is for non-fiction, not for fiction, I ask you to look at that answer and think about it for a bit. Perhaps modify “learning” so it reads “learning about culture” or “learning about gender” and then think about it a bit more. Why should enjoying learning about how other people live be a worthy goal, and enjoying learning about how to get
I mean, not all stories in life are about learning. There are stories about relationships, and about journeys, and about courage. But I think if when writing fiction we nearly leave out stories about learning– or (also importantly though this post is already too long) if we don’t allow stories to be about BOTH relationships and learning, or BOTH learning and a journey– we impoverish the stock of stories in fiction. We say that you can’t be both interested in the way things work AND interested in the hero’s journey to save her mum.
I’ve been (primarily subconsciously) caught up in thinking to trend, for the last little while. Of the stories I wanted to write, I wanted to focus on the ones that would sell, that people would want to read. I was polishing up my marketable ideas, and trying to fan a fantasy world into flame, and looking for validation that my planned stories would be sell-able. However, according to the libraries around here, there’s a gap between what I love to write and read and what “other people” love to write and read, and I think this gap is a problem.
I have decided to thumb my nose at “other people,” and view this as a niche that needs to be filled.
So in the future I am going to fly in flagrant disregard of trend and what is “sellable,” and do my best to write awesome stories which include the awesomeness of learning how things work. Maybe Science Fiction, maybe Historical Fiction, maybe Fantasy. Maybe I’ll be the next Hunger Games, or (more likely) maybe I’ll never get more than a form rejection.
But by golly, I’m going to have fun doing it.