Are Young Adult Sci-Fi Stories The Future Of The Genre?
The 1980's. A time when science fiction was at its pinnacle, riding on the coat tails of the Star Wars trilogy that captured everyone's imagination. I was born during this time...1984 to be precise. It was a year when ambitious and whacky sci-fi projects were being punched out left, right, and center, but it wasn't until the early 90's that I was able to fall in love with science fiction as a genre. Along with my older brother, we watched and rewatched our VHS cassettes of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica so many times it is a wonder the tape didn't wear out. The 80's also saw the release of Ender's Game, a novel which in a time of big budget sci-fi movies, bucked a trend to be among the first to bring written science fiction to school-aged children.
Much like the 1980's, today we find ourselves in the midst of a science fiction renaissance. Marvel's ever-growing cinematic universe is currently showing Hollywood that Vampires and Zombies are old news, with alien invasions and future tech the new cinematic money makers. It is apt then, that this year saw Ender's Game finally gain a big-screen adaptation, introducing this wonderful world to a whole new generation of children. The sci-fi revival that has seen such adaptations come about is more than likely because those of us who grew up watching the likes of The Last Starfighter and Flight of the Navigator and reading novels like Ender's Game are now the ones with disposable dollars ripe for propping up the box-office. And long may it continue.
This resurgence in science fiction has also led to a new wave of titles aimed, like Ender's Game, directly at young adults. But can this new generation of stories capture the imagination of a whole new generation? The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze runner, all of which have used the written word to transport children to futuristic worlds are all appearing at movie theaters in the coming months. Will these new tales create the next generation of sci-fi fans, or will their impact on young adults amount to that of a brooding vampire and a werewolf with his shirt off?
Certainly, of all these new YA Sci-fi tales, Hunger Games has been the biggest success. The novels struck a chord with young girls, plucking a role-model out of a bleak and brutal future Earth. In the movies, Jennifer Lawrence is a star so popular she is almost bigger than the production itself which, coupled with increasing budgets for future productions will no doubt help Lionsgate's Hunger Games adaptations resonate with children for years to come. However, after watching and reading Stephanie Myers' The Host and seeing the first trailer for Divergent today, I am not filled with hope that this new wave of stories is enough to build a new legion of genre fans. I appreciate that these do not represent the whole genre as it exists today and, maybe I am being too quick to judge, but these stories just don't seem as inspirational as the likes of Ender's Game, nor do I think that their movie adaptations will dazzle audiences to the same extent that some of 1980's productions did.
So it looks unlikely that these popular books will inspire the future fans and creators of science fiction, but that is not to say the genre is doomed. The growth in popularity of science fiction, both in its written and cinematic form shows no signs of letting up. Disney have committed to a massive expansion of the Star Wars universe, Marvel and DC seem set on duking it out for Comic Book supremacy, while sci-fi publishing is reaching new heights. This new era of science fiction may not possess the same charm as that of the 1980's, but as long as there are original and adventurous stories being created, there is no reason that science fiction should have to slip back into the dark ages that it now finds itself emerging from.