I think of myself as a writer of speculative fiction, SFF, slipstream—those are my preferred genres. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve written something that didn’t fall under those umbrellas in the better part of a decade. My short stories and novels all have fantastical elements, and the books I prefer to read all do too.
But my publisher asked me recently if I wanted Displacement to be classified as Young Adult (YA), the way Mouse was, and it made me stop and think about the way I refer to my work.
The few short stories I’ve sold have all been, well, I guess I’d say ageless? Accessible for many ages of reader? “Hello, World” is near-future science fiction about growing up and parenting and AI; “A Coronation” is a weird little slipstream number about adolescence and gender; “A Study in Pink and Gold” is a little sci-fi about aliens and art and dying; and “The Stealing Gift” (coming in 2021 in Kaleidotrope) is a little alternate-present fantasy about family and power and regret. Actually it occurs to me that basically everything I write is about family in some part, and Mouse and Displacement both fit into that too. But mostly I write SFF.
Are they Young Adult? Am I a Young Adult author? I don’t know. Sometimes?
The reason I don’t know is because, to me, YA isn’t a genre. It’s a readership, and it’s about accessibility. When I wrote both Mouse and Displacement I wrote them with teens in mind. Not so that they wouldn’t be fun and accessible to adults—seriously, adults: read my books, I think you’ll like them—but I wrote them so that teens could have them. They star teen characters, who have teen concerns and teen experiences (I mean, on top of the fantastical ones). And I feel like there’s a different way of writing for teens, where you have to be a little more careful, a little more responsible maybe, than when you’re writing for adults—while being sure not to underestimate them, either (teen readers are sharp as hell, and they will keep you honest).
But here’s the thing I want to say: YA isn’t only for teens, it’s just made to be accessible to teens, with teen concerns in mind. I wrote them the way I did because they’re the books I would have wanted to read in high school. I wanted today’s teens to see a strong autistic, anxious character getting a chance to save the world. I wanted them to see more queer characters in their science fiction and fantasy worlds. I wanted them to be able see those characters running around and figuring themselves out while they figure out the worlds they live in. But I think adults want to see that, too. I know I do.
However my novels end up labelled—for bookstore placement, or reader classification, or whatever reason capitalism thinks up next—I do hope you’ll consider picking it up, regardless of your age.
Back again tomorrow with another excerpt, and then again on Tuesday for more about the characters in Displacement—I think you’ll love them as much as I do.
Displacement comes out February 11, 2020!