If we’re invisible, who’s buying all those books?

So, a list I’m on has just pointed me to Cory Doctorow’s article on YA fiction, and I find myself … struck by it’s genre insularity. From the very first line, where Doctorow says:

YA SF is gigantic and invisible

Invisible to who? Not invisible to teens, and not invisible to the countless adults I keep running into who tell me how they read more YA than adult books these days. Not invisible to the random bookstore browser, who can, at least at my local bookstores, easily miss the adult SF/fantasy (it’s buried somewhere behind the romance), but who would have to work harder to miss the larger, free-standing YA section.

Yet the article goes on to talk about how–in spite of the fact that YA “has an army of promoters”–it’s a ghetto, albeit one that’s liberating to write in, positioned as it is away from “the power brokers of the field” and from Hugo-ballot recognition. (Looking at how many fewer people have heard of the Hugo than the Newbery, and at how many fewer books a Hugo sells than a Printz, one can only conclude the power brokers have fallen down on the job.)

Hello? How exactly does someone coming from as ghettoized a genre as adult SF/fantasy talk about how different it is to find oneself working in a ghetto genre? This makes my head hurt. Does my first home genre really see itself through such completely tinted glasses?

Especially since, to anyone who is not an avid and longtime SF/fantasy reader, YA books are way more visible than adult SF/fantasy ones. If any adult SF/fantasy writer or reader venturing into YA feels that they’ve discovered an undiscovered country, it’s not because that country was hidden; it’s because they’ve finally set foot outside their own ghetto walls, and are seeing something of the wide world at last.

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