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Cowboys and Aliens

April 24, 2012 by Kiersi

Cowboys and Aliens: Change is Coming in YA Literature

I think we can all agree–considering the success of The Hunger Games and the imminent finale of the Twilight movies–that the fad of supernatural and paranormal elements in young adult literature is beginning to dissipate. Even paranormal romance is dropping off the radar for publishers and agents. Werewolves are done, blasé. Vampires? I’d bet with real money that True Blood‘s upcoming sixth season will be its last, with all the original charm and wit squeezed out by the show’s increasing time devotion to witches, shape-changers and goblin-like fey. Television and book series can no longer be sustained by the concept of the “sexy vampire” alone. Monster fic is riding the molten tail of a comet passing its hey day. Satire is always a sign of something on the “fad” decline, and I’d say Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the tell-all tale.

Now that all the literary metaphors are out of the way, I am genuinely excited for the future of YA beyond the supernatural and paranormal. As this article suggests, perhaps it’s time for some cowboys to enter the scene. The idea got me gleefully contemplating a first historical fiction set in the era of the New Mexican caballeros–but, as my S.O. is quick to remind me, I really need to focus on one thing at a time here.

But there’s more: on top of rekindling a retro love affair with saloons and trash-talkin’ outlaws, I’d say the arrival of Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow last year couldn’t be more timely. In fact, I’d hedge a bet that science fiction is going to make a big splash in the next couple of years, with the upcoming Star Trek sequel by J. J. Abrams and its equally 3-D (Drop Dead Dreamy, the magic formula) version of Captain Kirk.

But is this just wishful thinking on my part? Yes and no. My upcoming series The Devil’s Throne (due Spring 2013) falls squarely into the paranormal department–so, blah. Of course, it’s a very long gravy boat, so it will be a very long time before the market for paranormal truly drops off into the metaphorical abyss.

The possibility, though, of writing space odysseys for a living makes the ten-year-old girl in me giddy. If Battlestar Galactica could do it, and obtain a practically cult following, it doesn’t look that far off. I’ll need to brush up on my wormhole lore.

And, of course, with superheroes making a comeback on the silver screen, could they not also break into the female YA market by utilizing an oh-so-fashionable retro feel? The kind of work that makes ripples in romance fiction and YA fiction are increasingly a “unique twist on an old theme.” Twilight is basically just Anne Rice fanfiction, made palatable to a married mommy Mormon (3-M, a new magic formula??). I once overheard someone boil Harry Potter down to Gandalf: the early years. Okay, so, Rowling didn’t invent wizards, but didn’t she invent the wizard we know today? All this “Expelliarmus!” business that now coats the term “wizard” in our popular culture wouldn’t exist without her contribution to the lore.

My point in all this is that I like cowboys. They are hot. That, and I think I want to be a part of a changing industry–and industry where tough girls can be heroines and fighter pilots, and maybe someday Sigourney Weaver will have a cameo in the film adaptation when the main character runs into a version of herself from the future.

We had a good run, my werewolf buddies, but it’s time to make way for Invisigirl.


  1. Jesse says:

    Interesting points, but I’m not sure how much I agree. Certainly trends may come or go, but “appeal”? I think the appeal for sci-fi/fantasy of all kinds has always been around and will always be around. It just takes talent and creativity to tap into it. While all it takes to tap into a trend is competence and marketing.

  2. At the conference I just attended, the editors said there isn’t a new trend emerging yet. they are waiting for something to come along, but it hasn’t yet. I thought that was interesting.

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