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The Lion and the Unicorn 28.2 (2004) ix-xi

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Editor's Introduction II:

Boys and Science Fiction

I remember with great fondness the science fiction I read as a child and young adult back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Starting with innumerable DC Comics publications (Green Lantern and Justice League of America were particular favorites), I also devoured the Tom Swift Jr., Rick Brandt, and Tom Corbett series, as well as such better-written books as Eleanor Cameron's The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Louis Slobodkin's The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree and Ruthven Todd's Space Cat. Then came Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series, the Winston Juveniles and, of course, everything I could get my hands on by Robert A. Heinlein, Andre Norton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. As young adult literature has grown as a publisher's category, beginning in the late 1960s and continuing up until the present, many of these early works have stayed in print while other talented writers have produced new science fiction for a young adult audience. Among the names that stand out are Sylvia Engdahl, Robert C. O'Brien, John Christopher, Louise Lawrence, Monica Hughes, H. M. Hoover, William Sleator, Virginia Hamilton, and Peter Dickinson. In just the past decade, writers like Lois Lowry (The Giver [1993]), Nancy Farmer (The Ear, the Eye and the Arm [1994] and The House of the Scorpion [2002]), Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines [2001]), and M. T. Anderson (Feed [2002]) have won major awards for their science fiction.

Still, despite this impressive list of authors and award winners, children's and young adult science fiction remains relatively rare. Far fewer young adult SF novels are published in any given year than fantasy novels. The reasons for this are many and complex. It has been suggested, for example, that while even very small children can appreciate the marvelous, and hence the fantasies of a Dr. Seuss, a Chris van Allsburg or, a few years later, a J. K. Rowling, it is difficult to convey [End Page ix] scientific marvels to anyone who lacks an adequate grounding in basic science. It has also been argued that the increasing preponderance of fantasy over science fiction, in terms of book publication and sales in both the YA and adult markets, is a direct result of a growing disenchantment among readers with the entire scientific enterprise of Western civilization. Finally, it has even been suggested (see Farah Mendlesohn's essay in this issue) that the basic purpose of much children's and young adult literature is at odds with and perhaps antithetical to the inherent goals of true genre SF.

We're hoping that a number of the essays found in this special issue of The Lion and the Unicorn will generate discussion, even controversy, in part because they're simply good work and deserve attention, but also because the majority of them tend to concentrate on the political and social implications of the children's and young adult science fiction they examine. In his "'We Has Found the Enemy and They Is Us': Virtual War and Empathy in Four Children's Science Fiction Novels," Andrew Butler discusses recent fiction by Terry Pratchett, Robert Westall and others in terms of the ethical theories of Emmanuel Levinas, Edward Said's theory of the Other, and Jean Baudrillard's seemingly outrageous claim that the Gulf War did not in fact take place. In their essay "Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow: Orson Scott Card's Postmodern School Stories," Christine Doyle and Susan Stewart reinterpret a classic SF novel and its recent quasi-sequel, which retells essentially the same story from another character's viewpoint, as a postmodernist reconsideration of both basic narrative technique and what it means to be human. Next, in two wide-ranging essays, "Not So Brave a World: The Representation of Human Cloning in Science Fiction for Young Adults" and "'Is He Still Human? Are You?': Young Adult Fiction in the Posthuman Age," Hilary Crew and Elaine Ostry explore the rather unsettling possibilities inherent in a human future where genetically-engineered and cloned children may...


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