The Worldcon Youth Problem

I don’t have any great thoughts here, but I wanted to introduce the discussion:

At Worldcon / LoneStarCon, the age felt… older. Youthful vigor was not on display like it seems to be every year at DragonCon. That’s worrisome because as a community, you don’t want to cleave so completely to an older generation because you can age out your genre work and your audience — right? I mean, one could argue that it serves as counterprogramming to DragonCon and PAX, but is that really the way you want to counterprogram? By hewing more (only?) to an older generation of fans and authors, though, I have to wonder if that’s healthy in terms of overall genre and industry. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast at Worldcon, but for me it served as more of a professional connection and less so a fan connection, which is not necessarily ideal in terms of the monetary output I have to spend to get there. (Which is another issue: Worldcon ain’t cheap. DragonCon is cheaper. Younger fans have smaller income, so, there you go.)

Plus: YA Lit isn’t supported by the Hugos.

Which is sad and a little screwy.

Some of the best and bravest storytelling in the genre space is happening right now under our feet in Young Adult fiction. And it’s huge in terms of sales and audience. I met a great many writers at Worldcon who were YA writers or who were moving into that space. I met a lot of YA readers, too. And librarians. And booksellers. And our YA panel was packed. And yet, no YA on the Hugos. The argument against it is of course that YAs are not excluded from the Hugos and some YAs have won, so you don’t need a separate category, but for my mileage, the older audience of Worldcon will likely keep most YA held away from the competition for the most part. I say the Hugos already have a few curious redundancies and bringing YA to the table will open the accolades up to more books which means more book sales which means including younger fans. How can that be a bad thing? Is there something I’m missing?

(Gwenda Bond pointed out on Twitter that “Sexism’s in the mix, too — ‘not serious’ because it often contains romance, written/read by lots of women/girls.”)

Don’t get me wrong — some of this is very much selfishly driven. My fans seem to skew younger. Some of my books are YA. But from a community standpoint it also pains me that there is a larger swath of fans — younger readers who have that great vigor and enthusiasm I’m talking about — who maybe aren’t being invited to the table. Or, at least, are being kept away from it with higher costs and a lack of recognition for what they love.

Worldcon is in London next year, which I’d love to attend to but I’m honestly not sure I can afford that kind of trip. As such, with DragonCon now disentangled from that heinous pedophile, I think I may have to try that, instead.

Happy to hear more thoughts on all this crazy stuff.

Did you go to Worldcon? Did you see the same things or am I just not looking hard enough? Did you dig on DragonCon (or PAX?) this year, instead?