Saturday, 15 April 2017

Juveniles And Adults

When we were teenagers, we knew that some works of fiction were "juvenile" whereas others were "adult" but we read them all anyway. (Now there is a "Young Adult" category.)

Let's consider:

four Campbell future historians (Heinlein, Asimov, Blish and Anderson);
one of their successors, SM Stirling;
their ideological opponent, CS Lewis.

Here again we appreciate Poul Anderson by appreciating his context. He paints a big picture. Here is an even bigger picture.

Heinlein's Future History is adult whereas his Scribner Juveniles are, obviously, juvenile. However, five early Scribner Juveniles share an interplanetary background with each other and with the "Green Hills of Earth" period of the Future History. Indeed, "The Green Hills of Earth" is quoted in both.

The same robots and extrasolar colonies appear in two series by Asimov, one adult, the other juvenile.

One volume of Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy and three novels in his Haertel Scholium are juveniles.

A few short works by Anderson are juveniles, including three stories in his Technic History and one in his Time Patrol series.

Lewis's Ransom Trilogy is adult sf whereas his Narnia Chronicles are juvenile fantasies. However, there are striking parallels between the two series.

In Stirling's A Meeting At Corvallis, the accounts of Rudi Mackenzie's experiences are a child hostage are excellent juvenile adventure fiction.

Thus, six authors present an interesting interplay between juvenile and adult fiction.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I agree with what you said about how Heinlein wrote SF meant for younger readers. I would add as well that RAH also wrote pre STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND science fiction meant for adults as well. I had in mind works like FIFTH COLUMN and DOUBLE STAR. As you know I consider his pre STRANGER works far better than the lamentable crud he started writing with STRANGER. I remember with special frustration the fascinating premise for his I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, only for Heinlein to ruin the book with his endless, wearisome obsessions about sex. Not that that would not have been a legitimate topic, but it was the ONLY topic he cared about.


    1. Sean,
      I WILL FEAR NO EVIL was indeed EVIL.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      At different times, I read I WILL FEAR NO EVIL twice. But the second reading still left me disgusted and frustrated with that book. I got rid of it after the second time I read it.


  2. Paul and Sean:
    I'd like to add that many of Andre Norton's works were classified as "juvenile," but that was sometimes a very poor fit. Books like *Star Guard*, in the course of which a young mercenary soldier on his first assignment has to put a horribly wounded comrade out of his misery — with the dagger all Terran soldiers carry for that purpose alone.

    1. Kaor, DAVID!

      Yes, some of Norton's books, if they were like STAR GUARD, did strain the boundaries between SF meant for adults and SF meant for younger readers. Things like that horribly wounded soldier and the knife meant for the "mercy stroke" were a little too raw for juvenile SF.


    2. Sean:
      Well... it depends, I suppose, on how much one thinks the juveniles can handle. I've got a book, published in 1965 and specifically intended for "younger readers," giving capsule biographies of historical figures from World War I. The author didn't pull many punches about what sort of things the heroes of these accounts did.

      Things like Lawrence of Arabia ordering his Arabs, "The best of you brings me the most Turkish dead!" after seeing the carnage from a Turkish atrocity. Or Sam Woodfill having to beat two Germans to death with a pickaxe handle because he'd emptied his rifle and his pistol jammed. Or when Alvin York killed six Germans sent to attack him, picking them off from rear to front so that none of them ever realized the men just behind them were dying. "The unsuspecting lieutenant did not know ... that he had come along the last few feet of his final walk on earth alone."

      It seems publishers back then may have given juveniles a bit more credit for "maturity" than we tend to nowadays.

    3. Kaor, DAVID!

      Then I don't know how to define science fiction or any other kind of writing meant for younger readers. Perhaps a certain restraint in how language is used? That is, minimal use of vulgarities? And avoidance of descriptions of sexual acts?