Genre labelling can be annoying. I have more than once moaned here about the fact that a lot of people won’t touch my books, simply because they are ‘science fiction’. Another genre label that I’ve seen applied several times recently to Dark Eden is ‘YA’. (According to Wikipedia: “Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA), also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults”.)
Well, the book is certainly primarily about young adults – the two main narrators/protagonists of this book are both (in Earth terms) in their teens – and I’m very pleased and proud to hear that teenagers and young adults are enjoying the book. But I didn’t write the book for teenagers or young adults, or for middle-aged adults or indeed for any specific demographic group. I try to write books and stories that I’d like to read. And personally I don’t seek out stories with characters of my own age and background (how dull that would be), or stories aimed at my own age group.
The assumption behind labelling Dark Eden as YA seems to be that, because a book is about a certain type of person, it must therefore be written specifically for that type of person. It’s an assumption you can often also see being made in the way that individual books are marketed. (For example, ‘This is a book for anyone who has ever loved and lost’).
Well, I suppose one reason for reading a book is to look for role models and validation, people you can identify with, people who will confirm that it’s okay to be the person you are, but it would be rather limiting if that was the only reason we read books. And unhealthy and atomising too. (Do we want each age group and each gender to occupy its own separate little cultural bubble?) The point of reading fiction is surely to imaginatively experience lives that are different from your own, not just to look into a mirror and see some sort of idealised version of yourself.
Dark Eden seems to appeal to a lot of different people, men, women, young, old, atheists, Christians… etc etc. And that’s exactly what I wanted it to do.