This summer, I’ve been going around telling everyone who’ll listen how much I loved the movieSuper 8. Often during the discussion (or diatribe, as the case may be), I’ll say something like “this movie was made for me!” or “this was totally a Nick James movie!” (Yes, I will refer to myself in third person if I get particularly excited about something). And it’s true, it was a Nick James movie. It was the best movie in awhile that successfully merged my two favorite genres: science fiction and coming-of-age.
Science fiction is at its richest when it explores the lives of the people that it’s affecting. As a consumer of sci-fi, I’m not particularly interested in futuristic worlds, new technology or even aliens unless the human story is present. And as a young adult author, it’s the adolescent human story that always seems to fascinate me the most. When a person, especially someone in their formative years, is faced with the unknown (as often happens in sci-fi), it’s a tremendously provocative opportunity to explore basic human truths. And with teens and preteens, those truths are laid bare.
It’s this melding of sci-fi/adventure and coming-of-age that was my roadmap from the very start of my writing and continues to inspire me. With that being said, here are a few of my favorite examples of this awesome combination in a variety of media. It’s worth noting that compiling this list wasn’t particularly easy. Teen–I’m thinking from around age 13-17–sci-fi is hard to come by. I’d love to hear suggestions that aren’t on my list!
Feed (M.T. Anderson) – Sci-fi is definitely the backdrop for an intensely emotional (and often hilarious) coming-of-age story.
Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) – Not necessarily the most relatable coming-of-age story, but this book, in a lot of ways, popularized the genre.
Super 8 – Like Feed, I would argue that this was actually more of a coming-of-age movie with a sci-fi backdrop. An excellent one, of course!
AI: Artificial Intelligence – A major theme in this genre is innocence lost, and although this featured a younger protagonist, I was blown away with the human element of this film.
Akira – A dark coming-of-age (coming-of-death?) undercurrent runs throughout this post-apocalyptic tale. Anime tends to really excell at this sort of thing.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Not straight up sci-fi, per se, but I can’t think of another series that used what could have been a fantasy cliché to explore so many rich facets of teenage life.
Misfits – Slightly older, but this excellent UK series mixes young adult angst with sci-fi elements perfectly.
Runaways – I’m a huge Brian K. Vaughn fan, and his initial stint on this series totally reinvigorated my love for comics a few years back.
Generation X – Before Runaways, there was this X-Men spin-off (and it’s cheesier TV movie adaptation). It’s one of the first “teen comics” I remember as a kid.
Nick James is the author of Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars. What’s it about? Check out the Lytherus review. Want more? Click here for Nick James’s exclusive Lytherus interview. You can follow him at www.nickjamesbooks.com