I stumbled into a new genre


Weekly Guest Spotlight

This week's guest is Mary Fan, the author of Artificial Absolutes, a new science fiction novel. Click here for more info.

What the dickens is “New Adult”? The genre has been popping up in publishing news and book blogs for the past few months, and people seem to be both fascinated and confused by it. Well, the simplest explanation of the NA genre is that it’s fiction written for the 18- to 25-year-old age group, featuring protagonists who are either in college or in the early stages of independence.

Not so long ago, there were only two age groups for books: Children’s and Adult’s. Similarly, scientists who study human development only made that distinction in the stages of life. Then they realized that the teenage years are their own stage of development, separate from both childhood and adulthood, and culture shifted to accommodate that new perception. Products were made to cater specifically to teenagers, and the Young Adult genre in books was born.

These days, reports are coming in left and right about how the brain continues developing well into a person’s twenties. The age of privilege has made it clear as well: twenty-somethings are not quite adults. They’re still finding themselves, and many still rely on their parents. The New Adult genre seems designed for these not-quite-grown-ups who devoured YA fiction as teenagers and can’t quite relate to full-blown adult lit just yet.


When I was writing Artificial Absolutes, I had trouble finding a genre for it. That it counted as sci-fi was clear—the story’s set in outer space, after all—but the age group bothered me. Because of its young protagonist (Jane is a somewhat immature 22-year-old who’s graduated from university but isn’t entirely independent yet), calling it adult fiction seemed off. Plenty of grown-up sci-fi features protagonists of Jane’s age, but they are generally mature and sure of themselves. At the same time, Artificial Absolutes isn’t about teenagers, so although it “felt” more like YA, putting it in that category wouldn’t be right either.

Which is where New Adult comes in. When I first heard of the genre, I rolled my eyes. The examples given by the articles I read included stories about college girls and New York hipsters. Then it dawned on me that just like you can have YA fantasy, sci-fi, etc., you can have sub-sets of NA. In Artificial Absolutes, Jane not only flies starships, she also wrestles with a quarter-life crisis. Like most twenty-something’s, she’s no longer a child, but she’s not yet a grown-up. In other words, Artificial Absolutes fits nicely into the category of NA Sci-Fi, a category so new that I’m pretty sure no bookstore has set aside a shelf for it yet.

In other words, I wrote NA before it was cool. Go ahead, call me a hipster.

Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on March 10, 2013 .