Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Readers' Advising for the Young SF, Fantasy, and Horror Reader. (Readers' Advisory)

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Readers' Advising for the Young SF, Fantasy, and Horror Reader. (Readers' Advisory)

Article excerpt

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1980 and committed (although not limited) to science fiction (SF) and fantasy literature. With extensive hardcover and trade paperback lines, backlist, and mass-market paperback programs, Tot publishes annually what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of SF and fantasy produced by a single English-language publisher. Books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, and for the last fourteen years in a row Tor has been named Best Publisher in the annual Locus readers poll, the largest consumer poll in SF. One of the many reasons for Tor's success is the editor who has written this issue's "Readers' Advisory."

In all the readers' advisory (RA) workshops and classes I do, science fiction seems to be the most difficult genre to understand for those librarians who are not already fans. Hartwell's advice on how to assist new SF readers finding their way is equally valid for RA librarians who need exposure to the genre, and his book, Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction, is must reading for this specialty.--Editor

In the late 1960s I wrote a science fiction review column for the counterculture magazine Crawdaddy, and around 1970 I wrote a recommended reading list to raise the consciousness of my readers. Though patterned on musical "top ten" lists, it was not intended as a popularity index. Rather, it was an educational tool for people who wanted to learn the true extent of the pleasures of science fiction, a list of "ten books essential to a reading knowledge of science fiction." It included Frank Herbert's Dune, Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Sirens of Titan, Walter M. Miller's Canticle for Liebowitz, and books by Philip K. Dick, Clifford D. Simak, and, if I recall, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury--the big names of forty years ago. A few years later, when I met the co-owner of The Science Fiction Shop in New York City, he told me he became a regular reader of science fiction and fantasy after finding my list and reading through the suggestions--and argued immediately that J. G. Ballard should have been included. If only for that, I have always counted the list a success. But I have also met people, years later, who read one or two of the books from my list and stopped. So it has been in the back of my head to do something better. I have since taught courses on literature and on writing and come to the conclusion that anthologies of short fiction work better for this purpose than novels--if you can convince, or require, someone to read short fiction. "Most SF readers' advisory, in my experience at least, is done with teens," said a librarian friend who now works at School Library Journal. "Teens usually move to the adult fiction (and especially the adult SF and horror books) fairly young, and will be asking the adult librarians for help." This accords with my own experience, and therefore I take it as a given for our purposes. So this column is for adult services librarians who feel they need help suggesting tides in genres they do not themselves read for pleasure. I hope that those of you who read SF or fantasy might find some use in my suggestions as well.

My focus is on how to recommend fantasy and science fiction and even horror to readers, especially young adult readers, who have read a fantasy or a science fiction story they liked, seen a film, or watched a TV show, and want to find more of whatever speaks to them in this genre. From Oz to Star Trek to Star Wars to Blade Runner to Harry Potter, kids are exposed to SF and fantasy generation after generation, and sometimes it wakens in them the desire to expand their imaginative experience through reading. Librarians have to be prepared for this or miss an opportunity for promoting growth and risk letting kids sink back into the distractions of everyday reality. …

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