As we are dipping our toes into this water, and reminiscing on the mobile library days AND Mark’s prescient Heinlein cover mutters on twin-lit, let me share. I read a lot of sci-fi as a kid. And the pre-history of my interest would factor in space lego, Doctor Who (but of course), Buck Rogers and just loads of sci-fi styled toys. I guess the word science also had an impact, as that interested me. But in reality, as a voracious reader, I had worked though the kids section in the trailer library in a few years, and it was rarely replenished. Between the eight bookshelves of adult fiction and the kids books was a bookshelves marked GENRE. It had a shelf of romance fiction (which I had to perm a few Mills & Boons for my Mum) half a shelf of westerns and the rest was divvied up between crime and sci-fi.
I later got into the crime stuff but on the whole it put of tiny me as it was often being about men and women murdering each other for love or money, neither of which were interesting motivations for me. No, there were really two simple reasons why eight year-old gravitated towards sci-fi initially. The first was that the sci-fi, more likely to be in paperback, were racked on the second shelf up – thus tiny me could reach and comfortably browse. This racking also meant they were kept behind some laminated elastic and forward facing. Thus I could see the covers. And this selection below of Robert Heinlein covers of the same book may suggest why I often picked them up(nicked from the Heinlein cover gallery).
Spaceships, explosions, radioactive boxes with CAUTION written on them, not to mention some of the more bizarre design choices (Pan 1970’s editions!) The beauty of genre fiction in a lot of ways is that because it is aimed at a niche audience, they tend to go more out there with cover paintings: it is almost expected. So as an eight year old, these looked like kids books. Look at the whole “adult Harry Potter” editions to see how these kind of trade dress is also a massive turn-off to the standard reader. But to an eight year old – this stuff was a goldmine. What was more, while I may not of understood some of the more adult themes of the books (say, Heinlein’s jingoism and occasional misogyny), the BIG IDEAS that this kind of sci-fi was sold one always came through well. These were usually adventure novels.
So what I’m really saying is sci-fi for kids, wasn’t FOR kids. The sci-fi I read as a kid, was FOR adults.