I'm thinking more about why I am upset about the history of the Margaret A Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. (I want to thank astern
for helping me work this out in my head.)
Four authors who are not primarily known as authors for children or young adult have won the Edwards award, and all of them are F&SF authors -- and I think this is wrong. I'd like to state for the record that there are plenty of books by McCaffrey, LeGuin, Card, and Pratchett on my bookshelf, and there were a hell of a lot more when I was a preteen.
I think this is nerds (i.e. librarians) giving book awards to the authors they loved as preteens, and not paying attention to the requirements of the award, that it be for books that are for a wide range of teens. It contributes to the (now ridiculously outdated) stereotype that only nerds read for pleasure. It rewards the authors of crap books which had strong effect on geekery (Anne McCaffery) and ignores the authors of books which had broad effect on everyone else
And if you think I'm wrong, ask yourself if Ann M Martin
or Francine Pascal
or R. L. Stine
or Zoey Dean
will ever win an ALA lifetime achievement award.
Or, hell, Stephenie Meyer. JK Rowling has at least a snowball's chance in hell, which is more than you can say for any of those others.
The point is, If you're lucky, you can give the award to high-quality authors who are heavily praised by book mediators AND have wide readership. If you are less lucky, you can give the award to the high-quality authors who are heavily praised by book mediators, but who might not get as much wide readership. Or you can give the award to books which really do have wide popular appeal and effect. But giving the award to books which have never been part of the young adult mediated readership AND who don't have wide appeal/readership outside of the very specific subculture? That's pandering to yourself and your own interests, and that's just embarrassing.
(I don't think it's impossible for adult authors who are popular with teens to write books which should win awards for spectacular young adult fiction. But that "mere marketing category" that differentiates books popular with teens from books marketed to teens is something that's really important and shouldn't be elided. Part of being a successful young adult author is negotiating the gulf between the book he or she wants to write, what the gatekeepers think is acceptable, and what teens choose to read. That's incredibly difficult, and part of what the youth media awards are designed for is celebrating the books that fall into that space
. That doesn't mean books that don't fall into that cannot be wonderful, worthy of praise, and praiseworthy SPECIFICALLY for being beloved by adolescents. But it does mean that maybe they shouldn't be winning awards specifically for rewarding an underserved, well, marketing category. There's a genre difference between The Colour of Magic
and The Wintersmith
, and that marketing category has something to do with it.)