Traditionally speaking, the audience for science fiction has always been teen-age boys, and for fantasy, both teen-age boys and girls–perhaps explaining the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter novels. Rowling has created an incredibly detailed fantasy world that lies just a step away from the mundane muggle world, a world that is saved seven times by a group of teens.
Yet teenaged readers grow up. Many of them continue to read science fiction and fantasy, if the attendance at the SF conventions I have attended is any evidence. At DragonCon in Atlanta, originally a gaming con, there are lots of younger folk, under 30, but a large proportion is over 40 as well. At DarkoverCon and the recent DiskworldCon, the under-30 crowd was not much in evidence, perhaps due to the lack of excellent blockbuster movies made from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Terry Pratchett’s wonderful books. Why Spielberg, Verbinsky, and others have not seen the incredible potential in these stories and characters is beyond me. Maybe it’s because the characters are typically NOT teenagers, who after all, are the only people who go to movies, right?
Frodo was over thirty, after all, as was Gandalf, Strider, Eowyn, et al. Even the actors for most movies who play teenage heroes are in their thirties…the Potter gang being notable exceptions.
I think the time for ageism in fantasy and science fiction is over. While we are all 18 with more or less experience, some of us old farts still buy books, still go to movies, still go to cons, and even buy action figures, models, computer games, and posters. We don’t have the disposable income of teens–since we are often supporting said fanbase, but we do shell out some ducats on occasion.
And maybe it would help if the young gun movie makers would look beyond their own fear of age and death to see the value of the elder–such as Spock Prime.