Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Is science fiction and fantasy becoming mainstream?

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Earlier this month The Bookseller ran an article claiming that publishers are signing more and more science fiction and fantasy authors because demand for these genres is rising amongst their readers. This got me wondering whether science fiction and fantasy is accepted as mainstream these days? Things are certainly different from when I was a kid. In my teens particularly, if you read science fiction or fantasy you were a geek/goth/emo/nerd – take your pick of labels. My English teacher used to smile politely at my choice of reading material whilst his expression clearly said he hoped I’d one day grow out of this phase and start reading ‘proper’ literature.

Today it’s different. Authors such as Terry Pratchett, J.K Rowling and Stephanie Meyer are read by people who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves SF fans. And the same goes for TV shows. Star Trek and Doctor Who used to be about all there was but now SF TV series are springing up all over the place: Game of Thrones, Merlin, Doctor Who (the new one, I mean) Battlestar Galactica, Terra Nova, True Blood – the list goes on and on. So what’s prompted this change? Well, the article makes an interesting suggestion. Perhaps it’s due to the global depression. When you switch on the news these days all you see is doom and gloom. Job losses. Market crashes. Homes repossessed. Unemployment through the roof. Is it any wonder then that people are turning to science fiction and fantasy as an escape? As both a reader and writer of fantasy fiction this is an interesting time. There’s more cool stuff to watch on the telly, loads more cool stuff to read in the shops. And you never know, it might, just might, make it easier for SF writers to get their work into print. One can live in hope.

You can read the whole article at:

9 comments:

  1. Gah! Slightly off topic, but this used to grind my gears when I worked at Borders. Fantasy to me should be a completely different category, like you wouldn't put romance books with crime books. I hate how it's just lumped in with science fiction, because there used to be such a small niche for it. With the growth of fantasy writers and readers, I think it should be its own genre. One of my friends categorised Game of Thrones as science fiction which ended with me screaming hysterically, "IT'S FANTASY!!!" :P And paranormal as well! It was shoved in either under romance or SFF. *sigh*

    But, moving on to your blog entry... to add on to the escapism factor, another (crazy) theory of mine is that a lot of the new readers who caught the Twilight mania, and devoured basically all the other vampire books/series, have gotten a little tired of it, and are now demanding something else. From the past couple of years, I dealt with a lot of customers who were on the vampire bandwagon that I had suggested other paranormal sub-genres to or had convinced to move toward fantasy (and I guess by that I mean magic, dragons, etc).

    And from my ramblings... I wonder what would be the next wave. First it was Harry Potter, then Twilight (though admittedly, it wasn't as huge as Pottermania). What do you think?

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  2. Hi Toni,
    Yes, I'd prefer it if fantasy had its own section. In Waterstones, fantsy is lumped with Science Fiction, although Horror has its own section. Paranormal Romance seems to have become its own genre as well and given its own shelf space and heading in some stores.

    As for the next big thing - I've a feeling epic fantasy is going to be one. Possibly in large part because both TV and computer games moving in this direction. To illustrate my point, I recently found out that one of my friends who has always hated all things fantasy and science fiction and who used to take the mickey out of my for liking it is now reading Game of Thrones because he liked the TV series. This is what I mean about fantasy becoming mainstream. Everyone seems to be at it.

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  3. Hi Liz. Mainstream covers many bases, which I'm counting on, because my work blends contemporary fantasy (is there such a thing?), paranormal, and mainstream. Actually, I'm leaning toward calling it upmarket fiction. Yikes! The strangest thing happened. When I previewed one of my blog drafts, it had a comment from you below it. How it got there I don't know, since I hadn't published the post yet. And after I published it, your comment was gone. I'd love to figure out what happened. If you have any ideas, let me know. Anyway, thanks for the comment. I appreciate it.

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  4. Hi again, Liz. I found your comment under another post in my blog, so part of the mystery has been solved. Still uncertain, though, how it showed up under one of my drafts. Blogger has made some changes that I'm still getting used to. Anyway, thanks for the visit, and happy writing!

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  5. I think it is becoming more mainstream but I am still shy to admit what I read to friends etc as I'm scared they will think I am weird.

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  6. Hi Claire, I used to be the same. I always thought it strange that some SF things were cool though. For example, some of my friends would happily tease me for reading fantasy and then watch Star Wars for the 10th time on DVD!

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  7. Hi,
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  8. Hey Liz,

    It is a great thing to see, but a part of me resents the fact that it has become so "cool". I was one of the "nerds" who read fantasy (with a sprinkling of sci-fi) and eat up any new books my local library got in. It's that "book nerd" who was thought to be a bit odd because of her reading habits who wants to horde all of the great fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal books and keep them for myself.

    But I digress... I think your theory of people wanting to escape their everyday worries is very true. I've always enjoyed the escapism of fantasy and I'm sure many of the genre's die-hard fans will agree. It's also the great scope for stories that makes it so much fun. So, shoving down my mutinous "book nerd" I welcome the new surge in interest and I hope it's here to stay!

    Shelagh
    The Word Fiend

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  9. Hi Shelagh,
    Yes, I was one of those nerds too. Although I think it's great that more and more people are enjoying SF, I still find it a little strange when avowed SF haters (I have a particular friend of mine in mind here) are suddenly reading George RR Martin!

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