The Death of Science Fiction

I thought I’d share this interesting if a little gloomy article with you, which was written by author Robert.J. Sawyer. I’m not sure if maybe he was feeling rather disillusioned when he wrote it, but he suggests a few things about the Science Fiction market for books which are worth considering:

  • Much modern sci-fi is ‘crap’ (his words not mine!)
  • The audience for sci-fi is aging, and hark back to the good old days
  • Publishers flogging a (literally) dead horse in pushing anything with the names Azimov, Heinlein or Clarke on it.

You can check out the rest of his article here:

Science Fiction Writer Robert J. Sawyer: The Death of Science Fiction – StumbleUpon.

It is an entertaining rant. πŸ™‚

The redoubtable Captain Xerox has another point of view: Science Fiction has died so often it must have nine lives

He makes the point that Sci-Fi has probably never been stronger, but that a combination of the reluctance of large publishers to touch it (perhaps because of the perceived death of Science Fiction?) and the publishing of great sci-fi works as general fiction are skewing the perception of the genre.

I’m wondering if the boom in e-publishing will help to break down some of these perceptions about sci-fi. With many more people able to publish, and the financial risk of trying out a new author much smaller, will Science Fiction be reborn again?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


14 thoughts on “The Death of Science Fiction

  1. Hmm, sci-fi has always been kind of a wonky genre, and stuffy people will ALWAYS say that the books (any books) back then are a million times better than the books now (which they always say are crap, speaking in broad and general terms)β€”so I’m not too worried. The popularity of science fiction is always in flux, probably more so than other genres, but it’s still valuable and I don’t think it’ll ever really go out of style.

    • I hope not! You’re probably right about people having rose-tinted hindsight – and not just about books. πŸ˜‰
      There genuinely does seem to be some sort of resistance to sci-fi in some readers though, which you don’t hear a lot when it comes to other genres. How often have you heard “Oh, no! I don’t like (say) historical romances?” but it seems to come up regularly with sci-fi for some reason.
      Thanks for dropping by!

      • Yeah, agreed. Sci-fi isn’t the most approachable genre, especially hard sci-fi. It requires a little breaking into. Some people don’t want to do that, but then they turn around and profess their love of movies like The Terminator or Blade Runner and, hey, those are sci-fi! πŸ™‚

  2. Science fiction will never die. With the proliferation of technology in the 21st century, we have more reason to address the wired and pixellated than ever before.

    E-publishing, especially e-book formats, will keep the genre alive. More people will have access to old tomes that would’ve been lost otherwise due to inaccessibility or unpopularity.

    There is no such thing as bad quality or good quality, just what you use as your basis for comparison.

    All it takes is one break-out story, and the rest will jump on the sci-fi revival bandwagon. Good post.

    • Thanks Millie! I certainly hope you’re right. I do agree that ebooks can only help – it will be interesting to see if larger publishing houses are surprised by what is popular in this format.

  3. Thanks for sharing these articles! I tend to side with Captain Xerox, and I sometimes wonder if writers who claim that one genre or another is dead are really lamenting the passing of their own particular definition of that genre rather than recognizing that all art forms evolve and change over time.

    • Very interesting point. Many of the books from the ‘Golden Age’ of sci-fi couldn’t really be written now (or accepted anyway), as our understanding of the science has moved on. The explosion of the whole internet thing, for one, has really changed things in a way which would have surprised many people. Also, lets be honest here, they couldn’t get away with the sexism in some of those early books either! πŸ˜‰

  4. I hope it’s not dead or dying – I love reading it. Science fiction gives us the chance to really use our imaginations and dream of all the possibilities. Maybe it shouldn’t be labeled. When I read Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, I didn’t think of it as science fiction, I just thought of it as a really great book.

    • I hope it’s not either – but an interesting point about not labelling it at all. I wonder if it is more for the convenience of libraries and marketers, or if as readers we like to have things categorized for us? There is an awful lot of work out there after all – but then we manage to find things we like in ‘General Fiction’!

  5. Pingback: Is It A Science Fiction Writers Job To Be A Visionary? « The Raptor's Claw

  6. If sci fi is dying, then why are comic book movies the biggest money-making genre of the 21st Century? As long as people are curious about the future and write about it, sci fi will never die.

    • I do hope you’re right! Are movies better suited to these days of short attention spans though? I wonder if short sci-fi stories are in better shape than novels?

      • I think it depends on the calibre of the writing and the story. Short stories have historically been the bread and butter of Sci Fi (even Asimov himself started as a short story writer), and I do think that brevity helps the writer of Sci Fi in that they don’t have to extrapolate too much of the made-up world inside their heads, but that said, the most famous pieces of Sci Fi writing have all been longer, in series form, etc., (Dune, Ender’s Game, etc.), but now that I think of it, even those started as shorter pieces before they were expanded on, so maybe you’re right – I think you’ve inspired me to pare my new idea down from a novel to a short story (if I can), so thanks!

    • Comic book movies are sci-fi *themed* super-hero movies. They aren’t real sci-fi. There are just few movies that could be sci-fi.

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