SciFi and Fantasy eBook Club discussion

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General Topics > Is SciFi still a popular genre?

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message 1: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) When I say SF, I mean just SF books, without the fantasy.

Do you think it is still a popular genre these days o? Or has it been taken over by Women's Fiction or Crime and Thriller books and becoming obscure?


message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments I don't think it was ever popular like those. But I think its appeal has grown in recent years thanks to film tie-ins and the growth of geek chic.


message 3: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 233 comments People have been asking similar questions for...ever:

http://io9.com/back-in-1937-people-wo...


message 4: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Not as popular as it was, I think.

F and SF magazine are currently asking for submissions for their Spring 2015 edition. They say that they get lots of fantasy but never enough sci-fi or humour.

So I'm sending them a humorous sci fi story. Well, I'd be daft not to, eh? ;-)

The biggest genres at the moment do seem to be women's fiction, especially erotica, romance and YA.


message 5: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) As I thought. Does that mean then SF books won't sell as well? Or people still would buy as long as it's a good story regardless of genres.


message 6: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Sci-fi sells. It just doesn't sell as well as romance at the moment. But there are still plenty of readers and a thriving market for well-written books.

If you only write for the best selling markets you could find that you are chasing genres that you don't really understand. I think it's best to write what interests you and to make it the best story it can be.

Having said that, there are some genres which are in danger of becoming overloaded - such as zombies, dystopias, and PA. And I speak as the proud author of a zombie/ dystopia/PA story.

Dang, but I wish I'd written a bodice-ripper instead.... ;-)

Seriously. If scifi is in your head, I wouldn't worry about the dominance of frillies. Go for it.


message 7: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 49 comments Sci-Fi has never been that popular in comparison to other genres. Even famed writers like Arthur C Clarke struggled to find an audience outside of sci-fi despite their success with real science.

Having just launched my own second sci-fi story I'll see how it goes. Despite the genre of any writing the story has to work. If it does it will drift outside of its narrow fan base. E.g The Time Travellers Wife could be described as fantasy, sci-fi or more commonly a romance.

My wife told me she doesn't like sci-fi and would not normally read a book from that genre,but she liked my second book. She is put off my latest offering because she watched me using a spreadsheet to work out some of the technicalities of the plot. Then one of my daughters friends told her it was just a story albeit in an alien setting. If you read a historical romance that's pretty alien to a modern day person.

So to answer the question yes it's popular but it does seem to be more fantasy LOTR and Game of Thrones to blame rather than a traditional space and aliens epic. Distopian sci-fi seems to have to include zombies to have any success.

In the end if the story is good it will sell - if enough people notice it.


message 8: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Philip

Looks like we both wrote our comments at the same time!

And here's a funny thing. We are both friends, we've both written an "end of the world" novel (or two) and we've read and enjoyed each other's books.

And yet our books are as different as different can be. Yours is a gritty and realistic story with no zombies. Mine is told for laughs from the point of view of a zombie.

And you have had feedback on your book that says "I wish it had zombies in it". I have had feedback that says "I wish it didn't have zombies in it."

I suppose the bottom line is that genres are broad and there is room for all kinds of stories. We should write what is in our heads and perhaps not be too influenced by what individuals say. There will always be someone who doesn't like a particular theme.


message 9: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) Hey I've written an end of the world kinda book with no zombies but aliens. :)


message 10: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Okay, so that's Philip with survivors, but no zombies.

Me with zombies and witches, but no aliens.

Blake with aliens but no zombies.

Anyone else?


message 11: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 49 comments I would love to write a humorous novel like yours Will and a humorous but grown up sci-fi would be on my to read. Blake I need to check yours out so I have downloaded it. I see it's a short story - is the novel coming?


message 12: by Randy (new)

Randy Harmelink | 714 comments I've read books with:

-- Zombies and an Alien and a Sasquatch
-- Aliens attacking Earth just after a zombie apocalypse


message 13: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Didn't the classic film "Plan 9 from outer space" have aliens and zombies?


message 14: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) Philip - it's a short story, so it's a teaser if you like, quite fast paced with a little character development. Writing the sequel novel right now, which would go a lot more in depth on everything and ties up the lose ends. It is not your typical alien invasion story, I like to be different so it keeps the readers engaged and guessing. Hope you'll enjoy it and wanting more :) Will also check out yours too thanks.


message 15: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 49 comments Thanks Blake and back on topic. I guess we all think it's still popular in the sense of it's popular with us.

Dr Who and Star Wars have shown that there is a wider audience and the endless Transformer films. The sci-fi films currently out are just action flicks in space. Haven't seen anything like Blade Runner for ages. Elysium was OK but Oblivion or whatever it was called....please. Total Recall remake was just that a remake.

The heavy sci-fi books all seem to be in long series which makes capturing a new audience very hard.


message 16: by Blake (last edited Aug 02, 2014 04:19AM) (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) You never know, maybe one day one of our book's will make it onto the big screen.


message 17: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 49 comments Blake wrote: "You never know, maybe one day one of our book's will make it onto the big screen."

We can all dream...


message 18: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 32 comments Philip wrote: "Blake wrote: "You never know, maybe one day one of our book's will make it onto the big screen."

We can all dream..."


True, you never know. Early last year I read a 99 cent hard SF indie e-book novel that I loved, and I was going to review it for a site I do SF reviews for, but it suddenly went off the market. I tracked down the author, and he told me it was because he had a book deal (the book came back on the market in Feb. of this year). I subsequently found out they sold the movie rights at auction. And about a month ago I saw an article that they had signed up Ridley Scott to direct it! I think partly driving this was the popularity of the movie "Gravity" last year. Anyway, here is the novel of an indie author that may have done exactly what you surmised: The Martian by Andy Weir The Martian


message 19: by Scott (new)

Scott Nicholson (scottnicholson) | 21 comments Self-publishing is going to help more SF fans find lots of books and new authors. Hard to say if it will make the percentage of SF readers increase as part of the whole pie, but overall I;d guess more SF will be read than ever.


message 20: by Jim (last edited Aug 02, 2014 08:29AM) (new)

Jim | 418 comments I picked up some early EE Doc Smith in a charity shop, three paperbacks for a pound. I read the first one and my first thought was "You'd never get published now." The next one was better, but a lot of the old 'pulp' SF wasn't, in retrospect, particularly good.
I suspect that whilst it was pretty widely read, it was the 'DVD boxed set' or netflix movie of its era, something to spend an evening with but no big deal


message 21: by Kourosh (new)

Kourosh I think so! In fact it is influencing a lot of popular TV/movie culture!


message 22: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 02, 2014 11:24PM) (new)

I think science fiction is currently being eclipsed by fantasy - which is a turn around from when I first really started reading in the late 70s and early 80s. Who knows how long this fad will last.

I do find it difficult to discover good new science fiction - a lot new books seem too focused on the fantastical or military aspects of the genre for my tastes. But that is what sells so that is what is being written. I've found myself drifting away from looking for the slim pickings in science fiction and turning elsewhere like biography and non-fiction.

The great white hope of self-publishing hasn't produced anything above the mediocre so far and can be safely ignored, IMHO.


message 23: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Wool?


message 24: by Micah (last edited Aug 03, 2014 07:11AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 233 comments I think trends in a genre's popularity are largely driven by what's popular in TV and movies. Obviously there's a feedback loop happening there (and often it's initiated by a book's popularity), but TV and movies reach a broader audience than any genre literature does on its own, and they tend to bring a new wave of readers into a genre, fueling a temporary increase in that genre's popularity across all media.

Take something like The Walking Dead. It started as a comic book series back in 2003. Yeah, it was popular and well received, but comics only hit a marginal audience. Adapted to TV, TWD became a huge hit and then saw a blossoming of zombie movies, books, video games, etc. All of which reaches a vast audience.

Twilight did something similar for vampires and YA fantasy/romance. I'm sure action SF got a boost from the remake of Battle Star Galactica (it certainly did back in the days when Star Wars first came out). Hunger Games has had a similar effect on the post-apocalyptic scene. Harry Potter and Game of Thrones did the same for YA and fantasy.

Ultimately, though, I'd say that SF is probably more popular now than it's ever been. I base that not only on the number of TV shows and movies that are released in the genre, but also on the number of science fiction elements you see in general fiction (genetic engineering, computer science, germs and viruses and all that). Not to mention that comic books are accepted more and more as being not-for-kids-only.

SF's become a lot more a part of the common cultural zeitgeist than ever before.

However....the KIND of SF that's popular may not be what it once was. Although, I'm not sure the kind of SF most of us would consider "classics" (idea based rather than wham-bam-pew-pew-pew!) was ever popular enough to be a lucrative career. I have a feeling that the % of readers who read SF primarily has never really changed, while the % of people who will sometimes read SF has increased.


message 25: by Greg (new)

Greg Strandberg (gregstrandberg) I'm sorry, but when did sci-if become unpopular? Did I not go to school that day or something?

Is there proof of this or are we just speculating here, because I'm trying to figure out if this thread is even worth reading.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm not sure that SF became unpopular per se - but that fantasy is currently more in vogue. There is quite a bit of good writing happening in both genres and quite a bit of good blended writing as well. But I do think that many sub-genres such are steampunk, alt history and post-apocalypse to name a few - are currently eclipsing standard space opera and hard sci fi .....

.... but that will change. As with YA vampire novels, these fashions will fade.


message 27: by Jim (new)

Jim | 418 comments Greg wrote: "I'm sorry, but when did sci-if become unpopular? Did I not go to school that day or something?

Is there proof of this or are we just speculating here, because I'm trying to figure out if this t..."


Talking to a friend of mine who works in a public library

Assuming withdrawals from the library equate to general popularity, the most popular is detective/thriller, next comes romance.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy get less books taken out each month than Thrillers and Romance get taken out with a day.


message 28: by Greg (new)

Greg Strandberg (gregstrandberg) Jim wrote: "Greg wrote: "I'm sorry, but when did sci-if become unpopular? Did I not go to school that day or something?

Is there proof of this or are we just speculating here, because I'm trying to figure ..."


I think that's a lot to assume.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

@Will

Rough around the gills as it was, I've read worse professionally published science fiction novels than Wool; however, nothing about the book inspires me to read more by the same author - it was a read and forget it kind of book. I did notice the author has pumped out sequels, which leads me to believe he has found his cash cow and will milk it until the teats are dry. Why waste time with this kind of writing?

@Micha

I agree that film and TV have a huge influence. In fact, I would say, a large percentage of authors write as if they were vassal states or supplicants to Hollywood. True across many genres, not limited to science fiction.

I believe that authors who write their books envisioning the movie in their heads should cease the novel and proceed to the film script. Let a hack knockout the novelization afterwards.

I suppose some readers enjoy books with the hint of a Hollywood as yet unborn on the pages - but that isn't why I read.


message 30: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 32 comments Greg wrote: "@Will

Rough around the gills as it was, I've read worse professionally published science fiction novels than Wool; however, nothing about the book inspires me to read more by the same author - it ..."


Actually, I really liked Wool. It was good to have a unique short story with a clear ending. I liked it enough that I got the Wool 1-5 ebook. It started going downhill by the middle of #3, and then it picked up again.

But yes, I agree that I've read worse professionally written stories.

BTW..re 'milking', the author wrote that he had not planned on writing any sequels, but fans of 'Wool I' kept bugging him to write more.


message 31: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments I've not yet read Wool myself. But from what I have seen, I think it challenges the idea that all self-published books are mediocre. As you say, we've all read worse trade published novels.

And it seems to have been fairly successful.

What's the problem with sequels? I seem to recall one JK Rowling producing a series of books about a certain boy wizard. They didn't do too badly...

If we auto-reject books on such dubious grounds then we would reject 99.9% of all novels. Dickens? Mostly wrote books in serial form. The Culture novels of Iain M Banks? Rejected because they're set in the same world as each other. Terry Pratchett? Douglas Adams? Are/ were they all milking cash cows?

It's easy to knock self-publishing. There certainly are an awful lot of very poor books out there. Books that would previously have been rejected by editors and publishers and so would never have seen the light of day.

But there are also an increasing number of good self-published books coming out as indie authors learn more about what works and what doesn't.

Safely ignored? I don't think so.


message 32: by Bob (new)

Bob Lee (boblee333) | 32 comments Will wrote: "I've not yet read Wool myself. But from what I have seen, I think it challenges the idea that all self-published books are mediocre. As you say, we've all read worse trade published novels.

And it..."


You should try Wool. It's only 58 pages long, and the Kindle version is free.

LOL - when I looked over on Amazon to make sure it was free, I found there's even a graphic novel version. Now THAT'S milking it!


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

@Bob

If the author was done with the story, then goes back to it for more sales, that is what I like to call a post hoc sequel, and it's milking the cash cow.

@Will

Auto rejection is important - all readers do it to some degree. For example, I reject Harlequin Romances, but I can't absolutely prove all the novels in that group are completely worthless, yet I know the odds are so far against the possibility, I can safely ignore all books under that label. Is there a chance I'll miss a good book here and there? Sure, maybe but the odds are long and the payout would have to be better than Wool. I'm not a betting man, so I ignore self-published authors.

If an author does beat the odds, a publisher will pick up the title, and maybe it will hit on my radar.

And I don't think highly of sequels and series. Each book needs to be part of a story, like Robinson's Mars Trilogy, but endless character repetitions a la David Webber dull the mind. Even Iain M. Banks - a great author - was dangerously close - some say over the line - reusing the Culture.


message 34: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments You don't think highly of sequels and series?

So let me see, that's Lord of the Rings, the Bible, Harry Potter, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, the Shakespeare history plays, the Foundation series, I Robot, Dune, Hitchhikers...


message 35: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) There's a series of the bible? Guess I've only read book one and i got it for free :) what' happens to Jesus in the second book?


message 36: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments Spoiler alert: he doesn't stay dead ;)


message 37: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments All together now ... Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges ...

Don't say you only read the abridged version with the shepherds and the wise men following a star?


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Will wrote: "You don't think highly of sequels and series?

So let me see, that's Lord of the Rings, the Bible, Harry Potter, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, the Shakespeare history plays, the Foundation series, I Robot, Dune, Hitchhikers... "


You have a some weird choices for series, but here I go:

Lord of the Rings: I gave up after book two.
The Bible: I gave up after two Gospels and a smattering of others old and new. No need, really; I'm not Christian.
Harry Potter: Gave up after book five. Amazing I got that far, it's pure twaddle for kids.
James Bond: Gave up at book two.
Sherlock Holmes: First three novels, a dozen stories, and that was enough for me.
Shakespeare History Plays: OK, you got me here.
Foundation: The Original Trilogy is fine. Never tempted by the rest.
I, Robot: Never read it.
Dune: The first three books are OK; the fourth was meh. Stopped there. There is zero chance of reading his son's continuations.
Hitchhikers: Never read it.


So I guess I don't really think highly of series and sequels. There are a few good trilogies, maybe quartets, but series (the especially episodic character ones) always start to devolve into twaddle after four of five books.


message 39: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments Ah, I see.


message 40: by Blake (new)

Blake Ridder (blakeridder) Anyway. Back to topic. I guess the real reason for my question was really from an author's point of view. Should one stay on course on this not so popular genre without many sales or change course a little.


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

@Blake

You need to write the books you want to write whatever genre that is: trying to write to what's currently popular is a moving target and a recipe for banality. Sure: lesbian High School Vampires in wuv might be the hot topic du jour, but it will not last.

There will readers for science fiction books; you may not make as much as a CEO - but few writers do. Practice your craft until you're good enough to publish and see what comes of it. Let someone else be the judge when you're good enough. And don't ask your mother, she's biased.


message 42: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments Greg wrote: "Will wrote: "You don't think highly of sequels and series?

So let me see, that's Lord of the Rings, the Bible, Harry Potter, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, the Shakespeare history plays, the Foundat..."


Have you read Gene Wolfe, Greg?

I know I mention the guy just about all the time, but his series is certainly the opposite of twaddle.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

@Kenneth

I read the four volumes in The Book of the New Sun in the early 80s and enjoyed them. I haven't read any Wolfe since then; or maybe a short story or two.


message 44: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments Ah, yes, those are the best ones Greg. His other work is still phenomenal, but New Sun takes the cake. I was wondering if you'd read him since you're not a series guy, but based on your descriptions, thought he might interest you.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm not sure Book of the New Sun should be called a series - it's only four volumes that make one long story. Unlike an episodic character series a la David Webber that never seems to end and repeats it's self frequently, sort of like a TV show.


message 46: by Jim (new)

Jim | 418 comments Gene Wolfe is very 'marmite'. It seems that you either love him or loathe him." Very few people who've read him couldn't be bothered either way


message 47: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 121 comments @Blake - this may help...

Gold Two: [the Y-wings are running the gauntlet toward the Death Star reactor-port] The guns - they've stopped!
Gold Five: [realizes why] Stabilize your rear deflectors... Watch for enemy fighters.
Gold Leader: They're coming in! Three marks at 2-10!
[Gold Two is slain by Darth Vader and his wingmen; Gold Leader starts to panic]
Gold Leader: It's no good, I can't maneuver!
Gold Five: Stay on target.
Gold Leader: We're too close!
Gold Five: Stay on target!
Gold Leader: [shouts] Loosen up!
[he too is picked off by Vader and Company; Gold Five tries to escape but is fatally winged]
Gold Five: Gold Five to Red leader, lost Tiree, lost Dutch.
Red Leader: I copy, Gold Leader.
Gold Five: They came from... behind!


My advice would be ... stay on target, stay on target. Okay, so it wasn't the best advice for Gold 5, but then they came from ... behind!

The relative popularity of some genres is a mixed blessing. The really popular genres have a lot of authors and therefore a lot of competition. You will do best by writing a good book, and IMHO you are more likely to do that by writing in a genre that you know and enjoy.


message 48: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 233 comments Blake wrote: "Anyway. Back to topic. I guess the real reason for my question was really from an author's point of view. Should one stay on course on this not so popular genre without many sales or change course ..."

Depends on the author's goals. Some people write strictly to make a living (it's a business). In that case, hopping genres to what's lucrative makes sense. Others, however, write out of a need to create and hope the rewards will follow (artists).

They're very different beasts. That's not to say the business writer can't create artistic product--depends on how good they are. Nor is it to say that artist writers will always create better books--art is more an affliction than a divine calling; some people are going to be driven to write utter shite.

You just have to know what kind of writer you are. I mean, if there was no way in the world, like 100% certain, that you'd never, ever publish a book or make any money writing...would you still write? If the answer is yes then sorry, you've got no option but to write, so you might as well write what you want.

Me? I assume that I'm writing for an audience of one. I write what I want to read. The rest (I guess) will sort itself out one way or another.


message 49: by W. (new)

W. (wlen) | 4 comments Quite an interesting topic. New here, so I'm jumping in...
What people seldom mention is that the world has become more techie in general. What used to be considered "trekkie tech" is now the next hot app from Silicon Valley. Today's fiction=tomorrow's invention.

There's a (somewhat dated) historical perspective here, ranging from credit cards to real-time audio translation apps...
http://www.universetoday.com/111654/i...


message 50: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments I'm with Micah on writing: I'll write what I want to read about. I don't care for the business side of it, the marketing and the demographics. I don't want to appeal to what people are interested in, I want to get them interested in what I am interested in.


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