Yesterday on this blog, I refered to a post by Richard Wheeler lamenting the demise of the western. According to an article syndicated by the Associated Press, the Science Fiction genre is also fighting for survival. They talk to author James Gunn, who heads the University of Kansas’ Center for the
Study of Science Fiction…
…which he started in 1982 as an extension of
the writers’ workshops he conducted and courses he taught to teachers looking to add science fiction to their lesson plans. These days, he and the center are gearing up for a new mission – to save science fiction, itself.
…The economics and social shift Gunn and his supporters face are daunting, however.
Andrew Grabois, director of publisher relations at Bowker, said the combined science fiction/fantasy category published 3,197 new titles last year and sold $484.8 million, its highest total in three years.
That’s dwarfed by romance novels, which sold $1.6 billion last year, and is even behind the production of mystery writers, who cranked out 4,181 new titles in 2004.
…Gunn, who considers "Star Wars" closer to a fairy tale than science fiction, says there’s less room these days for what he calls the "mid-level" books that may not sell as well but contain the most imaginative and thought-provoking writing.
"(Science fiction) has to change to remain relevant," he said."That’s harder to do today because the best seller needs to have broad appeal, so they’re less likely to be on the cutting edge. You need that to drive the genre forward."
It seems that every genre, with the exception of Romance, feels threatened with extinction. And yet Romance Writers, whose works outpace the sales of mysteries, scifi and westerns combined, complain (and rightly so) that they get no critical respect or recognition despite the enormous commercial popularity of their work.
The moral of this story? Writers are never happy.