Kristine Kathryn Rusch on why SF isn’t selling (by way of madwriter). The article’s take, much condensed, seems to be that the problem with SF is that, unlike fantasy, it’s no longer consistently uplifting enough.
But personally, I don’t think that has anything to do with SF’s (and I’m not talking about fantasy here, just actual science fiction) sales problems. I think what keeps people away from the genre is the perception that the stories lack strong characters. Because all the cool tech in the world is boring to many of us, if we don’t see it through the lens of character. If we don’t see how it effects people, how people use it, how it interacts with the human world.
I think SF has probably improved considerably in this regard, the past decade or so. I think things have probably gotten at least a bit better. But the genre’s rep remains, and it’s gonna take some work to shake it.
It doesn’t help that so many folks keep pointing would-be SF readers to Asimov or Heinlein. I think telling teens–especially girls–to start with those books only reinforces the idea that SF isn’t a genre of character; that it’s an old fashioned, dated sort of genre; that they’d better go elsewhere for SF fic that’s going to mean something to them and their lives.
I’ve read some killer SF the past couple years: Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps and Ann Halam’s Taylor Five are among those that come to mind. These books aren’t found in the genre SF section. They don’t look like many long-time SF readers probably expect their books to look. I suspect the average paranormal romance–a huge genre right now–looks even less like what these readers expect.
If the science fiction community really wants to see kids (and teens, and middle aged women, and any number of other demographics) reading science fiction, they need to stop assuming everyone needs to read their science fiction.
And that somehow the genre is dead, if we don’t.