Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Did genre fiction really win the war?

by Rob - March 15th, 2015.
Filed under: Bestsellers Lists, Book Tour, Bookselling, Publishing.

Apropos of the discussion that’s been going on here and on my Facebook wall for the last several days about genre fiction vs. literary snobbery, this is an interesting piece from Esquire.

But before we get too smug and claim we — the genre-fiction community — have won the war, note that not a single one of the books mentioned in the Esquire article was published by a science fiction or fantasy publisher or promoted as genre fiction; the war was won by those fighting on other fronts.

Yes, Ace/Roc, Baen, DAW, Del Rey/Spectra, Orbit, Tor, and Voyager publish a lot of genre fiction, including my own, but those aren’t where agents or savvy authors submit titles that they actually think are going to be widely read by a general audience, and if the parent company has other imprints, one of them will be used instead for books expected to sell to mainstream readers.

I’ve seen both sides of the fence. In the US, I’ve always been published by genre houses; in Canada, starting with Wake in 2009, I’ve been published under Penguin Canada’s mainstream Viking imprint. It’s a whole different world.

My most recent novel, Red Planet Blues — as genre a book as one could imagine; indeed, a fusion of two genres, namely hard-SF and noir detective — was supported in Canada with the largest book tour Penguin Canada mounted for any author of any nationality in 2013 and an ad that filled the entire back page of the book-review section of The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper. It paid off: Red Planet Blues book peaked at #3 on the Fiction bestsellers’ list in Maclean’s, Canada’s national news magazine, the list covering all fiction by authors of all nationalities.

The book realm the Esquire article is talking about is a universe other than SF&F sections of bookstores; those aren’t the trenches in this battle.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

3 Responses to Did genre fiction really win the war?

  1. The ” largest book tour” link is not working.

    Love your books, unfortunately only a few are available in German language.

  2. Swen, thank you for the kind words! I’ve fixed the link — sorry about that!

  3. Hmmppph. Love your books, love both those genres… Unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled by Red Planet Blues :-( But I bought it anyway :-) I rather think that if I loved _everything_ you wrote, one of us wouldn’t be stretching our boundaries.

    But, apropos, no, we haven’t won the genre war, and as long as we have the non-genre-award winners like Margaret Atwood saying they don’t actually write Science Fiction, we won’t.

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