Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Publishers Weekly quotes Rob at length

The cover story in the current Publishers Weekly is about science fiction publishing, and it leads with a short interview with me, then goes into discussions of specific lines -- and in that section, I'm quoted again discussing Phyllis Gotlieb's Birthstones, the latest book under the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. A quote from the aritcle:

When asked if traditional SF has "jumped the shark," Robert J. Sawyer responds, "If it had just jumped the shark, that would be fineā€”at least people would understand what that means. But no. SF has instead executed a parabolic maneuver with an exemplar of the cartilaginous order Selachii at its focus, which amounts to the same damn thing, but in modern SF fashion it is said in such a jargon-laden, exclusionary and unwelcoming way that newcomers simply aren't let in."
The full text of the article is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At April 04, 2007 2:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting stuff, Rob. I think all this makes genre writers a little uncomfortable, but if the move is to take us mainstream, isn't that a good thing?


At April 04, 2007 3:07 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Well, Betsy Mitchell's comment in the article is worth reflecting on, too. We'll gut the genre if all the good writers are taken out of it -- but, then again, if the genre is to be healthy, the publishers have to find a way to effectively sell the books to everyone who might enjoy them, and it might be true that the SF label is keeping more people out who would actually like the books than it's bringing in.

At April 04, 2007 4:28 PM , Blogger Sean said...

In some cases I can see where publishers might be holding a great book back by labeling it SF, but if you look at stuff like Terry Brooks, alot of it (with the possible exception of the Word/Void trilogy) is really only for fantasy fans. Same thing goes for writers like Jeffery A Carver. Good stuff, but still intended for those of us who like our spaceships and dragons.

But if you look at SF that is considered "literature" like Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five or the Handmaid's Tale most people who love it don't even really recognize it as SF. The same thing goes for your stuff like, as an example, Calculating God. When I first bought it, a friend (who's reading list consists of VC Andrews and Daniel Steele) flipped through it out of curiosity and then couldn't put it down. When told her that I was surprised that she would like an SF book she said, "It's SF? Didn't even notice. I just thought it was interesting."

Do you think that problem lies with writers being formulaic or publishes only pushing the generic stuff?

At April 04, 2007 4:34 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Sean. I agree that not all SF will appeal to mainstream readers (on the other hand, Tolkien obviously does -- and Terry is a modern Tolkien). So, yes, there will always be a genre for spaceships-and-aliens books. I don't think the publishers are JUST pushing that -- Tor gets behind me very nicely, after all. The real problem is that most people think STAR WARS (and STAR TREK, even) are what science fiction is: futuristic costume dramas. How we educate the public about the breadth and depth of science fiction, I don't know.


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