Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Separating SF and Fantasy in bookstores

by Rob - January 31st, 2007.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

Got asked by a newspaper reporter in New Jersey today to comment on the “nuts” idea that a local bookseller had divided science fiction and fantasy into separate sections. Here’s what I had to say:

Actually, it’s not nuts at all — nuts was when Ottawa’s House of Speculative Fiction separated the male and female authors into two sections (although it was a great conversation starter!).

And, in fact, there’s good precedent. Chapters/Indigo — Canada’s largest bookstore chain — always separates science fiction and fantasy into different sections. It’s an accident of US publishing history that the two genres are thought of as related: as it happens, it was Donald A. Wollheim, an SF editor, who brought out the first US edition of what was then a unique work, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. If someone else had scooped that up first, the two genres would never have been commingled.

And, really, SF has always had a lot more in common with mystery than with fantasy. Both SF and mystery prize rational thinking and deduction, and require the reader to pick up clues about what’s really going on as they read the story. Fantasy and SF, on the other hand, are diametrically opposed: one is reasoned, careful extrapolation of things that really could happen; the other, by definition, deals with things that never could happen.

So, more power to your bookseller!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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