Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Is speculative literature an endangered species?

by Rob - April 25th, 2007.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

I’m quoted in this article on that topic. Author Mike Collins quotes part of what I said in response to his email question; here’s my full response:

I don’t think there is a decline in reading per se; more people are reading more books than ever before — all the stats show that. However, they’re reading fewer different titles; everyone is looking for a sense of community in our fragmented world, and so wants to read the things that others are reading. There simply weren’t runaway bestsellers like HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE in an earlier era; those books shattered all previous sales records.

It’s pointless to talk about the decline in reading “speculative” fiction, because there’s no section in the bookstore labeled that — and, after all, HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE, along with Michael Crichton, Audrey Niffenegger, Neil Gaiman, and Christopher Paolini are all broadly “speculative,” and they’re all doing just fine, thank you very much.

What we’re talking about is the decline of the commercial publishing category known as science fiction, and the fault for that, by and large, lies with the publishers and the authors. SF has become increasingly self-referential, smug, and inaccessible to newcomers. Without bringing new readers in, and keeping them, the field is being whittled away by natural attrition of its established readership base — the trend is a straight line, down into the toilet, and it’s going to be very, very hard to turn it around at this point.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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