“New Sci-fi” Part One! The “Huh?”

Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m bad at this blog updating thing. Though I don’t know of anyone who’s really any good at it. I guess it’s just hard for me to sit here and talk to myself and possibly one other person when I can just simply go and do that on a regular basis. I mean, I can talk to myself anytime I want to, usually do. And as for the idea of talking to one of the few people who even realizes this page exists, well that’s just a message away.

Still, there are a few topics worth discussing here that I feel would be beating a dead horse if I kept talking about them to others on a regular basis… plus I kind of stopped listening to myself too. So I guess if the blog has a function at all it would be to vent the things that have built for a few days (or weeks, or months) and get them out in the open 100%. And what’s got me stewing this month? (aside from the sun)

“New Sci-fi”

I’ve heard a lot about this lately. You see, it’s no secret to anyone who pays attention to literature that genres have a tendency to rise and fall in popularity. You look at the books that succeeded from any period of time and you tend to see some thematic connection between them. Fantasy and Urban Fantasy have a pretty firm hold on things right now, “Paranormal Romance” is practically untouchable. And, of course, watching these trends gives us an idea of just what does and doesn’t sell, which is something to really keep an eye on for people like myself who want to actually sell something.

Currently, we see that sci-fi is on the fall while anything that could be called “fantasy” (specific sub-genres of fantasy more so than others) is on the rise. That, in itself, doesn’t surprise me. But what has been starting to make me wonder as of late has been the tendency for people to decide that the reason for the fall of sci-fi is because the audience has become “jaded” and “cynical”.

What?

I did just mention that “Paranormal Romance” is currently dominant, right? How can you call an audience that’s devouring such stories with glee and a wide eyed wonder at the awesomeness of fictional characters “jaded” or “cynical”? If anything, there’s some argument to be made that the audience is currently leaning in the exact opposite direction.

But no, I’m not going to be like most people in the industry (or hoping to be in the industry. Hi industry!). I’m not going to blame the audience for what’s going on. I have a nagging need to study this stuff up close and interview people on their actual thoughts. Sure, sometimes they’d rather I stop asking, but it’s been an overall beneficial relationship. And what I’ve found from my “subjects” has been fascinating.

Listening to the answers I’ve gotten has suggested that some things I’ve heard from those closer to the core of the industry might be a bit misguided. One of these misguided ideas is that “New Sci-fi” means that we need to roll back the “sci-fi” part of the concept to the point where it’s more window dressing than anything. They look at examples of successful sci-fi in the last few years and say that the common traits between them lie in the fact that they’re mostly normal everyday stories with a sci-fi twist that makes them a little different.

That never sat right with me, because it seemed too simplistic. Not to mention, the conclusion that we should reduce the whole genre to the sci-fi equivalent of “Urban Fantasy” and -only- “Urban Fantasy” sounds like an executive level numbers based analysis. Not to say that all of these decisions are silly, but it was that sort of analysis that led Warner Bros. to push for “campier” movies for the Batman franchise since “Batman Returns sold fewer tickets than Batman Forever”.

How’d that work out for them?

Ooooh…right.

So while from a surface level it seems like a great idea to follow the traits of a formula presented by a successful title. I think that overall, if you look at it too shallowly and don’t consider the big picture of what happened with those successful titles, you can come away with a distorted and incorrect view of the picture.

Because in the wrong context, you can misinterpret almost anything.

And as forĀ  my attempts at giving sci-fi my own spin, my sci-fantasy series, Agent of Argyre, can now be found at many online retailers.

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