Saturday, May 19, 2007

More on Sawyer

I did make it Robert Sawyer's signing last night, and I have to say that he is one of the classiest guys in the field today. He showed up early and went through the crowd introducing himself and talking to people for a while. He remembered me, not by name, but by face, and even had to snap a picture. I hate pictures, and I'm sure it showed, but we'll know for sure when he posts it on his blog...

He did a brief reading of Rollback, and then took a lot of time to answer questions. One thing he addressed was the shrinking SF field, and what he had to say made a lot of sense. I can't put it as well as he can, but here is basically what he had to say.

1) It's Arthur C. Clarke's fault. Not really, but he did point out that the future imagined in 2001 didn't come true, and a lot of other things predicted by SF haven't come true. Also, science fiction failed to predict the world wide web. To those of us in the field, it doesn't really matter because we read the fiction because we love it, but to people outside of the field, there's the idea that science fiction is a predictive fiction, and when it fails to accurately predict the future, then it's no different than fantasy.

2) Science fiction is basically a fiction that revolves around evolution. I won't go into his argument on that point, but I think most of you would agree with that. The problem with that is that evolution has become more or less a taboo subject, especially in America. Therefore, when it's just glossed over in science class, people don't learn enough about it to understand what SF is trying to do.

3) People can now get their SF fix from a lot of different places, and this is a lot different than it was in the 40's, 50's, and 60's.

All in all, it was quite a good time. I got my book signed, which I usually don't do, but I figured it was worth it for him. I also met another Denver author, Warren Hammond, whose first book will be released by Tor next month.

And, even though I'm pretty much broke, I also had to pick up a copy of Nick Sagan's Everfree. It's the final book in his first trilogy, and I've really been looking forward to getting my hands on it since it came out in trade paperback.

They also had a bargain price on Asimov's Guide to the Bible, which I've always wanted to have, but I decided to pass on it. Maybe once I get a job, I'll head back down there and pick that up!


Anonymous said...

I'd say that too often SFers have earned -- and even celebrated -- their image as childish, sexist, out of touch, irrelevant... alienating most of their potential audience. There's still a demand for SF elements, but it's supplied by children's and YA and romance and suspense/thriller writers who have adapted to the evolving market.

Keith said...

I strongly disagree. "Childish, sexist, out of touch, irrelevant" - That's not the SF that I know. Anonymous must be reading something different than what I am reading.

SF is losing it's market share to TV, sports, video games, internet and new media. Kids aren't readers and TV takes up the time that we used to use for reading. It is not SF that is loosing, but reading is out of style.

I teach at night at the local college. The kids aren't stupid, but they have never been challenged. They don't have to study or read or use their heads for anything than keeping their eyebrows up.

Anonymous said...


Sorry, I meant to sign that post.

But I think it's that image that comes to mind, not ours, when most people think of SF -- otherwise they'd be reading the stuff too.

The Harry Potter novels have definitely been able to compete with TV, sports, video games, internet, and new media; reading is not out of style. We shouldn't blame the readers for our own failure to grab them, our own inability -- so far -- to compete for their attention. It can be done.

Robert E. Porter

J Erwine said...

I think there was definitely an element of what Robert's talking about in older SF, and that probably has played a part in the bad image.

It is true, however, that people are reading less. Book sales are pretty much down all the time...except the months that a new Harry Potter book is released.

Now we just need someone to come up with a childrens' SF series that can capture the Harry Potter readers...then I might have readership by the time I retire!