Here is a response to "The Tolkien Bubble."
Not to worry. Science fiction has been around a long, long time, and as long as writers write science fiction tales that keep readers turning pages, the genre will stick around for a good while longer.
Science fiction and fantasy have coexisted since way back when, and I can think of no reason why the two genres (or are they both sub-genres of speculative fiction, as some claim?) can't continue to coexist. The way I see it, sci-fi (a dirty word?) and fantasy seem to take turns being in the bubble. When the Tolkien Bubble pops, a new sci-fi bubble will emerge. And don't forget horror, also considered by some to be a sub-genre of speculative fiction (specific). Speaking of horror, could we say that there is a "Stephen King bubble" floating around now?
If sci-fi fades, the sci-fi writers will be to blame for not giving readers entertaining, page-turning, sense-of-wonder stories. So far, we haven't had a shortage of good storytellers. There were great writers in the early days, such as Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. But the writers who started sci-fi on the way to the popularity it now enjoys, were the writers of the "Golden Age of Science Fiction," headed by Asimov, Heinlein, and van Vogt.
So it boils down to this: In the genres of science fiction and fantasy, readers look for stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, sense-of-wonder, and maybe a little romance thrown in for seasoning. The science should be accurate (except perhaps for the FTL drives and time travel devices). But readers don't won't to get saturated with sci-babble.
Most readers, except for the sci-fi snobs, will skip over long explanations of how the FTL drive works, just as most readers skip over long, flowery descriptions of characters or scenery.
To paraphrase an axiom in the real estate business, there are three things that will sell fiction: Good stories, good stories, and good stories.
Thank you for the response and words of good cheer, Donald. (Or Don S., if you like, since I go by “Don W.” on the Analog and Asimov’s forums) You’ve given us some very sensible and practical advice. Now, as I’m wont to do, I’ll take a long view. However, the points I make complement yours, and readers may be justified in seeing them as tangential. For that reason I’ll continue the discussion under a separate title.
Copyright © 2004 by Donald Sullivan and Bewildering Stories
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