Whoever keeps saying it needs to have a giant, Transformer’s robot pop them one in the mouth. SF ain’t dead. It ain’t dying. It ain’t even struggling to breathe. In fact, science fiction is probably doing better today than it ever was before. SF literature isn’t losing its place; it’s just evolving. I’ve shared similar concerns in the past, but the more I look at everything going on in SF right now, the more I think all these arguments about SF dying are pointless.
Let’s do the rundown.
- SF lit as a definitive category may be losing ground, but actual SF isn’t. Some of the biggest books being sold right now happen to be SF. They may not be great SF, but they’re still SF. Dan Brown’s work, for good or bad, contains a lot of SF elements, and other bestsellers are pulling similar sneak attacks. Some have complained about this, but I don’t see what’s wrong with it. SF is kicking hard, and that’s all that really matters.
- Media tie-in fiction is still fairly big, as it always has been. Star Wars books tend to sell very well, and some of them have made it to the bestseller’s lists in the last decade, and other franchises have opened up their own fiction lines, some to glorious success, and others less so. A lot of the best media tie-in fiction happens to be science fiction. We can, of course, argue until we’re blue in the face about whether media tie-in stuff is worth recognizing, but it’s still as much a part of the SF genre as original fiction.
- SF films are bigger today than they ever were before. Just look at the list of the biggest movies in the last ten years and you’ll likely see a whole hell of a lot of SF there. Transformers, Star Wars (prequels), Wall-E, The Dark Knight, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and even all those terrible SF-ish shows on the networks; all are prime examples of why people still love SF.
- More people know what science fiction is today, at least on a basic level, than they did ten years ago. It used to be that I had to explain to everyone I met what science fiction is (with exception to the occasional SF nut that I met). Now? More and more people are aware of it and actively watch or read it, even if they don’t know they are doing so. It’s a part of our cultural consciousness and I highly doubt it will be removed any time soon.
So all this talk about science fiction being dead, or almost dead, or dying, or whatever it is folks are saying is a load of bologna. SF is doing just fine. It’s alive and kicking butt. And if you don’t believe me now, just wait for Avatar to bring up half a billion dollars in sales…
Shaun Duke is a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, and fantasy. He regularly blogs at The World in the Satin Bag and is the co-owner of Young Writers Online, a web community and writing workshop for young writers. You can learn more about Survival By Storytelling Magazine at http://sbsmag.wordpress.com/.