It seems science fiction and fantasy authors have never garnered the same respect as other genres – particularly literary fiction, which many critics think of as the true art of the literary world. But times, they are a-changing. With the emergence of popular science fiction hits, such as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series (which transitioned into the hugely successful HBO series True Blood) and the newly released A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the lines between the genres are becoming blurred. Suddenly, science fiction can be considered literary. Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl received rave reviews and was named one of the best books of the year in 2009 by Time Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Library Journal. Bacigalupi’s creation of a futuristic world of bio-engineered plagues and calories as currency was compared to the creative world of 1984. Admittedly, the book was a bit over my head, but my husband really enjoyed it (and he’s not even a regular reader!).
According to a study by Stuart Johnson and Associate and Simba Information cited in The Wall Street Journal, the number of sci-fi/fantasy books on the bestsellers list in 2010 more than doubled since 2006 – evidence that this is a growing trend in publishing. Check out the link to their article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304520804576343310420118894.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
If you take a walk through the teen fiction section of any bookstore, it is quite clear that supernatural fiction is hot. There are shelves upon shelves of books about vampires, werewolves, zombies, fallen angels, etc. Christopher Paolini and his Eragon series, Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series, J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series, and most recently, Suzanne Collins and her Hunger Games series, have paved the way for other authors to jump outside their norms to create crossover books with imagination and depth that will be well-received. It was only a matter of time before this supernatural obsession would find its way into adult literature.
I, for one, am thrilled that science fiction and fantasy authors are finally beginning to get the respect they deserve. Stephen King has sold over 350 million books. Dean Koontz has sold 450 million books. Numbers don’t lie. These books are popular for a reason. Now authors whose works have always been considered literary fiction are branching out in new directions – with success and accolades!
What does this say about readers? I think we’re looking for an escape from reality. We’re looking for more creativity from our authors. Literary fiction will always be highly praised and will remain a big seller as well, but the sci-fi/fantasy authors are proving that their work can be just as insightful and profound. As a lover of all genres of fiction, science fiction and fantasy have remained my favorite since I was young. It’s the reason the novel I’m currently working on is YA science fiction. I love it and I’m thrilled to see that this genre is finally gaining the recognition and praise it deserves.