Monday, October 24, 2011

Science Fiction? Find a Thesaurus!

In the world of publishing we always want to find the next big thing: the next Harry Potter, Twilight, or Hunger Games. There’s this little word, or rather, two words that keep on cropping up during these discussion: science fiction.

Is it back? Do teens want to read it?

Or does it still have a stigma? Is it too associated with nerds and video games? Trekkies and sci-fi conventions? Unpromising 20-something year old men still living at home in the basement?

I think it’s somewhere in between. The popularity of dystopian literature is really just another manifestation of a subgenre of science fiction.  Dystopian literature incorporates a lot of themes or common plots illustrated in the most basic of definitions for science fiction: “fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.” So if dystopian in hot, but readers might be ready for the next big thing, transitioning to straight science fiction seems natural, right?

Not so fast! Remember about that stigma? I’ll be the very first to admit that I don’t like sci fi. I don’t read it, watch it, think about it. And yet…I devoured all three books in the Hunger Games series one summer; Divergent left me dying to find out what would happen with Tris and the factions; some of the upcoming books I’m working on by Garth Nix have stunning world building; there is so much almost-science-fiction that is fantastic can’t-stop-turning-the-pages literature. But I don’t read sci fi.

And publishers have realized this conundrum. A reader who might love the world and action and characters of a novel set in a futuristic or alternative world might not pick the book up if it’s labeled as science fiction. Call it something else, and you have an audience: dystopian, futuristic, contemporary with a time travel twist, action adventure set in space. Readers will gobble these books up!

So whatever you call these trendy books, they’re not science fiction!

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