--- On Mon, 6/30/08, Gerald W Page <email@example.com> wrote:
Well, this is certainly a tricky area to make sweeping generalities in. Through the entire pulp era, science fiction was the poor cousin of popular fiction genres. It used to be argued that once we get to the moon, no one would want to read it any more. There were people in the sf field who said that. Yet the rise of technology has spurred sf to the forefront of genre fiction, where it's been for some time now.
As an writer trying to publish a first crime novel, agents are telling me that fiction and genre fiction in particular are very hard markets to crack right now. Several agents have explained to me that Publishers are looking for books they can sell in large quantities to institutions and schools. Non-fiction is more popular than it ever has been. Most new books published today are non-fiction books. The fiction being published is by established writers with bankable track records or authors with notoriety of one sort or another. Reading for entertainment apparently is at an all-time low.
Reading is a style driven occupation. As Gerald points out, Science Fiction and horror have been top genres for a few decades now, but their day seems to be waning. Harry Potter has developed a huge market of readers but unlike Stephen King's early work, these books are not spinning off successful imitators. Readers drawn to Rowling seem to be drawn to her voice, more than her subject matter. Likewise Dan Brown's Freemasonic conspiracy did not spearhead a successful school of conspiracy novels.
I am not of the opinion that genre fiction will die off. Hollywood is notoriously unimaginative and has always required novels to spin their plots. I have been told by many people that as the cost of television channels goes higher and higher they are returning to books for entertainment and information. I'll believe this when I see it, but people are saying it. In the meantime, television shows become more elaborate and expensive and more frequently based on novels.
Nonetheless, if you go into that local bookstores struggling to survive in most small cities, and note the new title offerings, there is very little new fiction and what is offered is by long established authors. That which is empty fills... hopefully.
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