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Who, Exactly, is Saying that Science Fiction is Dying?

I’m currently reading The Year’s Best Science Fiction #23 edited by Gardner Dozois and in his always-comprehensive summary of the year, Gardner yet again lays to rest the false claim the science fiction is dying. This is the same defensive stance he’s taken in many, many previous volumes.

I bought into this claim that sf is not dying. There’s no reason to think it is as far as I can see. But who, exactly, is saying that science fiction is dying? All I ever see are people saying that sf is not dying as other claim. Who are these “others” of which they speak?

A quick Google search shows that Orson Scott Card is (or was) one back in 2001. Is that it?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

6 Comments on Who, Exactly, is Saying that Science Fiction is Dying?

  1. If you read the introduction to the Hartwell/Cramer annual, it seems less that SF itself is dying as magazines (and, by implication, short SF).

    Maybe the time of the printed periodical is passing. I’d like to know if Dell is doing well with their online versions of Analog and Asimov’s. And I wonder how Baen is doing with Universe.

  2. Well periodicals and book the publishing industry in general are having problems.

    And it must be hard for SF periodicals to attract new readers judging by what I’ve seen recently. Checking out three big bookstores (Borders and two Barnes and Noble) recently and I noticed that the extensive magazine sections had no actual SF fiction magazines. SF media stuff like Cult Times, yes, but that’s it.

    Near where I work there are two dedicated magazine stores. They both have the big three, but oh where they put them. One put them on display shelves literally 8 feet above the ground and so pretty much out of sight for people. I had to get a ladder to reach them. The other hid them behind the entrance door and since the door is usually open it physically blocks them from sight.

    I don’t know how prevalent those bookstore and magazine store examples are but I’m betting that’s pretty common. It would definitely discourage new or curious buyers.

  3. What are the arguments Dezois uses? Is he counting new book sales or number published?

  4. Robert J. Sawyer published an aritcle in Canada’s Globe and Mail back in Sept. 2004. Neil Gaiman made some very good points in his blog against it.

  5. Really, the prophets are doom are disgruntled fans/critics/authors who don’t like “it”.

    Issue 208 of the New York Review of Science Fiction has an article called ‘The Exaggerated Reports of the Death of Science Fiction’, about pretty much just that.

    Though I think these doomsayers are right to a point: if you wanna write a Tom Corbett-style Golden Age story, tough luck; if you’re into the new age SF, that ship has sailed. Ditto cyberpunk, feminist SF. But hey, we got singularity and transhuman stuff!

    Matt Cheney in a column for Strange Horizons (okay, the comments forum) put it this way: everytime somebody claims SF is dying, what they mean is that SF is changing.

    It’s sad about the print magazines. There are enough ezines, and chances are more will come, to help break in new authors, though it will get rough for authors whose forte is short fiction.

  6. Scott,

    Short answer: he uses the number published.

    Longer answer: Dozois’ summation cites short fiction as the only troubled market for sf and gives decreased subscriptions and sales numbers to back it up as well as the closing of short fiction markets like SCI FICTION and The Infinite Matrix. He also says no long-established sf lines were lost nor were there any new imprints in 2005. (2004 saw 5 new sf imprints which are doing well.) Also, many titles sold substantial numbers but nowhere near the numbers of Harry Potter and A Feast for Crows. Overall the number of books published were down slightly, but this is after 4 consecutive years of record increases.


    Thanks for the resources and the eye-opening point of view. I love the Cheney quote. I think he nails it perfectly. Anyone who is bemoaning the death of sf needs to back it up somehow. As far as I can see, no one has. That makes it all the more perplexing to me why people bother responding to such allegations. When I usually hear about the so-called death of sf, it’s usually because the people who are defending it are more vocal than the people who misunderstand it.

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