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 The Decline of Science in SF
 Why Is Fantasy More Popular Than Science Fiction?
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6 Posts

Posted - 04/01/2007 :  13:04:43  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Walk into any bookstore and you'll likely find a section marked "Fantasy & Science Fiction". One of the first things you'll notice is that there are few (if any) science fiction books on sale there. Unless you're one of those people who lumps sword and sorcery tales or dragon stories in with "science fiction", you're unlikely to find many titles to choose.

If you ask the store owner about this situation, he'll probably tell you that fantasy books outsell science fiction novels by at least ten to one. Why?

My theory is that most people find the SF genre to be too strange and challenging. They prefer their wonder stories wrapped in familiar tropes, such as the one about the brave young man (girl) who goes on a sacred quest to find the magic ring (sword, book, sausage) and thwart the evil wizard (king, queen, plumber)in order to save the world. In other words, most people prefer the same old story retold thousands of times, with just a few minor tweaks.

Do you agree or am I being unfair to fantasy readers? Let me know your opinion.



203 Posts

Posted - 04/02/2007 :  14:59:17  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
I think that people like what they know. If you've ever been asked by friends to play a sport you're not good at, your inclination is to decline. Things you're not familiar with are not that interesting.

The sad fact is that people in 2007 (in America) are not that interested in science. I saw a news program the other night about a guy who made a billion dollars on Wall ST. He's spending $25 million of his own money to suppliment education in math in the US--why? While on Wall ST, he found it shockingly difficult to find American educated people to do financial analysis because they didn't understand math.

During the golden age of SF, America was going to the moon--people were very interested in science--it led to the tech explosion of the 70's, 80's, and 90's. It inspired other countries to follow suit because of the success of the US to raise living standards. Now the US is unable to supply the kind of people en masse to support this standard of living--anyone who has tried to fill hi-tech positions knows that most applicants are either forigen educated or came to the US for a tech education and stayed.

SF is based on stories where the background is based in the culture of science. For people who know very little about the culture of science, why would they find those kinds of stories interesting.

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6 Posts

Posted - 04/05/2007 :  11:41:54  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Thanks Specfiction. Unfortunately, you're right about the decline in interest in science. There's another difference between fantasy and science fiction that I forgot to mention in my earlier post.

Horror fiction aside, fantasy stories usually have happy endings, where Good triumphs over Evil. That's something we'd all like to see in real life, but seldom do. Science fiction stories are more open ended and they often have grim or ironic endings.

Back during the 1980s, one of the TV networks tried to revive the old Rod Serling series "The Twilight Zone". Serling was dead, so the producers didn't have the benefit of his genius, but the new TZ stories were done by some excellent writers, including Harlan Ellison. I remember telling a co-worker at my office that the thing I liked most about the series was the ironic twist ending that so many of the stories had. Well, "The Twilight Zone" (new version) got cancelled after about eight episodes. Why? Because the network got tons of mail from viewers ranting about how much they hated those ironic endings. If every story had ended happily, with Good triumphing over Evil, the program would have been much more popular.

Tastes differ and I'm not arguing that science fiction is better than fantasy, only that people who like one will probably not like the other.

Is there anyone reading this forum who disagrees? Let's have your opinion.

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12 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2007 :  17:54:49  Show Profile  Email Poster  Visit tamarawilhite's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Why did Star Trek voyager and TNG last so long? Good guys won, bad guys lost, and civilization was saved. Why are Epic movies back in full force? Same idea. Irony adds flavor to stories, but those who still love ironic endings tend to go more for mystery or horror these days instead of science fiction.

Tamara Wilhite/Humanity's Edge
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