Fantasy vs Science Fiction in the marketplace
For example, here are the descriptions of books in one column which I randomly selected:
• omnibus of the five books in the young-adult quasi-fantasy series;
• young adult paranormal romance about a teen werewolf;
• adventure novel with SF/fantasy elements;
• young-adult fantasy novel;
• young-adult vampire novel;
• urban fantasy novel;
• Arthurian urban fantasy novel;
• collection of SF stories;
• historical romance with debatable fantasy elements;
• Young-adult fantasy adventure.
That is 1 science fiction book with 7 fantasy novels (one of them having only debatable fantasy elements. So why the heck is the book even listed here?). All right, perhaps that column was a fluke. Let’s try another random column:
• tie-in novel based on the collectible [fantasy] card game;
• reprint vampire novel;
• paranormal romance novel;
• collection of 20 [SF] stories;
• reprint archaeological thriller with supernatural elements;
• fantasy novel;
• urban fantasy novel;
• graphic novel inspired by Hal Clement’s Needle;
• anthology of eight stories of vampire erotica;
• original anthology of erotic SF and fantasy stories.
This is harder to pigeonhole: 1 SF book, 1 SF-inspired graphic novel, and ½ of an erotic anthology is SF. So count that as 2.5 SF out of 10 books.
At the end of the listing, the column keeps a running tally:
September Totals / 2010 Totals
SF: 26 / 162
Fantasy: 34 / 307
Horror: 21 / 133
Paranormal Romance: 24 / 213
Notice that the SF totals are surpassed easily by both fantasy and paranormal romance for the year. If you consider those four categories as the “genre” fiction published in 2010 to date, SF comprises a mere 20% of the total so far this year.
The good news is that 162 SF books have been published so far this year, but considering how varied the types of novels are which fall under the SF umbrella, perhaps 50% might fall into a specific reader’s comfort zone. That’s still 81 SF books, far more than most readers will buy in a single year.
In my case, I do read some fantasy, so long as it is neither contemporary nor urban fantasy (with an occasional exception, such as a Charles de Lint book). I prefer either historical fantasy or ones set in created worlds, since they provide more of the wonder similar to science fiction’s futuristic worlds. So while I am distrustful of the trends in genre publishing (paranormal romances will never appeal to me, nor am I likely to read any books featuring those overused fantasy tropes of vampires/werewolves/zombies), at least for now enough SF is still being published to satisfy my reading hunger.