I am one lucky duck — I get books sent to me all of the time to read and review — but there will never be a day when I don’t love spending an hour (or three) in a book store from time to time. What is better than flipping through pages, feeling the weight of a book in your hand, reading the back covers, sneering at silly romance novels, and discovering new books you wouldn’t have known about otherwise? Being the resident book geek, I contest that few things in life are better than browsing through books for hours on end — I mean, other than reading books for hours on end.
Putting me, and geeks like me, in a book store is even more dangerous than putting a kid in a candy store. I can look at the spines of books and completely disregard the piles and shelves of books I have at home. I may not NEED to spend 50 dollars on books, but more than likely I will. Well, that is, until recently. I can’t say if this is a phenomenon is wide spread, or just in every book store I have gone in recently, but what is happening to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section?
Now, I’ve accepted that the Sci Fi and Fantasy shelves are never going to be as numerous as I would like (sigh). What can a girl do but dream, right? However, now I’m starting to see my beloved section shrinking. In its place I’m finding more manga, and it is even being encroached on in some locations by True Crime and Mystery. While I’ll give that both of these section should be allowed to grow, especially if the readership is there… far be it from me to dissuade anyone reading ANYTHING, but why are the growing at the expense of another section? Are fewer people reading Science Fiction and Fantasy?
With this troubling though I looked deeper. I read through the titles and looked at the covers of the books in my strangled paradise and noticed something else: there was barely any science fiction. Oh sure, hopefully there will never be a day when the likes of Herbert, Butler, Asimov, Lovecraft, Gibson, Adams, or Heinlein disappear altogether from the shelves, but where are the new authors? Where is the space opera, military science fiction, biopunk, or cyberpunk?
As far as I can tell, the reason for this is Urban Fantasy and Steampunk. Now I know, you can argue with me that Steampunk is science fiction — I even wrote the Defining the Genre: The Punks on the subject — but even with the tech, it’s being added to fantasy stories, and as it appears to turn out, Fantasy is the dominant gene. Now, is there a problem with either one (or the juxtaposition of) these genres? HECK NO, but I can’t help but feel they have a stranglehold right now on book shelves and readers.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the genres to a degree. I even will go out of my way to read a book here or there, but deep down I’m a Science Fiction gal, and I can’t help but feel a little alienated when going into the book store, or even reading tweets and getting the review copies I get. (Do NOT get me wrong, I thank everyone who allows me to read the work of many of the new up and coming writers!) But seriously, give me some aliens, seemingly impossible planetary escapes, bad guys that fly spacecraft the likes of which we can only imagine, and for the love of everything ever, NO VAMPIRES.
Maybe I’m the minority. The bookshelves don’t seem to be catering to me, so maybe my kind isn’t buying enough, but how can we if it’s not available? Stop suffocating my shelf space and please, stock up a few more books about intergalactic travel and the exploration of new, yet undiscovered worlds. I feel the fantasy is very much an inward and backward-looking genre (I mean how many fantasies have you read set in the future? Eh?), and I think the day we stop looking out and forward is the day we’ve lost some of the wonder inherent in science fiction.
This is a wholehearted plea: do not restrict our access to science fiction! I know there MUST be just as many science fiction authors out there as fantasy writers. Give their books a chance! Next time you go to the bookstore, put down that 343rd book you looked at about a brooding vampire in love with an angsty mortal and pick up a book about daring deeds done in planets and galaxies far far away, or closer to home. Just say no to the restriction and reduction of our shelf space. VIVA SCIENCE FICTION!