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So Who Can Save Science Fiction? –

So Who Can Save Science Fiction?

Sunday , 12, March 2017 44 Comments

We know Sci-Fi is in the ICU, stabbed through the kidneys with a poisoned blade, barely clinging to life. Thanks to the brilliant work of yours truly, Doctor Warpig, we even know who shivved it with a shank. But how do we save it?

Let the Doctor show you the way.

Lets begin with one simple truth: if people aren’t buying what you’re selling, it’s YOUR fault. You’re not making what they want. People aren’t buying SF, because SF isn’t selling what they want to read, and hasn’t for generations.

This is a major problem, because people’s tastes have changed. And once changed, it’s hard to change them back.

Audience-repelling short stories repelled them (oddly enough), so they stopped reading, and now nearly all readers are unused to the format. To revive the short story market, people’d have to be induced to read short stories again, to become used to them. It can be done—Cirsova did it for me—but it’s not easy.

This goes for the rest of Sci-Fi as well. The audience was driven off, so they stopped reading SF—and many simply stopped reading altogether. This is actually hopeful—it means there’s an underserved market out there, a large, potentially huge group of people who could become regular readers, if they were induced to read again. Dan Brown, JK Rowling, and Stephanie Meyers show this is possible.

Romance, I assert, primarily appeals to women, Science Fiction to men. Romance sells in absolute buckets, SF not so much. Modern men, we are told, also read less than women, in historically low numbers.

This means men are an underserved market in publishing in general, and SF in particular. Men are currently not readers, but could be—if there were material that appealed to them.

What appeals to men? Adventure, heroics, and sex appeal: sultry villainesses, scantily clad wenches, and strong-but-feminine leading ladies the hero can woo and win.

Men—mainstream men, aka “normies”— love honorable heroes and vile villains, they love battles between good and evil, they love exploration and danger. They love strong, admirable men risking life and limb to do brave deeds. These are masculine ideals, and men love fiction that evinces them. Not subverts them, not mocks them, but displays them and embodies them, boldly and unapologetically.

Men love big damn heroes. Good men want to be big damn heroes, and they want stories that exalt big damn heroes.

Very little of this sort of fiction is made nowadays, but it used to be ubiquitous, its ubiquity corresponding to the time in which Fantasy & Science Fiction was the most popular it’s ever been. Banishing heroism broke the back of the genre, and began its fall to its present low state.

Normies, specifically normie men, are a vast and untapped market. Give them stories worth reading, stories that remind them what men can and should be, and reminds them that they are men, and they will love these stories. (Many women will, too. Women love masculine men, and love stories of masculine men.)

This world needs masculine men, now more than ever. It needs honorable and upright men of virtue and integrity. It needs men who are willing to confront evil, unafraid to call it evil, and willing to fight—and if needs be die—to defeat evil. This world needs stories that evoke and honor those ideals—compelling stories, entertaining stories, moving stories, not preachy lectures, but STORIES—because it is in the imagination of men that their character is first birthed.

Fill men’s mind with tales that venerate cowardice, and you breed cowards. Fill men’s mind with tales that exalt promiscuity, and you breed selfish and iniquitous males. Fill men’s minds with tales that esteem geekhood, and you breed geeks.

But fill men’s mind with tales of virtue and manliness, and you breed MEN. Strong, assertive, confident, competent, candid, honorable—MEN.

The great opportunity is this: thrilling tales of heroics and adventure are what Fantasy & Science Fiction is MEANT for. It is F&SF’s metier, that thing which—above all else—it does best.

Fantasy & Science Fiction can be the venue for a variety of stories: war stories, mysteries, romances. But what this genre is best at are tales of heroics, tales of great evil and great good, tales of adventure and bravery, and tales of big damn heroes.

You want to save Science Fiction? You want to propel it to new heights? Look to simple tales, well told, tales of heroes and villains, tales of beauty and awe, tales where the big damn hero fights the evil villain, then persists and overcomes, and wins the gorgeous dame.

Do this, and SF will be taken off life support. SF will thrive again. So says Doctor Warpig.

Now go forth, write amazing stuff, and conquer. The power is in your hands.

NOTE—This is the third of a series: Part One. Part Two.

Jasyn Jones, better known as Daddy Warpig, is a host on the Geek Gab podcast, a regular on the Superversive SF livestreams, and blogs at Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery. Check him out on Twitter.

  • Nathan says:

    Adventure sells:

    “A lot of sf book lines died in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some magazines, including the one that I used to edit, lost a vast amount of readership when those literary attitudes I just mentioned took over at the turn of this century.

    “On the other hand, some of the sf magazines grew in circulation. For example, Asimov’s Science Fiction grew in overall circulation after Sheila Williams became editor. She got rid of a lot of the slipstream fiction (the stuff you couldn’t tell from realistic fiction) and purchased a lot of space opera and adventure fiction.”

    -Kristine Kathryn Rush, “Invisible Women”, Women of Futures Past.

  • David VanDyke says:

    I agree with most of this, and I especially agree with the conclusions–but not this, completely:

    “Romance, I assert, primarily appeals to women,” (true)

    “Science Fiction to men” (only half true). Rather, it’s the other way around. It’s not that sci-fi appeals primarily to men, it’s that men are primarily attracted to adventure in all its forms, including a heavy dose of science fiction in our forward-looking technological culture. I know this because I write mostly science fiction, along with some fantasy and mystery, and my readership, so far as I can tell, is well balanced between men and women.

    “Romance sells in absolute buckets, SF not so much.” Technically true, “not so much,” but SFF is, by most surveys and measures, either the second-selling or third-selling genre overall, and it’s solidly second for independent authors, while for traditional authors it’s fourth behind mysteries and thrillers, because of the tradpub dominance in those two genres.

    Why is indie SFF doing so much better? For exactly the reasons you talk about. Authors like me are writing adventure, with heroic heroes and evil villains who are that way for all the real-world, established reasons: love of ill-gotten gain, love of cruelty, love of power, lack of empathy, lack of morals–not because “it’s not their fault, life did it to them.”

    “Men, we are told, also read less than women, historically low numbers.” This starts with boys, who have the push-away of namby-pamby non-adventure juvenile fiction (that’s why they still love Goosebumps and Lemony Snicket and comic books and other non-PC stuff, when they find it) and the pull of some TV, film and video games, which do generally provide a form of adventure, even if often neutered or twisted.

    Indie SFF is alive and well with the baby boomers. If you had to point at one problem area, though: we’re losing boys.

  • You skipped a step.

    Is Science Fiction Worth Saving?

    I think that’s a serious question, and I’d like to see you give it the same sort of contemplation that you’ve given the other sections of this essay.

    I absolutely agree that Heroic Fiction that celebrates the virtues of manhood is important, but is Science Fiction the place to make that stand?

    Is the title worth fighting for? Those particular words? From what I’ve seen the majority of the authors and works that I love have never been more that second class citizens in the Sci Fi ghetto–we’ll count you when we need the numbers, and we’ll claim your accolades as our own, but sit in the corner and don’t speak unless spoken to.

    George Alec Effinger wrote brilliant, insightful novels that explored the metaphysics of meaning, but it wasn’t until “When Gravity Fails” picked up some good ink from the cyberpunk crowd that the Secret Masters Of Fandom bothered to pay any attention to him.

    Most of the Sci Fi crowd only knows the name Philip Dick because of the (usually dreadful) movies based on his stories.

    Writers like James Herbert and Robert McCammon and Peter Straub and Whitley Strieber gave up on the Sci Fi brand and called their work Horror.

    For years Science Fiction has been excluding anyone who dares to take a step off the reservation. Now that genre is dying from self-inflicted wounds we’re supposed to rush back in and save it?

    Why bother? Why not simply begin calling the work of new authors Heroic Fiction and letting the phrase “Science Fiction” go the way of the dodo?

    Not trying to start a fight, I’d really like your thoughts on this question.

    • Jeffro says:

      This is a good point. I prefer weird fiction, pulp fantasy, science fantasy, and planetary romance to whatever the heck people think “science fiction” and “fantasy” is today anyway.

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      I try not to get hung up on genre labels, unless I’m talking to people who are and I need to make myself understood by speaking their language.

      Fantasy & Science Fiction is one genre, separate and indivisible. Some stories have technology and aliens, others magic and nonhumans, others technology and magic.

      Yes, it’s worth it to salvage the good pieces from technology-centric F&SF, and to ensure that stories like that still get told. Even if we have to call them “SF” so the obsessives can understand.

      • Nathan says:

        Have casuals managed to win back any game or fandom from the hardcores?

        • Jasyn Jones says:

          SF “Fandom” is irrelevant. They won’t read Pulp Rev works or talk about them, except to sneer.

          We’re building our own separate scene, with our own separate body of fans.

          We’re the future, not them.

      • There are so many ways to parse genres. If your discriminatory rubric is the presence of contrafactual elements, then yes, Fantasy and Science Fiction are on one side of that fence. But so is Horror and Magical Realism and a fair amount of what gets labeled Techno-thriller or even Historical Fiction.

        But is that a significant division for sales demographic purposes? Is a reader of Jerry Pournelle more likely to pick up a book by Marion Zimmer Bradley than one by Frederick Forsyth? I think not.

        I consider action movies like “The Transporter” and “Die Hard” to be Fantasy–what one might call “Mundane Heroic Fantasy”–but that’s because I know how airshafts and elevators work in the real world and have to engage my willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy them. (Which I willingly do.)

        Are the SF obsessives a market worth catering to? I don’t know.

      • Nathan says:

        It’s also important to remember that when science fiction divorced itself from weird fiction, many genres were either lost or absorbed by other mystery genres. We remember the loss of planetary romance from science fiction as many of us are E. R. Burroughs fans. We talk of Red and Blue and Pink, but forget that Orange and Green and Gold once existed. But chinoserie and japonisme went to historical fiction, Hugo Gernsback’s forensic science fiction went to mystery, heroic pulps to comics and thrillers, and weird menace was lost to the censors.

      • B&N says:

        “Fantasy & Science Fiction is one genre, separate and indivisible.”

        The same could be said of mythology and religion.

        • Jesse Lucas says:

          It’s no accident so many of us read Lewis and Chesterton.

          • B&N says:

            “For the truth is, that to the moderately poor the home is the only place of liberty. Nay, it is the only place of anarchy. It is the only spot on the earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment or indulge in a whim. Everywhere else he goes he must accept the strict rules of the shop, inn, club, or museum that he happens to enter. He can eat his meals on the floor in his own house if he likes. I often do it myself; it gives a curious, childish, poetic, picnic feeling. There would be considerable trouble if I tried to do it in an A.B.C. tea-shop.”
            -Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World

  • SF as published by the Big Five is dying, and good riddance to it.

    Other publishing houses will take their place. Indy sci-fi on Amazon sells pretty well, and Baen sci-fi books continue to sell like hotcakes. I have two entire bookcases at home with nothing but Baen books in them.

  • Mr Tines says:

    In what comes closest to the “Two-Fisted Tales” style, the techno-thriller in the Tom Clancy mould covers a whole range of hardware-focused stories that would have been outright SF back in the Golden Age, simply by using early 21st century technology in a casual fashion.

    The niche for stories where the science is the hook has been shrunk — you get glimmers of it when Greg Egan wraps something from the quantum gravity research he’s involved with into the form a novel — but we’re really into the engineering phase now.

    The world of today has so much caught up or bypassed the speculations of even a generation ago, let alone the pre-War heyday; the science-fictional has become everyday, even if we don’t have the flying cars and skiing holidays on Mars. This decade, reading near-future SF set in [current year] is an exercise in retro-future shock (“Where are their iPhones?”). And it’s sad to watch authors having to retro-fit 3D printing into their far future settings.

    If all that’s left for the genre is to turn into boy-meets-girl, then I guess it’s time to get off this ride.

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      Come on, man, you really can’t think the Conan stories or the Lensman novels are ROM-COMS. Let’s not get craaaaaaaazy here.

      • Mr Tines says:

        After going on 40 years, all I remember of Conan is that, contra D&D implementations, he was quite happy in a mail shirt, so I’ll take a bye on that one.

        As for the Lensman series, were it not for the Arisian eugenics thing being set up for the finale, the “hot nurse” subplot could have been dropped without significant impact on the escalating space battle part of the series.

  • Alexandru says:

    The irony is that the manliest men who kick ass and get the girl are all still very much the staple of Romance novels. The manly adventure guy is easily found in any random romance but no longer in sci-fi and fantasy.

    • deuce says:

      That’s because Romance novels give many women what they actually want in a story. Elsewhere, it’s women and white knights telling US what we SHOULD want.

  • Nat says:

    That essay is an excellent job of completely misunderstanding both SF and the differences between SF and fantasy.

    The point of SF is exploring ideas—”what-ifs”. Yes, I want interesting and believable characters, but I don’t read SF for the characters. If the characters were what drew me, I’d be reading traditional dramas, or action-dramas (like spy thrillers).

    I don’t read fantasy for the characters, I read it for the fantasy—the escapism, the new worlds, the amazing, cool stuff. I want interesting and believable characters, but they’re not what draws me. If I wanted stories if manly men doing manly man things, I’d pick a genre focused on that, like spy thrillers or action/adventure stories. In fact, while I don’t read anything in those genres, they’re a couple of my favorite genres in TV, so I certainly enjoy that style of story sometimes.

    But it really has nothing particularly in common with fantasy, and actively gets in the way of good SF.

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      Conan and the Lensmen and also Northwest Smith said they think you’re mistaken.

    • deuce says:

      Your concern is duly noted, Nat.

      ‘The point of SF is exploring ideas—”what-ifs”.’

      ALL fiction explores “what-ifs”. That’s the point of fiction.

    • If all I cared about was the “what-if” I’d read non-fiction articles about science–and there are a lot of good ones by authors like Issac Asimov, Larry Niven, and so on.

      But a investigation into science or engineering is not fiction. Fiction is the province of characters. Which is why so many works by hard SF writers like the ones I mentioned above read more like engineering texts than stories.

      I happen to enjoy stories about characters who are in extraordinary circumstances. The tools of speculative fiction allow authors to put characters in situations that the real world does not allow.

      “What if faster than light travel was possible” isn’t a story. “Joe goes to an extrasolar planet and sees things that no human has ever seen before” is a story.

    • Blume says:

      I definitely feel otherwise. If you don’t have a sympathetic character exploring the what if, then I am going to check out of the story. They don’t have to be jasyn’s men of action but I have to care about what they are doing.

  • Peter Jacobs says:

    Men read comics. They want pictures. And most comics are fringe SF. Write intelligent comics

  • I recently took a genre structure class and it was very eye-opening because I thought I understood genre pretty well going into it. But the take away was that what killed science fiction was the trick endings and the way those types of endings damaged trust.

    Beginnings or hooks sell your current book. Endings sell your next one. When sci-fi stopped fulfilling the promise of a good ending to a good story with good people fighting and overcoming evil, it might’ve been edgy for awhile, but why would anyone want to spend all that time with a book whose intent is to spit in your face? Or make you slit your wrists because in the end we’re all going to die and the heat/entropic death of the universe is all we really have to look forward to?

    Readers no longer trust the genre, for all the reasons stated by Jasyn Jones (preachiness, lack of appeal on all levels, etc). Dare I say it? Kowtowing to political correctness and social justice messaging killed science fiction. I guess it made the most fertile ground for that kind of thing because of the speculative nature of the setting, characters, and plot. After all, where else can you have completely androgynous characters? Or all-powerful characters that might as well be gods, but without the ickiness of religion. What better setting in which to pretend your messaging isn’t just another article of faith even though you’re convinced that it’s settled “science”?

    I had the misfortune of being lured in by a story labeled as romance and science fiction. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love romance (that’s a little “r” BTW, not a big “R” and it’s intentional) and I really, really love my romances inside a science-fiction milieu vs a fantasy one because deep down I’m still the geek that went into the sciences to be a scientist. This “thing” called a story had as its premise that aliens come to Earth and make us eat healthy and give up our cars so we don’t die of diabetes. Because they’re so powerful they take over and make us do what’s good for us. Yep, that’s what’s labeled as sci-fi today. Because beings that can travel across the galaxy will do so to make sure that social justice cause # 4569277 is enforced.

    Maybe I’m just really weird in my expectation that such powerful aliens would, I don’t know, maybe find a scientific solution to the problem of diabetes, or any one of a myriad of problems. But no. Because it’s not about science. It’s about messaging. To the people churning this stuff out, it’s about advancing their pet cause. Some of them wrap it really well, with decent writing to lure a reader in, with characters that start out as sympathetic, but it’s still utter crap and it certainly isn’t science fiction. And I get that this type of book was probably a romance first and only had the trappings of science fiction, but my point still stands — that it’s about the messaging uber alles. It’s about turning people into docile sheep who need to be taken care of by their superiors. They’re superior because they have spaceships, don’t you know? Because they have science. Using science to subjugate people is cool. Using to find a cure, is meh, because we are now eating healthy and riding our bikes to work instead. Neato. No, I didn’t finish the stupid thing. It’s stuff like this that makes me tear my hair out as a reader, because I don’t know what I’m getting, because anything goes. Anything can be called science fiction. All you need is one speculative element that can marginally be called science. Technically a story set one year from now is science fiction, right?

    Compare that with genres that aren’t a free-for-all, that have prescribed endings and well-defined conventions. The most rigid one, big “R” romance outsells all others. Because readers trust the genre and the sub-genres. Which leads me into …

    Women DO love masculine men and honor and virtue and they’re not getting it. Not in science fiction anyway. Not for sure. Some authors deliver and if we’re lucky enough to find them and they don’t screw us, we keep buying, but as a GENRE, we don’t trust it. What do we trust? Historical romances. Because in that milieu it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll get what you’re paying for. The formula for a good story is almost baked in. The ending is prescribed — a happily ever after, i.e. the good guys winning. You don’t have to worry about spending 300 pages with a book that’s going to make you want to slit your wrists because in the end the hero is no better than the villain. Whatever else it’s faults, with romances you at least get what you pay for.

    • Jasyn Jones says:

      Well said.

    • Correction: Whatever else its faults, with HISTORICAL romances you at least get what you pay for.

    • Nathan says:

      Is there a book or textbook for that genre structure class? Sounds like it might make interesting reading.

      • No, it was all lecture.

        One of the other relevant points was that “literary” as opposed to big “L” Literary, is an UMBRELLA genre, which I think might play into its numbers. A work can be both SF and literary, for example. It either has to be a classic (i.e. being studied and analyzed by the college literati for example) or its style/prose makes it “Literary”. In a lot of ways it’s even wider than SF in scope. “Literary” is also where they dump things that they can’t classify anywhere else. The genre called “Literary” was touted as the smallest selling, even behind SF because of the breath of its scope. I think that books that are strictly “Literary” meaning that they are in that section of the store based on voice and style alone (and can’t be placed in any other genre like speculative or romance or any other) have worse numbers than SF.

    • deuce says:

      Wow. Excellent post, Monalisa. A lot of good stuff to think about in there. I think you’re absolutely right that historical romances do well because they give their audiences WHAT THEY WANT.

      When the Poindexters chopped the “adventure” off “science fiction adventure” and made the genre definition “fiction about science”, they slit the wrist of the genre. The vast majority of people read to be entertained, not to be “challenged” or blind-sided or disappointed.

  • Toddy Cat says:

    “Fill men’s mind with tales that venerate cowardice, and you breed cowards. Fill men’s mind with tales that exalt promiscuity, and you breed selfish and iniquitous males. Fill men’s minds with tales that esteem geekhood, and you breed geeks. But fill men’s mind with tales of virtue and manliness, and you breed MEN. Strong, assertive, confident, competent, candid, honorable—MEN.”

    Science Fiction aside, this ought to damn-well be carved in granite somewhere…

  • Galaxy says:

    That sounds boring and unimaginative. Is this suposse to save science fiction or drive it even further into obscurity?

  • Karl2000 says:

    The idea that pulp Sci-Fi was mainstream popular before the 1960’s is completely false. Sci-Fi was considered ham-fisted schlock for prepubescent boys in those days. Main stream literature during the time your talking about was John Steinbeck and F Scott Fitzgerald. People liked realism back in them days, and they considered Sci-Fi to be Fantasy drivel for children. You cited Edger Rice Burroughs Tarzan books as an example of main stream literature, completely ignoring the fact that his stories where printed mostly in pulp magazines.They where hardly best selling hardbacks. You also cite Conan as “mainstream popular” which is not entirely true considering that Robert E Howard only ever saw his stories printed in pulp. And in fact his stories only got printed in paper back decades after his death as an obscure niche favorite. You also mention Batman which doesn’t really fit into an argument for Sci-Fi Books. I mean, If your going to use Bat Man as an example of a golden age gone by, then I could easily counter that by saying Spider Man and the X Men are examples of main stream popular Sci-Fi post “golden age”. Both of which were invented in the 1960’s and reached peak popularity in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Before there respective movies came out. Also, if your going to mention classic Sci-Fi Literature as examples of old books that are still embedded in Main Stream popular culture, you could have at least said War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and 1984. I also Noted that there was an underlining sub text of bias towards left wing politics in your article. Now, I don’t subscribe to any left wing Ideologies, but if your going to try and slip your politics into your article, try not to be so transparent about it. You completely lost me when you started talking about manly men being manly. There’s lot’s of stuff that is of the literary caliber of Tarzan and Conan for “masculine men” to dig there teeth into in this day and age. Just read Tom Clancy or the like. Or maybe Bret Easton Ellis would be your cup of tea? Your argument is completely straw man. Because the fact of the matter is, Si-Fi literature has never been “mainstream” in the truest sense of the word. Other than a few examples outside of literature such as Star Wars, E.T and the Twilight Zone. It’s not like the 20th century ever had long periods of success with huge Sci-Fi films and books like they did with Westerns or Action movies. I don’t recall a series of successful Sci-Fi books as popular as the likes of Stephen King. In fact, If you want the type of “manly” heroes that your so enamored with, look no further than the slew of Marvel Movies that are being produced now. And you still have the comics and Tom Clancy. I’m Struggling to see your point.

    • Hooc ott says:

      “if your going to try and slip your politics into your article, try not to be so transparent about it.”

      Don’t be transparent about it?

      “Now, I don’t subscribe to any left wing Ideologies”

      I don’t believe you. Not even a little.

    • Brian Renninger says:

      Well, first of all, you are apples and oranging it. If you are going to discuss “mainstream” in the context of the discussion presented in the article you’ll need to use the same definition used in the article. You start by redefining “mainstream” as “literary” whereas “mainstream” as used (the one time) in the article means read by the average person of the day. To say pulp was mainstream is to note that in aggregate pulp fiction was read by the average person in vastly greater amounts than “literary” fiction. You deride Burroughs due to being published in pulp magazines which is entirely beside the point. Besides, in that you are also factually incorrect; Tarzan of the Apes was published in Hardcover June 6, 1914 and the Burroughs books continued on from there. Tarzan did in fact result in many a Hollywood blockbuster (radio, serials, movies, and ultimately television) which you claim not to have existed. Though I don’t have the numbers I bet the hours devoted solely to Tarzan on non-print media outnumber all the hours of non-print media inspired by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Ellis, Clancy, and even King combined. And, as to other SF, you are right, there were not long periods of SF film runs with say the popularity of the western back in the day. There are a number of reasons for this. Mostly because shooting a western is vastly cheaper than shooting SF. Plus, the necessary special effects just weren’t available in the early years. And, yet, even so, Gene Autry, who could have kept making pure westerns chose to make The Phantom Empire serial — that wasn’t because SF was unpopular.

      As to Howard’s popularity. Well, he was no Burroughs but, he was pretty much the most popular writer for Weird Tales, and would also have had a novel published in Hardback if the publisher hadn’t gone under in early 1936. If Howard hadn’t blown his brains out a few months later, who knows how popular he might have gotten back then.

      And, finally, King. You use King to say you “don’t recall a series of successful Sci-Fi books as popular as the likes of Stephen King.” This is laughable in it’s face. Firstly, you have to draw upon one of the most popular writers of all time in order to look down from lofty heights upon lowly SF. SF is doing pretty good if King is the big gun you need to draw to try to prove your point. And, in any case Rowling has given him a pretty good run for his money. Though I suppose if you are comparing popularity in the 30s to today, well, that’s apples and oranges again as populations and distribution was much different. But, most importantly, you forget that a huge portion (and arguably the majority) of King’s writing is fantastic. King writes fantasy, SF, weird fiction, and essentially all the genres of the pulps from back in the day. And, King became popular in the pulp format of his era — the paperback novel. King is a pulp writer and you are right he is as mainstream as it gets.

      You want to pursue the tautology of defining mainstream as not pulp and then deriding pulp as not mainstream. Well, you have fun with that but, don’t expect to convince anyone.

    • Hooc Ott says:

      “Spider Man and the X Men”
      “Star Wars”

      All inspired by Burroughs

      Speaking of Spider Man and X Men

      Amazing fantasy #15 1962
      Uncanny X-men #1 1963
      Conan the Barbarian #1 1970
      Savage Sword of Conan #1 1974

      Came out just 7-8 years after your named Silver Age comics and sold all the way up to 1993. Also had two comics well before spider-man or X-Men had multiple comics.

      Spiderman and X-Men are still selling but remember Conan was a licensed property and all Marvel Comics today are lead loss sellers.

      Plus Dark Horse on the regular puts out Conan comics AND unlike Disney owned Marvel they do have to make money when they print something.

      “I don’t recall a series of successful Sci-Fi books as popular as the likes of Stephen King.”

      Edgar Rice Burroughs sold more books then King to a much smaller population.

      “If you want the type of “manly” heroes that your so enamored with, look no further than the slew of Marvel Movies”

      Hulk friend-zoned Scarlet Johanson cuz anger management problems (Funny enough feminists still freaked out about it cuz neutered high kick Anastasia spy don’t need no man).
      That ain’t manly nor Pulp.

  • Christian says:

    “Lets begin with one simple truth: if people aren’t buying what you’re selling, it’s YOUR fault. You’re not making what they want.”

    “This is a major problem, because people’s tastes have changed. And once changed, it’s hard to change them back.”

    “Men love big damn heroes. Good men want to be big damn heroes, and they want stories that exalt big damn heroes.”

    None of this holds together. You’re arguing that “peoples tastes have changed” but that SF needs to return to what it was writing decades ago.

    I agree. Peoples tastes HAVE changed. They have matured. They no longer want simple morality plays, they want complex heroes with their own foibles. They want complex villains with nuanced motivations. People no longer accept the “Dudley Do-right/Snidely Whiplash”, black and white characterizations you’re talking about. They want complexity and shades of grey.

    Don’t believe me? Look outside of SF at other popular media. Where are the “big damn heroes” you’re talking about? Take TV for example. The most popular shows (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Westworld, Narcos, Mr. Robot) all subvert expectations about who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.

    Simple men want big damn heroes that are larger than life. Most people prefer characters that are more human, relatable, and complex.

    • Nathan says:

      The history of publishing just does not support your claim. Realism leads to smaller sales and otakuization, not maturity, yet every twenty years or so, editors beat the realism drum again.

      What saves publishing every time is larger than life adventure.

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