It’s a well-established trend that science fiction has been in decline for the past ten years or so. The question is: why?
For one, there are more alternative entertainment venues today. TV shows have bigger budgets, more variety, and online streaming makes them easier to view. Video games have become more of a time investment. Whereas an old arcade game might take a few hours to complete, we now have sprawling Skyrims and Grand Theft Autos which can take literally hundreds of hours to fully experience. In the end, that leaves very little time for grabbing a book.
In addition, the revolution in e-books, which should have been a boon for the industry by providing cheaper books, has left many print publishers behind the times and many dollars short. They don’t know how to monetize works effectively for digital download and continue to shoot themselves in the foot by charging too high a price for books that essentially pop out of a replicator.
Invasion Of The SJWs
At the same time, the big sci-fi publishers have seized on the opportunity to produce works that speak to their ideological preferences rather than tell a captivating story. If you think social justice has gotten bad in gaming, just look at some of the politically-correct message fiction being produced. While a game developer might check off some PC boxes by adding a few token characters, PC fiction doesn’t even try to be subtle about their ideology. Aliens aren’t just aliens anymore, but are commentaries on humanity’s binary gender social constructs. How novel.
Despite the big publishing houses churning out message fiction, they have failed to gather more converts, let alone meet their sales numbers. The awards handed out, whether they be the Hugo, the Nebula or anything else, have nothing to do with sales or customer response, but with certain preferences with the small groups of fans and award coordinators. Meanwhile, the books themselves collect dust, publishers merge in order to avoid going under, and book stores go out of business because no one wants to read stories about lesbian werewolves in space.
Another factor is literary and romance genres ostensibly dressed up as “science fiction.” These works are not science fiction, in that they consist of new ideas for some futures and worlds that stretch your preconceived notions. Rather, they are a woman and her cyborg screwing in space. These fleshy examples are courtesy of Amazon’s “””science””” fiction department:
The message fiction and the romance in space don’t appeal to the bulk of men who read science fiction for the adventure and the novelty of new experiences. The mainstream publishers can churn out all the message fiction they want and the self-publishers/indies can corner the smut market to their heart’s desire, yet neither will stop the rot of the bottom line.
That is because the deluge of politically correct fiction and chic lit simply cannot gain enough readers to make up for the huge loss of male customers who are turned away because of the politics and sex. While e-readers are booming, while science fiction is cover to cover in abs, and more works from diverse people are getting awards, the bank accounts and royalty payments are still coming up short. In trying to appeal to niche demographics, sci-fi has lost its core, and the genre is paying dearly for it. Only the classics from the likes of Asimov, Dick and Heinlein remain consistent top-rated sellers through the decades.
There are still things to read out there, but they don’t have enough backing from mainstream publishers to get new lifeblood interested in the genre, save for one massive exception. There’s an elephant in the room, one which no one speaks of but one that simultaneously and potentially acts as Sci-Fi’s saving grace: Video Game Tie-In Novels.
How do you get a 14 year old boy interested in Science Fiction? He’s likely not going to have a good experience in reading thanks to his English class in high school. He’s probably not going to wander into Amazon’s top 10 Sci-Fi on his own, and even if he did, he’d take one look at the abs and close the browser. So how do you get him interested?
First, he plays a game like Halo, which has rich sci-fi foundations ripped right from Larry Niven’s 1970 Ringworld. The boy gets a cursory glance at Halo lore during the cutscenes separating the alien shooting galleries. He goes to the Wiki and reads more on it, only to discover that there are several novels set in the Halo universe. From the Wiki come the novels. If the novels are sufficiently well-produced, absent of politically correct heavy-handedness and not dripping in certain romantic fluids, then this young man will indeed seek out more, not just the game novelizations but the spiritual predecessors and other novels by his new, favorite author.
His quest has gone from gamer to reader, and the sci-fi genre is better for it.
But what happens if Halo isn’t Halo, and what this young man plays is a game designed by SJWs? If the lore is as heavy-handed as the current crop of science fiction and excludes him based on his sex being male, or his skin being white, then what motivation does he have to delve deeper into a world that doesn’t want him or his “privilege?” He will not seek out the Wiki. He will not buy or read the novels. His interest will not pass on and he will go elsewhere for his entertainment fix just like the men in the sci-fi community had done years prior.
Gaming will then become what sci-fi and fantasy has become: a vector for sex and political correctness.
That is why GamerGate is of such importance to sci-fi and fantasy writers, and why movements like Sad Puppies should be of interest to gamers. Gaming is interconnected with other areas of media, and a change in the ideological winds will mean consequences for its neighbors. These things are not independent issues. If gaming is lost, then science fiction and Fantasy will slide even further down the toilet bowl of political correctness. If gaming holds steadfast against the influence of the social justice warriors, then science fiction for the common man might once again become a bull market.