Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Quoth The Greybeard

Yesterday I learned that my story from the January, 2007 ASIMOV'S, "Safeguard," will be published in the Chinese magazine Science Fiction World, translated by the wonderful Xu Haiyan. This pleases me enormously. China is a huge potential SF market. And I noticed when I was at the Chengdu con that most of that market seems to be young. In the States, "the graying of fandom" is a perpetual topic. The recent Locus poll included the question, "How long have you been reading SF regularly ?" and over half answered "more than 20 years." Fifty-three percent had been reading it more than 30 years. Granted, Locus readers represent hard-core fans rather than a broader spectrum of all SF readers, but these figures still suggest an older group interested in SF than I saw in China. So does a visit to any con suite at any American convention. Whereas in Chengdu, the con and signings were thronged with young people. Even most of the writers, with the exception of Liu Cixin, seemed young.
So why are Chinese youth more interested in SF than American youth? Even the young people I know personally, when they read in the field at all, vastly prefer fantasy to SF. Why?


Ruhan Zhao said...

Happy to know that "Safeguard" will be published in China. I think SF in China is kind of still like in the golden age in US in 60's. That's why there are more younger SF readers in China than in US. Yeah most SF writers in China are also young. Even Liu Cixin can be considered as a young writer (in fact he is younger than me). As I know, also in China even more young readers are reading fantasy than SF. Based on the big population, the percentage of Chinese SF readers is not that high.

Steven Francis Murphy said...

I've wondered if the problem isn't so much the age, but what kids are reading this days. I consistently take a creative writing class at a local community college and I notice that the students below 30 invariably read either fantasy/vampire/zombie material or they read Media based tie in SF, Halo, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. In one of the history classes I teach, I have a student who says, "I read sci-fi" but when you look at the books he is chewing through, they are always media material.

I think the younger market is there. I just sometimes wonder if those of us who write/publish SF in the US are targeting that market properly.

Another thing to consider that there is a considerable lack of general science knowledge among younger students (or history, sadly, I'm learning today). That may put the harder SF out of their reach.

Congrats on Safeguard. I've often wondered about the market potential in India. The legacy of the English language might work to a writer's advantage if they can tap into it.

S. F. Murphy
Living in a place next to Kansas called Missouri

Unknown said...

Hi Nancy.

I was pleased to meet you at last year's WorldCon in Southern California. (I'm Japanese, tall, with long hair. I had the stack of books for you to sign at the Asimov's table, including your earliest SF novels.)

I'm also one of the assistant editors at JBU.

> Even the young people I know personally, when they read in the field at all, vastly prefer fantasy to SF. Why?

I think it's an issue of accessibility.

A kid can start reading a fantasy novel and become instantly immersed in it.

That's not the case with a lot of contemporary SF -- so much of which assumes that the reader already has a familiarity with the ideas and terminology of the genre.

Decades ago, the SF magazines served as a gateway that drew in young readers. But most of the stuff published in the top-tier print SF magazines now is even less accessible to the uninitiated than most SF novels.

These days, it seems to me that the media tie-in novels are serving as the gateway. And because the tie-in novels are based on the shared familiarity of characters and settings, they're far less challenging to read than most "core" SF. So the tie-in novels are more likely to lead readers into the more easily accessible material found in fantasy instead.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Ruhan. Fantasy also has a much larger audience than SF in China, and writers are more rewarded for writing fantasy...