Its common currency in genre fiction land that if you want to make a living, you write fantasy.
Whereas if you want to develop a cult reputation with readerships in double figures whilst subsisting on a diet of dried pasta and bread crusts you write SF.
The interesting thing is that this doesn’t have anything to do with the writers, but it has everything to do with readers. SF readers have some very destructive habits from a writers perspective. Firstly, most SF readers don’t even acknowledge a books existence until its been around for twenty years and migrated to ‘classic’ status. SF writers sell millions of books, usualy after they are dead. Secondly, SF fans read V E R Y S L O W L Y. They have to, the web of complex ideas encoded into every sentence of SF demands enourmous concentration, and very often multiple rereads. Once those ideas have made it from the page to the brain it can often take months of not years for them to percolate through the SF fans consciousness to such a point that they are then ready for another book. And they are fuggle, and that combined with their tech savvy means that many SF books are read as pirated downloads on PALM PDA’s.
The fantasy reader is an entirely different creature. Once a fantasy fan gets their teeth into one of those huge doorstoppers that others may deride they can easily chew their way through 100k words in a matter of hours. Writing enourmous books is a defense mechanism for fantasy scribes, who churn out quarter million word tomes in the desperate hope it will stop the obsessive fans from writing them angry letters demanding the next volume. The most comon complaint among fantasy readers is that writers can’t keep up with their reading speed. And fantasy readers have deep pockets. Not only will they by the hardback the day it comes out, they all by the collectors edition and twenty copies of the paperpack to give to friends to show them how fantastic the book is.
Which probably has something to do with why my writing focus has flipped from SF to Fantasy over the last two years. Money aside though I’ve also moved from wanting to write about fascinating ideas to wanting to write about fascinating people, which is the best defeinition of the diference between SF and Fantasy I can think of.
I’ve had a frustrating writing week. It started by throwing myself into a very science fictiony story called ‘Unmade Man’. Its my fourth or fifth attempt at trying to make this story work and although it started promising I’ve bogged down again. The storys central premise is so complex I can’t even describe it, let alone represent it in fiction which is probably the route of the problem. I’ve put UM aside again and instead returned to this years big novel push. I’ve got an outline coming together and I’m starting to get really, really interested in the characters which is always a good sign. The central narrative is taken from the 13k of ‘Msques’ that I wrote midway through 2006, but I’ve found a new location, a more sophistocated set of relationships and a different narrative mode to work with and its hanging together better, at least at this early planing stage. I still need to do a 2nd draft of ‘Circe’s’, so maybe over the weekend.
My blog post titles are getting longer. Next time I’ll revert to monosylabic.