Slashdot has an interesting thread on the rise of Fantasy and the decline of Science Fiction – prompted by Spider Robinson’s concern for the future [of his chosen genre, his country and his species]. Since I have met the enemy and he is me, here are my two cents on the subject.
First of all, is this the chicken or is this the egg? Show me someone who is writing SF that is of the caliber of classic Heinlein or Asimov and I’ll start buying. But I’m don’t know how new writers get started any more – the short story market seems to have disappeared. Once I found new authors in short story collections and magazines. Now, I find new authors when they appear on the shelves of the local libraries and bookstores.
Second, it seems to me that it is much easier to recycle the characters and setting of a Fantasy novel than of a Science Fiction novel (Robinson lumps the SF franchises of Star Trek and Star Wars in with Fantasy). With the current writing market, I’m sure that the financial prospects for a new novel in an existing setting with an existing audience are much greater than for an new novel. Perhaps the current trend towards self-publishing via the web will provide the new breeding ground for authors. But until then, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.
Finally, is this really an issue? One of the major appeals of software is the ability to conceive and build logical abstractions. I wonder just how many SF fans find that to be true and how much SF dreaming has been diverted to software dreaming.