The Popularity of SF/F

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GreenEpic

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Does anyone have a theory as to why science fiction and fantasy are so popular?

IMO, the SF/F threads seem to have the most posts and/or views.

I'm a lover of SF/F, so I was wondering why everyone else loves it as well.

What drew you in? Sparked your interest? What is it about SF/F that has us all so hooked?
 

jaeladarling

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My first love was He-Man (and later She-Ra)...well, that I can remember! :) It was all downhill from there.

I love all the things you can do with it. The options are practically limitless. You can make things fly that don't normally, you can have plants of gargantuan proportions that can do amazing things; heck, you can have an orange sky and purple water if you want. I love world-building!

Then there's that whole escapism thing. I love getting lost in a good fantasy novel or movie, placing myself in the mysterious world and going on all sorts of adventures.

I could go on and on. It's been a love affair so long, I can't really pinpoint one thing! :D
 

lbender

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You can do anything, be a superhero, use magic to get rid of problems. It's even more popular in bad economic times...like now, for instance.
 
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Duncable

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Since the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were my bed time stories as a little girl, and my dad gave me his copy of Asimov's Foundation in elementary school, SF/F has been my genre. I can't separate myself from my love of the genre because it's been part of me my whole life. I also started writing as a young girl, and enjoyed exercising my imagination by writing about faeries and dragons and elves and stuff, so again, it's just who I am.

I enjoy all types of fiction, but when I pick up a book set in modern times with characters acting and talking like I do, driving cars, talking on cell phones, etc., it just doesn't distance me enough from the real world, I guess. I like the limitlessness of speculative fiction in general and the fact that when I pic up a SpecFic, I am literally trasported to a different world.
 

nchahine

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Yep, it was LOTR for me, too. After that, I discovered SF, and life was never the same.

Obviously, SF/F is the most imaginative of any of the literary genres, which is probably why it drew me in to begin with. I've often wondered if more creative people prefer SF/F. But then again, I'm not all that creative myself, so I can't say why I'm hooked.
 

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My parents were sf fans and hung out with sf authors. It just seemed natural to read it.

Historically, many stories have had fantastic elements in them. The realistic slice-of-life "mainstream" stories (or genres which could take place in the real world, like war novels and westerns and romances) are a relatively recent development (in the West. Not counting China or Japan here, although perhaps I should).

Thing is, people have always enjoyed stories with imaginary elements in them.

These days just about every piece of fiction which is not strict realism is classified as science fiction or fantasy (I consider horror a part of that, but I'm willing to entertain it as a separate genre). It's not surprising that stories whose only common element is they can't happen in the world as it is would be a vast category containing many subcategories, and that it would have a very large number of readers.

Coming from my profession, it's as though there were two categories of painting: "realism" which is considered mainstream (and contains photorealism, Victorian realism, American regionalism, etc.), and everything else, called "fantasy" 'cause it's not realistic and encompassing symbolism, cubism, surrealism, Impressionism, medieval manuscript illumination, depictions of anything imaginary, mythology, speculative science illustration, allegory, and on and on -- anything, anything not strict realism.
 
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Hiroko

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I think it was the limitlessness of science fiction that first got me interested (other than what I'd been exposed to as a child thanks to my father). The possibilities are endless, and...for a lack of better words, I find topics of science fiction interesting. There's so much imagination and discovery to be found. "What if?" has no boundaries.
 

elflands2ndcousin

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Does anyone have a theory as to why science fiction and fantasy are so popular?

I suspect every SF/F fan got bitten by a different bug: probably Lloyd Alexander did for me.

But I suspect the genre as a whole appeals to so many people because it truly contains multitudes: it contains adventure (Steven Brust's novels, Howard's Conan stories, etc.), espionage (Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, etc.), history (Harry Turtledove, John Ringo, etc.), romance (Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey), mystery (A. Lee Martinez' The Automatic Detective, etc.), and more. Heck, if you want magical realism or literary artistry look no further than John Crowley's Little, Big or any of Gene Wolfe's novels.

By definition, the speculative genre rejects narrative limitations (spaceships? dragons? metaphors? Bring 'em on!) and absorbs the narrative tools of other genres. Which means it can appeal to a far wider audience than any other narrower categories.

My conclusion? SF/F is the Borg. Genres will be assimilated. And like it. ;)

Chris
 

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Grimm's Fairytales. It is fantasy... if you're not going to count that, then Sesame Street... (Yeah, you see canaries that large and don't call that fantasy?) If not that, there is Doctor Suess... (Which was fantasy and Science Fiction in places.) First Sci-fi? Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and L'Engle. ^^;; Though if you count Rube Goldberg drawings as Science Fiction, then that would come first.

I love the fact that you can talk about social issues in society without everyone getting uppity about it. There is a kind of a divorce in the escape, but then you can also examine our society through that divorce without the preaching and soapbox.
 

VictoriaWrites

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Some people don't like it. They like to read about "real stuff".

I like heroines who break curses, heros who reunite countries, villains with dark and deadly powers. I like books about war and tragedy and death and heroism and courage and a hint of magic.

A girl can only take so many contemporary romances. ;)

Of course, what really did it for me was Ella Enchanted, when I was about 11. I had read the Chronicles of Narnia, and loved them, and watched LOTR, but I hadn't fallen in love with the genre. Ella Enchanted took something familiar and made it brand-new.

Star Wars did it for me with sci-fi. I didn't see those until I was about 14, because I had always insisted they looked stupid. I was dead wrong. :D
 
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geardrops

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IMO, the SF/F threads seem to have the most posts and/or views.

Imma just be a jerk here and kill everyone's fun by pointing out that SFF nerds are probably statistically more likely to be glued to their computers than other genres </stereotyping>

What drew you in? Sparked your interest? What is it about SF/F that has us all so hooked?

My father was an engineer, my mother was a doctor, and when I was four I wanted to be a theoretical astronomer (I'm an engineer). I didn't stand a chance :)
 

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For me, it's partly the scope and the freedom, but mostly the optimism. SF is often concerned with the future, which I find exciting, and is sometimes quite optimistic about what human beings can achieve, which is one of the most important and compelling aspects of human nature--progress, self-improvement, etc. So, er, that, I guess.
 

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For me it was the "Homer Price" novels and then the "Tom Swift" ones. All this as a defense against having to read "Black Beauty" It took me years to get through that one.... by the time I was eleven, I had worked through every thing in the city and school libraries.

As to why? I think it is due to ability of the style to put you outside the norm that is every day life. Supporting that "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped", and "Call it Courage" were equally riveting to me.

Regards,
Kevin
 

Alessandra Kelley

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Imma just be a jerk here and kill everyone's fun by pointing out that SFF nerds are probably statistically more likely to be glued to their computers than other genres </stereotyping>

Mm. That's anecdotal. Got any evidence? How active, for example, are sf-themed sites compared to romance-themed sites or military-fiction sites or Booker Prize reading groups or what-have-you.
 

Buffysquirrel

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I used to read whatever was left lying around the house, some of which was SF. Not much Fantasy, though. My mother was a huge LOTR fan, but I didn't read that for years. Perhaps because whenever I saw the book, she was reading it. Also, my father despised it, which may have influenced me!

The book that hooked me on SF, however, was Brunner's Telepathist.

I think SF just offers far more possibilities than other genres. Mainstream seems very hung up on adultery, which bores me to tears. I will read a crime novel, but they do seem very predictable.
 

Rachel Udin

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Imma just be a jerk here and kill everyone's fun by pointing out that SFF nerds are probably statistically more likely to be glued to their computers than other genres </stereotyping>



My father was an engineer, my mother was a doctor, and when I was four I wanted to be a theoretical astronomer (I'm an engineer). I didn't stand a chance :)

Mm. That's anecdotal. Got any evidence? How active, for example, are sf-themed sites compared to romance-themed sites or military-fiction sites or Booker Prize reading groups or what-have-you.

*raises hand* Oooohh! Oh! Pick me!

Podcasting--first audiobook that was podcast was a Science Fiction/Fantasy Book. (Tee Morris) Followed by JC Hutchins and Scott Sigler. (Science Fiction/Horror writers) The first podcast that was a serialized fiction through podcast was a Science Fiction podcast. Podiobooks.com has a majority of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with over 10-20 titles, while Romance, the most popular is dwarfed with about 5 titles, and Chicklit currently holds at 2 titles.

While Romance is well-known for being more prolific, by far the technological advancements aren't there.

Of the podcasts that deal with writing the majority of the ones I've found are run by SFF/speculative writers. There was one romance one, but that died quickly.

The most noticeable thing is that in the last few years superhero and Fantasy films have been coming out and Literary groups are (sometimes begrudgingly) allowing that some of their titles are *gasp* SFF. *Cough* Wells *cough* Which has contributed thusfar towards Fantasy having a surge over SF in the 1990's (though escapism from the War(s) of the US and the downturn in economics might have a social contribution. Stephen King made a similar observation based on his sales. iTunes: Meet the Author made the same observation.) This might also contribute, but by and far, Romance fans beat SFF in sheer number, so there must be a phobia involved as well.

You can also remember that a lot of Science Fiction fans were on the internet early on. If you type "What is the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything?" Google defaults to "42" as the first answer. This was long before it became _The_ search Engine.

I should note that the majority of forums with an SFF forum--there are far more participants than in the other forums.

Need citations?

Though I think the surge is mostly the respective movies of the early 2000's and the fact that teenagers have a lot of free time and expendable income.

I know this is sheer geek... ^^;; But I always thought that it was my duty to track such things as a writer who wants to publish... (I'm aware the previous statement might be deluded)
 
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geardrops

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Mm. That's anecdotal. Got any evidence? How active, for example, are sf-themed sites compared to romance-themed sites or military-fiction sites or Booker Prize reading groups or what-have-you.

On my side it was largely anecdotal (which is why I wrote it in Waffle Language as opposed to Firm Fact), but it looks like Rachel Udin can actually back me up on that one. Thanks :)
 

Maxx

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For me, it's partly the scope and the freedom, but mostly the optimism. SF is often concerned with the future, which I find exciting, and is sometimes quite optimistic about what human beings can achieve, which is one of the most important and compelling aspects of human nature--progress, self-improvement, etc. So, er, that, I guess.

Optimism, freedom, being open to possibilities -- these are definitely good things about Sci Fi.

Lately I've been enjoying how many echoes of other Sci Fi books there are in Sci Fi books. There's a huge conversation over many decades out there and it is fun to listen in. And then join in.
 

GreenEpic

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One of my favorite things about science fiction is the social commentary it can offer, like Rachel Udin says above.

James Tiptree's "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is one of my favorites because its futuristic world is an extremist version of our capitalistic, commodity obsessed, celebrity worshiping society.

Stories like this doesn't kill the escapism factor for me. There are still plenty of fantastical, technically advanced elements, but I respect sf/f for making me think too.
 

jjdebenedictis

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The Chronicles of Narnia are the first books I remember being completely slurped in by, but really? If it's not made up, I'm not interested--and I can't remember that ever not being true for me.

Occasionally I make a foray into genres other than fantasy and science fiction, but although I can appreciate them, I never particularly like them.

My brain is wired for the fantastic.

I think that's also why I went into physics as a field of study; it has the highest "Oh, wow!" factor.
 

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Because it is 'Scifi/Fantasy time' in the same way as the 1850s was 'Evolution time' and 'steam engine time'* Think about it:

30 odd years ago, Star Wars made space operaish Sci Fi very popular for many young children who are now in thier 30s and 40s. This is the age when most adults have the greatest influence on the zeitgiest especially when many of those children who watched Star Wars and loved it are now writers, producers and directors in Hollywood and similar places. Consider that Joss Whedon is a perfect example of this and you can attribute his love of sci fi and fantasy to his early geekiness. Russel T Davies and Steve Moffat were also heavily influenced by watching Dr Who (among other sci fi) as children to the extent that much of thier writing (even the non sci fi stuff like Queer as Folk and Coupling) has overt influences. There are also people out there like Simon Pegg - again 30 ish and an affirmed sci fi fan as a child and now writing and acting in sci fi films and TV shows. Add to that the many people who are not influential in the entertainment industry directly but who now have the buying power of adults and you have a massive industry for sci fi/fantasy stuff.

There is probably a similar correspondence that can be drawn between the release of Fellowship of the Ring and the excess of fantasy novels in the 80s and 90s...


*It is a philosophical concept that ideas have thier time. Steam engines were around as a concept for thousands of years (since Hero of Alexander at least) but were not used industrially until Watt improved them and there happened to be a social and economic confluence which made them viable - hence Steam engine time. Evolution is a similar idea - a lot of people were thinking the same thing at the same time as Darwin because the theological and philosophical trends were ideal for that idea to start to brew. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum, they need good soil to grow in.
 
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