What are the most popular genres in fiction, based on sales figures and authors’ incomes? Though the answer depends on who’s compiling the data, the numbers don’t lie: Any ranking will invariably include romance, mystery-crime, young adult, action-adventure and—of course—science fiction.
Tellingly, the Connecticut-based Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has been around for more than 50 years, listing 1,900 members.
“From the very first time someone thought of what was possible beyond their worldview, science fiction has proven both powerful and invaluable,” said Kate Baker, executive director of the SFWA. “This is a genre that can inspire, instill hope and combat fear. It can teach us how to be better if we are willing to listen and invoke change. It can define us, mold us, move us and open our eyes to the world around us, the sky above us and beyond.”
Of course, advances in technology have altered sci-fi’s tenor and story lines in recent decades.
Newer generations of writers have inherited the helm from the founders who built the ship. They owe their careers to icons such as Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Margaret Atwood, Theodore Sturgeon, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Doris Lessing, Frederik Pohl, Robert Silverberg and so many others.
Which brings us to multi-award-winning Kim Stanley Robinson, author of nine novels in three series, and 11 stand-alone books. No surprise that his Ph.D. thesis was on the late Philip K. Dick, whose 1968 neo-noir sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was made into the 1982 movie Blade Runner, the remake of which was released in theaters Oct. 6.
Robinson will appear at CapRadio Reads’ inaugural Authors On Stage on Oct. 23. I asked him how he fits in with today’s (and tomorrow’s) other sci-fi superstars, such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler, Connie Willis, Ted Chiang, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow and Nalo Hopkinson.
“Science fiction is not just a literary genre, but also a very active community,” he said. “It’s like a science fiction story in which a small town got mysteriously scattered and dispersed through space and time, and now reunites in Brigadoon fashion—but more often—at science fiction conventions and other events. It’s a supportive community and I’m happy to say I’ve been part of it for about 40 years.”
Robinson calls his fellow sci-fi authors “among the most exciting writers of our time, on the cutting edge in terms of explaining this moment of history. I get a lot of pleasure from crossing paths with them and from reading their books. I’m proud to know them and I learn a lot from them.”
Next Friday: When will we colonize Mars? Kim Stanley Robinson has some provocative thoughts.
Kim Stanley Robinson will appear for Authors On Stage at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Harper Alumni Center on the Sac State campus. Cost is $10 per person in advance or $15 cash at the door. More information at www.capradio.org/reads. For additional information, please contact Allen Pierleoni at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cathleen Ferraro at email@example.com.