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Where's the Respect?

Why can't serious SF and fantasy writers break out of the genre niche?

By Michael Tunison     September 25, 2001


HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by J. K. Rowling
© 2001 Scholastic

Science fiction and fantasy have provided Hollywood with many of its biggest movie blockbusters and TV series, so somebody out there must like the stuff. However, as literary genres go...well, let's just say there's a bit of an image problem there.


Sure, writers such as Michael Crichton, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have sold gazillions of books with fantastic, speculative storylines, but they're not considered SF/fantasy authors per se. Crichton and King write "best-sellers." Rowling writes "children's" literature despite the countless adults who, publicly or secretly, have devoured her phenomenally popular Harry Potter books. Many readers who gave up nights of sleep to rip through Crichton's JURASSIC PARK or King's DARK TOWER series wouldn't be caught dead exposing their brains to gasp! sci-fi.


Or, as SF author Catherine Asaro (ASCENDANT SUN) puts it, "If they like it, they stop describing it as science fiction." To actually be considered a sci-fi or fantasy author is a commercial kiss of death, or at least a significant commercial limitation.


Why do SF and fantasy continue to have such a bad rep when other genres of fiction mysteries, westerns, historical get all the glory with reviewers and the Barnes & Noble-haunting set? Is speculative genre fiction really dying, as some have contended? Or is it really just for kids and D&D-playing geeks after all?

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