aren't we a little old for this?

*The following text explains why I started the blog. I've now finished my MA. Bound the Big D. Danced a victory jig. Post-September 2011, I now blog about SFF, Diet Coke and stuff. I particularly recommend the stuff.*

Would you want to be seen in public reading a book about a wizard who solves crimes? What about if the cover omitted the whole wizard part? 'Aren't we a little old for this?' is the title of my Publishing MA dissertation. I'm looking at what stigma exists, why it exists, and whether it's possible to over come it. I will examine general stigma about Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF), between fans of the subgenres, and within the publishing houses themselves. 

Through this blog, I look at how publishers are using digital technologies and the internet to market Science Fiction and Fantasy to fans, how they're reaching a mass audience through limited broadsheet and advert coverage, and  theirs and their authors' various and inventive attempts to overcome the stigma attached to these genres.

The dissertation is based in part on a 2009 blog entry by Tim Holman, Publisher of Orbit Books, an imprint of the Little, Brown Book Group and ‘leading publisher’ of Science Fiction and Fantasy. His blog entry, ‘Aren’t we a little tired of this?’ is itself a reaction to a negative review of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians in the New York Times and of Iain Banks’ Transition in the UK’s Telegraph. Both articles are revealing about the frustrations that feed the stigma attached to SFF. The review by Slate magazine Senior Editor Michael Agger in NYT describes Fantasy as something for children and likens the act of adults reading the genre as being: ‘similar to inviting everyone to a rave for your 40th-birthday party. Sounds like fun, but aren’t we a little old for this?’ The Telegraph review dubs SFF as ‘adolescent fantasy’, going on to state that Banks’ Transition suffers from ‘the irritating paradox at the heart of all sci-fi: if anything can happen, nothing matters.’  

Holman appears exasperated by these opinions, summing them up as ‘sweeping generalisations’. ‘Basically, fantasy fiction written for anybody other than children is flawed, a bit embarrassing, and probably shouldn’t be attempted’, he writes. Regarding people trying to find the ‘fatal flaw’ in the entire genre, Holman states: ‘To those who hope to bring SF and Fantasy writers to the attention of as many potential readers as possible, it’s a shame of epic proportions that this belief exists. At the same time, it’s worth considering why this belief exists, and, consequently, what the response should be.’

He finishes with the challenge that I aim to try to address in my dissertation and this blog: ‘The challenge, perhaps, is not to argue that these generalizations might be incorrect; perhaps the real challenge is to make sure that they don’t arise in the first place.’

By blogging about current marketing techniques across (what I hope is) a broad spectrum of SFF imprints, and reviewing books at the centre of current campaigns, I want to compile a bolthole, or a ‘black hole’ rather, where the best ploys, the most varied, and the most successful can sit side-by-side to be examined and appreciated by the readers they’re aimed at.