Paging Dr. Warpig

Daddy Warpig continues his critical tour de force over at the Castalia House blog. This time he returns to warn us that print science fiction has one foot in the grave and another foot on a banana peel.
There’s a sickness in SF, it’s very nearly terminal, and Doctor Warpig is in the house to diagnose the disease and prescribe a cure.
Some of you may be in denial: “Science Fiction is NOT a ghetto! It’s not struggling. It’s just as popular as anything else!”
Let’s put it to a test. Take these three books:
The Three Musketeers. Alice in Wonderland. Treasure Island.
You’ve probably heard of them. And movies and TV shows based on them. And allusions to them. EVERYBODY has.
Now name some post-Pulp prose SF works of equal or greater stature in popular culture. Spoiler alert: You can’t.
From the Silver Age? Nothing. In the Bronze Age? Nothing. And the Iron Age? Nothing. Then the Clay Age? Nothing. (The Golden Age? Tarzan, Batman, and Conan, for starters.)
Since 1940, the only landmark works Science Fiction has given birth to came out of television and cinema: Star Trek and Star Wars. What’s the closest to massive crossover success written SF has had in that same time period? Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games”. AFTER the movies came out.
Written Science Fiction is a ghetto.
In fact, during this time period movies and TV have always had a bigger impact on written SF than the other way around. (Star Wars Expanded Universe, anyone?) It’s been almost 80 years since prose Science Fiction had an impact.
If you don’t impact the popular culture, you’re in a freaking ghetto. Right now, SCOOBY DOO is bigger than Science Fiction.
The whole article is eminently worth reading.

My comment: He's right, you know.

Let's look at one of my favorite graphs, which DW himself cited.

Amazon genre sales

Literary fiction--books about shallow narcissists coming to terms with dying polar bears via hate-sex--is outselling science fiction.

DW is waiting to reveal the cause of this pathology until next time, but the answer is staring us right in the face.

Look at the sci-fi sales numbers for the Big Five New York publishers (purple).

Now look at self-published authors' sci-fi sales (darker blue).

Finally, compare indie sales across genres. Self-pubbed sci-fi sells on a par with mystery and nonfiction, while sci-fi is the Big Five's worst-selling category.

If you haven't put two and two together yet, I'll let Daddy Warpig fill in the blanks for you with his next Castalia House blog post.

And if you're interested in helping to save science fiction, my highly acclaimed Soul Cycle, including Souldancer, the first indie novel to win a Dragon Award, is currently on sale in print.



  1. To be fair, the AMZN LitFic Top 10 as I write this is...

    (1) The Halo Effect: A Novel - Sounds like a straight up Thriller to me
    (2) 1984 - This is LitFic?
    (3) In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II - Historical Fiction/Thriller elements
    (4) The Secret Wife: A captivating story of romance, passion and mystery - That's the title. Need I say more?
    (5) The House Girl: A Novel - Historical Fiction
    (6) The Handmaid's Tale - This is LitFic?
    (7) From Sand and Ash - Historical fiction/Romance
    (8) A House Without Windows: A Novel - Eh, guess I'll give them this one, but I think it could also reasonably be classed a Thriller
    (9) A Man Called Ove: A Novel - Legit LitFic (Quite good, TBH), but also a movie tie in
    (10) The Things We Wish Were True - looks like legit LitFic, the sort of novel where all the characters spend their time sighing and staring off into the middle distance or something

    I'd personally only stick three of the top ten LitFic bestsellers into LitFic, though I guess more get in if all Historical Fiction is included (But then does that make Westerns LitFic? Hmmmm.) And note that one of those bestsellers doubtless got some kind of bump as recently released movie.

    1. Fine examples of how Amazon's genre categories are being rampantly abused. In my previous post, I reported on how Amazon is cracking down on Romance authors listing chick porn in other genres.

      I'd say that I hope they clean house in Litfic, too, but I don't care.

  2. I see your Geekgab Cohort continues to be a bull in a china shop. Or should I say Warthog?

    1. You should. He is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the contemptible.

  3. Well, Dune got a couple movies. And Starship troopers. Not sure that counts.

    1. DW's thought experiment didn't challenge us to think of popular films based on SF books. He asked us to name post-pulp SF books that had a major impact on the culture at large in print.