What has happened to all of the good Science FICTION writers?


Monty Pitts
Dec 26, 2011
I've been a fan of Sci-Fi for over 50 years, begin
I have noticed, over the past several years, a dearth of good Science FICTION writers. There seem to be plenty of Science FANTASY writers, though.

Perhaps it is because Sci-Fi relies too much on real science? Sci-Fan can let the imagine run wild, mixing the very ancient with the very futuristic, giving characters impossible powers, etc. Sci-Fi seems to me to be about the PLAUSIBLE in the future.

Don't misunderstand- I LOVE Sci-Fan, but Sci-Fi takes me to worlds I can imagine actually living in, and introduces me to characters that I can see being real.

Do I have this wrong?

Why ARE there so many more Sci-Fan than Sci-Fi writers, today?

This sounds like a potentially interesting discussion, but I'm not quite sure I'm understanding the ins and outs of your proposition.

Would it be possible to you to expand a fraction, maybe give a few examples of each type of author?
Also why you are putting them in each category.
Yeah the grey boundaries of what is a science fiction and science fantasy writer is a massive area of debate as to where one begins and the other falls to the side. In addition its further muddied by the fact that you have to know a lot of science to be able to tell possible real science from fake science so that further results in people putting people in the wrong list.

I would, however, pose a few reasons that might be part of the cause:

1) Lack of market - or more correctly a lack of a percived market on the part of publishers. Publishers are in it to make money (mostly) which means many will chase after what is currently popular, adding books to their listings that will meet with general public reception and sales. Proper science fiction based upon strong science is a niche market; furthermore it somewhat lacks a common houshold name and general promotion in the movies (eg fantasy always has Dungeons and Dragons to kepe the concept in the publics eye).
So there is less incentive for a strong science based book.

2) The Reader; once you really get into a subject, esp in fantasy or sci-fi its possible to find that your quality bar gets set rather high; you demand a better product to read and, furthermore, find it less enjoyable to read books that are clearly greatly inspired by the "greats" that you've already read. This results in the possible market for you to shrink.

3) Scientists are not writers - simply put the kind of person that knows science inside and out does, often as not, not make the most interesting of writers and its very easy for a science writer to get lost in the tech details and lose the story (just as in epic fantasy one can get lost in world building). This results in them losing the editors in the tech early on in the books - and thus again results in a reduced number making it into print.

The first and second points might well be, partly, countered by the ebook approach and viable self publishing for authors. Of course with many not putting much effort into marketing (most seem to go as far as to register on random forums to self promote but not much further) it will make it harder to spot the gems in the sea; an increased problem is also with many pitching a very low price on their early books - quickly putting them in the bargin bin (which makes them easy to miss in that overloaded sea(
Good point. For example, Asimov creates worlds that we can envision as being technically possible with the advance of science and technology. But a novel based on the quest for a magic sword that contains the power of the hero's ancestors is pure fantasy. At least, that's the way I see it.
I also wonder, OVEREAD, if there just aren't that many good Sci-Fi writers out there? Writing the "possible", as I've discovered, is difficult, and there has to be some scientific possibility behind every setting in the imaginary world.

It would seem to me to be so much easier if the plot could be assisted by, for example, plants that talk, trees that walk, birds big enough to fly on, etc...
That is probably another factor; not to play down that there isn't a lot of proper research needed to write a good strong fantasy story set in previous times; but the concepts and general applications needed for a good book are significantly less complex (you don't need to know all the ins and outs of horses for most stories and the basic facts required at not too detailed as to swamp you nor your readers).

Whilst in more strict sci-fi its not only required, but expected that you research complex theories and concepts, many of which require a lot of maths to just get even the basics.

I think it is a harder subject to impulse write for and unless you've a strong science background is harder still at getting really into (esp if you want to be the super smart kind dealing with theoretical physics and suchlike(.
Just wondering - does the science have to be physics?

What about biology?

What about alternative cultural set ups? (Thinking John Barnes here.)

(And would still like some examples of authors please Monty Pitts).
There are a great many excellent science fiction writers currently being published in both short and long fiction. If you can't find them, you're not looking hard enough.
I am a little lost here. What the devil is Sci-Fan? If a story has a Fantasy element in it, it is Fantasy. (In other words, we accept that it can't happen. It is outside the realm of possibility). Science Fiction does not have to be believable merely not impossible under the conditions of the story. The Science doesn't even have to be our Science. I would not guarantee that everything we "know" today will be considered "knowledge in 100 years. As long as a story is explained as Science rather than magic, it's Science Fiction. Somebody mentioned plants that talk. Maybe that "ology" has not been discovered yet. As far as where the good writers went, maybe we've just his a period of where the great writers don't like Science and the Science Fiction writers aren't that great.
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There is a lot of good SF authors around you just have to look for them. You have try. SF genre is huge these days. Its easy to find SF authors as easy as it is to find other like Science fantasy authors.
OK guys, I see most of you are in my second-favorite country (UK), and I'm in the States. I can go to any bookstore, grocery-store kiosk, etc, and find ROWS of fantasy books, but, if I'm lucky, only one or two science-fiction books.

Have Sci-Fi writers become lazy and just do Sci-Fan? It IS easier, as one does not have to have any factual or predictable basis for the "magic", whereas Sci-Fi DOES have to be based on plausible science, or something that we THINK is plausible in the future.

I am a Sci-Fan fan, so I don't need any over-the-top defenses of that sub-genre, but I would like to know what motivates so many excellent writers to steer-clear of Sci-FI in favor of Sci-FAN.
Well, what exactly do you class as Science Fantasy? It's not a term I'm all that familiar with. Science Fiction is obvious and I understand the general distinctions between hard and soft SF. I also know what Fantasy is, including High, Urban, Gaslight and others. But Science Fantasy?
The Science doesn't even have to be our Science. I would not guarantee that everything we "know" today will be considered "knowledge in 100 years. As long as a story is explained as Science rather than magic, it's Science Fiction.

Thanks pal – you cleared it up for me ;-)
I always thought SciFi was about FICTIOUS science – and not science as fiction ;-)
I’m a scientist myself and would love to read fictious science, which some of you might call fantasy.
Science as fiction to me - will be a bore.
But still imo it should be the STORY which bears the novel – and not whether the scientific proof is watertight – or not ;-)
Thanks ;-)
I am with Connavar on this, I do not think you are looking hard enough. Try Barnes and Noble, Amazon, E-books.com, Kobo, Sony, the SciFi book club, Baen Books, geez the list is endless. If you want author's names just ask, people will bury you with their favorite authors :)

I am also not sure I buy your premise, with string theory, the god particle, dark matter, a universe literally too big to adequately imagine and of course the age old principle that any science significantly advanced enough past yours will appear to be magic and it seems to me the issue is not trying to draw a line between them but simply finding authors who make you want to read their books and wait achingly for the next one. It is also worth noting that some authors operate on both sides of the divide so to speak so someone like Elizabeth Moon has some great SciFi and some some great Fantasy. Same for David Weber. Then there are those who really mix the two together, Ann McCaffery's Pern stuff comes to mind, could certainly be seen as fantasy but she presents a scientific basis for much of what is part of that story. Look a little harder, snuggle into your reading chair and enjoy.:)
Okay, I looked up Science Fantasy to get as better grip on the term, but I would still like your opinion on what is Science Fiction and what Science Fantasy.:)

At the minute, I have to agree with Timba, Connavar and ainsales. There is plenty of Science Fiction still being written. Geoffrey A Landis, Greg Egan, Paul McAuley, Alastair Reynolds, just to name a few authors. I'm sure there are others, newcomers, to the field as well.
There aren't many author names being given to support claims that there are many great sci-fi authors out there.

Please, enlighten me!!

Personally, I do love sci-fi, and books like Chasm City or Hyperion (the latter maybe sci-fan?) are amongst my favourites. However, I've tried many sci-fi books that have been too dry for me, with science getting in the way of the fiction and the characterisation (e.g.,KSR's Mars trilogy -- huge yawn).

Speaking very generally, I find that fantasy authors often craft better literature and/or forefront characters more. Not many (that I know of) write very, very well, AND write characters that I really want to care about.

I know less about what's happening in the US, but in the UK there's never been a better time for SF writing. We've got actively writing at the moment: Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod, Peter F Hamilton, Paul McAuley, John Meaney, Iain M Banks, Justina Robson, Ian McDonald, Adam Roberts, Stephen Baxter, Gwyneth Jones, Tricia Sullivan, Neal Asher, Simon Morden, Gareth L Powell, Pat Cadigan, Liz Williams, Gary Gibson, Michael Cobley and Eric Brown. Apologies to those I've missed out or haven't read yet.

Many of these guys are writing solid gold classics, none are producing work that's any less than very readable.
There are a growing number of us in Australia at the moment as well. Most unknown because of the inability of the local publishing industry to see the value under their noses lately, but there are a lot of new Austraian SF writers starting to hit the POD services and the ebook channels right now. I can't tell you which ones are any good - I'm too busy making MINE good lately to read everything lol.

The death of the retail book industry in Australia has shaken things to the core, but the upshot is as the smaller independent stores recover and prosper in the next year or so, there are signs of a growing desire to stock independent authors, which means all those new indie SF writers (at least those that are any good) are going to start to gain exposure within the retail sector as the trads no longer have the stranglehold on it they once did.

This is the perfect time for a new Australian SF periodical to startup, something Australia has been without for decades. (I wish I had the funds to do it myself) That would enable the sudden influx of new indie SF authors to be visible to readers who could read shorts from them to judge who they like, and then purchase accordingly. I have had book stores approach me directly and unsolicited, regarding stocking my books. A good SF periodical would help that happen for all the new indies that are any good as the retailers would be aware of their standards of work.
Slightly off-topic, but I've noticed a couple of online short story SF magazines from Oz, DrMclony. They seem interesting, what little I've delved into them. Certainly this sort of magazine is likely to showcase up and coming writers, some of whom are going to be good, I'm sure (bringing it back to topic).