Authors Moving Away from SF?

Serendipity

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#1
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The next novels of both Ann Leckie and Hannu Rajaniemi are going to be fantasy and not science fiction... is this the start of a trend of established authors moving away from science fiction to fantasy?

I personally find this disappointing. Apart from enjoying reading science fiction much more than fantasy, I also find it is harder to write science fiction than fantasy - in part because it is easier to bend a fantasy world to the story than a science fiction one.

(Mods - not sure if this is the right place - if not, please move.)
 
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Toby Frost

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#3
Likewise. I always set out to write a kind of noir fantasy, but it ended up being the comical SF that found a publisher. I think there are things that SF can do much better than fantasy, especially in terms of talking convincingly about modern people. Not that I think it's likely, but I wouldn't like to see it shrink as a genre.
 

tinkerdan

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#4
I think this is only true in how it reflects our personal feelings about what Science Fiction really is.
The narrower the personal definition the narrower the choices.

I've often done a bit of mind experimentation and found that I've rendered the choices down to only a handful and on the more enlightening days I've narrowed it down to none.

Of course some might argue that those might be my more benighted days.
 

Brian G Turner

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#5
I'm comfortable writing both, too and my expectation is that a lot of authors in the past have written both. However:

is this the start of a trend of established authors moving away from science fiction to fantasy?
there may indeed be some commercial pressure to write more fantasy, especially as fantasy has become the much larger market.

Additionally, the success of Game of Thrones means that TV rights have become a big issue (again) to the point where the publishers want to own those outright. I've even seen at least one big reputable agency say they will only take on fantasy that looks like it has strong TV sales potential.

Maybe, though it's simply a case of wanting to explore different worlds and different boundaries. After all, SF/F all gets lumped under "speculative fiction" for a reason. :)

it is easier to bend a fantasy world to the story
Most SF requires some degree of handwavium to justify the story setting - *coughs* FTL.
 

Vertigo

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#6
I've recently come across some authors who have moved the other way from fantasy to SF, Rachel Back and Adrian Tchaikovsky; the latter did it well the former not quite so well. There are also plenty of big name SF authors who have put out some fantasy as well, David Weber springs to mind, and there have always been authors in the past who have done similar as well as quite a few who have written books that have feet in both camps. So I don't think it's a big issue; plenty of SF authors out there.

Also I'm not sure they/re doing it just because it might be a bigger market. For one I'm not sure it is; I seem to remember the poll we did on the Chrons some while back had us split roughly 50:50 (on preferred genre rather than sole genre). I do think there are a lot more fantasy authors out there which actually might, from a competition perspective, make fantasy less attractive for an SF author.
 
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#7
Since Ann Leckie is a newer author, maybe she wants to put a fantasy novel out there before she becomes "typecast" as a SF writer?
 

Randy M.

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#10
The next novels of both Ann Leckie and Hannu Rajaniemi are going to be fantasy and not science fiction... is this the start of a trend of established authors moving away from science fiction to fantasy?
It's not new.

Robert A. Heinlein
Fred Brown
Isaac Asimov
Poul Anderson
Fritz Leiber
Theodore Sturgeon
L. Sprague de Camp
Gordon Dickson
C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner

All of them, among others, wrote fantasy as well as s.f. Writing one doesn't preclude writing the other.

Brown and others (Leigh Brackett, Anderson, too, I think) wrote mysteries as well. Maybe they're looking for more lucrative work and a bigger audience, but in some cases a change up may act as a method for recharging creative batteries.


Randy M.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#11
I think the trend towards fantasy over science fiction has been steadily progressing over the past 50 years, driven by public interest and financial rewards. Leaving out the drama component, a good number of people when given a choice of entertainment between something flirting with reality vs something trying to predict reality, are more likely to choose the fantasy option.
 

Overread

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#12
There are many possible reasons why, as outlined above, and the real reason could be several of those elements bundled together. I think its important to realise that for the average reader the magic of fantasy and the techo of science fiction are about the same. They don't need to know the bazillion natural laws that let magic work just as they don't need to know their way around advanced physics to get that FTL means you go super fast between plants.

I think sci-fi gets a very bad reputation for being full of "techno jargon" when in reality even most of the "heavy" sci-fi is still very visual in nature of how the author describes what is going on. Indeed its little different to fantasy in that respect.

Readers don't generally need to know science; they just need to know enough to visualise what is going on and enough to be able to string together the basic concepts being presented to work out what is likely to happen or should happen.



For example you don't need to know if the sliding doors in Star Trek open due to an infra red sensor; a pressure pad; a CCTV camera or a pulse reader; you just need to know that if a person walks up to them the door opens on its own unless its locked or something is faulty. Thus if an expected door doesn't open the viewer already knows something is going on.
 

williamjm

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#13
there may indeed be some commercial pressure to write more fantasy, especially as fantasy has become the much larger market.

Additionally, the success of Game of Thrones means that TV rights have become a big issue (again) to the point where the publishers want to own those outright.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin is probably one of the more famous examples of an established author best known for his Science Fiction moving to write fantasy instead.
 

Justin Swanton

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#15
The drift to fantasy could be because science is finally catching up with science fiction.

A good story has got to have an element of unreality about it since real life is boring (that's why we like stories). SF had its heyday at a time when we had enough science to look on space travel and life on nearby worlds as an exciting possibility, but not enough science to know just how difficult and limited space travel really is (and how inhospitable those nearby worlds really are).

That doesn't meant there mustn't be a robust underlying reality as well. World building can't strain our suspension of disbelief too much, so John Carter on Mars works only in a parallel universe - and it was a failure anyway. A fantasy world has got to be consistent. When the laws of physics are invoked they must work as per the real world. The plus side with fantasy, unlike science fiction, is that the realism element does not steadily encroach on the storytelling. Thanks to the internet, people have become very well informed as to what is and isn't scientifically possible. They want an SF story that is believable inasfar as it affirms science, and that has become very hard to pull off. When it is pulled off it's a great success, like The Martian.

There is of course always the halfway house of science fantasy where you just give scientific sounding names to magic. I don't know if that's getting more or less popular. I'm guessing that as people's scientific culture grows, believing in ray guns and hyperdrive becomes harder to do. They are no longer exciting exciting possibilities.
 
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Stephen Palmer

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#16
The main reason I've moved away from SF to Fantasy and Alternate History is that I feel I can do so much more in the latter genres. These days I find SF too limiting, with the sole exception of AI, a sub-genre I feel I still have a lot to offer. The other big part of it for me is that I'm getting a tad more depressed about the state of the world, and the likely state of the world in the future... I don't really want to contemplate then write about that any more.
 

psikeyhackr

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#17
View attachment 45158

The next novels of both Ann Leckie and Hannu Rajaniemi are going to be fantasy and not science fiction... is this the start of a trend of established authors moving away from science fiction to fantasy?

I personally find this disappointing.
Ancillary Justice was science fiction? Only one I read.

I finished 2 of Iain Banks' books. I tried 4. Leckie seems similar to me. Only started Quantum Thief.

Authors shoulld write what they want. Readers have to decide what they like.
 
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#18
I don't know any of the statistics, but I've read a fair amount of recent, excellent SF that wasn't pure dystopian and both near future and far. Declaring "SF is dead" seems a tad premature.
 

Venusian Broon

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#19
It's not new.

Robert A. Heinlein
Fred Brown
Isaac Asimov
Poul Anderson
Fritz Leiber
Theodore Sturgeon
L. Sprague de Camp
Gordon Dickson
C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner

All of them, among others, wrote fantasy as well as s.f. Writing one doesn't preclude writing the other.

Brown and others (Leigh Brackett, Anderson, too, I think) wrote mysteries as well. Maybe they're looking for more lucrative work and a bigger audience, but in some cases a change up may act as a method for recharging creative batteries.


Randy M.
Exactly.

Point at any prolific author of SF/Fantasy and you'll no doubt uncover some other work of theirs that isn't "on genre".

Most obvious example I can think of, off the top of my head, to add to your list is Iain Banks who did a SF project one year then a mainstream one the year after. Then there was Philip K. Dick who did write a number of non-SF novels.
 

Vertigo

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#20
Exactly.

Point at any prolific author of SF/Fantasy and you'll no doubt uncover some other work of theirs that isn't "on genre".

Most obvious example I can think of, off the top of my head, to add to your list is Iain Banks who did a SF project one year then a mainstream one the year after. Then there was Philip K. Dick who did write a number of non-SF novels.
And one of Banks' culture books was really closer to Fantasy (can't remember the title off hand).
 
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