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  1. #16
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    But when you say it's easier to get published, you then have to compare the number of manuscripts being submitted to editors to the number that was submitted back when. It may well be that far more books are being written now and therefor, far smaller percentages are being published.

  2. #17
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Fair enough. But on average, more books are published per person. Assuming most authors will publish only 1 book a year, if the number is 1 in 1000 in the 50's, and 1 in 200 in '05/06... that's still a big leap. According to the article I found the stats in, the number of new books in 2006 dropped by the more than the total number of annual books in 1950 (dropped by ~18,000 from 2005)... that's pretty impressive!

    Personally, I feel like there are a lot more average books out there, and no real increase in the number of "great" books. More people may be writing and getting published overall, but the amount of average material you have to sort through to find the great stuff is way larger. It means to get a great book out you've got to work a lot harder to rise above a lot more average books.

    I think of it like democracy, or the 4-2-1 problem. The distillation of something that could've been great to just a number amongst the masses. Homogenization. Quality is a question of context. Perhaps the quality is being found primarily is some genres more than others.

  3. #18
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Do your numbers include self-published books by vanity presses? There really was very little of that years ago, before POD was in existence.

  4. #19
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    As near as I can tell, the numbers are from within the industry, so likely wouldn't include self-published material. In addition, I doubt it counts stuff published via the internet. I likewise am not certain if it includes US releases of new international titles (but probably it would). Nor if it includes small-presses without ties to major publishing house distribution networks.

    All in all, both number sets are incomplete. But I'm inclined to think that probably, the number in 1950 is most of what was released, and the number in 2005/06 a mid-size chunk of the iceberg. Which would lend itself to the idea that it's easier now than ever before to get your stuff out there.

  5. #20
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I didn't say that it was easier to get published today. I said that high action stories, which used to be predominantly regulated to paperback editions, are now much more likely to get a hardcover edition, which means they are regarded as of higher quality, get more reviews, are more likely to be used in universities, etc. And that writers writing quiet drama stories have a better shot than they used to, because the general fiction market has expanded considerably, because more of the population is literate, and the old gentleman's system, which meant that mostly boys from the universities got the nod, is no more, with ethnic writers getting to publish a lot more fiction than they used to only a few decades ago.

    And what I was talking about in regards to that was this tendency to try to divy things up, to reduce a broad spectrum to a dot, even if it makes no sense. So all of SF is one dot, or all of a sub-category of SF, and all of general fiction is one thing, etc. All of one generation of authors' writings are one thing and the other generation is something else. It's an analysis tendency that we overuse, especially when it comes to artistic experiences -- we keep trying to reduce it down to some lowest common denominator, rather than acknowledge a wide range.

    And this, in turn, keeps perpetuating a war that does not exist -- that unrealistic and realistic stories are radically different from each other in nature and are on opposite sides and duking it out for who's most relevant and important. For SFF fiction to offer works of philosophy does not have to mean that realistic fiction now fails to do this. Nor is there any evidence that this is the case, other than subjective and wide-ranging views of different fictional works.

    So while I applaud championing the facets of SFF tittles, I don't see that this requires the assertion that realistic fiction has given up the ghost. And as long as older writers slam newer ones and the newer ones slam right back until they become older writers who then slam the newer writers, and this keeps happening, I don't see much reason to give any credence to any one of their claims about the state of fiction.

  6. #21
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Is it true perhaps that main stream fiction is less esoteric than it used to be? It it true perhaps that SFF isn't always on the radar screens and that what we do as authors can often be more experimental because we're not expected to be on the best seller lists most of the time? Has the categorization of fiction given us more freedom in the end?

  7. #22
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    How did the question get to be about best seller lists?
    Quote Originally Posted by Thompson
    If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi.
    Please splain to me the philosophical question contained in the thought experiment: What would happen if physical property could be duplicated like an MP3 file? What if a poor society could prosper simply by making pirated copies of cars, clothes, or drugs that cure fatal illnesses?
    Makes me wonder about this last bastion claim.

  8. #23
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    And then we'll all become alchemists.

    HE, you confuse me.

  9. #24
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    I understand your argument to be that any thought experiment is, ipso facto, a philosophical discussion. That's what I'm wrestling with. Any novel is a thought experiment. By the apparent argument, any novel is a philosophical speculation. If that is true, then, what makes sf the last bastion of philosophical specualtion?

  10. #25
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    A matter of degrees I suppose if you want to be polite. But there is a difference regarding the author's intent when they write a romance novel and Dostoyevsky's intent when he wrote Crime and Punishment.

    All novels are intellectual exercises and require thought. But you can't equate all levels of thought, unless we want to reduce all qualitative differences to matters of taste.

  11. #26
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    So, splain please, what sets science fiction apart. Because Thompson says so or because you say so? What if I counter with the notion that Clavell postulated a world-that-was-not-a-world with Tai-Pan and then again in Shogun. Annie Proulx did much the same with Shipping News and Close Range. Tracey Chevalier postulates time travel as well as anyone I can think of in the sf world. That must count as philosophical speculation at least as much Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land or Duncan in Vellum or Clarke in The Nine Billion Names of God.
    Why is it that sf is the last bastion?

  12. #27
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that it need be the last bastion exclusively. It still could be predominantly.

    I think the point is well taken whether the claim is an exaggeration or not. And I do think there are many reasons in today's literary environment that might make it more likely that philosophical interests continue to be speculated upon in speculative fiction.

  13. #28
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Is it true perhaps that main stream fiction is less esoteric than it used to be? It it true perhaps that SFF isn't always on the radar screens and that what we do as authors can often be more experimental because we're not expected to be on the best seller lists most of the time? Has the categorization of fiction given us more freedom in the end?
    No, it is not true. General fiction has always been a mix of stuff, with high action and quiet dramas both getting on the bestseller lists with the masses, and it is a mix now. It's made up of every sort of fiction there is. It hasn't gotten less esoteric or intellectual or less commercial or more commercial, or any of the dot-reducers. It remains a spectrum. And as HE points out, all fiction is philosophical.

    As for SFF being off the radar screen, those days are long gone. And SFF isn't any more experimental than any other type of fiction. In fact, it's still probably a bit more conservative and slow to move overall when it comes to experimental narrative structures and devices and pov frameworks that many in general fiction delight in playing with. What categorization gets you is an audience that can find you easily and is predisposed to like the sort of thing you write, which is a good thing. With SFF, you get unrealistic elements. With realistic fiction, you don't. That's pretty much the only differentiation between them.

    I find myself in the weird position of being a variety activist. The weirdest part is that I'm not advocating that we should have variety. Variety already exists, but apparently it has to be advocated to have that variety recognized as existing. I continually feel around here like I'm in Monty Python's Life of Brian, going, "We are all individuals!"

  14. #29
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Again KatG, I do think you're wrong. And fundamentally, I think it's wrong to resist the fact that things have changed dramatically with the advent of such major changes in the way we receive media and the way we process media. In addition, it's virtually impossible that word processing and electronic data haven't had major effects on the publishing industry in all aspects. It may have been true years ago that technological changes took much longer to generate changes in behavioral patterns and the creative process. But today these changes occur much faster.

    Things have changed. Small bookstores are almost a thing of the past. Knowledgable booksellers are almost a thing of the past. Big, splashy events sell books. Media hype sells books, and it's so much easier to publicize things today and to disseminate information quickly.

    Things have changed and to assume that these dramatic changes in all the aspects of writing, publishing and selling haven't altered what's getting written and what's getting read is probably naive.

  15. #30
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    So, it's the distributiion media that have made sf the last bastion of philosophical speculation. How does that work?

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