A Genre Takes Flight | Genre Spotlight: Science Fiction

ljx150801sfFeatOpener2Speculative fiction, like the universe itself, is expanding in many directions. The upcoming fall/winter publishing season will see releases in well-established subgenres like epic fantasy, dystopian science fiction, and zombie horror. But many of these titles, penned by a crop of increasingly diverse writers, will also introduce fresh settings, concepts, and ways of looking at existing themes that will appeal to a rapidly growing and broadening readership.

What is driving the expansion of what had been niche genres? Crown senior editor Julian Pavia credits the impact of successful films and television shows like The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones with moving sf/fantasy towards the mainstream. This has made it easier for mainstream audiences—and publishers—to accept books set in fantastical worlds.

“If audiences can handle Joss Whedon’s Avengers movies, let alone something as far out and quirky as Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s got to be room for equally smart and accessible genre fare on the best-seller lists,” says Pavia. Nick Mamatas, editor of Viz Media’s Haikasoru imprint, which specializes in Japanese sf, believes that such novels are becoming more fun and more aware of the pop culture moment.


Storytelling across the mediums

For Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, this trend is not just media driven; rather it is a positive feedback loop between Hollywood and genre publishers. “So many graphic novels (as well as superhero comic books) have been made into successful movies, and this feeds back into the original material.” Rene Sears, the editorial director of Prometheus’s Pyr sf/fantasy imprint, notes that creators and fans often consume more than one media. “Readers are most likely also movie watchers and game players, and the stories in one can influence others.”

In October, Pyr is publishing Gold Throne in Shadow, the second entry in M.C. Planck’s “World of Prime”series. The novel incorporates tropes of video game play into the world building so the characters level up to new ranks and powers. “It’s an interesting riff on what it would be like to actually experience some of the quirks of gaming that we take for granted,” comments Sears.

This endless loop among the different formats no doubt will continue with the holiday releases of The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Mockingjay, Part, 2, as their audiences seek out similar stories in print, which Hollywood in turn will eventually adapt to big and small screens.

New voices, fresh themes

As sf/fantasy’s readership expands and diversifies, so does its creators and the issues they write about. Ace/Roc executive editors Diana Gill and Anne Sowards observe “the rise of brilliant and diverse new voices across genres.” British editor Jo Fletcher (see Q&A below), who heads Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus, is thrilled at the number of “female writers making the right sort of waves.” Among the newcomers she thinks are doing sterling work is Naomi Foyle, whose Seoul Survivors (Jo Fletcher, Aug.) is an apocalyptic thriller set in South Korea.

Such authors are also tackling difficult topics. Harper Voyager executive editor David Pomerico notes that comics like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Saga, and Batgirl are pushing the envelope in terms of race, gender, and sexual identity, and “showing us in the book world the demand for more stories.” The media too, he says, has played a role by shining a spotlight on the issues of sexism and racism raised by the GamerGate and Sad Puppies controversies. [See “Set Your Phasers to Stunned” —Ed.] Still, certain groups remain underrepresented in the sf/fantasy universe, especially in terms of race. The biggest challenge for publishers, Pomerico believes, is in finding “works that expose not only readers, but editors themselves, to different cultural and societal experiences….”


Epics still rule

Fantasy remains a strong seller for publishers and readers; it also circulates well in libraries. According to LJ’s sf collections survey (see sidebar on p. 25), almost 64 percent of the respondents ranked fantasy ranked as their highest circulating speculative fiction genre. Epic fantasy was the most popular subgenre with their patrons, followed by paranormal/urban fantasy.

Gritty fantasies show no signs of peaking as editors continue to acquire complex epics that incorporate detailed social and political issues into their worlds. High on Tor senior editor Marco Palmieri’s fall list is debut author Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Sept.; see starred review on p. 66), “a heart-wrenching political fantasy about power, colonialism, and being different in a world that disapproves of you.” Baen’s Weisskopf describes Son of the Black Sword (Nov.), the first volume of Larry Correia’s new “Saga of the Forgotten Warrior” series, as filled “with thought-provoking issues of high-risk stakes, detailed combat scenes, and a hero for a new age.”

For George R.R. Martin readers impatiently waiting for the next installment in his “Song of Ice and Fire” series, Fletcher urges them to try David Hair’s “Moontide Quartet.” “This is gripping, fast-paced epic fantasy of a very high caliber, and best of all it’s as multiracial and multicultural as you can get.’ The penultimate title, Unholy War, will release in September from Jo Fletcher Books. Arriving in October from UK publisher Gollancz is John Horner Jacobs’s The Incorruptibles, which begins as a fantasy Western about a riverboat diplomacy mission and develops, in the words of publishing director Gillian Redfearn, “into a grimdark, steampunk, multiracial struggle.”

ljx150801sfFeatQAHaydenQ&A: Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Scalzi’s Deal

John Scalzi , the Hugo Award–winning author of Redshirts, attracted plenty of media coverage this past May when he signed a significant $3.4 million contract with Tor Books to write 13 books in the next ten years. Library Journal talked to Tor senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden about the arrangement.

How does this contract stack up to others that Tor has committed to in the past?

The Scalzi multibook acquisition, 13 books in ten years, is certainly unusual. It’s not the largest amount of money we’ve ever committed to a single deal, but it’s in the ballpark, and it certainly is (to the best of my recollection) the single Tor deal with a major author involving the largest number of books over the longest span of time.

What can you tell us about the works in question?

The books are a mix. Three will be YA. There’ll be a new two-volume space opera among the titles that appear in the immediate next few years. Some other books…are sequels to existing Scalzi novels, and several are stand-alones. They’re all on the “fantasy and/or science fiction” map, broadly speaking.

What concerns led to this deal?

What led to the deal was a convergence of interests: John wants a plan and a predictable income, so he can think about the stories he’s writing and plans to write, instead of being distracted thinking about the next deal. And for us, of course, it’s great to know what (and when) the next decade’s worth of John Scalzi novels will be. Publishers don’t usually get to do planning quite that long-range for a single author. We intend to take advantage of this chance.

And…what makes the whole thing make sense is that John is a very successful author already—most notably, one who backlists like crazy, because as I said to the [New York] Times and other outlets, as far as we can tell, people who read a John Scalzi novel have a marked tendency to run out and read all the other John Scalzi novels. We don’t think he’s even approached his potential reach in the marketplace yet.

Lighter fare

It’s not all doom and gloom in the fantasy world, as editors are also witnessing a resurgence of lighter books—from Katherine Addison’s award-winning The Goblin Emperor to Naomi Novik’s critically acclaimed Uprooted—to counterbalance the darker fare. The success of such titles, says David Pomerico, has influenced Harper Voyager’s acquistion of Mitchell Hogan’s debut sword and sorcery adventure, A Crucible of Souls (Sept.) as well as Sarah Beth Durst’s “Queens of Renthia” trilogy, which launches in fall 2016.

Hogan, who self-published the first two titles in his “Sorcery Ascendant” series, worked with Harper Voyager in Austalia and the United States to further develop his books. Pomerico predicts that readers are going to get sucked into a fantasy that is a bit more David Eddings than George R.R. Martin. Redfeard of Gollancz holds Den Patrick’s high fantasy The Boy Who Wept Blood (Dec.) as a great example of that lighter tone. “There’s plenty of dark politics and skulduggery, but it’s combined with more wit, a coming-of-age storyline, and characters whose charm is one of their key skills.”

Still popular but evolving

Urban fantasy continues to enjoy significant market share, but authors are now introducing protagonists beyond the tried-and-true vampires. This month Small Beer Press publishes Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Entropy of Bones (see review on p. 67), hot on the heels of June’s The Liminal War. Teenager Chabi is an outsider not just because of her black-Mongolian heritage. She is also a “Liminal”with powers to combat the nonhuman “Alters” that threaten all life. Roc’s Midnight Taxi Tango is an urban fantasy by Daniel José Older that hits the shelves in January and stars Carlos Delacruz, a man who eliminates problems for New York’s Council of the Dead.

From Akashic Books‘s Infamous imprint comes Steve Saville’s Sunfail (Nov.) which stars New York City subway electrician and former Special Forces soldier Jake Quinn as he fights a conspiracy by the world’s richest men to destroy the world. Also racing to save the planet from plunging into a new dark ages are young witch and an engineer in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, who are the heroes of All the Birds in the Sky (Tor, Jan. 2016) by io9.com editor Charlie Jane Anders.

Urban fantasies are also exploring fresh settings, like the alternate war-ravaged late 20th-century Paris of Nebula Award winner Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings (Roc; see starred review). Roc/Ace editors Gill and Sowards praise the novel for its lush writing, informed by the author’s own experiences living in Paris and her Vietnamese heritage. Pyr’s Sears explains this trend. “What we’re seeing more of, which I love, are what I think of as urban fantasy in a secondary world setting—a more contemporary feel, but a world separate from our own.”

In the wind

Meanwhile best-selling author Jim Butcher is exchanging the gritty Chicago backdrop of his “Dresden Files” books for a steampunk setting of airships and towering Spires that hover above the earth. The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Roc, Sept.), the opener of his “The Cinder Spires” series, is one of several sf/fantasy titles this season in which human flight takes center stage. In Updraft (Tor, Sept.), debut author Fran Wilde creates a fascinating world of floating cities made of living bone where the residents strap on wings and soar on the air currents.

This November David Dalglish launches a new epic series with Skyborn (Orbit: Hachette) introducing the Seraphim, elite soldiers trained for aerial combat. The extreme sport of human-powered flying on a lunar colony propels the plot of David Nabhan’s The Pilots of Borealis (Talos, Aug.).


Space, the new frontier?

While LJ’s survey reveals that sf ranks second behind fantasy in terms of patron popularity, editors like Crown’s Pavia sense that the genre is making a comeback: “In publishing Ready Player One and The Martian at Crown, we got some raised eyebrows about how wide the readership could be for books with such heavy sf elements.“ He hopes that the unexpected success of those novels will pave the way for more great sf. “Of my own books, I of course have to give a shoutout to Armada (July), Ernie Cline’s brilliant follow-up to Ready Player One.’ And in August Crown’s Broadway imprint is releasing the movie tie-in edition of Andy Weir’s The Martian.

I think we all appreciate the success of a true hard sf story in the mainstream, “ says Baen publisher Weiskopff, referring to the surprise journey of Weir’s novel from a self-published best seller to a Big Five release to a potential blockbuster. In November she is publishing an exciting space adventure from Air Force veteran Mike Kupari, Her Brother’s Keeper, which follows privateer captain Catharine Blackwood as she tries to rescue her brother from a warlord.

ljx150801sfFeatQAFletcherQ&A: Jo Fletcher

Remembering Terry

One of the saddest events of this past year was the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett in March. He was the author of more than 70 books, including his wonderful “Discworld” series that effortlessly served up sharp social commentary with a pleasing sauce of humor. According to an online June 12 Guardian interview with his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown (HarperCollins, Sept.) will be the final “Discworld” novel to be published. British sf/fantasy editor Jo Fletcher, who heads her own eponymous imprint at Quercus, was a longtime friend and editor of Pratchett’s and graciously shared her thoughts with Library Journal.

In your time working with Sir Terry, do you have a favorite project? A fondest memory?

I knew Terry as a friend for a decade before I became his editor, when I joined Gollancz. We had both started out as journalists, and we’d had similar experiences on local papers (some of which you’ll find, thinly disguised, in [“Discworld,” Bk. 25] The Truth). The first book we worked on together from the start was Maskerade, and that was the first time I had the phone call: he’d ring up and say, “What do you think of this?” and he’d start reading out a passage, and that generally turned into a chapter, and then he’d get sidetracked by some interesting piece of ephemera he’d discovered, and an hour later you’d hang up feeling slightly shell-shocked. But don’t think he didn’t want constructive criticism: almost the first thing he said when I called to say I’d taken the job was, “Don’t expect an easy ride just because we’re friends. I expect to be edited.” And he did.

There is a wide vein of humor that runs through much of Sir Terry’s work. What do you remember of his wit in person?

He was a funny man; I think that has to be obvious to all, and he liked being witty. He enjoyed bawdy humor as much, if not more, than clever humor. He loved portmanteau words and thoughts and weirdnesses. If he found a new word or phrase that he really liked, he was quick to share it…. Even when he was in a bad mood—and he was many things, but he was not the jolly little elf some people would make him out to be—he couldn’t help himself if his sense of humor was piqued. Get him intrigued or laughing, and the conversation would always take a turn for the better.

In his recent collection of short nonfiction, A Slip of the Keyboards, Sir Terry included several pieces about his own efforts to publicize the scourge that is Alzheimer’s. What effect do you think that he has had on raising awareness of and increasing funding for this disease?

From the moment Terry was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy (in late summer, 2007, after months of problems with spelling and putting on seat belts and little things that everyone thought was just “getting old” even though he was not even 60 then), he started speaking out. Terry, after all, was never going to be one to go quietly. And as a result, in the [U.K.} at least, he has had an enormous and necessary effect—both on understanding the disease itself, and probably more importantly, on the question of funding research.

And being Terry, he not only gave generously himself, but he also gave his time, his ability, his talent, and his passion, all of which probably had a much bigger effect, because they started to make people look at Alzheimer’s, and to talk about it in the open…. But what he wanted, more than anything, was a cure. When someone that famous is vocal about the issues and the effects of the disease as it slowly robs you of everything that makes you you, then people start…taking notice.

And there was something else Terry was vocal about, and that was the right to chose not to suffer: that one should be able to determine one’s own time and way to die, with medical help, if one is suffering from an incurable condition.

How would you characterize his lasting influence on the genre and even the world in general?

I think this is something we’re going to have to wait and see. I could never understand why so many apparently intelligent people treated him like “just a fantasy writer” or refused to read his books because of the covers, and now [that] he’s dead, I don’t think that’s likely to change, although they don’t know what they are missing. Terry Pratchett was one of the world’s greatest writers, and greatest satirists, but because he chose to do it through fantasy, too many people didn’t take him seriously. It used to upset me that he was never nominated for the Booker or a Nobel [prize], or any other mainstream literary award, because fantasy is so derided by the literati…. Luckily, there are millions and millions of readers around the world who do understand the magic, and I suspect they will ensure that his books will live on down the years. I, for one, certainly hope so.

On an operatic scale

Harper Voyager is adding more sf to a fantasy-heavy list. On editor Pomerico’s fall 2015 list are the first two volumes of Jay Allan’s new “The Far Stars” military space opera—Shadows of Empire (Nov.) and Enemy in the Dark (Dec.). The trilogy wraps in early 2016 with Funeral Games. And Jo Fletcher is too seeking to acquire a good space opera. “But that’s hard to do brilliantly, so we’re all still looking.”

Still, Titan Books editor Natalie Laverick is convinced space opera is an enduring subgenre that is bound to grow in the wake of the new Star Wars movie. She sees a greater influence in the Hugo Award-winning Saga graphic novels. “Its success proves that there is an audience for creative, human space opera stories set in fascinating and original worlds that don’t relay on [stale] tropes or massive franchises.”

Coming in November from Roc is Tony Peak’s Inherit the Stars, a rollicking space opera adventure debut that its editors describe as “featuring alien artifacts, lost civilizations, starship chases, and everything you want while waiting for the next Guardians of the Galaxy.” Tom Toner’s The Promise of the Child (Night Shade, Sept.) bestrides both space and time, “ranging from 14th-century Prague…to the 147th-century Amaranthine Firmament.” A space colony that may have been built on a lie is the premise of Emma Newman’s Planetfall (Roc, Nov.).

Boots in space

In 2014 Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, a debut novel about a warship-turned- soldier named Breq, swept the major sf prizes, including the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Arthur C. Clarke awards. Followed by Ancillary Sword, it gave gave the military sf subgenre a much-needed shot in the arm. This October Leckie ends her critically acclaimed “Imperial Radch’ trilogy with Ancillary Mercy (Orbit: Hachette), in which Breq’s old enemy, the many-bodied Anaander Miaanai, arrives at Athoek Station. November will see another series finished as Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint brings out Linda Nagata’s final volume in “The Red Trilogy.” In Going Dark. James Shelley becomes a black ops sniper for the rogue AI, the Red, with missions designed to remove existential threats to history.

Baen, which always has a strong military sf list, offers two notable anthologies this season. September’s Future Wars…and Other Punchlines, edited by Hank Davis, will include classic and original stories that look the lighter side of conflict in space. Onward, Drake!, edited by Mark L. Van Name, collects tribute pieces from top authors as well as featuring two new pieces from David Drake, himself, one of which is the first new Hammer’s Slammers story in nearly a decade.

The future is near

Another subgenre that is once more finding a prominent place in speculative fiction is near future sf. Harper Voyager’s Pomericoe explains the appeal. “The world is clearly identifiable to us now, the science is real and present, and the stories tend to have a thrilling nature.” On his list of upcoming titles is Chuck Wendig’s Zeroes (Aug.) and A.G. Riddle’s Departure (Oct.), which both look at distinctly possible futures. Interestingly Riddle’s originally self-published book sold over a million ebooks, and 21st Century Fox has acquired the film rights.

Next spring Holly Jennings makes a cutting-edge near future debut with Arena (Ace, Apr. 2016) that examines what might be coming next for video games and competitive gaming. Executive editors Gills and Sowards rave, “With the focus on a female gamer who discovers a dark truth, it is perfect for fans of Ready Player One.” Titan’s Natalie Laverick was blown away by Saraph Pinbrough’s near-future standalone, The Death House, which is set in a home for children who are considered defective. “Think Never Let Me Go meets Lord of the Flies,” she says.


The end of the world

Dystopian fiction has been a sf staple since H.G. Wells, and Laverick understands the attractions for writers. These devastated future stories are often about where we are now, she notes, reflecting our anxieties. A September lead title for Titan is Adrian Barnes’s Nod, an end-of-the world narrative set in Vancouver whose citizens, with the exception of a lucky few, suffer from insomnia. Laverick praises this debut novel, shortlisted for an Arthur C. Clarke award in 2013, as a “a searing commentary, drawn with vivid and unflinching prose.”

Coming next month from Gollancz is Barricade by Jon Wallace, a sf thriller that reads like a road-trip version of Blade Runner. Winner of the Terry Pratchett Prize, Alexander Maskill’s The Hive Construct (Corgi/Transworld, Nov.) is set in the Saharan city of New Cairo, where corporate dynasties control the artificial implants that make life possible for even the poorest. And Michael Swanwick’s Chasing the Phoenix (Tor, Aug.) stars two con men (one is a genetically engineered dog) making their way through a future China that has reverted to pre-industrial levels.

The horror, the horror!

Despite horror’s low popularity among library patrons, something may be stirring in its murky depths. Michael Homler, an editor at St. Martin’s Press notes that “[t]raditional old school horror is the trend lately,” because “[p]eople still want those old-fashioned creepy stories….” On Homler’s fall list Christopher Golden’s Dead Ringers (Nov.) fits into that mold with its storyline about people facing their döpplegangers—doubles animated by long-dead magicians. In September ChiZine will be releasing its anthology, The Humanity of Monsters, edited by Michael Matheson, which collects stories by Joe Lansdale, Neil Gaiman, and others that examine the thin line between humanity and monstrosity.

For many of us, there is something deeply unsettling about invertebrates. Shaun Hutson taps into this fear in his Slugs (Caffeine Nights, Feb.); his creatures have acquired a taste for human flesh. Mira Grant completes her “Parisitology” trilogy with Chimera (Orbit, Nov.) Humanity has one final chance to survive the mindless mobs created by the supposedly benign implantation of genetically modified tapeworms.

Although Homler sees some fatigue in that area, zombies are still hugely popular. If it’s done well and is not derivative, he argues, fans will show up. For hard-hitting zombie fiction look no farther than Jay Bonansinga and Robert Kirkman’s Invasion (Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s, Oct.) the latest novelization of Kirkman’s hit graphic novel series “The Walking Dead.”

Other writers are taking lighter, unconventional approaches to zombies and other horror staples. Lethe Press celebrates the lesbian mad scientist in August’s Daughters of Frankenstein, edited by Steve Berman. Do the walking dead have sex appeal? Editor Mitzie Szereto says yes in her anthology Love, Lust and Zombies (Cleis, Oct.). Superheroes battle zombies in Peter Clines’s Ex-Isle (Broadway: Crown, Feb. 2016), and Nick Mamatas’s The Last Weekend (Night Shade, Jan. 2016) follows failed sci-fi writer and successful barfly Billy Kostopolos as he tries to make a go of life in post-zombie apocalypse San Francisco.


Does sf/fantasy translate?

Genre fiction in translation remains a small percentage of the overall number of books published in Britain and the United States. Besides the expense of translating a work and editing the translation (because translators are not always good writers) Jo Fletcher notes that it’s hard for editors to make a publishing judgement call on a manuscript that they haven’t been able to read themselves. Still the difficulties haven’t dissuaded Fletcher from publishing German author Markus Heitz’s Devastating Hate (Feb. 2016), which continues his fantasy saga “The Dwarves.” She is also looking seriously at four more foreign (French, Portuguese, Finnish, and Polish) writers.

Pyr editorial director Rene Sears hopes that the recognition that Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem garnered will lead to more translated works brought to the States. Tor will release the sequel, The Dark Forest, this month. In December Penguin Books Australia, distributed in the United States by Trafalgar Square, will publish Lao She’s classic Cat Country, a dystopian allegory about the 1932 occupation by Japanese marines of part of Shanghai. Imogen Liu, acquisitions editor for Penguin Random House China, calls the novel the first major sf work to be published in China. “At a time of great national despair, Cat Country was [the author’s] rash and emotionally charged response to the crisis.”

From Russia comes Dmitry Glukovsky’s Metro 2034 (Gollancz, Oct.), a postapocalyptic thriller based on a video game. Publishing director Gillian Redfearn says this release is part of the growing trend of translated fiction appearing in the UK market. “Much translated fiction has been towards the literary end of the spectrum, and it’s brilliant to see more commercially focused writers breaking through as well.”

With speculative fiction enjoying its pop culture moment, the outlook looks bright for the genre and its fans. Science fiction and fantasy have always been about embracing the future and pushing boundaries, and inspiring readers to think about their own world a little differently. Pomerico of Harper Voyager is encouraged that publishers are actively pursuing voices that are new and different. “We must do everything we can to be the progressive arm of genre publishing.” Readers can look forward to finding themselves more often in the pages of speculative fiction, no matter who they are.

Star Maps

Below are the forthcoming titles mentioned in this article.

Allan, Jay Shadow of Empire Harper Voyager Nov.
Allan, Jay Enemy in the Dark Harper Voyager Dec.
Anders, Charlie Jane All the Birds in the Sky Tor Jan. 2016
Barnes, Adrian Nod Titan Sept.
Berman, Steve, ed. Daughters of Frankenstein Lethe Aug.
Bonansinga, Jay & Robert Kirkman Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Invasion Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s Oct.
Butcher, Jim The Aeronaut’s Windlass Roc Sept.
Cixin Liu The Dark Forest Tor Aug.
Cline, Ernest Armada Crown July
Clines, Peter Ex-Isle Broadway: Crown Feb. 2016
Correia, Larry Son of the Black Sword Baen Nov.
Dalglish, David Skyborn Orbit: Hachette Nov.
Davis, Hank, ed. Future Wars…and Other Punchlines Baen Sept.
de Bodard, Aliette The House of Shattered Wings Roc Aug.
Dickinson, Seth The Traitor Baru Cormorant Tor Sept.
Foyle, Naomi Seoul Survivors Jo Fletcher: Quercus Aug.
Glukhovsky, Dmitry Metro 2034 Gollancz Oct.
Golden, Christopher Dead Ringers St. Martin’s Nov.
Grant, Mira Chimera Orbit: Hachette Nov.
Hair, David Unholy War Jo Fletcher: Quercus Sept.
Heitz, Markus Devastating Hate Jo Fletcher: Quercus Feb. 2016
Hogan, Mitchell A Crucible of Souls Harper Voyager Sept.
Hutson, Shaun Slugs Caffeine Nights Feb. 2016
Jacobs, John Hornor The Incorruptibles Gollancz Oct.
Jama-Everett, Ayize The Entropy of Bones Small Beer Aug.
Jennings, Holly Arena Ace Apr. 2016
Kupari, Mike Her Brother’s Keeper Baen Nov.
Leckie, Ann Ancillary Mercy Orbit: Hachette Oct.
Maskill, Alexander The Hive Construct Corgi/Transworld; dist. by Trafalgar Square Nov.
Mamatas, Nick The Last Weekend Night Shade Jan. 2016
Matheson, Michael, ed. The Humanity of Monsters ChiZine Sept.
Nabhan David The Pilots of Borealis Talos Aug.
Nagata, Linda Going Dark Saga: S. & S. Nov.
Newman, Emma Planetfall Roc Nov.
Older, Daniel José Midnight Taxi Tango Roc Jan. 2016
Patrick, Den The Boy Who Wept Blood Gollancz Dec.
Peak, Tony Inherit the Stars Roc Nov.
Pinborough, Sarah The Death House Titan Sept.
Planck, M.C. Gold Throne in Shadow Pyr: Prometheus Oct.
Pratchett, Terry The Shepherd’s Crown HarperCollins Sept.
Riddle, A.G. Departure Harper Voyager Oct.
Savile, Steve Sunfail Akashic Nov.
Scalzi, John The End of All Things Tor Aug.
She, Lao Cat Country Penguin Books Australia; dist. by Trafalgar Square Dec.
Swanwick, Michael Chasing the Phoenix Tor Aug.
Szereto, Mitzi, ed. Love, Lust and Zombies Cleis Oct.
Toner, Tom The Promise of the Child Night Shade Sept.
Van Name, Mark L., ed. Onward, Drake! Baen Oct.
Wallace, Jon Barricade Gollancz; dist. by Trafalgar Square Sept.
Weir, Andy The Martian (tie-in) Broadway: Crown Aug.
Wendig, Chuck Zeroes Harper Voyager Aug.
Wilde, Fran Updraft Tor Sept.

Eric Norton is the Head of Customer Services, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, where he has also served as a department head for adult and youth services. He is a longtime reviewer for LJ and sister publication School Library Journal and a lifelong fan of speculative fiction

Numbers Tell the Story: Sf in Libraries

SF Collections Survey 2015

While mystery remains the top circulating fiction genre in public libraries (as Barbara Hoffert’s “Materials Breakout” feature revealed, LJ 2/15/15), an LJ survey that was sent on June 5 to a selection of public librarians found that speculative fiction in all its infinite varieties has a home on library shelves. Almost all (89 percent) of the respondents are responsible for making book recommendation or purchasing decisions for their libraries.

Fantasy rules

In terms of popularity with patrons, within the genre, fantasy ranked first, then sf, then horror. Horror ranked slightly higher than sf in rural libraries.

The top circulating subgenres are:
 Epic/High fantasy followed closely by urban/paranormal

Science fiction: Dystopian fiction, followed by space opera and military sf

Horror: Zombie fiction (occult narrowly beat out zombie fiction in small-town libraries)

Checking out YA

Interestingly, the survey revealed that about 22 percent of YA speculative fiction checked out is estimated to be read by adults. Respondents to LJ’s survey had a number of opinions as to the reasons for this genre’s popularity with adult readers. “It is fast paced and usually a fun, fast read,” wrote Stephanie Beverage, Huntington Beach PL, CA. “There is also a sense of needing to keep up with what is cool—the pop culture aspect of YA speculative fiction.”

Some adults are interested because their kids are. “It is a way for them to connect with their teen children” said Beverage.

ljx150801sfFeatTable2Jessica Little, T.A. Cutler Memorial Library, MI, points out that many adults enjoy the movies based on the books (most rated PG-13 and geared as much for adults as teens). “They will come in to read the book after they’ve seen either the movie or trailer for the movie.”

Self-published SF

Digital formats are making self-publishing easier than ever, and this means there are more self-published works to consider for library collections. While the survey revealed that half of responding libraries did not offer self-published or ebook original titles in these genres at all, 22.5 percent circulated self-published fantasy, about 20 percent provided sf, and 12 percent had horror available for their patrons.

This may, in part, simply reflect the attempt by libraries to collect local authors. When asked the source of their knowledge about self-published titles, “patron requests” is by far the highest category reported by librarians. As indie publishing continues to grow, one function that libraries may increasingly take on in the future is to serve as hubs for both the creation and archiving of materials produced by members of their own communities.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Loren says:

    No mention of the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey? Its first few books (just barely) hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and their character driven nature makes them readable outside the typical space opera genre.

  2. David says:

    Sci-Fi genre is living a new golden age, thanks to new authors with fresh stories, also indie creators are taking the genre to a new whole level.