I have a rather controversial opinion about sci-fi and fantasy lists. I get really pissed off when they’re all about dead people.
Okay, granted, there’s a recent speculative hits section on there, so it’s not all that bad.
Just look at that crap. Animal Farm, 1984, Brave New World. Fucking Frankenstein, who is composed of many dead people. Slaughterhouse Five.
Oh, wow, The Martian is on there. We got a live one!
Dune. Asimov. The Time Machine. All dead people.
Fuck that shit.
No, seriously, fuck it.
Last year in Fantasticon I was introduced to the young heir to a major publishing house. He wanted to sign Greek authors and ‘bring books to the 21st century’ by offering us ebooks and audiobooks, and he was asking me about them, because I have 50 of them and he, a major publisher has 0 (zero). Seriously, read that again. Kudos for the effort, but that company is still a fucking dinosaur and I’ll believe his word when I see it happen.
I offended him with the following anecdote:
I told him that last year there was a publishing house with a huge series of publications, truly wonderful prints with updated covers and whatnot. But it was a fucking graveyard. All of them looked like wonderful tombstones to dead people. Wonderful names, all the names you’ll find on those goddamn top 100 lists.
You know them all, even if you’ve never read the books.
Fuck that noise.
He laughed, because he realised I was talking about his convention stand. It was a dead Intellectual Property graveyard. All the other convention stands had authors and creators standing there, taking selfies with fans and signing autographs. And some of them are my friends, some are just acquaintances.
But you know what? They’re alive. They’re there. Asimov is wonderful, but I can’t chat him up on Facebook like I can with David Brin. Heinlein rocks, but I can’t watch his Youtube Livestream like I can with Brandon Sanderson. Bradbury is fucking legendary, but I can’t read his blog posts like John Scalzi.
Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.
I’m sick and tired of discussions where young speculative fiction fans are ridiculed because they haven’t read the entire Foundation, or can’t stand the Lord of the Rings. Don’t get me started on Ringworld, that book was the stupidest story ever set in the smartest setting ever. I’m tired of seeing the same old names in sci-fi and fantasy. I wanna read John Scalzi, Dennis E. Taylor, Ted Chiang, Andy Weir, Kazuo Ishiguro, and all the thousands of other brilliant and talented authors that are waiting for their turn in the spotlight.
And someone might say, ‘You can choose to read those. What’s stopping you?” Well, this isn’t cheap, you know. When a major publishing house says they wanna sign up Greek authors but keeps pumping out dead authors’ reprints, how long do you think that author will be able to keep at it?
How long until he gives up, never having gotten a chance?
I understand the business decision of reprinting old and popular IP. I get that there are guaranteed sales. I get that this is a business, and a wrong decision can effectively tank the entire company. But if you’re not willing to take a chance on a new author, you might be like those 20 publishing houses that passed on Harry Potter.
No, you old person. Good fiction didn’t stop in the 70s. Your brain cells did. Good fiction keeps coming out, and it gets sidelined by the mythical status of backwards and outdated stories that are just big Intellectual Properties owned by corporations. We’re all deluding ourselves, watching through rose-coloured glasses. They suck, but nobody wants to come out and say it. Sure, I wanna watch the new Brave New World show, but I’m not gonna stick to that and ignore all the fresh stories coming out.
Which one would you rather support? Which voice is the freshest?
Nnedi Okorafor’s, or whatever white dude died a century ago?