Back again for another highly opinionated — some might even say downright cranky — look at the week in fantasy. You’ve been warned!
WHY IS FANTASY LITERATURE SO POPULAR (AND WHY IS SCI-FI FADING FAST)?
Earlier in the week, I linked to a writer who had come up with some explanations for why fantasy is exploding in popularity as a literary genre while science fiction seems to be fading.
(Depressingly, a lot of people in the comments are taking issue with his premise that sci-fi is dying as a literary genre, which is just stupid. The trends are obvious and clear, as we’ve written about ourselves; fantasy literature outsells science fiction by a factor of at least ten, and probably more).
Anyway, I wasn’t too impressed with most of his reasons for the popularity of fantasy: because the future has caught up to sci-fi, because we’ve grown up on fantasy films, and because “literary” writers like Margaret Atwood are cannibalizing sci-fi sales with their own speculative fiction.
But I liked his first reason a lot:
More women than men read books.
I would amend this to say, “More women than men read fiction” (because men read a lot of non-fiction), and then I’d say he’s put his finger right on it. The more I work in publishing and the more I publish novels myself, the more obvious this is to me. As more and more men are drawn to the bells and whistles (and violence) of computer gaming, I think women dominating the publishing industry is becoming even more true.
And women readers seem to be drawn more to fantasy than science fiction.
No, I don’t think it’s that women don’t like or can’t understand “science” (or, as Talking Barbie used to say, “Math is hard!”). I think the explanation is even simpler: the fantasy genre has catered to female readers in a way that science fiction has not.
Traditionally, of course, both science fiction and fantasy gave women only ridiculously passive and stereotypical characters. (Depressingly, even some female writers still do this today **cough** Stephanie Meyer **cough**).
But in the 1970s, the industry began to change, as more and more female authors began writing books themselves. For whatever reason, more women were drawn to fantasy, or — chicken or the egg — maybe fantasy editors and publishers were simply more receptive to them, especially in the children’s and young adult field.
In response, it was like science fiction doubled down, becoming more insular and more seemingly male-dominated. But given the changing demographics, this was a massive strategic disaster.
And I think it’s the reason for where we are today.
So why is science fiction still so popular as a movie and TV genre? Well, that’s the subject of another column!
A SCI-FI OR FANTASY-THEMED OSCAR NOMINEE?
Speaking of sci-fi movies, earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced that they’re increasing the number of Best Picture Nominees from five to ten — which has some folks speculating that a genre movie could potentially get a nod.
The movies that seem to be in serious contention are Star Trek, Up, and District 9, which is too bad, because I think only District 9 truly deserves consideration (along with Drag Me to Hell, which, of course, doesn’t stand a chance in hell, no pun intended, because it’s a horror movie, and a very “B-movie” one at that).
Here’s my list of fantasy-themed movies I saw this year that I think mostly “work,” from best to worst:
- District 9
- Drag Me to Hell
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Here are the movies I saw that don’t really work (or flat-our stink), from best to worst:
- A Haunting in Connecticut
- Monsters Vs. Aliens
- Underworld: Rise of the Lychans
- Dragonball: Evolution (flat-out stinks)
- Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian (flat-out stinks)
- Where the Wild Things Are (flat-out stinks)
- Inkheart (flat-out stinks)
- The Vampire’s Assistant (flat-out stinks)
- The Box (really flat-out stinks)
- Year One (really flat-out stinks)
Full disclosure: there are still a few movies I haven’t seen yet (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Zombieland), movies I refuse to see out of principle (New Moon), and movies that haven’t opened yet (The Princess and the Frog, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes).
Still, whenever I compile lists like this, I’m always shocked by how many truly stink-o-rama movies I see in a year. And yet I keep going back. Why is that? Answer: because when a movie is truly great, like District 9 or Drag Me to Hell, it makes putting up with all the crap worthwhile. Which I really believe, until I have to sit through another movie like Where the Wild Things Are or The Box.
THE IDIOT BOX
The closer we get to the holiday break, the more likely shows are to go into reruns (don’t ask my why — that’s simply the “rule”), but this week brings new episodes of Sanctuary (Friday, 10 PM, SyFy) and Legend of the Seeker (syndicated, check local listings).
Also, check out Spike TV’s Video Game Awards on Saturday (8 PM, Spike TV).
THE BOX OFFICE
So Transylmania got a 0% rating at RottenTomatoes.com — not a single critic liked it. Didn’t I warn you it would suck? Didn’t I?
Well, this week’s flame has sputtered out, but join me again next week when I promise I won’t be nearly so cranky.
Oh, who am I kidding?!
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