After decades of neglect from the Pulitzer fiction committee, science fiction finally gained literary respectability yesterday with the recognition of Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road as the best novel of 2006… wait, what do you mean The Road isn’t science fiction? If Alan Cheuse went on NPR and said it was, that’s good enough for me, although Michael Chabon begged to differ in the New York Review of Books, claiming the book was more accurately described as a mixture of “adventure and Gothic horror.” Fine: horror’s just one step away from fantasy, which is practically on the same shelf as science fiction!
Seriously, though, before the Pulitzer for The Road was announced, the death of Kurt Vonnegut led Pyr editorial director Lou Anders to write some broader thoughts about the mainstreaming of science fiction that anyone involved in the publishing industry should read carefully. “The appetite for SF&F has never been higher and extends well beyond a few shelves in the back of the bookstore, reaching out in all directions and through all media,” Anders reflects. “When an entire industry’s quarterly fiscal reports fluctuate in direct relation to whether or not the period contains a book with a boy wizard in it, it’s time to admit that science fiction and fantasy are mainstream and quit worrying about whether or not it’s literature.” If that’s the case, he concludes, “the stigma applied to the genre books relegated to the back of the bookstore is nothing less than money being left on the table.” And with bookstore sales dropping 6.5 percent in February, everybody’s got to be thinking about ways to get them back up that don’t involve, well, a book with a boy wizard in it.