Thursday, February 1, 2007

Science fiction and fantasy in bookstores

Robert Sawyer has a provocative suggestion at his blog: shelve science fiction and fantasy separately in stores. The idea has a certain appeal- I like precision of categorization, and it would make finding certain things quicker- but I think it would be a bad idea. Two reasons:

1. I don't buy Sawyer's claim that the long-standing association between the genres of fantasy and science fiction is a mere historical accident. There are simply too many major authors who have written in both genres- Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Greg Bear, David Drake, Gordon R. Dickson- for me to believe they are "diametrically opposed," as Sawyer suggests. The commonalities between the two are something for another post, though.

2. On a more practical level, because many people (for whatever reason) write in both fields, it would mean that many authors would have to have their fiction split into two different sections, which would be a pain. Or, alternately, the store would have to pick one section to put all of an author's work in, which would also be a pain.

All in all, I prefer the status quo. I enjoy the narrower categories at online booksellers like Amazon (which does let you search separate fantasy and science fiction sections) but in a physical bookstore I'd rather things stay as they are.

Hat tip: SF Signal.

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