I’ve had (more than) a few people suggest that my novels never made it because they are about an old style of science fiction; specifically, the Science Nerd era of Clarke, Asimov and Pohl. The audience for smart science fiction, where people find intelligent ways around complex problems based on our knowledge of science and the challenges it poses, is now old hat.
If I want to be successful, they say, I need to write SF based around dystopias, cyberpunk and Star Wars-type space battling. I need to write stories with FTL drives, time travel, and humans shooting at goofy aliens and mega-dinosaurs. I need stories with rebellious kids skateboarding or parkouring through Blade-Runner-style urban wastelands. I have to write stories that can be translated into video games (and sell the video games, since nobody reads anymore).
Oh, but there’s one kind of person who still reads: The ones who want stories about women having sex with animals, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, aliens, cyborgs or alien-clone-cyborg-creatures. If I write those, they will cum (ahem).
Is it true that I’m a writing anachronism, then? That I was born to the wrong era… that no one will want the kind of books I write, ever again?
Maybe not. As the saying goes, “What goes around comes around.” Story types go out of style for awhile, replaced by the latest trends, and then come back into style as those new trends go stale. Maybe, if I leave my existing books on the digital shelves long enough, they’ll be discovered by a new breed of fan who believes that the greatest adventures lie inside the human mind.
But should I wait for those future nerds to come along and make me famous? Sucker bet. Not an option.
A better option would be to consider writing for this generation (the four or five of ’em that actually read, at any rate). But not only do I not know if I can write those kind of stories… the likelihood that I’ll figure out how to promote and sell them isn’t any stronger with new and different books than it’s been with my earlier books.
But hold on… I wrote a story about a woman who has sex with a robot. Couldn’t sell it to save my own life. I wrote a book about virtual realities and superheroes. I wrote three books that included FTL drives and aliens. I haven’t been able to sell any of my books, regardless of content, reviews or ratings. Because they are unknown: They haven’t been seen or heard of by enough people, and not enough people (or enough of the right people) are recommending them to others.
They’re not recommending me, either, but not because I’m an anachronism. In science fiction terms, I am what is known as a nebbish… a nobody, as unknown as my books.
All this tells me, yet again, that promotion is the problem. Not content. Not the size of my catalog. I need notoriety; I have to have people known in science and science fiction who talk about me and my books, and recommend my work to their fans, until I become a known person. I need help from others in the biz, or who have access to those in the biz. (I wish I could do the job myself, but to do that would require a lot of money, and frankly, if I had the kind of money it would require to pay for my own promotion… I wouldn’t need to write for extra money.)
Why am I thinking about all this? Because I’m not actively writing… but I haven’t given up on cracking the promotion nut yet. If I can figure out how to sell my books—or find someone who can help me to sell them—I could start writing once again.
For now, I’m concentrating on finding a full-time job, and have no intention of starting any full-on writing projects until that is accomplished. But who knows what 2017 could bring?