I ran into an old friend at one of my writing haunts recently. He often works on Atlanta-based film productions, so I asked about his latest.
“Work is a bit thin at the moment,” he said. “But I interviewed for a job on that new show Powers, so I have high hopes.”
“Powers? What’s that about?”
“People with powers.”
His matter-of-fact answer made me laugh, but the exchange stuck with me. Of course the show was about powers. Fantasy powers, genetic powers, experiment-driven powers, supernatural powers…
These days, everyone has powers.
I’m being hyperbolic. Most stories—television, movie, book or otherwise (minus comics)—still do not involve the fantastical. But there’s no denying that a once-shadowy genre has taken its place in the sunshine.
I often see internet think pieces that try to predict when the bounty (glut?) of fantasy and scifi media will dry out. Most concentrate on superhero or comic movie and TV adaptations, but I don’t care to guess the future state of the industry. I think as long as a genre has original stories to tell, it will stick around.
None of this is news. Writers have proclaimed it a thousand times. Don’t worry—this is not the place for culture think pieces. Killer bunny rabbits and the lack of toilet paper in history epics are my versions of serious discussion.
But I do have trouble relating to the explosion of scifi and fantasy in popular media. For all I know, there aren’t any more hard-core fans (as a proportion of the population) than there used to be—but it sure feels like it.
In the age before these genres were mainstream, I felt a kind of private ownership over them. It’s a ridiculous idea—there were millions of fans in the 80s, just as there are millions of fans now. Maybe kinship is a better word. Or try this: it’s like having a best friend who becomes famous. When you try to visit her mansion, she sends the dogs after you and buries your remains in her garden.
Hyperbole again! I do believe the popularity of scifi and fantasy is a wonderful thing. If it’s easier for new generations to find their way to these genres and celebrate them, I’m all for it.
I can take a selfish view, too. This is what I write; the more readers there are, the better.
So no, scifi does not taste like chicken. There’s just a lot of it. Like chicken.
A cherished ritual of my childhood years—and even teenage years—was to visit the scifi and fantasy section at the Waldenbooks in the mall. (Did you know Waldenbooks lasted all the way until 2011? I thought it died in the 90s!)
The scifi and fantasy books were always in the very back of the store, tucked against the rear wall away from any windows. Or people. Or dignity.
But I loved it that way. That dark corner was like my own personal escape. And the layout was the same in every bookstore I visited. Scifi and fantasy in the very back.
That ritual ended eons ago. I miss it.
There are a few bookstores left in Atlanta. As in most places, Barnes & Noble constitutes the bulk. We’re lucky even to have those.
A very small one is tucked into the Emory University campus; it’s maybe a third the size of a normal B&N. I walked over for the first time this week to glance around.
I expected the scifi and fantasy section to be at the front, in the sunlight by the windows. I was wrong (that was self-help).
Somewhere in the center, maybe? Nope. I wandered past the counter and through the racks to the back of the store.
There it was. Scifi and fantasy, tucked in a windowless corner as far from the front as you could go.
It made me happy.