Guest blogger Jason Sanford often rants on his website at www.jasonsanford.com. His fiction has been published in Interzone, Year’s Best SF 14, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pindeldyboz, and other places, and has won the 2008 Interzone Readers’ Poll and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.
What first brought you to the speculative fiction genres?
A few years ago I was talking with Mike Resnick at the Context convention. Upon learning I was from Alabama, he said it was his experience that most SF fans down South didn’t come to the genre through the traditional routes, i.e., by reading genre fiction. Instead, they came to the genre by way of SF films, comics and video games.
I find the essence of what Resnick said to be true. Today most fans of written science fiction, fantasy and horror first come to the genres through the visual mediums. Witness the success of Dragon Con, and compare their unbelievable attendance to that of the biggest traditional SF convention.
I believe one reason Resnick made this remark is because until recently, the American South and most other non-coastal areas of the United States had fewer opportunities to engage with written SF. Before the rise of the mega-sized bookstores and Amazon.com, it was difficult to stumble across SF in smaller cities and rural areas. Yes, you could order books through the mail, but that is different from finding a book by chance or through a friend and falling in love with the SF genres. I remember going to the bookstores of Montgomery, Alabama, in the 1980s and early 90s, and finding only a few speculative fiction titles. If you didn’t live in a New York City or Los Angeles prior to the last 15 years, good luck being introduced to written SF.
But visual SF? It was everywhere. And even today, it’s much easier to discover SF through the visual mediums.
I was lucky because my grandfather spent decades collecting science fiction and fantasy books by mail, so I was exposed to written SF from an early age. But I was also exposed to genre tropes through the highly successful SF films, comics and video games of the last 30 years. So I can easily see how many people today are coming to the genre by a different route than people who were raised on SF literature before 1970.
So my question for people is, what brought you to written speculative fiction? What keeps you here? Do many people make the jump from the visual SF mediums to written literature? Does it make a difference if there’s a generational difference in how people come to our genres?