BOOKS: Apocalypse Now? SF/F sales surge as economy sags

Publishers Weekly (PW) reports sales of speculative fiction/fantasy novels are increasing rapidly -- a trend experts attribute to America's sagging economy and the common desire to escape the doom and gloom inside the pages of a good book.
Ironically, however, it's doom and gloom that readers are seeking in these stories.
According to PW, customers aren't looking for fantastical kingdoms and happy endings. They're looking for zombies. They're looking for the apocalypse. In short, they're looking for a dystopian world more messed up than their own.
"St. Martin's editor Michael Homler [says] some readers are looking for books that draw on today's dire news reports of global warming and economic collapse. “As a recession happens, there is a certain segment of the book population that likes to see it somehow mirrored in the entertainment that they buy,” he says. “Paranormal, horror and especially apocalyptic-themed novels seem to draw a lot of attention. It hits home with some sort of psychological unease people have and also fits into our still-present fears of terrorism."
Night Shade Books, publisher of the acclaimed Wastelands and The Living Dead anthology (which just sold 45,000 copies in six months), have been particular beneficiaries of the economic fallout.
Night Shade's blossoming sales are proof there is a market for dystopian fiction. Not surprisingly, mainstream publishing houses are starting to take notice.
Various mainstream publishers are also beginning to pick up on the sales potential of escapism. Pulp crime publisher Hard Case Crime is getting in on the action with an adventure series featuring millionaire explorer Gabriel Hunt, beginning with Hunt at the Well of Eternity in May. "Though you might not think of Indiana Jones–style adventure as science fiction or fantasy, each Gabriel Hunt book has a fantasy element, such as the Fountain of Youth or the sphinx,” says publisher Charles Ardai. “The pulps originally flourished during the (first) Great Depression, and I think there's an appetite now for the sort of pure fun people escaped to back then. The Hunt books are a delivery vehicle for that kind of fun."
We'll see if this trend keeps up when the economy turns around.

Image Credit: io9

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