Where’s the science fiction, BBC?
The BBC’s World Book Night coverage has stirred up something of a hornet’s nest with readers of science fiction and fantasy, which the Corporation’s coverage decided to entirely neglect. There was a fair bit of outraged chatter on Twitter about this over the weekend – certainly we SF&F geeks are well used to being neglected by the mainstream media and treated as a weird fringe of the literary community (and indeed many of us are proud to be the weird fringe because that’s where literary innovation happens). But the simple fact is that SF&F novels absolutely dominate the bestseller charts and have done for a couple of decades now. Terry Pratchett, Peter F Hamilton, Iain M Banks and many more almost always go right into the top ten national bestselling hardback list when their new books come out. You can’t do that if you are just a small, easily ignorable niche market. SF&F accounts for a huge percentage of fiction sales in the UK and leaving genre sales aside, it has also produced some incredibly clever, innovative storytellers, including some who have influenced the shape of modern literature, from Mike Moorcock to China Mieville. So to ignore an innovative genre that sells to a vast audience and produces works which influence the literary world well beyond their own genre seems to be a pretty poor decision by the BBC and a bit of a slap in the face to readers.
Long time SF&F commentator (and bestselling author in his own right now) Stephen Hunt has decided that instead of our usual moaning of the mainstream media’s dismissive and ignorant approach to our beloved genre that something should actually be done and the BBC made aware of how poor their decision was and how it meant they failed to serve the interest of a large percentage of viewers (who are the ones who fund the Corporation, after all). He has a fairly flaming response to the lack of coverage on his blog already and has set up a Facebook page as well as planning a petition of Brit SF&F authors to complain at the complete lack of coverage by the BBC. And yes, I know some will say hey, let it go, we are used to it and anyway the event has been and gone. Yes, true, but if we keep just moaning to ourselves about it rather than telling those media managers what we think then we’ll more than likely continue to get that blinkered, prejudiced sort of (non) coverage, so it is worth making our anger clear to the Beeb so it is taken into account for future programming.