Publishing Sci-Fi: A Strange and Hostile World

I read a lot of sci-fi, always have. It’s one of the most popular genres out there, with scores of writers adding new and fascinating stories to the pot every day.

Yet no matter how often I peruse the shelves for new titles looking for something exciting and new, I’m confronted by the same established titles, with a sprinkling of the latest crazes. Don’t get me wrong, the speculative fiction classics are true masterpieces. But the very essence of those books is the drive to go beyond the boundaries, to fashion new worlds and challenge our preconceptions.

So the industry seems to perpetually shoot itself in the foot by pushing the same old stories our way. We’re liable to get too comfy, too blase about what makes sci-fi what it is. We need more channels for fresh blood to rise to the surface.

Science fiction space image


Even all those “10 most” or “25 most” lists of underrated books tend to spout the same results. There still remains an ocean of mid-listing, yet profound and influential fiction that deserves more time in the limelight. Take up arms, fellow nerds, and bring the true spectrum of our great genre to the forefront!

Publishing houses, big-league authors and indies alike are all part of the same community, and the only way to make progress is together. So here’s a few things we should all  be doing:

  • Review an upcoming book for one of the scores of upcoming authors who just can’t get a place on reviewers’ lists (which are often a mile long and filled with names of authors who are already well established).
  • Promote a fellow author who’s struggling to gain traction through your own networks–not because it’s good for your sales or because you’re expecting reciprocation, but because it’s good for the collective body of art we all share and the richness of the well of ideas we draw from.
  • If you happen to pick up a book that you hadn’t heard of before and you sincerely enjoyed it, then tell everyone. We all feel those spikes of jealousy when we read something really good, where we’d have given anything to have written it ourselves. Those heart-achy moments are worth sharing. Some people don’t share these because they’re afraid inside that it’ll hurt their own sales. That’s just stupid. People who travel to foreign countries on life-affirming journeys don’t dust their hands and turn their backs. They hunger for more. Their eyes have been opened the bounty the world has to offer!
  • Seasoned writers can get caught in a comfy trap. Write, edit, publish, promote, repeat. It works, and you get the job done. But it’s so easy to lose sight of why we’re in this business. Yes, it’s a job, and people have bills to pay, but if you make it so black-and-white and devoid of passion, you’re going to fall down eventually. Instead of spending so much time worrying about royalty checks or how many releases you can make in a year, sit back every now and then and think about how hard it was for you to get started. Somebody’s there right now. Go find one and offer a helping hand.

It’s just a start. We can all do so much for one another, for everyone’s benefit. It’s a tough world, publishing. Like I said, the only way to succeed and make real change is together.

P.S. Any reader who loves books, but is having a tough time, get in touch. I write for my readers, not money. It’s worth saying that I’m a student as well as a writer, so I rely on royalties for food and shelter. But nobody should go without literature because of monetary issues. Join my mailing list and you’ll get free stories, and discounts on all my books. If you’re really in trouble, you can have my work gratis: sometimes writing can save us when nothing else can.

P.P.S. Writers who are struggling to find their way in the veritable desert one finds oneself in when just starting out, shoot me an email. Writing is lonely enough as it is. Publishing doesn’t have to be.


4 thoughts on “Publishing Sci-Fi: A Strange and Hostile World

  1. From the post I see, you rather wrote it to fellow writers. I’d say to publishers/reviewers, get some world sf, there’s plenty of fresh blood in sf, but around the world. And there was, for a long time. Like golems and alchemists in Czech sf (read an anthology published in 80s, in Polish).

    I’ll keep in mind some of those advices, when I select/review books.


  2. Well written, Harry. This is a breath of fresh air to read and I would love to participate in any way I can. I am one of those first-time novelists you’ve written about, and while I haven’t been in the game long enough to know whether or not the tread on my tires will run thin in the coming weeks and months, I believe it can never hurt to help other authors and share the true masterpieces with everyone and anyone I run into. I’ll be in touch. Thank you for your well-thought out post.

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