Monday, March 16, 2009

Life Among the Klingons, 2009, MARKET news

This weekend, I was at Stellarcon 33 in downtown High Point, North Carolina. Stellarcon is a small science fiction con that features lots of writers, and Baen Books always has a huge presence.

Surprisingly, I heard little sf/fantasy publishing news beyond the doom and gloom that pervades the industry, but I talked to a mystery writer who filled me in on that market. Her news wasn’t particularly cheering either.

Essentially, all straight mystery except for cozies is a dead market for anyone who isn’t already an established, popular writer. Cozy series (an amateur sleuth mystery with little violence) by new writers or someone seeking to start a new series must have a promotion hook involving a dedicated group of hobbyists. Most tend to involve arts and crafts.

From my own reading, I’ve noticed a trend of authors writing urban fantasy and paranormal novels which include strong mystery elements. Most are sold through sf/fantasy lines rather than mystery lines. For example, Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES novels are PI novels where the PI is a wizard. Simon R Green in his Drood novels uses the standard tropes of the spy novel with magic.

Right now, urban fantasy and romance are the only genre novels not badly affected by the recession, and editors seem to be buying there where they aren’t buying mystery. Thrillers are still popular.

General media fandom news. STAR WARS remains very popular with fans, and I saw lots of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA costumes. With the exception of one Klingon who comes every year, I didn’t see the first TREK outfit. I’m curious to see if the new TREK movie will improve things next year. I saw less of a presence of anime, but it still remains popular with the college kids and younger.

I chaired a HEROES panel, and not the first person showed up for the panel. If this lack of interest is any indication, HRG should start sending out his resume. LOST proved a popular topic, and the annual Harry Potter panel was as popular as ever although the series is finished. The chatter of the fans was quite animated.

British science fiction series like DR WHO and TORCHWOOD remain popular although both are on a long hiatus.

A new addition to Stellarcon was several groups of paranormal investigators-- the Charlotte Area Paranormal Society and the Winston-Salem Paranormal Society-- who run scientific investigations like TAPS on GHOST HUNTERS. Both groups gave several panels about their work and equipment, and discussed their experiences in haunted locations.

As always, Stellarcon was a great deal of fun, and I was able to catch up with friends of many years I only see once a year.

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