Friday, October 8, 2010

On the New York Times Bestseller List . . .

On last Sunday's New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list, Jonathan Franzen, Nicholas Sparks and Stieg Larsson are all on top, but mystery writer Janet Evanovich's urban fantasy Wicked Appetite is at #6, while Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Fall (book two of their Strain cycle) is at #8. There are, however, quite a few other authors using milder speculative elements in their fiction, Ted Bell's Warlord and Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood's Lost Empire being at #13 and #14 respectively. If one stretches the definition of speculative fiction that much more, there's also Sara Gruen's story of missing bonobos who turn up on a reality show, Ape House, currently at #15.

The list of speculative-themed works lengthens considerably when one looks at the extended NYT list, where paranormal romance is evident, with Sherilyn Kenyon's No Mercy at #16 and Christine Feehan's Dark Peril at #32; still more urban fantasy from mystery writers who started out as "mundanes," with Charlaine Harris's Dead in the Family at #23; epic fantasy in Terry Brooks's Bearer of the Black Staff and Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, at #25 and #29; more idiosyncratic, slipstream-ish work like William Gibson's "post-science fiction" novel Zero History at #17 and W. Bruce Cameron's story told from a dog's point of view, A Dog's Purpose, at #28; and finally, S.M. Stirling's latest entry in his "Emberverse" post-apocalyptic military adventure series, The High King of Montival at #31.

Once again, it's validation for the arguments that fantasy, the paranormal and what might be termed "slipstream" are more popular than science fiction more narrowly defined; that books and authors incorporating just a little of the stuff into their stories (e.g., contemporary urban fantasy) have an easier time reaching big audiences than work which uses more fully speculative contexts (like epic fantasy or space opera); and that the big names, by and large, remain old names (including quite a few 1970s-vintage names), both those which are more (Brooks, Gibson, Stirling) or less (Cussler, Evanovich) closely associated with science fiction and fantasy.

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