2012 Did Not Bode Well For Print Science Fiction

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

From the printed page to the flickering screen to video games to tabletop games, science fiction is present in almost all areas of fiction. Also, tacked to the wall of a lot of single male’s apartment bedrooms. As it turns out, one of those places where it’s increasingly present is still on the shelves in book stores.

Last week, Publisher’s Weekly released their list of 2012’s literary blockbusters, ranging from such titles as Fifty Shades of Grey to Fifty Shades: Trilogy Box Set, but the pertinent information here is that sci-fi has taken a massive 21% dip in sales just over the last year, while fantasy took a bigger hit at 28%. This chart should lay things out nicely, though it doesn’t really tell the whole story.


It’s absolutely necessary to point out again that the chart is only made up of data from Nielson’s BookScan, which tracks true sales data from 75% of retailers, though not including Wal-Mart. So, no e-books are included, and this is only indicative of declining sales in physical copies of books, which is true for most genres, though E.L. James’ sexed-up novels sent Romance novels on an uphill mount. Here’s how the “Adult Fiction” list broke down, and chock-full of grey:

1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Vintage. 6,345,387

2. Fifty Shades of Darker by E.L. James. Vintage. 3,833,550

3. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James. Vintage. 3,441,362

4. Fifty Shades Trilogy Box Set by E.L. James. Vintage. 787,271

5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Crown. 701,271

6. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. Little, Brown. 590,272

7. The Racketeer by John Grisham. Doubleday. 552,943

8. Bared to You by Sylvia Day. Berkley. 506,379

9. The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts. Berkley. 318,625

10. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central. 316,537

But we can at least take a look at the odd grouping that is the top 10 in 2012’s science fiction. Four of them were written over 25 years ago, and Dune is nearly 50 years old. Four of them are based on licensed properties. So that just leaves two recent novels, and Ready Player One was published in 2011. For once in my time on this site, there’s nothing judgmental about how I was stating all that. I think it’s quite interesting, and nearly serves as a perfect introductory course to someone just entering the genre, though I can’t personally speak for the Halo or Star Wars novels. I just doubt they’ll still be showing up on the list in another 10 years, like the rest might. Here’s the top 10 of science fiction.

1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Tor. 100,387

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Broadway. 50,593

3. Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. Lucas Books. 31,543

4. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Del Rey. 27,220

5. Star Wars: Apocalypse by Troy Denning. Lucas Books. 26,140

6. Dune by Frank Herbert. Ace. 25,532

7. A Rising Thunder by David Weber. Baen Books. 25,348

8. HALO: The Thursday War by Karen Traviss. Tor. 24,936

9. HALO: Glasslands by Karen Traviss. Tor. 24,932

10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Ballantine. 24,120

We’re sci-fi readers. We don’t need no steenking sales data objectively trying to persuade us into thinking our numbers are dwindling. We know we exist, and that’s what matters here. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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