Interviewed by Falmouth University, init: https://falwriting.com/new-blog/2019/1/30/interview-a-j-dalton
Here’s a rum do: I wrote an academic essay on gender identity and sexuality in science fiction and fantasy, and the collection it was published in won the 2018 British Fantasy Award for non-fiction. Woohoo. No prize money, not even a tin trophy for my mantlepiece… but karma points praps.
The collection from Luna Publishing (@LunaPressGlobal) is ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’.
New figures show that fewer UK writers earn enough to live on, as ACE blames falling sales of literary fiction on the recession and the rise of smartphones.
The image of the impoverished writer scratching out their masterwork in a freezing garret remains as true today as it was a century ago, according to a new report commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE), which revealed that collapsing sales, book prices and advances mean few can support themselves through writing alone.
The report found that print sales of literary fiction are significantly below where they stood in the mid-noughties and that the price of the average literary fiction book has fallen in real terms in the last 15 years.
The growth in ebook sales in genres such as crime and romance has not made up for the shortfall in literary fiction, prompting ACE to outline ways it intends to support affected authors.
“It would have been obviously unnecessary in the early 90s for the Arts Council to consider making an intervention in the literary sector, but a lot has changed since then – the internet, Amazon, the demise of the net book agreement – ongoing changes which have had a massive effect,” said ACE’s literature director Sarah Crown. “It’s a much more unforgiving ecosystem for authors of literary fiction today. We inevitably end up with a situation where the people best positioned to write literary fiction are those for whom making a living isn’t an imperative. That has an effect on the diversity of who is writing – we are losing voices, and we don’t want to be in that position.”
Carried out by digital publisher Canelo, the report analysed sales data from Nielsen BookScan and found that between 2007 and 2011, hardback fiction sales slumped by £10m. Paperback fiction had a more extreme dip, seeing declines almost every year after 2008. In 2011, paperback fiction sales were £162.6m; by 2012, they were £119.8m.
Do you know your ‘high fantasy’ from your ‘epic fantasy’, ‘urban fantasy’, ‘sword and sorcery’, ‘steampunk’, ‘dystopian YA’, ‘dark fantasy’, ‘metaphysical fantasy’ and ‘grimdark fantasy’? Not sure of the definitions, leading authors and socio-history of each? Then you might like to read The Sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature, which I’ve just published with Luna Press Publishing. (It’s based on the PhD thesis I wrote for Huddersfield University, init.)
Soooooo, my new publication (‘The Sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature’) is now available for pre-order. Form an orderly queue – no pushing or fighting. I knew I should have got some ogres and trolls in for crowd control. Then again they tend to eat too many of the customers.
The book is actually the PhD I wrote for Huddersfield University last year. In their wisdom, Luna Press Publishing decided they wanted to publish it.
Pleased to say I’ve just signed a contract with Luna Press for the publication of the ol’ PhD. It’s entitled ‘The history and sub-genres of British fantasy’ and will be out around April 2017 (sort of EasterCon time, so we might launch it there, with suitable fanfare and amounts of wine). If you want to read the official announcement, where there’s more about the PhD’s content: http://www.lunapresspublishing.com/single-post/2016/11/13/A-J-Dalton-Joins-the-Luna-Family
- The return of epic fantasy?
I’ve received a couple of fan emails asking why there isn’t more ‘epic fantasy’ around at the mo. Added to that, several conventions this year have had panel discussions on the epic fantasy sub-genre. What’s going on? The ‘epic’ sub-genre of fantasy literature was the dominant sub-genre in the 80s and 90s. It was overtaken by the urban, dark and grimdark sub-genres a good while ago. Are people yearning again, then, for that time when kings and queens were noble, when a hard-working apprentice could save the world, and when evil could be defeated by good old fashioned morality? Are people ‘sick’ of the depressing, brutal and fatalistic fantasy literature created by current social and historical forces (Brexit, Trump, political scandals, etc)? You bet they are. And who can blame them?
- The lost age of heroes?
Curiously, although dystopian YA movies did well at the cinema for a number of years (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc), the trend seems to be returning to high/superhero (‘Chosen One’) fantasy. Marvel hero stories are swamping both tv and film. At the cinema, we’ve got Avengers, Thor (third film in production), Antman, Dead Pool, Guardians of the Galaxy (second film here soon), Doctor Strange, etc. On tv we’ve got Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, etc. And let’s not forget the resurgence of the Star Wars franchise – classic high fantasy. What’s happening here? Why are stories from the 70s gaining such traction? Are people really harking back to a nobler time, when humans were ‘better’, when they may have walked with gods? You bet they are. This yearning isn’t new either. It’s a key theme of the Iliad as well. We see how far we have fallen since the ‘golden age’, and we feel grimy and ashamed. We try to envision how things once were, so that we can mimic and recreate that better past.
- Changing fashions and new generations?
Every 7-10 years of so, we have a new erotic series shocking popular culture. We had Emanuel in the 70s, Jilly Cooper in the 80s, Jackie Collins in the 90s, E L James (Fifty Shades) in the 2000s, etc. After each iteration, people get bored with the media saturation and there’s a ‘lull’ in the market. There is a welcome reprieve. Then the younger generation grows up and it all starts again. The same happens with vampire fiction – you don’t need me to list the examples. And the same has happened with zombies. Are we telling the same stories over and over again? To an extent (there is certainly a lot of tired repetition), but there is also updating and some originality going on. What we can say, then, is that there seem to be a limited number of basic stories, but they are always relevant. We are going to see the same old stories repackaged over and over forever more, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
- Takeaway message?
The takeaway message is that audiences still crave hope. They eventually return to enduring stories of hope and triumph. Yes, it’s fresh and interesting to have moments and sub-genres where the dark side wins, or where everything is morally ambiguous, but in the longer term, our positive spirit is shown to win out. Amen.