Dragons or spacecraft? Blasters or enchanted swords? Ancient spells or telekinesis?
The nerd's dreamscape is roughly divided between two genres: Fantasy and Science Fiction. Sometimes they mix (as in Star Wars or Dune), but usually they don't. And fans tend to lean one way or another. Sure, it's possible to love Star Trek and Harry Potter equally, but most people either love their Aes Sedai, or they love their Blade Runners, and rarely the twain should meet.
So when it comes to books, which genre better represents the 2010's? Which type do fans flock to?
Fantasy. Definitely Fantasy.
Here's why Sword & Sorcery is whipping Space Operas for quality and popularity:
Fantasy is More Popular: There's a reason J.K. Rowling is among the wealthiest people in Britain and Game of Thrones is a top-rated TV series. People love their mages and monsters. And if you add vampires to the mix, there's no competition. By comparison, Science Fiction is barely a blip on the literary screen.
Fantasy Writing Has Improved: Whether it's Artemis Fowl or His Dark Materials, American Gods or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, fantasy novels have become smarter, more complex, and limitlessly imaginative. There are cabbies and CEOs digging into George R.R. Martin, because the writing actually speaks to them. Not since Tolkien has Fantasy so captured the world's imagination.
Old Books Are Back: Great literature never dies, but it sure gets a spike in popularity. Thanks to Hollywood, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and even Conan and John Carter have earned tidal waves of new readers.
Everybody Loves Vampires: Not long ago, if you loved vampire novels, Anne Rice was the only game in town. Now bookstores gush blood-suckers and werewolves, and fans are diehard. Love 'em or not, supernatural creatures are here to stay.
Science Fiction is in a Rut: Oh, good Sci Fi is still out there—it's just way harder to find. Most people can probably think of a dozen recent Sci Fi movies off the top of their heads, but books?
The Sci Fi Heyday is Over: Remember Isaac Asimov? Gene Roddenberry? Robert Heinlein? Carl Sagan? Arthur C. Clarke? They're all gone. And nobody has really replaced them.
Science Isn't as Exciting as it Was: Science Fiction enjoyed a Renaissance in the 1950s-1990s because people still loved science. Circuit-boards, computers, cellular phones, human genomes, astronauts on the moon—humanity came a long way in a few short decades, and Sci Fi harnessed that energy. But nowadays, when everybody has a smart-phone and can download apps on wifi, what wonders are left for Sci Fi to ponder? Unless you're bound for MIT, science has become a ho-hum study for most people.
Everything Sci Fi Has Been Done: Well, not everything. But Sci Fi writers have pretty well mined space battles, time travel, genetic mutation, empathic abilities, extraterrestrials, robots, cyborgs, zombie viruses and pretty much every post-apocalyptic scenario imaginable. The multiverse is pretty gigantic, but sometimes it feels pretty well trod—utopian, dystopian, and everything in-between.
People Love Magic: Whether the protagonist chants in Latin or glitters in the sun, magic is pretty much everywhere. And if there's one thing that Sci Fi writers abhor, it's a bunch of sparkly magical nonsense that explains everything. But clearly most people are pretty comfortable with that.
Which genre captures your imagination?