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Published:April 2nd, 2009 13:48 EST
Ever Pending Story: Science Fiction

Ever Pending Story: Science Fiction

By Sean Stubblefield

The amount of sci-fi stories tossed in the winds of history is probably incalculable to modern mathematics.

Being a niche entity anyway, science fiction has always existed on the fringe.

But it is safe to surmise that a lot of literary science fiction has been lost, either to obscurity or oblivion.

A great many reasons, both deliberate and accidental, are to blame.

The simple fact that so many sci-fi stories have been written in the last 100 years inevitably causes many stories to get lost in the crowd, buried among each other. Unseen, and unheard of. Yet, for as many books that are published, so many more are not. However, even for a prolific reader and sci-fi lover like me, I surely miss a large magnitude of good stories because I can`t get to them, even if I am aware of them.

So many stories, so little time.

And in contemporary society, where most people would prefer to wait for the movie rather than read the book, many stories don`t ever get an audience. This tendency creates less readers, which causes less books to be published. Most people think that seeing the movie is the same, as good as or better than reading the book. But even setting aside the distinct intake experiences inherent in each medium, there are production concerns and structural criteria innate in the format of each medium. Books made into movies typically become different stories, so the original story gets ignored and overlooked. Movie versions of books often surpass or replace their source books in the public lexicon.

It could also be that stories which should be novels or comic books are trying to be movies or TV series, and failing in that format, fade away to regrettable nothingness. Of course, even in this time of the ever present and all encompassing internets, there is the option of self-publishing online with e-book type sites--- but that medium seems to have less street cred and respectability than comics. There are also some solid fan fiction offerings online and off that are virtually unread and unrecognized.

Perhaps the most significant factors in disappearing stories is profit motive and cultural/ personal attitudes.

Books and movies are just another of many casualties of capitalism; unproduced and unpursued because it doesn "t sell. Books can be poorly marketed, advertised and placed. Sci-fi movies and TV shows suffer the same capitalistic indignities, but let "s focus on the printed word.

Any number of literary science fiction stories could be rejected or discarded-- never published-- because a particular publisher lacked the vision, courage and taste to accept a submission. Even if printing a good story means no profit, quantity tends to over rule quality.

Plus, the fact that publishers receive so many stories that it is logistically impossible to examine or consider every one-- never mind develop all the good ones. The world`s greatest sci-fi novel ever may have effectively died at birth because a publisher didn`t have the time, patience or interest to even read it. Maybe a publisher just didn`t enjoy or understand a given story (or even disliked the author). Certain stories might be lost in the slush pile or garbage cans of publishing houses, languishing in perpetuity. They might not even get to the publisher because a writer has no agent, or no decent agent. Another unpublished manuscript.

Cultural paradigms often shape the degree and direction of developments. For example, prior to the 1960s, women and minorities-- and stories by or featuring them-- were not generally accepted in the mainstream.

This limited and denied a great deal of possible story potential. If an audience is not-- or at least perceived or assumed not-- to want certain kinds of stories, then publishers are not likely to print them.

Just because no one " likes the story, or it doesn`t make money, doesn`t necessarily mean it isn`t any good.

Maybe a story arrives before its time, before an audience exists for that story, before the public is ready and willing to accept it. The public may be too unsophisticated to comprehend or appreciate it.

Possibly an original story is too similar-- or deemed to be-- to another story that came first and/or gets the attention and credit, and/or there are concerns of plagiarism "overshadowing and essentially burying the other story. The works of known authors get publicized and disseminated while unknown authors go unnoticed. Maybe lacking sufficient insight and editing, a good story never becomes great, and therefore is passed over and passed by.

Libraries have been known to discard old or unread books, to make room for other books and/or a librarian`s personal preference. And old sci-fi pulp magazines in the black and white era could have been trashed, or ruined from neglect, or forgotten in someone "s basement.

Something might even have been eradicated during Hitler`s book burning faze, or other kinds of censure and "cleansing".

In some cases, potential stories lay dormant, wasted, unrealized. Daunted or distracted by whatever practical " excuses, many potential authors-- like my brother-- never get around to telling their stories. Others, like myself, have stories to tell, but no skill in telling them.

All of which unfortunately means that readers such as me and my brother-- indeed the world-- are deprived of sci-fi literature that should be read.