Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Analysis of science fiction published in January 2014 in the US.

I was prompted to write this week’s post after I made a comment that a lot of the books published by one of the major science fiction publishers in the US seemed to be awful pulp fiction: full of mad scientists and buff alpha males saving damsels in distress. I was further prompted by an article where John Marsden, Australia’s biggest selling young adult novelist, said that publishers were sick of dystopian novels. So I decided to analyse the 16 science fiction books listed in a Tor blog post that were to be published in January.  

Of the 16 books listed, one is definitely fantasy, and two others are non-fiction books about science fiction, so I have removed them from my analysis.   

Fugitive X, Gregg Rosenblum (Harper Teen)

Concept: A war against robots who control the world.
Sub-genre: Dystopian
Series: Yes, it is the second book in a series.
Market: Young adult.
Debut Novel: No, the author had been published before.
Nationality of Author: American.
Game Slaves, Gard Skinner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Concept: Self-aware AIs try to escape from a virutal world/game.
Sub-genre: Cyberpunk
Series: No
Market: Young Adult
Debut Novel: Yes
Nationality of Author: American.

Independent Study, Joelle Charbonneau  (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Concept: After a devastating war, the government tries to erase brutal memories from the mind of one of its chosen young leaders.
Sub-genre: Dystopian
Series: Second in a series
Market: Young adult
Debut novel: No.
Nationality of Author: American.

Journey Into the Flame, T.R. Williams (Atira)

Concept: After a solar storm sends the world dark, the teachings of an ancient book turn the world around, but the book falls into the wrong hands.
Sub-genre: Soft science fiction, could be dystopian
Series: First in a series
Market: Adult
Debut novel: This appears to be his debut novel
Nationality of Author: American.

C-Monkeys and Gamification Keith Hollihan (ChiZine)

Two novellas in the one book.
Concept:  A science fiction pulp fiction magazine leads a researcher to an island where scientists genetically engineer salamanders who plan to take over the world.
Sub-genre: Pulp fiction
Series: Two novellas make this a series
Market: Adult?
Debut novel: No, he appears to have written at least one other novel.
Nationality: Born in Canada, lives/lived in the US.

Star Road: A Novel, Matthew J. Costello and Rick Hautala (Thomas Dunne)

Concept: An ex-rebel leader is on a secret mission to the furthest reaches of the galaxy.
Sub-genre: Space opera/military
Series: Not yet
Market: Adult
Debut novel: Both authors have had other novels published.
Rick Hautala was a big selling author before he died in March 2013.
Mathew J Costello appears to be American.

Vitro, Jessica Khoury (Razorbill)

Concept: Scientists create superhuman embryos on a secret island. (Not the same one with the ancient salamanders on it.) Sophie and a hunky pilot investigate.
Sub-genre: Pulp fiction
Series: Not yet
Market: Young Adult
Debut novel: No, she has written two other novels
Nationality: American.

The Echo,  James Smythe (Harper Voyager)

Concept: Twin scientists investigate a vast blackness of space where a spaceship disappeared.
Sub-genre: Space Opera
Series: Yes, this is a sequel
Market: Adult
Debut novel: No, he has written at least three other novels
Nationality: British – could be Welsh.

Halo: Mortal Dictata, Karen Traviss (Tor)

Concept: A black ops team tries to stop the father of a comrade attacking Earth with plasma bombs from an orbiting spacecraft. 
Sub-genre: Military
Series: Yes, it’s the third novel in a subseries within a series of twelve novels.
Market: Adult
Debut novel: No, the author has written many novels that are parts of series including Star Wars.
Nationality: English.

A Darkling Sea, James Cambias(Tor)

Concept: A war breaks out between humans and aliens after human scientists investigate a planet inhabited by a second alien race.
Sub-genre:  First Contact
Series: No
Market: Adult
Debut novel: Yes
Nationality: American.

Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)

Concept: During an interstellar conflict, an officer is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony and crewed by malcontents and troublemakers.
Sub-genre: Military
Series: Yes, this is the second novel with the same main character
Market: Adult
Debut novel: No
Nationality: German, but now lives in the US.

Red Rising, Pierce Brown (Del Rey)

Concept: A worker in a mine on a planet discovers he has been deceived by those living above ground and he rebels.
Sub-genre: Dystopian.
Series: Yes, this is the first book in a trilogy
Market: Adult
Debut novel: Yes
Nationality: American.


Three of the books sound dystopian, and another one could be. Three are military, I would classify two as pulp fiction, two as space operas, one is cyberpunk and one is first contact. So perhaps there isn’t as much pulp fiction being released as I feared. I prefer science fiction that explores ideas or puts characters in harsh situations and we follow their attempts to survive. So I am glad to see that around a third of the books are dystopian.


Eight of the 13 books are part of or the start of a series. Wow.


Four of the novels are aimed at young adults, that’s about 30%, a rather high proportion. Take note John Marsden, two of those four young adult novels appear to be dystopian.

Debut novel

The fact that many of the books were part of a series meant that there were only four debut novelists. Considering a new writer’s manuscript has to compete against further novels from already published authors, I reckon four out of 13 authors debuting is very good.


Nine of the authors were American. Two others moved to the US. Two were British.

What About Me?

As an Australian, my best chance of being published in the US appears to involve moving there and writing a dystopian or military trilogy.

In my next blog post I will check out what science fiction people are actually enjoying reading to see if it matches what the publishers are publishing.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2013 Top Ten Best Selling Books in Australia, the US and the UK.

I was curious how last year’s bestselling books compared between Australia, the US and the UK, so I had a look.


The top ten bestselling print books in Australia were:

1. Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney (228,400)
2. Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver (173,800)
3. Inferno, Dan Brown (173,400)
4. Save with Jamie, Jamie Oliver (157,300)
5. The 39-Storey Treehouse, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (136,200)
6. The Tournament, Mathew Reilly (114,400)
7. Guinness World Records 2014 (97,300)
8. I Quit Sugar, Sarah Wilson (92,400)
9. Ponting: At the Close of Play, Ricky Ponting (89,100)
10. The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult (88,600)

Source: Nielson BookScan

So the top ten in Australia was made up of two cookbooks, two young adult novels, two mystery/thrillers, an issues novel, a sports biography, a health book, and a records book.

Four books authored by Australians made it into the top ten, with the best-selling Aussie authored book being The 39-Storey Treehouse.

Only three adult fiction novels made the top ten. One of them, The Tournament, by Mathew Reilly, may disappoint its buyers by not being his usual techno-thriller, but a murder mystery set in 1546.

As there is no science-fiction on the list, perhaps I should consider a editing a healthy cookbook for teenagers with recipes from cricketers.

United States

The top ten bestsellers in the US were:

1. Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
2. Inferno, Dan Brown
3. Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
4. Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander
5. The House of Hades: Heroes of Olympus, Rick Riordan
6. Divergent, Veronica Roth
7. Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
8. Sycamore Row, John Grisham
9. The Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
10. Happy, Happy, Happy, by Phil Robertson.

Four young adult novels, three religious books, two thriller/mystery novels, and an autobiography. Two books that were in the Australian top ten, Hard Luck and Inferno, also made the US top ten. There are only two adult fiction novels. At least there is one science-fiction/fantasy young adult novel on this list, Divergent. All of the books are written by Americans.

Americans appear to be turning to religion, while Aussies turn to food. So if I was writing for the American market I would have to join the thousands trying to imitate Dan Brown and write a religious thriller.


The top ten print bestsellers in the UK were:

1. My Autobiography, Alex Ferguson (647,153)
2. Inferno, Dan Brown (626,650)
3. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (607,359)
4. The Fast Diet, M Spencer and M Mosley (494,266)
5. Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney (348,367)
6. Guinness World Records 2014 (347,834)
7. Demon Dentist, David Walliams (344,285)
8. How to Love Food and Lose Weight, Dave Myers and Si King (318,660)
9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce (315,408)
10. David Jason: My Life, David Jason (296,472)

Source: The Guardian from Nielson BookScan.

Two young adult comedy novels, two biographies, two thrillers, two diet books, a records book and one attempt at serious literature (Gone Girl). No science-fiction. Hard Luck and Inferno both make an appearance again. There are only three adult fiction novels. Seven of the books on the UK list were written by UK authors.

Australian readers appear to have more in common with the Brits as three books appear on both lists, with only two of the same books on both the US and Australian lists. And, like the British, Australians appear to be more interested in food than religion.

My young adult recipe book might do okay in the UK if it had recipes from soccer celebrities rather than their losing cricketers.

I have not read or bought any of the books listed, with Divergent, by Veronica Roth being the only one that arouses any interest.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Year of the Edit.

IT’S FINISHED!!!! Well at least the first draft of my epic science-fiction novel is finished. Last Thursday I wrote the final words of a first draft I started writing for in November 2011 for National Novel Writing Month. So it took me – rummages for calculator – 771 days to write 214,935 words, an average of 278 words a day. 

My initial reaction to finishing was not jubilation, but sadness, as the story my imagination had been developing for so long had ended. I really enjoyed the characters I created and their adventures. I am going to miss them. It feels a bit like finishing Uni. Considering how the novel ended, a sequel is not probable. Or then again…

The Year of the Edit.


Thus begins the year of the edit. I have decided not to write anything new until I have edited all the writing I have stacked up to edit and redraft. There’s another novel, Stalking Tigers, which I was halfway through redrafting when a new idea for a story struck that I just had to stop and write. Stalking Tigers is 128,000 words. 

And then there is the manuscript that got me writing, my apocalyptic vision of Australia's near future: I'll Just Sit Here and Watch it on My TV. I wrote it 12 years ago, before I had done any writing courses. From memory, it is about 120,000 words.

And finally, there are the first drafts of a 12,500 word novella and a 6,800 word short story. 

I have decided to work from shortest to longest and start with the short story. It will be interesting to see whether it increases or decreases in size. I’m betting on an increase. 

Other Writing Activities.


I wrote another article for Divine last week and submitted it on Friday. I also did my first critique of a story in about a year and emailed it to the author yesterday.