Yesterday, Soyka wondered if people still read Verne, Wells, Orwell or Huxley, as he considered Bruce Sterling’s assertion that they still did so. While a few literary elitists still do, the fact of the matter is that the boys and young men who once made up the vast majority of science fiction readers no longer read SF/F or any other form of literature. Nor have they been replaced by a sufficient number of girls and young women who have entered the genre over the years and greatly transformed it. Today, it is clear that the primary form in which SF/F finds an audience is either the movie or the electronic game. I would argue for the latter. Not only do games draw more revenue than novels and movies, but they are played by far more people than actually buy them. Consider the current numbers on the Pirate Bay, where games, movies, and ebooks are all available for download.
The top game download today is Fallout 3, with 3727 active downloaders. The top movie download, unsurprisingly, is Twilight, with 7531 downloaders. The top SF/F-related ebook is not actually a novel, but the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules with 58 downloaders. However, the Fallout numbers are more significant in terms of audience size, as chances are that most of the Fallout downloaders have not played the game yet, while most of the Twilight downloaders have already seen the movie in the theatre. While movie prices are lower, it’s also important to note that far more games than movies are produced every year; the top seven publishers released 880 games between them from 2005 to 2009. Since many of these games are set in SF/F environments, it’s apparent that most young SF/F enthusiasts are far more familiar with the orcs of Azeroth than the Morlocks of the Moon.
Whether one regards this as a positive progression or a lamentable one is really irrelevant. The post-literate world is here and it is not going to disappear this side of the Singularity.