THE BUSINESS OF SCIENCE FICTION
Mike Resnick & Barry Malzberg
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
If you have any interest in the business of writing science fiction (or fantasy), the names Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg should mean something to you. Malzberg received the inaugural John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Beyond Apollo and his written novels (and non-fiction) which looks at the culture which has grown up around science fiction. Resnick has five Hugo Awards and has worked as a writer and editor in the field for many years. The Business of Science Fiction collects dialogues the two of them have published in the SFWA Bulletin over the past decade in which they look at a variety of aspects of the science fiction publishing industry from (sometimes very) disparate viewpoints.
The book, which does not include all of these dialogues, is divided into three parts: Writing & Selling, The Business, and The Field. In some cases, the division of essays into these categories seems a little random, but that isn't of great importance. Each of these sections contains several essays written at some point during the last decade, although the original publication information is not included. Resnick and Malzberg, however, have culled appropriate articles from the series which are still applicable to the state of publishing in 2010.
Both Malzberg and Resnick allow their personalities to come through in their writing, which is entertaining and informal. In the discussion of conventions, Resnick is clearly in his element greeting the fans, while Malzberg is just as clearly happy to avoid them, as he states, "I've managed to find five or ten minutes of [fun] at every convention I've attended." Resnick uses his experiences at conventions in other essays, such as his discussion of beginning writers who didn't consider that there might be an alternative to self-publishing.
The two also tackle up-to-the-minute topics, such as e-publishing, the potential death of magazines (and the associated way to break into the field), and the Google Settlement. There individual opinions are sometimes surprising, such as Resnick's comment that the Google agreement "is far more detrimental to your book's future earning power than all the pirate sites in the world." However, when Resnick (or Malzberg) make claims like these, they also provide their rationale, so the reader can decide if the explanation is rational or not. The fact that the two authors don't always agree, demonstrates that in the changing industry, even those with experience can't be sure of how any specific change will play out.
Even when they disagree, which does happen with some frequently, the discussions are informative and allow the reader to have an informed opinion by weighing Resnick's statements and opinions against Malzberg. By the time the reader has read several of these essays, they can form their own opinion of the strengths (and weaknesses) of each of the authors. This dichotomy only drives home the complexity of the industry and highlights the places where the authors agree.
As Resnick and Malzberg note multiple times, the publishing industry is going through numerous changes (and one of the chapters is called "Change"). The advice and image of the industry as presented in The Business of Science Fiction isn't necessarily going to be accurate in a year, or a decade. The authors have done what they could to limit their exposure on that front, but either selecting topics which are relatively timeless, such as how to function in a collaborative situation, or by including the most up-to-date articles. As they continue to write their dialogues for the SFWA Bulletin, it is quite possible that The Business of Science Fiction will see an update, either complete or as necessary, in future editions.
Purchase this book from .