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Story Time:
Once upon a time, a guy got out from work and was driving home from work. His drive wasn't a long one, about two miles down a city street. Well, this guy pulls up to a red light in his red pick-up truck (A Dodge, if you must know). And a guy pulls up next to the subject of our story. This second guy wasn't too odd looking, he was in an orange pick-up, and he looked to be 22ish, a patron of a fraternity perhaps, as he came from Frat Row at the U of M.

Well, Orange Truck Guy signals Red Truck Guy to roll his window down, so Red Truck Guy does so, figuring Orange Truck Guy needs directions somewhere. Well, Orange Truck Guy looks at Red Truck Guy and says, "Turn off your TV."

Well, Red Truck Guy was flabbergasted. Turn off your TV, he thought? First off, he doesn't watch much TV to begin with. Second, his cable had been off for two weeks already, (more on this later).

So R (Red Truck Guy) looks at O (Orange Truck Guy) and says, "What?!"
"When you get home, don't turn on your TV," replies O.
"Okaaaay..." R replied once more.
Then O commences to poke himself in the forehead, saying "Think about it!"

This scared R. He was freaked out. Well, in this frame of four seconds of lightning-quick thought and grooving to Juno Reactor, the light had turned green. Green means go, so R went go. R continued on, still confused, but forgetting it. Well, O passed R one more time, and as O passed, he extended his arm out his window, with his palm facing forward, fingers curled in and thumb extended vertically. (This is also known as a Thumbs-up.) R shook his head in wonderment and continued the five more blocks to home.

R got home, checked his electronic mail and got a bite to eat. (R had not yet discovered e2). Cable guy came, fixed R's cable, and left. R turned the TV on, flipped through the normal garbage and thought about it for two seconds, then he followed O's advice and turned his TV off.

Who knows what effect this had on R, but the world will never know. R probably would have done so anyway since he had a good book to read, but it seemed like a good idea since he was instructed to do so by a man in an orange truck.

If you're a fan of science fiction, turn off that TV and go read a novel instead.

The market for original, non-media-based SF novels is shrinking alarmingly. Books are where SF writers make their money; it's been a long, long time since anyone was able to make a decent living writing SF short stories, and it looks like the day is coming when novelists won't be able to support themselves, either. Star Trek/Bab 5/etc. novels are fun, but let's face it, they're literary junk food, and don't do anything to expand the boundaries of the genre. And right now, they're the dominant market share.

And think about this: the average advance for a 80,000-120,000 word SF novel is $5,000. Most books don't earn much past their advances, so that's often all a writer gets for what represents several months (if not years) of work. On those terms, a writer needs to put out four books a year to make as much as a filing clerk. Or (if he or she has become a bit of a "name" writer) he or she gives up on original work and joins the stable of writers churning out media tie-in novels (which generally pay at least $7,000 and can go into five figures for established/well-agented writers).

Sound bad? It's worse if you consider that Paramount will pay $5,000 for a Star Trek story idea. That's right, not a script, but an idea pitched over the phone. And even at their best, I don't think any of Trek's $5,000 plotlines have a tenth the artistic merit (or the entertainment value) of the 5-cents-a-word SF novels that are sitting neglected on bookstore shelves around the U.S.

TV SF is (with a few exceptions) fun, cheap, mindless entertainment, but remember that the best SF ideas always start in fiction and, if we're lucky, make their way into media (William Gibson was paving the way for The Matrix back in the mid-1980s). I've never seen it work the other way around. So head to your local bookstore and make an investment in the future health of SF.

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