What’s really hot in science fiction: part 1September 28, 2015
Human Empire paperback coverOctober 2, 2015
Welcome back to an occasional series of posts on what’s hot in science fiction, concentrating on Amazon’s science fiction bestseller charts. For a discussion of what I’m up to, and why I want to move away from bullying and arrogance and onto celebrating success, see part one.
Let’s start with the top-20 bestselling science fiction books on amazon.com I scraped the data last week (I had a busy weekend building sand daleks on the beach which is why I’m posting a few days later), so if you follow the link, you will get a slightly different picture. I’m escalating a request to Amazon for permission to replicate their chart data, but for now you’ll have to click the link.
The book bestseller chart shows a view of recent unit sales for paperbacks, hardbacks, eBooks and audio books that have been categorized by their publisher as science fiction. Publishers usually get two category picks, which is why you see George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ series in both fantasy and science fiction charts.
Andy Weir’s The Martian is at the top, as it has been pretty much consistently throughout 2015. But with the movie promotion ramping up, I’m sure you’re already well aware that The Martian is a phenomenal success. It’s easily the bestselling science fiction book of the past year, and I don’t think that’s anything unique to amazon.com because I’ve seen it in my local Tesco (which is essentially the UK equivalent of Walmart).
We’ll talk more about Andy Weir’s megaseller another time, because the story behind it is fascinating, but I’ll just briefly draw your attention to Pierce Brown at #6 with Red Rising. It’s been a very strong performer all year and definitely within my sights to read. Like The Martian, it’s set on Mars and has a movie version in the works.
But I’m going to rest my eye this time at #17 with A.G. Riddle and The Atlantis Gene. For some reason, hardly anyone I know has heard of A.G. Riddle, which is barely comprehensible. The Atlantis Gene is probably best described as an SF technothriller, and is the first in a trilogy. It was originally released as a self-published book in spring 2013, and by late 2014, the completed trilogy had sold over a million copies. If you want to get a feel for what the trilogy is like, you can read some of the 16,000 reviews left on amazon.com (and there are even more on Goodreads).
If you’re a science fiction book lover and you find a book you’ve never heard of on Amazon or Goodreads with thousands of reviews then take a closer look. It might not be to your taste but it clearly is someone else’s. And if you subscribe to a science fiction review site, magazine, or organization and you haven’t heard of books with thousands of online reviews you might want to start questioning why your sources of information are cut off from what is really going on in science fiction literature…
… Alternatively, if you’re lazy (though we’ll agree to call that busy) and don’t fancy wading through 16,000 reviews, you can hear a review on the Dataslate review podcast here.
The Atlantis Gene: is it good or bad? It’s toward the peak of my to-be-read mountain but I haven’t read it yet. I don’t need to read it to celebrate, which is what these articles are all about. A.G. Riddle is one of the great successes of science fiction in recent years. Congratulations, sir, on giving science fictional reading pleasure to many hundreds of thousands of readers, and helping to confirm the establishment of science fiction literature firmly in the mainstream of popular culture. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a greater accolade than any number of literary awards.
And like The Martian, which is opening in movie theaters about now, The Atlantis Gene is another initially self-published science fiction book being made into a major movie. I wish both movies luck (while I wait by the phone for Hollywood to call about my own books).
The other chart I’m looking at this time around is the science fiction bestseller author chart. Again, I’m talking with Amazon for permission to reproduce their chart data, but you can find the latest chart for yourself here. I scraped my data on 24th Sept.
The SF author chart collects all the individual book sale data for all books categorized as science fiction, and then groups and ranks them by author.
As a British science fiction author, and a full-time writer earning my wage predominantly from self-published books, I like to cheer for the home sides where I can, while applauding success wherever it comes from. Unfortunately, the home teams aren’t giving much to cheer this time around. In terms of chart performance, this is one of the worst months in years for self-published books and even more so for British authors. It will be interesting to see if this develops into a trend. There’s been an explosion of new and old British talent getting high in the amazon.com bestselling author charts, but they are little in evidence at the moment. At the time I scraped the data, there was only a single living British science fiction author in the whole top 100. At #5 (he’s slipped since) it’s no surprise to me that the top representative of the Brits is Christopher G. Nuttall, a Scottish author who’s been all the way to #1 before now, and is busily establishing himself (and I mean busy, this guy is nothing if prolific) as one of the most successful new science fiction authors of recent years.
Chris has a fascination with history and it shows both in his alternate history novels and also in the backdrop to his science fiction series, the best known being Ark Royal and Empire’s Corps. He writes fantasy too. I did say he’s prolific!
I have heard a few reports about Chris Nuttall from earlier this year at Eastercon, the premier British science fiction literature convention where the BSFA Awards are announced. Chris was there with Elsewhen Press to launch a new book, and sitting on a couple of panels. The story I heard was that not many people knew who Chris was. I don’t know whether this version of events is true (please comment if you were there to put me straight) but if so, it’s an astonishing example of little clumps of people within the science fiction community unaware of what’s going on outside their bubble.
No worries. That what this article is for. Well done, Mr. Nuttall, for your success and in giving reading pleasure to so many people… including me. I’ve enjoyed your Ark Royal and Empire’s Corps series. The former, in particular, seems to me to be a writing masterclass in the correct way to keep the tension boiling by throwing rocks at your characters (which is an expression I attribute to Philip Jose Farmer, is that right?)
Again, I’m not saying Chris Nuttall is a genius writer and therefore anyone who doesn’t enjoy his books is somehow deficient. That’s the kind of narcissistic bigotry I’m setting myself against. These articles are about pointing out what’s hot in science fiction right now, and hopefully popping a few bubbles so that fans enjoy aspects of the scene they might not otherwise be aware of.
We’ll leave it there for this time. I notice some other interesting people in the charts right now: Margaret Attwood and Andy Weir to mention just two, and have been tracking performance of Hugo award nominees, and indeed of Kameron Hurley’s Mirror Empire, but I do have a book launch of my own to prepare. I’ll follow up soon with another look at the latest in a block of bestseller charts to see what’s hot next time.