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NAW Stirs In Her Sleep, And Why Marketing Can Be Evil

Movement in the NAW, it seems. Bound to happen sooner or later. Look to the page to see some changes in the ranks.

Having said that, I'd like to clarify my "Marketing Can Be Evil" remark. I'd like to point out that I'm perfectly aware that this journal is a form of marketing, although perhaps not as effective as one might think. No, I'm referring to Dilbertesque marketing, where one's viewpoint of the universe is shaped by marketing, and shaped in a false way. In other words, garbage in, garbage out.

Here's what I mean: there's a program we use at the library designed for directed marketing. It's used quite a bit in the Real World, by marketing pros. It works by using census and other survey data to find out who are the best "targets" for your products, where they are, and how to find them. It works by classifying everyone in the U.S. into one of sixty odd general groups. Each group has got a cute nickname, and demographic data is attached to the group (age, income, marital status, type of housing, etc. etc.), along with other types of data. What TV shows they watch, what magazines they read, what fast food they eat, as well as other sorts of data. In other words, if you've got a new brand of olive oil to peddle, you can find out what group uses the most olive oil, and what TV shows & magazines they like. That way you know where to place your ads. I'd like to note at this point that I didn't think I fell into any of the categories exactly, but that's all right. They're just generalities.

As a SF writer, I decided to see what kinds of people tend to read science fiction. The top three are younger professionals who make good money and are on their way to the top; young college-age types in lower end or starter jobs living in smaller towns; and military people. Fine. Then I decided to see who's buying the most books. There's a search for "Buys 10+ books a year." The number one in this category are young singletons who live in places like New York City, make lots of money, are well educated, and do things like go to the theatre and watch Masterpiece Theater. All right. I go back to my "Buys SF" list to see how often they do it. I expect it to be lower than average. To my surprise, they don't. Zero, zip, zilch, never ever do these people buy or read science fiction. I can hear you already. This is a surprise?

Well, yes. The problem is, it isn't that they don't read science fiction, it's just not marketed that way. The July issue of Asimov's had an editorial that mentioned an example of social science fiction called "Blindness," by Jose Saragamo. It's selling very well in the U.S., and I'm sure that these highbrow urbanites are reading it. But it isn't science fiction to them, it's mainstream literature. Mainstream, despite the fact that if a SF writer wrote it, no one would blink an eye. In other words, marketing has created a view of the universe that looks accurate on the surface, but doesn't match the reality of what's going on. No wonder people like Vonnegut and Ellison don't want to be classified as SF writers. Marketing has become an obstacle to reaching their readership. And that, to me, is evil. Thus endeth the soapbox.