Three observations in search of a theory

Observation One
This weekend I accidentally stumbled into a bookstore signing featuring two veteran, award-winning science fiction writers. If you read sf, you’d know their names. They had a pretty good gathering for the relatively small space, maybe about twenty caucasian fans (or readers, if you prefer), whose median age I’d put at around fifty.

Observation Two
This morning the geek parts of the internet I travel are all abuzz with the news that the Sci Fi Channel is rebranding itself as SyFy:

By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

Syfy more clearly captures the mainstream appeal of the world’s biggest entertainment category, and reflects the network’s ongoing strategy to create programming that’s more accessible and relatable to new audiences. Syfy will continue to celebrate the traditional roots of the genre, while opening the brand to accommodate a broader range of imagination-based entertainment.

In other words, they want a bigger audience, and they think Sci Fi is too geeky for the audience they want.

Observation Three
I walked into a games shop a few doors down from the bookstore. The store was packed. I’m gonna say 50 – 60 gamers playing games, participating in non-traditional consumer media. The crowd was racially diverse (though not as gender diverse as the bookstore crowd), with a median age of something like 17-25, a range that falls within the demographic typically sought by television programmers.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But it means something. At least I’m pretty sure it does.


4 Responses to “Three observations in search of a theory”

  1. 1 Matt
    March 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Well, I think you’re looking at the demographics of fandom, and how Sci-Fi (now SyFy?) is changing to meet them, I think.

    When you mention the game store, you’re covering a huge amount of genres within just that market alone – Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Mystery, Paranormal. And all of those genres are repackaged for consumption in a new medium, whether it’s cards, pencil and paper rpg’s, board games, or miniatures games.

    My basis for this assertion is only anecdotal, but I think that the younger generations in the market for newer media formats are more willing to cross genre-boundaries (close as they are), and in fact demand more variety. So maybe it’s not a bad thing for SyFy to make the change, from a business’s perspective.

  2. 2 rachelaaron
    March 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    First off, how cool to walk into a book signing! No one ever comes down to GA… I’m not sure how I feel about the SciFi rebrand. I understand why they did it, but SyFy just looks… dumb? It’s like how they spelled R2D2 as ArrrtooDetoo or whatever. It’s just so lame!

    As for the gamer/anime craze, I think that’s definitely where things are going, and as a writer (and a huge gamer nerd and anime fan myself), that’s where I try and take my books. My stories are very influenced by games and anime, not so much the world, but the way I pace events and play up conflict. It’s a very grand-standing, over the top style that’s a lot of fun. Going this way was a personal choice, because these are the kinds of stories I like, but also think this is a way to reach new readers. People like me, who are in their mid 20s and want something awesome to read that’s on the same excitement level as the games and manga and anime they also like.

    Then again, there’s so much awesome fiction happening right now, it’s a great time to be a fantasy author of any streak. But that new energy is vital, I think. Then again, I think it always was, we’ve just dressed it up differently.

  3. March 18, 2009 at 1:49 am

    I’m still chewing on the ‘not as gender diverse’ as the bookstore crowd. That’s kind of boggling (and a little sad) because the ‘veteran, award-winning authors’ are not exactly writing for women. Hmmm….

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