I have been following a Facebook thread in a private Science Fiction group and was given permission to share some of the posts. I found it quite interesting.
The thread started with: "Simple question. Are readers of SciFi . . . well smarter than the average reader in some way?"
Paul Platt replied
Hey! I can answer this pretty well.
I have a degree in Sci Fi (Lit degree with a Concentration in Speculative Fiction) and a Psych degree. I also managed bookstores for twenty years.
Up until about the 90s, the people buying Sci Fi were on average the smarter kids. You could have intelligent conversations with them, and most tellingly, they'd be likely to buy more intelligent non Sci Fi book product as well and they'd buy books that showed they had other interests that they pursued. If someone liked, I dunno, anime for instance, there was a good chance they also be buying a Kurosawa film or biography or a book on Japanese history or culture or language. They bought science and history and literary fiction and books about abstracts like the arts. They were nearly always interested in and buying books with a progressive and liberal slant.
As time went on and geek culture became mainstream these observations changed DRASTICALLY. Sci Fi fans stopped being the bright ones. The were solely interested in flashy junk. They stopped exploring and pursuing related fields and their worlds seemed to shrink from “all the stuff that preceded and informed my fandom” to “I’m only going to obsess over whatever my fandom puts in front of my face.”
It’s the difference between loving Star Trek and so learning about Science, and loving Star Trek and so arguing over Kirk’s safe combo (thank you SNL).
Dopey people love Marvel movies. So do smart people, but the smart ones still seek out and read the comics, learn about the writers and inkers and editors and learn about cgi. Smart Sci Fi fans love something like Arrival and take an interest in linguistics. Dumb ones stop thinking about something as soon as the light shining into their eyeholes changes.
Award winning Sci Fi used to have a huge bump in sales and I had to keep copies of past winners on hand because Sci Fi fans did their homework and looked for and appreciated the good stuff. Near the end of my tenure in the industry only what was most current sold. Awards literally didn’t make a difference. People stopped being smart about what they read.
If you are dumb, you won’t be able to see this as a discussion of averages and so might be offended. I don’t care. If you are that dense your Dunning Kruger Cognitive Biases will keep you from awareness so whatever.
Yes, there was a time when Sci Fi fans on average were brighter than the cultural average. Those days are mostly gone.
One reply was:
Well, once again you are reverting to anecdotal arguments and not empirical evidence. Especially where you claim to have data regarding trends relating to political leaning. Poppycock!
Paul responded with this:
Want the sociopolitical version?
My 20 years of observation (and all 3rd party market research) finds the following:
People who buy progressive and liberal slanted ideas, authors, and their titles most often buy art, sociological themed subjects, and literary fiction. Within Mystery, they are more likely to buy a female author than are people also buying a conservative title, and actually conservative buyers buy almost zero female written Mystery.
Progressives buy more science, but they tend to buy overviews and pop science that explores how the sciences affect society. Conservatives buy more very narrow, single topic, specialized science topics. They seem to value expertise in one field without thinking about the social or moral aspects.
Same goes for computers and business. Conservatives buy more focused topics, progressives more broad topics.
Same in cooking and even crafts.
Now remember, we can make educated guesses about political affiliation because of other things they are buying, like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. Some reports include only what was bought in the same transaction. Others track, say, your Barnes and Noble card and can see what you tend to buy. Still others are based on an area’s voting history compared to what has to be reordered for the bookshelves or what is checked out at the library.
And of course there’s me, a trained Psych and Lit expert talking to these people and ringing them out, ordering books for my various stores and noticing what I need to reorder most often, etc. You know, and having conversations for twenty years as people come in and look for validation of their POV on bookstore and library shelves (I worked for libraries, too, and helped manage an arthouse theater. I saw the same folks and what they bothered to watch.)
Conservatives buy Religion and Occult. Almost zero Religious Fiction sells to progressive buyers. Intellectual humor sells to progressives (since good humor has to have a basis in reality) and sarcastic or overly nasty humor sells to conservatives.
Conservatives buy fewer books by women overall. Female Mystery writers almost only sell to women. Police Procedurals and Military Mysteries sell more often to conservative topic buyers and Comfy British and Classic WhoDunnits sell to progressives.
In Sci Fi, award winners sell to people who also buy liberal media. Military and “Harder” topics to conservatives. “Soft Sciences” Sci Fi (Psych, Sociology, Bio Sciences) sell to progressives. Media tie-ins sell more to conservatives but some of the more popular don’t show a difference.
Self Help sells to progressives.
Romance, no real difference. Cooking - people who’ve bought conservative stuff more often buy bbq and meat cookbooks, and people with a liberal buying history buy the larger percentage of veggie and foreign cookbooks.
A larger percentage of Biographies sell to liberal buyers.
Interestingly, Horror is a liberal buyers genre.
Sports stuff overwhelmingly more often sells to people who’ve bought or who are buying conservatively slanted stuff.
Now, you can tell me I’m full of shit or that this is “anecdotal” but the market research has also been done.
Again, we look at restocking numbers, immediate sales (what’s being bought together AT THAT MOMENT), customer loyalty cards, and goshdernit-cant believe-this-guy twenty plus years of experience.
Your likes and buying history do not serve to obliviate the averages or trends found countrywide.
Also, if presented with two books, both gender and politics show a trend that men and conservatives will buy the title on the same subject by a male writer over a woman writer four times more often.
Some reports have found that depending on the dept of the store, male authors sell eight to sixteen times better than female names, and using initials (like JK Rowling) will increase a woman’s chances of selling 400 percent.
What do you think? My own anecdotal experience leads me to agree.