A few weeks ago, Philip Athans did a column at the Grasping For the Wind review site about the popularity of vampires and his hope that robots would be the next “vampire,” i.e. hot trend:
This statement of Athans is incorrect: “Publish a vampire book that’s a little too gory or a little not gory enough, a little too sexually explicit or a little too chaste, and you’ll still sell more than any of your traditional fantasy titles.”
Vampire titles, despite all the media attention they’ve been getting the last two years, sell no more than non-vampire fantasy titles, and they follow the same pyramid structure of all fiction sales — a small group at the top that does incredibly well (the big, shiny objects we notice the most,) a larger group that does pretty well, and an even larger group that doesn’t do very well at all. A large percentage of the titles put out that have vampires in them don’t sell well, the paperbacks getting pulped in three months, the trade paperbacks or hardcovers lasting a bit longer. Contemporary fantasy overall is doing well in the market, but your average alternate world fantasy title still often outsells it. But we will forgive Athans his hyperbole because he is an excellent SFF author and SFF non-fiction writer too.
And the good news is that Athans’ wish for a robot spike of popularity is actually probably on the way. To wit:
1) Last year, A. Lee Martinez did the mystery novel The Automatic Detective, which was well received.
2) Gonzo film director/writer Spike Jonze did a short film Robot Romance that did the film festival circuit to great acclaim and is airing on the IFC cable channel.
3) Tron: Legacy (okay software people, but still sort of robots,) is due out this year and Disney is pushing it royally.
4) Jerry Bruckheimer has bought the film rights to the graphic novel World War Robots.
5) On the world front, we’re getting Gaiking, a Japanese crossover film about giant robots, and Bollywood is doing a robot movie with famed actress Aishwarya Rai.
6) Short Circuit, the classic robot sentinence story, is being remade.
7) Matel’s crusade to turn all their classic toys into movies is producing the Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots movie, with accompanying new toys. Transformers will return with a third installment.
8 ) Ryan Reynolds is still on board to do a Marvel movie about Deadpool, the crazed cyborg mercenary.
9) The Terminator series — the most famous robot story of all — has been sold to a hedge fund and Lionsgate and Sony are trying to make a deal with the fund to take over the franchise and start it up again soon.
10) SF author Daniel H. Wilson’s novel Roboapocalypse is in development for a film which will likely be directed or produced by Steven Spielberg.
11) Next year gives us the film Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, about robot boxers in the future.
12) SF Romance is now the fastest growing sub-category of category romance and is bound to include some robots in there.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! But there is some competition for robots being the next new hot trend, and it’s not werewolves. It’s aliens! There are a bunch of alien movies, etc., coming down the pike. The V remake is currently on t.v. I’m eagerly awaiting Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s movie Paul, due next spring. So there may be a battle. But both are SF, so that should make Athans happy.