I wasn't going to put in my tuppence-worth, partly because the real deep thinkers of science fiction would probably beat up on me and partly because a lot of what I might have said has been said already. But my friend Lou Anders tells me never to be afraid to blog, so if you'll forgive me I'm going to put both feet in my mouth and jump in.
It seems to me that there have been two conversations going on here. The first is about what we have to do to get more readers, and the second is about what kind of science fiction we ought to be writing to capture the audience share we already have. I can't speak to the second conversation because I don't feel I belong in that debate, but on the first question, about how to get more people reading in the genre, I do wonder if we haven't done this to ourselves.
I do wonder if we haven't been guilty, in our deepest darkest hearts, of enjoying science fiction's minority status, of writing more for the science fiction community than for the general reader. And I wonder if Kristin Kathryn Rusch isn't right (and I hope she'll forgive me if I'm misreading her article) when she says that we need a more populist strand of science fiction to draw in the general reader.
I think we suffer from a bit of an image problem. It's the same problem that makes bookshops stick us on shelves in dark corners - usually along with fantasy and horror (no offence, fantasy and horror writers and fans). We give off an image of mystery, of only being accessible to those who understand "all those long words." Hyperdrives, mass drivers, quantum mechanics, singularities and The Singularity. These are all bread and butter to the initiated, but they're unlikely to tempt your average Dan Brown or Nelson DeMille fan. It's a secret language and it puts people off.
Of course, these are our tools, the things we write about, the way we deconstruct the world around us and try to put it into some kind of sense. But I think that, without some kind of gateway drug into science fiction we're just going to keep on losing readers because instead they'll be watching television series like Battlestar Galactica, which is proper grown-up science fiction but which also has to fulfill certain parameters in order to bring in viewers because otherwise it would be cancelled. Maybe we should be looking at something like this as a model.
There. Now we'll see if anybody's reading this thing...