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While some readers look for dark fiction to reflect Clark times, others just want to get away from it all. This has led to strong sales on all sides of science fiction and fantasy, from pulpy escapist romps to grim dystopian parables. "In down times, escapism is more important and necessary than ever," says Diana Gill, executive editor of the Eos imprint at HarperCollins, "and genre sales reflect that. We saw this after 9/11, and it continues to be true now. Urban and supernatural fantasy are unquestionably the strongest sellers in the genre."
Seale Ballenger, group publicity director for Eos, concurs: "We are seeing the trend toward escapism across the board in all areas of publishing right now due to the faltering economy. People really want to focus on something other than the non-stop woes of the world. The escapist nature of SF and fantasy gives readers a doorway into a world very different from their own."
In contrast, says St. Martin's editor Michael Homier, some readers are looking for books that draw on today's dire news reports of global warming and economic collapse. "As a recession happens, there is a certain segment of the book population that likes to see it somehow mirrored in the entertainment that they buy," he says. "Paranormal, horror and especially apocalyptic-themed novels seem to draw a lot of attention. It hits home with some sort of psychological unease people have and also fits into our still-present fears of terrorism." How about fear of terrorist elves? Reagent Press concludes a seven-year project with a special illustrated edition of Robert Stanek's Kingdom Alliance, in which two dozen elves battle with their mortal enemy, man.
Small and large houses alike are seeing high demand for tales of doom and gloom. "Wastelands [an anthology of apocalyptic fiction] just went into a fifth printing," reports Jeremy Lassen, editor-in-chief of Night Shade Books, "and has sold more than 30,000 copies in just over one year, which is very significant for a reprint anthology by a relatively small house. The runaway success of The Living Dead (over 45,000 copies in six months) is another reflection of interest in apocalypse …