[Partial list: Star Cops, Continuum, Lucifer, Defying Gravity, Star Trek Enterprise, Reaper...]
It especially annoys me when a science fiction television show ends on a cliffhanger, one that was meant to set up the next season, and it becomes a "Surprise--you are canceled!"
[Yes, I am really annoyed about Lucifer being canceled with such a great storyline that was about to be opened.]
The really sad part is that often the writers and cast of a science fiction show will get no advance warning that the show is going to be canceled. So more often than not, there are a ton of storylines that are left dangling when a science fiction show is canceled because the season finale was written and filmed months before the cast and crew of a show knows that they are not coming back.
There have been instances where enough advance warning has been given to allow writers to create a season finale that helps wrap things up, but that is the exception and not the rule.
And it seems to happen to science fiction shows a lot.
Why? My current theory (compounded by watching how the Big Six* during the 80s and 90s, and their treatment of science fiction book series) is that it is all about Cost and Eyeballs (aka f***ing ratings). After all, what else could it be?
[*At the time, it was the Big Six, being before the merger of Random House and Penguin.]
Science fiction is a niche audience, a long tail of the dog market; it does not appeal to everyone. Starting off as a smaller audience, it is not as profitable as stuff that "your average man on the street" would watch--therefore, ratings are automatically an issue.
Plus special effects count money. And that means less profit.
And it is all about the profit, or lack thereof.
The entire television industry (outside of PBS) is all about making money. So for a science fiction series to survive, it has to become a runaway hit as soon as the first episode airs. And that is if it hasn't already been canceled before the first episode is aired (sadly many sci fi shows are dead before their first episode airs--Defying Gravity is a good example of a show that was dead on arrival because of how the network treated it--only three weeks notice that it was going to air, so no one, well almost no one, knew that it existed--one could argue that the network did everything it could to kill the show.)
By the way, traditional legacy publishing also does things like this. The entire traditional book industry is based on best sellers--if the first book of a science fiction series does not sell a pubzillion copies, it will never see a second book in the series.
Unfortunately, science fiction is something that often takes time to find its audience.
As a science fiction writer, in the traditional legacy market, your first book is probably going to be your last book.
Both television networks and publishing houses are only concerned with the current numbers, the current eyeballs, and they do not attempt to grow an audience for a property.
All the talk you hear about how traditional publishers cultivates writers is pure nonsense. You either swim or drown the first time you enter the pool. If you are not a success with your first book, you don't get a second chance.
Now, this whole issue of cancellations has been on my mind for the last few months. I have an idea for an extended science fiction book series, but the fact that it is an idea that totally needs a series and cannot be done as an one-off means that there is no way that I personally could convince a traditional publisher to touch it with a ten foot pole. Or at least, not with my current audience size.
Well, it could be done as an one-off, but I think it would suffer for it. The core idea--the situation that the characters find themselves in--creates many possible stories. Limiting it to just one set of characters and one location would totally rob the core idea of its vast potential.
And I honestly think that it is a series that I would have to build up the audience one reader at a time.
Fortunately, I live in a brave new world of indie publishing where I only have to convince two people that it is a project with potential (me and my wife).
And I have been clear that it is going to be a long haul project (the earliest possible wrap-up point is eight books in). [There are also good business reasons that apply to indie publishing that makes a series worth far more than a single book.]
But yeah, if I start to write Icarus, I am in it for the long haul--there will be no early cancellation because I hate cancellations that happen before the main story lines are resolved.
|I am still annoyed by the cancellation of Defying Gravity.|