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Don’t let the BBC screw SFF… Again.

Now… I don’t like to rant… but today I’m going to rant. But please, bear with me because there is a point and a conclusion to it all.

Right, last year Fantasy and Science-Fiction got screwed by the BBC. In the UK at least, the BBC took control of the broadcasting for the weeks worth of programmes that ran in the build up to ‘World Book Night’. Science-Fiction and Fantasy fans sitting at home were no doubt pretty confident that Science-Fiction/Fantasy, as one of the best-selling genres in our country, would get a few mentions and a bit of discussion. WRONG. The BBC completely shunned the science-fiction and fantasy genres, even gave snide comments on it at times, which of course upset a number of viewers, but also a number of writers.

85 authors in fact complained to the BBC about the treatment of our beloved genre including; Kevin J Anderson, Neal Asher, Iain M Banks, Mark Charan Newton, Steven Lundin (writing as Steve Erikson), Alison Goodman, M. D. Lachlan, Juliet E McKenna, Karen Miller, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Moorcock, Robert V.S. Redick, Mike Resnick and many others too. The worst part about it was that ‘Northern Lights’ was actually on the list of books and the BBC pretty much ignored it (I should also point out that 1 SFF book in a list of 25 is pretty poor).

So anyway, what the heck is this ‘World Book Night’ thing and why is it so important?

World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of people gift books within their communities to spread the joy and love of reading on April 23 2012. In 2012 World Book Night will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and USA.

25 titles are specially chosen and printed in their thousands in World Book Night editions. Givers apply to give away a particular book (you get a first, second and third choice) which they must commit to give away to those who don’t regularly read to share and spread their love of reading. Each Giver receives 24 copies which they pick up from their local bookshops and libraries – the very heart of our reading communities – in the week before April 23.

The greatest reading journeys start when you put a book in to someone’s hand and say ‘this one’s amazing, you have to read it’ and by applying to be a giver you can help World Book Night give that experience to a million new readers on April 23.

It is difficult to quantify the value of reading on people’s lives, especially given the shocking statistics in the UK that outlines that one person in six struggles to read and write. Poor skills compromise health and well-being, confidence and employability. World Book Night’s charitable mission is to advance the education of the public by assisting in the promotion of literacy and the celebration of books and reading by creating unique moments which focus attention on adult literacy. By focusing on the enjoyment and engagement of reading we aim to reach and inspire those who have never discovered the value of reading.

Why April 23?

April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is both the birth and death day of Shakespeare, as well as the death day of Cervantes, the great Spanish novelist. It is in their honour that UNESCO appointed it the international day of the book and that we choose it to celebrate World Book Night.

So yes, for a site such as Fantasy-Faction, World Book Day is really important because it helps convince a vast amount of people who probably haven’t thought about picking up books before… to pick up books. Not only that, but it can bring awareness of what ‘books’ are and the fact that there are various genres to explore. The worrying thing about last years coverage was that by ignoring Science-Fiction and Fantasy or giving the opinion that they were in some way below genres such as Crime, Historical Fiction, etc – not only was fantasy not properly exposed, but it could have left readers feeling embarrassed to pick genre books up. If you are a writer especially, this is worrying because the whole point of World Book Night is to bring an awareness to the many areas of literature and if you have a huge presence such as the BBC shoving people towards a certain genre it can really effect any possible growth that SFF deserves.

So, anyway, the good news is that this year’s list looks far more encouraging for the Science-Fiction and Fantasy reader and writer:

The Player Of GamesLet The Right One InGood Omens
The AlchemistBook TheifMisery

The Player Of Games – Ian M. Banks, (Science-Fiction)
Let The Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist, (Fantasy)
Good Omens – Pratchett & Gaiman, (Fantasy)
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (Fantasy Elements)
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (Fantasy Elements)
Misery – Stephen King (horror… but King’s name is always going to turn heads towards SFF)

As we can see, there are a ton of fantastic novels up there… probably the best bet from Sci-Fi is ‘The Player Of Games’ and for Fantasy ‘Good Omens’. Personally, I’m going to sign up to give away 25 copies of ‘The Player Of Games’ I think from that list above, that is the book that best promotes how strong the Fantasy/Science-Fiction Genre is and the most versatile. I considered ‘Good Omens’ but I personally think that is as acquired taste and (in my opinion) Pratchett/Gaiman are fairly ‘unique’ in what they do. Banks on the other hand is more conventional. Personally, I’m a little disapointed there isn’t a hard fantasy title on there… I guess Game Of Thrones is a bit too graphic, Painted Man I thought could be a good ‘everybody would like this’ type title – but again… perhaps too graphic. Maybe next year though they could have something – a name that came into my head actually was Mark Charan Newton – I think his stuff is pretty intelligent and fantastical enough to give our genre a good showing.

Anyway, if you agree with me in regards to Iani M. Banks, hit the button below to sign up and give away 25 copies of the book to people who you think NEED to be reading it. I’ve also put a button to the site in case you want to choose an alternative – Science-Fiction/Fantasy or otherwise.

I guess the question you probably have in your mind is… will the BBC take notice? Well, I truly believe that if enough of the SFF community get behind this and expose people to Fantasy/Science-Fiction they will. If people pick up these fantasy/science fiction books and the BBC ignores them on their programming again, surely questions will be asked… But hey, let us now forget the most important thing here – Lets get people reading and show them what they’ve been missing!



  1. Avatar Lor says:

    Aw, apparently application to be a giver has closed.
    I agree with this article so much though; I was so annoyed at the list last year I avoided the event completely, which is not like me. I’m so glad to see “the Book Thief” up there, it’s one of my favourite books, and one i actually was able to enjoy with my parents, in audiobook form on the drive home from my sister’s in Germany.
    I will also second the suggestion that Mark Charan Newton’s work should be on the list, at the risk of sounding like a complete fangirl; his books have spectacular scenery, intelligent themes and incredibly well-realised characters, perfect for showing off our genre.

  2. Huh, I never knew about this event. It seems as though it is a great idea, though my hopes for people who don’t read to actually stop for a moment and read more than a post online is a bit low. I might have to do something on my own at that point. Great article and I hope the BBC doesn’t screw things up again! Thanks for sharing and happy World Book Night!

  3. […] in 2011 there was a bit of a kerfuffle when World Book Night – a highly publicised night that independent charity, The Reading […]

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