Growing Sci Fi Market a Perfect Fit
for Jobless Techies, Author Says
Computer engineers and computer scientists have been one of the hardest hit professions in this economic slump. For all their technical prowess, their jobless rates climbed quickly early in the recession compared to other professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But interestingly, while the computer geeks were losing jobs, science fiction novels were gaining fans.
“It’s one of the fastest growing e-book categories,” says Jim Milliot, co-editorial director at Publishers Weekly.
A 2010 Harris Poll found more people (79 percent) are reading books. The bigger surprise? More than a quarter of fiction readers opt for science fiction. That’s a big number for a genre once considered the realm of a lonely minority.
“If the economy boils down to supply and demand, that’s good news for all those jobless computer pros,’’ says Paul Dorset, author of “New Blood: Melrose, Part 1” (PaulDorset.com). A longtime computing professional, he incorporates a lot of the edgy tech elements so popular in science fiction into his work.
“Who can drive a plausible sci fi tale better than someone who knows their bytes from their zygotes?” he says.
For techies still looking for work, or working outside their field, writing science fiction is a novel creative outlet – and “just possibly a money-maker,” Dorset says.
“Take an imaginative mind, apply boundaries around what could be technically possible, and you’ve got the framework for a story with all kinds of possibilities.”
“New Blood” is about a para-psychic corporate climber, Beau Tempest, at cutting-edge Zygote Technologies in the heart of the Washington-Oregon Silicon Forest. Relationships are at the heart of the story (although they tend to be short-lived when Beau gets excited), but the work at Zygote, which develops new technologies, is a strong – and dark – undercurrent.
“I’ve worked in technology for 30-plus years and I still work in it, currently as a consultant for T-Mobile, so it’s not hard for me to come up with very sinister, but believable, scenarios of what could be developed,” Dorset says.
His continuing work in the field helps him stay up-to-date. Lucy, a central character in the book, works at Nyble Storage, a company that writes cloud backup services.
“That’s something that’s been evolving the last three or four years – storing files on the Internet so they’re instantly accessible from anywhere in the world,” Dorset says.
Likewise, having worked with many large corporations, he can create believable scenes involving layoffs, power jockeying and grousing among workers.
“The dialogue is natural because it comes from conversations and exchanges I’ve been absorbing for decades,” Dorset says. “I may not be able to write great dialogue for workers in a restaurant, but I know what people are talking about in big tech companies!”
While Dorset began writing to satisfy a personal passion several years ago – “New Blood” is his eighth published novel – he says any laid-off worker can bring a special knowledge to his or her own novel.
“All of us, if we’ve worked in businesses for years, have elements we can use to make a story more believable,” he says. “We can use that experience to round off and enhance any rough edges.”
For restless computer engineers eager for a new creative challenge, the boom in science fiction could be just the ticket.
“Everyone is looking to escape for a bit,” Dorset says. “And who better than a seasoned technology worker to create a virtual world to escape into?”
About Paul Dorset
Paul Dorset is a father of five who lives in the Silicon Forest – Seattle, Wash. He has worked as a computer consultant for more than 30 years. His previous publications include fantasy novels for ages 12-plus and how-to books for adults. The second book in his Melrose trilogy is due to publish in 2012.