By Kyoko M.
When I was a kid, I was teased a lot for being an avid reader of books and comic books/graphic novels/manga. At the time, comic books, graphic novels, and manga were only for the nerdy and geeky crowd. It was a tough time, but as the decades passed, the world has since updated its perspective on the genres of science fiction and fantasy. The genres have moved into the mainstream spotlight, so it’s no longer the freaks and geeks that are enjoying them, but an entirely different, much bigger audience.
In my experience, we’ve had several works of fiction that helped move the sci-fi/fantasy (SFF) genres into mainstream attention. Back in the day, things like the Lost in Space series, Star Trek, and Star Wars were among the first science fiction titles to pique people’s interest. The success of Christopher Reeve as Superman also was one of the first breakthroughs for SFF in the mainstream. The eighties gave birth to an explosion of hybrid action science fiction like The Terminator, Back to the Future, and Tron. The additional success of the 1989 Batman starring Michael Keaton turned a huge corner for the subgenre of comic book movies. Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man’s subsequent successes hinted that comic book movies could find success with mainstream audiences. The Lord of the Rings trilogy made huge money and liberated all the LOTR book nerds after years of waiting for another adaptation. Then a great deal of its progression came from the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its first entry, Iron Man (2008).
Where did the success of SFF with mainstream audiences come from? I believe that the reason SFF is now a precious commodity with everyone watching it came from the productions being helmed by very passionate people who found a way to condense decades of fiction into 90-minute films or into bite-sized chunks for television series. SFF has seen a similar boom in YA book series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson, which were also adapted into films for mass consumption. Adapting to the modern culture where you can deliver the information quickly and in an engaging manner is likely the reason that mainstream audiences realized the potential of SFF for entertainment.
For example, the pre-Avengers (2012) films Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America all did well at the box office, but they didn’t hit critical mass until the Avengers. Why? Because Marvel found a way to tie all their stories together in a neat little package that didn’t require you to have seen all the solo films to understand Avengers. Seeing the other films would add more context and hit more emotional beats, but the film found a way to let everyone join in on the fun with no prerequisites.
We now have plenty of streaming channels full to burst with SFF works. All I can say is it’s a great time to be a fan of SFF.