An Anarchic Publisher Spawns Books That Fight Authority

Illustration for article titled An Anarchic Publisher Spawns Books That Fight Authority

Why is Tor Books arguably the most successful science fiction publisher in the world? A new piece in Reason magazine offers two competing explanations. It's because Tor publishes a lot of books that argue for individual freedom and against government. Or it's because Tor avoids the editing-by-committee structure of most other publishers, and isn't fussy about genre boundaries. Whichever explanation you believe, the Reason article will offer fuel for debates about science fiction for months to come. Reason talked to a number of Tor editors and authors, and got some great quotes about why science fiction is anti-authoritarian. Theories range from Heinlein's influence, to high-school bullying, to the fact that science fiction fans tend to be introverts who are neither leaders nor followers. Pretty much everyone involved, of course, denies having an agenda. But at the same time, Tor has dominated the Libertarian Futurist Society's most recent Prometheus Awards, with five novels including three alternate histories. To me, as a publishing wonk, the most interesting stuff is the look inside Tor's editorial decision-making:

Tor has an unusual editorial process. At most fiction publishing houses, decisions are made by consensus. All the editors, often drawn from many genres, sit down together and decide which authors to sign and how much to spend on promotions and advances. The result, Doherty argues, is an unwillingness to try something new or unusual. Tor decided to do things differently. “We don’t do things by committee and we don’t expect anyone to take care of us,” Doherty says. “We can stray outside the genre as long as they sell. We’ve got to be self-supporting.”


The whole article is well worth checking out. [Reason]

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Corpore Metal

It is true that a significant portion of science fiction since the 60s has carried that Heinleinesque, miniarchist, Libertarian Party taint.

Personally I find it tiresome and the story has to be really good for me to ignore a particular author's preaching.

I find it particularly refreshing that there are some science fiction writers these days that moving away from this rather stale ideological trend.