Thoughts on Mormons Writing Speculative Fiction

Published on May 6, 2011 by

In conjunction with the LDS Storymakers conference going on in Salt Lake City, Howard Tayler wrote an interesting blog post about Mormons writing science fiction and fantasy.  His basic point is what he calls “a meme in a monoculture”:

Brigham Young University is the spiritual heart of Utah County, and Utah County is a monoculture. If an idea springs up or is planted at BYU, if it is an attractive idea, one which resonates with the culture (or at least which isn’t anathema) that idea is likely to spread like wildfire.

I think wildfire is the wrong comparison, because to me that suggests something that starts off small and rapidly grows.  I’m going to go with a fruit tree metaphor instead, and show off my rather limited and probably inaccurate knowledge of fruit trees: a fruit tree starts off small, and takes quite some time to grow, during which it produces small amounts of fruit, and then it when it reaches maturity it starts producing a lot of fruit.  (Surely there must be some sort of fruit tree like that.)

Here’s a chart I made from the data at Marny Parkin’s excellent site MormonSF.org.  I counted the number of novels per year with “New York” in the publishing information.  (That ends up excluding some nationally published novels from publishers elsewhere, but it gives a good proxy for national publication. I wasn’t going to do all the counting manually.)

Number of National SF&F Novels by LDS AuthorsUnless the total number of nationally published speculative fiction novels has more than tripled since 2005, the proportion of Mormon-authored novels has definitely gone up.

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4 comments on “Thoughts on Mormons Writing Speculative Fiction”

  1. […] it can spread through the culture like wildfire. Eric James Stone replied with his own post, Thoughts on Mormon Writing Speculative Fiction, in which he provides a chart showing the great rise in National speculative fiction novels by LDS […]

  2. Wm Morris says:

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that your chart validates the fruit tree metaphor. Nice work, Eric.

  3. Carlajo says:

    We are so cool.

  4. Kent Larsen says:

    FWIW, I think your suggestion has more to do with how rapidly the meme has spread. Is there any question about whether or not these authors represent the spread of a meme?

    What is particularly striking in your graph is the fact that the growth looks like it could have been a simple straight line up until 2005 or so. Now it looks exponential — which is, of course, impossible to maintain in the long run.

    We should also wonder if some of this doesn\’t represent simply the underlying growth in the number of authors, in part due to technological improvements. I\’d have to look, but IIRC, the number of titles published each year increased several fold during the 1978-2000 period.