85 Authors protest BBC�s treatment of genre fiction

Press release: 16th April 2011. ‘Eighty-five authors have signed a joint letter of protest handed in to Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, complaining about the BBC’s shabby treatment of genre fiction during last month’s world book night coverage by the TV station.

The signatories to this letter range from Gold Dagger-nominated crime authors such as S J Bolton, writers of children’s fiction such as Debi Gliori, as well as many fantasy, science fiction and horror authors ‘ from Iain Banks to Michael Moorcock.

The BBC programming which has raised their complaint was the state-sponsored television channel’s coverage of fiction during World Book Night, with programmes including The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special and New Novelists: 12 of the Best which went out on BBC2 on the 5th March 2011.

Fantasy author Stephen Hunt, who organised the protest, commented, ‘The sneering tone that was levelled towards commercial fiction during The Books We Really Read was deeply counterproductive to the night’s aims of actually encouraging people to read novels. The weight that was given to the single sub-genre of literary fiction in the remaining programmes was unbalanced and unrepresentative of all but a small fraction of the country’s reading tastes. And closest to my own heart, the failure to feature a single work from the three genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction was a disgrace. The official World Book Night list included Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel, Northern Lights. It is a shame the BBC could not.’

Hunt went on to say, ‘There have been weeks when one in three books sold in the UK were Harry Potter novels, or more recently, Twilight novels. The sweeping under the carpet of the very genres of the imagination which engage and fire readers’ minds shows a lot more about the BBC production team’s taste in fiction than it does about what the general public is actually reading. If the BBC really wishes to support reading in this country, then they should produce a literary version of The Film Programme, or commission a modern updating of the Bookworm show that had Griff Rhys Jones as its lead presenter in the ’90s. A series with a mainstream slot. Then perhaps the BBC can do what it said on the tin the first time around: cover the books we really read.’

The list of writers supporting the petition: Kevin J Anderson, Neal Asher, Iain M Banks, Greg Bear, Jacey Bedford, Gregory Benford, Michael Bishop, S J Bolton, David Brin, Michael S. Brotherton, John Brown, Ramsey Campbell, Gail Carriger, Mark Charan Newton, Michael Cobley, Diane Duane, Kevin Duffy, Steven Lundin (Steve Erikson), Geraldine Evans, Russell B. Farr, Matt Forbeck, Gregory Frost, Gary Gibson, Linda Gillard, Felix Gilman, Debi Gliori, Alison Goodman, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Hand, Steve Haynes, John Helfers, John Hemry, Jack Hessey, Liz Holliday, Matthew Hughes, Stephen Hunt, Jasper Kent, Kay Kenyon, M. D. Lachlan, Jay Lake, David Langford, Bob Lock, James Lovegrove, Jonathan Maberry, David Mack, Juliet Marillier, Ian McDonald, Juliet E McKenna, Karen Miller, L E. Modesitt, Jr, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Moorcock, Theresa M. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Stan Nicholls, Larry Niven, Jonathan Oliver, Phil Palmer, Steve Parker, Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Pinnock, Phyllis Irene Radford (P R Frost/C F Bentley), Robert V.S. Redick, Kit Reed, Mike Resnick, Adam Roberts, Steven Savile, Robert J. Sawyer, Ann Scarborough, Michael Shea, Lucius Shepard, Michael Marshall Smith, S M Stirling, Charlie Stross, Stephen Sullivan, Michael Swanwick, Harry Turtledove, Robert E Vardeman, Tim Waggoner, Ian Watson, Simon West-Bulford, Sean Williams, Walter Jon Williams, Geoff Willmetts and Jane Yolen.’

Stephen Hunt, co-ordinator

Press release: 16th April 2011. ‘Eighty-five authors have signed a joint letter of protest handed in to Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, complaining about the BBC’s shabby treatment of genre fiction during last month’s world book night coverage by the TV station.

The signatories to this letter range from Gold Dagger-nominated crime authors such as S J Bolton, writers of children’s fiction such as Debi Gliori, as well as many fantasy, science fiction and horror authors ‘ from Iain Banks to Michael Moorcock.

The BBC programming which has raised their complaint was the state-sponsored television channel’s coverage of fiction during World Book Night, with programmes including The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special and New Novelists: 12 of the Best which went out on BBC2 on the 5th March 2011.

Fantasy author Stephen Hunt, who organised the protest, commented, ‘The sneering tone that was levelled towards commercial fiction during The Books We Really Read was deeply counterproductive to the night’s aims of actually encouraging people to read novels. The weight that was given to the single sub-genre of literary fiction in the remaining programmes was unbalanced and unrepresentative of all but a small fraction of the country’s reading tastes. And closest to my own heart, the failure to feature a single work from the three genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction was a disgrace. The official World Book Night list included Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel, Northern Lights. It is a shame the BBC could not.’

Hunt went on to say, ‘There have been weeks when one in three books sold in the UK were Harry Potter novels, or more recently, Twilight novels. The sweeping under the carpet of the very genres of the imagination which engage and fire readers’ minds shows a lot more about the BBC production team’s taste in fiction than it does about what the general public is actually reading. If the BBC really wishes to support reading in this country, then they should produce a literary version of The Film Programme, or commission a modern updating of the Bookworm show that had Griff Rhys Jones as its lead presenter in the ’90s. A series with a mainstream slot. Then perhaps the BBC can do what it said on the tin the first time around: cover the books we really read.’

The list of writers supporting the petition: Kevin J Anderson, Neal Asher, Iain M Banks, Greg Bear, Jacey Bedford, Gregory Benford, Michael Bishop, S J Bolton, David Brin, Michael S. Brotherton, John Brown, Ramsey Campbell, Gail Carriger, Mark Charan Newton, Michael Cobley, Diane Duane, Kevin Duffy, Steven Lundin (Steve Erikson), Geraldine Evans, Russell B. Farr, Matt Forbeck, Gregory Frost, Gary Gibson, Linda Gillard, Felix Gilman, Debi Gliori, Alison Goodman, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Hand, Steve Haynes, John Helfers, John Hemry, Jack Hessey, Liz Holliday, Matthew Hughes, Stephen Hunt, Jasper Kent, Kay Kenyon, M. D. Lachlan, Jay Lake, David Langford, Bob Lock, James Lovegrove, Jonathan Maberry, David Mack, Juliet Marillier, Ian McDonald, Juliet E McKenna, Karen Miller, L E. Modesitt, Jr, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Moorcock, Theresa M. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Stan Nicholls, Larry Niven, Jonathan Oliver, Phil Palmer, Steve Parker, Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Pinnock, Phyllis Irene Radford (P R Frost/C F Bentley), Robert V.S. Redick, Kit Reed, Mike Resnick, Adam Roberts, Steven Savile, Robert J. Sawyer, Ann Scarborough, Michael Shea, Lucius Shepard, Michael Marshall Smith, S M Stirling, Charlie Stross, Stephen Sullivan, Michael Swanwick, Harry Turtledove, Robert E Vardeman, Tim Waggoner, Ian Watson, Simon West-Bulford, Sean Williams, Walter Jon Williams, Geoff Willmetts and Jane Yolen.’

Stephen Hunt, co-ordinator