Years ago, at a convention, I was spinning out one of my favorite fantasies about how pleasant it would be if there were such a thing as a mainstream literary conventions: Big-name guests of honor, panels on the New Realistic, and so on. Gordon Van Gelder listened patiently, and then said, "Nobody could afford it."
"Eh?" I said.
"Mainstream writers charge for public appearances. It's a major part of how they make a living."
There then ensued a multi-person conversation on the economics of mainstream author appearances which I'll spare you because I remember none of the specifics, but which would have made a good panel, had it been premeditated.
Science fiction conventions are an accident of history. Hugo Gernsback put letters columns in his magazines to boost circulation, and included the addresses in them. Scientifiction enthusiasts started writing letters to each other, and thus fandom was born. Fans wanted to get together, and so they created conventions. Many of these fans were also writers and so editors like John W. Campbell were available for the conventions. Science fiction writers got no respect from the literary world, so they were pleased to show up and be lionized. Add time, shake, and you have what we have today.
Similarly, due to this accident of history, science fiction writers have a long history of helping other writers learn how to write and how to sell. This is not how it works in the larger literary world, alas. As a group, genre writers are nicer to each other than mainstream writers are.
This all comes to mind because at the Pen & Pencil club the other day, Gardner Dozois said, "Do you know how much money George R. R. Martin made last year? I wouldn't mention it, except that I saw it in a newspaper, so it's a matter of public record." Then he mentioned a number that was, let's say, remarkably large.
We were sitting at a table of writers and journalists and one nano-publisher, and after we'd discussed this matter for a bit, Tom Purdom remarked, "Do you see how remarkable this is? We have a group of writers discussing the financial good fortune of a friend -- and nobody's said a bad word about him!"
Which made us all feel pretty good about the cohort we belong to. Somebody raised a glass and proposed a toast: "To George R. R. Martin!"
"To George R. R. Martin!" everybody cried, and drank to his health and continued prosperity.
It was a good moment, and I for one was grateful to George for it.