If you're a fan of science fiction, turn off that TV and go read a novel instead.

The market for original, non-media-based SF novels is shrinking alarmingly. Books are where SF writers make their money; it's been a long, long time since anyone was able to make a decent living writing SF short stories, and it looks like the day is coming when novelists won't be able to support themselves, either. Star Trek/Bab 5/etc. novels are fun, but let's face it, they're literary junk food, and don't do anything to expand the boundaries of the genre. And right now, they're the dominant market share.

And think about this: the average advance for a 80,000-120,000 word SF novel is $5,000. Most books don't earn much past their advances, so that's often all a writer gets for what represents several months (if not years) of work. On those terms, a writer needs to put out four books a year to make as much as a filing clerk. Or (if he or she has become a bit of a "name" writer) he or she gives up on original work and joins the stable of writers churning out media tie-in novels (which generally pay at least $7,000 and can go into five figures for established/well-agented writers).

Sound bad? It's worse if you consider that Paramount will pay $5,000 for a Star Trek story idea. That's right, not a script, but an idea pitched over the phone. And even at their best, I don't think any of Trek's $5,000 plotlines have a tenth the artistic merit (or the entertainment value) of the 5-cents-a-word SF novels that are sitting neglected on bookstore shelves around the U.S.

TV SF is (with a few exceptions) fun, cheap, mindless entertainment, but remember that the best SF ideas always start in fiction and, if we're lucky, make their way into media (William Gibson was paving the way for The Matrix back in the mid-1980s). I've never seen it work the other way around. So head to your local bookstore and make an investment in the future health of SF.