Day by day, month by month, the traffic comes in to that post. For example, in my stats for today, the search phrase
why are americans afraid of dragons
is the third most popular phrase in incoming searches. I have tried to figure out what's driving this traffic (other than curiousity) but I can't find any one source.
With some preamble, in particular mentioning the popularity of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I asked: Are Americans Still Afraid of Dragons?
Her answer, as I understood it, was twofold.
Firstly, that fantasy is still dismissed by the dominant business culture as "stories for children".
Secondly, however, that authors of science fiction and fantasy are increasingly being recognized by the mainstream of literature, that the genres are blurring. (She mentioned a particular author who had won a particular mainstream award, but I don't remember the details.)
I should also mention that during the Q&A before the audience questions, there was also a lot of talk about finding truth through fiction, and about the dubious "facts" that capitalism and American businessmen prefer.
On the issue of blurring of genres, I can certainly comment on my amusement that mainstream lit and critics had to invent a "new genre" of speculative fiction, so that it could avoid calling literary giants like Margaret Atwood fantasy writers. The only difference between fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction appears to be who writes it, not the actual content.
So I think in conclusion the answer to the question is: somewhat less than they used to be, but the dismissal of fantasy and fiction in general is still a very real aspect of our society.
I don't know how much of the festival will go online, but it's possible that
* audio of her talk may show up at http://oiwf.squarespace.com/listen/
* video clips may show up at http://oiwf.squarespace.com/festival-on-youtube/
Sidebar: I just remembered one discussion in the Q&A where things went a bit off track. Sean Wilson asked her about hard science fiction versus soft science fiction. The answer was that hard science fiction is about the hard sciences, physics, chemistry etc. which is not the usual definition of hard SF. The difference as I have always understood it is about the nature of the imagined world. In soft science fiction, you're allowed to bend the rules of what is currently known to be possible. You might have time travel, or faster than light travel, or telepathy, or teleportation. As they say, you can "play with the net down". If you drop the net way down, you edge into fantasy, where the rules of the physical world may be dramatically different from what we currently know to be true.
Hard science fiction, on the other hand, is about obeying the rules of the physical world. In the hardest of hard SF, you can't break any currently known scientific laws or go too far beyond current known technology limitations. No faster than light, no teleportation, no super laser guns that fit in your pocket, etc. But that's not to say hard SF can't be very character driven. It often isn't, but something like Battlestar Galactica is actually quite hard SF - they do allow FTL for the purposes of moving the story along, but they fire bullets and missiles from their space ships, and they use nuclear weapons. No ray guns. They even try to do some reasonably realistic physics for the space fights. All of that hard SF is however, only background detail, because BSG is actually all about the characters, not about the technology.