I think the biggest change in SF's overall readership is that it's become much less dominated by hardcore SF buffs whose reading consists largely of SF. Compared to a generation ago, a lot more of our readers are just plain middlebrow readers—people who read a little SF along with a little of a lot of other things, and who don't necessarily regard the SF as alien to the rest of literature, or below the salt, or any of that stuff.
[Today's readers] are probably not connected to the SF social scene, they don't assess their SF and fantasy reading against a huge backdrop of inside-baseball industry lore, they may not have read all of the classics, but they're pretty good at making sense of fairly sophisticated SF storytelling because, guess what, in 2009, hundreds of millions of people are good at making sense of sophisticated SF storytelling. The problem for SF writers and publishers today isn't that there's not a mass audience for high-end SF storytelling; it's that there are immense numbers of other diversions on offer for those hundreds of millions of people.
What He Said
Posted by Lou Anders
Reading Clarkesworld Magazine's round-robin interview with short fiction editors, I was very struck by something Patrick Nielsen Hayden said, which dovetails with my own feelings (bold emphasis mine):