Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Stink at Genres

Here I am again, back around to trying to define the genre of my book(s). I stink at this.

It's not that I don't know where I would shelve my books. I just don't know where any given agent/publisher/editor would shelve my books. Of course, it doesn't help when I get conflicting information (like with Spectacle where I was fairly certain it was literary, but someone else told me it wasn't literary but instead a thriller, and a third person - an agent to be exact - told me it wasn't thrilling enough to be a thriller.) So you see my quandry.

Now I'm looking at RTL and trying to figure out which hole to shove this decidedly un-square peg into. (Is their a trapezoidal hole on the board somewhere that I'm missing?)

RTL is set in the near-future. Exactly when is never nailed down, but I've written it in such a way that it could be twenty years from now or, if you think of it in an alternate history way, it could be now. It has some dark elements - both with regard to the characters (especially the villians) and with regard to the setting (since most of the story takes place at night). Does that make it, to use a phrase borrowed from agent Janet Reid, near-future noir?

Or since RTL is set in the future, could it be SF? I've heard that the quickest way to be sure a book is SF is to ask yourself 'if you took out the science elements, would the book still stand?' If so, it's not SF. Since there are very few science elements in RTL, I guess it would stand without them, but the future element is absolutely necessary, and that is a SF device. Arrgghh.

On the other hand, RTL deals with an issue very close to many of the women in the world, which could make it women's fiction. Couldn't it?

And finally, being set in a dystopic future and speculating about the events that could happen should something else happen now, it could be considered speculative or even dystopic fiction.

Near-future speculative dystopic women's science fiction noir???

You see my problem.

On the bright side, having multiple genres to choose from gives me a wide range of agents to query. Which genre I put in the query letter could possibly change depending on the agent. Or I could be shooting myself in the foot by sending it out as a SF to an SF agent and get a stern letter telling me that in no way is this SF. (Like I got when I sent Spectacle out as a thriller.)

Am I the only one who has this problem?

I can't wait to finish JA: Cut and Dried. At least that one has a firm genre: mystery. Of course, it crosses sub-genres, but I won't obsess too much over that. After all, a cute hard-boiled detective mystery shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Right?


JenWriter said...

Well, I haven't read the book so I could be way off. But from what you have said, I might query it as speculative fiction.

From wikipedia: "Speculative fiction is a type of fiction that asks the classic 'What if?' question and attempts to answer it."

Sean Ashby said...

It seems to me that a lot of authors these days are mixing genres, too, which doesn't seem to make matters any easier. Like Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union: it's an alternate history, a whodunit, a love story, and an homage to 1940s noir. And it seems like a few books that would otherwise be considered "genre" are getting marketed through the "main stream": McCarthy's The Road is set in a post-apocolyptic near future, but I don't see it stocked on the shelves next to Asimov's sci-fi. Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell involves magicians, but it's not sold beside Tolkein or Terry Brooks

In short, I wouldn't know where to begin if it were me! =)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Jen. Actually, since all my books are based on a 'what-if' principle, they could all be speculative. I don't know if that information will help me or not, but it's nice to know they fit somewhere.

LOL Sean, sounds like a mess to me. On the other hand, if cross-genre books are selling right now, there's hope. =o)

Kristen Painter said...

Hmm. I wish I could help with this better, but you seem to have covered all the options pretty well. I like the future noir thing, tho. That has a nice ring to it.

Travis Erwin said...

I too have struggled with this bouncing back and forth from Women's Fiction to Romance to Mainstream.

Helen Shearer said...

Okay, maybe I'm just a moron but I'm wondering why you have to classify it at all. Why not just submit it as 'my novel, a story about blah, blah, blah' and let the agents/publishers/readers classify it? Or am I completely missing the boat on this one? If so, I have to have a serious think about what category mine fits into:)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I like the sound of near-future noir, too, Kristen. Here's hoping that's what this is.

Glad and sorry to see I'm not the only one with this problem, Travis.

From everything I've read, Helen, agents like to know you know where your books ought to be on the shelves of any given bookstore. I think the theory is that if you can't figure it out, how is a bookstore ever going to, and then how will they sell it? *shrug*