Genre Friction

Today I came across a post on E-Reads: Publishing in the 21st Century about publishing in genre fiction. In the piece, Richard Curtis (author and agent living in Manhattan) reveals how lucrative writing genre fiction can be, but also that it's not considered something to be proud of (nerds).

Something I absolutely love about the piece is that he keeps referring to genre authors as "professional writers," which tickles me, not because I don't take authors of genre fiction seriously per se, but that it makes so much sense. (A post later in the week from Curtis discusses a piece from the NYT all about authors who take years and years and years to publish one piece of literary work, while genre authors publish many books each year.)

I feel like this is such an amazing topic, and I'm not sure where to dive in...

So, I didn't read a lot of fantasy or sci-fi while I was growing up, and I definitely don't now. Sure, I've dabbled in a little King, Koontz, and Stein (if he counts) in my life, but generally I stick my nose up at grocery-store paperbacks, or anything that looks like it might involve wizards. 

Why? As a reader this makes me feel really silly. Don't I read to have fun, enjoy some aspect of escapism, andFor Lack of a Better Comic experience things that I might not otherwise have experienced? Why am I limiting my faux experiences to things like living through the death of a parent, discovering the scene of the gruesome suicide of a group of beautiful sisters, or walking around town for a day with a pants pocket loaded down with a bar of soap? Shouldn't I want to have a more visceral experience for my $9.99?

As a writer I feel doubly silly. This whole sad, starving artist thing is straight played out. Why shouldn't I have some fun with my writing and actually make some freaking money? Why shouldn't I put my imagination to the test, and come up with some amazing, heretofore unheard of lands wherein a monster dwells, instead of pacing around my boring, regular office trying to discover what great monster that dwells inside me, and wondering why I didn't put myself into more interesting situations while I was in college? Genre writers churn out books, and from what Curtis says (not to mention what fans of Twilight, Harry Potter, Song of Ice and Fire, and Stieg Larsson have to say) they're sometimes pretty freaking good.

Curtis even says that "genre writers might be likened to the guild artisans of medieval times." Hey! That's pretty cool. Oh, wait, what? There's more? Oh, okay..."with the exception that the Medieval craftsmen had the respect of their peers and patrons and were completely integrated into the community." Oh. Right, that whole respect thing?

Well, who needs respect when you've got bucketloads of money, amirite Stephenie Meyer?

In the end, I've decided that Curtis' article has convinced me—from now on my advice to everyone, everywhere: Quit diddling around, trying to harness the right cadence and form for your novel and just start writing genre fiction. You might be saying to yourself: she's telling me to "do it for the money" and on one hand, yes, I'm saying that. (You can use that money to support your broke ass when you go back to crying into your typewriter, wondering if you've hit the magic 100,000 hours yet.) But on the other hand, although you might not be trying to get into literary fiction for the money (because, that's impossible), getting into it for the cultural recognition is just as bad. Anyway, who needs the validation of your peers, mother, and inner college kid when you've got a pile of Benjamins, earned by way of magic, murder, or mystery smiling at you.

Now get out there and write!

P.S. My favorite part of the article is this:

"Unlike so many literary authors, professional writers are intensely attuned to the demands of the literary marketplace, because their lives and livings depend on its fluctuations. Genres go in and out of style, and heaven help the author who doesn’t adapt to a trend. As I write, science fiction is holding steady but fantasy is booming, westerns and horror are weak, cozy mysteries are strong and paranormal romance is huge. Authors working in these genres are expected to know about such cycles, indeed to know about nuances within the cycles: that within the fantasy genre, for example, the subspecies known as sword-and-sorcery is not very much in demand (as I write this, at any rate)."

Hello? Haven't you SEEN the market response to the realization that Game of Thrones is based on a book series? 

"This article was originally written for Locus, The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field and reprinted in the Winter1992 issue of the Writers Guild Bulletin. I’ve made a few modifications to bring it up to date, at least as of 2008. Copyright © 1990 by Richard Curtis"

Oh. Okay then. I see. Cool.


Interview with joyce meskis part II

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