Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Robert Harkess - Guest Blog

Boxes

I spent a long time trying to figure out what I was going to say on this blog. I mean, Sam has been kind enough to let me use this space as part of my ‘blog tour’, and I wanted to do something a little more meaningful than just drop  in a plug for my new book and throw a quick wave over my shoulder as I walked off into the distance.

In mid November I read a blog post by Marsha Moore on Fantasy Faction. It was the second part of a longer piece that was breaking down and defining subgroups of fantasy genres that Marsha referred to as ‘Low Fantasy’. There were seven categories and three sub categories just in that article, and whilst I’m in no way suggesting Marsha was doing anything wrong, I must admit it shocked me.

Look, I know humans generally have a need to put things into neat boxes, but when I was in my twenties we made do with SF, Fantasy and Horror and that was good enough for anybody.

More seriously, it worries me a little that things are getting so fined-down now. OK, many people wont really give a fig if Harry Dresden is or isn’t in the same sub-sub-genre as Simon R Green’s ‘Nightside’ stories, but I hate the thought of someone thinking they only liked a certain sub-sub-genre, and subsequently missing out on a wealth of other material. It’s like only eating one specific type of pizza.

It doesn’t just affect readers. It matters to writers too. Publishers want the writer to be a ‘brand’. ‘RB Harkess, Young Adult author’ is much more definitive than ‘Joe Bloggs, who writes SF, Fantasy, a bit of horror and some urban fantasy’. You can see their point, and it makes it easier for the bookstores to know which shelf to put you on.

Problem is, I wouldn’t want to just be writing one type of story for my whole career. That’s one of the reasons I like writing for the Young Adult market; the lines are a little more blurred, the fences between the sub-genres a little lower. My first story - just published as an e-Book by Proxima and available from Amazon - is called “Aphrodite’s Dawn” and is a science fiction adventure. The story I am working on at the moment is a blend of Urban Fantasy and Steampunk. I’m expecting both to be published under the same name. In the ‘adult’ market I probably wouldn’t be able to, certainly not if I’d made a name in one genre or the other.

So what’s my point – apart from plugging my wonderful new novel? I suppose, like Canute is supposed to have tried to turn the tide, I may be trying to argue against human nature, but I’m wondering if its time we stopped trying to slice things ever finer, subdividing ad absurdium. Or, to put it another way, perhaps I’m just suggesting we try to think outside the box.

(You can find out more about R B Harkess, including twitter and facebook addresses, on his blog at www.rbharkess.co.uk)

1 comment:

Ink Sweat & Tears said...

Great piece Steve - and thanks to Sam for running it on her blog. If you look on Wikipedia, in some of the articles on literary genre, the whole speculative fiction section has so many sub-sub categories that it makes those obscure Puritan Christian religious sects (that keep splitting away from each other over doctrinal dispute and creating even smaller sects) look positively rational and well balanced. Perhaps authors and publishers should worry less about the micro definition of their markets and focus more on the content they are delivering to their readers? CC