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Cross-Pollination

As you may have guessed from the title, I’ve been doing a lot of work in my- unfortunately small- garden over the summer, and I have plants on the brain. Weirdly, I’ve made no progress on the gardening-related regency romance that I started last winter. But that’s not what this post is about.

Historical romance and fantasy are my go-to genres for writing. I feel comfortable with the language used in that type of book and have a little knowledge of actual events that I can use to provide settings or simply add color to plots that are timeless. For eras that are less familiar, I still have enough of a toe-hold in the genre to research and write about them without too much trouble. So why the heck am I writing about lunar wars for this anthology?

Uh, good question. When you find out, let me know. But more seriously, it’s because I need more readers. I’m trying to make a career out of writing, and while it’s nice that the same thirty people buy my books, I need to expand my audience. Plus, our Beautiful Yet Evil Space Princess mentioned this particular antho to me at a moment I wasn’t scurrying around, trying to do ALL THE THINGS. So I thought I had some free time. Two to eight thousand words isn’t too long, right? Shouldn’t take much more than a day or two to knock something together.

Ha! Silly me. So now I’m editing a draft to publish next week-!- writing the next book in that series, and trying to figure out why we didn’t go back to the Moon after 1972. And talking to you guys at MGC. Plus working on a few projects of my own- who else has been getting apocalypse vibes lately?

I complained of boredom a few months ago; what was I thinking? It doesn’t really matter, because I’m currently thinking that I need more readers. Few people read only one genre- though this is changing a little as binge-watching culture expands. But even if a person habitually reads a series from beginning to end, then finds another series and reads that one beginning to end, and so on, a lot of them will at least peek at related genres. Historical fiction goes well with costume romance and fantasy, mystery leads to thriller, thriller readers might pick up military fiction, etc. If I can convince a few people that a fantasy/soft SF story is compatible with my other fantasy stories, that’s a win. Convincing them to try a Heyer-esque regency romance might be a little beyond the pale, but I’ll take what I can get.

Writing in weird and disparate genres is good for the writer’s brain, too, not just his bank account. Changing styles of description, dialogue patterns, and learning the jargon of the genre makes for a nicely flexible writing mind. I’ve learned more about the Apollo Project in the past week than I learned in all of school. There was much rolling of eyes when I read that the Soviets only gave the ‘Luna’ distinction to missions that were successful, and did their best to ignore and forget about missions that failed. Typical.

Ahem. Anyway. Writing in different genres. It’s good for you; you should try it. As with all things writing-related, you’ll be more successful if you can put out lots of decent quality material, and some writers prefer to concentrate on a particular genre while they establish a base of rabid fans who will buy everything they publish, including that old grocery list. But I like the idea of dipping a toe into the waters of Odd Genre Lake. Maybe there’s gold at the bottom. Or I might get eaten by a shark. Who knows? Heinlein said that specialization is for insects. So I’m going to head off into the wild blue yonder and do my best to keep from growing an exoskeleton and an extra set of legs.

Talk among yourselves. What genres do you write in? What genres do you read? If you read or write in a lot of disparate areas, why? As a reader, do you prefer to see your favorite author focus on one type of book, or do you use the comfort of a familiar writer as a springboard into new genres?

 

Image is from Pixabay; I was not alive to take pictures of any of the Apollo missions.

20 Comments
  1. Well, I do straight historicals, set in the 19th century … and a contemporary comic series, co-authored with my daughter. The contemporary comedy (The Luna City series) is a nice break from the intensive research required for a historical.
    I’m considering a WWII adventure, though. Just for variety.

    August 21, 2019
  2. Well, my go-to as a reader for “genera” vs writing is Vathara. She hits a lot of the same themes, which completely bypass genera, and hit my “this is good” buttons.

    (we shall not talk of my ‘wait, gundam, didn’t they have medusas?’ conversation with Dear Husband)

    I suspect a lot of binge-watchers are watching because they found something that hits their buttons.

    Human Wave is similar– it feeds a hunger for Good Stuff that isn’t generally available.

    August 21, 2019
  3. As a reader, I go for historical fiction and science fiction, with a lot of slop over into fantasy. I think the historical and science fiction have a lot in common: separate worlds, alien problems, weirdly different cultures and mores. Cool clothes.

    As a writer, I write colonization space opera and what I can only call legal science fiction. Guess which is more popular? And there’s no prize for the right answer. I have learned to call the legal stuff near-future, near-space SF, but I struggle mightily to find comparable books. I think I’ve found one.

    I do not have cross-over between my audiences. With advertising, sales have picked up this year, but I only get about ten percent of the readers going from the space opera to the — ahem — near future stuff.

    August 21, 2019
    • Blake Smith #

      “I do not have cross-over between my audiences.”

      Interesting- I would have guessed there’d be overlap. Maybe it’s because space opera is usually more character-based and near future/legal SF is more focused on plot?

      August 21, 2019
      • I think it’s that people like what they like. Adventure on alien worlds feels different than things closer to home. There’s more escapism in the more different universes.

        And before anyone else says it, I don’t think it’s all the lawyers. Honest. There’s a whole genre of legal thrillers. Also, I don’t have a series in that universe, just ever so loosely-related stand alones.

        August 21, 2019
    • TonyT #

      Well, I don’t know how similar it is, but there’s Pam Uphoff’s Lawyers of Mars (which involves lawyers, but not a lot of law)

      August 21, 2019
      • I read that one! It gave me many chuckles.

        August 21, 2019
        • And it was fun to write, but . . . let’s just say there’s not actually a lot of law involved, even the scaly Martian Lizard variety.

          August 28, 2019
      • And, Daniel Suarez’ novel Delta V about asteroid mining has a space lawyer and is near future. The space lawyer gets treated very shabbily, I must say. But that is the one I’ve found.

        August 21, 2019
    • Mary #

      John Hemry’s Paul Sinclair series?

      August 21, 2019
      • Thanks. I need to check those out.

        August 22, 2019
  4. Maybe I’m an Odd among the Odds…

    I’ll read almost anything that is well-written. Okay, I was going to list the genres that I will read – but better to just list the ones that I don’t – horror and pure porn (some horror is well written, but I can’t stand it – pure porn, I have never come across one that is well written).

    I’m even pretty tolerant of inaccuracy. Well, inaccuracy of less than one Biden unit, anyway.

    August 21, 2019
    • “one Biden unit”!

      Spew!!!!

      August 22, 2019
      • We should start using that, sort of like the Kratman (a thousand kilo-aggressions).

        August 22, 2019
  5. “What genres do you write in?”

    I was going to say something amusing, but I just realized that I don’t have a classification. What do you call “present day with hostile aliens and sexy robots”? Science fiction adventure romance?

    August 21, 2019
  6. I write in urban fantasy, alt-history, blue-collar fantasy, sci-fi, and might branch into sword-and-sorcery. I read, um, non-fiction, some historical fantasy, and some mil-sci-fi. To be honest, I’ve not read any fiction for six months or so, because of Day Job and travel requirements, plus research reading.

    August 21, 2019
  7. My hope is bound to the pursuit of the Mythical Cross-Genre Reader. Personally, I read anything. As a kid, I’d read ketchup bottle ingredients in a pinch. One poobah (forget who) advised authors to write the stories they like to read, but can’t seem to find to buy. That’s what I’m doing. Or at least what I’m trying to do.

    August 22, 2019
  8. Ben Yalow #

    I’m a reader, not a writer. But I grew up in an era where writers could write in any parts of the F/SF genre, and their readers followed along with them.

    So Poul Anderson could write funny SF (“A Bicycle Built For Brew”, or the Hokas), or the best exemplar of hard SF other than Clement’s Mission of Gravity (Tau Zero), or the best non-JRRT High Fantasy (Three Hearts and Three Lions, or the best non-Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story (The Martian Crown Jewels), or several Future History arcs (particularly the Van Rijn/Flandry/etc one), or anything else — and the readers followed him because he could tell a story about interesting characters doing interesting things, and tell it wonderfully.

    And if you look at this year’s Retro Hugo Award ballot (fr work written in 1943(, you’d wonder how the same author(s) could write “Clash by Night”, and “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”, and “The Proud Robot” — all very different — but realize that what they had in common was Great Story, independent of subgenre.

    In some ways, Amazon keywords have made subgenre far more important than it used to be. And that can hurt readers who are just looking for Great Story, instead of just their favorite subgenre. And, of course, with the older work, it was much easier to find at the time, since there was little enough SF being written that you could read everything being published in the genre — nobody can even begin to do that now.

    August 22, 2019
    • I followed authors around regardless of their sub-genre, but I think you’re right about the quantity. If you really love mil-SF, for example, there’s so much you don’t ever need to worry about running out before you have to try something else.

      There are readers who read across genre and sub-genre. I think we’re finding out, however, that there are lots (or enough) who are happy to settle in with their favorite so long as it’s available.

      August 22, 2019
  9. mrsizer #

    Short answer: I get most of my reading list from here and the Also Bought links from there.

    I never thought I’d like Romance until someone here mentioned Ruby Lionsdrake (Mercenary series is fun), which led to Lindsay Bouroker (Empire series is great). She’s written much that I like. I will read the first Harrington book, eventually (it’s on my Kindle, waiting).

    I was excited to find Family Law; Space Opera that isn’t milSF or a Hero’s Journey, finally! I need to leave glowing reviews for all five (and number five came out just as I finished number four – how convenient). The Boboverse probably fits that category, too. I like milSF, but get tired of it. Bad Dog (and sequels) were fun (and first book-a-day series in quite some time). I’m over the Hero’s Journey unless I pick one up by accident.

    I don’t like Mystery. It’s either too obvious or I feel stupid for not figuring it out. I haven’t read one in several decades (I don’t think the Dyce books count as “mystery”; I like those).

    I haven’t read a Fantasy lately that hasn’t been RPG-based. Some of them work; others don’t. Everybody Loves Large Chests was an excellent, but clearly tongue-in-cheek, one. Wait. Does the Merchant series count as Fantasy? It doesn’t really feel like it. Loved that.

    What about the Topology series? How is that classified? Scholastic Fantasy?

    I read very little non-fiction that is not computer related.

    August 22, 2019

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