Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo… Choosing Genre

Google Alerts is an excellent way of keeping writers or would-be-writers informed about what’s happening in the world of writing. Some publishing sites give a list of genre for the writer to consider before submitting their work – the list is usually limited to contemporary, literary, romance, mystery, etc. So imagine my surprise when all sorts of genres have started popping up on the alerts; it would seem that the only limit of genre is the writer’s imagination. Culinary mystery seems to be hot and happening at the moment; crime fiction that focuses on chefs and caterers set in restaurants or unusual settings. It seems like culinary mysteries are tickling the taste-buds of mystery readers, and the novels contain a buffet of hostessing tips, recipes as well as of course – corpses (these not being on the menu). Popular authors mixing mystery with meringues are Dianne Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke and J B Stanley, and most of the titles of the novels lean heavily on food puns: Chopping Spree, The Last Suppers, Thyme of Death and Cereal Murder to name just a few. Steam-punk, in spite of its name, has nothing to do with the gastronomic genre, it is science-fiction meets speculative fiction and is writing that is predominantly centred in an era where steam power is used, usually Victorian England. It’s prominent features are technological innovations similar to those found in HG Wells and Jules Verne novels. These machines are usually idealised and have adaptable functions. Although the genre has roots back to 1960s, the name first appeared in 1995 in Paul Di Filippo’s Steampunk Trilogy which comprised Victoria which imagines the replacement of Queen Victoria by a human/newt clone; Hottentots deals with the Lovecraftian monsters’ invasion of Massachusetts and Walt and Emily which explores a love affair between poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Queer-zombie/queer horror is a sub-genre of LGBT Gothic and it came under a lot of flak recently when publishers made a call for submissions and then withdrew the call, going so far as to pay kill fees for writers who had already submitted stories. The genre is characterized by castles, trap doors, and the zombie. An important aspect of the genre is its sexual natutre. The lesbian vampire novella Carmilla was included in the collection In a Glass Darkly in 1872. Geek fiction considers itself as appealing to “sophisticated, socially-connected readers [who] have higher-than-average IQs, advanced educations and are looking for intellectual challenges and extraordinary entertainment well beyond the ‘lowest common denominator’ content that is so often provided through mass media outlets” according to Trapdoor Books, who publish this genre. “It introduces intellectual acumen – anything from Assyrian history to plasma physics, and provides a thoughtful, entertaining diversion for the reader. While the settings can be niche – mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, gothic/horror, science fiction, etc. – the best geek fiction challenges readers and surprises them with well-paced, well-researched and compelling stories.” Their publications include The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton, The Magician of Lhasa by David Michie and Cyber Kill by Frank Fiore. The point is that writers shouldn’t try to slot themselves into any of the ‘popular’ genres, because novels that are written in new genres are often the breakout novels that take the writing world by storm – think Harry Potter and the Twilight series. If writers have unusual interests or off-the-wall ideas, chances are that there are a niche group of readers just waiting for to read something different. There’s no telling. What is important to note is that in all the writer interviews I’ve read, writers admit to writing for themselves first. That’s the tip really, to write what comes from inside or from your interests, because it is the credibility that comes through, and that wins readers all the time.

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