Sunday, April 14, 2013

Genre-Phobic

by Sunny Frazier

Yesterday, I went to a sci-fi gathering at an eclectic bookstore in Clovis, California. Normally, I avoid this genre because I've never read sci-fi or fantasy. However, I've dragged my friend Che to a number of bookish events she was reluctant to attend, so I owed her.

I don't know who Dr. Who is, but apparently the kid in the suit and bow tie was representing. I felt awkward sitting next to the barefoot woman with the gypsy scarf and leg bracelet, despite the fact that I do astrology (I'd thoughtfully left my crystal ball at home). I still don't know where a mandolin fit into the picture—did I miss something?

There were interesting readings: penguin armies on the rampage, vampire bartenders, severed hand in a Humvee, proof of ancient aliens. These subjects never come up at the mystery events I attend. No, my friends and I are more concerned with the best way to kill people and where to hide a body. Information you can really use.

The trivia contest for free books involved knowing novels like Dune and Lord of the Rings cover to cover. Answers were contested and people googled on their phones to double-check. It all sounded like gibberish to me. The fact that people actually knew the answers set the nerd bar very high.

But, you know, I found much of the same energy and camaraderie among these fantasy aficionados as I see with my murder-loving friends. I could even feel myself being pulled into their strange world of stranger worlds. Maybe I've been too genre-phobic all these years. The level of imagination coming from this group stunned me. Mystery writing requires a certain amount of control and at least one foot in reality. None of that seemed to apply with these authors.

As an acquisitions editor, I've had to open my mind to a wide range of reading material. I introduced a Western line even though Lonesome Dove was the only real Western I'd ever read. I was able to stretch a bit on paranormal plots but drew the line at the werewolf/vampire/zombie trend. However, Oak Tree Press is trying a contest this year for our Mystic Oaks line so yes, bring on all of the above. I can handle it.

Bottom line: maybe I'm ready to explore genres outside my comfort zone. But, I think I have to draw the line at romance writing events. I hear those authors are STRANGE!            

22 comments:

C.K.Crigger said...

You think mysteries have a lot of sub-genres? You ain't seen nothing until you delve into the various Science Fiction/Fantasy subs. Gotta love it. As I always say, "Who knew I'd like zombies?"

John Brantingham said...

When I started teaching creative writing, I felt that I had to familiarize myself with all genres including romance if I wanted to truly help my students. You know what? Some of them are great! Don't know if I'm going to go to any conventions, but I admire what they are doing. I love the passion people have for their genres, as you and I have for mystery. We'd go anywhere and do just about anything.

William Doonan said...

I spent my formative years attending sci-fi conventions, and though I rarely dress like a space elf these days, and my Klingon language skills are getting rusty, I still have a soft spot in my heart for this genre.

Last year at Left Coast Crime I had a conversation with an attendee who enjoyed both mystery and sci-fi conventions, and I asked what the main differences were. "The costumes," she told me. "The sci-fi crew has much better costumes than the mystery crew." So maybe that's something we can work on.

Theresa Varela said...

I've also been widening my interests in terms of genre, Sunny. My most recent read brought me to the medieval world via energy travel. Go figure. New, but I did enjoy myself.

Patricia Gligor said...

Oh, Sunny, you made me laugh! Like we mystery writers don't appear "strange" to writers of other genres.
My problem isn't that I'm not open to reading other genres. It's that I have a limited amount of time to read and, given that, I'll take a good murder mystery any day!

marja said...

Thanks for my morning laugh, Sunny! I'm afraid, for the most part, the closest I come to scifi is time travel. I do love a good time travel book. One of these days...
Marja McGraw

Steven Hammond said...

Well I hope you enjoyed my reading of Rise of the Penguins. It was certainly nice to meet you, Sunny. To learn more about the book, where to buy, characters, reviews and more, here's the link to my website. http://bit.ly/ZMiD7G Thank you for coming out.

James R. (Jim) Callan said...

I agree that those sci-fi authors must have great imaginations - better than mine. And while I hate to play the "time" card, I guess sci-fi just gets on the bottom of my slush pile. But I do admire those authors. I have to work to create a few good characters; they create entire worlds.

Sunny Frazier said...

Thanks, everyone, for widening my world. Bill, when Bouchercon lands near Halloween, the costumes come out. I've seen Sherlock Holmes and Rhys Bowen does a mean Mother Goose.

Steven, it was great meeting you and listening to you read. The fact that Opus from Bloomsbury is your inspiration for the warrior penguins brought back memories of the cartoon.

marta chausée said...

Laugh out loud funny, Sunny, and this on a Sunday morning! You crack me up. I want to go to an erotica convention. Will I meet more of "my people" there? Perhaps you'll blaze the trail for me?

Julie Luek said...

I follow a couple of fantasy, YA and romance type blogs that are definitely not my writing style. But at the heart of it, we're all writers living our dream, aren't we? The common ground is wider than the differences. Live long and prosper, Sunny (she says in her best Spock voice).

Cora said...

Years ago when writing instructor, Elnora, suggested I write Romance, I pooh-poohed the idea. Not a chance--! Well, guess what, I am quickly sliding from suspense toward romance and I have to tell you those Romance people are Very organized and knowledgeable. No longer the same note samba they used to be. Time to check it out. Leave no stone unturned. Very funny article. Loved it.

Sunny Frazier said...

Marta, maybe we should attend EpiCon. I hear that's where the erotica writers hang out and they are some wild women. I'm game if you are!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Doctor Who rocks! I'm very picky when it comes to SF. If it's not Star Trek or Who, it really has to spark my interest before I'll buy it. But, those books I have bought have been pretty good.

C.L. Swinney said...

I usually have an open mind since I deal with people who live in fantasy at work, but a whole Fantasy Conference would probably do me in. I'd need major back up for that. For now, I'll sit on the sidelines and dabble...

Elaine Faber said...

We all have our comfort zone with "reading genre." Sometimes reading a different genre can be surprising and entertaining. When my critique group learned I was writing a "cat mystery," three of them rolled their eyes. Now, after working with it for a while, they say, "I love your cat. Can't wait to see what happens next. Good on you, Sunny, for being brave and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd be the opposite way. Been to many SF/FAntasy/horror cons but never a mystery con. I haven't seen many of them in our local area, though we do have SF stuff.

Sally Carpenter said...

I grew up on Star Trek and Dr. Who and reading the classic sci fi books. I've seen most of the classic SF movies. When I got serious about writing I started out with SF stories and only switched to mysteries when that didn't pan out. BTW, if OTP ever publishes a SF line, I have an unpublished SF action/adventure series I can pitch.

Eileen Obser said...

I've never been a reader of sci-fi/fantasy or horror, but I get students (adults) who write in these genres. It's what they choose to write so they get my full attention, and that of their classmates, even though it's a different universe than the rest of us are occupying.

Augie said...

Oh my goodness...the comments are fantastic. The Trekky conventions are insane. You gotta go once and get caught up in the madness. They're not as inhibited and they love their genre as much as Mystery, YA, Erotica, etc. This was a fun read, thank you Sunny for braving the different (they are just as committed). Augie

Holli said...

I'm a huge sci fi fan, something about me most people would never guess. I write mystery novels but my first screenplay was science fiction. Not being bound by rules of real life makes science fiction particularly liberating to write.

I'm not necessarily a genre jumper, but I also write romantic comedy and straight comedy screenplays, so I also don't feel compelled to stick strictly in one genre with my writing.

Liane Spicer said...

Romance writers are strange? Really? Hahahaa! The ones I know are some of the most level-headed people I've ever met.

Haven't been to conventions but I'd go to any genre for the fun. I read (and write) across the genres, but I admit that zombies, vampires and such don't make it to my wish list. I'll read just about anything that's a ripping story, though...