On Getting Genres Right

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike it when people call a book “science fiction/fantasy.”  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard this; when someone is naming a book and just kind of lumps those two genres together in describing it.  I really want to tell them that they really aren’t the same thing.

I realize the two genres are related in a lot of ways and grouped together often for those reasons, but that’s not to mean that we can call a book both things.  If you’re going to categorize a novel, you have to know where to put it.  Unless the book is actually both science fiction and fantasy.  In which case, go right ahead.  Now, let’s take a moment to look at what the differences are between these two genres:

Science fiction is generally accepted as something having to do with space and aliens and mad scientists (hence the “science” bit).  In my mind, however, this category can be stretched to include any book whose apparently fantastical occurrences are explained to have a basis in science.  So, I might consider Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps to be science fiction, because the vampire-like peeps are actually hosting a certain parasite.  Parasites are scientific and explainable.

Fantasy, on the other hand, has to do with anything that is not explainable by what we know as science.  Magic is a good example.  So are supernatural creatures.  This is a pretty broad category.

Gandalf VS. Yoda: fantasy meets sci-fi in an epic showdown.

While I realize that there is some overlap in some books between the two genres, we should be able to take a closer look at most of the ones we are putting them together for, and decide on a definitive, single category.  The double genre doesn’t work for everything, at least in my mind.

Twilight is the example that most comes to mind here.  I’ve definitely heard people call it a “science fiction/fantasy” thing.  While there may be some elements of the former, I’d say this saga can be placed firmly in the latter.  The werewolves, for a start, are completely supernatural even though they do have an origin story.  And while Stephenie Meyer has explained the nature of the venom that causes vampirism in her creations, enough of it- the powers, for instance- goes vaguely explained enough that it slides out of science fiction.

A Google search tells me that Twilight is officially in the fantasy category.  This leads me to believe that whoever is responsible for officially determining these things never strays into the double genre trap.  Apparently it’s only an unofficial thing.  That doesn’t make it any less prominent, however.

Of course, Twilight is romance, too, but in this case the two genres can coexist, I think.  They’re unrelated.

Well, that’s about it for me.  Have you ever come across this?  Do you know of any books that should only be categorized as one or the other?

Happy reading!

Sometimes Idioms Are Wrong

There’s an old saying that goes, “write what you know.”

Yeah, right.

As an author, especially an author of fantasy/science fiction, this is the exact opposite of what we should do.  I mean, think about this.  If all of us really wrote what we knew, every book ever written would be about the mundane life of a novelist.  There would be no fiction, at least not any good fiction.

For a fantasy or science fiction writer, the entire point is to write what you don’t know.  It’s to expand your mental horizons and find that thing that no one has ever imagined before, and build a story around it.  It’s to write about things that never could exist.

That would be impossible if we wrote what we knew.  This phrase eliminates creativity and imagination.  It’s quite possibly the dumbest saying I’ve ever heard.

If ever author wrote what they knew, there would be no magic in books, no fantastic creatures, no daring and alien worlds.  There would be nothing to look forward to.

No one would want to read stuff like that.

I know that I certainly would never be published as a fiction writer if I only wrote experiences that stemmed from my everyday life.  I’m too boring for that.  Besides, this is why people write fantasy in the first place: to get away from the everyday world.

Well, that’s about all I had to say on the matter.  This is a really short post for me, so it feel strange wrapping up now, but I know if I say any more I’ll just be repeating myself.  So…

This is the last post I’ll be able to do for a week due to summer camp.  Sorry, but that’s the way things are.

Happy reading!

They’re EVERYWHERE!!!

The Vampire Revolution (as I have come to call it) has been on my mind lately.

I’ve posted once before about how Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight shattered the world’s expectations as to what vampires were.  I also noted that there were sparkles everywhere (heehee).  Needless to say, despite the haters, Twilight has gained an immense following (not to mention five movies).  Vampires are suddenly cool.  More than that, books about vampires are popular.  Any book at all.  If you write a vamp* story, odds are it will automatically be devoured by hordes of screaming fangirls.

Alas, this is wrong.

Ever since the release of Twilight, the vampire-book population has exploded.  Sure, there were a few before Stephenie Meyer, but as far as I can tell they were few and far between.  Nowadays, though, go to any bookstore and you will see entire shelves marked “Paranormal Romance.”  This is just fancy words for VAMPIRE BOOKS (well, a lot of them are vamp books- some have different supernatural creatures in them).

See what I mean?

So, what has been the outcome of the Vampire Revolution?  It has brought us such gems as the Sookie Stackhouse books (known to TV viewers as True Blood), House of Night, Blue Bloods, Vampire Academy, and many, many others.  Just check out this website, which is fully dedicated to the fruits of the Revolution.

But here’s the catch.  None of these books (except maybe Sookie Stackhouse, because of said TV show) have even come close to the immense, sweeping, global popularity of Twilight.  In my eyes, they are all just trying- and failing- to ride on Mrs. Meyer’s coattails.  This overwhelming number of vamp books just gets tiring after a while.  Books are for discovering new things, not for reading about reincarnations of the same myths over and over again.

That’s not to say that some of the these books aren’t good.  I’m sure they are.  But when you have an entire wave of them all at once, with their own shelf for Pete’s sake- that’s when I think the publishing companies could be doing something fresher.  Something with less competition.  Something that could make a name for itself, instead of just being grouped together with the rest of the Revolution.

I’m not bashing all the books.  In fact, I’m glad that these authors have found their niche.  This is their chance to get themselves out there.  But there is a point when that niche gets too large.  All these books at once, seemingly only because of the success of Twilight, causes me to seriously reconsider how good they might be.  I mean, I get it that people are looking for the next big vamp series, but let’s face it.

There won’t be a next Twilight.

Nothing is going to come close to the success that Twilight had.  That series filled the part of popular vampires, and nothing else is going to share that role.  One series.  That’s it.  The public is going to move on to the next thing.  So I’m sorry, any of you that like reading vamp books or even write them.  This doesn’t mean you won’t have success.  This doesn’t mean you’re reading the wrong thing.  If you like it, by all means keep reading.  But I’m not a fan of the Revolution, and I don’t think you’ll be the next big thing, the way Harry Potter or this saga was a big thing.

The public is fickle, and no one can really predict what it will love next.**  But the pattern has never been two of the same type of thing in a row.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m a werewolf person…

*Yes, I sometimes shorten the word to “vamp.”  It sprang from my dabbling in the House of Night series.  So, yes, I did participate in the Revolution.  But only a little.

**This point was first made in an episode of the Hunger Games Fireside Chat.  See the sidebar for the link to their site.  I can’t remember which episode.