- Adventures In Reading
- Beauty In Ruins
- Best Fantasy Books HQ
- Bitten By Books
- Bookworm Blues
- Charlotte's Library
- Civilian Reader
- Critical Mass
- Curated Fantasy Books
- Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews
- Edi's Book Lighthouse
- Everything is Nice
- Falcata Times
- Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews
- Fantasy Cafe
- Fantasy Literature
- Far Beyond Reality
- Genre Reader
- Jeff VanderMeer
- King of the Nerds
- Layers of Thought
- Neth Space
- Only The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
- Rob's Blog O' Stuff
- Smorgasbord Fantasia
- Speculative Book Review
- Stainless Steel Droppings
- Tez Says
- The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
- The Bibliosanctum
- The Book Smugglers
- The Nocturnal Library
- The OF Blog
- The Speculative Scotsman
- The Vinciolo Journal
- The Wertzone
- Tip the Wink
- Val's Random Comments
- Voyager Books
- Walker of Worlds
- ► 2015 (136)
- ► 2014 (155)
- ► 2013 (260)
- The Curse Of Troius by Alan Edwards (Reviewed by M...
- GUEST POST: Cross-Genre Writing (Or, Attack of the...
- "The Hydrogen Sonata" by Iain M. Banks (Reviewed b...
- Spotlight on Three Independent Titles: Elizabeth H...
- Mini-Interview with Kevin Hearne (Interviewed by M...
- Spotlight on an Unexpectedly Superb 2013 Title: Th...
- Interview with Rachel Aaron (Interviewed by Mihir ...
- The 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards Final Round Novem...
- Trapped by Kevin Hearne (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo...
- Interview with Christian Cameron about the Tom Swa...
- The Black God's War by Moses Siregar (Reviewed by ...
- Spotlight on Three Tor 2013 Titles: Marie Brennan,...
- "The Red Knight" by Miles Cameron (Reviewed by Liv...
- The 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinal Round N...
- Three Dissapointing Books: Juli Zeh, Kennedy Hudne...
- Short Story Review: City Of Screams, Extraction an...
- "The Red Knight" by K.T. Davies (Reviewed by Liviu...
- Spotlight On Three More 2013 Titles, Jean-Marie Bl...
- The King's Assassin by Stephen Deas (Reviewed by L...
- Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wa...
- “Anomaly” by Skip Brittenham & Brian Haberlin (Rev...
- Spotlight on the Three Major Fantasy Series Debuts...
- SERIES NEWS: The Jesse James Dawson Series by K.A....
- Spotlight on "The Sigil Trilogy" by Henry Gee (wit...
- ▼ November (24)
- ► 2011 (317)
- ► 2010 (346)
- ► 2009 (466)
- ► 2008 (376)
Thursday, November 29, 2012
When I went to college for my Creative Writing degree, it was made very clear that there was fiction writing (which is a term English teachers use to refer to literature luminaries like Melville, Hemingway and Kafka), and there was genre writing (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, crime, western, etc, which was all written by hacks). Genre writing was highly discouraged in my Creative Writing classes, as it was the general belief held by my professors that constraining one’s self to genre stunted potential growth as an author. Or something like that.
Personally, I thought that was a bunch of crap, and I still do. A couple of my professors, however, who were apparently impressed with my writing skills but saddened by my insistence on writing horror and fantasy, suggested I explore the boundaries of my chosen genres to learn the full range of conventions, stereotypes and cliches. The idea was to understand the so-called “constraints” of genre well enough to stretch them when possible, obey them when necessary, and disregard them without making a fool out of myself.
Well, give my professors a prize, because learning the boundaries of genre convention actually wound up helping me quite a bit. (See Mom, I DID learn something in college!)
I have fairly broad tastes, but most of what I read, regardless of genre, has a very particular feel and mood: I like stuff that’s dark, gritty, dramatic, poetic, and moving. I've never once read an author whose work I completely wanted to emulate, but I've had plenty whose work I wanted to borrow from:China Mieville, J.V. Jones, John Marco, Cormac McCarthy, C.S. Friedman, Clive Barker, Tanith Lee. Clearly, when writing, an author should probably create something they’d also enjoy reading (or maybe that’s just me), and that’s something I always try to keep in mind when I sit down to create a rough draft.
I've tried my hand at epic fantasy a few times, but I could never get those works to feel like…well, like “me”. They felt more like “me trying to write like someone else”. My voice – my real, honest, personal writer’s voice – isn't like one writer, but many writers, and similarly my tastes in genre aren't bound to one, but to several. I love epic fantasy, but I also love dark fantasy, and science fiction (especially military sci-fi), horror, action, suspense, and even poetry.
When I sat down to write Blood Skies (originally titled Red) as a Nanowrimo project back in 2009, I decided to literally let my mind go wherever it wanted, so long as I enjoyed reading what I’d been writing. Very little planning went into the rough draft: I literally just went with the flow. The first pass was much more steampunk than the final version might indicate, with flintlocks and blunderbusses instead of auto-mags and sniper rifles, rapiers and cutlasses instead of machetes and katanas, and I edited all of that out because, once again, it didn’t feel like “me”. I made a conscious decision to upgrade things to a more modern time frame, and that was when I came up with the notion of a world literally forged around the concept of “anything goes” – a world very similar to Earth, but one that had also been transformed and resembled other, more fantastical places as well. And so the World After the Black was formed.
Now I had a world to work with that was populated by magic, monsters, vampires, some elements of steampunk technology (dirigibles, thaumaturgic implements), modern weapons (machine guns, modern knives, etc) and a bunch of other crap that had absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever (turbine-powered airships, undead cargo vessels, necrotic generators fueled by dead angels, etc.). The best part was it all made sense. It was a world where bits and pieces from other realities had been mashed together to form an entirely new place, where a wide array of traditionally disparate elements could be found operating in relative harmony.
So in a way my world became a metaphor for cross-genre writing: a very direct and entirely unsubtle way for me to throw bits and pieces of all the various fantasy/sci-fi/horror elements I loved without having the finished product feel unrealistic. You see, the trick to cross-genre writing is this: you can do whatever you want, so long as you follow the rules you lay down. If you want to use a telepathic Cyclops with a howitzer, damn it, use a telepathic Cyclops with a howitzer…but your world had better be set up for a telepathic Cyclops with a howitzer to exist in terms of the rules of that world, the tone of your novel and setting, and the general mood and feel of the story.
Any given genre already has a set of rules attached: these are the conventions of the genre, the things we take for granted. If we’re reading high fantasy, we expect magic and elves and trolls and swords; if we’re reading military sci-fi, we expect power armor and big guns and world-wrecking weaponry. There’s no rule that states you can’t have elves with guns fighting trolls in power armor, but it’s the author’s job to sell the reader on the fact that this is possible within the context of the story.
The world of Blood Skies, for example, certainly has its limits. Magic works in a particular way; vampires follow a certain model (albeit not one that involves sparkles or romance); and even though there are M16s and eyeless seers and bio-engineered troll mercenaries, everything makes sense within the context of the book, and I do my best to present these elements in a believable and realistic fashion, even in the scope of an entirely preposterous setting.
Genre writing is about working with conventions and filling certain expectations. Writing with more than one genre is simply broadening the playing field. No matter how big the field, you still have to follow the rules. The nice thing is the author makes those rules, and so long as the reader is willing to go along for the ride, anything is possible.
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Steven Montano is the author of the Blood Skies series. Steven attended college at University of Colorado wherein he graduated with a degree in creative writing. He currently works as a certified public accountant. He’s also addicted to caffeine, movies, and NBA basketball. He lives with his wife, two kids, and a dog of dubious intellect in south of Seattle, Washington. Blood Skies was his debut.
12:01 AM | Posted by The Reader | | Edit Post