Monday, October 22, 2012

What is genre?

I’ll soon see the release of the fourth book in my Stark & O’Brien series . 

When I wrote the first book I knew it was action/adventure.  That’s what they were calling other similar novels at the time.  Then at some point I was told that what I write are really international thrillers.  Okay, people seemed to understand that meant lots of action and suspense, although before that I had thought thrillers were scary.

Then the other day I was describing my novels to someone who doesn’t read thrillers.  When I mentioned that my two protagonists happen to have a psychic link that warns one when the other is in danger her eyes lit up.  “Oh!  So you really write UF or PNR!”

I nodded and smiled but when I got home I had to Google it.  UF turns out to be short for Urban Fantasy.  These books aren’t urban in the sense of books about drug lords and hookers.  In this case urban is NOT a euphemism for African American or gangbanger style.  UF literally means fantasy fiction – ghosts, goblins and demons – set in a city.  Jim Butcher seems to be the leader of this pack, although C3 conference keynote speaker Christopher Golden is also a leading figure.  A lot of this material is what I would have called horror.  Much of what Bram Stoker and Stephen King have written would qualify as Urban Fantasy.

Then there’s PNR – ParaNormal Romance.  This label seems to separate the vampires and werewolves (and other shape shifters) from the UF books.  Of course, as the name implies there has to be a romance element, but vampires and werewolves still sound like horror to me.  Except that a lot of these books (like Laurell K. Hamilton’s  work) are about vampire hunters or demon hunters, and they read like action/adventure to me… or maybe I mean thrillers.

When we set up the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity conference we tried to take in all the fictional genres that seemed to fit together: mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy and even the newcomer steampunk (a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid that would have described Jules Verne’s and HG Wells’ work.)  But we didn’t account for the rush of new sub-genres.  So it’s startling when someone writes, “I see you don’t take romance, and that’s what I write but my books have shape-shifters and elves.  Will I fit in at your conference?”  To me that’s fantasy, or horror, or SOMEWHERE in that space.

My point, (and I do have one)  is that if you think the books you love to read might edge their way into one of the categories we’re touting for the C3 Conference, then you can be sure you’ll meet others who read them, and maybe someone who writes them.  So bring your love of genre fiction in almost all its forms to the C3 Conference in September.

And let me know what other sub-genre we should call out to.

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