Busy at this end, but mostly with things not writing or SF-related, save for the following:
1) My latest Forces of Geek column! “Science Fiction Dies Infinite Deaths, and is Reborn Anew Each Time.” Another one that was fun to write, and that I could write much more about.
2) I will be blogging over at Apex Book Company starting this Thursday, January 28th. It will be a monthly blog, with a more literary focus in general than my FoG column. I’m very excited to be writing over there, if only once a month.
3) There’s quite a conversation going on over at Jeff Vandermeer’s blog about genre, started by a post by Rachel Swirsky. I’m enjoying it, although it has begun to come down to two writers arguing a fine point. I commented, for what it’s worth. I thought about saying more but my thoughts seem tangential, and I’m pretty sure no one over there is concerned with my opinion as a humble unpublished fiction writer.
But I think the point about experience is very relevant. Jeff commented that each writer has a different process, and that some may not even think in terms of genre. True, but I wonder if it isn’t there embedded in some sense within our experience and how it comes out on the page. One of the points of my F0G article (which riffs off the idea of genre as creative framework) is that even those who say they reject may well have it in mind as they write, but subsumed. If your literary experience is mostly SF, it can certainly creep into your work. And given that some of the creative process works at the subconscious level, I think that for many people who write SF genre can inform what we write or even serve as a foil or something to rebel against. It depends on what you’re creating.
Books are never books. They are always given some label, whether it emerges from the work itself or is overlaid on by author, publisher, or reader. And labels can be in contention (as many others have noted in terms of Margaret Atwood’s later work, for example). Genre is a label and a set of conventions, and often the two do not line up. What interests me is how genre can be a factor in a writer’s creativity, how it shapes what you produce.
Aetas Nex is, obviously, a zombie novel. It is sort of horror, but is actually much more of a fantasy novel, impacted by SF and by apocalyptic fiction. As I write, I rarely think of the horror angle explicitly, because it is just an element of a larger story about the world changing and people struggling to live with the changes, especially as they happen not just to the environment, but to the people themselves. I sometimes consciously, sometimes accidentally work within and push against various borders of genre. But I don’t think about some distinction between genre and literary; I just write what seems evocative and interesting, using an array of creative tools that include some genre conventions and literary devices.
With short stories it varies as well. “A Fine Day to Watch the Dragons Die” is a pure fantasy, trying to wring some insight into people out of a fantasy trope stabbed in the kidney. “Skull-face, Hogtamer, and the Dead Cricket Society” is a fable that owes surrealism a few favors. And the latest one in progress, “The Last Flight of Chimeric Aetherlines” is a loose riff on urban fantasy, twisted folklore, and steampunk. It depends, in the end, on what the writer wants to create.
And with that, I think I will go off and do some creating.