Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Confession: Genres Really Confuse Me

So will I get my Wannabe Author Card revoked if I admit that genres really confuse me? I mean, sometimes they’re obvious. Goggles and a blimp? Steampunk. Sexy young vampires? YA Paranormal Romance. Horses, swords, and spells? High Fantasy. 

I know what some of you are thinking: Don’t worry about it! Labels are only that--categorical words slapped onto something.

Well, sorry, free-thinkers, but if I’m going to categorize something, I like to know I’m doing it the way the majority accepts and recognizes. And yes, I LIKE categories and labels. They help me orient myself in the world. It’s just the way I am. Don’t judge. 

But back to genres.... 

Fantasy vs Science Fiction
The fantasy and sci-fi genres confuse me the most. Have you ever tried to look up info about the difference between fantasy and sci-fi? You think you know, right? But then you try to define them and it gets... blurry. And if you go out and read what other people have to say, well, have fun falling down that rabbit hole.   

Here’s David Brin's take:

“What is my definition of the separation? I think it is very basic, revolving around the notion of human improvability. .... Do you believe it is possible for children to learn from the mistakes of their parents?”
“For all the courage and heroism shown by fantasy characters across 4000 years of great, compelling dramas — NOTHING EVER CHANGES!”
“Science fiction, in sharp contrast, considers the possibility of learning and change.”

I'd never thought of these genres in those terms. Brin’s take is miles more sophisticated than any of the criteria that ever crossed my mind. But I like it. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

So that’s nice. But then when I get into the sub-genres, I lose it again. This article on SF Site lists a few of the sub and spinoff genres. Science Fantasy??? I’d never heard the term before I clicked on that link.

What Genre is PYXIS?
You might have guessed that my worry over genres has everything to do with trying to classify my own books. I latched on to “paranormal” because, well, I’m writing YA and that’s kind of the hot thing right now, if you haven’t noticed. Yep, vampires and other paranormal creatures aplenty out there.

But PYXIS doesn’t have creatures. It’s fantasy-ish, maybe, but set in our modern world. And as to Brin’s definition involving improvability, well, as the PYXIS series progresses, yes, there will be some improvabilizing going on. But no creatures. And ironically--or maybe just confusingly--the series has paranormal elements in the OLD sense of that word: telekinesis, pyrokinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, and a sort of astral projection. Oh, and there will be more and more elements of hard science as the series progresses. Oh, oh, AND there’s also romance.

By the definitions here at Reader's Digest, my book falls squarely within Romance > Paranormal. But there’s another factor I don’t want to forget about: reader expectations. RD may agree my book is YA PR, but is a reader going to expect vampires and/or werewolves and/or fairies and/or mermaids if I give it that label? No idea. And for all I know, maybe readers don’t really care!

So... who wants to help me figure out the genre of my book? :)   

Author K.C. Neal:: Pyxis Series :: YA Paranormal 


Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

I don't think you need fairies, werewolves, vampires or any of those other "creatures" to satisfy the paranormal requirement. Judging just by the fact that you have astral projection and pyrokinesis and all that cool stuff (which is COMPLETELY AWESOME) I'd say it's paranormal.

YA Paranormal Romance sounds right to me. :)

Natasha Larry said...

I had the same thing...luckily my publisher dubbed my work, YA/Fantasy. But reviewers have called, paranormal, paranormal romance (which Darwin's Children is not) I was floored by the science fiction tags because I think Star Wars and Star Trek when I think sci-fi...not super humans.

I didn't realize during writing that I gave everything a science fiction least you can always feel less confused than me! ;)

M.R. Merrick said...

I think people specify the genres a little much. They are very vague as is, so to call paranormal anything with vampires, shifters, etc, I think is a little over the top.

That being said, I think you're right in choosing the Para Romance genre. What you describe sounds -to me anyways- paranormal, especially when you mention clairvoyance and astral projection.

A lot of book also fall into both genres. So you might have a PR and Sci-Fi on your hands. This isn't a bad thing, that's for sure. If you can find a way to appeal to more than one market, than that's brilliant.

I had the same issue with Exiled. Everything told me to throw it in High Fantasy, because a portion of the book takes place in another world,which apparently automatcially makes it that, but most have said it's "definitely Urban Fantasy." So I picked both. :)

K.C. Neal said...

Ava, Natasha, Matt: Glad I'm not the only one who's sometimes surprised and/or confused by the genre issue. Thanks for your great comments!

Derik Silvia said...

Well, I've heard of paranormal romance. I had the same trouble with my first book, "Dark Heritage" It too, has paranormal ingredients(a psychic,a witch, visions, and my later books in the series will have things like super strength and intelligence, a martial artist, knife-thrower),but my book also has horror elements and could be put in fantasy as well.

Unknown said...

I expect to take a bit of flack from people for categorizing psychomancer as contemporary scifi. It basically involves the same things you spoke of: mental powers. But I didn't look into the actual sci of psi, because it doesn't interest me that much.

K.C. Neal said...

I'm loving the comments about the different elements of your books and how you're classifying them. Thanks for stopping by, Derik and Alan!

Unknown said...

YA:Paranormal Romance. But it's not all that important. Because with the use of reviews and tagging your book will be grouped with all the appropriate words and compared to similar books to give readers an idea.

But your main selling point will be the blurb and the cover.

You already knocked it out of the park. Don't fret.

Al Leverone said...

Hey KC, I feel your pain. I'm working right now on a book that, to me, is a suspense thriller. Problem is, it has a touch of supernatural thrown in. Okay, maybe a little bit more than just a touch, since the entire plot is based on it.

Does that take the book into the realm of horror? Or is it still a thriller?

The problem with all this is that if you label a book the wrong genre you risk alienating the fans of that genre - the very people you are trying to market your work to - if THEY don't consider the book to fit in that genre.

I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but if you have a flash of inspiration, pass it along to me, would you?

K.C. Neal said...

Good points, Bri. Didn't even occur to me that things like tags will sort it out for me, in a sense! Another reason why tags are awesome.

Thanks for your comment, Al. Yeah, it's almost like we shouldn't think about it too hard. Lol!

Anne-Mhairi Simpson said...

Yours certainly sounds like Paranormal Romance to me! I had the same kind of issue in that my book starts and ends on another world, which should make it high fantasy as M. R. Merrick pointed out above, but the majority happens on this world with vampires, unicorns, werewolves, witches...

In the end I've just gone with YA fantasy and I'll probably tag high fantasy and paranormal fantasy when it comes to it.