Trying to find a publisher – identifying genre
(Before I begin, Ian Paul, formerly of St John’s College, Nottingham, has a thoughtful post on IS, Syria and the just war on his www.psephizo.com blog. I don’t think I agree with Ian on everything, but he writes a very good and thoughtful blog.)
WARNING: The rest of this post is pure advertising and self-justification…
It’s quite true what they say, that writing the novel is the easy part.
In the process of trying to find a publisher for “We Do Not Kill Children”, I’ve discovered a certain amount about genres in literature. Aspiring authors are supposed to study their genre, so they can avoid sending science fiction to an agent who only deals in memoir, and so on. Many people say you must find your genre (eg gothic romance) and stick to its rules; others claim that books crossing borders are increasingly popular, if they’re good. How, for example, would anyone categorise “The Time Traveller’s Wife”?
You may think there’s a genre called “fantasy”. You may have heard of YA (=Young Adult). But have you heard of NA (= New Adult, ie readers in their 20s?) Have you heard of steampunk, urban fantasy, and grimdark? Or interstitial?
Now I have. And I can proudly say that “We Do Not Kill Children” is an interstitial blend of low fantasy with historical murder mystery, perhaps with elements of tragedy of manners…
(Steampunk is basically long dresses and magic but includes machinery; urban fantasy is sexy vampires and werewolves in the city; grimdark is George RR Martin and his successors, and is what its name implies. Tragedy of manners tends to cover fantasy-type settings without much or any magic but lots of intrigue and witty dialogue, and was pioneered by Ellen Kushner. Interstitial, in literature or art, just means mixing the genres up.)
With all these subgenres floating about, perhaps you will forgive me for inventing my own, Swords Without Misogyny – a medieval setting with minimal magic, and without the oppression of women that seems to be normal. I was fed up with stories, either fantastical or historical, where either our noses are rubbed in the misery/irrelevance of women’s lives, or we have to concentrate on one extraordinary woman who manages with difficulty to overcome the expectations of her misogynistic society. Women ought to have other things to do than combat sexism, and men ought to have other roles than either aiding or thwarting the women. (Of course there are the stories that ignore women altogether, but I avoid them.)
I was encouraged, in fact I almost fell off my chair, a few weeks ago when reading a blog (Agent Carter: Sexism, Historical Accuracy and Badass Female Characters) by the excellent Rhiannon K Thomas (www.feministfiction.com). Ms Thomas, who is an author of YA fiction, was commenting about a TV series that I haven’t seen. Agent Sharon Carter is a Marvel comics character, who would have been Captain America’s girlfriend if he hadn’t inconveniently spent the time from the 1940s until the present day in deep freeze. The series deals with her life as an agent of good 70 years ago, and a prominent theme (apparently) is the sexism against which she has to fight all the time. Ms Thomas agreed that this was historically accurate, and noted that Ms Carter conquers, but said that it was still distressing to watch, and asked if it might be more feminist to create a world where strong female characters didn’t have to be repeatedly knocked down this way. “Read my book! Come to Ragaris!” I almost shouted. (Although those of you who’ve read Chapter 1 may point out that so far it’s all male. The women arrive later.)
So I think there ought to be space for tough women in fiction who don’t have to struggle to be treated as equals.
Until next time… Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger signs off.