When Genre Might Not Matter

Blogland,

This is a post I’ve been planning and stewing on for the better part of six months. It came about as most things do for me, I experienced something that made me ask a question. I was at the West Salem Branch Library, my usual workplace, and I was in the stacks shelving fiction. As I went down the aisle, placing books in their respective places, I noticed that I shelved multiple Science Fiction classics in the general fiction section. Greats like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Huxley’s Brave New World, Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, and Orwell’s 1984 were all cataloged G-FIC. And not just in my library, but in almost every other library in our consortium of 19 public libraries!

splm
Ooooh. Shiny….

Initially, I was a bit miffed. Why were some of the most celebrated books in Science Fiction history having their genre erased? Both Fahrenheit 451 and Flowers for Algernon have won Hugo awards (the oldest Science Fiction and Fantasy award in the country), and Keyes’ novel also won a Nebula (the most prestigious of SFF awards, depending on who you ask), but if you visits the Salem Public Library, you won’t find them with their Speculative peers.

I had to know why, so I emailed the Collection Development Librarian at Salem Public Library to learn more. Now, I work with Emily Byers on a number of projects at the library and knew she would answer my question with the care and thoroughness she exhibited in her daily work. I didn’t expect a two page email that detailed all the possible factors that Selectors and Catalogers must consider before deciding where to place a book in the library.

And while she admits that cataloging is both an art and science that is “ultimately subjective”, she outlined some of the criteria she used to decide on genre placement versus general fiction.

Factors range from the librarian specific, Bib Records and BISAC subjects from the vendor, to the discretionary, such as Reader’s Advisory considerations (who would want the book, and how can we make it easier for them to find it?) and how closely a text adheres to genre specific tropes. “In more ambiguous cases I would consider the work as a whole — for example, it may have a science fiction element (i.e. technology that’s not currently available), but without separate world building or other SF elements beyond a future setting, I might put that book in general fiction where it might be found by more readers.”

Hard to be riled up about books being more generally accessible. I mean, that’s the whole point of libraries; to provide services and access to materials. Emily even offered up some reference titles for further research on the topic if I was interested, which I totally am, so she even offered ease of access to me! She really opened my eyes to the work and consideration that goes into selecting and cataloging materials, especially in a library as big as ours, with over 500,000 circulating materials!

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Salem Public Library is a big place, with three levels!

But what really stuck with me from this conversation was an even larger question: what purpose does genre really serve?

In the sense of the library, having collections divided into genres helps facilitate patron searches. For instance, I know that I like to read Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I also know that I’m not as well-versed in the genre as I’d like to be. I can go to the library, find the section I want, and then browse with relative confidence that I will find something that will pique my interest. And I have, on multiple occasions.

But as a writer, why do we write in genres? And how do the two functions of genre, from a writing and reading perspective, gel together?

These are, of course, completely subjective questions. My answer will be wildly different from yours. I read SFF because I love the awe and sense of wonder I get from reading something born from someone else’s imagination. Something I could have never come up with myself. Like pretty much every aspect of N.K. Jemisin’s novels, the setting of Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, and pretty much all of Sanderson’s magic systems. I read SFF because it helps me expand my own creativity and strive to write beyond my own perceived limitations.

But, I write SFF for different reasons. I don’t think there’s just one, and I think the reasons will grow and change as I do over the years. Right now, I’m experimenting with analyzing emotions and human motivations, and seem to be most comfortable doing so through a more removed lens, like that of an AI or non-human being. I think I write SFF because I tend to feel a bit separate from my peers, and have found an angle into expressing that isolation within the tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

And thanks to all my reading, I’m learning to build imaginative worlds, invent complex magic systems, and tell stories from perspectives I may not have personally experienced along the way.

I also think that, by writing genre fiction, my stories and their themes are more likely to find readers with similar interests and concerns as myself. By writing genre fiction I may very well limit my audience, but I think I also increase my chances of proving successful with my readership, because we all know, at least a tiny bit, what the heck we’re getting into when we crack open those pages.

jealous
I giggled at this.

Does genre fiction have an advantage over general or literary fiction when it comes to discussing and exploring themes of humanity? I don’t necessarily think so. I think genre fiction has an advantage to me, because it’s the content I’m drawn to, and only the content we ingest actually has the opportunity work its magic on us.

So yes, I was initially peeved to see so many of Science Fiction’s giants shelved in General Fiction, as if the genre had been shorn from their spines because they had ascended from the hive of scum and villainy that so many people think is genre fiction. But, ultimately, placing them in with general fiction makes those titles easier to find for people who might not otherwise think to read them. And that’s a really good thing. Any time a book finds itself in a patron’s hands, that’s a good thing.

reader's advisory
Can confirm: this is RA in a nutshell. 

A great thing is when the patron comes back, excited and enthralled, asking, “Do you have anything else like this?”

Nothing feels better than knowing a book suggestion was a hit with the patron and then launching into a discussion of what they liked about it and what they’d like to get out of their next read. That’s what I really love about my job; I get to talk about books with members of my community and help them find their new favorite authors.

And the day I get to show someone that there’s an entire section of the library they might like, the day I can introduce them to Genre Fiction, and they’re world broadens just that little bit more? That’s the best day.

 

BZ

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Book Review – Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Hey Bloggos,

I wasn’t able to finish reading Skyward before the book was due back to the library. The thing about Sanderson books is that they’re very popular, and holds abound. And if there are holds, you can’t renew. So, instead of accruing fines on a book I intended to buy anyway, I just went and bought the dumb thing. Which, it turns out, was a sound decision.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

skyward

So, here’s the thing. I’ve been slowing down on my mad dash of consuming Sanderson content lately. I don’t know. I think that last signing I went to (for Oathbringer) really turned me off to his books, through no fault of his own. There’s just such a cultish fervor surrounding Sanderson and his books, and I am definitely guilty of such behavior. So, I took a step back. I still haven’t read Oathbringer. And I wasn’t even all that excited to read Skyward.

That is, until I actually got a few pages into it.

Image result for skyward m-bot

This book reminded me why so many readers love Brandon’s books. Why I love Brandon’s books. It’s full of amazing characters, hilarious dialogue, and a plot that absolutely held me captive. I loved Spensa and the world she lives in, which I should have expected; Sanderson does world-building better than just about anybody else in the genre right now.

Spensa is the sixteen year old girl who just passed her pilot’s exam. But it doesn’t matter, because the Defiant Defense Force has zero interest in letting her fly. You see, Spensa, aka Spin, is the daughter of the DDF’s only coward. Her father abandoned his Flight during the Battle of Alta, and was subsequently shot down for his cowardice. Spensa has trained and studied her whole life to get into the DDF and prove them wrong about her dad, but Admiral Ironsides won’t give her the chance. They sabotaged Spensa’s test, and suggested she take a job elsewhere.

That is, until Captain Cobb, callsign: Mongrel, accepts Spensa into his classroom. It’s her one chance at redemption and she refuses to let it pass her by, no matter how difficult the Admiral makes her life.

Spensa is allowed to take her Flight class, and nothing else. She can’t join her Flight in the mess hall, she can’t bunk in the academy, and she can’t use the learning resources beyond her classroom. So, she lives in a cave she found by chance, sleeping in the cockpit of a crashed ancient starfighter.

Image result for skyward m-bot

In her spare time, because why not, she repairs the ship in hopes that she’ll be able to fly it when she graduates, since Ironsides is unlikely to let her fly no matter how well she does in her training. And, naturally, she’s out to find out the truth about her father, and what really happened that day at the Battle of Alta.

I’m not going to go into more details from here, because it would be spoiler-y and I really don’t want to ruin this book for anyone. There were quite a few zigs and zags that I didn’t anticipate and really enjoyed. I would prefer to preserve those for readers.

Know that this book did make me tear up a couple of times, and made me cheer out loud at least twice. My husband laughed at me as I read the last fifty or so pages on the couch, because I was yelling at the book quite a bit. In true Sanderson fashion, things do not end how I thought they would.

Thank goodness this is the first of a planned four book series, with the next book set to release in Fall 2019. I do not want to wait long to spend more time with Spensa and her Flight, callsign: Skyward.

I’m still reading Lies Sleeping. I’m having difficulty adjusting to my utter lack of free time lately. That and Red Dead Redemption 2 and a renewed fervor for all things Dragon Age is really putting a damper on my reading. But, it’s less than 300 pages and due back on Tuesday.

I’ll get it done.

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

The Recap – November 2018

Bloggos,

Video games are how I decompress, and apparently I really needed to decompress this weekend. I completely missed the fact that Saturday was the first of the month and spaced on writing up my usual monthly recap post! I’m so sorry for the delay.

November Goals

  • Write 800 words/dayLogo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep Reading!

How’d I do?

  • Write 800 words/day
    • YES! This was a really big win for me and I am still doing (exhausted) happy dances.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yep! Both Lifelike and That Which Illuminates Heaven were submitted to various magazines in November.
  • Keep Reading!
    • Um… Yes! I read four titles in November, more than I thought I did.

Total Monthly Word Count: 25,069

November was intentionally straightforward. Three bullet points are not remotely daunting, but the prospect of writing 25,000 words sure as hell is. I needed to keep the docket relatively clear in order to make time and mental space for the giant hurdle I’d set for myself.  And it worked.

Did you see that word count? Did ya? It’s the most I’ve written in a single month in all of 2018 and I am ecstatic about it. I worked hard, stayed up later than I should, drank a TON of coffee, and committed myself to making the time to make my goals, which is the entire point of National Novel Writing Month. So, that was a wild success!

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 12.37.27 PM

As for submissions, my stories continue to do well but not quite well enough. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with every email notification, but it’s getting easier. I think I’m becoming desensitized. Which, if that could hurry the eff up, that’d be great. The sooner I don’t feel the sting of rejection, the better.

And then there was the reading. Despite my four titles and my one book review, I don’t feel very successful on this front. I tried to read A Map of Days, and had to abandon it because I simply wasn’t motivated to pick it up. I am on the cusp of doing the same for Skyward, although I am motivated to read it, only too late. I’m out of time with it and there are a slew of holds on it. I’m going to move on to Lies Sleeping and buy Skyward so I can read it at my leisure.

Adding two books to my Did Not Finish pile in November does not feel good, but I’m not really surprised either. There’s simply too much going on in the month for me to feel accomplished at everything I wanted to achieve.

December Goals

  • Write 10k
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Read three more titles!

Another straightforward month. It’s December, a busy time at Starbucks and in my personal life so I want to give myself some wiggle room. The holidays are stressful enough without adding my own unmet expectations into the mix. Besides, I want to end the year on a happy and accomplished note, so I can springboard into 2019 ready to shine!

I’m confident that I will make my reading goal for the year. I only have to read three more titles, and I think two of them are a shoe-in. I just have to pick a third book that will read quick.

Short story submissions will continue until each story finds a home. I am stubborn, infuriatingly tenacious, and there’s a steady supply of ice cream in my house. I will get these stories published!

The writing goal might be a close thing if I let video games get in the way. 10k feels like nothing after the blistering word count of November, but that’s kind of the point. I can’t write at that pace for two months in a row, at least not right now. I’ll just burn out if I try. So, I’m going to dial things back and write a little bit each week. Slow and steady wins the race or something.

Hopefully you’ll see some more book reviews this month, and I’ll get good news about one of my stories. Fingers crossed!

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 44

Bloggos!

Fall has finally arrived in Salem. The clouds and rain and the wind have all showed up today, greeting Monday with a pleasant dreariness.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Continue editing The Charlatan and the Coinshot
  • Barker line edits
  • Continue Research/Outlining
  • WRITE!!!!

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep. The Nano prep post is up now!
  • Finish That Which Illuminates Heaven
    • Yes! I am super proud of this story and have sent it out for submission!
  • Continue editing The Charlatan and the Coinshot16f84a70-8aac-4b1c-8a3d-58061c8b2146 (1)
    • Yep. Got these edits all done, and the first chapter is up now!
  • Barker line edits
    • No. Sad to say, but I’ll have to work on them this week.
  • Continue Research/Outlining
    • Yes. I got more research on the catholic church and demons in general done.
  • WRITE!!!!
    • Oh man. Did I ever? My goal was 800 words a day, and I made it!

Weekly Word Count: 4,446

In four days I wrote more than I did in the entire month of October. I’d say that’s a win. It’s been an interesting NaNo already, mainly because I’m not used to writing an original novel for the month. Last year I wrote fanfic, and the words came much easier then than they do now. It’s also been years since I set out to write a new novel so I’m trying hard not to let my mind overthink and stymie my own work. Easier said than done.

I sent That Which Illuminates Heaven out on Friday, but I won’t hear anything back on it until the first week of December. It’s kind of nice to know to expect silence. It keeps me from obsessively checking The Submission Grinder as much. Of course, Lifelike and The Cost of Rain are both still out, so I’m never far from clicking the bookmark in my browser.

The Charlatan and the Coinshot is off to a decent start. Chapter two posts tomorrow, so hopefully there will be more interest as the month wears on.

It was my husband’s birthday this weekend, and we had a great time playing boardgames with friends and watching the Blizzcon keynote and live performances. We also spent a good chunk of time watching season two of Castlevania, which I highly recommend. And I managed to make some time for reading!

castlevania.gif

Whew. That was a lot of work. Now it’s time to do it all over again.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Barker line edits
  • Finish reading The Hanging Tree
  • WRITE!

A little more straightforward this week, mainly because all of my personal editing projects are done. I just need to get the line edits for Obadiah done, and then it’s just reading and writing this week! I do have some social engagements this weekend, so I need to be sure to pad my word count earlier in the week to give myself some wiggle room.

I think I’ll have a book review up this week, simply because The Hanging Tree is so good so far, that I doubt I’ll be able to keep away from it.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

The Recap – October 2018

Bloggos!

It’s November! Whaaaaaaaat? How can that be? It’s NaNoWriMo season already?

whaaaat

What in tarnation did I even do with October?

October Goals

  • Tumblr prompt
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Research/Outline for NaNo project
  • Keep reading!
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary

How’d I Do?

  • Tumblr prompt
    • Yes. Although, it’s been so long now that I hardly remember doing it.
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
    • Yes! It took six drafts, but the final proofread is done and ready to be put into the computer. I plan to submit it tomorrow.
  • Research/Outline for NaNo project
    • Yep! Over 4,000 words of research and not a whole lot of outlining. Which is still more than I’d normally do.
  • Keep reading!
    • Yes! I read three books, all of which have been reviewed here.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yep. Both Lifelike and The Cost of Rain received rejections this month, although Lifelike did get a really wonderful personal rejection. They have both since been submitted to the next magazine on the list.
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary
    • YES! It took an age, but I finally made this happen.

Total Monthly Word Count: 2,628

This month was a strange one. It was extremely productive, as you can see from the above list of successes, but I didn’t really feel like I accomplished much in the day-to-day. Writing was minimal, which sucks, but was also the plan.

Editing was in full swing this month, with That Which Illuminates Heaven seeing multiple revisions, a full proofread of The Charlatan and the Coinshot, and reading submissions for The Audient Void (still ongoing).

Reading was slow but consistent. Three novels in a month is nothing to sneeze at and is probably better than the reading that will happen in November.

Submissions are still rolling along. I was just telling my husband how now I’m less anxious about them and increasingly becoming more and more impatient. I’m getting so close, getting wonderful feedback and reaching high levels of consideration. I’m ready for someone to finally say “yes”. Sadly, I know this feeling to be premature. I’ve only submitted 22 times this year, both stories combined, and many stories have to go out to more magazines than that before they’re published. I have a long road ahead of me yet.

Sanctuary is still hanging in there. I’m feeling pretty far away from the project right now, which is logical since I won’t be working on it at all this month. Maybe after two months of posting The Charlatan and the Coinshot I’ll feel a little more energized about this longfic.

November Goals

  • Write 800 words/day Logo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep Reading!

I don’t think there’s really much more to put here. National Novel Writing Month pretty much monopolizes all my time in November. If I can read a couple books and keep up with my short story submissions this month, I’ll be happy.

And, yeah, that’s what’s up. That’s where I’m at on this first day of November. Feeling pretty great about October, even if I didn’t at the time, and looking to ride that momentum and success into and through NaNoWriMo.

Unless I read an entire novel in the next two days, you won’t hear from me again until Monday. You know, weekly goals and whatnot.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 43

Blogland,

The weekend was too short, with social engagements and a migraine. But now it’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about goals!

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Edit The Charlatan and the Coinshot16f84a70-8aac-4b1c-8a3d-58061c8b2146 (1)
  • Research and outline NaNo project
  • Read A.V. submissions
  • Finish reading Rosemary and Rue

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
    • Yep. I think it’s very close, I just need to perfect the last few sentences and really drive home the ending.
  • Edit The Charlatan and the Coinshot
    • Yes? I edited 7 chapters, out of 17. That’s a couple week’s worth of posts so it feels like success, but I’ll need to get considerably more done tonight and tomorrow before Nanowrimo starts.
  • Research and outline NaNo project
    • Yes! Got a big chunk of research done this week, and have some books waiting at the library to help me over the next two days.
  • Read A.V. submissions
    • Yep! Submissions are impressive this round and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this issue.
  • Finish reading Rosemary and Rue
    • Yes! I didn’t expect this to be the case, but the last half of the book was pretty compelling.

Weekly Word Count: 0

Another week of no writing, which again was the plan. I hate it. It feels wrong. Luckily, this is the last week where that will be the case. I start writing again on Thursday! Really this week was all about reading and editing. I read eight short story submissions for The Audient Void, I finished reading Rosemary and Rue, I read/edited That Which Illuminates Heaven, and I read the the first third of The Charlatan and the Coinshot.

This week will be much of the same.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Continue editing The Charlatan and the Coinshot
  • Barker line edits
  • Continue Research/Outlining
  • WRITE!!!!

There will be no shortage of blog posts this week, with this post, a NaNoWriMo prep post, and the monthly recap all scheduled. I have a couple sentences to tweak and perfect in That Which Illuminates Heaven, and then I think it’ll be ready to submit. I’ve already made a list of potential markets and can’t wait to share this story with the world! I’ve got 10 chapters left to edit for The Charlatan and the Coinshot, which will go quickly. I’m really just proofreading and making sure that there aren’t any glaring errors or inconsistencies. It’s a pretty clean draft, so I’m mostly just enjoying the story as I read through it one last time.

av submissions.jpg
Now through November 15th

Obadiah gave me an extra project on top of reading submissions for The Audient Void, so I’m doing line edits for him this week. I need to keep researching as much as I can before I dig into writing my new novel, and with only a few days left I am feeling the pressure.

And of course, the big goal is writing in the last half of this week! I’ll have a post up soon about what my NaNo goals are and what to expect from me over the course of November.

I have a few writing related events later this week as well, so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to talk about them soon.

Talk to you soon, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 42

Hey Bloggos,

This week was a bit of a blur. I worked over 40 hours this week and went to see Hozier on Saturday night. It was amazing, everything I’d hoped and dreamed it to be, and I’m still sort of floating along in an daze whenever one of his songs shuffles on in my Spotify playlists. But, now it’s time to come back to earth and get back to work.

Photo credit: fireeh.tumblr.com

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Research, round 2
  • Read Rosemary and Rue

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
    • Yep! I got some really great feedback from Madhu on it already, and look forward to taking the next steps in this story’s journey to publication.
  • Research, round 2
    • Yes. Though, I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to.
  • Read Rosemary and Rue
    • Yes? I didn’t finish it, but I made some solid progress this week, reading about 100 pages.

Weekly Word Count: 0

Writing that my word count for the week was zero never feels good. But writing was not on the list of goals this week. I’ll make up for it in November.

That Which Illuminates Heaven is going well. I’ve got some changes to make to the first page, and maybe some more streamlining in the first five pages, then I’ll do a polishing draft to make sure each word is perfect. Then it’ll be time to send it out and see what happens. That’ll be three stories out at the same time, so thank goodness for The Submission Grinder helping me keep everything straight.

Research is going a bit slower than I anticipated, but there’s a lot more to wade through than I expected, so that’s why. I’ve moved on from angels to the devil and I’m getting some good info and ideas as I do. Next up will be fallen angels and Catholicism, and some more setting resources. And before you know it, research time will be over and writing time will be here.

I didn’t read Rosemary and Rue as much this week as I really wanted to. I’d say it’s my limited schedule that’s to blame, but honestly, this book just hasn’t grabbed me yet. I rosemary and ruewant it to! I’m intrigued. But I’m not interested. I have to remind myself to pick it up and give it a shot, and once I do I’m happy enough to keep reading. It’s just picking it up in the first place that’s proving difficult.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Edit The Charlatan and the Coinshot
  • Research and outline NaNo project
  • Read A.V. submissions
  • Finish reading Rosemary and Rue

Another busy week with little to no writing. I’d like to get That Which Illuminates Heaven “finished” before NaNoWrimo starts, so that I don’t have any lingering projects looming in my mind when I’m supposed to be writing.

Also, November marks a year since I started writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project, my Mass Effect: Andromeda/Mistborn Era 2 crossover fanfic The Charlatan and the Coinshot. And that means I can finally talk about this giant collaboration project my lovely friend Kit and I have been working on this past year! The story will go live on the 1st, with updates every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of the year. 16f84a70-8aac-4b1c-8a3d-58061c8b2146 (1)

There’s still a lot of research I want to do before NaNo kicks off, so I’ve put even more books on hold at the library in hopes that I’ll be able to squeeze in some quality study time before all my time is devoted to writing.

I put out a post about The Audient Void‘s call for submissions last week, and you guys did not delay! In our first four days of accepting submissions we’ve received over 75 short stories and poems! So now I’ve got an inbox full of stories to consider, and I couldn’t be happier! I love reading your guys’ work.

And of course, there’s the Urban Fantasy novels to read. Rosemary and Rue is going slowly, but not so slowly that I’m willing to give up. Reading just might have to slow down for the time being to make way for the other projects going on right now. I’m four books ahead of schedule to meet my reading goal for the year, so I’m comfortable taking a breather in this regard for now. There will still be reading and reviews, so don’t worry! They’ll just be a bit slower to show up than normal.

If I can finish Rosemary and Rue this week, you’ll see me again here at the blog. If not, next week has a lot of posts planned thanks to the end of the month and the start of National Novel Writing Month.

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ