Genre-ly Speaking

So, I’ve been thinking about the genre for my pulp novel masterpiece.

It will probably surprise you to learn — now, don’t spread this around — that I’m something of a geek. Not so much that I wish I could afford the plastic surgery to get my ears, you know, Vulcanized, but I enjoy the occasional fantasy/horror/science fiction novel. And movie. And TV show. Every now and then.

OK, so I have a whole bookcase filled with my role-playing game collection. Bite me.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I have gone down the dubious path of genre writing before. I know, I know. After the therapy, the clinics, the support groups, I thought I was on the straight and narrow. But my first shamelessly Tolkienesque fantasy novel was finished more than 10 years ago — 20, if you just count the first draft. I think I can, you know, write a little epic fantasy again without calling up my sponsor. I can handle it. Really.

The thing about epic fantasy is that, honestly, it’s been so done to death that its spirit may never be able to reassemble enough for reincarnation. I know people like it, and I even know that there is some good, enjoyable stuff out there being written — George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, Greg Keyes’s Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, Stephen Erickson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series, even Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The thing is that, as enjoyable as these books are, none of them are really doing anything new. Jordan is riffing on Tolkien, Arthurian legend and Dune, of all things. Martin is, to some degree, riffing on what Jordan was doing, although he does it much better. Erickson is riffing on Glenn Cook’s Black Company novels, Keyes is riffing on Martin and Bakker, although he has been getting a lot of credit for doing something new, is pretty much riffing on Gene Wolfe.
So, while I’m not eliminating this genre, I think I’ll look around for what else I might try.

There’s science fiction, fantasy’s somewhat more respectable younger brother. A lot of the stuff that goes by the label science fiction anymore, though, is really just fantasy with space ships and blasters instead of swords and sorcery. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — modern pulp science fiction pretty began as riffs on the westerns popular back in the day, to some degree. Genuine science fiction, in my book, is about the science, extrapolating based on legitimate scientific principles. Honestly, that’s not what I’m doing, and what I am doing lends itself more to the sort of science fantasy dominated by Star Trek, Star Wars and other TV/movie properties.

Again, I’m not eliminating the genre, but still looking around.

Contemporary fantasy is a genre I’ve always had an interest in. The idea of magic in the modern world is something that has received a lot of attention, but which hasn’t entirely developed a single significant work — there is yet to be a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars of contemporary fantasy. That being said, there has been a body of work developed over the past 30 years or so that has sort of established the tropes of this genre, as well — the novels of Anne Rice and Stephen King, The World of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, et al. Basically, it’s been done, as well.

Still looking.

Being the sort of, well, honestly, obsessive compulsive geek that I am, I’ve developed a wide variety of genre backgrounds over the years. You know, as a hobby. The way other people learn to tie fly fishing lures, collect rare coins or wood-inlaid chessboards, I develop genre fiction backgrounds.

Yes, I know. I have a great big red “G” sewn on all my clothes.

My original point being that I could pick pretty much any genre I want and I already have the background material in place. The question is whether I want to use what I’ve spent nigh unto 30 years developing (off and on; I do, I dare say, actually have something resembling a life) or go with something new specifically for this pulp novel. And, even if I decide to go with my existing material, which one should I go with?

I guess I’m going to have to think on this more.

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