Sunday, March 27, 2011

Genres - What the F*ck?

"We're not talking about anything important! It's about where the book is f*cking shelved!" -Kay Kendron on genre definitions That about sums it up for genre, in point of fact, but I won't leave you with that. i won't say that I'm incredibly good at defining genre, but I'll give you the best thing I can when it comes to speculative fiction genres.

  • Speculative Fiction: This is a mother genre. It encompasses all forms of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Fantasy: This encompasses all forms and sub-genres of fantasy. The minute you find yourself explaining that something happens because of magic with no further explanation, you need to consider that your story, if nothing else, has fantasy elements. The same can be said if you include elves, dragons, gnomes, or anything else thoroughly fantastic.

  • High/Epic Fantasy: This is the most common idea of fantasy out there. It's not set on Earth. It has fantasy creatures and races galore and seems to function on a different level than Earth ever does. The world is completely fabricated by the author (i.e "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, "Dungeons and Dragons", "Eragon").

  • Urban Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy: If your fantasy story takes place in a major metropolis (like New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles) on Earth, it's urban fantasy. If it takes place on Earth but not in a major metropolis it's considered contemporary fantasy. The line is often very blurry between these two sub-genres - it depends on who interprets your story's genre.

  • Paranormal: Close to fantasy, but not quite. This is a type of speculative fiction dealing with things like ghosts, satanic rituals, Voudou, or anything else that's not a completely foreign concept to Earth (elves=foreign, ghosts=not foreign).

  • Science Fantasy: A blending of fantasy elements, like magic, and science-fiction elements. Things like opening a portal to a magical world or summoning a magical being using advanced technology would fall into this genre. The Q, from Star Trek, would also be considered a form of science fantasy.

  • Science Fiction: This encomapsses all sub-genres of science fiction. Anything with advancements in technology far beyone our own, alien visitors/wars, or any other form of scientific advancement we can't, as of yet, use or make a prototype of is considered science fiction.

  • Hard Science Fiction: Not so much a sub-genre as a classification, hard sci-fi is the type of science fiction that uses only actual science to make everything function without stretching beyond the actual capacity of a theory or technology. There is also a heavy focus on the science in the story.

  • Soft Science Fiction: Soft science fiction is the opposite classification to hard science fiction. In soft sci-fi the world is clearly a science fiction world, but the story either doesn't emphasize the science, choosing to focus on the characters, or it focuses on "soft science", like psychology and anthropology.

  • Space Opera: In short, a space opera is the science fiction version of an actual opera storyline. There is high-strung emotion, intergalactic war, and almost always at least one love interest. the plots are very interwoven and tend to be complicated with many subplots.

Now, I won't touch on the romantic sub-genres, but they exist for all of the main genres. Paranormal romance is the largest speculative fiction roamnce sub-genre, but sci-fi romance and fantasy-romance exist as well. If I gather enough information on the romantic sub-genres I may explain those as well.


Horror is often considered a part of speculative fiction, but I don't necessarilty considr a part of this and may also cover that later.


Peace be with you,


Voss

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tlk'ash'diki'ej'fal - Fantasy Names

Yes, you can probably already see where I'm going with this - names in speculative fiction. For so long they've been notoriously unpronouncable, to the point of readers putting books down. Mainly in fantasy, yes, but I have seen a number of terrible names in science fiction as well. Fret not, though - I have some tips and hints to help you out with this grievous assault on your writing.

  1. Urban fantasy is a huge market right now and really doesn't require a lot of strange names. If you want the names for your elves and the like to be a little more ethnic than your humans, choose a culture of Earth and go from there.

  2. If you have an epic/high fantasy you can normally get away with some unusual names, especially when it comes to deities and dragons...and villains. go a bit crazy over there so that you can try and get it out of your system.

  3. If one of your major players has a name that's six syllables long, please make somebody notice it and comment on it somehow. I'm sorry to tell you, but "Jilanamuyea" is going to raise anyone's eyesbrows, honey.

  4. If you must have an apostrophe, please keep it down to one apostrophe. Really, when I find names that are half apostrophe and half letter I tend to just put the book down, often not picking it back up.

  5. Finally, if you're in love with a long name, you can give them a nickname. It really doesn't hurt. Turning "Koritrikir" into "Kir" or "Kor" or even "Kori" is alright - and appreciated.

Blessed be and all that jazz,


Voss

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reader Beware

I have a horrible, cruel truth for all of you writers - and it's best to hear it now.

Writing ruins reading.

It's alright - go eat some chocolate and get a foot massage and then come back and keep reading.

Are you ready? You have some chocolate on your face. No, right there. Okay, you got it. Now, as I said before - writing ruins reading. It's just how it is. I know it's terrible, but it really is true, no matter how much you want to argue with me. Go ahead and try it - pick up a book that was an enjoyable read before you got into writing on any serious level. Read a bit of it - I'm not going anywhere, so take your time...yes, you see now? Every choppy sentence, misplaced comma, and out of place word is a giant fish hook to pull you out of the ocean of your story.

Now, this may prompt you to give up on writing or reading - don't you dare. By reading now, not only can you see more clearly what actually works, but you can see something all but invisible - what doesn't work. Besides, all that in-read editing is good for your Inner Editor - if nothing else it makes him/her shut up a bit more while you write.

How does it help your reading? You will be infinitely more discerning in what you read now. Only the best and/or most interesting books are going to do anything for you now and you'll become a paragon of literary knowledge for your friends. They need a good book? Well, you just happen to have a suggestion now, don't you?

Now, I know this is a hellacious turn of events, but now you've ripped off that nasty band-aid, haven't you? No more pulling off the little hairs with every millimeter of adhesive you tear away - it's over with.

Happy reading...hopefully,
Voss

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Local Authors Need Food Too

Look around you the next time you're in a local mega-super-store type place. That woman over there with the curling irons and seven kids? She might be an author. The man with the walking stick and the open bathrobe? He might be an author. The cashier that you so rudely chide for being slow? She might be an author. The man whose car you nearly crash into pulling out of the parking lot? He might very well be an author, too.

Do I think all of these people you encounter in the day are actually authors? No, I don't, but you never actually know. I am huge on supporting local artists, but especially local authors - it's a bit of a bias, but it's the truth. I know at least one person in the area I live in whose income source is her writing - I will continue to buy her books until one of us is dead.

My challenge for you - next time you go into your town's bookstore, big or small, locate the section for local authors. The big bookstores all have a section. If you find yourself in a smaller bookstore, ask the clerk if they have any local authors they could recommend. I'm not suggesting you'll find the next Harry Potter or Moby Dick (I'm not suggesting you won't, either), but you may well find a good read - if nothing else, when you buy books written by local authors you stimulate your town's economy - that can't be a bad thing on any level.

Blessed be,
Voss