You may find this post annoying


I realize this is a touchy subject, but this is my blog and sometimes I’m an annoying person.

Occasionally, I’m embarrassed by my genre.

It came up at Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker party[1] while I was talking with Mark Henry. I told him that I didn’t have a good elevator pitch for Child of Fire in part because I’m a little embarrassed to describe it.

He turned his face away from me as though he didn’t want to look at me right then, and I didn’t blame him. I understand people have strong feelings about this and the urge to do a little armchair psychoanalysis can be strong. But I’ll tell you: Writing fantasy is my life’s work and I work really fucking hard. I aspire to create art and entertainment both. In no way would I accept the idea that my love of the genre and my dedication to it is less than serious.

But at the same time I recognize that the genre is pretty damn frivolous. Vampire romances. Supernatural compulsions. Little gremlins with littler swords. Suburban werewolves. Superhero-like wizards. Hell: Superheroes.

I like to describe my work by the tone and the genre (“noirish contemporary fantasy”) not by the character or plot elements. Do I want to explain to my non-genre co-worker that my book is about an ex-car thief turned sorcerer’s helper who has an enchanted sheet of paper in his pocket? Or that they’re supernatural vigilantes?

Hell no. Stripped of the context of the actual story, that sounds deeply dorky. However, I’m more than happy to have them read the book. If I could get people to read the book–or even try the sample chapter–without any further description, I’d be damn happy. Because within the context of the story, those supernatural elements carry weight. They matter, in a way they will never matter during an elevator pitch.

I realize there is a long history of genre writers using pen names because they didn’t want their writing associated with their real lives. I remember well that Marion Zimmer Bradley hated pen names because she thought it evidence that writers were ashamed of their work.

Well I say Carpe humiliatum[2]. Seize the shame. Magic amulets are deeply dorky and utterly non-serious in the real world. Personally, I think recognizing–and addressing–this tension between real-life frivolity and in-story seriousness is a strength of mine.

Okay. I have to go to the dentist now. I’m hoping to have happy foreign rights news for CoF soon. Cross your fingers for me.

[1] Something else from the party that surprised me: Cherie mentioned that the book was printed in brown ink, and I thought: “What? Really?” Sure enough, I’d read nearly 200 pages of squinty text without even noticing they were in color. Would I need someone to tell me the seat of my pants was on fire, too?

[2] You know I’m serious when I break out the pretend Latin. Besides, it’s been 30 years since I took a Latin class; I couldn’t work out the correct form of verecundia for cash money.