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Sparked off by Charles Stross’ excellent I’ve had a few ideas on genre and self-definition.

And so, I decided you get to hear me blather about them. It’s not a full essay in the way Charlie’s is. It’s more a scattering a thoughts in an attempt to clarify in my own brain what genre is, and what belonging is.

In a general way, my writing will always be genre. I’m more familiar with and comfortable with genre writing. I will write mysteries, science fiction, and horror. I will not write literary novels or romance. I might dip my toes into thrillers or crime novels.

But for all that, I don’t write in just one. I think that science fiction mystery novels are a thing. I believe that horror romance is possible. I think that there’s something more telling about forcing a novel to be one genre than just what it is. Creating that box and shoving a book in there–even cutting off a tentacle here or there to make it fit–means that somehow we’ve failed as a community to make room for all sorts of writing.

I prefer my writing to fall between the cracks. The Scar by China Mieville is a literary novel with all the trappings of a fantasy overlaid onto it. Is this a flaw? No, but it does mean that it would appeal to more than just one group of people. (Well, if people get over their instinctive dislike of things which are different than what they usually read.) The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells could just as easily be marketed as a period heist novel–with a tinge of magic. Even Charlie Stross’ Laundry series could be just as easily slotted into Thriller as Sci-Fi or humor even.

So, when I say I am a genre writer, I don’t believe this means I have to follow the tropes of my genre. I don’t think that they should be ignored. I think that my mystery science fiction needs to have all the clues to solve the mystery and a good set of detectives, but it also needs to have technology that’s not in current use and a society that’s changed by being several hundred years in the future. (Also, we’ve taken to referring to is as not!steampunk because for all it’s classed society, it is definitely hard sci-fi at its core.) Writing between the cracks means taking the best of both worlds, even if, in the end, you don’t fit into one.

What I really want from my stories is action, and mystery, and characters I care about. Will I always prefer the company of SFF or mystery geeks? Probably, but that says a little more about me than what I write. Heck, I hang out with a damned good literary author on a regular basis. Our connection is writing and the insanity that brings.

So where do I belong? In the bar with other writers, staring out at those normal people who don’t have characters eating their brains, and making up stories about them.

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