I’ve been reading quite a bit of horror lately. I wrote not long ago about finding a signed copy of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 at my local bookstore, whom I had never heard of. I didn’t realize he was Stephen King’s son, seeing as how I’ve never read a Stephen King novel either! To me, horror was never really on the radar in terms of “Books To Read.” I’m not opposed to the genre, really; it just never sparked an interest just it never did in films, either.
Lately, I’ve kind of come around to it, no doubt because many horror books of our generation are increasingly crossing between the scary and the mythical.
I read a great book by Cherie Priest called Maplecroft not long ago, about Lizzie Borden fighting off zombie-like creatures in a Lovecraftian atmosphere. I absolutely loved it and, between it and NOS4A2, has really helped me understand how to cross between different genres in writing. With the current market being what it is, authors are increasingly needing to cross genres in order to create something unique. While there are no doubt some great purely fantasy books, or horror books, or whatever, they are much harder to create and stay competitive. Now we have Fantasy-Horror, Historical Thrillers, and all sorts of jumping around.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s nice to read something that has kept things interesting and appeals to a market they may never have jumped into otherwise. If Vic wasn’t traveling through a wormhole bridge with her bike in NOS4A2, I may never have picked it up, but I liked that fantasy twist. Now, I can’t put it down (well, I do sometimes. It’s 700 pages).
I’m querying The Sky Thief right now and working on the second book, Sand Hunter. As I work, I see more and more how it can’t really fit into just one category. It certainly has fantasy elements with its skyships and runes. But, when I created the story, it always felt more like a straight adventure ala Indiana Jones for me (especially so for Sand Hunter). So, which genre do I put when filling out an agent’s online submission form?
Ultimately, I think as long as the story’s good, genre is really just best left to marketing. However, when marketing your own book, or filling out query letters to hook an agent/publisher, the question becomes much more significant. It’s also important to maintain limits on your creations. Blending one or two different genres is ok, but do we really need a Dystopian Steampunk Vampire Horror novel? I suppose a great writer can make anything work, but as a reader, I tend to be fairly skeptical when I see such a mishmash of genres. So, where’s the limit, that invisible fine line?
I’ve had a couple of bites from my query, so hopefully I don’t think I’ve crossed that line. I do wonder, however, what the future holds when I start shopping in my local bookshops. Benjamin Franklin was actually a crime-solving werewolf?!
Sure, why not? As long as it’s good.