Did I just write a genre novel or a literary novel?

I’m trying not to think about my novel as it “rests” after the second draft, but it’s hard.  And one of the questions I keep asking myself is, “am I going to be able to find an agent or a publisher for this?”  Which brings me around to the genre versus literary issue.

For those of you who don’t know, there’s this distinction that gets drawn between genre writing (like SFF) and literary writing (which is, from what I can tell, the fiction section of the bookstore, but only the older books or slow ones, not the thrillers).  Ursula K. Le Guin had a post discussing some of the issues here, but you don’t have to look too hard to find mentions of it.

As a reader, I could care less what something is called as long as it’s an enjoyable read.  And, having read SFF for the past thirty-some years, I can say that there is a wide, wide variety of writing styles shelved under SFF.  Some of it far better written than what I’ve found in the “literary” section.

I would prefer to be a SFF author, because that’s what I read — that’s the section of the bookstore I go to nine times out of ten.  And I think almost anything I write will have speculative or fantastical elements to it.  Writing in an alternate reality frees me up to explore issues without having to deal with the “but that’s not realistic or accurate” gripes that I might receive if I wrote about a real time and place.

The problem is, my novel doesn’t whack people over the head with magic.  It’s there.  Certain people have powers.  But it’s not the central focus of the book.  And there are no fantastical creatures or big, dark evil forces that must be vanquished.  My book is much more an exploration of one man’s personal choice to walk away from power and be left alone and the insidious nature of quiet evil.  (Forgive me, I’m still working on how to blurb the novel…)

Unfortunately, the book’s going to have to fall on one side or the other.  It’s either going to have to go SFF or general fiction at some point if it’s going to sell.  As long as people read it and enjoy it (and hopefully think a bit as a result), I don’t care what it’s called, but where that first novel gets placed could affect every other novel I write.  Once I’m in one of those camps, I’m probably stuck there.

Sometimes the idea of writing for twenty years in complete and utter obscurity is very, very appealing…to create without caring what people think, to not worry about selling what I write…Ah well.  Not the path I’ve chosen.

And I’ve still got a few months before I have to worry too much about this.  The novel needs at least one more pass to catch all those random “think one thing, type another” issues and to clean up any usage inconsistencies, etc.

Anyway.  I’m going to be spending twenty-some hours on planes over the next couple days, so no posts tomorrow.  But I’ll leave you with a pretty picture as a consolation prize…

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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