Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Genres and Subgenres

SF is a writing label, but it's also a marketing label. So are its various sub genres: fantasy, urban fantasy, slipstream, hard SF, space opera, etc. In one way this is convenient -- if I go into a bookstore to look for SF, I can find it all shelved together. If it were scattered throughout the mainstream fiction, how would that terrific new novel by a completely new SF author even come to my attention? Labels have their uses.

But labels also have their limitations, and I am coming up against them, not for the first time. When I wrote three bio thrillers (OATHS AND MIRACLES, STINGER, DOGS), they were shelved with SF because my name was on them. Thus, although the first two got good reviews (including from The New York Times), thriller fans never really found them.

Now I've written a YA fantasy, and this book has sold. But it will need to be marketed under a pseudonym. Otherwise, anybody who is at all familiar with the genre and glances at my name will think, "Oh -- Kress, SF, probably bio-engineering" -- which this novel emphatically is not. Since some of those people buy books for bookstores, including the big chains, the fantasy novel will bear a different name on its jacket.

I have mixed feelings about this. I know it's necessary, but I like being identified with my own books. However, since the book will not be out for at least a year, I have time to practice gazing into a mirror, saying my new name aloud, and convincing myself that she, too, is me. We'll see how this exercise actually goes.

6 comments:

A.M. said...

hrm. Having recently read The White Pipes, this seems doubly a shame. But as someone who loves your thriller novels and tries to hand them to people, I see your problem. :(

I'm sure you'll still tell us here what your new name is, so we can go find it and assure people this is an author who knows what she's doing. :)

Mike Flynn said...

I'm sure you'll still tell us here what your new name is

Jane Austen, maybe.

Ken Schneyer said...

Since the pseudonym is for marketing purposes only, it doesn't have to remain a secret, and your name can still be on the book. Everyone knew that Carolyn Heilbrun was Amanda Cross, yes?

So the back cover (or the "About the Author" blurb) says: "In her other life, Stella Magpie writes science fiction novels under the name Nancy Kress".

Kendall said...

Or maybe we'll just have to check the copyright page of every YA fantasy, looking for you. ;-) (Tell me it'll still be your name there!)

Dolly said...

ROXIE CARMICHAEL! Just trying to help with names. Think of all the wonderful adventures she could do and be on!! You could make up a whole story just about her!

Orion said...

Interesting. I just bought "Dogs", and now Amazon is sending me recommendations for thrillers, not SF. Someone, and a very LARGE someone at that, has classified it under the appropriate genre.