A Rose By Any Other Name…

I’ve been following a lively discussion in a LinkedIn group for SciFi readers, writers, collectors and artists, on the subject of genre categorizations.

It seems there’s a whole lot of confusion and controversy over what constitutes Science Fiction. Should it be lumped with Fantasy? Where does Horror fit in? Must accurate science play a role in the story? Or is anything having to do with space travel and/or life on other planets properly called SciFi? What is Future Fiction? Space Opera? Are those legitimate subgenres under the SciFi umbrella, or should they be categories unto themselves?

After following the discussion for a while, I began to ask yet another question: Does it matter?

I think it does, to a degree. If you’re a writer, you have to decide where your book fits in best with other offerings, so you can know how to market it. I found that out when I tried pitching my novel Mom’s Mirror as Historical when it really doesn’t meet that criteria. It’s better suited for the Women’s Fiction category.

After all, if you want to sell an acoustic guitar, you don’t list it under Auto Parts.

But is it necessary to split hairs? Most people consider the SciFi/Fantasy heading to cover anything weird, whether it involves space travel, dragons, or vampires. That’s probably where the “speculative fiction” phrase comes from. It’s a convenient way to lump all this weird stuff together.

If you want to live in the here-and-now and deal only with what’s demonstrably possible, you won’t look at SciFi or anything located near it. If, on the other hand, you like the “what-if” scenarios (i.e., speculation) that take you out of the confines of the natural world, you head for the Speculative Fiction section.

Put another way, if you’re like I am, a rose by any other name is still an allergen. Call it an eggplant if you like, but sniffing it would give me a king-sized headache. I avoid anything rose-like no matter what heading it’s under.

Seems to me, those who like to mince terms and subdivide the genre into pointless specifics are just trying to avoid the headache their incompatibility with the species gives them. If you know it causes a bad reaction, why not sidestep it altogether and stick with the things you’re safe with?

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Technology and the Writer

Some folks love it, some would rather leave it — but it’s here to stay.

As we all know, the invention of movable type in the mid-1400s revolutionized the world in ways Johannes Gutenberg never would have imagined.

Remember Jo in Little Women, taking refuge in the attic to write and emerging with ink-stained fingers? Louisa May Alcott would have fainted dead away at the the ease with which I compose on my laptop.

Mark Twain was the first writer to submit a typewritten manuscript. Today, many publishers will accept only electronic submissions.

When I was a kid, I used to write with a pen on notebook paper. Though I had an old manual typewriter similar to the one in the picture and spent many happy hours at it, my serious writing (and I was serious about it!) was done with a Bic. Preferably, a green one.

I’m not a tech geek. My landline phone (is there any other kind?) has a cord. I use a paper road map rather than try to figure out how a GPS works. I don’t even know how to work the satellite TV. Nevertheless, I consulted Bible Gateway during my Bible study this morning; this afternoon, among other things, I read my email; critiqued a chapter for an e-friend using track changes in Word; discussed via email the merits of entries — each of which was submitted electronically — for the Middle Grade/Young Adult category of the Out of the Slush Pile/Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, with a fellow judge; looked online for photos to illustrate the post when the winner is announced on October 11; along the way, I got lost in a blog about traveling in Turkey; sorted out my Firefox bookmarks; and composed and posted this article.

All this seems pretty new-fangled to us Baby Boomers, and I sometimes feel a little proud of myself that I’m able to navigate in this bizarre electronic world. But how about the shower I took this morning, with hot and cold running water, or the curling iron I used to fix my hair afterward? My home’s electric lighting, the stove I cook on, the refrigerator where I keep my pasteurized milk cold, and the car I drove to church? All those technologies were new at one time, but now we take them for granted.

Writers write. They always have, whether they used a stylus on a clay tablet, a fountain pen on foolscap, or a computer with voice recognition software. We record facts, thoughts, feelings and opinions. Writers ask questions, suggest solutions, warn of impending dangers, prognosticate the future. We produce poetry, dabble in drivel, entertain, offend, and instruct.

It’s never been easier to be a writer, nor to publish your work. (I’m not talking about getting a contract with Random House, I’m talking about making our writings public, as I’m doing with this blog post.) The words we produce flood the planet.

Why do we do it? Do we actually think we’re accomplishing something?

If you’re a writer, why do you write? Do you find today’s technology a boon, or a distraction? Is this the best time in the history of man for a writer to share his work? or the hardest time ever to break into the business?

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Let’s Try This Again

Not that I have many followers…

But if you checked in when my site was brand new and then looked again, you’d have found an error message. My apologies for the confusion. We had some tech issues on the database server level and everything I first created was neatly and thoroughly wiped out.

I’m starting from scratch. Stay tuned, and I’ll get this thing off the ground soon.

While you’re waiting for a post of substance, you might want to check out my “About” and “Completed Works” pages above.

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