GUEST POST: Falling Between the Genre Cracks by MYKE COLE
|Name: MYKE COLE
Author of: CONTROL POINT (SHADOW OPS 1) (2012)
On the web: mykecole.com
On Twitter: @MykeCole
To celebrate the publication of his second novel, and the second book in his Shadow Ops series, Fortress Frontier, I am very pleased to welcome Myke Cole back to Reader Dad. This time around, Myke discusses genre, and how his work fits – or doesn’t – inside the conventional boxes that people use to categorise fiction. My own review of Fortress Frontier will be live soon, so be sure to check back to see what I thought. In the meantime, I’ll hand over to Myke Cole.
With the SHADOW OPS series, I’m sometimes accused of creating my own subgenre. It’s a hard military story! It’s high fantasy a la Tolkien! It’s a comic book superhero tale! At cons, I’m constantly put on military science-fiction panels.
People like their boxes. Sales people like them because it helps them to target specific audience segments. Retailers like them because they help them organize their wares. Demographers like them, because they help them categorize data that they feed to said sales folks and retailers. This gets expressed in the marketplace, and folks pick up on it. Urban fantasy appeals primarily to this audience, epic fantasy to that one. We get what is commonly called our "consumer culture."
This is good to the extent that it sells books. Believe me, writers love to sell books. But it’s not so good when you’re trying to wrap your head around your work.
Here’s the truth: I have worked either in or around the military for my entire professional life. I was raised on Tolkien novels and yearlong D&D campaigns. My mom told me from an early age that our family produced men of letters, and that I shouldn’t waste my time with math and science. 9/11 changed me, as it changed the whole world.
All of these things were boxes not so different from the ones the sales folks and retailers are using. They’re the frames I use to break my experience into bite-sized chunks that I can actually explain to someone. Nobody can truly share the totality of life with another person, the best we can do is say, “this is like that.”
In writing the SHADOW OPS series, I didn’t set out to fit into any sub-genre. I certainly didn’t set out to create one. I grew up reading fantasy stories and decided I wanted to tell one. I drew on the experiences in my life, in the military, as a gaming and fantasy nerd. I tried to figure out a way I could relate them to an audience, really make them thrum and resonate with all of the emotion and drama they held for me.
And I found that I couldn’t. So I used boxes. It made it easier.
And in the end, my boxes fit into other boxes. Publishers and retailers and reviewers boiled all of that down into three words: “Contemporary Military Fantasy.”
That’s limiting. In my more prima donna artist moments, I rail against it.
But the truth is, it helps. And that means my story reaches more people.
I’ll take it.
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