The Twisting of Genres is the New World Order

Years ago, there were only a handful of genres. In fact, you could count them on your hands. This fact held true for literature as well as music. Both art forms have evolved over the years and those old-guard rules simply no longer apply. Readers have risen above the stodginess of tradition and expect more.

But how did this happen? When did “genre” become such a pliable, ever-morphing term?

I’m fairly certain many of us already know the answer to that question. It happened by way of Amazon. That’s right, the world’s largest distributor of things very quickly became one of the heaviest hitters in the publishing industry. Once upon a time, anyone involved in the craft and business of publishing knelt at the altar of the Big 6 publishing houses. They were the gate keepers, the rule makers…those in charge of possibility and the improbable dream of thousands upon thousands of artists wanting desperately to call themselves authors.

But then Amazon came along and twisted the rules to better suit the new world order. Consumers’ attitudes were shifting. Apple had created a monster with iTunes and the .99 cent song. Very few wanted to pay full freight for content or media they could get elsewhere on the cheap. As Amazon is incredibly agile at reading the tea leaves, they brought to life the Kindle. And with that single device, the rules changed.

Of course, we all know this story. It’s been told a hundred thousand times. What some might not know is how this story has almost nullified the idea of genre.

I’ll illustrate this with a book I have entered in the Kindle Scout program. The evolution of this book should help to serve as a twisting road map for genre. The book in question is Suicide Station.

Inspiration strikes

suicide_station_coverLate one night I was awakened by a nightmare. In the dream I died. How is of no consequence; but when I work, the worst of the ordeal was the idea that, in the dying, I’d never get to spend another moment with my lovely wife. As a writer of dark, twisty fiction…that set my mind on a rather typical journey. The story wanted to follow down my usual dark path. What path?

I’m mostly known for my I Zombie series (not related to the CW TV show). That series sells quite well and has helped to establish me within a number of communities. But I’ve never been one to limit myself to anything. I love the art of discovery, the path least worn.

However, when I embarked on writing Suicide Station that is exactly what happened. The words that spilled from my fingers gave me every indication this book would be of my usual ilk. In the beginning, the main character was destined to wind up hopeless and hapless. But about two chapters in, something wonderful happened:

The main character fell in love.

That moment of happenstance occurred around the same time that a good friend of mine was informed his book won a contract with Kindle Scout. When that happened, he very easily convinced me I needed to submit to the program. It only took a moment to realize that Amazon wasn’t looking for horror and steampunk (another genre I play in), so neither genre was really an option.

Thankfully, that saucy main character just happened to have fallen in love.

However, the book takes place in the afterlife…so what’s a writer to do? I certainly couldn’t market the book as a traditional romance novel. There was no sexy time in the book, nor any description of sweaty, steamy, hubba-hubba heavy petting. This was a hipper, crazier, cooler romance novel.

Fortunately, the Kindle Scout program allows you to add secondary categories. And because modern day readers aren’t so hell-bent on holding fast to the clichéd genres, as dictated by traditional publishing, this book was allowed to evolve. And so, Suicide Station became a paranormal romance. It could have been a romance thriller or even a romance sci-fi (there is a slight Dr. Who element). In the end, however, it seemed Paranormal Romance was not just the best suited genre, but the easiest “sell.”

And so, what started out as a dark piece of fiction, twisted it’s own reality into a sweet bit of romantic snark. Had I been involved with traditional publishing, this book would probably be collecting dust on a hard drive.

Consider this:

  • It’s a romance, with the word “Suicide” in the title
  • It has no sexy time
  • It’s littered with humor
  • There are very brief descriptions of gore

Genre twisted. Genre bent. Genre forced to bow to my will. Suicide Station was submitted (and accepted for a campaign) into one of the hottest new publishing programs on the market. To me, that clearly indicates genre is, slowly but surely, becoming less and less relevant. Yes, it will always serve as a launch point for readers to discover those works they would enjoy. However, the cross-pollination of genres will continue to become the norm, until publishers are forced to forgo their unyielding and unforgiving rules.

Check out my entry in Kindle Scout. Give the sample a read and, if you feel it worthy, click the Nominate Me button. Should the book win a contract from Amazon, everyone that nominated Suicide Station, will get a free ebook copy.

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Jack Wallen

The path to becoming a professional writer was certainly the one less traveled for Jack. Originally, Jack’s artistic bent led him to a career as an actor.

No, not an actor in a bear costume (not even for “Furry Porn”). Jack did it his way. Working on Broadway and with regional and Shakespeare theatres across the country, Jack is proud to have held his own as an actor for over twenty years.

Twenty freakin’ years. Am I really that old?

Oh wait … third person.

Crap, where was Jack? Oh yes, he remembers.

But, as they say, all good things…

Before the economy had a chance to completely destroy the theatre arts, Jack decided to take his final curtain call during a production with the heralded Stage One Theatre for Young Audiences. It was, however, during that long career that Jack discovered he had a knack for the written word. His first, full-length novel was written between 2000 and 2003. That book, A Blade Away, eventually became his first published work. It didn’t take Jack long to fall in love with the creative process of writing and he followed that first book up with the cult-favorite, Shero.

It wasn’t until Jack woke up one summer morning with a simple question on his mind, that he would finally dive into the craft of horror fiction tooth and nail. That question, “What would it be like to transform into a zombie?”, led Jack to pen the first novel in the I Zombie series — I Zombie I. From there, Jack dove into the deeper waters of horror and has never looked back.
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6 thoughts on “The Twisting of Genres is the New World Order”

    1. Well, not merely a marketing tool – to be fair, we’ve had “classification” under the Dewey Decimal System and the LOC for a long time. And marketing matters if you want to sell books – as does finding appropriately placed shelf space in the book store. How confusing (and disappointing, one way or another) would it be to find your books alongside math and physics texts? Someone’s not going to be happy. (I’m thinking me, because I’d never be caught dead in the math textbooks section. Physics, maybe. Only under dark sunglasses and a trench coat, of course.)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The Twisting of Genres is the New World OrderMy Profile

  1. Great post! And thank you for bringing to my attention Kindle Scout, and fingers crossed I receive a copy of the book. Looked rather interesting, and felt to be an easy read.

    I know that I’ve rolled my eyes many times at the specialization of genres, both in books and in music. Which came first, the medical specialization giving birth to all areas of life, or something else – like Amazon – doing it to books, and etc… The simplicity of the 20th Century seems SO far away.

    1. Apparently, the study of “genre” in rhetoric extends back at least 2000 years. If we really want to geek out over it, we could start here: http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/HCDE510-Fall2012/Chandler_genre_theoryDFAnn.pdf or here: http://wac.colostate.edu/books/bawarshi_reiff/ but I prefer to think that this is not our “job” – our job is to write. Let others figure out where the heck to shelve it. (That said, if the author’s goal is to make money, it may be wise to approach genre with a much more calculating eye, and figure out where the most foot traffic is in the book store, and how much shelf space he or she can command there. Which is really just marketing speak for, “If they’re buying it, they must want to read more of it – so if I’m really writing for readers, I should figure out what ‘it’ is.” I write for readers – but I can’t do it if my own heart’s not in it. I can’t be that coldly calculating about it. It’s a happy, but not particularly lucrative, compromise.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The Twisting of Genres is the New World OrderMy Profile

  2. Thank you all for giving the post a read. I agree, the specialization of genre is incredibly fascinating. A part of me thinks it points to our ever-increasing need to compartmentalize. But I also cannot help think that our tastes have evolved to the point where we want to know if a romance is an historical romance or a paranormal romance. If a zombie novel is military in nature or focuses primarily on the human equation.
    Jack Wallen recently posted…Kindle Scout Update: Day 9My Profile

    1. Not so very different from biological taxonomies – we want to know if a bug is beneficial, annoying, or deadly without personally experimenting with it. Or whether a plant is edible or poisonous before we eat it. I think it’s just a normal, human urge to classify things. But it’s useful for marketing, as well.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Facebook for WritersMy Profile

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