Okay, so in Part 1 of my little (okay, not so little) diatribe on pitches
I was talking about managing expectations.
The little snag here is that as soon as you mention
the genre of your book you’ve
already set up expectations. The reader already has a preliminary opinion on
whether or not they’re going to like the book, and that’s even before they get
to the pitch.
This is a real bugbear for me because I’m calling my
books science fiction.
So the first thing this is saying is that this is ‘genre’
fiction as opposed to ‘literary’ fiction. ‘Literary’ being taken as synonymous
with quality, with serious novels of the sort one calls ‘works’ rather than ‘books’
and whose authors can add the prefix ‘critically acclaimed’.
To those who buy into this literary snobbery, the
term ‘genre’ means a book of no inherent worth except as light entertainment
for the unwashed masses.
Okay, so we’re probably facing an uphill battle
persuading anyone otherwise, but if you’re looking for ammunition, take a look
This one is what Patrick Rothfuss (Author of The
Name of the Wind) had to say when a lecturer deemed fantasy novels not worthy
of study – the interesting thing for me here is his insistence that ‘literary
fiction’ is itself a genre:
Then there’s this classic example of literary
snobbery of the sort which can dismiss an author on the basis of writing style
without even bothering to read one of his books (referring to the late Terry
That I have to stand up to literary snobbishness. My
books may not be ‘literary fiction’ but they are of no less worth. I will not
apologise for the fact that the ideas within my novels are wrapped up in (what
I hope is) an appealing story written in a commercial style.
This is deliberate on my part because I want people
to read my books because they enjoy the story not because they are studying my
use of language. I try to explore societal issues in the background rather than hit
the reader over the head with them. Do I care that my books will never be set reading
for an English lit course? Not in the slightest.
Okay, I’ve gone off topic a bit there, so back to
What else do people think when they see the label ‘science
Space battles seems to be a common expectation. Or
something futuristic packed with incomprehensible techno-babble. But then there
are the time travel stories. Steampunk. Post apocalyptic, dystopian. Alternate
universes, alternate futures, alternate political realities. Adventures,
thrillers, romances, fairy tales. You name it, science fiction has it.
It can be hard to get across just how wide a genre
science fiction is. If anyone were to ask me how to define science fiction I
would probably through my hands up in despair. Luckily for me, other people
have taken a shot at it:
“…there seems to be as many definitions of science
fiction as there are imaginary worlds dreamed up by its creators. Just sticking
with leading authors, Isaac Asimov offered that it “deals with the reaction of
human beings to changes in science and technology”; Thomas M Disch argued that
it all stems from the premise that “absolutely anything can happen and should”;
and slightly more philosophically Brian Aldiss has claimed it’s ultimately “the
search for a definition of man and his status in the universe which will stand
in our advanced but confused state of knowledge”.
I’m rather fond of the last one, probably because I’m
not entirely sure what it means.
And here’s what Wikipedia says:
“Science fiction is difficult to define, as it
includes a wide range of subgenres and themes. Author and editor Damon Knight
summed up the difficulty, saying “science fiction is what we point to when we
And this: “Science fiction is largely based on
writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures.”
I wish I had an upbeat conclusion to this part but,
to be honest, I can’t think how to give any practical advice to overcoming
genre prejudice. Genre distinctions are inescapable.
Perhaps all we can do is break it down.
I present my New adult Futuristic Soft science fiction Adventure series with a
Psychological slant featuring Cyborg Spies encountering Alien cultures.
Stand by for Part 3 in which I might finally stop philosophising and get around to actually writing the pitch.