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paulgoatallen
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The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Hey All!
This is my first message here so a quick introduction first: my name is Paul Goat Allen and for the last decade, I've written reviews for B&N.com – specifically their sff newsletter, Explorations. During that time, I've seen a huge increase in what I call "genre transcendent" series – Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Madelyn Alt, etc. – and by that I mean storylines that feature elements of numerous genres: fantasy, romance, mystery, etc. I've asked a few authors and publicists about the ever-increasing popularity of these types of series but I'm curious what readers think. Does anyone have any theories? Best!
PGA
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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Nelsmom
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Paul,

I love having the different elements in one book and I think that it adds alot to the storyline also it make it a bit more unpredictable. Besides for someone like me tat enjoys many different genre's it is nice to get them in one book.

Toni

paulgoatallen wrote:
Hey All!
This is my first message here so a quick introduction first: my name is Paul Goat Allen and for the last decade, I've written reviews for B&N.com – specifically their sff newsletter, Explorations. During that time, I've seen a huge increase in what I call "genre transcendent" series – Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Madelyn Alt, etc. – and by that I mean storylines that feature elements of numerous genres: fantasy, romance, mystery, etc. I've asked a few authors and publicists about the ever-increasing popularity of these types of series but I'm curious what readers think. Does anyone have any theories? Best!
PGA


Toni L. Chapman
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Vampyre
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

I like the urban fantasy type of books for many reasons. I've always like stories that deal with Alternative realities and UF is much like that. In these stories, we have our fairly normal hum drum world with a twist.

In Vicki's books, our world is watched over by a secret society of super heroes. At the same time, it's being threatened by an evil set of super villains.

In Kim's series we have a witch bounty hunter working with a pixie and a living vampire. Her world is full of the traditional fantasy/horror creatures of myth and lore such as vampires, were wolves, fairies and many others.

Charlain Harris' books contain many of the same elements of Kim's books but they are all handled in their own unique manner. Sookie Stackhouse is a fun character and it's great seeing her grow and develop from book to book.

Then there is Jim Butcher, he's the one that I read first. His books remind me of the old TV show The Rockford files. His Rockford is of course the wizard Harry Dresden. A wizard P.I. in Chicago is just too cool. Of course this world has it's own menagerie of non-human character's as well. It all blends together in a very interesting way that just makes me want more.

Other types of fantasy always seem to take place in some sort of medieval age. There's a lot of swords and sorcery and they are fun to read. It's just harder to relate to this type of fiction. None of us out side of the SCA have any idea what it was like to live in such a primitive time. It's much easier to relate to characters set in our time frame. We all have a much better understanding of a world that looks much like our own current one.

That's it in a nutshell I think. Urban Fantasy is easier for us to relate to. It makes it easier for a reader to get into the story without having to set up a totally different world and society for us to get into.
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Toni:
That's exactly the response I've gotten from the publicists and publishers I've talked to. These types of series are palatable to a much wider readership – sff fans, romance fans, mystery fans, etc. – and (this isn't really significant but I found it interesting) the books can be shelved in more than one area in brick-and-mortar stores. I've seen Laurell K. Hamilton, for example, in Fiction, Fantasy and Romance. Also, I think it's interesting how the appeal of these books has inspired other authors to join in. In a recent B&N interview with Madelyn Alt, she said this:

Paul Goat Allen: Madelyn, how exactly did you get into writing? And what was the motivation behind writing a romantic, paranormal mystery? Those kind of genre-blending books are very popular right now and I was wondering if the success of other authors like Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, etc, had any effect on you in any way…

Madelyn Alt: I wish I could say that I had the foresight to see the success of the genre-benders you mentioned and to try my own hand at it. I actually started out writing what I read most often in my teen years and early twenties: historical romance. I’m a real Anglophile and I love history, so it seemed natural for me to focus in that area. And though I have also been a paranormal buff since childhood, it never once occurred to me to try to write it into my historical manuscripts. Weird, I know, but true.
The truth is, years and years of rejection were the real cause of my sudden decision to try something new and completely different. I had had enough. Enough of the rejections, however nicely worded, and enough of the requests to see “something else.” Who needed the hassle of submitting for publication? Not me. It’s amazing how incredibly freeing giving up the ghost can be. I decided that I might not be selling, but at least I could, by God, be happy writing something just for myself. Something that didn’t follow a guideline, that wasn’t written to market or genre rules – and if it flaunted those rules, so much the better.
That makes me sound like such a rebel… but all I really wanted was to feel the joy in the creation process again.
And I did. The Trouble With Magic flowed from me, well, er, like magic. When it was finished, I took a good look at it and thought, “Huh. You know, that’s not half bad. Why not give it one last shot?” By that time, I had found Kim Harrison’s wonderful Rachel Morgan series and Charlaine Harris’ Dead series and recognized that this book and my ideas for more could probably, possibly, with a teensy bit of luck fit in with that same readership. The success these fine authors enjoyed gave me hope, and that was so important to me after years of struggling.
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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VickiPettersson
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Paul,

Holy crap - _I_ could have written that message! I had exactly the same experience as Alt, including the historical fiction background. Now I'll have to go read her. {smile}

Vicki

Learn more about The Taste of Night, The Scent of Shadows,
and the Holidays Are Hell anthology (coming in November).

Readers are always welcome to visit and contact me at: www.vickipettersson.com
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Vicki:
I'm sure you'll love Mad's Bewitching Mystery series – The Trouble with Magic, A Charmed Death, etc. It's not as thematically complex or intense as your saga (the B&N review for Vicki's First Sign of the Zodiac is below, in case anyone is interested) but I really enjoy her light-hearted writing style. Her novels remind me quite a bit of the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse sequence – funny and irreverent but fast-paced and exciting as well.
If anyone wants to talk to Madelyn Alt, just let me know and I'll see if she's interested in a little online chat so you guys can pick her brain a la Vicki's visit...
Paul

The Scent of Shadows: The First Sign of the Zodiac
Vicki Pettersson
Avon Books
$6.99; March (ISBN 0060898917)

Las Vegas showgirl turned novelist Vicki Pettersson’s debut novel is sure to be an instant hit with readers who enjoy authors like Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris. Blending elements of dark fantasy and hard-boiled mystery with romance and apocalyptic thriller, The Scent of Shadows – the first installment of the Signs of the Zodiac saga – is set amidst the neon-lit glitziness of Sin City and features Joanna Archer, one of the most intriguing and unfathomably deep heroines to grace the pages of a supernatural fantasy in ages. Sexually assaulted when she was a teenager, Archer has grown into a woman marked by contradictions; she’s one of the richest heiresses on the planet but she spends all of her free time roaming the back alleys of Vegas at night photographing the city’s forgotten – the homeless, drug addicts, runaways, etc. The camera is a shield of sorts for Archer, who enjoys seeing the gaudy world around her in stark terms of black and white. This dichotomy takes on new meaning when her egomaniacal dad informs her that he is not her biological father and promptly disinherits her. When her sister Olivia is brutally murdered shortly thereafter by a supernatural assassin, Joanna’s world is turned upside down and she is forcibly thrust into the middle of an ongoing spiritual war between Light and Shadow. Following in her wayward mother’s footsteps, Joanna becomes the Archer, a crime-fighting member of a much-depleted troop whose mission it is to defeat their astrological opposites, the Shadow Zodiac. But Joanna is much more than she seems and if she can survive long enough to unravel the mystery surrounding her lineage, she just might be able to shed some much needed Light into the growing darkness….
The Scent of Shadows is noteworthy for two reasons: Pettersson’s adept ability to create realistic and emotionally compelling characters; and her consistently witty narrative voice, which makes for not only a darkly humorous but also wildly entertaining reading experience.
-Paul Goat Allen
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Vicki:
LOVE your series by the way! I should've said that right off the bat. I've read a lot of comparable series and your novels really have a complexity and uniqueness that really enraptured me from the very beginning. It's so easy to fall into formulaic paranormal storylines but you really avoided them all, which was so refreshing – thank you!
Paul
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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VickiPettersson
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Oh, thank you, Paul! It sounds like you read a lot of paranormal, so it's nice to hear. I think coming from a historical background rather than fantasy helped a lot in respect to originality.



paulgoatallen wrote:
Vicki:
LOVE your series by the way! I should've said that right off the bat. I've read a lot of comparable series and your novels really have a complexity and uniqueness that really enraptured me from the very beginning. It's so easy to fall into formulaic paranormal storylines but you really avoided them all, which was so refreshing – thank you!
Paul



Learn more about The Taste of Night, The Scent of Shadows,
and the Holidays Are Hell anthology (coming in November).

Readers are always welcome to visit and contact me at: www.vickipettersson.com
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Here's something interesting that pertains to what we were talking about: I was reading the second volume of George R.R. Martin's Dreamsongs collection and in it, he was talking about how people have debated whether certain stories were "fantasy" or "sci-fi" or "horror."

His thoughts are so perfect: "Stories of the human heart in conflict with itself transcend time, place, and setting. So long as love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice are present, it matters not a whit whether that tall, lean stranger has a proton pistol or a six-shooter in his hand. Or a sword... Fantasy? Science fiction? Horror? I say it's a story, and I say the hell with it."

How true is that?
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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Deathlynx
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Well, I think in part these are appearing more because society has lightened up slightly on pigeon-holing everything...I mean, look at music, you have plenty of performers who mix or cross genres all the time these days (Kid Rock is there perfect example of this)...

I think the reason for this trend in all forms of art is because people are begining to realize that its okay for someone to have more interests than a single narrowly defined genre...So I've always liked Sci-fi and Fantasy (which have long been connected) but also historical fiction/alternate history...I like an element of erotica...and suspence or conspiracy theory usually keeps me on the edge of my seat...Begin to mix and match these aspects and you end up with a complex and interesting story...

I think in the end that's what it's all about, the characters and the story...the more elements you include, the more interesting and original it all becomes...
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Vampyre
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

There are all kinds of mixed genera works out there. I'll use movies as examples though because it's easier for me but the same applies to books.

My first example is the alien series of movies. They are often classed as sci fi but in reality they aren't. Alien is a pure horror story that uses a sci fi setting. The same basic story could be told(and has been) set any place or any where in time.


My other example is Firefly. It was an outstanding mix of the future with a rustic cowboy/western theme. It was a wonderful mix of space ships, laser guns, horses and six shooters. A future where the USA and China were the two surviving super powers that joined together to colonize another solar system. Everyone pretty much spoke Chinese and English while eating with chop sticks and drinking out of old tin cups.

There is a similar trends in Urban Fantasy.
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Vampyre and Deathlynx:

You're both absolutely right – excellent posts. I think it's also a win-win for publishers as well when they run across a really good mixed genre novel – it's such a crazily competitive industry and if one novel can attract readers who enjoy elements from two, three or four different genres, that novel has that much more chance at succeeding.

I go back to that George R.R. Martin quote – when it comes right down to it, the only thing that really matters is whether it's an entertaining book or not...

A perfect example of genre-blending is Stephen King's Gunslinger sequence. Man, how many genre elements are in that? FANTASY, HORROR, WESTERN, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, SF, APOCALYPTIC FICTION, wasn't there cooking recipes and a travel guide to Thailand in there too?

Goat
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CelticCoaltion
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

I think publishers are finally realizing that readers aren't the morons they first thought. I have a suspicion that they used to think that people would be too confused if stories contained too many genres. Perhaps they also didn't know how to market these novels to the public.

However, just like any form of media, once one author breaks new ground, other authors are picked up and simply compared to the previous one. We call these authors urban fantasy, or sci-fi western. But really marketing just say, if you like author A, try author B.

Stephen King once compared his dark tower series, which crosses tons of genres, to stew. He said something along the lines of why eat soup when you can have stew? I think this was in his book "On Writing", but I'm not sure.

I think it opens up authors to be freer and truer to the stories. They don't have to worry about forcing their story into a specific niche.
Sean
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Vampyre
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Thanks, I had more to say, but I was at work and it was time to go home so I had to rush it.

The Gun Slinger/Dark Tower series is an excellent example of genre Trancendency. I waited until it was concluded before I started reading it though. I wanted to make sure he was able to finish it. :smileyhappy:


One thing any famous author, actor, director or other creative person has to deal with is type casting. It seems the world isn't happy until everyone and everything is in it's own little box. I love seeing these people do the unexpected and break out of those boxes.

When ever the opportunity comes up, I will ask someone if they ever read Stephen King or watch any of the movies based on his books. I often hear, "Oh no, his stuff is too scary or bloody."

Then I'll ask them if they ever saw "Stand By Me" or "The Shawshank Redemption"? Many will say yes and that they liked those movies. They had no idea SK wrote them. I am trying to show them that just because someone is labeled a certain way doesn't mean that person is limited to just that one thing.

I feel any creative person/artist worth their salt, should be able to mix and match genres anyway they like. In the end, they should just be known as a writer, director, actor and so on. Even that can be limiting because any of these people do more than one thing. Many actors have also directed, written or even produced movies as well as act.

When these labels are ignored, amazing things are done. Robin Williams was best known as a wacky stand up comedian. He was/is one of the funniest people ever. He is now known for playing some of the creepiest characters in several movies. Nothing funny about them either.

I think I need to stop now. I am drifting off topic from genre to type casting and labeling
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

[ Edited ]
Many years ago (early 90's), I took a children's writing class in college. My story's main character was a young girl, an orphan. The class - and teacher - hated the fact that she was an orphan. They said I had to change it, that an orphan was too dark to be the main character of a children's book.
Harry Potter, anyone?
I took that class for credit, so I sorta bent over backwards to please 'em. My bad.
I think sometimes people decide to categorize something as a particular genre or as something that can either be done or not be done based not on whether it is good or not, but on the fact that it gives them a sense of power to be the ones deciding how to categorize that particular something.
So, whether it's a witch bounty hunter, a heroine on the side of the Light or an orphan as the main character in a children's book, it can be done.
And then you have a true original piece of art.

Message Edited by klavim on 08-21-2007 12:53 PM
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Klavim:
You're preaching to the choir, my friend!
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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klavim
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution



paulgoatallen wrote:
Klavim:
You're preaching to the choir, my friend!



Amen. :smileywink:
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Thewhitewave
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Actually this idea is a very interesting one to anyone like myself who is trying to become a published writer in the UK.

You in the USA are SO many miles ahead of us that it really makes me VERY depressed!

Here in the UK our publishing execs are still largely stuck in the era of strict genre's and treat with great suspicion anything which transcends them...

This is probably one of the major reasons why I have yet to secure a publishing deal. Everything I write crosses boundaries in one way or another. It's a kind of mental addiction that I have. I love stories that set off in one direction, style and mode only to do a neat 90 degree turn somewhere along the line and develop in an entirely unanticipated way.

Sometimes I wonder if I should move to the US as sadly my fellow Brits seem to be rather narrow minded/traditional in this respect.

Those of you fortunate enough to live across the pond should thank your lucky stars that your publishers ares so enlightened and forward thinking.
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Jeaniene_Frost
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

"Stories of the human heart in conflict with itself transcend time, place, and setting. So long as love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice are present, it matters not a whit whether that tall, lean stranger has a proton pistol or a six-shooter in his hand. Or a sword... Fantasy? Science fiction? Horror? I say it's a story, and I say the hell with it."



Paul, that quote is a total keeper. The stories are SO much more important than the labels.
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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Genre Transcendent Revolution

Jeaniene:
I couldn't agree more – I love that quote.
Paul
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky