Saturday, March 26, 2011

Robert Roman - "Subgenres and Special Interest Fiction"

Special Interest Fiction Tags
Today I'm blogging about a topic that's near and dear to my heart.  Ok, not really, but it is on my mind a lot.  I'm talking about genre labels.  Those of you who follow me around…  You're out there, right?  You're not just figments of my overactive imagination?  No?  Right.  Good.  Moving on.   You fans know that a while back I did a blog post about genres, because my books tend to straddle two or more. 
Today I'm thinking more about the tags that get slapped on to clarify the genre label.  Quite often, they're considered genres of their very own, although the definitions of those genres are even less firm than those of the 'normal' fiction genres.  I'm talking about things like LGBT, Women's, Interracial, Black, Hispanic, Multicultural, or Military.
I understand completely why they exist.  If someone is in a special interest group (sorry if the term offends, I'm not intending to), they might want to read a book that appeals to them based on that special interest group membership.  If someone is looking for some particular aspect to the fiction they're reading, maybe because they just had someone added to their life who belongs to the special interest group, it helps them find it.  Makes perfect sense.  I can even see where the core of each of them is.  For example, a book which explores the problems a couple has because one of them is Black and another is Asian is pretty clearly Interracial Fiction.  If both of them are men, and they deal with the problems of being gay as well, it's also LGBT Fiction.  If one of them is a CPO and the other is a Master Sergeant, you can pretty clearly see the Military Fiction angle.
Now, at this point the debate is 'is it Interracial, LGBT, or Military Fiction'?  No matter which one you place it in, the other tags pretty well apply too.  However, if the core of the story is how these two guys fight Space Vampires who want to take over the world, and eighty percent of the whopping big hundred fifty thousand word tome are spent slaying he immortal extraterrestrial evil, it's straddling SciFi and Fantasy.  But do the tags still apply?  You've got thirty thousand words, a solid novella, of dealing with issues.  The tags are still pretty clearly appropriate.
Now, let's assume some of that exploration of problems winds up on the cutting room floor.  There's still some of it there, but now it's just a brief nod to the fact that there is a problem.  Now you've got a book about gay military action heroes named Petty Officer Washington and Master Sergeant Ta.  They're still gay.  They're still soldiers.  They're still an interracial couple.  But now those things are window dressing.  They're not going to be treated insensitively, at least probably not, but they're not going to be explored very much.
My thought on the matter:  if you're in the service, or gay (or especially both), you probably want to see this book, or at least be made aware of it.  If you don't like Space Vampires, you probably won't read it, but if you *do* like Space Vampires, you're probably tired of the gay guys being the no-sexual-tension friend and comic relief for the butt kicking suburbanite teen aged white girl.  You want the hero to be someone, well, like you.
OF course, sometimes it backfires.  Sometimes someone who isn't familiar with genre conventions will pick up the book because it says 'Black' on the cover and say "Petty Officer Washington uses magic powers to fight the Space Vampires!  Magic Negroes are offensive to Black people!"  So you don't want to over use them, either.
So, tell me, tell me, one and all, when do you think special interest tags are appropriate, and why?
If you liked this (Hint: if you read this far, you liked it*, you hated it**, or you have a text addiction***), you can find all four of my books at www.decadentpublishing.com.  They're a mix of pulse pounding action, sweet romance and funny bone tickling comedy.  One of them has a Hispanic Cop (Road Mage).  Two of them have a half-breed Black / Jewish Female Military Engineer ("The Strange Fate of Capricious Jones" and "A Christmas Evening Vigil").  And one of them (Fae Eye for the Golem Guy) (What Not to Fear will soon make it two!) has Gay Fairy Godfathers.  And none of them were written to be Special Interest Fiction.  Even if they might be.  J
*If you liked this, you'll like them.  Trust me.  Would I lie to you?
**If you hated this, buy one of my ebooks, print it out, and burn it in effigy.  You'll feel better.  My first print release will be along soon.  Buy one of those and burn it in effigy, too.  You'll feel even better about that!
***If you have a text addiction, my books are an excellent word-count-per-dollar value!
Check out Robert Roman's work at Decadent Publishing!!!


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