Monday, February 4, 2008


Tim Pratt mentioned that this week's PW gave his forthcoming novel, Poison Sleep, a very positive review.

That's weird, I thought, I don't remember that book at all, and I certainly think I'd have noticed it.

Some investigation revealed that as the book is a mass market release, it was reviewed in our mass market section. While flipping through the magazine, I noticed that Barth Anderson and Karen Joy Fowler--both of whom I think of as speculative fiction authors--had books reviewed in the main fiction section this week. So why are they there, and not keeping company with Tim Powers, John Kessel, Peter F. Hamilton, Christopher Golden, and Kate Elliot in the SF/fantasy/horror section?

The answer is a bit complicated, because genre lines are blurry things and we also have to give a nod to publishers' preferences. If Anderson's book had been published under Bantam's Spectra imprint, it would have come to me. It was published under their main imprint, so it went to the fiction editors instead. Anderson's novel seems to have speculative elements, but the review describes it first and foremost as an "offbeat thriller"; thrillers are grouped with mainstream fiction. It's not clear from the review of Fowler's book whether there are any speculative aspects to it at all, though "the line between fiction and reality blurs" hints at the sort of metatextuality that characterizes, say, Jasper Fforde's work... which isn't considered speculative fiction either.

As for mass market vs. trade, there's been some very casual talk of reorganizing our sections so that mass market originals are covered side by side with trade paperback and cloth originals. I'm personally in favor of this. I'd like to see SF/F/H cover all SF/F/H, including the big names like Stephen King and Terry Pratchett who tend to wind up under fiction (by virtue of being bestsellers and therefore mainstream), as I'm firmly opposed to the ghettoization of genre fiction. I think romance should get its own section, since that's most of what gets covered under mass market, and I wouldn't argue with combining mysteries and thrillers into a single section, since there's tremendous audience overlap and the line between the two is very blurry.

Do I have any say in this? Not really! I don't think this sort of massive reorganization is likely to happen anytime soon, either. But it's nice to dream.

Incidentally, those interested in discussions of genres and subgenres may be interested in this discussion over at Jay Lake's place. There's some very interesting conversation going on there.