Reality Hack – Still Not Sure About the Genre

So, Reality Hack is due out on the 4th of July and I’m still not sure which genre it sits in. I hate genre classifications and it’s always been clear to me that those responsible for such classifications know not what they are talking about. Please allow me to vent…

If I go to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, and I go looking for a science -fiction movie, I am going to find myself looking at a load of fantasy, some horror, quite a bit of romance that has a vague hint of sci-fi about it. (Well, with Netflix’s idea of classification, looking for a sci-fi movie is an exercise in frustration anyway, but the general idea is the same.) These companies classify everything with any form of fantastic basis as the same genre. I can’t help but wonder whether this general lack of clarity bothers other people as much as it does me? I mean, if they have to split things into groups, could they not do the job properly?

Meanwhile, the book publishers are worse. They want their books classified into increasingly narrow bands of genre, but they haven’t a clue what the genres mean. The Game of Thrones books are not science fiction. Twilight is not science fiction, but of course that august work more or less defined a genre which spawned from some publisher’s desire to corner a market, the ‘Young Adult’ genre. (I believe that YA actually stands for ‘Youthful Angst,’ but that may be just me.)

The genres they create usually don’t work for real books. You take the series I’ve been reading a lot of recently, J.D. Robb’s In Death books. These are police procedurals, set in a high-sci-fi near-future, with a fairly high romance/erotic content. Well they don’t get classed as erotica, or ‘adult,’ but they do get a load of other categories lumped on them. The aforementioned Game of Thrones: is that political thriller or grim, ultra-low fantasy?

So, I’m having difficulty with Reality Hack. It’s clearly urban/contemporary fantasy, being to do with magic and the supernatural in a modern setting, but I’m inclined to avoid that area since there’s no romance involving vampires. It has some distinct horror elements (and if it gets a sequel there will be more of that). The actual setting has some heavy science fiction elements to it as one might expect of a book called Reality Hack. There is romance and sex, yes, but there’s also some twisted psychology, and drama, and questions about the nature of reality, and I have to pick a couple of narrow slots to drop this complex tin of worms into.

Don’t get me wrong: without those tight little boxes I doubt anyone would have noticed Steel Beneath the Skin and most of you would not be reading this blog. It’s just that around the time when I have to decide what box to put a book in, I sort of long for the time when it was just ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction.’

13 responses to “Reality Hack – Still Not Sure About the Genre

  1. So which (defensible) classification would get to the biggest potential audience? Can you justify that approach? After all, you can, I think, reasonably assume that a high proportion of those who’ve already discovered that they enjoy your work will buy it anyway…

    • Have to agree with this; and if you can I’d put it in however many categories you can justify. Spread that net as wide as you can.

      • Much as I would love to, both Amazon and Smashwords limit you to two genre categories. You do also get keywords, and they could be helpful if someone were to search for something. Most people trying to find a new book go for a category they like and they will then see either the newest additions to that category or the best sellers. By default with Amazon it’s the latter, and with Smashwords it’s the former.

  2. Yes, but if everything was just classed as fiction / non-fiction then your books would technically be lumped in with [I]Catcher In The Rye[/i], still the most abysmal book ever written in the English language.

  3. It often drives me distraction in the dvd store looking for a tv series which is obviously SF but gets lumped in the drama or comedy sections instead. SF has always had sub-genres. You have your space operas, SF westerns, SF comedies, Steampunk and a bunch of others…Of course mainstreamers just don’t get SF at all. Rather watch their sports shows.

  4. As i use amazon for 100% of my books I can say their website needs a HUGE overhaul. I would kill for a “Non-YA” option when looking for books.

    It sounds like your book is mostly UF, but atm that a huge bloated category on amazon. If it is at least half cyberpunkish Sci-fy might be a better category for selling purposes. Maybe Fantasy and Sci-fi?

  5. It sounds mostly like Urban Fantasy to me (I might be slightly biased since I read a lot of UF these days). After all, dresden files doesn’t have vampire sex (although was based on a series that did) and going way back the mercedes lackey UF books didn’t either.

    I mean, yeah, classifying books is hard given the categories but I think these days “sci-fi” is most commonly associated with far future and spaceships.

    You know, I’ve been told all my life that Frankenstein was “the first” Science Fiction novel but it seems like the same story today would be pretty firmly in the urban fantasy genre. I wonder what exactly the difference is?

    I guess I’d define “fiction” as any untrue story where with the same rules of reality as our own, urban fantasy as modern day fiction with some rules of reality changed and sci fi as far future fiction with some rules changed.

    Keep in mind that the point of genres isn’t really to hide a story away some place, it’s not like anything marked as UF gets locked in a box and expelled from the libraries, it’s to make it easier to describe to other people what you’re looking for.

    • There’s plenty of sci-fi which is set in the present. Any of the alien invasion genre are sci-fi in a contemporary setting.

      Sci-fi and fantasy both feature “fantastic” things. Fans of science fiction like to gloss the fantastic stuff by saying that it has a scientific basis, but it really is just gloss. Hard sci-fi, which sticks to what we know of the rules of physics, tends to be futuristic, but if you’re going with more fantastic science then you don’t need it to be in the future. Really, the difference between fantasy and space opera is attitude rather than content. If you explain your magic by saying it’s “psionic powers” then you’re writing sci-fi (but it’s still just magic).

      • Yeah definitely, I think that’s partly what I was trying to get at with my definitions.

        To me the definition has become not so much about the manner or the amount of the “fantastic” elements but rather *when* the story is set. UF = now, sci-fi = soon, fantasy = then.

        I mean, obviously this is all incredibly subjective, it’s not like there’s a sane way to objectively categorize this stuff, it’s almost as bad as trying to classify music genres (beatles, elvis, queen, aerosmith are all the same genre, really?)

        So I mean, I guess the point is, you should use whatever classification other, similar books have, because people have been trained to expect that.

        A phrase just occurred to me that I quite like:

        Orks with broadswords vs Orks with glocks vs Orks with rayguns =]

    • Huh, yeah… Warhammer anyone?

  6. Laurell K. Hamilton has commented from time to time on the cross-genre issue. She broke barriers over two decades ago with her Anita Blake series and says that the first manuscript was turned down by several publishers, simply because they didn’t know how to classify it. Paranormal? Mystery? Police procedural? Romance? The answer is all of the above, but most of all, just a Damn Good Read! They let pointless technicalities get in the way of the story. Heh, egg on their face.
    For what it’s worth, my advice would be to release all these different series you have in the works in slightly different genre categories. Aneka’s definitely sci-fi romance/erotica/sexy-as-hell, (if that’s not a genre, it should be!) Thaumatology is paranormal romance, Ultrahuman is superhero romance, Reality Hack is urban fantasy, etc. That way you spread your name around, and someone who finds Kate during an Amazon search off in one genre will come to discover all the rest.
    You keep writing and I’ll keep reading … and buying. Producing a superior product that folks look forward to buying, that’s the ticket to success in any field – except perhaps politics.
    I eagerly await the continuing adventures of old friends and to all the new worlds yet to be discovered.

  7. I really think they should start splitting the categorization up. “SF” is not a genre, it is a setting. Same goes for “Contemporary”, “Fantasy”, “Science Fantasy”, “Steam/Diesel Punk” and “Historic”. Genres are “Police procedural”, “Paranormal”, “Romance”, “Coming of Age”, “Space Opera”, “Horror”…

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