Monday, May 26, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 8: Favorite Genre



Today's question: What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I tend to prefer writing that roams around in the speculative fiction camp. That's also what I like to read. However, the most important thing to me about a story is that it has realistic, believable, interesting characters, and that can be done in any genre.

The term "speculative fiction" confuses some people. I don't like calling most of my work science fiction (mainly because there's really not usually much "science" in it, and people's perception seems to point toward expecting aliens, robots, and time travel when I say "science fiction"). I also don't like calling some of my work fantasy (because it's generally pretty grounded in reality and usually in modern times with a twist, and people's perception seems to point toward expecting magic, dragons, wizards, elves, and epic quests to "get all the crystal shards or save the world or fulfill a PROPHECY").

I use "speculative fiction" because that's what it is. It's fiction with some speculation thrown in. What if this one thing was different? I tweak that one thing--or a set of things--and then let things play out from there. "Speculative fiction" encompasses nearly any situation that couldn't or didn't happen in our reality. Even alternate history stories can be "speculative fiction," which is cool.

An example: I tweaked the attributes of the usual human being by having a pair of ordinary parents give birth to a daughter with superpowers (in my webcomic Negative One, of course), and suddenly I've got a whole story; how do parents raise a baby who's more powerful than they are? How do they feel about her? How do they discipline her, feed her, protect her? How is her mind and her body developing differently because of this one twist? Who gets to know about the situation and what do they do about it? There's not much of an overarching plot there except that it's one extraordinary family trying to muddle their way through ordinary life. I find that sort of thing fascinating, and I tend to deal with the ordinary lives of extraordinary people.

My most traditional fantasy is Bad Fairy, because it does involve enchanted characters (fairies), magic, and a more typically "fantasy" setting (indeterminate pre-industrial past under a nebulous feudal ruler). That wasn't really my choice, though; deciding to do the fairy tale retelling the way I did required me to keep it in that setting. It's still pretty different from typical fantasy--I don't read much high fantasy or epic fantasy, and everything I write is personal and mostly microcosmic. I focus on the inner workings of characters' motivations, emotions, desires, and thoughts. I love doing this in a fantasy setting because I can take people where no one has ever been, but keep the experience relatable by grounding it in realistic portrayals of human experience (even with non-human characters!). The books I love reading the most take me to those places too, even if they are realistic contemporary fiction. 

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