Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beyond genre ... and big-box stores

One consequence of writing SF for a living is immersion in the genre: writing it; reading it (both for fun and, well, consider it competitive research), viewing it, attending SF conventions, and comparing notes with fellow authors. When I'm not involved with SF, most likely I'm deep into science -- and that's often research for fiction I'm writing or planning to write.

It's good for me to remember, from time to time, the 90-plus percent of the population whose days aren't spent immersed in science or the SF genre.

Beautiful outside ...
Last week I took part in Authors Forum, an annual event at the Handley Library (Winchester, Virginia), the lead facility of the local regional library system.

(This is, by the way, a drop-dead gorgeous building, designed in the Beaux Art style -- see photos at left. The library -- built with an endowment from Judge John Handley, an out-of-state patron/fan of the town -- this year celebrated its 100th anniversary. If you happen to know the Robert Preston / Shirley Jones (1962) version of The Music Man, the "Marion the Librarian" song-and-dance scene might have been (but wasn't) filmed in the Handley Library.)

and in.
I shared the Authors Forum stage with a memoirist, the author of the library's own centennial history, and an author of Civil War histories and novels. Not a genre crowd (or, rather, it was a history-genre crowd). But that's okay -- I enjoyed presenting to, and after the formal program, chatting with, folks not steeped in science and standard SF tropes. If in the process I moved anyone to consider reading outside his/her comfort zone, that would be a Good Thing.

Beautiful, I tell you.

When my turn came, I spoke about Energized, my latest (solo) novel. Beyond being a near future thriller about the worst energy crisis ever, Energized offers international intrigue, resources from space being used to solve problems on Earth -- and (when not on Earth's newest moon, or elsewhere in Earth orbit) many scenes set across the greater VA/DC/MD/WV region.

A couple people said (I'm paraphrasing) that they aren't able to read material that's "so technical." My stock answer to such comments is that they're selling themselves (and me) short. Themselves, that they can't experience new material. (And me, that I don't clearly present the tech background of the story.)

Authors Forum being a community activity, I was invited to promote the  event via TV-3, our local ABC TV affiliate. Alas -- December 2013 update -- TV-3 recently folded, and their website is gone. Bye-bye, streaming interview.

New topic ...

The holidays are again almost upon us, and this year, Hanukkah is freakishly early. Only once, in 1888, has the first day of Hanukkah fallen on Thanksgiving. That alignment won't recur until ... 79811! So be sure to celebrate this truly once-in-a-lifetime Thanksgivukkah.

Segue to my annual suggestion (first offered in 2010, as a variant on Small Business Saturday, in my post Buy a Book Saturday!) that you buy a book(s) for the holidays. You're a reader, after all, and -- you gotta admit -- books make great gifts.

As I posted in 2010:
Who is a smaller business than the solitary author toiling at home in his/her office, pounding away at a keyboard? So: while you're out shopping, buy a book! Or two! Support an author or two or more (and I'm not saying me, or even others in the genre -- but IMO, living authors would be nice).

If your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore doesn't stock the title you want (for older and mid-list books, that will often be the case), they will be delighted to order it for you -- I promise. Or shop your favorite etailer, or ebook store, or audio-book outlet.

Now, I'm back to interstellar conflict ...


Unknown said...

Regardless of the genre, the characters must be believable, have credibility and some must be likeable and true to their beliefs. Too many of todays novels have superficial characters and what I call cook book plots. Many heroes have unlimited assets and are always winners. The plots are transparent after 30 pages. One other fault is mixing S Fiction with S Fantasy. It is confusing and unreal making it not possible to accept the SF scenario.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Frank,

Thanks for your note, with which I concur. The conflating of science fiction with fantasy is a major pet peeve of mine.

As an author, I take guidance from Kurt Vonnegut, one of whose principles is: give the reader at least one character to root for. IMO, if there's no one whose fate I care about, why would I read a story?

- Ed

Todd said...

I remember plenty of pleasant evenings in college, reading magazines at Handley Library that I couldn't afford at the time to buy. (the more serious reading I did at the Shenandoah University library).