Thursday, November 30, 2006

Naming Names

The question of authors that inspire you came up on fangs, fur & fey and I thought my response might be interesting to people here.

William Gibson, and the all the various and sundry spawn of his “Movement” cyberpunk – I think everything I write is tainted by my first real sub-genre love affair. My fascination with Gibsonesque dystopias clearly imbues my gritty urban settings (because Madison, Wisconsin is the epitome of dark, urban grittiness… okay, maybe I was thinking of Other Me.) But, I think a case could be made that even in Tall, Dark and Dead, one can see the swirls of cyberpunk fingerprints smudging the edges of my worldview. There are a lot of punks in my writing – people who are a bit outside of the system. Plus, my vamps aren’t of the fluffy variety, they tend to fall on the darker side.

Katherine Kurtz – A major teen influence. I read every book of hers I could find and then spent hours writing fan fic and fantasizing that I was Alaric Morgan (among others.)

Eleanor Arnason – The first professional writer I ever met was Eleanor Arnason. I’d seen her speak at various science fiction conventions previously, but we bonded at a membership meeting for the National Writers Union over being both speculative fiction writers and writers of fiction (both rarities). She was the first person who made me think that it was possible for real people to become published authors.

Sandra Hill – The first funny romance I read was her Last Viking, a book that changed my mind about the romance genre in general.

Then in no order in particular: Fredrick Pohl, in particular, his novel Gateway. Star War the movie for me, but also the Han Solo books, particularly Han Solo’s Revenge. Ray Bradbury, George Alec Effinger, the Thieves’ World books, School House Rock, Sesame Street (especially the lovable, furry Grover), John Milton, X-Files, Marvel Comics and probably dozens of others that I’ve forgotten.

Who inspires you?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bragging from Other Me

Other Me insisted I share the cover from the Japanese edition of Archangel Protocol (Hayakawa Publishing, Inc.)

And, in doing so, I am reminded of a question that a student of mine asked last night. It was the lecture I like to call in my head the depressing reality of publishing money. With horror in her eyes, my student asked: “How do writers make a living?”

My answer was simply -- they don’t.

Most writers that I know have full or part-time jobs. A surprising number of us in Wyrdsmiths are living as writers, but majority of those are actually stay-at-home parents who are trying to make ends meet on the salary of our spouse (or spousal equivalent).

I can't speak for the others, but my ends don’t always meet.

Writing money – even after five published novels – is what I refer to as my “latte money.” It’s extra, not really even enough to count as supplemental. I teach to make more money, and I write the occasional bit of nonfiction to make more money. But none of it really adds up to a living wage.

This could depress me deeply, but I knew when I started trying to do this professionally that I’d never make a living writing and that only one percent of all writers really make major money from their writing. Writing is something you have to do because you can’t not do it or because if fulfills some deep inner need (or, if you’re a weirdo like me, it brings you enough happiness that the rest doesn’t matter.)

Writing doesn’t help me make a living, but writing makes living worthwhile.

Sappy, but, for me, true.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Difference between Urban, Dark and Contemporary Fantasy

There’s a discussion going on fur, fey and fangs about what the difference is between the categories above. I realized in replying to someone else’s post that I don’t really have a good sense of what separates urban fantasy, for instance, from dark fantasy.

Urban fantasy, as I understand it, ought to take place in a city. It was postulated that the moniker “urban fantasy” also promises grittiness. One commenter suggested that it implied stronger language, which I found kind of fascinating. Urban fantasy is going to give you f-word uttering, urban-dwelling faeries in leather, apparently. It’s also going to take place in the modern world with modern sensibilities. Urban fantasy is *not* going to involve castles and knights, unless somehow they’ve been transported to today. Urban fantasy may or may not include vampires in its metahuman denizens.

Dark fantasy, then, can happen at any time in (meta)human history. It most certainly includes vampires, because, as was pointed out by someone the “dark” part is really just a stand-in for the word “horror,” in a lot of ways. Dark fantasy is a story with fantastical elements that gets ugly, in the horror sense. There’s going to be blood spilled in dark fantasy, probably lots of it.

Contemporary fantasy takes place in the now, has a modern sensibility, includes any number of metahuman creatures, including vampires, but is usually more light-hearted in tone than any of the above. It can take place on a farm or a city, and isn’t necessarily “gritty.” My books probably fall into this category most strongly, though because of the strong romantic content, my books are labeled “contemporary romance” or “paranormal romance.”

Paranormal romances, of course, can take place in any time, in any place and are only distinguished from other romances by the fact that the heroine or the hero are metahuman. Most of paranormal romances, however, I think don’t tend to be particularly gritty or dark, though there are probably exceptions to this… as there are to all the “rules” I’ve tried to outline above.

I think that most fans of one of these categories will read all of them, although I found it fascinating that there were a lot of people on fur, fey and fangs who came down strongly in one camp or the other. I suppose if you prefer dark and gritty, silly romantic paranormal isn’t going to jive -- I myself, personally, read according to mood. I tend to prefer to dark, but silly can be a lot of fun when I’m in the mood for it. I tend to enjoy humor, even gallows’ humor, in everything I read.

What about you? Any preferences or quibbles with my definitions?