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What is “genre-enough”? January 28, 2009

Posted by Lee in Angry Robot, Submissions.
9 comments

spacesquids1I stated in my previous post (“So, Uhhhh…  Hi”, below) that we had recently rejected some manuscripts that were not “genre enough”, and received a question back “what does the angry robot think is ‘genre enough’?”.

A thoroughly deserving question.

There are many criteria we use when deciding whether a book is suitable for Angry Robot (a major one being, of course: did we enjoy reading it? – it’s often such a subjective game). The question of whether a book is “genre enough” is an important one.

I can’t go into details about the rejected books themselves, as the authors will still be seeking suitable publishers, so I’ll talk in general terms.

Let’s look at the Bond movies. They’re usually reviewed in SF magazines and forums as they tend to contain gadgets that don’t exist, yet – an invisible car, a jet-pack that actually works, etc. There is an argument to say that these are science fiction films. I’d argue against that, and say that while they contain future-technology, the films are straighforward spy thrillers/action movies. The SF elements don’t actually matter to the plot – they’re just there to make the viewer think they’re watching something cool. Remove the invisible car or remote-control helicopter, and the film is still intact.

If you can remove the genre element without harming the flow of the narrative, it’s probably not genre enough.

For a book to be considered suitable it must not only wear its genre credentials on its sleeve, but probably on its underwear, too. It may even be tattooed on its buttock.

If your main character happens to live in a haunted house, and enjoys regular conversations with the ghost that’s based there, that’s a supernatual element. However, if the ghostly conversations add nothing to the plot (eg. if the ghost could be switched with a mundane, human flatmate, or simply removed completely without disrupting the plot), then the story is not genre enough. The fantastical elements of the story must not simply be a painted canvas against which the rest of the story takes place, they must be integral and vital to the tale being told.

Similarly, if your book is about the break-up of a long-term relationship, and your protagonist just happens to be a werewolf, that’s probably not enough to make it “genre enough”. Why is it important that he’s a werewolf (it’s important to him, obviously)? Is is lupine nature critical to the story being told, or is it merely a detail added to make the character more interesting?

The other answer, of course, is similar to the classic response to the question “what is science fiction?”

What is genre enough? We can’t give you a 100% complete answer, but we know it when we see it.

Learning from the greats January 28, 2009

Posted by Marco in Books, Writers.
1 comment so far

sfsignal-biglogo001Every so often I have the massive honour of being asked to contribute to one of SF Signal’s Mind Melds, wherein the august genre news site gathers the great and the good, and some lowly publisher types too, to offer opinions on a particular topic. Being far more of a backroom boy these days, it was a major shock to find myself amongst some of my idols in this week’s Mind Meld, on the topic of the best writing advice one ever received. Robert Silverberg, Gene Wolfe, Walter Jon Williams… oh wow, I am definitely not worthy!

Check out their sage words if you have any intention of becoming, or any experience of being, a writer.

So, uhhhh… Hi. January 26, 2009

Posted by Lee in Uncategorized.
2 comments

Well, I’ve been an angry robot for 3 weeks, now, and this is my first post (expect a lot more in future). I meant to post a “Hi, I’m Lee” message a couple of weeks ago, but things have been extraordinarily busy over the last few weeks.

It already feels like I’ve been here for months, but in a good way. Setting up a new publishing division was always going to be hard work. Luckily, Marco has been beavering away behind the scenes for the last few months, so I was able to walk into a role that straight away had plenty of work for me. Also, of course, as part of Harper Collins we have many back-end systems in place so we don’t need to invent everything from scratch.

I’ve been diligently working my way through the substantial submissions pile, and I’ve been struck by how high the overall quality of the writing is. There are very few novels rejected because the quality of writing isn’t good enough (though, inevitably there are some). Many of our rejections are due to the fact that the manuscripts (or proposals) just aren’t quite what we’re looking for. Indeed, two of the novels that we had to reject (for not being genre-enough) are of such high quality that I’ll be actively looking out for them when they do find a publisher, and buying a copy for myself.

It’s a sobering thought to think that sometimes, being excellent just isn’t enough.

Writes itself January 16, 2009

Posted by Marco in Robots at large.
1 comment so far

robojellyMeditate on this for a while: classy new film of some robot jellyfish. Oh yes.

{Ta to Mr Stirling, via, ulp, Sexy Robot Videos.}

THE best stuff of 2008, and no arguing now January 5, 2009

Posted by Marco in Angry Robot Media.
2 comments

robot-new-yearWell, another year over, and a new one just begun. (Hmm, sounds familiar…) So I poked our Lee and our Chris to get me a Top Cool Things of 2008 list or three, and rattled one off of my own. Then I flung them together with some pictures off the interweb. As you’ll see, we all took somewhat different approaches to this one. Anyway here they all are. Sorry. (more…)