discussions genre stuff

Genre Diversity

A few months ago I wrote a post about the fetish that bloggers have for frontlist titles – those books about to be released, the hot new things.

I’m increasingly discovering that there is something resembling a backlist movement. This is what the internet should be used for – not to prop up the titles that get decent amounts of marketing spend on them (mine included) but exploring niches and discovering range.

Admittedly, when you’re seduced by ARCs and free reads, it’s difficult to keep splashing out on older stuff, but supporting the full genetic breadth of science fiction and fantasy is healthy, broadens our horizons, and gives airtime to writers who probably never received a big advertising campaign – and whose books risk dying out of bookstores (though possibly being preserved in digital format).

Bloggers: more of these sorts of things, please.

In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest reviewing titles from the small indie presses once in a while – there, you’re really helping make a difference. You’ll help preserve genre diversity.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

66 replies on “Genre Diversity”

No, I don’t think we would do anything differently – would it be us if we did? We started talking about new books and old books (in fact three months in, we did a Western Appreciation Week reviewing old Western movies for example) just like we do today and there were hundreds of blogs talking frontlist back then as well (please bear in mind, that I am talking ALL sorts of blogs here, not only Fantasy ones – YA, Romance, UF).

The fact that you’re sticking to your guns means you’ve passed the test. 🙂 Or that was what Sam was on about – as in, you’re being honest to yourselves. Besides, if you’ve always given an airing to backlist, then you’re someone who is both having cake and eating it.

Mark: I think smalls presses can compete, but it depends largely on how they go about advertising and acquiring reviews, which genres they deal with, and what kind of business/publication model they have. I think any press that tries to run a very standard publication model (print only, hardback and trade) will have issues, even in SF/F. They need to diversify.

That and they need to diversify when it comes to review copies. Small presses have the luxury of being able to tap into niche online markets of tech-savvy people. eARCs are, I think, a must in the present climate.

But, otherwise, I think you’re right in some sense. While the economy did hit the big publishers fairly hard, it was likely far more devastating for the smaller presses using older models and so on.

But I’m just babbling and probably spouting nonsense.

As a reader only, I prefer the blogs that incorporate the backlists of the SFF world. My mom handed me The Hobbit when I was 7 years old and I never looked back. She jokingly bemoaned the price keeping me with books through my childhood, but never once truly begrudged it. Perhaps, that’s why I still can’t forgive the garage sale she had my freshman year at college. Thousands of books went out the door for 5 or 10 cents. It’s only through reading Jo Walton on Tor that I’ve come to remember the joy of discovering Tea With the Black Dragon or King of Morning, Queen of Day.

In some 9 years of review writing I’ve never once been offered a copy of a backlist book by the publishers of a deceased author, or by his or her estate. This means discovery is up to me, which means trawling the second-hand bookshops for those hidden gems.

Even then it’s only the known classics that tend to come to my attention. I’ve covered a couple of collections by A. E. van Vogt, for instance, but that’s about as obscure as my coverage of 20th century fiction gets. It’s hard to be diverse when some of these authors are starting to be lost to history.

This is an interesting topic..and one I tried on my blog 18 months ago. I didn’t really commit to it very well the first time, so I just wrote up a long post describing my “blog challenge” and will make a better attempt this time around. For at least the next couple of months, I’ll plan to read exclusively older or small press fantasy. Though it will be limited to the epic fantasy genre. So I guess I am only embracing half of the challenge of your post, Mark.

Hm, I try to do this at the moment, I believe. Only a few of my reviews are new releases, some I make an effort to cover as essential – well, some books you just _have_ to read – and some are just older titles that I pick up. I’m not really that concerned about hits, but a lot of those I do get come from people looking for reviews of older books.

My favourite genre is traditional fantasy, but since I run a science fiction and fantasy blog, I make an effort to review books outside that as often as I can. So I’ll mix in some SF, steampunk, urban fantasy, newer works and classics. It’s not a perfect mix, but I try not to forget the roots of the genre.

I think you’re being a bit narrow in your interpretation of new SFF. While some authors like Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson get a push when their new books come out (subsequently pushing their backlist as well), others don’t. While I’ve seen Mary Robinette Kowal (author of Shades of Milk and Honey) do several interviews, I’ve not seen much of Anthony Huso, who’s debut The Last Page, is from the same publisher. Have you heard of M. K. Hobson’s Native Star? K. A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details? Ian Gibson’s Stuff of Legends? How about Human Disguise by James O’Neal? These are all authors who debuted in the last month or so.

Not to mention all the midlist authors who get lost in the shuffle (Violette Malan, Carol Berg, Mark L. Van Name and too many others to mention). I do a list of debut authors 2 or 3 times a year to make readers aware of some of the new blood in the genre, but there’s too much to cover if you want to be a conscientious blogger.

But you’re right, focusing exclusively on the hits isn’t good for the genre, or good for blogs.

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