“It’s a dark fantasy/horror/urban fantasy/science fictiony thing…”
So, here’s something that keeps irritating me — I just haven’t gotten around to whinging about it yet.
What freaking genre am I writing in?
Early on, I always thought of There’s No Such Thing as Vampires as horror. No question, hands down, it’s horror. Right? Then someone else casually dropped the words “urban fantasy” into my delicate ears, and my brain went right off the rails.
When I responded by saying that I’d always thought of it as horror, that person made a really weird face at me. “Well, yeah, it has elements of horror, but I really think of it more as urban fantasy because [reasons]… it doesn’t really feel like it belongs in ‘horror’ to me.”
It wasn’t that I objected to the characterization, it was just astonishing to me that someone else would have such a completely different take on where the book fit. Which is odd, considering that I’m very, “Hey, it means what you want it to mean, I can’t control what the story means to you” about it all. It just never occurred to me that genre would turn out to be a problem.
I started looking up the definitions of various genres, and along the way I realized that it also seemed like “dark fantasy” might be a better description. There are elements of the supernatural, too… maybe paranormal… and there’s some mystery… hmm, that one guy is definitely trying to investigate crimes…
My problems were multiplying. It gets even worse in book two, which adds a touch of science fiction to the mix.
And it only matters because the whole rest of the world makes it matter. Everyone wants books to be categorized. Sometimes you can choose two, which is slightly more helpful, but lots of places just want one, and that feels like a huge problem.
I mean, I get it. They use categories like horror and fantasy and science fiction to help readers find books they might like. Makes sense. But categories are limiting, and I think they can potentially turn away as many people as they draw in. (It would be hella-helpful if I could choose categories for things that it’s not, actually, because having it in the “It’s not like Twilight!” category would have saved me some trouble.)
“Horror” could include everything from a subtly atmospheric tale to torture porn, but if you’ve drawn an “I don’t like horror” line in the sand, you might miss out on some really cool stuff that you would actually love. Same goes for every genre. There are sub-categories, of course, but thus far, they haven’t really been helpful. Forget drilling down — we can’t agree on which major category it belongs to in the first place!
I can’t see the forest for the weeds. There are elements in book one that fit a number of genres, but most of them probably shouldn’t be used to determine THE genre. That still leaves me with the original dilemma: horror or fantasy? Or do you see it as something else entirely? What do you think?