Guest Blog: Margaret Weis

Like many speculative fiction readers of my generation, I fell in love with the fantasy genre at the age of 12 when I first read Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The rest, as they say, is history!

Her latest SFF novel was Shadow Raiders (Canada, USA, Europe) and it was published last year. This is her first ever blog post and I'm pleased that it's happening on the Hotlist!

For more information about the author, check out her official website.



I really want to write a western.

Many years ago, for a YA nonfiction book Frank and Jesse James, I researched the border wars between Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War. I grew up in that area and the period fascinates me. I occasionally dream about writing a novel about William Clark Quantrill and those who rode with him: Frank and Jesse James, Cole Younger and his brothers, Bloody Bill Anderson.

Okay, I'm exaggerating in the title. My agent is a wonderful person and I know she'd do her damndest to sell a western for me. But I realize it would be easier to sell if Jesse James toted a magical six-shooter and he was helping the cattle ranchers get rid of a dragon holed up in the hills north of Abilene.

And if by some miracle the book did get published, my fans probably couldn't find it because the bookstores would shelve it under westerns, which is generally a bit of hike from the fantasy aisles.

My daughter and I wrote two paranormal romance novels. Some bookstore managers shelved them under my name, which is in the fantasy section, so the romance readers missed them. Others placed the novels in the romance aisle, which was fine, except that now the fantasy fans had no clue they were out there.

And I've had fans who have no idea I've written anything else besides Dragonlance, because they are shelved in the Dragonlance section, which is subsection of the fantasy section, which is a subsection of the fiction section.

I remember the bookstore of my childhood. It was in downtown Kansas City, the only bookstore downtown. The store was called "Time to Read" and it featured pornographic magazines in the front of the store. In the back of the store was a wonderful fiction section. The only category was Fiction. The authors were arranged in alphabetical order. There was Dumas with Doyle--D'artagnan and Sherlock Holmes. Asimov with Alcott--robots and Little Women. Steinbeck and Stout--George and Lennie, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. A wonderful feast of different books to tempt the reader to try something of everything.

I understand why bookstores have all these categories. They're making it easy for the fans to go straight to their section where they know they're going to find books they like. But in that process, think of all they are missing!

I wonder what would happen today if bookstores got rid of the categories. Jumble all the fiction together like that old bookstore of the sixties--a fantasy novel next to a western, a horror novel on the shelf below, a romance novel on a shelf above and maybe Hamlet in between. Encourage the reader to browse through the wonders of fiction of every genre.

Don't get me wrong. I love writing fantasy novels. And I’m not worried about those who look down their literary noses at genre writers. (Which included my own mother, who was very proud of my work, but always wanted me to be the next Katherine Ann Porter.) I've heard authors debate that by segregating books into genres, we are encouraging that sort of snobbery. But don't we do that even among ourselves. Who among us hasn't faintly sneered as we hurried past the romance aisle?

I had fun writing those romance novels and maybe I will write that western someday. Now I think of it, Jesse James and dragons is an interesting idea.

I wonder where the bookstores would shelve it.

5 commentaires:

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Write it and self-publish! That's one of the great things about the ebook revolution, your book doesn't have to fit into some predefined mold. At a minimum, you'll have a great time writing it, and if your fans love it you'll make a nice bit of coin as sell.

Roger Mulet said...

I didn't expect to find a blog entry written by Margaret in this blog, but life has unexpected turns. It is true that some fans don't even know that their favourite authors have published other books outside their typical genre. Sometimes, it is worse: some fans even get ANGRY when their favourite authors don't write what they are anxiously expecting.

Sam X said...

I believe Kickstarter was invented for this very problem.

Mike said...

Awesome. Really enjoyed reading that. :-)

Unknown said...

I like your idea about jumbled book shelves! Or what if books stores gave a 10-30% off voucher for a genre other than what the customer purchased? So if you bought a fantasy novel, maybe they'd give you 20% off on historical fiction, or a mystery novels.