Monday, September 3, 2007

On jumping genres and what that may (or may not) mean to the Gischler

If you know me and my work or have been a regular reader of this blog then you know I've written four hardboiled crime novels for Bantam Dell. And you also probably know I've recently switched gears a bit, signing on with Simon & Schuster for a couple of novels that are a bit ... different.

I was contacted by the good folks at Touchstone (the S&S imprint publishing my stuff) who said they were starting to talk about GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE in-house and getting excited about various ideas to market the book. (I even contributed a good idea myself which was fairly well-received. Stay tuned.) It was the sort of phone call an author wants to get from his/her publisher. Lots of positive enthusiasm about my work and how the team was going to spread my name hither and yon among readers of the world.

One little surprise during the conversation: Touchstone plans to market the book as Science Fiction.

Cool. I am a huge science fiction/Fantasy fan, loving such authors as Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Mike Resnick, Dave Duncan, Richard K. Morgan, John Scalzi, Lawrence Watt-Evans ... the list goes on. And a story set in a post-apocalyptic America? Sure. That's a no-brainer. Why wouldn't it go on the Science Fiction shelf of Borders and B&N? In a way, it feels cool to come full circle. I started off writing science fiction/fantasy/horror short stories, and, although I published a few things, I was really getting nowhere fast, not really hitting my stride until I penned a few things in the crime genre. So it's cool. I'm finally starting the science fiction career I always wanted, and I'm stoked about it.

And yet ...

Expectations are everything, aren't they? And I'd developed some different expectations. When we all first started talking about GO-GO, the name Christopher Moore came up a lot (I highly suggest everyone get a copy of Lamb.). I'm a huge fan of Moore's work, and while he uses a number of fantastical/supernatural elements in his work, the books are sold as mainstream. This was sort of how we were going to approach selling GO-GO. The science fiction elements in the book are strong, but I think the satirical elements are dominant. But Touchstone saw opportunities to reach a science fiction audience, and I very much support any campaign that gets my work to the readers who will appreciate it the most.

Kurt Vonnegut (another book-writing hero of mine) said he wanted to stay out of the science fiction file drawer because critics too often mistook this drawer for a urinal. I'm not inviting the tired lit-snob vs. genre debate. I don't have the energy for it. All I'm saying is that I'm wondering. Wondering what's going to happen as I tackle a brave new genre. Will my crime readers follow me to new places? Will the science fiction community welcome me? I sort of feel like a rookie all over again.

I'm eager. I look forward to meeting different folks at science-fiction conventions, new authors. It's all out there waiting, and I plan to jump in with both feet.

Here's what's not different: What I write and the way I write it. When I wrote crime novels, I never sat down and said to myself "Crime novels are supposed to look like this." No. I wrote the story I wanted to write regardless of genre conventions or formulas. Same goes for science fiction or any other genre. I'm going to write the sort if thing I'd want to read. I'm going to hope others like it. We'll see what happens.

I hope I can get you guys to come along for the ride.

(p.s. This doesn't mean the crime genre is over for me. I always have a little something brewing there too.)


Karen Olson said...

I'll follow you whereever you Pistol Poets while on vacation last week and absolutely loved it. Your style is your style, whether it be "crime" or "sci fi." I hate it that sales and marketing folks feel it necessary to put us all in a box.

Anonymous said...

I'd send a nasty package to any publisher that wanted to slap SF on a book I wrote. But then that's just my cheery way.

OTOH, I have good reasons for that:

Second Quote Of The Day: Walter Jon Williams

Anonymous said...

I'll be where ever you go as well. I like different genres so it won't bother me. Whatever section you're in is fine with me as long as I can find the book. Charlie Huston is one of my favorite authors and he does the same thing.

Victor Gischler said...

Karen & Billy,

Thanks for the support, guys. Cool of you. And, yes, Charlie Huston is sort of my role model right now.


That Williams quotation is the sort of thing I'm concerned about, but if SF is good enough for me to read, then it's good enough for me to write. I just like good stories ... wherever they're found.


Unknown said...

Another role model might be Joe Lansdale. Talk about a guy who's been all over the map! And his audience has grown along with him. What's the pub date?

Victor Gischler said...


I agree 100% about Lansdale. Actually, I have a really nice blurb from him for GO-GO which I'm excited about. The book hits July 2008. Man ... that seems like a long time away, doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

As other folks have pointed out, I think the audience will grow because they/we will follow.

And Lamb is one of my all-time favorite books. I'm not sure I've read another book that makes me laugh out loud so often.

JD Rhoades said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD Rhoades said...

There's also Dan Simmons, who's written great books in the sci-fi, hardboiled crime AND horror genres.

But I will follow you anywhere, Fearless Leader.

Unknown said...

I didn't like your crime novels and I'm sure that will carry over to science fiction.

Haha, just kidding. But I agree with Karen, your style is your style. I just recently read a couple funny books in the humorous sci-fi/horror genre and I think mystery readers have more tolerance for crossing genres than others might.

Viva la Go Go.

Anonymous said...

We minions of The Mystery Bookstore will gladly read and carry -- and sell -- your books, regardless of label. After all, we have Ray Bradbury coming in to sign his new book this week, and he's not exactly famous for his mysteries. And Moore's LAMB has long been one of my picks to take to a desert island. But it would probably be a struggle to decide between GUN MONKEYS and SHOTGUN OPERA -- if I had to pick just one!

Victor Gischler said...

You guys are awesome. I appreciate the support.

Ultimatley, Karen's comment still speaks loudly to me -- yes, my style is my style. I'm going to keep telling the best stories I can in my own way -- all peoples of the world from all walks of life and all genres are invited to join in the fun. (Cue inspirational music. Wipe single tear from eye.)

Linda, that's what all authors want to hear from the folks who run America's great book stores. You win the encouragement of the day award.


Josephine Damian said...

What I tend to admire most in a writer is versatily.

What an agent, editor, or publisher wants you to do.... well, that can sometimes be a different story.

Writing science fiction did not hurt Margaret Atwood: good writing is good writing; your true fans will follow whereever you go.

Prof Fury said...

I only read zombie erotica, so I hope you write a novel in that genre soon, because I hear you're real good.

Victor Gischler said...

Professor Fury, are you Nick Fury's brainy brother?


Anonymous said...

Great news, and I'm sure your readers will follow you regardless of the official genre category. Case in point: Charlie Huston, who's ranged from a thriller trilogy, to a Vampire detective serial to, now, a stand-alone crime novel. In the age of Amazon, etc., how much to official categories mean?

Anonymous said...

As others have said, I'm sure your readers will follow you. Like you, we read because we like good stories. And as full as Borders and Barnes & Noble may be, good stories are not that easy to find.

Plus, once you decide to reinvent yourself again and go in another creative direction, you *know* the sci-fi fans will follow you.

Victor Gischler said...

I'm going to have to reinvent myself AGAIN?

Well ... if Madonna can do it ...


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I'll read anything The Gischler writes.

Anonymous said...

Victor, you damn well know I'm there for your books. I love them. What disgusts me is what tends to happen when things get slapped SF by a publisher. Kiss, meet Death.

I hope you'll be able to be found in the muck and your sales will soar.

Could happen.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, man. It ain't just the independent's like the Mystery Bookstore that have got your back. I rule the SF section of my B&N with a fist that is "like unto a thing of iron" (extra points for you comic geeks out there if you identify the reference) and I guarantee your book will be on display in multiple locations throughout the store until every single one of my sycoph..Um, that is, loyal customers goes Ga-Ga for Go-Go.

I came over to your blog after stumbling onto Sean Doolittle's site and, despite the genius corporate buyers only sending my store a couple of copies of his last 2 books, by ordering more and keeping them on display, I've sold around 20-30 copies of each of them, and I'll do the same thing with Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, or my name's not Anonymous:)

Now, can I have an encouragement of the day award too? I won't be able to sleep at night if Linda gets one and I don't.

Looking forward to reading the book,

The guy who keeps giving you books at the Mystery Bookstore booth.

P.S. What did you think of the David Markson books? Bit of a change from the Morgan stuff, but I really like Markson's writing style and humor, and I hope you did too.

Victor Gischler said...

Not only do you win the encouragement of the day award, but I strongly believe you should be made CEO of all B&Ns nation-wide.

And given a big raise.

And a Buick Skylark.

You the man!


Anonymous said...

I'm all for the first two suggestions, but I'm really excited about the Skylark. I drove a hand-me-down '74 Buick Apollo throughout high school and college and I had a blast with that car; and, with my new CEO salary, I'll be able to afford to fill'er up! Um, it does come with whitewalls, right?

Anonymous said...

You promised *me* the Skylark. Bastard. Kissing up to the booksellers. Fine. I'll return the fuzzy dice and the naked lady mudflaps I purchased to jazz it up. But I ain't buyin' you a beer next time we cross paths. And don't stray off the path in AK 'cause I'd hate to see a LA boy get eaten by a bear...

As a writer who pens tales in a different genre under a pen name, I have a different take on the situation. But only because you are a critical darling (entirely earned) will fans follow you to the ends of the sci-fi section in the bookstore. Like you said, your style is your style regardless.

I write erotic romance and it is entirely different from the mystery series. Yes, my females are still kick ass, yes, the stories are still character driven, yes, my male characters are by and large alpha assholes, yes, there are plenty of curse words to offend everybody - ooh, in addition to anatomically correct names for body parts that I love to use - be they PC or not.

If people (fans, booksellers, family) ask me what else I write, I'll tell them, but I am prepared for those same people who claim to adore my writing, to tell me that they don't read that "shit, crap, garbage, dreck, formulaic claptrap" and the like. I'm just as proud of those sexy stories as everything else I've written, I just know in this (my) case, there ain't a lot of crossover.