Writing Excuses 6.28: Interstitial Art

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman from the Interstitial Arts Foundation join Mary and Dan at World Fantasy to discuss things that fall into the gaps between the genres.

How do publishers, agents, and booksellers deal with titles that are speculative, but that cannot be easily categorized as science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, steampunk, or one of the other readily shelvable genres? And how should authors approach writing such titles?

(We apologize for Dan’s low volume — neither Producer Jordo nor Howard were present to play engineer and catch the fact that Dan’s track wasn’t capturing any actual audio. Jordo did what he could to bump Dan’s volume up after the fact.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, narrated by the author along with a full voice cast and with additional cool soundscapes, is one of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles on Audible.

Writing Prompt: Try to write something that doesn’t fit neatly into the genres you’re familiar with.

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19 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 6.28: Interstitial Art”

  1. As a bookseller, I hate to say that my store got rid of its Staff Recommends section over a year ago. I had customers who would go looking for what I put on that shelf.

  2. Interesting! Can’t say I’ve written anything that’s remotely interstitial. Could Michael Crichton’s work be termed interstitial?

  3. @ Ed: As someone going to school for audio engineering, I have no doubts that Dan’s audibility is a product of time invested on Jordo’s part. With the amount of reverb on his audio, I imagine it’s being pieced together from other mic sources.

  4. After listening to this one, I feel better about two of the stories I’ve written where I set them in fictional countries in fictional worlds without either sci-fi or magic. One is 1890s-1910s tech but not steampunk and the other in a mesopotamian like setting. I didn’t know anyone else wrote that kind of stuff too or that there were words for it. Groovy!

  5. @ Will M

    As was implied but apparently needs spelling out: Jordo did a great job retrieving Dan’s sound, making it clearly audible.

  6. As an writer with lots of ideas that don’t fit neatly in genre conventions, and as a guy who has looked for Dan Wells’ books in bookstores, I found myself eagerly awaiting the answer to Dan’s question. How do you make sure your readers can find your work?

    The answer, apparently, is: “the internet.” But what on earth does that mean? That’s just like saying “the universe.”

  7. A genre for orphans — cool! Had no idea there was a name for it, but probably 90% of my music collection fits there.

  8. @Bill: I agree that “The Internet” really isn’t a great answer to that question. But if you’re writing between/outside of existing shelving modes, there’s nothing you as an author can do.

    Your publisher and your agent can go to bat for you, framing the book within the context of a particular genre, and encouraging bookstores to shelve it with similar things (no matter how far out you write, something will be more similar to your book than other things are.) Unfortunately, that’s something your publisher has to do (usually under pressure from your agent), and it’s a lot of work. Sometimes it involves getting actual bookstores on the actual telephone.

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