Thursday, January 08, 2009

"Mainstream is hard!" said Ken

The novel I'm working on, Chains, is science fictional in some respects but really mainstream, so I'm dealing more than before with making all the character inner stuff work properly, because that's the main focus. It's so much easier when you can solve a problem by having someone jump into a time machine or spaceship, or have two men burst through the door with guns blazing.

No wonder there are almost no worthwhile mainstream writers. Oops, sorry, that just slipped out.

Anyway, it's fun and fulfilling, and I'm feeling hopeful that this book will be a rip-snorting, bell-ringing, guns-blazing page turner of a, er, serious mainstream exploration of the human condition.


Anonymous said...

what exactly makes something "mainstream"? can't something be non-mainstream and then become mainstream because of popularity?

David said...

I guess that in effect a book is mainstream if the publisher packages it that way and the public accepts it that way. By which I mean that the packaging has none of the images or terminology that identify it as belonging to a genre.

E.g., "A moving story of a love that transcends time" vs "Randy time traveller jumps back to Roman times and has hot sex with Cleopatra of Egypt."

Mainstream is anything that isn't recognizably genre fiction -- science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, Western, and any other such category that I've forgotten. It's not a matter of popularity. Dune was immensely popular, but it was still science fiction. It was packaged as sf and aimed at the sf crowd. I think its breakout into popularity with readers who didn't normally read sf surprised the publisher.

Publishers seem to be a bit more open to trying to pitch genre fiction to wider audiences nowadays, at least if they think a particular book has the potential to appeal outside its genre.