I asked some friends what sort of things one should blog about. The main answer was: 'whatever you think is interesting'. So I plan to blog about just that: things that I find interesting, whether they be concepts, actions, things I've done, things I've seen... I'll try to limit the cat posts, I know some people are allergic!
I hope that my various mutterings will have some broad appeal, whether to writers, to readers, to lovers of music, or to interested passer-by. Please - let me know what you think by commenting; start discussions, arguments - I am genuinely interested to hear your views.
Recently, having read some other blog posts and heard comments from other writers and friends, I've been pondering the significance of the 'genre', and wondering how important it is to be able to label our various works.
I've been writing for most of my life, certainly long before I'd ever heard of steampunk per se. My work has always been heavily influenced by fantasy and myth, but has crossed over into more serious stuff too. So at the risk of being controversial, especially given that all my published writing has come under the umbrella of 'steampunk', I should perhaps start by saying that I don't personally think that fitting into a 'genre' is all that important.
I'm not trying to upset anyone by saying this. My personal view is that the lines between different genres, such as science fiction, science fantasy, horror, steampunk, etc, can blur, sometimes quite significantly, depending very much on who is writing. As a reader, I naturally gravitate to the Science Fiction section in shops - but I usually expect it to be right next to the fantasy section, the horror section, the graphic novel section et al, and so I can browse all of my main interests in one go. If I've got any money left, I can then move onto the general fiction section.
If I consider authors: Stephen King, for example, writes a range from horror to fantasy to psychological. Tanith Lee creates fantasy worlds, or writes a story about her cat.
On the other hand, some authors are so identified with one genre that their name becomes a brand, and they would have to use a pen-name to write something different. And without that initial labelling of the sections in a book shop, I could spend hours browsing before I found a book I liked. This becomes even more important when I'm browsing for a book online...
'Steampunk' is a particularly sticky issue (sticky issue... eeeuw...). For a start it's a sub-genre, which begs the question, do we need sub-genres? But it's also quite difficult to define, and tends to mean different things to different people. The book 'Tales from the Asylum: a Steampunk Compilation" (2010, The Last Line publishing) was written by people who were steampunks, and was published by a publishing company owned by a steampunk. Interestingly, very few of the 'traditional' steampunk themes - airships, cogwheels, etc - made it into any of the stories of that first compilation volume. At which point, in order to define what steampunk is, perhaps we need to know: is something a steampunk story because it is packed with steampunk motifs, or because it's something that steampunks enjoy, regardless of the whether it has airships or not?
Steampunk music seems to have a different handle on this. It seems even more difficult to define what makes a band steampunk rather than anything else. The music in most cases is very different from band to band. Perhaps the most obvious common factor is that steampunks are enjoying the music...
So what is the answer? Do you think it's important that writing should fit into one category or another? Do you choose what to read based on its 'genre'? What about bookshops, who have to decide where to put things on their shelves, or how to categorise them in their online stores - how helpful are genre labels in helping you find the things you may be interested in? Does it help if authors use a different name to write in a different style? I'd like to hear your views...
(Phew, first one out of the way. Hope that made sense!)