Caution: Genre Crossing

Every book has only a limited amount of real estate. —Mary Jo Putney, best-selling author of historical and fantasy romance novels on cross-genre writing

As an exercise, I wrote down all the genres that make up The Alien Within, starting from that with the strongest presence to the weakest:

Urban/contemporary fantasy

Romance

Erotica

Science fiction

Action/Adventure

You’d think that’s a lot of genres to fit into one piece of real estate. Well, I guess it would be if that’s what I did. But I didn’t. If you asked me The Alien Within’s genre, I’d say urban fantasy. Only certain elements of the other genres are represented. I’ve been selling TAW as a cross-genre urban fantasy/science fiction novel, but look where sf is on the list. From what I understand, TAW is sf because it’s got an alien in it. Melera, the book’s one alien who spends 2/3 of it hanging out with Parker, her werewolf lover, and the rest of Seattle’s preternatural gang. The other third is spent either holed up in her island fortress in the South Pacific or her temporary base in Seattle’s Underground. Science fiction? Whatever you say, boss…

The romance is pretty obvious, I’d think. When Parker and Melera first meet, she promptly kicks his ass. When they meet again, they fall in love. Then Melera leaves for her own galaxy without Parker, but returns for him. The whole “boy meets girl” thing. Not entirely romance for other reasons, but enough so it comes in at No. 2 in the queue.

And then there’s the erotica. I suppose that’s because the sex descriptions are graphic–as in parental discretion advised. But except for the big scene between Parker and Melera, the sex is not meant to arouse erotic feelings in my readers. The descriptions of Garrett’s role in a sex-magick rite with Seattle’s mayor in the first third of the book are pretty clinical. In that scene, sex is merely the vehicle. The scene’s focus is on the magick being wrought, not to mention Garrett and the Mayor’s near death experience when something goes wrong. You could say this scene, as well as those leading up to it, is pretty much a how-to guide for casting the Saperet spell.

Action/adventure? Got a little of that too. Not true a/a because there’s more than one hero (though one of them is a likeable male) and no clear cut villain trying to thwart the hero’s quest. Instead, we have villainous characters operating independently, whose nefarious doings eventually force the heroes’ collective hand. The heroes are placed in extreme physical danger. And the stakes are pretty high–if the heroes don’t act, Seattle burns to the ground.

So. The point of all this is to say that I don’t think TAW is cross-genre. Not in the sense in which it’s usually meant. A shipboard romance that takes place in deep space, for example. TAW is an urban fantasy with several elements of other genres, to greater or lesser degrees. But IMO, that doesn’t make it cross-genre.

What do you think? Is TAW cross-genre or not?

One more thing. Assuming for the moment that TAW is cross-genre, the reason I wrote it this way is because we don’t live in a single-genre world. Everyone’s life has elements of comedy, tragedy, romance, horror–you name it. In my view, if a fictional world is populated by werewolves, vampires, witches, etc., it is more realistic to show them interacting with one another, just as we interact with all kinds of people in our own lives. Check Laurell K. Hamilton’s books, or Lilith Saintcrow. Anyway, I wasn’t particularly conscious of mingling the different threads. To me, TAW simply a reflection of the real world I inhabit. But IMHO, my world is far more interesting.

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