Most of being a writer is writing... OK, reading and writing... and editing... OK, writing can be about a lot of things.
One of the lovely things about being a writer, though, is the community that we begin to belong to. Partly as a result of being married to the husband, and partly as a result of entering the Mslexia competition, I find that I can now count a lot of writers among my friends and acquaintances, and I’m thrilled that a significant number of them are women.
I first heard about Kaaron Warren through Marc Gascoigne the publisher at Angry Robot Books. I’ve always been a fan of Marco’s, and I like to count him among my long-standing friends. Kaaron was one of his early signees, and he couldn’t wait to show me her books, “Slights”, “Mistification” and “Walking the Tree”. They quickly became favourites, and they are now among my top ten books of the past five years. That’s high praise from someone who’s very picky about what she reads, or rather what she finishes reading.
Kaaron is exactly the sort of storyteller that I wish I could be. Not only does she write beautifully, she also tells properly compelling tales, and those two skills are seldom to be found in one writer. “Slights” is probably the most quietly disturbing book I have ever read. It is every bit as good as many a thriller, and a good deal better than most horror fiction. I urge you all to go and buy a copy of it, immediately.
I do not understand why Kaaron Warren is not a household name, but the truth is, a lot of so-called ‘genre’ writers write great fiction, but only sell to relatively small audiences.
It is a great shame.
I bang on about the division of fiction into ever narrowing bands, and I fear it hinders the sale of books rather than helps it. It isn’t complicated; I just want to read good fiction. I don’t want every shelf to be labelled and divided into, for example: SF, Hard SF, Space Opera, Steampunk, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Historic Fantasy and on and on. I was appalled when the YA label appeared, and now, I believe, there’s something called New Adult. What’s that about?
The best fiction, surely, transcends the labels imposed on it. When readers are forced to decide on a genre, in the first instance, because every book on every shelf is classified according to its type, it’s too easy for the good stuff to get lost.
Jane Austen’s books weren’t labelled ‘chick lit’ and “Jane Eyre” never found its way onto a shelf marked ‘gothic horror’. No one still thinks Bill Bryson is just another travel writer, and, of course, anything written before about 1985 now gets shelved with the ‘classic’ label, which is enough to put off yet another breed of reader.
I know I can’t stop any of this from happening, and I know that, when I finally see my books on shelves in real-live shops, I’ll be happy with whatever label The Man chooses to impose; it’s hard enough to get published, after all.
In the meantime, can I just recommend a few writers that I believe suffer from, or have suffered from lousy shelf labels, stuck in various genres. Go read their work and tell me I’m wrong:
Kaaron Warren Peter Temple Adam Roberts
Dan Abnett Kelly Link Lauren Beukes