This is a hard topic for me because I’ve hardly met a genre in which I haven’t found at least one book to enjoy, and odd stories have popped up from all sorts of genres I never imagined writing.
If you want my oldest favorite, that would have to be science fiction. I had a troubled time with reading in school during my early years. I could not find anything valuable in the books I was offered (Dick and Jane) and so decided the whole thing wasn’t worth my time. Then my sister stepped in with Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley.
At the time, both Pern and Darkover were filed under science fiction (don’t ask me what I think of the shift), as both are anthropological science fiction. I adored the cultures and the interactions between people of different traditions. As a diplomat’s kid, it was as though they were writing for me.
I went on to read Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and others, but those first few books stayed with me such that when I started writing, I wanted to write anthropological science fiction. My first book, which will only see the light once I’ve completely rewritten it, was anthropological science fiction. The social and cultural clashes inherent in that subgenre are also visible in both Seeds Among the Stars and The Steamship Chronicles, as well as many other of my books still unpublished
Which brings me to my next favorite, that of fantasy.
The same sister who gave me science fiction kept pushing fantasy novels at me when all I wanted to read was the first. She’d say innocent things like, “Well, you’ll like this one. It’s different,” or “See, it’s your favorite author only she’s writing fantasy,” or “This one is science fiction.” The last being used on novels like Christopher Stasheff’s Warlock of Gramarye or Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series so technically true at least in part.
What I discovered with her sneakily clever choices is that a lot of my favorite characteristics of anthropological science fiction were now being applied to fantasy. Eventually, I stopped fighting and started choosing my own fantasy novels to read. Fantasy is now a favorite to write as well, though only shorter works are available as of yet, but the road to writing fantasy is a tangled story.
Marion Zimmer Bradley was, as mentioned above, instrumental in converting me from a reluctant to an avid reader. She was my inspiration, and when I discovered she published a magazine and a serial anthology, I thought how wonderful to be published by someone I so respected.
A little research, however, revealed both her publications to be none other than fantasy. I had not written anything fantasy since my very early writing days (I think 9 years old or younger) when I wrote a good number of fairytales modeled off the fairy books by Andrew Lang. But I can never turn down a challenge. From the moment of that discovery, I began to write fantasy.
A lot of it wasn’t very good, but there were a few gems in the pile, and those I sent to her. While I never managed to get a story accepted, I had a number of encouraging and positive personal rejections from an editor known for her harsh rejects. My favorite one to hate was when her assistant wrote to tell me Bradley had gone so far as to typeset my story before conceding the point that it did not match the magazine well enough. However, what she gave me through that experience is a feel for my own corner of fantasy and a love of the strange little stories that can come to be in a fantastical world. My first acceptance, though not my first publication thanks to publication schedules, was, in fact, a twisted dark fantasy short story.
Beneath the Mask is an example of writing in a genre I never thought to write.
I was taking a class on the history of dance on Forward Motion because I’d been taking every monthly class offered. How the cultural status of dancers changed over time caught my attention. This led to Daphne of Beneath the Mask who wanted to dance professionally at a time when her class couldn’t. It also meant my entrance into writing historical romance. I’ve been reading them since I was a young teen, so clearly historical romance was already a favorite on the reading side, but I’d never expected to write them.
I thought Beneath the Mask was a one-off novel when I wrote it. After all, how many wannabe dancers do you find among the nobility? Then I began my indie publishing career with Daphne and a reader asked about the sequel which hadn’t existed until that question. Now (especially now as I’m editing the third novel), I have a huge cast of characters with stories appearing left and right. They pull me into their moments of arrogance, resistance to tradition, and love where it is least expected. I find them uplifting and with quotes that delight me, which is why what had been meant as a standalone is now the cornerstone of the Uncommon Lords and Ladies series.
I’ll stop there, but clearly steampunk is another favorite to read and write while I have a soft spot for traditional Westerns on the reading side and historical fiction as well. I will not reject any genre if the right combination of character and story come along.
How about you? What is your favorite genre, and how did it end up earning that rank? I’ve found there’s a story behind almost everything.
Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Your favorite genres to read and do you write them. Why or why not?” — September’s topic in Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Read the thoughts of nearly twenty different authors at various stages in their careers on this same topic. The next posts in the series are by Lisa Janice Cohen and Bonnie R. Schultzman.
Check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour to learn more. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour on the group site. Read and enjoy!