In the fall of 2004, I sat in a small annex room at George Mason University, waiting for a panel discussion on speculative writers who cross genres to begin. It was the only panel I made a point to see (although I did stick around for a couple other panels on science fiction writing). The panel consisted of John Kessel, Gregory Frost, and Michael Swanwick. Kim Stanley Robinson sat in the back, along with a smattering of college students and adults. I suppose it wasn’t a popular topic. This was years before The Road, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and dozens of other books and movies that infuse speculative elements became popular. Don’t get me wrong, scifi movies and books were still popular, but the idea that they could be more than a scifi book was not yet embraced. At least, it didn’t seem that way to me.
And that is why I was interested in this panel. It was sort of a moment happening when scifi authors were breaking out. The attitude seemed to be Yes this is a story about witches and warlocks, but look, I can make it about love, ambition, life, death, etc. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods arrived a few years earlier critical acclaim. Conjunctions 39: New Wave Fabulists also, got a nice mention and when I look through it now, I see quite a few writers who are still popular, such as Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, and China Miéville. This panel address a growing wave that now looks so natural.
It was a good discussion and the big take away I got from it, was not that crossing genres was a new technique. That had been done for centuries. Instead it was that writers were doing this on purpose and people now noticed this phenomena. John Kessel also mentioned that he had put together an anthology that showcased many of these writers. A few months later, I bought it.
I have mentioned this book before. The stories contained are fantastic and sometimes I find myself rereading them and getting the same enjoyment. In March 3013 I reread “Bright Morning” and rediscovered a beautiful, inspiring story. This collection makes me want to right smart, ambitious stories. After reading, I want to push myself, because good stories aren’t just thought up in the air. They are crafted, carefully in my mind. (Other writers may create differently.) After so many years of writing, I realize that I’ll never run out of ideas, but an idea is not a story. This collection shows me how an idea can grow into a great story.
Also, I don’t think my reading habits have changed much. To this day, Amazon will still recommend this book when I log in.