Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bad Sign: Genres I've Never Heard of

What are your thoughts on stories using anthropomorphic fantasy? Is this a sub-genre all by itself and is it popular enough to be marketable?

Anything that is good enough can be marketable. That said, it is not to me knowledge an official sub-genre, so you shouldn't say that's your genre in your query.

What is an official sub-genre? It gets a bit hard to tell. Genres are actually pretty much determined these days by in what section the bookstores places them, and a lot of things get lumped together. Why some things are in sci-fi/fantasy and some things are in fiction & literature (i.e. general fiction) are a mystery to me, but that's why I'm not a Barnes and Noble buyer. As for sub-genres, they're only really relevant in certain cases particular to the genre, and generally they're not worth thinking about in the query because we can probably figure out the sub-genre from the summary. If it's about elves in New York, it's urban fantasy. If it's about a small-town amateur detective who solves crimes, it's a cozy. If it's a fictionalized account of the last days of General Custer, it's historical fiction. You don't really need to tell us that; we know the business, plus we think it's hilarious (in a bad way for you) when you get your sub-genre wrong, or list multiple genres in the hopes that you will convince us that it will be a crossover hit. (Man, I've done that. I was such a dork)

A good way to tell if your genre is "popular" is to go to a large bookstore and see how many titles on the shelves would fall in the same category as your work. I'm guessing in this case it would be very few, and I'm even counting the Dragons of Pern stuff.


none said...

The Pern series is technically science fiction not Fantasy (the dragons are GE).


Anonymous said...

Isn't it possible to emphasize one angle of the story over another so it does fit into a couple of subgenres? I would imagine that depending on the line you would be pitching to as an agent that this is exactly what you'd do.

Anonymous said...

Actually, on reading the "category" I immediately thought the Brian Jacques Redwall books. But who knows if that's what your questioner had in mind...

Anonymous said...

As a fantasy reader, I would say that there's no reason your anthropomorphic fantasy wouldn't be marketable, assuming it's sufficiently well written. Like Rejecter said, though, there's no need to specify the sub-genre in your query - just say "fantasy" and explain what your book is about, including a little of the setting (as it pertains to character and/or plot). Any agent who reps fantasy will be able to connect the dots. (Caveat: If it's YA or middle-grade fantasy rather than fantasy for adult readers, do mention that, as it's an important distinction.)

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that each book must fall into only one genre? Lynne Truss' "Talk to the Hand" falls into humor and only humor? Or are there multiples and how in the world do bookstores handle that?

Anonymous said...

Anthropomorphic fantasy... I know that works much better in illustrated fiction, as it looks and thus better represented in the comic world, but out of publishing it's a throw-up like any other fantasy line.

Some people may like it, others may find it hard to get into.

This is my judgment based off of what I read on the internet (and thus I might have not been reading the right people) but stating so-and-so the fox and such over and over just got mind-numbingly dull after several pages....

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Furry Fanfic porn to me... I don't think I would every read anything that had "anthropomorphic" in its description.

But I do like fantasy with animal characters.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I know our library has a HORRIBLE time classifying Jasper Fforde.

His first 3 books are in Sci/Fi.

The rest are in mystery.

Eventually they'll probably move the both series into generic "fiction" to keep them together.

(Though, at least for the library, some of the classification has to do with where there's actually space. And when I worked in a used bookstore and a book fell into multiple categories, shelfspace was often the deciding factor!)

The Rejecter said...

I didn't want to mention the furry thing, though I did suspect it.

Rllgthunder said...

Actually, anthropomorphic devices are common. Wiki has a good entry if the term is new to you.


I was thinking more along the lines of 'Animal Farm', myself.

Anonymous said...

Generally, people call the Pern series Fantasy because it was originally presented as fantasy. Then later books showed it as science based, but the fantasy label was already in effect. And I've seen that sort of book referred to as science fantasy.

Not that it matters, really, because fantasy and sf are on the same shelf in bookstores.

Dave said...

Pern was always SF, the first stories were published in Analog, which doesn't accept Fantasy. People just thought they were Fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Rejecter, where did you get this question? I say this because I'm familiar with the sub-genre.

"Anthropomorphic" as a sub-genre is basically "upright talking animal characters". Not so much a genre as an exotic element you add to an existing genre. Most familiar as a children's sub-genre, but there IS a large underground fandom dominated by what Rejecter rightly describes as "Furry FanFic porn" (and PROUD of it).

Problem with writing it for grown-ups (but not "adult" as in porn) is that you get squeezed out by the two extremes. If you primarily describe it as "anthro" or "furry", you'll get sealed in the ghetto with the Furry FanFic Porn Fanboys (who don't care what kind of crap they mainline, as long as Everybody Has FUR! And TAILS!). If not, you're assumed to be writing Widdle Kiddie Stuff and treated accordingly. And these two factions go at each others' throats like Shia & Sunni.

Since there's so much of a market for porn within the fandom, a lot of writers (which still isn't many -- the fandom is artist-driven) fall into the trap and stay there -- big fish in a small pond of cum.

Try to write what I do -- "furry"-elemented SF for grown-ups -- and you become very familiar very fast with the concepts of "leper" and "friendly fire". Especially if your potential agents/publishers/editors have had Furry Porn Fanfics rubbed in their face by in-your-face FURRRRRIEEEES! (TM)

The only successes I have seen that don't fall into Kiddie or Porn (few and far between) are where they're primarily a main genre (SF/Fantasy) incorporating the anthro/furry elements for exotic effect. (Aside: In fantasy, "Beastfolk" are a viable if little-used alternative to the overused "Elves, Dwarves, etc." One writing bud does classic Sword-and-Sorcery with this angle -- Thirties Weird Tales material -- and is desperately looking for a market.)

Falwyn: Redwall is probably the most widespread mass-market example of the overground sub-genre.

Ken Pick
Co-author, "Mask of the Ferret"
in Infinite Space, Infinite God

Anonymous said...

"Not to me knowledge?"

Arrrgh, maties!