So I just read a tweet by a lit agent who said, “Sci-fi and fantasy are hot right now. Which means the trend is over.”
As a writer and reader of sci-fi and fantasy, this tweet made me want to break through a brick wall, Kool-Aid Man-style. “How can an agent, a professional in the industry I’ve been busting my butt to become part of all these years, talk about my passion in such a cavalier fashion?”
Given the amount of fantasy novels photographed and Instagrammed in the #BooksArentDangerous campaign last week, I seriously doubt the verity of this agent’s statement.
It basically dismisses not only my desire to read immersive, inventive, epic new fantasy, but dismisses my livelihood. And it leads me to the question: are genres considered a TREND in publishing? I mean, obviously there are times when one genre is overselling others, and it flip-flops around, but it never occurred to me that agents (and publishers) may look at a book’s genre and immediately dismiss it based on their belief/assumption that that genre is old hat and no one’s interested.
That makes no sense to me, as a reader. SFF has been my favourite genre since age 6. That’s never going to change, even if a parade of sub-par trope-filled titles endlessly hit the NYT bestseller list over the next decade. I will ALWAYS be a fan of fantasy and sci-fi. For all the other genres I enjoy reading, I have my favourite authors and favourite types of stories, but I will never say, “Ehh, I’m sick of SFF. So. Played. Out.” I may say that there are, for example, too many YA fantasies out — and still being published — about teens training for competitions; that’s a trend that feels as worn as vampire-sexy-times. But that doesn’t mean I’m sick of fantasy in general, or that SFF needs to stop BEING A THING.
Even if time travel is a trend within fantasy that’s “over,” do I give up on that? I wrote a manuscript with time travel in it before the (current) trend began, and am trying to get it out there now that the trend is probably way past its prime. Does that mean shelve it? Maybe, but I’m not doing that yet. Does that mean give up completely and pretend I never wrote the thing? Hell to the NO.
I’m curious what others think about this. If you read a similar statement from someone in the industry who said the genre you write in is “over”, would it bother you? Would you stop writing that genre? Would you even consider changing your path?
Probably not. It’s one person, and yes, maybe this opinion is shared the industry over, but as everyone is keen to point out, you should never write to trends because they fly like bullets. Write what you want to read, in the hopes that others will want to read it as well. Regardless of “what’s hot.” Regardless of what film producers are hoping to turn into the next big blockbuster because original screenplays are sadly considered “too risky” these days. Write what you would be ecstatic to find on a bookshelf.
If you think about it, publishing is a bizarre industry. In most industries, the designers/engineers/creators are buildings things that are needed, for market, to fill a requirement. We are told to write what we’re passionate about, because that will show in the writing, and the whole don’t write to trends thing. And yet we have to rely wholly on the agents and editors who are looking for very specific things that fit what they feel will be the next big wave in the industry. So we can’t aim for a specific requirement to fulfill; all we can do is place our hopes on the fickle winds and wait and see whether they’ll be carried onward and upward, or torn apart.
But back to the agent. That agent must know what they’ve said isn’t going to change most writers’ minds, and yet they still said it — why? Because they’re sick of SFF in their inbox? That’s absolutely fine. But it seems somewhat irresponsible to diss an entire genre to the Twitterverse. Why not just say, “I can’t sell fantasy right now, so please don’t send it my way”? Maybe others are selling it and this agent’s missing out. Who knows.
All I know is I’m weary of trying to second-guess and wonder what the industry wants or doesn’t want, loves or scoffs at, and Twitter has lately been doing its best to steal my joy about what I do. Some pros in the industry out there have no qualms about tweeting snark like, “Oh YAY, another (fill in the genre) in my slushpile. *rolls eyes* FORM REJECTION.”
I’m not finding that useful. Twitter a great tool for connecting, but when you’re still in the writing/not-yet-published stage, it can be a minefield of hope-shattering shrapnel. I’m choosing to keep my joy in what I do, and I will be a rebel and keep on pouring my heart into sci-fi and fantasy because it makes me happier than just about anything.