What? No, this isn’t me finally making a post about writing erotica. Rather, this evolves out of a question asked by a Twitter friend and proprietor of the Humpday Challenge, Tracey Hansen:
That got me thinking about trends in literature and keeping track of what has come “in” or what has gone “out.” Which first requires me to admit I don’t really track what goes in and out all that closely. I know Steampunk is in right now, but that’s just because it’s hard to avoid, and I enjoy dabbling in it. Zombies are in, because zombies tend to be in during any downturn in the economy. But I never knew dystopian had come in, and I didn’t know it had gone back out again.
Because largely I don’t care. And I would posit that’s not a bad attitude to have towards writing.
This will be a long analogy, but stick with me. I think of things going in and out the same way I think about movie genre fandom. Being a fan of a certain genre of movies means that a person can appreciate the good that comes out within that genre, but I think it more means that someone has a higher tolerance for the mediocre and bad within that genre. Not being a fan of a certain genre conversely means that a movie within the genre has to be that much better. I consider myself a science fiction fan. As such I’m willing to endure a lot more bad science fiction than a lot of people. Example: I loved League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Alright, maybe that doesn’t so much mean I’m a science fiction fan as I have bad taste. But on the flip side I’m not a big western fan, which means it takes a movie like the True Grit remake to get me to really sit down and enjoy the hell out of a western.
Things coming in and going out? That’s the market in general become a fan of something. Note: I didn’t say readers. I said the market. They’re two slightly different creatures, but the market is the attempt to respond to readers by tracking what they’re buying. It can also over adjust if something extremely popular comes out, and try to ride that wave.
So. When the market is a fan of dystopian stories, there’s going to be more magazines willing to pick the stories up, more anthologies dedicated to them, and more non-dedicated anthologies willing to consider them to be up on what’s “in.” What that means is more opportunities and potential a lower clearance bar. In a way it’s a supply and demand situation. When people start getting burned out, anthologies start specifically saying “please god no” on certain ideas, but the demand never entirely goes away for one reason and one reason alone.
There’s always a demand for well told stories. And there’s always a demand for interesting ideas.
And that’s the thesis I’m shooting for. That’s why I don’t pay attention to what’s coming in or what’s going out, because I want to tell the stories that I want to tell. Does it mean that I occasionally have a hard time finding markets for stories? Yes. But there are always going to be markets out there that are willing to take what is good, what is different, and what is well told. And that’s what I’m striving for as a writer: good, different, and well told stories. I suspect a lot of us are. Do I always hit that mark? Perhaps not.
Now, does that mean submit anything everywhere? No. If someone doesn’t want dystopian, they don’t want dystopian. Don’t be the person who says “well, but mine is so good they’ll bend the rules,” because you don’t want to get that name for yourself with editors. When submitting it’s always about what the publication wants, but there will be places where that story will fit, even if the general concepts aren’t as hip as they were a year ago. They just require a little more digging.