A LOVE LETTER TO GENRE FROM TEAM TOR
14 February 2013
By Julie Crisp
Valentine's Day, a day of romance, roses, fluffy animals, chocolates and songbirds. Sweet!
Not to be all Bah Humbug about it, but give me aliens, ray guns and sword-wielding heroes any day. Aragorn would be nice . . . :lol: Anway moving on - ahem. We at Team Tor thought that we'd share one of our biggest loves - genre. Why we love it, how we love it - and if there are any particular authors or books that we feel particularly passionate about. Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, we love all genre, we hope you do too...
Julie Crisp, Editorial Director: For me, my love affair with genre started with a pair of glowing eyes meeting mine across the room. I was ten. I was terrified. And really, who wasn't by that 1980s cover of Stephen King's IT? It was love at first sight. That was my gateway drug. From then on the gorgeous, colourful covers of Dune, Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant called to me from my Dad's bookshelves like confectionery in a sweetshop. Nancy Drew was cast aside with derision, Sweet Valley High was sneered at in my local library as I headed straight for the adult shelves and the 'good books'. For me, the novels were entrances to other worlds so much more interesting than 1980s suburbia, a form of escapism that I've passionately embraced into adulthood. So much so, that it wholly influenced my career choice. So thank you Stephen King, thank you genre. I'm not ashamed to say I love you!
Bella Pagan, Senior Editor: So on Valentine’s Day, I’m musing on my first love … an abiding passion, a dear friend and an all-encompassing diversion into lands of wonder. And the identity of this paragon?! I guess Julie’s intro will have *revealed all*, but what else could I be talking about but a love of genre fiction (…temporarily married here to a love of mixed metaphor). I’m not sure where it started, this addiction, this compulsion. But once you’ve tasted the fizz of the speculative within your fiction it’s impossible to turn back as other reads seem flat by comparison. It was a gradual thing, as I was tempted in as a teenager by Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and Ursula Le Guin. And Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World), John Wyndham and William Burroughs. And J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks and Julian May's Many-Coloured Land. By the time I reached sixteen I was well and truly lost I tell you, with multiple readings of The Lord of the Rings and Asimov’s Foundation trilogies under my belt. Hours and days lost in other worlds (reading at the dinner table banned by parents! Just imagine!). I had to ration myself to one genre book from every five from the library, desperately trying to make my way through the English A-level syllabus as the addition threatened to roar out of control. But such harsh rationing is a thing of the past as ‘the spice must flow’ -- I urge you all to sample something from the feasting table of genre, discover your favourite dish and indulge yourselves!
Louise Buckley, Editorial Assistant: I think my love of genre spawned when my mum started reading me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was about six (many days were spent on trips ‘to Narnia’ with my toys, in my crummy MDF wardrobe). Then there was my parent’s love of Star Trek. Both my parents insisted on family meals together, apart from on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, when lap trays and Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko and Kathryn Janeway’s adventures in space took precedent. My reading habits were fairly non-discriminating at this stage and I read everything I could get my hands on, from The Borrowers and books on UFOs, to a copy of James Herbert’s The Rats (no one should read this when you are 10…). Particular favourites were the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine and the Point Horror novels, before I went through a feng shui and astrology stage when I was about 12 and stopped reading fiction for a while. That all changed when I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Here was a universe unlike anything I had read before, with characters that stayed with me long after I finished The Amber Spyglass. I was desperate to discover more like this. And so my genre journey of discovery blossomed . . .
Mark Charan Newton, author of Legends of the Red Sun series: Science fiction and fantasy wasn't my first fictional love, but it's remained the most powerful. What other form of fiction occupies our minds so vividly, or offers so much solace from everyday woes? A lot of people kind of forget how to imagine as they get older and thanks to science fiction and fantasy I'll never know what that's like.
Paul Cornell, author of London Falling: I love the way that fantasy lets one look more deeply into the forces that shape the real world than the mainstream realist novel does. Our minds run on metaphor, and they see metaphor in everything, and they paint the world with magic in order to better understand it.
Literature that doesn't use fantasy is missing out on a whole, real dimension of human life. As Grant Morrison said, and I'm paraphrasing here, if Eastenders is supposed to be realistic, why does nobody ever see a ghost?
Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the Shadows of the Apt series: Chris Beckett. It was love at first sight. Dark Eden was the book. There was that elegant moth design on the front, and that economic back cover copy. Inside was everything you could ask for: an intriguing alien ecosystem, an exploration of human society, it ticked all the boxes. Love at first sight, and now I'm stalking him obsessively.
John Gwynne, author of Malice: It’s true, and I’ll hold my hands up to it. I love fantasy. From epic to urban to gritty to steampunk; but my first-love is epic.
Reasons why? There’s some nostalgia in there, certainly, a sense of childhood and family and warm, fuzzy memories. But there’s more to it than that - there has to be, to have kept me reading up to my ripe old age.
Fantasy appeals to the closet adventurer inside me, gives wings to the dreamer, the optimist, the escapist. It gives me a world where hope can flourish, no matter how grim the circumstances.
Fantasy gives a shot of colour to a grey day.
And of course, it entertains me, as no other genre ever has.
Adam Nevill, ayuthor of Last Days: My love affair with horror has never been a secret, but it was looked upon with pity when I was at university the first time - he'll get over it; during my second tour in higher education my affair was seen as something of a curiosity - each to their own, I suppose, but how gauche! I mean how can they ... together? They're so brazen! For many years when I worked in publishing it was a love that dared not speak its name (in publishing meetings) and caused whispers and raised eyebrows whenever evidence of our liaisons were exposed. People suddenly stopped talking when we appeared together in corridors, holding clawed hands. Heads shook behind our backs when our leathery tails briefly touched in little displays of affection. In public we were forced to meet in dark rooms with other undesirables at conventions, and to hover surreptitiously around the two shelf allocation at the back of book shops. But now we're seen as a compatible couple and our feelings for each other seem entirely fitting, maybe we're even respectable because we've stayed faithful to each other for so long and have even been seen in Smiths on the High Street. And we will grow old together and will never be ashamed of kissing in public, or reaffirming our vows. So happy bloody Valentine's day, my darling horror!
Douglas Hulick, author of Among Thieves: Why I love...
Roger Zelazny - He melded plot and prose and poetry, all in service to the fantastic, and made it look easy in the process.
Raymond Chandler - 'When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand'. Conflict 101, baby.
Sword Fighting - It's like writing: it may look dashing and romantic, but at the end of the day its all sweat and blood and and a hell of a lot of hard work.
Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer: I love SFF because I believe in all of us there exists a desire to be part of something infinitely grander than this grey little life we actually find ourselves living. Nobody dreams of being an accountant when they grow up. Nobody would rather do their homework than slay the dragon and rescue the stolen prince/princess. Nobody would rather be ordinary than magnificent.
In SFF we find a gateway into that magnificence. If only for a moment. It teaches us to dream. To wonder. To imagine. And in doing so, we each of us make the world around us a little less grey.
Leigh Evans, author of The Trouble with Fate: Why I love reading fantasy? With one turn of the page, I can defeat the evil wizard and save the world.
Cherie Priest, author of The Inexplicables:
Why I love books - because I love to travel but hate leaving town.
Why I love steampunk - because zombies and pirates and airships and why the hell not?
Why I love writers - because wine and gossip. And wine.