By Writing Excuses | December 11, 2011 - 5:49 pm - Posted in Theory and Technique

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman from the Interstitial Arts Foundation join Mary and Dan at World Fantasy to discuss things that fall into the gaps between the genres.

How do publishers, agents, and booksellers deal with titles that are speculative, but that cannot be easily categorized as science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, steampunk, or one of the other readily shelvable genres? And how should authors approach writing such titles?

(We apologize for Dan’s low volume — neither Producer Jordo nor Howard were present to play engineer and catch the fact that Dan’s track wasn’t capturing any actual audio. Jordo did what he could to bump Dan’s volume up after the fact.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, narrated by the author along with a full voice cast and with additional cool soundscapes, is one of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles on Audible.

Writing Prompt: Try to write something that doesn’t fit neatly into the genres you’re familiar with.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 11th, 2011 at 5:49 pm and is filed under Theory and Technique. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. December 11, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

    Fits my first book, since I can’t for the life of me define it or shoehorned into any existing genre.

    Posted by Rafael
  2. December 11, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    For what it’s worth, I found Dan easily audible.

    Posted by Ed
  3. December 11, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

    As a bookseller, I hate to say that my store got rid of its Staff Recommends section over a year ago. I had customers who would go looking for what I put on that shelf.

    Posted by Len Berry
  4. December 11, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

    Wow. This is really inspirational, all. Thank you for recording (and sharing) this episode!

    Posted by Tiyana
  5. December 12, 2011 @ 1:20 am

    Interesting! Can’t say I’ve written anything that’s remotely interstitial. Could Michael Crichton’s work be termed interstitial?

    Posted by Shehreyar Khan
  6. December 12, 2011 @ 7:14 am

    @ Ed: As someone going to school for audio engineering, I have no doubts that Dan’s audibility is a product of time invested on Jordo’s part. With the amount of reverb on his audio, I imagine it’s being pieced together from other mic sources.

    Posted by Will M
  7. December 12, 2011 @ 7:57 am

    After listening to this one, I feel better about two of the stories I’ve written where I set them in fictional countries in fictional worlds without either sci-fi or magic. One is 1890s-1910s tech but not steampunk and the other in a mesopotamian like setting. I didn’t know anyone else wrote that kind of stuff too or that there were words for it. Groovy!

    Posted by Talmage
  8. December 12, 2011 @ 9:22 am

    @ Will M

    As was implied but apparently needs spelling out: Jordo did a great job retrieving Dan’s sound, making it clearly audible.

    Posted by Ed
  9. December 12, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    As an writer with lots of ideas that don’t fit neatly in genre conventions, and as a guy who has looked for Dan Wells’ books in bookstores, I found myself eagerly awaiting the answer to Dan’s question. How do you make sure your readers can find your work?

    The answer, apparently, is: “the internet.” But what on earth does that mean? That’s just like saying “the universe.”

    Posted by K. Bill Albrecht
  10. December 12, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

    A genre for orphans — cool! Had no idea there was a name for it, but probably 90% of my music collection fits there.

    Posted by M.A.
  11. December 12, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    @Bill: I agree that “The Internet” really isn’t a great answer to that question. But if you’re writing between/outside of existing shelving modes, there’s nothing you as an author can do.

    Your publisher and your agent can go to bat for you, framing the book within the context of a particular genre, and encouraging bookstores to shelve it with similar things (no matter how far out you write, something will be more similar to your book than other things are.) Unfortunately, that’s something your publisher has to do (usually under pressure from your agent), and it’s a lot of work. Sometimes it involves getting actual bookstores on the actual telephone.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  12. December 12, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

    SF Tidbits for 12/12/11…

    Interviews and ProfilesFantasy Book Critic (Mihir Wanchoo) interviews Kelly Gay. The World SF Blog (Nick Wood) interviews Tom Learmont.Command Line interviews Cory Doctorow (podcast). Fantasy Magazine (Jennifer Konieczny) interviews Joe R. Lansdale.SFW…

    Posted by SF Signal
  13. December 13, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    @Howard : That’s unfortunately what I feared a more complete answer would look like. Thanks anyhow. :)

    Posted by K. Bill Albrecht
  14. December 13, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

    Look, in the sky, is it a plane, is it a comet! No… it’s a transcript! Great ghosts of podcasts, a transcript, adman! Anyway… words to read:

    Posted by Mike Barker
  15. December 16, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

    Stitcher dropped this podcast. Why? I want it back.

    Posted by Scott
  16. December 16, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

    @Scott: That’s the first I’d heard of it. I Googled this:

    Looks like we’re still there, but I don’t use the Stitcher client so I can’t check from that interface.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  17. December 19, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    Two of the Assistant Editors for InterGalactic Medicine Show had a discussion about interstitial fiction and a recent publication– Jared Adam’s ‘Whiteface.’

    I thought of this because of …was it Ms. Kushner’s mention of ‘historical fantasy?’ I had no idea it was a real phrase.

    Posted by Scott M. Roberts
  18. December 20, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

    […] Last week’s excuses was about writing outside the genre norms, or interstitial art, as they called it. […]

  19. March 8, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

    Great episode. I’m not sure how I missed this one.

    Posted by Sean