Destroying Genre Fiction, One Under-Represented Group at a Time

Last June (2014), something strange and amazing happened: women destroyed science fiction. It was far from a tragedy. Rather, prominent online literary magazine Lightspeed published a special issue featuring science fiction and speculative fiction by all female authors and guest edited by Christie Yant.
And somehow – somehow – the world continued to turn.
In fact, literature at large may have come out the other side of this terrible rebellion a little better off.
Why? Because in literature, as with all things in life, inclusivity makes a huge difference. Sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, region of residence: all of these voices are different and all of them matter. We live not in an increasingly-diverse world but, rather, in a world that is finally, increasingly, acknowledging its diversity.
This year, Lightspeed has returned to promote another underrepresented group of writers with their new Kickstarter (which has taken off like a rocket): Queers Destroy Science Fiction. This one will be guest edited by the incredible Seanan McGuire (who wrote WDSF’s anchor piece, Each to Each).
I know that I, for my part, can’t wait to submit something(s) to this year’s amazing guest edition and I hope that, my dear readers, should any of you qualify, that you submit something as well.

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To Prologue or Not To Prologue

If you ask me, it’s not much of a question at all. As writers, we are all tempted to include still more information for the reader to take in and there are few simpler tools with which to do this than a prologue that shows a (usually) different perspective on the story than the body of the manuscript will.

It may come from the eyes of the villain, a scholar who’s discovered an ancient text, a minor character, a parent, or an unrelated narrator but, no matter what, its goal is to give the reader another peek behind the curtain of the world that the writer has built.

Unfortunately, these are rarely successful in modern Young Adult, Popular, or Literary Fiction. More often than not, the prologue jars or upsets the modern reader. She opens a book and begins to read a story and is dismayed, several pages later, to discover that she’s just turned the page to Chapter 1. How disoriented and confused she must be. I know more than a few avid readers who’ve felt a bit betrayed by a prologue and been put off the book because of it.

Be warned, fellow writers, that the prologue takes a lot of art to execute properly (if at all, and I continue to recommend not at all). There is no hard and fast rule set about prologues as far as I am concerned, but I think the most successful I have read are short, not so different from the book itself, and immediately engaging.

As with any First Five Pages, a prologue MUST have a hook. It should, if at possible, begin with one. It must make readers eager to continue reading the story. Perhaps the prologue asks a question that the book will answer. Maybe it opens with a mystery or some newspaper clippings that set up the murder or robbery case. There may be hints of a conspiracy brewing in the prologue, the results of which are made apparent in the book itself.

Whatever approach you choose, do so with care. Ask yourself, fellow writer, some important questions before you decide whether or not to include a prologue in your manuscript:

1. Does it grab the reader’s attention?
2. Does it include information that could not possibly have been included elsewhere in the manuscript?
3. Does it create too much distance between the reader and the story he came to read?
4. Is it even one word longer than it absolutely needs to be?

There are a fair few things that K.M. Weiland of Structuring Your Novel and I can be said to disagree on but prologues are not one of them. My final word, fellow writer, is this: unless you deem it absolutely necessary, skip writing a prologue.

On Apologies

What is an apology?

“I wish I hadn’t done it.” “I wish I hadn’t hurt you.” “I wish I had phrased it differently.” “I regret having said that.” “I will try not to do it again.”
But you do. You do it again. And again and again until the hurt is what is expected and the thoughtful action becomes the surprise.
So then what is an apology? It is lip service. It is empty air. It is a sequence of sounds with no meaning. It is hollow. It is nothing at all.