Brog sits in the still of dark, by the flickering fire, chipping the flinty point of his spear. His mouth is set in a grim frown, as he ruminates on the one that got away, today, his spear thrust glancing off the beast’s tough hide.
“Maybe want to take that bad boy to Chunta the Pointmaker. He fix you up.”
Brog grunts at the feedback. This is his first spear, and he’s proud of his own handiwork.
Another hunter chimes in: “Nah, it wasn’t the spear, it was the aim. You gotta go for the heart, not the horny back of that critter.”
The other hunters join in with muttered laughter. Still a third offers, “Wouldn’t matter, if your throw had more umph to it. You been slacking off on those pushups I told ya to do.”
Ah, well, there’s enough meat to go around, and Grzenda and the women will have prepared a fine feast from all their gatherings. They don’t seem to have any problem filling their pouches each day, lollying at the berry patch with their saucy gossip.
* * *
As men writers we go for the big blockbuster hit, aiming high and likely missing the mark. It seems women writers these days have tapped the more lucrative niches like Romance and are cashing in on their natural networking skills. The above stereotypes notwithstanding, it behooves any writer to reflect on one’s craft, one’s commitment, and the habits of the herd—the marketplace. In this endeavor both genders’ primal skills are needed: the one-pointed focus of the hunter; the broad input and research of the gatherer.
My recent reading has pointed me in the direction of genre categories. From discussion in a writers’ forum at SFCanada, the book Let’s Get Visible was recommended. The primary strategy David Gaughran advances is to combine pricing promotions with optimizing category placement on Amazon. Next I followed the advice of Randy Ingermanson in his “Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine” to check out Russell Blake, who advocates, among other strategies, primarily to “Focus on One Genre.”
* * *
As anyone who knows me (or is familiar with my Alternative Culture website or travel blog) can attest, focus is a lifelong challenge, hardly resolving from the precocious misadventures of my youth. Once typecast as a “Renaissance man,” and risking the faint praise of “jack-of-all trades,” I’ve tried to make a virtue of lifestyle balance, sanctifying my dilettantism with the seven chakras of Vedic lore.
As a writer (among other favored disciplines) I cast my net wide: poetry, prose; fiction, nonfiction; photojournalism, improvisation; literature, genres… mystery, sci-fi, adventure, magic realism, creative nonfiction. But yesterday, I took a day out from my busy schedule, cancelled a yoga workshop and an invitation to a hike, and resolved: Let’s do this.
Categories: A Case Study
When cyberpunk was born, this world of globalism, business, technology, fear, and potential was just beginning to emerge from the tumult of the 60s and 70s. Now it’s here. We’re in the middle of it. When you live in a thoroughly cyberpunk society, cyberpunk seems more important than ever. —Keith Allison, “Cyberpunk for a Cyberpunk World”
My novel PsyBot was slotted by default into one of Kindle’s most amorphous bins: Fiction > Science Fiction > General. In reviewing the list of available categories that readers search at the Kindle eStore, I discovered one I hadn’t even considered before; but it caught my eye, and I followed up at Wikipedia, discovering that I’d written a novel in Cyberpunk.
Okay, my anti-hero hero is as much Leo Bloom of Ulysses as Neo of The Matrix… but I’m not about to create a new subgenre called Cybershmuck—it doesn’t have quite the same ring. And maybe the punk era—and the cyberpunk wave with it—has passed already; but the other requirements of the genre still seem a suitable, and relevant, fit. If the punk suit fits…
- near-future Earth setting
- high tech and low life
- information technology and cybernetics
- breakdown or radical change in the social order
- conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations
- use of technology in ways not anticipated by its creator
- atmosphere of film noir
- techniques from detective fiction
- marginalized, alienated loner, living on the edge of society
- ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information
- invasive modification of the human body
- postmodernist prose
- nihilistic underground side of an electronic society
- vision of a troubled future
- much of the action takes place online, in cyberspace
- blurring the border between actual and virtual reality
- direct connection between the human brain and computer systems
- networked companies dominating every aspect of life
- giant multinational corporations as centers of political and economic power
The above criteria (from the Wikipedia entry for Cyberpunk) cast PsyBot not so much squarely within the cyberpunk domain, rather more as a vision of a world on the brink of a cyberpunk dystopia. The infection of the cybernetic virus in this novel is a beta test. Everyman protagonist Joe Norton is a guinea pig in a trial run, which if successful, risks trending society over the brink into classic cyberpunk territory. The scenario depicted here slots PsyBot most on target, then, as a “cyberpunk prequel.”
* * *
Will Brog’s flint-knapping, spear practice, and workout regimen help him bring down the next big game? Will his girlfriend, Grzenda, reward his efforts with a sweet berry pie? Or will they discover that their tattoos and piercings contain digital implants from a nefarious time-traveling black-ops team? Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode…
Further reading, with similar subgenres and popular titles…
- More on Cyperpunk Science Fiction
- Detailed blurbs on The Best Cyberpunk Books
- Overview of Near-Future Science Fiction
- Overview of Mundane Science Fiction