Periodically, I get advised that I should stick to one “genre”, and that to really do well consistently and long term that that’s the way to go as an author. That can be true to some extent. I have a friend who sold incredibly well with a non-fiction memoir book, and then when he wrote some Hunter S. Thompson drug adventure story, it didn’t perform at nearly the same level. The writing didn’t get any worse, in fact, as he wrote more his craft improved at least to my eyes. But his audience from the first didn’t translate over to the second.
In an ideal world, I would have Star Realms 2 or another space opera adventure ready to go for you, my dear readers. While I have some of that written to various stages, I do have a Steampunk which is 90% through a third draft, well done, a really gripping adventure story and I think my best work to date. It is a different genre though, or is it?
I think when you get into Space Opera, you’re already far enough away from “hard science fiction” that your audience pretty much overlaps with any form of fantasy already. So many books bend genre conventions as it is (like Brian Nemeier’s trilogy, which has a lot of horror elements and space opera in it), that they came up with another title “speculative fiction” to encompass everything that’s created in it. I feel at home and a kindred spirit with writers of Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Horror, and a lot of writers I know are active in all three.
As a consequence, For Steam And Country should translate very well for the vast majority of my readership from Star Realms: Rescue Run.
However, I did have a fun conversation with Robert Kroese, author of the hot new novel, Aye Robot, the other day about this very topic. I got to talking with him, and said, “you know, Space Opera and Steampunk aren’t all that different. Structurally, the plots go the same. A hero takes off for adventure, epic battles ensue. And if you look at things, they aren’t all that different in anything except naming conventions.”
I elaborate for you, dear readers:
Starship = Airship
Stardrive = Steam Engine
Advanced Medical Unit = aether potion
Phase Pistol = pistol
Laser Sword = Sword
Military Uniform = Military Uniform.
Ocular Implants = Goggles or Monocle
The list can go on fairly easily. But in any action/adventure story you’ll have pretty similar even if the terms change.
To which, Mr. Kroese said, “Why don’t you release the novel in 3 forms and just change the words?”
I laughed pretty hard at this, but in all honestly it’s not a bad idea. It’s pretty easy to convert something to space, or the third option he proposed, convert to fantasy. I don’t feel like doing that for my steampunk release, but “choose your own setting” could actually be pretty fun for readers. Not that all of my details are completely interchangeable. There are some items that would be pretty hard to shift in this particular book, but the basic conventions above aren’t all that different. You wouldn’t see a lot of my Steampunk universe that could compare to Star Realms for example, but at that point you’re getting into deeper setting and things that matter much more than the surface coat of “what sub-genre is this?”
Though now that I think about it, maybe if White Wizard Games gets enough interest, they might put out a Steam Realms… hmm…
To my friend above, I think the transition between non-fiction and fiction by be a bit larger of a gap to cross. It’s quite different than exploring different facets of speculative fiction, however. The moral of the story is, whether space or fantasy, airships or sailing ships, if your characters are good, and your storytelling quality is there, there’s no reason to be afraid of trying different things.