Earlier this week Barnes&Noble shut their teen and SF blogs. I never had the privilege of writing for the first but did a good chunk of work for the second and it was always a fun, welcoming place to be. With it gone, the paying markets for genre non-fiction, by my very rough maths, number under ten.
I was a Hugo finalist for my genre non-fiction this year. A BFA finalist too. You can guess how this makes me feel.
Genre non-fiction is a petri dish. It’s the lab where stories are broken down, looked at from every angle and reassembled. It’s the Cartogpraphy room where critics guide us around the rough spots or towards the stories we need at the times we need them. It’s a bustling engine room of creativity that features some of the best critical minds I’ve ever encounter. Charles Payseur. Foz Meadows. Bogi Takács. Claire Rousseau. Paul Weimer, The Book Smugglers. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. Emily Asher-Perrin. James Davis Nicoll. Paul Holmes. Sarah Gailey. Brandon O’Brien. Fabio Fernandes. Aidan Doyle, Grady Hendrix. Aidan Moher, Maria Haskins, the non-fiction staff of the handful of sites that still do it and so many more. There is an Avengers-third-reel sized team of incredible voices in this field. All of them do vital, necessary, inspiring work. Seriously, click on any of those names, it’ll measurably make your life better.
And yet, another one bites the dust. Once again. Sooner or later the conversation will turn back to whether genre non-fiction is a viable field and, again, the same conclusions will be drawn. Creatively? Absolutely. Financially? Not even close. If genre is still, wrongly, viewed as the obnoxious kid brother of lit-fic then genre non-fiction is, again wrongly, viewed as the weird kid with the GI Joes genre has never seen before who follows them around.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what it could be instead.
- 12 90 minute episodes of genre non-fic discussion, covering audio, video and prose, released monthly.
- Three strands of programming folding in three strands of non-fic creatives.
Strand 1: YouTube
- Open strong with a half hour of either small segments from various Book and YouTubers or one long form video essay.
Strand 2: Prose
- Always working to your slowest reading speed, half an hour of prose is still 3000 words. Or:
- -A 1000 word book review
- -A 1000 word Op/Ed
- -A 1000 word interview
Strand 3: Audio
- Initially this needs to be audio versions of the prose section to boost accessibility. Once the project is financially secure, this section could easily be expanded to include audio specific content.
- SFWA qualifying rates, raised up front via an IndieGoGo. Combined with the finite number of episodes this ensures that production never hits breaking strain and that the finances remain a finite amount.
- Gets talented writers paid/spotlight time
- Finite format and cost
- Crosses medium boundaries.
- Can be scaled up or down depending on success of campaign.
- May prove challenging to give everyone a chance in the spotlight
- Format could soon prove restrictive. Especially with a large staff.
Doesn’t that sound great? Here’s the thing though, something like this has to come from a group of people. Even if I hadn’t had a year defined by some unusually brawny professional bruises, I wouldn’t want to put this together alone.
So that’s where you come in. Please consider this document ideological freeware. If you like the idea? Make it happen with my blessing. Just one proviso; please get in contact and ask me to collaborate. Because this really does look FUN.