Chipping away at MY genre.

So I’ve just had another dent in my bid to become the biggest sci-fi author ever born (or something like that) as I watch what I thought was a new concept and perhaps even a new genre go to the proverbial dogs.

Actually, it’s not that bad, and I’m not so naive to think I’d created a completely new genre. But still…

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 19.23.46Nobody said it’s easy getting a story published, and I’m expecting my fair share of knock-backs when I eventually do set upon the task of trying to get a publisher. But I hadn’t expected to receive any knock-backs quite this soon in the process.

You see, when I initially came up with the particular genre of sci-fi I wanted to write, I thought the idea may be a little novel (pardon the pun). Not unique, perhaps, but at least different.

That – as it happens — is apparently not the case. It has been cruelly demonstrated over the previous few months that others may have already had the same idea as me, dagnabbit.

Still, looking at things optimistically, I’ve done my best to see the positives in all of this.

But I’ll get to that in a second…

After I’ve had a moan…

Ok, so deep down I knew I was never going to find anything entirely original. In all honesty, I just really wanted to write this book. In the back of my mind, though, was always the hope that perhaps there was something new in my novel, and that this would stand me in good stead to get people interested in reading it.

Nevertheless, to find something so close to what I have written is a blow.

But before I continue, it might be prudent to quickly explain what my genre is.

It’s something I’ve nicknamed, Maritime Sci-fi, or perhaps even Swashbuckling Sci-fi. The story places the 18th century Royal Navy in space, far from Earth and away into the 28th century. But despite this geographical and temporal variation, the Georgian culture, values and colourful language are all present. As are massive man-o-wars, an age-old political discord with the French, and some honest-to-god, full-throated naval warfare. It’s what I’m calling ‘an 18th century British seafaring space opera’.

You get the picture, right?


So, on first conceptualising this world I wanted to ensure it hadn’t done been already. I mean, no matter how much I wanted to write this book, I wasn’t going to bother if there was already a 12-book, international bestselling series in circulation. I spent many an hour using search terms such as “sailing ships in space”, “maritime sci-fi”, “Nelson in space”, &c. And nothing came up.

Now don’t get me wrong here; one of the huge inspirations for my book is the awesome Honor Harrington series — often dubbed Horatio Hornblower in space — and I’m under no illusions that my idea isn’t completely unique. And yet, the HH books are far enough away from my own concept to still be viable.

A concept (which, did I mention?) is mine, mine, mine… and yet, perhaps not so much.

Which bring us onto problem no.1:

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 10.38.19This little gem came to light when I was about 3/4 into my novel, and when I finally discovered some images of sailing ships in space. And these images weren’t simply some artist’s doodles. Oh no. These were images from a Disney film. That’s right; a bloody Disney film. How on earth could I have done all these searches for my genre and missed a flipping’ Disney film, for goodness sake? Admittedly, I’d never heard of this movie before and it is a few years old… but did I mention it’s a Disney film? It’s basically the tale of Treasure Island, but set in space and titled Treasure Planet (it must have taken them ages to come up with that one). More pointedly, it has spacebourne sailing ships which look very close to mine. Grrrrr.

Problem no.2:

My next dread discovery came just the other day: I was looking on the Sci-Fi writers of America website at this year’s Nebula award winners when a book in the sidebar attracted my attention. It was The Encedalus Crisis, by Michael. J. Martinez.

And guess what?

Yes. That’s right. Sailing ships in space. The author has also combined this with the ethos, language and the general feel of a traditional seafaring adventure, just like mine. Double grrrrr. Oh, and to make things even worse (but congats to the author), this book has already won acclaim and got some great reviews.

But, now for the positives…

When I discovered Treasure Planet, I didn’t really find a positive per se. But then I told myself: had I found this prior to writing my book, then I probably wouldn’t have written it. So I guess that’s a positive. I mean, I really enjoyed writing it.

Honor Harrington

Honor Harrington

With the Martinez books, I’ve decided that maybe these are a good thing. First of all, they are not completely identical to my concept as they seem to involve some kind of time travel. Second, my editor told me that my concept – as cool as it is – may be a trifle hard to sell to an agent due to it’s genre-blending and niche audience. I’m thinking, therefore, that perhaps a successful and acclaimed book that adopts a similar world may pave the way for agents and publishers to take a look at my story. A process akin to, say, the indie folk rock music of Fleet Foxes paving the way for the indie folk rock (and yet commercially more successful) Mumford and Sons.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition, of course. But my main worry in all of this is that others may think I copied my ideas from some other source.

And I assure you… I did not.

Like I said, it’s MY genre. I’m just letting the others borrow it for a couple of books and movies.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Can I just add: I like Fleet Foxes so much more than I like Mumford and Sons


Photos by Disney/Pixar and Baen books.

19 comments on “Chipping away at MY genre.

  1. jamesr403 says:

    Knock backs? You want knock backs? Okay, I proudly printed an early chapter of Correction, my new mystery, and set it down. When I came back one of my cats had thrown up on it. My first feedback.

  2. I know those feels. It sucks to find that there’s a thousand people who got there first. Still, I reckon you’re right about one thing: – precedent is a big deal for publishers.

    Sparkly vampires were not a thing until suddenly they were, and now every 2nd book is about sparkly vampires. Maybe when it comes to your chances of getting published, all these copycats are a blessing in disguise?
    Jim Butcher couldn’t get published doing high fantasy, but he switched to Urban Fantasy when it was taking off and he’s on what, book fifteen now?

    In terms of trying to do something new, my approach has been to add a theme and setting to each book: my first book is a swashbuckler in space, so kinda like yours. The theme is that each character represents (unknowingly) one of the characters of the Chinese Zodiac, so suddenly not like yours. The setting is an echo of 1850’s Hong Kong, with SF technology but ye olde social mores, inside a snow-globesque terraformed dome. We’re suddenly not even in the same ballpark anymore…

    That said, I’m still pretty stoked to see someone else writing stuff like this! Now give me a chip of your genre… *chip* Thank you.

    • gpeynon says:

      Encouraging words, thanks a lot. Your concept sounds very cool.

      While I don’t want to read these other books yet, or watch that Disney movie, I have recently discovered that, like you so rightly mention, there are a number of other differences between those other books and mine, so that’s good.

      And less of the chipping please; I’ll have nothing left! 🙂

  3. M. C. Dulac says:

    The popularity of this new genre may work for you – remember a few years ago you couldn’t walk into a bookstore without falling over a pile of vampire romances…

  4. Bruce Goodman says:

    Years ago I came up with a “theory” which I excitedly explained to a scientist. He pointed out, to my dismay, that mine was a theory that had been totally discredited by Einstein. Nothing is new under the sun, so go ahead and write it!

    • gpeynon says:

      I daren’t explain my book to a scientist just in case they tell my all of my science in nonsense. But then again, it is science fiction . I’ve never gone for the ‘hard sci-fi’ route, but it has to make a little sense… doesn’t it?

      Thanks for the encouraging words.

  5. Kate Loveton says:

    I think this genre’s upcoming popularity could work for you as well. I love the concept! I have read the Honor Harrington novels (truth to tell, I loved the old Horatio Hornblower novels, too), and think what you have in mind sounds different enough. While this is nothing like what you envision, I have to ask if you ever watched Babylon 5? There was a character on there, Molari (I think that was his name) – his people dressed in a manner reminiscent of the 18th century. I always found the dress rather intriguing when all the other characters were decked out in modern wear.

    I hope you move forward with your concept – sounds good to me.

    • gpeynon says:

      Very kind words, Kate, thank you.

      Yes, I loved Babylon 5 – for the first few series at least. Molari was the one with the hair right? They were almost steampunk in the way they looked. Yes very cool. To be honest, explaining to the reader why society has regressed back to Georgian/Victorian values and there are starships that look like 18th century sailing ships was relativity simple… relatively. But explaining why they dress like back in the 18th century wasn’t quite so; so Ive just skipped any explanation and hope the reader will fill in the gaps for themselves. Risky? Perhaps. But you can’t lay it all on a plate, eh?

      • Kate Loveton says:

        Steam punk is absolutely the best way to describe Molari’s appearance. I have to say, I loved the entire B5 series. It had a beginning, a middle and an end, and all loose-ends were tied together by the conclusion. I also liked how the characters changed over time. I need to watch the DVDs again as thinking about it has made
        me nostalgic!

        No, you cannot lay everything on the plate. Some things just are – and perhaps the fashion sense for your characters just hearkens back to a more romantic time. If they are rather swashbuckling, I think that coincides nicely with the attire, starships reminiscent of the 18th c, and the Georgian / Victorian values. Frankly, I’d love to read a book like you describe.

        Can you somehow stick a Sherlock Holmes-type character in there? Then I’ll die a happy woman (in the very distant future, of course!) 🙂

      • gpeynon says:

        Thanks Kate. Well, if you’d like to read a copy, I’ll gladly trade for one of your great reviews; although whether or not it’s great remains to be seen…

        Great to hear you like Sherlock H. Me too. I’ve only read 3-4 books but loved them, especially the Hound of the B’s. I don’t have a Sherlock in my story, but I do have a female diplomat who turns part-detective. Will that do?

      • Kate Loveton says:

        Be happy to read and review. 🙂

        Um… I think a female diplomat who turns part-detective might be just the ticket!

      • gpeynon says:

        Great, thanks. Will have a copy to you as soon as I have something ready. Getting there slowly…

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