CROSSING GENRES BY NIK KORPON

I used to collect a lot of records when I was in my teens and early twenties. Not as many as my friends, who’d have whole bookcases full of them, but I had a couple hundred or so. Some of them were bad hardcore and punk bands I picked up at various shows, some were great, dusty jazz and blues records I found in the dollar bin. Some I’d picked up specifically because I knew that the girl who sat next to me in freshman math liked those bands, and we had a standing arrangement where I’d trade her records in exchange for her helping me not fail the class. (I’m really, really bad at math.) Some—like my limited edition “Do the Bartman” seven-inch—I ordered as UK imports because they either weren’t available in the US or had extra songs beyond what was on the US release. I had a lot of imports. So I found it strange the other week to get a package with UK import, trade paperback copies of my book The Rebellion’s Last Traitor. Even stranger because it’s a sci-fi book.

I never considered myself a sci-fi writer. Some of my earlier stuff bent the edges of reality, played with metaphysical aspects. I think slipstream is what it’s called. But in the following years, I realized crime was what I really liked reading, so why the hell wasn’t I just writing that?

Flash forward a couple years and I’m talking to an agent about a manuscript. She says it’s really good, but dystopian books are a really tough sale and had I ever considered making it sci-fi because it would lend itself well to that? My first thought: I’ve already rewritten the damn thing a bunch of times and, anyway, I’m a crime writer to start with. But she’s also really smart and reps some of my favorite writers, so half a second later I say “Of course! Sounds like a great idea.”

Then the panic set in. How the hell was I supposed to write a sci-fi novel?

* Cue montage scene of reading a bunch of recommendations and watching Blade Runner and X-Files a bunch of times. *

After looking at bunch of other stories in the genre for reference points, I started to feel better, especially after binging on X-Files and Twilight Zone, largely because I realized that these seminal sci-fi shows…weren’t always all that sci-fi? Some of them were basically straight-up crime stories. Seeing all this helped open my conception of what sci-fi (or crime for that matter) could be. It sounds stupid to say from this vantage point, but at that moment it was a revelation. Traitor is still a murder mystery, just one set within a sci-fi world. Henraek, the main character, is trying to find out who murdered his wife. There are twists and turns and red herrings, duplicitous women and vice-riddled men. If you swapped the fedoras and Packards for leather jackets and self-driving cars (and, okay, squinted pretty hard), you might be able to see Phillip Marlowe walking down the same mean streets Henraek prowls. Hell, the friendship and banter between Henraek and Walleus was basically wish fulfillment because I always wanted to write on Justified. So when I couldn’t, I just made my own Raylan and Boyd. But, you know, with holograms.

Stories are still stories, regardless of genre. Look at the way Kieran Shea’s insane space thrillers or Adam Christopher’s hardboiled robot-detective novels or Chris Holm’s supernatural pulp series. The set dressing is different, and the actors look a little funny sometimes, but the story beats are the same. I’ve found that writing across different genres isn’t as much a hindrance as it means you can be the director of more kinds of films.

Nik Korpon

THE REBELLION’S LAST TRATOR comes out June 6th, 2017, from Angry Robot Books