In the second last season of Xena Warrior Princess, we have come to the climax of the overall arc of the story.
Up to this point, Xena has gone from being a former bloodthirsty warrior, newly repentant and wracked with self-loathing, to a devoted friend and fighter for good and justice, to a self-assured paladin following the righteous spiritual path known as the Way of the Warrior.
Meanwhile, Xena’s best friend and sidekick, Gabrielle, has gone from a plucky, idealistic peasant girl, to an unwitting Amazon princess and novice fighter, to an adherent of the nonviolent spiritual path known as the Way of Love, to an eventual apostate of that path in favour of becoming a warrior – no longer a sidekick – in her own right.
Like 17 million other people, I’ve been watching Empire.
And in keeping with the prevailing opinion, I think it’s a great show.
When I told my sister I was watching it, she expressed surprise. Not an unexpected reaction given most of what I watch is either fantasy, sci-fi, historical, or about science and nature.
However, Empire, at its core over the first season, is a succession drama, which I always love and happen to be writing myself in a historical setting. As well, I have a prior history with stories about record companies thanks to the 1985 movie Krush Groove, which my sister and I watched together and both enjoyed.
There’s a restaurant in Toronto called Medieval Times.
When I was a kid, I would see commercials for it on TV. The gimmick of this restaurant is that it’s set up like a large medieval hall in which patrons are entertained by knights sword fighting and jousting on real horses, all while eating medieval-esque fare without cutlery and drinking out of giant goblets.
To my child self, it looked like the most awesome thing ever. Whenever the commercial (which was more like a movie trailer) came on, I’d stop whatever I was doing and imagine myself going to the restaurant.
Unfortunately, because I was living in Nova Scotia, I never got to go. I still haven’t been to this day.
One of the most important and oft-cited tenets of marketing is to identify your target audience.
When it comes to books, an easy was to start doing this is through identifying your novel’s genre, thereby making your target audience the readers of said genre.
Many writers descry genre. I’ve hear it stated that genre conventions impose limits to creativity and the possibilities a writer can introduce into a story.
Some also claim that genre is a means by which the traditional publishing industry pigeonholes the market by only publishing stories adhering to this or the other trend, which ultimately comes to define various genres as a whole (e.g. the dystopian trend in YA).
Yet, whether one agrees with the above statements or not, genre is the means by which readers have been trained to locate books within the publishing landscape. Whether a book is traditionally published or self-published, it’s the GPS that helps lead readers to the promised land of similar content and fulfilled expectations.
According to bestselling sci-fi author Hugh Howey,
[W]riting within a genre is a huge first step in becoming discovered. No one is looking for you or your particular book. You are both unknown unknowns. So you better write a book that’s near a specific book…. Random fantasy books sell better than random randomness.
But what happens when your book doesn’t quite fulfill those expectations? What happens when it meets some of the conventions of its genre, yet blithely disregards others?