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[GUEST POST] Eric Farrell on Identifying Yourself as an Episodic Writer

Eric Farrell is a reporter by trade, having written for a variety of college, local, and metro publications across Los Angeles and Orange counties. His premiere novel, In Through the Out Door, is being published episodically each Friday for free at www.ericmatthewfarrell.com. An imminent crowdfunding campaign will help the DIY author raise money to print the novel, to be sold online and in bookstores across LA.

Neither Here Nor There: Identifying Yourself As An Episodic Writer

by Eric Farrell

Not once have I ever prowled the science fiction section of a bookstore and taken a novel home only to complete it and question whether or not what I had just read was, indeed, science fiction.

As an author pursuing the route of episodic publication, it’s been an entrancing and treacherous road to associating my work with a specific genre. I’ve actively been telling family, friends, reporters and online bloggers that my novel In Through the Out Door is a work of “science fiction,” while simultaneously flashing a sheepish smile to myself as they read the first few chapters of the book and likely ask themselves, “where’s the science in this fiction?”

Do I tell them to be patient? Am I forced to tell people that, yes, eventually they’ll get some science in their fiction, and essentially give away what could be a crucial part of the plot? There is a reason I have to identify myself as a science fiction writer in the first place. In Through the Out Door has all the themes and motifs of a great science fiction novel, and I believe this community of readers will most appreciate my work. It’s just a shame I have to say this to get people to read my work to begin with.

You’re neither here nor there are an episodic writer – to try to publish in a general literary realm may result in a lot of people getting pretty deep into your story before realizing it’s not for them. To try to publish in a genre-specific realm, like science fiction, is building up an expectation that you’ll deliver the goods representative of that genre. Inevitably, when you tell someone you are writing a story, their first question is, “what’s it about?” So, naturally, I saved myself the hassle and have pursued this latter route of identifying myself within science fiction.

My story isn’t going to transport you through outer space in a decked out space ship with oxygen farms and re-animation systems. Along the way, you’ll see the world shake and shudder in ways that will tease reality, but the fact of the matter is this: for me, telling people my novel is science fiction is more an identifier than the actual genre my work is in itself. If the lure of episodic publication requires an immediate engrossing effect, should the science be right up at the front?

To label my work as science fiction when the typical nuts and bolts of the genre aren’t immediately present – wild technology, aliens, space travel – is by definition giving away a part of my story before readers ever get to experience it. I’m still searching for alternatives (they’ll all be in hindsight once found, albeit) but thus far it’s been one of the pitfalls of working within the episodic realm. I want to be ambiguous about my work, I really do – it’s just kind of hard to pull that off when you’re business model is reliant upon expanding readership.

I would feel more comfortable labeling In Through the Out Door as a science fiction novel if more people initially saw the genre for its ends rather than its means. We all know science fiction has never truly been about the science, but nonetheless the expectations for how those messages or those themes are delivered are still cast in solid stone. At the end of the day, however, I’m still firmly comfortable working within a vibrant, well-read subsection of the literary community. My hope is, however, that this foray into episodic publishing allows readers to form an opinion of the novel based off the content itself, rather than plucking a book off a shelf marked for a certain genre to immediately satiate their literary desires.