Describing What I Write

My favorite bio in the Book View Cafe bookstore belongs to Vonda N. McIntyre. It reads (in full):

Vonda N. McIntyre

… writes science fiction.

That’s pithy and to the point. Vonda does indeed write science fiction. Very good science fiction, I might add. I was a serious Vonda fangirl long before we started Book View Cafe.

Conscientious InconsistenciesBut much as I admire this bio, I haven’t figured out how to emulate it. Partly that’s because, as I observe on my own author page, I “jump around within the speculative fiction genre.” I called one of my collections Conscientious Inconsistencies because every story in it would be given a different label.

The trouble with genre labels is that some people interpret them as having hard and fast rules. And I don’t much like rules: The minute you tell me I can’t do something, I want to do it. That’s particularly true with the written word. I hate being told what to read or what to write.

I did have one idea for a pithy bio:

Nancy Jane Moore writes.

This has the advantage of being completely accurate. I write. It’s what I do. I write fiction. I write essays. I write blog posts. I keep a journal. I’m planning a non-fiction book. And even when I’m not working on a particular project, I sit down with a notebook or on the computer and write down the things that occur to me so that I can figure out what I’m thinking about.

But while this appeals to me on a minimalist level, it doesn’t convey a lot of information. And I think people read author’s bios to get some idea of what the person is like.

One of the reasons I started writing science fiction and fantasy is that I wanted to write adventure stories with female protagonists without having to waste time explaining how a woman got to have those adventures. I’d just set the story in the future and assume that by that point people had stopped saying women couldn’t do those things. Or else I’d set it in an imaginary world and assume that place didn’t have rules on what women could and couldn’t do.

So I could say:

Nancy Jane Moore writes adventure stories.

But these days I do a lot of things besides adventure stories. And the other reason I started reading and writing science fiction is that science fiction is about ideas. Nothing makes me happier than a new idea. For a long time, a lot of what was described as “literary” fiction wasn’t about ideas. It was supposedly about people, but it seemed to me to be mostly about the authors, who took “write what you know” so seriously that they wrote books about suburban angst and editorial assistants in New York having affairs with older, married editors.

So I could also say:

Nancy Jane Moore writes about ideas.

But that sounds like I write essays, which I do, but that’s not all I write. And anyway I also write about people. It’s just that my people think about something more than their angst and their sex lives.

Maybe I could say:

Nancy Jane Moore writes about people and ideas.

Of course, sometimes I write about aliens, by which I mean extraterrestrials. But maybe you could make them a subset of people.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fact that I was almost a history major in college. That is, I didn’t have to major in anything, because I was in a liberal arts program, but the subject I had the most undergraduate hours in was history. I ended up one course short of a history degree.

While I’m very proud of not having a college major — like I said earlier, I don’t really like rules and restrictions and all that sort of thing — I do tend to think of myself as more of an historian than anything else.

So here’s another brief bio:

Nancy Jane Moore writes future history.

That’s not an attempt to get away from science fiction, but it is a more accurate description of my science fiction. But it doesn’t include my fantasy, about which I might say:

Nancy Jane Moore writes imaginary history.

Of course, some people might assume that I’m implying that a story is based in actual history, which I rarely do. I was just reading an essay by Kurt Vonnegut, who pointed out the importance of being understood by your reader. I do want to be clear about what I do, which is why my bios tend to be a little long.

But on reflection, I think I had the right idea back at the beginning. I’m not sure anyone needs to know all that bit about future and imaginary history and ideas and people and adventure stories.

Nancy Jane Moore writes.

It’s what I do.



Describing What I Write — 6 Comments

  1. Nancy,
    I love this circle around categories. I think many of us started telling our adventure stories for just your reasons.
    Don’t fence us in!
    Celebrating exploration,