Where have I been? Seattle, actually. It was fun-Seattle is far enough north and as it is solstice time then sun didn’t set till nearly 10PM. I’m still a bit groggy from the long days.
One of the best things about working in publishing is seeing one’s book in stores. Airport bookstores get a bum rap—sure, they carry mostly disposable mas market bestsellers, but they carry many other books besides, especially these days when there is a lot of competition for those interstitial hours on a plane (e.g., movies, video games, laptops, in-flight entertainments). But finding the good stuff is still a surprise. There was a special surprise for me, in the Seattle airport:
Slum Online, a mystery? And Scott Sigler’s book Contagious is right next to it! (For those who don’t know, there are space aliens in Sigler’s book.) What makes these books “mysteries” rather than “science fiction”? Well, many books have mystery elements to them—if there’s some unknown to be found out or some conundrum to be unraveled, the mystery plot almost by necessity fuels the action of all sorts of commercial fiction. It’s been said that science fiction is a genre of setting, while mystery is a genre of plot. (Romance and horror would be genres of tone.)
Slum Online also have very light science fictional content. It’s about technology and its impact on our lifestyles, but it isn’t truly speculative so perhaps it might do well in a mystery section, except that the stakes are a bit personal. There is a crime in the novelette “Bonus Round” but that’s a minor one as well. The book’s strongest commonality with mystery is really the laconic narrative voice of the narrator as he drifts through the cityscape, a true flâneur. It was the flâneur character of early modern fiction that evolved into the wise and sardonic sleuth of the crime story, after all.
On the other hand, Slum Online is being reviewed in Locus Magazine, the leading science fiction review journal next month. And our readers are SF readers (or manga readers), and I doubt the cover to our book is of much interest to mystery readers. It stands out on that shelf, but not necessarily in a good way. For a moment I had the urge to simply reshelve the books myself. (Telling a bookstore employee that a book is on the wrong shelf is generally an exercise in futility, so I would have had to go for it alone.) But then I remembered that one of my favorite things is stumbling across a book I never would have seen otherwise thanks to a misplacement, a wrong turn in the stacks, or a whimsical bookstore staffer, so I let the The Case of the Misshelved Book remain for someone else to solve, and the books there for someone else to discover.
Of course, if the pair are returned to us for not selling, I’ll probably feel like a doofus, so why not buy a copy or two to counteract the Seattle Shelf Effect and make me feel better.