At last weekend's San Diego State University Writers' Conference, I was surprised to find that several literary agents were not interested in my mystery novel because my protagonist is an artificial intelligence being.  (Some of the agents who handle mysteries were interested.)  I was surprised in part because Donna Andrews' mysteries involving the 'Artificial Intelligence Personality' Turing Hopper have been published by Berkeley Crime.  I am curious how readers of mysteries feel about a murder mystery where the protagonist is an AI.  Would you read such a book?  

 

John Mullen

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To be perfectly honest, no.  I need a hefty dose of reality.  But clearly I'm not representative of the buying public.
This is something that sci-fi writers have been doing from at least as far back as Isaac Asimov's I, Robot series, so it's not surprising that agents would want to classify it as sci-fi.  Donna Andrews probably benefits from having an already-established audience in getting this published as a mystery.

It's all in the execution. But my impression is agents must be genuinely intrigued on a prospective reader level to want to read the pages. Time and again I've come across agents saying they turned down a project they knew would sell because it just wasn't for them. Most agents need to feel passion for a book in order to sell it. They say editors can tell when they lack passion for a project.

 

FYI, my first writers conference was the San Diego one. Missing the weather there right about now. Lived in La Jolla for ten years. Ice storm killed our electricity here in Ohio for about sixteen hours.

The execution and the presentation. And the writer's reputation. Some post-apocalypse novels are sci fi and some are literature - it's usually based on the writer's reputation and how the books gets marketed (I liked Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake but it was mid-level sci fi at best and there was no reason for it to be nominated for the Booker except those judges havn't read the better sci fi versions of that story). Why was The Road literature and not sci fi?

 

So, is your novel a mystery or is there a more literary aspect? (literary people don't like the words "hook" or "gimmick" ;)

 

 

My book is a mystery (to me).
I have read a SciFi mystery once and liked it pretty well, but it was clearly marketed as SF.
Sure, if it were well enough written. You might want to shop around for some more agents, if this bunch offered nothing.

No offense but personally I wouldn't read it because I don't like those types of books. I love mysteries but anything remotely close to SCI-Fi is not my thing. I hate anything SCI-Fi. I understand it's a mystery to you in your heart but if you intend to be published (through a pub), you gotta be prepared because they will classify your novel the way they want to. They will go with the audience they think will likely be interested. Remember, genre is just a category. It doesn't reflect your writing. If it's a mystery, it's a mystery. But it may end up being classified as  something else when publishers get involved. Every genre has certain things that put them in that genre and even if you have small elements of something outside a mystery, they might label it something else, especially if they feel it will sell better to that audience. It's just one of those pesky business decisions on the part of pubs and agents.

 

I think that a lot of mystery readers would probably feel like this is more SCi-Fi. But that doesn't have to be a bad thing and I am sure there are some mystery readers who would be intrigued by the concept. Also remember, agents and pubs are different. It just takes this book getting on the right desk in front of the right person. The writing and your ability to tell a story is what is important overall. I'd call it a SCI-Fi/Mystery and that way folks will know what to expect.

 

Good luck!


Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net

Stacy,

 

Thank you for your comments.  Perhaps I should have explained that I am not creating an alternate world in my novel.  The story takes place in the near future in San Diego.  The only "fantastic" element in the story is the fact that the protagonist is an artificial intelligence that has become sentient. 

 

John

 

Probably sci-fi. But nothing says it can't be a sci-fi mystery. That's perfectly acceptable. If you're trying to push it as a traditional mystery (cozy, hard-boiled, etc.) it probably will be looked at by agents/publishers with squinty, narrowed eyes. But if you push it as a sci-fi with the plot being a mystery, then sci-fi publisher/agents may more readily accept it. There are several sci-fi mysteries out there. Check to see who their publishers are.

Personally, depending on how much technological 'stuff' is included would determine if I'd read it. If it is too tech complicated, I wouldn't be interested, but if you throw in a few and stay focused on the mystery, then I'd be more amenable.

While elements of my AI protagonist's technology are integral to the story, my novel is not "tech heavy."  Still, it looks like you may be right, that I have a sci-fi/mystery.

Look, I prefer mysteries but each to their own. I'm not an avid sci-fi reader but I come from a family that is. something to consider;

 

Mobile phones came about as a direct result of the communicator's in Star Trek that got developers thinking.

 

Sci-fi writer William Gibson wrote about 'cyber space' and the 'internet' before it happened. That is the strength of sci-fi. It isn't supposed to be about human interest or engaging sub plots. Sci-fi is about ideas. Its about exploring possibilities and questions that have yet to be answered and putting a case forward, through fiction, for making them happen.

 

we may have had to wait a lot longer for Crimespace, had it not been for William Gibson ;-)

 

Like I said, not a big sci-fi fan but it is every bit as legitimate as ANY other genre.

 

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