I’m so going to get blow back on this and continued shady glances at author events but fuck it.
You hate crime fiction.
It’s true. And it’s not that bullshit where you “just don’t realize it” or “didn’t look at it that way” — nope, you hate crime fiction.
And it’s easy to see how that’s the case. There are barely any paying short story markets anymore. The same three plots are recycled and shat out on paper over and over again. Writers are still beholden to a detective genre that has grown so engorged and unwieldy that a five year-old can poke craters into it.
All because you hate crime fiction.
What you actually love are stories about crime through a privileged lens. You want more girls/women/hers/shes on multiple modes of transport or platforms. The hallowed ground that is the purity of the white female victim. What you actually want is another weary current/ex/reformed cop who seemingly can’t stop finding himself as the center of the goddamn universe in a city that seemingly can’t control its murder rates. What you really thirst for is yet another tired take on stories over or nearly a century old, written from the perspective of people who would pucker up on a sunny day in the safest part of the south Bronx. Or how about a short story collection about things/places without a shred of actual representation for those things/places?
That last one is stretching it since you don’t want short crime fiction either. No; you want that sweet, sweet 300–400 page magnum opus with more navel gazing than a late-80’s Ron Jeremy flick. That money’s gotta feel spent right? Can’t go dropping $7 bucks on a bunch of new stories, nope, need to dump nearly $20 for that ebook copy of the 32nd Alex Cross novel. More comfort food. More narratives that take real problems and make them into easily resolved speedbumps. Why bother really exploring crime and its roots? Our fearless heroes need to jump to the next dead, presumably female, prop, I mean victim.
This is preachy. Maybe it should be. Crime fiction is suffering an invisible (or blatantly ignored) drought of new writers and readers. The genre has no young talent (outside of your MFA factory folks, who are rarities still). POC and LGTBQIA writers are embarrassingly represented with the rare few trotted out as a more of an excuse to continue excluding because, ‘Look, there’s representation, whatever are you talking about?’ Ultimately, this leads other writers to other genres. All those interesting and refreshing insights are lost and the opportunities to grow and build new standards to work towards are long gone. Our false progressive leanings amount to no real return on investment and there’s an entire cottage industry entrenched in our community that is honestly counting on that to stroke their egos.
Ask yourself this: maybe the reason crime fiction doesn’t have all that racist saber-rattling that horror and scifi seem to have isn’t because of how awesome the community is but because those who would lose their shit in this community have nothing to lose their shit over? POC, LGBTQIA, working class, and young writers are tearing down walls within the genres of horror and scifi apart in all the right ways — THAT is what’s got puppies and H.P Lovecraft Nazis all in an uproar. THAT is why we see more and more of a movement away from the old tropes in those genres while ours seems stuck in molasses.
When the fuck are we going to have our uproar? When are we going to get word from the shallow-minded assholes in this community that we’re doing things right? When do we actually start loving crime fiction? You may not agree with me or may even be *gasp* a little mad at me. Hey, maybe I should be grateful to even have been published, right? (oh shit, my bad, dropped my dog whistle there), but I don’t think I’m wrong.
I can concede everything is a lot more complicated than we can ever pull together on our own, sure, though something is not quite right and when I look around the literal and proverbial room, I can very much see what’s missing. We can only obey the Dread Lord Bookscan as the reasoning behind all of publishing’s evils for so long before we need to start admitting there are gates and gatekeepers — just not the type most people harp on about.
Hell of a piece to write when it’s time to start promoting a short story collection, ain’t it?
Maybe I’m still pissed about losing Thuglit or Needle or All Due Respect or blah blah blah blah blah.
That’s probably it.
Angel Luis Colón is the Anthony and Derringer Award-nominated author of NO HAPPY ENDINGS, the BLACKY JAGUAR series of novellas, and the upcoming short story anthology; MEAT CITY ON FIRE (AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES). His fiction has appeared in multiple web and print publications including Thuglit, Literary Orphans, and Great Jones Street.