Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I've been thinking lately about re-organizing my books. At the moment, they're still more or less in the helter-skelter ultra-random grouping that happened when we first moved in, plus or minus fourteen years worth of buying new books and taking old ones to the used bookstore (or having them swiped).

But sorting them all out into categories that make sense has become a daunting prospect. Far more complex than you might think. I started talking about this on Facebook yesterday, and then realized that there wasn't nearly enough room there to really dig into the meat of it.

I'm fine with mixing my sci-fi and fantasy with my more mainstream fiction, and with bundling the YA stuff together with the adult stuff, so that saves me from having to figure out whether -- for instance -- Coraline is primarily a youth/YA book, urban fantasy, or horror. Gaiman's books are particularly problematic like this, I might add. So it's a good idea that I've decided it's okay to muddle them all together.



What about the erotica? Most of my erotica is in ebook format these days, but I've got a good shelf's worth of books that I've picked up here and there, and none of it is stuff that I really want my (under-10) children leafing through at random. Maybe the erotica should have a separate shelf, up in my bedroom. But I have a few books that blur the line, and how do I decide when a book has crossed that line? Kushiel's Dart isn't technically erotica, but it sure would raise some awkward discussions if my daughter picked it up. And what about the non-erotic romances that trail off into vague purple prose?

Another thing:

I've got a lot of books left over from college and other textbook-like books that appeared in the wake of various moments of interest and obsession. Some of them are drily, obviously nonfiction: my math texts, for instance, or a small assortment of programming manuals. But others are somewhat less obvious. What about my Norton Anthology of English Literature? It's mostly fiction, but it's not like there's a single author, or even a single editor to file it under. I could give all the "collected works" their own section, but that's going to dump poor Norton with, mostly, a bunch of sci-fi/fantasy anthologies (and depending on what I do with the erotica, those anthologies as well). Maybe I need a separate section for classic literature?

But if I do that, I have to figure out what qualifies as "classic literature", don't I? My Complete Works of Shakespeare is a pretty solid ringer, and Dumas' Three Musketeers, sure -- but what about Tolkein? I do consider The Lord of the Rings to be classic literature, but wouldn't it be happier shelved with the, shall we say, less scholarly books?

I thought, at least there's a clear division with the graphic novels and comics collections. But... not so much, even there. I have some books about artists (e.g., Salvador Dali, M. C. Escher) that are mostly pictures of their works with short descriptions -- are those books of pictures, or textbook-type works? And it's easy to separate collections of comic strips (Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes) from collections of comics (Iron Man, Strangers in Paradise), but which category would the Order of the Stick collections fall under?

(My librarian friends are all laughing their asses off at me right now, because I have no idea how many times I've listened to them complain about having to figure out how to classify a book for shelving.)

And none of this has anything to do with my writing or my editing or even all that much to do with romance or erotica, except that it has made me think about the vast variety of subgenres available in the erotic romance genre. Or in any genre, really. I mean, even in my own small catalog, I've got some sci-fi, some fantasy, some straight-up contemporary lit, some urban fantasy, even a hint of horror.  Is it really fair to lump all those stories together as "erotic romance" when they're likely to appeal to vastly different audiences? (Heck, they're not even all technically erotic romance. "Succubus, Inc." has not the slightest breath of romance about it, while "Doctor Tentacle and the Pheromone Incident" is all about the romantic connection but never even makes it as far as a kiss.)

Maybe I should just give up and sort everything by the primary color on the spine...

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