Crashing the Party by Pat Bertram

Once a long time ago, I crashed a Halloween party. Sounds very bold, doesn’t it? But truly, it was out of character for me, and besides, I was in costume so in a way the person who crashed the party wasn’t really me. I remember that the party was given by a friend of a friend, but I have no idea how or why I decided to go — perhaps as a joke to see how long it would take for people to realize they didn’t know me.

I dressed as a witch — the whole bit: long black scraggly hair, puttied nose and chin almost meeting, heavy black brows, green-tinged skin, cackling voice. I walked into the party as if I belonged there, and for a while I was the belle of the ball as people tried to guess who I was. It finally occurred to one guy that I was a total stranger. So I left. Rather hurriedly.

That’s how I feel now as a science fiction writer — as if I’ve crashed a party, and no one has yet discovered that I don’t belong.

But am I a science fiction writer? Light Bringer was written as a thriller, not science fiction, though readers have called the novel science fiction. The story tLBthumbnailakes place in the present day, not in some fantastic future or otherworldly setting. The characters are recognizably human. Most of the science is based either on what is known today or gleaned from ancient religious documents and mythology. There is more history than science. And yet, a couple of my characters are not quite human, there is talk of UFOs and of another planet in our solar system that might return to wreak havoc upon earth. And, more importantly, Light Bringer is about ideas, showing us humans in a different light. Do those few science fiction elements make my thriller science fiction? Will calling it science fiction give people the wrong idea about the book?

People like what they recognize. There are certain conventions that readers expect in their favorite genre, and they are unforgiving if their expectations are not met. What if they decide I’m only masquerading as a science fiction author?

And so here I boldly stand, acting as if I belong, but secretly wondering if anyone will guess that I am a stranger in a strange land.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”


Filed under books, Pat Bertram, writing

12 responses to “Crashing the Party by Pat Bertram

  1. Funny how much we want to label things, including fiction. I was mortified when 2W accepted Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings under their Beckoning Books Romance imprint. Then I figured, well, there’s a huge market for romance novels so maybe that’s not a bad thing. Still, I wonder if readers of romance will be put off by the baseball aspects, while sports enthusiasts will be put off by the romance.

    I tend not to write genre specific novels; yet each contains aspects of romance, mystery, paranormal, which leaves them pretty much uncategorizeable.

    Sounds as if you might have the same issue with Light Bringer.

  2. We debated about what category to place my book in as well. There are so many crossovers it’s hard to shelf it in just one category. Embrace where it is and fake it until you make it.

    • Actually, Light Bringer was published as mainstream. Readers have classified it as science fiction, which seems strange to me, since hard core science fiction readers don’t consider it SciFi.

  3. Genre labels are weird. But they appear to comfort people. So, that means you belong at the SciFi party even if you don’t know why.


    • When I was young, there was a small section in the library of mysteries, an even smaller section of romance, and a few shelves of science fiction. All the rest of the adult books were shelved alphabetically. That’s how I consider my books: one of “all the rest.”

  4. Yes it has been mentioned by others how much we like to label. Back in the days of hardcovers and paperbacks it all had to do with where the bookshop owner was going to put your book. Should it go with the science fiction? Should it go with the thrillers? Which shelf and in what area of the shop will give it the best chance at sales? Well, the shelves are now electronic rather than real but the same logic still applies. Sounds like your book touches upon science fiction and if that is the best shelf for it to go on then so be it.

  5. Hi Pat. Science fiction is a wide ranging genre and it mixes in with other genres or mainstream fiction at times. I read a lot of SF when I was younger and it’s still one of my favorite genres. I haven’t read Light Bringer, but A Spark of Heavenly Fire definitely has elements of science fiction, particularly in its “if this goes on” aspect of the government heavyhandedness and the apocalyptic theme.

    • Hi, James! Good to see you here! As a reader, I’ve always loved elements of science fiction in mainstream books — it gives the novel a feeling of otherness, as if life isn’t exactly as we think it is — and apparently as a writer, that is what I have done in my own novels.

  6. I always had a hard time categorizing Vonnegut. An engaging blend of SciFi, fantasy, history – and Lord knows what else – with a strong touch of the absurd. Pynchon the same. And both really mainstream. Gawd, I do so miss Vonnegut.

  7. That was very brave of you, and a funny account. I’ve started Light Bringer and it’s beautifully written–hoping for time to get back to it soon.

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