A confession, science-fiction fans: I entered your world unintentionally.
Like an astronaut crashing on an unknown planet, I was an accidental science-fiction author—although in truth I was an accidental mystery author first.
A bunch of years ago I wrote a novel for kids called The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. I thought it was just a funny book about a teacher with a secret.
But then folks said: “Hey! Great mystery novel!”
I liked that. I liked being a mystery writer. I like mysteries. And so I wrote a novel for adults about a detective solving crimes that no one else cares about. To make it interesting, I came up with a very good reason to why no one else cares: because Earth is on a collision course with a massive asteroid and civilization is about to end.
And then folks said: “Hey! Great science-fiction novel!”
Theoretically one could quibble with both designations and insist that the novels (including the third volume, World of Trouble, which comes out today) are more properly categorized as speculative fiction, the sci-fi subgenre that imagines and examines a hypothetical alteration in human history. Some of my favorite novels inhabit this category, especially Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and some of the best works by the aforementioned Philip K. Dick—I am particularly smitten with The Man in the High Castle.
But, listen, I refuse to decide one way or another. I’d be a fool! First of all, like all writers, I want as many readers as possible: I want science-fiction readers, I want mystery readers, I want your Great-Aunt Judy who usually prefers romances but will go ahead and give this one a try because she likes the look of the cover.
The other reason I refuse to decide is because one of the exhilarating things about this job is that you never really know what’s going to happen next, including what you yourself will come up with tomorrow. (Did I say exhilarating? I meant terrifying.) I could declare myself an Official Science-Fiction Writer, or an Official Mystery Writer, and then have a whiz-bang idea for a story about pirates, or one about a love affair, or one about this renegade zoo keeper who kidnaps these orangutans and—hey! Don’t steal my zookeeper idea, dude.
Ira Levin is one of my all-time favorites, because he wrote Broadway thrillers and he wrote creepy horror and he wrote speculative fiction and he wrote about robots. He had good ideas and he went where they went. That’s my mission statement: to come up with good ideas and follow them, to whatever distant star I crash-land on next.