After reading this post about True Fans from Kevin Kelly at The Technium (thanks to Joshua Reynolds for the link), I started thinking about my little piece of the long tail...the little piece I'm trying to stake out as my territory.
That's what a creator (writer, musician, artist of any kind) strives to do, isn't it? Only a lucky few actually slay the dragon and lay claim to the head of the beast, but most of us hope for a chunk of the tail. (If you don't know what all this long tail nonsense is about, read the book by Chris Anderson, or check out his blog).
The question, essentially, what is my niche? My style? My creation?
I write fiction. Genre fiction mostly. Some of it is dark...okay, most of it is dark. I wouldn't call all of it horror. I have no desire to torture a reader with gory spilling of entrails. That kind of work has a place and a fan base. Most of what I write is dark fantasy--even dark magical realism (if I'm allowed such a term).
Evidence from my own "top stories" (and others):
"Catalog Sales" - A hobo sells books that turn children into monsters.
"The Ox-Cart Man" - A child ghost hunter realizes he is actually the son of the ghost he has been hunting.
"The Scavengers Lying in Wait" - The undead inhabit a pond and wait for boys to go fishing so they can, um, feed.
"Dancing Lessons" - A young girl meets a reanimated man (with a clockwork heart) who helps her learn about her estranged father.
"Tommy of the Flood" - A man's childhood friend--an autistic boy who drowned as a child--comes back to, um, spread his influence. (I have to be vague here folks...no spoilers.)
"Little Fingers" - A man's fiancé vanishes into a slab of concrete.
"Reciprocity" - A boy is devoured by his pet goldfish and reborn (sort of).
"In My World of Green Water" - A drowned boy learns that he is better off at the bottom of the pond.
I could go on, but I think the picture is fairly clear...at least to me. (Remember...no spoilers)
Quite a few of these stories are sad, poignant, carrying some kind of message--at least a call to seek a message. The messages aren't always easy, and I'm not trying to moralize. I hope I write stories that entertain, but I also want the piece to stick with you after you finish the last word. I usually fail at pure, gut-wrenching horror.
When I was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year (I know, whoo-hoo), one of my students wrote "Mr. Polson is my thinking coach". While I don't see writing in the same way as teaching, I would like readers to think...to really examine themselves when they read something attached to my name. So I write strange, hopefully thought-provoking, dark magical-realism and fantasy. Is there room enough in the long tail?
What is your niche? Your piece of tail?