What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I think we’re going to see an uptick in serious, literary horror, especially from marginalized and underrepresented writers. I think current events, politics, and the general cultural landscape is leading readers to look for ways to process the world around them. Additionally, the success of a number of crossover genre books, movies, and streaming shows is driving interest in speculative material that sits on the borders of more traditional genre divides.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’m personally looking for smart, forward-thinking thrillers that examine questions of identity, power, and privilege. Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters, Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, or Tana French are some recent favorites.
Horror from writers of color, queer folk, and other marginalized groups. I’m thinking of Victor LaValle’s work here or, in other media, Get Out or Raw are some really interesting examples of how the genre is moving forward.
And interesting, grounded science fiction that focuses on consistent, well-thought-out worldbuilding and tight, effective plotting for both adult and YA audiences. Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous, or, on the YA side, one of my own clients’ works, Emily Suvada’s This Mortal Coil.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Casual use of sexual violence to give characters motivation. I see this a lot, especially as a misguided attempt to give depth or motivation to a secondary female character. Stories that contend with sexual violence and its consequences do have an important role, but it’s been done so badly and so harmfully over and over again.
What would you like to change about the publishing industry?
I would like to never hear the term “diversity” again. I think we as an industry need to focus more on intersectional representation of a wide variety of experiences. Diversity still centers the majority experience. It centers the existing dominant narratives and implies that books from marginalized perspectives are adding texture to a body of work rather than offering alternatives. Instead, I’d rather we talk more about de-centering privilege and allowing a wider variety of voices, experiences, and perspectives to take the stage. I’d like us to decolonize our lists. Hire people with different lived experience. Publish widely to find new audiences.
DongWon Song is an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency representing science fiction and fantasy for adults, YA, and middle-grade readers as well as select nonfiction. He was formerly an editor at Orbit and a product manager for the e-book startup Zola Books and has taught as an adjunct instructor in the publishing program at Portland State University.