What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I think we’re cycling out of a darker trend in science fiction and fantasy. There’s been a lot of talk about the drive toward grimdark fantasy over the past few years. Now I think we’re shifting to something lighter, more traditional fantasy. I’m curious to see how it’s going to manifest—I think Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a trend toward more “shimmery” fantasy, but also people keep talking about the old Dragonlance books a lot. With Shannara coming to TV, I’m guessing we’re going to start seeing a lot more throwback-y classic adventure fantasy. Expect more dragons.
On the science-fiction side, The Martian is totally dominating the conversation. More space stuff, more realistic technology, more positivity. I think the grimdark analogue here is post-apocalyptic—zombies or climate fiction—and now those same anxieties are translating into a desire to see solutions and to see us aspire to achieve great things as a species.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I think the trends are pushing for pretty deep genre stuff right now. Classic stuff—sword and sorcery or space opera. But what I’d love to find is genre fiction that’s more grounded and more rooted in a world that’s recognizable to the reader. Something that can cross borders and appeal to audiences who don’t want to have to keep up with decades of continuity and lore to understand what’s happening.
I’m also on the hunt for some nonfiction: in particular, science writing that aims to reach a wide, passionate audience and food writing that transcends the recipe. Also, science writing and food writing combined. More of that, please.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t think anything’s fully off the table, ever. But I admit to being a little bit quicker to get rid of vampire stories right now. Or really anything with “classic” monsters—vamps, werewolves, zombies.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Genre publishing can be very community-driven. What I love about it is having a real conversation with the fans and the audience. You can go to a convention and feel a great connection to the people who love the same weird things you do. The downside is that can be very limiting and can lead to a lot of complications when that community fractures, as it has over the past couple of years. I’m hoping in the coming year we can find a way back to points of commonality—primarily, a shared love of great stories well told.
DongWon Song is an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. He was formerly an editor at Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. He was the first hire at publishing startup Zola Books and while there, oversaw content and eventually became the head of product for the e-commerce and e-book apps. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where it does not rain nearly as much as people say.