Guest Blogger Day

POST GENRE?

by Dianne Harman

 

Romance, dystopian, science fiction, etc. A friend recently made the comment that most writing today is “post genre.” The more I write, and the more I read, the more valid that comment seems to be.

What started me thinking about this subject is what happened to my novel, Blue Coyote Motel. I wrote a story as the events and characters dictated. An author asked me what it was about. I told him it was the story of a scientist who becomes deranged and puts a “feel good” drug in the air-conditioning of the motel where unsuspecting guests stayed. He told me I’d written a thriller–a suspense novel.

But the word thriller didn’t take into account the various love relationships in the book. And what about the drug addiction? And the locations – Thailand, Provence, Nepal? Genre?

It’s been called Alfred Hitchcockian, existential, spiritual, reminiscent of Twilight Zone, etc. Readers see a lot of different elements in the book. Amazon made it a mystery/thriller quarterfinalist in their Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Goodreads chose it as their Psychological Thrillers Group Book of the Month.

I like complex characters and plots. However, no matter how good a book is, if no one reads it, it doesn’t matter. It’s becomes a question of marketing. It’s much easier to sell something written for a specific audience. I understand that. But if an author writes for one audience (obviously this does not apply to a non-fiction book on how to fix the drain in the sink), does it become a form of pandering? Will good books not be written because they’re going to be a hard sell? I’d like to believe if a book is good, an audience will be found. Yeah, I still put cookies and milk on the hearth on Christmas Eve!

cover Blue coyote

Available at Amazon

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6 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Day

  1. At least in Academic circles (from Business Admin to English to Cultural Anthropology), the current commentary is focusing away from a classification system (in this case “Genre”) as goal in of itself. “Genre” itself is a new concept–by “new” I mean Enlightenment-era, and even if common elements can be found in works, placing them into one category or another is to some extent an arbitrary act.

    I tend to think of writing solely in terms of quality (a vertical scale). I often use Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow as a good example of a work that can be firmly placed in Science Fiction (specifically Cyberpunk), yet because of the quality of the writing, it is classified as Literature. Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife, and Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are all recent works that can be placed in SF/Fantasy, but are not–and in fact critics will argue vociferously against them being classified that way.

    What writers should be thinking about is why and how these works transcend “genre.” Not everyone is destined to write a literary masterpiece, but working to take a work from pulp level to literature level is probably the single best effort we can make.

    • Critics argue against putting those books in SF because critics disdain all forms of speculative fiction. Unless they’re specifically writing for a *genre* publication, you won’t see a nice thing written about it. I consider all of those books SF/Fantasy.

      Genre is important for the community it creates, and readers like to group themselves by the genres they prefer. Genre is a safe place where we can like a book for it speculative/romantic elements, not in spite of, but because of them. As a publisher-assigned label, I agree genre is losing meaning, but as a reader-assigned label, it’s as important as ever.

      I agree genre is not something a writer should fret over, but neither should they actively try to be ‘post-genre’. Surely striving to belong to no genre is as pretentious as writing pulp is pandering.

      • Absolutely, there are many reasons why separating things by subject matter can help an average reader find what she or he enjoys reading most, but like you say, there’s a certain group who fervently resist the categorization of works like Gravity’s Rainbow in genre–and quite amusing that the same group fervently tries to keep anything they define as genre within the bounds of that category.

        Of course groups hobble themselves, such as the World Fantasy Awards when recognized Neil Gaiman’s Sandman with the award in 1991, then subsequently the organizers decided as a group they would no longer allow illustrated short stories (read “comic books”) enter their contest in the future.

        I’d never argue in favor of pretention, I simply encourage everyone to write to the best of their abilities first, with an eye to a good story with solid characters, rather than get carried away with descriptions of dripping fangs, iridescent dragon scales or thundering rocket engines.

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