Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wikipedia: Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term for fictional works (novels, short stories) written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.
It's also how we categorize our store. And most of the time it's how someone chooses which book to read next. So what are the implications of genre fiction, of writing and publishing books purely with the intent to fit into a specific category? Is there enough room to digress from the key components that make a work one specific genre or another?
As a child I roamed the library searching the aisles for the books with the blue sticker that had a line drawing of a unicorn reared up. Fantasy. Fantasy still remains my favorite genre, other than classics (is that a genre?)
I recently read Joust by Mercedes Lackey. As a book about dragons I was highly pleased. But the publisher didn't take enough time to make sure the book was properly edited. And the cover gives the entire plot away.
People who like genre fiction aren't stupid, as much as the literary snobs (aka me) would like to sometimes pretend. Murder Mysteries, Westerns, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal Romance - they all get shoved in this part of my brain that is separate. So why?
1. The books are cheaper. Mass market. 7.99 instead of 15.99. They're fatter, their text is less spread out and they usually have lower paper quality.
2. The editors seem to slack off a lot. Are there even editors? It seems there's more leeway for what gets published.
So what do you do when something really good comes along? Or if an author knows she can write a sub-par novel that hits on a few key points like dragons or being a cowboy, why should she try any harder than she needs to? The public seems to consume genre fiction at a rapid rate. Do we think they're "easier" to read? They're oftentimes longer than what we have in our literature section. It's not like their character development or plot is any less complex than any "real" literature. The vocabulary isn't outrageously dulled down. The only difference I can imagine is the time spent writing the book. When more time is taken with each sentence it can produce more meaning with fewer words. In this sense I suppose I'm making the claim that our Literature section is more poetic than most of the genre fiction.
I think truly great stories are not written to fit into a single category. If they have a murder or a dragon or a rancher, they should be allowed without being characterized into a pre-packaged consumable item. But familiar packaging and familiar content sells.
And that's what we're trying to do right?
So even if you don't agree with the segregation of books based on content, give a genre you haven't tried a chance and buy more books!