Genre Discussion: Are genres more than mere labels?

Genre Discussion: Are genres more than mere labels?

At some point, we’ve all been asked to determine whether a piece of literature is fiction or nonfiction. We are asked to distinguish poetry from narrative, plays from novels, stories from essays. We look for cues in the content and format to determine genre.

But genre has increasingly become more than a way to describe content and format. It defines the whole narrative structure: Science Fiction, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery. Each genre a tight little package, the contents of which are often extremely predictable.

I’m not here to proclaim against genre, though. I just want to give it a tiny little nudge.

The two big literary genres are fiction and nonfiction, right? But let’s stick with fiction, as that’s what we do (and mostly read) here at Outland Entertainment. And that’s a lot. You can lose yourself between labels and all their sub-genres and crossovers: Supernatural Romance, Sci-Fi Thriller, Young Adult Fantasy—the list goes on.

But do we really need genres? Do we want labels to shape our reading choices?

Sure, even unconsciously you’ll be filing your next book away neatly on top of all the similar ones you’ve read, giving its genre away. Nevertheless, do these labels actually work their prejudice into our reading choices?

Genre labels can prevent us from reading great books. Think about it. Do you ignore your preconceptions and proudly strut into the Children’s department to get that latest Young Adult Fantasy book you’ve been dying to read? If so: congratulations! I have to confess that I always feel a bit queasy when entering an area full of glittery shiny books and cute stuffed animals. Yes, it’s all in my head. But so is the inexistent niece or sister I immediately conjure up in order to justify my presence as I shuffle through the “15 & up” section at light speed.

These posts will explore of the preconceptions attached to the genres we publish inside the Speculative Fiction scope. I hope to hear your thoughts on these matters and get suggestions on what genres or topics to tackle in our Genre Discussion. After all, blog posts are brief nonfiction essays that are meant to…

Okay, okay…I’ll shut up now.

Good readings!
S.G.

1 comment

I too have a problem with all those genre labels. It is just one more way that things have become really categorized and dumbed down to the mass market. Genres seem to be the invention of publishers/ad people. Like when you read some Hollywood writer/director/ or producers saying…..” well this new movie is like_________ meets _____ with a touch of ______”….. that really annoys me when i hear that. Of course i am of the old out of date demographic, as i am not who people are marketing too…. even tho i spend way too much money on comics, books, dvd’s, and junk. It is all in the marketing, to funnel it all to the crowd that ‘might’ buy the product. But it seems impossible to go back to the simple days…in fact it will probably just get worse.

Good works transcend time and genre…… look at most anything written by Ray Bradbury.

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