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2004-05-05 11:35 AM
My Thoughts on Genre
The conversation of genre came up over at my writer's group today, and I thought I'd share my response here:
Now, I say this in the nicest terms possible. We must at least be aware of catagorization as writers, if only from the viewpoint of submitting our fiction, but IMHO, it would be better to define editorial preference outside of genre typecasting.
And here's why: As XXX so succinctly put it, MR is one of those genres that "you know it when you see it." Ask two different people, and they'll give you two different definitions. Ask two different people to define interstitial, and you'll get two definitions.
Hell, as a literary think-tank, we've barely decided if Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was the beginning of Science Fiction or if it went back even further. Science Fiction is one of the few genres that I've found that actually has a workable definition, being thus: If you remove the science from the story, the story no longer makes sense. If you view Ms. Shelly's little book (written at the tender age of seventeen, none-the-less; and written in a three day flurry at that!) in these terms, you will see that it is indeed Science Fiction.
Beyond the overall blanket catagorizations, however, I find it is important to think about the concept of genre as merely a marketing tool. It's what book publishers use to group novels of the same type together in a store in order to breed reader cross-pollonization of similar types of stories.
It's a marketing tool. It matters to the publisher. It shouldn't matter to the writer.
Now, in terms of short-stories I believe that it is important to focus on editor taste, but that has really nothing to do with genre beyond the broad strokes of Fantasy/Science Fiction/Mystery/Mainstream(yes, this is a GENRE)/Romance . . .
As most of what is considered mainstream television could very easily fall into the catagorization of Fantasy (Tell me Ally McBeal wasn't fantasy and you'll hear a loud P'Shaw from up Washington way) you have to remember that readers find quality. It doesn't behoove you to schlep around in the ghettoization found with most genre labels, and it doesn't behoove you to allow any of it to enter your mind while writing. Write the best story you possibly can. If it includes a faery, okay. If it doesn't, that's cool too.
The point is, IMHO, it practically useless to worry about genres. Know what an editor likes (So-and-so likes humour; Whosavitch doesn't as much) and if you think an editor would like a particular type of story you've written, send it on! If the market guidelines specifically call for a certain sub-sub-genre (We're looking for Magic-Realism of a specific neo-mythological-interstitial-Fortean flavor . . .)try your best not to gag on the editor's pretentiousness and READ A SAMPLE ISSUE. This is your best bet for finding out if they might like your story.
Sorry to bore the non-writers out there . . .
Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.
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