January 28th, 2008

moss on stones

Genre or not genre, THAT is the question!

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to write a book that millions read in which the protagonist is a detective or to write a style-laden meandering epic that a few thousand people read? My Helpful Friend has been busy again and sent me a link to this article which again addresses the question "Does genre need to be transcended?" This time the writer is talking about crime and mystery fiction instead of spec fic, but it's the same question. Any time a reviewer says a work "transcends" the genre, what he means is, "This one good, all other genre bad."

It's an old question, but this article has an interesting point, made in this paragraph:

And, even in literature, the view that highbrow fiction is somehow all broadly worthwhile does not long survive service on the jury of a book prize. Parcel after parcel arrives of books that somehow contrive to be both plotless and proseless, often involving near-escapes from sexual abuse on seaside holidays in childhood. Yet these works do not smear an entire type of fiction, in the way that [a certain best seller] does, for the simple reason that they remain largely unknown.

So, what the author is saying is that bad genre drags down good genre, but bad literary fiction can't drag down good literary fiction because no one reads it. I consider that an interesting point, and, in one sense, a feather in genre's cap.
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