Friday, April 23, 2010


Genre is becoming a four-letter word to me. My hackles raise every time I hear it. According to Merriam-Webster, genre is "a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content." Fair enough. I have no problem with categorizing literature. Imagine a bookstore or library without any categories. What I do have a problem with is something the dictionary isn't capturing, the word's pejorative use. At a writing conference I recently attended, I overheard someone say that she wonders from what people who read science fiction or fantasy are trying to escape. When I told someone manning a vendor's booth that I write fairy tales and fantasy, she looked at me like I had the plague. Others told me indirectly that they published good fiction but were not open to genre fiction.

It appears many people have bought into a dichotomy that separates fiction into two folders: realistic-literary fiction and genre fiction with all its sub-folders. In addition, many people associate the former with art and the latter with pulp. The definition of genre covers all categories of fiction, including realistic-literary fiction. That's right, realistic-literary fiction is just another genre with it's own particular style, form, and content. At its heart, fiction is about people: their choices, their struggles, their joys, and their sorrows. Good fiction should tell us something about the human condition. Good fiction must also "ring true." The events in the narrative and actions of the characters must be believable within the context of the story. The realistic-literary genre does not have a lock on any of those characteristics or content.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, thank you! This is one of my pet peeves. Fantasy is a genre of fiction, it's not "genre fiction." I know that's how the term is used these days, but it's not the true meaning. All fiction falls into one genre or another--including the "genre" of "mainstream" or the "genre" of "literary."