The Crusade Against Genre Fiction


Humans have a habit of organizing things into categories. We see this with music, telivision, media, and of course, literature. Now in fiction literature we have two polar playing fields- literary and genre. The common definition of literary is fiction that it is serious and critically acclaimed (Saricks). Genre on the other hand posesses a much less vague definition- this is where most commercial fiction lies in the vast wonderland of horror, mystery, romance, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, and the endless other sub-categories. It has become common place within the writing community that literary is superior to that of genre fiction and that even genre fiction is mediocre at best. NO!

Of course, we know that this bias is ill placed right? Genre fiction possesses some of the most amazing writers of the last century like Tolkien, Lovecraft, King, and Gaiman; writers that have entertained millions and still utilized precise word play and literary composition. Until I attended the 2012 AWP conference in February I had never witnessed as much disdain for my most beloved genres. In my post 10 Things I Learned from AWPI mentioned that there is a crusade against genre fiction and that what I find it is. Popular disdain for silly fiction or even fantastical universes so intricate entire textbooks could be devoted to their texts like the Lord of the Rings are assumed to be beneath that of literary fiction.

Now of course I know there is a difference between the two, but the way some of these writers look down their nose at certain fiction just due to its genre is foolish. We see this same idiocy in music as well as many people mock genres like hardcore or punk rock without properly listening to the astonishing lyrics or melodies of such music. To be frank its plain old lame and too old school for the new school- feel me? Of course, countless magazines and anthologies call for “literary” fiction, but in that same notion can’t genre fiction be serious and critically acclaimed?

 

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for genre and literary fiction and perhaps one day they will be held under the same judgement.

 

What do you think of the differences between genre and literary fiction? Is one better than the other?

 

Damian

 

 

Saricks, Joyce (2009). The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (2nd ed.). ALA Editions. pp. 402.


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About Damian Rucci

D.F. Rucci is a writer, blogger, and a musician from a small town in New Jersey. View all posts by Damian Rucci

4 responses to “The Crusade Against Genre Fiction

  • urbannight

    Genre makes it easier for people to find what they like. Because it often developes into certain patterns, it starts to get a bit formulaic. That can make it easier for some people to write. So other people, who are usually pretentious to begin with, start to get snobbish about it and assume that anything in that catagory with automatically be ‘substandard’ because they followed a ‘formula’.

    I prefer to think of it as there are only so many basic plot lines and set ups and all books are variations on them. I actually don’t care for a lot of the ‘literary’ fiction for several reasons. I’m not fond of thing set in contemporary time periods. I read for entertainment. I don’t want my fiction to be something I see going around in real life. In that case, I would rather pick a good biography.

    Another reason is that literary fiction, sometimes, seems as if it can’t decide what it really wants to be when it grows up. Some writers seem like they are trying to write something that could be a mystery and drama and romance, but they want to keep it from getting pigeonholed that they deliberately avoid doing certian things.

    I like to see the creativity of invented worlds. So I’ll stick with sci/fi and fantasy. When it seems like the writers are getting to dark, I switch off to read light, fluffy mysteries and brain candy romance. Lately, my favorite writers are getting a bit dark and depressing. I have to admit, I’ve been rereading a LOT of Terry Pratchett.

  • naramalone

    I deal with this all the time. Romance writing is the most maigned genre, but it is also the best selling. Erotic romance writers have fought to be acceptedy romance writers. All you can do is write the stories tha tell themselves to you and know that the readers who love your genre will always be there. I wouldn’t worry too much about other writer’s opinions of your genre.

    The cool thing about the internet is that it aloows all of us to push the boundaries of genre. I write a combination of science fiction, paranormal, and contemporary. I would hate to have to confine myself to the limits of one sub-genre. Digital tagging allows me to experiment and still be discovered by readers who like those categories.

  • Grace

    I don’t mind literary fiction, but books I read for fun tend to be a bit more imaginative while containing similar themes and ideas.

    I think Ursula K. LeGuin’s writing is proof that sci-fi can be literary.

  • Damian Rucci

    Thanks for the comments! I agree I coin myself as purely a fiction writer- I write horror, I write fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, but I I hate to adorn those labels. While I was walking around AWP many people possessed a bias view towards anything that wasn’t literary or poetry. It was a trip realizing how genre-segregated the writing community is, well at least the published variety.

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