A few Notes on Genre

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I’ll admit that I’m a person who does not like to pigeonhole.  I don’t believe creative endeavors should have boundaries.  My favorite music often is in the cracks.  Yes, there are people who classify this same music with exactness, but if you actually listen to the music, or study it (which I have), you find that it just doesn’t fit.  I don’t think imagination should be boxed in.

And yet we do need those classifications.  Would you really buy music if you had zero idea what it was about?  The same, of course is true in fiction.  Genre is important.

As a reader, I have very eclectic tastes.  I’m sure you’re surprised ;)  I hate sticking to a single genre.  And truthfully, I very rarely pay attention to sub-genre.  I recently read a sci-fi book.  After reading it, I looked at reviews and was a little surprised that every review talked about the sub-genre and how well the book did, or didn’t fit that sub-genre.  Can’t you just freaking read the book for itself without pigeonholing it!?  I didn’t even know that sub-genre existed, and yet people were up in arms about it.  I thought it was a good book, so why argue that as a purple-western-star-bong sci-fi book the main character would never have said, “Hello”, she would have said, “Well, Howdy, fandango!”?

I understand genre and sub-genre to some extent.  When someone reads a book in a sub-genre they expect specific things and are surprised (disappointing) if they don’t happen.  I know it is not writing to a formula to ensure certain things are there.  However, usually my favorite authors of a given genre or sub-genre don’t follow those conversions.

My issue with what is expected in sub-genre is as an author.  The Fireborn fits well into the idea of urban fantasy.   There are a handful of authors in the sub-genre that I really like.  Yet when I Google “urban fantasy”, the books that come up are nothing at all like The Fireborn, or like books by Niel Gaiman, Steven Brust, etc.   They are all light romances with a lot of sex but with a supernatural twist.

OK, so if not that, perhaps contemporary fantasy?  For some this is a broader sub-genre with urban fantasy being part of it.  For others, it seems like something else altogether.  When I search here, I do see some of the same books that I like, and even some that I think of as urban fantasy, but I also see elves and such.  I guess I could put my books in here, and I did, as a second choice.

Looking at some blogs, I’ve seen urban fantasy compared to horror, with U. F. being how we would like to think we’d react to that exotic danger (we’d fight back and eventually win) while horror is how we’d actually react, i.e., “Why don’t we get into this running car and run away?” “Are you crazy?!?! Let’s go hide behind these chainsaws.”  By this definition, at least half of my favorite Steven King books are urban fantasy.  As is The Fireborn.  But then, the line between the two is a little blurry.  In my opinion, people read horror to be frightened or to get the bloody violence.

When I am talking about the books that I like not fitting into a rigidly defined genre, I’m not talking about some books that purposefully try take advantage of several genres popularity and creating a cross-over, or a five-way cross over (A teen, trying to find love in a post-apocalyptic landscape that is ruled by a ruthless dictator, escapes zombies riding a clockwork dirigible only to discover long lost magical powers.)

So if my favorite books don’t neatly fit into a box and I use these as inspiration, how do I find a box to put my books in? What are your thoughts on genre?

For The Fireborn, I used urban fantasy as a primary genre and then contemporary fantasy.  Give it a read and let me know if you think this is right.

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10 thoughts on “A few Notes on Genre

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      It is a pain. Even though I was thinking fiction, your case shows that some people take it too far in non-fiction as well.

      I used Amazon’s new self-publishing tools, and at one point they ask you to choose two genre. You can’t choose three. Four is right out. I ended up choosing two that are almost identical because it almost fit in several others, but I wasn’t sure.

      And then, I was very influenced by Douglas Adam’s “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul”, and that is described as Sci-fi and comedy. That book was not sci-fi, it was pure fantasy and was only called sci-fi because of The Hitchhiker’s series, which has nothing to do with Dirk Gently.

      Oh well, I guess us square pegs just have a hard time fitting in this round hole world…

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Yes it is ;) In the future, when I’m ready for a cover, i will start with books I compare it to, and then mention genre. On the other hand, the cover of The Fireborn did turn out great, no matter what genre!

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      Reply
  1. Pingback: A few Notes on Genre — Trent’s World (the Blog) – horrorwriter

  2. Pingback: A few Notes on Genre — Trent’s World (the Blog) | Fantasy Sources: Art, Gifts, Ideas, Article Resources, News

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