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The Genre Question

Tell me, what is the importance of genre?

I'm not talking about any debate that has been going on recently, no. Or any specific debate, really. Rather I'm interested in why it is that genre, any genre, is important? What gives these boundaries such importance that we would put them on books, divide up our bookstores, and pigeon hole our writers with them. Maybe it's just me, but that strikes me as a bit odd. Maybe it's just because it's late. Maybe not. I mean, is it just that genre provides the reader with a series of signs so that he or she is able to find the kind of material they want? Is it a marketing tool? Does it simply exist to provide the boundaries for a body of work? I'm taking all kinds of statements on it, because, truly, I want to know why it's important.

I'm currently working on a theory in my head that argues that genre definitions are, really, failing to properly reflect a lot of the literature being written today. No matter what definition you place upon a piece of writing (or film, or play, whatever, really), there's always a way in which that definition fails. A science fiction novel can be a romance novel, a thriller, a social satire--indeed, it could be all those things at the same time. It always could.

Genre could very well be simply an outdated concept and if so, then why does it remain important and, for some, necessary?

Comments

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ratmmjess
Jan. 3rd, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
I think it's the readers that drive it. Most of them, I believe, don't want to be ambitious or venturous, don't want to read something new. They want to read something old and familiar, and genre boundaires, in bookstores and libraries, help tell them what borders not to stray beyond.
cheerselfears
Jan. 3rd, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
Don't we have genres so retailers can put stuff places?
jaylake
Jan. 3rd, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
What they said. Without genres, we wouldn't be able to find books in the library or the bookstore.

Really, at some level, I think it's that simple. I know I can argue this out of both sides of my mouth -- most of the time I am deliberately writing within the tradition of some genre(s) or other(s), so obviously the concept informs my auctorial intent -- but it's most of all about the human need to categorize.
frogworth
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
Speaking as a reader, I'm certainly interested - even though I enjoy reading some "slipstream" stuff, and I'm a big fan of infernokrusher.
But I'm pretty much into hard sf (including "New Space Opera" - see, I know all the lingo!), and generally sf rather than fantasy. I think there's a clear delineation for the majority of the genre, and anyone who says it's all just fantasy is talking out of their ass. That said, I read Gaiman, and I love Pratchett (who I maintain writes science fiction, mind you), and I read the occasional other stuff that gets classified as fantasy. But, for instance, for all that Steph Swainston's The Year Of Our War was touted as being all New Weird or whatever, I just couldn't get into it, after a couple of attempts, because the trappings of fantasy just bored me. And indeed although I was enjoying it, I put down China Miéville's Perdido Street Station at one point and never picked it up again. And I haven't yet convinced myself I want to read jaylake's Trial of Flowers, although I'm looking forward to Mainspring.
I do like the poetic, magic-realist approach; I'm a huge fan of Borges, for a start... But in general I like the stuff that tries to extrapolate believably from what we know about the world, takes science seriously, so the labels help although they're never the sole thing you rely upon.

I think the first commenter may be right about most readers, but it's quite possible to put a less rude spin on it. A lot of people are unadventurous sheep, but a lot of people honestly know the sort of stuff they're going to like, and genre trappings help them find more stuff they might like. Yeah, I know there's plenty of stuff which is hard to categorise (eg autopope's stuff marketed as fantasy, marketed as horror, whatever, not to mention Grimwood's crime-with-an-sf-twist, Paul McAuley's thrillers etc), but genres help. Nobody cares if they're a bit hazy here and there.

Oh, and with bookstores... Ben, according to some other comment reply somewhere, you hardly go into bookstores, right? Let me tell you, as a reader, bookstores that don't have a science fiction or sf/fantasy section piss me the hell right off. It usually means they can't be bothered stocking anything past Susanna Clarke, Iain (M) Banks and one or two other token genre writers. Even if they did do so, a genre section (whether fantasy's all mixed up with sf or not) gives me somewhere to go where I can scan the shelves a little more easily.

I'm not clear, to be honest, on how you peg genre as an outdated concept?
mattdoyle
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
"ALL fiction, including sf, is fantasy," said my arse. :P
benpeek
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
yeah, i'm not sure if i would go with it as outdated this morning. just one of those things you write at night, and you would change the wording in the morning, but, hey, there you go.

however, i do think, if genre is primarily existing today as a tool to make things managable and easier to find, then the emphasis we put upon it is, well, a bit insane. you'll never have a world without genre, though i like to think it would be a nice one with flowers everywhere and people dancing in the streets and a statue of me... wait, i'm getting lost there...

but, anyhow, what i've been thinking of lately is that genre doesn't really explain a lot of what is written. fiction slips and slides all over it, both within and without. in addition to that, it's hard to find anyone who can give you a proper description of what any genre should be, other than a very basic one. so, i don't know. i guess i'm just thinking of that.
hkneale
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
I like certain things about certain stories. Genre is important to me because it tells me that if I'm looking for X element, the chances of me finding it in a certain story that's been classified as Y genre are greater than if I looked in Z genre.

There are no guarantees, only greater chances.
mattdoyle
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
Genre seems to me to be all about control. I'm talking on both sides of the fence here too; writer and reader.

Genre places certain limitations on writers by making them adhere to certain conventions, or alternatively referencing those conventions in some way. For readers, it keeps them buying more of the same I think.

You are right Ben, a science fiction novel CAN be a romance novel, but you are forgetting that within genre, there are some powerplays going on. Whatever genre the book is most like is usually the genre that it will be placed in.

For example, let's say there is a science fiction novel with vampires in it. So, if vampires are in a story in their own genre, horror, there is not much need to explain, and if there is, it will not be done with that much detail, given that they are readily recognisable archetypes and the whole mystical-scary bullshit stuff about them would be undermined.
However, put them in a science fiction novel, and the conventions of science fiction demand that they are reformulated.

You cannot just have vampires in space, like you can have them in a house, or a cave in horror. Their existence must be explained in the sf milieu. A science fiction novel with vampires would hence always be more science fiction than horror, because, while possessing elements of both, one always dominates the other.

I just think genre is so pervasive and evil. It is a limitation, yet another form of that rampant segmentation that humans seem to love. I think this is why we are seeing a recent upsurge in the amount of people doing interstitial/cross-genre stuff. We're rebelling against the tyranny of genre! :)
barthanderson
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
>what is the importance of genre?

marketing to a core audience.

*if* that's important. ;)
honestvillain
Jan. 3rd, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
Genre is useful for anyone looking for books close to or just like the ones they already enjoy. It makes it easy for Robert Jordan fans to find Terry Goodkind books.

For people looking for more exotic fair, genre division is absolutely fucking annoying and outright harmful. Easily accessible formulaic genre novels are going to outsell books like Dhalgren or Latro in the Mist, so when bookstores are looking to refill the SF sections, they're going to pick up more copies of safe novels.

And of course, if a genre novel is a smash hit, it isn't genre anymore, it's literature. I wondered for months why I'd heard so much about House of Leaves but never saw it sitting on the Horror shelves at Chapters.
girliejones
Jan. 3rd, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)
Some people genuinely only want to experience specific stories. Take my Nana for instance, she only likes romantic comedies with a happy ending. And I could not get the bf's mother to read sf even if it was romance story in space - she doesn't want her version of "current reality" messed with.
buymeaclue
Jan. 3rd, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
>I mean, is it just that genre provides the reader with a series of signs so that he or she is able to find the kind of material they want?

Yes, that.

And I take exception to comments about unadventurous sheep or staying safe within borders. I read _everything,_ man, or close enough to for government work. I don't use no stinkin' genre lines to tell me when I'm straying too far from my corner.

But that doesn't mean I don't like to know what I'm getting myself into, or that I never think, "I feel like reading fantasy today."
matociquala
Jan. 3rd, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
what you said.

Also, genres are the boundaries within which conversations take place. And they are structures--metaconversations--that reward intensive reading. In other words, as you read more of any given genre, its concerns and patterns and discussions begin to come plain to you, and you can appreciate the nuances of the arguments being made, in context.

Bill The Galactic Hero is a somewhat different book if you come to it ignorant of any other SF than if you read it in conjunction with, oh, Ender's Game and The Forever War and Starship Troopers.
benpeek
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
that same argument of conversation, however, can be used without genre in place, too. the stross cthulu/spy novels give you a little extra if you've read ian fleming and lovecraft, for example. so you can have that conversation across genres, and in just plain 'literature' (as in a work of prose, quality meaning nothing).

i'm not disagreeing with you. i'm just saying the same thing can happen outside a certain genre. personally, i find it a bit more interesting to see the more diverse conversations, but to each their own...
matociquala
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
au contrair. Speaking from a genre viewpoint, the Laundry novels are as much spy novels as they are SFF novels. They participate in that conversation, too.

I happen to think, as a fan of spy novels, that they are better SFF novels than spy novels (they don't bring a lot new to the spy novel conversation.) But that doesn't make them not-a-spy-novel.

It's important not to confuse marketing category with genre. They are different.

Hang on, I need to fetch truepenny. She's a genre theorist. She knows about these things.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
nah, you're missing my point. of course the stross are sf books. but you can have the conversation with them outside the genre, is what i'm saying, regardless of their content, and regardless of how much they do or don't bring to spy novel conversation.

personally, i tend to think genre does a lot more than the marketing category here, and i've been a bit surprised to see it listed as the number one reason for it. genre--any genre--comes with its own history, and it's own body of work, and it works as a way of giving guidelines for that work to be written, but also as signs to both a reader and audience that they can process and relate too. these things can exist outside 'genre', i'm sure, but we don't live in a magical world of no categories, so why bother arguing that. still, there is a body of knowledge within any given genre that you can't ignore, and knowledge is like any knowledge, it can be used both well and poorly.
truepenny
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)
Bear is making me blush.

However (she said pedantically), it is important to distinguish between marketing category and genre. For a number of reasons, but the key one, I think, is that marketing categories are prescriptive. They tell you--or attempt to tell you--what you will find within a book labeled "history" or "science fiction" or "home repair." And they are frequently misleading, inappropriate, or downright wrong, because they aren't based on an interest in the great conversation of literature (to use Bear's metaphor), but on what publishers think will make books sell. It's like trying to pigeonhole a litter of kittens. Sure you can PUT the tabby kitten in the pigeonhole next to the tabby and white kitten instead of next to the tuxedo kitten, but she won't stay there, and even if she does, it doesn't mean anything about her qua kitten, or about her relationship with the other kittens.

Okay. Tangled metaphor. Moving on now.

Now, genre theory can also be prescriptive, but I personally feel that you do a lot better when you treat genres as descriptive categories. Rather than Linnaean taxonomy (which I almost mistyped as "taxidermy," a Freudian typo if ever there was one), think of genre as a kind of genealogy, where the game you're playing is to see how one book relates to another. So Charlie's Atrocity Archives are related to science fiction and to Lovecraftian horror and to spy novels. "Related to" meaning, of course, "in conversation with." (Like noticing that the tabby kitten plays with the tuxedo kitten more than any of her other littermates.) The genre categories aren't a set of rules or pigeon-holes or ticky boxes, but a baseline against which a book's characteristics measure.

As to why it should matter, well, that kind of depends. If you don't care about any of it, it doesn't matter. A reader may be perfectly satisfied with the prescriptivist marketing categories which tell them, within limits, what kind of book they're going to get every time out. And if that's as much thinking as that person wants to do about what they read, that's totally their choice. Thinking in terms of genre allows, though, for talking about narrative conventions and genre clichés--for why stories in a particular genre are told the way they are and what happens when somebody decides to tell a DIFFERENT story. (My favorite example of this is The Name of the Rose, which--as Eco points out somewhere--is a detective story in which the detective fails.) Genre is also away to talk about what cultural work a particular kind of story does. Stephen King does this very well in Danse Macabre, talking about the way the horror stories of the '50s and '60s are dealing with Cold War anxieties. To be able to talk about things on that level, you have to have a way to talk about books in groups and books in conversation. And to be able to describe what happens when a book participates in several conversations at once, and how one of those conversations reflects on the others. The Atrocity Archives' conversation with spy novels, for example, gains depth and resonance because of Charlie's Lovecraftian postulate about what the spy apparatus is working to conceal, protect, and prevent.
houseboatonstyx
Jan. 4th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)
Yes, a genre gives a format -- like a sonnet form. Knowing in advance what the rhyme scheme and meter are, is half the pleasure.
buymeaclue
Jan. 3rd, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
(Er. That "man" is general, not meant to indicate any irritation with you-Ben specifically.)
benpeek
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC)
cool. i was like, 'but i didn't write the mindless sheep bit.' heh. i wouldn't really go for the mindless sheep aspect of it, anyhow.
ex_benpayne119
Jan. 3rd, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Totally. I think it's too easy to think that people use genres because they're just mindless followers...

I think it's just a marker, a vague guideline.

And it saves my eyes from having to scan the shelves of an entire bookstore full of business management speak motivation handbooks and biographies of awful awful celebrities when looking for something I might like...
cassiphone
Jan. 3rd, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
I agree - genre is just a tool like any other tool. It can be really useful at times, to help filter out what you want to read, or what you think you want to read, and it can also be misused or misunderstood - like when people shut off particular genres as being unreadable to them (whether or not they've tried it) or if they only keep to one genre.

I like what Bear said about the meta conversation. When you read a lot of one genre, or read and write in the same genre, you become part of that conversation.

I find that people who are critical of one particular genre have either read hardly any of it, or have read *way too much* of it.

It's a cute idyll to have all those books floating around without tags or labels, but quite frankly I think that would turn some people off reading all together. I think the best way to view genre is as a road map that was made in the early eighties - some important bits are going to be missing, that force you to use your intelligence, but it's better to have it than to have no map at all. Sometimes it will really help you get where you want to go.
pgmcc
Jan. 3rd, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)
Literature is like science. It all started as one entity. We, for some reason, liked to group things and organise them in like groups. Books were split up just as science was split up into the different areas of physics, chemistry, biology, etc... we know today.

Any categorisation/grouping is a modelling of the real world and all models are, by definition, a simplification of the real world and will eventually succumb to failure when the real world becomes significantly more complex.

We are currently witnessing the failure of these models of literature and science. The segregated categories are starting to come back togehter (Consilience). As more physics is discovered we find it explains the chemistry and we start having people talk about theories of everything. As more literature is written it starts to cross genre boundaries.

Publishers and retailers need a structure to organise and perform their business functions. Readers need a structure to simplify their task of finding what they like to read. Genres provide that structure to facilitate the stakeholders (not shareholders).

Problems arise when people take the categories too seriously and get arrogant and defensive about them. If people block out a category of books from their desired reading then they may be prohibiting themselves from great delight.

Fixed genre categories can be barriers to people discovering brilliant writing.

I'm with the people who would give any book the benefit of the doubt no matter what "Genre" it is from.

The important thing about genre is to not let it prevent creativity or to become a barrier to someone enjoying an author's work.
experimeditor
Jan. 3rd, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
It's all about marketing.

Which gives me depressive fits. There is so much good fiction out there that never reaches readers who would love it, simply because it is not in the section of the bookstore in which that reader most frequently looks. That is sad.

I've been arguing this for years now. Many of the best fantasists are not to be found in the fantasy section. And what of works that don't fit neatly anywhere? These works, often subtly sublime, end up being categorized one way or another because the bookstore or library needs to make it fit *somewhere*. So much good work goes un-noticed, as a result. Book reviewers don't help by becoming apologists. I've read a few reviews in which the reviewer goes to great pains to tell the potential reader why Pynchon is *not* writing fantasy. This is total crap. Pynchon is one of the most marvelous fantasists alive.

GRRRRR!!! Sorry, I get so frustrated with this. Oh, that I could close my eyes and wish it away, to simply have everything under "fiction". But, alas, I'm not the world's marketing manager, nor am I the world's bookstores owner.
ataxi
Jan. 3rd, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
It's mainly to link buyer with seller (not reader with writer or with work).

Genre classifications do provide certain guarantees or at least probabilities. If they didn't, they wouldn't work. As someone else pointed out, some readers only like a certain type of story*.

People often buy works they don't intend to read, usually because they plan to give them to someone else. Genre provides a certain security here - you can at least give the impression of having attempted to cater to the taste of the person to whom you're giving a gift, even if they don't end up liking the book.

The motives that lead publishers to put works in genres-as-marketing-categories are not the same as the motives that lead readers to classify works as belonging to genres-as-sets-of-literary-conventions. Publishers are interested in selling books. Readers are interested in reading works they will enjoy. There's bleed, overlap, inconsistency. There's also meta-genres like "literary fiction" which I suspect are determined partly by extra-fictional concerns like "will I be ashamed to have this book on my shelf?".

In fact, the literary fiction shelf at the average bookstore could almost be characterised as "those books publishers and retailers are convinced buyers who are deeply concerned with the perceived merit of the works they plan to buy can be convinced, with the aid of an array of marketing tools including quasi-critical reviews, end-of-year best-of-year roundups, and colourful collage covers from the IKEA / William Morris / Habitat playbook that utilise aesthetically pleasing fonts, are likely to have that merit before they buy them".

Genre is very far from being an outdated concept. It's probably more relevant than ever in the current era, just not in the way that you want it to be. It's a bit sick and wrong I'll admit. But then I'd tend to challenge your assertion that you don't want any boundaries in fiction - do you not want to be sure that the novel you pick up on a whim in the bookshop is not a Mills and Boon or a Tom Clancy clone? Blurbs, puff and cover also count as genre indicators, let's not forget.
benpeek
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
do you not want to be sure that the novel you pick up on a whim in the bookshop is not a Mills and Boon or a Tom Clancy clone?

well, mills and boon are a publisher, not a genre, but still, i wonder, if there was no genre emphasis, would i view those kind of books differently? i don't exactly read a lot of mills and boon, so they could be very good, or at least a few of them could. maybe the tom clancy clone would be as well. i could've argued that the george rr martin stuff was just another fantasy clone, but i dug that...

but you are right that covers and all are indicators for genre and an audience as well.
ataxi
Jan. 3rd, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC)
"well, mills and boon are a publisher, not a genre"

Pettifoggery. Speaking as someone who has read two complete Mills and Boon / Harlequin type romances, I don't need to read any more of them. Ever. The two I read were terrible, absolutely terrible. Continuing to read more of them in the hope of improvement would be about the same as expecting to find an enjoyable short story in the classifieds section of the newspaper.

You've jumped out on a limb with this anti-genre argument. These book taxonomies have many drawbacks but there's no denying they serve a purpose of some sort. If you don't like genre, don't write to genre. That's great. You'll still end up getting filed by someone, because there's no urge from either buyers or sellers of fiction (or critics, readers, or writers either) for genres to be abolished.

You'd be better off trying to create a new genre or mashup an existing one. That happens all the time. The New Peek. Cyberpeek. Peekstream. Sword and Peekery. Espeekonage. Peek Procedural.

Now, let's get back to the entertaining, never repetitive debate about the proper Venn diagram for science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, "science fantasy" (ugh stab), historical fiction, "literature", yada yada ... not.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:44 am (UTC)
You've jumped out on a limb with this anti-genre argument. These book taxonomies have many drawbacks but there's no denying they serve a purpose of some sort. If you don't like genre, don't write to genre.

actually, in what will come as a shock i'm sure, the question doesn't relate to my own writing. i'm not particularly concerned in how people view what i write. it's all fantastical shit to me. beyond that, sell it however.

but i am writing this essay about the aurealis awards, and in the back of my head is this conversation about genre, its definitions, and the purposes it serves. hence the post. i've found it kind of surprising that a lot of people link genre to a bookstore, and selling. it's there, sure, but of more importance, i think, are the signifiers that key us into a set of already given narrative. or some shit like that. but then there comes the question: what happens when the work slides round, crossing genre boundaries and messing up those signals? does the importance of genre and all its categories begin to break down then?
ataxi
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
"i've found it kind of surprising that a lot of people link genre to a bookstore, and selling. it's there, sure, but of more importance, i think, are the signifiers that key us into a set of already given narrative."
That "set of already given narratives" is precisely what people want to purchase. They want the little chemical explosions that happen when the girl gets the guy at the end of the M&B, or the bad guy gets crushed by a cleverly rigged falling shipping container at the end of an espionage thriller. It's not that the conventions are of more importance than the economic imperatives. They're all part of a causative circle. The texts have the conventions that create the feelings that create the economic value that create the incentive for publishers to produce more texts that have the conventions that create the feelings etc. ...

I like to think I don't like genre because I feel mildly insulted by the possibility that I'm principally satisfied by stories that follow the same well-worn grooves. But then I do rather like a prick antihero who turns out to have magic powers / mojo / whatever, why yes I do. Comfort food.

"Literary" fiction comforts the reader on many levels. One, it stimulates intellectually. Sometimes, at least. Two, it gratifyingly reinforces self-perception of desire for intellectual stimulation. Three, it signals to others one's taste for intellectual stimulation.

We learned what crack was in fiction some time before the printing press - you just have to observe the similarities in myth cycles across disparate geographic regions to realise that - but since the printing press it's publishers who have been searching for the exact crack that puts your cash in a cash register, and making sure you know the crack is there and what type it is. And they'll keep doing it.
ataxi
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
Should add that when I say "precisely what people want to purchase" I don't mean "precisely what publishers / retailers will try to sell them by the use of marketing categories". As I earlier noted: "Publishers are interested in selling books. Readers are interested in reading works they will enjoy. There's bleed, overlap, inconsistency." A bookstore would sell you a camel carcass with "by J. R. R. Tolkien" branded on its arse if it thought you'd fall for it.
ataxi
Jan. 3rd, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
(hmm - hanging *)
* don't think sf&f provides story guarantees as strong as those of romance or crime fiction, though.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
Genre
First time I've ever commented here (although I've been lurking for a while), so Hi!. I come to you via Clare Dudman's blog, Keeper of the Snails and the Sarsaparilla blog roll too.

Genre isn't nearly so rigid as you're suggesting. In film and television there is much discussion of hybrid genres. Think something like Firefly which combines SF and the Western. But even without these kind of conscious productions that draw from established genre traditions, the miracle of genre and its continuing relevance to both readers/viewers and authors/producers (it's been described by film theorists as a kind of handshake, an agreement about expectations--which doesn't make anyone a cultural dupe) is the extent to which genres are constantly being reinvented. So someone will make a small blonde girl the chief fighter of vampires and voila, the vampire/gothic genre evolves to remain interesting and fresh, but still retains enough of what is familiar to make it part of an existing genre tradition.

Can I recommend a chapter of Graeme Turner's book, _Film As Social Practice_ for an accessible discussion of the importance of the functions of film (and literary) genres?

I enjoy your blog a lot. Galaxy.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
Re: Genre
hey, welcome to the blog :)

thanks for the book rec. i'll keep an eye out for it.
strangedave
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
I think genre is largely a heuristic designed to give you a first vague approximation to taste.

Trying to divide up bookstores, or market our writers, or make generalist arguments about fiction, along the lines of what sort of taste they appeal to makes perfect sense. But taste is far too complicated, subtle, and many-faceted to work that way.

Besides, it has to work even when bookstore staff, marketers, and such are stupid and/or tasteless people - genre is an 80% correct first approximation.

That said, once genres exist, communities of taste form around them, and they become to some extent self-sustaining. But at its core, its because genre is a first step heuristic in connecting readers with stuff they like.
frogworth
Jan. 7th, 2007 05:58 am (UTC)
Nicely said, sir. That works for me, as a reader. It's a good explanation of why genre matters to me (both within "the genre" - i.e. I prefer sf, and yearn to read more well-written hard sf - and to differentiate between "mainstream" and "genre"), while at the same time I'm not bothered (who would be, really?) if it turns out I accidentally liked a fantasy or mainstream novel (oops!), or read something that didn't really fit into the neat classifications we're being fed (if we are).
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