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The Map Definition Thing Going Round

The Map of Speculative Fiction, here.

This is popping up in various blogs and I suspect people are going to argue its various merits. It doesn't really have any, to my mind, except that the circles are very circular.

I could spend some time kicking this, but there's not much of a point, since Claire Light admits that it a particularly distorted view with certain goals attached to it. Besides, Nick Mamatas (nihilistic_kid) already got the obvious problems. What is left, instead, is the question on why so many people spend their times coming up with definitions, drawing diagrams, and arguing them?

I have very loose definitions. I like it that way. I could have very strict definitions, but I decided, some time ago, that that just seemed restrictive. I still find myself slipping into quick, strict definitions when a friend asks me what kind of book it is, but I try and stop myself nowadays, since fiction can and is often a multiple thing. A piece can belong to the fantasy genre as well as the detective genre, the romance genre, and the necrophilia genre. It might have a dominant genre--the corpse fucking might be stronger than the story of who killed who and yes, I am picking corpse fucking for a particular reason in this post, thank you for noticing--but does that ultimately matter? Well, yes, I suppose it does: to marketing, to people who only buy certain kinds of books, to bookstores with their genre sections, and to various people who ban the corpse fucking books that I am forced to buy off ebay with the pictures of decay and smooth skulls. To them it matters. But do they matter?

It is, ultimately, not in my best interest to help these artificial boundaries grow stronger. This is what I believe now. Drawing maps like this, having these discussions that go nowhere... these things only help reinforce the idea that genre boundaries are important. That literature cannot be fantasy and fantasy cannot be mimetic and alternate history and that someone who reads a novel about exploding spaceships might not also be reading it for the romance or the politics that runs through the middle of it just as someone who is reading a political thriller might not be reading it for the explosions. Better, I say, to promote this than to promote boundaries.


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May. 17th, 2006 04:29 am (UTC)
Ugh. Reminds me of an argument I had recently about whether "science fantasy" was a valid, clearly defined or necessary category. Jeebus. Someone missed the whole "twentieth century" part of the history of thought.

Is The Three Musketeers "science fiction" if Chaucer reads it?
May. 17th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC)
See, the problem is that these boundaries are *artificial*. We started looking for some natural ones on my LJ.
May. 17th, 2006 04:43 am (UTC)
i think the only real natural boundaries are ones of form. like poetry and prose and scripts and so forth.
May. 17th, 2006 06:20 am (UTC)
Gah. I'm with you, Mr Peek, there is nothing more tedious than boundary policing which is what most arguments about definition wind up being about. Yawn.
May. 17th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC)
I don't know what it's all sposeda mean but it sure is purdy.
May. 17th, 2006 08:33 am (UTC)
Why is there no bubble for stories about talking dogs who shoot lasers out of their eyes? This diagram is a farce.

And where does doggerel go?

Honestly, the only use of genre boundaries is to make the people who break them feel "radical" for a few minutes...

May. 17th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
Why is there no bubble for stories about talking dogs who shoot lasers out of their eyes?

That would be the Speculative Fiction (the world as it should be) slice of the big purple pie.

Very small, alas!
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