Do you read only one genre, or are you like me, someone who dips in and out of anything they fancy from the classics and literary fiction to steampunk? Genre novels feature a protagonist, an antagonist, a conflict with a rising arc of tension and a resolution, so why differentiate?

One reason could be because, as humans, we attempt to classify everything around us – it’s our way of making sense of the world, although that doesn't explain why genre novels are considered the poor relative to literary fiction. Aristotle first delineated the classifications of drama and poetry, yet his divisions carried no implications of superiority or inferiority.

One indisputable fact is that no-one can see inside another’s mind, or completely understand what another is feeling.  So I do wonder how can one person say that their enjoyment of a novel classed as ‘literary fiction’ is greater than someone else’s pleasure in a crime, fantasy, romance or any other genre novel? I suggest the answer is they can’t. Defining one as escapist, and therefore trite, and the other as an expression of the human condition is subjective opinion, and biased when those who adjudicate also set the rules. Is it that we’re still dominated by the cultural hegemony of the advantaged classes with their legacy of class-based hostility towards the masses?

It’s well documented that social groupings retain their status by excluding others perceived to be of lesser status. In my humble opinion the literary vs genre debate bears much of these signs. ‘Those who know best’ - the academics and critics whose reputation and jobs depend on the status quo remaining the same - lament the lack of intelligent writing, depth of characters’ inner lives and dominance of plot in genre fiction. I agree that many genre books are not worth reading. Ditto for literary fiction; a chapter consisting of nothing but a tortured soul’s musings about the frost on the inside of a window pane has the potential to render even the most tenacious reader unconscious.

Putting others down is a bullying tactic aimed at keeping them in an inferior position. When genre writers are praised yet told their books will never be seen as great literature, this attitude implies that art created for the masses must naturally be more limited than that intended for an elite. Describing genre as a guilty pleasure again hints at the unsuitability of these books to take their place at the literary table.

But times change. In 2003, the American National Book Foundation awarded Stephen King the prestigious Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters; Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker prize twice, first in 2009 with her historical fiction Wolf Hall, and again in 2012 with its sequel, Bring up the Bodies; Peter Temple won Australia’s valued literary Miles Franklin Award in 2010 for his crime novel, Truth. 

For me literary fiction is another genre, and one which like a petulant child seeing someone else in the limelight (genre/commercial novels do sell more – i.e. a lot more people read them) refuses to congratulate them – or join in the fun. Not considering literary fiction as a genre keeps it elitist, and allows it to stay in its lofty tower looking down on the rest of us.

Genre is good for writers and is a great marketing tool as it enables writers to find readers, and readers to find books. The best genre writers bend, hybridize and invert genre – which makes for exciting literature. So when asked what kind of books you write, there should be  no more shame-faced head hanging, avoidance of eye contact and mumbling of your answer as you say – I write genre novels.

Writing Update

I’m eternally grateful to my beta readers and must practice patience while I wait for feedback, but I’m suffering. When will I see you again, I sob into my pillow at night hankering for my novel. I miss you! One of my readers told me he has suggestions for where I can slow the pace. This is good news as leaving readers gasping for breath for the entire book isn’t one of my goals. Tomorrow I’ll start a read through looking to make sure I have a balanced variation between dramatic and static scenes so as to improve the rhythm of the pace.

Chapter 3 of Planet Unknown is edited, but I’m too impatient to move the WIP forward to do more at the moment, and have switched it to the back burner.

I’ve had some positive feedback from a graphic artist friend on the proposed cover for The Unforgiveness of Blood. Yeah, at least I’m making progress in one area!

Today’s Haiku
is skin on skin love –
at that place where mine and yours touch
do we become one

Useful Links:
This article comes highly recommended!
If you’re unsure of what genre your story falls under, this is a fairly comprehensive list of genre categories.

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Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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