Saturday, February 7, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Genre

I've been told that I'm rather odd in my thoughts on genre as a thing. I should explain. I think that many people really like genre. They like to know before they pick something up what it's going to be. They want to know if it's fiction or science fiction, and what flavor of science fiction. They want to know if it's a dark fantasy or grimdark fantasy or something like that. And I...well, I want a good description on the back of the book. So in that, I do want to know what a book is about. But I don't really care what genre it's carrying.

I get why genres exist. Categorization. How do all the books get organized if not by genre? How are we supposed to have a book we really liked and know what to move on to next? I want another just like that, I imagine someone saying, and then scanning the same shelf they found the book they liked. And hey, I understand that. It makes sense. But then, I also think that it's a rather limited way of reading. I'm incredibly glad that I decided to walk outside the science fiction/fantasy section of the library, of the bookstore. I love books I've found in the romance section. And mysteries. And literary fiction. And YA, and children's books, and nonfiction. Oh the books I love...

But the thing is, because of that, I find I don't have the greatest of ideas of where I belong. It's like being a fan of a sport but not having a team or favorite player. Like being really into (American) football and not caring who's playing. You start talking to other people and one of the first things they ask is "what's your favorite team?" Similarly, I've gotten into a lot of conversations with people about books and they want to know what my favorite genre is. What do I read? What do I write? And answering "yes" is not incredibly smiled upon. Being nebulous, being a fan of good books regardless of genre, can be seen as...I don't know, threatening somehow. Or at least awkward. A football fan without a team probably will have a hard time finding football parties where they feel comfortable not having a favorite team.

And I just want to be here and say that slapping labels on books doesn't help me. I find it...slightly abrasive. I don't want to be told what genre a book is. I want to read it and appreciate it as a book, or a story, and not necessarily only as a fantasy or a paranormal romance. I swear I talk about books sometimes and someone will want to know the genre. And if I sigh and say what it is, if it's not their genre or one of their genres, they sort of roll their eyes and stop listening. Great, great, yes, that sounds interesting, but I don't read that sort of thing. And really, wtf?

So genre is something that I have a rather complicated relationship to. I mean, I write things that I consider more fantasy. Or more science fiction. Or more romance. But most of the time I'm just writing stories I want to read. Stories that get my hands moving on the keyboard. I'm not so much concerned with genre (though maybe I should be...maybe it makes me less marketable). And so when I see people trying to break genres apart, trying to subcategorize and subcategorize, I kind of wonder why. If it's just for statistics, then hurray! I love statistics. I have different shelves on Goodreads that help me keep stats so I can vaguely see what I'm reading.

But once the categories and subcategories are being used to form teams, to declare one is better and one is worse, then I can't stand them. I'd rather tear them all down and put all the books on the same enormous shelf and let people figure it out. That way at least everything mingles, and people are not encouraged to break apart, to pay attention to only their little plod of fandom and to hell with everything else. Because that sucks. It's used far too often to keep voices silent that would bring diversity and new ideas and prevent the whole thing from stagnating. Because that's all that rigid definitions and genres lead to. It leads to the same thing over and over and over again, different only in shades of the same color and that's boring. That is so boring.

So I'm weird. I write mostly speculative fiction but I do not really like thinking of books or stories based on their genres. I just want to read good books.

Or something. Really I probably don't know what I'm talking about. Probably I'm just tired and need to go read one of those good books. That will make me feel better.  Yeah. So. Thanks for reading this. Sorry.

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