Why all genres are important; even the ones you hate
Genre readers will know the feeling of inferiority. That sense that you’re asking for something that’s just wrong. Approach the assistant in a bookshop to ask if they have any fantasy novels, and they’ll shout, ‘How disgusting, you should be ashamed of yourself’, before leaning in and whispering, ‘Meet me out the back in five minutes.’
By virtue of being human, we have a need to put things into categories: people, books, animals, cheese. It’s meant to make things easier for us all, but more often than not it seems that the reason we segment the world around us is simply to make it easier to find something new to hate.
Judging books like we judge danger
Most of this comes from a lack of understanding. We make opinions of everything in a split second. It’s probably a throwback from when we used to be prey for certain things. We had to be able to decide whether that tiger was a threat, or if he just wanted to offer us delicious sugared cereal. Now, we don’t have so many threats, but that ability to make judgements in the blink of an eye remains.
Which is why we often dismiss things which we later come to love, if we give them the chance. Have you ever finished describing something you are trying to recommend to someone by saying, ‘But it’s actually really good’? We know certain things put people off, and we want to pre-empt that judgement.
The literary world verses the speculative fiction realm
For the literary community, the argument against fantasy and science fiction is that they aren’t real. Quite a bold accusation to make for any lover of fiction. If I’m honest, though, a lot of the things that put the literary community off fantasy are the things that embarrass me about the genre I love. Everything is ‘Book 1 of the Such and Such Trilogy’, for example. There’s always prophecies, and so much capitalisation: ‘Of course, that was before The Coming.’ I don’t think there is any other genre where it would have been possible, as it was with fantasy, for me to stop reading a book after 14 pages due to excessive capitalisation.
But you can also argue that literary fiction has its flaws. I’ve read a few literary books during university, and from what I could tell, the whole point of the genre is that nothing happens and that’s apparently a good thing. The author shows off how much they know about a certain subject by ranting on about it at length, then a character sneezes, the book ends, and it’s all supposed to mean something.
Of course, this too is just as bad as the ‘Fantasy is all goblins and pixies’ argument. Each and every genre has its merits. And the real merit of any genre is not what it contains, but what it says.
What does a genre really mean to you?
We all choose the genres we love because those are the ones that speak to us the most. Reading is many things, and I think a big part of it is about belonging, identifying, and engaging. We want to escape to a world we feel completely comfortable in, and to jump into the life of another and instantly connect with their story. Does it matter if that love story is about 18th century nobles or an elf and a man? I don’t think so. My inferiority complex that stems from being a speculative fiction writer tells me that the latter sounds silly, but I try to ignore it.
Paranormal romance is big right now, and appeals mainly to teenage girls. The rest of us may look down on it, but of course it doesn’t speak to us. It’s not meant to. The genre’s popularity with that demographic comes from the fact that it talks to a part of them that none of the rest of us can. Which is what makes reading a book an incredibly personal experience.
Different genres have meaning to different people. They communicate different ideas, concepts and philosophies. To dismiss one genre because it doesn’t mean anything to you is like dismissing all the languages in the world that you can’t speak. In our quest for connection, different things will satisfy our desires and needs. Part of the magic of being human is that we are all unique. Why should we scoff at the fact that individuality has produced a raft of different ways in which to tell a story?
All genres are important, even the ones you hate.
About Rewan Tremethick
Rewan is a semi-bearded writer with tight jeans and a sometimes irrepressible need to create surrealist comic metaphors. When not spending his time writing as a freelance copywriter, he is spending his time writing as a novelist. Rewan has written two niche murder mystery books for Personal NOVEL, which you can have printed to your specifications, including changing the characters names for your own. His debut novel, Fallen on Good Times, about the soft-boiled paranormal detective Laslo Kane, is due to be published in March 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.