I thought a blog about genre fiction would be a quick and easy write. Not so.
My own interest in becoming more familiar with the term ‘genre fiction’ came, understandably enough, when my novel Siege of the Northland was described as a young adult, fantasy, action adventure. Whilst I was totally prepared for the ‘fantasy’ and ‘action adventure’ genre labels I hadn’t thought of it as young adult (YA). This was down to my ignorance as to what constituted YA. But life’s not even that simple, for look up ‘what is YA fiction’ online and you will find a plethora of answers. I have always felt that my novel, which does feature a number of characters of mid-teen age, was basically for any reader age 13+ who was a lover of fantasy adventure. I now realize that all this labelling of novels, which may be necessary in order for us to navigate our way through the huge canon of fiction that’s out there, can also hinder stories from reaching the widest possible audience.
Whilst there is a constant debate about what constitutes genre fiction as opposed to literary, there is also much to be wary of in the genre categorizations themselves. Step into any library or bookshop and without the sections headed thrillers, crime, westerns, romance, comedy, fantasy etc where would we be in finding the type of novel we were seeking? However, genre writing is often so much more than that single label. We can all think of great fiction novels which could happily sit in more than one genre. To take just one mighty example: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon could easily fall into action adventure, time travel, romance, historical, fantasy… And that’s before you start on the many sub-genres within a genre.
I’ve attached a link to an interesting article from Esquire which highlights some of the complexities and debate around genre v literary.
I would, however, suggest caution in reading too much on this subject as you may find your blood pressure rising with some of the more dogmatic and almost nonsensical assertions about various genres or sub-genres. Either way, it brings home the difficulty of conveying – using terms like, genre, literary, mainstream, popular, crossover – what a book really is!
But then that is surely the danger of trying to pigeon-hole anything. I guess life, and novels, are more complicated than that…
I am currently listening on Audible to The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Can’t think why I have never read this classic before, especially as Victorian Literature was definitely ‘my thing’ many years ago. But no worries – am half way through and thoroughly enjoying it.