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  • Genre Categories

    Hello MM!

    Do you think genre categories are a good thing? For instance, do you think having different genre sections in bookstores serves a useful purpose? Thanks, AC.

  • #2
    I'm notoriously opposed to genre categories. I think that you can divide books into fiction, non-fiction, biography, poetry and so on, but beyond that it's just a negative marketing option fostered by the book trade.
    All my editing career I avoided giving genre definitions to fiction. That said, a lot of fiction probably deserves to be definited by genre since it is often nothing BUT a compilation of genre characteristics, with no originality whatsoever... :)

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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    • #4
      Well, I'll be just mean to you, old pard, and put you in a genre nevertheless: in the box called "My favourite Writers". But there's no lid on it and you'll get plenty of air.

      Google ergo sum

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      • #5
        Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
        I'm notoriously opposed to genre categories. I think that you can divide books into fiction, non-fiction, biography, poetry and so on, but beyond that it's just a negative marketing option fostered by the book trade.
        Thanks for answering. I've been thinking about this subject for some time, and your input helps. I have a couple of follow-up questions: What, exactly, are the negative effects of genre categorization? Could you give a few examples of the kinds of books you think it hurts?

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        • #6
          IMO, I think defining something within a certain genre can really harm a book, TV or a film.

          There are lots of people who'd avoid or pigeonhole something because it is labeled to be 'Science Fiction' or 'Fantasy'.

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          • #7
            When I was young and using the public library a lot, there were no categorisations for the fiction and so you often came upon an author you might not otherwise read. Non-fantasy readers would find fantasy they liked and fantasy readers might find non-fantasy they liked. What was more this acted against any snobbery or exclusivity towards certain authors or kinds of fiction. As a writer who has written many different kinds of fiction, including comedy thrillers, literary novels, erotic historical novels, 'experimental' novels and so on, I think I'm better served by all my books being shelved together since otherwise they tend to get scattered through the store, or will all be shelved under 'SF' or 'Fantasy'. Either way, readers will not necessarily find the kind of thing they're looking for. If you had a way of shelving books via literary ambition and originality, that might be good! But, of course, that's impossible and very subjective, anyway. Some stores do shelve by
            broad category (fiction, non-fiction) and by author and I must say I always enjoy being in those stores. I tend to judge authors by their originality and talent rather than by the kind of fiction they write and that was the policy I pursued with New Worlds, which very quickly dropped all categorisation under my editorship. It's been said that NW had a greater influence on the world outside the sf 'field' than it did inside, and that is probably because I addressed a reader like myself -- the kind who is interested in every kind of fiction, including graphic novels. Categorisation can also result from or lead to a kind of snobbery I really despise and have always fought against. Of late we've been hearing of writers like Margaret Atwood who deny that their futuristic satires are science fiction. This is partly because the image of science fiction has changed (more than once actually) I suspect because of a lot of juvenile space opera that's out there and has come to define the term. I don't like a bad literary writer somehow being considered better than a good
            writer of thrillers, say. Snobbery depends on excluding stuff -- a kind of person, a kind of book, even a kind of academic discipline -- and makes for a cultural narrowing. I suppose I'd like everyone to be as much like me as possible, with a relish for every kind of fiction, from subtle social fiction to full-fledged adventure fiction. I remember a friend of mine who was a Horatio Hornblower fan becoming an E.M.Forster fan because he accidentally took a Forster rather than a Forester (HH) out of the library.
            That often happens when you shelve according to the old library system rather than the book trade's category system. Anything which sets up walls or boxes is at odds with my preferences for free-flowing blending of cultures and categories!

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

            Comment


            • #8
              I remember when I was younger, going to public libraries and finding Moorcock books in both the sci-fi/fantasy section and the general fiction section. I always thought that the distinction was pointless. Clive Barker writes what I guess would be termed dark fantasy, or horror, and yet he is shelved in the General Fiction section. Who makes these decisions?

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              • #9
                When I was a teenager I went to the local library to browse the science-fiction section and for no apparent reason somone had filed a copy of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody there (it even had a little 'rocket ship' sticker on the spine). I was intrigued, started reading, and now here I sit with a degree in American Literature!

                On the subject of genre, I remember a writing class I took at university where we all had to say a little about ourselves and our favourite writers. I said I liked *good* science-fiction, and Philip K. Dick in particular (no offence... this was before I had the pleasure of discovering Bastable et al). The lecturer looked down his nose at me, and asked if I really considered Dick to be a "sci-fi" writer. My response was that Dick described himself as such, so who am I to argue? The same lecturer marked me down on a story because it contained a man who thought he was a vampire, and was therefore only fit for genre magazines!

                D...
                "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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                • #10
                  Thank you for your very complete reply, Mr. Moorcock. You put into words something I've been having trouble articulating.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    I recently argued in, I think, ANSIBLE, that Dick wasn't regarded as science fiction by many. That, I suspect, is because of this identification of sf since the late 70s with Star Wars and other space operas, which are regarded as fundamentally juvenile. It's ironic that just as sf became part of the general canon Star Wars came along to throw everything back into the ghetto again! Nowadays, that's evidently changing and I suspect it won't happen again, thanks to better movie material as well as the rise of so much fine literary sf/fantasy. I'm sure that Wylie, Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell and others would not have been 'sf' in the minds of many readers a few years ago but increasingly younger academics don't make those stupid definitions. My own experience is that the circle's turned again and we're at last free of Star Wars associations. Whatever you think of those movies, there's no doubt that Lucas made it very hard for the literary writers through the eighties and nineties.

                    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      even the distinction between realistic and fantastic narrative is such a category. there can be much imaginative power in a realistic novel. on the other hand, even the most fantastic and imaginative narrative has to keep certain realistic categories up.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        I appreciate that this isn’t Dick’s Weekly Miscellany, but I’ve just dusted off a couple of quotes which I find relevant to the discussion. Apologies.

                        In a letter (1981) published as the Preface to Beyond Lies the Wub (HarperCollins, 1987), Dick wrote:

                        “[science fiction] cannot be defined as ‘a story (or novel or play) set in the future,’ since there exists such a thing as space adventure, which is set in the future but if not sf: it is just that: adventures, fights and wars in the future in space involving super-advanced technology. Why, then, is it not science fiction? Space adventure lacks the distinct new idea that is the essential ingredient. Also, there can be science fiction set in the present: the alternate world story or novel. So if we separate sf from the future and also from super-advanced technology, what then do we have that can be called sf? We have a fictitious world... a society that does not in fact exist, but is predicated on our known society; that is, our know society acts as a jumping off point for it; the society advances out of our own in some way... It is our world dislocated by some kind of mental effort on the part of the author, our world transformed into that which is not or not yet. There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation; that is, the dislocation must be a conceptual one, not merely a trivial or bizarre one - this is the essence of science fiction, the conceptual dislocation within the society so that as a result a new society is generated in the author’s mind, transferred to paper, and from the paper it occurs as a convulsive shock in the reader’s mind, the shock of dysrecognition.”

                        “I think Dr Willis McNelly at the California State University put it best when he said that the true protagonist of an sf story or novel is an idea and not a person. If it is good sf the idea is new, it is stimulating, and, probably most important of all, it sets off a chain-reaction of ramification-ideas in the mind of the reader; it so-to-speak unlocks the reader’s mind so that that mind, like the author’s, begins to create. Thus sf is creative and it inspires creativity.”

                        “Now, to separate science fiction from fantasy. This is impossible to do, and a moment’s thought will show you why. Fantasy involves that which general opinion regards as impossible; science fiction involves that which general opinion regards as possible under the right circumstances. This is a judgement-call, since what is possible is not objectively known but is, rather, a subjective belief on the part of the author and of the reader.”

                        (All italics author’s own, some slight editing)

                        “Dysrecognition”? I love that. Apologies again if this seems like over-reliance on outside sources.

                        D...
                        "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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