How Much Does Genre Matter?


There’s an interesting post over on Fiction After 50, which has fed into my thinking about genre, and the difficulty I’ve had trying to place some of my work in a particular genre. “Place” meaning figuring it out after the writing is done, not trying to write to a genre. The novel I’m developing for NaNo is science fiction. More specifically, it’s near-future science fiction, and it deals with ethical and personal issues in a changing world. It’s science fiction because it takes place sometime in the future and because it creates a world which doesn’t yet exist. It’s concerned with the re-introduction of slavery. The main protagonist, a prison Warden, is a former professional Dom, and he brings some elements of that world into his handling of prisoners. There is bondage; there is a male/male, master/slave relationship. So there are several genres woven into the story.

The catch, I’ve only recently realized, is that it’s going to be a fairly literary novel. There’s a lot of conversation. There’s no gee-whiz technology or any of the elements usually associated with science fiction. There will be no action, as in what we call action novels; no spectacular conflicts and climaxes.  There’s conflict, certainly, because it’s about people. Finding an ending for the book has obsessed me, because I haven’t been able to find one that will give the reader a dose of excitement and a sense of satisfaction that everything has been neatly wrapped up. That’s what I’ve been looking for, without understanding, at a deep level, that it isn’t that kind of book. It explores social change and personal choices, both of which go on long after the formal story ends. It doesn’t end with either a bang or a whimper. It ends in the ambiguities of real life.

I doubt that my story could even exist if I tried to force it into a genre. “Why Genre Matters” is about publishability. “How Much Does Genre Matter” is about writing the story that needs to be written.

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2 thoughts on “How Much Does Genre Matter?

  1. I think at this point you should just write the story that needs to be told (which sounds great!) Then worry about genre later with revisions. With my story Float it took awhile to realize where it fit best.

  2. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I can’t think of a better way to hamstring creativity because you’re worried about the genre. The basis of the article I referred to was that you need to consider publishability and shouldn’t spend your time on something that probably can’t get published or that might only find a small audience.

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