The Tyranny of Genre

Well, not to sound too petulant about this whole thing, but I’m starting to learn that as soon as you mention how your novel “happens in another world,” lots of people place it in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. That is an issue, because people rarely take genre work seriously. Look. This is a problem with contemporary literature. In fact it’s a problem that bedevils all contemporary communication—including education. We balkanize our subjects and their sources. There’s frequently a penalty in crossing a border. I spent ten years writing stuff even I didn’t like, because I felt that I had to write the parlor (or apartment) drama that we all study when we seek classical training as writers. I don’t regret the education; it makes my work serious and character-driven. But it took an abject failure with a publishing house—a canceled contract, the works—for me to realize that this was not who I am. It took failure for me to say, “Well, sh!t. If I’m going nowhere, I might as well have fun on the way.” I started to write what I liked to read. I started to ask the questions I wanted to answer. And I came up with a novel that’s far more vivid than anything I ever wrote before. Have I written Barbarians & Blasters? Heck no. But in fact there is a bit of magic in my world. There’s a touch of it, hard-earned. And why not? Why isn’t it fashionable to do what the story asks? Dearies. If I ever teach writers, I will tell them never to fear their own imaginations.

(Originally posted June 23, 2016)

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