Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: genre

Yet More Conversation about Genre . . .


The previous posts in this conversation are Here and Here… Genre Conversation

Those posts had comments that reflected various shades of discomfort with putting books in genre-boxes…

One of the comments, though, stood out by saying:

“A work’s genre is nothing more than a convenient handle to help the reader find his next read. I think of the genre as something useful, not confining at all.”

And, while I respect that viewpoint ( like I must, as a seasoned writer, respect readers’ oh, so various perspectives on books... ), for the sake of this discussion, I’ll share a few excerpts from a post at Literary Hub:

“The entire publishing ecosystem, from authors to publishers to bookstores to readers, frequently have blind spots that separate stories out in ways that exclude readers.”

“For readers who want their personal library to show a healthy variety, finding books outside of your preferred genre is how you can broaden your tastes and discover terrific new talent.”

“By staying in the box an industry creates, a reader will see similar approaches and similar tropes, explore similar experiences and similar results. The hope and aim of reading, drilled into us as students, is that it broadens horizons, but that aspiration then gets undercut as soon as we start reading for fun. Our literary diets narrow, then ossify. By tuning out books from other genres, we cut ourselves off from important parts of the literary conversation.”

“Really, anything that feels a few towns over from where your reading life lives will gift you a new perspective. Because so much of the process before a book reaches your hands is designed to build that box, by simply venturing to another section of the bookstore, you’ll get to experience worlds you otherwise would never have known existed.”

So, we’ve come from comments that blast genre as a ploy of the traditional publishing houses to sell more books, to the idea that “…genre [is] something useful, not confining at all.”, to a caution about the genre mode of classification that encourages swimming in multiple genre-pools…

But, now, I’ll introduce a Marvelous comment on genre, from one of those previous posts, that shatters the mold of the standard idea of a blog comment, while it swims in a meta-pool of meanings…

The Rainbow

Always impressive, the rainbow’s view
Its shades spread across the spectrum
Colors blending from one to the other
Each band’s width wider to some

But no one can say where one band begins
And the next color has altered its hue
For changes in the view of a spectrum
Is altered how it’s perceived by you

~~~ Barbara Blackcinder

All it takes to continue this conversation about genre is a comment from you :-)

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More Conversation About “Genre” . . .


Genre My new “mode” of blogging isn’t all that old, so I’m very grateful the last post had as many comments as it did—when taking baby steps, a few more than none are to be treasured…

Plus, I recommend reading that first post in this particular conversation—Blog Conversation About “Genre” Writing . . .

What I’ll do this time is bring each comment into this post and follow it with my own ideas and feelings…

First one:

“I think ‘genre’ is a term fostered in modern times by publishers who found it easier to market their books to readers by putting them into recognisable categories. This way the publishers can develop a marketing approach for a wide number of folks who are placed in one huge niche. But if an author has their own individual niche and if there are too many of these individual niches the publisher will have to promote each one of these separately in a more individual way…the publishers often imagine that readers want to be told which blanket ’niche’ a book fits into – not that the book is unique and different and exciting in a new and indescribable way, that sounds unmarketable, because they don’t know how to present it. But which book, as a reader, would you go for?”

This comment is most interesting to me since it comes from an author who’s been traditionally published. The idea of “genre” is so ingrained in the book world’s culture it seems like a “given”—perhaps like thinking cappuccino is a “given” in the order of nature…

One reason I recommended reading that first post in this conversation is because I’d shared the etymology of “genre”, which included this: “Used especially in French for ‘independent style.'”

If it’s truly independent, it could hardly be something that mobs of other people slavishly copy…

One important note: When you self-publish, you can afford to avoid cramming a unique work into predetermined “genres”.

Next, a long but engaging comment:

“Genre is definitely a funny thing.
I myself find that I prefer stories that, at first glance, feel very different from the world I live in.
Whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, suspense/horror, or comedy/romance, I prefer stories that take me to far away places.
And yet, underneath those cosmetic differences, the characters struggle with the same issues, and often come to the same conclusions.
I think there’s a way in which genre is often what initially draws us to and keeps us reading or watching a story, but whether we are satisfied afterwards speaks to the underlying patterns that are common to all stories.
I’m of the opinion that any strong story could be adapted to any genre, if you understand that underlying pattern of character identities, primary conflicts, and universal meaning(s).
The classic, to me, is how many of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted to countless frames; ranging from high school to outer space.

“I think a lot of it is in response to how many stories are out there, and audience’s need to quickly and easily narrow down the range of possibilities.
My unconscious wants to see two characters clash in a brilliant display of swordsmanship, while my conscious mind wants to find complex meaning in that simple sword fight.

“I’ve definitely heard some authors discuss how they have to choose whether they want to thoroughly play to the horror genre or the “slice of life” “everyday relationship” genre. There’s that way in which artists first have to win the trust of the fans with conventional storytelling, and then, once they have a name, they can, if they feel comfortable taking a risk, step out of their prior patterns and try something new.”

I’m glad they said genre is funny…

To consider that the “story” of a work isn’t part of its “genre” is brave thinking…

As far as the reason for genre existing so folks can “quickly and easily narrow down” what they intend to read… Perhaps this is a result of genre being instituted by traditional publishers, then readers becoming used to it, with it then changing the way they choose books—culture shaping people instead of people shaping culture…

Next:

“I always have to put ‘General’ for my novels as they contain romance, crime, elements of a thriller, humour, and read like mini-sagas. The nearest explanation I have had from reviewers is that they read like ‘soaps.’ What genre would you call that?”

I told that reader that I’d call it “YOU:-)

Finally:

“Best expression I’ve found for my first novel is mythopoetic. The adventurous story unfolds as an odyssey, containing universal conflicts every reader can relate to, but mythopoetic is not a recognized genre. I had to use ‘fantasy’ as the nearest fitting genre, though the story evolved from deep roots of the imagination. Fantasy and imagination are not the same thing. Ib’n Arabi pointed this out centuries ago.”

I told this author that they could consider using “N/A” for the genre; but, then, I’m sure they chose an existing “category” because of “marketing” considerations…

I believe that self-publishing will more than likely supplant traditional publishing as the most common way to deliver a book to readers; and, readers are way more intelligent and adept than traditional publishers seem to believe—way more able to think outside any boxes the Big 5 impose…

Sure, there are plenty of folks who obediently read whatever the Big Brother publishers tell them they should read; but, addictions can be cured; and, self-publishing is re-educating readers so that they can be their own gatekeepers—choose they own particular brand of reading, satisfy their unique needs, take charge of what they use to fire their imaginations…

Also, Independent publishers would be more nimble and able to adapt to self-publishing’s tendencies toward infinite genres…

If each person expresses their own unique “kind” of personality, why can’t each book do the same?

My favorite fiction author is successful in a genre-world; but, to me, her books are all brilliant independent works of literature…

And then, there’s my best friend’s first novel, shoved into “Detective and mystery stories” by her home country’s National Library; when, in my review of it, I found it to be, “…a quilt of meanings that evoke many levels of feeling—moving in space and time to mine yet more meaning… pulling one’s heart into the events, attracting the mind to fresh thoughts about sadly well-worn topics…”.

Perhaps a book can be “categorized” by what it does to the reader rather than what the publishers use as a “hook” to lure profit for their stuffy conglomerates…

Care to comment and move the conversation forward…?
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Blog Conversation About “Genre” Writing . . .


Our last conversation was about “serious writing”, on May 2nd, 7th, and 9th… Genre Writing

It ended because the last post had no comments…

So, here I go again, starting up a new conversation :-)

I’ll begin with the word history of “Genre”:

1770, “particular style of art,” a French word in English (nativized from c. 1840), from French genre “kind, sort, style” (see gender (n.)). Used especially in French for “independent style.” In painting, as an adjective, “depicting scenes of ordinary life” (a domestic interior or village scene, as compared to landscapehistorical, etc.) from 1849.

If you did a Google Search on “Genre”, you’d have a merry time trying to sort out all the opinions…

Sure, authors often stay within certain well-established genres; like Murder Mystery, Police Procedural, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Alternative History, etc., etc., etc….

Still, my favorite fiction writer, C. J. Cherryh, usually wrote in either Sci-fi or Fantasy (though, she ably warped them at will…); plus she has a series, the Morgaine Cycle, that is both Fantasy and Sci-Fi…

So what is this slippery “quality” of fiction that has well-walled-off communities of writers and readers, as well as many examples of strange and wonderful hybrids of all types; and, certainly, some works that can’t be corralled into any specific category…

Being the kind of writer I am, I can easily go out on a literary limb and say: One could consider each author’s unique style their own particular “Niche” in the book world…

Oh, my, now I have to show you the word history for Niche:

1610s, “shallow recess in a wall,” from French niche “recess (for a dog), kennel” (14c.), perhaps from Italian nicchia “niche, nook,” from nicchio “seashell,” said by Klein and Barnhart to be probably from Latin mitulus “mussel,” but the change of -m- to -n- is not explained. Watkins suggests that the word is from an Old French noun derived from nichier “to nestle, nest, build a nest,” via Gallo-Roman *nidicare from Latin nidus “nest” (see nidus), but that has difficulties, too. Figurative sense is first recorded 1725. Biological use dates from 1927.

So, following my maverick logic, we could consider:

…the author’s “nook” of “style” for their writing; or, the “nest” of their “kind” of writing; or, their particular “sort” of “recess” in which their writing happens…

Too strange to consider…? Or, fruitful of thought…?

What are your thoughts and feelings about “Genre”…?

All it takes is one comment for this conversation to continue :-)
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What Is Visionary Fiction?


When I published my last book—Notes from An Alien—my Best Friend said it was “Documentary Fiction”… 

I still think it fits that description.

Visionary Fiction Alliance

However, I’ve joined an Alliance—The Visionary Fiction Alliance—so, perhaps, Notes from An Alien is Visionary Documentary Fiction?

One of my main characters had this to say in the book’s Prologue:

“My name is Sena Quaren and this book is a story told in ‘notes’. Even though some readers may think it is a novel or a history, its form is difficult to classify in what are called genres.”

Wondering what Sena would think of this explanation of Visionary Fiction:

Characteristic Features of  Visionary Fiction:

  • Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
  • The story oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices.
  • The plot [or story] is universal in its worldview and scope.

Let’s see:

Growth of consciousness is shown in the story of three planets’ people seeking a sense of Oneness.

Metaphysical plot devices abound.

The story is Universal since it shows aliens pursuing what earthlings should be doing

The book’s for sale but also you can grab a free copy.

Do you write Visionary Fiction?

Do you know any authors who do?

Perhaps you or they would be interested in these benefits when joining the VFA:

  • Your site will be listed in their VF author database
  • You will be added to their mailing list (this is optional)
  • You will have the opportunity to guest post on the VFA site to promote yourself
  • You can announce your giveaways etc. in the VFA authors section
  • You will be given priority for an interview

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Can Writing Poetry Help An Author Find Their “Voice”?


Writer’s Voice is one of those terms that seems to change its meaning depending on who’s talking about it—almost as if “Writer’s Voice” were capable of sensing who’s writing about it and letting that author’s Voice decide what “Writer’s Voice” means

For me, writer’s voice is “simply” the way one puts the words down.

If an author stays rigidly within a genre, the way they put words down is constrained by their experience within the genre.

And, speaking of genre, the previous post, What Is A Genre & Should You Try To Write In One?, is where I add my writer’s voice to the discussion

If a particular writer has a work classified as science fiction yet reading it feels substantially different than most sci-fi you’ve read, the book was either put in the wrong genre classification or, even though it could be fairly called sci-fi, the author’s voice is unique enough to raise the work above hackneyed-genre.

So, what does poetry have to do with helping a writer find their voice?

Well, The Atlantic recently published an article by Dorothea Lasky called What Poetry Teaches Us About the Power of Persuasion.

To me, an author’s voice is the main thrust behind their power to persuade—persuade in a forceful voice or one which woos or perhaps a deceiving voice that misinforms to persuade away from

Then, there’s Ms. Lasky’s subtitle-sentences:

“Logic and grammar are important. But for students to truly own the English language, they need to read and write poems.”

Certainly seems owning language would improve voice, eh?

Let me share a few more excerpts from the article in an attempt to persuade you to follow its link:

“…if someone is telling you that there is a set and finite way to construct a sentence—and you’re a poet—you will naturally get a little annoyed. And you will be justified in feeling this way, because it’s simply not true.”

“I have found that all students can write. And one of the surest ways to awaken their love for language is poetry.”

“A lot of people argue that poetry is ‘difficult’ or that it has no real value for childrens’ future. That’s just not true. If you think poetry isn’t important to your students, you are not listening to them. You are not noticing the headphones in their ears, blasting poetry to soothe their walk to class. You are not thinking of them in their rooms at night, writing down their experiences. It may be that you are defining poetry too dogmatically.”

“…in a poem, a student not only has the freedom to express a new idea, but to do so in novel language he or she has just created. More so than any other type of writing, a poem takes into account the indispensable dimension of well-chosen words.”

“A poem is not just a place to present a student’s grammatical knowledge (in fact, it is often the space to subvert it!). Poetry, more than any other form of writing, trains students to take into account the style of language.”

Yes, Ms. Lasky is talking about students, because she’s a poet and a teacher; but, any author who stops learning is an author that just might lose their voice
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