11 May 2012

G is for Genre

Originally posted at SETON HILL WRITERS, on Friday, April 8, 2011

Today, we're pleased to have a guest post by Jason Jack Miller on GENRE RESPECT.Does genre fiction receive more respect now than it ever has?

Genre fiction has certainly become more daring in the way it deals with its own tropes.  Crossovers and blurred lines between the genres allow readers to dip a toe into new reading waters without fear of having it bitten off.  Consider Max Brooks' World War Z--is it horror or SF?  Or literature, maybe?  And what about the Twilight series?  Horror or romance?  Are there readers who loved Twilight that would never in a thousand years consider picking up an Anne Rice novel?  Certainly.  Both have vampires and romance, but only one had the benefit of a rabid fan base accustomed to using social media to take their passions viral.

There have been multitudes of novels that have straddled genre throughout written history, but they have never received the type of marketing attention that books get today.  I believe our perceptions of genre are manipulated by the publisher's marketing departments and big budgets.  With the right, well-targeted fan base a genre novel can fly or flounder.  'Don't judge a book by its cover' is an old adage that may not apply to 2011 when covers are usually tied to ginormous marketing campaigns and interactive media blitzes. Just look at the evolution of the SF/Fantasy reader stereotype over the last twenty years.  From the 1990s it's the Dune/Lord of the Rings/Star Wars fan living in his mom's basement on a diet of Doritos and Cherry Coke.  The 2010s stereotype is a tween who wants to know 'Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?'
Stories evolve and styles come and go, but readers always love what they love.  Now publishers can target readers more specifically than they ever have, and book clubs are global institutions no longer confined to library and church basements.  So while I'm not certain genre fiction receives more or less respect than it ever has, I know that fans and publishers are changing, and now more than ever fans are able to find, and talk about what they love.

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