posted by Karen Burnham at Monday 14 February 2011 @ 12:01 am BST
There is often a divide between writers and critics on this (and not only this) topic of genre. I consider myself, like DiFi, to fall into both camps. And I approach each differently, as I tried to set forth in my first post. That is, as a fiction writer, my concerns with genre are secondary. As a critic, they are primary, or at least equivalent to other approaches I might take in a critical piece or review. But I try to be as aware of genre–or form, as was helpfully suggested as a synonym–as possible as a writer of fiction, in part to avoid cliches, and in part to push against boundaries and attempt to fashion something new and challenging, if only to me. In other words, to play. But for a writer to say that he or she is independent of genre strikes me as akin to a person saying they are independent of air simply because they don’t think constantly about the act of breathing. Genre is where writing takes place. It’s the medium in which we work. There is no escaping it, whether you consciously think about it or not. At least, that’s what I believe, and nothing yet has convinced me otherwise.
Genre is not form. Novels aren’t a genre. A genre is a set of assumptions about a form.
Fair enough — I accept that.
Actually, on further thought, I don’t think “assumptions” is quite right. I’d prefer “traditions” or something similar there.
That resolves quite a lot of disagreement here.
Also the Gary/Clute/Jonathan podcast I link to.
Personally I really like the idea of having different lenses through which you can view a work.
Gary K. Wolfe
I rather like that “set of assumptions” business as well, and it helps explain how genre may mean different things to readers, writers, and marketers. Readers may have a set of assumptions in mind, but writers can choose to fulfill them, deliberately violate them, or ignore them altogether.