By saying that “Genre” is dead, I am not saying “Genre Fiction” is dead. In fact, I think it’s more alive than ever. If any flavor of fiction needs to worry about dying, it is literary fiction. Since the publishing industry is spinning around like toilet water in mid flush, I think literary fiction is going to have troubles finding a market among the ebook world, and you know what? I’m okay with that. Most literary fiction is boring and repetitive. I won’t miss it.
OOPS! Yeah, I’m a genre snob just like everybody else, but I’m learning. And for some good reading, I suggest you do too.
Now, what I mean by Genre is dead, I mean the literal concept of genres are dead. And you as the reader should learn to be to be okay with that. Don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere overnight, but they are fading away. Well, not fading, blending is more like it.
First off, straight genre fiction seems to already be gone. You can no longer find a fantasy novel to enjoy. You find Epic fantasy, Dark fantasy, Urban fantasy, Science fantasy, Heroic and Mythic fantasy. Sci-Fi is no longer Sci-fi, it’s Apocalyptic, Post-apocalyptic, Space Opera, Space Western, Military Sci-Fi, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and numerous other sub-punks. Mysteries are no longer mysteries, they are Cozies, Police procedurals, Noir, Hard Boiled. And a new one I heard last week: Malice Domestic, which I am assured by a friend of mine who writes mysteries this is the same as Cozies, but can we really take that risk?
All these sub-genres seem pretty ridiculous to me, but many people grab hold as if it’s a war worth fighting, so who am I to say they’re wrong? Personally, I like to read a little something from a lot of different genres and I think this is going to become the norm because without the publishing industry forcing all writing into little pigeon holes. Writers are going to get more creative. They’re going to cross genres a whole lot more.
Take, for instance, Murder at Avedon Hill, by P.G. Holyfield. In the same way that people who read literary fiction dislike genre ficiton, many of the people I know who read the Mystery genre wouldn’t give this book the time of day, because (Gasp!) it’s a fantasy novel. Nevermind the fact that this is simply a matter of setting. There really isn’t much of the story preventing this from being written either in a modern small town, or to be closer to the original vision, a medieval town. Sure you can nit-pick here and there about the fantasy elements, but the fact remains this is just a mystery novel. The audio book, available for free in the link above, is just fantastic and amazingly well produced. To get this book traditionally published, Holyfield had to shorten it, and muck it up a little. Once I found that out, I couldn’t muster up the nads to buy the paperback, sorry P.G..
Another prime example is Scott Sigler’s Galaxy Football League series which starts with The Rookie. Also available as a free audiobook. Scott opted to sell the book himself as a collector’s edition hard cover. Granted Scott Sigler is a NY Times best selling author and can muster up the 2000-3000 fans to buy such a print run, but my point is made. He gets to sell his book vision intact, which he describes as “Star Wars meets Every Given Sunday meets The Godfather”. Three genres that I don’t care for: Space Opera, Sports, and Gangster all blending together to make one super-cool story. Thanks Scott! Now I’m on the hook for 6-7 hardcovers!
So as writers get more opportunity to write what they want and begin mixing things up, the reader is going to have to evolve along with them. Well, that’s not totally true. Genres aren’t really going to die. There will still be plenty of your basic subgenre writers out there, but if you want some really interesting reads, open up your mind a wee bit more, and see what people are writing now that they’re losing the traditional publishing yoke.