- 1 : a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content
- 2 : kind, sort
Why create a new fiction genre? Good question.
The answer: To blur–and eventually do away with–artificial distinctions. And really, to defy the categorization of storytelling, in order to produce the best, most enjoyable and memorable stories imaginable.
Fiction genre distinctions are antiquated–a rubric of a bygone era.
Writing in the “Critic At Large” column of The New Yorker this week, Arthur Krystal underscores this point by analyzing the provenance of category distinctions in literature, and quoting bespoke authors skewering the practice.
Today the literary climate has changed: the canon has been impeached, formerly neglected writers have been saluted, and the presumed superiority of one type of book over another no longer passes unquestioned.
In that same article, Ursula K. Le Guin makes the essential point: “The distinction [...] between literary and genre fiction, though cherished by many critics and teachers, was never very useful and is by now worse than useless.” Worse than useless.
Pigeon-holing stories into genres started at the dawn of commercial publishing time, when editors and publishers, along with their marketing and sales people, felt the need to be able to quickly categorize a book, and as this practice evolved, its author. It is an anachronism, one that is worse than useless. A device to facilitate literary snobbery on the one hand, on the other, an inviolable shibboleth of academia.
Now that we are no longer hidebound by artificial distinctions and their associated stigma, it is time to return to the ancient tradition of storytelling for its own sake.