Fantasy Friday – The Fourth (or Why I Don’t Like Sub-genres)

Urban fantasy, science fantasy, magic realism, dark fantasy, classic fantasy, epic fantasy, fairy tales. It all gets a little mind boggling, to be honest, and a little nichifying.

[As an aside, I just created the word “nichifying” in the same way that Gregory Spencer creates words for a group of people in his Welkening novels. Must be catching! 😉 ]

Yes, nichifying. And to continue with the honesty, I don’t like being shoved into a niche, or a stereotype. I don’t like being pigeonholed, categorized, classified, marginalized, or any such narrowizing. Being labeled as a fantasy writer seems like part of the marketing/selling necessities. Identifying myself as a Christian fantasy author reveals my worldview, and therefore seems important. But from then on? What exactly do these additional terms give us?

I suggest it gives us separation. I most enjoy epic fantasy, also known as high fantasy or classic fantasy. Does that mean I shouldn’t read Kathryn Mackel’s Birthright Chronicles, a science fantasy series? Or Robin Parrish’s superheros stories? If I had stayed within the bounds of genre, I would never have discovered Watership Down (Richard Adams), one of my favorite books of all time. Or Till We Have Faces (C. S. Lewis).

I guess I feel strongly about this because there seems to be a perception with some genres, and now with these subdivisions, that shouts to readers, This is only for the sci fi geeks or This is only for romance readers.

But don’t good stories draw readers regardless of genre?

This might seem like an odd thing for someone passionate about fantasy to be saying, but I bristle at being nichified. The only niche I want to be in is that of good author. I’m not there yet. I’m not even in the published author niche, but that’s where I’d prefer to be, rather than in some other division that chases away readers.

Here’s why I love to write fantasy:

  • I have this great good vs. evil motif that naturally lends itself to a story about spiritual things.
  • I get to create in a way that is second to none—peoples, lands, languages, political organization, you name it.
  • That’s it. But what that adds up to, for me, is writing Big. I’ve plotted a contemporary story and written several chapters. It happens to be a story I believe in and hope to finish some day. I think it’s a Big story, too, so I’m not saying fantasy is the only Big writing. It just seems, to me, to require Bigness.

    But to bring this back to the original point, the slicing and dicing of a genre into all the different sub-genres seems, to me, to belittle the titles in those newly created categories. It’s like saying, cats are only for cat lovers. You animal lovers need not apply to be cat owners. How silly.

    Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 2:05 pm  Comments (4)  
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