Genre Inquiry

I’ve been doing some thinking about the kinds of stories that are most popular with readers at large compared to the kinds of stories that some Christian publishing insiders claim Christian readers want. It’s true, of course, that we Christians do look at the world differently from others. But it’s also true that we live in this world and are wired with the same wants, needs, desires as are other people. So are we really all that different?

Tough question. We are sinners like everyone else. But the blood of Christ has cleansed us. We have become new. So does this newness mean we are separated from the rest of mankind in our likes and dislikes?

Not really. Because we all are made in God’s likeness, we all have the capacity to enjoy beauty. So Christian and non-Christian alike love chocolate, appreciate Pavarotti, glory in fall leaves, rejoice at the sight of a rainbow. Sure, those aren’t universal. A minority would choose caramel over chocolate or Justin Bieber over Pavarotti. But the point is, those likes and dislikes aren’t determined by our being Christians or not being Christians.

There are some things that are, however. Pornography is one such thing. Granted, an untold number of Christians engage in pornography, but as yet, I haven’t heard any professing Christian advocate for pornography or say that this is pleasing to God and something we should embrace. In other words, there are objects and activities that set Christians apart from non-Christians, or ought to.

Reading is not one of those things. So why would we have the culture at large interested in certain kinds of books and Christians interested in a different kind? I don’t think we do, apart from erotic books that are the equivalent of porn. But that’s my theory. What do you think? Do Christians want to read a different kind of fiction than non-Christians?

I’m not referring to stories with Christian conversions or ones with themes uniquely Christian. I’m asking about genres–romance, historical, mystery, fantasy, adventure, horror, suspense, science fiction, contemporary. Do Christians want different genres from non-Christians?

Let’s expand the genres–dystopian, romantic comedy, urban fantasy, supernatural, contemporary romance, thrillers, crime fiction, epic fantasy, cozy mystery, post-apocalyptic, space opera, cyperpunk, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, family saga, historical romance, political, coming of age, ancient history, dark fantasy. Do Christians spurn some of those genres because we are Christians? Do we choose others because of our Christianity?

Here’s a poll to measure what you all think. I’ll be eager to see the results. Please feel free to leave comments here as well.

Published in: on October 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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What Do You Read – A Poll

Over on Facebook, I’ve been discussing super agent Rachelle Gardner’s recent blog post, “Book Genres And Book Stats,” in which she discusses the results of a recent poll she ran.

Part of her findings and musings have to do with speculative fiction. Here are two significant quotes from her post:

When the numbers first started coming in, I immediately noticed the large percentage who checked fantasy/sci-fi, and I wondered whether there might be a disproportionate number of writers in that genre vs. readers.

Then the conclusion:

While 26% of those voting report writing fantasy or sci-fi, sampling from two recent months suggests only 6% of book deals were done in those genres. That’s not a minor discrepancy…it’s a significant difference.

What do you make of this?

So I thought it might be interesting to run a readers’ poll here. I don’t expect to get as large a sampling as Rachelle received, but still, it might be interesting.

With one exception, I’ll use the same categories she used (which oddly separates supernatural from science fiction and fantasy — I’m under the impression this is the way book deals are reported to Publishers’ Weekly). The exception is the last choice which I’ve added – None of these.

      Fantasy or sci-fi
      General/other (non-genre fiction)
      Historical (romance or not)
      Supernatural or paranormal
      Women’s fiction
      None of these – I prefer non-fiction

Never fear, these choices will be randomized in the poll (here they appear in alphabetical order, except for the last one). The question is, Of these genres, which do you prefer as a reader?

I personally like to read in a variety of genres, though I’ve concentrated a lot more on speculative fiction since becoming a writer. But if I were to answer this question, I’d think of having someone hand me two books by authors I’ve never heard of, one in genre A and the other in genre X. Which, then, would I be most apt to read first? That’s what I’d consider my “preferred genre.”

If you’re so inclined, please share this link/poll with your friends (Facebook or other 😉 ) The greater the sampling, the clearer the picture about reading preferences, I think. Thanks for participating. I’ll post the results in the middle of May.

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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