Genre Bending

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I don’t have a favourite genre.

Not to read. Not to write.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Because if ‘dark’ was a genre, then I guess that’d be what you’d call it. That is, if you need a label and all the crap that goes with it.

It’s a weird bit of artifice, this whole genre business. Smoke and mirrors at best, but a business nonetheless. Genres exist largely to serve categorization as an marketing aid for a given target demographic.

Supposedly, men like fantasy and westerns, women like paranormal romance and the eponymous chick-lit. It’s blurry around the edges, of course, but there is some intended ‘gender to the genre’ mapping going on.

It’s all hogwash and everyone knows it.

But still, we gravitate to specific aisles in bookstores and libraries. Follow your tribe. Don’t be a zebra in a sea of horses.

This notion of what a particular genre is supposed to be and to whom it should appeal also leaks into what we write ourselves. It’s not write what you know; it’s write what you read– a disease and the antidote is to read widely.

I write a lot of flash fiction. It’s fun. It’s quick. It grants me latitude to experiment, especially with genre. One thing I’ve noticed: the stories that come out the best, that I have the most fun with and tend to resonate with readers… they tend to cross genre boundaries.

Why is that?

What makes a fantasy romance more appealing than either of its broader genre categories? Why is a dystopian steampunk alternate history sci-fi western inherently more interesting?

I’ve no idea, but if I want to put alligators on Mars and craft a police procedural around it, then I will. If nothing else, it’ll be a Hell of a lot of fun to write.

What do you think? Do you write within the tropes of your particular genre? Do you dabble at the fringes and see what happens? Or do you cast bones, pick a couple genres and craft whatever makes the best storytelling?

Some interesting reading (just don’t lose track of time):

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GenreTropes

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