Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Genre Snobbery

I just saw something in my G+ feed which said 'Should we defend chick lit?'

I hate chick lit. You wouldn't catch me dead reading it. Heck, I can't stand Jane Austen and have referred to her as the 'mother of chick lit' before.

I will never, ever buy a book that is categorized as chick lit. So...will I defend it?

Heck yes. If people enjoy writing it and people enjoy reading it, then it needs to continue to exist. Just because I see that section of the bookstore and walk away doesn't mean that I am going to go around saying other people shouldn't read chick lit. Or whatever else floats their boat. I'm fairly sure there are people out there who can't stand fantasy and science fiction too.

That's one side of genre snobbery, dismissing something because you don't like it and not respecting the thousands of readers who do.

The other side, of course, is the writer who insists their genre is better than somebody else's. For example, a lot of writers would never be caught dead writing erotica. They'll disparage it as pornography, or strings of sex scenes. Look down their noses at the people who write it, and use excuses to do so, such as vague comments about morality or even mocking the pen names used in the industry.

I won't write erotica either. But for a completely different reason - I'm not very good at it. I have absolutely every respect for people who can pull it off and make a success of it. One of my good friends, in fact, is an erotica writer under the name Nobilis Reed. (Also known as 'That guy with the podcast'). He's a great guy. He's very good at what he does and people buy what he does. I'm not going to look down on him because he chooses to write about sex, romance and the emotions that surround it.

Every single genre is valid. Not equal, no, because they require different skills, a different mind set and different inclinations. Historical fiction requires the ability to do...and enjoy...hours of research into the past. Science fiction requires an understanding of how the universe really works rather than how we wish it would. Thrillers need an incredible grasp of pacing. I don't like Dan Brown as a writer, but that man can pace a book to perfection, and that is why he sells millions of copies.

Setting genre snobbery aside can help you open your horizons as both a reader and a writer. Perhaps if you're willing to learn the understanding of human relations from erotica, pacing from suspense and the grasp of human society needed for a good historical, you can move from an okay writer to a good one...and even a great one.

And, besides, you might meet some very cool people from the other side of the genre fence.