Someone recently accused me of representing the patriarchal establishment. I think they were trying to imply that I was acting out the will of institutional sexism. As a leftwing pinko, I took umbrage. But not enough to keep from having fun with it. Still, it got me thinking about labels, which got me thinking about writing and literature. What doesn't get me thinking about writing and literature?
Have you noticed the obsession we have with trying to classify forms of fiction? It's not enough to call something science fiction or fantasy, we have to break it down into one of a hundred absurd little subsets that somehow makes the fan of a particular author feel special. Let me take a genre I know something about: Horror.
Gather a group of horror fans together and they will immediately start jockeying for position, trying to shove different writers into different cubbyholes. You'll hear the discussion go on about psychological horror, sociological horror, allegorical horror. They'll sing and dance about erotic horror, splatterpunk, and Gothic horror. Then, as the evening revs up, they'll raise their voices as they argue over Lovecraftian horror, supernatural horror, and visceral horror. There's apocalyptic horror, zombie horror, vampirical horror, lycanthropic horror.
And all the while they discuss and argue, using these terms with a deadly seriousness, they actually keep a straight face.
In one recent call for submission, an editor actually said she was looking to create a new subgenre which she was dubbing: "pirate horror". Arrgh.
Don't feel superior out there. Allow me to once again don my patriarchal mantle. Let's talk "CHICK-LIT" (what an obnoxious term) a genre that some have absurdly deemed "post-feminist literature". What??? Others have dismissed it as a subcategory of romance.
Yet, this sub-genre has exploded.
I recently asked a woman to define chick-lit and she shrugged and said: "You know, 'Desperate Housewifes", "Sex in the City". One source tried to describe Chick Lit this way:
"Chick-Lit is hip, stylish, confident and sharp - it's also honest and very brave. It battles and conquers the term Chick. It's about coming of age."
How about this. Why don't we stop this nonsense. I think there are only so many levels of pretentiousness we can climb before we topple. I'll accept that there are types of literature. I'll accept the divisions of mystery, horror, science fiction, western, fantasy, romance, thriller, etc. But let's stop the subgenres. Let's stop trying to find legitimacy by labelling. And that's what it really is, isn't? All this labelling is nothing more than trying to legitimize something which may or may not be able to stand up on its own merit. You can use all the terms you want to classify something, but if a story lacks the rudiment of plot, character, setting, theme....then there is only really one label that can truly apply: Garbage.