The time has come for horror writers, fantasy writers, science fiction writers, romance writers, and other writers of so-called niche writing to stop calling what we do genre writing. What does that word mean anyway? Genre. It's an apology. It's a sign we let the popular kids put on our back. It's the red-faced shame we feel when our parents whip open the door to the bedroom and find us writing genre into an old sweat sock while we desperately try to hide the open glossy pages of our favorite horror or fantasy magazine.
You know, I think the stuff that passingfor high literature these days constitutes its own genre. Let's call a neurosis a neurosis, or in my case, let's not.
I'm currently fighting my way through a novel by Richard Ford, one of those literary guys whose books are read by a niche, and maybe gets taught in college classes, but will probably be forgotten when the next literary love child comes along, and I'm amazed at his lack of economy and these meaningless details and passages that go blah, blah, blah.
Pulitizer Award Winning Ford, of course, was the literary type trying to redefine the novel. He looked for a level of reality that would have made Warhol shave his head and join a monastery. Reminds me of the guy who made a six hour film about a fly crawling over a woman's naked body.
Let me quote one of Ford's characters, probably speaking for Ford hmself: "If it's literature's job to tell the truth about these moments (significant or at least meaningful life episodes) , it usually fails, in my opinion, and it's the writer's fault for falling into such conventions. I tried to explain all this to my students at Berkshire College, using Joyce's ephiphanies as a good example of the falsehood."
So what do we call this high fallutin' genre that seems to have captured the hearts and minds, and corrupted the souls of so many MFA candidates and professorial staffs?
Let's call it the novel that isn't a novel, the story that doesn't follow convention and seeks to express itself regardless of the entertainment value. It's enlightenment spread across the testicles like Ben-Gay (or Icy-Hot)..take your pick. Let's call it AvanteGardeInABox
Me? I'm gonna go play with the other nerds. I want stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends...I want epiphanies. I want to eat popcorn as I read and feel like when I close a book cover that I haven't just read something being forced upon me by Dick Cheney at a literary Gitmo.
So from now on, when one of those literary types tries to shove you into a niche and comment on your crass commercialism by identifying you as a genre writer.....turn a ferocious eye on them and say: "Oh yeah???!!! You, too!"
Then run like hell and go read a comic book.