Thursday, March 11, 2010

Claiming Ownsership

We so love to classify things. To qualify them." There is something in human nature that feels by naming one has control or authority. By reducing something to its parts, we have authority. We take ownership. It's a side of human nature that is exploited even in our reading. Consider these genres and subgenres

Mystery- "The Who Dun it?" "The Locked Door Puzzle" "The Medical Mystery" "The Courtroom Drama" "The Suspense THriller" "The technical Thriller" "Police Procedural" "Professional Detective" "Amateur Detective" "Romantic Mystery" "Noir Hard Boiled Mystery" "Paranormal Mysteries" and of course "The Caper".

Fans of any of these subgenres will argue that each is distinct and has its own conventions and fan base. And I suppose there is truth to that. I suppose that when one is in the mood for a crime caper, or specifically a comical crime caper, that nothing will fit as well as Donald E. Westlake or maybe Janet Evanovitch. What about Gregory McDonald? Or if one wants a techno-thriller, getting an Agatha Christie novel just won't do.

Still, I worry about overclassifying things. How many times have I heard fans argue about "type" of genre until I thought my ears would bleed? Especially fans of science fiction and fantasy. That being said, the subgenres change. Don't believe me? Look at Barnes and Noble and ask for the "Horror" section. You won't find one. It used to be there. Now "Horror" has been slipped in with regular fiction.

Most recently the absurdity of extremes in marking literature and film was succintly rendered by a young woman who complained on a blog about the most recent version of "The Wolfman" (based on the screenplay by Curt Siodmak, penned in 1941). She was irate because the monster was hideous and not the sort of beautiful wolf that she associated with "Twilight". She was also offended because the monster was able to be killed with a single silver bullet. Who ever heard of such a thing??!! And for her, the entire film was nothing more than a rip-off of Stephanie Meyers.



Christina said...

I'm so glad I didn't read that blog. I'd have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I keep erasing what I'm writing here, because I'm having a hard time keeping my mouth shut now.

Sullivan McPig said...

Please tell me that last bit isn't true!?
How ignorant can someone be?
As for me I try not to classify too much as you can really miss out on great stories by only browsing one genre or sub-genre.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right about classifying being part of human nature. When I was doing my residency, I would sometimes give people horrible diagnoses...and they would be relieved! You don't know how many times I heard "I'm just glad to have a name for it."

As for that blog...*sigh*

Stewart Sternberg said...

Christina, each generation thinks it has invented what the last generation left behind and forgot.

Sully, that last bit is true. And you are correct about people limiting themselves at times.

Christine, classification is human nature. I always cringe when teens are diagnosed, mostly because developmental issues are so dynamic.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Does it upset you that horror doesn't have a place in the brick and mortar anymore? It's the perfect example of how classifying too much makes for one muddied fiction section.

SQT said...

*Sigh* I know I shouldn't be so prejudiced against the Meyer books, but that post is part of the reason why they drive me crazy. I tried to read the first book and it was so full of teen-angst. I can't figure out why any adult would connect to it. I guess this is why I don't really fit in with the other suburban housewives. They think reading Meyer is edgy. Please.

I'm no expert on genre. I tend to lump stuff together under a large umbrella because that's how I'm used to it being classified. Paranormal fiction is really a big thing now and there's so much you can put under that heading. But some will insist on calling it "urban" fantasy. Is there really any difference? I don't know. I don't really care.

Akasha Savage. said...

I actually thought the wolfman quite sexy!! :D

Tim Curran said...

Unbelievable. So the wolfman wasn't cute enough, eh? God, where would we be if Universal had decided that Lon Chaney Jr. needed to be a limp-wristed fashion plate?

SQT said...

Hey Stu-- when is the publication date for "The Ravening?" I've been keeping an eye on Amazon for a link but haven't seen anything yet.