Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Weird New Genres and My Reactions

Entertainment Weekly (hereafter "EW") released an article today by  Mahita Gajanan titled "7 New Weird Book Genres." Generally, my reaction is scornful. I have a tough time adjusting to new things when it comes to books, especially because I think that the modern approach to writing leaves a great deal to be desired when it comes to quality. I find it difficult to be sympathetic to these new "genres" when they are more about publicity labels and being the founder of something new than they are about holding certain beliefs about the written word or having a particular talent.

1. Cli-fi (Climate Change Fiction)

EW Definition: "This offshoot of eco-fiction consists of short stories and novels that address the effects of climate change."

Reaction: Probably should have been filed under "Sci-fi."

2. Bizarro Fiction

EW Definition:  "Books that aim to be both strange and entertaining, with hefty doses of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque."

Reaction: This term first appeared in 2005, which is over a decade ago  and I think hardly counts as a "new" genre. Nevertheless, Bizarro fiction is very similar to New Weird which grew out of the traditional Weird genre (including H.P. Lovecraft). However, the argument is that they are not the same. Therefore, it makes me laugh how Rose O'Keefe of Eraserhead Press (among the first publishing houses to adopt the term) defines it by saying, "Basically, if an audience enjoys a book or film primarily because of its weirdness, then it is Bizarro. Weirdness might not be the work's only appealing quality, but it is the major one" (Wikipedia, emphasis added). Perhaps the descriptor "bizarre" would have been more appropriate?

3. Nordic Noir (Scandinavian Crime Fiction)

EW Definition: "Dark, often morally ambiguous police procedurals or psychological thrillers set in Scandinavia."

Reaction: Also characterized by its no-nonsense writing style. So, basically, crime fiction set in Scandinavia.

4. Flash Fiction

EW Definition: "This genre, which consists of stories in a few hundred words, has been around, but it’s now more popular than ever."

Reaction: Ernest Hemingway aside, This is not my cup of tea. The idea seems to be to force an emotional response from the reader with the lightest touch of story. There is little to no payout for a reader's investment, and no firmly established requirements. I would be unimpressed by someone who said they wrote flash fiction unless I understood more completely how they formed standards  and worked hard to keep them.

5. Spoetry (Spam Poetry)

EW Definition: "Poetry composed from the subject lines of spam email messages."

Reaction: Can someone explain to me how the term "poetry" became so muddled that spam counts? These don't even make sense. Are you telling me there is a market for this jumble of words? It's spam. At what point did we decide that throwing out the rules was art? What happened to inspiring images and emotions within the reader through meter, and rhyme, and verse, etc?

6. Twitter Fiction

EW Definition: "Short stories and novels composed entirely of tweets."

Reaction: This is an interesting idea, but how does it sustain an entire genre? If you don't hold too firmly to the definition of "book": Tumbler image captures, of course! There can't actually be a paying audience for this. Furthermore, the lasting worth of these books will be limited as technology changes. I don't see much worth in investing time as an author in this type of book.

7. Cashier Memoir

EW Definition: "Just what it sounds like: true-life tales from behind the cash register."

Reaction: Again, an interesting idea, but do we have enough material for more than a couple sequels? Is there demand for this? Having been a cashier, I've lived through the job; I don't want to live through it again under the guise of "entertainment."

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