… or just a crap one? As my current work in progress straddles sci-fi and general fiction, this is a question which has been worrying me for some time.
Having read through a fascinating article, Holy Crap': The Flawed Notion That Novels Can Transcend Genres, about the nature and classification of genre, I’m forced to reflect: can an aspiring novelist ever write a genre-buster or is genre-straddling just a sign of inexperience?
As an avid reader of cross-genre, I’m not sure. I love Kate Atkinson, for example, and her most recent novel ‘Life after Life’, more than ever. I’m also a great fan of Milan Kundera, and I’ve just started reading a book which I’m sure is going to blow my mind, ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki. She does everything I wanted to do, only better. Much better. But the very existence of a book like this is heartening. It’s a so-called ‘Holy Crap’ novel, and it is glorious!
But as an avid reader of such novels, how can I ever hope to write one without making a mess of things? One published writer I know advised me not to put all my eggs into one basket -or into one debut- as there would always be time to write different types of novels within genres. Maybe. But what if I like to read cross-genre and would like to see more of it?
Mix it up
And then there is the question of what to mix. As my 11 year old put it, ‘You can mix thriller with romance and you can mix sci-fi with thriller, but you can’t mix sci-fi with romance.’ Out of the mouths of babes…?
Or is it, as the quoted article suggests, true that ‘Genres aren’t conceptually solid enough to be transcended. Any genre is going to be made up of things that both fit and don’t, and over time those things will change and shift.’
I’d like to think so.