Yesterday I read an interview with Stephen Graham Jones, a writer who has been recommended to me, but I haven’t gotten to yet. He had an interesting observation about subverting genre:
“I’m always telling my students that the trick with exceeding expectations, it’s not to have, say, a hundred-foot tall robot zombie instead of a fifty-foot one, it’s to undercut the whole expectation of a robot zombie in the first place, make the reader think they’re not getting any undead cyborg at all, but then somehow do it anyway, through some side door only just now opening.”
He talks about doing this by keeping the reader so engaged with the characters that the plot elements, whatever they are, don’t matter. Which tends to be my thinking too. Mine isn’t the kind of writing style that is generally considered genre, but it has elements of genre (or elements of not-real).
One of the organic farmers who brings produce to the Yellow Springs farmer’s market has been reading my books, starting with Psychological Methods To Sell Should Be Destroyed. He checked out The Painting And The City from the library, and liked it a lot. But he didn’t understand why it was shelved in science fiction. The novel isn’t realism, but the fantastic elements are presented in a realistic way, and they emanate from character and setting. He didn’t realize he was getting the metaphoric undead cyborg. He had no preconceptions, and the writing kept him in the story, wherever it went.
I know that the publishing industry needs its categories, but I’m tired of them, tired of being told that my writing doesn’t fit them. I still believe that people who read want to read good fiction and don’t care what the label is.