Wednesday, February 2, 2011

genre respect?

Academic and Horror Author Michael A. Arnzen was discussing the public's perception of various types of genre fiction last month. He claimed that erotica, romance, and horror are the least respected genres because they are the most closely related to the body/emotions. Thus, according to Arnzen, Thrillers, Mysteries, and Science Fiction are the most respected genres because they are the most closely related to the brain/intellect. Certainly, there is a puritanical aspect to American culture, but...

What do you think? :)

Considering the origins of Science Fiction in the pulps in the 1930s-1950s, I'm finding hard to agree with his hypothesis. However, a little more digging on my part revealed many (all?) literary genres originated in pulp magazines, from detectives/mysteries in publications like Dime Detective, to horror/occult in publications like Weird Tales. So, perhaps the origins of genre fiction don't matter. What does all this mean for the future of genre fiction?

Personally, I think genre fiction is here to stay. Even a cursory survey of recent best-selling novels reveals a plethora of genre fiction.

Ross Douthat had an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times last summer Why Genre Fiction Flourishes. Among other things, Douthat says,

And it’s not at all surprising that contemporary novelists would turn to what’s often dismissed as “genre” fiction — not only historical novels but fantasy and sci-fi, and hybrids thereof like “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” — in order to find stakes high enough to approximate the kind of suspense that a Tolstoy or a Thomas Hardy could generate, almost effortlessly, by simply thrusting a character into an unhappy marriage.

As someone who really enjoys reading (and writing!) genre fiction I can only say, "Hurray!"


  1. I think that there aren't really any genres that are better than others.

    It all depends on the tastes of the reader.