Genres: The Struggle

Now while I’ve in college, my career has consisted of dealing with several classes just on writing.  And every time one of those classes gets around to expectations, we always return to the subject of genre.

This conversation has happened in mainly fiction/prose classes because that class reaches into the largest amount of genres.

There’s a distinction between genre writing and literature writing that is made by these classes.  However, if any student moves onto the class about publishing and editing, we learn that genres are great and that you should be writing whatever it is that you’re wanting to do.  You can label it all sorts of different things and it will only change where your book is shelved in a store or found on Amazon.

The huff about genres is something quite interesting.  Science fiction was started by a woman.  Now the two sentences don’t seem related, but they are in a very meaningful way.

Much literary writing that we consider today is written by men.  Obviously there are a lot of women that write and that we consider classics, but there tend to be more men that are studied rather than women.

Now, science fiction, one of our staples in genre, was started by the book Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley.  For a long, long time, the pursuits of women were considered less than the pursuits of men.  That has carried over into several things in our lives.  Art and writing are two areas that have been hit the worst.

Because women started writing all these stories that fit into these little categories and for fun, those stories were considered less than the classics.  After all, you won’t hear many discussions about the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series in a class that’s about the 20th and 21st century writing.  You’re going to hear about Keourac, Hemmingway, and Vonnegut.

But the reality of the situation is that literature and genre are not mutually exclusive.  If you want to write about aliens, then go ahead.  Even Vonnegut got away with it, although his work was considered a classic at the time.

There may come a time when some of the smash hits of today become classics in the eyes of scholars, but for now we’re going to have to live with the rankings of books based on how many they sell and not the quality of the writing within.


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