Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Which Genre of Fiction Do You Prefer? ~ How About Literary Fiction?


I can hear some readers saying, “Literary fiction isn’t a genre!”.

Hmmm

“Genre” is a term used to divide fiction up into classes or “treatments” or boxes.

“Literary” can be used that way, too—as well as a modifier—literary mysteries, literary romances, etc.

Still, some folks want to keep “literary” and “genre” well-separated

Some might even tell you that literary fiction is the kind that doesn’t sell as well as genre.

Might be good to grab a definition for “literary fiction”—best one I’ve found is: “complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas”.

Yet, what’s to stop a “genre” writer from making their book “literary”—perhaps, only the desire to not have it become harder to sell?

The Millions magazine has an article by Kim Wright (an author) called, Why Are So Many Literary Writers Shifting into Genre?

She says:

“Once upon a time, genre was treated as almost a different industry from literary fiction, ignored by critics, sneered at by literary writers, relegated by publishers to imprint ghettos. But the dirty little and not-particularly-well-kept secret was that, thanks to the loyalty of their fans and the relatively rapid production of their authors, these genre books were the ones who kept the entire operation in business. All those snobbish literary writers had better have hoped like hell that their publishers had enough genre moneymakers in house to finance the advance for their latest beautifully rendered and experimentally structured observation of upper class angst.”

Blogger and critic Porter Anderson recently threw out some new terms: “I’ve been toying lately with new hashtags #seriouswriting and #legitlit to distinguish this from formulaic entertainment pabulum…”—“serious fiction”.

Jennie Coughlin weighs in on this on her blog post, Serious Fiction and #LegitLit: Creating a Hybrid Home:

“For me, telling a layered story with strong characters is key. When a friend recommended Doris Lessing’s books to me recently, he said she’s one of his favorite authors because, ‘She’s one of those authors that makes me not want to read another book for a long time because there’s always a lot to absorb and reflect upon.’. While my books don’t belong in the same breath as Lessing’s, that idea of providing a lot for a reader to absorb and reflect upon is probably the best expression I’ve heard for what I try to do when I tell stories. And I think it’s maybe the best way I can think of to define Porter’s concept of ‘serious fiction’.”

My short novel, Notes from An Alien, has these words in the Prologue:

“…this book is a story told in ‘notes’. Even though some readers may think it is a novel or a history, its form is difficult to classify in what are called genres.”

After publication, my best friend called it a Documentary Novel, which I feel fits it well

Here are a few other posts from this blog that consider “genre”:

Genre or Literary? What’s The Difference?

Genre Reconsidered ~ Reader-Driven Fiction

Genre, Genre, Who’s Got The Genre ? :-)

What Is A Genre & Should You Try To Write In One?

What are your thoughts and feelings about “genre” and “literary” fiction?
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5 responses to “Which Genre of Fiction Do You Prefer? ~ How About Literary Fiction?

  1. Barbara Blackcinder January 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I followed a couple of leads through your blogs, ending up on the list of non-genre books. it is clear that publishers haven’t a clue as to genre definition either. If they really tried, they would end up with most books being non genre specific. LOL. ‘serious fiction’, as far as I can decipher, is a designation somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, crossing all genres like a heavy woolen blanket.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      Marvelous Comment, Barbara—I totally agree :-)

      Like

  2. Pingback: Dime Mystery Magazine British Edition (May 27, 1936) | The Great Pulp Magazine Index

  3. John Paul Mahofski January 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I agree with Kim Wright that a huge debt is owed to the fiction which the masses come in droves to read and buy. Usually the easiest way to tell if a book is literary fiction rather than some mass genre item is simple…if it doesn’t sell, or people can’t get through it it is literary.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      I feel that Ms Wright’s statements, like, “All those snobbish literary writers had better have hoped like hell that their publishers had enough genre moneymakers in house to finance the advance for their latest beautifully rendered and experimentally structured observation of upper class angst.”, are directed toward the traditional publishing model and may not apply to the newer paradigms—also, my personal opinion is that no matter how many people buy a book and no matter how many dollars it amasses, by itself, popularity has never been a good indicator of worthwhile fiction

      Like

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