March 7, 2012

In Defense of Genre Fiction

Please welcome to A Three Way Tie, Nadia Jones!

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @

Genre fiction gets a pretty bad rap in some literary circles. In fact, I would go as far as to say that when most people say “genre fiction,” they do it with a negative connotation. I can imagine a crusty old literature professor dismiss with a derisive snort even the best works of fantasy as mere genre fiction. So why the hate?

My guess is that when people who say genre fiction think of genre fiction, they tend to think that it’s all the same. They think that horror fiction will always consists of some variation on a Stephen King or a Dean Koontz novel from the early 90’s. Fantasy stories amount to nothing more than a retelling of Lord of the Rings, and mystery fiction lost its mystery after the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to genre fiction. If anything, genre fiction represents what we as readers treasure the most: uninhibited imagination. An author who writes a work in some established genre is joining a tradition of countless writers who seek to tell stories outside conventional norms. It’s takes real courage for any person to write a work of fiction, but it takes someone with real guts to decide to create entirely new world for their readers.

Some critics of genre fiction complain that genres limit authors to follow a certain set of rules or expectations in their work, ultimately making the work predictable. I, however, see genres as a way to set the mood for a work of fiction. It’s a way to prime the reader’s expectations, and it’s up to the author of that work whether or not they want to defy or surpass those expectations. A horror store can be just as boring as a stereotypically “literary” story about a character’s self-discovery in a small town. But a talented and clever genre fiction author can take the typical trappings of their genre and twist and turn them to the point where people completely forget that they’re reading a western or a fairy tale.

Good genre fiction is about knowing the history of your tradition and using it to explore new creative landscapes. Think of the George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (now on HBO as Game of Thrones)with has given traditional the sword and sorcery tale a much-needed facelift. Or consider the classic I Am Legend book by Richard Matheson that puts an unusually philosophical twist on the typical horror narrative. These are but two examples of genre fiction that succeeds because it pushes the boundaries established by their very genre. Indeed, for these authors genre isn’t a limitation, it’s inspiration to go further.

Granted not every fan of genre fiction needs an earth-shattering tale in order to hold their interests. Some readers pick up a horror novel because they want to be held in suspense page after page. Others want to be transported to an alien landscape no matter how stereotypical it may seem. Genre fiction has something for everyone, just like with the rest of the literary landscape. And that’s a thing to be proud of.


  1. Great post, I think people are way too uppity and judgmental about genre books.

    -Kate the Book Buff
    The Book Buff: Book Reviews for Regular People

  2. Hey Trev and Kate! Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

    @Trev-Thanks, I thought the author did a nice job too! Did you read my post about your blog?! :) Just thought I would add that in there. I flipped your question of the day and asked one of my own.

    @Kate-Absolutely. I think people over generalize genre fiction. There is so much that can be discussed using genre books which is why I talk about topics that are touched in books. I might even bring that sort of discussion into the classroom but that's a whole different story. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

    Feel free to stop by any time you two! :)