Friday, February 22, 2013

Genre Savvy: The Big Net

So I spent the last couple of months covering what I think are the six major genres of fiction.  These are actually pretty good major groupings, covering all the major elements, from the no nonsense Drama to the high flying High Fantasy.  Dug into the depths of Horror, and plied the stars of Science Fantasy.  Laughed all the way to the bank with Humor and found the hidden secrets of Urban Fantasy.  I like these categories, as they cover time, elements of the genre, and the emotions they evoke.

But there is a problem.  Where does The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo fit?  Horror?  It does connect to Edgar Allan Poe and some of his stories.  High Fantasy, with it's references to ancient gods?  Urban Fantasy as it takes place in a hidden world underneath the one where Poe lives?  Not sure?  Nor am I.

Worse, there's another, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  Lewis Carrol's classic stories doesn't actually fit into any of these categories either.  It's not quite Humor. for despite it's satirical bent, it's not exactly funny.  There's no Drama or Horror beyond Alice feeling quite lost.  Urban Fantasy perhaps, as it again takes place "under" Alice's normal world.  Again, it kind of stands out on it's own.

So should I create a seventh genre?  Maybe call it Surreal and have it fit things that don't make sense.  Or maybe I should expand out one of the other genres to better cover this corner of fiction I missed?  No, I won't do either, because it comes down to the nature of genre in the first place.

Genres take the role of organizing our fiction.  We put like items together and call them a "genre" so we can seek out similar pieces if we happen to find something we like.  The issue with genre, however, is that it's eternally divisible down to single pieces.  This is why things like steampunk and Lovecraftain horror exist, because somewhere along the way it was decided that they weren't science fiction/fantasy or horror and needed their own box.  I don't consider them actual genres, as I've said a couple times, but aesthetics, a look and feel to a particular piece of the larger genre.

If the scale of genre can get be divided down into nothingness, the scale up is just as daunting.  The genres I defined are pretty wide reaching, covering what normally would be their own genres, and even each other in several cases.  Widening those nets suffers the problem that there is always something OUTSIDE of that net.  How much so?  Even if the net is tossed across ALL of fiction, there's still non-fiction as a whole, and poetry as well, which is neither.  The biggest net is, of course "everything" but then the point of genre is utterly lost in the process, and it no longer functions.

I picked the six genres I did because it covers MOST of fiction, and most of the webcomics I read.  Sure, a few slip through, like Edgar Allan Poo, but most, on one level or another fit into these genres.  It's not exactly how I SORT comics (I do that by when they update and if I read them or not) but it is how I think about them.  With these in mind, I can make recommendations to others for various comics.  Asking "what do you like?" also proves to be the most difficult because some people really can't define it, but that's an issue for another day.

Thus genre, in the end, is kind of amorphous.  It changes depending on the perspective of the person asking and the one answering.  What I think of as High Fantasy, someone might think of as just plain Fantasy, and so on.   It's not something that is carved in stone, but one that changes and modifies as needed.  Being Genre Savvy is knowing that genre is artificial and subjective.  I could have saved 2 months of posts just saying that, couldn't I?

Of course not!  Then I might actually review webcomics on my blog about reviewing webcomics, and that would be silly.  Which is why I'm not doing it next week either, and instead doing some housekeeping and touching base.  Until next time kiddies.

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