Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Genre Discrimination

A new person started working with me a couple of weeks ago who's also a writer. Let's call her Miss Dramaturgy. Athough she's a playwright and holds a very different perspective, we've have some pretty good chats on issues of writing: work ethics, building ideas, how to make a living and still make time to write. A fellow soldier in the literary army, I suppose.

I shouldn't have been all that surprised when she finally asked, "So what do you write?"

I launched into my standard answer. "After growing up on a rather (un)healthy diet of comic books, I moved up the chain to mythology and then sci-fi/fantasy novels. I got more interested in literary work in college, and then into experimental material. At my best, I try work all of it into a story through a variety of ways".

"Interesting," said Miss Dramturgy. "What are you working on now?"

And I told her about the current sword-and-sorcery style piece I'm working on now. The celtic society, the lion-worshipping religion I have yet to name, the werewolves.

She peered at me through her narrow glasses for a moment and said, "Oh. You do genre work. I just assumed you did something more literary."

I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to rant and rave, to pull her up into the stars and see the spaceships and fabulous future worlds of Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler. Or maybe hop on a dragon and fly to the imaginary lands of Ursula Lequin and China Mieville. But instead I just looked at her and said, "Yeah. I guess I'm genre guy."

I went home that day a little miffed. Not mad enough for mass murder, but mad enough to glower at people who stood a little too close to me on the sidewalk while we watched for the crossing light to change. I finally made it to the metro station and tapped my foot impatiently while I stood waiting for my train. A woman stood a little to my left, and she was a typical D.C. worker. Late 20's or early 30's, conversative black business suit with a blue shirt, hair pulled back behind her head nice and neat. She was a reading a John Grisham paperback, and I caught myself scowling at her, wondering why she'd waste time reading that crap when there's so many better books out there.

So, little lady on the metro platform. I'm sorry I had some bad thoughts about you. I've never been a big fan of Grisham, and I caught myself putting a box around this poor woman just for reading his book. I read as much crap as the next person, it's just a different kind of crap. I guess we all have our own little literary prejudices.



Jen said...

At least she didn't say, speculative fiction. It took the longest time to figure out what that was. Isn't all fiction speculative, really? I'd think.

However, I understand. That's like being a lesbian and being a writer and people automatically assuming you write like Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City).

Hebdomeros said...

Speculative fiction is a fun term someone made up that wasn't at all necessary. I think they were trying to separate pulpy sf from more literary sf, but yeah. It's just silly.

Susan said...

I am an egotistical snob when it comes to what I read, I'll admit it. Took a good friend to show me that contemporary fiction was more than fluff entertainment. I won't read Davinci Code because I heard the writing was so so. But that is all ego posturing. There is nothing wrong with Sci Fi or Comic Books. If I read Lady Chatterley everytime I picked up a book, I'd sooner be dead.

Next time though don't "take it where you sit down". Ask her how she got through the hormonal years reading only Flaubert? Check her shit out, see if she takes even one risk in her plays that is worthy of your time. If it is then give her something of yours.

Or not...just my conjecture on the subject.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

I would have been mad. I would have been really mad. And yes, the type of fiction that you mention kicks the ass out of Grisham every day.

Don't get me started on Da Vinci Code. Hated it. Writing was less than so-so, it was downright bad. A friend of mine said a friend of his dubbed it "the best bad book" he'd ever read. That's it though -- it kept you turning the pages even as you realized there are tons better ways to spend your time. Like a really bad movie that somehow has enough going on to make you want to keep watching and "find out what happens."

The puzzles mostly sucked too. As did the fact that these supposed experts couldn't figure them out.

Okay. sorry, rant...

Hebdomeros said...

I actually haven't read The Davinci Code. It got such wide praise from a lot of people I know (not lit people, but other people), it started leaving a sour taste in my mouth whenever I saw. It's that little goth-punk rocker hiding inside me, I guess. If I ever read it, it will be a long time.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Haha, the little goth-punk rocker in me rears its ugly head a lot. Hee.

Yeah... I don't know, I just can't help ranting whenever I hear about that damn book. Just wait till the movie gets made. Arghghhhh!