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Genre - what's in a name?

Fiction Commercial Fiction Fantasy Humor/Satire Literary Fiction Science Fiction Thrillers/Suspense

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#1 Erik18

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 10:36 AM

We (and the market) seem inordinately concerned with labelling stories by genre.  While this practice simplifies identification, it is often so reductionist that it can be misleading.  For example, how should we categorize: Faust; Portrait of Dorian Gray; The Devil and Daniel Webster; Gulliver's Travels; The Iliad, etc.?  



#2 b.katona

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 01:14 PM

literary fiction



#3 Erik18

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 03:14 PM

Yes, literary fiction. I agree.   But that's only because they are now classics.  What if the authors had written those books today and were submitting them to an agent or publisher, in what genre would they be labelled?  Each of the stories I cited are founded on a supernatural or fantastic premise, but calling them fantasy or paranormal, while technically accurate, would be misleading.



#4 b.katona

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Posted 17 October 2017 - 07:49 AM

i think you'd still call them literary fiction even if you wrote them today. you could probably call some of them high concept fantasy. or literary fiction with a supernatural plot on the flipside. anyway, they're not literary fiction for their old age's sake. if you feel like you've written something comparable only to these titles i think it's wisest to try to sell it like you would those



#5 Springfield

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Posted 17 October 2017 - 10:23 PM

Yes, literary fiction. I agree.   But that's only because they are now classics.  What if the authors had written those books today and were submitting them to an agent or publisher, in what genre would they be labelled?  Each of the stories I cited are founded on a supernatural or fantastic premise, but calling them fantasy or paranormal, while technically accurate, would be misleading.

 

They're not litfic because they're classics; they're litfic because they're litfic. If someone were querying those today, they'd do so as literary fiction.



#6 JoQwerty

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 03:15 AM

While there is a tendency for the literary fiction community to claim all classics as their own, if some of the works Erik18 mentions were published today they would not be considered literary fiction.

 

Goethe's Faust and The Iliad would fall into the almost forgotten genre of epic poems. Bob Dylan aside, the literary fiction community is not interested in ballads or epic poetry.

 

Gulliver's Travels was originally intended as a political satire. Swift published it under the name "Lemuel Gulliver" because he feared retribution from those in power. The book became an instant best seller and if it were published today would be considered "main stream fiction" not "literary fiction".

 

Alone The Picture of Dorian Gray would have fit in the "literary fiction" genre that we know today. (The Devil and Daniel Webster is a short story.)

 

But as to Erik18's broader question, the importance of genre can be understood by looking at the publishing market. In 2013, more than 300,000 new and revised titles were published and that does not include those books self published without an ISBN number. Classifying books into genre is the first step in making sense of this mass of titles. But it is only a first step. In each genre there are hundreds of new titles -- still too many to read even if you read just a single genre. If you can invent a better scheme for people to find the types of books they want to read, the publishing industry would be grateful...







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Fiction, Commercial Fiction, Fantasy, Humor/Satire, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers/Suspense

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