Genre snobbery is a bitch

 

thoughts orangutan

I feel like it’s a becoming a biannual tradition for me to point out “sorry, you don’t get to dictate taste”. Sadly, there’s a reason this keeps coming up: every so often a member of the literati pokes their head above the parapet to denigrate genre fiction. Today’s “inspiration” is a famous literary fiction author who decided to give genre fiction a go, only to (rather hilariously) state they don’t like that particular genre… cos that makes sense. Now, without naming names, this is almost part of the course for literary fiction writer’s foray into genre fiction- they assert “but I’m not a genre fiction writer” in the same way one might say “I’m not a prostitute”. Well, as a genre whore, I take offence to this kind of language 😉 Aside from the blatant hypocrisy, I don’t think genre snobs have quite thought this through…

spaceFor starters, there is unfrickin-believable-out-of-this-world genre fiction. One of the funniest parts of this person’s argument was that they didn’t think that genre fiction explored humanity with any depth- LOL! Clearly, they’ve never read genre fiction cos there are *far too many* examples for me to list. The crux of this criticism is that they seem to think you can’t simultaneously write well and develop your world building- which is about as logical as saying you can’t eat a banana and ice cream at the same time 😉 The two are not mutually exclusive (in fact they go together rather well). So, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, the joke’s on you. Especially because…

the greatest of all timeToday’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but realism doesn’t always win out in the end or make it into the canon. And some genres (romance novels, gothic literature, even fantasy etc) do better than you think. Literary fiction stands the same chance of going down in history as one of the “greats” (regardless of whether the publisher slaps “modern classic” on the back or not).

you're not wrongThe customer may not always be right… but they’re not wrong! Let’s be real: you can’t be wrong about your own taste. Not only that, but most readers read genre fiction. The idea of going after the consumer is becoming increasingly popular- yet it doesn’t make it any less futile. A word to the wise- no one will be convinced to pick up your book just cos you said they shouldn’t pick up some other person’s book (in fact there’s a strong chance of reverse-psychology-ing them into picking up the one you told them to avoid).

party on dudesPlus, us genre sluts are having a lot more fun than the genre prudes. We’re not tied down by immature “you need to grow up” arguments levelled at adult YA readers; we’re not threatened by a bit of flirtation with genre bending books. We just dive straight into the whorehouse of endless tastes- otherwise known as every bookshop/library/personal collection ever- and glut ourselves on whatever’s on offer. Gotta say it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions and just join the party. Don’t be shy, you know you want to 😉

Im outThat said, if you’re still taking yourself too seriously after that analogy, I have one last truthbomb to drop: no one is the GOD EMPEROR OVERLORD of taste. No one’s taste is infallible; no one gets to act like an authoritarian hack when it comes to literature. And I’m not gonna apologise if that’s hurt any egomaniac’s feelings for saying that. I’d say “anyone who truly believes that they know best about what people should be reading needs to take a long hard look in the mirror”, but that’s probably what they do all day. I’m sure their hand is sore from patting themselves on the back 24/7. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have much time for anyone who thinks like this anymore 😉

And with that, I’d like to ask you guys what you think of genre snobbery? And are you a genre whore like me? Let me know in the comments!

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89 thoughts on “Genre snobbery is a bitch

  1. CJR The Brit says:

    I will literally read any genre……if something grabs me then I’ll read it, if I don’t like it then I dont blame it on the genre. I must admit I read so much of 1 genre and I skip it for a bit….but then I gradually go back to it!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. alilovesbooks says:

    Believe it or not I’ve actually been thinking about doing a post on this very subject. I saw Claire North at Cymerafest and she spoke very vociferously about this kind of reading snobbery and how genre fiction is considered less valid than literary fiction. I’ve also seen this type of snobbery highlighted within genres. Historical crime fiction is considered more high brow and worthy than contemporary and true crime is on a lower rung again. I honestly can’t understand why in this day and age we’re still judging people for what they read.

    What makes it more laughable is that a lot of literary fiction is in reality genre fiction. It’s only because the author has been determined a writer of literary fiction that everything they write is considered literary whether it is or not.

    Personally I much prefer genre fiction, I think it is pushing the boundaries and venturing into new territory in a way that literary fiction is not. There are no restrictions in genre fiction.

    Liked by 4 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Oh please do- I’d love to read that! Yeah I see this all the time unfortunately. hehe it’s ridiculous, but I see it within genres too now that you mention it! (the difference between high fantasy and urban fantasy for instance. And the funny thing is sometimes urban fantasy is just dubbed magical realism, and then suddenly it’s more high brow than any fantasy 😂 these hierarchies suck) Yes!! So agree!

      And yeah absolutely (see above about the magical realism example 😉 but also there are *so many* literary fiction “mysteries” which are basically thrillers or contemporary women’s fiction which are basically romance… it’s just different labels really).

      And yeah, me too. I think a lot of literary fiction has stagnated- whereas genre fiction is always pushing the boundaries.

      Like

      • alilovesbooks says:

        Don’t even start me on the women’s fiction label, what does that even mean??? I have such a thing against it as a so called genre. Why are we putting gender labels on books in 2019. Clearly it’s because it’s mostly written and read by women so is somehow less worthy than men’s (aka literary) fiction 😠

        Like

  3. Joelendil says:

    I have a few genres that I largely avoid (e.g. Westerns, Romance), but it’s just a matter of personal taste. It’s so arrogant to assume that someone else’s taste is inferior because it differs from one’s own. About half of what I read is genre fiction, and a lot of those authors (especially the sci-fi and noir ones) have as keen of insight into human nature as “literary” writers. The people who look down on those who enjoy genre fiction remind me of people who act like enjoying coffee in any form other than bitter, black Folgers is a sign of immaturity or decadence.

    Liked by 4 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I do relate to that- as much as I’ll read most things, there are some books I’ll avoid (westerns as well, horror) And yes absolutely! (for instance I know that I don’t like horror cos I scare easily- but this isn’t a judgement of other people) Absolutely agree! hahaha yes, that’s such a good analogy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. daleydowning says:

    I TOTALLY support all of this! I’m somewhat of a genre snob, in fact – but ONLY in the way that I’m a bit picky on what I will and won’t read. BUT that is PURELY for myself! When it comes to what other people want to read, I TRULY don’t care! And I do get insulted when readers or writers claim their genre or style is “better” or “real art” – GAG! I have read SO MANY contemporaries, historicals, and fantasies that touched my heart and even moved me to tears. I will never be the same – in SUCH THE BEST way! – now that Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Maggie Stiefvater are constants in my life. I can’t even imagine how DULL the lives of the true “literary art” fans are!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. cupcakesandmachetes says:

    Haha, this was an amazing post! One of my blog friends recently had someone try to shame them for ‘not understanding the importance of the book to literature.’ She laid a polite smack down and it was good fun. I’ll never understand when someone tries to tell someone else what they should and/or should not like when it comes to reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. WendyMegget says:

    As a writer I see this snobbery amongst writers, but I didn’t realise it extended out to the readers too!! 😣 I often avoid writing events and conferences to avoid what a call “literary lovies” who look down their noses at you when you say you write humour, self help and regular articles about chickens for a gardening mag. Like what I do is not “real”, or “art”, or “literature”. Maybe I won’t win a Booker prize, but I get paid, have fun, and my readers can understand what I’ve written, unlike with some obscure literary tripe.
    Read on, my friends, and read well! 😃 Great post!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Em says:

    I consider myself a book quality snob … but genre snob? Nah. Ye olde shelves are mess of … just about everything. Children’s picture books to textbooks on how to read fMRIs to modern poetry to YA/NA fiction. Why would anyone want to strictly limit themselves to a single genre? There’s so much out there to discover!

    There’s some interesting research out there in media studies which shows – surprise surprise – a big predictor of media consumption is self-regulatory needs. For instance: If people have a long, stressed-out day, they’re more likely to watch a comedy show at night.

    … I don’t know what the empirical research is on book choices, but this logic certainly seems to transfer over to the books I gravitate to each day/week/month. Sometimes my brain needs a political commentary. Sometimes it needs a comic strip … and how could anyone – even a genre snob? – know what’s going on in my head better than me?

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Oh yes, I’m definitely a book quality snob too! Totally get what you mean!!! Couldn’t agree more!

      And that makes a lot of sense! I completely relate to that- I definitely pick books in the same way (and also feel like it’s absurd to be told that I’m reading the “wrong” books, when I often read books that are deemed by the same people as the “right” books). YAS!!! So ridiculous that some people think they know best!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Cathy Cade says:

    Afraid I’ll read anything – well, almost. I can think now of two books I’ve begun but gave up on, but mostly I battle through to the end (although I may skip some pages while I’m dozing off still turning). I think this is because when I was very small I only got to the library when I was taken and there weren’t many books in my house. I read them all.
    I even tried to read my way through the Bible because it was on the bookshelf. (Correction: three books I’ve begun and given up on… all those “begat”s.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeff says:

    100% — “Today’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic.”

    Couldn’t agree more, and especially as a reader of exclusive reader of scifi when I have time, and a teacher of classics. The difference is only time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Angie Sim says:

    People have their reasons, and that’s why we have those categories in the first place. Other people just like things without any explanation as to why, and that’s okay too. I agree that there’s no reason to bag on others if they don’t enjoy the same genre you do.

    Necessity on the other hand is different. There are people who don’t specify that the genre or work didn’t serve any purpose for them personally- when there are others out there it definitely spoke to- and simply claim that no one should read it.

    The idea of persuading people their genre interests are wrong or meaningless just doesn’t connect with me. It’s a preference. Have your own opinion on it, and be satisfied with having that! Don’t make it an argument to win.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. MichaelK says:

    Needless to say how much I agree with you! I don’t snob any genre (of course I don’t like them all) even literary fiction! 😂😂
    And of course I sin in more ways since I am a huge fan of nonfiction and I have dared to compare some of the books in that genre with fiction “masterpieces”.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Sure is a bitch! Honestly, no one has any right to judgmental about what anybody else is reading! It’s like you said, it comes down to taste. It shouldn’t be any different with any hobby, whether it’s restoring old cars, or crocheting, or playing soccer. Genre choices are for personal enjoyment and as long as it’s not hurting anyone else, I don’t see a problem or why anyone should stick their noses into anyone’s business. I think it’s great people are reading, period! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rosie Amber says:

    I rarely read ‘popular’ books and if I do pick one up that everyone was raving about, it is usually years later and because the book blurb appealed. Most books that I read are because of an intriguing book blub.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sarah says:

    I especially love when Margaret Atwood says she doesn’t write science fiction. *eye roll*

    But also- literary fiction is an exercise in self important B.S. where the author thinks they are delivering some important message into the world that’s, you know, probably already been delivered by 50 other people before that, while also making it vague and obscure so as to add to the allegory of it all. *cough cough*Jose Saragamo*cough cough*

    Does this make me a lit fiction snob? Maybe. Sorry. The genre fiction snobbery makes me see red.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hahaha oh that’s a good example! LOL!

      And I partially agree with that- cos there are exceptions- but unfortunately a lot of that genre is dominated by people delivering an “important” message (which like you said is probably super obscure or in some cases really obvious and thus completely pointless!)

      hahaha I totally get what you mean! Every time I see a lit fic writer saying something like this I start to think “but what’s so great about your genre…” (although I do still read and enjoy some of it, so I can’t say I’m a complete snob about it 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Christopher says:

    Many of your, er, metaphors reminded me of a story Neil Gaiman told about the time he was at a party and someone who didn’t recognize him asked him what he did for a living. “I write comic books,” he said. The person looked at him rather disdainfully and said, “And who are you?” When Gaiman said his name the person said, “No, no, no, you write graphic novels.” Gaiman’s response to that was, “I felt like a hooker who’d just been called a lady of the evening.”
    I’ve probably shared that story before because it so perfectly sums up the problem with genre snobbery. The quality of literature isn’t defined by where it’s shelved in a bookshop or library. As a fairly well-respected writer once said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Nicole says:

    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care what is considered “good fiction” — I read what I like to read. Besides, some of our classic novels are genre fiction. Frankenstein or Dracula, as the first examples to surface, though there are others as well.

    If anything, I think a lot of the books branded as literary fiction aren’t as deep as my genre fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Paul's Picks says:

    I’m happy to be friends with people who don’t give a hoot what I read, nor do I care what others read… I enjoy getting the exercise to walking about the whole bookstore/ library, just because I like to mix it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Margaret @ Weird Zeal says:

    What a beautiful post!! As a fellow genre whore, it makes my eyes roll to the back of my head when people say that genre books aren’t as “good” as literary books. Not only is that so dismissive of the work that genre fiction writers put into creating incredible, unique stories that examine all facets of human existence, but it’s just…wrong. Neither is automatically better than the other.

    I basically want business cards that say “you can’t be wrong about your own taste” to silently hand out to people when they’re being annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! Yes!! Me too!! And yeah I completely agree- it’s funny that they haven’t even thought of how illogical that statement is when I can literally think of hundreds of examples where they’re wrong off the top of my head.

      hahaha oh gosh that would be so perfect!!

      Like

  19. marydrover says:

    This had me cackling! 😂 I am 10000% a genre whore, too! You said it best—there’s so much to offer! No limiting when picking up a book, I’ll take almost anything, and that is AWESOME.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Fran Laniado- Author says:

    I love genre fiction. I also love literary fiction and classics. And you really can’t differentiate between the two. Frankenstein certainly has historic, artistic and literary value, and it also has value in terms of establishing conventions of the sci-fi genre.

    Sometimes when “literary” writers claim they don’t write genre fiction, it comes off as snobbish and ignorant. *Cough* Ian McEwan *Cough* But sometimes I think that it’s an attempt to differentiate their work from genre conventions when it doesn’t fit. I remember that a few years ago Kazuo Ishiguru said that The Buried Giant wasn’t a fantasy. I think that was less about him saying that it was somehow better than the genre, and more about the expectations that genre readers have. The Buried Giant won’t appeal to people who are looking for a traditional fantasy novel, even though it uses some fantasy elements. If it’s judged according to those conventions it’ll be found wanting. But if you go into it with different expectations there’s value to be had. Margaret Atwood also clarified her comment about not writing sci-fi. She was speaking about a very specific kind of sci-fi and her words were taken out of context.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Me too. And yes- I completely agree with that. Absolutely!

      haha yes they do! That’s a good point- but the issue I have there is instead of being modest (and perhaps more honest) about their work, saying “I’m not a scientist, so world building may not be my forte, but I do explore interesting ideas” (in the case of McEwan, for instance 😉 ) they denigrate other writers- and that’s just wrong to me. I don’t care if they’ve bought into a view of self promotion where you can never express doubt or weakness, it comes across far worse to throw every other writer under the bus (especially when the flaw might be with their writing). Although, I do get what you mean about some writers like Ishiguro and Atwood (who, frankly, didn’t come across as quite so dickish in their comments and like you said were trying more to direct the right readers/readers who would actually be interested to their work).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fran Laniado- Author says:

        Oh I agree with you. I found McEwan’s comments insulting. With Atwood and Ishiguro I felt like they are addressing reader expectations rather than saying anything negative about a genre. Some journalists took their words out of context in a way that made them sound offensive, but I don’t think it was intended that way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Yeah I did too. And yeah that’s what I thought- I also thought the way they were framed was designed to make people annoyed (so I can see why people fell for it and did get annoyed), but what they were actually trying to say wasn’t bad at all.

          Liked by 1 person

  21. Samantha says:

    As someone who reads both genre fiction and literary fiction, hear hear!!! The snobs are missing out! But seriously, don’t dismiss an entire genre if you obviously haven’t bothered to look further. I can mention plenty of science fiction titles that deal with the human condition.

    It’s also annoying. Like, in my country there is a prize for fiction aimed at teenagers. Great, right? Unfortunately, the majority of the nominated books are literary works that happen to include a teenager, rather than YA. In the mean time, the target audience feels like they aren’t taken seriously, that their reading tastes are looked down upon, and that it’s another occasion to shove literay fiction down someone’s throat.

    And I’ve met plenty of people who look down on YA, or fantasy, and also look down on people who read it. It’s ridiculous. People are reading. That should be enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. waytoofantasy says:

    It’s so true that we have to keep having this discussion over and over again. I used to browse r/books on reddit years ago when I first started and eventually left because there were just too many genre snobs there at that time and ain’t nobody got time for that. Things can be both literary AND genre. And even if things aren’t, well, whatever literary is (to quote Charlie Jane Anders when I asked her this question ‘it’s like porn–you know it when you see it’) then that doesn’t mean they don’t have value! There’s really no point to the snobbery, imo.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Nicola @ Thoughts on Fantasy says:

    So well said!! I have to roll my eyes every time this kind of criticism comes up. The argument that genre fiction doesn’t explore humanity with any depth is just mind-boggling ignorant to me: some of the most profound and deep explorations of what it means to be human that I’ve ever read have been science fiction novels. But I guess if you never deign to read any you wouldn’t notice.

    The idea of attempting to write something in a genre you don’t like (and presumably don’t read) while simultaneously trying to make it clear you’re not a genre writer is also hilarious 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    Yeah I know some readers who resemble this and try really hard not to take offense when I talk books with them. Just as I try really hard not to sneer at their taste choices! Because you are so right there is no Lord Omnipotent of taste. You like that great! I love this.. great too, right?! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Offbeat YA (@OffbeatYA) says:

    LOL, I came here after visiting Sam @ We Live and Breath Books, who had a link to this post in her weekly recap. I had so much fun that I went and read a few of your old discussion posts too, “Reviews are for readers” included. I’m following you now because I’m a sucker for thoughtful yet entertaining posts 😉. And I have to say I really love your graphics!

    About the topic at hand…my username says it all…my blog specialises in YA, so I guess there’s no need for me to talk about the stigma. But wait…so now even genre-reading (or genre-writing) in general is not allowed? we should all read and write non-fiction? that’s hilarious. I don’t like romance and hard fantasy, so what? There are so many intelligent people who read them, I’m not better than them because I prefer afterlife or sci-fi or supernatural novels. These arguments are ridiculous, but I suppose some writers are so frustrated that their “literary” books get less traction than others, that they would declare war to anyone (or try and embrace a certain genre in hope to make some money out of it, and at the same time bite the hand that will – hopefully – feed them 🙄).

    Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much!! That’s really kind of you to say! Totally get what you mean- there’s definitely a lot of stigma reading YA. hehe basically. 😉 Unless we only write literary fiction, I guess. Yes! Totally agree with you!! That’s basically what I think a lot of the time ;)(haha yes, it does seem strange to finally take the plunge into more, shall-we-say lucrative fields… only to criticise the genre and thereby alienate anyone who will pick up the book?!)

      Like

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