Monday, June 23, 2014

Rethinking "Genre"

I did a post a while back addressing “genre.”  I wrote it in the context of submitting my novel to agents; deciding on which genre the novel belonged in baffled me. 

I thought in some cases the whole idea of genre was pretentious, particularly when I asked an expert to differentiate the several kinds of fiction I had seen listed (commercial, mainstream, literary) and never got a specific answer. To this day I don’t know if my novel fits any of them. The last refuge seems to be something called “cross-genre,” which I suppose is where novels that don’t fit anywhere else go to die.  

However – thinking about it suddenly threw a new kind of light on the other subject I keep flogging in this blog: “content,” the descent of writing into.

A Zen question: does a cry in the wilderness make any sound?

I have several times, while shouting at the trees, suggested that we, the writing community, reverse engineer content back into its components. People used to write news, or instruction, or  humor, or biography, or opinion, or political analysis; writers reviewed books; composed essays; sold product…

Whoa! That begins to sound like genre. It also begins to sound like maybe some of that stuff might be worth something. You could argue whether humor should bring a higher or lower price than straight information, for example; but they’d both be worth more than the penny-a-word they fetch today as “content.” 

The buying world tries to tell you “Content is King,” The reality is “Content is Kommodity.” Look; If the governing specification is X number of words (which it usually is), how is that any different from buying X pounds of liverwurst? “Whadda ya mean, eight dollars a pound? I can get it for three. No rat hairs in yours? So what?”  We’re all alike to the content buyers.

We ought to take arms against this sea of content, but sadly, I don’t expect anyone to join me at the barricades. It’s been this way too long, and everyone seems to have come to terms with the situation. Except me.