Eric’s Writing Blog

The writing blog of Eric Rosenfield

Posts Tagged ‘genre

Mainstream, Medium and Genre

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The definition of “mainstream” changes from medium to medium. For example, in film “mainstream” refers to popular hollywood fare, and is dominated by genres like science fiction-fantasy-action/adventure (“tentpole” blockbusters), romance, comedy and so on. In comic books, mainstream refers to superheroes, and the strangeness of this one, odd little genre having so dominated an entire medium has been commented on in many quarters. In prose fiction, mainstream refers to literary fiction. Indeed, no other medium I can think of is so preoccupied with the status of “literary”-ness than prose fiction (though there have been some attempts in other media– for example, the critics who try to separate “film” from “movies”). This has, of course, everything to do with prose fiction’s particular history and audience, but it doesn’t make the attempt to separate “literature” from not-“literature” any less pernicious, causing, as it does, great work in “genre” fiction to often be sidelined by both large portions of the reading public and the academy (and thus often future generations as well as the present ones). The notion that the particular set of conventions that we call “literary” is somehow inherently better than those we call “genre” is absurd on the face of it, but it is so intricately wrapped up in signifiers of class and social status that we have trouble making out the absurdity. In fact, the very act of reading itself is a signifier of class and social status, and many people come to reading fiction for pleasure, often at an early age (when most of their peers are only reading what’s assigned to them), specifically because they want to see themselves as more refined and sophisticated than other people–in other words, of a higher status. I will be the first to admit that I am as guilty of this as anyone else, and one can see it in the derrogations of genre–a lashing out and defensiveness borne of my own guilt in enjoying the stuff–that made up many of the posts in the early years of this blog. I can’t think of any other whole medium so wound up in ideas of status.

Written by ericrosenfield

August 10, 2010 at 11:18 am

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SF is the Other

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To lit fic, sf is the Other: the weird jungle tribe regarded as primitive, suspected of cannibalism and in some cases exploited. (When Margaret Atwood takes the tropes of SF and claims she doesn’t write science fiction, SF people feel exploited– ie that they’ve had something taken from them without just compensation, in this case, credit.)

Which isn’t to say every literary fiction author is conventional and every genre fiction author is radical–far from it–but it is to say that the whole concept of a “literary” fiction vs. a non-“literary” fiction is wound up tightly and inescapably in concepts of bourgeois status, and maybe it’s just better to be in the jungle with the wild ones.

Written by ericrosenfield

August 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm

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Screenwriting and Genre

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I’m reading Story by Robert McKee, a screenwriting book. It’s fascinating in contrast to its prose counterparts. For example, 25 genres.

“Genres are not static or rigid, but evolving and flexible, yet firm and stable enough to be identified and worked with, much as a composer plays with the malleable movements of musical genres.”

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November 30, 2009 at 1:01 am

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