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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Where no one genre boldly goes

I really don't care about genre distinction. This is a fact that I've come to terms with, yet still find awkward to articulate; it's hard, to put labels on things and make them stick, but it seems to be something that other people do very easily, and often.

The stuff I write personally very rarely falls into one box or another; I tend to just call it "genre" because that encapsulates sci-fi and fantasy and horror and romance and all the other delightful bits that make up all fiction. I set out to write a thriller and ended up writing a family drama with knives and guts and guns; I went for romantic comedy and found myself in a fictional city, where luck is a tangible element. Right now, I'm writing sci-fi, straight up Adventure In Space with rocket ships and dead alien civilizations. But it's also a coming-of-age teen drama. It's also a love story. It's not just one thing.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I don't get the outrage over Margaret Atwood defining her work as separate from sci-fi. I certainly understand that comments like those collected here come off as dismissive and broadly general; if I really cared about loving sci-fi as a genre, I'd be offended. But she's not wrong about those cheesy 50s sci-fi movies and novels. Star Trek is more speculative than she's giving it credit for, but its use of technobabble is not only distracting but crippling on occasion. So maybe it's unfair to lump it all together, the pulp and the literature, the cheap thrills and the deep thoughts. Maybe it's unfair to put any labels on this stuff at all.

When I look at Atwood's opinions about sci-fi, I don't see a haughty literary figure dismissing the entire genre. I see a writer talking about her intentions, about the goals she's setting for her work, and the things that have come before. I see a writer who does not like boxes.

I get that.

And man, I wish I had time to better reason this out. Don't think I'm as clear as I should be. But it's sunny outside. And that's where I want to be right now.

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