Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why genre fiction?

I've reached one of those patches in my life where I ask myself: "Why do I write genre fiction?"

That nasty little voice at the back of my head keeps reminding me I could enrol at the local university's MA in creative writing programme, where the likes of the great Andre Brink or another South African literary giant could possibly become my mentor. Thirty thousand rand over two years is not a lot of money in the greater scheme of things (about $3 000).

I could go onto being published by Penguin or some other very big local publisher and garner some serious notice in my home country. People could buy my books at Wordsworth or Exclusive Books, and I could have book-launches at The Book Lounge or the rather indie (and very jooje) Kalk Bay Books.

And I'd probably be trying to write yet another post-apartheid South African novel featuring disenfranchised European Africans moping about in a country that doesn't want them any more.

No.

No.

No.

That's far too depressing.

Every so often, I write a story where a vampire happens to sneak in. Or a plucky werewolf... Or, the gods forbid, zombies. My recently sold novella, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead is, for all intents and purposes, literary travelogue with a dash of fang. And I'm still LOLing at the agent who told me I'm "too literary" for genre fiction.

You know what? I don't care. I write what I write, when I feel like it, and the rest can go to Hell in a handbasket. I'll give a nod to William Burroughs, add a dash of Gaimanesque weirdness, and present my readers with something that is truly my own. Sure, there's some post-apartheid wangst, as well as a little bit of mystery, but there's a whole lot of the magic of not knowing quite what sort of entity is waiting around the corner.

6 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

I write genre fiction too. Unfortunately, though, there's now eight unsold novels sitting on my shelf!

C. D. Yates/C. Brayden-Thomas said...

You write genre fiction because it's fun, dammit! And fun is a good thing.

It's all well and good to be intellectual and literary and all that, but honestly...zzzzzzzzzz.

I was going to say the problem with literary fiction is that everyone dies, but if your protagonists are usually already dead, I guess it wouldn't be much motivation NOT to write literary stuff.

So instead, I'll say this. Paranormal fiction sells better than highbrow stuff. You have a broader fan base and besides--vampires are sexy. (I'm thinking Eric, from the Sookie Stackhouse books...) You can't have a 2000-year-old Viking warrior in a literary book (and still be credible). Unless you kill him.

Rita Vetere said...

And who says genre fiction can't also be literary, hmmm?

Nerine Dorman said...

Thanks, guys... Yup, at the moment I write what I'd like to read and if that means urban fantasy with extra grit and lush prose, then so be it.

David L. McAfee said...

How about:

I write genre fiction because I read genre fiction?

When I read fiction, I read it to be entertained. If I want to learn something I'll crack open some nonfiction.

Write what you like.

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