Whatever you think about genre as a concept (personally, I view it – and indeed any kind of taxonomy – as a necessary evil and a bit of a mess), there’s no denying that it permeates our writing and reading culture. That has some advantages. For example, when I walk into Barnes and Noble, I head immediately for the SFF section. I know where the books I like are shelved.
Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone
Fantasy and Science Fiction are my preferred genres. (Well, just fantasy when I was a youngling. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of children’s SF). Occasionally I venture out into romance or mystery or even literary fiction (rarely), but nearly always when there’s some sort of speculative component. For the most part, though, I stick to what I know.
Does that mean I’m missing out?
Trying New Things: Reading Edition
I have tried, in the past, to expand my reading tastes. (See: Eclectic Reader Challenge). I never really finished it, mostly because my brain doesn’t like to be told what to read when (See: Every book I was forced to read for school and hated, only to discover I enjoyed when I read it again outside of an academic setting).
So for the most part, I stick to what I know. I think, though, that it would be a good idea to dip my toe into another genre every once in a while. Trying new things provides new perspectives and keeps you open minded. And who knows? I might discover something I really like (See: Nora Roberts’s ‘In Death’ series).
Trying New Things: Writing Edition
There’s another reason to read in new genres, and it’s…so that I can write in new genres.
I’ve been having more writing ideas lately, and not just that, but more ideas that seem promising. By which I mean, ideas that could actually develop into a solid piece of writing, either because they have strong inherent conflict or because they’re particularly high-concept.
And some of those ideas seem to be drifting into different genres.
Here’s the thing — I’m always going to write speculative fiction. I just am. It’s what I’m really interested in creating. So no matter where any novel of mine is set, it’s going to have speculative elements.
But. I can learn a lot from reading mysteries, if I ever want to write a fantasy-mystery, or a SF-mystery. (Alien detective agency? SpaceFleet Military Police??). I can learn a lot from reading westerns, if that crazy US-Marshals-riding-dinosaurs-through-the-Old-West thing is ever going to happen.
And…as much as I love fantasy – it was my first genre, my first love – I find myself wanting to branch out, to experiment. And the idea-generating part of my brain seems to agree.
So…keep your eyes peeled. Next up after Princess (Fantasy) is Salvage (SF), and then anything goes. Steampunk? Historical? Western?
The sky’s the limit.
Thoughts on authors branching out? Specialists vs. generalists? Any good examples of authors who cross genres? (Either successfully, or cases where you liked their work in one genre but not the other).
Thoughts on reading widely vs. reading narrowly?
Suggestions of books for me to try outside my genres?
Talk to me.