Genres

The prolific writer Ray Bradbury gave a talk about writing. His mantra for how to become a writer was simple, “read and write”. To read also meant to read widely, fiction, poetry non-fiction, history, science and everything in between. To write meant to write prodigiously and constantly. Write a short story a week and aim for a novel a year. He challenged the audience to produce 52 bad short stories. It couldn’t be done.

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Ray Bradbury

One thing I learnt this year was that while children will study anything, adults have to be persuaded that what they are about to invest their time and effort in will be worthwhile for them. The same is true for leisure activities. This is probably why people tend to “settle in their ways”.

Statistically, it has been shown that the quickest way to become a well-known and well published author is to concentrate on one genre. This is true for every kind of writing. Since I started blogging, I have read many articles of advice for bloggers. I have largely ignored all of them, which probably accounts at least to some extent as to why this blog remains relatively obscure (that and the fact that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to repeatedly return to my ramblings).

The thing is that all the authors I really like are those who have tried to step outside the strict confines of a genre or have at least tried to expand the horizons of the genre they have worked in. One of my favourite authors of all time is Isaac Asimov who famously wrote about everything he could think of from ancient Greece to subatomic physics to robots. It is worth remembering that Asimov relied heavily on cross pollination to make his work fresh. His crowning achievement in science fiction was the Foundation series which he thought up of on a train journey while toying with the idea of pushing the decline and fall of the Roman Empire on a galactic scale.

Dan Simmons switches between horror, fantasy and scifi. But in each of these genres, he shows his classical roots with heavy references to Shakespeare, Byron and Greek poetry. His works are richer for it.

The problem is that for all my pontificating, there are some genres I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. One of these is romance. That is why I am glad that last year I accidentally started and read Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle. The book blurb made it sound like a fantasy novel rather than a romantic story.

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The Gargoyle, not the cover my copy had

To my surprise I enjoyed the book. I appreciated the considerable amount of research the author had put into his work. The characters were compelling and the story was fairly taut. Romance was at the center of the whole thing, but it was much more. Finally, it passed the greatest test any book can. At the end, I wished there were a few chapters more.

The thing is that despite all the above and despite how much I enjoyed the book, I know I won’t ever read anything by this author again unless I know for sure it isn’t romance. So there. I’m guilty. I’m as prejudiced as the next narrow minded bigot in the line.

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