Tuesday, 3 July 2012

When Genres Attack!

The world seems to be filled with people who 'don't like fantasy or sci-fi' but somehow love Game of Thrones, True Blood, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the list goes on ... So what is it that allows these books to jump out from the label of speculative fiction that often prevents readers from picking other books in this genre up. Is it that the idea of belonging to a 'genre' is only stifling for books that would otherwise we judged by their writing and ideas? Do genres come weighed down with heavy preconceptions and prejudices? Do these very different books really belong within the same genre at all? And does it matter?
M.J. Hearle writes paranormal YA, Duncan Lay writes high fantasy and Claire Corbett writes literary speculative fiction - these are three very diverse writers supposedly working within the same genre - and they're coming to Shearer's later this month to lay done some home-truths about this 'genre' of speculative fiction.

SPOILER ALERT: Clare Corbett came in to the shop to speak to us about her new novel When We Have Wings, which is set in the near future when advances in surgery have allowed wealthy humans to get their own functioning wings, with which they can fly. This is a beautifully crafted novel that crosses the boundaries of crime fiction, speculative fiction and literary fiction. In the interview Clare addresses this idea of how her book was categorised in a way that really cuts to the heart of the issue:  

Do you think genre classification is important and if so, where do you see When We Have Wings fitting?

No; classification allows people to dismiss categories of interesting work wholesale. The desire to do that is understandable but I'd like to see what would happen if fiction was just shelved alphabetically in a bookstore and you had to approach every book with an open mind. Kerryn Goldsworthy said in a terrific review of Stephen M Irwin's The Broken Ones that crime is where plot went when it was kicked out of literary fiction and that sci-fi is where the ideas went. You can have it all; ideas, story and literary craft. Allen & Unwin decided When We Have Wings is literary fiction and I wrote the book with that intention; that every sentence would be as crafted and beautiful as I could make it. 

And so the discussion begins. Is genre just a marketing tool? Is it a useful guide for readers or a way to hem them into choosing the same sort of book? Can science fiction, paranormal fiction and fantasy really all be grouped together? What makes speculative fiction speculative? How will our other authors weigh in to the debate?

Come along and join M.J Hearle, Duncan Lay and Claire Corbett at 7pm on Thursday July 26th to find out!  

Tickets: $10, $8 frequent shoppers. Entry Includes refreshments. 
Bookings are essential for this event. You can purchase your tickets in store, or by calling Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766.

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