Thursday, October 31, 2013

Advantages of Scifi or Genre Fiction

As a follow-up to Daniel Abraham's talk this week, I thought we might spend a bit of time expanding or focusing on one small part of his talk. While he did not say it in quite this way, one of the points Abraham made was that there are advantages for writers in writing genre fiction, or in his case fantasy and/or scifi. What about for readers? What are the advantages for readers who prefer to read mostly fantasy, scifi, or any other type of genre fiction? What does such fiction provide readers that "mainstream" does not? If you read genre fiction often, why do you chose that over other types of fiction?


  1. If anything, I would argue that the genre itself (and the way the author writes) gives room for a more intimate, personal engagement between author and reader. Anyone can read mainstream, and usually there is only about ONE way to interpret the plot or the way a character is solving a moral dilemma of sorts. But in genre fiction, there is "openness" for interpretation and more questions that need answering than in general mainstream work. I'm not exactly sure how else to put it, but overall, my experience has been that I enjoy reading work, just like Daniel's, than other works. Though, anytime I think about it, Harry Potter really started me on the "path" to fictional fantasy in general.

  2. I'm honestly not even sure what "mainstream" is. (If you mean bestsellers, they're still in some kind of genre, so that's why I'm confused...) But anyway, I think that readers who stick in a certain genre are able to become more familiar with the authors of that genre, and delve more deeply into the bits and pieces of that genre than someone who just experiments with the best-known examples of a genre. For example, my dad reads action/thriller/horror books voraciously, and buys new books by certain well-known authors of those genres without needing to know what it's about. However, he also dabbles in lesser-known books of those genres, and lesser-known authors that the casual reader might never have found; as a result of his familiarity with the genre, he has been able to find some fantastically underrated gems.

    I personally don't stay in any particular genre, but stick with authors that I know I like, like Stephen King, Matthew Reilly, and Robert McCammon. I've also been in a phase where I'm trying to catch up on classic authors like Hugo, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc., so that really keeps me too busy to commit to a particular genre or series.

  3. My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. I think the advantage of reading mostly science fiction and fantasy (I do read other stuff sometimes) is that I know, in general, what to expect. I like to read the kinds of books that are decent lengths and take place in made-up settings. To do that, I know the author has to put a lot of thought into their world, and I'm not usually disappointed.

    I think it's good to have a favorite genre because it gives you the chance to read many different authors from the genre and not just the well-known ones. It's like what Emma said about her dad finding gems among lesser-known authors. If you have a favorite genre, you're more likely to pick up books that aren't well known.

    I really enjoy reading older science fiction books (Robert Heinlein, anyone?). If I just stuck to what was popular at the moment, I think I would really be missing out on older stuff that is fantastic.

    I have to admit, this is mostly my dad's fault. I borrow his books all the time, so of course he has a variety of books that came out in the last 30-40 years.

  4. The "genre" versus "literary" debate seems to amount most often to whether a story's focus is on plot or on characters. Genre fiction falls on the "plot" side, with adventures and struggles against obstacles external to the characters.

    For me, the appeal of genre fiction is difficult to express. An author sets rules for himself, and whether they be outlandish or familiar, he must follow them with consistency. Even magical worlds have limits, laws, boundaries; how the characters act within those constraints creates anticipation and tension. When you open a piece of genre fiction, you have certain expectations. When I start on a science fiction story, my hope is to discover a world that I had never imagined before, with rules that are, astounding, consistent tested to their limits. That manner of creation is beautiful to me, just as a lover of literary fiction might find the depths of a character's soul beautiful.

    I guess the "advantage" in this is that some people enjoy certain things while others enjoy other things. You can't exactly compare Jules Verne to William Faulkner; people who value different things will judge the differently. My values make Jules Verne more valuable to me, so choosing him is advantageous.

  5. I guess my reasons for enjoying genre fiction are much different than everyone else's here.

    Literary fiction deals with "issues," and that always highlights my own. So when I read a lit fic book about an overweight character, it feels too close to home. It actually hurts too much to have someone discuss what it's like to be big, how it feels, how others treat you, etc. There's no space between me and the story. But in genre fiction, issues are presented but not the whole point. Mookie Pearl in Chuck Wendig's "Blue Blazes" and Trisana Chandler in Tamora Pierce's "The Magic Circle" quartet are both big characters. The authors don't let you forget it (the characters pay attention to boards creaking beneath them or squeezing between tables), but that doesn't define them. Mookie's weight actually becomes a strength. Tris learns to not care as much about that part of her, while doing lots of other things. With genre fiction, I can remove myself a little bit from the situation. There's a little more space there.

    Unrelatedly, I sort of disagree with the statement that literary fiction is more character driven than genre fiction. I couldn't name which Harry Potter book that big ball is in (I only read the books and saw the movies once through), but I remember how the characters reacted to it, and how that shapes their perceptions moving forward. Some stories might be plot-driven, sure, but I never remember the plots to the Dresden Files as opposed to the people he meets and interacts with. Demons, magic, and spaceships aside, it feels more realistic--an entire chapter of my own life can't revolve around my internal revelations and a-ha moments; rather, it's a combination of external forces and my epiphanies from that.

    Of course, this is how I interpret it; other people may feel for lit fic the same way I do about genre fic. To each their own.

  6. I, like most of you, prefer science fiction. I think it creates an escape from our world.Like Katherine said, some stories hit to close to home and I am not comfortable reading about it since I am living it. I want to know about fighting aliens, space travel, the vampire next door, and elves helping dwarfs.

    My favorite science fiction novel ever written would have to be Ender’s Game. There are a few parallels in the story that I can compare to my own life or our society. However, it is not explicit and therefore doesn't make me uncomfortable when I make those comparisons.

    I am also not sure what is meant by “Mainstream” but my best guess would be something written by some politician like Hilary Clinton or some novel about the struggles Michael Jackson had. Although those could be interesting to read, my guess is that most people want to escape reality. Most of us die hard readers want to walk with Frodo or play Quidditch with Harry Potter, or even battle the alien race with Ender. We are constantly bombarded with facts in the media that sometimes it is nice to have a sci fi novel in which to escape for a few minutes.

  7. I think I enjoy genre fiction because there is such a wide variety of hidden jewels hidden there. I feel that the less "mainstream" things are often more deserving of recognition and I enjoy being one of the few who see the quality that is there. I also feel that genre fiction has a lot of shorter stories that don't require much commitment and you typically go in with not to high expectations so the experience tends to be better especially when finding works of great quality.

    As for mainstream works there are many great books out there but I feel that a lot of mainstream books aren't always the best for me. However, on occasion, I feel obliged to feel or think a certain way about a book just because of common takes or a teacher's view on the book. I feel that this takes away from the reader since they don't have as much freedom of interpretation as per say a reader of some short online works that have been self published. And last but not least, many of these online works are free! So we don't have to go into the book to skeptically and then have hard feelings after spending 14 or so dollars.

  8. I read mostly scifi/fantasy. I think this is really common in our class and I think the genre itself lends itself to the type of people who love to read (and write?) this is maybe because of the length of the books and the adventure and even the difficulty. Personally I choose this genre because I grew up with my dad reading Tolkien and Zelazny and other fantasy type books to me. So when I started reading well enough, I picked up those same books. I have always been an advanced reader, and I think that is another reason I choose scifi/fantasy. A lot of “mainstream” books are meant for the average person, whose reading level is average. I read these books in a matter of hours and then I’m stuck with trying to find another book. Scifi /fantasy books are normally longer, with more advanced language, and smaller fonts, and many of them are series, so when I finish one, I can just pick up the next one. I also like to think I have an active imagination, so these types of books really play to that imagination. I also think that scifi/fantast books are where you find almost all the “fandoms”, or groups of people who are devoted to a specific author or book/series. I only officially belong to one fandom online, but I would consider myself a member of many other fandoms as well. That sense of connection you feel to someone who also loves the same thing you do is amazing, and I am pretty sure this fandom phenomenon is unique to scifi/fantasy, but I could be wrong.
    So that is just my take on this topic…


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