Is Genre Writing an Endangered Species?

I’m sure you’re all getting sick of me and my comments about the publishing industry, so today I thought I’d let someone else write about it. Andrew Vachss is guest blogging here blog today, though “ghost blogging” would probably be a better word for it. He doesn’t know he’s a guest and might not be happy if he finds out, so don’t be surprised if this post disappears.

I found this bit by Vachss in the foreword of Act of Love by Joe R. Lansdale, which might be the book that started the serial killer genre. (I always thought Thomas Harris started it, but this book predates his by several years.) I wasn’t impressed by the book (sorry Joe and Andrew) but I did find Vachss’s words interesting. He wrote:

Genre writing is an endangered species . . . for all the reasons any species starts to run out of road. Overpopulation, in-breeding, lack of natural predators, limited food supply. Words don’t work as stand-alones; they gather their power from juxtaposition . . . from context, from precision placement. But, in our game, words have become de-valued currency-you can’t count on them anymore. Our field is overdosed with flab: take some gratuitous, implausible violence, throw in some unrealistic sex, splatter some guts and hair on the nearest wall, sprinkle in a touch of mystical reference . . . and you’re walking on the “dark” side.

Sure.

The genres . . . horror, crime, fantasy, whatever . . . all have their built-in places to hide. Write something stupid, it’s a metaphor. Write something mean-spirited and small, it’s satire.

Getting published is pretty easy today. And that’s good. I’m all for an open admissions policy. But the sorting-out phase, the natural, organic process by which the strongest survive . . . that’s not happening. What we have instead is favor-trading, networking, and other sordid forms of insulation from the culling edge of the evolutionary razor. When the awards outnumber the candidates, we’re heading for the Wall. With no breaks and the steering locked.

Remember I told you that the genre market was in trouble? A dragon’s coming soon . . .coming down hard. It’s going to walk through the jungle, clearing out the dead vines with its breath, stomping on those that can’t get out of the way. A hard, cleansing wind is going to blow.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,403 other followers