> Queer Books Please: Categories! part 2: genre

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Categories! part 2: genre

Part two in a three part series about categorizing the books I read and talk about here. Part one here.

If I were going to make fiction genre master-lists, I would be sorely tempted to combine some common genres. They’d probably look like this. 

1. Let’s Go Somewhere! (fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction) Many of the things I like about historical fiction are the same things I like about science fiction and fantasy. I guess it’s specifically the feeling of world building. I like being transported to a world where I don’t necessarily know the geography or societies rules and norms. While plot and conflict are important in these books, it’s less important than rich details and the feeling that you’re learning about a whole new world. 
If you’ve only ever read historical fiction, like Sarah Waters’ excellent novels, think about picking up Ammonite by Nicola Griffith.  
2. Winning Formulas (romance and mystery) These two genres have something big in common—they both are constrained a certain amount by a formula. For romance it generally goes, girl meets girl, terrible/overwhelming circumstances keep them apart, until they don’t and they live happily ever after. Mysteries are a little less linear, but you still have a framework that your reader is expecting, a crime or mystery, a protagonist working to solve said mystery, clues and suspects, and discovery of the truth. Most but not all mysteries also require some amount of justice to be done in the end. Successful mysteries and romances are good for the same reason—they use the formula to their advantage to give the reader something familiar, while still offering surprises and finding ways to defy expectations. I’d tell anyone who reads primarily in one of these genres to check out the other—I think there’s a good chance you may find your reading options expand by quite a bit. 
When I was younger, I remember transitioning quite smoothly from Karin Kallmaker’s romance novels to Katherine V. Forrest mysteries, and I think those are good examples of how closely these two genres track each other
3. Coming out novels. These books are so important for people who are still struggling or learning about their identities. I still find myself gravitating towards coming out novels when I need something comforting to read. In particular, I think the themes of love overcoming obstacles tend to stand out in these books, and it’s a theme I always want to go back to. Now, sometimes mysteries and fantasy and whatnot can have coming out themes. But generally, I would probably only categorize these as books about coming out in familiar, mostly contemporary societies.  
4. Everything Else! I guess this category could conceivably have everything from supernatural urban fantasy to entirely straightforward contemporary fiction to older classics. On the other hand, we’re still seeing so many coming out novels, maybe this everything else category needs some support and needs to grow. 

Are you reading this list and thinking to yourself, hey, what about YA? Yeah. That's what I thought when I finished writing it. More on my feelings on YA later.

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