Does Genre Matter?
Growing up my dad had a saying: a good horse has no color. I remember instantly loving this idea, but also being rather disconcerted. If a good horse has no color, then how do you judge a good horse? By other means, he seemed to be saying, don’t judge solely on appearance.
Flash-forward some years to me attempting to explain this concept to a college boyfriend.
“So you’re saying your horse is good then?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes (something I tended to do a lot with this particular boyfriend) and wondered if it was too early to start drinking so he’d get hotter and smarter.
Technically, he was right, as my white horse technically had no color. And technically he, and the horse, were also idiots. (There’s a reason that I still have the horse and that bf is, thankfully, long gone.)
In terms of genre, we all judge books by their covers, thinking perhaps that a good book should have a right color. And sometimes we’re right. But other times we’re wrong. I sure know that I’ve reviewed some really crappy books with fantastic covers; and, conversely, some books with mediocre covers have blown the back of my head off, figuratively speaking.
But beyond cover, how important is that other qualifier we use to describe books? I mean, readers don’t typically start out, “I read this book last week, it wasn’t that good, but the cover was amazing!” No, readers might say something like, “Have you read the latest So-and-so mystery?” or “Do you like techno-thrillers? I’ve read some amazing stuff by (insert author here).”
But even more typically, readers describe the story. “So there’s this gunslinger and it messes around with time a lot, but all this cool stuff happens. You should check it out.”
(That was my synopsis for Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, by the way.)
Stories are everywhere. Humans connect to the world and to each other through the power of story. And people don’t care if you tell a funny story, a scary story, a love story, or a mysterious story, they just want to hear (or read) something that they connect with. So while genre is a great guide, it’s like my dad should have said, a good story has no genre. But all genres must have a good story. In other words, even if a book is not strictly within a genre, readers who find it, if they enjoy and connect with those kinds of stories, will enjoy the story. Granted, some readers are strictly interested in steampunk vampire paranormal romantic erotica, and that’s fine. Not every book is for every reader, but every book has at least some readers who will appreciate it. Even if it’s only the author’s mom. (And for the record, my mom’s favorite genre is Ken Follett.)
Do you have any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below, or chat with me on facebook, /axiebarclay
Eleanor by Jason Gurley – Just discovered this indie author last month and am slowly devouring his work. His covers are as amazing as his prose and so far I haven’t been disappointed by anything I’ve read. Eleanor is more literary than some of his other stuff, leaning toward magical realism, and is the story of mothers and daughters and a set of twin girls who set the world of the living and the space of the dead on fire. Definitely saving up for a paperback copy.
Dark Aemilia by Sally O’Reilly – This is another book I want to shout from the rooftops about how good it is. History and magic, death and plague, a story of women and witches, all combine with a heart-twisting passion and descriptions of plague pits that will stick in your head and gut long after reading. It’s difficult to write convincingly about historical figures, especially about William Shakespeare, but O’Reilly’s creation is a wonder of character and language that will leave readers spinning. This is a book that makes me want to hug it, it’s just that good.
A Princess Bound edited by Kristina Wright – Can’t get away without mentioning my favored genre, and latest favorite erotic read. So if kink isn’t your thing, pass this by. But if a little bondage is all right, you might want to check this one out. Erotic fairy tales can be difficult to execute, but all these stories are very polished, extremely readable, and very hot. I think I enjoyed the use of language as much as the naughty bits. Sometimes some well-placed punctuation is all a gal needs.
So get out there, get reading, and don’t let genre get in the way at the horse sale.
Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.