I am happy to announce that I sold another short story. It will hopefully see the light of day in January, but stay tuned for more concrete news closer to the date. What I can say right now is that the story is to be published by Spark, a creative anthology that prides itself on going against established practice by publishing a mixture of different genres. This seems to be a good fit for me since my first published short story was described in a review as being “interstitial”: falling between accepted genres.
In fact, most of the fiction I write does not fit neatly within any one genre. This can make finding an appropriate market or publisher a particular challenge. Yet, it seems to me that genre, like gender, can frequently be fluid. Gone are the days — if there ever were such days — when you could take any book and confidently place it on the appropriate shelf. Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, magic realism, romance, YA, NA, psychological thriller, political saga, family drama… There are so many books out there that are genre mashers or defy any of these categories.
And then there is the category known as literary fiction — the genre thought of as “non-genre.” I think of a story that friend told me about when she worked in a bookstore and her boss was angry with her for having placed an Ursula K. Le Guin novel in the science fiction section rather than in the shelves reserved for literary fiction. As a big Ursula Le Guin fan, I could see this as complimentary; as a reader of science fiction, it is rather insulting. Is the fact that Ursula Le Guin novels are beautifully written mean that they are not science fiction? Of course Le Guin writes science fiction, she just writes it really, really well — as do many others. If a story presents characters who are realistic and act out of profound and complex motivations, if it takes on important and weighty themes, if it addresses social and political subjects of universal importance, if the writing style is elegant or lyrical, layered or experimental, or strong and clear: is that what makes something literary? What if a writer does all that within a story that fits within one or more of the traditional genre categories?
I have never been able to properly understand or accept the literary/genre binary. I have reasons for loving speculative fiction and these reasons are similar to the reasons that I love literature from cultures and societies other than my own; stories that focus on children, outsiders and underdogs; stories that explore unorthodoxy; and anything that stretches my mind and presents alternative ways of thinking or being. At the same time, for me to enjoy them, these stories must also be well-written, have good character development and touch on important ideas. And complexity? Complexity is a good thing. Ironically, it is the question of complexity that causes me to reject the kind of binary thinking that is behind the literary/genre division.