What is genre? I have asked and asked this question and someone on another blog said that a story is a piece of art that induces a pattern of types and intensities of emotion — that are different for different genres: horror, romance, mystery, and so on. And the lightbulb finally went on.
I went to see my eighteen-month old grandchild today and my son was playing a game with him. I didn’t realize at first that a game was about to start but baby had a very funny look on his face. Dad was holding the baby close to his chest and suddenly tipped him backwards and let him fall — at least two inches. Baby laughed and clutched. Rinse and repeat the expectant look and sudden dip. And because I am an obsessive grandmother and watched closely I saw that baby tried not to grab instantly. It was very subtle but part of the game.
And my meditations on genre, sparked by the above, have me thinking that genre is like the baby’s game. You know what to expect, and you feel safe but … properly done, the thrill is still there.
So I guess if a book isn’t genre then it is just fiction. And then it is harder to market because if it is any good it will have “types and intensities of emotion” but no-one will know what to expect or whether they will like it. And then of course what’s wrong with modern fiction in part, is the deliberate effort to raise emotions that aren’t part of older patterns, or include frustration and disgust, and a few negativities I can think of. Subverting the reader’s happiness is a goal sometimes.