Using Genre As A Tool

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“But the idea that genre is a tool, not a prophecy goes beyond combating genre snobbery, I think — it’s actually helpful for writers to think about when crafting their next novel.

Just because there’s this marvelous tool for helping readers to understand your story, doesn’t mean your story has to be crafted around the tool.”

At io9, they’re talking about the advantages of using genre as a tool, especially in regards to sci-fi.

Lately I’ve had my mind blown by viewing experiences, themselves, as falling into “genres”, and the most persistent genre thus far has been “dark comedy.” Which I suppose falls under the larger heading of “gritty realism.”  I do fully intend on having some “science-fiction” experiences in the near future, especially when 2012 comes.

(Needless to say I feel lucky to have many experiences that qualify as “erotica”, even if the other consenting party (my girlfriend) still views them as “slapstick comedy.”)

I think the slipperiest genre, in terms of writing, and one that I’m extravagantly guilty of is “magical realism.”

I also think that magical realism is the genre that is, in terms of life’s weird messiness, the most realistic.

When in doubt, think of the weirdest things that have every happened to you and then wonder: would the generic literary critic consider these experiences as realistic as what happens in a Raymond Carver story or as realistic as what happens in a novel by Julio Cortazar?


Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →