I Don’t Give a Crap About Genre (although I loves ya)

Dear Somebody:

Going into the new year, I’ve decided, more than ever, that as a reader I could give a crap about core genre and genre classifications. I find it more and more alien and odd that someone’s taste in fiction could be determined by whether or not there’s a dragon in it or magic or whether it’s set in the future or not. I’m reading a novel called I Hotel right now, set in 1970s San Francisco, that has more interesting things to say about our present and future than any genre novel I’ve read in the past five years. Same could go for the epic novel 2666.

Further, there are many fiction traditions from other countries that honor or emphasize realism or surrealism over fabulism, and I’m not so much interested in seeking out world SF in such cases as in exploring what’s on offer.

I think this is another way of saying that, if by the end of 2011, I’m an expert on the genre fiction published in this year…somebody shoot me. In the mix, yes, but not the majority of material read. Nothing against it, but I need to focus elsewhere for awhile.


Your Curmudgeonly Grandpa

PS Stay the hell off the lawn!

Evil Monkey:
What in the hell, Jeff? What in the hell?

Get off my back.

Evil Monkey:
You’re still going to be doing Amazon book blog entries on SF/F and a NYTBR column and these ongoing weirdies triangulation reviews with Paul and Larry and teaching at Shared Worlds.

So. I can still read *other* stuff.

Evil Monkey:
Good luck with that. Idiot.

Get off my back!

Evil Monkey:
Vamos! To the dog races!

No. Seriously. Get off my back. You’re hurting me.

Evil Monkey:
Oh. Okay. Sorry.


  1. says

    Actually, yes. I’d probably have to publish under a pen name just because I’m known for doing a certain thing.

    Although I’d say this refocus in reading is closely tied to any fiction writing I do. I’ve always read outside of genre, but the last couple of years I’ve read more in genre than any time in the past. I just need to recalibrate…the title of this blog post is probably more provocative than intended.


  2. says

    Now hold on there a minute Jeff, until you define what you mean by ‘lawn’ how will we know whether we are staying off it or not? It’s all very well to point at an oblong of turf and issue orders, but whose to say what you call a lawn isn’t really a field, verge, or small pitch? And those of us involved in keeping greens feel justifiably irritated by the elitest behaviour of lawn owners, who take all the major awards and critical acclaim even though on the whole greens and parks are much more popular. So pick a side buddy, because if you’re sitting on the fence then the grass will always be greener on the other side.

  3. says

    I love seeing that you are reading and apparently enjoying Yamashita’s novel. I really need to write a formal review of that book sometime soon, since I was entranced by it when I read it last month.

  4. says

    Damien: LOL. Where can I hide? There’s gotta be somewhere I can hide? Is there a patch of trees on either the green or the lawn?

    Chances are I’ll be back to genre central a few weeks after this barbaric yawlp. I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly consistent.

    Although I’ll note that Bellysnatcher, which I’m working on now, is mainstream realism wedded to Orchard’s fantastical images.

  5. Nick Mamatas says

    Actually, yes. I’d probably have to publish under a pen name just because I’m known for doing a certain thing.

    We’re on to you, Geoff Wandeamear!

  6. Joy says

    I’ve always thought that your last name should belong to an extremely aristocratic, German cat that wears a monocle. In that context, I humbly suggest Geoffry VanderMeow.

  7. says

    Jeff was actually doing pretty well under the name “John Updike” until somebody tipped off the New Yorker a few years ago and they had to figure out a way to end it. They hate killing off series characters over there, but they didn’t really have another option.

    And I don’t know what he’s going to do when the public finds out their beloved Danielle Steel is actually the same guy who wrote Finch…

  8. Nadine says

    The gender gamer in me wants to suggest you choose a feminine name and see how it affects the process, but I don’t know if I’m doing it seriously or not.

  9. says

    I had to look up what Memetic Fiction was, and found a nice discussion:


    So, hi, Matt!

    Also, on pen names: Dan Simmons has written a lot of F, SF, horror, thriller, and MF (mainstream? mundane? mimentic? mwhatever!) and as far as I can tell, it’s always just Dan Simmons. You could go the Iain (M.) Banks route. Though your middle name being an unpronounceable, unprintable character might hurt that.

    What you’ll need a pen name for is that Romance novel you’re working on, Geoffrey.

  10. says


    Are you saying… that it’s possible for one person to like both genre fiction and literary fiction? And to switch back and forth between them with equal enjoyment? And maybe to appreciate each for what it is and not expect it to be the other one?

    But… the internet told me that was impossible!

  11. Chris says

    I absolutely agree. I love books most of all. I’ve only read one story of yours and I said more! so I purchased Finch-not reading it yet,still into The City&The City. But back to your point. I love what rocks my world and right now it’s Gerald Durell,Carlos Ruiz Zafon,Edward Abbey,Algernon Blackwood,and China Mieville and maybe a little Tom Holt. I have to admit that I collect a lot of sci-fi or fantasy for the cover art; not the actual writing. I’m a wanker. Waaaahhhhh.