Variety is Spice   13 comments

Sept 27, 2021 Have you experienced or witnessed genre shaming, where readers/authors degrade a genre? If so, how do you deal with it?

Genre Shaming | Washington Independent Review of Books

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Shame On You

“Why are you reading THAT?”

She meant well — this member of my Sunday School class who curled her nose up at my copy of Game of Thrones. She then picked up my copy of The Willow Branch, scanned the back page and then tossed it back on the stack.

“I thought you were an educated person.”

Okay, I could have gotten huffy and lost a potential friend, but I wanted to know where she was coming from.

“What have you against Game of Thrones?”

“It’s full of sex and violence. As a Christian, you shouldn’t be holding that stuff in your head.”

My husband would agree with her. He’s never read the book, but when we watched the first Season on disc and Jamie dropped Bran out a window, Brad was done! “How can you fill your head with that image?”

He likes horror films and I feel the same way about his preferred genre. I can take or leave the sex and violence in GoT, but horror creeps me out. It stays with me far longer than the sex scene.

Going back to my Sunday School friend, I then asked “well, what about the other book ‘The Willow Branch‘? Are you familiar with the author?”

Of course, Lela Markham is my pen name and so she didn’t realize she was about to majorly insult me.

“No, she’s a fantasy author and I just have no use for fantasy.”

“What genres do you read?”

“Well, I like Christian literature.” She bent over to look at the Left Behind series, which I stopped reading about five books in. “This is a great series. So Biblical.”

Uh … no! Clearly she didn’t read the same books I read. It’s preTribulation Millennial propaganda. I’m all down with the Bible, but this series tortures the Biblical clues to follow Tim LaHaye’s conception of how Jesus will come back. That wasn’t why I stopped reading it. I just couldn’t go any further after the main character survived a direct nuclear blast. I put up with the manipulative writing until that point and then I was done. In some ways, Shane Delaney getting hurt in Winter’s Reckoning was because I couldn’t have him do one more super-dangerous thing and not get hurt.

My friend expressed horror to find Harry Potter on my daughter’s shelves. I take it she didn’t understand the Kama Sutra or recognize Jack Kerouac. Her finger lingered on a sole copy of The Twilight series.

“How can you let your kids read this crap?”

How indeed! I don’t particularly care for the Potter series, but that’s just a personal style issue. All of Brianne’s friends read Harry Potter, so I read the first couple of books myself before I let Brianne read it and I didn’t find anything truly objectionable. A friend gave her that first book from The Twilight series and halfway through it she brought it from her bedroom and said “Mom, this is the worst book I’ve ever read. I can’t decide if this chick is nuts because she wants to have sex with a guy who considers her dinner or if she’s nuts because her alternative is a werewolf.” I don’t think she ever finished the book and I think she learned a valuable lesson about how a popular book series can be badly written. At some point, you just have to let your nearing-adult children figure it out for themselves.

Shame On You

My book shelves have a lot of books and a lot of examples for someone to shame. Pick a genre. Fantasy, science fiction, a handful of romances (not my favorite). Classics (Treasure Island, anyone?). Non-fiction. Mysteries. Adventure novels. My Friend Flicka. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of books, gathered over a lifetime of reading. They’re organized in broad genres. Some of them I haven’t picked up in decades. Others I’ve gone back to recently. 1984 got a lip curl from my Sunday School friend too.

There are genres I read voraciously when I was a certain age and haven’t read again. I’m not ashamed of having read them. I’ve simply moved on with my life. When Brianne’s boyfriend came to our house for the first time last month, he was amazed at how many books on my shelves he had read. Turns out we’re both fantasy nerds. We got into a long conversation about one of Asimov’s books. He’s got a winter plan to read all my books. I warned him he might not like the Young Adult “What If Wasn’t” series.

You Don’t Have To

I never read horror. That doesn’t mean I care if you read it. Go on, enjoy those books. Just don’t expect me to read them. You don’t like science fiction? Fine. I think you’re missing out, but I’m not here as the reading police. You don’t have to read those books if you don’t want to. Maybe we can find common ground here in the mystery section of my library. No. And, yeah, you’re right, I’m not into reading Amish romances and I’m pretty sure neither are the Amish.

Just because I don’t like a genre doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means it doesn’t appeal to me. Just because you don’t like a genre doesn’t mean you should shame other people because they do like books of that kind. Sure, if you’re Sunday School buddies and they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey, you might want to discuss how that intersections with their spiritual walk, but people do a lot of incomprehensible things at times. When our kids were little, they weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons because we felt it was disrespectful to adults. Our really good friends from church thought we were being too strict. We never yelled at them for letting our children watch the show while they were at their house. We knew — our kids told on themselves — but we also used the difference in rules between our two houses to discuss why the difference existed. During our daughter’s recent visit we learned she respected our choices after she’d had a few years to think about it.

Don’t Mess with Sleeping Dogs

Isn’t it great that the world is full of variety? You can enjoy romance novels. I can enjoy science fiction. Our buddy can enjoy War and Peace. My pastor can enjoy thick tomes on Christian history. We can all find things to read that capture our attention. Or we can avoid genres we don’t enjoy. Why is that a problem for some people? Why can’t they just let sleeping dogs lie?

Posted September 27, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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13 responses to “Variety is Spice

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  1. Write and read what you want, minding the hypocrisy potential. The world is full of Danger Barbie and Danger Ken and Miss Marple so if you decide to clone, be as good as the best at it. This one’s for your friend.


  2. Horror and too much sex and violence leaves me cold too. I just don’t like watching it or reading about it. That doesn’t mean though that somebody else wouldn’t find it enjoyable. It’s all a matter of taste.


  3. I’ve never understood the people who say you can’t mix genres. Or that any story is invalid for some spurious reason connected with mixing some of them together. Will there be no romance in space, or crime on another planet? Won’t our first venture into space be, as Gene Roddenberry famously said, like “Wagon Train to the stars?”


    • Right. Deep Space Nine was a western set in space. So was Firefly. Movies seem to get away with a lot more mixing than books do. If I ever have a story that mixes genres, I won’t bother with “Well, will this fly with the readers?” I never know what’s going to fly with the readers and the stories don’t care. They just want to be told.


  4. Same issue – a horror story stays with me longer than a sex scene.


    • Right. So that’s not enjoyable for me, so I don’t read them. Meanwhile, someone will mention the sex scene from GoT and I’m like — what scene was that? I noticed all the other things in the scene and the sex just sort of stepped back into the shadows — which I suspect is how Martin wanted it to be read, frankly.


  5. I’m trying hard to censor myself here because I appreciate how strong your beliefs are, Lela, but if that Sunday school teacher ever read the Bible strictly from a literary point of view, i think she’d faint.


    • Yeah. My pastor has a joke — in 45 years of being a preacher, the only book of the Bible he’s never preached for is the Song of Solomon. He feels badly about that, but says he doesn’t know that a Baptist church wouldn’t fire him if he preached from it. I want to write from it. I haven’t got the story yet, but some day it’s going to happen.


  6. As a Christian, I’m not a fan of Christian fiction. It’s okay, but not my thing, and I can take it only in small doses. It’s nothing personal, it’s just not my bag, baby.


    • Right. Same for me, which is why I don’t attempt to write it. I have Christian characters and I try to be very honest with who they are — which pisses some people off. And then there’s the ones who want even the non-Christians to act like Christians. No! NO! NO!!! It drives me nuts! I don’t read much of it, I don’t attempt to write it, and I’m not ashamed of that.


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