Rants-N-Scribblers, I’ve highjacked Gwenyth Love’s blog to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind recently. It all started when Miss Lauren of Ravishing Reads posted a message on Goodreads (which, by the way, is far and away the best book for book lovers on the internet; Children of Paranoia had over eighty ratings and over thirty reviews on Goodreads by the time it got to ten on Amazon) while she was only about 100 pages into Children of Paranoia. The message read simply, “Is this dystopian or mystery or what?” I responded to her message (because Children of Paranoia is my first book and I really can’t help myself). I replied, even more simply, “Genre stew.”
When I was asked to do a Rants-N-Scribbles guest blog post, I asked what Gwenyth wanted me to write about. She said that she would be interested to know how I would compare Children of Paranoia to the Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, Battle Royale or other dystopian fiction. However, she also said that I could write about whatever I wanted to. So instead of simply comparing Children of Paranoia to other (admittedly awesome) dystopic books, I decided to write about genre stew.
I want to start by saying that there’s an enormous difference between genre stew and a book that sits outside of the genre universe. I hate the term “literary fiction” because I think it’s demeaning to genre books but it’s the term that people in the publishing world use to describe books that are the antithesis genre stew. That’s all well and good. There’s plenty of great “literary fiction.” But even the term “literary fiction” misses the entire point of genre books. To me, a genre, its tropes and idioms, are simply an extension of language the same way that a figure of speech is an extension of language (“shooting fish in a barrel” doesn’t really make any sense except that, because of our shared linguistic history, it does). Similarly, certain things means something in a genre piece that mean something entirely different outside of the genre universe. When you write within a genre, you have built in expectations. What makes for great genre fair is how you play with those expectations, meeting them at times and subverting them at others. To dismiss writing genre specific (or at least genre-influenced) work is, to me, akin to dismiss writing in the language in which a huge mass of readers prefers to read. It’s as if “literary fiction” writers all decided to write in Latin even though millions of people want to read in English.
I fear I may be getting a bit esoteric so I’m going to bring this back around to talking about genre stew. Children of Paranoia is genre stew. Instead of dismissing genre tropes, I’ve tried to embrace them. The problem is, I have had a hard time sticking to a single genre. So, my publisher, myself, readers and critics end up calling Children of Paranoia, at various times and in various settings, dystopian, a thriller, a conspiracy book, a romance, a chase story and even, at times, science fiction without the science. The truth is that it’s all of these things, but none of these things in their purest form. I think a lot of people get excited by genre stew but it also risks alienating hardcore fans of any one genre. I guess I just have to be okay with taking that risk. To me, mixing genres is simply taking full advantage of the various languages that readers know and love to hopefully entertain them and, sometimes, surprise them. As a fan of genre fiction, I don’t think I would know any other way to write.
Finally, as far as comparing Children of Paranoia to The Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and Battle Royale: I’ve never read Battle Royale, even though I’ve heard great things, but The Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games are awesome. I have to be honest with all of you though, I think that Children of Paranoia is pretty awesome too.