Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Do YOU Like to Write?

Today, one of my professors asked if I had considered taking the Short Fiction creative writing course next Fall. Another professor was teaching it, she said, but it would be a good idea and I would probably like it.

My response: meh. First of all, the short story form and I are not the best of friends. Arguably, that's all the more reason for me to take the course -- but I also happened to know that the professor teaching it does not like "genre fiction." He'll read it, critique it, even let someone do a project on it, but he Does Not Approve.

Most of my short stories are horror, some sci-fi, a couple variations on fairy tales, humor, straight-up adventure or survival, and the occasional abandoned attempt at something literary. While I believe that genre fiction holds itself to the same technical and, yes, literary standards as literary fiction, the general opinion in academia disagrees with me. This isn't the only professor I know who dislikes genre fiction -- compared to some others I've talked to, his stance is pretty mild. But still -- I don't want to take a class where the professor's attitudes might discourage me from writing about whatever the fuck I want.

"Whatever the fuck I want" is a pretty large category. About 85% of it is occupied by fantasy in some form or another.* Then there's the 5% horror and death category. Humor, parody, etc. gets a 6%. 1% each goes to romance, science fiction, historical, and "other."

I could probably entertain you with tentative titles and descriptions of project ideas -- like the space pirate idea or the quest-for-a-magical-amulet-that-doesn't-actually-do-anything-in-the-end idea -- but I'd much rather hear from you. What do you like to write about? What's your favorite thing you've ever written? Do you have a favorite genre, or is anything up for grabs? And would you take a class with a professor who might devalue what you write because he doesn't think it's "serious"?

*I just like magic. Don't judge me.


  1. I used to write genre when I was in high school (horror was my thing), but when I went to college I started writing what I guess you'd call "general fiction". I won't call it "literary fiction", because that would wrongly imply that genre fiction can't be literary.

    I've recently rediscovered genre fiction through screenplays. I have one about a girl with superpowers, and I'm working on one about hell, one about a ghost, and I finally came up with a zombie idea I like.

    But my favourite things I've written are certain chapters from my book (general fiction), or some of my short stories (also general non-fiction).

    1. I think "general fiction" is a very good term. After all, the lines do blur between "genre" and "literary," and those terms do have the connotations of better vs. worse.

      Good luck and good writing to you!

  2. I love magic! I don't think I'd take a creative writing class from someone who actively devalued genre fiction, but I also really love literary fiction and most of my short work spills out in the form of lit fic. I'm lucky enough to go to a college with a really diverse and supportive department, and my adviser, who's academic expertise is violence, war, and human rights abuse, is teaching a sci-fi class and mentoring my YA Fantasy honors project.

    I also love working at a literary press and finding out the guilty pleasures of all the staff. I do believe that literary fiction is a genre in its own right, with its own definitions, but I don't think people who love literary fiction necessarily have to be snobs.

    1. Thank you, Anna! I agree that you can like and value both genre and literary fiction (as well as "general" fiction as jaristophanes said), without placing more value on one or the other. They're simply different. I don't see why one needs more maturity or writing skill than the other.

      That's great that your professor is mentoring your project! Working in a literary press must be an interesting experience as well :)


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