Why Genre Fiction is Important to Me

*Written March 2nd, 2018

I have absolutely nothing against general literary fiction. I have read many fantastic stories in that category (The Silver Linings Playbook, The History of Love, The Hours, just to name a few), but genre fiction is what has always resonated with me. Why? Escapism. The ability to re-imagine our world. The introduction to the impossible. Allowing myself to suspend disbelief and immerse myself.

When I was an English major in college a good percentage of my required reading was all contemporary literary fiction (and yes, I realize that’s a misnomer as “contemporary literary” lacks an actual genre). While mostly well-written, I didn’t necessarily feel a connection to any of the novels or short stories I read. Frankly, most of them bored me to sleep. I didn’t do as well on my papers and exams for these classes as I should have, and it was because I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to read the books. I would read enough to get by with a B average, but…it wasn’t fun.

Then I took a horror fiction class my senior year (2012-13) and excelled. I passed with an A. I participated very actively in class discussions. I was enthusiastic about my assignments and I even won a fiction writing contest. I read about serial killers, I devoured the Cthulhu Mythos, and I wrote a paper that compared Lovecraft’s The Outsider with Thomas Ligotti’s The Greater Festival of Masks (though I can’t remember what my argument was).

0000That class inspired me to write short stories, to resume something that I hadn’t done in nearly three years. In doing so, I had my first short story (Pretty Things) published that December 2012 in issue four of Sanitarium Magazine.

But let me dial back further than my college years, all the way to third grade and my introduction to The Magic Tree House series and the Harry Potter books. Even now, while writing this, I feel excited as I reminisce about those. I wasn’t a truly avid reader until probably my high school years, but the aforementioned were the seeds that sowed my interest.

The Magic Tree House books, to this day, are something I am very fond of. They’re imaginative and engaging, teaching children history through fiction. Harry Potter (and to a lesser extent, The Chronicles of Narnia) took me by the hand and led me into fantasy and magic. I credit Harry Potter as the reason that I started writing. I don’t recall ever reading Gone With the Wind and saying, ‘Holy shit! I need to do this!

Education aside, genre fiction helped me develop and a very enjoyable love/hate relationship with my hometown of Tujunga, CA. I bear no ill will toward the people of that town, let me be clear. But sometimes people act a certain way, buildings look a little drab, and you are made aware of the fact that one in every five firetrucks you see blaring down the street is heading toward a meth lab, and you can’t help but let that influence the voice of your cynical seventeen-year old protagonist whose hometown has just been invaded by a flood of corpses from the local cemetery.

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Note: the Verdugo Hills Pioneer Cemetery did, in fact, flood in 1978. People awoke the next morning to find caskets and corpses in their yards; an event which influenced my novel, DISINTERRED

For me, as beautiful as Tujunga, CA is, it’s always been a boring town, save that cemetery flooding and the Station Fire in the summer of 2009. And it was because of this, as well as my love for horror and fantasy, that third novel (DISINTERRED) grew into something darkly humorous and—to me, at least—engaging. I suppose, then, that I credit genre fiction for inspiring me not only to write, but to also learn about the history of my town.

I mentioned several paragraphs ago that genre fiction was important to me because of the escapism it provides. Reality can often times feel mundane and repetitive, especially after a long week at school or at work. And as you settle into bed for the night, with a pounding headache and eyes sore from staring at a computer screen all day, you just want something else. You want to be somewhere else, and this is what genre fiction provides me, provides to its many fans.

Reading is important. No one will ever doubt that. But genre, to me, is what really helps ignite a lifelong passion, fuels curiosity, and sometimes, inspires one to write a story of their own.

 
Recommended reading:
  1. The Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson
  2. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
  3. The Broken Earth trilogy, N.K. Jemisin
  4. The Earthsea Cycle, Ursula K. Le Guin
  5. The Licanius Trilogy, James Islington
  6. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
  7. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
  8. A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab
  9. The Obsidian Trilogy, Mercedes Lackey
  10. The Black Tides of Heaven, Jy Yang
  11. Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie
  12. Witchy Eye, Dave Butler
  13. Duskfall & Dark Immolation, Christopher Husberg

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