Any writer and probably every reader has seen this ‘debate’ and it’s been raging for a good long while. Every time I see it start up in the online world, and in person, I kind of want to vomit.

Because who cares? I mean, I obviously care enough to write this post, but only to express frustration. Surely only a bunch of muppets would worry about this empty dichotomy? What is gained – or more pertinent perhaps, what is lost when we waste time and energy quibbling?

The arguments are always tedious rehashes of the same accusations too: pretentious/shallow/predictable/aimless blah blah blah, and they all reek of the insecurity and posturing that reminds me of ‘Question’ Time in Australian Parliament. Which is about as schoolyard as it gets, folks.

Having said all that, I sometimes wonder whether writers are among the most precious about this obsessive categorisation? Categorisation is a useful tool for marketing and choosing but does it matter when writing? Hell no.

Although, I do have two types of stories I split work into – stuff I like and stuff I don’t.


Possibly the greatest single-panel cartoon ever created.

5 thoughts on “Literary vs Genre Fiction?

  1. I’m very much inclined to agree with you on this. I think the best definition between the two that I’ve found is that one is escapist (genre) and one isn’t.
    There are a few other distinctions that we can point to, but really all of those distinctions can be in either.
    I think this is one of those situations (like many things in life) where there is a spectrum between literary and genre. Any book can potentially land somewhere between the two abstract labels.
    You can have a science fiction novel that focuses on the trails and moral conflicts of a set of characters with rich and poetic language that paces slowly, but still has plot.
    Does the fact that it’s set on the fictional planet of Elraen and that Ytte, overlord of the western lands, threatens to take one of the characters from her true love suddenly negate its literary characteristics? Personally, I would say no, it doesn’t.

  2. Exactly – it’s a spectrum! And I agree, Jim – if we hit the slippery slope of suggesting the presence of one trope/element common to X etc negates a book’s inclusion in Y then it’s just going to be an endless game of tit for tat, huh?

    1. Indeed.
      For some reason, I can’t see the comments on your page. I think the comment font color is white. 😛

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