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Old 03-11-2013, 08:45 PM   #1
Nyssa
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General Discussion of Genres

I'd like to start with a number of questions:

1. Is there an internationally (or even nationally - USA) recognized list of accepted genres?

2. Is there a difference between Contemporary Fiction & Modern Fiction?

3. Is there a good, meaningful definition of "Classic"?

4. Is there a good, meaningful definition of "Literary"?
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:57 PM   #2
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I know you're asking serious questions, but unfortunately (IMHO) the questions are really unanswerable.

For instance, the Wikipedia definition of a Classic Book says:

Quote:
A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, either through an imprimatur such as being listed in any of the Western canons or through a reader's own personal opinion.
Genres change as fast as a publisher's marketing director can type.

We can't even agree whether a book is Hard Science Fiction or Space Opera.

It's all in the eye of the beholder.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by jgaiser View Post
I know you're asking serious questions, but unfortunately (IMHO) the questions are really unanswerable.

Hence the frustration.

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Originally Posted by jgaiser View Post

We can't even agree whether a book is Hard Science Fiction or Space Opera.

It's all in the eye of the beholder.

See, I wouldn't make these mutually exclusive. A space opera can be, and usually is, Science Fiction. Of course, I don't have definition for Hard Science Fiction, so that may be the difference.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
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See, I wouldn't make these mutually exclusive. A space opera can be, and usually is, Science Fiction. Of course, I don't have definition for Hard Science Fiction, so that may be the difference.
From Wikipedia again (not that they are a font of wisdom, but mostly I agree with their definitions):

Quote:
Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both.
Quote:
Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities.
I think David Weber's Honor Harrington series is both Hard Science Fiction and Space Opera. I'm fairly sure that that statement would cause arguments in some circles.

It is frustrating, but in the end *I* really don't like definitions. I read what I like and it is what I say it is...
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:03 PM   #5
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I think David Weber's Honor Harrington series is both Hard Science Fiction and Space Opera. I'm fairly sure that that statement would cause arguments in some circles.
I, too, see the Honor Harrington series as both.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:56 PM   #6
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I hate genre labelling. They make it seem like its all neatly ironed out into little blocks when many countries have their own versions genres.
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Old 03-12-2013, 02:32 AM   #7
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Quote:
2. Is there a difference between Contemporary Fiction & Modern Fiction?
I think contemporary is more a matter of relationship between the reader and the work (i.e. Stephen King's work is Contemporary to me) while Modern in regard to fiction is more a matter of the writer's style.
Quote:
3. Is there a good, meaningful definition of "Classic"?
I think a classic is a book that is still read and enjoyed even a century or more after the author has left us. Some books look to become classics (the Harry Potter series IMO are one such) but the real test of whether a book will reach classic status is its longevity. If a book continues to be published, read, and enjoyed long after its author has died that book is a classic.
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Old 03-12-2013, 04:38 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sinnermental View Post
I hate genre labelling. They make it seem like its all neatly ironed out into little blocks when many countries have their own versions genres.
Genres are really just a coarse version of "you might also like..."

They are a way of pointing the reader towards similar material. I know I like SF and fantasy, so I can narrow down my search quite substantially very quickly. Imagine how painful it would be if I had to go through the description/blurb of every book.

Fine sub genre classifications, such as Hard SF (which I don't think I would say Honor Harrington is) are mostly kind of useless, but again are just an attempt to group similar things.
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Old 03-12-2013, 05:13 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by DrNefario View Post
Genres are really just a coarse version of "you might also like..."
Pretty much.

I like them because they help me what I'm going to read next. And if you ever see me relentlessly setting the tags in Calibre to note down all the genres/sub-genres to which I believe a book might belong you'll know how much I like them.

It's incredibly anal, but I like the idea of saying to myself: "I feel like reading a cyberpunk book next. What cyberpunk books do I have?"

Back to Nyssa, I always thought contemporary meant that the setting of the novel was contemporary to the time it was written. And I thought that modern fiction just meant fiction that has been written recently.

For literary, I feel like the writer is focusing on creating a work of art rather than just a story. That doesn't mean it can't have a decent plot, it's just that there is something more than the plot being showcased. It could be the style of the writing itself, or it could be that themes outside of the storyline are being explored.

Classics are about persistence, relevance and, to a large extent, popularity with the passing of time. How much time is debatable, but I've heard measures stating at least two generations. And I believe the classification assumes that this popularity will continue.

To add flavour to that, a Modern Classic I consider to be a book that has been tagged destined to become a classic ahead of time - a prediction if you like.

I'm not claiming authority for any of these definitions, these are just the thoughts I use to navigate the literary jungle.
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Old 03-12-2013, 07:22 AM   #10
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And don't you just love marketing directors who list multiple genres for one book. I think listing 10 genres for one book is going a little overboard.
Around a month ago I picked up a book from Amazon that listed it as both as Science Fiction and Fantasy. Granted there are some books that can be both. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny and the Vlad Taltos Series by Steven Brust are just a couple of examples. This book wasn't. It was definitely Science Fiction.
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Old 03-12-2013, 07:35 AM   #11
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And don't you just love marketing directors who list multiple genres for one book. I think listing 10 genres for one book is going a little overboard.
Yeah, that's most annoying - some really use the genre listings just to spam their books pretty much everywhere... There should be a limit on how many they can use. For me, the genre should reflect the main general classification of a book, not everything it can vaguely fit in with some imagination.
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Old 03-12-2013, 07:50 AM   #12
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If you really are serious about thinking about genre, and not just resorting to a pub discussion about how one opinion is just as valid as another, then there is a useful introduction to genre theory here.
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Old 03-12-2013, 09:34 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by DrNefario View Post
Fine sub genre classifications, such as Hard SF (which I don't think I would say Honor Harrington is) are mostly kind of useless, but again are just an attempt to group similar things.
See.... What did I tell you.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:25 AM   #14
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See.... What did I tell you.
We can have an argument about it if you like?

Spoiler:
I did come up with a definition I liked after I made that post earlier:

In Space Opera, the science is there to serve the story; in Hard SF, the story is there to serve the science.

It seems to me that the tech in the HH series was initially created to emulate the navy of the early 19th Century, even down to having to fight with broadsides. It's just there to tell navy stories in SF clothes. It has become more of its own thing as the series has progressed and the technology has been developed.


Of course, it depends how you define the subdivisions, which is hard to get people to agree on, before you even get to apply them. The finer the distinctions, the less easy it is to put any given work in the right boxes.

There's a lot of really interesting stuff at the genre boundaries, too. It must be tricky to know how to shelve them in a bookstore. At least virtual stores can put the same book on many shelves.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nyssa View Post
I'd like to start with a number of questions:

1. Is there an internationally (or even nationally - USA) recognized list of accepted genres?
Here's the BISAC list of genres/subjects under Fiction...
http://www.bisg.org/what-we-do-0-100...st-fiction.php

The BISAC codes are a type of industry standard used by publishers and booksellers from my understanding.
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