shaken & stirred

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4.11.2005

more BASS stuff

Michael Chabon posted a short update on the 2005 edition of Best American Short Stories, which he is, of course, editing:

Introduction and selection of the twenty "best" stories published in the US during 2004. Quotation marks are required, of course, given the subjective nature of the undertaking. It would take up too much room on the cover (and sell far fewer copies) to call it, more honestly, The Stories to Which Michael Chabon Responded with Greatest Enthusiasm Among The 150+ He Was Sent, by Katrina Kenison the Series Editor, from the Far Vaster Pool Which She Skillfully and Doggedly Fished.

The much-rumored inclusion of three overtly "genre" stories (two fantasy, one sf) among the final twenty is mistaken. There are at least four, the fourth being a marvelous piece of noir by Dennis Lehane. Another selection, Tom Bissell's dazzling "Death Defier," can easily be read as a variation on the classic story of Central Asian, Great Game adventure. Just as Kelly Link's "Stone Animals," overtly a fantasy, can also be read as a piece of classic suburban-New York domestic fiction. That is the great thing about genre. It's as much about structures created in the mind of the reader as in the structure or pattern of the text itself. Genre isn't just a box to be stuck in; it's also a window to look through.


As one of the early rumormongers about the inclusion of "genre" stories, I'd like to clarify one little point. In my posts, I think I made it clear I was only talking about SF types being included (of which apparently there are just the three -- Kelly Link, Cory Doctorow and Tim Pratt), because that's what I was most excited about. I have no idea if other people were using the term genre during the speculation on what the third story was, but I'd not be surprised (or if I used it and just don't remember, for that matter).

Whenever I use the word genre, I use it very imprecisely to mean the field of speculative fiction, or science fiction/fantasy. I suspect lots of people who read this site use it to mean the same thing (and in fact I do this so automatically now, it wouldn't have ever occurred to me to make it clear). So if anyone was saying "three genre stories," I would bet they meant three stories by writers whose work is associated with the SF field.

I was definitely never implying there weren't stories from other genres included, and I don't think anyone else was either. A tiny clarification, but one I couldn't resist making, just because of the slightly chastising edge in MC's update -- the sentiments and substance of which I fully agree with.

Does anyone know if people primarily concerned with/related to other genre categories use the term the same way? Mystery/crime fiction, for instance?*

And I'd just like to say again that this is one volume of BASS I can't wait to purchase and MC deserves credit for casting a wider net than usual and pulling in such interesting stuff.

(Via The Millions.)

See: My
original
posts on this topic

Updated*: Mr. McLaren answers my question in the comments:

"Mystery people certainly do use "genre" as a shorthand for "our genre" the same way SF/F people do.

I've seen it literally hundreds of times in that context.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that the same were true for the romance community, or amongst Louis L'Amour/Zane Gray fans, etc."

I'm not surprised either; I figured as much.

4 Comments:

  • At 11:39 AM , Blogger Chris McLaren said...

    Mystery people certainly do use "genre" as a shorthand for "our genre" the same way SF/F people do.

    I've seen it literally hundreds of times in that context.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that the same were true for the romance community, or amongst Louis L'Amour/Zane Gray fans, etc.

     
  • At 11:47 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    I figured as much. It makes sense.

     
  • At 7:04 PM , Blogger booksquare said...

    Romance people also think of romance as genre "our genre". Great genres think alike and all that.

     
  • At 12:19 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

    Any book of fiction that's shelved in a different category section tends to be classified as "genre." And lord knows I use the term freely and willingly for crime fic...

    But I'm so happy Chabon picked Lehane's story, "Until Gwen," which is utterly brilliant and a really great use of 2nd person POV. Almost scarily good.

     

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