Thursday, October 14, 2010

Genre Embarrassment

Normally, I'm a cheerleader for everything genre related, unabashedly proclaiming how SF, fantasy and horror can not only entertain us but also communicate timeless truths. I believe it, heart and soul. I really do.

So why then did admitting it embarrass me so much?

The setting: I was a in a professional meeting when the talk turned (more or less) to hobbies. Clearing my throat, I confessed that, well, I liked to blog about genre fiction.

"What's that?" one person asked.

"It's fiction that fells into certain categories," I lamely explained. "Like, uh ..."

"Hopefully not that romance stuff," someone else quipped.

"Well, yeah. But, no, I don't generally read it. I like more, hmmmm --" I wracked my mind for an acceptable example . "-- Harlan Coben." I had read Coben, hadn't I? Oh, yes, that thriller a few years back.

"And what do you think of him?" a third individual asked.

"He's ... okay."

Everyone smiled. The conversation turned to other topics.

Now, nothing in that exchange should have mortified me. Everyone displayed great tolerance for my hobby. But when facing a room of successful businessmen and women, admitting that you like to read about Mafioso, space aliens and sword-swinging barbarians feels decidedly odd.

So, readers, this enquiring mind wants to know: Does embarrassment occasionally warm your cheeks when you confess your affection for genre or am I the only one?

Another: Why?

(Picture: CC 2010 by
spaceyjessie)

32 comments:

C. N. Nevets said...

I never get embarrassed by admitting I like genre fiction.

I bypass that pain by never admitting I like genre fiction.

C. N. Nevets said...

Partly joking.

C. N. Nevets said...

The problem lies in the perception that genre fiction is for (a) lonely people, (b) geeks, (c) teenage boys, (d) the less educated, or (e) some combination of the above.

It's just like, no matter how nice your double wide is, you feel weird telling people you live in a trailer.

Or, alternatively, my wife and I currently rent half a duplex. That's like reading Phillip K Dick. It's still genre but it has slightly more cache.

Deka Black said...

I never get embarrased. Simply why, sadly, the people who mocked at me for reading genre... don't read much, if you know what i mean.

Ben-M said...

Writing is a lonely business in more places than just behind the keyboard.

When I received some good news a couple of months ago about a writing submission, I quickly realised there was nobody amongst my colleagues who I could talk to about it. It just doesn't fit into their world of prepackaged-entertainment and fitting-in-with-the-crowd; the best reaction I could hope for was "huh, that's interesting" as they simultaneously noted that I wasn't one of them.

By now I like to think it doesn't bother me so much. I'm coming to realise that I write for me. I might sell to others, but I don't invest a lot in their opinions of my work. And I like to think it's a healthy view - it'll make surviving professional criticism a little easier too.

Tara Maya said...

Just imagine if you wrote vampire erotica. ;)

This is a real problem for me right now. My sf/f anthology Conmergence is coming out and I would really like to tell some of my colleagues and profs in grad school. Especially the ones know read speculative fiction! In fact, one of my profs wrote a book about vampires (not erotica -- literary fiction).

C'mon, right, if my prof did that, I can surely admit to having a little anthology?

But I still haven't made up my mind to do it. I know they will tease me about until the end of time, and I am worried it will be viewed as unprofessional. I am also terrified they will read it and think it sucks. It's bad enough if my internet friends read it and think it sucks, but people I have to face in person....

C. N. Nevets said...

Tell you what, Tara. When I review it, I'll let you know if it sucks. Then you can keep it a secret from your colleagues.

C. N. Nevets said...

All joking aside, Tara, I do not want to imagine my conservative Christian co-worker's reaction to, say, the God-bashing, swear-filled, threat to begin a serial killing rampage that I submitted from Notes from Underground.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I second Tara. But then, I'm in a profession where taking time away from writing/teaching about fiction in order to write fiction (much less genre fiction) is a peculiarity.

Also, I'm virtually unpublished. It's one thing (I'd think) to say "yeah, I got a book published, it doesn't pay as well as you'd think." It's another to talk about one's unpublished works. One feels that there could be more productive uses of one's life.

On the bright side, oddities always present the opportunity for connection; my wife and I are the source of great reading material for many of our friends, and there are always those types of intellectuals who read for relaxation as well as challenge. And, resultantly, those who see challenge in seemingly straightforward forms.

Donna Hole said...

People at my work are sooo tired of hearing about my writing life - especially my blogging.

But - they always want to tell me what they are reading, and why I would like it, and recommend that I should write like THAT author, if I want to be a true author.

I don't really know which is better Loren: being embarrassed about your blog/writer life, or having to justify it who's ever picked up a book and had an opinion about it or the author.

@Tara: yeah, I only get embarrassed when people ask if my book has sex in it. Then they say they MIGHT read it if the sex is explicit enough. Makes me mad they won't read for the writing or story line

I can imagine how much worse people treat you because of the erotica. And then, THEY READ THE STUFF. Secretly, of course.

But I hope you are proud of your genre. Takes a lot of energy/talent to write it just right (I know, I tried, failed).

*says I as I report to my co-workers in social services that I write women's fiction, down play the romance, talk up the family drama - unless you like romance, then my brag is entirely different - and make no mention of sex.*

LOL.

........dhole

Loren Eaton said...

Nevets,

Alas, on your genre-perception continuum I could bubble in at least two of those selections ...

So much for demolishing stereotypes.

Loren Eaton said...

Deka,

I know exactly what you mean. In my circles, it's a little different. People read, they just never read fiction. Never, ever, ever.

Loren Eaton said...

Ben,

When I received some good news a couple of months ago about a writing submission, I quickly realised there was nobody amongst my colleagues who I could talk to about it.

Oh, yes, this happens to me all the time. I'll get excited about something (the most recent thing being The Passage) and try to talk with someone about it who has an exponentially declining patience curve for all things fiction. Challenging, isn't it?

Loren Eaton said...

Tara,

C'mon, right, if my prof did that, I can surely admit to having a little anthology?

Heck, yes. That sounds like a wonderful (albeit terrifying) opportunity to me. Are any of your profs particularly sympathetic? If so, I'd give it a go.

Loren Eaton said...

CR,

It's another to talk about one's unpublished works. One feels that there could be more productive uses of one's life.

This is the thing that sidelines me more than anything else. Time comes to start writing, and I think about everything that needs to get done around the house and how I should play with the baby and it would be nice to just talk with my wife a bit.

Loren Eaton said...

Donna,

I don't really know which is better Loren: being embarrassed about your blog/writer life, or having to justify it who's ever picked up a book and had an opinion about it or the author.

The justification can be hard -- particularly when an author shows up after I've reviewed his book. It's happened a few times, which is a bit uncomfortable.

C. N. Nevets said...

Loren,

That's why for me it's mums the word more often than not. Last thing I need to do is confirm for people that I'm a geek who never quite grew up and has a lonely soul. lol

ollwen said...

I get embarrassed cuz I'd like to be less nerdy than I am. :P Unfortunately a lot of it for me is probably rooted in identity and personal insecurity. Then again, I see the potential in myself to be something of an overbearing weirdo in group conversations, and I try not to let myself become that weirdo.

Is that weird?

Tony said...

Hahaha... but isn't anything fiction technically genre?

After I admit to people that I write comics, people usually warm up. In general, they assume I write about superheroes, but I suppose that's their incorrect assumption to clarify. In that respect, it's not my place to be embarrassed if they're the ones who have no idea what I'm talking about.

Scattercat said...

Having long since grown inured to the pejorative "geek" and "nerd" and taken to wearing them as badges of identity, I have no qualms about "admitting" what I write. I consider myself a functional social outcast anyway, so I take the tack that anyone who'd be upset by my hobby probably wouldn't like me much anyway. (Seriously, if you take out genre fiction, board gaming, roleplaying games, and video games, I have almost nothing to talk to you about except science and history, and you can imagine how much mileage I get out of those particular topics.)

AidanF said...

I'm not swedish, but my swedish coworkers have nominated me an honorary swede. Swede's have a word: "jantelagen" that refer's to Jante's laws. Jante wrote about the swedes and one of the aspects of the laws was that a "swede" didn't crow about their achievements.

I've always been uncomfortable crowing about achievements. (I look at it as I'd rather be doing than spending time in meta-discourse.) Of course, I don't really have to worry about that in writing. But when success happens, I'm sure it will be similar to the other aspects of my professional career.

Loren Eaton said...

Nevets,

Darn it, how did you guess my selections?!

Loren Eaton said...

Sam,

Is that weird?

Not at all. I actually try to avoid talking about my nerdy delights in public, not simply because I'm concerned what people will think of me but because it also kills the conversation cold. They just don't get it.

Loren Eaton said...

Tony,

In that respect, it's not my place to be embarrassed if they're the ones who have no idea what I'm talking about.

This is a pretty healthy perspective, methinks. I'm going to appropriate it.

Loren Eaton said...

SC,

... and you can imagine how much mileage I get out of those particular topics.

I can. And that's a bit depressing on its own, isn't it?

Loren Eaton said...

Aidan,

I've always been uncomfortable crowing about achievements.

A wise perspective. Also, I feel as though I have been enlightened with regards to Swedish culture, which I know next to nothing about. Many thanks!

C. N. Nevets said...

I think it goes hand-in-hand with interest in reformed theology among males in our age group... Not really joking... Strangely enough...

Loren Eaton said...

I dunno, most of the theology geeks I know wouldn't touch a paperback if their imputed righteousness depended on it.

C. N. Nevets said...

Maybe it's more exceptional than I thought. Where I am, reformed types are pretty much a minority so maybe we're already lonely geeks.

Loren Eaton said...

I remember trying to explain the difference between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism to my wife. I wish I'd had a picture of her face at the time.

C. N. Nevets said...

It's those little moments that define your relationship.

Loren Eaton said...

Goodness, I hope not ...